Preparing for the FCC

I’m heading to the FCC next week for a developer event.

On Monday, November 8, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission will sponsor an Open Developer Day event at FCC Headquarters in Washington, DC, to promote collaboration between Web developers in the public and private sectors, in furtherance of FCC goals to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government.

This will be a public, single-day event that prioritizes accessibility goals, though other Web solutions are also of interest. The event will feature guest engineers from the Yahoo! Developer Network and Yahoo!’s Accessibility team, and will have a component addressing the requirements and opportunities in the new Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

FCC Hosts Open Developer Day: Accessibility Innovation – Yahoo! Accessibility Lab

I’ve been playing with government data to make it ready for quick mashups. I threw a challenge to some other developers for creating a quick map mashup with a series of map points generated by a spreadsheet on Data.Gov. This is what Anthony Ettinger put together with Yahoo! Pipes:

It’s great to see how you can grab a spreadsheet from the government’s repository, convert it to CSV format, upload it to your server, and quickly parse that data for mashups. It would be easier if data.gov had the file in csv format instead of xls or zip. I could have saved the first few steps.

Related articles

Z-index conflict with Flash and DHTML widgets

I’m working on a project that has a Flash movie and a DHTML dropdown menu on the same page. Flash movies like to sit on top of the page and the dropdown would slide behind the movie. Since this isn’t what I wanted, I needed to find a way to make the it have a lower z-index than the dropdown.

I did a Standardista Search for a cure and didn’t see it. But a quick message to the Web Standards Group returned the solution. It’s actually pretty easy.

UFO Flash detection and insertion script

I’m using the UFO JavaScript to detect the browser’s compatibility with the Flash movie and insert it on the fly. This method provides good default content to those without Flash and valid, shiny, happy Flash to those with it.

UFO gives you the ability to insert parameters into the movie and this is what you need to cure the z-index issue. You need to set the wmode parameter to “transparent.”

var FO = { movie:"swf/myMovie.swf", width:"300", height:"120", majorversion:"6", build:"40", wmode:"transparent" }

That’s all there is to it.

IE7 Beta 2 is out for developers to test

IE7 Beta 2 is now available for developers to begin testing. I’ve been suggesting on the web standards group mailing list that people need to begin looking beyond 2005 and start coding for IE7 and 2006. That doesn’t mean you design for IE7 and hack for Firefox. No, it means you can begin using more sophisticated CSS rules. Here’s a very brief summary of what I’ve seen with IE7 Beta 2 so far.

Rolling out IE7

Microsoft has an aggressive agenda to upgrade people from IE6 to IE7. By the end of Fall, we should see a significant percentage of our web site visitors using IE7 and by the end of the year, the majority of our traffic will be IE7. Those without IE7 are machines with illegal copies of XP, people with XP Service Pack 1, and those that don’t accept Microsoft service updates.

Use real CSS

If you are working on a site now, begin using real CSS.

  • Use child selectors, first-child, attribute selectors, etc.
  • Hover your list items and more. IE7 supports the hover pseudoclass on more than the link.
  • IE7 offers full support of alpha transparent png graphics, so begin using them as well.

Forget what you knew about “* html”, those hacks now belong in a style sheet that is introduced via a conditional comment. They are gone, kaput, zilch. Sure, they’ll still work on IE6, but you’re going to have one heck of a nightmare keeping track.

Test Sites

I am a big fan of All that malarkey (Andy Clarke). However, his site is full of special rules for IE6 and its a great testing ground to see what IE7 chokes on and what it does as good as Firefox, Opera, and Safari. If your site is fairly hack free, you probably won’t notice a difference going from Firefox to IE7 Beta 2. Start hunting around and finding the errors.

What is still broken on IE7

There are two major issues that I have with IE7.

  1. No generated content. You can’t use CSS to add checkmarks to visited links, clearing containers spans, etc.
  2. Double float margin still exists. This can be fixed by adding display:inline to your floated objects when this problem occurs.
  3. While I haven’t been able to nail down the specifics, there seems to be some bugginess with positioning absolute/relative.

I’m sure there will be much better analysis of this launch by PositionIsEverything, Quirksmode, and the IE7blog. I hope these scribbled notes help you move forward. IE7 is a good thing. It’s not perfect, but damn it sure is nice to ditch the son of suckerfish javascript, class=”firstitem”, haloed transparent gifs, et al.

I forgot to mention, IE7 replaces IE6 on your computer. You need to have an extra computer to continue testing your pages in IE6. If you only have one windows box, I’d suggest keeping IE6 on that and just program for Firefox, et al and placing your IE6 hacks in a conditional comment linked style sheet

Microsoft IE7 updates the select box

Microsoft has just announced IE7 will handle the select input as a modern browser should. It will now allow developers to use z-index to avoid overlapping and perhaps more artistic forms. Søren Madsen put together the utopia of form design, something every designer should look at and dream of possibilities.

SELECT element in IE7 – An Overview

In IE6, the HTML SELECT element was implemented through the Windows Shell ListBox and Combobox controls. Some key features were missing in the old version of the SELECT element, such as proper support for z-index, TITLE support, and zoom. Web developers had to write complex CSS and scripts to workaround these issues.

In IE7 however, we re-implemented the SELECT element to make IE7 more standards-compliant. This new version does not use any Shell controls any more. In fact, it is implemented totally through the MSHTML framework, including styling, UI interaction, and rendering. Thus the SELECT element in IE7 is more of an HTML element than the former legacy control.

IEBlog

Form design is frustrating.

Form elements are up to the browser for final presentation unless you get into some tricky CSS and JS solutions and those are not necessarily cross-browser solutions. One particular problem I’ve experienced was with the nicetitles javascript that creates a nice popup box with the text of a title attribute on hover. I tried to use this on an insurance quote form to give the visitor better feedback on what was needed. IE6 would place the inputs on top of the popup window. I then tried moving the popup farther to the side to avoid this and that just looked hokey. So, I gave up on the idea. It would be interesting to test this now with IE7.

I’m also intrigued by the ability to use the title attribute on the select object. Normally, I would place the title on the label. However there may be times when the visual design requires hiding the label. Placing a title on the select would be a great way of letting people know the page may refresh or whatever action the select box leads to.

With rumors floating of an IE7 Beta2 developer release within a few weeks, we should begin looking for pages to test these new attributes on.