Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Internet Explorer 9 Beta (sorry, “Platform Preview”)

Microsoft started down the long and painful road to delivering another version of IE, with hopefully less of a jump in system requirements and sites and apps that no longer work than was the case with IE8.

I’d still be an IE7 man if it wasn’t for Windows 7 leaving me no choice to be honest.

The Preview version (they don’t seem to want to use the “beta” word so I assume this is very early stuff indeed) is available for download from here:

http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/

Apparently a new Preview will be available every few weeks.  It requires Windows 7 or Vista SP2 and installs alongside IE8.  After testing it on a virtual with no issues I’ve installed it on my main Windows 7 PC.  It wasn’t always stable itself but hasn’t caused any issues with my old browser yet.

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What you get is a very stripped down browser with a funky home page packed with “useful” graphs on its performance that appear to mainly prove how bad IE8 is. 

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It does not even have an address bar – you can go to an address by clicking Page > Open though.  You can also set its home page by editing the shortcut it creates in the Start Menu and adding an address after the file path:

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There are few other features available in the menus – report an issue to Microsoft, run IE Diagnostics and the ability to force different IE Document modes – IE5, IE7, IE8 and IE9. 

What happened to IE6?

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These document modes do certainly seem to change the rendering engine – using IE5 mode on the UK MSN page messed it up completely!  It appears to use IE7 mode quite often unless forced to do otherwise – this is because it is using IE8’s compatibility list.  You can override this on a page and force IE9 mode though.

I ran the SunSpider Javascript Benchmark test on a Windows 7 virtual equipped with IE8, IE9 preview (v1.9.7745.6019).  As Microsoft predicted, IE8 got thoroughly taken to the cleaners.  Results below – remember bigger numbers are worse…

Browser Total time (ms)
   
IE8 6828.0
Firefox 3.6 2366.4
IE9 Preview 1.9.7745.6019 1071.8
Google Chrome 4.0.249.89 1021.6

I tried this on IE6 running on a busy Citrix server and it came up with an unimpressive score of 38119.8ms, but that wasn’t really a fair test.

Benchmarks are of course only an indication of what browser experience might be like but these numbers are at least encouraging that Microsoft might actually be closing the criminal gap in general performance between IE8 and Firefox, and especially Chrome.  If it doesn’t have the shocking website compatibility issues that I experienced when I went to IE8 (which are to be fair mostly in the past – though mainly I suspect by lots of people fixing their websites) that would be nice too.   IE running at Chrome speed would make me a very happy user.  Shame I don’t quite believe it will happen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Very useful remote support app – PC Audit

A tool that went past on 4sysops recently was a very good little app for helping with remote support of PCs – especially useful in fact for the dreaded “why is my computer running slowly” question off a family member. 

PC Audit from MSI Utilities is a tiny application that can be executed without any installation (more apps should work this way…) and generates a text file which contains a host of useful information including motherboard type, what memory is installed (and how many slots are free!), disk size and space, the OS and service pack, all installed hotfixes and programs, everything that runs on startup and everything that was running when the report was generated.  Phew. 

I used this on my parent’s PC and could see straight away that they had too little RAM and (far) too many programs starting up each time they booted – the usual suspects of Acrobat, graphics card junk, PowerDVD, HP updater, etc.  And I could see their XP product key oddly. 

Anyway, if you get someone ask you to troubleshoot a slow machine, copy and paste these instructions…

  • Go to this website: http://www.misutilities.com/free-pc-audit/index.html
  • Click download, and Run the file it downloads
  • It should open a program and say “Scanning ... Please wait”
  • When finished it should display lots of information about the PC. 
  • Click File > Save As and save the text file somewhere temporary
  • Email me the text file – you can then delete it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blogger - Creating a random Blog Description

This is how to create a rotating random blog description in a Blogger Blog – I’ve tested it using a new style template and it works fine.

First, Create a description you are happy with for your blog.  This will be the one seen by search engines and people who have JavaScript disabled.  Click Layout > Page Elements > Edit (in the page header element) and enter your description in the box there and press Save.  Check you’re happy with the layout and edit it in Layout > Fonts and Colours if needed.

Click Layout > Edit HTML

Click Expand Widget Templates

Search for <data:description/>

Replace…

<div class='descriptionwrapper'>
  <p class='description'>
    <span><data:description/></span>
  </p>
</div>

With this

<div class='descriptionwrapper'>
  <p class='description'>
   
<span>
      <script language="javascript">
        var r_text = new Array ();
        r_text[0] = "Text string one";
        r_text[1] = "Text string two";
        r_text[2] = "Text string three";
        r_text[3] = "Text string four";
        r_text[4] = "Text string five";
        r_text[5] = "Text string six";
        r_text[6] = "Text string seven";
        var random_i = Math.floor(7*Math.random())
       
document.write(r_text[random_i]);
      </script>
      <noscript>
        <data:description/>
      </noscript>
    </span>
  </p>
</div>

Obviously, replace the strings with your random descriptions!

References:
http://www.webdevelopersnotes.com/tips/html/random_text_display_using_javascript_1.php3
http://blog.immeria.net/2005/04/blogspot-hack-random-quotes-in-sub.html