Tip of the phone: Overriding the override

Opera phones, including my Sony-Ericsson P800, use the handheld media type allowing the page designer to make a customised style sheet for phones. If there is no handheld style sheet Small-screen rendering is used instead.

But what if a handheld style sheet is provided, but it is bad for you? On this phone, using the fairly old 6.31 version, you are stuck with what you have got. There aren’t many sites yet that make handheld versions, but we do. www.opera.com has an excellent style sheet, while the My Opera forums have a bad one (this will change) including setting display:none on information you need.

And here is the tip: Toggle the Edit > Fit to screen option. The first time SSR is overridden by the handheld style sheet, but the second time the handheld style sheet is ignored and SSR is applied. This was not intended but has proven fortuitous.

Towards Carfree Cities V

As is stated in Tor Åge Bringsværd‘s Den som har begge beina på jorda står stille (He who has both feet firmly planted on the ground stands still) — tilfeldighetene er våre venner (coincidences are our friends). Shortly after writing about car-free cities, car-free Budapest in particular, I came across a conference in Budapest that will be in a couple weeks time, and it was organised by the World Carfree Network that happened to be within walking distance from me.

I am usually a little stand-offish for classic green groups. They may be more often right than wrong and the issues are important, but they tend to be wrapped in a moralistic and often apocalyptic language. The message that comes across is “We know what is best for you and if you don’t do what we say the world is going to end.” As a rule I would say that green groups are better at identifying problems than at prescribing solutions.


Om hundre år er allting glemt

On June 7 1905 with the most flimsy pretext the Norwegian parliament staged what ultimately turned out to be a peaceful nationalistic coup. In the twentieth century this was very much the exception, only two more cases followed. Iceland seceded from Denmark in 1944. As Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany at the time the Danish government was not in a state to protest. The Czechoslovakian split in 1992 could be considered a mutual coup. The collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 on the other hand was made possible by a coup that failed instead, and was not quite as peaceful.

The nineteenth century invented nationalism and the twentieth century put it into practice, usually to horrific casualties. While the map of Europe started out as one of great empires, by the end of the century it had ended up as a collection of nation states instead.

Though Europe of 2005 is a Europe of nation states, the nation state is likely to have culminated and will have a lesser role in any future year than it has right now.

Mobile Web Initiative

The Mobile Web Initiative went public this week, with a public mailing list each for best practices and device description. It went public in the sense that it really has been a continuation of a workshop in Barcelona this fall. Further back a W3C impetus would be the .mobi top level domain for mobile devices, something I don’t think is a particularly good idea and neither did Tim Berners-Lee.

The workshop and its papers was a “You are here” point of the Mobile Web, where the participants presented their diverging view on what the mobile web was and how it would be won.

Stop the traffic

Revisiting Budapest was a reminder of what damage the automobile, the scourge of the 20th century, has caused human society. The same century started a departure from cities built to a human scale to cities built to suit the the car.

This is likely to change in the 21th century. While an immediate car ban in urban areas is unlikely, economic savvy will move us there anyway. It is no accident that Venezia is the most attractive city in Europe. It may be an open sewer, the buildings are dilapidated, it suffers from chronic floods, the commotion and the prices are high, but this is a city where you find no cars and the tourists love it.

The same can be seen in other cites as well. Where there are zones with high traffic and zones with no traffic, tourists, and the locals as well, gravitate towards the no traffic zones. While tourism is important in itself as the largest economic activity in Europe, they are also an eye-opener. Tourists have the privilege to choose where they want to go and you don’t see them flock to traffic junctions.

The car belongs to the country-side and not in the city. In less densely populated areas it is a symbol of freedom, each individual can go where he wants to go when he wants to go there. In the city the car is the symbol of gridlock. More people live in cities than anywhere else, for them the city is their home not just a place of work or entertainment. If the citizen had a direct say in whether their own street was pedestrian or allowed cars to drive through it the changeover would happen sooner, but they do have a say indirectly.


Der Übergang

I finally got around to watch Der Untergang (or “The fall of the third realm” in the uninspired Czech translation, the English title “Downfall” is considerably better) a few days ago. Set in the fast imploding Nazi universe in the days before the ultimate collapse, this is a refreshingly real and honest account of madness set upon itself. Real as a story that is, not an arbiter of historical truth. Unsurprisingly, given its subject, the European debate has been on its instrumental role. Will it prevent a rise of neo-nazism? No, certainly not. Neither will it be their The Birth of A Nation.

I rarely visit the cinemas, but this film ought to be seen in one and not just watched on DVD. Partly to reinforce its claustrophobic nature and partly to feel, and not just look at, the shells ripping Berlin and its tattered defenders apart. Meanwhile, down in the bunker, Adolf weds Eva even though the required paperwork that the couple are of proper mateable Aryan descent is waived.

There was an unsettling idea to stage the Nazis’ final downfall not in Berlin, but in the fairly impenetrable Festung Norwegen. The several hundred thousand German soldiers stationed there had a relative comfortable and safe existence by the northern bunkers, far away from both the west and east fronts. There was less comfort in the labour camps for the largely Russian prisoners that managed to survive the arctic winters.


The retroguard returns: Some SGML comments

The otherwise honourable Acid2 test dredged up something I had hoped I wouldn’t see again. Most tests are CSS tests, parsing and layout, but they also threw in an old misfeature from HTML’s past. If you look at the test’s source code you will find “ERROR”. An HTML comment followed by “ERROR”, right? No, unlike in the more modern XML "" are not comment delimiters, “--” is. In SGML so ERROR is actually a part of a long comment. Easy to see, isn’t it?

In theory HTML is a SGML application so SGML rules apply. In practice there has never been a SGML web browser and there never will. For a long time Opera was alone in supporting some SGML-isms like “--” comment delimiters until we removed them around Opera 5 or 6, but Opera wasn’t even close to being a SGML browser so all we did was to add quirks and give no benefits.

Mozilla later made exactly the same mistake as we did and they are still doing it. This causes an interoperability problem as Mozilla will fail on this comment and other browsers don’t. The obvious solution would be for Mozilla to change their browser, but WaSP opted for the other option instead. If that view wins through web developers will be bound to count their hyphens. Any multiple of four is good, anything else is bad.

Opera and XSLT

New member beckfield started two threads on XSLT and Opera, one civil, one less so. That is fairly topical as the recent buzzword AJAX (no relation) includes XSLT and Opera does not.

There is no discussion about XSLT on the server side, transformations is what web servers do, but client-side transformations would put XSLT into another role. XSLT will have to think like a client and is it up to the task?

This has not been an issue due to the dearth of XSLT-enhanced web pages, there is just a handful sites on the web though Google Maps is one of those, but as far as I know nobody has studied this. Where does client-side XSLT really fit in with the Web UI (HTML, CSS, JS) and how well does it adapt to the user’s environment?

Forms and function

Forms handling is among the most important functions in a browser, the HTML 2.0 forms are seriously outdated and news.com.com considers the forms alternatives. As I see it there isn’t a conflict Web Forms 2.0 vs XForms. Web Forms is designed partially XForms compatible. There are substantial differences that run deeper than on the syntactic level (such as the names of the elements) and there is no tool today that can automatially turn arbitrary XForms forms into Web Forms. Some, probably most, forms will be very similar in the two languages both in structure and functionality and could be converted easily.