Thursday, July 10, 2008

Web 2.blow

Okay this whole web 2.0 lets throw everything and the kitchen sink into a web browser and use it as a business computing platform has given me a reason to get angry and blog again.

I usually have two physical machines active at work (well, at home too). I have the Windows XP based machine where I do most of my work and an older Ubuntu Linux desktop machine that I use for web browsing, music listening, scripted automation, etc. I have four desktops on the Linux machine: music player and maintenance, one ore more Opera web browser sessions for various documentation and manuals, Opera web browser for Google searches, and one empty just in case I need it. This configuration is very useful to me and it comes in handy sometimes because the Windows XP machine has about 300 megabytes of anti-virus, usage monitoring, remote management agents, network client, print client, database server, remote update agents, groupware notification agents, software update sleeper programs, and who the frak knows what else running on it before I launch the first bit of work. In fact, if I have to boot/reboot the Windows XP machine in the morning I can usually have the Linux machine booted with all the applications I use there loaded, my "Good Morning" Opera session loaded and all pages viewed, etc. just as the Windows XP machine finished its rituals. Occasionally, usually when I'm doing real intensive work, my employer schedules scanner software to make sure I don't have any viruses, spyware, malware, underwear, etc. and to inventory my machine for hardware and software, and to scan all directories for .avi, .mp3, .mpg, etc. to see how much hard disk real-estate I'm using for I'm assuming "non-work related" stuff.

Okay, I know, get to the point. As we use more web-based applications I keep running into more examples of where a) they don't work in a browser, b) do not have complete functionality in one or more browsers; c) have functionality (possibly) broken by a feature of a browser. Here is what I deal with:

  • one environment, since it is deeply integrated into IE6, does not work in IE7 (so we cannot upgrade to IE7 yet)
  • one application simply refuses to work in Opera but works in IE6 and Firefox
  • one application works in IE but not well in Firefox or Opera due to poor JavaScript and CSS (yes, it's a Microsoft Visual Studio project, how did you guess)
  • one application works in IE but occasionally loses functionality in Firefox and Opera
  • one application requests I upgrade from IE6 to IE7
  • one application works in IE and Opera, but not Firefox (could be fixed with a GreaseMonkey script?)
  • one application does not work in Opera because of how they implement(ed) display:none in CSS for images

There are some applications that do make sense in the Web 2.0 world. However, there are also things that are better off in a "thick" client that is forced to adhere to a strict window API/widget toolkit. People have been conditioned, for good reason, to not trust the Internet and that is the reason why all the browsers either include anti-phishing, anti-hacking, ad blocking, flash blocking, JavaScript blocking, fraud protection, content blocking, etc. via add-on or built-in. Combine that with the straight fact that CSS, JavaScript, DOM and default fonts are not the same and/or do not work the same way on IE6, IE7, Firefox, Opera, etc. and that, IMHO, is why web based applications that try to do too much, fail (and piss me off).

Oh, and don't get me started on how security and personal identity security has been handled in this new, networked and Internet world.

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