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Netscape 4.79 Unblocked




As of 09:00 PDT this morning the site was opened for Netscape 4.x users 
(and for all users for that matter.)  If you are using a version of 
Netscape prior to NS 4.79 we still advise you to upgrade to 4.79 as the 
site is untested with the 30 or so versions of NS that came out before 
4.79.  Bugs that are evident in Netscape will not be investigated on a 
priority basis unless they are totally blocking access to the site and can 
be reproduced in 4.79.

I would like to explain why we blocked the site previously, what we did to 
work around the problem, and what the cost to the users of the website will be.

Why we blocked the site
--------------------------------------
Netscape versions prior to version 6 have a document object model (DOM) 
that is not compatible with the W3C HTML 4.0 DOM.  Netscape dug in it's 
heels and refused to change their DOM in a rush to market to get Version 
4.0 out on the market.  This resulted in a number of bugs, five of which 
were very nasty bugs that affected the AMSAT website design.  These were:
1) Uneven table sizes that resulted in ridiculously long lines of text.
2) Failure to permit subclassing anchor tags with a CSS style and failure 
to ignore the tag, rendering links unusable.
3) Bleed through of the backgrounds into other page elements that are 
embedded in them rendering them unreadable.  For example, a table that has 
no background will show replicate the page background rather than the 
default colour.
4) Inactive rollovers
5) Failure to display the proper borders and margins specified in the style 
sheet.

Because of this, we felt it better to wait to put the fixes into the site 
in a timely manner,  after thorough testing, rather than take the risk of 
making the site unstable.  However, we have now implemented the fixes.


What we needed to do
---------------------------------
1) We had to put in about 200 lines of conditional code.
2) We had to rewrite all the header and footer files for conditional 
layouts, which are now bloated to twice their previous size.
3) We had to reformat tables that contained images and add additional 
tables to hold things that were previously children of the primary table 
structure.


What it cost in terms of site impact
----------------------------------------------------
1) While this is tested and we feel confident that it is somewhat stable, 
destabilizing bugs may still exist in the site because of the lack of 
thorough testing.  These may affect the 99.8% of users with supported 
browsers as well as Netscape users.
2) Because the back end server must now do more conditional processing, the 
speed at which the server delivers pages may be slower, depending on the 
load.  This will affect the 99.8% of users with supported browsers as well 
as Netscape users.
3) These changes came at the expense of progress on the RSS feed, site-wide 
keyword search engine and the Echo telemetry upload page.  We won't return 
to work on those until Tuesday.
4) 12 hours of design and programming time and an additional 18 hours of 
testing.


What it may cost in the future
-------------------------------------------
In the future, all users may experience delays in seeing updates because of 
the need to test everything twice.  In the past we identified Firefox as 
the browser that would be likely to experience incompatibility so we used 
that for testing.  Now we will have to test with both Firefox and 
Navigator.  Twice the testing time = twice the amount of time between when 
we receive an update and when we can deploy it.


What it cost to me personally
--------------------------------------------
On a personal note this also came at the expense of having to turn away 
work from a paying client that I may or may not get back.  I do not get 
paid for working on the AMSAT website so this cost was real and came close 
to 1100$US in lost wages.


So everything is unblocked, right?
--------------------------------------------------
The 0.2% of you who are still using Netscape 4.x browsers are no longer 
blocked - as they say, you are now free to roam wherever you feel you would 
like.  The site will also serve up the Netscape 4.x version of the page to 
any browser it cannot detect is HTML 4.0/CSS 1.0 compatible.

We do not know the status of WebTV - we apparently have one user who is 
using it.  At the present time WebTV clients, as well as any other client 
we can't identify will see the NS4 formatted page.  In the process of 
researching WebTV browser compatibility with only marginal success, we 
noted an overwhelming number of sites block WebTV. We will not block it, 
but we do not have any way of testing with it, so whether it works or not 
is speculative at this time.

If you missed the earlier announcement, Lynx is also unblocked.  That 
change happened at approximately 7am PDT Thursday morning.  Lynx is running 
off the HTML4/CSS1 model - if someone who has a lot of experience working 
with Lynx (as a web developer, not as a user) has an opinion about whether 
it should be served that page, or the NS4 page, please let me know.

Please use the category "Netscape 4.x Browser Issue" or "Lynx Browser 
Issue" when reporting bugs if you are using those browsers.  We will not 
address any of these until Tuesday at the earliest.

73,

Emily


---------------------------------
W0EEC - CM87tm
AMSAT Area Coordinator - San Francisco Bay Area
http://www.projectoscar.net    http://www.PlanetEmily.com 
http://www.experthams.net/ao7

Help Launch Echo - http://www.amsat.org/amsat/sats/echo/index.html
--------------------------------- 

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