Ben Langhinrichs

August, 2006
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Thu 31 Aug 2006, 12:28 PM
Sometimes the big news is the small steps which aren't even heavily announced, but which indicate some baseline of support...

From the Impulsive Highlighters Unite, describing the Leopard "Preview" version of TextEdit.  See the difference in these two About pages...

TextEdit 1.4 About page

TextEdit 1.5 About page

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Wed 30 Aug 2006, 03:34 PM
Accessibility in software and on the web has been an interest of mine for a number of years, from adding Section 508 and WAI (web accessibility initiative) support to our Midas Rich Text LSX HTML generation capability, to my more recent interest in Open Document Format and document formats.  Yet, in all that time, I have thought of myself as a provider of accessibility.  Even my focus on making our corporate webpage fairly accessible has been due to a sense that we should do this for "those who need it", or worse yet, so that others who did care about accessibility would not be able to point out how inaccessible our website is.  My mindset has still always been that of a provider.

So, I was on Bob Sutor's blog today, and he happened to mention that he was making his links more visible.  I responded, then sat and read my response a couple of times, and realized that I am an accessibilty consumer.  Perhaps we all are.  Here is what I said over there (although don't hesitate to visit his excellent blog):
I have to say, my eyes are not so great, and I am somewhat color blind, so I can never see the links in your text. I just mouse over where I think a link might be, and if it shows an underline, I know it is really a link. Some additional indication would be great, especially in light of your interest in accesibility.
Now, I am 43 years old, so I am not an old man, and my color blindness is only a partial red/green blindness that I read is quite common.  But my point is, I would never think to tell someone else that their website, blog or software was "inaccessible".  I would either use it as best I could, or not use it if it got too annoying.  Accessibility is something other people have to deal with, or so I tend to think.

But it isn't.  Accessibility is something people need, people like me and you.  Some need it more, some need it less, but it is a reasonable thing to expect.  It is not just a politically correct thing to do, or an expiditious way to gain business from government agencies who do have such requirements.  It is a way to treat your readers and users as people, worthy of respect, and worth keeping.  The flip side is, as a consumer, it is also my right, and responsibility, to let people know when their websites, blogs or software are not meeting my needs, even if I am not blind or uneducated or culturally different.  I will try to do so proudly.  How about you?

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

Tue 29 Aug 2006, 10:20 PM
One of the major criticisms of Open Document Format was summed up by M. David Peterson in this post, when he said that the oft-repeated claim:
Well, ODF was designed for people who use spreadsheets, word processors, and presentations. Office Open XML (OOXML) was designed for people who use Microsoft spreadsheets, word processors and presentations.
should be changed to read
Well, ODF was designed for people who use Open Office spreadsheets, word processors documents, and presentations. Office Open XML was designed for people who use Microsoft spreadsheets, word processors and presentations.
I don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Peterson says, but he has a point that ODF has been quite closely tied to the OpenOffice.org office suite.  I was recently reminded of this when I was searching for the specific options for a particular parameter, and came upon Chapter 3 - Text Document Basics of the OASIS OpenDocument Essentials, which is subtitled Using OASIS OpenDocument XML.  It was very handy, but when I searched for it again at a different point, I came up with the eerily similar  Chapter 3 - Text Document Basics of the OpenOffice.org XML Essentials book, which is subtitled Using OpenOffice.org's XML Data Format.  Now, it is no surprise that ODF was created originally from the OpenOffice.org specs, but there are lots of places in the OpenDocument Essentials book where they forget that this is a general standard and specifically address how OpenOffice.org Writer handles such and such a parameter.

Some would cheer this on, and say that OpenOffice.org should be the reference example of ODF.  Not me.  I don't want ODF to be the horse and OpenOffice.org to be the driver, which is what has happened until recently.  If Open Document Format is only really suitable for one implementation, then why bother?

But of course, Open Document Format is greater than OpenOffice.org.  We are just starting to see signs of it, but there are innovators out there looking at reinventing the whole idea of a spreadsheet, or integrating presentations and documents in whole new ways.  The true test for Open Document Format is how well it supports these innovations and innovators, and whether it can grow up beyond its roots.  The true test for those of us who would like to be the innovators is whether we can seize the opportunity and go beyond copying Microsoft Office and start inventing the future.

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Tue 29 Aug 2006, 10:48 AM
Show and Tell Thursday logoA developer in the IBM Business Partner Forum (Dietmar Hoehmann of IT-Con Beratung und Service, to be exact) posted a series of wishes, including this old favorite
The help databases display in a custom window with a special layout. I want this option for my applications, too.
Mark Jourdain of IBM responded, and described the hidden magic voodoo ritual (my description, not his) that is described in Technote #1095308.  I thought reprinting this would be a good Show 'n Tell Thursday contribution, even worthy of being printed a couple of days early:






Problem


How to have a database open in a new window without bookmark bar and SmartIcons. The goal is to have the database resemble the look of the Notes Client, Designer and Administrator Help Databases.

Content


This functionality is available using a setting in Database Properties. To access this setting:

1.   Select the database icon on the workspace.

2.   From the Notes menu, select File, Database Properties, and click the Design tab.

3.   Select (enable) the option for "List in Database Catalog."

4.   In the corresponding field for Categories, enter the following: NotesHelp


A database with these window settings:
  • Opens in its own window with a size determined by a NOTES.INI setting.
  • Has its own set of menus that includes the item View - Always on Top (which is off by default).

Note: If you wish to disable this window setting, you must first remove the NotesHelp category and deselect the option for List in Database Catalog. Then, you must remove and then re-add the database icon on the workspace. If you only disable the options in the Database Properties, the changes do not take effect.

Additional note for blog readers: No innocent chickens need be harmed in the performance of this ritual.

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Sun 27 Aug 2006, 11:29 PM
As we all know, reading technical documentation is not always entertaining.  Lots of lists of parameters and options, and your head can start spinning.  For example, I am reading through Chapter 3. Text Document Basics, which is part of the OASIS OpenDocument Essentials book (still a heck of a lot less painful than the official ODF specs), and there are lots of entries such as:

style:text-position
    This attribute is used to create superscripts and subscripts. It can have two values; the first value is either sub or super, or a number which is the percentage of the line height (positive for superscripts, negative for subscripts). An optional second value gives the text height as a percentage of the current font height. Examples: style:text-position="super" produces normal superscripts, and style:text-position="-30 50" produces a subscript at 30% of the font height below the baseline, with letters 50% of the current font height.
 
Erp!  But mixed in with the more dry entries, there are a few which show a healthy sense of humor peeking through, such as

style:text-underlinestyle:text-underline-color
    Oy, you wouldn’t believe how many underlining styles you have available to you! none, single, double, dotted, dash, long-dash, dot-dash, dot-dot-dash, wave, bold, bold-dotted, bold-dash, bold-long-dash, bold-dot-dash, bold-dot-dot-dash, bold-wave, double-wave, and small-wave. The style:text-underline-color is specified as in fo:color and has the additional value of font-color, which makes the underline color the same as the current text color.
 
or one of my favorites,

style:text-blinking
    Set to true if you want the readers of your document to hate you forever.
 
Now, that is truth in advertising!

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

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Thu 24 Aug 2006, 02:30 PM
IBM Accessibility ODF Coding Challenge 2006 logo
From Bob Sutor's blog...
Today we’re officially announcing the IBM Accessibility ODF Coding Challenge 2006, a contest for university students that combines open standards, open source, and accessibility. Our goal is to train hundreds if not thousands of college software engineering students to create great software that is accessible to all people, right from the start.
I find this very intriguing, and wonder whether college students will see it as an exciting chance to push their limits and show their stuff, with the attention of the world's largest software company, or whether they will see it as a gimmick.  It sounds like something I would have jumped on as a college student, but even having a college student myself these days, I can't begin to imagine how they think.

Any college students out there care to comment?  What do you think of such a contest/challenge?

(I also really like the </barriers> logo!)

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.