When Microsoft reforms,
I'll take this page down.
Until then, and until a
much chillier day in hell,
this page explains one
peculiarity of this site.


Yet Another Reason
Why Microsoft Sucks

Wirkman Virkkala

This site (along with Wirkman Netizen on wirkman.net) uses the Quotation tag — <Q> — for inline quoted passages on all pages. Not many sites do. Why not? Because of Microsoft. Instead, most sites use the &quot; special character, which does not produce the curly quotes that writers, editors, print publishers, and normal page layout technicians have come to expect in professional presentation of written material.

Now, the Quotation tag has been in existence for years. It was introduced as part of HTML 4.0. It is a text-level element, and was intended to correspond to the strict use of the BLOCKQUOTE tag (for indented paragraphs, quoting large sections of text), in this case marking words, phrases and sentences within a normal paragraph; the q-tag delimited text indicates a quoted passage. It does not merely allow browsers to put quotes around characters, words, and passages. It also allows browsers to put curly quotes around those marked up passages. And it allows the browsers to automatically nest quotes, so that (in America) quotation marks would delimit a quoted passage, and inverted commas delimit words or phrases quoted by the quoted author. It is a nifty system. It makes sense.

Unfortunately, for reasons utterly puzzling to me and to many others, the people at Microsoft have decided not to support this feature of HTML. Well, that's not quite accurate. The people who make Explorer for Macintosh have done a great job. It's just that the people who make Explorer for Windows have decided not to support this.

Every other modern visual browser supports this tag (to some degree, anyway). Only Explorer for Windows does not. The marked-up text looks as if there were no marking at all.

Now, if it were any other browser, I'd just say forget it and ignore those benighted individuals who use a defective browser. But this browser is the most popular. So on Instead of a Blog, I have decided to prepare separate pages for Windows Explorer users. Users of that browser should see inline quoted passages in small capital letters, and with wider letter-spacing. It won't look quite right, but will be distinct from non-quoted passages. I figure this is better than nothing.

This does not allow for proper formatting in email forwarding, but hey: you can't have everything! (On wirkman.net I've decided not to accommodate Windows Explorer users at all. It's just too much trouble for a blog.)

The Windows Explorer version for each of my pages can be spotted in the address/location bar of your browser. If the file name ends in -Wie.shtml it is for the Windows Internet Explorer user; if it does not end that way, then it is for every other browser.

If you are a Windows user, and you want to see the pages as they were intended and without having to click to special pages, you have several options:

Well, if you won't do your part (above), then I'll at least do my part, by providing a separate-but-not-quite-equal page for you. That's my work-around for Microsoft's shoddy product right now. Quoted passages within paragraphs (on those separate pages) will look like this.

If you think this is absurd, then write Microsoft and complain about their programmers, who have obviously something wrong in their heads. Perhaps it's all the modafinil they take. Or perhaps Microsoft merely wants to make sure their users get special treatment, or that Web developers conform to Microsoft, not Microsoft to the standards of the Web. Well, this seems like mistreatment and hegemonic thinking to me. (After first posting this, I was informed that the responsibility for this decision must rest solely with the Explorer for Windows project managers.)

Oh, if you do not see quotation marks around these words, or the next word, then your browser is defective. I have used current Macintosh versions of Mozilla and iCab and Explorer — all good Macintosh browsers — and each one acknowledges the Quotation tag. Only WannaBe PPC, a text browser, didn't make the cut. Unfortunately, the build of Mozilla that I use doesn't automatically "curly" the quotes, which annoys me. So I've added some special commands in CSS which should make it work right.

NOTE: In development, yet another ribbon campaign, this one to be dubbed the <Q> RIBBON CAMPAIGN, to take its place alongside (or in competition with) such ribbon campaigns as the Electronic Freedom Frontier's Blue Ribbon Campaign, the Anarchist Black Ribbon Campaign, the Polyamory Awareness and Acceptance Ribbon Campaign, the Frames Free! Ribbon Campaign, and the all-important ASCII Ribbon Campaign!




Which Microsoft?

an addendum

I want to congratulate Microsoft's Mac team: they have done a great job with their Explorer browser.

I try to avoid using Wintel boxes (I rarely turn mine on), but when I have used them, I've noticed just how terrible the Explorer browser looks and feels compared to the Explorer I use on my Mac. There are a number of convenience issues that work smoother on the Mac version, and, more importantly, the Mac version just looks better.

On Thanksgiving Day I looked over this site using my cousin's fancy PC, with its nice huge monitor and super-speedy processor. And I've got to say this for the record: Windows sucks. Every Windows box I've used just looks a whole lot uglier than what appears coming out of my Mac. The type fonts on the screen are much more jaggy on a PC, whether rendered from HTML or from a JPEG image. My Web pages look so much worse on every PC I've used, whether I've viewed them with Explorer or Mozilla or Opera (all three of which I tried on my cousin's machine).

And when I first wrote the above words, I was not using the fanciest of modern Mac technology. I was still using OS 9.1, and the processor in my old PCI Mac clocked at a mere 300MHz (it's a G3). Further, both of my 17-inch monitors are PC monitors: a KDS Xtreme Flat, and a rather old Compaq Presario monitor (1725). So it's not the monitors' fault. (Though I've blamed them in the past. I know that the Gateway LCD monitors in the neighboring community computer center, as supplied by the Gates Foundation, truly do look awful, more awful than most PC monitors.)

The simple truth is that, when showing pages from my Mac, they look better than when I switch the monitor over and look at stuff on my (admittedly antique) Pentium box. Or viewed on other people's Windows machines. I have some difficulty understanding how anyone could use a PC after using a comparable Mac (or even a slightly older Mac) but hey, there's no accounting for the aesthetic insensibilities of the mass of mankind.

Oh, well.

As Bill Gates admitted years and years ago, Apple's operating system should have become dominant. It was only Apple's timidity and hidebound obsession with consumers (rather than businesses) that prevented the Mac OS from becoming the dominant OS. When people yammer on about Microsoft's monopoly status, much of the blame does have to go to Apple, for squandering their advantage and salvaging only the minuscule portion of the market share that they have managed to maintain. (But we should give Steve Jobs credit for rescuing the Mac from a seemingly fated oblivion. Who says individuals can't make a difference? Who says that, in a market, consumers are sovereign? It takes more than consumers to make a market work; producers are needed too. Jobs is a producer of genius. And he's one of the reasons Macs don't suck.)

Microsoft is arguably one of the top three software makers for Macintosh (along with Apple and Adobe), and though I have complaints about the stability of their products on my MAChine, I have to admit that both Explorer and Excel for Mac look very good. Microsoft's Word is, I think, too muddled and complex a program and not nearly as good as it should be. And I admit: Excel is flaky in terms of reliability and stability (I've lost the data on some spreadsheets simply out of some peculiar quirk), while Explorer crashes more often than the not-quite-ready-for-primetime Mozilla. But I still use Explorer a lot — it displays pages a bit better than Mozilla, after all — I will probably continue to use it for some time.

So, while I give the programmers at Redmond a C (at best) for their efforts, and still marvel at all the people who use Microsoft operating systems rather than Linux or the Mac OS, the Microsoft team working for the Apple market gets at least a B+. When I say Microsoft sucks, I always add a footnote to my complaints: Microsoft is good with Mac products, and sucks only when trying to perform as good a Mac in the PC environment.



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