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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Fourmilog: Handheld Edition Available

From the start, I've included a “PDA Friendly” button on the main Fourmilog index page which links to a minimalist text-only version of the recent item index. On a recent trip, I had occasion to consult this page with the Palm Treo 650 PDA/phone I had with me and discovered its actual appearance was less than friendly—it took forever to download (thanks to the prolix nature of postings here), failed XHTML 1.0 validation in several ways, and was infelicitously formatted.

I have just posted a major revision to PDA support all across Fourmilog. The PDA Friendly page now consists of extracts of the first 100 words of the fifteen most recently posted articles, each with a link which, when clicked, displays the complete item. All of the individual article pages, daily and monthly archives, and the main index page now include an alternative style sheet for the “handheld” media type, which is automatically selected by the Web browsers on most mobile devices. This style suppresses images, removes borders and other decoration, and falls back to simple typography and the handheld's configured rendering of links. Since the main index page can also be rendered using the handheld style, a user can choose the PDA-specific page if they prefer article excerpts and links, or the main index page for the full text of articles.

In the handheld style, all images are suppressed unconditionally. I'm not entirely happy with this, since handheld users with fast connections may prefer to see images when present, and there are certainly circumstances where an image is an essential part of a posting and worth taking the time to download. What I'd really like to do is show the “alt=” text for the image as a link which, when clicked, displays the image. Unfortunately, if there's a way to accomplish this in CSS 2.1, I'm not clever enough to figure it out. I suppose I could make a Movable Type plug-in for including images which expanded into a style-controlled embedded image and link, but that's more than I'm willing get into just now. So, for the moment, no images in the handheld edition, period.

If you would like to see how a handheld device will display a given page, in the Opera browser you can simply select the “View/Small screen” menu item. With Mozilla Firefox, you can install the nifty Web Developer add-on package which allows you (among many other things) to switch the rendering of a page among “screen”, “handheld”, and “print” media types.

Independently, I have validated every page of Fourmilog for XHTML 1.0 (Transitional) compliance with the W3C Markup Validation Service (using a “Bulk Validator” program I wrote in Perl which is still in far too rough a form to share with you here) and fixed all reported problems. Most were in very old postings made before I routinely validated everything I posted, or were due to the popup image template issue discussed recently here.

Posted at February 1, 2007 19:48