Latest version of Firefox broke our 404 page

Broken web page

The latest version of Mozilla Firefox, I’m sorry to report, broke a couple of our web pages yesterday.

UPDATE: This problem has now been fixed in Firefox see Firefox update to be updated

I noticed it just as I was about to go out for lunch. I was checking out a page on the University website and followed a broken link … to a broken 404 page.


At first I simply suspected that it was due to some CSS tinkering that either my colleague or I had done. But neither of us had done any.

And then I discovered that it was working fine in Firefox 1.5, IE6, IE7, Opera 9 and Safari 3. It was working fine in my colleague’s installation of Firefox … and then when he restarted the browser to allow its automatic update to version it promptly broke.

So the culprit was indeed the latest incarnation of my favourite browser. How disappointing.

The problem

The way that the page is constructed is that there is a div that wraps the page’s main content. If I was recoding it today, I’d call it #contentWrapper; when I coded it 10 months ago, I called it #main.

Within #main there are three other divs, in order:

  1. #content
  2. #sidebar
  3. #related_content

#main then has a background image of part of the University crest. How much of the crest is displayed depends entirely on the height of its three internal divs.

Only, this appears to be the problem that Firefox has highlighted/discovered/introduced* (*delete as applicable): it now does not recognize the height of the internal divs: #content, #sidebar and #related_content and so collapses, as you can see from the screenshot above.

The (temporary) fix

Introducing a min-height CSS attribute to the code has temporarily fixed the problem, but fixed the height of #main at 550px — enough for the 404, 401 and the front page, which all use that code.


I’m now working on a more robust fix … in fact, I’m now working on recoding the entire site to make it more usable by the few ancient browsers that Google Analytics informs us are still being used to visit the site, such as Firefox 1.0, Firefox 1.5, and various older versions of Netscape and IE.

I had used a variation of Matthew Levine’s In Search of the Holy Grail method on A List Apart, mixed with a Dan Cederholm’s Faux Columns approach, for a number of reasons:

  1. I wanted the site to be as accessible as possible, and decided that placing the main page content as high in the source code as possible would be helpful.
  2. Do you know how difficult it is to achieve something as seemingly simple as creating a page layout with three equal-height columns?
  3. The ‘holy grail’ approach worked for almost everything we needed until it came to wanting to jump down to page anchors. We had a couple of A-Z lists and wanted to be able to click on ‘D’ to take us down to the ‘D’ entries. Instead, it pulled ‘D’ up to the top of the page and made A-C disappear completely!!
  4. We decided to fully support only modern browsers: IE6 and IE7, Firefox, Safari/Konqueror and Opera 8 and above. (While I don’t class IE6 as a modern browser it’s the one used on about 75% of all the university PCs so we had no choice but to support it.)

I guess I now need to be finishing writing these fixes sooner rather than later. I’m just a little disappointed that the latest version of my favourite browser has broken the code, while Safari, Opera 9 and even IE7 saw fit to render it as expected.

However, what I’m not entirely certain about is whether Firefox is now simply rendering the code as it should be (in other words, I’d missed a trick with my code) or whether this genuinely is a fault with Firefox’s rendering. Time will tell.

New Argos monitor risers available

Argos catalogues used as monitor riser

Readers may be interested to learn that the Autumn/Winter 2007 edition of the patented Argos monitor riser is now available from your local branch of Argos.

The latest version is in a tasteful blue.

Monitor bug

In other news: I’m now down to only two monitors now. I look like such a noob!

My own second monitor has a bug in it. Literally a real live bug / beastie … well, it’s dead now. I’ve taken it over to helpdesk to see if it could be carefully removed. It’s sitting between the glass and the actual LCD screen. The kind techies said that they’d give it a look.

Update: the answer was no, they couldn’t remove it.

Upgrading my O2 Xda Orbit to Windows Mobile 6

Windows Mobile 5 compared with Window Mobile 6
Before and after: Windows Mobile 5 (left) vs. Windows Mobile 6 (right)

I’d read a few days ago that O2 would be offering a free upgrade to Windows Mobile 6 so yesterday I went in search of such delights, and lo! as it says in the good book: seek and ye will find: software update for O2 Xda Orbit only

Browser caveat

Except, it doesn’t warn you in the Bible that if you’re trying to download the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade from the O2 website you can’t use Mozilla Firefox, it has to be Internet Explorer (or, oddly, Opera).

I spent ages entering my Xda Orbit’s serial number again and again only to be told that the serial number was wrong. I tried it again a little later in IE7 and got straight through to this page: O2 Xda upgrade page on HTC website, where I was able to download the 44.7 MB upgrade file.

Installation preparations

Installation was thankfully very simple and straight-forward. Here’s what I did to prepare for the upgrade:

NOTE: I’ve updated the link to the download as it doesn’t appear to be available anymore; I hope that helps (and that it’s the right file as I now no longer have my Orbit) — 8 October 2011.

  1. Download the software upgrade (Zip, 89 MB) for O2 Xda Orbit only
  2. Deactivated Co-Pilot 6 using these instructions (PDF, 28 KB)
  3. Connect the O2 Xda Orbit to my PC and synchronize with Outlook using Windows ActiveSync 4.5 (for Windows XP or earlier — Windows Vista does its own thing).
  4. Run the installation file, which is called RUU_Artemis_O2_UK_3.4.206.2_4.1.13.28_02.67.90_Ship.exe

Here’s a walk-through of the installation screens while upgrading from Windows Mobile 5 to Windows Mobile 6.

Step 1: Welcome

Welcome to the ROM upgrade utility

Not exactly a quiz this screen: just understand that this installation will wipe clean the Xda Orbit’s memory (but NOT any MicroSD card that you may have installed). That’s why it was important to sync with Outlook before the installation.

Tick the box to say that yes you want the software to purge the phone/PDA of all its sins, then click Next.

Step 2: Instructions

Follow the instructions

Aha! Instructions:

  1. Connect the PDA Phone to the USB cable.
  2. Establish an ActiveSync connection with your PDA Phone.
  3. Disable the standby and hibernation modes on the host PC.
  4. Make sure Main Battery has a charge greater than 50%.

If you’ve completed those steps then tick the box. The third instruction is quite important: the last thing you want to do is have your PC go into standby or hibernation midway through the upgrade.

Tick the box, click Next.

Step 3: Current ROM version

Current information about your PDA ROM

The application then checks the Xda Orbit and gives feedback on the Operating System ROM version found.

On my machine, running Windows Mobile 5 it found:

Image version:

Click the Update button

Step 4: New ROM version

New ROM version

Next the application tells you what OS ROM version it will upgrade you to:

Image version:

Click Next.

Step 5: Confirmation required

Confirm you are ready to update

After all that information, you are now finally ready to update your Xda Orbit’s OS to Windows Mobile 6. This screen simply tells you what to expect:

  • The PDA Phone is prepared for the update process.
  • The progress bar is displayed on the host PC and on the PDA Phone.
  • The completion screen is displayed on the host PC.

If that all sounds fine click on Next.

Step 6: Update in progress

Progress bar

The dialog window is now replaced with a non-closable progress bar window. (I tried to capture the shot at 45% but it was just too quick for me.) As indicated, the progress bar also appears on the Xda Orbit.

Step 7: Update complete

Congratulations! Your ROM update is now complete.

After a few moments the dialog window appears again indicating that the planets have aligned, there is once more a star over Bethlehem leading wise men from the east and the update to your PDA Phone’s OS has completed successfully.

First impressions

My first impressions of Windows Mobile 6 (WM6) are that it appears to be running a little faster and is more responsive and stable than WM5. It feels like Windows Vista’s ‘Mini Me’, with a more pearl-like Windows logo and some tasty Web 2.0-esque gradients.

Sadly the enhancements to Office Mobile don’t appear to have been in the areas that it could have most used them. For example, I still find the Tasks application unnecessarily complicated (for different views) and limited; Calendar still doesn’t have the flexibility of Pocket Informant or indeed of the Psion Agenda application from 1999!

One new-comer to Windows Mobile 6 is the inclusion of Windows Live, which now integrates with Windows Live Messenger. But be warned: if you don’t logout of Windows Live it will not shut down and will constantly attempt to connect to the Web via GPRS which could prove to be costly.

On the whole — niggles with Windows Live aside — I’m very impressed with Windows Mobile 6. I still don’t think that Office Mobile has a patch on the Psion EPOC R5 operating system applications (found in the Psion 5mx, Revo(Plus), Psion 7 or netBook) but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Recommended software

As it stands I’d say a newly upgraded Xda Orbit with Windows Mobile 6 is a pretty good mobile phone. But by adding a couple of commercial applications from SPB Software House it suddenly becomes an incredibly good one:

  • Spb Mobile Shell
  • Spb Phone Suite

Thanks to …

With considerable thanks to the folks at Xda Developer’s Forum for advice, and for just being there!

Google in braille

A picture of the Braille letters spelling out Google.

Today is the birthday of Louis Braille, inventor of … well, braille! So as a tribute Google have replaced their usual logo with one written in braille.

Only it’s not actually braille because if you touch the letters on your monitor you won’t feel anything. Apart from your monitor. Unless you have numb fingers, in which case you’ll actually probably not feel anything. Which is what I said to start with.

To enable web users with accessibility issues to know of what the images are, all web images are recommended to include in the code a description of the image. It is this description (or “alternative text”) that screen reader software reads out to those who can’t see the images themselves.

Today’s Google logo is a good example. The alt text says:

A picture of the Braille letters spelling out “Google.” Happy Birthday Louis Braille!

While sighted viewers can see that it is a word writtein in a Braille font, and when they hover their mouse over the image it simply says “Happy Birthday Louis Braille!”, which is the title that this image has been given.

The archive of Google Holiday Logos is quite fun. Download Braille fonts.

A flash purchase

Corsair Flash Voyager 256MB

I’ve just ordered a couple of Corsair Flash Voyager 256MB USB 2.0 flash drives from Savastore; one for me, one for Jane.

Up until now we’ve made do with CD-R discs, or Compact Flash (CF) and Multimedia Cards (MMC) to transfer data between PCs. But a USB flash drive would certainly be more user- and environmentally-friendly. And quicker.

I was clearing out some old (3 months worth) PC magazines the other day and came across a review of 33 USB flash drives in PC Pro (October 2005). It had this to say about the Corsair Flash Voyager 512MB, which was the Labs Winner:

Lightning-fast transfer speeds make this our drive of choice. There’s no security, but the rubber casing makes it waterproof. At £26 for 512MB it’s a bargain, especially considering its ten-year warranty.

Write speed: 9.2 MB/sec
Read speed: 15.3 MB/sec
Bootable: yes
Security: no
Read/Write LED: yes
Score: 6/6

The month before in PC Plus magazine there was a Masterclass article entitled “USB Key Toolkit”. The article advised buying a flash drive of at least 256MB and packing it with tools, just in case your PC should go down and you need to reboot from the flash drive. This works with newer PCs only, as older ones can’t boot to USB devices.

Here is some of their tips:

  • If you ever intend to use the USB flash drive to boot your PC, use the HP USB Disk Storage Format tool to format the flash drive with the FAT file system, rather than the default NTFS file system. (This will also allow you to specify the path of a Windows boot floppy, from which boot sector information can be gleaned and applied to your flash drive.)
  • If you need to store any secure data on your flash drive, e.g. passwords, then create an encrypted virtual partition with an encryption tool.
  • the essential tools they recommend you carry are:
    • Scanner – visual representation of your drives
    • HDDLife – monitors the temperative and capacity of drives.
    • SIW – System Information application
    • Autoruns – shows all the applications that autorun as you boot up Windows.
    • Dustbuster – system cleaner
    • Restoration – undelete application
    • AdAware – anti-spyware
    • Spybot Search & Destroy – anti-spyware
    • avast! – Virus Cleaner
    • Mozilla Firefox – browser (there is a portable version that runs from a USB drive.
    • IZArc – multi-format de-archiving tool
  • Save your hardware drivers and manuals on the drive
  • The latest DirectX, .NET Framework (v.2.0 is out now), Visual Basic runtimes, and internet extensions such as Macromedia Flash.
  • If you have the space (1GB or 2GB flash drive) then consider a CD image of Windows XP, and SP2. If you can then slipstream Windows XP with SP2.
  • Include some piece of ID, on a plain text file, perhaps. And if you travel alot then also take scans of your imporant passport and insurance documents; you never know when that could be useful. Keep it on your TrueCrypt virtual drive to keep it safe.

I can’t wait. I now wish I’d ordered the 1GB drive … but maybe I can work my way up to that.

UPDATE: TrueCrypt was discontinued in 2014 due to security vulnerabilities, so I have replaced the link with an article to alternatives. (Thanks to Sophie Hunt from Comparitech for the heads up.)