Firefoxing the web

While I always test my site with several browsers to ensure compatibility, I have really developed an unhealthy infatuation with Mozilla Firefox.  I really like this browser.

It seems infinitely extensible.  I've already discovered a great many features I never knew I needed and extensions (plugins) galore.  It does amazing things such as correctly rendering standards-compliant pages.  And it's not vulnerable to all of the standard IE and Windows security holes which, because of their tight integration, normally lend themselves to significant and numerous opportunities for compromise.  I will note that Firefox has its own security issues; see this for some examples.  It's still a much better browser even with the holes (maybe the developers are just trying to keep up with IE in this regard).

One of the most important things about using a browser other than IE is that I get to see many web pages precisely as the developer intended, including my own.  For instance, IE does not always render the sidebar correctly on my site.  Take a look at the Random Thought archive for September 2005.  Even though the page is valid XHTML and CSS, IE often places the sidebar menus at the very bottom of the page.  I assure you that is not how it's designed.  Another example of bad rendering under IE is the comments area on any post.  When there are comments (see this post for an example), IE loses track of the various shading areas and carries arbitrary colors across the page under the posted comments.  It's nothing more than a drawing problem since scrolling the page up and down will either change the colors or correct it (you don't have to refresh the page for IE to change the colors, just scroll past the comments area then back to see what happens).

Firefox too has its own rendering issues, but they are far less obtrusive than those in IE, and at least Firefox accurately renders most web standards.

Some of the very cool things about Firefox (and other browsers such as Opera, but not IE) is the tabbed browsing motif.  When I'm working on a post with references to other sites and/or stories, I keep those pages open until I'm done writing my entry.  This gives me speedy access to the reference material I need.  This can sometimes mean I have six or more pages up at the same time.  Using the tabbed interface of Firefox, I only have one browser window open.  This helps reduce desktop clutter.

I won't promote a single browser because I think the options available are diverse and support a great many surfing habits and preferences.  That's why I only keep a link on the front page to the Browse Happy site.  As long as you have a standards-compliant browser, I'm happy — since my site is strictly compliant and needs that compatibility to render properly.  Which browser you choose is up to you and based on what you need and how you like to work.

I do recommend, however, that you not use IE.  It's too problematic, too incompatible with standards, and too proprietary in its treatment of content (even between versions; I have to hide certain CSS elements from the Windows version of IE but keep them available for the MAC version — how pathetic is that?).  Oh, and it's one of the biggest security threats installed on your Windows-based computer — secondary only to the operating system itself.

Head over to Browse Happy and get a real web browser today.  You'll be glad you did.

Do as I say, not as I do

Once again demonstrating that double standards are not beneath his régime, federal auditors announced yesterday that the Bush administration violated the law by procuring — wait, let's use the right word — by buying favorable news reports about the president's policies.  The GAO report identifies clear and inarguable examples of the administration disseminating "covert propaganda" within the US.  This practice violates a federal law that bans the procurement of favorable publicity or propaganda that is marketed as anything but a government-sponsored announcement.  Any such activity is inherently political and not in the public interest, hence the GAO report also notes what is likely a misappropriation of funds to pay for these "planted" news stories.

The root of this issue is not unknown.  The investigation into the administration's practice in this regard began after a few well-placed news reports late in 2004 and early in 2005 questioning the role of conservative commentator Armstrong Williams in promoting Dubya's education policies.  Williams made all the rounds in the media offering sycophantic babble which reeked of obsequiousness.  While such unctuousness is not illegal, even the most cursory of examinations into Williams' role with the administration effortlessly revealed that money was indeed trading hands for all of the positive publicity.  He had, as it was discovered, been paid to proclaim the virtues of Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

Initial news reports on this sparked widespread criticism of the administration.  In response, Dubya said in January, "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda.  Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."  Sadly, based on the truth, even Bush didn't think that could work, otherwise they would not have been paying Williams and a public relations company to ensure news articles and reports were declaring, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."

Prior to the GAO investigation but after the media demonstrated this relationship, Congress updated the ban on "covert propaganda" in May, a bill Bush signed into law, by clarifying that federal money cannot be used to produce or distribute a news story unless the government's role is openly acknowledged.  This is why the ban existed in the first place: to ensure the government could not promote its policies or itself by planting news reports favorable to them, news reports which would look and feel and smell like independent news but which were in fact surreptitiously injected into mainstream media by government officials.  So long as the government admits to generating the content, there is no problem.

Despite the scathing report from the GAO, there is no penalty for this crime.  How convenient.  Why does the government get all the criminal laws that carry no punishment even if you're caught?  I'm sure we the people would like a few of those as well.

Irrespective of there being no castigation, the report does provide yet another example of Bush's White House practicing the "do as I say and not as I do" mentality.  As was just mentioned in the comments here, the Republican-controlled Congress wasted no time impeaching Democrat Bill Clinton for his perjury regarding the Monica Lewinsky fiasco.  Should we expect some action against Bush in what is a blatant attempt to deceive the American people?  Ha!  That idea tickles me so.  We should expect perdition's flames to grow cold first.

[via Jenny]