Midsummer Mailbag Madness: Mossberg! Net Radio!

Pills thrills and bellyaches

Letters Congratulations to The Onion for winning the humor Webbies again. Quite frankly, this ranks with the best writing you'll find anywhere on the web. And although there are a legion of witless Onion imitators, it stays one step ahead with pieces like this.

"The body was badly decomposed, but coroners identified it by its oversized, folded-over feet."

Has The Onion ever been better? Isn't it beautiful? An affirmation of the American Dream?

It's still hugely under-appreciated, though, in part we think, because it's so familiar. It feels like it's always been around, like an old sofa. Now when something really great turns up it can either be startling - like Michael Owen - or it can worm its way into your life very gradually. But that doesn't mean it's any less fabulous, though. Then there's The Onion, or like Doves say - a critically unfashionable Manchester band who are actually profoundly good, and you can share them with friends with the assurance that your friends will get it -

So all hail The Onion - your best friend in the war on banality.

Speaking of which, word flies in on geriatric Wall Street Journal superstar, and Handspring crony Walt Mossberg.

Re: WSJ veteran fuels Handspring cronyism charge

Walt is very proud of himself and he actually thinks that he is the most important writer in technology today. He gets what is believed to be $450,000 a year from the WSJ believe it or not. He lords it over everyone around him. Personally I don't think he has any claws and is a straw man.

[full name supplied]

Ech, that's a tough one. If we thought anyone actually read Mossberg, we'd love to delve deeper into have the cronyism. But when journalists start writing about other journalists it gets tedious pretty quickly. So - is it worth our while? Let us know.

We do think it's kinda sweet that Mossberg keeps insisting on doing TV shows. It's like watching a slow motion car crash (or open access hour on cable) - it's so bad, it's riveting. Catch it while you can, and if you can capture it on videotape, you'll a kitsch showstopper to break the ice at dinner parties in about ten years time.

Now for some serious accessibility issues.

Subject: RNIB from a blind person's point of view!!!!!!!!! Not all they make out.

Hi Tim. I'm a completely blind user. The RNIB's assessment is totally in accurate. Once again, they are out of touch with technology, and showing gross ignorance about what is going on.

Macromedia have been working with all screen reader makers to get access to flash sorted out.

Gwmicro's Window-eyes was the first one with access to flash: www.gwmicro.com but other manufacturers are working on it. The information is exposed to the various manufacturers by MSAA calls, this is a universal standard, so it's actually up to the screen reader makers to support the technology.

Many blind people including the competetors of Gwmicro are angry about the RNIB's stance as it is making the whole industry look bad.

I paste below the comments from Gwmicro.

I find this very disappointing to see that the RNIB doesn't truly give credit to Window-Eyes. They reluctantly state that Window-Eyes (which was misspelled) supports FLASH but because it is the only screen reader to do so it isn't acceptable. Window-Eyes is never again mentioned.

What bothers me is Macromedia is exposing their flash information via MSAA. It is up to the screen reader manufacturer if it chooses to implement MSAA and thereby be accessible with Flash. This is not the fault of Macromedia. It is the fault of the screen reader to choose not to support the most popular standard available to Windows! It is very sad the RNIB can not see this and support Window-Eyes for being the leading screen reader manufacturer to support this technology on a REAL level and not just on a marketing hype level.

And Macromedia's reply [scroll down six paragraphs if you're bored] -

I have just read the article on your site regarding the LookLoud Campaign
commissioned by the RNIB, and .Julie's

For almost two and a half years, Macromedia has been pushing accessibility as a hot topic amongst our designers and developers. In 2000 we released an extension for Dreamweaver 3 which enabled users of our product to check their sites to ensure that they were accessible against Section 508 guidelines. A short time after that we worked with a company called Useablenet which created a third party extension whcih checked sites against Section 508 and W3C guidelines. For Macromedia, this was the beginning of a campaign to encourage our 2 million end users, no matter what product they used, to create accessible content.

Two years ago we launched an accessibility section on our website, which provided information, whitepapers, tutorials etc.. on how to create accessible content. Alongside that, as a sales incentive, we offered a solutions kit - which comprised of a 2CD pack with tutorials, code examples and white papers on accessibility and elearning. This kit has proved invaluable to many of our end users and it is regualarly requested at every exhibition we attend!

At every roadshow and exhibition we have attended in the past three years we have given attendees information, both verbal and material, on creating accessible sites and what W3C and the DDA means to the UK. For the past 6months we have running specific accesibility seminars in the UK, which have proved a great success - people who are interested in what to do and how to do it. We have also spoken at an RNIB event about accessibility, usability
and the web, from which we gained posititive feedback.

On board at Macromedia we have an accessibility manager on each of our products teams, headed up by a gentleman called Bob Regan, Snr Product Manager, Accessiblity. Bob came to the attention of Macromedia when we were looking for guidance on our accessibility initiatives, Bob previously worked at the University of Wisconsin which adopted a policy based on priority 1 and 2 checkpoints of the W3C's web content accessibility guidelines. Bob now fronts the team, working with all of our regional offices providing them with support and help when needed.

With regards to our products.

On March 4th 2002, we announced a new version of Flash MX and the Flash Player 6. With this release, we made sure that the Flash Player 6 was able to communicate with a screen reader, none of the previous versions did.

Right now we are working with a number of companies who produce assistive devices including GW Micro and Freedom Scientific. Next we added a panel to add text equivalents for graphic elements of a Flash movie (among other things). Third, Bob Regan (as mentioned above) wrote a documents explaining Flash accessibility issues and techniques, and current limitations of the accessibility features which we are continung to develop. (see http://www.macromedia.com/macromedia/accessibility/features/flash/).

On April 29th 2002, we announced a new version of Dreamweaver MX which again we have added a new panel to, which prompts designers to input text equivalents, but then also the accessibility testing engine has been enhanced providing much more information and a more thorough method of checking for accessibility. However, we have gone one step further and made the product itself accessible, this is a major step forward for any software company to take!

Even the adminstration area on our server software, ColdFusion MX, is accessible! It is an HTML based application, which can be read by a number of assitive devices.

Sarah Mowatt
PR Manager, Northern Europe
Macromedia Europe

Now wake up. Thomas Worthington has a simple answer:-

It is very easy to make a website available to the blind: don't use Flash.

What Macromedia have missed is that this approach, which involves using the new wonder-language "HTML" for webpages, loses nothing useful whatsoever from the site. In fact it rids it of "wasn't that clever the first time you saw it?" animations and annoying "swooosh" sound effects.

I honestly can't see how they've missed this simple solution in amongst their directive to follow WC3 standards and putting all those researchers on the case.

A web god writes:-

I'm happy to see that you have the finer details right this time. I never worked for The Beast, but did -- I admit -- advise them. I advised them for three years on how to implement CSS in IE. I also advised Opera on the same topic. After three months Opera had a better implementation of CSS than IE. That's when I decided to quit my job at W3C and start at Opera.

Håkon Wium Lie
Opera Software

Thanks Håkon. The same day a fellow Norwegian mailed us describing the pleasures of long light summer evenings, where the nights are so short you can fit a drinking session in between dusk and dawn.

Yes, that's a pleasure unknown in San Francisco, where it goes dark so insufferably early in midsummer. And if that wasn't enough, late-nighters have this to contend with.

But [name witheld] reader, you have really illuminated one of the great quests of life in a nutshell - the challenge of finding people interesting enough to keep your attention sustained until the sun comes up. Without being racist, I think the Nordic countries have a head start on the rest of us on this one, because they're acclimatized to both the eternal sun in summer, and the eighteen hours of darkness of winter.

So you end up with a good balance of friends. Meanwhile the rest of us have to get by (in the night-time entertainment stakes) with pills, secrets and goofy anecdotes.

It's a very uneven match. The rest of us must squeeze tedious necessities (eating, sleeping) in between the essentials - reading, writing and meeting friends. So is it any wonder that they come up with Ericsson and Nokia? We simply can't compete.

Net radio has been snuffed out by the pigopolists. You're not happy either:-

I am confused. When did a non governmental organisation from the US get rights over people and companies running networks outside the US ?

I know think I know the answer, and it is gung-ho and Yank shaped, but hey...

Peter Galbavy

Great coverage in The Register on the Internet royalty ruling -- just about the only story I've seen that doesn't treat the ruling as a great relief.

Yes, isn't it strange? If the only thing you saw was CNET's headline you wouldn't even guess that most of Internet radio had just shut down. CNN too. Thank the lord for Doc Searls and Jamie Zawinski.

I sincerely feel that the situation is tremendously unfortunate (read: RIAA are f***ing a***oles) My two most recent CD purchase were direct result of hearing the songs I like on the web and net radio. Net radio stations are bringing many of the less known artists to the listeners at large and I feel they perform a very valuable function that benefits both the listeners and the song writers.

Except we have the RIAA who are cash whores and want to fuck up everything.

Donglai Gong

That just about covers it.

Almost. My satirical piece about Apple's new advertising campaign drew such an interesting postbag that it deserves a page of its own. Stay tuned - we're full of surprises. And so are you.

Well … most of you..

Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 14:19:01 -0700
Subject: HI ASSHOLE!
From: Anton Lopez
To: Andrew Orlowski

i have a feeling you are a very ugly, bitter, loser of a man. andrew orloski - don't judge people by their appearances (as you did on your terrible article about apple's new ad campaign). i am sure you are no prize yourself.

Anton - you should meet my dentist. ®

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