Internet Explorer 9, Platform Preview 4

I’ve been busy with all sorts of stuff, so I ‘m a little late with an announcement you might have seen elsewhere online: IE9 Platform Preview 4 has been released!

Download IE9 Platform Preview 4 now!

If you want the full story, check out IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch’s blog entry over at IEBlog, where he goes over the latest platform preview of our browser in detail. I’m just going to give you the major points, such as IE9 PP4’s Acid3 test score:

Screenshot: IE9 PP4's Acid3 test results: 95/100

…plus how IE9 PP4 stacks up against its previous incarnations and browsers built by the Esteemed Competition, according to the WebKit SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark test

Chart: WebKit, SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark Results, showing IE9 PP4 in 4th places, only milliseconds behind Chrome 5. Chrome 6 nightly and Opera 10.6

…and that there are a new batch of demos showing HTML5 compliance, hardware graphics acceleration, JavaScript speed and the really wacky things you can do with IE9 if you use a little imagination, such as a game that melds “Hamster Dance” with Dance Dance Revolution:

Screenshot of "Hamster Dance Revolution" showing a framerate of 41 fps

Go Get IE9 Platform Preview 4, Get Ready for the Beta

Download IE9It’s one thing to talk about the goodies in IE9 PP4, but it’s an entirely different thing to experience them. Take the latest version of IE9 for a test drive – go and download it now!

As you take this version for IE9 for a spin, you might want to start thinking about getting your sites, whether they’re already up or in the works, ready for the next big leap: IE9’s transition from “Platform Preview” to “Beta”. That’s coming soon.

Here are some things to think about, as suggested in IEBlog:

  • Test your site in IE9 Standards Mode.  This mode provides the best performance and interoperability and will offer additional benefits in the IE9 Beta. We suggest using the HTML5 doctype. More details here and here.
  • We recommend sending IE9 the same standards-based markup your site sends other browsers. More details here and here. From the feedback so far, and our experience with sites, the best way to get your site working in IE9 Standards Mode is to start from the same markup other browsers receive rather than IE6, IE7, or IE8 markup.
  • Use feature detection, not browser detection to handle any cross browser differences in behavior or feature support.  This keeps your site working even as browsers change.
  • Please continue to report issues on Connect if your site doesn’t look or work right, and you’re giving it the same code as you’re giving to other modern browsers. With IE9 Platform Preview 4, we’ve fixed over 100 community-reported issues. We will fix even more between now and the IE9 beta and want your feedback.
  • Consider the experience for IE9 Beta users if you find that sending the same markup creates more issues than you can resolve in your production site. It is possible that running your site in Compatibility View is better for your users.
  • Take advantage of HTML5, CSS3, SVG, DOM, ES5, and more… all described here in the developer guide.  We’re excited to run the amazing experiences you bring to the web using these new capabilities, taking advantage of hardware through IE9.

Download IE9 Platform Preview 4 now!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Internet Explorer 9: Kicking Ass and Acid3 with Platform Preview 3!

"nine" spelled using the IE logo for the "e"

Back in March, when the first platform preview of Internet Explorer 9 was released at the MIX10 conference, the IE9 team promised to release new previews of the browser about every eight weeks. Eight weeks after MIX10, they kept their promise and released Platform Preview 2. It featured improved JavaScript performance and better adherence to HTML5/CSS/JavaScript standards.

A red, green and blue "Pokeball", each with the IE logo on it

Eight weeks has passed since Platform Preview 2, and it’s time for another release. I’m pleased to announce the launch of Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 3! Go ahead, download it, and read on to find out what’s in this new Platform Preview.

V8 engine: "Hardware acceleration"

Not so long ago, if you were using an application, chances are that it was a desktop native app running on top of your operating system. These days, the odds are that the apps you’re running are web apps, which run inside your browser, which in turn run on top of your OS. Even if you’re not factoring in network latency, that extra layer of abstraction slows things down. Hardware acceleration is one fix to this problem, and that’s a major focus of Platform Preview 3. IE9 takes advantage of your computer’s GPU to render HTML graphics and text with greater speed.

Rocket-powered 18-wheeler truck: "JavaScript Performance"

When we say “HTML5”, we’re talking about more than just HTML and the associated styling, but JavaScript as well. Luckily, we’re not only speeding up HTML rendering; we’re also cranking up the JavaScript engine, codenamed “Chakra”, which is even faster in this release.

All this work means that IE9’s performance has been improving steadily since it was first shown (but not released) to the audience at the PDC conference in November. Here are the results of the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark for a number of IE9 iterations (and a Firefox thrown in for good measure):

Graph showing the performance of various version of IE9 previews

And here’s a “wider” version of that chart, showing more of the Esteemed Competition’s browsers:

WebKit SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark results, showing IE9 Platform preview 3 placing nicely

This puts IE9’s JavaScript performance within 50 milliseconds of the fastest browsers – that’s the time it takes sound to travel less than a couple dozen paces.

As the IE9 team will tell you, while JavaScript speed is important, many sites spend cycles in a browser’s subsystems that aren’t JavaScript. They’re always benchmarking against more than just the SunSpider test, but against some of the most popular sites on the net, a real-world test of a browser’s performance, and they’re not done optimizing yet.

By the bye, IE9’s JavaScript isn’t just fast, it adheres better to the ECMAScript standard and even implements new features in the 5th edition of the spec, known colloquially as ES5. They include new array and object methods, as well as other language enhancements for working with strings and dates, and the IE Test Drive site has some demos showing them in action.

"Three Keyboard Cats" pardoy of the "Three Wolf Shirt": "Audio and Video"

Speed is just one dimension of browsing – standards is an important one, too! The support for the <audio> and <video> tags we talked about at MIX10 has been baked into Platform Preview 3.

There is one tag that was conspicuous in its absence, leaving a number of cynics, wags and conspiracy theorists to jump to the conclusion that it would never be included in IE9. Well, it’s here…

Vincent Van Gogh: "Canvas!"

That’s right, Platform Preview 3 introduces the <canvas> tag to Internet Explorer. And it’s hardware-accelerated, too!

We’ve got a number of demos on the Test Drive IE site showing off hardware-accelerated <canvas>, including “Asteroid Belt”, shown below:

Screenshot of the IE9 "Asteroid Belt" demo

So how does Platform Preview 3 fare on the Acid3 test suite, the supposed bane of Internet Explorer’s existence? Not too shabby, jumping up to 83 out of a possible 100 (if you recall, Platform Preview 2’s score was 68):

Acid3 test result screen for IE9 Platform Preview 3: 83/100

There’s a lot more in Internet Explorer 9’s Platform Preview 3, but in the spirit of “Show, don’t tell”, I’m sending you to the IE Test Drive site to download it and take it for a spin, and please let us know what you think!

Download IE9 Platform Preview 3 now!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


VP8 Support in Internet Explorer 9

ie h.264 vp8You’ve probably read the news already, so I’ll cut right to the chase: earlier today, Internet Explorer’s big kahuna Dean Hachamovitch made an announcement about Internet Explorer 9 support for HTML5 video in Blogging Windows:

In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows.

(And in case you were wondering, the WebM formatalso announced earlier today — uses the VP8 codec.)

If you want to take an early version of IE9 for a spin, visit the Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive site and download the latest preview (as of this writing, it’s Platform Preview 2).

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Microsoft and the W3C SVG Working Group: A Step in the Right Direction

internet explorer and svg

My philosophy is that Microsoft should focus less on “compete” and more on delighting the users. Or, as I’ve said before, “the best tech advocacy is to make tech that helps people rock.”

One important path to building tech that helps people rock is interoperability. In today’s networked, heterogeneous world, no tech is an island (my apologies to John Donne). It’s best for Microsoft – and everyone else – if the company plays well with others, adopts open standards and the open web and actively participates with standards-making bodies. I see things like The Empire’s participation at W3C’s Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee Meeting in November, Microsoft’s being a Gold Sponsor at the upcoming ConFoo conference and the work being done by the Open Source Teams in both Redmond and Toronto as signs of what I call the company’s “Sea Change”.

So it pleased me to see an Ars Technica article titled Microsoft’s Collaboration on SVG is a win for the Open Web pointing to the announcement on IEBlog that Microsoft is joining the W3C working group on Scalable Vector Graphics, a.k.a. SVG.

Patrick Dengler, Senior Program Manager for the Internet Explorer Team, writes:

We recognize that vector graphics are an important component of the next generation Web platform. As evidenced by our ongoing involvement in W3C working groups, we are committed to participating in the standards process to help ensure a healthy future for the Web. Our involvement with the SVG working group builds on that commitment.

To date, I have had several interactions with the SVG working group, and their clear dedication to creating a great technology for end users and developers alike stands out.  I personally look forward to future and more direct involvement with this great set of folks.

It’s not a formal announcement that SVG support’s going into future versions of IE, but I certainly hope that this is the first step towards that.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Power Outlets with USB Ports

usb power outletIn the corner of my room sits a power strip devoted to recharging various USB-rechargeable bits and pieces: a beige rectangle with various black plastic blobs sticking out of it, each one feeding juice to a USB cable. The USB ports vary in size and shape on the device end, but on the power-providing end, they’re all the same – that “standard”-sized USB outlet, just like the ones on our computers. There’s been many a time that I’ve thought “There’s a standard for power provided through USB; why aren’t there USB wall outlets?”

Someone at Instructables thought that too, because they’ve posted an article on how to build your own USB wall outlet. If you’ve got a penchant for DIY, some soldering skills, a willingness to fool around with house current and about a half-hour to kill, you to can rig up your house with easy USB power.

There’s another option for the do-it-yourselfers who’d rather not get into soldering and who’d also like the option of having both 3-prong 120-volt power and USB power. FastMac is offering the TruPower UCS outlet (pictured above) that lets you recharge your 21st century devices and still provide juice to those more archaic 20th century devices that require more than 5 volts and half an amp (which alas, includes desktop, laptop and netbook computers). They sell for US$10.00 each, but aren’t shipping until the new year. Still, if you’re setting up a new office, renovating an old one or just thinking about learning some simple DIY projects for your house, this one’s a nice simple project.

My question is now: “When will someone make a power strip that has both three-prong and USB ports?”


Yes, I Think Outlook Needs to be Fixed

Microsoft logo with Evil Monkey from "Family Guy"This would be a very good time to remind you, the Gentle Reader, that Global Nerdy is my personal tech blog and that the opinions expressed within are mine and mine alone. They are not necessarily those of my employer, Microsoft Canada, nor its parent company, Microsoft Corporation, nor or any other Sith Lords, Stormtroopers, Family Guy monkeys or any other agents of evil in the employ of said organization.

You’ve probably heard the buzz in TechCrunch: Here’s how a properly-coded HTML email, where HTML is used for content and CSS is used for presentation, appears in the version of Outlook that came with Office 2000:

HTML email as rendered in the 2000 version of Microsoft Outlook. Nice.

And here’s the same HTML email, with the same properly-formatted HTML, as rendered by the current version, Outlook 2007. It uses Word as the rendering engine, and Word will be the rendering engine for the upcoming Outlook 2010:

HTML email as rendered in the 2007 (and eventually 2010) version of Microsoft Outlook. Broken.

I understand why the empire wants Word-Outlook interoperability, which is why Word was chosen to be the HTML rendering engine for Outlook. But Word’s HTML renderer isn’t standards-compliant, which is why Outlook renders HTML in such a janky way. Outlook relies on old tricks such as using HTML tables for layout and other non-recommended ways of building web pages. IE8 plays by the rules, why doesn’t Outlook?

In my opinion, this is wrong. It runs counter to the spirit of interoperability, the embrace of open source and the following of standards that has accompanied the “sea change” within Microsoft (and it’s this sea change that help solidify my decision to join the company). I believe that it is in both Microsoft’s and the industry’s best interests for The Empire to be more standards-compliant.

(Besides, I just came back from presenting at a “Building Accessible Web Sites” conference where I told the audience to write compliant HTML. Damn right I’m going to push for everyone – Microsoft included – to do just that!)

That’s why I’m encouraging you to sign the Twitter petition to fix Outlook’s HTML rendering at Outlook 2010, along with the other parts of Office 2010, is in beta right now, and Microsoft is soliciting opinions. This is the time – tell them to fix Outlook!

Home page of the "Fix Outlook" site