This weekend the internal modem in my Mac died. Living in a rural area, I am a dialup user. Let me say that getting unexpectedly disconnected from the internet is very traumatic.
I’ve been following an iterative development cycle where I deploy to my client’s site every Friday. (My old ERP colleagues would be mortified — install on Friday? My response: automated testing) Thankfully, last Friday’s upload went through, although it was the last internet connection my internal modem would ever make. It took me a couple days to rule out line quality and ISP problems and determine that the problem was hardware failure.
I have a PC with windows XP available. Its not mine and I really don’t use it except for checking web sites in internet explorer and playing an occasional game. So Sunday night I tried using it for some serious browsing for the first time. After about five minutes, I realized that I can’t stand Internet Explorer. The lack of a tabs felt like a missing finger. I had no idea how much I used that feature in both Safari and in Firefox. Also, the fonts under XP just plain looked bad.
Tiring with IE, I installed Firefox. I’m impressed with Firefox on the PC. I prefer Safari on the Mac, but I do use Firefox on the Mac for web development because of its ability to control and inspect headers, cookies, the DOM, etc. I don’t use Firefox on the Mac for day to day browsing because its interface feels a little bit off. No such feeling for Firefox on Windows. Win Firefox felt very comfortable. I like it.
When I upgraded this blog to WordPress 1.5, I integrated this blog with del.icio.us. I have been using del.icio.us for my “to blog about later links.” del.icio.us is very helpful when you have to browse in a foreign environment.
Sunday afternoon I had to start contemplating the idea that I might have do next Friday’s deployment from the XP machine or even temporarily move my development environment to the Windows machine. It didn’t take long to rule out this option. OS X comes pre-installed with Apache, PHP, CVS, SSH, and a bunch of other things that I probably take for granted. Windows has none of that. I decided that setting up a development environment under windows would probably take too much time.
I still remember the trauma from the last time I tried to ftp from a stock Windows machine. Its probably better now, but I still decided that I didn’t want to try that route. Besides, I just got my automated deployment scripts working on the Mac.
So Monday morning, I drove 60 miles to go to pick up a USB Modem at Best Buy. Now here is the problem with owning a Mac. Best Buy has two models in stock. Neither has OS X drivers. I bought one anyway in case it might “just work.” It doesn’t. So I thought I was stuck until the USB modem I ordered from online arrives.
But then I realized that I had enough ethernet stuff in the basement to hookup a network between the PC and the Mac. I have never done this before because I simply don’t use the windows machine enough to care. Hooking up the network was a breeze. A couple wizards, a few property dialogs and a half hours worth of reading was all it took to set up internet connection sharing on the PC side. The Mac recognized the new network immediately and without configuration. Sweet!
So, I am once again connected and now just waiting for my Mac compatible USB modem to come in the mail.
There is an added benefit. Over the last year or so, I have been gradually switching from table based layout for my web pages to a CSS based layout. I’ve quite a bit of trouble maintaining the same layout of older pages in CSS due to browser variances. Some of my table based layout components are somewhat ambitious for CSS. I never used to do much testing on Win IE because I was pretty familiar with how the table based layouts would look. Win IE is very stable on these types of layouts and they almost always looked exactly on IE how I had developed them on the Mac. Additionally, I had long ago worked out the cross browser kinks and was pretty much recycling the same debugged layout components.
This is definitely not the case for CSS. I don’t yet have a full library of debugged layout components and I have to say my understanding of cross browser kinks is incomplete, although growing. If you browse around on this blog in IE and in Firefox, you can see that while not terrible, it doesn’t render some pages correctly on IE.
Testing under IE was a pain for me. Editing CSS files on Windows kept bringing up FrontPage instead of a plain text editor, which is what I wanted. Now that the machines are networked, I can now just point windows to the test environment that is already running on my Mac and preview right from there. I also have occasional access to a Windows Laptop, which will make this type of testing a lot easier.
I’m too far behind this week, but maybe next week I will finally figure out what is wrong with the style sheet for this blog under Win IE.