Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jean Quan and Michael Bloomberg are the reason I support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

When I first started to hear about the Occupy Wall Street movement, I was very ambivalent about it. I wasn't quite sure exactly what it was about and, though I had a vague feeling that their demands were right and that the whole idea was good, I saw diverging views that lead me to believe it wasn't serious. First, they were often portrayed as a bunch of snobby pricks that weren't part of the working class but still had enough money to camp out in a park, with their cell phones and computers, and nothing would come of it. Another argued that the movement didn't even understand what they were themselves - that they were claiming Socialism was better, but at the same time were refusing to serve food and give shelter to the homeless.

But it's too easy to simply dismiss a whole movement from the comments of a few detractors. I started following @OccupyWallStNYC and saw another side of the conflict that started to change my views and open my mind to the idea that they were right...

And then, Jean Quan gave the order to the Oakland PD to remove the @OccupyOakland people that were, as usual, peacefully occupying the park (albeit against city regulations). But according to anyone who actually saw footage from that night, including me, the level of force that was used was excessive. Rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, flash bangs, LRAD (google it), all in very pretty riot gear. They dragged people out of the park when they resisted, completely destroyed (as in tore down and broke) tents and equipment that was there. All this for what reason? For "sanitation, security and fire hazards".

Regardless of your political views, if you believe that sending hundreds of SWAT uniforms with a full complement on non-lethal weaponry against a group of peaceful protesters sitting around in a park and camping there is the proper decision, I probably don't know you and I want no part of your entourage. But Quan attacking OccupyOakland was not the first of such acts, and especially not the last.

Two days ago, in the middle of the night (2AM local time to be precise), NYPD SWAT teams (along with the Counter-Terrorism Unit) started surrounding Zuccotti Park, birthplace of the #OWS movement and occupied for just under two months. Then, they proceeded to remove anyone in the vicinity that was part of the press. That's right, the NYPD shut off the media from witnessing the event. Rosie Gray, reporter with The Village Voice, told an office "I'm Press!" and was answered "Not tonight, you're not".

Once that was done, the raid began. Again, people were dragged away, property was destroyed, 5000 books in the Occupy Library were thrown into a container along with the possessions of anyone who had decided not to leave the park when NYPD started handing out pamphlets telling them to leave the park, and loudspeakers blasting the same thing (again, at 2AM). Those who were not arrested remained, dazed but still strong, around the park where the NYPD setup a security perimeter to throw out the rest of the "trash" remaining in the park.

Now, I'm not an expert in politics and world news, but this is never something that I would expect to see in a country such as America (or Canada for that matter). It shows us a couple of very important things.

First, the 1% is bothered, if not scared. Honestly, Zuccotti park is in the middle of the Business area in New York. There are no residents around the park that could have possibly been annoyed by the occupation. On the other hand, considering the growth of the moment and the attention it is slowly building, people that are directly targetted by the movement are probably starting to feel the pressure.

Second, the movement is already treated as a revolution. Why else would SWAT teams and riot gear be needed to remove peaceful protesters from a park? These city mayors are being pressured (Bloomberg's speech on "this was my decision alone" only serve to reinforce this theory) to try to "quell the rebellion" before it gets too big and explodes in their faces.

Third, protesting isn't a freedom anymore. It's easy for the people in power to let the "lowly peasants" do a little picketing for half a day and maybe block a street with their presence and their signs, get their media coverage and then dissipate. This is "how it's done", and it achieves nothing. But actually putting the pressure in the right place, occupying a public park to raise awareness of an issue that affects every aspect of our "civilized" society today, is clearly not an easy task. Ask the ones that have been thrown in jail for just being there, ask the media who have been taken away so they couldn't cover an important media event for the people, and ask the people of which the camps have been raided, their possessions removed, and nowhere to sleep.

So in conclusion, thank you very much, Quan, Bloomberg and all the others that are attacking the movement. Your actions have shown us just how weak you are, how scared you have become, and how true our movement is.

Let's get this revolution started, shall we?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My hate of Internet Explorer knows no bounds

I`m not the only one that has issues with Internet Explorer. Any web designer will tell you that IE sucks. It's to browsers as French is to languages: bloated, complex, and enough exceptions to fill a book.

But in the last 3 days, I've been fixing one problem after another, because different versions of IE have different quirks - but in general, every one of them is a bitch to troubleshoot when you don't know exactly what you're dealing with.

On Monday, I spend hours tracing down an issue that was making IE8 crash its tab when I opened the online html documentation I'm maintaining. Every single other browser (and every other version of IE) worked perfectly well, no error messages, no warnings. But IE8 was being a dumbass and quitting for no apparent reason. After screwing around in the javascript, the frames, the HTML, I chanced upon the fact of removing my jquery import and my javascript code in general, and suddenly it worked... A google search revealed that, specifically, [ IE8 + jQuery 1.6.2 + CSS background: url(something); + a page refresh ]  caused the crash, because a single line of code that "fixed" an IE8 bug related to CSS backgrounds was removed in error. The solution was to update jQuery to the latest version, 1.6.4, which restored their workaround to the bug. IE8 = bitch.

On Tuesday, a colleague of mine reported that IE7 was freezing and taking 100% CPU on one core. Again, Firefox, Chrome and every other version of IE had no issues at all. Why was this happening? Well, I recently added tiny bit of code that detected when the browser window was resized, and re-centered buttons on the screen (absolute positionning being a bitch of its own). In IE7 specifically, whenever an element changes on the page, it triggers the resize event. So, it was running into an infinite loop where it would resize, re-center, trigger a resize, and start all over again. To fix this, I had to add a small jquery plugin called "smartresize" which "debounced" the refresh function with a timeout. IE7 = bitch.

And today, another issue reared its ugly head: In IE9, a client would click on a "Send Feedback" link I provide, enter his name, email and a message, click on Submit... And the dialog would just stupidly sit there. And again, every other browser and version of IE I tested worked perfectly well, no issue whatsoever. The cause? I was sending an AJAX request through POST and receiving a JSON response. Now, something in IE9 (still not sure what) bugs out, thinks it should be receiving XML, sees JSON, and thinks "oh this is a mistake". Instead of triggering the jquery success: function, it triggers error:. Because I had already spend half my week fixing IE's stupidities, I resorted to a dumb workaround just to get rid of it: I put the contents of my success: function in my error: function (which is never triggered and didn't even exist before now anyway). IE9 = bitch.

Now, if you're a web designer you may think part of this is my fault - not testing properly in all versions, not knowing the quirks by heart, lacking troubleshooting abilities. But in all honesty, if I didn't have to support IE (if 40% of our users weren't on IE8), I would have spent the last 3 days doing more constructive things like, I don't know, updating our software documentation or writing FAQs.

Question to you: how many of your head banging sessions were caused specifically by Internet Explorer?