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AXSLIB-L  December 2000

AXSLIB-L December 2000

Subject:

Re: WebSpeak Development is ending

From:

Martin McCormick <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Library Access -- http://www.rit.edu/~easi

Date:

Wed, 13 Dec 2000 10:33:15 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

        I personally have never used PWWebspeak, but I was sorry
to hear of its passing.  As a lynx user, I along with other lynx
users face the same problems that killed PWWebspeak.  The only
difference is that lynx is not a commercial product so there is
no CEO or board of directors to pull the plug on it.

        The announcement about PWWebspeak mentions the change in
web technology as part of the reason why the "model" for
PWWebspeak is no longer viable.

        It all boils down to that same old problem of preserving
the intelligence contained within data.  We tend to forget that
they are not necessarily the same.

        Our local public radio station, here, has a web site with
all kinds of potentially useful goodies on it, but it is a rats'
nest of javascript and Microsoft eye candy so you can forget even
downloading the program schedule even though it is plain old
ASCII text.

        I know a fellow who has Microsoft Windows and one of the
other popular Windows screen readers besides JAWS and who was
unable to download a sound file.  Just for fun, I tried it with
my UNIX system and lynx and got precisely to the very same link
before the mercantile curtain slammed down on my fingers, also.

        The file in question was a speech given by a former
President of the United States at one of our graduation
ceremonies and was free for the downloading, but the actual
process of getting the file was a javascript quagmire which
neither of our browsers or screen readers would decode.

        I do a bit of programming, myself, and I brought up the
topic of javascript on the lynx development discussion list.  It
turns out that this topic is kind of like ending world hunger.
Nobody is against it, but nobody has figured out yet how to do
it.  The problem is that javascript may do its thing in multiple
passes and all the information does not just flow from the server
to your browser in simple streams of text such as what happens
when you read this message.

        Browsers like lynx, PWWebspeak and any other
text-oriented browsers use standard html which does work in a
single-pass method so they do work sequentially.  Javascript, on
the other hand, is like a foreign culture in which the only rules
are that you can make the rules up as you go.  There is a
javascript for Netscape and another javascript for Internet
Explorer.  There is certainly a core of standard javascript, but
the extensions are different depending upon whose star you hitch
your wagon to.  Servers actually receive an identification string
from your browser that is supposed to cause the server to dress
up like either a Netscape server or an Internet Explorer server.

        Its idea of handling lynx is to display some snotty
message about "Your browser doesn't support frames," or something
else equally helpful (useless) and then to just not work.

        I think the only solution is to define some base-line
form of html that is understood by text-based devices and place
heavy pressure on the commercial interests to always include that
no-frills functionality in their servers.  They can support any
protocols they like as long as they support this low-level
service.

        Since the Wireless Applications Protocol or WAP is
trying to do similar things to bring messages to the tiny screens
of cell phones and digital assistant devices like the Palms, we
may have an ally, but I simply think that the present system is
a loosing proposition.  It's just never going to work unless we
can all agree on a uniform life-line sort of functionality.

        I think the demise of PWWebspeak was inevitable in today's
bastardized information technology world and lynx is rapidly
becoming difficult to impossible to use on many web sites.

        I know I could spend thousands to buy a screen reader for
Windows and gain access to a few sites until the next change
breaks everything again and we are forced to get out the money shovel
to do what the rest of the public does for free.
Sometimes free can be quite expensive and this is one of those times.

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK
OSU Center for Computing and Information Services Data Communications Group

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