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Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

September 24, 2003

Mozilla Sucks

Sometimes I get depressed about this whole weblog thing. On the authoring side, it’s just about as good as I could wish for — compose an entry in a LaTeX dialect, click post and bingo! it’s converted to XHTML+MathML and posted to the web.

On the client side, however, it sucks. Never mind that only Gecko-based browsers support MathML. Even their rendering is piss-poor and, at least under MacOSX, getting worse.

Consider the humble minus sign. Up until recently, Mozilla rendered this as a hyphen, “-”. That’s wrong, and looks horrible. The most recent Mozilla builds have, instead, shifted to using the real minus sign glyph from the Symbol font as the default.

There’s one wee problem: Mozilla, under MacOSX doesn’t recognize the Symbol font and so now all the minus signs have disappeared from the equations on my blog. Camino does recognize the Symbol font, but it doesn’t do MathML.

Don’t bother asking if I’ve filed a bug. Using the glyph from the Symbol font is the “right” thing to do, under the circumstances. It would work just fine under MacOSX, if only Mozilla’s font support under MacOSX were not so terrible. But that’s already the subject of enough bug reports.

All I can say is that I really hope this nonsense clears up when the Stix fonts become available. In the meantime, the only viable platform for reading this blog is Mozilla on Linux with the Computer Modern fonts installed — not exactly a mass-market configuration.

I am holding my breath, but anoxia is setting in.

Update (9/24/2003): This particular problem with minus signs can be fixed by including the line

user_pref("font.mathfont-family.\u2212.base", "Math1");

in your user.js file. The general point still remains…

Posted by distler at September 24, 2003 1:45 AM

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Re: Mozilla Sucks

“In the meantime, the only viable platform for reading this blog is Mozilla on Linux with the Computer Modern fonts installed - not exactly a mass-market configuration.”

Err, I think you’re forgetting one major platform/browser combination - Mozilla/Windows. I’ve been reading your blog just fine with that particular combo, and Windows machines do constitute approximately 93% of the machines out there.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on September 24, 2003 7:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Bakoma for Windows

Sorry. You’re right.

Most Linux/Mozilla users already have the ComputerModern fonts installed. Windows/Mozilla users mostly don’t. But I’d forgotten that they have the option of installing a TrueType version of those fonts.

Thanks. I feel so much better now.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on September 24, 2003 7:57 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Mozilla Sucks

In addition to using the Linux version and have all necessary fonts installed you also have to deactivate the antialiasing (respectively subpixel-rendering). Needless to say, I don’t really want to do that…

Posted by: Volker Braun on September 24, 2003 4:12 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Mozilla Sucks

This isn’t true anymore. The GTK2/XFT builds now work with MathML, as long as you have truetype versions of all the fonts installed in a path referenced by /etc/fonts/fonts.conf. The exception is symbol - if you have a ttf symbol font, you can use it by uncommenting a couple of lines in the file in {mozilla dir}/res/ - if you load the file, the change that needs to be made is commented out. Otherwise, it will use a type 1 symbol font. However, I seem to be having some problems with the symbol font - I have managed to get a symbol font to work (I know this because the glyphs from the symbol font are being displayed), but Mozilla still complains that I’m missing the symbol font - leading me to believe that I’m probably using the wrong symbol font or something.

The downside of all of this is that, with fonts missing, the GTK2/XFT builds seem to have major display issues with partially rendered MathML. In particular, scrolling equations can cause horrible display issues. I think printing is still broken as well.

Posted by: jgraham on October 13, 2003 5:37 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Camino (possibly) doesn’t still suck

If you’re feeling adventerous, you could try the un-official build of Camino I have here.

It has MathML enabled. On my machine, there are still problems, but I don’t know if they’re related to installed TeX fonts or just crappy rendering. Any comments would be appreciated.

Posted by: Dave Haas on September 26, 2003 11:53 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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