An open letter to

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As my daughter is now in primary school, she has a web-based system for checking homework, and also some homework to be done online. While I happen to think that this is really cool in some ways, I also think it's appalling. Six year olds are expected to be let loose on the public internet? Are they mad?

What's worse is that the website used, which is run by is strictly Internet Explorer (IE) only. It won't work on anything else*. She can't do her internet homework on the Mac, which is a pretty safe environment, but only on my Linux box, which is powering this webserver and mail server. Or I could put a 6 year old with IE on Windows free to browse wherever she wants. That isn't a good idea.

* Actually, it does work on Konqueror (the KDE browser Safari is based on), with user-agent spoofing, but I hardly think that a six year old can be expected to figure that out. This means that the browser tells the webserver that it's really Internet Explorer on XP, not Konqueror on Linux. A site that checks for the user-agent is the antithesis of the open internet. It says "I only work with the following browsers", but then makes no allowance for other browsers being improved (or made more compatible with IE's rendering quirks). It's a sure sign of someone who's learned webdesign on IE, and refuses to develop to standards.

IE is a very insecure browser, with no popup protection. Modern browsers, like Firefox, have good popup protection and, with add-ons like adblock-plus, it's possible to restrict certain users to safe sites. It's not possible to do that with IE, as far as I am aware. IE is also a primary transmission vector for viruses, trojans and assorted spyware. Plus it's a poor renderer of webages, doesn't support the various web standords properly, and lacks basic features like tabbed browsing.

While I do have some protection on my Windows box, I largely use common sense and many years of experience to avoid dodgy sites.

Seeing as how BroadLearning have no contact addresses on their website, I sent this to, which was the only email address I could find online, but it was bounced.

I have a query in regards to the eClass Junior web-based education package. My apologies if you are not the correct person for this enquiry, but I was unable to find any other contact addresses on the website.

Currently, the eClass Junior website appears to only render correctly on Microsoft Internet Explorer, and will not render certain elements (such as popup menus on Firefox, Safari or Konqueror.

The javascript which powers the popups appears to be checking the browser identification string, as changing that string from Konqueror allows the popups to work. They won't work on Firefox under any circumstances however, as there appear to be a lot of errors in the HTML.

As the computer my children use to do their homework on the eClass Junior system is running Linux, you can see that this presents a problem.

Is it BroadLearning policy to only code for Internet Explorer on Windows? Will the eClass Junior system be modernised to be cross-platform compatible like any modern webpage?


Nigel said:

Dave have you installed the User Agent Switcher that's available for Firefox? It seems to get over most of these probs with other sites that claim to be IE only (Call themselves Web Developers? - ridiculous!)

dave said:

Yes, I've installed that add-on. I also put Safari into Debug mode and set the user-agent switching on there too.

I've tried:
Firefox, with and without User Agent Switching on Mac, Linux, Win XP - doesn't work
Safari, with and withough User Agent Switching on Mac - doesn't work.
Konqueror on Linux with and withough User Agent Switching - Works with User Agent set to "IE on WinXP".
IE 5.5 on Mac - works but very slow.
IE 6.0 on XP - works.

I haven't tried Camino or Opera as I don't normally use those. Camino uses the mozilla rendering engine, I believe, so that probably wouldn't work either.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on March 7, 2007 2:00 PM.

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