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January 08, 2007

Blogging Notes

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Content from me was sparse lately. That was because we were on the road three days from Seattle to the Bay Area via the Oregon Coast and Mendocino.

Coastal driving takes more miles and time than Interstate 5, but there are compensations. A big one for me is the lack of snow, something I got far too much of in the winters I spent in Upstate New York.

Another nice thing about the coast in winter is the lack of traffic; it can be the proverbial zoo in summer. Moreover, the leaves are down, so you can experience more scenery. And the weather cooperated for one day and we got to see the hills, headlands and ocean set off against a blue sky.

Not so nice was California Highway 1 from US 101 to the shore -- a nasty twisty stretch of less than 30 miles that required nearly an hour's drive.

Blogging might be a little light next week because we'll be at Lake Tahoe for Nancy's ski week. I quit skiing a long time ago, and expect to blog if I can get a decent Internet connection.

* Suave, European-savvy sophisticates we Blowhards be, it was a shock to notice that all those umlauts, carets and other accent marks we've been dropping into foreign words started turning into gibberish characters on the Web last year.

I used to draft a post on WordPad, transfer it to Word to add the fancy letters and then copy 'n' paste to the blog software.

Now I blog from a MacBook. So let me try an experiment (I'm drafting this in TextEdit). The next paragraph will consist of three accented letters (at least while they're on the Mac): an umlauted "a", an "e" with an upward accent and an "o" with a circumflex / caret.

ä é ô

Hmm. On the MacBook's Safari browser I see three capital A's with a horizontal line atop, each followed by another character; in sequence, these are: a little square with a circle filling it, a copyright symbol and an upwards accent mark like you find in French. Other browsers might yield other results.

While we're on this subject, can anyone out there explain why characters suddenly got screwed up (at least when viewed on Internet Explorer and Safari)? And what can be done to restore our ability to use foreign words? (The blogging software is MovableType, version 3.2.)

UPDATE: The problem is related to Unicode, readers report. Safari has a switch under View that allowed me to display the characters as originally written. My Dell is in Seattle, so I can't test Internet Explorer.

So what should we Blowhards do? Some options are:

  • Continue avoiding foreign letters
  • Put a Unicode alert on each post containing foreign letters
  • Put an alert on the main page suggesting readers activate / change to Unicode setting

UPDATE 2: Doug Sundseth proposes a html solution that gets around putting the burden on readers. The price is putting a burden on Blowhards. But there are a lot more readers than Blowhards, so we need to give it serious consideration. Has anyone else tried his solution (see Comments for details)?

UPDATE 3: Okay, I'll give it a try. Testing...testing...

ä é ô Renée

Yipee!! Back in business! Thanks, guys.



posted by Donald at January 8, 2007


Quit typing foreign!

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on January 8, 2007 11:45 PM

With Safari, switch to unicode under View;Text Viewing.

Posted by: Steve on January 9, 2007 6:48 AM

Yeah, it's Unicode, which was supposed to solve our problems with foreign characters. To some extent it does: you can read Cyrillic, Chinese, Armenian, Thai, whatever now - but you have to keep switching back and forth between different encodings. Which is a pain in Firefox, 'cos your window scrolls to the top whenever you switch.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on January 9, 2007 10:27 AM

You should be able to use html encodings, like this:

ä "ä"
é "é"
ô "ô"

Less convenient than trusting to the translation capabilities of your various software packages, but perhaps more sure. For more information about what codes result in what characters, I use:


Posted by: Doug Sundseth on January 9, 2007 11:12 AM

Steve -- Yep, I got my characters back. But I suspect that many (most?) of our readers haven't thrown that switch.

Perhaps we might have to provide a Unicode notice either on the main part of the page or else on articles containing odd characters.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 9, 2007 11:14 AM

Doug's method will work on just about every possible way people view internet pages. I recently completed a Spanish language Web project and I can't tell you how many times I've typed "á". It's a pain in the ass, but currently no way around it.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 9, 2007 12:38 PM

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