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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.

February 10, 2004

MathPlayer 2.0

The latest beta of Design Science’s MathPlayer plugin for IE/Win is out. This free plugin brings MathML support to Internet Explorer. Unlike the previous version, no custom-coding is necessary; it works with ordinary Standards-based XHTML+MathML pages.

Thanks to the great work of Paul Topping, Robert Miner, and the other folks at Design Science, MathPlayer 2.0beta 5 and later work the MathML-enabled blogs hosted here. So, if you’re an IE/Win user, and a regular reader of Musings or of the String Coffee Table, send them an email and say you’d like to get on the beta-testing list for MathPlayer 2.0. They’re eager for beta-testers, as this is hoped to be the last beta release before MathPlayer 2.0 goes final.

For the technically-inclined, my changes to support MathPlayer 2.0 consisted entirely of the following tweak (in red) to my mod_rewrite rules:

RewriteRule ^$ index.shtml
RewriteCond  %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} Gecko|W3C.*Validator|MSIE.*MathPlayer
RewriteRule \.html$|\.shtml$   - [T=application/xhtml+xml]
RewriteCond  %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} Chimera|Camino|KHTML
RewriteRule \.html$|\.shtml$   - [T=text/html]
RewriteCond  %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} Camino.*MathML-Enabled
RewriteRule \.html$|\.shtml$   - [T=application/xhtml+xml]

and a similar one for my cgi-bin directory.

Posted by distler at February 10, 2004 3:59 PM

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Re: MathPlayer 2.0

Does the new MathPlayer beta just change the UA string, or does it also change the accept header? I’d really rather avoid UA string detection hacks. I couldn’t see the answer on the site, but I probably didn’t look hard enough.

Posted by: jgraham on February 11, 2004 2:14 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: MathPlayer 2.0

Sorry, I actually tried reading the right page. In fact, I think I probably already knew the answer to my own question. So, feel free to ignore me.

Posted by: jgraham on February 11, 2004 2:18 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: MathPlayer 2.0

I don’t believe there is a foolproof way, currently, to determine which browsers should get XHTML+MathML, based on what ACCEPT strings they send out.

Take, for instance, Camino, which sends out exactly the same ACCEPT headers as all other Gecko-based browsers, but which barfs on XHTML+MathML, unless you happen to be using one of Dave Haas’ builds, in which case it works fine.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 11, 2004 3:52 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: MathPlayer 2.0

I’ve added a comment to a relevant-looking Mozilla bug suggesting that adding MathML (and XUL and SVG) to the accept header would be A Good Thing. The main problem seems to be that there is no way of setting the accept header based on the compiler settings . That shouldn’t be an insoluble problem (the default accept header seems to be held in a pref), but I personally have no idea where to start implementing a fix. Therefore I don’t see this being fixed anytime soon. On the other hand, if it does get fixed, that should mean that all gecko based browsers automatically become good citizens.

Posted by: jgraham on February 12, 2004 4:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

MIME types

I discussed with the Design Science guys the possibility of adding application/mathml+xml to the ACCEPT headers that IE sends out.

I gather, however, that that would be a lie; their plugin does not enable IE to handle documents whose root namespace is MathML.

In the end, I think their decision to modify the USER_AGENT string (which certainly does not preclude adding to the ACCEPT header too) was the right one.

The long and short of the matter is that the number of user-agents which support XHTML+MathML is small. And none of the rest have any compelling reason to receive anything other than text/html.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 12, 2004 11:09 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: MIME types

Well the nice thing about having MathML in the accept header is that it prevents a repeat of the Camino saga.

At present, if random individuals start building Camino (or indeed any other browser not on your list of UAs) with MathML, they need to be instructed to alter their UA to get the MathML to work with your site. The assumption that all MathML enabled browsers have a unique UA isn’t necessarily true.

As for Mathplayer, since they have added something to the UA, I suppose that it’s not too much of a problem that they’re not adding stuff to the accept header.

Posted by: jgraham on February 13, 2004 4:15 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Camino Saga

The Camino saga is an object-lesson both in why one doesn’t want to engage in browser-sniffing (via the USER_AGENT) and why, sometimes, browser-sniffing is the only practical solution to a real-world problem.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 13, 2004 11:29 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: MathPlayer 2.0

I’m currently testing MathPlayer 2.0 on my Blog/Wiki test project page:
I have the effect that for MP2.0/IE6.x the symbol #8750; (ContourIntegral) is shown as a question mark thereas under IE 5.5 with older MP the symbol is shown correct.
Must I specify a special font for Mathplayer?
Any idea what’s wrong?

Posted by: Klaus Hartlage on March 22, 2004 5:48 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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