Journal tags: osx




Universal access is at the heart of the World Wide Web. It’s also something I value when I’m building anything on the web. Whatever I’m building, I want you to be able to visit using whatever browser or device that you choose.

Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the same experience in an old browser as you are in the latest version of Firefox or Chrome. Far from it. Not only is that not feasible, I don’t believe it’s desirable either. But if you’re using an old browser, while you might not get to enjoy the newest CSS or JavaScript, you should still be able to access a website.

Applying the principle of progressive enhancement makes this emminently doable. As long as I build in a layered way, everyone gets access to the barebones HTML, even if they can’t experience newer features. Crucially, as long as I’m doing some feature detection, those newer features don’t harm older browsers.

But there’s one area where maintaining backward compatibility might well have an adverse effect on modern browsers: security.

I don’t just mean whether or not you’re serving sites over HTTPS. Even if you’re using TLS—Transport Layer Security—not all security is created equal.

Take a look at Mozilla’s very handy SSL Configuration Generator. You get to choose from three options:

  1. Modern. Services with clients that support TLS 1.3 and don’t need backward compatibility.
  2. Intermediate. General-purpose servers with a variety of clients, recommended for almost all systems.
  3. Old. Compatible with a number of very old clients, and should be used only as a last resort.

Because I value universal access, I should really go for the “old” setting. That ensures my site is accessible all the way back to Android 2.3 and Safari 1. But if I do that, I will be supporting TLS 1.0. That’s not good. My site is potentially vulnerable.

Alright then, I’ll go for “intermediate”—that’s the recommended level anyway. Now I’m no longer providing TLS 1.0 support. But that means some older browsers can no longer access my site.

This is exactly the situation I found myself in with The Session. I had a score of A+ from SSL Labs. I was feeling downright smug. Then I got emails from actual users. One had picked up an old Samsung tablet second hand. Another was using an older version of Safari. Neither could access the site.

Sure enough, if you cut off TLS 1.0, you cut off Safari below version six.

Alright, then. Can’t they just upgrade? Well …no. Apple has tied Safari to OS X. If you can’t upgrade your operating system, you can’t upgrade your browser. So if you’re using OS X Mountain Lion, you’re stuck with an insecure version of Safari.

Fortunately, you can use a different browser. It’s possible to install, say, Firefox 37 which supports TLS 1.2.

On desktop, that is. If you’re using an older iPhone or iPad and you can’t upgrade to a recent version of iOS, you’re screwed.

This isn’t an edge case. This is exactly the kind of usage that iPads excel at: you got the device a few years back just to do some web browsing and not much else. It still seems to work fine, and you have no incentive to buy a brand new iPad. And nor should you have to.

In that situation, you’re stuck using an insecure browser.

As a site owner, I can either make security my top priority, which means you’ll no longer be able to access my site. Or I can provide you access, which makes my site less secure for everyone. (That’s what I’ve done on The Session and now my score is capped at B.)

What I can’t do is tell you to install a different browser, because you literally can’t. Sure, technically you can install something called Firefox from the App Store, or you can install something called Chrome. But neither have anything to do with their desktop counterparts. They’re differently skinned versions of Safari.

Apple refuses to allow browsers with any other rendering engine to be installed. Their reasoning?


Tools of the trade

I remember when Rebecca wrote about A Baseline for Front-End Developers:

I think we’re seeing the emphasis shift from valuing trivia to valuing tools.

I know that Paul places a similar emphasis on the value of front-end development tools. Personally, I’ve always been lax with keeping up to date with start-of-the-art tools. I’ve been working on the web long enough to see yesterday’s cutting-edge tools stagnate or fall out of favour.

Still, I should really do more to keep up. There are a few design tools cropping up that I should really investigate.

LayerVault and Pixelapse both offer git-style version control for Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator files. Sounds useful.

Then there are the tools that I think could be really useful for making HTML prototypes: Easel is browser-based, while Hammer and Mixture are OS X apps. They’ve all got enough time-saving shortcuts to make them worth investigating further. I wouldn’t use them for production code, but like I said, handy for prototyping.

Hacky holidays on OS X

Christmas is a time for giving, a time for over-indulgence, a time for lounging around and for me, a time for doing those somewhat time-consuming tasks that I’d otherwise never get around to doing… like upgrading my operating system.

I used the downtime here in Arizona to install Leopard on my Macbook. I knew from reading other people’s reports that it might take some time to get my local web server back up and running. Sure enough, I had to jump through some hoops.

I threw caution to the wind and chose the “upgrade” option. Normally I’d choose “Archive and Install” but it sounds like this caused some problems for Roger .

The upgrade went smoothly. Before too long, I had a brand spanking new OS that was similar to the old OS but ever so slightly uglier and slower.

My first big disappointment was discovering that my copy of Photoshop 7 didn’t work at all. Yes, I know that’s a really old version but I don’t do too much image editing on my laptop so it’s always been good enough. I guess I should have done some reading up on compatibility before installing Leopard. Fortunately, I was able to upgrade from Photoshop 7 to Photoshop CS3—I was worried that I might have had to buy a new copy.

But, as I said, the bulk of my time was spent getting my local LAMP constellation back up and running. I did most of my editing in BBEdit—if you install the BBEdit command line tools, you can use the word bbedit in Terminal to edit documents. If you use Textmate, mate is the command you want.

Leopard ships with Apache 2 which manages virtual hosts differently to the previous version. Instead of keeping all the virtual host information in /etc/httpd/httpd.conf (or /etc/httpd/users/jeremy.conf), the new version of Apache stores it in /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf. I fired up Terminal and typed:

bbedit /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

That file shows a VirtualHost example. After unlocking the file, I commented out the example and added my own info:

<VirtualHost *:80>
   DocumentRoot "/Users/jeremy/Sites/adactio/public_html"

The default permissions are somewhat draconian so to avoid getting 403:Forbidden messages when trying to look at any local sites, I also added these lines to the httpd-vhosts.conf file:

<Directory /Users/*/Sites/>
    Options Indexes Includes FollowSymLinks SymLinksifOwnerMatch ExecCGI MultiViews
    AllowOverride All
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all

I then saved the file, which required an admin password.

The good news is that Leopard doesn’t mess with the hosts file (located at /private/etc/hosts). That’s where I had listed the same host names I had chosen in the previous file: localhost

But for any of that to get applied, I needed to edit the httpd.conf file:

bbedit /private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf

I uncommented this line:

# Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

While I was in there, I also removed the octothorp from the start of this line:

# LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/

That gets PHP up and running. Leopard ships with PHP5 which is A Good Thing.

Going into Systems Preferences, then Sharing and then ticking the Web Sharing checkbox, I started up my web server and was able to successfully navigate to There I was greeted with an error message informing me that my local site wasn’t able to connect to MySQL.

Do not fear: MySQL is still there. But I needed to do two things:

  1. Tell PHP where to look for the connection socket and
  2. Get MySQL to start automatically on login.

For the first step, I needed a php.ini file to edit. I created this by copying the supplied php.ini.default file:

cd /private/etc
cp php.ini.default php.ini
bbedit php.ini

I found this line:

mysql.default_socket =

…and changed it to:

mysql.default_socket = /private/tmp/mysql.sock

I had previously installed MySQL by following these instructions but now the handy little preference pane for starting and stopping MySQL was no longer working. It was going to be a real PITA if I had to manually start up MySQL every time I restarted my computer so I looked for a way of getting it to start up automatically.

I found what I wanted on the TomatoCheese Blog. Here’s the important bit:

Remove the MySQL startup item (we’ll use the preferred launchd instead):

 sudo rm -R /Library/StartupItems/MYSQLCOM

Also, right-click and remove the MySQL preference pane in System Preferences because we’ll be using the preferred launchd instead.

Copy this MySQL launchd configuration file to /Library/LaunchDaemons, and change its owner to root:

sudo chown root /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.mysql.mysqld.plist

That did the trick for me. When I restarted my machine, MySQL started up automatically.

So after some command line cabalism and Google sleuthing, I had my local webdev environment back up and running on Leopard.