Edge cases

While booking a hotel for our stay a night in Malaga last week, I noticed that the room came with its very own laptop as well as wifi. When we arrived I encountered a Dell Inspiron 1521. There was nothing much strange about that (apart from it looking about three inches thick) but on booting it up I was presented with a custom Linux BIOS loader. Large “My First Computer” style application icons sat on the desktop with labels for “Video Chat”, “Instant Messaging”, “Word Processor” and, ominously, “Internet Browser”.

This turned out to be the Gnome Epiphany browser and it rapidly became clear that hardly any modern websites – even quite basic ones – wouldn work properly on it. Webpage layouts were all over the place and Javascript interactions just wouldn’t do as they should.

Most professional web developers implement their sites with an eye on graded support with progressive enhancements for more capable browsers and graceful degradation for outdated software. Epiphany is certainly not old but it highlights where UNIX-based operating systems remain in the grand scheme of things: very much a minority hobbyists domain. Less important than even Opera which I – like others – explain the presence of in marketshare statistics as simply being down to conscientious coders testing.

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