Structures, water, computers, languages and people (not necessarily in this order)

Digital democracy only for Internet Explorer

I am not a fanatic of open source software but I use Mozilla Firefox web browser for my daily net surfing because it is an easily extensible navigator. You can download and install extensions which add the features you want.

Firefox, unlike Internet Explorer, is a more or less standard-compliant browser and one of the first things you are likely to discover is a small bunch of poorly designed sites which refuse to let you in because you are not using IE. One of these pages is the electronic voting web of the Spanish Institution of Civil Engineers (Colegio de Ing. de Caminos). The original idea - choosing the President of the Colegio on-line - was brilliant but badly implemented: a quarter of the civil engineers do not use IE and we will not able to e-vote without using some trick. What is more antidemocratic, it was assumed that we all should use IE in such important elections.

You need Internet Explorer otherwise you cannot vote electronically

The only solution I have found was to set up an add-on called User Agent Switcher, which is like using IE embedded in Firefox. No doubt, I will complain loudly to the Colegio about being discrinated for not using IE and I hope they will begin to pay attention to most of the web standards.


  1. Amongst academics in the US, the use of Macs is becoming very popular as of lately. I don't know if Macs is also becoming popular in Spain, but if so, having websites that can only be read with IE seems a terrible idea. Such kind of poorly designed websites have become very rare in the US. Firefox runs in Macs as well, by the way.

  2. And, as far as I know, it is possible to install the new Mac OS on Intel/AMD Machines since Apple moved from Motorola microprocessors to Intel.

    The world statistics of OS are:

    -Personal computers:
    Windows 91%
    Mac 8%
    Linux 1%

    Linux 73%
    Unix 21%
    Windows 0.4%
    Other 6%

    The world statistics of browsers are:
    IE 53%
    Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape 47%
    Opera 1%

  3. Where did you find those statistics of browser usage? They seem fishy: the numbers do not add up to 100, there is no share for Apple's Safari, and the 47% share for Firefox and its "relatives" seems huge! I've read that the usage of IE is actually around 75-80% and Firefox is at 10-15% (see, e.g., wikipedia).

  4. General statistics (for instance, that one in Wikipedia) are not relevant to technology web sites because engineers tend to use more Linux OS and Firefox browsers than "normal" people.

  5. These recent global statistics are close to those in the Wikipedia (75% IE, 18% Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape, 6% Safari, 0.7% Opera)...
    OS, February 2008.
    Browsers, February 2008

    At least it is good to know that a quarter of the population do not use IE.

    Note: I have read that in the past Safari was indistinguishable from Netscape. Mozilla, Firefox and Netscape use a similar architecture.

  6. > General statistics (for instance, that one in Wikipedia) are not relevant to technology web sites because engineers tend to use more Linux OS and Firefox browsers than "normal" people.

    Makes sense.

    Note: The sentence also keeps the meaning if you replace the word "engineers" by "nerds" :)

  7. Well, nearly all engineers I have met that like computers or computational stuff are nerds in some way and non-engineers struggle to connect with us. For instance: Engineers have a way of looking at the world not all that different from terrorists

  8. Talking about free Science, open source software and stuff...did you know that Epanet is open source and it is possible to download the code and some DLL's from their web site to use in your own programs?

    I did download it to have a quick look through the code, but it doesn't look very friendly though.

    I may write more later. Now I am in a rush. I still have to plant a couple of bombs more before dinner.

  9. Yes, I knew. USACE models (HEC-RAS, HEC-HMS) and EPA models (EPANET, SWMM) are free and open source but I have never looked the code.

    As fas as I know, MikeNet and WaterCAD are commercial versions that use EPANET as core software. MikeFlood is also the commercial version for HEC models developed by DHI (Dannish Hydrological Institute). The commercial versions offer technical support (a hot line and affordable courses) and some useful additional features.

  10. My relationship with computers is as said by a character (played by D. Shutterland) on C. Eastwood's "Kelly' Heroes" said about tanks "I ride them, but I have no idea how they work". Well, not so far, but that's one of the reasons I'm not a great fan of Open Source Sofware, but not the main reason. This, is the fact of having consecutive Windows versions installed by default on any computer I worked with. The day it becomes other way, Open Source will become a standard on general public computers.
    In other hand, those specialized tools will become stronger and more useful as they become also Open Source; in the end, knowledge must be free or it is not knowledge.
    At the bottom, are people like your "Villar-Mir Club" (sorry for the joke if you don't like it), people who seem to be anchored in obsolete conceptions of technology, information and partnership.