Background

OK, please have a look at these two pages and see what you notice about them:

They look OK? There's no difference between them other than content? Alright, then you must be using the a decent browser like Firefox or its big brother, Mozilla, both based on the NGLayout (or “Gecko”) layout engine, or Opera, an excellent multi-platform browser.

Chances are, though, that you're one of between 58.5% and 77.86% of people, or maybe even more who use Microsoft Internet Explorer. “We heard you”, they say, “you wanted it easier and more secure”. Yup, we also wanted it not to be a buggy random crock, maybe you'll hear that next time.

In MSIE, though, you will have noticed that the menus on the right-hand-side of my homepage are “b0rked”. In particular, the menu background bar is shifted about 5 pixels right in one page, but not the other.

Why?

Aha, you say, there has to be something different about those two pages! Maybe it's that picture? Nope, I removed it and checked. Maybe it's those buttons at the bottom? Nope, I removed those too. There's two menus in the menu-bar, maybe it's that? Nope, I checked. Maybe it's the two-line menu item? Nope, not that either. Eh, maybe it's some subtle difference in the way you wrote the HTML, a little error? Unlikely... here's why.

RSX CMS

I use a little thing I call RSX for a few different sites:

I wrote it in 2005, I've used it extensively, and I update it pretty often. Basically, it's a one-page Perl script that uses XSLT to transform a simple XML page, that I edit by hand, into XHTML 1.1. It does all the donkey work of putting in headers and footers and I can write little utility templates to create new elements on the fly. It's pretty cool.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because only one page suffers from this problem, my home page, in spite of the fact that they're all produced in the same way from near-identical XML. It's perfectly fine in Firefox and Opera.

What About the CSS?

“Ah yes”, you say, “but what about the CSS?” Those three look different!

Only in colour. Not in fundamental layout. The difference between the three instances of RSX is one line in a configuration file controlling which is the default skin. If you're using Firefox, you can pick one of 6 from the View -> Page Style menu (MSIE doesn't have this facility).

So What Now?

Well, nothing. It's just some bizarre random behaviour on the part of MSIE. I've spent hours trying to find the problem and devise some hack to work around it, and I'm just plain sick of it. I don't use MSIE. No sane person who knows better uses MSIE. I'm out of the web development business now, so I just don't care. I have better things to do with my time than struggle with this crap.