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Nit: Ajax websights and wifi redirect pages

So, as many of you know, I've been road-tripping across the US of late. I'm now in Pittsburgh, after a little over 3600 miles of not-the-straightest-path cross-country road trip.

Along the way, I encountered a lot of different kinds of Internet and Wifi availability. There was the Chicago Hyatt Regency, where we stayed during the YearlyKOS conference... which wanted something like $14/day to use their in-room Internet (which I had to troubleshoot and fix the wiring of to get working, but that's another story.). There were many cafes and motels along the way with Internet connectivity.... even in Mexican Hat Utah, a tiny little town just outside of Monument Valley.

But, most of them, even if they offered free Internet connectivity, had you go through some sort of Wifi login/confirmation redirect page. These things are the devil to begin with, but they suffer from a couple of notable specific faults:

1) Many don't keep track of the original page you were surfing to. Ever try opening Firefox with a session restore feature turned on with one of these? You get a whole bunch of tabs with the login page, and virtually no way to go back to whatever page was in your session. Ugh. 2) Few Ajax apps seem to check properly for these conditions, and either fail in odd ways when they make a request, or don't offer an appropriate way to keep going once you've fixed things. Nothing like having to reload a heavy Ajax app (Gmail, I'm looking at you...) on a slow or expensive link because someone wanted to inject their hotel branding into your Internet experience.

Fortunately, both are correctable. Several of these tools actually do remember where you were surfing when you hit their redirect pages, and will set you back there once you log in, so point #1 is definitely avoidable. Point 2 is more tricky, of course, since it requires the web app author to code more defensively. Anyone out there know a good 3-line or less idiom to catch and report this kind of offense in a Javascript snippet, so it can be published alongside this rant for all of posterity?

More updates on the trip itself when I have time.... short excerpts of my progress were chronicled on my twitter site, though, which can still be seen here: http://twitter.com/bp

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