Monthly Archives: October 2006

Plastic, Interrupted

Time to get rid of fake metallic looking plastic:

Or, for that matter, consider any of the many, many pieces of digital hardware currently available on the market that, like my Treo, share the absolutely cringe-worthy characteristic of being pieces of plastic that are painted to look like metal.

(Via Daring Fireball).

Boarding pass hack

Chris Sogihoian shows how to get through U.S airport security with a simple HTML hack. Its interesting to note that when I flew to Aberdeen from London not a single piece of ID was checked from (electronic) check-in to boarding.

The G.O.P.’s bad bet

Charles Murray has the best analysis of the recent ban on Internet gambling in the U.S.

If a free society is to work, the vast majority of citizens must reflexively obey the law not because they fear punishment, but because they accept that the rule of law makes society possible. Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid.

E-mail etiquette

E-mail is still the most popular activity on the internet, and is one of the oldest too. But instead of aging gracefully as you would expect for an internet technology, its slowing loosing the usability and elegance it once had, due to mis-education of new users when they follow poorly thought out conventions.

New users are uneducated in the etiquette of writing e-mails that has been developed over its life, while Microsoft Outlook and other free e-mail providers (I’m looking at your Hotmail) thoroughly ignore previous set standards, for their own worse set of standards, and are completely mis-educating new users into how e-mail should be written.

If you receive poorly formatted HTML e-mails, which huge signatures that seem to have more emphasis than the content, and big bold titles use that should be using the e-mail subject instead, then you know what I mean.

In fact, everyone’s probably received an e-mail with FYI at the top, and a very long nested list of conversations between two, three or more people for you to read. Why someone would forward me this boggles the mind.

Quotes

My biggest peeve towards e-mail is how the most popular e-mail clients handle quoting of the original message. The Outlook and Hotmail generation has made everyone think that you should quote the message below your reply, and insert a message header for the quote.

Hey John, Sure, when do you want to meet? Regards, Bob. —–Original Message—– From: John Sent: 19 October 2006 10:02 To: Bob Subject: Lunch Hi Bob, How are you doing? Want to meet for lunch today? Regards, John.

For short, to the point e-mails, this is perfectly fine, although the reply message header (the –Original Message– bit) seems unnecessary and a completely waste of space. We know who the sender and recipient is, the subject is used in the reply subject and the date is almost always irrelevant.

However, if you get a long e-mail, it can sometimes be very confusing to distinguish what the person is replying to.

Hi John, In response to your first point… In response to your second point… In response to your third point… Regards, Bob. —–Original Message—– From: John Sent: 19 October 2006 10:02 To: Bob Subject: Lunch Hi Bob, Long winded point 1. Long winded point 2. Long winded point 3. Regards, John.

The original sender would probably have to refer back to his original quoted message, wasting his time and making him do more work. This is the biggest problem with the quote below style e-mail. It doesn’t make it any easier that the majority of e-mail clients use this format, and changing their settings for the better is not always possible.

The solution, is obvious. Don’t quote unless you’re directly answering a question or point made in the e-mail.

Hi John,

John's first point.

Bob's reply to John's point.

John's second point.

Bob's reply to John's point.

John's third point.

Bob's reply to John's point.

Regards, Bob.

Every response has a clear question, so the reader knows the exact context. The amount of time spent by the writer to paste in a few quotes pales in comparison to when the reader has to trawl through pages of e-mails to find the context to understand the reply.

Rich text and HTML

As you may have noticed, the correct (or better) example I gave for the quotes example was written in plain text rather than either HTML or rich text format. I despise the use of rich text or HTML for textual based e-mails. I want to read e-mail in a font that I choose and in a size that I choose.

I would make exceptions if people wanted to use the formatting styles available to HTML and rich text, but when was the last time you saw someone change the formatting in an e-mail without making you want to cringe. Massive font sizes, glaring colours and animated GIFs isn’t something I want to look at.

People now treat e-mails as mini web pages that you can send. But they forget the fact that the most important part of an e-mail is the content, and that 99.9% of the time plain text is the best way to get this content across to the reader. Flagging as urgent, increase the font size to 20pt and changing the colour to bright pink just doesn’t work.

Again, there are conventions that Outlook and co. dutifully ignore. The only formatting that should be used in an e-mail is emphasis, and traditionally you would wrap the word or phrase with an asterix are you *sure* you want to do that?, and you can plainly see, even without automatic bolding, that the user knows where the emphasis is placed.

Internet Explorer 7 released

It’s now official, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 has gone gold. Currently 49% of my visitors are using IE6, while 19% are using some pre-release version of IE7. Once the balance tips into IE7s favour, I’ll be ditching IE6 support on Ejecutive and fully embracing the wonder that is IE7.

So get upgrading!

It’s official: Intel chief hates AMD

Deliberately planned, or accidental spur of the moment?

…after typing a random number as his username – projected for the audience’s benefit onto one of the 20-foot screens at the front of the auditorium – he slowly keyed in his mock password: ‘i hate amd’.

Stupid Alert: Larry Bodine

You would expect a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board to know their stuff about computers. You would forgive them for being a little naive about Macs, but expect them to research them with an open mind and then compile an accurate report, not necessarily recommending them (they aren’t for everyone), but at least being subjective and fair.

Instead, you get idiots like Larry Bodine and his Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree commentary that shows you how some people are grossly overpaid and under qualified.

In his commentary he compains that he was suckered in by the hype about freedom from viruses, simplicity of computing and versatility while what he got was a computer that can’t view Web sites properly, is not compatible with Microsoft Word and can run only dumbed-down versions of regular software.

Let’s break this down paragraph by paragraph and see where Larry went wrong.

I was suckered in by the hype about freedom from viruses, simplicity of computing and versatility. Instead, I bought a boat anchor that can’t view Web sites properly, is not compatible with Microsoft Word and can run only dumbed-down versions of regular software.

Thats fine, if you didn’t contradict yourself later on with a long monologue about your problems with Microsoft Word for OS X, and if you gave examples of dumbed-down software other than AOL.

This time, I’m buying from Hewlett-Packard Co. or Dell Inc. — anything that runs on Windows. (I’ll assume the risk of flaming batteries.) Goodbye Steve Jobs, hello Bill Gates. I’ll be lucky to get half of the $4,552.71 I paid for the Mac on May 21, 2006.

Let’s ignore the fact that all new Macs can run Windows now, and concentrate on the $4,552.71 he paid for his Power Mac G5 2.7GHz on May 21, 2006. Now the dual 2.7GHz G5 Power Macs were introduced on the 27th of April 2005, and were discontinued on the 10th of October 20051 On the day they were released, the 2.7GHz G5 Power Mac cost $2,999. Larry however, paid $4,552.71. He doesn’t mention any accessories he bought2 so the only explanation is that the Larry Bodine, a member of the Law Technology News Editorial Advisory Board, someone who is paid to advise on technology, got duped.

I realized it was time to unload the silvery box of frustration when I had to buy a Dummies book on how to operate it. I’m smart; I shouldn’t need this. Aren’t Macs supposed to be intuitive and easy to learn? My mistake.

Yes Larry, you should expect to know how to use an entirely new computer and operating system that cost $4,552.71 without ever reading the manual. Did you become a Windows expert the first time you started using it? Did you not need to fiddle around, read a book, or at least ask for help?

I notice you insert a I’m smart into a paragraph that directly contradicts itself, because it reads like I’m so smart that I had to buy a “Dummies” book to learn something that is easy to learn. Nice.

The signs of doom were there on day one, but I ignored them. I pretended that I liked the one button mouse. I quickly started using click + command keys (and other keyboard shortcuts). I really missed the little scrolling wheel in the center of the mouse. I put up with the fact that the HP printer, which I had purchased on the recommendation of an Apple Store, would work about 50 percent of the time with the Mac. I was constantly deleting print jobs and starting them over.

Wait, a one button mouse? The Power Mac G5 came with a two-button-scroll-wheel Mighty Mouse from the 2nd of August 2005, so I can only assume that you bought one of the last stocks of the old Apple Pro Mouse as an accessory with your order, and trashed the Mighty Mouse.

And as for the printer support, it is all rather shabby on OS X, but then ask anyone who hasn’t been infuriated with the print queue system on Windows too and you’ll see this is as much as a problem with printers as with operating systems.

I noticed it was slow; I saw that stupid spinning colored wheel a lot. The Mac would hang up; the TV ads said Macs didn’t do that. The widgets were cool and snappy, but after a while I stopped using them. They were fun — for five minutes. I did like the Finder because it was quick in locating files, but it would turn up a lot of false hits. It was comparable to the Google Desktop searcher on my PC.

You’re right in saying widgets only have niche appeal. And yes the dredded spinning beach ball (not colored wheel) does appear more than it should do. But aren’t you expecting too much for a search engine that takes one to two word queries to find, and only find the exact document or web page you’re looking for?

What drove me nuts was that I would open Word for Mac and couldn’t delete files while I was in Word. There is no File | Delete option. So the documents took up space on my hard drive, until someone told me I had to find the document in Finder and then move it into the trash from there. This seemed stupid to me; I just wanted to highlight a file and tap “delete.”

File > Delete seems like a Windows Word exclusive feature3 and it doesn’t feature in the Word for OS X because it’s not standard a OS X UI design feature. I think you’re expecting OS X Word to be a direct clone of Windows Word, when (to the credit of Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit) it’s an OS X port of Word, using many OS X conventions instead of Windows ones.

Word files transferred from the Mac were missing pictures. PowerPoint files transferred from the Mac would lose their formatting. PCs and Macs are not compatible, regardless of what they say.

Some image formats don’t translate from Windows to OS X Word (even though they are supported by both Windows and OS X). But wait, whats that big Compatibility Report... button doing in the save file dialog? I wonder what that does…

Doing a simple screen capture was an immense chore. On a PC you just press Alt and tap PrtScr. With the Mac I had to download and launch special programs to accomplish this simple task.

Maybe if you bothered to search for how to take a screenshot, you would’ve found Command-Shift-4.

I didn’t even bother with the Mac’s iCal or Mail, which required me to buy an @mac.com address. Instead, I went straight to Outlook for Mac. A lot of the software for Mac — such as AOL for Mac OS X — was dumbed down and missing may features of the current PC versions.

It’s quite clear you had incorrect preconceptions about these applications, and didn’t even bother to open them and have a look before dragging them to the trash4 You don’t need to buy a .mac subscription, Apple Mail will work fine with POP and IMAP mail boxes, and iCal works fine on its own without syncing to any internet based service.

Wait, did you mention that you use AOL in an article where you claim to be a technology consultant? There goes any shred of credibility you have (which was none at this point). And then saying that it’s a dumbed down version suggests that you actually use the AOL software that comes with your PC. I also fail to see how a technology consultant could actually use the piece of crap that is AOL, and how you can consider AOL software being dumbed down, when it is already targeted at the lowest common denominator of Internet users (i.e. you).

For me the killer was the Web browser. Safari simply cannot read Flash. It is, quite simply, a second-rate browser.

I even called Apple headquarters and asked when a better version would be available and was told that Apple is in no hurry to improve it.

Right. OS X comes with Flash support built in, but the last time I checked Windows doesn’t. Some people prefer other browsers to Safari, so I would forgive you on the second-rate browser quip and the obvious lie that Apple is in no hurry to improve (when Safari will be upgraded to 3.0 when OS X 10.5 is release), if it wasn’t for what followed.

On the suggestions of friends, I downloaded Netscape and Firefox, which were no better.

I scraped along with Internet Explorer 5.0 for Mac, and then discovered in 2006 that Microsoft would no longer support the Mac version. You can’t do WSYWIG on Typepad (where many folks create their blogs), which you can on a PC.

I run several Web sites, all optimized for IE 5.5 or higher. I couldn’t operate my own Web sites with the Mac. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

What kind of friend would recommend you use Netscape (last updated August 2004)? More like someone with a grudge against you because you persuaded them to buy a year old mac at nearly double the original retail value. And what were Netscape and Firefox no better at? Rendering Flash? I believe Firefox pops up with a yellow information bar when a plug-in was needed.

I’ve had a look at your so-called websites, and I’m not impressed. Optimized for IE 5.5 or higher means you or your designers were too lazy to test on other browsers and other platforms, and didn’t bother with any sort of standards at all (except for the overzelous use of the now defunct XML and RSS buttons). But blasting your websites is the subject for another article.

Then the hard drive croaked on me after only three months of owning the machine. I couldn’t tell what was going wrong and had to hire someone for $125 an hour to come over and tell me what the heck was happening. Apple replaced it for free, but I became leery of what other hardware would fail unexpectedly.

Yeah, because failing hard drives are an Apple only problem. You know you could’ve phone Apple first, told them what was happening and they probably would’ve guessed the fault for free. Even so, they replaced the hard drive for free, so your problem is?

Wil Shipley sums up the commentary best, so I’ll quote directly from his article:

  1. Apple’s marketing department and fans lured me in with promises of Macs being virus-free and having great service, both of which turned out to be true.
  2. FireWire is sexy.
  3. Sometimes I see the spinny cursor on my Mac.
  4. Microsoft Word doesn’t please me on the Mac because the key shortcuts aren’t short enough, and because I can’t find the compatibility button on the save panel. Also, PowerPoint.
  5. Microsoft Outlook doesn’t please me on the Mac, and I never tried the free alternatives that were bundled with the system.
  6. AOL(!) doesn’t please me on the Mac.
  7. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 from 1997 does not please me on the Mac, and I mistakenly believe Safari doesn’t support Flash, nor will I use any of the many free alternatives that would work fine.
  8. One time, my hard drive broke and was replaced for free.

I let the repaired shiny Mac sit on the floor for weeks, and instead used my reliable IBM ThinkPad, and rediscovered how much I enjoy it. Wish me luck on selling the Mac.

Well seeing how you blasted it in your commentary, and state that you became leery of what other hardware would fail unexpectedly, I estimate the value of your unreliable, unusable and near-death Power Mac to be $1.43, excluding postage but including packaging. That, you can have for free.


  1. When they were replaced by the quad G5s Power Macs.
  2. Except for an Apple recommended HP printer, which we can safey assume cost less than the difference in question.
  3. I never use it, as I rarely need to delete documents from within Word, but having a quick look around other applications that handle files, I don’t find it either.
  4. Maybe you though they would automatically guess your credit card details and buy you a two year subscription to .mac if you didn’t delete the shortcuts from your dock ASAP. Yeah, that must be it.

Fake

The following function is not a great way to test for fake names.

if (name.Has("fake"))
{
    return false;
}

Google buys YouTube

It’s happened, Google buys YouTube for a whopping $1.65 billion (£887 million). The $580 million (£312 million) paid by News Corp for MySpace seems paltry in comparison.

Peter Sellers doing English accents

In an interview in support of the release of Dr. Strangelove, Peter Sellers tries to find an English accent to the interviewers liking. (via Kotte.)

Windows Vista RC2

Another day, another public Windows Vista release candidate, and this time it’s RC2. This is probably as close to the RTM release as Microsofts going to release, and has the build number of 5744 (perhaps hinting at 5800 build number for the final product?)

Stupid Alert: Fahrenheit 451

An idiot named Alton Verm objects to Fahrenheit 451 being used in his daughters school, because He looked through the book and he found things wrong with it.

It’s just all kinds of filth, said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read Fahrenheit 451. The words don’t need to be brought out in class. I want to get the book taken out of the class.

Never mind hes never read it, or even knows what its about (irony hint: book burning), but he then adds If they can’t find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn’t have a book at all.

I have a feeling that the majority of my Stupid Alerts are going to be about Americans.

Why Fox News is a joke

Mixing pundits, news and Rupert Murdoch will only lead to this.

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