What You Can Learn From Panic’s Email Marketing

Great post about the recent email campaign for Panic’s Transmit 3.

Mac Installation Experience

Alexander Limi has an elegant solution to the problem of installing applications on OS X.

I’m surprised there isn’t a consensus on the best approach, so hopefully this will start one.

Apple Safari 4 Beta

Or as I prefer, Apple Safari Chrome.

If you have any InputManager plugins installed, you’ll probably need to uninstall them to run this. 1Password crashes and PithHelmet screws up the rendering.

It Must Be Microsoft’s Fault

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols unleashes a scathing attack on Microsoft following the outage suffered by the London Stock Exchange:

It should have been a great day on the London Stock Exchange.

It was, the traders got to watch funny videos on YouTube all day instead of working.

Later the LSE gave the vague explanation, that “It was software-related, a coincidence, due to two processes we couldn’t have foreseen,” and not caused by high-volume. The spokesperson added, “We’ve introduced a fix and we’re confident it will not happen again.”

Somehow “we couldn’t have foreseen” and “we’re confident it will not happen again” don’t fit very well together.

Well, they didn’t foresee it. It happened, and it crashed the system. They now know what happened, and they’ve made a fix that makes sure that bug never strikes again. Comprende?

So what really happened? I doubt we’ll ever get a detailed, nitty-gritty explanation, but I have friends in London and…

None of them talk to me any more so I had to conjure this story out of my rectum.

On top of this runs the TradElec software itself. This is a custom set of C# and .NET programs, which was created by Microsoft and Accenture, the global consulting firm. Its back-end databases, believe it or not, run on Microsoft SQL Server 2000.

Nothing wrong there, at least they aren’t using a database with it’s own host of corruption and performance issues…

The programmers and serious database administrators in the audience can already see where this is going.

Yep, a Linux fanboy with nothing better to write about is going to do another misinformed rant about Microsoft.

Sorry, Microsoft, .NET Framework is simply incapable of performing this kind of work, and SQL Server 2000, or any version of SQL Server really, can’t possibly handle the world’s number three stock exchange’s transaction load on a consistent basis.

Okay, got any evidence to back up those statements?

I’d been hearing from friends who trade on the LSE for ages about how slow the system could get. Now, I know why.

No then.

What I find really amazing is that the LSE’s software stack hadn’t blown its top earlier. Even setting aside my feelings for Linux, there’s simply no way I’d recommend Server 2003, .NET and SQL Server for a job even a tenth this size. If a customer of mine insisted that they didn’t want open source - more fool them – I’d recommended Sun Solaris, JEE (Java Enterprise Edition) and Oracle or IBM AIX or z/OS, WebSphere and DB2.

Yes yes! Anything but Microsoft! Write it in C++, no C, no Haskell, no Smalltalk, no assembly, no in direct machine code! Yes, that’s the best way to do it!

What I’d really prefer to see is RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), JBoss, and MySQL or Oracle or Novell’s SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), JEE, and, again MySQL or Oracle for the DBMS engine.

Ah good old MySQL with it’s corruption and performance issues. Yes, that’s a much better DBMS than SQL Server for crucial financial data. And I’m sure the dog bowl mess that is JBoss and J2EE will be much better to work with than .NET. Like I said, anything but Microsoft!

In any case, though, the real moral of this story is that if you really want HA (high availability) or HPC (high performance computing), Microsoft’s products should be at the bottom of your list. Unix, mainframes, and, yes Linux, are far, far better for companies that need fast and reliable computing.

No, the real moral of the story is that Linux fanboys will latch onto any story where they can falsely discredit Microsoft using lies and spin, and none of them are worth reading. This is one I’m making an example out of.

Vaughan-Nichols fails to mention (or maybe he failed to research) that the outage wasn’t the fault of the .NET application he attacks (TradeElect), but on the “trading gateway between the LSE’s Extranex private network (linking the exchange and clients) and the TradElect electronic trading platform”.

WordPress 2.6

WordPress has released a minor update, bringing it to version 2.6. The new features seem slim on this one, and unless you need it’s new wiki-style edit tracking I don’t think it’s worth the bother.

Adium X 1.2

New version of Adium X, which has quite a few improvements. As I only use MSN, the biggest one for me is that they’ve fixed the bug that showed MSN display pictures in a very low resolution.

Essentials 2007

Last year, I wrote about software I used regularly for work or for fun, my Essentials. Since then I’ve moved over from half-Mac-half-PC user to a full fledged member of the Mac society, but I still use a virtual Windows install for some of my work.

Here are my essentials in 2007, in no particular order:

OS X

  1. Mail. I use Google Apps for my e-mail on my own domain, and I had been using it’s own web interface and Mailplane. But ever since Google added IMAP to Gmail, I’ve ditched those and started using Apple Mail again, especially now in it’s version 3.1 guise with much improved search and IMAP support. The little fucker still likes to crash though.

  2. Safari. I sometimes find myself flipping between Camino and Safari, trying to decide which browser I prefer, and very often I just can’t seem to decide. But Camino doesn’t seem to play with the proxy servers at university very well and hangs for a few seconds every time I navigate go a page, which rules it out here. Add to that Safari’s excellent in-line find and its ability to show PDF files, and that wins it over for me.

  3. Adium X. The best IM client for OS X, no doubt about it. Just lacks video support right now, but I use Skype anytime I want to video conference (which is very rarely) so it doesn’t bother me.

  4. iTunes. Still the best music player, nothing else touches it on OS X.

  5. Adobe Lightroom. I tried Aperture, but I find myself preferring Lightroom even though Aperture seems to be a more polished application. Lightroom is just far more powerful at photo editing, and that’s what wins it for me.

  6. Adobe Photoshop CS3. I actually find myself using Photoshop a whole lot less ever since I started using proper RAW image processors such as Aperture and Lightroom, but it’s still useful for some touching-up or restoration, and it’s still the web designers image editor of choice.

  7. VLC. This can be a bit of a bitch on OS X, but the simple fact that it plays all my videos with only the rare complaint means its my preference over Quicktime + Perian.

  8. VMware Fusion. Even though I’ve moved over to OS X full time, I still do a fair amount of work on Windows (see below). I had the choice of either VMware Fusion, or Parallels Desktop, and at the time VMware were offering a half price discount, and I felt it was faster and less resource-hungry than Parallels. It runs my Windows XP Professional without much fault, although it does stretch the limits of my 2GB of RAM.

  9. iCal. Still the best calendaring system for OS X, although it took a little while to get used to the new interface introduced in version 3.0.1 that shipped with Leopard. It’s integration with many other apps and iSync make it my choice over the competition. That and it’s free.

  10. OmniFocus. My workload has increase significantly this year, so I’ve started to follow a GTD philopshy to my work, and I’ve found OmniFocus seemed the best tool to assist me. But I’ve just started testing an alpha version of Things, and my allegiances may change depending on how Things pans out (it’s currently a lot prettier).

  11. Yojimbo. I don’t use it as much as other people, but for collecting bits and pieces of information and finding it afterwards, it’s priceless.

  12. Papers. I’ve been reading a huge amount of scientific papers for my dissertation, and having an iTunes style interface to catalogue them with Papers is a massive time saver. It’s not without its flaws though, but there are some innovative features that means I parted with my hard earned cash.

  13. Transmit. Same as last year, still the best FTP client (and for WebDAV too).

  14. Delicious Library. Still waiting for the ever elusive version 2.0, but 1.6 is hanging in. Saves me buying duplicate DVDs and books (I don’t buy CDs anymore) with a quick and easy search. Scanning in the barcode is also fun.

  15. Pages. I get on with pages, more because I have to and the only real alternative is Microsoft Word (which I’m still waiting for). There needs to be some more competition.

  16. TextMate. I don’t use it as much now as I mainly write C# code in Visual Studio 2008. But one of my goals is to learn Ruby on Rails and this should prove very useful.

  17. Unison. Best newsgroup app for OS X. It costs, but it’s worth it.

  18. Twitterrific. There is no other Mac Twitter client to use, a great little app that does a simple task very well.

Windows

  1. Firefox. Still beats IE out of the water, and the betas of 3.0 are looking very promising.

  2. Visual Studio 2008. Only recently release by Microsoft, I haven’t had enough time to properly delve into it yet, but I’ve stopped creating new projects in VS2005 now, and Twitterlicious has been migrated over to VS2008 (although it’s still a .NET 2.0 application).

  3. SQL Server 2005. The de facto database for Windows programmers. Full integration with Visual Studio as well, which makes it a pleasure to work with.

Lightroom Export Plugin for Flickr

Free Flickr export plugin for Lightroom from Jeffery Friedl.

The Rise and Fall of Netscape

After 14 years, Netscape Navigator is to be discontinued by AOL, who bought them for $4.2 billion in 1998.

IE8 Passes Acid2 Test

The latest internal Microsoft build of Internet Explorer 8 now passes the Acid2 test. A big step in the right direction.

Twitterlicious 2.1

Twitterlicious 2.1 After a two month absence of Twitterlicious updates, I’ve decided to change the way the UI work and get rid of the needless tabs for replies and direct messages. Now, everything is in one list, and any replies or direct messages are highlighted accordingly — blue for replies, and brown for direct messages.

Some people also reported issues with leaving Twitterlicious running, it sometimes stops updating and needs a restart. While I’ve not been able to reproduce this, I think I’ve found the problem and hopefully my solution will work.

If you have Twitterlicious 2.0, then it should automatically inform you of the update and how to upgrade, everyone else can get it at the usual place.

Lightroom 1.3

Lightroom 1.3 update includes support for new cameras including the as yet unreleased D3 and D300, and also fixes printing issues in Leopard. The biggest news is the release of a preview SDK for exporting images, so hopefully plugins that will let you upload to sites like Flickr within Lightroom will start to appear.

Windows 7 “Top Feature Request List” Leaked

Ars Technica has managed to source an internal feature request list for the next version of Windows. Some notable sensible requests include improve taskbar for multi-monitor and option to “Reopen closed tabs” in IE, as well as some less likely ones, such as backup XBOX360 games to Windows PC.

Style Over Substance

Stephen Fry now has a technology column with The Guardian, following on from the style of his blog which I linked to.

He talks about the value of style and substance in a digital device:

What do I think is the point of a digital device? Is it all about function? Or am I a “style over substance” kind of a guy? Well, that last question will get my hackles up every time. As if style and substance are at war! As if a device can function if it has no style. As if a device can be called stylish that does not function superbly. Don’t get me started…

This is the exact problem I find with Windows Mobile phones. Functionally, third party applications means you can get GPS navigation, instant messaging, interactive underground maps, and thousands more. But there is one fundamental problem with Windows Mobile, after six versions and seven years of development1 its still not possible to use it without a stylus.

Those of you that haven’t used a smartphone whose interface requires a stylus won’t quite understand, but its infuriating. Its almost impossible to use one accurately when walking, so you have to be either standing still or sitting down. Even then some of the buttons and scroll bars especially are still small enough to make errors fairly common.

This leads me back to the aforelinked Why Enterprise Software Sucks. I’ve yet to come across any enterprise software that manages to blend the right amounts of style and substance. In fact 99% of enterprise software is incredibly poorly designed, and I sometimes wonder how much people get paid to write this appalling rubbish.

Some people will never get it, the kind of people who wonder why the iPhone is such a success when it doesn’t even support MMS. But they’re a dwindling minority, it’s easy to forget that such software only started to become mainstream 10 to 15 years ago, and many people are still not very well educated about it. I’m hoping that as people learn more about software, they will eventually realise that usability and design can be just as important as the functionality.


  1. And even more if you count that the first version, Pocket PC 2000, which was based on Windows CE 3.0.

Why Enterprise Software Sucks

Little late off the mark with this, but Jason over at 37signals wrote a great post about why enterprise software sucks:

The people who buy enterprise software aren’t the people who use enterprise software. That’s where the disconnect begins. And it pulls and pulls and pulls until the user experience is split from the buying experience so severely that the software vendors are building for the buyers, not the users. The experience takes a back seat to the feature list, future promises, and buzz words.

Google Unveils “Software Stack” for Mobile Phones

Google has announced a new software platform for mobile phones, which means its going up against Microsoft, RIM and Symbian. The difference is that Google is offering it’s Android system for free.

No news of a Google Phone, “but Mr Schmidt would not rule out the release of a GPhone in the future.”

Leopard Initial Impressions

These are my initial impressions of Leopard final build running on my MacBook Core Duo 2GHz with 2GB of RAM.

  • The new WLAN menu is a big improvement. It now scans for networks asynchronously, so you don’t have the agonising three second hang when you click on it.

  • Apple Mail loads up instantly. I like how it separates IMAP folders from local ones and the new Reminders list.

  • The Installer took a few minutes to find my current Panther partition.

  • iCal now shows location of events in the calendar view. Hoorar!

  • Spaces is very slick, and works well with my dual monitor arrangement.

  • Drop-down-menus seem more responsive, I don’t know if this is because they’re actually more responsive, or Apple have just reduced the default lag.

  • Safari 3.0.4 still slows down a lot, lots of spinning beach balls. Not had it crash yet though.

  • The Network preference pane now displays all the main options in one window instead of multiple tabs and dialogs.

  • Dark icons look terrible on dock if its docked at the side of the screens (example). I’m please that they’ve replaced the appearance of the side dock, it looked quite silly before.

  • Finder

    • Cover Flow can do quick and dirty previews of my NEFs, but doesn’t seem to even want to try with my D80 JPEGs.

    • Quick View of NEFs, PSD and TIFFs from Lightroom and Photoshop work really well. Trying it with a D80 JPEG just crashes Finder.

    • Its now much quicker at opening network drives and computers, and there is no more hanging.

    • Overall the Finder has had a big upgrade, however the lack of tabs means I’ll still be going back to Path Finder.

    • Exposé is now an app that resides in you Applications folder, as is System Preferences.

    • Contrary to other reports, I don’t notice any speed improvements in the iWork or iLife apps.

Compatibility with Third Party Applications

  • Photoshop CS3 seems to work fine, as does Lightroom 1.2.

  • Whoever said VMWare Fusion doesn’t work on Leopard obviously hasn’t tried it.

  • Skype works fine, thank god.

  • EyeTV still works.

  • Path Finder has some issues, Show Desktop now hides the Path Finder dock and reviles an empty Finder dock.

  • Quicksilver is now always resides on the dock whether you tell it to or not.

  • 1Passwd doesn’t work — its icon has disappeared from Safari and Camino. Update: But the newest 2.5 beta version called 1Password does work.

  • Last.fm app acts up a bit, seems to open itself with every new track played on iTunes.

  • Adium’s tabs now don’t match the window colour, but everything else works fine.

Jobs: Third Party SDK for iPhone By February

Steve Jobs has posted another one of his open letters, this time announcing a third party SDK for the iPhone come February.

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February.

[...]

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task.

He cites security concerns as the reason for the delay, and hints to the use of digital certificates as a way to prevent malware:

Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction.

Preview of DxO Version 5

A preview of the new features in DxO Version 5 coming out in late October for Windows and November for Macs. Free upgrades for anyone who ordered after August 1st, 2007.

Microsoft Bows to Pressure on XP

The BBC:

In a statement Mike Nash, Microsoft’s Windows product manager, said: “…maybe we were a little ambitious to think that we would need to make Windows XP available for only a year after the release of Windows Vista.”