Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

9
Mar

Daylight Savings Scam

DST - Day 67
Creative Commons License photo credit: √oхέƒx™

Even on a blog about inelegant solutions, Daylight Savings Time (DST) has a special place. Not only is it an inelegant solution, but it is a bad means to a solution that doesn’t solve its designated problem. It’s a bad answer to a very stupid question.

The idea is simple, in a bid to save energy, make people happier or whatever the logic is this year, we all, save those of us who don’t live in a DST zone, set our clocks back one hour in the fall and then set them ahead that same hour in the Spring. The idea is that, during the months where DST is in effect, we get more sunlight in the evening.

The problem is three-fold. A) For it to work it requires every county in every state in every nation to agree to go along with it, then requiring every person in those countries to successfully set every clock to the right time. B) It doesn’t do the job its advertised to do and may actually make things worse. C) Even if it DID work, there would be far more efficient ways to achieve the same effect.

So let’s take a moment to stop and think about DST for a bit and marvel at its stupidity. If you think it’s a good thing, give me a second and hear me out, you might like my competing solution better.

After all, the true marvel of DST isn’t that it doesn’t work, but that it’s such a horrible way to get to something that doesn’t work. Read moreRead more

6
Mar

Seeking Better Email

gmail-logo-1

As I was writing my column yesterday for Blogging Tips, something dawned on me. That as much as I love Gmail, there aren’t many alternatives out there.

I wondered aloud on Twitter why there were no viable competitors for Gmail and got a slew of good responses. One of the best came from user @lance_ who said that “It takes a lot of market clout or money to get past spam filters. There isn’t a huge market for b2b & consumers already got an address.” (fixed quote for tweet-speak).

Others seemed to feel that the market was saturated while others still were quick to remind me about Microsoft Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, neither of which really hold much of a candle to Gmail in terms of features. When you consider that Gmail, for free, offers nearly unlimited space, free IMAP access, threading, powerful search, good spam filtering and more, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail look like weaklings.

Gmail is pretty much the undisputed champion right now, at least in terms of features and power, and, sadly, there is no real competition on the horizon. Yahoo! and Microsoft seem to have rolled over and other companies, like Zenbe, would rather build off of Gmail than create something truly new.

The result is that Gmail has stagnated. What was revolutionary when it was first created has slowed to a crawl. Most of the “Labs” features are either mistakes that should never have been in Gmail, such as Signature Tweaks, Title Tweaks, etc. or outright catchup with other systems, such as Canned Responses.

Gmail, which is still in beta, hasn’t blossomed and though it seems to announce new features regularly, most seem outright trivial. So where’s the competition to keep the fire hot? Where is the upstart company with a bold new vision and a competing ideal? It isn’t there.

It’s time for some competition. Time for an upstart group of rebels to really attack this issue and see what they can do. Will it be easy? No. Is it impossible? Maybe. But the future of email may depend on it. Read moreRead more

4
Mar

Why OmniWeb Failed

omniweb-logo

Update: See comments below for a response from Omni Group The OmniWeb Web browser is, for the most part, no more. Though the announcement last week highlighted the fact that it was now available for free, the buried lead is that they are stopping active development on the browser. Though they aren’t ruling out future updates, they aren’t promising any either and they didn’t open source the browser. With the browser wars the way they are, that’s as good as a death sentence.

However, most people that used OmniWeb seemed to like the browser. I tried it several times over the past few years, never quite getting to the point where I was willing to pay for it after the trial ended. Sadly though, the browser couldn’t build any real traction. Many Mac users were unaware it was available and, those that did, seemed to always go back to free browsers.

It was, and still is, a fairly innovative browser and one that works fairly well. Based on Webkit, it’s a fast browser with an intersting “tabs on the side” system that uses thumbnails of pages rather than a traditional tab bar. It also has a slew of built-in features, such as ad-blocking, workspaces and individual site preferences.

Yet, the browser is clearly being put into retirement. Where did it go wrong and how can other “deep in the pack” browsers, such as Flock and Opera, avoid a similar fate? Read moreRead more

27
Feb

Safari’s New Interface: A Shiny Mess

safari_logo

Though the Web browser has grown in importance and changed drastically in function since the first version of Netscape Navigator ruled a fledgling Web, its interface has not changed that drastically.

Though tabbed browsing introduced an important new element, most browsers sport forward and back buttons along with stop/reload buttons, an address bar and, more recently, a search box. Most browsers today look enough like Netscape Navigator 0.91 that few would be lost if they traveled back in time.

But lately there has been an attempt to shake that up some. First came Google Chrome, introducing the idea of tabs on top, and now comes the new beta of Safari 4, which adds even more new interface changes.

Though I’m always a fan of innovation, there’s a lot about these interface changes that bug me and not just the new “bug report” button. I’m admittedly no interface designer, but there are a lot of things that I would definitely do differently… Read moreRead more

11
Feb

My Dark Linux Confession

linux
Creative Commons License photo credit: phauly

When it has come to operating systems, I have always had a hard time making up my mind. Windows, for me, has been a good choice for my gaming consoles and a reasonable one for work as well. Mac has become my default office system, having used it now for nearly two years as my primary “getting things done” machine.

However, Linux has always been my secret love affair. It is a relationship that has stretched over half a decade. It began with some spare hard drive space and a desire to to see what Linux was all about. Now, it is a relationship on life support.

You see, I’ve come to notice something. After seven years of using Linux, seven different distros, countless versions and six computers, I’ve finally hit a point where I have to admit something. That every computer I’ve had both Linux and Windows XP on has worked far better with Windows than Linux.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, but none of them bode well for penguin. Read moreRead more

6
Feb

Twitter’s @Reply Stupidity

twitter-logo-1If you’re using Twitter’s “replies” feature, or the similar feature on many Twitter clients, you’re missing a lot of the responses you’re getting.

You see, Twitter has a pretty strange definition for what constitutes a reply. It is perfectly possible to type @username and not have Twitter realize that you’re talking to that person. If they’re checking on the Web site or a weak Twitter client, they might never see your message.

The “bug” is that Twitter only tracks replies if the message BEGINS with the @reply. So unless the “@” is the first character in the tweet and the username is the first one replied to, Twitter doesn’t see it as a reply.

This set up defies both the way we communicate as human beings and how people use Twitter. That, in turn, has led to some pretty inelegant solutions to get around the problem. Read moreRead more

4
Feb

Does Anyone Want My Comments?

wordpress-logoThere’s something of a war going on right now, a war for your blog’s comments. Sure, any blogging platform worth its salt will provide you with a decent commenting system, but there are others who promise you more. Services like Disqus (which is used right now on this site) and Intense Debate say that they can add features, make commenting easier and encourage your community.

Now I am the first to admit that blog commenting right now sucks. When a company like CoComment, which does a mediocre job at best, can earn a living just by tracking and seeking updates on the comments you post across the Web, there is a serious problem. Users have a lot of reasons to prefer centralized commenting tools as having two or three commenting accounts beats checking dozens of sites for updates.

But what about bloggers? What do we get out of the deal? Though I’ve kept Disqus here on IS for some time, on PT I’ve been bouncing around from comment solution to comment solution trying to figure out what is best for my blog. I’ve tried nearly every service out there and the only conclusion I’ve reached is that no one, repeat no one, really wants my comments.

That is, at least not bad enough to create a truly compelling service… Read moreRead more

30
Jan

Review: My Bloody Valentine 3D

mbv3d-posterAs a tech geek and a horror buff, I have two separate interest in My Bloody Valentine 3D (MBV3D).

First, it supposedly features a (relatively) new, ultra-advanced 3D technology that works better than the old red/blue glasses kind. Second, it is the first slasher film to make it into the theaters in some time (even if it is a remake).

Sure, we’ve had our dose of thrillers, chillers and torture porn, but we’ve lacked a good old fashioned slasher and the latest releases of the major slasher franchises have only reminded us how low the genre can go.

So how was the movie? Well, I’m going to break it apart into its two elements and discuss them individually before I try and bring it all together. Hopefully, by the end of it all, we’ll have some idea where the movie stands and whether anyone else should bother seeing it. Read moreRead more

28
Jan

The Death of Honest Review Scores

pcworld-logoMy parents need a new security suite for their computer. They’re reasonably computer savvy but still asked for my help in picking one. Since I’m a Linux/Mac kind of guy, I decided to do a few searches to see what was new and ran across PC World’s chart of Internet security suites.

PC World is a magazine I have a lot of respect for. They do a lot of great work in the field of reviewing computer products. But I noticed something when I looked at the bottom of the chart. Trend Micro got the lowest score on the list and their “Bottom Line” review reads as follows:

“Trend Micro’s latest suite fails at the most basic task of detecting and blocking malicious software. Not recommended.”

Ouch, seems pretty scathing to me. But then look at the score. It’s a 74/100. On a regular grading scale that would be a middle “C”. On a 1-10 system it would be a 7.5, well above an “average” of 5.

How the Hell do you say something “fails at the most basic task” and then give it an average or even good score? That makes no sense. The full review isn’t much more kind saying that:

“Trend Micro’s suite has some good points, but there’s no getting around the fact that Internet Security Pro 2009 fails at detecting malicious software, and therefore fails as a security program. We cannot recommend buying it.”

Clearly something is wrong with review scores when a 74 is a total failure of a program. It’s time we woke up a little bit and realized that review scores on the Web are garbage and reliance on them is dangerous, especially when dealing with security software.

However, this isn’t a new problem, it’s been going on for quite some time. Read moreRead more

23
Jan

Google: Stop Acquiring Companies I Like

google-logo-3Dear Google,

I love you guys, I really do. Your search is top notch, your Gmail/Google Apps is a killer product and even you Google Reader is the best RSS reader I’ve found, online or off. You guys have a knack for producing exciting, reliable products that change the way we use information.

However, I do have one tiny favor to ask you. One small, minuscule request. Can you please stop buying up companies of products that I use? If so, that would be great. Because I’m really getting tired of you screwing up the things that were going along great without you.

If you have any questions about this request, I politely direct you to the article below. It will answer many of your queries and give my reasons for thinking that the Web would be better off if you kept your pocketbook a little closer to your chest. Read moreRead more