Thursday, August 24, 2006

Firefox needs text recovery

This is the one feature that is sorely missing in an app that several years into its development, remains unstable. How many times have you lost a forum post or email you were composing because Firefox crashed? Sure, you can first compose it in a text editor and then copy it over, but that's not how things are meant to be, is it?

So what we need is what every unstable word processing app now has: document recovery (Vim 6 also has this, in spite of being stable) for text fields. My suggestion would be to present it as a scrapbook, the way clipboard managers usually work.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Apple not embracing Web 2.0?

While I was originally fascinated with how Apple was using iTunes with its unrivalled Music Store to push sales of its iPod, and simultaneously giving a push to its "Mac" computer hardware brand (which consumer surveys show is preceived as separate from the iPod brand, so the marketing idea was not entirely efficient), it is also interesting to see that Apple is not making any inroads into consumer content creation, other than allowing upload of podcast details onto its Music Store (but again, market research shows low penetration for podcasts). So far, Apple is enticing us with rich media for sale and free download (as in the case of many video podcasts) through Music Store, but Azureus will have content creation abilities that could well take away revenue from Apple, and even and Google Video, Apple's other competitors in the rich media avenue. Part of the problem here is that while the quality of Apple's offerings exceeds that of Web 2.0 competitors, entertainment is being commoditised by cheap video hardware, software and free hosting, and there is no doubt that the resolution of freely available video content will catch up with Apple.

However, there are programmes that are inherently onerous to produce, and these will continue to generate revenue. Central to this market are nature documentaries filmed at remote locations. Second best, I would say are documentaries that require intense research, especially into material that is not readily available to the general public (Vatican library?).

At the same time, voices are growing for Apple to develop its other web-based service, .Mac.

I have further, unpublished comments on this topic.

A week of shutdowns

This week started with me hearing that eBay were changing their pricing structure so that they could charge more on average from their professional sellers. Some sellers then staged a boycott, but, hey, what can you do if you've built your existence on top of somebody else's business who could pull the rug from underneath you, and you'd be flat on your bum? If eBay had no competition, that would be a silly thing to do. However, there's still Amazon and other trading and swapping sites to choose from. It just so happens that eBay is being used by a lot of customers, but the next "disruptive technology" (i.e. a better website) is just around the corner.

This reminded me that some senators in the US are advocating privatisation of their domestic internet (as I understand it). Reeks of corruption and is unlikely to go ahead in my opinion, but it could leave a lot of web businesses stranded if they had to pay considerable amounts to get their data packets through, as some critics fear. May the decision makers listen to Sir Tim.

The conclusion to the story might be that the world works better if at least some basic services are being provided by the (nation) state, such as garbage collection and the internet. It's even possible that the economy would benefit from a tax-funded eBay equivalent.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Understanding the success of Ubuntu

There seems to be a lot of debate on how Ubuntu was able to solve Debian's usability problems, and whether Ubuntu's success is ultimately a good thing. Take this essay from an apparent Debian fan. What most people fail to fully take in is that Ubuntu is a (self-confessed) dictatorship, whereas Debian's government structure stops just short of anarchy. Strong, visionary leadership simply beats doing things by committee. That's all there is to it.

Trivial patent from Apple

If someone can explain to me how this patent that Apple is reported to have filed is not invalidated by prior art in the shape of buttons that light up when pressed or released (used in military applications for many decades) and touchscreens, I promise to be most attentive. :)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Office suite disk sizes

All figures for win32:

  • Abiword + Gnumeric - 87MB
  • OpenOffice 2.0 - 203MB
  • WordPerfect Office X3 Trial - 395MB
  • MS Office 2003 (including InfoPath and Publisher) - 664MB
  • MS Office 2007 beta (recommended install) - 1505MB
  • MS Office 2007 beta (exluding Outlook) - 1448MB
  • MS Office 2007 beta (excluding InfoPath, Publisher and Visio Viewer) - 1317MB
  • MS Office 2007 beta (excluding Outlook, InfoPath, Publisher and Visio Viewer) - 1259MB
  • MS Office 2007 beta (full install) - 1641MB
Unselecting all the templates, clipart, etc. shaves off another 20MB - fairly insignificant! Unselecting everything leaves 751MB, which presumably is composed of shared application libraries - maybe this is the engine that draws the new widgets - ribbon etc.? I just can't help thinking Office 2007 will give an entirely new meaning to bloatware. Someone said in the PC Pro issue that I got the beta from that Microsoft had specified not to include on the same CD. The columnist felt that this was a mistake because MS Office would win in a direct comparison of features. In a direct comparison of bloat, wins hands down. Note that dates back to October 2005, yet still has a smaller footprint than the version of MS Office released in November 2003. I hope I'll have time to check out memory consumption.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Conflict from the OLPC mesh

The One Laptop Per Child project is receiving much criticism in recent days (also see a waffly article in PC Pro, August 2006 issue). I'm personally concerned about two things.

I just had the first look at the mockups of the Sugar interface on the wiki, and many of the screenshots show browser windows displaying Red Hat promotional material - hardly suitable for educating children! I strongly believe these links must be omitted from the final version. Obviously, information is required, but not inundated with PR speak and graphics.

The second concern is about the mesh - this is an idea that I independently had a little while ago, of making direct links between mobile devices to make masts redundant. I imagined this would be useful if using a mobile in the countryside, so long as a chain of capable mobile devices was available trailing back to civilisation, where masts as well as a denser, more reliable mesh would be available. The OLPC project is intending to use this principle to give internet access to their hand-crank recharged laptops. As far as I understand at this point, the mesh goes down when the computer is switched off; trivially, it definitely goes down when the battery runs out. So what if the kids in the next village don't keep their laptops cranked, and you end up losing the link? This can either lead to the mesh collapsing over time (because if I've little hope of getting a link, I won't crank my machine) or to conflict between villages. Not that learning conflict resolution is a bad thing, but this should be addressed by the organisers when the laptops are introduced. If you sell these as a wonder pill, and then the link keeps going down, people will be hugely disappointed and toss these laptops aside. Back to carpet-weaving you go, Chaitanya!