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April 27, 2006

Firefox fanboys again

Now I'll admit I haven't always given Firefox a good press. But sometimes I think they don't set themselves up in the nicest way. The religious fervour of Firefox fans goes to the levels of extremism. Yes, maybe you like it. But it's a web browser. Get a life.

I had mixed feelings, therefore, reading this post by Ed Bott.
Gee, guess who reserved the following domains:



Hint: It wasn’t Microsoft.

I think one of the comments put it best: (UPDATE: I've now added the comment which went before that as it then makes sense.)
Fanboyism at it’s [sic] finest. It will be fun to see Microsoft’s legal hounds jump on this and sue them into oblivion.
The best part about this is that if Microsoft was to do this then they would be ripped a new one by the community. Is it me or does the underdog always end up being just as bad as the supposed Golith they are out to slay?

I suppose Microsoft haven't exactly been shining examples of good behaviour in the browser wars, but it still annoys me somehow. Maybe I've become an IE-fanboy.

The power of RSS

Somebody today said to me in the pub that he didn't believe that I read every blog in my sidebar. So I thought I ought to show how it's done. Here is a screenshot of Bloglines which I use to subscribe to RSS feeds:

In the left-hand pane is a list of every blog I read, sorted into folders by category. In the right-hand pane is the current entry I'm looking at, which happens to be this one at hack a day.

So that's how. Dead easy, really.

Has the independent gone barmy

This post at Harry's Place discusses a feature in the independent giving credence to the old conspiracy theory that "The Jews control the world." The theory itself, of course, is self-evidently nonsense (if it were true, the Palestinians would have been nuked long ago).

What is disappointing for me is that the Independent has fallen so far. The cover image they printed was this:

Which comes disappointingly close to this:

April 26, 2006

Internet Explorer 7.0

I've finally installed it.

It's shiny.

I like.

I lost the links toolbar for a while, but I've found it now. Perhaps the most exciting thing was that it told me my security settings weren't tight enough, but rather than just leave it there, it told me which specific setting was wrong (I was permitting unsigned ActiveX downloads) and recommended what to change it to. All in a totally intuitive way.

By default, the menu bar is turned off, so it'll take me a while to find my way around, but that's great - the lack of clutter is amazing.

I'll tell more in a few weeks.

Recognising mistakes

A while ago, I said (while discussing browser extensions for Internet Explorer):
There's extensive information about how to go about coding these yourself. The only thing that's missing seems to be a real drive to produce these things. The only ones I've seen have tended to be produced by big companies, e.g. MSN, Google, Yahoo and eBay have all produced downloadable toolbars. If only Microsoft had put effort into encouraging the creation of new extensions. But it's against their mindset - I think extensions will always be a predominantly open source thing. That's where people are positively encouraged to add code to the browser.

But it turns out I was wrong. There's loads of extensions for IE7, and it hasn't even been released yet.

Those who can, do...

... those who can't, teach.

I was thinking about this today while watching a BSM driving instructor trying to park. Suffice it to say, it wasn't impressive. Why do people allow themselves to be taught by monkeys?

100th Post

In a sense I feel that this ought to be somehow exciting, and that I should have something really important to say.

Unfortunately, I don't, so I'll just link to videos of people putting CDs in a microwave.

April 15, 2006

George Orwell's book...

...Animal Farm was once banned in the US, according to this list. How ironic that a veiled satire of Stalinism was banned due to Communist overtones.

It's also worth reading the original preface, which was cut from many versions of the book. It's often quoted by those discussing freedom of the press. The discussion of institutional pro-Stalinist bias throughout the media is particularly interesting.

April 14, 2006

Is Linux as good as I think it is?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a committed Windows user. I like the way I can mess with it and almost think I know what I'm doing. But this site has got me confused. It seems official enough. It's a US site from the .gov.uk domain. It's got a sensible logo. But it says this:

This bulletin provides a year-end summary of software vulnerabilities that were identified between January 2005 and December 2005. The information is presented only as a index with links to the US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin the information was published in. There were 5198 reported vulnerabilities: 812 Windows operating system vulnerabilities; 2328 Unix/Linux operating vulnerabilities; and 2058 Multiple operating system vulnerabilities.

[emphasis added]

So that count gives more vulnerabilities in Unix than Windows? How can that be right?

Maybe some fanboys will come along and tell me where I'm going wrong.

Firefox isn't as good as you think it is

This webpage is a rather exciting read.

We have all seen these banners before or heard people say "Firefox is Faster, Firefox has Lower Requirements, Firefox is Secure, Firefox defends me from all Spyware, etc." How misleading is it? Read on.

There's some great stuff in here, and it's all well thought-out, well reasoned, and extensively backed up with other sources. I've drawn out some of these.

This page discusses a study of browser speeds, under Linux, Mac and Windows. There's good evidence that Opera is in fact by far the fastest browser, and also that Internet Explorer outperforms Firefox in nearly all categories.

I've heard some complaints about Firefox using excessive amounts of memory when running. This blog post from the Mozilla team gives some more details.

What I think many people are talking about however with Firefox 1.5 is not really a memory leak at all. It is in fact a feature.

To improve performance when navigating (studies show that 39% of all page navigations are renavigations to pages visited < 10 pages ago, usually using the back button), Firefox 1.5 implements a Back-Forward cache that retains the rendered document for the last few session history entries. This can be a lot of data. It's a trade-off. What you get out of it is faster performance as you navigate the web.

Does anybody else remember the old joke about fixing bugs? If you get stuck, just label the current bug as a "feature" and move on. Personally I'd rather not use up piles of system memory just in case I press the back button ten times. Especially since I very rarely do that anyway.

The page smashes the myth about Internet Explorer not supporting extensions with this page from the Microsoft Developer Network.

Browser extensions, introduced in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, allow developers to add functionality to the browser and enhance the user interface.

There's extensive information about how to go about coding these yourself. The only thing that's missing seems to be a real drive to produce these things. The only ones I've seen have tended to be produced by big companies, e.g. MSN, Google, Yahoo and eBay have all produced downloadable toolbars. If only Microsoft had put effort into encouraging the creation of new extensions. But it's against their mindset - I think extensions will always be a predominantly open source thing. That's where people are positively encouraged to add code to the browser.

Interestingly the page features the following paragraph at the bottom:

Firefox Fanboys are so scared people may actually read this page and make up their own minds that they have gone to great lengths to censor any discussion of this page. Anywhere this page appears they desperately try to have the information removed. So far they have been successful in getting this page banned from www.Digg.com. Anyone even posting a link to www.FirefoxMyths.com will have it removed, their account deleted and their IP address blocked. Now why would Digg do this, unless the administration were trying to promote their own agenda. Which apparently includes censoring any perceived negative criticism of the Firefox web browser. When this site was initially submitted on Digg it made the front page in under two hours and was buried to oblivion by the Fanboys in half that time. This censorship of freedom of speech is supposedly what Digg is against, yet this clearly proves otherwise. You have to ask yourself what are they so afraid of? Obviously people reading the factual information presented on this page, instead of the misinformation fed to them by the Fanboy community. It really is that simple.

Perhaps we've al been carried along by the excitement brought by Firefox. Myself? I'm off to install Internet Explorer 7.

April 13, 2006


The Euston Manifesto throws in a paragraph about Open-Source Software.
As part of the free exchange of ideas and in the interests of encouraging joint intellectual endeavour, we support the open development of software and other creative works and oppose the patenting of genes, algorithms and facts of nature. We oppose the retrospective extension of intellectual property laws in the financial interests of corporate copyright holders.

I agree with this, especially with the complaints about intellectual property laws which inspire Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. But I still remain to be convinced that open-source is a good way to design large systems. Large systems require careful management, and I'm yet to be convinced that that's always achievable in the open-source environment.

I look forward to people's attempts to convince me.

Hopefully I'll be able to discuss the manifesto more thoroughly when I've had time to digest it. The main problem with it is how to actually go about accompishing the aims.

The Euston Manifesto

In this New Statesman Article, Norm Geras and Nick Cohen explain the history behind a document which has become known as "The Euston Manifesto."

The Manifesto itself can be downloaded from here [PDF] or read on Norm's Blog. I think I agree with most of it.

Please read the whole thing.

The Internet is Broken

This is the third time now in as many days I've had an error message on the internet. This time, while trying to comment on Oliver's Blog, I got the error message:
Space Not Available
The MSN Spaces service is being upgraded and is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

For the record, the comment I had wanted to add was: "How Rude"

An update on Polyphasic Sleep

This chap's given it up. I'm still trying to find how I got to his site, however, as I never subscribed to it. I downloaded the feed for another site and got both of them.

Oh well, we'll see what happens. Maybe Wordpress will sort themselves out.

Web 2.0 again

Over at Chronotron, it's Web 2.0 Week.
All through the week (9th - 16th), Chrono Tron’s posts will be fully dedicated to Web 2.0, it’s various aspects and loads more to keep you interested.

I'm going to be following it. Will you?

What a load of old cobblers

This chap has finally gone totally bonkers. Here's a sample:
Acknowledge the math below or go to hell.
4 Day Cube disproves 1 Day God.
4 Day math condemns 1 Day fools.
These 4 absolute simultaneous days PROVES the
1 day god, 1day academia, 1 day religion and the
1 day media to be erroneous, fictitious and evil lies.
Education equates to a mass icepick lobotomy -
destroying the mind's ability to think as opposites.
Adam and Eve were created at the same time,
but sexless. A rib was removed from eve and
a hole left to make a woman of her. The rib
was stuck on Adam to make a man of him -
and Eve is still trying to get her rib back.

Epic stuff. Try and read a little, if you can get past the enormous text size.

April 11, 2006

Startup called Webaroo touts 'Web on a hard drive'

The story is here.

Basically, this company will produce for you a "web pack" containing about 10,000 pages. There's a couple of points to go with this.

The article makes an estimate of the amount of information on the internet:
As Husick explains: “Let's say the HTML Web is 10 billion pages -- it's actually a little less than that -- but at 10K per page that's 1 million gigabytes, also known as a petabyte.

OK, that sounds simple enough. But he's seriously underestimating the amount of space taken up by other forms of media. There's years worth of movies, as well as enormous quantities pictures and lengthy sound recordings.

So their estimate is likely to be quite inaccurate. The other major loss is something which I've been talking about for a while. The major developments in the internet lately have all been about the ability of communities to create dynamic content. What this system does is "freeze" the internet at a particular point. Given that most of my browsing time is spent reading emails and blogs, this has no possible use for me. The power of the internet isn't all about information; it's also about connecting with others.

The other point which somebody made in the comments of the original post is about content monetization, basically adverts. Web advertisements make money for the website in two different ways. The website owner is paid for the number of page views, and the number of clicks on the advert itself. Now suppose this idea really takes off, and loads of people are downloading chunks of the internet onto their computers. How can website providers keep track of the number of hits? Every time someone reads their site from the downloaded source rather than online, the website loses a little money. This could conceivably result in many websites demanding people log in to see the content, which might be the only way round the problem. This won't be a good step for the internet.

Well, we'll see what happens.

April 10, 2006

Independent Inquiries

Whenever a pressure group asks for an independent inquiry, it simply means that they want an appeal. The last inquiry didn't produce a result they were happy with, so let's have another one.

This idea came up in a blog post which, unfortunately, I forget. But it's clearly affected me, as now I take any demands for an "independent inquiry" with a pinch of salt. Let's look at the latest example.

Anthony Cox is a renowned pharmacologist. He blogs here. After reading much of his commentary, I confess I agree with pretty much all of what he says. He is intimately familiar with the subject matter, and argues clearly and passionately. Thus the quotes below are not to be taken in vain:
Paul Flynn MP (Newport West) said the report on the dangerous reaction to the drug’s trial is a predictable whitewash. It was an act of lamentable lack of care to give a drug, never before ingested by human beings, to six people virtually simultaneously.

There's been much discussion about the said drugs trial on this blog. As a pharmacologist, Anthony has recorded pretty much every discussion around. Thus his comments are often much more relevant and pointed.
If people are trying to suggest the MHRA have learnt nothing from the TGN1412 trial, then I think they are wrong. The fact that all similar trials of biologicals will now require external expert review, is clear evidence that they have learnt something - and this is only an interim report. I personally think the term Whitewash is being thrown about for reasons only tangentially connected with the TGN1412 trial.

Please read the whole article. Also remember to vote "no" in the poll at the end. Media bias has been a particular theme for me, but this post reminds me that really media sensationalism is what really annoys me.

Plugging myself

I'd just like to highlight this though:

"Every item on my blogroll to the right is read."

That is, every blog I mention on the right hand column is read by me regularly. I read every post of each and every one of them.

This is powered by Bloglines, which is lucky. I like having a feed aggregator; it makes the whole process of reading things very simple (geddit?).

The thing I find important, is that I am immune to link-swapping. Many bloggers try to build traffic by linking to others, in an "if you link to me, I'll link to you" sort of sense. But I can't do that. Blogging isn't about false building of traffic.

This post at Chronotron highlights part of the problem. It is a rant against certain sorts of sites; those sites which aren't there to contribute, but just there to generate hits.
I’ve seen atleast 5-6 sites like this and damn all of them are the same, challenge with mother, friends @ College or money for charity due to hits (Hits use bandwidth and you only have to spend money!),blah, then suddently getting a domain and a Top Paid host, posting that he can’t support the site anymore and inviting corporate sponsors, and having Google Ads and donate via Paypal.

OK, I'll admit there's some serious ranting focus there. But there's still a valid point. There are a large number of people who think that hits is all that matters. They go out there, stick the google ads on the page, and hope for the best. If they're lucky, they might even get Dugg, and then end up on seriously high on Bloggers reading lists.

Thank goodness I don't do that.

PC Fridge

I wasn't planning on posting much... but this is great stuff:


The picture:

So, who wants a coke cooled by PC? I think I do. Probably the best case mod I've seen.

April 05, 2006


Apologies for the posting dropoff, which is likely to continue. Hopefully normal service will be resumed after my exams, which finish in about the second week of May. Until then things might be intermittent, I'm afraid.

Consultants on the NHS

There's a lot of good points in this post from NHS Blog Doctor.
The majority of consultants work hard, and work longer hours for the NHS than those for which they are contracted. The media may choose not to believe it. Alice Miles clearly does not believe it. Patricia Hewitt certainly did not believe it.

Nonetheless it is true.

And this is why the new NHS contract has cost the blessed Patricia so much money. She set the time and motion men on these lazy, skiving, golf-playing consultants. She knew what they were up to. You are paid for a forty hour week. Now we are actually going to measure what you do and that is what we will pay you for. Not a penny more, not a penny less. The measurements showed that the consultants were doing far more work than their contracted forty hour week. And so they all got pay rises. The blessed Patricia was hoisted by her own petard.

Read the whole thing.

April 04, 2006

Some thoughts on User Interfaces

Some time ago I came across this page and this picture.
Yesterday I decided to undertake an experiment. My favourite browser, Firefox, allows its users to add extensions. Currently 1102 extensions are available at Mozilla update. I decided to install 100 of the most popular extensions at the same time.

Meanwhile, over at Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood has a slightly different take on the amusing experiment.
Menus and Toolbars Don't Scale
I'm now starting to question whether traditional menus and toolbars are even appropriate for small applications any more.

It's an interesting thought, that toolbars have outgrown their usefulness, and that new software has far too many functions for them all to be represented.

April 02, 2006

CRB Checking

A year or two ago, the House of Bishops or the General Synod or somebody like that decided to implement a new set of rules for dealing with children withing the church. They drafted a document entitled "Protecting All God's Children," which can be found here. One of the most contentious issues is that it requires practically anybody who is involved in the training or teaching of children to be checked by the Criminal Records Bureau, or "CRB Checked."

This was also applied to bellringers. There's been a discussion raging on the Change-Ringers email list, and I posted the following message. The "two adults per learner" rule referred to is the idea that there should always be two adults present when a young person arrives.
I find myself very amused by all the discussion about CRB checking. I first starting learning to ring at the age of 16 3/4. At this time I was also officially the Assistant Director of Music at the church, and was a keyholder in that capacity. Looking back, there were several practices at this age when I would be the first there and open the church up. I'm not sure how this was meant to tally with the idea of "two adults per learner." Maybe the adults were meant to wait outside the church until there were two of them to come and meet me.

At about 17 2/3, I passed my driving test. This leaves four months during which time I'd be giving lifts to practices and outings. Just think of the risks I was taking, in my own car, driving round these people.

That's why I'll always find the whole concept silly. If, at age 17, I'm deemed responsible enough to drive a car, how is it that when I get in the tower I'm not allowed to be left alone with another adult, even if I've known them for years?
The most bizarre situations crop up when two people are in a relationship, one of whom being over 18 and the other just under. Presumably they aren't allowed to be left unsupervised in a tower according to the rules. If the age of consent is set at 16, why are all the CRB rules set for 18?

Luckily many PCCs seem to have taken great advantage of common sense in this regard. Hopefully the trend will continue.

Of course the other great point is that CRB checking can only bring up information about a persons sins in the past, not in the future. Maybe every tower has a psychopathic paedophile in its ranks, but they haven't acted on the impulse yet.

Many critics argue that the plan is less about protecting God's children, and more about protecting his workers from spurious accusations of abuse.

April 01, 2006

April 1st

The whole internet is full of absolute rubbish. I've hardly read anything sensible all day.

This list of online hoaxes may help you to avoid them.