.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


January 31, 2007

Link clear out (79)

From Matt Cutts:

John Walker’s Strike Out idea: I usually stop reading a document after the first misspelling.

Read the whole Strike Out article.

Link clear out (78)

Here's some posts on NHS Blog Doctor about the decline of the BBC. There's a really good summary here, with some background information here and here.

January 30, 2007

Windows Vista Released

Windows Vista has now been officially released. It's available on Amazon for those who want it. There's been excitement around the launch, with dancers jumping around billboards in the US and other such fun.

To mark this event, PC World have reposted two articles, Windows Vista: 15 Reasons to Switch and Wait! Don't Buy Microsoft Windows Vista. The first article is a bit of a laugh, as the excitable reporter throws together a list of cool things about the newest OS around. The second article is desperate to rain on the parade.

1. Vista Is Incomplete
Microsoft is already planning its first service pack and seeking input from users on what to include. Vista probably won't be truly ready for prime time until that first service pack version, possibly later this year.

The hardware and software companies that make compatible products for Vista aren't all ready for the new OS. Many of those companies are scrambling to complete Vista drivers and updates. Most important, not all video and sound card companies are ready.

The article they link to is one of their own, which starts:

Vista Update Already Set
Even before launch, Microsoft is compiling items for the first service pack.

On the verge of the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft is already accepting orders for features to go in the operating system's first service pack.

Compiling Wish List
Microsoft is taking feedback from testers who are part of its Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which lets certain partners evaluate prerelease software, a Microsoft spokesman in London said on Wednesday. Service packs typically consist of a mix of bug fixes and new features.

Frankly, if Microsoft weren't collecting bugs to put into the next service pack then I'd be cross. Do they honestly think that all the Microsofties have been sat twiddling their thumbs since November 30th, when Vista was released to volume-license customers? Quite clearly they've been working hard to find the bugs which turn up and fix them, which I think is a good thing.

So clearly the article linked isn't particularly persuasive, but the important point is that most casual readers won't click on the link. They'll believe everything in the first article and never follow through. That seems to me to be a touch deceptive.

Admittedly, though, there's always been a school of thought which says that you shouldn't upgrade to a new operating system until the first service pack is out. The logic goes that all of the important bugs will have been ironed out by then and you've got a good chance of getting a working system.

I've gone off this idea, however. The software life-cycle is complicated, and inevitably means that bugs are left behind in release software; it really is impossible to find them all. There comes a point where the process of fixing bugs starts to generate more, and then you end up in a right mess. Microsoft released Vista at an appropriate point when everything was working reasonably well.

Now compare what people are currently likely to be using, Windows XP, with what they are reluctant to upgrade to. People moan that XP isn't secure enough and is susceptible to Viruses. Surely it's better to move to a more secure OS as soon as possible? Vista is not only more secure, but by its very newness won't have been compromised as much as XP.

The second plank of their argument, that hardware drivers aren't ready yet is partially true. Many hardware companies have been lamentably slow in developing drivers. I'm running on Microsoft drivers for my NVidia display card as NVidia haven't deigned to release any yet. But it's all working fine. Many Beta-testers have happily installed the OS. There doesn't seem a vast amount of point waiting.

The second reason not to buy Vista seems to be the cost.

2. Vista Is Expensive
The cheapest way for current Windows XP users to get a legal copy of Vista is to buy the upgrade version of Home Basic, which is $99. But you don't want the cheapest version.

First, the upgrade version will require you to keep your Windows XP CD for years. You do have a Windows XP CD handy, don't you?

Well, Vista is expensive, it's a fair criticism. But to go off on one about not buying an upgrade version because you'll have to keep the old CD is silly. Why criticise Vista specifically for a problem which affects any operating system upgrade?

3. Vista Wants a New PC
To get full value from Vista, you're probably going to want to buy a new, Vista-optimized PC. Many of the benefits of Vista require hardware your current PC doesn't have. ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive, for example, require special hybrid or flash drives. Windows Aero looks awesome, but only if your graphics card supports Pixel Shader 2.0. You can record high-definition cable TV, but only with a tuner card designed to take advantage of that Vista feature. You can enjoy DirectX 10 games, but only with a compatible video card.

To get full value from any computer you'll want the newest hardware. Vista works perfectly happily on lots of old hardware. ReadyBoost works perfectly well with a flash drive. This "special hardware" is, er, a cheap USB pen drive - the sort which companies give out for free at conferences. Hmm, not so special.

You can't record any TV on any computer without a tuner card, that's fairly obvious. And you'll need a newer video card to play the latest games, as any gamer will tell you. So what's the fuss all about?

4. Vista Is Time-Consuming
Installing any new operating system is time-consuming. You have to configure everything, load your data, install your applications, and get your peripherals working. Then, in the case of Vista, you have to figure out where Microsoft buried all the options, menus, and features, and get used to the ubiquitous Search boxes.

Yes, installing a new operating system takes time. Not as much time as you'd think for Vista - I was astounded at how fast the installer ran. Those "ubiquitous Search boxes" have saved me from trawling through the Start menu - I haven't used it for months. If I want to run notepad, I hit the windows key, type "note," and hit enter. Not only that but everything works quicker. Think long-term gains, people!

5. Windows XP Isn't Obsolete

6. Vista May be the Best Reason Yet to Buy a Mac

The first point is true. But give it time. When everyone else is rushing to upgrade you'll have your computer sorted out and running happily.

But it's the last point which reveals this journalists true thoughts. He doesn't like Vista because it's not a Mac! But let's look at Mac OS X:

Mac OS X 10.0 was a radical departure from the previous "classic" Macintosh operating system. Mac OS X was Apple's answer to the long awaited call for a next generation Macintosh operating system. Mac OS X 10.0 introduced a brand new code base, completely separate from Mac OS 9's code base, and all other previous Apple operating systems. Mac OS X introduced a new Darwin Unix-like core, as well as introducing a totally new system of memory management. Mac OS X is widely regarded to be the best operating system Apple has ever produced; however, Mac OS X 10.0 was a rocky start to the Mac OS X line, plagued with missing features and performance issues.


The System Requirements for Mac OS X 10.0 were not well received by the Macintosh community, as at the time the amount of RAM standard with Macintosh computers was 64 megabytes of RAM, while the Mac OS X 10.0 requirements called for 128 megabytes of RAM. As well, processor upgrade cards, which were quite popular for obsolete Power Mac G3 computers, were not supported.


The heavy criticism of Mac OS X 10.0 ultimately resulted in Apple offering a free upgrade to Mac OS X v10.1 to all Mac OS X 10.0 users.

So there we are. Vista isn't as bad as PC World think, and Apple is just as bad. But then I'd guessed that from the start.

Google Bombing - An End to the Fun?

I've discussed Google bombing before here. Apparently, Google have made some algorithm changes to reduce their impact. From their webmaster blog:

We wanted to give a quick update about "Googlebombs." By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs. Now we will typically return commentary, discussions, and articles about the Googlebombs instead. The actual scale of this change is pretty small (there are under a hundred well-known Googlebombs), but if you'd like to get more details about this topic, read on.

So there we are, it's like the end of an era when searching for "weapons of mass destruction" doesn't come up with this page at the top of the search results.

(with thanks to Matt Cutts)

January 29, 2007

Moore's Law

From Wikipedia:

Moore's Law is the empirical observation made in 1965 that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 24 months. It is attributed to Gordon E. Moore (born 1929), a co-founder of Intel.

Intel have just seen a breakthrough in chip design which have ensured this will live on for a few more years. Here's some links:

Copycat Computing

As usual I've been accumulating a whole host of links in my feed reader without commenting on them. Here's a few to help clear out the pile.

Robert Scoble points out a post at the top of Techmeme. The post, by Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny calls out Google for copying one of the splash pages on the Yahoo! site. It's quite amusing - look at the post itself to see how similar the pages are.

Google's Matt Cutts answers back, however:

Jeremy points out that Google had an IE7 promo page that looked remarkably similar to a Yahoo! IE7 promo page.

I can only speak for me personally on this. If Jeremy looked into it and says that it wasn’t a template from Microsoft, I believe him. That would mean that the Yahoo! page was used as a template for Google’s IE7 promo page. I can’t say why someone at Google would decide to do that, but to the Yahoo! UI designer whose page was copied: my apologies. In my personal opinion, it sucks when someone else copies a page layout without attribution.

It can take a lot of work to come up with creative HTML. I remember when Google did a bunch of UI research to decide on a distinctive look for AdWords. We decided to go with pastel boxes with a darker border on the right-hand side of the search results. Not too long afterwards, Yahoo! changed their side ads to pastel boxes with a darker border.

Click on the link to see the examples he offers.

It's quite amusing the fuss that's made in the computer industry about copying. Copycat software crops up all over the place as soon as one company has had a good idea. Apple and Microsoft have both spent years copying each other. The Open Source software movement relies on everyone building on each others work. In the same way as academics, you can only stand on the shoulders of giants if you can copy what they've already managed.

January 12, 2007

Sony fails to appreciate pornography

Robert Scoble makes an intriguing point here, linking to this page.

Has Sony gone mad? Prominent adult movie producer Digital Playground says it is forced to use HD DVD instead of Blu-ray, because Sony does not allow XXX-rated movies to be released on Blu-ray.

It does not matter how you stand to porn. It is here and it is a massive business. It is also an industry that is an early adopter for new media technology. VHS might not have won with out the adult film industry adopting it.

Robert further points out the parallels with the VHS vs. Betamax struggle.

When I worked at LZ Premiums in the 1980s, the Beta vs. VHS video tape formats were in full swing. Our store rented video tapes, including a fairly large selection of adult videos. Many many VHS sales were decided on because of the much greater availability of adult entertainment in the VHS format.

Intriguing stuff.

January 05, 2007


Today I'm eating a Sainsbury's Basics range Macaroni Cheese meal cooked in the microwave. It tastes of virtually nothing. Although it was stupidly cheap so I suppose that makes up for it.

Coincidentally I came upon this chap who has spent the month of November living on a food budget of only $30. That's about 50p a day for those of us over here.

My Macaroni Cheese Meal cost 86p, for a small volume of food, which tastes awful. The worst part of it was that I was quite pleased when buying it: "Wow, this'll save some money."

I've restored a little perspective on the situation now, though, and shan't be spending less than £2 on a ready meal ever again...

Gratuitous Wasting of Space

...to say

  • "Merry Christmas"
  • "Happy New Year"
  • "You're all muppets, get out of my face"