Monday, June 13, 2005

cutting corners

The browser wars are upon us once again.
One of the main features regular users are looking for is tabbed browsing. Firefox has it, IE does not. But wait a minute, MS was not going to let a simple matter such as tabbed browing take 10% (an growing daily) of the market share. Soi what do you do? you get a team together and push tabbed browing out to the public as soon as you can, furthermore you bundle it as a toolbar that can be installed on top of the existing browser version, that way the kinks can be tested before the real release is brought to the public.
So Microsoft did, they release their toolbar that allows user to browse in different tabs in the same window. Great, noe thwy can finally stop the bleeding and focus on getting out a product that will recover the ground they lost.
Well that what the product management thought, but they didnt count on people actually paying attention to the quality of their product. Thats what happens when you play catch-up, you cannot just bring an existing feature up and expect people to embrace it. They will compare it and test it thoroughly, they now have a basis for comparison.
I have not tested the toolbar myself, i am in no hurry to use tabs in IE, i just use Firefox and will continue to use it as long as its the best browser out there. I will definitely upgrade to ie 7 and if it at least matches what Firefox is doing then i will probably use it again as my default browser but i wont give up firefox.
Now, i have been reading the reviews on the MS toolbar and it just doesnt look good for Microsoft. They are simply cutting corners and that is unacceptable for a company like Microsoft. I think a comment that i read earlier sums it best (not an exact quote, but drives the point):
It is a conspiracy!: IE wants you to see how tabbed browsing sucks and you should not use it. People will see the horrible performance and decide to stay with their current browser.
Thats how badly implemented it is. Some of the 'issues' i read about include:


  • Tabs are actually a new instance of IE. And we know what kind of performance we get of each IE instance.

  • There is lot of flickering when the pages load in the background

  • Any 3rd party toolbars installed are actualy instantiated for each tab

  • Lot more you can find ont the web (Links to come soon).



On the Pro side some peoiple argue that instantiating a new thread of IE for each tab may be a good thing. Now when it crashes only that thread will die and you would be able to keep browsing on your other tabs. Maybe so ut it has not been proved to work that way, at least not that i know; and even then i dont think is a good enough tradeoff, but again thats just me.

Have you tried the MSN Toolbar? What do you think?

I want my MTV Cingular

First im gonna give you the heads up.
THIS IS A RANT, Feel free to skip this post.

This rant comes from reading Russell Beattie's post about his new Nokia phone. I am tired of reading about this technology and not being able to enjoy it.
As i mentioned before in this blog i currently live in Burlington, Vermont. And as i said it before, Verizon has a virtual monopoly here, there are other carriers but they are so week that you can hardly count them. These are the carriers we have in order of service/coverage/market share

  1. Verizon Wireless

  2. Sprint

  3. Nextel

  4. Unicel

  5. AT&T*



*AT&T was here pre-merger with Cingular, existing users got grandfathered into their existing plans and kept serviced from Cingular. Nobody can get into their service anymore.

Out of the mentioned companies i have tried all but Sprint, mostly because their service sucks out here.
I started with the budget-friendly service from Unicel. Got tired of their stupidly restricting plans and decided to be an early adopter fo Nextel out here. I actually loved Nextel service, however their phones leave much to be desired. By far Nextel had the best service i could ask for in the Green Mountains, and the PTT feature was a killer feature for me at that time... until i realized that there werent enough adopters, Nextel customer base in the areas was limited to construction crews and general contractors. Once my 1-year plan was up i looked into upgrading to a better phone since the coverage was very good, but i just couldnt settle for an inferior phone. Finally i did some research about phones, looking at the usual suspects and suddenyl run into the v710 on the Verizon website. I fell in love with it, with the bluetooth, with the megapixel camera, with the bundled ear piece. It was what i had been looking for; i went online and bought the motorola phone tools and the data cable. I was ready to embrace the technology, i was psyched about the IM capabilities, the web browser and new ringtones. However as anything that looks too good to be true, it turned out it was. I stumbled upon Russel's post about Verizon crippling the v710 and since then i swore off investing any money into the mobile market. I am done throwing my money at them. But now again, i see this Nokia and i just cant resist, i can imagine the possibilities, the productivity increase, the connectivity. Well as i stand right now i have the best phone i can get from the company with the best coverage in the state, there is only so much i can do.
I checked the Cingular site and even called their 1-800 sales number, they actaully have me enter my zip code and tell me right there that they wont service me.
Does anyone know if anyone can sign up out of state? and if so are there restrictions on using your plan most of the time out of your local area? And finally but not less important, will they allow you to carry your number although it has an out of state area code? If not, why not? What happens when you have to relocate out of state for a job, you cannot carry your number with you? Now that most cell plans are nationwide, landlines offer $0.01 per minute deals for long distance, and VOIP is making large advances I dont see a reason why people are not doing this more often.
I want to be able to look at the Motorola Razor, at the Symbian phones, maybe check out the T-Mobile Sidekick. I just want to have options.

phew. that was a long post.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

myPortal (yawn)

Well, first it was google and now tis microsoft. Whats going on?
The so called IGoogle was received amidst a lot of criticism however i think people know that kind of work google can do and sort of cut them some slack. Its been a while now and i would expect to have some revisions pretty soon. As it is right now, it is just a horrible copy of myYahoo; and this time i think Google confused simple with bland. But i for one have hope, i have seen what Google can do with DHTML and i am actually excited to see what kind of alternative they can offer to myYahoo. I think simplicity has to still be their main goal, the major drawback for myYahoo is information overload, and way too many things going on at the same time in a small piece of real estate, although most of it is customizable, i would like to have the option of having blank spaces.
I would like to see Google provide a clean interface, along the lines of GMail or Google Maps, and provide access to their other properties, Blogger, Orkut, Picassa, Gmail, Maps, Adsense, Adwords, and more; but again, they must focus on simplicity before features.
Now, the reason im ranting about this is because i have been hearing of Microsofts start.com for a while now. Many of the regular feeds i read daily had mentioned it a way or another, I didnt pay much attention to their review since i understood it was just another portal. However, finally i came across Mark Jen's post on his Plaxoed! blog. And although there was no insight on how it worked or what was great about it I just felt that i had to see it. It probably had to do with the bug report for firefox or just the fact that im at work extremely early today, all i know is that i decided to check it out.
Now let me tell you, when i decide to check out a program, a site, a feature, 85-90% of the time I am already committed, i have already made the rational decision to sign up, register or whatever i have to do to be able to get the full experience. This is how i tried Rojo, Filangy, Plaxo itself, and others.
Why do I tell you this? Because i want you to know that i was eager to learn more about this site, i was willing to accept almost any kind of hassle. Having said this, i think MS just brought it to a new level. I had read soemthing about these questions they ask you before you use it, and i thought, it cant be that bad, its the usual registration stuff. Boy was i wrong. I think what upset me the most was that the questions were totally irrelevant, did they think i was goign to be impressed with their search engine by forcing me to use it to find these answers? WRONG. I just dont have the patience for this, and keep in mind what i said above, i was already committed to trying it!; if i was just looking around i would have been gone before their javascript finished loading.
But I digress. I answered the questions and on i went. My first thought was, 'well this looks a lot like IGoogle except a little less bland i it wasnt for the ugly gray color they chose'. Since it looked a lot like Google's portal i figured they wouldnt want to fall behind them i assumed they would allow reposition of the different groups. I put my mouse over the title bar and voila i get the 4way move cursor, so i figure i'd try it right? Well not such a good idea, the most it moved was about 2 inches and after that it killed the move feature for all the groups, it also killed the X functionality to close the groups. I was very dissappointed about this, but then i read the bottom of the page:

this site is not an officially supported site. it is an incubation experiment and doesn't represent any particular strategy or policy. for other incubation experiments, see http://sandbox.msn.com. enjoy!

I am probably reading to much into this, but it really bothered me they released this half ass product and then they wash their hands by putting a disclaimer at the bottom. At least Google puts their products in Beta but backs them up with "official" support.

In any case, just to finish this very very long post. When i clicked a link in a group it opened a popover, which was just sort of a zoom over that group, expanding that individual link. Not very impressive and actually kind of restrictive. If you ask me i rather have it the way Bloglines works. I did like the navigation on the left hand that allows you to add your own feeds and shows the default feeds chosen by MS.

Overall I think both Google and MS need a lot of work to catch up to Yahoo if thats their goal. Why is it their goal and why so late in the game? i dont know. Is it the right strategy 8 years after it was hot? I dont know. All i know is that if they want to compete they need to improve a lot.
How did you like IGoogle and/or start.com?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Video to go?

This is not what we usually refer as video on demand; i am not talking about video through broadband or PPV. I am talking about a new feature being offered by Blockbuster. According to Hacking Netflix, Blockbuster will be providing downloading stations in their stores, you can bring your own storage mechanism and download whatever movie you want for an standard fee; Blockbuster will probably also offer different kinds of media, UMD, SD, etc. The first question that comes to mind is: DRM. Will it be protected? and if yes, how? After those questions are answered i would have to wonder about the cost, will it be considerably lower than a DVD? And if so how healthy will the margins be for Blockbuster?
I think its kinda cool, but not a killer feature or service, perhaps they will be able to cut some costs down and pump more money into their competition against Netflix. I still think Blockbuster is doomed, the only piece left is a merger or agreement between Netflix and Amazon, that would put Blockbuster out of their misery for sure.
What do you think?