* Posts by DrXym

4369 posts • joined 18 Jul 2007

Parcelforce to drop Windows 7 compatibility through letterbox in New Year

DrXym Silver badge

Browser / OS requirements should be a thing of the past

I can possibly understand a site that relied on multimedia controls if it imposed browser restrictions. I can possibly understand an in-house site being broken on some browsers. But an outwards facing site of a major courier?

What the hell were they thinking when they drew up their requirements? Maybe non-IE or non-Windows browsers represent a minor additional QA/dev burden, but even if they represent only a few % of customers, that is still a few % of potential profit. Any company would be completely bonkers to turn away business like that even at the best of times.

Microsoft's Silverlight 4 - Flash developers need not apply

DrXym Silver badge

Not surprising really

I am not surprised in the slightest that Windows is getting the most attention? This was the point all along - produce a nominally cross-platform / cross-browser runtime, build up market share, and then slowly let the non-Windows platforms atrophy. Why is anyone surprised at all?

Microsoft are paying lip service to other platforms. Mono / Moonlight is just a running joke on the open source community. Moonlight is barely at version 2 and already Silverlight is at version 4. And of course development tools for Linux are awful. MS know the open source community will NEVER keep up with silverlight and will NEVER support their DRM / codecs properly and never compete with their tools so they let it live on as a token project that they can be mentioned when people raise the subject of cross-platform support.

Despite this there is no doubt that Silverlight is better architected than Flex (e.g. multi-threading), but I wonder why anyone wants to sacrifice a ubquitous solution for one which is trying to coral people into the Windows / MS domain. If Flex is not to people's liking then JavaFX would be a better long term solution although it has its own issues.

Google pockets half of 'unlicensed' news dollars, says study

DrXym Silver badge

News sites should be grateful for aggregators

I must read hundreds of different news sources thanks to Google News and similar. Hundreds if not thousands of page & ad impressions per year that these folks absolutely would not have gotten from me otherwise. The same for countless millions of other people.

So what if Google takes it's share? The reality is that news sites are gaining far more hits with aggregators than they ever would without.

If Murdoch pulled his sites from Google, do you know how much people would care? Not one jot. Their content will just fall into a black hole and links that would have gone to news corp will go somewhere else instead.

Windows 7 saves Dixons

DrXym Silver badge

Authors of their own misfortune

DSG's problem is they charge too much money, not just on the big box stuff but peripherals too. At one time only knowledgeable knew this, but these days with prominent (and cheaper) retailers like Dell & Amazon, everyone does.

The entire chain looks like a dinosaur trying to fleece people with expensive media, £100 HDMI cables and so on. And of course the extended warranty. Frankly someone would have to be desperate, stupid or ignorant to pay the prices Currys/PC World without looking elsewhere first.

If DSG want to turn it around they should start by lowering their prices. And stop with the charade that PC World and Currys are separate entitles. Often the stores are situated right next to each which means doubling of staff, rent, electric, floor space, tills, security monitoring, etc. Close one of the outlets or knock a bloody wall through, carry more stock and cut costs by laying off 30-50% of the staff.

Moller Skycar to finally crash and burn?

DrXym Silver badge

Moller might be history but another scam will start up in its place

Hawkers of magic machines that defy the laws of physics are ten a penny. Moller just happens to be one of the more famous of these but there are plenty of others. I'm sure even if his company trots off the scene, another one will appear in its stead.

Sky talks up subscription 3D merits

DrXym Silver badge

3D is a waste of time for years yet

Some day a TV will arrive which does not require glasses (or impose other stupid viewing requirements), does not cost the earth, does not induce eyestrain or pounding headaches and which implements the appropriate industry standards so that it will be compatible with all range of input devices.

But that day is not here. It's not even clear when it will arrive. And even if it did, there isn't much content to show on such a device.

3D is clearly many years from mainstream adoption, which in turn should tell you what you're going to get if you subscribe to a Sky 3D service - the shaft. Sky still charges too much for HD and that's supposedly mainstream these days.

Microsoft defends Hotmail's cookie requirement

DrXym Silver badge

Nothing to do with a "good experience"

Microsoft own a portfolio of search, mail and other sites and they want to use cookies so they can make stronger associations between people who use more than one of them. If they all existed on the same domain it would be easy to do which is how google and yahoo work already. Since they don't, it's a little harder and requires some kind of 3rd party tracking cookie. Claiming it has to do with a "good experience" is complete nonsense. Microsoft just want to make more persistent associations with their users so they can better see what they're doing.

MS exec gets shot down after 'inaccurate' Windows 7 spiel

DrXym Silver badge

Windows 7 takes elements of OS X but not a great deal

I don't know why anyone would claim Windows 7 apes OS X. About the closest thing between the two operating systems are the desktop widgets, which OS X ripped off itself. Most of the other stuff has a fairly obvious Windows heritage. W7 has gained some Expose like refinements but again, its done pretty differently.

Of course Windows has taken from the Mac over the years, including the general concept of a spatial desktop but I don't believe it's ever gotten any closer. The W7 desktop is obviously a refinement of the Vista desktop which aside from Aero improvements and the perennial start menu redesign is obviously a refinement of XP and so on. The story is the same with the rest of the UI.

I'm quite happy that W7 hasn't ripped off OS X too much. OS X is a very beautiful looking desktop but IMO it's hobbled by its single button mouse heritage as well as the stupid single menu bar and the dock. The dock just doesn't work when you run lots of apps and the menu is the strangest usability throwback of all. Maybe it made sense back in MacOS but it doesn't in the modern world. Having to mouse ALLLLL the way to the top to perform a menu operation and then ALLLLL the way back down, to where you were is a huge pain in the butt made even worse because you have to play hunt the app first to make its menu active. Having to memorize keystrokes to avoid this isn't particularly user friendly either.

Windows isn't perfect by any stretch but I consider it more useful for day to work. The UI hides the advanced stuff but its still there and available. It's a pity that some things that should have been fixed years ago are still prevalent. For example Windows shortcuts are as broken as ever and why exactly do apps need to be installed to program files? It would be nice if Windows did have something equivalent to a .App that meant apps could be moved and run from anywhere. That's the sort of thing it should take from OS X instead of the desktop.

Dell details 'world's thinnest' laptop

DrXym Silver badge

@ThomH

That's a lame analogy.

When the air first appeared, the apologists were all over the sealed battery claiming it had to be done that way to make the device slim enough. Clearly that was not the case, so what excuse does that leave? It certainly isn't for usability's sake. Air owners must merely undo 10 screws of various lengths to get at the battery which is considerably more effort than just opening a hatch or a clip as virtually every other laptop manages.

DrXym Silver badge

The important point here is the battery

Put aside its take it or leave it appearance and notice that it features a removable battery. This completely demolishes the argument that batteries should be sealed in. If Dell, purveyor of cheap and cheerful PCs can produce a slim laptop with a removable battery why is it that the alleged masters of usability (Apple) cannot?

The answer of course only reason Apple seals in batteries is to make their devices disposable so people buy new ones after a few years. It has nothing to do with looks, usability or any other bullshit excuse that the company or its legions of apologists would have people believe. I hope the existence of devices like this force Apple's hand, or better yet force the EU's hand to mandate removable batteries by law.

Mozilla plots Firefox interface overhaul

DrXym Silver badge

Gratuitous oversimplification

There is usability and then there is dumbing down the entire experience for the lowest common denominator. IE, Chrome and now Firefox are going all the same way and I really don't see what the point is for some of these changes.

Browsers are not a world unto themselves and should not just reinvent the conventions of the host OS as they see fit. Simplify yes, but do so within the conventions of the OS. A button / menu on the right hand side with a subset of actions is no substitute for a proper menu. At the very least menus should be toggleable and if they are shown, they should appear at the TOP of the frame, not sandwiched between the nav bar and other toolbars as they do in IE. Browsers should also avoid skinning the UI for no reason whatsoever, changing the look / feel of buttons, frames etc. for completely arbitrary non-functional reasons. Google Chrome does this for no clear reason.

The most grotesque browser example is Safari which is close to unusable unless you are some kind of masochist.

Windows 7 - the Reg reader verdict

DrXym Silver badge

Had W7 for a month now

So far I have no serious complaints about it. The installation was excellent. Virtually all my apps survived an upgrade intact, most of the Vista complaints have been addressed and the good points of Vista (such as better security, desktop) have been carried over and refined. Overall, it's a solid release. My biggest gripe is that Notepad never ever seems to be improved from one release to the next. Even MS Paint finally got a facelift but Notepad is as awful and unusable as ever.

Even so, if you have Vista or XP and you're happy with it, I don't know if there is a reason to upgrade. At the end of the day it's still just the operating system. The same apps run over the top and for all the change, the point of an OS is to facilitate not be constantly in your face. If things about earlier versions annoy you then perhaps they've been address.

Barnes & Noble's ebook reader takes its bow

DrXym Silver badge

Now what about standards support?

I hope the B&N reader is more standards compliant than the Amazon one. I really don't understand why anyone would pay full whack for a device which ties you to one store and one proprietary file format. Want to read other formats? Tough shit, or rather, pay Amazon $$$ to mangle the file into a format the device should support by default. Want to transfer your books to a new device made by someone else?

Perhaps if such a device were subsidized it may be understandable if they were proprietary, but the reality is there are far more open readers out there for similar prices. I don't even understand why publishers can even tolerate the current situation. A single industry wide platform for ebook delivery and consumption ultimately benefits everyone. Lots of competing mutually exclusive formats confuses everyone and suppresses the whole market.

In the mean time, support for .txt, .rtf, .epub, .pdf, .html and .pdf should be a base requirement for anyone after an ereader device.

Sun tunes its VirtualBox

DrXym Silver badge

Great VM product

I used to use VMWare workstation but I got sick of the crappy user interface, the mysterious issues it had with timing loops on Linux and other assorted nonsense.

VirtualBox has worked out of the box and is an extremely pleasant product to use. The emulation also seems very responsive, no doubt in part because it takes advantage of virtualization functionality in the hardware. Now I'm not some enterprise customer, just a guy who needs to fire up a VM from time to time. I have Ubuntu running over Windows 7 and the peformance is quite acceptable for development work. So far VirtualBox fits the bill perfectly.

Maybe if I had to run a multiple instances of these things and remotely administer them I'd have a different opinion, but so far it's all been positive.

What amazes me about virtualization is that only a few years ago you'd have to pay a small fortune for a proper VM solution (as opposed to an emulator like QEMU). These days they're being handed out like candy. VirtualBox is mostly GPL too which means that even if Oracle did can the project that the thing isn't going to die. That is another strong plus for it over its competitors.

Firefox 3.6 beta set to ship next week

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@ThomH

Firefox uses native theme engines wherever possible so what you see *is* native OS rendered. On Windows for example it uses the uxtheme.dll to render the scrollbars & buttons through the same code as any other app. Similar happens with GTK & OS X. It also uses things called overlays to ensure that layout of menus and dialogs conform to system norms. For example GTK & Windows put their dialog buttons in a different order. Peripheral dialogs such as file, print selectors are also native.

So the look is native but the "feel" may not be. A Firefox button might look like a regular button, but the actual click behaviour is handled by Firefox code, not the OS. Firefox has a cross-platform widget/ subsystem that sits over the native event model. Operating systems / Widget layers may have very subtle behaviours implemented into their standard controls which Firefox doesn't emulate perfectly. For example, scroll bar tracking might differ, or accessibility, or support for tablets etc. On the whole though I consider Firefox to be one of the native feeling browsers of all of them, including IE.

Ballmer mixed on Windows 7's success

DrXym Silver badge

Have Win7 already and its good

Win7 is basically Vista on a diet and the rough edges smoothed. It very responsive, the desktop is pleasant to use and so far it works exactly like it should. I think Microsoft have done a decent job of addressing the faults levelled at Vista.

The installer deserves a lot of praise. I upgraded over Vista and the experience was obscenely smooth. It managed to preserve all my apps, shares, desktop and settings from Vista except for one game DRM driver.

I don't know if it should be called a new Windows OS, or whether its Vista 1.5 but it works. I would have no objection buying a new machine with it on, even a netbook. I'm less certain there is any reason to upgrade from an earlier version of Windows. Despite Microsoft's claims, I very much doubt if you replaced XP on a machine that Windows 7 would offer comparable performance.

IE, Chrome, Safari duped by bogus PayPal SSL cert

DrXym Silver badge

@Grease Monkey

It's not a case of being lazy. It's a case that writing crypto APIs is hideously difficult and very few apps would have the time or resources to do it, especially when operating systems such as Linux & Windows usually provide their own implementation or a shared library. As an example of how difficult they are to implement, consider that OpenSSL (uquitous in the Unix world), NSS (in Mozilla), Crypto API and Opera's impl are all roughly ten years old and bugs still occasionally crop up.

App often inherit one crypto API or another because they're calling libs such as libcurl, wininet etc. and indirectly pick up whatever that lib is using. It simply is not feasible or reasonable to expect an app to hop from one API to another at the drop of a hat.

It's also worth remembering that every SSL / TLS implementation has suffered from bugs in the past. Bugs are an accepted and entirely predictable occurrence. What matters most with security software is the frequency of the bugs, the criticality of the bugs from a vulnerability perspective and the how long it takes to resolve those bugs. If Mozilla, Opera or whomever can release patches in a timely fashion with 1/100th the resources of Microsoft, then there is no excuse for Microsoft not doing the same. Especially considering the extreme severity of the issue.

DrXym Silver badge

Neal 5 (again)

Yes it is an OS problem. Many software applications rely on CryptoAPI. These applications HAVE NO WAY WHATSOEVER OF FIXING THIS ISSUE. They rely on Microsoft to fix their subsystem and it is Microsoft's responsibility to do so in a timely and measured fashion. If they sit on their backsides (as they have) while other vendors who use alternate APIs manage to fix the issue, then Microsoft is the one being tardy.

And if this article is a sales pitch for Firefox, it is only insofar as it highlights the difference in attitude between Mozilla (and Apple) vs Microsoft when faced with a web-breaking critical vulnerability.

DrXym Silver badge

Neal 5

It is Microsoft's fault for twiddling their thumbs for nine weeks while a critical security vulnerability exists in their library. Other vendors supplied a patch to a critical security issue in a timely fashion so why haven't Microsoft? Haven't MS been crowing about how much more security focused they are these days?

This isn't some minor typographic error, it is an extremely serious issue that seriously undermines the trust model that every secure website depends on. In other companies this would spark a firedrill and command their maximum attention until it was fixed.

Man banished from PayPal for showing how to hack PayPal

DrXym Silver badge

Neal 5

Your rants are getting more bizarre by the second. Criminals by their very nature will exploit any weakness they can use to their financial advantage. Microsoft is solely in a position to fix the issue. Apps that rely on CryptoAPI CANNOT FIX THE ISSUE. Has this penetrated your thick skull yet? Microsoft's tardiness in fixing such a serious issue is perplexing and unacceptable.

Kindle to come to Blighty on 19 October

DrXym Silver badge

So without EDVO support what is the point?

Kindle is a horribly proprietary device, but its ability to receive content over the air was a unique selling point. Given that this feature isn't going to work in the UK, why would anyone want to buy a Kindle?

I think Amazon is going to have to do more than just allow shipping. Devices like the Sony Reader are already available in the UK, support more formats, and work with multiple online stores including US ones like Barnes & Noble.

Flash goes native on iPhone

DrXym Silver badge

Obvious reason for no Flash

Flash is too powerful and competes with apps on the iPhone. Half of the games and other apps on the store would be rendered worthless if the phone supported flash.

Google lobs coder's Microsoft badge into rubbish bin

DrXym Silver badge

Maybe the NDA is the reason

If I were an employer, I'm not sure I would be happy if one of my employees had signed an NDA with a rival. It could lead to all kinds of legal predicaments that I could do without.

Windows 7 OEM prices revealed

DrXym Silver badge

Got my Windows 7 today

I was extremely impressed by the upgrade from Vista which managed to preserve all my apps & settings and the installer itself kicks off with about 3 clicks. I'm writing this post using the same Firefox which this morning was running on Vista. I fired up the same Virtual Box with Ubuntu in W7 that previously ran in Vista. Everything so far is working great.

Installation took a while (too be expected I suppose since I have 500Gb of stuff) but afterwards I had a functioning desktop. As a developer I find this is mindboggingly impressive since I can't even begin to imagine all the complexity required to pull this off seamlessly.

In terms of W7's behaviour now I have it running, the answer is it feels somewhat like vista but obviously a lot more polished. It is to Vista what XP was to W2K. Everything feels a lot tighter and refined. Annoyances like UAC have been toned down and the new task bar is a very nice addition. I also liked Media Center which does DVB-T/S/C in various incarnations which is very nice.

Is it worth forking out hundreds for? If I hadn't been given it for nothing during a MTUG presentation then I would say no. It is a refinement, not a revolution. It feels a bit like an incremental update. Vista isn't half as bad as people complain about and works just fine once you slap the latest service pack on it. If you're running XP then probably you don't need anything more so just leave it the way it is until the PC needs replacement. Anyone who does install W7 on a desktop or a chunky laptop should go 64-bit since they'll benefit from a 10% speed boost.

In summary W7 so far feels like a stable, highly refined, usable desktop, but one which probably does not warrant an upgrade for most people.

Apple tablet will 'redefine print,' says rumor mill

DrXym Silver badge

I bet it will redefine print

What once used to be purchasable from multiple outlets, resellable, loanable and available in a common format (letters on a page) will instead be locked into a proprietary format, that doubtless Apple will hold the keys to. Perhaps Apple will confound everyone by adopting a relatively open format such as epub but I won't hold my breath. Their past behaviour with music and video show they consider their devices as golden cages using proprietary formats and DRM as the means to hold their customers to ransom. After all, who is ever going to jump ship from Apple if their content doesn't work any more?

Oracle should relax Sun's Java Community control grip

DrXym Silver badge

WTF?

"It's already bad enough that there a multiple Java implementations on some platforms, open sourcing the TCKs will just add the potential for fragmentation in the tests that are supposed to help prevent fragmentation."

What the hell are you smoking? The fact there are various implementations of the JVM, some of which are clean room is a GOOD THING. What isn't a good thing is that many implementations can't officially call themselves Java because they can't pass certification because the terms of certification are incompatible or odious.

Open sourcing the TCK and perhaps making the whole testing & certification process vendor neutral would be a massive step in the right direction. It shouldn't matter if its Sun/Oracle or any other JVM implementation. They should be able to pay their fee to a certifying authority, have the tests run and get a nice little logo and right to use certain trademarks for their efforts. To ensure everyone passes the test, the TCK should be open sourced so projects can ensure compliance before applying. Fragementation has nothing to do with it because the certifying body wouldn't be using a fork.

As a general comment, I know its fashionable to pour hate on Java (after all it's what some might call the establishment) but the reality is there is no other platform which comes anywhere close to it for real world development. It would be great if it incorporated some of the lessons of scala / groovy (which run on JVMs), but as it stands there is no other language that comes anywhere close to the scalability and robustness of the Java platform.

Stephen Hawking both British and not dead

DrXym Silver badge

I don't understand the US at all

For all the criticism it gets, the NHS is an excellent service and is nothing any country should be ashamed of aspiring to. If somebody is allergic to receiving treatment from a relatively good free service, they are entirely free to augment or replace it with their own private plan such as BUPA. This is as true in Britain as it is in the US.

It's not even an either / or situation. Countries like Ireland demonstrate a half-way house where private health insurance pays for medical treatment, but if you can't afford private health insurance, the state pays. Whether you go private or not you will usually still be seeing the same doctors in the same hospitals and receiving exactly the same treatment. Private does offer clear advantages but people are not left out in the cold if they can't afford it.

It should be patently clear that the US system is a shambles by comparison and needs reform. All this blabbering about "socialized medicine" is just absurd hyperbole.

XML flaws threaten 'enormous' array of apps

DrXym Silver badge

Broken XML != malicious XML

I have no idea what the issue here is but people expressing surprise that a library could be broken should enter the mind of an attacker. Let's say an app allocated a 1024 byte buffer to hold the tag name. The attacker might like to see what happens if they entered a 1023, 1024, 1025 or greater tag. C strings are null terminated so a 1024 byte buffer can only hold a 1023 byte string plus terminator. It would be easy for a programmer to screw-up on a length check and cause an overflow. If they can get the app to crash then they've discovered an exploit. Likewise they might try tags containing binary data, or UTF-16 or null characters, or deeply nested data, or long entity names, or entities containing certain data. Anything that might break internal buffers used to hold state information.

Open source offers some protection against this since the code has been scrutinised by a lot more people than closed souce. But at the same time it isn't immune from bugs or exploits. In the case of an XML parser, it may well be that a disproportionate number of commercial and non-commercial apps rely on expat which means they're all vulnerable to the same issue. I am surprised to see Java listed as exploitable - perhaps they also use expat or some other native library to speed up parsing too.

Sony widens its e-bookshelf

DrXym Silver badge

Why is $200 a challenge?

Let's look at the things $200 will buy - MP3 players, iPods, PDAs and even some ultra cheap notebooks. What *exactly* about an E Book reader costs so much? These devices don't need much CPU horsepower, or battery, or memory, or cables & peripherals, or touch screens, or speakers. They're pretty dumb devices powering a passive display. Furthermore, most readers, even the Sony is tied to an online store meaning the device is somewhat of a loss leader.

At least Sony is to be congratulated for offering far better choice than the Kindle. The devices support more formats and its easy to purchase content from different stores. But I can't help but feel that e-books would be far more popular if they were more affordable. It would also be awesome if an industry consortium of manufacturers, publishers and stores formed around a single format and delivery mechanism to prevent the kind of digital lockin that Amazon are aiming to achieve.

Palm slams Apple, hoodwinks iTunes

DrXym Silver badge

Both sides are right

Apple probably don't like helping freeloaders but at the same time, iTMS enjoys a stranglehold on the desktop so why shouldn't Palm reverse engineer their device to support it. Palm aren't doing anything illegal, and the fact that Apple must shut them out demonstrates that it is Apple which is causing deliberate incompatibility.

Personally I think Palm should continue what it's doing but encourage users to move over to Songbird. In fact, encourage other vendors to do likewise. Songbird is better than iTMS anyway and so functionally similar nobody would be missing out by moving.

Planned 3D web graphics standard taps JavaScript

DrXym Silver badge

VRML, WML etc.

Okay, I see the use of having 3D in the web, even if it were to allow for modest blending, scaling effects within some pages. But don't forget that 3D appeared a long time ago for browsers and the results weren't pretty.

VRML was a markup language for 3D content, and that content could contain links etc. To view 3D you used a plugin which could parse the content. Turns out people DON'T LIKE wandering through a hideously slow loading virtual landscape for some stupid link when HTML can put it right in front of them.

Perhaps this WebML solution will be better. By integrating the 3D into the page through the canvas element, content pagers can be as subtle or over the top as they like.

Palm restores Pré iTunes synchronisation

DrXym Silver badge

@Dana W

Palm and Apple are entirely within their rights to engage in this little "war" of theirs. Apple is protecting their proprietary service from interlopers. Palm is reverse engineering support for a popular synchronisation platform.

Personally I think I sympathize more with Palm than Apple. Apple are deliberately trying to restrict their software just like they deliberately restrict their OS when there is no technical reason for doing so.

At the same time, I think Palm and others would be doing themselves a big favour by not pandering to Apple by engaging in an arms race. I think they should pay a bunch of money to someone like Songbird and licence that instead. Not only is Songbird very similar to iTunes in functionality, it is considerably more open and faster too.

MoD sticks with 'most decrepit browser in the world'

DrXym Silver badge
FAIL

I know exactly why they've done this

Many companies unwisely, nay, STUPIDLY built internet applications around IE6 and I'm sure the civil service did so too. Applications for payrole, stockkeeping, holidays, reports etc. might have used ActiveX controls, or made assumptions about HTML, JavaScript or something else which means they break outright on other browsers. Other browsers might be stricter about HTML or deal with broken HTML in different ways.

At the time, this was probably seen as a great way of cutting corners, after all if IE6 is the target platform, why bother conforming to W3C standards or testing on other browsers? If IE6 offers ActiveX controls, why not use them?

This story highlights why. Browsers come and go but that application might have to last years. Coding to a specific browser is the stupidest thing anyone can do. Code to the standard and the capabilities of the browser (i.e. does it support document.all), use helper code to abstract away the differences and if necessary add code in the helpers for browser specific issues. Not doing so is a recipe for long term failure.

I'd like to think the penny has dropped, but I just know that there are still too many short sighted people out there in charge of web applications.

Apple ends Palm Pre's iTunes charade

DrXym Silver badge

Songbird

I am so sick of the bloated slug otherwise known as iTunes that I've uninstalled it. If you want to see how bloated and slow it was, just install Songbird. Songbird copies the iTunes interface but is an order of magnitude more responsive. It also doesn't install little annoyances like background and startup processes which sap boot times and memory.

Maybe Palm should throw some money at Songbird for proper integration with the device.

Orange UK exiles Firefox from call centres

DrXym Silver badge

It's stories like this...

... which explain why companies should never, EVER code against the features found in just one browser. I bet IE6 is insisted upon because some crappy 5 or 6 year old apps expect certain HTML to be honored, or worse embeded ActiveX components or similar. Worse, it's probably some app that is used for timesheets or similar, hardly critical to day to day operation. The impact of those decisions isn't just annoying, it's hurting Orange in a very real way. If people are hobbled by the antiquated browser, theyre costing the company in time and money. Every day they're stuck on IE6, is a day when they're losing money.

Let's hope these issues serve as a warning to others, or at least as a lesson to future IT managers. Do not code to the browser. Code to the standards and work around if necessary. Browsers are not immutable and if you design an app to one you are inviting yourself to a world of hurt. Code will not be maintainable and will most likely fail without major modification in each and every other browser you port it to. In fact, I'd say that any IT professional who doesn't get this fact by now really shouldn't be in a position to design internet apps. CODE TO THE STANDARDS AND WORKAROUND IF NECESSARY. NEVER CODE TO A BROWSER.

PostgreSQL trumpets 8.4 release

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My problem with MySQL

MySQL seems alright but what worries me is that rather than fix the engine, they augmented it with other engines. And each engine has its own quirks and things it does or doesn't do. There are so many engines now with overlapping feature sets that the profusion choice is overwhelming. It just seems such a mess.

PostgreSQL has always tried to be correct from the get go even if its performance suffered in certain scenarios. I have enough trouble developing my own without worrying if the database is goin to crap out. I might use MySQL for serving up data in non-critical things like forums but I absolutely wouldn't trust it for anything more.

Even so, I think its a good idea to hedge a little, so even if I did stump with PostgreSQL, I would use something like Hibernate to sit over the top. It makes it relatively easy to switch databases later which is always a good thing. There is nothing worse than trying to move from one DB to another if your code is infected with SQL.

CompuServe signs off

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A small piece of trivia

AOL were planning to use the Mozilla layout engine (Gecko) in the AOL client. They never got that far but they did implement it in the Compuserve client since the codebase for both was largely shared. So that last version of the Compuserve client was running Mozilla in the middle of it. AOL got moneyhatted by MS to drop an anticompetition lawsuit and so they cut Mozilla loose. In the long term this probably the best thing that could have happened to it.

BT abandons Phorm

DrXym Silver badge
FAIL

Good riddance

I don't think I would object to Phorm if BT or whoever said - "use Phorm and we cut your ADSL bill in half". But to slide it into your service without giving anything in return, or even to threaten a substandard service through alternate routers if you don't use it is simply reprehrensible. At the end of the day it is a gross intrusion of privacy and BT thought people would just bend over for it. Screw them. Clearly the penny dropped in the end but it doesn't forgive them for the way they trying it on in the first place.

Toyota preps plug-in Prius for mass production

DrXym Silver badge

Screw that

Tesla are talking about plugin vehicles with a 300 mile range. Why the complication of a hybrid petrol and electric engine if the electric runs for 18 lousy miles before requiring a recharge? I was kind of excited when I read the new Prius was a plug-in thinking the petrol bit had been ditched completely, but apparantly not so.

Firefox 3.5 set to land tomorrow

DrXym Silver badge

Flash performance is horrible

I love Mozilla Firefox but there are times when the CPU consumption goes through the roof. I strongly suspect it is Flash plugins that cause this. I don't know the underlying reasons for this slowdown, but perhaps Firefox is pumping too many windows messages into the plugin and its dragging performance. Or its not cleaning up the plugin when its done. Whatever the reason it needs to be fixed. Otherwise Firefox is awesome.

Man queues overnight to buy iPhone 3GS... and take it to bits

DrXym Silver badge

Who are these sad bastards?

Who queue up a midnight for a freaking phone of all things. It's not even a new phone, just a variant of an existing model.

Microsoft’s Silverlight 3 delivers decent alternative to Adobe

DrXym Silver badge

@Mark Rendle

I was the one who did the pro/con thing, and I intended to put XAML under silverlight but forgot. I am also aware that Dev Studio Express has a Silverlight extension. I haven't tried Silverlight 3, but Silverlight 2's extension is crippled since you cannot use visual design tools to knock together UIs. Instead you must write the XML manually or using drag and drop snippets. In a perverse way I like this since it forces you to lean the XAML rather than point and click. I'd add that a semi-workaround is to prototype a UI by creating a .NET 3.5 WPF app but the XAML is so different (missing controls, attributes and values) that it often requires major surgery to make it work.

As for cross-platform, yes the plugin has Mac support but not Linux and from the sounds of it, never will. Instead they hope and expect Moonlight to trail along a few versions behind failing as badly at supporting Silverlight as Mono does with .NET. Moonlight also fails when it comes to video / audio since it depends on Microsoft for a codec pack and even then won't implement DRM. Moonlight needs to dump the codec pack and use ffmpeg or similar.

DrXym Silver badge

@Brian Whittle

Microsoft is tossing money around left and right to get Silverlight out there. Netflix, the winter olympics coverage on NBC, ITV and others. I expect the conversations went like this:

Site: "We're implementing a big project in Flex since it does everything we need and runs on pretty much every browser"

MS: "And you're going to pay for the servers and infrastructures?"

Site: "Well yes obviously but we'll use Linux and other free solutions where possible. There is plenty of choice in back end solutions even if we have to pay."

MS: "Why don't we give you all your server licences, and a crack team of consultants for free if you use Silverlight instead and stream through our server operating system and use our plugin? Did we mention this amounts to millions of dollars?"

Site: "Well okay we'll use Silverlight"

Personally I think it's an okay to produce a competing runtime but this sort of money hatting is pretty disgusting. I bet Sun wishes it could do the same if it had any money and while JavaFx has plenty of rough edges its probably more deserving of attention than Silverlight.

DrXym Silver badge

Some pros and cons of various solutions

I've used Flex, Silverlight and JavaFx and they all have strengths and weaknesses. Personally I don't see much real-world reason to use Silverlight or JavaFx at the moment unless you absolutely must do something that Flex doesn't offer.

Flex:

Pros - Eclipse based IDE is great, especially for UI creation, XML UI description language, ubiquitous, cross-browser, cross-platform, AIR for local apps, browser component for AIR, many similarities to standard JS / CSS development

Cons - No multi-threading leading to lots of stupid hacks, ActionScript is verbose, legacy heritage often shows through.

Silverlight

Pros - Easy to pick up for .NET developers, C#/VB and other supported languages, small runtime, cross-browser, sandboxed

Cons - Not cross-platform (no Moonlight does not count), cross-browser is no guarantee that sites will be, Silverlight is not .NET implementing a subset of system framework and is not binary compatible either, typical MS is pushing their own video / audio standards and delivery mechanisms to the detriment of industry ones.

JavaFX

Pros - Runs over JRE, able to use any existing Java code, cross platform (eventually), has profiles for desktop and portable devices, finegrained security means it can do stuff neither Silverlight or Flex can do .

Cons - JavaFx script language is weird and very unlike Java. UI is declarative JavaFx rather than XML. Tools like Netbeans are simply awful. Platform needs another major release to be considered feature complete.

Mozilla mauls Microsoft on IE, Windows 7 bundle

DrXym Silver badge

Release candidate means exactly what it says

Its a feature complete, ready to ship version of the operating system. Barring last minute legal issue, the only difference between RC and RTM is some bug fixes. People who think "it's only a release candidate" should get a clue here. This is what Windows 7 is going to look and behave like.

Anyway, the latest IE8 was hardly friendly or open when it comes to asking users if they want to change their search settings. It would not be cynical at all to think that MS deliberately filled the setup with multiple steps and peculiar terminology to scare people away from changing the default settings which naturally favour MSN. If they really intended a level playing field, it would not have been hard to provide a single "pick your search behaviour from this list" dialog and leave it at that.

DSGi plans £310m rights issue

DrXym Silver badge

I'm surprised DSGi is even alive

Currys / Dixons / PC World have never offered value for money, or employed knowledgable staff, or provided decent aftersales support. I can only attribute their continued existence to a percentage of the public not knowing what bad service and value they're getting.

Phorm boss blogs from a dark, dark place

DrXym Silver badge

Phorm deserves its criticism and more

Sniffing data from packets is akin to spying on someone's TV viewing, or listening to their phone calls, or reading their email, or inspecting the contents of their fridge. And then using that information to deliver targetted advertising.

The only way this type of intrusion is way moral or defensible is if its opt-in and the participants are rewarded in some way for providing such information. Participants should also be told in plain English some of the potential ways their data might be used.

If it is compulsary, tied to service functionality, or opt-out results in diminished performance (e.g. because packets are routed another way) then it is a reprehensible imposition and intrusion of privacy. I don't know any way to say it other than the ISPs and phorm should go to hell.

Infosys fires 2,100

DrXym Silver badge

Who outsources to companies like this?

I frequently worked with Indian outsourced workers and frankly the quality of work was very low. The people from one project to the next were never the same so business knowledge was abysmal, the staff were passive and never pushed back even when requirements were stupid or contradictory, their telephone manner was indecipherable, development times were double or triple the average western duration and the amount of oversight required to steer them the right direction was just a drain.

Why were they even used? Probably because some genius manager probably saw their daily rate and incorrectly assumed they were getting the same quality of work for 1/3rd the price. But in reality they just got a substandard service which stretched out delivery times and dragged down the quality of the code after so many hands inappropriately touched it.

Outsourcing is a terrible idea for coding unless the same team can be assured from one piece of work to the next. In addition the team has to take pride in their work and PUSH BACK. Stupid or missing requirements need to be identified not blindly implemented even when they make no sense. Maybe the likes of Infosys would help itself here if it didn't operate like a revolving door and tried ever so slightly harder to develop teams rather than just create such a crappy work environment.

Microsoft conjures imaginary 'Apple Tax'

DrXym Silver badge

Well Apple is more expensive

I really don't see it open to much debate that Macs are more expensive. They are. Asus, Acer, Dell & Lenovo sometimes take a few months to catchup with the equivalent specs (does Intel & Apple have some kind of exclusivity deal?) but when they do, their kit is cheaper. Not by a little bit but by a lot. It also goes through iterations and discounts faster so the Mac sits at its original price point and specs for a year while the competitors have gotten cheaper and / or better specs.

It certainly has nothing to do with the quality of the kit either. Macs have suffered so many well documented faults in the last few years that its tough to remember them all - expanding batteries, overheating, yellowing cases, cracked aluminium, melting power connectors etc. Only the Mac Pro has escaped these issues and its price is in the stratosphere. Even the cost of OS X (helpfully tied to Apple hardware for no good reason) is a consideration since it receives more upgrades (possibly 2 or 3) in the same period as a typical Windows release.

On the other hand Microsoft has a tax too. Why should new PCs have Windows preinstalled? And even if the vendor offers a carefully hidden discount for not installing it, why is that discount so derisory that its not worth bothering with? Why also is that Windows install laden with crap I don't want such as 60 day antivirus trials, evaluation software and other crapware. At least a new Mac boots clean.

In summary yes the Mac is more expensive, and IMO yes a lot of people buy for the brand instead of the quality of the kit. On the other hand style isn't necessarily a bad thing and if Microsoft were so confident of their software they should let people choose it by preference not by obligation.

Sun revs VirtualBox to 2.2

DrXym Silver badge

I like VirtualBox

Traditionally I would have used VMWare but the UI and experience is pretty clunky. VirtualBox seems just as functional, at least for workstation style use and the interface is far easier to work with. Best of all, it's free.

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