Following hot on the heels of the History channel website launch just over a month ago we put the Crime and Investigation Network website live today. With many of the same features of the history site it was mostly a re-skin, or I thought when we started the project but lost of new enhancements and features were added along the way, some of which will make it back to the history site later such as the games page.Filed under Newsflash, Recommended Sites | Comment (1)
It seems that the decline of IE6 has plateued at around 15-20% which has brought frustration to many web developers around the world. For nearly a year now I stopped supporting IE6 on my personal sites but 99% of my work is for clients who do not want to exclude what is a significant portion of their audience. This has lead to a signifucant portiin of development time taken up by finding hacks for IE6 or worse still dropping features that IE6 won’t support. Most clients wont accept that IE6 users should have a degraded experience and would rather lose a feature than have it only available to other browsers!
CNET Video page was a beast to get working in IE6 as even when it looked perfect scrollong down would cause divs to partially collapse and colours to flicker. IE6 also had issues with Ajax loading in content after the page had been rendered and wouldn’t expand boxes to accomodate the content. The hacks were ugly and made me hate IE6 more than ever. Note the page has been redesigned since these issues but I imagine many haslayout and delayed loading issues still remain.
Until IE6 is gone this is just a daily problem for developers and with the failure of Vista and the apathy/ignorance of users and corp IT departments something more drastic was needed. .net magazines started a campaign a couple of months ago to unite developers in putting IE6 to the sword. Check out bring down ie6 for the details. It has caused some controvecy as many developers feel that if your weblogs and clients say that IE6 is still important we should support it. And to be fair some users have no choice. However, rather than just allowing a page to appear broken in IE6 by boldly stating the reasons why you will recieve a degraded experience if isong IE6 as mobile me and google mail have done you both educate the ignorant users as to the existance of alternatives and irritate corporate IT departments into action. When the company MD cant access certain sites or keeps getting alerted to reduce performance, features and security because of his old browser it wont be easy for the IT department to make excuses for having firefox or IE7 on the users systems.
I think it could be taken 2 steps further. Educate users that you dont need admin rights to install firefox. In fact the first time I used firefox at work I installed it on a memory stick. Scandisk have memory sticks with U3 feature that runs several apps directly from the usb dongle. It’s self contained and so can be taken with you and run on any pc. However, i found memory stick run apps a little sluggish especially on scandisk dongles (I only use corsair now) so installing in the My Documenta folder is my usual recommendation. Where I work I am surrounded by IE6 users, all of them hate it but felt they had no option. A quick demo of a My Documents install and everyone’s converted. If this was added to the advise on upgradeing I am sure uptake would be higher. Note, installation of flash and java support for these browsers does require admin rights.
The next step would be to treat IE6 like a mobile browser. A mobile browser has reduced features and performance so has a cut down version of the site with just the essentials (i know there is more to it than that, screen res, bandwidth etc). So my IE6 site would have the content but not the look and feel of the full site. Again this will probably just be on my personal sites and for pro-bono clients, for the clients that pay the bills the best I can hope for is to include a message advising to upgrade their browser and link to the campaign page.
The more sites/developers that get on board the more effective this will be. Hopefully boosted by a succesful Windows 7 launch and MS dropping support for IE6 will see the browser retired for good.Browsers, Recommend Reads, Recommended Sites | Comment (0)
So starting a new job on Monday I needed to set up my rig with the tools/apps that I have learned I cannot live without.
My new laptop is a HP EliteBook 8530w, I’ll be writing a review and a comparision with my Dell XPS m1530 soon. First major difference is that it’s running Windows XP rather than Vista. A bonus, many may say, but I do miss quick launching apps with a hit of the Windows key and then typing a few letters followed by enter. Fortunately, there is the free, and brilliant, Launchy to the rescue. Alt-space takes the place of the windows key for firing up the launchy text box which works much like Spotlight on mac.
For web development work I found the following tools invaluable:
1) Faststone image capture - the ultimate screen capture tool, does wholepage, video, page portions and even scrolls a page and captures it as one image. The video feature can also be set to only record a portion of the screen which is great for screencasts or demos where you don’t want a massive filesize or a squashed/compressed illegable video from a fullscreen recording.
2) Browsers - firefox and google chrome were one of the first things I installed. I would have also used IE Tester but this seems to be a bit redundant now that Microsoft have released their own version so I downloaded SuperPreview
4) Vertrigo - This is a WAMP app by a Polish developer that is free and easy to install. You simply run the setup and you have an Apache server with PHP and MySQL ready to go. What’s great about it is that it doesn’t try to be constantly running on your system. Just fire it up when you need and close it when you don’t. Good idea to install this as one of your first apps as I have had conflicts when installing it on systems with a lot of other apps that may have been using ports/resources that it needed.
5) An IM client. In my opinion Skype had the best IM client for a long time (not to sure about the latest design) but seeing as most of my contacts are on Yahoo/MSN now I opt for the YIM client. I may switch this for Trillion or another all in one client in future but having an AIO client usually means features such as file transfer or group chat.
6) VLC media player - Not only is this the best player because it plays the most formats it is also even better at playing those formats than the native players. This is especially evident when playing HD content. HD MOV/MP4 files natively play in quicktime but even on decent spec systems can stutter at times. VLC plays them smoothly even on low spec systems (I’ve seen Hi-res video playing fine on netbooks with VLC). It also playes flash video (FLV) and supports more obsure codecs like HD MKV, which is becoming the standard for distributing large HD video files.
7) Adobe CS4 - no getting round it, although the price tag seems ridiculous and there are some alternatives out there, a serious designer/developer will almost always end up with Adobe software. I’ve given up fighting it and fortunately so have finance so will be getting CS4 installed shortly.
Firefox Plugins - The list of must have plugins seems to have shrunk as I find I am using the same small list regularly and others are just a distraction. I now use Firebug, Web developer toolbar, colorzilla, measureIT, ImageZoom, Delicious, and may get round to installing Scribefire now that I’ve started blogging again.
9) Office - Not too fussed whether it is MS office or Open office plus Thunderbird but best to keep to what everyone else running in the office so have the now ageing MS office 2003.
10) WinRar - For opening everything from ZIP/RAR files to ISO or 7zip - another AIO solution for compressed archives.
For entertainment I could add iTunes and a few other apps but as I’m tight on HDD space on this system I will stick to my iPhone for my music jollies. Fortunately I can now get my podcasts straight to my phone over wifi so PC syncing no longer a daily requirement.
What apps are in your utility belt? What tools can you not live with out?Filed under Browsers, Recommended Sites, Software, Tools, apps, downloads | Comment (0)
Well just saying for the record although it’s my penultimate day at CBS and I was in charge of launching something this morning - IT WASN’T ME
Hopefully things will be back to normal by the time you read this.
This lead me to a useful site called downforeveryoneorjustme.com which can give you an external way of checking your site. Unfortunately this verified the bad news:
All should be back up now though - yay.Filed under Newsflash, Recommended Sites | Comment (1)
As discussed on display-block the next edition of Microsoft Office could be free… Well ad funded.
Some have mocked that no one would use a version of office with embedded ads but I think it could work.
There will always be some people that want to use office but will never pay for it. It’s fairly expensive and so is a massive barrier to some users purchasing it. By making a free addition - even if it has embedded ads it means that users will be given the option to legitimately use the software without paying a dime. The corporate users that formerly paid for the software won’t want to put up with the ads and so will still pay the premium price so Microsoft will not lose much sales from this. However, those that formerly priated or used open source alternatives may be tempted to give the ad funded version a run and if the ads aren’t too intrusive keep it.Software, Tech news | Comments (2)
The last facebook re-design saved it from becoming a mess like MySpace was a the time. Users had too much control of their profile pages resulting in no consistency from page to page and over cluttered and annoying pages. Third party Apps ruled and dominated users profiles and spammed everyone with their activity.
The re-design buried the apps and restricted profile customisation so that the design was cleaner, more consistent from page to page and generally a better place to be. It did however, mean all the hardwork developers had put into apps was going to waste as apps were harder to get to and less noticeable. A footer navigation to apps later was added which helped somewhat but was not that prominant.
The new design which most should be able to see today if not within the next couple of days makes further improvements to the general look and feel and apps resurface as a prominant homepage feature.
First thing to notice is that the main column has been tweaked with more imagery in rounded corner squares. Instead of “joe blogs” did XYZ we have the users profile pic along with it. The main column is just an updating news feed and feels a bit like Twitter - perhaps what Facebook were aiming for.
The right column has been re-purposed. Moving the alerts to the top of the news feed in the main column and introducing a highlights section which app developers will be pleased to know promotes apps as well as groups which has also been neglected due to their lack of prominance.
The left column lets you filter the items in the main news-feed so you can quickly show only updates related to your contact categories. For example you may use facebook for work and personal and so switching between work and friends categories helps you keep your updates seperate. The left column also means the tabs on the main column can be done away with and are now part of the vertical nav on that side.
The status update field has been made more prominant and changed from what are you doing to what’s on your mind - opening it up to a wider range of discussions. With the status commenting that has proven popular this is now more of a conversation starter than a an Instant Messanger type “I’m at lunch” message.
Overall the new design looks good, is cleaner and better laid out than facebook of old but still lets you get easy access to what’s hot on facebook whether it be friend updates or apps. It’s new filter is also a great help to users that use facebook for both business and pleasure or simply want to seperate friends and family.
I don’t expect as much of a backlash from users as the last big change but there are always some who won’t be happy - look out for the “petition facebook to undo their redesign” group
Thumbs up to Facebook and watch out Twitter.Filed under CSS, Recommended Sites, Tech news, reviews | Comment (0)
After editting virtually every style sheet on the site the new look CNET UK is finished and launched. The garish yellow is gone and replaced with a new black theme. Pages are also more consistent and laid out better.
Compared the old look:
The project (code names Tiburon) brings the site more in line with the US version CNET.com and incorporates suggestions from users of the site. The team managed to launch the update which affected every page of the site with little to no down time.
More details and Feedback here:CSS, Recommended Sites, Tech news, case study | Comment (1)
Microsoft released a critical out-of-band patch for IE7 causing panic updating in IT departments around the globe. Some took advantage of this update to encourage users to make the switch to a more secure browser like Firefox or Google Chrome.
This prompted me to take another look at the figures for browser usage on some of the sites I maintain to see if there is a shift from IE after this update. I was expecting to see the usual 60-70% IE dominance split almost evenly betwen IE7 and IE6. However, it seems IE6 usage has significantly dropped off in the last few monts across a range of sites. The users don’t seem to have all shifted to IE7 either as overal IE usage has dropped to around 50%. The increase has been seen in Firefox 3, Safari and Google Crome. Safari seems to have gone up from an average of 2-3% to 3-5% depending on the site. Google a new entry is around 2-3% and Firefox is enjoying 30-35%. Dare I hope that soon I will no longer have to support IE6!?
Well I expect I’ll have to wait until Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft before it finally dies or an unpatchable security hole is found and users are forced to upgrade.
In any case if you haven’t done a windows update today do it now and get IE7 patched even if you don’t browse with it.
Will check browsers stats in a couple of weeks to see if there is a dip/change after everyone has update panic.Filed under Browsers, Newsflash | Comment (1)
Despite numerous free and better browsers being available for a number of years IE6 (Internet Explorer 6) is still used by about 30-35% of web users. This means despite it’s bugs, lack of support for many css techniques or image types as a developer I still have to support it.
When using Vista even this buggy version of IE6 would not work. Obviously some developers asked Microsoft for a way of running IE6 on Vista. Microsoft said that it would compromise the security if Vista and so the only way was to install a virtual machine running windows XP and IE6. microsoft even provided the virtual machine software and temp XP license for free. I was pleased with this solution as it meant it would be very unlikely Joe Public would get a new Vista PC, decide they want IE6 and be able to install it. The end of IE6 looked near!
Unfortunately, Vista didn’t take off and replace XP, thanks in no small part to Apple’s smear campaign and users with old/obscure hardware being very vocal about performance… But that’s another topic. This meant continued IE6 was needed. While running the Virtual PC worked it was a waste of system resources and slow to open and close so I soon got sick of it. Then came along IETester.
This standalone app enables you to render pages as IE5.5, IE6, IE7 and the latest IE8 beta as seperate tabs. Pages load without the annoying error popups of MultipleIEs and ironically faster than Vista’s built-in IE7 browser.
It unfortunately doesn’t yet support flash in some of the IE versions but this should be in an update. The IETester toolbar replaces the IE toolbars so unfortunately you can’t run IE developer toolbar to help debug. Despite this I highly recommend grabbing this free download (donate if you can) even if you are running XP.
Note if the file is no longer being hosted comment and I will host it for you.Filed under Browsers, Tools, Vista | Comments (2)