28 June 2011

Signs of consumer success for Internet Explorer 9

While writing my previous article, I thought I might also check the market share for the 4, to see how it evolves now that it was already replaced by a newer version. But another thing has drawn my attention instead: Internet Explorer 9 is actually used more in the weekends, like most of the other alternative browsers. Many companies don’t allow users to run their browser of choice and thus the usage distribution varies significantly when comparing the five working days with the weekend. The pattern is visible in the data gathered by multiple providers – StatCounter and Clicky – and shows up as well for the day-by-day usage of operating systems. Unlike the older versions, IE9 gains a couple of percentages on Saturday, meaning people are actively using it over the competition. It’s one sign of better adoption, even if the market share has increased only slowly after the March launch – slower than the rival Firefox, released soon after.

26 June 2011

Mozilla vs. corporations: a culture clash

This week 5 was launched, keeping with the announced faster release schedule. The unexpected consequence: a controversy regarding the role of Firefox in the enterprise and how the rapid release cycle affects businesses that have switched to the open-source browser. Both sides have taken rather extreme positions and the discussion rages on in the comments. I can see the justification for both, but also flaws in their arguments and how both will ultimately loose opportunities.

Mike – I’ve been wearing the same corporate hat all day and beating my head on the desk. For most corporations, the technology is a tool for accomplishing their core competency and the business drives the technology. Being faced with deciding which is more important: security updates or the critical production web application needed to manufacture your product is not a happy place to be. A more stable release is needed when you are looking at large corporations with millions of pages of web content (sites, applications, etc.)
Nikki Alex

24 June 2011

Changes to internal pages in Google Chrome

Internal pages, or about: pages, have a long history in browsers, as well as a wide range of uses, from the functional to Easter-egg-like – with about:Mozilla probably being the most famous. Chrome has also used them extensively, mostly for functional purposes. Starting with version 14, currently in the Canary and dev channels, switches the URI scheme from the common about: to the specific chrome:// that already powers the more visible settings, history, download pages and recently even the task manager. That includes the page that centralizes them, so now instead of heading to about:about, users will have to use the harder to remember – and type – chrome://chrome-urls. Fortunately about:about redirects here, for now at least.

List of About pages (stable version)

List of Chrome URLs
(Canary v. 14.0.802.0)

22 June 2011

New message views in Yahoo! Mail

After the initial testing and launch of the newest version of Yahoo! mail a couple of weeks ago, some of the promised new functionality is starting to appear. The example I spotted: the integration of different views for the messages, controlled from a new button on the main toolbar:Yahoo Mail switch view button

  • Page by Page’: the classic layout – the list of emails is paginated and you can choose the number of messages per page from the ‘Options’ menu.
  • ‘In Scrolling List’ (with Preview): the odd name basically means a single page with infinite scrolling and a preview pane in the bottom half, replicating the experience you get in a desktop client. And if I remember correctly, it’s also equivalent to the default view from the second version of Y!-mail, so this update effectively merges the two previous versions into one interface. Unlike Hotmail, you cannot expand the message to fill the entire reading area, Yahoo! sticks with opening it in a tab instead. Another benefit of this view is the ‘Reply bar’, a small area at the bottom, where you can reply inline to the message, somewhat reminiscent of Gmail’s text box under conversations. Unfortunately the huge header, list of emails and message preview leave little room for the reply field, so it’s probably best suited for short, IM-like replies.
  • ‘In Scrolling List’ (no Preview): like the previous option, but without the preview pane. You can quickly toggle the pane on and off with the keyboard shortcut ‘v’.

I’m guessing the move is based on the feedback of numerous users, not happy with the new version. The only annoyance with the new menu is that switching between the first and second view will always trigger a warning message. I’m sure we could have a check-box somewhere saying “I understand the risks, just make the switch already!

In order to switch view, Yahoo! Mail must refresh. Any mail messages you're currently writing will be saved as drafts.

20 June 2011

schema.org and Blogger don’t mix well together

There was a lot of talk a couple of months ago about the degradation of ’s search results, the increasing number of less than relevant results, etc. The short term response from Google was to manually demote some sites. I think that we are starting to see signs of their long-term strategy as well, with the integration of social search, and specifically the +1 button, and with the push for a more semantic web through schema.org. Even though schema.org is a partnership with the two other big search engines, Bing and Yahoo!, Google still stands to gain the most out of it, by virtue of it’s significantly bigger market share. Personally, I believe schema.org will have a larger impact on the quality of search results, because it enables the ‘dumb’ algorithm to ‘understand’ the web better, to see that some words or sections of a webpage are more important and to prioritize the webpage accordingly. On the other hand, +1’s or any other type of social signal will only show the link is ‘important’ to some group of people – or demographic –, but without specifying the context, why? that piece of content was shared.

But how well does it work in real-life? I have considered adding schema.org to my blog, especially to the section where I publish my book reviews. Unfortunately, the process is far from easy or straightforward. doesn’t offer any way (that I know of) to automate the process, so if you have a lot of posts to update, you will need a lot of time and patience. Not to mention attention to detail, it’s easy to make mistakes while manually editing the HTML. What’s even worse is that Blogger doesn’t support <meta> tags in the posts (e.g. for ratings), so some schema.org markup is completely unavailable. You can work around this limitation, but that complicates the process even further. Blogger META tag not allowed in posts

19 June 2011

Dan Simmons – Hyperion. Căderea lui Hyperion

in Bucuresti, Romania

Dan Simmons Hyperion la editura NemiraTrebuie să recunosc că „Hyperion” nu m‑a impresionat de la început, în ciuda numeroaselor opinii pozitive de pe Internet. Acțiunea din primul roman se pune încet în mișcare, autorul ascunde inițial prea multe informații pentru a le dezvălui gradual mai târziu și nici ceea ce suntem lăsați să întrezărim nu e din cale afară de original. În câteva secole, omenirea s‑a extins pe sute de planete conectate de rețeaua de transport instantaneu a Hegemoniei, cu multe alte colonii încă neconectate, accesibile doar cu nave sub-luminice. Evenimentul declanșator al Hegirei a fost distrugerea Pământului în cursul unui experiment – o temă de altfel întâlnită și la Asimov în ciclul Roboților/Fundației. Hegemonia e întreținută de relația strânsă cu Inteligențele artificiale, de care depinde în primul rând rețeaua de transport și comunicare. Oamenii care nu au acceptat „subjugarea” de către Mașini și‑au fondat propria civilizație separată în adâncurile spațiului, Roiurile de Expulzați. În linii mari, o societate interstelară similară cu cea din „Steaua Pandorei”, deși având în vedere ordinea publicării lor inspirația n‑a putut circula decât în direcția inversă.

Elementul distinctiv și intriga romanului este întâlnirea dintre umanitate și planeta Hyperion cu misterele acesteia: Criptele Timpului, despre care se crede că circulă în sens invers prin timp, provenind dintr‑un viitor îndepărtat, și creatura Shrike. Apetitul acesteia către distrugere și insondabilitatea acțiunilor sale îi conferă în ochii unora un caracter sacru, de unde apariția Bisericii lui Shrike și influența ei în Hegemonie. Printre ritualurile acestora se numără și un pelerinaj către Criptele Timpului; conform tradiției, Shrike va îndeplini unuia dintre cei șapte pelerini o dorință, „pedepsindu‑i” pe restul – un eufemism pentru o moarte violentă.

11 June 2011

Speeddial 2 – an enhanced ‘New Tab’ page for Chrome

I prefer to keep the number of extension in my browsers as low as possible – speed is nice in any situation. Of course, some of them provide essential functionality I have grown to depend on – LastPass gets installed in pretty much every browser I use – or supplement what’s missing from the minimalistic , like the extensions I use to open links in the background and the RSS Subscription Extension. This week I have added another extension to the set I use in Chrome: Speeddial 2, an awesome replacement for the ‘New Tab’ page.

Speeddial 2 is more similar to the original speed dial launched by some years back; unlike Chrome’s ‘New Tab’-page it doesn’t automatically add your most used sites, but requires the user to define them manually. It does compensate for this minor set-back with a number of other interesting features:

08 June 2011

Customize the Blogger favicon from the dashboard

While waiting for the Blogger redesign announced a couple of months ago, the users are still treated with some small updates. I spotted one of them earlier today; frankly, it’s pretty hard to miss, since it sits in the middle of the ‘Design’ tab: a newly-introduced control for the blog favicon! Blogger new favicon control in the Dashboard

There were solutions to replace the default favicon before, but they required more technical knowledge to edit the HTML template, as well as a dedicated online space to store the file. The built-in feature is much more user-friendly: you just need to upload an .ico file and Blogger will take care or the details. It would be nice if we could use a .png image, but that’s not an option, probably because of compatibility issues with Internet Explorer. Blogger Upload custom favicon

Like most new features, it’s currently available only with Blogger in draft. I already uploaded a favicon to try the feature out – I made one about a year ago, but never got around to upload it and to customize the template. It’s not showing up on the web for now – hopefully I don’t need to create a favicon the old fashion way, with support for 8-Bit colors! But recognizes it in the sidebar, so maybe it will be picked up in the browsers soon.