All entries for December 2004

December 23, 2004

Browser stats

Seeing as lots of people all over the web are anaylsing their web stats to see how the uptake of Firefox is going, I thought I'd publish my findings for Warwick Blogs.

  • Internet Explorer 6: 74%
  • Mozilla (all kinds): 22%
  • Safari: 1.6%
  • Opera: 0.8%

As for operating systems

  • Windows: 95%
  • Mac: 3%
  • Linux: 1.3%

These were for requests made between 1st December and 22nd December. As others have said, this is not a representation of how much any of these browsers are being used in the world as a whole, but it does show that us tech-savy Warwick students/staff are certainly starting to make the switch faster that the world as a whole.


December 22, 2004

Blogging at all hours of the night – some stats

I was asked in my previous entries about what time of day people write entries, well here you go.

This is a graph of all entries ever written in Warwick Blogs. What would be nice to see, but I can't generate it, is the difference between the time of day staff and students write entries. I imagine it would be very different.


A few favourites stats

It's been about a week now since we updated BlogBuilder to include a function to manage your favourites.

The usage pattern has been very similar to other features; that is, the core, regular users of the system have quickly put their favourites in, whilst the less active users probably have not even noticed they exist.

  • Number of users with favourites: 133
  • Number of folders: 155
  • Number of blogs as favourites: 776
  • Number of collections as favourites: 10 (Did anyone know you can add a whole collection to your favourites, so that you can get all the blogs in a module in one go?)
  • Number of external web pages as favourites: 121
  • Number of people who appear 10 times or more in other peoples favourites: 25

December 20, 2004

How to charge for software

Writing about web page http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckies.html

Joel Spolsky writes some great stuff and is well worth subscribing to.

I particularly liked his take on how to price software. It is really hard. Read it, enjoy it and be confused.


December 14, 2004

True broadband

Writing about web page http://wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/start.html?pg=7

It seems that deliverying TV in packets like we get all of our web content could do amazing things.

But the cable industry is as intent on keeping Redmond out of IPTV as it was on fighting the company's earlier efforts to get inside the set-top. That's no surprise. Cable networks pass 95 percent of US households and – once the conversion to digital is complete – could feed each of them more than 5 Gbits per second. That's like having 100 T3 lines. The Bells won't be able to match that without taking on a mountain of debt, and satellite operators can't do it no matter what they try. Which means that Comcast and its ilk could be as dominant in this century as the Bell system was in the last.

Did they say 5Gbits?!?!?!


December 09, 2004

Moving from Outlook to Thunderbird

Writing about web page http://www.getthunderbird.com/

Get Thunderbird

Following on from my little bout of Firefox advocacy, next in line is email.

I've been an Outlook Express and then Outlook 2000/2003/XP user for years and years. My general anti-Microsoft stance has been getting stronger and stronger recently (but that's a whole other entry), so I've been wanting to get away from Outlook for a while now because of various issues I have had with it.

So, Thunderbird has finally reached version 1.0 and I took the plunge.

Why change?

  • Outlook was getting too slow, it just couldn't really handle my 10000 or so emails.
  • It's memory footprint was getting huge and often locked up for 30 seconds or so when reading emails occasionally. Outlook has just bloated with features that I really don't need or want any more.
  • Outlook has been crap at handling the LDAP account that I've recently started using
  • I intend to try and switch to Linux at some point and the sooner I get used to using non-Microsoft software, the better.
  • Security/Privacy. Thunderbird is much safer and better protected from spam and viruses.

The experience

The Thunderbird download is a nice small 5.8MB and of course, it's free. It offers to import your Outlook settings and mail when you first load it up and depending on the size of your inbox has everything nicely and faultlessly imported in no time at all. Simple as that.

The interface is very similar to Outlook, but simpler. In terms of reading/writing/managing your email, it's great.

It must be noted that Thunderbird does not aim to do everything that Outlook does, it does not have a built in calendar (but you can add one via a free calendar extension ). In general I think my conversion is a success and I don't regret it, however, there are a few things that will hopefully be improved with Thunderbird.

  • I used to be really reliant on Outlooks popup notifications that announce when a new email arrives. It lets you see who it is from and be able to click on it to see the whole email or delete it with one click. However, the Thunderbird popup just tells you that you have a new email, no more info that than.
  • The email grouping can be slightly annoying, it requires a couple more clicks to arrange folders nicely, but it is no biggy.
  • The address book does not have quite as nice a view of contacts as Outlook does.

However, Thunderbird is always improving and will no doubt keep me happy as time goes by.

Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 Getting Started Guide


December 02, 2004

MSN Spaces (Microsoft blogging tool)

Writing about web page http://spaces.msn.com

So, Microsoft has finally jumped on the band wagon (a bit late if you ask me) with their newly launced MSN Spaces service.

First thing I noticed when signing up with my existing Passport account is that it is slow as a dog. I'm guessing this is due to it just being launched, but it is still surprising to see it so slow.

Signing up is a simple process of filling out a title and picking a url. You can then just get started or delve into deeper customisation.

Customisation

Clicking "Customize" takes you to a style picker which has around 30 different designs. You also get to choose which different items get to appear in the different columns of your blog. A tick box list lets you select from stuff such as:

  1. Categories
  2. Archives
  3. Profile
  4. Photo album
  5. Book list

You also get to choose how many columns you have and where each of the above items appears in that list. Unsurprisingly IE6 users get to choose layout dynamically and see changes live whereas us poor Firefox users have to wait for a submit/refresh (we all know Firefox can't do clever stuff).

I would say I got to try this out, but getting this message on submitting was not promising:

The MSN Spaces network is being upgraded and is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Lists

Right, it's working again. Next thing to try out is the custom lists. This is very similar to the TypePad TypeLists, but not as nice because Spaces does not really do anything clever or help you out with the lists. You just enter a title/description/url/artist and so on to build a list. There are music/book/blog/custom type lists, but they don't really do much, no nice ISBN lookup or Amazon integration or anything. Shame really.

Hmm, scratch that. Although there is no help in searching for items to put in the lists. There is in fact some form of integration when displaying the lists. For the music, it basically just links to a search on the MSN Music website (run by OD2).

Creating entries

As for creating entries, the most basic and important aspect of creating a blog, it couldn't really be much simpler. There is simple a title field, a category drop down (with pre-defined categories and the ability to add new ones), the main body of the entry (a simple textarea) and that is about it. You can publish, save as draft or cancel. A little note at the bottom says:

Some HTML tags may be removed from your entry for security and formatting reasons.

That rings a bell. I wonder what they've done.

Hmm, that is annoying. There is no auto line breaking or paragraph support. You have to specifically put in your own br's and p's. That could be a problem for newbies.
Once published, entries look pretty normal with comments/trackbacks/date/permalink all listed under the entry.

Settings

There is quite a lot hidden underneath the "Settings" menu option. These all come under the heads of:

  • Space settings.
    Titles, date formats, time zones, RSS option.
  • Blog settings
    Archiving, comment and trackback options and categories
  • Permissions
    You can set your entire blog to be completely public, completely private or only viewable by people on your MSN Messenger buddies list. There is no per-entry permissions.
  • Mobile settings
    You can setup the facility to have entries published from your phone via email.
  • Storage
    Looks like there is 10MB worth of space, looks like it is only your photos in your photo albums are taken into account here.
  • Statistics
    Total page views, page views today, page views this week, page views within the last hour, a list of every single hit.

Profile page

Each user can have a profile page which it looks like is mostly auto-generated from your MSN info, some of which I really don't remember giving to them! Editting this takes you to the generic MSN member directory profile editor.

Photo albums

Strangely, I can only seem to be able to upload photos from within creating entries. Even going to the photo album screen (which shows you a nice slideshow) does not allow you to upload new images. It is pretty basic, you literally just upload a file from your system with no options for titles/descriptions/etc. I guess this makes things nice and simple, but might be restrictive for some. (On further investigation, surprise surprise, there are more photo upload options with IE because they use an ActiveX control! Sigh.)

Conclusion

It is clear that Microsoft have done quite a bit of work on this system, borrowing a lot of good features from every other blog system under the sun, nothing really new. The layout customisation is nice, but everything else is pretty standard or even sub-standard. I'm sure the system will improve, but at the moment it seems full of features, but each of those features is very basic in itself.

It'll be interesting to see what impact this has on the other blogging providers out there once they get themselves established, more reliable and performant.

The official word

According to the Microsoft press release MSN Introduces New Communication Service That Enables Blogging, Picture Sharing and More

The MSN Spaces beta version is a free service available in 14 languages and 26 markets worldwide. MSN Spaces was designed to make it easy for consumers to create and maintain a personal Web site, bringing the power and benefits of blogging to millions of Internet users, regardless of their level of technical expertise. More than a blogging tool, MSN Spaces is a dynamic online scrapbook where consumers can share photo albums, personal music lists and more. And more than an ordinary personal Web site, through seamless integration with MSN Messenger and MSN Hotmail, MSN Spaces will automatically notify online contacts when a person's Space has been updated so his or her online community knows when it is time to pay a visit. People can sign up for MSN Spaces through MSN Messenger or by going to http://spaces.msn.com. Key features of the service include the following:

  • Control your Space. Consumers can choose the people who visit their Space through three levels of permissions: public, MSN Messenger contacts only or private.
  • Use pictures and music to say more. MSN Spaces enable consumers to easily display their pictures via a photo album slide show. Consumers can easily share playlists through their Space with Microsoft® Windows Media® technologies. With just two clicks, people can sample or purchase a song on someone's playlist through MSN Music**.
  • Create an extension of yourself. Contact Cards – a new addition to MSN Messenger and Hotmail – are windows into a consumer's Space, mirroring its look and the most recent information posted. MSN Spaces also supports RSS, so consumers can publish their Space to others by way of RSS viewers and aggregators – including My MSN, coming soon.
  • Post remote updates. Consumers can post updates to their Space remotely via e-mail or a mobile phone.
  • Make it your own. Fifteen custom backgrounds and five layout templates give consumers a way to quickly customize and personalize their Space.

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