Sunday, December 26, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to everyone!

Try not to eat too much (more than twice your bodyweight is bad!) and make sure the holiday vibe continues into the new year.

All the best, to you and yours,

Monday, December 20, 2004

Powderfinger in Quicktime News

It's always great seeing local talent being recognised on a global scale, so I was wrapped to see the Brisbane lads from Powderfinger mentioned in the latest Quicktime News!

Congrats fellas, now let's hope bands like Augie March, The Avalanches, George, Jet, John Butler Trio, Pete Murray, The Sleepy Jackson, The Waifs and The Wicked Beat Sounds System (among many others!) all get the recognition they deserve too. We've got a fantastic music scene here in Australia people - get into it!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why I like Firefox

Cameron Reilly mentioned that he's happy using Maxthon. I'm absolutely loving Firefox lately - it's one of the few applications that I truly enjoy using. But it got me thinking...why do I like it?

Apart the obvious security benefits, here's some of the features I have grown to love:
  • Tabs, and having them behave exactly as I want (implemented with the following mixture of extensions: MiniT, Tabbrowser Preferences, SessionSaver, UndoCloseTab and DuplicateTab).

  • Find-as-you-type. Such a simple, useful feature!

  • Pop-up blocker.

  • Searchable history and bookmarks.

  • A great search toolbar (with many - thousands? - of different search engines).

  • Keyword search. Allows you to easily define (no url entry required!) keywords that you can type into the url bar - eg typing "imdb Terminator" brings up a search from IMDB for Terminator.

  • AdBlock. Fantastic extension. I hate being distracted with ads and this allows me to completely block them. Incidently, I don't feel too morally guilty because I've never clicked on an ad (except Google's, which I find useful and do NOT block).

  • Flashblock. To further block flickering guff you need this extension. Replaces Macromedia flash content with a "play" button that you have to click before it invokes the flash. Glorious. Makes you realise how many sites use flash, and how many annoying, flickering graphical displays you have somehow managed to get used to.

  • Bookmarks Synchronizer. I have two PC's (home and work) that I regularly use and this extension allows me to have the same bookmarks on both of them, transparently storing them at an ftp location.

  • BugMeNot. An extension that streamlines using the website BugMeNot to get me in to any site that requires a login. Especially useful for reading news sites (*cough* theAge *cough*). Slight guilt trip when using it. But I get over it pretty quick.

  • Web Developer extension. Lots of features to help develop web pages. Change the CSS, discard images, find broken links, validate any page by clicking - and so many more.

  • Bloglines Toolkit. Places the bloglines logo in the status bar - there's a little red indicator when I have feeds to read in bloglines, clicking on the logo takes me to my feeds. Simple, elegant.
Almost all of those features I use every day, they're not just gimmicky cool toys.

As you can see most of the killer features for me are implemented as extensions (and there's hundreds of them available!). Yeah, it's definitely the ability to so dramatically customise Firefox that I love the most. Combining the best-of-class built-in features of Firefox with really cool, useful extensions really makes it a pleasure to use. I won't use IE, or Maxthon, again. Unless Microsoft really picks up their game.

Anyways Cam, stick with Maxthon if you's a decent app. But not good enough for me because Firefox is wicked-cool!

PS if anyone wants links to any of those extensions (I'm being lazy tonight) drop me a message.
PPS If you aren't already subscribed, Cam's blog and the G'day World podcast that he does with Mick Stanic are well worth a visit...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

MSN Toolbar - OK, but Copernic rocks!

I was trying to avoid mentioning - like everyone else - that Microsoft have just released the new version of the MSN Toolbar, currently in beta form. The big deal with this release is that they've integrated desktop search, allowing you to search all of your files on your local PC by performing a simple keyword search. Many people are comparing it, often favourably, to Google's recent offering, Google Desktop Search (GDS).

Why didn't I want to say anything? Because every man and his dog is talking about it (links courtesy of Robert Scoble). But everyone seems to be comparing it to GDS. Or they just really like it because it's from Microsoft (how the hell did Paul Thurrot achieve any credibility with the drivel on his site?). No one seems to be talking about other alternatives, in particular my favourite desktop search app, Copernic. As far as I can tell MSN Toolbar desktop search is in NO WAY superior to Copernic. And Copernic has at least the following advantages:
  • Much better UI
  • Indexes many more file types (take a look at 'em all!)
  • Has a quick preview panel
  • Has been on the market - well out of beta testing - for aaaages
  • Works well with Firefox (indexes bookmarks and history)
Can't see Microsoft providing that last dot point in a hurry... ;)

I don't understand why Copernic doesn't get more coverage, is it just because it's not from Google or Microsoft?

Anyways, if you're a Firefox user (come on, don't tell me you still use IE?!) and have Copernic , there's no reason to install MSN Toolbar, in fact it'd be a massive backward step! Even if you are an IE user don't bother with MSN Toolbar, use Copernic instead - unless you're just using it for pop-up blocking and auto form filling.

Not that MSN Toolbar isn't a bad app - it's not. It worked relatively effectively and reliably in my testing. It's just that, well, it's not as good as its competitors. And certainly not worthy of the fuss being made in the blogosphere at the moment!

[No, I don't have any affiliation with Copernic, I just appreciate well written software!]

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Spolsky NetSeminar

Anyone who's involved with software development or management should read Joel Spolsky's blog. Actually, if you're in this field it's likely that's redundant advice - you already do. Spolsky is an ex-Microsoftie who seems to have an abundance of solid common sense and I'm always excited to read his entries as they come out. So I was pretty keen to listen to a NetSeminar that he was involved with. Pity it meant getting up at 6 am, damn awkward time zone differences!

Anyway, I got up and sat my bleary eyes in front of the PC and tuned in. So how was it? OK, but not worth losing sleep over. I enjoyed when Spolsky spoke - I'm currently doing a lot of GUI development and he was talkin' my lingo - but there was a lot of coverage of the sponsor's (Electric Cloud) product which was particularly uninteresting to me. For two reasons - it was a completely different topic (distributed provessing to improve build times) to that which Joel was talking and thus the seminar felt very disjointed. Secondly, our company doesn't use makefiles and can't use Electric Clouds (apparently very effective) system[1].

So, a little disappointing.

Hopefully Joel will participate in more seminars in the future and will be able to cover more material...

[1] Incidently, we have trialled Incredibuild and have found it very effective, we were about this close to purchasing...if you're using C++ under Visual Studio and your build times are getting outta control give it a shot.

Podcasts & G'day World

It started with the Daily Source Code. Then the Dawn and Drew Show. DotNetRocks! was next followed by the odd IT Conversations. I'm gettin' addicted! I did poo-poo podcasts in the beginning - I couldn't see how they could possibly be effective. I mean I read about 400[1] times faster than anyone can speak. But then I found the perfect place to listen to them. A place where it is nearly impossible to read and my valuable time was being wasted. You see, I do a fair bit of driving. And here's a tip kiddies, it's the best place to listen to podcasts.

Go ahead and subscribe to those above podcasts, they're great! But, given that I have a nerdy background and I'm a proud Australian, I feel that I have to give a special plug to G'Day World. Created by Mick Stanic (I've read SplaTT's blog for awhile now) and Cameron Riley, this podcast is created by a couple of Aussie geeks and contains our unique sense of humour and slightly outta kilter perspective. The total number of shows is only at two at the moment but the guys are showing a lot of promise. Good luck and keep it up fellas.

[1] actual number may be exaggerated for the benefit of the story.


It's been out for a while but if you haven't watched the flash presentation titled EPIC and you have a spare eight minutes you should take a look.

It chronicles how Google purchases TIVO, teams up with Amazon (to form Googlezon), crushes Microsoft and finally takes on the New York Times in a monstrous media clash in the year 2014. Some clever thinking with great narration and sublime :) execution.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

MSN Spaces

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't cover the recent announcement that MSN Spaces has just gone live?

Dave Winer covered it very early, Scoble wrote why he wasn't going to (immediately) switch to it, Channel 9 posted two (1, 2) vids interviewing the MSN team, Chris Anderson created the first MSN Space that I viewed, William Luu was the first Aussie blogger I read that covered it (though Splatt has too, and I'm sure many others will follow!), Chris Pirillo also talked about the event, Jeremy Wright had a few things to say and even Steve Ballmer agrees that "Blogging is huge" (nice that you're on top of things Steve).

In short, every man and his dog is posting about this new enterprise from the software behometh.

And it's a big event. Although Microsoft have been ahead of the curve in encouraging its employers to blog it's taken them a l-o-n-g time to deliver blogging software. And while MSN Spaces doesn't look to be revolutionary, it's certainly a decent one-dot-oh effort. Typically, MS has integrated a number of complementary features into the offerring. Photos can be uploaded and displayed, you can put music lists online (and import lists from Media Player and purchase from MSN music by clicking on the generated links), and you can post interesting links. You can even customise the look of the site somewhat - though you don't have a great deal of control.

As I said, nothing revolutionary. There's certainly more powerful and flexible software around. What is really cool is that now the masses will have easy access to blogging. That can only be a good thing.

Naturally, I've created a 'space'...but I won't be moving in a hurry. The only change I'm considering is to host my blog on my own machine...

Anyway, gotta get some sleep so I can get up ridiculously early (6 am! Waaaay too early for normal people!) for Spolsky's NetSeminar.