Saturday, March 22, 2008


Sorry to be so tardy in writing this post, but this week has been absolutely ridiculous granting me no more than 4 hours of sleep a night for half the week. I think that things will be better now, and I'm real excited about my new iRiver Clix mp3 player. I'm planning on reviewing here, hopefully with video footage as well, as early as next week because I feel that it never got the attention it deserves. You'll find out why right here, so stay tuned.

What I want to talk about first of all today though is one of the best Joel essays I've read: Martian Headsets. He never disappoints me, and I someday aspire to be able to elicit the kind of nuggets of wisdom on my blog that he does, but until then I'm going to explain why this essay is so important. Developing the NSC site for me was fun and not really that bad until I started a part of the site where I allow members to review their professors and I turned to ext-js. I love ext-js, don't get me wrong, but Javascript is a complete pain to deal with for cross-browser compatibility. It wasn't long before Safari purists complained to me, and so I complained back asking why anyone would use Safari. In any case, I ended up just worrying about IE 6, IE 7, and Firefox, and even then one of the pages screws with the layout in IE 7. Getting it to work simultaneously on all 3 browsers was grueling, and people sometimes don't understand why I praise Firefox and tell them to use it. From my perspective, I've had so much more success writing code in CSS and Javascript and just working in Firefox as opposed to any IE browser. People also don't understand why certain sites don't work in IE or don't work in Firefox. These are both reasonable concerns, and that's why I feel that it's important to read this essay.

Something I really took from it that I really didn't quite grasp before is that these specifications for "web standards" and how browsers should be rendering pages aren't as glorious as people like to claim they are. I've probably been guilty of putting a little too much stock in them, and I apologize for that. With a concept as complicated as the Internet, I think that the current state of affairs with the browser wars was pretty much inevitable. There's this many-to-many mapping now between the browsers out there and the sites that they support because each version of IE, and some other browsers, add compatibility quirks with regard to how their interpret code. So we face a stalemate between browser compatibilities now. People have to write hacks to get their sites to work in certain browsers and walk on pins and needles. The only solution is a little far-fetched, but I like to think (when I'm in my happy place) that it's someday possible: all the browsers actually agree on the same set of standards in mind-numbing detail and focus instead on security and the user experience. In any case, IE8 now is facing the very real war of pragmatists versus idealists. The idealistic perspective is what I just mentioned: stick strong to standards and force everyone to conform to the them. The former is to focus on backwards-compatibility with the older version of IE. Currently, the idealists are winning, and it will definitely cost Microsoft dearly if they do win. If Vista has taught them anything, I hope that that it's to temper this idealism with pragmatism and try not to screw your market share. We'll see what prevails in the end.

The FCC's 700 MHz spectrum auction is almost complete with the Verizon and AT&T coming out on top. They took the C and D blocks for $9.4 and $6.6 billion, respectively. Apparently, Google only bid to reach the reserve and force open standards. Will this mean better cell phone coverage? I hope so, but only time will tell.

Yahoo has decided to release a very positive outlook for 2009 and 2010. It's so positive, in fact, that it surpasses the predictions made by pretty much any of the analysts forecasting their revenues. Whether or not Yahoo believes this prediction, which I'm sure they do, I believe that the real purpose is two-fold: to put confidence in the investors that they're in control and to try to raise Microsoft's bid in case they can't get out of being taken over. Relations between Microsoft and Yahoo seem to be a little calmer, but Microsoft still hasn't budged on its offer and investors don't sound like this new outlook gives them much more faith in Jerry Yang. Meanwhile, Microsoft has snatched up web analysis company Rapt, Inc. I imagine that they're trying to compete with Google Analytics here. I think that Microsoft strategy needs some work because they're falling into the Yahoo trap of competing with specific Google services rather than offering something out-of-the-ordinary that will bring them users. While I've said before that they do both have some great applications (Yahoo and Microsoft, I mean) they're lacking in user bases, and that's another thing for them to work on (hopefully together). You think they'll create an online university to compete with Google Code University (which, for the record, I think was a pretty neat idea)?

In the meantime, AOL has decided to buy social networking site Bebo for $850 million. I definitely got the feeling that this was under-covered, probably because AOL isn't as sexy as they once were. You may not have heard of Bebo because it's huge in Europe but not so much in the U.S., so maybe AOL is trying to expand Bebo's prowess to the U.S.? If it integrates well enough with AIM, it's not impossible. Now that you can do remote desktop in AIM, its professional user base is probably growing. Facebook had a response, that perhaps wasn't planned with this in mind: IM on Facebook. We're not sure yet if it will be built on Jabber or if they'll provide an API for it, so for now it'll be only for Facebook. I'm guessing that it will work similarly to GTalk as far as just pure functionality and I believe their goal is to keep people on Facebook longer so that it can continue to evolve into this web desktop that people often buzz about.

This is pretty neat news: Mininova is launching a closed beta to test out video streaming researched at Harvard with the Tribler team involved, as well. It sounds like it will work similar to how current torrents work: as you receive packets for the video stream you'll serve it to others trying to stream the video and use the "Give-to-Get" algorithm to ensure that the video becomes truly on-demand. I'm really excited to see what comes out from the other end of the beta and I have high hopes because I've always been fascinated by torrents and I'd love to see that technology applied in a more widespread legitimate way, even if it's directly through torrents. Video streaming, after all, has really exploded in the past few years.

Last, but not least: Miro has released a new update to Miro with plenty of performance improvements and bug fixes. Miro is a heavy application, but really awesome if you can afford the RAM.

I'll leave you with the new Wall-E trailer, which is really cute and very entertaining.

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