Monday, September 08, 2008

Google's Chromed Crusader

Random Musings

I spent half the week recovering from my PAX hangover (of awesomeness, not booze), but I think I'm ready to get back to the normal news now. Speaking of which, if you were interested in the games I talked about last time but don't have a console, I got a request to plug a contest where you design a shirt for the chance to win an Xbox 360 or a PS3. It's worth a try because I love my PS3 and I'm sure that Xbox 360 owners feel the same (except for that they can't play Blu-ray movies or LittleBigPlanet).

I just finished watching This Film Is Not Yet Rated, by the way, and it's excellent. I highly recommend giving it a rent sometime. I mistakenly switched from that to the MTV Video Music Awards, which I could not take more than 10 minutes of. I mean wow, how could the dialogue get any worse? Anyway, I wanted to mention this last week, but Amazon is finally listing The Dark Knight [Blu-ray] (for Blu-ray and DVD), but they don't have a release date yet. You can sign up to get updated on when it's available, but the rumors point to very early December. They'd be stupid to not release it before Christmas. I'm definitely going to pre-order it, and Amazon guarantees the lowest price from when you place your order to when it ships so I don't understand when people pre-order at Best Buy. Oh, Amazon also has the exclusive Blu-ray set for my favorite movie of all time: Kill Bill. I didn't mean to talk about so much amazon stuff, but I don't think the fabled uncut Whole Bloody Affair set is coming stateside so I'm settling for this. The DVD transfer wasn't very good, so I have high hopes for this release (it comes out this Tuesday) (UPDATE: reviews here and here; PCM 5.1 for the win!). One more thing I wanted to bring up was the red band trailer for Zach and Miri Make a Porno. I think it's a quirky, funny trailer, but I feel ambivalent about it. Kevin Smith tries real hard with his comedies though, and I think the premise (a couple out of money who make a porno to raise some money) as well as some of the dialogue from the trailer was great. I'll post it here if I find it again.

The Chrome Craze

In case you haven't heard that Google has released a new browser called Google Chrome, then you must've been under a rock somewhere last week. Literally everywhere I turned was giving their own spin on the browser. So, naturally, I do, too. ;) Sorry, but it was a big deal and I have to talk about it. If you're a real nerd and you just have to know all the details, Google has an infinitely long comic book about it. It's based on the open source Webkit initiative (the same technology used for Android's browser). and what's cool is that it makes each tab you have its own process to make the browser easier on a multi-core processor and to allow you to kill a hung tab without losing your browser. Not only that, but you can see which tabs are taking up more memory and what plug-ins are consuming more resources. It adds a lot of transparency to the classic memory leak issues in Firefox that leave people scratching their head at who to point the finger at. Another benefit is that Chrome seems to handle Javascript better so it's a lot faster on Web 2.0-like sites, but Mozilla claims that the next Firefox release will be more on par with the speeds you see in Chrome (supposedly even faster). Supposedly, it's more secure because it runs in a sandbox environment, but I can't verify that and I'm awaiting more confirmation on that. Apparently, it is susceptible to a social engineering attack though known as carpet bombing that tricks you into opening an automatically downloaded file, which you would fall for if you're not familiar with Chrome's interface.

The browser has a lot of great features, but the bottom line is that it doesn't have a terrible amount more than Firefox except for the process management thing. Firefox has a great base of plug-ins that can do most of Chrome's niche features, and why would its developers turn to Google Chrome instead? The Mozilla Foundation is truly all about open source whereas Google's main purpose is always going to be to drive the Google brand and fuel traffic to their services. Their EULA showed signs of this with language presuming to own any content you transmit using Chrome, but this was later revised. Their omnibar, a knockoff of Firefox 3's awesome bar, is rumored to be transmitting data to Google (UPDATE: source). This means that no large company can possibly trust Google Chrome. Sure, they could add in some options to disable this kind of stuff (I think they already have a couple of the sort), but Google does not have the best track record when it comes to privacy. Why trust them when Firefox works just great and Internet Explorer already has a majority share of the market? They'll just have employees stick to IE and Firefox, it's not like people are going to revolt over this. Let's face it, people spent most of their time at work so if you lose that market then things kind of suck for you.

I give props to Google for trying something new though with this browser. My sources tell me that it's been used internally for quite a while so it should be relatively stable and who knows, it could become their platform (their operating system) that people have been buzzing about for years. Don't buy into the hype too much though that it's going to cure cancer or anything, but try it out for yourself and give it a fair shake (strangely, it's only out for Windows with the promise of Mac and Linux releases down the road).

Apple Event Tuesday

Apple announced last week that they're having a press event on Tuesday at 10 AM (PST) with the theme "Let's Rock." Hmm, I wonder if that's an obvious tip of it involving updates to iTunes and/or the iPod line? I'll post links here on Tuesday morning (or Monday night) with who's live blogging it. Of course, a video of it will most likely go up Tuesday evening. I don't want to get too caught up in predicting what they're going to announce, but I'm almost positive that we'll see an iTunes update and a new iPod of some sort (most likely a new Nano, it's been a while since its last update). I think they'd be crazy to not release, or announce the exact day of release of, an iPhone update. I wonder how Jobs will counter the bad PR the iPhone 3G has been getting recently from fans? Several geek celebrities have written off their iPhone 3G, including Attack of the Show host Kevin Pereira.

Rather than take advantage of Apple's recent PR issues, Microsoft has released a stupid, long ad with Jerry Seinfeld that doesn't promote Vista at all. I mean come on, a 1:30 spot about Bill Gates buying shoes? Is this some sort of sick joke? Supposedly, it's the 'teaser' to the ad campaign, but since when did people anticipate an advertising campaign to the point where you need a teaser for it? I hope the next ad turns out better.

Comcast's 250GB Cap

It's not a particularly big secret that Comcast has always had a bandwidth cap for their customers, which means that they can only use their Internet to transfer a certain amount of data. Several people have reported it. Now Comcast has decided to come clean about it (probably because of the recent FCC ruling against their secretly throttling of torrents) and enforce a 250 GB bandwidth cap. If you reach this cap then you can't pay for more bandwidth, you just don't have access to the Internet for the rest of that month. Is that not completely ludicrous?

It's nice that they're not hiding it anymore, and I know that a lot of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in other countries have much tighter caps, but they usually throttle you after that point rather than cut you off. Why don't they just let you pay for more bandwidth? Wouldn't they make more money that way? I believe that this is just the first step towards having to pay for different tiers of Internet service where you pay by how much data you use. This is still a net neutral policy, but it can screw the consumer depending on how they handle the pricing, and it can screw online media (often called "new media") because people won't be so inclined to turn to online news sites for video clips and podcasts and such if their Internet costs would go up. I wish I could say that since most people don't consume a lot of content that they'd save money, but I know that the ISPs are typically super greedy so they'll probably pay the same as now while the rest of us pay more, and as the Internet gets bigger and new media becomes more prominent we'll be paying for $200 cable tv/Internet packages. I wish these stupid telecom monopolies could implode and form more reasonably sized, competitive firms.

Closing Thoughts

It's almost bed time, so I have to wrap this up. I just had a few more stories to go:

Google put out a beta of Picasa 3 that does smart tagging of people's faces (it's as cool as it sounds), adds more editing features, and has some great syncing capabilities with Google Web Albums. This will probably help them sell some premium accounts (I think that Web Albums is a great product, right up there with SmugMug, which is backed by Amazon S3).

Smashing Magazine has an incredible article about the importance of simple web design that I highly recommend checking out if you have any interest whatsoever in web development. You'll learn a lot about great design that you probably knew but didn't even realize it. They pick out some really nice examples, too.

Last, but not least, this is a fun little read on using ASCII art to subvert spam filters. It's definitely clever, but slimy, nonetheless. Spammers are a sickening breed, but I have to admit that they're often rather clever.

Have a great week everyone!

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