Tag: Technology

NFL Preseason Live App is Way Cool

I downloaded the NFL Pre-Season Live iPad app and signed up for their service before tonight's San Francisco 49ers Preseason Opener. I am really, really impressed.

When I watch football games, I often use what i call "speed mode." I record the game, then watch every play but fast-forward between plays and through commercials. It's a rough experience sometimes, because I "overbutton" and have to backtrack too much of the time. Of course, even though I fast-forward through stuff, it still takes some time.

This app — which runs in my desktop browser as well — has a "condensed" game viewing mode which captures every play start to finish, no breaks, no time-outs, catches the penalties…. Perfect. It takes about 30 minutes to watch an entire NFL game. I'm going to be watching a LOT more football this year!

Great job, NFL.com!

I’m Sick of Printer Ripoff, Are You?


I don't know about you but I'm sick and tired of being ripped off by Epson, HP and Lexmark. They have figured out that if they essentially give us the razors (printers) we'll buy their proprietary razor blades (ink cartridges) no matter how badly they rip us off.

In the past few weeks of investigating and experiencing this outrage, I've discovered that:
  1. Ink cartridges have built-in expiration periods so that they appear to your computer to be empty well before they are, based only on the passage of a specific number of hours of life from cartridge "initialization".
  2. Ink cartridges' ink level sensors are either frequently defective or intentionally misprogrammed so that they show empty when the cartridge is not in fact empty.
  3. Printers are designed so that if any one cartridge goes dry (or appears to) the printer becomes non-functional. This means that even if you only *ever* print black ink, you must keep replenishing color cartridges that expire despite not being used. I'm not sure but this may constitute a form of bundling that violates federal law.
Don't believe me? Check out this photo of the huge reservoir of ink remaining in a cartridge that my Epson printer reported as empty. 

The fact that all printer manufacturers engage in these deceptive and fraudulent practices leads me to smell a conspiracy. I'm writing my Congressman about this today and asking him to call for an investigation into the matter.

Big Day For Net News Junkies

As a confirmed Internet news junkie, I found today's news about Internet news interesting. In the process of digging into it, I made a discovery worth commenting on (IMNSHO).

NBC finally put to bed a deal to revamp MSNBC.com and to get its own online news presence in the process. The "old" msnbc.com is now NBCNews.com. The redirects are already in place. Until today, NBC News did not have its own Web presence. That was part of the deal between Microsoft and NBC made years ago when the two teamed up to create MSNBC.com. At the time the deal was struck, it made eminent sense. It hasn't for some time but it took NBC and its newer partner Comcast a while to negotiate Microsoft out of the relationship. The price of divorce was reportedly $30M. Apparently, the MSNBC TV operation remains separate and there are no reported plans to change its lineup. The offspring news service will reportedly get its own dedicated .com next year.

Microsoft said in departing from the deal that it wants to create its own news presence but I doubt that's in the offing. They aren't in the content business and are partnered with too many companies that are.

So there's that.

And then I read a piece in one of the many newsletters I read every day that indicated that the highest-traffic news site on the Internet has become the Yahoo-ABC combo. So I dropped over to check it out and, man was I impressed. My main online news base at the moment is Google News but Yahoo/ABC has them beat hands-down. Better organization, better layout and design, far better user experience. I'd switch in a nanosecond but for one failing on the part of Yahoo: no ability to add custom news topics to your news page.

Maybe the brand-new  Yahoo CEO can fix that. Because also today Yahoo announced it had filled its CEO position by hiring the second woman ever to take the helm at the once-giant tech company. Marissa Mayer, one of the top execs at Google, is credited with being one of their best product innovators. And if Yahoo needs anything right now, it's innovation. Having completely blown their initial role as a major search player, Yahoo's best new play — evidenced by the way it has executed with ABC — is as a serious content provider. I'm guessing Mayer will quickly start focusing on content innovation. She could well lead a real resurgence of Yahoo.

Apple Opts Out of Green Program? Really? Come On, People!

Apple is making one of the dumbest moves of its foot-shooting history these days. And it's going to cost it not only sales but cred.

The company has decided to pull 39 computer products out of the highly regarded EPEAT program designed to encourage computer makers to build products that are more recyclable and environmentally sensitive.  It does not appear to have a sound strategic reason for this idiotic move. Rather, it appears that the company — in an oversight that the expert micro-managing Steve Jobs would never have missed or, probably, permitted — designed its new laptops badly. Then, rather than face a virtual censure of its product by the EPEAT forces, it decided simply to yank all of its support for the group.

The City of San Francisco reacted swiftly by encouraging all departments to top buying Macs. Companies and governmental agencies all over the country who are committed to following EPEAT guidelines in their purchasing will have to do the same.

Smooth move, Tim Cook. Let's see you handle this hot potato.

The Author Tag in Links

The Google search engine is now responding to the inclusion of an author tag in link tags on your Web site. The result of this is that if you post a piece of content on a page and label it correctly with the author tag, the Google Search Results Page will show the result with a thumbnail image of your Google+ photo (assuming you have one, which this probably incents you to do!).

Here's how the tag works. Normally when you include a link on your page it looks something like this:

[a href="http://www.shafermedia.com"]Click here.[/a]

(I've used square brackets here instead of angle brackets so your browser doesn't render the text as a link.)

Now instead (or in addition) you do:

[a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/118167812237815971325"]Dan Shafer[/a]

To find out your Google+ ID (that hellishly long number in the above sample, which actually does reach my profile), you'll need to go to plus.google.com and click on the Profile icon in the left column of the page. The number that appears in the URL field at the top of your browser is your ID.

There's a lot more to this than I have space for here. Check out Don Power's article on the subject.

Hijacking a Drone for $1k

A group of University of Texas students was able to put together a device that successfully hijacked an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), better known as a drone. The team, working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spent less than $1,000 on the equipment necessary to gain control of the drone using GPS Spoofing.

This clearly does not bode well for the military's latest technology for killing people while removing the moral accountability for the act.

The Slow Death of the Mobile App Told With Humor

You’ll enjoy reading this very funny piece voiced through the mind of a custom smartphone app that has fallen into disuse. The author makes some good points along the way about why Web sites built with responsive design (RD) will eventually replace most if not all custom mobile apps built for a specific platform.

HTML5 rocks, but it definitely doesn’t yet rule. It is only a matter of time however. Just as Flash has been strangled by the realities of the mobile world, so, too, will apps built for a narrow (albeit relatively large) user base once RD-based HTML5 sites become instantly deployable. I was talking to a colleague this morning who had just finished a mobile “app” that he wrote entirely in HTML5 for a client. He was able to bring it in for 20% of the budget and in 1/3 the time that had been bid by an experienced standalone app developer.

(Part of the problem is that the tools most app developers use are not very good and are particularly difficult to use for creating cross-platform apps. My partner Chipp Walters tells me that he has been able to build reasonably sophisticated smartphone apps for iOS and Android with one code base in a couple of days using LiveCode, so that might prolong the life of smartphone apps a while longer.)

The Final Fall of Flash

Flash appears to be on final life support. New development is stopped. Support for the antiquated technology that was blitzed by the emergence of non-proprietary standards from the W3C will continue for some reasonable time. But those outfits who have steadfastly resisted giving up their addiction to a bloated proprietary technology will now be forced to play catch-up with competitors and developers who have long since seen the writing on the wall.

And that writing was in Steve Jobs' handwriting.

As this piece in TechCrunch clearly points out, it was the late Apple CEO's categorical refusal to let Adobe's platform bring Apple's gorgeous systems to their knees that led ultimately to the decision announced last week by Adobe to pull the plug.

There is a beautiful irony in this for those of us who have been around the industry long enough. In the very early days of the Macintosh, Apple had to do obeisance at the Altar of Adobe, paying outrageous licensing fees for Adobe's Postscript technologies and saddling buyers with printers that cost more than the computers that drove them. On top of that, Adobe thumbed its massive nose at the growing numbers of Mac users who found themselves tearing their hair out for hours and hours of debugging caused by Adobe's trenchant decision to provide its own proprietary installers for its proprietary fonts, installers which invariably broke Mac systems in the process.

So while I don't know if Steve every thought about the revenge angle when resisting the efforts by Adobe to declare themselves once again the dominant technology player on the scene, it's a sweet-tasting cup nonetheless.

If you're not already slurping up and mastering HTML5, your days as a Web guru are numbered, my friend.

In Search of the Perfect Browser

I didn't think I was asking too much but evidently I am. I'm trying to find a Web browser that has these features:

  1. Integrated search and URL bar/field
  2. Tab browsing
  3. Ability to browse anonymously on demand
  4. Doesn't choke on multiple URL redirects (or at least lets me set the level of redirect to choke on)
  5. Runs Google's add-on/drop-in apps correctly
  6. Has good developer support built in and/or available from plugin publishers
  7. Supports opening multiple pre-set tabs at launch
Chrome passes tests 1-3, 6 and 7 but not 4 or (astonishingly) 5 (5 of 7)
Safari passes tests 2, 3, 5 and 6 but not 1 or 4 and 7 only with some gyrations (4-1/2 of 7)
Firefox passes  2 and 4-7 but not 1, plus it not only fails 3 but in Version 13 has created another major security/privacy hole (5 of 7)
Opera passes 2, 4-6 and halfway supports 7 but not 1 or (as far as I can tell) 3. (4-1/2 if 7)

Anyone have any thoughts on this one?

Four Browser Benchmarks on OS X

Chroms 20 is the fastest browser on my Mac Mini by a considerable distance.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I love to fiddle with stuff like which Web browser will do the best job for me. I've been using Chrome for quite some time now and with two exceptions (see below) I've been really happy with it. But I watched an episode of a podcast last night in which the hostess found that Firefox's latest release (13) is faster than Chrome.

So I fired up my Mini, ran the most rigorous browser benchmark I know about on all of them, and came to the conclusion that Chrome remains far and away the fastest on Macs. The Peacekeeper results:

Chrome (29.9.1132)   2262
Opera (12.0)                1821
Safari (5.1.7)                1470
Firefox (13.0.1)            1467

So why don't I just stay with Chrome? As I said earlier, I have had two problems with Chrome lately that make it much harder for me to rely on as my day-to-day browser.

First, I have found several bugs in Google's own software apps that occur only in Chrome! Go figure, right? 

Second, Chrome has some sort of built-in "protection" against nefarious redirects that prevents me from being able to use two of the sites I'm responsible for maintaining. They're set up in such a way that two of them redirect to the third, main, URL, which in turn redirects to the new home we're creating on a different service. Chrome refuses to allow that many redirects and as far as I can tell, at least, there's no way for me to fix that. Since there are days I spent 2-4 hours working on those sites, I can't use Chrome all the time.

Anyone have different results, experiences to share?