The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Counterintuitive or counterproductive?

Do you ever get that feeling where a piece of software seems to make your life as a developer harder instead of easier? Well, I do but I’m not sure whether it’s the software or me.

I’ve worked with an open source content management system written in PHP for close to 6 years. In that timeframe, I got to know the little beast inside out. I knew the strong points of the product but more importantly I also knew the weak points and how to avoid/circumvent them. Anything I do with it just works and if it doesn’t I soon enough find out it was caused by a mistake on my part.

The new content management system is some commercial software written in .NET. I haven’t figured out why, but I seem to be in a constant fight with the software. I can’t have it working perfectly for 2 days straight. I do something, it fails… I finally get it working again and less than a day later it breaks again. Perhaps it’s the software, perhaps it’s me but I’m certainly not used to working with such flaky software. All I know is that it’s pretty frustrating at the moment.

Interesting browser stats

I just checked the browser stats for this blog and there are some interesting facts to gather from the data. Just so you know, the data is based on the past month (Aug 23 – Sep 22).

The first one is not really a surprise to me because this blog has a higher chance of attracting a more technical crowd that the average site. The number one spot is clinched by Firefox with 52.18%. Second place then of course goes to Internet Explorer with 33.88%. If I take the same browsers combined with the operating system, I end up with the following list:

  1. Firefox / Windows: 39.74%
  2. IE / Windows: 33.88%
  3. Firefox / Linux: 9.71%

Conclusion: Firefox is the leading browser on this blog on all major operating systems (Mac is further down the list with 2.74%) and thus also overall.

But what really surprised me was the browser that clinched the number 3 spot overall. My guess would’ve been Opera and while it did come close, it was just beaten by Google Chrome. I guess this shows what a strong brand name can do. I’m curious to see how Chrome’s percentage will evolve.

For the record: Safari came in fifth.

Exciting times ahead for PC gaming

So it’s been a little over 4 months since the last post, but this place isn’t dead yet… and the same can be said about PC gaming.

We’ve heard all kinds of doom stories concerning gaming on the PC, but I’m sure that good content will sell and the second half of this year is literally filled with exciting titles. I’m currently tracking 28 games and only 4 of those are currently scheduled for a 2009 release. That leaves 24 games that are scheduled for release between the end of August and the end of the year.

For those that don’t know what’s coming, here’s an excerpt from the list of games I’m tracking:

  • Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway
  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium
  • Crysis Warhead
  • Empire: Total War
  • Far Cry 2
  • Mafia II
  • Pure
  • Quantum of Solace
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla
  • Tom Clancy’s HAWX
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld

Exciting times are ahead, but my wallet doesn’t agree…

Marketing: Looks vs Functionality

I’m not a fan of marketing departments (too much blah blah) but I’m feeling rather frisky so I’ll write a post about two marketing strategies I’ve been able to observe first hand. This little adventure takes place in the wonderful world of software…
The first strategy is to make the looks of an application one of the primary selling points. The goal is to make the user interface sleek, sexy, shiny, … In other words, the interface should be so appealing that potential customers may be persuaded to buy the product when just seeing a demo.

The second strategy is to sell your product based on what it can do. Not what it should be able to do, but what it really can do. Important here are flexibility and our of the box functionality, but also extensibility. Potential customers should be persuaded to buy the product based on the feature list.

In most cases, there’s a mix of both strategies but the careful observer will notice one of them has the upper hand.

I’ve worked with the same piece of software for years. The creators just had to go with the feature list because the out-of-the-box looks were not quite up to par. But it meant nearly total freedom. It has its flaws which are a bit irritating when you’ve worked with the package for some time, but there are ways around them exactly because of the freedom they give to developers.

Recently, we had to switch to a new software package. Clearly leaning to the first strategy, it seemed rather okay on a first impression. But a demo is not as good as practical experience and that’s where the bubble of the first strategy bursts. It’s rather poor under the hood, especially when you’re used to a lot of freedom. Everything’s fine as long as you stay within the out-of-the-box lines, but it feels more like hacking instead of developing/programming as soon as you need something custom.

I’m not putting a name on the two products, but I’m quite sure some of the people reading this will know what I mean. And it should be pretty clear what I prefer 😉

IE7: False Start

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 today, but its start could’ve been better. To say it with Microsoft’s own words:

“Internet Explorer 7 provides security through a robust new architecture, security features that help defend against malicious software (also known as malware), and new ways to better protect against the theft of personal data from fraudulent websites, a practice known as phishing.”

That being said, the very first security issue for the final code is already a fact. Security firm Secunia has released a security advisory and a proof of concept. It’s not a severe issue, but I feel this doesn’t bode well for the future.

On a related note, IE7 will be pushed to clients as a high priority update. Another fun fact is that you need to reboot after upgrading. Let’s rephrase that: you need to reboot after installing Microsoft’s web browser! You can install Seamonkey, Firefox, Opera and others without rebooting and they all work fine. Obviously, the reboot is because of its integration in Windows. But why does it need to be integrated if others can do it without the black magic?

The fact that they’ll force it through the automated update service means there will be a quick adoption rate for IE7. The bad news is that all web developers can now start their compatibility checking (and probably IE7 CSS hacking) or they’ll be bugged about it by the clients. I can hear you thinking “but there have been betas, you should’ve checked with those”. In normal circumstances I’d agree, but Microsoft has their own idea of the alpha-beta-rc-release cycle. The IE7 betas changed so much that you couldn’t rely your testing on them. The betas should have been released as alphas which would make today’s final release a beta – that’s what Microsoft’s final releases usually are anyway.

One last point (for now): what the hell did they do the interface?!

Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5 released

Roughly two months after the release of Firefox 1.5, the spotlight shifts to Thunderbird. Version 1.5 brings some goodies we’ve already encountered in Firefox (like the auto update system), but also has a bunch of its own improvements. A small selection:

  • Spell check as you type
  • Built in phishing detector to help protect users against email scams
  • Deleting attachments from messages (this also helps antivirus programs)
  • Reply and forward actions for message filters

A more elaborate list can be found in the release notes. Get Thunderbird will satisfy all your download needs.