Posted tagged ‘internet’

GeoCities and musing on growing up digital

October 26, 2009

RIP GeoCities (1995-2009)

We will miss your animated GIFs, your annoying <MARQUEE> tags (or <BLINK> if you used that other browser). Seriously, I shouldn’t care – I hosted my site on Angelfire -but the memories of hand-coded sites (or un-user-friendly site wizards) from the teenage years are making me feel so nostalgic. It was a good run, GeoCities. Thanks for helping the Web through its adolescence.

And last night, I watched live as Bono, The Edge, and the other two guys rocked Pasadena and the world watched on YouTube.  IMO, the blog community, in addition to YouTube and MySpace (which are both arguably just blogs 2.0 anyhow) were direct descendants of the 1990s trend toward a personal presence on the Web for those who don’t want to toil over code.  The fact I grasp how to edit the URL of this post (which I just did) started with the 90s and personal Web sites.

GeoCities (and the other wannabe GeoCities sites) really did bring the Web a long way by making it possible for nontechnical people to easily post content to the Web.  And while the Web was perhaps a teenager at the time, for me (and lots of others who were teenagers in the 90s) it helped US through our adolescence.

I was a late bloomer, and I caught on around 1998.  I got a giant tome on HTML from the public library, and started reading and coding.  Before long, I was lost in the world of <BR> and <A HREF>, where I searched long and hard for websites with free horizontal-bar JPEGs and JavaScript snippets to add a scrolling status bar.  It was my first experience in speaking a language a machine could understand, and it significantly influenced my development as a technologist.

My site only contained some personal views and a very long list of music-related jokes (Why do violinists put rags on their shoulder?  So they don’t drool on themselves!!!  Yes, that one was on there).  It was not impressive, but it WAS to me because I had my own world where I was the WEBMASTER, and the WEB was still just a little bit mysterious. =)  These days, it’s a glut of information, smut, and third-rate instantiations of Godwin’s Law (and parodies of such instantiations, and parodies of the parodies).  Still mystery, but more like the Badlands are mysterious, rather than the first-girlfriend mystery I felt back then.  Or maybe the Web WAS actually lame back then, and it was really just adolescence being mysterious.

So we will miss thee, GeoCities of yore.  Thank you for the precedent you set of free personal web pages for everyone.  We hope you understand how deeply you affected a generation.

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Microsoft to give preview of Office Web

September 18, 2009

I am curious to see what good (and bad) things the Web App version of Office will hold.  Obviously, not all features will be included.

I’m not sure what to think.  I feel like Microsoft products are thoroughly ingrained in the business world, and we’re not moving away from them anytime soon.  This is OK by me.  For all their problems, they tend to be predictable and generally reliable.

Check out a bit more rundown on the upcoming testing here.

In the above link, one commenter alleged that Office Web would be useful if you had to show a presentation but didn’t have Office (and did have Internet).  I might point out that MS already covered that base by providing free viewer software for Office.  I think they’re really trying to move production work with Office into a browser.  Not just for viewing – they want people to work in the browser.  We’ll see how it catches on.

“Flash cookies” are the new privacy offenders

September 8, 2009

Ever heard of an LSO?  A Local Shared Object is similar in many ways to a typical HTTP cookie, but it’s used with Flash instead of HTTP.

In case you’re not up on the subject, a cookie is a 4KB text file that is stored on your computer.  When used by ethical developers, it’s a fairly innocuous way to make your browsing experience more convenient.  They’re responsible for remembering your Gmail password, your address that auto-fills on the electric company’s website, etc.  They’re a useful way to keep information around in a relatively secure manner.

There are some significant privacy concerns with cookies, though, as marketers quickly found a way to abuse them.  Enter third-party cookies.  But even with those concerns, you can set your browser to reject third-party cookies.  Or all cookies, for that matter.

However, with LSOs, many users don’t even know they exist.  And unlike your vanilla 4KB cookie, LSO’s can store 100K of information.  Doesn’t sound much, but in plain text, that’s a whole lot of information about your browsing habits.  Like HTTP cookies, LSOs are domain-specific (that is, an LSO can only be read by machines on the domain that created the LSO).

So the big concern with LSOs is this: many users think their privacy is secure when they turn off cookies.  It’s not, because LSOs are cookies but are not controlled by your browser – they’re controlled by Adobe software.

LSOs are turned on by default.  You can find information on managing (read: turning off) LSOs on Adobe’s website here.

Are LSOs a concern to you?  Why or why not?

Chrome/IE security flaw

April 28, 2009

Kaspersky Labs journalist Ryan Maraine writes up the new security problem when running IE + Google Chrome.

http://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=3224&tag=nl.e019

I was particularly interested in this since I run Chrome as my default browser and IE6 as a secondary.  I mainly use IE for online banking (since it doesn’t play well with Chrome) and my time card at work.  However, if you’re surfing with IE while Chrome is installed, you need to read this article.  I will copy over what Ryan said:
 

The skinny:

  • If a user has Google Chrome installed, visiting an attacker-controlled web page in Internet Explorer could have caused Google Chrome to launch, open multiple tabs, and load scripts that run after navigating to a URL of the attacker’s choice.

The “high severity” vulnerability affects Google Chrome versions 1.0.154.55 and earlier.

So class, what is rule #1 for making sure a system is secure?  That’s right.  Keep your A/V (you do have A/V, right?), OS, and other software fully patched.  I’m typing this in Chrome v. 1.0.154.59.  So I’m (hopefully) all set, as I’m 4 builds ahead of the vulnerability.  Keep it up to date.  You can check your version by clicking on the “wrench” icon in the upper right hand corner of Chrome and clicking “About Google Chrome.”

Here’s another snide sort of comment Ryan included:
 

“It is important to note that the way Internet Explorer processes URL protocol handlers is a known Achilles’ heel and has been widely used previously to attack other various applications,” [Roi Saltzman at IBM] said.  Proof-of-concept code for this issue is publicly available.
Microsoft maintains the problems are not related to vulnerabilities in its code.
Of course.

Gmail becoming a monopoly?

April 13, 2009

I read a rather sensational post this morning.  Not sensational in the good way, either.  Let me explain – sensational can mean “arousing or intended to arouse strong curiosity, interest, or reaction, especially by exaggerated or lurid details” (answers.com).  The author essentially proposed that Gmail could become the de facto standard for business email.  He cites several examples of organizations (incidentally, both colleges, not businesses) that are intending to use Gmail’s business email program for their student email.

This is a great example of how cloud computing can be useful.  I’ve been a Gmail user for about four years, and I like it.  That said, I don’t use their Web client except on rare occasions.  I dislike web clients.  But with the business class service, as well as with the personal email, users can access Gmail via either POP3 or IMAP.  No Web client required.  

I can see this as a viable solution for colleges and small businesses, but frankly, I don’t see this as an enterprise solution unless Gmail 1) guarantees uptime and 2) provides personalized, 24-7 enterprise support solutions.  Their support, from what I understand, is pathetic at present.  However, I think it could work for small businesses.  Google does have a good reputation as a progressive and professional company (unlike another prominent hosting company, whose salacious Super Bowl advertising became an instant bar from use in my business).

So back to the point.  Great idea? Yep.  But did this author stretch the truth?  Yes.  However, there’s still an important point in there – if you’re running a small business and need business email services (your own domain name and hosted email services with high uptime) it’s definitely worth considering.  Honestly, I’d consider going that route for a small business, even though I’m capable of hosting my own email server.  The price point is great too ($50 per user per year).

Bottom line: it’s not going to take over the world, but it’s a great idea for a smaller business who needs professional email services from a reputable company.

Newegg.com – now the best rated online-only retailer

March 20, 2009

I have been buying parts from Newegg for my business for some time.  They have terrific prices and a better reputation than any other online computer parts retailer.  Then this came out – Newegg triumphed as the top-rated online-only retailer (over companies such as Amazon.com) in customer satisfaction.  This is no real surprise to me, but to know they beat out Amazon is pretty awesome.  Here’s a link to the study: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/mmframe?prid=476743&attachid=927940

My thoughts on Google Chrome’s performance

March 18, 2009

I resist change in some arenas.  Sometimes, I would rather have familiarity over functionality.  Such is the case in my Web browser usage.  I still have IE6 installed on most of the computers I use.  This is mainly because my company does not use IE7 due to app compatibility issues, but even if they did, I still appreciate IE6’s advantages over 7.  I have used Firefox enough to work well with it, and used Opera or Konqueror on the very rare occasion, but haven’t felt the need to change my default browser.  So I resisted the urge to use Chrome until my curiosity got the better of me.

I want to mention the performance pros and cons I have found with Chrome.  I will save my review of the interface and concept for another post.

Two things become immediately obvious about Chrome.  First, its startup time is virtually nil.  Internet Explorer can never claim that; rarely is IE fast enough for me.  So, my first real issue with IE is gone, and I’m happy.  In addition, load times are small and run time is fast in every respect.  

While I’m on the subject of performance issues, I like to listen to music on YouTube.  IE at work currently takes about 10-15 seconds or so to start the video.  I had thought that it was something related to the network, because at home I don’t have that problem.  But when I started using Chrome, the problem went away totally.

I have only had one issue with Chrome’s performance thus far.  Again, this one is with YouTube.  I listen to music, but I don’t always watch the video.  If I minimize the window during playback of a video, there is a very brief break in the sound.  It’s not a real problem, but it’s a bug I’d like to see fixed.  It doesn’t have an issue when I’m switching tab to tab; it’s only when I minimize or restore the window.

Another issue I have had (although it’s not performance-related) is that some sites are configured to check the userAgent and deny access to the site for anyone not using a “compatible” browser.  I wish they would just let me on so I can see if it works.  This has really only happened with one site for me, but it’s our company’s time-clock application (KABA Web Clock), so I access it at least twice a day, most days four times.

So all in all, I really only have one or two complaints.  The performance speed is terrific.  If nothing else, try it just for that.  Later on, I will write more about Chrome, especially about the peculiarities that make it unique.