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Out with the Old…

"Out with the old, in with the new!" Isn’t that how the saying goes?

I’ve been thinking about this, and trying to apply it to many different things. For instance, everyone is quite concerned with making computers/linux/the web/etc simple enough for Aunt Tillie to use. (See Eric Raymond, Jon Udell, and I’m sure others…) I admit this is a noble thing. I would like to see these things easier for Aunt Tillie to use, but part of me doesn’t want to worry about it… because time will take care of the problem.

I don’t mean to be rude, but face it, Aunt Tillie is old, and she won’t be around forever, sure she’s got a few good years left, but will she be compiling her own kernel anytime soon? Doubtful…

On the other hand, young people (aka The Youth) seem quite comfortable with technology. They happily use cell phones everyday without a second thought. They even pay to have custom ring tones. Ring tones? Crazy! Well, crazy to me, someone no longer a youth, who didn’t have a cell phone as a youth, and wouldn’t think of paying for a special ring for a phone. And that VCR, who can program those things? As a kid I did, but my mom sure didn’t. Of course today you’ve got a TiVo and it’s pretty darn simple to operate, it’s not even a matter or programming it, it’s more just a matter of using it.

Think about how much easier computers have become in the last 20 years, the last 15 years… Or using the internet? Remember getting on the internet just 10 years ago? Progress is being made, that’s for sure.

Who will benefit from this progress? The youth. My kids will… My oldest daughter is in grade school, and last year she showed one of the teachers how to use the digital camera they had at school. The kids coming out of college now (and in the coming years) use Linux, and they like it. This is one of the reasons I think things like open-source and Linux on the desktop will eventually really take off, because in the future, they won’t be new ideas, they’ll just be “the way it is” to some degree. (Another old saying comes to mind: “Unix is very user friendly, it’s just picky about who its friends are.”)

Kids are accepting of new technology because to them it’s not new, it’s just there. Wasn’t it always there? My kids have never seen a TV without a remote control. There’s a thing in the living room that plays movies, audio CD‘s, and shows photos on the TV. Making your own CD for the truck with your favorite songs from a library of thousands is no big deal.

Maybe it’s just me, and I’m getting old. People often ask where their flying cars and jetpacks are, but I think the answer is, they’re all around us. Sometimes they’re just hard to see through those old eyes with poor vision…

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Any IELovers Out There?

Are there IELovers outside of Microsoft? A show of hands:

one of the presenters… …asks: "How many here use IE". A few hands, reluctantly, show. Attendees start to giggle, then laughs. Applause. Presenter looks baffled and a bit hurt. Then he asks "And how many here would want us to fix it, so they can use it". Even less hands.

There is much talk of IE, and how it’ll be improved, and better, and support CSS and PNGs, but let’s actually see something. Working code! A released application people can install and use. Or not. As previously stated, I don’t care if Microsoft ever releases a new version, in fact I prefer if they do not, but it is nonetheless interesting to follow the story of such…

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IEBlog – for IELovers

News Flash: Someone Really, Really Likes IE!

Don’t believe me? See: I Love This Browser! for proof:

…what we do every day at work – make Internet Explorer the best way for browsing the web. I realize that statement will cause some people to chuckle based on current press on security issues and perceived lack of innovation, but that is my job.

Well, ok… Perhaps someone loves IE because it’s “their job” and we all know you have to do your “job” else the man has no use for you… Still, I give credit to Scott Stearns for posting this. I also have to give credit to Microsoft for opening up like this, I can’t imaging being given the task of writing for IEBlog. Especially right now.

Many of the comments to this post are stupid and childish, but you can expect such things. Some do make very valid points though, so it’s worth a read.

I personally don’t care if IE gets improved, fixed, whatever, since it’ll only be available for one platform (Windows) it’s pretty much useless to me. I prefer that it “go away and never come back” as Smeagol might say.

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Webcasting and Webconferencing

People often cite Microsoft Exchange as one of the pieces of the corporate puzzle that open-source has not yet provided a replacement for. Sure, we’ve got good email servers and clients, but there’s always talk of calendaring and scheduling (stuff I really don’t do, and am not familiar with.)

Another piece that might be missing (and again, I’m no expert in this area, so enlighten me if I’m ignorant) is webcasts. In the geek community we’ve got streaming audio, slides in HTML, IRC, etc. but these are geek technologies, and not fit for business-person consumption.

The requirements for webcasts usually cover Windows/IE, and on the Mac it’s… well, IE5 (in Classic!), Netscape 4? Safari? Or… In my little testing over the past few years I’ve had to resort to using old obscure browsers, making sure Java is all set with these old browsers, and other crazy hoop jumping.

Here’s a (possibly) crazy idea, build a webcasting application utilizing the Mozilla platform. This is one place I think a rich internet client is needed, and the added benefit of being a multi-platform client is a great plus. These webcasts usually involve someone speaking, sometimes via streaming audio, and sometimes you do a conference call. There’s some sort of slides being show, which requires the server to push the change of slides to the client. There’s also (usually) some sort of chat thingy in the browser as well, for questions. It really doesn’t seem like rocket surgery, but there’s enough little pieces to make it non-trivial.

But will people want to install a specialized app just to take part in a webcast? Well, as mentioned I spent more time screwing around installing plugins, Java, and old browsers, that my answer is “yes” I probably would install a specialized client. You wouldn’t believe how many demos I’ve been a part of where people had some weird issue with something not working, and that includes people using Windows/IE.

It seems like all of the companies doing these webcasts built their platforms at a time (years ago) where betting on Windows and IE was a safe thing do to, and if they had extra time they made it work in Netscape 4. Has there been any progress in the last few years?

From what I remember (and as I said, it’s been a while) WebEx seemed to work pretty well out of the ones I tested. I think they might be more open to other platforms besides Windows…

I was reminded of all of this because Scoble mentioned an MSDN webcast. Of course looking at the FAQ for Microsoft Webcasts we see that they support IE, and Netscape 4.x, and mention you might be able to use Netscape 7, but alas, only Windows is welcomed here.

This seems like it creeps into stuff that Jon Udell might talk about…

Anyone else have insight into this? I’m not expecting some open-source project to pop up out of nowhere to solve this, but I think the possibilities of a company doing it right, meaning working on multiple-platforms with a rich client, or at least working with modern-day browsers (again, on multiple-platforms) could happen. If such company did a demo, and it all just “Magically Worked” I’d be quite impressed…

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On Learning PHP and the Culture of Languages

So I’ve been hacking away at PHP for a while now, and I must say it’s a fairly easly language to pick up. In fact, that seems to be the biggest strength of PHP, besides the fact that’s it’s also easy to install and every host out there seems to have done so.

Still the templating-freak in me feels a bit dirty mixing all of that presentational-html with logical-code. It’s like perl cgi’s in 1998 or something… I know, there’s Smarty and other templating systems, and of course some will tell you that PHP is (sort of) a templating system in itself… Still, that cultural thing…

Kellan, in There Has Got To Be A Better Way, has this bit titled The Impenetrable Importance of Culture:

For me the hardest part in working with languages I’m less familiar with (python, and php for example) rather then those I’m more comfortable with (perl or java) is not syntax questions, its culture. For all of Perl’s much vaunted “There is More Then One Way To Do It”, I know the proper way to do things, the proper tool to reach for, and if I don’t I have ways of finding out, largely through internal calculation based on my understanding of the Perl reputation landscape. Its that information which is opaque to me, especially in PHP where the fast number of practioners are novices.

That’s previously summed up my thoughts on PHP, though I’m still quite open to it, and might change my mind…

(I must admin, PHP is hundreds, if not thousands of times better than dealing with ASP or ColdFusion, at least in my book, and again, this is due to a large degree because of the culture surrounding each of them.)