Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A late, brief, Firefox 4 first thoughts.

Firefox 4 was released ages ago but I've been waiting until my PPA updated it and I had it installed on my Linux system properly to review it. Overall I'd say my first impressions are - wow.

The very first thing that jumps out at you is the new look of FF4; it sort of looks like a hybrid between the newer versions of Internet Explorer and Chromium.

I've not really read any reviews of FF4 as of yet so I'm largely unsure what the community thinks of the new UI – I like it. I've never been a massive fan of either Chromium or Chrome's UI but there's something about this I like. Moving the tabs up to the top seemed like a bold move and ones that sits well with me.

The only other things I was immediately concerned about were the Home, Refresh and Stop buttons. They've been shifted too, the Home button now resides to the right of the browser; another strange move but another I'm oddly comfortable with whilst the Refresh button and the Stop buttons have been combined into one located at the end of the URL bar. Combining the two buttons is, in my humble opinion, sheer genius.

However. I am smart enough to admit that this whole “tabs on top” thing is a fad – and one that will be quick to fade with the tablet market once that goes. The whole idea of moving tabs on top and condensing the interface is to save on vertical space to squeeze a fe extra pixels out of the pane that actually views the web. This is designed primarily for netbooks and tablets. Netbooks are already in decline and Tablets are probably going to follow suit – Apple's iPad might keep the market going for a while but the App Store™ (See what I did there?) refuses to stock Firefox or Chrome.

Speaking of app stores. The Firefox Add-Ons screen now opens up in its own tab; app store style. This I'm not too fussed about as I didn't particularly see any great need for it but I'm definitely not complaining.

In terms of functionality – I've noticed a significant speed increase when both loading the program and with rendering pages. I've got a version of Chromium here (Not sure which, whatever's in the Ubuntu repos) and I can't discern a difference in loading web pages from sight alone.

All-in-all; Excellent work Mozilla. Keep it up.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Microsoft Do It Again

Once again the inferiority of Microsoft's flagship browser is spotlighted as the company issue a "critical" warning over a newly-discovered flaw in Internet Explorer on every version of Windows.

Although the flaw aparently resides in the Windows system it only affects IE due to the way the browser handles web pages and documents. Microsoft stated that the flaw would allow malware to be installed silently from simply clicking a link in the browser - this could be a serious threat to those who are less Net-savvy than the rest of us and don't know how to tell a suspicious link from a friendly one.

The malware associated with the flaw is the usual - taking control of a user's machine to get them to downoad even more malware; malware designed to steal passwords and other details etc.

MS have not been able to fix the flaw but have issued a patch to prevent easy expoitation. If you're stupid enough to use IE then I suggest you download it here.

If you wish to then read the announcement here

My advice is, as always, to download an alternative browser. And lock up yo' wife - 'cos they rapin' evrybody out there!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

So...why exactly are Macs good for editing?

Nearly every single time I hear/read a Mac vs PC argument the Mac party refers to Macs being good at “creative stuff” such as image manipulation and video/sound editing. What astounds me is that a lot of PC users seem OK with Macheads (different to a Mac User, who will generally shut the hell up about using a Mac and get on with his or her life) making this argument. PC users need to stand up for themselves.

For this article I'm going to set aside any prejudices I have towards either Apple or Microsoft, OS X and Windows. For the purposes of the argument I will also be defining a PC as a computer running a version of Microsoft Windows – simply because that's what Macheads seem to think a PC is. I'll also disregard the fact a Mac is just a brand of computer much like a Dell or an Acer. 

Macs are good at editing due to having software such as Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere and Flash available for them. Adobe products are industry-standard and are capable of producing extremely professional quality work. 

The same software is available for Windows. I'll go out on a limb and assume that most of the time when a user is referring to the professional editing software available for Mac they are referring to Adobe products. Love it or hate it you can't deny that Adobe products are amazing at doing what they do (personally I'd choose The GIMP any day but this is unbiased). However they work identically on a PC and a Mac so there's really no difference is there?

Be that as it may sometimes a Machead isn't referring to professional level editing but rather how a Mac allows the home user to be more creative with software such as iMovie and GarageBand. Which leads me to my next point. 

iMovie is made of pure magical awesome and MovieMaker is absolutely dire. Garageband can make even the most tonedeaf band sound like Metallica and Microsoft have Sound Recorder. 

MovieMaker is free. Ok it's not going to make the next blockbuster but if you simply wish to string together clips of your first-born into something your parents know how to play on a DVD player then it's more than capable. Apart from all of the crashes. 

Having never really experienced GarageBand I'll not embarrass myself by saying something that is completely and utterly wrong. I'll just point out how a copy of iMovie is only included with iLife and costs $49.00. To be fair that's not a lot for what the software apears to offer but considering MovieMaker is free then I believe that claiming a Mac is better for editing due to iMovie is just absurd. I also spotted these reviews for iLife 11 on the Apple website whilst doing research

That's just what's visible on the front of the reviews section. I didn't bother to delve much deeper. Notice how there are complaints listed at the top of both the Most Recent and the Most Helpful reviews.

A Mac “just works” with things such as Digital Cameras and related equipment. Also Firewire. 

I actually nearly agree with this one. I still don't fully understand how Windows needs to install a driver for every damn memory pen it has plugged in whilst OS X and Linux mount them without complaint (providing they have FAT and NTFS-3g installed). 

My counterpoint to Firewire being amazing at everything though is that USB 3.0 is faster and Apple dropped the Firewire port from their Macs. Hahaha.

So...where'd this rumour come from?
My best guess is to say that Photoshop used to be exclusive to the Mac and was originally developed for the platform. It was ported to Windows in Version 2.5 I believe (If anyone has any contradicting knowledge post it in a comment and I'll edit the post) but for some reason the association with Macs has stuck. Go figure. 

My humble opinion
Here's my input. The only reason I can think of that would make a Mac better for editing is that the UNIX-like nature of OS X would lead to less system crashes than a Windows system. However if anything goes wrong with a single piece of your hardware (e.g. a video card) then you're having to ship the damned thing off to Apple for repairs. At least with a PC you can swap out individual components cheaply.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Micro-Update: Firefox Most Used Browser In Europe

Well it's official. StatCounter have just released figures that state that Mozilla Firefox is the most commonly used browser in Europe - just trumping Microsoft's IE.

Using code embedded in over 3 million sites the web analysts collected info from roughly 15 billion monthly hits and discovered Firefox holds 38.11% of Market share in Europe. Wahey!!!

This share is very closely followed by Internet Explorer's 37.52%. Google Chrome has nearly trebled its share from last December to 14.58% (up from 5.06% in 2009).

This symbolic victory for Firefox, and by proxy Open-Source software, is in large part due to the allegations of the browser lottery system in European Windows 7 systems which requires the system to ask the user which browser they would like to use.

Internationally, however, it looks like MS is still on top. Time for a graph. (Screenshot from W3C counter)

International adoption of alternative browsers appears to be slower than in Europe but those figures look nice and reasonable to me.

Friday, 31 December 2010

Why I may be leaving Ubuntu very soon

Ubuntu has been my primary Operating System for a number of years now and although it wasn't the first Linux distro I tried it's certainly been the one I've used the most due to its amazing usability and professional quality. Recently, however, I feel that Canonical have gotten a little too big for their boots.

I recently upgraded to 10.04 LTS from 9.04 after I got the message it was no longer to be supported. I had put off upgrading due to driver issues encountered in 9.10 (Broadcom wireless). After I installed Ubuntu and got my wireless working I went about my normal customisation of the system – installing my preferred Icon, Metacity, GTK themes etc. When I went to change my login screen I discovered that the functionality to do so had been disabled – as had the function to change system sounds. As someone who rants and raves to his friends about how customisable Linux is and how it doesn't require hacks to change basic things like the Login environment I felt a little bit betrayed by this new direction. But I remained as a quiet grumbler for a few months.

I then read that Ubuntu was ditching GNOME for a new interface they're deveoping called 'Unity' which, I believe, is a version of the Ubuntu Netbook GUI for the desktop market. I thought this was good as I believe it could only improve people's choices and such in the Linux market and that it could potentially bring to the table new ideas (which is never a bad thing). I then read a little more and discovered that Unity's interface is not very customisable at all. The launcher cannot even be moved. Why not? Doubtlessly there will be themes and the like developed for it and I presume I will be able to install GNOME onto the system but will it be the diluted GNOME that Ubuntu provides? Will I no longer be able to choose my own login sounds or login screen? Why not? It seems like an enormous step backwrads to have to faff around in /usr/share/sounds when I used to be able to use a menu? Bah.

I hope that these changes to Ubuntu's system are temporary or Canonical risks becoming the Apple of the Linux world and I for one will certainly be jumping ship elsewhere.

I may write a follow-up post about Ubuntu alternatives if I get the time to play around with them. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Why I won't be using Google's Chrome OS

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of people riled up; and I can see why. It's based upon a solid Linux core and is focused on the new buzzword in the tech world – cloud.

Google is in the advertising business. They've said as much outright. They want to know who you are, and what you like so they can target ads towards you and thus generate income – now to the casual observer that seems fine as you can be informed of a product you may need/want and Google gets to keep on running. When one looks deeper you realise tha Google don't do any surveys. None. How are they targeting ads?

By following you.

They own Youtube – you watch tech videos they know you like tech (and kittens).
They own Blogspot (the very service this is post is designed for). So if you read blogs about cake then they will display ads about cake.

I won't go as far to claim that Google spies upon your every move (although as a multinational corporation I certainly wouldn't put it past them) but they'll certainly pick up on a few keywords now and then. This is OK in my opinion as anyone who knows anything about the Interwebs knows that even in Private Browsing mode we can still be spied upon by a 12 yr old scriptkiddie with Wireshark installed on his brother's PC.

The problem I have is that cloud computing moves data from the harddrive onto Google's servers. This not only encourages carelessness with one's hardware but also leads to some serious thoughts in my troubled brain? Thoughts such as “What if Google reads my data like it does the web?”. Not only would this my skin crawl at the idea of Google reading my personal information but how they could, and in all likelihood would, use it. It is my current belief, and I pray to all the gods that I am mistaken, that Google would seriously consider reading your data and using it to generate targeted ads.

Another issue is ownership. If your data is on your HDD then you know its yours; if it's backed-up in the cloud (as it should be really) its still yours. But if your data exists solely on Google's servers then what's to stop Google simply removing anything it finds offensive and then winning the right to do so in court?

That's my paranoid ramble over. Anyone with any thoughts on the matter post them below – anyone reading this on Facebook please respond at the blog because I hate Facebook notes.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pidgin "Unable to validate certificate" fix.

This monday (15th) Microsoft issued a new wildcard certificate for your MSN contact list and as such you'll be unable to view your contact list until your client issues an update. Fortunately the fix is simple.

Step 1 - Go to

Step 2 - If your browser makes a fuss about this (Firefox will) then add an exception when prompted and you'll be greeted with a Directory Denied error. Don't worry this is normal.

Step 3 - Click on the Favicon or the Padlock if it's showing and view the certificate

Step 4 - Confirm that the issue date is 15th of November 2010

Step 5 - Under the Details tab, export the certificate to a file and save it.

Step 6 - Rename the exported file "" and replace your old certificate with it. You'll find the certificate in one of the following directories:

Windows - %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\.purple\certificates\x509\tls_peers\

- /home/username/.purple/certificates/x509/tls_peers

At the moment in time I'm unaware of a Mac OS X fix or even that Adium is affected. I'll edit this post once I know more

Update 20/11/2010 - As of the time of writing aMSN and Empathy are unaffected so any Linux users having troubles getting the certificate to take have another option.