Category Archives: Software

Google Chrome, Faster Than A Speeding Potato

Over the years, my taste or preference for web browsers has changed as different software companies have released bigger better versions of their browser. In the last 15 years I’ve used more than half a dozen different web browsers and countless versions therein, flip flopping from one to another as they improved but settling on Firefox as my goto guy for the majority of that time.

Like the majority of internet users, my web browser journey started with Internet Explorer from Microsoft in mid 1990’s when it was back at version 4. At the time, I wasn’t aware there were competing products and used it because it came pre-packaged with Windows. My disdain for Internet Explorer began at university, where I began learning about web development and soon realised that its lack of compatibility for web standards was the bain of the internet. Couple an ever growing frustration for needing to apply ‘hacks’ to the web development process with a history of security issues which have plagued the product even to this day and it was enough to begin looking else where.

Else where came in the form of Mozilla, which I have used nearly exclusively since it was released. It offered a better user experience, tabbed browsing, was far more stable than Internet Explorer, web standards compliant and came with a killer feature – a plugin architecture that third party developers could build upon. That plugin architecture for Mozilla and Firefox has been the single greatest thing about it, especially looking at it from a power user and technical users point of view. As Firefox continued to add more and more features to its stable though, the browser began to use more and more memory, was beginning to be slightly less stable and wasn’t as responsive as many users had become acustomed to.

Enter Google Chrome, built from the ground up with performance, low memory consumption, security and fault tolerance in mind – it has rapidly become a favourite among the switchers. Since the beta releases of Google Chrome, the performance of it has been like a drug – once you get a taste for it, it is hard to stop. Like any good addict, I haven’t – and have been using Chrome as my primary browser, falling back to Firefox for certain tasks and very seldom do I bother or need to open Internet Explorer.

To showcase just how fast Google Chrome is, Google have just released a Rube Goldberg inspired video:

It might not be obvious what is going on in that video at full speed, watch the making of Google Chrome Speed Test to get a full appreciation of what I mean when I say fast.

If you haven’t used Google Chrome before, I urge you to give it a try – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

WordPress Upgrade

The WordPress development team released the next major update for the popular blogging platform, version 2.9 on the 19th December 2009 – code named Carmen. With it came over 500 bug fixes and enhacements from version 2.8.6 which was the previous latest build available.

When the WordPress team release a minor revision, moving from 2.8 into the 2.9 version space I like to wait until the next point release has been made before upgrading. Normally a raft of very subtle issues will arise when it hits the community and millions of people are using it instead of only tens of thousands.

On the 4th January 2010, WordPress devlopment team released version 2.91. after going through a beta and a release candidate which included about 25 bug fixes and enhancements over the initial 2.9 release.

Instead of doing a standard upgrade, which involves me taking a databae backup, unpacking the WordPress source and uploading it – I instead opted for a completely clean installation. This time around, I still took the backup (good practice) but instead of just uploading the source code – I deleted everything first and then uploaded a fresh copy of WordPress – which mean no extraneous files laying around.

At the same time I’ve gone back to the standard WordPress theme for a short period of time and installed a raft of very popular WordPress plugins to make things run a little more smoothly. In the next few days, I’ll be moving back to my old theme and will update my own WordPress plugins to make sure they work with the latest version of WordPress.

Using WordPress via iPhone

I wanted to install the WordPress iPhone application, however since I couldn’t get my Apple iTunes Store Account to verify and work correctly – I’ve resorted to using WordPress via Safari.

While I have viewed plenty of blogs using a mobile device and was surprised how functional they were, I’d never attempted to use the WordPress administration area. When visiting the WordPress admin with an iPhone or another internet enabled mobile device, you are served the exact same version of the administration interface that you’d receive if you viewed it using a desktop computer. That might surprise a lot of people, however WordPress isn’t mobile device ready by default – you require a plugin such as WordPress Mobile Edition by Alex King. Even with that plugin enabled, it generates a mobile friendly reader experience and doesn’t provide a mobile friendly administration interface.

To my surprise however, it was quite a simple task to navigation around the WordPress administration area using Safari on the iPhone. Thanks to the convenient zooming functionality that the iPhone provides, it makes working with busier sections of the interface straight forward. While functional, it certainly isn’t the kind of user experience that you’d want to use daily – as a good amount of screen real estate is wasted and when you’re using a small screen device – every pixel counts.

As I tested out different sections of the interface, about the only thing that I noticed didn’t work ‘as expected’ was the text area used to write a blog post. By default, I enable the visual or rich editor in WordPress. Normally when you give focus to any form element that you can type into, the iPhone automatically pops up the keyboard. However, because the visual editor is a JavaScript implementation – nothing triggers the keyboard to show up. Of course, selecting the ‘HTML’ tab on the blog posting page fixes that immediately.

All and all, very impressed with how the iPhone handles complex interfaces – it certainly gives me a lot of confidence that there’d be a limited number of sites that I’d have problems with using Safari on the iPhone.

Apple iTunes Account Verification Has Poor Usability & User Experience

Earlier in the week and got frustrated by the poor usability and user experience of the signup process for an Applie iTunes Store Account. Apparently the I had not climbed over enough hurdles just yet and needed a little more practise before I could enter the iTunes Store.

After completing the creation aspect of my Apple iTunes Account on my iPhone, I was sent a verification email to finalise and activate the account. The normal procedure followed is straight forward, an email is sent with a specific link within which when clicked verifies the newly created account. No messing around with needing to have software installed or any strangeness, just click the link and you’re done.

In the case of Apple, they provided the verification email with a simple link within.  However, after clicking it on the iPhone the website informs me that it cannot verify it – but it is just a link, why not! I click the link from the desktop computer and after fumbling around for a while, click the ‘Done’ button thinking that’d do the trick but I was wrong.

As it turns out, the verification URL that is provided is a secure link (HTTPS) and not a standard link (HTTP). That is completely acceptable, in fact I’d go as far to say that I’m pleased they were using HTTPS to verify my new account. What Apple have completely failed to do, is make sure all of the different resources within that web page are all on HTTPS.

As most internet users are well aware now, if you’re viewing a secure web site over HTTPS and there are images, CSS or any other assets on the page that aren’t secured – the browser will throw up a security warning asking the user if they want to download the unsecured items.

Being a generally security conscious kind of guy, I clicked the option to only show me secured content. It turns out, that was a big mistake as there was an asset on the web page that was going to make iTunes perform the final stages of the account verification process.

I find it incredible, nearly unbelieveable that Apple would or could have such a completely crap signup process. They are one of the largest businesses in the world with a market capitalisation of some USD$40 billion and the can’t manage a smoother verification process.

All of the above rigmoral could have been avoided if they’d followed the route of virtually every other service that uses two phase signup processes and simplly verified my account when I clicked on the link instead of requiring iTunes to be involved.