A whole batch of good new stuff – Part 1: Browsers

I spend an awful lot of time on line so I’m always keen to find ways to make it a more productive and enjoyable time.

In the past few weeks and days there have been some interesting new versions of some of the major web browsers released, I’ve been playing with them to see how they improve on the previous versions.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.

IE 7 Release Candidate 1 is out. This is (probably) the last test version of Microsoft’s new web browser before it is fully released to the public before the end of this year. From a web developers point of view the best thing about Seven is the fact that it’s support for web standards is much better. The CSS support is almost as good as that in Firebox. There are a few things that would have been nice that aren’t there; some of the pseudo elements for example, but the IE team have done a bloody good job.

From a user’s point of view Seven is chock full of goodies! IE finally gets tabbed browsing. I remember when I first used Opera (version 4 I think) being really impressed at how much tidier it was to have all your open pages in one tabbed browser window, instead of having lots of instances of the browser across the desktop.
IE 7 is more secure than it’s predecessors and has a built in phishingfilter. It has a simplified user interface with less frequently used functions moved into sub-menus leaving more screen area for browsing web sites, which is after all what most people want to do with a browser. They’ve also added an RSS feed reader; Chris Wilson, Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft said at @media 2006 that this was the feature he was most excited about. Certainly quickly flicking through your RSS feeds is much quicker than re-visiting sites to see if they have any new content of interest, Microsoft clearly that this type of Internet usage will reach mainstream users.

Firefox 2

I really like the Firefox browser, infarct it’s my browser of choice. I only use another browser if I’m testing a site, or I’m on a (badly written) site that refuses to play nice with Firefox. For version 2 (which again is a release candidate at the moment) the firefox team have made a few subtle changes. They’ve tidied up the UI and tweaked things like the “Add-ons manager”. Nice new features include the ability to resume your browsing sessions (so you can pick up where you left off) and enhanced search capabilities. Firefox will suggest search terms as you type when you use the built in search box in conjunction with Google, Yahoo or Ask.

The most important new feature from my point of view is the built in spell checker. Bang goes my last excuse for poor spelling.

One of the nice things about firefox is the vast number of add-ons that can be downloaded to enhance the functionality of the software. For example I use a number of developer tools for firefox to help me in my job. If you have a number of extensions you use already use, you may find that they wont work with version 2. This is simply because extensions are set to work up to a certain version of firefox. This extension allows you make all your extensions think they are compatible with the latest version of Firefox, which is very useful indeed.

Opera 9.02

Those Opera boys are back with another version of their browser and I really like it. Of course it has a tabbed interface, but now you get a little preview screen shot when you hover over a tab which is a really nice touch. There are far too many features to list them all here; new in this release is a bit torrent down loader which I think is a nice touch.

Flock

Like Firefox, Flock uses the Mozilla rendering engine (so it displays pages in more or less the same way). In fact it looks very, very similar to Firefox. Flock tries to position itself as

“an amazing new web browser that makes it easier to share media and connect to other people on line. Share photos, automatically stay up-to-date with new content from your favorite sites, and search the Web with the most advanced Search Toolbar available today.”

it is pretty good. I started using it because it has built in integration with wordpress and flickr. so I can write my blog posts in flock (and spell check them) before uploading them. However, now that firefox has a spell checker this isn’t such a compelling reason to use Flock. I have to admit, I haven’t used flock as much as perhaps I should have. I thought it was a bit of a novelty browser, but on closer inspection it would appear that many of the extensions for Firefox are also available for Flock which makes it a much more interesting proposition.

A change of theme

I decided it was time for a change of theme. I know I’ve only had the blog going for a couple of months, but I’ve not been entirely happy with the look of the site since the word go.

The old “Almost Spring” theme was OK but not quite what I was after. The new three column layout is based on Fluidity3c 1.0 by Kaushal Sheth. The only real change I’ve made so far is to the header image, and replaced the <h1> in the header with an image.

I still need to tidy up the lists in the side bars for some reason the list items are squashed on the left hand side, so that needs sorting. But overall I’m much, much happier with the site’s look.

Sam is off for a walk…

A good friend of mine Sam is off to walk the great wall of china in a couple of days.

As well as getting some much needed excersize he’ll be raising a good sum of money for whizz-kidz. I’ll be adding my sponsorship on payday.
Sam’s organisational skills are about as good as mine, so five days before the trip there’s still an awful lot of preparation to do; from the sounds of things he’s had fun and games getting the equipment he needs up together.

He’s a keen photographer, so I’m expecting lot’s of good pictures to appear on his blog as the trip progresses.

Good luck Sam!

@media 2007 announced!

Having thoroughly enjoyed @media 2006 a couple of months back, I was excited to receive an email today announcing @media 2007! And this time there are three conferences to choose from: San Francisco, Hong Kong or London

If you are involved in the web design / development industry and you are near one of the three venues, then I seriously recommend you book yourself a place when the tickets are released.

Some of My Highlights from the 2006 event included winning a book from Jeremy Keith in his session, Robin Christopherson‘s session on accessability and Chris Wilson‘s talk on IE7. But really, every session was excellent. I can’t wait to go next year. Now all I need to do is persuade the boss that I should go to San Fran.

Fancy calling a car dealership “Mark”

Following on from a thread on the sitepoint forums I decided to see if “myName.com” was available.

It turns out it isn’t. MarkFord.com is registered to a Ford dealer in the US of A. This is a downside to having the surname Ford, the only other one I can think of is people pronouncing it “Fouwd”.

Woah! this is a bit spooky!! I just looked up markjford.com; it’s not being used at the moment, but it’s registered to another Mark Ford in the same town as me! I didn’t realise my name was that common.

Hype 2.0

There is a huge buzz in the web community at the moment about “web 2.0″.

Web 2.0 is the term applied by some people to products of the recent trend for developing web applications using technologies like XML & AJAX, providing “social networks” – where people are able to interact with each other and manipulate or personalise the content of a website. If it sounds like waffle, that’s because it is. Web 2.0 is, as I suspected from the first time I heard the term is the emperor’s new clothes.

OK, that’s maybe a little strong, but there’s nothing new in web 2.0, it’s evolutionary not revolutionary. The technologies that are being used (xhtml, xml, the DOM even AJAX, or at least it’s component parts) have been around for years, they may just have come of age – but jumping up and down and shouting “this is all new” simply isn’t true.

All of that said, these are still exciting times for the internet. There seems to be renewed vigor in the web dev community, and some of the new apps coming out are really very useful. I use del.icio.us for bookmarks, I’m starting to use flickr and stumbleupon can be good for killing a bit of time. There’s Basecamp for getting organised and the big players like google and yahoo are opening up APIs for some of their products and providing AJAX frameworks to help speed up development.

So, use the term web 2.0 if you must to secure your VC backing but lets not kid ourselves, it’s just a vacuous buzz word.

I love the technology, but I hate the hype

This blogging lark is hard work

I started my blog just over a month ago now.

Ever since then I have been working on an article about using lists for form layout, and it’s still not quite ready; most of the content is there, but it lacks a certain finesse. It is extremely frustrating that describing the system I’ve devised should be so difficult. It’s not like it’s a huge system that takes a lot of time to implement.

The biggest problem I’ve found with writing posts is getting the length right. In other words, not rambling on – but at the same time writing enough to make it worth somebody’s time to read the post. A big factor with any project, particularly one like this blog which has to take a low priority is time. At the moment I’m juggling a lot of different things. For example;

  • The Day Job
  • Being a Dad
  • Trying to be supportive husband to an expectant wife
  • Chasing a couple of private clients for instructions
  • Trying to find time to work on projects for said clients
  • Decorating in preparation for moving daughter to a new bedroom prior to babies arrival
  • Watching season 3 of 24 on DVD(!)

There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Still, I’m going to persevere. So watch this space, really interesting and informative stuff coming soon(ish).