Yesterday The Verge posted an article about how mobile web browsers were completely broken and how poor the overall user experience was on mobile. (View the article here.)

I agree that it’s broken. It is increasingly frustrating to view websites on mobile, which is disappointing since so many websites now have a mobile designโ€”which is supposed to make viewing easier.

But the most glaring problem was demonstrated right on The Verge’s page: Overwhelming banner ads! Those are one of the biggest problem with mobile websites today.

Mobile banner ads are jumpy, jittery, and loaded with trick javascripts that explode like a land mine when you accidentally tap them. I scrolled through a total of three large ads in the article, which swallowed up the screen and disrupted the flow of my reading. Plus there was a page overlay beckoning me to share the article, which gave me an even smaller viewing area.

George Takei, one of the most popular and influential celebrities on social media, is also one of the worst offenders. All day long, he posts linkbait articles for strange sites (Diply? What the fuck is Diply?), which are bogged down by banner ads. Worse yet, their paper thin content is spread out over 5 pages, which you have to keep clicking on “Next” just to keep reading and keep seeing more ads on another page.

The mobile web is broken, but I don’t think it’s because the technology is poor. Browsers like Safari and Chrome give me a smooth, reliable experience on my phone. Instead, I think the biggest problem is this shitty web design and banner ad overload that has become the norm these days.

All trends come and go eventually, so I’m hoping that good, clean web design becomes popular again. (How did it ever go out of style anyway?)

In this fast paced technological world, I realize people don’t have time to pay attention to minor things like e-mail etiquette or privacy. But there is one extremely valuable feature that is built into all e-mail programs which I think we should be aware of: the BCC field.

BCC stands for “Blind Carbon Copy” and this handy little box enables you to send e-mail to everyone in your address book while hiding their identity and e-mail address.

As a general rule, people don’t like mass forwarded e-mails anyway. Let’s establish that right now. They should be sent sparingly and only when you have something so important that it must go out immediately to everyone.

So when you do decide a topic warrants a mass e-mail, please for the love of God use your BCC field. Your friends will appreciate not having their e-mail harvested out in a message that may be recycled hundreds or thousands of times, each time with their address in it.

The only exception to this rule are work related e-mails that go out to a small team, in which case obviously their addresses should be shown so everyone knows who is in the loop.

This public service announcement has been brought to you by Nathan Exposed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Google is about to launch the first public beta of its new browser, called Chrome.

Here are some of the key features Chrome brings to the table:

Stability

Even the strongest of browsers will crash if one of the open pages has something wrong with it. Heavy graphics, faulty javascript files, large video files, etc. Browsers, as they exist in their current form, depend on all components to work harmoniously. If something isn’t working right, it can take down the whole ship.

Google has split all of these components up so they load independently. If one object is hanging, the others will still load. Even though Firefox 3 is a very stable browser, I will admit the idea of having everything independent is a better idea.

Tabbed Browsing

The ability to open multiple websites in separate tabs has been around for years. But the average web user still does not understand how they work, why they work, or why they matter. That’s because you have your browser buttons, address bar, and all that stuff at the top, and tabs are hidden below them, where many people don’t even pay attention to them.

Google splits the tabs up at the very top so they look like real folder tabs, the way they should. I think this simple aesthetic feature will be much easier for people to grasp so they can thumb through multiple pages just like they would in their filing cabinet.

Further more, Chrome handles all tabs independently. If one page crashes, only the tab is affected. The other open pages remain stable. Niiiice.

More Compatible with More Websites

Google keeps updated caches of millions, billions, trillions of websites. This is one advantage nobody has, not even Microsoft. They have the whole internet in their pocket. So they can send out a spider to all these sites and see which ones their browser tested poorly on and why. Then they can take this data, look for patterns, and squash the bug quickly.

Smarter Search

The address bar was made for typing addresses. But the public has spoken and just about every person I know searches for keywords instead of typing in direct web URL’s. Google knows this, understands this, and is willing to go along with what people want.

The address bar is now called Omnibox and you can use it for a direct website address or use it to search. As soon as you start typing in the bar, Google will start searching the web to try and guess what you are looking for. It then makes suggestions, or if it gets a match, will show you the exact page you’re looking for.

Other browsers has been able to do this using plug-ins, but Google is the first to combine the search bar and the address bar in a way that works best for the average user.

Privacy Mode (A.K.A. “Porn Mode”)

Want to look at a site but don’t want it to be logged in your history or cookies? You can now turn on Privacy mode and Google will dump the session when you close the tab. Google uses the example of shopping for a surprise gift, but many people are jokingly referring to this as the mode for looking up porn.

Security

All browsers strive for security, and most modern browsers do a pretty good job of protecting its users. But once again, Google has the resources to stay on top of dangerous websites faster than anyone else. Because they basically power internet search, they will be the first to know about a site that can put you at risk if you visit it. As a result, they can warn you before you enter the site and block anything that might be hazardous. And I must admit, I don’t see any way for other web browsers to beat Google in this arena. Only Google has the resources to monitor the web this closely.

That concludes my long, geeky introduction to Chrome. The browser will be available to test on September 2, for Windows only right now. Thankfully I have a copy of Windows XP to try it out on. And a version for Mac and Linux are promised in the near future (as we would expect).

(Screenshot found on Google Blogoscoped)

Almost a year ago, I wrote the post Geek Speak with Eudora, discussing news that the Eudora e-mail program was going to be re-built using code from Mozilla’s Thunderbird program.

I was really excited about the news because I used to love Eudora back in the day. And Thunderbird is a painfully under appreciated piece of work. It has many great and useful features, all for free. So the possibility of Eudora combined with Thunderbird sounded perfect.

Well it doesn’t look like much has happened since then with the project. BUT… right around that time, it was announced that Thunderbird was no longer going to be developed. Sad news. It was unfortunate that Thunderbird had not gained the same momentum that Firefox did.

In 2008, Thunderbird was given new life when Mozilla announced the Mozilla Messaging project. They now have a team giving Thunderbird the care and attention that it deserves. Their goal is to re-think e-mail programs in the same way they re-thought the browsing experience with Firefox. I really think it’s going to stick this time.

I’ve been using developer versions of Thunderbird 3 for a few months now, and I’m in love. It is my favorite e-mail program. Lightweight and fast loading, but also robust and full of great features. I discover something new it can do almost daily.

Like Firefox 3, Thunderbird 3 now matches the look of your operating system. The search engine is lightning fast (something Thunderbird 2 was really weak with). It also has tabbed browsing, which has mysteriously stopped working in the latest release, but I’m sure it’s a bug they are working on. When you’re using test versions of a program, expect bugs.

Point being, Thunderbird 3 has won me over in the features department, and I know the final release will be even better. I’m happy that Thunderbird isn’t dead after all. Maybe someday it will make a dent in the e-mail market the way Firefox has in the browser market.

The Netflix Player

May 20, 2008 / Filed in Technology / 4 Comments

I’m not one to make impulse buys. But today I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered a Netflix Player. This ugly little black box connects to your TV and streams video from your Netflix Queue. It can stream wirelessly through your network or you can connect it to your modem.

There is a catch… The only movies available are the ones Netflix has added to their Watch Now section. Many new releases are not yet available and selection is somewhat limited.

But time after time, Netflix has impressed me and I know they are going to be adding a great deal of content in the coming months. So I’m really looking forward to it.

If you’re already a Netflix customer, you’ve probably noticed the option to watch some movies and TV shows instantly on your computer. Anything that’s available there is available through this. There are no additional monthly fees and you can still get DVD’s in the mail.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. Anybody else buying this?

Traitor!

Apr 8, 2008 / Filed in Humor, Technology / 4 Comments

It’s blasphemy, I tell you!

Tonight I installed Windows on my Mac. It doesn’t even look right when I type it.

Here’s how it happened…

When I quit my job last year and started my full time web design company, I knew I would need a PC to check my work on. I think it’s always wise to make sure your sites look good in all web browsers and across all computers. So before I left, I asked if I could take one of their old PC’s with me that was just sitting in the closet. They said it was fine.

I have to admit, that old PC has really helped me out this past year. True, it’s running Windows 98, it uses a floppy disk drive, it doesn’t recognize the mouse, and it smells like weed. Yes, weed. Marijuana. I’ve never smoked it, but I know what it smells like. Oh, and did I mention it wouldn’t connect to my wireless network so it doesn’t have internet access?

But hey, it was free. I would use a USB drive and port data back and forth from my Mac, checking out my work. It got the job done and I was able to make sure my work looked good before presenting it to clients. It was surprisingly zippy for only having 32MB of RAM (yes, you read that correctly). I think that 98 was the last good version of Windows. I truly do.

Anyhoo, my needs have outgrown the little weed machine. I needed a fully functional, modern copy of Windows. So I bought Windows XP off eBay (because Vista is shitacious!) and I installed it on my Mac.

The sad thing is that Windows runs better on a Mac than I’ve ever seen it run on a PC. Imagine that.

So there you have it. I’ve whored out my Mac to Microsoft. Are you happy now? ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re a Mac user, you probably know that every password you use in any program on your computer is saved to the Keychain. This utility works universally throughout the system, keeping all over your personal information secure. The Keychain also saves things like your contact information, so you can Auto-fill it with web forms.

The problem I’ve run into is that Safari and Firefox don’t have a way to share this information. I switch back and forth between them for various reasons. But it can get irritating when I have my saved information in one browser, then have to remember it again for the other one.

Well, there’s a cure. A program called 1Password works with your computer’s Keychain to keep all of your information in one place, and the software is password protected for extra security.

It’s actually pretty useful. In addition to keeping all your passwords in one place, it also has advanced phishing tools to alert you if you stumble upon a fake website (which is especially common with eBay and Paypal). If the site’s web address does not match up with the exact address you have on file, the program will refuse to Auto-fill your password. Pretty cool.

Best of all, when I save my information in Safari, I can re-use it in Firefox, and vice versa. The software is compatible with other browsers too, like Camino, OmniWeb, and even the RSS program NetNewsWire.

1Password costs $30 to buy, but here’s a link to a special page where you can sign up for a free user license. They are getting ready to roll out a new version, so they are giving away the current one since it will soon be old news. Not a bad marketing idea. I tried it myself and it’s legitimate.

Let me know if you try it and what you think. So far, I love it.

Is this vindictive?

Oct 11, 2007 / Filed in Technology / 5 Comments

I bought a set of 9 used DVD’s on eBay for the bargain price of $64.00. They arrived today and they are ALL pirated copies! They probably cost like 50 cents to make.

I wrote the seller a scathing e-mail telling him that he had 24 hours to send me a full refund via Paypal, otherwise I was having him shut down on eBay, and also having his account suspended on Paypal. They have very strict policies on pirated DVD’s and if they caught wind of this, he would be in deep shit.

The more I think about it, the more it makes me angry that this guy thought he could rip me off. I’m thinking about reporting him anyway, even if he does provide the refund. Is that vindictive? It feels kind of cruel, but what he’s doing just seems shitty and I don’t want it to happen to other honest, paying customers.

The odd thing about it is that he’s never had one negative comment left on his profile. I wonder how he’s kept so many people happy? Well the joyride ends here.

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for the advice. One friend actually advised me to report him to the FBI. I guess that would be valid. DVD’s do have an FBI warning at the beginning, and this is a classic case of bootlegging.

I decided the FBI idea was a bit extreme, even though it would be fair. So I reviewed eBay’s guidelines and found out he’d violated three of them. I took the proper procedure and reported each violation, so now it’s in eBay’s hands.

Even though he had it coming, I still hated being the one to do it. I don’t know how strict eBay is or what they will do about it, but that’s their problem now.

Geek Speak with Eudora

Sep 12, 2007 / Filed in Technology / 4 Comments

Does anybody remember Eudora? I loved that program. So lightweight, so uncomplicated. It was a program for reading and writing e-mail. That’s it. You could have 4,000 messages in your mailbox and the program still launched in seconds. I loved it.

Well the days of Eudora are long gone, but it’s currently being re-invented using the code structure of Mozilla Thunderbird. Not a bad idea. If you recall, the once popular Netscape was headed to the graveyard when it was given fresh life by Mozilla Firefox. In just a few short years, Firefox has managed to win over thousands of web users.

Maybe Eudora will get new life too. I really like Thunderbird. It’s my mail program of choice, actually. If I could combine the features that I loved about Eudora with Thunderbird, that would be pure Heaven to me.

We’ll see where this goes. It’s still in the early beta stages, under the codename Penelope. If you didn’t know, a program always has a codename before it is finalized.

In the mean time, I’ve customized the new mail sound in Thunderbird to play the classic Eudora mail sound. It’s such a happy tune. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have a love/hate relationship with OSX’s Mail program. I mostly use Thunderbird, but I do have one e-mail account that I keep in Mail, and use daily.

Anyone who uses Mail over an extended period of time will probably notice how painfully slow the program becomes.

Have you noticed it? Come on, I know you have… You launch the program and it takes years for the thing to get itself in check. Once it does, everything is fine.

Well I read this article with a really quick fix to speed up Mail. It’s very easy and Mail was noticeably faster as soon as I did this.

Just FYI. ๐Ÿ™‚

About Nathan

I'm a happily married gay man, writing about my life as a new father and sharing our adventures with a side of snark.
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