Archive for October, 2006

Thursday, October 26th 2006

Visa: What's It To Be?

The other day I spotted this rather ironic advertising poster for Visa:

Visa advertising poster.

The slogan could be translated to Enjoy every beat (or tone, to be precise).

Well, what can I say. I would be able to enjoy every beat if I could buy my music at a reasonable price.

As it is, I can’t. And if I bought my music for $1 per track, I would be able to listen to it, but hardly enjoy it.

I believe the following needs to be repeated until the music labels get it: Why would anyone want to buy a limited-use (DRM-infested), lower quality copy of a CD (wihtout the album art) when it’ll cost you as much as getting the real thing in perfect 48 kHz 44kHz/16 bit quality, which you can then rip at whatever quality you like and play on whatever digital audio player you like?

Edited for factual errors.

Tuesday, October 24th 2006

Mozilla Websites Get Facelifts

Just like last time Mozilla did a big release, addons.mozilla.org is getting a facelift.

Screenshot of addons.mozilla.org

The fact that plug-ins and search engines also are listed as add-ons indicates that they will be merged in future versions of Firefox. That’s to say, extensions, themes, search engine plug-ins and regular plug-ins will all be managed using the add-ons manager (which now in version 2 contains only themes and extensions).

The You’re firefox has been updated page has been given a similar design, so I presume they will be redesigning the main Firefox page too. A good addition they’ve made to the you-have-updated page is a link for installing spelling dictionaries. Great thinking there – a great way to promote one of the main advantages of Firefox 2 over IE7.

Update: Yeah, Firefox 2 has now been released and the main mozilla site has also had the redesign.

Monday, October 23rd 2006

Great Firefox 2 Review

Mozilla Links just posted a great (=detailed) review of Firefox 2. Some of its new features are hard to live without once you’ve got used to them…

  • Spellchecker
  • Undo closed tabs (Ctrl+Shift+T)
  • Session saving

Then it has been improved and polished in loads of ways, but those are the main addictions.

Sunday, October 22nd 2006

New Firefox Theme: Saturated

I got a bit inspired this evening and decided to create a slightly tweaked version of the original Firefox 2 theme. Here’s how it turned out:

Screenshot of Saturated, a theme for Firefox based on the original theme of Firefox 2.

This is basically what I wanted the new Firefox 2 theme to look like. I think they made it a little too pale (which was a concious decision), but thanks to the wonderful nature of Firefox I can just change it any way I like! Also, I can share my changes with anyone who wants them.

Edit: Here is the original theme for comparison:

Screenshot of the original theme of Firefox 2.

So, to all of those who think that the default Firefox 2 theme is too pale, I give you…

Saturated 1.0

Saturday, October 21st 2006

CSS3 Teasers

Some of these CSS3 previews show just how far behind Internet Explorer is when it comes to the latest and greatest in CSS3. Nice features such as HSLA colours are already being implemented by other browsers!

HSLA colours are a very nice thing indeed. Instead of defining a colour as Red, Green and Blue, web designers of the future will be able to choose Hue, Saturation and Lightness, as well as Alpha, an opacity value.

That means it will be much easier to guess-pick colours when you’re coding. Also, making a colour semitransparent will be a very nice possibility for backgrounds. (No more semitransparent 1px png graphics!)

Then we have rounded borders, which is already being used around the web, since it degrades nicely (into square corners).

Another promising feature of CSS3 is columns. Currently, only Mozilla browsers (Firefox 1.5+) support this in any way. The idea is that you will be able to set a column width as well as spacing, and the browser will calculate how many columns to fit across the screen. Alternatively, you can define how many columns you want, and the browser will adjust their width to fit the space provided. A List Apart has a very nice article on the subject.

If you’re really intersted, have a look at what the W3C are working on right now, the different modules and their specs. CSS3 is still work in progress, so only a couple of the modules are even close to the recommended status. (I.e. implement now! status.

Friday, October 20th 2006

IE7 Only Half Way There

I guess I was just a little curious to try out IE7, so I have now installed it, although I said I wouldn’t… 🙂

But before doing so I created a system restore point so that I could go back properly, if necessary. (I believe IE7 is uninstallable, restoring IE6, but I wanted to be safe – not sorry.)

To begin with, I’ve somehow got the feeling that some think we should just be kind to the IE devs and like IE7, since they are very nice people and they have worked very hard, and after all, IE7 is very much better than IE6. But I don’t buy that. In 2001, Microsoft messed up – and even five years later with IE7 they haven’t caught up with the competition on some major points.

Sure, the individuals in the IE team have worked their gluteus maximuses off to get IE into it’s current shape, and deserve credit for their work. Keep it up! But the fact remains that it is not yet on par with Firefox et al., and I believe the leadership that killed IE development back then should hear that.

Anyway, lets start with the goods.

The Goods

Internet Explorer 7 feels snappier than version 6, which is a positive surprise. I was really expecting it to feel more bloated.

They’ve done a good job in maximizing the website canvas. And the strive to maximize the canvas was probably what made them remove the menus and put those commands over to the right. There’s been a lot of whining about those changes, but frankly, I think they work quite well.

Screenshot of IE7 (Internet Explorer 7)

Tabs have been made discoverable in a very nifty way. There is always a tab visible, but without stealing a whole bar of screen space. The new tab waiting at the end is sort of cool, but I think Firefox’s button is more practical, especially if you want to open more new tabs in one go.

The Bads

I did say IE7 was quicker than IE6. Sadly, IE6 hasn’t been a benchmark for browser speed for quite a few years. So IE7 is still quite a way behind Firefox. (And that’s comparing to a Firefox installation with a ship-load of extensions.) The most annoying slowness in IE7 is when opening new tabs: Hit Ctrl+T, and there are two discrete phases until your cursor is actually sitting in the URL bar waiting for you to type. First a tab is opened in the background, saying Connecting…. (Why??) Then focus is switched to the new tab, which changes title to Welcome to Tabbed Browsing. All of this takes roughly one-mississippi, while in Firefox you get a new tab in about one-.

Having the stop and reload buttons at the right end of the URL bar does not make sense. They are both buttons that you want within quick reach if there’s to be any point in having them at all.

It beats me that you can’t rearrange the buttons as you want. (So we could move the stop and reload buttons to a more practical position, perhaps.) In 2006, you’d have thought rearranging buttons would be possible in any old browser. Even stranger is the fact that if you right click within the top toolbar, you get the alt+space menu popping up where you clicked. Makes it feel like a beta… or an alpha, by Firefox standards.

Quick Tabs is mentioned as the feature that Firefox doesn’t have. If you’re asking me, it’s cool, but not in a usable way. It’s only cool in a wow, look what you can do! kind of way. I can’t think of any situation when it would actually be quicker to use the Quick Tab feature than to navigate the tabs in the traditional ways. Even if I open loads of tabs, I don’t get the feeling that Quick Tabs actually saves me any time. But as I said, it does look cool:

Screenshot of IE7 (Internet Explorer 7) Quick Tabs feature

For some obscure reason they’ve chosen to stick the off-by-default menu under the URL bar, if and when you switch it on. It strikes me as ironic that no other software company brakes the UI design guidelines for Windows as often and as seriously as Microsoft…

Another weirdness is that the Tools command and the Tools menu contain slightly different menu items, and because of that use different accesskeys. I expected them to be identical.

While IE7 was a positive surprise when it came to speed, it was a disappointment when it came to standards. I was under the impression that the IE Team had basically fixed the CSS stuff that web devs wanted. When I checked my blog design yesterday, I realized they haven’t. Max-width for instance, which is a very useful CSS property, has not been implemented. This will probably be my main reason for letting Firefox stay in charge of my http transfers.

Firefox 2 advantages

So, if you don’t believe in the ideological reasons for sticking with Firefox, you might like to know that Firefox 2 will have some very real advantages over IE7. And it’s only days away.

I already mentioned the speed, and the rendering engine being in an entirely different league. Firefox 2 can also undo closed tabs. This, folks, is a very usable feature. Just hit Ctrl+Shift+T and you’re back at the page where your brain had a temporary glitch and made your fingers hit Ctrl+W although you didn’t really want them to. You can also find recently closed tabs on the history menu.

Firefox also has a built in spell checker for forms. This is another feature in the list of Firefox features which just work, and work very well. Incorektly spellt wordz are underlined in red, and Firefox almost always gets the first spelling suggestion right.

Then we have the Firefox extensionsphere. If you ever catch yourself thinking Oh, I wish Firefox could do such and such a thing, you can bet there’ll be an extension at addons.mozilla.org which will do exactly what you want. One-thousand-eight-hundred-and-ninety-six free extensions, just waiting for your imagination to find them.

In a me-too spirit, Microsoft have launched ieaddons.com. But if you look at what it actually contains, you’ll see that it is basically just a showcase of the toolbars and add-ons for IE6 which made people switch to Firefox in the first place…

  • Half the stuff they list is paid stuff.
  • They have a whole page of pop-up blockers, even though IE7 supposedly includes one. (And half of these cost money, too… $30 for a pop-up blocker anyone?)
  • A whole page of form-fillers… shareware, naturally
  • A whole page with bookmark managers.

Admittedly, there are a few useful things there too, but very few are as simple and pure as Firefox’s extensions.

Wait a minute… um … bookmark managers? Is that a freudian slip of the tongue from Microsoft? 🙂

The End – Finally

Finally &ndash The End

Phew! I didn’t intend for this thing to get so long… Sorry! Anyway, you get the idea: I’m sticking with Firefox, and if you’re ever planning on visiting my websites again, I hope for your eyes’ sake that you do to!

Thursday, October 19th 2006

IE7 Will Have to Wait

Since I don’t want my Swedish Windows XP to become a linguistic disaster area, I’ll wait until they release the Swedish version of IE7.

Wednesday, October 18th 2006

The Doodle Themes for Firefox 2 Out Now!

The two Doodle themes for Firefox have now been updated to work with Firefox 2. Get them here:

New Features

The two new main features that needed themeing were…

The RSS feed skin, to make reading raw RSS a nicer experience:

Screenshot Doodle Firefox 2: RSS Pretty Print

The phishing filter:

Screenshot Doodle Firefox 2: Phishing Filter

New Supported Extensions

We’ve also added support for IETab and Undo Closed Tabs:

Screenshot Doodle Firefox 2: IETab and Undo Closed Tabs

Oh, and I believe we’ve added support for Sage too.

Wednesday, October 18th 2006

Why I Will Use Firefox 2, Not Internet Explorer 7

Gervase Markham has a well-written blog post on why you should stick to Firefox as opposed to switching to IE 7.

I think he really nails it. To cut a long story short:

  1. Firefox stood up for the user when Microsoft/IE stood down.
  2. Microsoft’s only motive to produce and update IE is control over internet access.

And I’d like to make an additional point: a heterogeneous web is a healthy web. If everyone uses the same web browser, we’re all more vulnerable to virus attacks and similar stuff. It’s simple logic.

Tuesday, October 17th 2006

Sold My First Photo Today!

This evening I went to a basketball game (my first ever) with a couple of friends from my journalist class (Kajsa, Silvana, Hanna & Linda). I had decided to try out sports photo journalism, and to see if my lenses would be of any use at an indoor game.

In the end I managed to get a few decent shots. My friends encouraged me to try and sell the photos to the local paper in the city of the team that lost (Länstidningen Södertälje), so when I got home I called them up. Said I had pictures of one of their players on a stretcher. And that was that! I’m getting 800 SEK for it, about $ 110, which feels great considering I only really went for fun!

Hopefully I’ll be able to see the picture tomorrow when I’m sorting the morning newspapers at school. (I’m on duty this week!)

Edit: Due to internet bit-rot, the links here seem to have gone dead. Here is the photo I sold:

04473 - 2006-10-17 kl 19.43

Thursday, October 12th 2006

Volvo Cars is Leaking Badly: New XC70 Shots Out Too

In less than three days, photos have been published on the web of both the next Volvo V70 and the XC70 – both in what seems like production-ready state.

Spy photograph (picture) of mk II Volvo XC70

This time around the spy photos ended up at Auto Motor & Sport. The third generation of Volvo’s Cross Country will get basically the same rear as the V70, but I think it works better on this plastic-clad mud eater. That could be because of the red reflectors added below the lights, the added mouldings or the fact that I’ve had time to get used to the design.

Discussions of the leaked photos and designs can be found at VVSpy.com. Let’s just say I’m not the only one …um… sceptical … about the design of the rear.

Thursday, October 12th 2006

Doodle for Firefox 2 On The Way

With Firefox 2 just around the bend, Ogirtd and me have got cracking on updating the Doodle themes – Plastik and Classic. There are quite a few changes that need to be addressed, such as the new RSS behaviour and a few changes to the extension system.

Selection of icons from Doodle for Firefox 2.

We are also adding support for a few more extensions: FireFTP, Sage and Undo Closed Tabs.

Undo Closed Tab icon of Doodle for Firefox 2.

Might also add support for IETab. Actually, I think I’ll get to it right now. Edit: IETab is a great extension which embeds the IE rendering engine into Firefox (gasp!) for those websites which use stoneage layout techniques, etc.

IETab icon of Doodle for Firefox 2.

Update: Added the Undo Closed Tab and IETab icons.

Tuesday, October 10th 2006

New Volvo V70 Not Quite Da Bomb

I almost fell over backwards today when I saw a photo of the new (MK III) Volvo V70.

What are they thinking at Volvo? Honestly. I tend to be positive about most things they do at Volvo, but that is just plain ugly. It’s hard to put it into words &ndash however, I’ll give it a go.

The lights are (or look) even larger than those on the current V70. And that’s no small feat from the design office! And the angled/hexagonal framing of the rear windscreen is alot of things, but definately not Volvo.

I don’t get it. They made the tail of the S80 so sleek and stylish – and now this! The new V70 is an entirely different beast.

Granted, I thougth the lights of the old V70 (Mk II) looked a bit odd too, and I always thought they should have put the bottom white patch further up.

Thankfully, the new V70 looks better from the side. The tailgate is more upright than on the V50, but still slightly angled. The wheelbase has been increased by 8 cm to 284 cm, which contributes to the powerful silhouette.

These spy pictures, published by Teknikens Värld, are of such good quality that you suspect an official leak, blessed by the company leadership. And since the car is going to be presented in the spring, I get a feeling they aren’t going to be making any changes to that Picaso of a rear end.

Teknikens Värld claim there’ll be a V70 R AWD sometime around 2008/2009. Supposedly it will have a turbocharged version of the V8 currently in the S80, producing 370 bhp! I’ll believe that when I see it. Volvo just don’t take that big steps in power. (The current top-of-the-line being the S80 V8 AWD with 315 bhp.)

Update: After having stared at that white thing quite a bit I guess I could get used to it. But I’m not the only one reacting the way I did when I first saw it…

Sunday, October 8th 2006

More Good Documentaries About Bush & Co

There are some very good documentaries on what’s happening in the USA right now. I posted one a few weeks ago. Here are two more, my favourites so far.

9/11: Press for Truth is a documentary about a group of women who lost their husbands in the WTC attacks, and their fight against the official (proven) lies.

Orwell Rolls in His Grave is a revealing documentary about the US media coorporations, and how their agendas are set.

This is important stuff. If you haven’t seen these already, watch them soon. Especially if you live in the USA, and even more so if you have votes to cast in the US elections.

Loose Change, which in my eyes isn’t a documentary – more like a specumentary – has had a lot of attention lately. However, it is not one of the better 9/11 documentaries around. It speculates and there is no end of wild theories and guessing.

Saturday, October 7th 2006

Design Comparison: Volvo C30 Concept vs Volvo C30

Volvo presented the C30 Concept back in January. A week or two ago, the real C30 was presented. Just as expected, the real thing doesn’t look nearly as cool as the concept. Here’s a design comparison of the Volvo C30 Concept and the Volvo C30, with and without the optional bodykit.

Lets start off with the rear:

Volvo C30 Concept from behind.

Volvo C30 (silver) from behind.

The C30 differs from the Concept on a few, but essential points. If nothing else, Volvo made one good decision: On the production car you get a rear wiperblade! The edgy exhaust pipes of the concept have been replaced by cheaper, round ones. Volvo have also stuck a pair of hideous red reflectors on the bumper, which completetly ruins the upmarket look that I presume they are aiming for. The beautiful mesh between the pipes has also gone. Thankfully, there is a bodykit to take back some of the C30’s lost splendor!

Volvo C30 (blue) with bodykit from behind.

With the bodykit, the tacky black plastic is replaced with good-looking, painted plastic. The ugly red reflectors are replaced with sleeker, smarter ones. You also get slightly better looking CO2 outlets.

Then we have the front:

Volvo C30 Concept, front view

Volvo C30 (silver), front view.

At the front, Volvo scrapped the chunky grille overhang and replaced the sporty meshes with … guess what? Cheap(er) plastic. The progressive-looking headlights with light internal surroundings were swapped back for the S40 ones, although the cruel black eyelids were kept. That’s about as brave as it gets.

Once again, you’ll need the bodykit to spice things up a bit. Apart from adding a nice bottom lip, it gives you some nice side skirts:

Volvo C30 (blue) with bodykit, front view.

Bottom line: To do the C30 justice, you’ll need to tick the box for the bodykit! And as you can see, a set of 18-inch Atreus wheels won’t look out of place either…

Volvo C30 (blue) with bodykit, side view.

I just have to add that the patterned center console is absolutely gorgeous:

The (surf) patterned center console of Volvo C30.