ESC!Webs Blogitorials

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Augh! Fingerprints!

So the rumor mill this past week has been flooded with conjecture about the next video iPod. Sporting a touch sensitive 3 1/2" screen, the speculation is the next iPod will have a "virtual" click-wheel that appears when you touch the screen and disappears when no longer needed.

That's very cool technology ... But I hope the rumors are false.

Wha ... Why?

One word: Fingerprints.

You think iPod owners are going crazy now constantly wiping fingerprints off their glossy white portable jukeboxes? Just wait until they have to deal with a greasy circular smudge on their video iPod's screen - right in the middle of Mr. Incredible's face.

It will be a constant battle for picture clarity as they use the click wheel, wipe the fingerprints off so they can watch their video, use the click wheel again, wipe the fingerprints off again... Well, you get the idea.

My guess is that IF this rumor is true and the next video iPod does indeed sport this virtual click wheel interface, it will only be in cahoots with the 3rd Party iPod Accessories industry that Apple releases this device.

Imagine the possibilities: silicone finger tip covers and multi-colored "socks" for your fingers await!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 Out Foxed!


The time it takes for this to happen is getting shorter and shorter with each new release, and it just goes to show: You simply are not, and will never be, safe running Microsoft's Internet Explorer on your computer system. Yes, I realize this is only a beta of Internet Explorer 7 – the second in fact – but based on my personal experience as an end-user and as the person who has to support this crap when it destroys the computer systems of friends and co-workers like a cancer out of control, I can tell you that it's not gonna get better for you as a Windows user until you drop IE like the bag of steaming cow dung that it is and switch to Firefox or Opera as your main browser.

With each new release of Windows, Microsoft claims it to be the “most secure” release of Windows to date. Well, their aspirations are obviously low because it's easy to see that with each version of Windows our computers are becoming more and more vulnerable as the old code to maintain backwards compatibility remains to clog up the works.

The forthcoming Windows Vista once again claims to be the most secure version of Windows, but I already have my doubts based on what I've seen. The most critical mistake exhibited in Vista so far is that it gives the end user the ability to “always allow” installations that would otherwise require an Administrator password to run to happen without asking. Err, isn't that what's causing all the problems for Windows XP users now?

Microsoft just doesn't get it.

Unbelievably, Vista and the just discovered security flaw in IE7b2 is not what I intended to write about today. No, that was just handed to me like a birthday present to help bolster what I really wanted to write about: the “innovative new” features in IE7 that Microsoft worked so hard on in order to deliver a more pleasant browsing experience to you, their beloved end-user.

aside: At the Consumer Electronics Show, Bill Gates showed off the new Windows Vista and all of its wonderful features. Shortly after that speech, someone released a video to the Internet that overlayed Apple's OS X Tiger on top of Gates' speech to illustrate how Vista is hardly “innovative” and merely cribbed from features available in OS X since 2001. Anyway....

So let's get started highlighting some of the “new” features of IE7 – the first new release of IE in 5 years I might add – shall we?

ActiveX Opt-in: So, the main reason anyone could possibly still want to run Internet Explorer today – that is, the non-standard, proprietary ActiveX controls many older (read 'banking') web sites require -- are now going to be disabled by default. Web developers will need to keep this in mind when designing new sites and may, very likely, remove existing ActiveX controls from their sites in favor of more modern and standards compliant technologies such as AJAX. In truth that's great news for you and me as we'll enjoy a renaissance of web design (some are calling it Web 2.0) where it won't matter what browser we use, it will just work.

Fix My Settings: This one is amusing. So now IE will let you know if you've made any changes to your browser settings that would prove “dangerous” to you as you browse the web. Does that seem silly to you too? Why on earth would Microsoft EVEN ALLOW this to happen? End-users have no business making changes to their browser that might make it dangerous to their computer. In light of IE being so tightly integrated into the OS, Microsoft should hide this capability in some obscure location and require Administrators only have access to it. Firefox and Opera are, by default, secure and you don't need any silly warnings to tell you that you might be in danger. And if you want to make “behind the scenes” changes to Firefox? Well, you can – if you know what you're doing – by typing about:config in the address bar and making the changes you need. Even still, you might hoark Firefox, but you're not going to endanger your computer by making these changes.

Improved AJAX Support: I think it'd be better if they just said, “now has real AJAX support.” If you use Google's Gmail, then you're using AJAX. All that fancy stuff you can do in there while composing a message? That's AJAX. Instead of the half-baked ActiveX control version of AJAX support in previous versions, IE7 will have native AJAX support in the browser like everyone else.

Alpha Channel in PNG Images: FINALLY! Good lord but it took long enough! Designers have been waiting years ... at least 5 years or more in my case ... for Microsoft to do this. We've been stuck using transparent GIFs and JPGs for photographs. Now we can finally use the much better PNG format for our images and get transparency at the same time. Up until now, Firefox, Opera and Safari users would see transparent PNGs properly while IE users would see a “box” surrounding the image.

Extensions!: There will be hundreds and hundreds of free extensions from the developers and third parties to do cool things like; put the current weather conditions in your bookmarks bar, make a scrapbook of your favorites sites and/or clippings of those sites that you can then annotate and edit, check what blogs are writing about the page you're on, Gmail notification right in the browser, control your iTunes or Windows Media Player from within the browser and many, many, more!

Wait. Hang on here.

Now that I'm looking at the Internet Explorer 7 feature list again ... ummm ... No, I guess I was wrong. There are no extensions for IE7. But every extension I mentioned is available right now for Firefox!

Tabbed Browsing: Again, this is something smart web users have been utilizing for years. In the mean time you can always tell an Internet Explorer user by the dazed look on their face caused by the thousands of IE windows open on their screen at one time. A welcome improvement for no other reason than the poor schleps still using IE can finally see the light – plus they'll be used to the concept and be able to jump right in and take advantage of it when the drop IE7 due to security problems and switch to Firefox in 2007.

And, by the way, things like “Tab Groups” is just a fancy way to say you can bookmark your tabs together into one group. Firefox has had this since... oh, never mind.

Security Status Bar: Yeah, Firefox has had this feature since before version 1.0. In fact, it was through meeting with the Mozilla Foundation that Microsoft created this the way they did. When visiting a secure site in Firefox, the address bar will turn yellow to alert you that you're on a secure site. In addition, you'll have the standard “lock” icon and the URL of the site you're visiting should appear next to that lock.

The one thing IE7 does, however, that Firefox currently does not, is identify potential Phishing sites in the address bar with color coding. I do expect we'll see this feature in the 2.0 release of Firefox and that is due to be released BEFORE Internet Explorer 7. If you want Anti-Phishing technology for your Firefox browser right now, then I would suggest you check out the Google Safe Browsing extension from

Delete Browsing History: An easy way to cover your tracks. Again, Firefox debuted this with their alpha and beta versions of Firefox 1.5. In Firefox, click TOOLS -> CLEAR PRIVATE DATA

Simplified User Experience / Favorites Center / Advanced Printing / CSS Improvements: Check, Check, Check and Check. Oh! You misunderstand ... I've got that all in Firefox ... now.

Toolbar Search Box: Taken directly from Firefox, Opera and Apple's Safari. Been there. Done that.

RSS Feeds: Welcome to the game Microsoft! In fact, they're even using the same icon that Firefox uses.

Protected Mode / Parental Controls: Oh ... wait .. never mind. You need to be running Windows Vista to take advantage of these. That'll be another $150 please....

Cross Platform Compatibility!: Just kidding. Microsoft doesn't give a rat's ass about Macs or Linux boxes.

Well, that's just a sampling of the new features in IE7. To read the full list of “new” features or to infect your computer with install the new IE7 beta2, click on over to

aside: Keep in mind that Internet Explorer 7 is BETA software. In addition to the normal problems you might have with IE, you may experience other problems as well – remember that IE is integrated into the OS – that are a result of this being early release code. Unless you're comfortable running beta software, I would avoid this altogether.

If you want all of those features and more in a secure, stable browser for your Windows, Mac or Linux computer and you want those features now, then head on over to and download Firefox 1.5 today.

Whatever you do, Don't Click on the Blue E!