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We live in litigious times, so I should say that content reflects only my opinions!

Saturday February 1 2003

For the one person in the world who hasn't seen it...

The BBC website is a corker. The link I've put here is to the news site, which I find better than both Ananova and Yahoo (UK version) - although both of those do have their various plus points. I find a news site is a really good way of checking out what's afoot (no sh*t, Sherlock) because of course it's not necessary to sit through anything you're not interested in.

Quite why I look at several of these sites is what I'm working on understanding; I think it must be an obsessive/compulsive disorder. Then again, maybe I just like news.


Posted at 2:18 pm by Jim Woods



Thursday January 30 2003

A night at the Opera, by the look of it

I've re-edited my earlier post concerning Opera for grammar and sense. I was carried away by a few different ideas when I wrote it, and needed to go back and make sure I'd made my point clearly amongst it all.

I reserve the right to revise entries anyway. I'd hardly bother in general, but if I see that my written English has suffered from haste (as it did earlier) or I discover that I made a factual error I'll revise 'em. I add links sometimes. Just to put you in the picture.

At any rate, one thing has occurred to me which I should have realized and said earlier on. Over the years that I've used Opera (on and off) and watched it's progress it has turned from a funky little shareware product into a commercial try-before-you-buy one. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. Support is now far more fully provided, and there are a lot more users to be taken care of. So maybe in the light of this evolution the risen cost is to be expected. Fair enough. My comments about value for money remain cogent and valid though. And here's the BIG THING. To compete with IE and Mozilla, to all intents and purposes free software and undeniably both pretty effective tools overall, Opera has to blow them out of the water. It has to make you want to pay for something better when you really don't have to. And I'm afraid it doesn't.

Purely my opinion, of course, but I use a browser for hours most days and I do have a good idea where they're at.


Posted at 10:45 pm by Jim Woods




Lots. Things, look. Lots of things. I touched on them.

Send me feedback. Do it with my non-spam-magnet proper email address if you have it, as my friends do. Because I covered a lot of ground in the last post before my head got sore and I needed to rush to The Music Box and play the guitar and swap jokes with the guys. Later on I'll be well up for talking about free software, and what you think is worth the money and what's not, and anything else really. I think at some point I'll write more on the subject of Windows and privacy and security and copying things and so on, for example.

There'll also be a hefty conscious attempt to get this site going with more feedback and discussion. I write much better than I program. I am no aspiring HTML wizard, I just like to rap and spread ideas and recommendations and warnings. I do this all the time. Sometimes I do it on the web, here. When I do it on the web I am in a webby frame of mind and I talk about the web a lot. In real like I talk about music a lot, and the web not a lot. That's where I'm coming from. I hope that you like the way in which I tackle the online world, which is as a tinkerer with computers but not a true geek. I hope that I cover a good range of nothing-to-do-with-computers stuff too. Read my archives, darling. Try to tell me it's not true. And I'll try hard to write more in future. More opinion stuff. Less terse link distribution. More rant. I enjoy it, and I hope that someone else does too. Let me know.

One more thing. As I said, I write much better than I program or do web design. I had a webcam for a little recently, but there were big probs with reliability and I took it down. There are categories assigned to these entries. I mean, I'm mad and so they're pretty academic, but they're there and I could have implemented them if I could have understood how properly. But now, what the hey. I got the good old search up and running, and you can use that to find anything on this site. Google is how I generally look for stuff, and most people do that or use another similar search engine. So the nice FreeFind search here should be a friendly and useful.

Apart from the odd special page or some photographs, I think that in future the entries should be the purpose of the site. I'll let the bells-and-whistlers do the rest elsewhere, and when I like what I see there I'll tell you lot here.

I'll be back...


Posted at 3:51 pm by Jim Woods




New Opera version 7.0 released

The latest version of the Opera browser is now available for download. Get it here. If you can bear a little window with ads in it being permanently displayed, it's free. If you want to be able to nobble this but good, 39 of your feelthy Yankee dollars will have to be paid.

Rant coming on. The pressure builds. No, it's no good. Must fight it. Strange new feelings. !!! Rant pressure has exceeded safety limit !!!

And we're in...

I like Opera. I really like that it isn't a Microsoft product, with the hassle that can entail, and I like that it's a lot smaller than Mozilla (or Netscape or whatever the latest overlay for the Gecko renderer is). I don't like that it has a mess for an interface - in my opinion at least - but I do like the strict adherence to web standards. Because I'm a bloody hippie. Also because I am a hippie (albeit with no hair rather than long hair) I like that it is the underdog and that it is really trying to give us another alternative. After all, we use a browser as our main and arguably most involving interface to the WWW - a place in which I spend a fair amount of time, and I'm hardly alone in this.

Want to know what I don't like? Go on you tarts, you know you do.

I don't like that I have to pay for it AGAIN. Yep. I bought version 6.0 (I think it was) for 39 dollars. I did this because I thought it was worth it. I ended up not using it, because for me it just wasn't the best thing. In fact of the three "major" browsers it was the third best thing.

But your mileage may well vary. I'll willingly pay for software that's worth having, although my regulars will know by now that I'm ardent about free software and use it almost exclusively. Stuff I have paid for in the past has never asked for more money for updates. Had it done so, I'd have weighed it up with much more care even than I did. Okay, I know it's tough for a little company such as Opera in a world where noone much really expects to pay for their software. I also know that fully commercial software requires one to re-buy it when you want a newer version. Fine for businesses where it's a legitimate tax-deductible expense, much less so for me and, I imagine, most of you.

Where did your software come from?

(1)

It's commercial software, and it came with the PC. Works or whatever, and of course almost certainly Windows itself. You paid for it when you bought the hardware of course, but you hardly ever buy a complete system without getting something on it to run. And although you joke about Windows with the rest of us, you realize that in the real world you'll be using it most or all of the time. You're no more idealistic than you should be, so Linux is going to have to be a lot more mainstream before you'll go there. So you pay for your Microsoft software at some point. And you're almost certainly making use of it to read this. And you don't expect that you'll have to pay more for it, except perhaps in time and sweat, until - and if - you upgrade the whole operating system.

(2)

You copied it off your friends; it's illegal, and morally wrong, but it sure ain't unusual. It's your conscience.

(3)

You downloaded it as shareware and just never really got around to registering it, or live with the reminders to do so if any. Or you DID register it - and good for you - and you will be eligible for future updates. Or at least a hefty discount on them to reward your honesty and loyalty.

(4)

Or it is just free software. There's a lot. And plenty is really good. You may buy games here and there, but you pretty much certainly don't pay for applications, at least outside the workplace.

That's the state of the (home personal) software market these days. That's where Opera is looking for sales. So what are they selling?

Adherence to strict WWW standards. Good. That's great, but it's a Microsoft world people. Even though arguably it shouldn't be. And the upshot is that a lot of stuff you do on the web really gets difficult, or sometimes impossible, if you don't use Internet Explorer and therefore Microsoft's de facto "standards". And I hate to say it but the ol' IE rocks, if not hard then at least pretty damn tumescent. There is great strength in numbers. And the cost of buying IE is, well, nothing financial - assuming that you're running Windows or MacOS, which most are. It's got a lot of security holes it seems, but these are pretty seldom actually exploited. You can painlessly use it, and for free. Or there's Mozilla. It's now very good, and it's free.

There are other good things about Opera. It's small and quick. These are very good attributes for software software to possess. One up for Opera there.

It doesn't have a significant degree of integration with Windows. You may like this, you may not. It's probably better that way, in my opinion. More secure. Less hassle. Bug fixes to the browser won't risk affecting the basic stability of your setup as they potentially could with IE.

It has some neat stuff. It now readies itself for use with multimedia PCs as part of convergence in the home entertainment field. I love all that as you know, but it'll be a while before I really need all that stuff, and that goes for the overwhelming majority of people. Cutting edge is cool. But most of us don't live there. It's expensive. I see that home cinema amps are beginning to feature Ethernet and USB at the top end of the market. But when are you going to have one sat there with your home entertainment gear? Quite. When it's cheap, years from now, maybe never. For now, never really mind that whole shooting match.

Opera predicts where you'll want to go next, if you like. Then it preloads those pages. If it guesses correctly things speed up - a lot if you're on dialup - and you may well like this. The more predictable you are, the more you'll benefit. But the more your face will be rubbed in your predictability. Most people probably won't like that.

The mail client is greatly improved. I still think that use of a separate client such as Pegasus is a better way to go though. And most people use the appalling Outlook Express after all, since it's familiar and ubiquitous. Again, you may or may not care.

There's other minor good things and changes to the (I think unattractive) interface. Have a look. Try it, ads and all. I'd genuinely hate to put you off. The more alternative browsers the better. The more choice in anything the better, according to the consumerist non-Buddhist world.

I feel that I could go on at some length, but I tire and I'm sure you will too. I'll summarise.

I bought Opera. I don't regret that. It has plenty of good qualities. But for me, there's better stuff. I use that better stuff. MyIE2, and therefore the Microsoft IE 6.0 engine too. I'm open-minded and would cheerfully switch back to Opera in a trice if it did a better job for me. I'm not used to bloody ads, which litter the world and the web, in my browser's actual interface though. So if I used Opera in future I'd want the whole shooting match, registered to within an inch of it's life. Another nearly thirty of my English quid. Bosh. It would have to be really good. Because all of the (free) competition and Microsoft too are working to make their stuff better too, and many of them are doing well. And they don't want me to give them money. I've little money.

Opera mate, I say with some sadness, you are just too expensive a proposition in relation to what you can offer me. And I think that most people will probably think so. Congratulations, however, on a good browser. Keep it up. I'll pay close attention to your stuff in the future, and I really hope that one day people will stick to the standards for the web designed to facilitate communication rather than those designed to simply make money. But don't, please, reward my several years of persevering in using your product against some odds by asking me to pay a total of more than fifty quid to keep up with your progress. Not these days. I'm sorry, I don't have to. I'm a shopper around.


Posted at 2:41 pm by Jim Woods




Blog changes

Blog, the excellent free software which I use to create this site, is being readied for a forthcoming release which will tidy up the interface somewhat and fix a few bugs in the toolbar(s). In other words, all the issues which prevent this package being elected god-emperor of the universe in perpetuity...

There's a button prominently displayed on the right which will take you to the Blog site.


Posted at 1:58 pm by Jim Woods



Tuesday January 28 2003

Jazz

You need more jazz, you know you do. Well here's where to get it: The Bullingdon Arms, Cowley Road, Oxford every Tuesday from 9pm 'til midnight. It's very good, and so is having a full-on 24-hour Tesco supermarket to dive into (twenty yards away) when it's finished. So get on down, or prove yourself (perish the thought) a fan of some inferior thing...

If you live abroad you're excused.

Okay Howard?


Posted at 1:59 pm by Jim Woods




Cam stuff

Well, as my somewhat irritable post yesterday will have illustrated, running the webcam I have here is proving fairly injurious to my already rather hit and miss system. Consequently I am going to remove the brute. Given the pleasure I derive from watching webcams I'm not turning my back on the whole thing though. I'm looking at implementing a script which will allow me to have a page showing feeds from some of my favourite cams. I've found a suitable script, and I'll be configuring it and getting it up and running over the next few days.


Posted at 12:03 pm by Jim Woods



Monday January 27 2003

The Merry Wives of Windsor

I've no idea why I typed that.

Anyway, I had forgotten the joys of having my LG webcam hooked up. My PC running like an unstable treacle-creature from the planet arse, otherwise well-behaved applications becoming educationally subnormal, and it goes on. Ever noticed how some software just NEVER works as it should, and causes everything else to become flaky too? Well, given that this sh*t-list obviously relates to my own particular hardware and operating system, here are some gems:

I'm running 98 (not SE) with all the relevant updates, fixes and patches and IE 6.

My main board is a Jetway, right-hand man of Satan, 667 AS/PRO with a Duron 850.

Send me your money and I'll make improvements...

I digress.

Perpetrators of the following - you stand charged.

LG USB 35 camera - a star crasher as mentioned above. Takes whole system with it, public-spiritedly. I, an incompetent, rash and often drunk programmer, have written better code in snow with my willy. Plain old-fashioned wrong. And no joke under XP either as I recall. Not that much is.

Windows Media Player. More like Windows media crasher. Seems more of a codec thing than a player thing, as using other players is by no means reliable either. WMV files seem to really annoy everything. Possibly I am being harsh, as Jetway, right-hand man of Satan, also manufactured my graphics card. Still, all five Tomb Raiders run fine so.....

Jetway/Nvidia graphics drivers on my Vanta LT. Gentleman, give me one way of accessing overlay colour controls and tell they may not function on my particular card. I could live with that. Don't give me three inaccessible lots of controls none of which work and tell me it's the card. Windows Media Player gets them to work. It just doesn't do much else. Jetway - don't piss on my shoes and tell me it's raining. Again. I live in the UK. I know it's raining.

Windows Update. Don't keep telling me to download the Customer Service Pack and then when I do half-install it, feck up some directories, and offer as a solution the opportunity to keep downloading this "fix" until I have a stroke or get on a plane to Seattle with a gun.

I'm off to delete a load of stuff and have a lie down.


Posted at 10:43 pm by Jim Woods




Agoraquest

What we have here is "The only place for the Sony Enthusiast". It's an unofficial site, but it abounds in handy stuff.


Posted at 12:29 am by Jim Woods



Sunday January 26 2003

Asia Grace

This is a new book of photographs (rather stonking ones) taken around Asia by Kevin Kelly. At this site it's possible to preview all the pics and order prints - or indeed the book. Highly recommended.


Posted at 4:28 pm by Jim Woods





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