The Mysterious Motorola

Remember those commercials from what seems like years ago? ‘Hello Moto’ they would say. I would respond, ‘hello, but my name isn’t Moto so I don’t really know who you’re talking to, and I don’t really care for your phones either if that’s what you are actually selling because it particularly hard to tell in some cases’. These ads were about nothing, which says a lot for the brand it was promoting: they were nobodies. Not that I really cared at that point in time, but I don’t know a single person who owned a Motorola phone.

Yet here they are—Motorola that is. Its 2009 now and Motorola have a new phone out which Verizon is going more that out of its way to promote. Sure Verizon is kind of PO’ed at the Apple and the iPhone, but still its aggressively promoting a brand which for one reason or another hasn’t actively existed for the past 5 years. The Motorola droid will be officially deployed on the Verizon network on November 6th according to Verizon today.
While 3 of the Droids four legs are the Android 2.0 Mobile OS, the final legs is one that I have never actually associated with Motorola before—Style. Yea I said it, this phone has style. It’s slim and sexy, and it’s also functional—camera, 3.7 inches of display, exchange support, Google maps with directional interface this phone has most of ‘it all.’

From a company who’s only statically achievement in its history was the flimsily built but illogically popular Razr, this phone is their first foray into the Smartphone market. Critical reception for this new phone is good, and it might turn out to be a strong competitor for those of us not rich enough to buy an iPhone and all the strings attached.

So Long Geocities…and Good Riddance

Today marked the end of an incredibly long era. Yahoo Geocities, the original free hosting site has finally been taken down. It was just 10 years ago that Geocities was the 3rd most visited site of the web (behind AOL and YAHOO!) and with it came a whole host of intolerable things that the web has since grown up from. Looking back at any geocities site (Before they all got erased) it was like looking into another time, one that the world has moved far on from This is a dedication to some of those things that we can blame on Geocities.

Under Construction Banners
It seemed like every page was under construction for eternity. It didn’t matter whether your site had been edited yesterday or hasn’t been edited in 3 years, the banner still remained—hinting at something better to come, but then never delivering. My personal favorite was the animated under construction gifs. In fact you can probably lump all dancing baloney in this category.

The Webmaster
Aka the term I will never forgive Geocities for. The popularization of it can be inextricably linked to the existence of geocities. At its beginning everyone and they’re mothers were webmasters. And thanks to them that name has stuck. So the first word that comes to mind whenever they come to ask me or my contemporaries about their email or about a computer issue is webmaster. Unfortunately nowadays webmaster sounds like someone who rules dungeons in WOW and id like to stay as far away from that stereotype as possible. If you haven’t figured I despise this name

Freedom on the Internet
Perhaps the one good thing that did come out of Geocities was the simple fact that everyone could do it. Everyone was a webmaster. It popularized the notion that everyone had a place, space and purpose on the web. There is no doubt helped the Internet accelerate to its position in society today. So for that Geocities I thank you, because without you I wouldn’t have a career. Redesign--the Good and Bad

This morning the big switchover to the new edition of began. I’m sure the CNN crew are working hard still to bring the last set of pages up to the new design (health, tech and travel are a few still in the legacy version at point of writing). But this post isn’t about what hasn’t been done; it’s about what CNN has done with its web presence.

Design and Content
The design is fairly consistent with probably CNN’s largest competitor the BBC—three columns, universal large banner and navigation bar. Content however changes the game. BBC’s homepage has three columns of news, while CNN has decided to have one column of news, then one column (notably the largest and middle) dedicated to video content. Now obviously this is because of CNN’s dedication to video content as a supplement to news, but to me this just seems wrong. The real news stories seem marginalized. Dimensionally speaking, the news story listings make up around 5% of the total page area (above the fold). This just seems like a bizarrely small area for a news website. Further stories are broken down into categories below the fold. We’ll have to see how this works for them, one article I read recently says that ‘the fold’ has no bearing on today’s internet user (
The actual news pages look fairly beautiful. I’ve always been a fan of BBC’s pages which are headed by a large image or video. CNN takes this to the next level for their best content, increasing the size of the header. Whereas in the legacy version, had videos, pictures and article on separate pages, this brings everything together really nicely.

New to this revision of is the NewsPulse section ( At first glance this looks like a fairly easy to use section. The top stories are listed, and there are more options to filter the stories. It’s a much more interactive feature than the BBC’s top stories. One note on UI, you can click on one headline to expand it, but you first have to close that headline before you can open another. The details are nice, but not at the cost of two clicks. (this has since been fixed--guess i shouldn't do a review while its still going live).

Thank you for finally integrating this into the design. That blue for the legacy version was off-putting and caused some sort of cataclysm of brand in my mind. Also that’s a really nice flash interface on the homepage. I’ve never really found a point for browsing the iReport site, and this probably wont change, but it’s cool when iReports turn up the main news.

Maybe they had this before, maybe they didn’t. Either way I signed up today to one minor nuisance: Usernames are limited to 12 characters. Anyone who knows me knows I use one username everywhere; the problem is it is 13 characters long.

The Overall
The design looks good, the news pages look good, and it seems friendly, but I’m still bugged by how small an area the latest headlines takes up—this should not be a secondary section on a NEWS site.

Droid does what iDoesnt; and what this means to the iPhone and Verizon

You may have seen over the past week or so several of the new Verizon attack ads on the TV. The target? Well originally it was AT&T, but as of this Sunday it’s been more specifically targeted at Apple.
Last week Verizon rolled out the ‘there’s a map for that’ campaign. Cleverly taking the AT&T-Apple iPhone slogan, ‘there’s an app for that,’ and turning it around on them. The ad shows Verizon’s 3G network (a map that is nearly entirely red shaded) compared to AT&T’s 3G network (a maps that has hardly any blue shaded). And while the maps may not be entirely accurate, points have to be given for Verizon finally taking a stand against the near unstoppable iPhone.
As of last week though, Verizon didn’t have anything to counter the iPhone in terms of phone power. This weekend changed this. In an even more direct attack on the iPhone, Verizon launched its Droid does commercial. The advertisement serves to pronounce all the things the iPhone doesn’t do with phrases like ‘iDon’t take pictures in the dark’ or ‘iDon’t run simultaneous apps.’
The advertisement is smartly played along to a tune that could have come right out of any other iPhone commercial, and the font face is eerily similar. The ad ends with the saying ‘Droid does’ and ‘November.’
The product Verizon is advertising is the Motorola Droid, due for release on October 28th (as far we can figure from the website). The phone will run Android 2.0, the latest version of Google’s Mobile Phone operating system; and will include a 5 megapixel camera, a full QWERTY keyboard as well as all the other bells and whistles associated with the average touch-screen Smartphone.
The reason why all of this is significant is twofold. Firstly it marks the first Smartphone that has come close to rivaling the market dominance of the iPhone in terms of features and power. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it signals that Verizon may not ever be getting the iPhone.
The current contract between Apple and AT&T is set to expire in 2010. And like with any Apple venture there is ample speculation about what exactly is happening in Cupertino. The speculation states that Verizon will finally have a piece of the iPhone pie—a partnership that could mean potential hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for Apple. Further rumors say that even at this moment a fourth generation iPhone is being tested on Verizon’s next generation LTE (long term evolution) network.
Looking at the UK for example, the iPhone has lost its single carrier exclusivity, and is now carried by the three major mobile phone networks. But how can this happen in a U.S market where Verizon is deliberately and unmistakably attacking the iPhone’s potential? And the truth is that it most likely can’t.
So dispel those 2010 CDMA Verizon-iPhone rumors because with the kind of money Verizon is throwing at knocking the iPhone down a rung on the mobile ladder they are burning all sorts of bridges that could have made it a done deal.

Lessons Learned: Backup!

Never underestimate the importance of a backup. Ask yourself, what would you do if every file, every song, every word document, every piece of data I owned was deleted? Given, there would probably be some people who it would not bother, but I would argue a majority would not know exactly what to do. Now what would you do if a corporation was somehow responsible for this data loss?

In two separate cases this week, users saw they’re data eradicated without any chance of it ever being returned. In the cell phone market, T-mobile had server issues which caused rampant data loss. And in the OS market, Apple’s new release, Snow Leopard, was revealed to have a bug which could erase your hard drive.

For owners of T-mobile’s Sidekick phone a simple power down would have meant the entire erasure of all the phones data. Here’s why, all the data on Sidekick Phones is stored in ‘the cloud.’ You might have heard of this magical term before, but in reality it’s not all that magical. In fact this fluffy good-natured white thing is generally just a nice name for a bulky black server located in some dingy basement continually hooked up to the internet. The particular servers that constitute T-mobiles cloud are owned and operated by Danger (a subsidiary of Microsoft). But Danger, in its infinite wisdom, decided not check the cloud or back it up, with that a remarkable reliable system became remarkably unreliable. So if in the time when the cloud was down your Sidekick shut down, you removed your battery or your battery ran out there was no hope of ever getting your contacts, notes or photos back from the black beyond. T-mobile did offer its users a $100 gift card and a free month of service for their troubles.

Across the way in Cupertino, Apple was also struggling with a random bug in their Snow Leopard Operating System code. This hard to define bug has believed to been targeted down to a few steps. Take any Mac running the 10.6 OS update, log in with a guest account and then log back into your user account. At this point all the data in the user account is erased. No prompts or warnings, just massive data loss. Apple said in a statement to CNET that “We are aware of the issue, which occurs only in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix.” How widespread the problem occurs is unknown. Around 100 posts of similar complaints were submitted on Apple’s support forums over the last week. I would suggest that until 10.6.2 is released or unless you have Time Machine running correctly (and you’ve double checked this, because it’s a finicky thing) that you beware of this hungry snow kitty and its guest accounts.

So what have we learned America? Firstly, backup. Secondly, backup. And finally, Backup! Don’t ever get the notion that your data is perfectly safe, because its not. Also beware drinks near computers (from personal experience).

Drop your old browsers!

Hey, old browsers, I don’t respect you and I’m not going to take it lying down anymore, there are better browsers out there and you might just be the worst of all time.
Like this Kanye West meme, Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) isn’t going to die anytime soon. And this is a problem. Let me preface this all and tell you I’m a web developer. This means I build the websites and web applications you use on a daily basis (that might be a bit of an egotistical statement). So why is this a problem and, why does IE6 still command almost a 15% share of internet traffic (August 2009,
Released in 2001 the browser is still prevalent in a vastly changed internet, and continues to be supported by Microsoft—until April 2014 to be specific. So why is it so bad? For starters it doesn’t even support 1 of 3 major image types on the web. Then, the basic building blocks of webpages are, for no specific reason apart from complete ignorance, completely different to any other standard browser. Meaning a page that looks one way in Firefox, Safari, etc. will render differently in IE6. Headaches are bountiful and extortionate hours are lost, from web design firms to digital ad agencies, across the world because of single outdated piece of software. This is not to mention that IE6 operates at an unimaginably lower speed than any of its competitors.
But it’s not like there aren’t other products out there. In fact what we’ve seen over the past year is nothing short of a revolution in the web browser market. Google debuted the slim and efficient Chrome. Firefox put out its latest version, 3.5. Safari brought 4 out of beta. Opera developed version 10. And the diabolical Microsoft released IE8. All of these are stable and usable browsers, each with there own features, extensions, pros and cons and come in all shapes and sizes
So why is it supported still supported, despite others and even Microsoft developments? Some say it’s the business programs that still require IE6 to run vital operations. But I say it’s the IT staffs fault for not picking up the ball, and showing support for the other options out there. Last time I checked (approximately three and a half seconds ago) Firefox could be installed next to Internet Explorer. But it’s not just IE6 that’s problematic, any browser that is operating on an older version poses problems to the development of the web.
So I urge you take charge of your browser especially if you happen to be one of those stuck in IE6 rut. Even if your not, know your options, and find a browser that best for you.. And if your own a business machine locked down by the tyrannous IT crew, know you can install Google Chrome locally (which means you don’t kneed them anymore). Or, if you were so inclined, Google just released Google Frames which runs in the Internet Explorer browsers, brining standards to your doorstep without changing browsers. HTML 5 is waiting, and we (the web developers) are waiting for you to get on board so we can show its amazing power to you.

It’s Not Me, It’s You—Lily Allen Fights Piracy

It all began with a blog post on MySpace—A condemnation of illegal music piracy. Lily Allen, the 24 year old British singer who put out her second Album ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ in April, is took up the fight that record executives have been battling for years. Unfortunately, she did not change the music industry, and what followed was probably not the response she was looking for.
On September 14, Allen posted “I think music piracy is having a dangerous effect on British music, but some really rich and successful artists like Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and Ed O'Brien from Radiohead don't seem to think so.” Allen promised to contact fellow British artist to help the British music industry. It was one response though that spawned the next generation of her fight.
After a counter response from, the particularly outspoken Matthew Bellamy of English rock band Muse, Allen set up ‘It’s Not Alright’ on BlogSpot ( ). The blog featured the artists who had responded to Allen’s request for their opinion. As of Tuesday last week responses had come from Tinchy Stryder, Gary Barlow, a couple of the boys from Keane, producer Mark Ronson and James Blunt including 16 more responses, supporting the cause she was fighting.
At this point, various members of the record industry were rebutting Allen’s cause. But it was when Allen posted a response from 50 Cent to music piracy that her argument lost a lot of steam. Unfortunately for her, she had copied the paragraph response from a Tech Dirt ( without accrediting it. Michael Masnick, who had originally written the 50 Cent article, spoke to TorrentFreak who picked up Allen’s oversight, had their piece to say “The fact that she is trying to claim that such copying is bad, while doing it herself suggests something of a double standard, unfortunately”. This, of course, prompted a response from Ms Allen, “I THINK ITS QUITE OVIOUS [sic] THAT I WASNT TRYING TO PASS OF THOSE WORDS AS MY OWN.”
The disagreement escalated when a couple of mixtapes were found on Allen’s site. All of which contained copyrighted music, which Allen was distributing free of charge. Allen defended these saying ‘"I made those mixtapes five years ago. I didn't have a knowledge of the workings of the music industry back then.’
At this point though, the reason for her blog had become complicatedly entangled in one big ironic snag. Within days the blog was shut down, with Allen stating, “I'm proud of the fact that that I've been involved with this debate but I'm passing the baton on to other artists."
Unfortunately, what could have been a good undertaking by an artist to combat a problem in this industry has turned out to be one horrible mess. Allen did have some good points though. Preventing the Simon Cowell puppet nation and the same old crap circulating on terrestrial radio while still promoting new music and preventing the rampant job losses she has seen at her record label EMI as some examples. Despite this, Allen’s career as piracy thwarter wont be going any further.