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January 2010 — Monthly Archive

Flash is a win for Adobe, not Users

Here’s a revealing quote from a Flash evangelist about exactly who benefits from Flash. Hint: it’s not the users.

Companies will not stop using Flash because it is extremely profitable, especially in the advertising space.

I’m glad someone finally admitted it. Flash is not primarily about users — it’s been about giving companies commercial opportunities they never had with the Web, i.e., better ways to grab the user’s attention. (And by that I mean ads. For every good game that uses Flash, there are probably 50 distracting ads that use it.) In fact, Flash is positively user-hostile and un-weblike in giving users control over the browsing experience: crashes, general slowness, nightmarish security, super-cookies that can’t be easily managed via a browser’s privacy controls, … the list goes on.

On the other hand, John Nack points out that Flash made video ubiquitous on the web. They do deserve a hat-tip for that, but now that Youtube, Vimeo, BBC and several other sites have standardized around H.264, the de facto future of web video appears to be H.264 (despite some very well-reasoned arguments against from Mozilla). All it’d take is for a H.264 licensor (Google, say) to distribute a lightweight binary plugin for H.264 support for browsers like Mozilla and pre-Win7 IE, which don’t support H.264. Bingo, you no longer require Flash to play video on modern sites.

Of course, Flash is far more than just video. It’s very capable and Nack is correct when he says the Web moves far more slowly than the Flash team. But browser capabilities are going up not down — which means justifying using Flash will become more, not less, difficult over time. Ultimately, what I wrote 6 years ago (in a slightly different context) remains true:

Upgrading the browser results in a far superior user experience than hacking together kludges adding layers on the server that execute on the client via plugins.

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30 January 2010 2:34 am

Tweaking IE’s Security Zones Settings

If you still need to keep IE around after all the security warnings, cranking up IE’s security settings is a great idea. Most people need IE for a specific few sites anyway, so it shouldn’t get in the way much. Here are the security settings to use for each zone (in Tools > Internet Options > Security Tab):

  • Internet: High
  • Intranet: High (especially if you are on a home network or you have a workgroup)
  • Trusted Sites: Medium-High (add the sites you need IE to work with to this zone)
  • Restricted Sites: High

(Yes, the zones security model is horrible and well past its sell-by date, but that’s the price you pay for keeping IE around.)

After you do this, you may notice that Firefox has trouble downloading files (a side-effect of trying to respect the new Internet security settings). To get around this, follow the instructions on this thread to tweak your security settings, or (less recommended) create an about:config entry called browser.download.manager.skipWinSecurityPolicyChecks and set it to true. Google Chrome doesn’t have this problem.

If you’re still using Internet Explorer 6, please upgrade to the latest version (version 8) as soon as you can. And consider installing Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as your default browser — you’ll be much safer on the web.

Update: this no longer works with Firefox 3.6 — the skipWinSecurityPolicyChecks setting has been removed (not very well thought out move, imho). I’d still recommend cranking up IE’s security settings, though — and using other browsers like Google Chrome or Opera for downloading EXEs (both of these ignore Windows’/IE’s security policies).

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20 January 2010 12:11 am

Feels a bit chilly outside

And now I know why:

Image of a snow-covered Britain from NASA's Terra satellite

That’s an amazing picture, almost like something from The Day After Tomorrow, and all the more awe-inspiring because it’s real. As one of the commenters at BadAstronomy also noted, all the talk about England’s green and pleasant land makes one forget just how far North it is (above the US in latitude), and how dependent it is on a very complex web — things like the Gulf Stream — for its climate.

The BBC has more news and pictures about the Big Freeze of 2010.

(via BadAstronomy)

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7 January 2010 9:10 pm


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