Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Geek Wednesday: Slaves to the iPod???

Ars Technica today is featuring a story that will disturb, but should not astonish, iPod owners—especially in light of Apple's recent collaboration with Nike. It's about child labor, slavery, and the same gruesome wages of globalization that we've come to witness all over the corporate map. Reality check, Steve: are you so fattened with profit and success that you can't open your eyes?

I ask, once again, the same question I have asked time and again before: is it humanly possible to do business, make profits, support the health of your local and national economy, produce great products that appeal to both need and desire, while also keeping one's heart open, one's conscience clear, one's actions aligned with the cause of Life? We're waiting for your answer, Steve...

Now, onto more pleasant geek news. The Webby Awards show was Monday night, and the results are in. I was a reviewer for these awards (though I'm sure it's no great distinction; there were probably hundreds of us). I looked at something like 250 websites over six or eight different categories, and saw all the Flash media I'd like to see for a long time. But it was fun, and I got to spend a little of Larry Ellison's money (he's the big cheese on the Webby committee).

One thing I couldn't help but notice amid the Webby winners was a distinct (and refreshing) leftward lean. Check out these victors; you'll find links to their sites at the Webby results page (link above):

Ariana Huffington's Huffpost blog
Prince ("lifetime achievement")
Thomas Friedman ("person of the year"—and don't ask me why)
The New Yorker (best writing, and well deserved, too)
Google Earth (design/function)
UNICEF / State of the World's Children (I reviewed this one, and gave it a "10"—the link's in my sidebar)
The Onion (humor)
Grist Magazine (an environmental mag that is the only source you need for real info on global warming and environmental issues)
NPR Music (music)
Guardian Unlimited (newspaper)
Mother Jones (politics) (radio)
What is Enlightenment? (spirituality)


Smoking Geek Gun of the Week: Ready to leap onto the Ajax bandwagon? Where I work, there's a lot of excitement about it (it always cracks me up when corporate types talk about how "excited" they are about something they know nothing about except that it might make them look good. Excitement is when you've just had your second glass of wine and your girlfriend comes over and sits on your lap; sorry, but javascript just doesn't rate). Yahoo Mail got onto the bleeding edge and paid the price—serves them right, too.

Now, on to part 2 of our review of MS Office 2007. Last week, we looked at Word's fresh new UI and its slick toolbar re-design. Today, Outlook, the email client with a traditionally bad attitude.

Like Word, Outlook has received little in the way of enhancement or new functionality. I was a little astonished to see a Google Desktop bar offered with Outlook. That may be permanent or simply a warm-up during the Beta phase for Microsoft's own proprietary desktop search, which also installs itself along with Office 2007.

In terms of interface, Outlook at the front end maintains the traditional text menu with drop-downs that have been transformed in Word and Excel (just click any of the graphics for larger views). The look of the buttons is great, the calendar is very nice with a neat sliding mini-cal that comes from a button built into the right margin of the window. Word-style toolbars are featured in the Send window (though that's marginally annoying, as you have to remember to click back onto the Message toolbar just to get a Send button).

In other words, it's all great-looking stuff. One minor problem: it doesn't send mail. I tried two or three times, and it failed to send every time. Outlook crashed once when I tried to send a message containing two image inserts (about 250 KB total). Big problem when you have an email client that can't send mail. Back to the drawing board on this one, boys.

For Wintel email clients, I say nothing beats good old open source Mozilla Thunderbird for ease of use, looks, simplicity, and solid, reliable functionality. Take a look at a comparison (Outlook 07 above, T-bird below). T-bird also neatly arranges mail to multiple accounts; a feature that Outlook is still missing (you have to create and configure personal folders to make Outlook do what T-bird does automatically).

So I'd like to have a look at the Vista public beta, but my experiences with IE 7 and Office 2007 have me squirming a little. I mean, even though the Wintel box isn't my primary machine, and the trusty iMac shows no signs of stiffness at the age of 3 (exactly ZERO crashes of the OS in that time, knock on silicon); still I'd like to have a working XP box. So I'm teetering a little on this leap: I've upgraded the video card, which needed doing anyway, and it was only $30 for a 128MB nVidia card.

I just might make the leap, and if I do, we'll have a full report on the mess right here on Geek Wednesday at Daily Rev. Anyway, I've got Ubuntu Linux disks lying around...just in case.

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