Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Geek Wednesday: Yahoo, Prepare to be Assimilated

There are two things we know Ballmer and Gates are not short on: money and ego. So, could it happen? Of course it could—it might be Uncle Bill's parting blast of billions as he rides off into the sunset to save humanity and finally sell his software for what it's actually worth.

We are referring, of course to the MS-Yahoo merger/acquisition talks now ongoing (in at least their second year, by the way). So while the New York Post, the WSJ, and other mainstream outlets wet themselves with anticipation, let's take after the cat here and do a nice stretch and yawn. There, don't you feel better? Now, on to some truly current geek news...


Apple's Gone Green: Steve has written it, and Greenpeace is encouraged (not satisfied, but encouraged); so I guess it's a decent start. But the global problem of iWaste is still not abolished, and the odious alliance with child labor tyrant Nike remains: you will not see us touting the iPod yet. But we're getting somewhere.

Granted, there's no arguing with Apple's success with design. They were making increasingly elegant techno-gear back when everyone else was striving to make PC boxes uglier, blander, and cheaper. Apple's secret? They chose to focus on design. (read the entire article here, it's very well done).

"There were three evaluations required at the inception of a product idea: a marketing requirement ­document, an engineering requirement document, and a user-­experience document," Norman recalls. Rolston elabo­rates: "Marketing is what people want; engineering is what we can do; user experience is 'Here's how people like to do things.'"

Now what about Dell? Are they good for starting to sell boxes with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed? Or are they evil for joining the MS-Novell axis?

Or is it simply your everyday corporate conniving? The payoff will probably lie in how functional these Ubuntu machines are. We know that Ubuntu will fly on most any modern hardware; what we need to see is how Dell's geeks have performed in optimizing the OS, configuring it so that real people can use it out of the box. If that happens, the machines will sell and a certain amount of corporate conniving will be forgiven by happy, Windows-free PC users.

As I've mentioned, they could do worse than to model the setup of their Dell-buntu after MEPIS, which is based on Ubuntu's Dapper Drake (6.06) core, with lots of customization and optimizing of the KDE desktop. Take a look at the brief video here (silent, because I'm a quiet guy and my little camera doesn't have a mic), and watch as I fire up IE 6 in MEPIS, and then open a Word doc in Open Office 2.2. Finally, I start Google Picasa for Linux (from Google Labs).

This is Linux that works. And guess what? It's free. I paid $17 for a disk, because I wanted a good boot disk and I also wanted to support the developers. That 17 bucks allows me to install the OS on as many boxes as I want, with no Gatesian anti-piracy creep show to slow me down. I'm telling you, people: this is the future of home tech, and maybe enterprise tech too. You can start learning it now, or check it out later. In any event, I'm going to put one of those Dell-buntus through its paces once they're out (it's easy, you just go to Best Buy and act like you're interested and want to try the box out). I'll let you know what I find out.

Tailrank not rank: A fairly new blog-news site to check out is Tailrank, where Daily rEv has already made a couple of appearances. You can set up your own feeds, just like a newsreader, and get updates over email. It features live previews of sites and stories, and the content is neatly organized into digestible news categories. I tried out their newsfeed, but it's rather too long for our cramped sidebar, and Newsvine is better. Nevertheless, Tailrank is worth a look, and maybe a bookmark.

Mozilla's Chief Lizard Wrangler makes a point: Firefox CEO Mitchell Baker is one cool lady, and personifies the human appeal of open source software and the vast potential for good in the open source model. She reminds us that MS IE "was vulnerable to attack for 285 days last year, compared with just 9 days for Firefox." Any questions, class?

Opera revisited: The more time I spend with Linux, the more I like Opera. I've even been using it in Windows and, of course, here on the Mac. It's fast, classy, visually appealing, and has some great community features, such as its new blogging interface, which I've tried here. Perhaps its most useful feature is the auto-save: you can crash the machine it's on or just click an X by accident, and when you reopen Opera it will recall all the tabs you had open before the shutdown. They've also recently added a "speed dial" feature, which is a tab window in which you save frequently-visited sites. These are saved as preview thumbnails of the sites, which link to the original when clicked.

Maybe it's something about those Norwegians: they just seem to make their geekery with the same excellence that they make their blondes. If you're looking for a Linux distro and are wondering which way to go, check out this little survey first (guess where it was made?). When I took it, MEPIS came out at the top of my recommended list, closely followed by Linspire and Ubuntu. In other words, it seems to be a very well designed survey.

Stats Revisited: A while back, we did a feature on web stats, and I've since been spending more time examining them. What I've found is that many of the sources for hits to our site are from people stealing our images and posting them elsewhere (one guy in China made one of my graphics his avatar on a discussion board—in other words, every time someone opens a page containing his avatar, my stats package registers a hit to my site). So I've since started relying more on Google's Analytics, which some of you may remember as the Urchin stats package (yep, Google bought them). G-Analytics has additional filters that weed out things like image downloads from your content, so you're not getting a lot of false positives. If you have a blog or site that you want to track accurately for traffic, G-Analytics is the best I've seen so far.

Finally today, a note about our banner redesign: it was made in Apple's Keynote, which is a better presentation package than Powerpoint, for my money. The characters we chose for it are a couple of good friends who hang out here: the bleeding heart plant is the same one I've written about before. The more my landlady tries to kill it, the bigger and more vibrant is its return each spring. The cat, you know: she's Night, a regular blogger here who's a pretty fair geek and the best sleeper I have ever witnessed in action. As for the middle graphic, that's from our favorite screen saver, Fracture, from Ben Haller of Stick Software. If you've got a Mac, you want this stuff gracing your desktop. Ten bucks, which is a pretty fair price for what you get.

And here's your geek haiku for today (more here):

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

No comments: