Monthly Archives: July, 2009

lIEs, damned lIEs?

I’ve always said that there are lies, damned lies, statistics, and web statistics. Any figures from a web site owner about how many hits their site gets should be taken with a big pinch of salt – they could be a long way out in either direction, though one could argue javascript-and-cookie-based analysis gives us better stats now than we had in the past.

Anyway, having said that, there was an interesting TechCrunch article last week showing dramatic recent changes in web browser usage patterns.

Internet Explorer 7 is dramatically down, with most of its users switching to IE8, which is growing fast. If you treat the different browser versions independently, Firefox 3 is about to become the most-used browser out there.

Combine all the IE versions, however, and it still has much the biggest market share with just over half the market. But the significant fact is that the IE share has fallen from nearly two-thirds of the market just 3 months ago. Presumably, this comes from people making the IE upgrade, finding IE8 isn’t quite to their liking, and opting for Chrome, Firefox or Safari instead.

Anyway, this data is only from one source, albeit a reasonably big one, so should be handled with care until confirmed elsewhere. But, whatever your browser of choice, the most important aspect of the web is that it is open and evolving, and healthy competition in the browser space is an absolutely essential part of that, so this looks like a promising trend.

Safety in numbers?

An interesting article in this week’s Economist reports on experiments showing that people in a competition, for example in an exam hall, do better when surrounded by fewer competitors. In the 2005 SAT exams in the USA:

The two researchers used data on the number of test-takers in each state of the union and the number of test-taking venues in that state to calculate the average number of test-takers per venue in the state in question. They found that test scores fell as the number of people in the examination hall increased. And they discovered that this pattern was also true for the Cognitive Reflection Test, another analytical exam.

Further experiments suggested that even when factors such as the differing amounts of distraction have been removed, if you know or feel you are competing against a smaller group, you will achieve more.

The article is here – it may require an Economist subscription, though.

Never send to know for whom the ring tones; it tones for thee

Well, I’m a bit late with this story, but I thought it worth repeating as a great example of the ingenuity of artists (and their lawyers)…

ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, is suing AT&T over the phone company’s selling of ringtones. Why, you may ask, would they do that, since they are already paid a share of the download fees?

Well, the download fees are too low, they claim, because they’re based on the idea that the download is for private listening. No, they say, not so! When your phone rings it is a public performance! And the fees should be adjusted accordingly…

More on the story here. Meanwhile, here’s how you can turn any music into an iPhone ringtone using iTunes.

United we drop

In the past, big corporates who gave shoddy customer service had little to fear: the worst that could happen was was loss of repeat business from a customer who was probably more trouble than he was worth anyway.

Not any more. Imagine what the PR department at United Airlines are feeling about the fact that over half a million people have watched this rather nice little customer complaint:

Here’s the story. Thanks to Mark Littlewood for the tweet.

Google OS

Google have just announced officially that they are developing an operating system, Google Chrome OS, and, this being 2009, the official announcement is made on the official blog.

Details are sketchy at present, but it sounds as if the emphasis will be lightweight, quick-booting… my guess is that it’ll be the minimum you can get away with to launch a browser and get online fast, ready to use all those lovely Google services, and that things like Gears will be built in to enable you to use them faster. This may mark the point where the PC really is an extension of your online apps and storage, rather than the other way around.

It’ll run on ARM and x86. And it’ll be Open Source too.

This has been predicted for some time, so it won’t surprise anyone at Microsoft, but I bet there’ll be some interesting discussions around the coffee machines in Redmond today.


serverbarMichael has made his rather nice ServerBar utility available.

If you have a Mac and you manage Unix-type machines (including other Macs, of course), this might be for you. It only really does one thing, but it does it well – it shows you the load on your remote machines – and it gives you a convenient shortcut (by clicking on the graph) to a terminal on any machine. If you know what SSH is, this might be of interest.


Homeopathic A&E

Another lovely Mitchell & Webb skit.

Thanks to Ian Yorston for the link.

Good indentations

I saw and liked this Python / Google T-shirt at Opentech.
(If you don’t understand it, don’t worry – it’s a very geeky joke!)

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser