Firefox Fever

I cannot say I am really active with open source projects, but I do take interest in a number of projects, including Mozilla Firefox. Firefox is not just an alternative to Internet Explorer, it is a significant improvement over Microsoft’s web browser. The fact that it is not integrated directly into the Windows operating system makes it significantly safer than IE. That does not mean that Firefox is not free of vulnerabilities, but it is unaffected by viruses that target IE. I know people who have been spared of viruses because they had Firefox running as their default browser.

That’s not necessarily why I continue to use Firefox though. I love its improved interface, which includes tabbed browsing. When I first started using Firefox I didn’t use this feature much, but now I am hooked. It is so much nicer than opening half a dozen windows. Firefox also adheres to web standards better, so web pages may actually look better in it than in IE. I have just been continually impressed with the robustness of the browser and its user interface.

Anyway, they released the final 1.5 version today and I am very pleased with the new features. They are have also unveiled a new website today that appears to be geared towards consumers in hopes of attracting new users. These changes should be matched with a open source marketing blitz of some sort soon.

In any case, I just wanted to babel on about Firefox for a bit because some of my non-techie friends may read this. I highly recommend you download the new version and try it out.

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Munich and the Oscars

MunichMy friend and I were going over the best films of the year, that we’ve seen so far and we could only come up with two: Crash and Sin City. Both are dark horse Oscar nominees at best. This was supposed to be a better year for films, but frankly I’ve been a little disappointed. Still, there’s some good stuff still to come.

I already got my pick for the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture: Munich. What’s that you say? It’s Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie about Israel’s response to the 1972 Munich Olympics attacks. You mean its not even out yet? No its not out yet, but the trailer is available in glorious HD. Sounds kind of controversial for the guy who made Hook? Sure, but Spielberg is also the serious filmmaker who brought us Schinder’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

Munich is sure to stur up plenty of movie controversy unseen since The Passion of the Christ. Spielberg’s wants to let the movie speak for itself. He has decided not to do a premiere, press junkets, or Oscar publicity about the movie. It will be in theaters in only a few weeks and the studios just saw their first look this weekend. Longtime Spielberg producer Kathleen Kennedy saw it for the first time at the screening and came out saying it may be his best.

I am pretty intrigued by it all. I have always been a Spielberg fan and I appreciate him wanting to offer a new viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the broader topic of terrorism in general. I doubt it will come down to much on either side, but will definitely raise the level of debate about the issue. I look forward to seeing it this Christmas.

Much Ado About RSS

I started reading Scoble’s blog recently because he’s an important voice in the tech world and he has a lot of interesting views. Among his favorite technologies are RSS syndication. In the last 48 hours he’s tagged at least 6 posts as RSS and I think there were even more that weren’t. He’s clearly got RSS on the brain.

RSS is a great technology and has certainly changed the way I browse the web. I have been using Bloglines for a couple months now and I am very pleased with it. I rarely visit most of my bookmarked sites now since I subscribe to their RSS feeds. It is an important development and I am glad to see even Microsoft will support it in the future.

Still, I see some flaws in the format. It works great for blogs and other online-only media like News.com, but not as well for traditional media like newspapers. Online media delivers a few stories an hour, allowing users to easily glance over the course of a day. Newspapers are still largely stuck in the deadline world and dump a feed of 20-80 stories at one time a day. Sorting a newspaper chronologically like RSS doesn’t work.

I visited the New York Times website tonight for the first time in a while, since I get its web feed. I noticed three stories that I did not catch when I saw them in Bloglines. It wasn’t because they don’t offer fulltext feeds either. I think some of this has to do with design. RSS is not a very rich format at this point, which is another drawback. I think advertising becomes an issue too, especially since fulltext RSS doesn’t even require a reader to go to the site and see ads.

RSS is a pretty exclusive technology too. At a time when most Internet users struggle to grasp important issues like virus protection or adware, its unlikely they will go out of their way to figure RSS out. Clicking on an orange RSS button loads still loads an XML page in most browsers! How are they supposed to work with that?

I agree that RSS is an important technology, but it has a long way to go. Part of it getting content publishers to rethink the way they put out stories and tailor them to fit the format. On the tech side of things, though, we need to make it easier for users to use RSS. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to get our parents to use feeds.

You Know You’re From Havertown

This comes from my old blog. I have traffic redirecting from my old address and a lot of people have apparently been looking for this one. I figure its relevant since its my last night in town.

Stumbled upon this list of Havertown-esque qualities and I got a kick out of them so I thought I would share. Some you have to be from here to get, others are universally applicable. Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

  • When there are two Wawas on the same road: one is for the preppy kids (Super Wawa) and the other is for the ghetto kids (Skatium Wawa)
  • You either hate or love Pop’s or Rita’s, and wonder how they both do so well being across the street from each other
  • When you gather to watch a fight at the Skatium which is right next to the police station
  • There is a pizza place every two blocks
  • When the only black person in your school is a 7 foot 9th grade principal, and the previous Big Mike
  • You’ve had to run from the cops because a) you’re a minority, b) you were in the park after dark or c) you didn’t run because you knew him or he was your friend’s dad
  • You know at least one person at West Chester, Penn State, Temple, & St. Joe’s
  • There is still elementary school rivalries when you’re in high school

My Holiday Weekend

My Thanksgiving break is winding down to the end now. Here’s a rambling recap of the last couple days:

Thursday morning I got out to the annual Haverford-Upper Darby Thanksgiving game. The outcome was disappointing, given Haverford lost 40-7 to Upper Darby. I did get to catch up a bit with some of my old football teammates though, which was good. Its the only time of the year I really get to see most of these guys. Most of the conversation is reduced to a few lines of school is great and happy Thanksgiving. Some people have turned 21 since last time, so they were a little more hungover than usual. A lot have moved on to new jobs or transfered to new schools like Temple. A lot has changed since high school, but on Thanksgiving it seems very little has since we’re all gathered around a football game complaining about our team.

Friday my family went out before 5 to Best Buy to take part in the annual Black Friday shopping. I don’t think my mom really got as much out of it as we normally do. We didn’t even get a new computer. Still, I got 10 DVDs and a couple other things really cheap. Most of the DVDs I had could go for $15-20 and I averaged $8 a movie. I have posted my updated DVD listing now on this blog. I think that drained my DVD budget though, so I doubt I’ll be getting many more before Christmas.

Then last night I bundled up and went to the Strath Haven-Pottsville playoff game. It was probably one of the coldest games I have attended. The field was also frozen, which made it hard for players, especially the Strath Haven ones, to gain footing. Strath Haven couldn’t pass much on offense and could stop the pass on defense. The final score was 32-0. I think my dad was happy to have gotten this far, but ultimately pretty disappointed with the way they played. He started planning for next year this morning.

Today was a day of rest. The children went to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I passed since there was no room left in the minivan. I started my DVD watching with Minority Report, which was a much cooler movie than I first realized. I think I am about 85% over my cold, which is good. Tonight I look forward to leftovers for dinner and sharing my new movies with the family.

And thus ends my rambling post. I am still unsure of whether I am returning to school tomorrow night or Monday morning. Regardless of where I am, I think tomorrow night will be spent doing homework. It’s difficult to imagine going back to school, but on Monday finals will only be two weeks away. The end is in sight!

File Sharing Hurts Pop Artists, Helps Indies

Stumbled upon this very interesting post today about file sharing. A Harvard PhD student did a study on the effect of peer-to-peer file sharing. According to his research, file sharing does have an impact on the record sales of platinum artists, cutting their sales somewhat significantly. It helps smaller bands and artists though, with estimates showing these bands would actually suffer without piracy.

I think this is a sign to the music industry that they need to adjust themselves. Instead of banking success simply on the success of popular acts. They need to start supporting less successful artists and use the current market to promote them. Offer a couple of tracks for free, for example, and people may be more inclined to buy the whole album. I personally got interested in Death Cab for Cutie after getting a free track through iTunes. I followed by buying two of their albums.

Why do bigger acts suffer more from piracy? Probably people feel less guilty about stealing from millionaire music stars. I think quality becomes a factor though too. Many popular artists bank a whole album’s success on one or two hot tracks. Smaller bands typically offer more valuable, since they try harder to put out a great album.

It seems based on this research, charging more on iTunes for popular tracks will probably hurt them even more. I wonder whether the record labels will learn anything.

Cold and Colder

I am home again and I have a cold again. This has been going on for a while now, that I get a little bug everytime I come home from school. It may be that I am allergic to the house or that I just get hit with all the kids germs. Or it could be that our house is always freezing. It’s not really that cold out these days, but our house does not hold the heat in well.

Otherwise it has been a nice break so far. Yesterday I got out to Best Buy early, as mentioned below, to pick up the King Kong DVD. I have to say I was pretty pleased with the movie. Today I watched Madagascar with my little brothers, which was also good fun. And I finally got to see Shopgirl, which was ok but very weird. Ultimately when it comes to middle-aged comics, Steve Martin doesn’t touch Bill Murray.

Tomorrow I have the annual Haverford-Upper Darby Thanksgiving game. We’re the second oldest Thanksgiving rivalry in the country. I am hoping that I’ll be seeing some of my old high school friends too. Then we got my grandparents over for Thanksgiving dinner. Friday morning I hope to be collecting discounted electronics at Best Buy. And I’ll be out freezing at Coatesville watching high school playoff football on Friday night.

I am kind of busy nursing my runny nose and watching crappy television programs. I may break my post a day quota due to the holiday, so I wanted to check in before hand. So Happy Thanksgiving to all and I hope you are all enjoying your holiday as much as I am.