Oct 06

Microsoft’s once dominant Internet Explorer now accounts for less than half the web browser market, according to recent figures from StatCounter. [From Internet Explorer market share dips below 50 per cent]

Good news for standards-based browsing.

Aug 27

From a Freedom of Information request in the UK:

In July 2010 6,400 programmes were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices. […]

In July 2010 there were 5,272,464 programmes requested via the BBC iPlayer from Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices.

Why so striking a difference? Because Android users can only access iPlayer using Flash, Flash is only available on Android 2.2, and the overwhelming majority of Android handsets — even brand-new ones — are still running older versions of the OS.

But, of course, there are no iOS users with Flash installed. That’s what I see as the main problem with Android’s official support for Flash: it gives providers like the BBC an easy way out. Would there exist a dedicated iPlayer app for the iPhone if iOS had supported Flash all along? Does Android’s support for Flash make it less likely that the BBC will develop a native iPlayer app for Android?

(And wouldn’t you like to see a battery life comparison between iPlayer on an iPhone 4 and a few Android phones running the Flash version?)

[From BBC iPlayer Usage, iOS vs. Android 2.2 Devices]

So much for Flash 🙂

Jun 29

I ordered a D-Link DNS-323 NAS on Amazon for under a £100 with the cheapest supported HD I could find without looking for too long which was a Western Digital Caviar 500GB for £36. Should arrive Thursday and once I’ve hacked it will have a web server, PHP, MySQL and such on it and will serve.

Jun 26

The ancient G3/350 “Kihei” iMac from 2000 I was using as a server on my home network expired sometime in the last week. I don’t know when because my network monitoring software, which emails me when there are faults, was running on it 🙂 It also ran a cron job to send some automated email reminders to places, and hosted some bits and bobs of DAMP web pagery I had experimented with over the years. And a chatroom that seldom saw much use that I hosted for a moribund mailing list I’ve been on for many years.

I’d upgraded the HD and RAM on the iMac but I’m not going to try fixing a power supply or whatever it was let out the magic smoke.

I’m thinking about what to replace it with. A Sheevaplug or hacked NAS type solution for less than £100 would be good.

Apr 30

There has been some … interesting news from the tech sector this week.

Firstly, the Apple vs. Adobe vendetta gets even nastier, with a public letter from Steve Jobs explaining why Adobe’s Flash multimedia format will not ever be allowed into the garden of pure ideology that is the iPhone/iPad fork of OSX.

Secondly, Hewlett-Packard are buying Palm, apparently for Palm’s WebOS — with rumours of plans to deploy a range of WebOS tablets to rival the iPad — at the same time, they’re killing their forthcoming Windows 7 slate, just as Microsoft are killing the Courier tablet project.

Finally, gizmodo (not, perhaps, an unbiased source in this regard given current events) have a fun essay discussing Apple’s Worldwide Loyalty Team, the internal unit tasked with hunting down and stopping leaks.

It’s probably no exaggeration to say that Apple’s draconian security policies are among the tightest of any company operating purely in the private sector, with a focus on secrecy that rivals that of military contractors. But even so, the control freak obsessiveness which Steve Jobs is bringing to bear on the iPad — and the desperate flailing around evident among Apple’s competitors — bears some examination. What’s going on?

I’ve got a theory, and it’s this: Steve Jobs believes he’s gambling Apple’s future — the future of a corporation with a market cap well over US $200Bn — on an all-or-nothing push into a new market. HP have woken up and smelled the forest fire, two or three years late; Microsoft are mired in a tar pit, unable to grasp that the inferno heading towards them is going to burn down the entire ecosystem in which they exist. There is the smell of panic in the air, and here’s why …

[From The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash]

Interesting analysis from SF and former tech writer Charles Stross. He may be onto something.

Apr 22

Interesting. Apple has responded publicly to Adobe’s Mike Chambers’s claim that Flash is an open platform:

“Someone has it backwards — it is HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and H.264
(all supported by the iPhone and iPad) that are open and standard,
while Adobe’s Flash is closed and proprietary,” said spokeswoman
Trudy Miller in a statement.


[From ‘Someone Has It Backwards’]

It’s nice to have a little clarity in these matters.

Mar 09

Mozilla’s high-performance TraceMonkey JavaScript engine, which was first introduced in 2008, has lost a lot of its luster as competing browser vendors have stepped up their game to deliver superior performance. Firefox now lags behind Safari, Chrome, and Opera in common JavaScript benchmarks. In an effort to bring Firefox back to the front of the pack, Mozilla is building a new JavaScript engine called JägerMonkey.

The secret sauce that will drive Mozilla’s new JavaScript engine engine into the fast lane is some code borrowed from Apple’s WebKit project. Mozilla intends to bring together the powerful optimization techniques of TraceMonkey and the extremely efficient native code generator of Apple’s JSCore engine. The mashup will likely deliver a significant boost in Firefox’s JavaScript execution speed, making Mozilla’s browser a formidable contender in the ongoing JavaScript speed race.

Read the comments on this post

[From Mozilla borrows from WebKit to build fast new JS engine]

Another nail in the coffin of Flash.

Feb 17

Jim Ray:

More importantly, though, with something like browser rendering engines, I’m philosophically opposed to a monoculture.

First, I was observing more than celebrating. (But if any one rendering engine had to win the whole mobile shebang, I’m delighted it’s WebKit. But I’d love to see Mozilla get its mobile balls on.) But, bigger point: if any individual WebKit platform vendor disagrees with the direction of the mainline WebKit trunk, or simply thinks they can do better, they can do so. Real open source.


For one, replace “WebKit” with “Flash” and suddenly the iPhone is the holdout.

Really? Every WebOS, BlackBerry, and Android phone today ships with Flash? I didn’t know that. (Not to mention Windows Mobile 7, phones with which aren’t shipping until “holidays 2010”, and which apparently aren’t going to ship with Flash.)

[From Jim Ray on the WebKit Mobile Browser Monoculture]

On the desktop Adobe had years to develop a Flash player to run properly on Mac OS X and Linux and failed. If they can’t provide a good implementation for more than one desktop platform how can they possibly provide a half-dozen or so mobile versions that aren’t dreadful?

Jan 31

Robert Scoble has a good analogy:

Let’s go back a few years to when Firefox was just coming on the
scene. Remember that? I remember that it didn’t work with a ton
of websites. Things like banks, e-commerce sites, and others. Why
not? Because those sites were coded specifically for the dominant
Internet Explorer back then.

Some people thought Firefox was going to fail because of these
broken links. Just like Adobe is trying to say that Apple’s iPad
is going to fail because of its own set of broken links.

But just a few years later and have you seen a site that doesn’t
work on Firefox? I haven’t.

What happened? Firefox FORCED developers to get on board with the
standards-based web.

The same thing is happening now, based on my talks with
developers: they are not including Flash in their future web plans
any longer.

Regarding those blue boxes that indicate embedded Flash content in MobileSafari, think of it this way: Who can make them go away?

Adobe can’t. They can’t put Flash Player on iPhone OS on their own.
Apple could, but they won’t.
Users could make Apple change its mind by refusing to buy iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads because they don’t support Flash. That does not seem to be happening. In fact, iPhone sales are accelerating.
Web site producers could do it, by replacing or providing an alternative to the Flash content on their sites.
Uh, magical unicorns?

Adobe’s initial reaction to the iPad seems to be geared toward #3 — emphasizing publicly that iPhone OS devices are not capable of rendering the (admittedly, substantial amounts of) Flash content on the web today. Good luck with that.

Adobe’s fear, of course, is that #4 is what will happen. And with good reason, since I think it’s fair to say that we’re seeing this happen already. Flash evangelist Lee Brimelow made his little poster showing what a bunch of Flash-using web sites look like without Flash without actually looking to see how they render on MobileSafari. Ends up a bunch of them, including the porno site, already have iPhone-optimized versions with no blue boxes, and video that plays just fine as straight-up H.264. iPhone visitors to these sites have no idea they’re missing anything because, well, they’re not missing anything. For a few other of the sites Brimelow cited, like Disney and Spongebob Squarepants, there are dedicated native iPhone apps.

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner put together this version of Brimelow’s chart using actual screenshots from MobileSafari, the App Store, and native iPhone apps. The only two blue boxes left: FarmVille and Hulu.

The explanation is simple. Web site producers tend to be practical. Those that use Flash do so not because they’re Flash proponents, but because Flash is easy and ubiquitous. Few technologies get to 100 percent market penetration; Flash came remarkably close. A few years ago you could say that, effectively, Flash was everywhere. It made total sense for sites like YouTube and Hulu to go with Flash.

Flash is no longer ubiquitous. There’s a big difference between “everywhere” and “almost everywhere”. Adobe’s own statistics on Flash’s market penetration claim 99 percent penetration as of last month. That’s because, according to their survey methodology, they’re only counting “PCs” — which ignores the entire sort of devices which have brought about this debate. Adobe is arguing that Flash is installed on 99 percent of all web browsers that support Flash, not 99 percent of all web browsers.

Used to be you could argue that Flash, whatever its merits, delivered content to the entire audience you cared about. That’s no longer true, and Adobe’s Flash penetration is shrinking with each iPhone OS device Apple sells.

What’s Hulu going to do? Sit there and wait? Whine about the blue boxes? Or do the practical thing and write software that delivers video to iPhone OS? The answer is obvious. Hulu doesn’t care about what’s good for Adobe. They care about what’s good for Hulu. Hulu isn’t a Flash site, it’s a video site. Developers go where the users are.

[From ★ Who Can Do Something About Those Blue Boxes?]

Good riddance.

Jan 27

Wired is on the spot, covering Apple’s Jan. 27 event at 10 a.m. PDT in San Francisco, where fans expect Steve Jobs to unveil a tablet. [From Live Coverage: Apple’s Special Tablet Event]

I’ll be tracking this like everyone else. Then I expect a 2GB SDK download in the next few days. I hope I’m not near my bandwidth cap 🙂

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