Occasionally confused by Gmail

I had a bizarre problem the other day – well, these things are always bizarre when you don’t know the reason or solution – with Gmail.

Whenever I put 10am in an email, it would hyperlink it to http://10.am/ which brings up a slightly random website.

10.30 a.m. would be fine, as would 11pm, etc

Turns out, Gmail was doing it’s usual autolinking, like it’ll do to “example.com”: little did I know that “am” is actually a legitimate domain identifier, and it was reading my time as a domain name!

Firefox, Web Development plugins and Joe public – part 2

In part one of this post, I look at the Web Developers Toolbar, an essential firefox addon.

This time round, I think it’s worth a look at Firebug. Firebug is aimed more at what I would call ‘realtime’ debugging – it has a definite emphasis on Javascript, DOM manipulation etc.

For Mr/Mrs Joe Public, all this is beyond the realms of comprehension, but it does have one particularly useful function which shows the time used to get/parse the various files and elements which make up the page.

Firebug Screen

In this screenshot you can see the various CSS files, JS files, and the loading times associated. At the very least, this can help show a client where the issues in a page are, and why any page may be slow loading.

It also helps demonstrate what happens when you load an enormous image, and then resize it in the browser (rather than using Photoshop’s Save for Web command).

Firefox, Web Development plugins and Joe public – part 1

The general public are often mystified by how a webpage actually works. Sure, you could explain HTML, CSS, Javascript and Server side scripting to them, but you’ll often be faced with a pair of glazed over eyes and a puzzled expression. Normally, this is a sign you’ve said a switch off keyword like ‘parse’, or better still, some seemingly secret code like ‘ISAPI’.

I find that a good visual aid is often enough for people to make the link between what they’ve scribbled on the back of a napkin, and a working proof of a website.

Enter Firefox. Apart from being one of the best browsers out there (alongside Safari and Opera), it has an excellent range of plugins to visually represent the structure and layout of a website.

The main one I use (and use every single day, if not every time I even open Firefox), is the firefox Web Developer addon. If I’m actually showing someone how a website is put together, this is invaluable.

Take this site for instance; one click is all it takes to view the block elements, CSS classes, etc.

See these screenshots for a quick example:

screenshot for Web developer toolbar


Basic block elements

screenshot for Web developer toolbar


CSS Styles in place

screenshot for Web developer toolbar


Block level elements

Next up.. firebug

Pandora to stop UK streaming

This just sent from Pandora HQ:

“As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US.

Based upon the IP address from which you recently visited Pandora, it appears that you are listening from the UK. If you are, in fact, listening from the US, please contact Pandora Support: pandora-support@pandora.com.

It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music. I don’t often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent – and by that I mean both well known and indie artists. The only consequence of failing to support companies like Pandora that are attempting to build a sustainable radio business for the future will be the continued explosion of piracy, the continued constriction of opportunities for working musicians, and a worsening drought of new music for fans. As a former working musician myself, I find it very troubling.

We have been told to sign these totally unworkable license rates or switch off, non-negotiable…so that is what we are doing. Streaming illegally is just not in our DNA, and we have to take the threats of legal action seriously. Lest you think this is solely an international problem, you should know that we are also fighting for our survival here in the US, in the face of a crushing increase in web radio royalty rates, which if left unchanged, would mean the end of Pandora.

We know what an epicenter of musical creativity and fan support the UK has always been, which makes the prospect of not being able to launch there and having to block our first listeners all the more upsetting for us.

We know there is a lot of support from listeners and artists in the UK for Pandora and remain hopeful that at some point we’ll get beyond this. We’re going to keep fighting for a fair and workable rate structure that will allow us to bring Pandora back to you. We’ll be sure to let you know if Pandora becomes available in the UK. There may well come a day when we need to make a direct appeal for your support to move for governmental intervention as we have in the US. In the meantime, we have no choice but to turn off service to the UK.

Pandora will stop streaming to the UK as of January 15th, 2008.

Again, on behalf of all of us at Pandora, I’m very, very sorry.

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)”

Ralph Allwood

Ralph’s site has had a bit of clean up – see http://www.ralphallwood.com.

It features a more extensive discography, and is generally easier to read.

BBC iPlayer – a few weeks on

I think I’m fed up with this now; it took me a while to realise that the Kservice.exe process was running in the background, even after a reboot, after which the iPlayer wasn’t turned on. So you have to Contrl + Alt + Delete the process every time you turn on the machine.

You’ve got the Kservice.exe file running and using your bandwidth without notification – this is a real oversight : I understand why – most people will unwittingly share the latest episode of Eastenders, and the service will seem really fast (which I still think, it is).

But for those of us which limit out bandwidth usage on peak hours, this is as good as a slap in the face.

Let’s hope the BBC have got the message about this?

BBC iPlayer “Beta”

I’ve recently been mucking around with this;

The first thing which struck me was the sign up process for the Beta, which was a little shoddy;

You had to sign up, which obviously is fine, but when I signed up, they didn’t send me a confirmation email. I waited 24 hours and tried again, but to no avail. A week later I got the confirmations – they’d known there would be a delay (they were specifically choking the registrations), but not a single word about it was on the site (that I could find at the time).

Anyway, having got the Beta login, I logged in to find I could download the .exe – good. But to actually download any of the programmes, I needed another login. So I signed up for the secondary username, and all seemed well – haven’t these people heard of SSO?

Downloads were very fast indeed; downloading the latest prom was 500ks on a bog standard Home connection. I guess the difference is the BBC has a dedicated seeding farm of some description which is just pumping out MBs – makes a difference.

The quality is good – not amazing, and could be better, but “good”. Certainly watching it on a 20″ Apple cinema display is perfectly satisfying.

Now we get into the actual player itself – this seems needlessly dumbed down to cater for the masses. The basic functions work fine, full screen support is there etc. But it’s inextricably linked to Windows Media Player (the latest version which I had to upgrade to before I could finish the install) which is no doubt due to the heavy DRM which they have imposed. The DRM aspect I do sort of understand – but, there’s nothing hypothetically using any other sort of Hard disk related recorder to store broadcasts directly from Freeview etc. Either way it seems a bit pointless – it’s not going to be long before someone figures of a way to rip the data directly. (iTunes anyone?)

Lastly, the configuration options – I can not believe they don’t give you the option to throttle the upload/download bandwidth; it’s very irresponsible indeed. Whilst I believe that Tiscali etc are going overboard (See here and here) it will hit some people, the average joe public whom the player is aimed at in particular.

Hopefully these issues will be resolved without the need for traffic shaping.

Institute for Emergent Infections of Humans

The Institute for Emergent Infections of Humans website has now been released. The Institute is a affiliate institute of the James Martin 21st Century School, located in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.