December 2006

Installer icon for Vista

Nick Bradbury summarizes the installation experience (at the least the way it is for Windows users) in explaining why there's a move to web-based applications:

When you try to download something, you're presented with a security warning about how the software could potentially harm your computer. If you install the program despite this warning, your firewall often displays an intimidating dialog asking whether you really want to trust this application enough to let it talk to the outside world. It's a one-two punch that's driving away many would-be users of desktop software.

Maybe that's part of the problem, but I'm sure that there are other factors involved as well, such as:

  • Collaboration is easier with web apps: Collaborating on a file is often done by passing it around via email messages, which requires the extra step of attaching it to a mail message, not to mention the conceptual overhead of files and filesystems. I know lots of people who when asked “Where did you save your speadsheet?”, answer with “I saved it in Excel.”
  • Many web apps are free of charge to the user: For the casual user of web apps, the price tag of a desktop app may the barrier to entry; why buy something when someone's offering the same functionality for free?
  • Slickness: A good number of web apps — consider the 37signals ones — are beautifully designed, whereas desktop apps are staid-looking creatures by comparison.
  • No update headaches: This is really an extension of the headaches associated with installation. Just as web apps free you from having to do installation, they also free you from having to do updates.
  • Easier on the IT staff: At a recent presentation by Microsoft Canada, I watched a twenty minute-long presentation just on the application and update deployment features of Vista. This sort of thing has always been one of IT's biggest headaches, and moving to a web-based app — which gets rid of a lot of installation issues — is appealing to IT.

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Thoughts on the Silicon Valley Asshole’s Society

by Joey deVilla on December 21, 2006

And all this time I’d thought that the Silicon Valley Asshole’s Society was just a list of people in my head, but as Marc Canter wrote in a recent blog entry, such a thing existed, and he was one of the co-founders along with Stewart Alsop and Dave Winer. Better still, in a move that only a supreme asshole would make, Jean-Louis Gassee came to the first meeting/party and proposed that they kick out Canter.

I imagine that the first meeting of a club of such bloodyminded personalities must’ve gone something like this:

legion of doom

A “Legion of Doom” meeting, as depicted by Seanbaby. Click to see the source.

Unlike the Legion of Doom, pictured above, I doubt that the Silicon Valley Asshole’s Society had any women members. I think this is one of those cases where there wouldn’t be much hue and cry over a lack of diversity.

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I got a sense of deja vu when I saw that the first item in Read/Write Web’s Predictions for 2007 was “RSS will go mainstream in a big way. A quick look back to their predictions for 2006 told me why: they predicted roughly the same thing — albeit more catiously — that RSS would “inch towards the mainstream”.

That still didn’t explain that nagging feeling that I’d heard exuberant RSS predictions before. All it took was a little Googling to find that this is at least the fourth year in which pundits predicted “RSS is gonna explode in the coming year!” Case in point…

2004

2005

2006

Perhaps I should start a betting pool on when the pundits will stop predicting that RSS will go mainstream next year. I’ll put money down on 2009. Any takers?

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Tech News Tidbits for December 19

by Joey deVilla on December 19, 2006

Work these days has been keeping both me and George busy, but the Blogger's Credo (“No posting, no world domination!”) tugs at our souls, telling us to keep blogging. There'll be some of the usual editorializing and smart-ass commnetary later on today, but in the meantime, here are the news tidbits that have caught our interest:

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Google Drops the SOAP

by Joey deVilla on December 19, 2006

A bar of soap on a shower floor.

Okay, maybe the joke in the title is “phoned in”, but it's late and I'm tired.

The quick summary: without much fanfare, Google has deprecated its SOAP API for search. The API will still be available to current users, but they've stopped issuing API keys for the SOAP service, and updates to the SOAP API have stopped. They're encouraging developers to switch to their Ajax API, which isn't as flexible in both the technological or terms-of-use senses.

Developers looking for a search engine with a decent API should take a look at Yahoo!'s Search API, which is not only available for use, but also REST based (which is a great deal less painful to code for).

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How Motion-Sensing Videogame Controllers Work

by Joey deVilla on December 18, 2006

Nintendo Power Glove and Wiimote

Scienceline answers the question “How do motion-sensing videogame controllers work?” In the case of the Wiimote, it's a combination of accelerometers

…thinner than a penny, small enough to fit twelve on a postage stamp, and sell for under $6 a piece. They can accurately measure forces more than three times stronger than the pull of gravity in three directions – up and down, side to side, and forward and back. The chips also use gravity to determine the orientation of the controller, whether you’re holding it vertically like a golf club or horizontally like a gun.

…coupled with an infrared sensor placed by the television that determined where on the screen the Wiimote is being pointed.

The article points out that only small motions are necessary to use the Wiimote, but most people like to swing it as if it were a real weapon or sports gear:

'Penny Arcade' comic for November 13, 2006.
Click to see the comic at full size on its original page.

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10 Web 2.0 APIs You Can Really Use

by Joey deVilla on December 18, 2006

Here's a LinuxWorld list of Web 2.0 APIs that “you can really use”. APIs that are “are simply formalized interfaces to a user-centric application” — such as the Flickr API — don't count in this list. APIs in this list are supposedly for “real programming problems, either in Web applications or in desktop or server software”.

Well, while this article isn't going to dispel the perception that Linux developers have the same love/hate relationship with their clientele that drug pushers do, the APIs listed are worth looking into. They are:

  1. Google Maps API
  2. Geonames.org
  3. OpenID
  4. Amazon S3
  5. Amazon EC2
  6. Atom API
  7. OpenSearch
  8. Open Media Profile
  9. MediaWiki API
  10. JS-Kit

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