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Cooking With Peta 25 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
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Peta, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has created a parody of a game ‘cooking mama’, in which you kill a turkey and do messy things with its bits, until Mama miraculously converts to tofu after seeing how messy the turkey was. Have a play, it’s good fun. Interesting that they use this platform to push issues. In the US, it’s nearing a holiday called thanksgiving, normally associated with eating turkeys (here, we tend to do it on Christmas).

It’s interesting that an activist group is using interactive entertainment to raise awareness of minority issues. This is a well polished, well thought out and fun (to me, at least) game. I don’t think I’ve seen a concerted effort like this before to raise awareness of an issue usually not in the public spotlight. It’s a flash game, popular with children, taht can run on any platform. This is very well done. Maybe Amnsety International will make a game where you bomb hospitals? (maybe not)


Why Flock is no good. 3 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Cloud Computing, Linux, Social Networking, web, Windows.
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After selling out to the man and getting a wordpress and facebook account, I was reminded of Flock, a web browser focused on social networking. My conclustion is that it is no bloody good (NBG) after less than five minutes. Here’s why:

1. The flock website automatically prompts me to download a windows executable (.exe) unless I allow javascript. The installation instructions are for the windows one to. Linux users are just expected to know how to extract the program themselves and run it (and make their own links).

2. According to Wikipedia, Flock collects usage information, passed back to the company, but it is possible to turn this off during installation. I got no option, because I had no windows installer. I also couldn’t find any options in ‘preferences’. I don’t mind this, but as a matter of principle, the informed user should be able to choose.

3. The first thing after opening it up is you are confronted with buttons. Everywhere. It’s just like FF3, except that there are heaps of extra (useless?) buttons.

4. While the learning curve is high (for a browser), you get a constant stream of patently stupid notifications of the bleedingly obvious. Like, for example, if I didn’t notice that a big blue button turned orange after I clicked on it.

5. While it is good that many websites are supported, the browser is full of advertising, for the sites it supports, as well as some specifically. Stuck striaght into the main bar, in a place where it seems impossible to remove, is a bright orange link to digg.

Why is this elevated above an ordinary link? Who knows? There’s also a button to email a link to a friend. Just in case you weren’t on top of copy and paste.

As well as digg, there are plenty of links to the main Flock site. Also, the browser seems to choose to use Yahoo over Google as a default. This is annoying and counterintuitive to me given that the FF default is to use Google.

4. As well as the search bar, the web address bar by default incorporates searches from Yahoo. Great, you can’t even type a URL without it being passed to a third party. Clearly, this is a sensible default for idiots that cannot remember web addresses.

5. Flock guides you to their own extensions site, ignoring the main Mozilla addons site (many FF addons work). This is a good idea, except that there are 4 addons. Good one.

All of these annoyances are poorly justified by the features available. No, I haven’t subscribed to 26 social networking sites. While many of the features available are interesting, I didn’t find any particularly useful as essentially I don’t get control over them. And yes, I’d rather just rite up my blog posts in a browser window. That’s what google gears are for.

So, all in all, Flock undermines your privacy and irritates you for seemingly little benefit.

A look at Mozilla Fennec 19 October, 2008

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Mozilla Fennec is a mobile web browser, intended to be used on devices such as the iphone and the Nokia N810. So, Mozilla is entering this juicy market too. I downloaded alpha 1 and gave it a spin. There’s a few bugs, and the interface is terrible on a big screen, but is probably good where screen space is limited, and you have a touch interface. Here’s some screenshots of the alpha.

Fennec has a strange interface, in which you slide around the page in order to access the side panels. The top can also be slid to hide it. This didn’t look that great to me, because the sides slid in and out when I tried to go up and down a page. This probably isn’t such a problem with a touchscreen. Also, I expected the scroll wheel to scroll the page up and down, but it zoomed in and out. Would make good sense on a phone.

At the top of the screen, there’s a loading animation / page icon / security info button, then a bar that shows the page title rather than the url, then a reload and history button.

On the right, there’s a panel with a bookmark star, forward and back buttons, and a button to bring up the settings. There are few settings options, to keep it simple.

There’s also addons.

On the left, is a panel with all of your tabs.

Finally, downloading seems to work fine, and downloads appear in the middle settings tab.

Mozilla Fennec is looking good. The only problems that I had were a result of it being a first alpha, and using it on a PC (the interface is really made for touchscreens).

NoScript preventing Clickjacking 12 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Clickjacking; where a user’s click is unknowingly redirected to another (hidden) object on the page, is something that has scared many security experts. It works on all major browsers, with the only possible exception of lynx (fight the power!). But NoScript has released a stream of new versions that include new code called ClearClick, that prevents clickjacking. I saw this in use here. THe video isn’t that funny.

First, click on the script to allow it.

Now, the video appears. Next I click on it.

And NoScript comes up with a warning.

And Voila, it’s a like to the ad at the bottom of the page.

So there we go, NoScript has succesfully defended me from an attempt to show me an ad.

Cuil 2 August, 2008

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Heard about a new search engine called ‘cuil‘. Amusing, as I instinctively searched for it with my trusty google box in ff. It has some nice features, such as icons for results. But it’s not really a game changer. It’s going to take a lot more than an ugly black interface to unseat the reigning champion of web searches. The fact is, if you want to find something, you instinctively use a web search. You don’t take the time to think about what tool you are going to use. That’s why Yahoo (and the rest) makes a toolbar, so that you’ll go to their search first.

6 Things that I don’t like within one use:

1. Ugly interface looks like a flash applet, not a webpage.

2. Wikipedia does not appear in the top of the results, unlike with google (and I like that)

3. Sponsorship seems present. A search for ‘linux’ brings up recommended ‘linux software’ and ‘suse linux’. Is suse paying for that?

4. Columns is nice, but I’m used to a single line, and reading across if something is interesting.

5. Having a picture from each page is interesting. Sometimes the pictures are of a completely unrelated thing.

6. The name is crap. There’s no two ways about it.