review: Windows 8.1 update available – a positive step

review: Windows 8.1 update available – a positive step

Is coding going over the top and overly complicated? Create code that matters

OK, the computer Science Education Week is coming to an end – hope you’ve had fun.

Of course, the coding doesn’t have to stop! – keep building, testing, refining – make something that makes a difference!

Lets look at something I have seen rather a lot of over this week, and in my mind at least, relates to lack of proper planning and getting caught up with bells-and-whistles
– Elegant solutions come from planning

I know people, read: designers, are looking to an ‘assembled web’, where everything is created by libraries and plugins.

Not picking on anyone, I just happen to see this example, and being my personal bugbear, not everyone enjoys high-speed Internet access everywhere
– so why overload pages with redundant weight (and ‘garbage’)?
– especially when it comes down fancy bells & whistles/ eye-candy?

Just try it over a dial-up modem connection .. and dont be so arrogant.

Side-chat over ..

You certainly wont learn coding doing this ‘assembly’ stuff idea

ZURB reports loading Facebook, Twitter, Google share widgets took 19 HTTP requests & added 246.7KB to a page’s weight

250KB is a few thousand words that actually say (and mean) something, or maybe 5 pictures (that maybe dont). More design sophisticated for sure, but the web is becoming so visual, something that no-one reads any more. For me, that’s sad
– the number of sites that take me ages to work out what the company or product actually does, how it works, just gets me down. It looks pretty and the message is getting lost.

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words – yeah, depending on the picture. And I can read a 1000 word summary on the Mona Lisa faster than most ordinary mortals (and me) could decipher the hidden qualities studying the picture .. I digress.

Back to the point. For example: letting.js, a jQuery library,  spotted on CreativeBlog: Polyfills

$(document).ready(function() {

(remember to write the code to embed the jQuery and the letting plugin as well)
– the idea is you then manually adjust the CSS for each .char#, adding salt according to taste ..
– outputing this HTML

<h1 class=“fancy_title”>
<span class=“char1”>S</span>
<span class=“char2”>o</span>
<span class=“char3”>m</span>
<span class=“char4”>e</span>
<span class=“char5”></span>
<span class=“char6”>T</span>
<span class=“char7”>i</span>
<span class=“char8”>t</span>
<span class=“char9”>l</span>
<span class=“char10”>e</span>

So, since you are such an ace coder, why not just code the <span> classes in the first place?
– a simple JS loop would ‘document.write’ this without clutter
– or, Heaven forbid, just write the HTML (h1-)heading – how often is it going to change anyway?

BBC: UK ‘let NSA store email addresses’ & NSA planned to shame by revealing browsing history

Put together, doesn’t this rather demonstrate the NSA’s approach to freedom and truth? Like a gun, once data is in the hands of those that will use it for no-good, it is a weapon. History has taught us well what happens when humans get their hands on a new weapon.

We’re not good at walking the straight and narrow, governments (and political bodies) especially so

Publication of any such or similar information is intended to smear the target, how can anyone be sure that such a disclosure (aka leak) is in fact of genuine data. The NSA (and others) is certainly capable of at least altering any information it has collected, if not actually planting such evidence for others to find.

BBC UK ‘let NSA store email addresses’

NY Times NSA planned to shame ‘radicalizers’ by revealing their porn-browsing history

RIP the free & open web: #Google #Twitter #API #RSS

Apologies in advance if this gets a bit technical, that’s because behind the scenes it is, but the effects could be life-changing!

RSS is a way of publishing online, for example, a ‘news’ feed of headlines or updates, using a well established and open format. This enables you to see, say, just the most recent 100 headlines without actually visiting any web pages – you choose the ones of interest and follow them to the relevant page.

I wonder if RSS is falling from favour because it bypasses the concept of you visiting webpages (and, by extension, eyeballs on adverts).

If I get too technical, there are some other links to read at the bottom 🙂

Google Reader & RSS
announced on the Official Google Blog that they will soon retire Google Reader (actual date: July 1, 2013) – Google are also killing off the RSS extension on Chrome [this may have been an error – apparently the extension has been restored].
Implication: you wont be able to read the headlines unless you use the Google News search page (which has adverts).

Google News Alerts
These are being widely reported as being on the blink and raised concern it will be the next service to take a dive.

As ever Google chooses to not answer inquiries from the press or public (but will no doubt tell us their final decision in an out of the blue announcement)

Twitter RSS API
Twitter continues to lock down their platform, as they have since the switch to OAuth. If you want to add content to Twitter, you can do that easily. If you want to get content out of Twitter, well, you’ll have to conform to Twitter’s requirements.
RSS was an easy way of getting content out of Twitter, and so they killed it. They’ll tell you that it wasn’t really used, but that’s a load of bull and they know it, but it sounds good and most people will simply swallow it.

– so from March/April 2013: use OAuth and json to parse Twitter feeds.
And their RSS timeline feeds are now dust 🙁

Questionable decision to – Twitter API moving to v1.1:
Tweets being given Snowflake-based IDs, direct messages will also be snowflake 64-bit integers beginning September 30th, 2011 … a service we will be using to generate unique Tweet IDs. These Tweet IDs are unique 64bit unsigned integers …..

The problem … Before launch it came to our attention that some programming languages such as Javascript cannot support numbers with >53bits
In Google Chrome you can test compatibility with long integers by running (in the console):
(90071992547409921).toString() gives the result “90071992547409920” – just hope you’re not doing your accounts.

“no-one will need an integer address longer than 53 bits”

This reminds me of hard drives hitting the 137GB limit because of old IDE addressing, and not thinking ahead. And now 32bit operating systems being unable to access more than 2TB of hard disk partitioned space – the move onwards and upwards is relentless, pity the casualties along the way.

To quote Twitter: “we’ve decided to discontinue support for XML, Atom, and RSS, which are infrequently used today
– cough, cough, like what planet you on man!!! (XML is the founding technology behind AJAX web programming, one that Twitter itself uses to dynamically update the page; ATOM is like RSS)

“This protesting about Google not continuing to provide something is just indicative of people denying that they had unrealistic expectations. This is a public company in a dominant position so it has little to no responsibility toward its clientèle. That’s just how it is. Pretending that is not the case is perhaps what all those people are doing who have bought into Google’s services and now complain when their dreams are broken. There’ll be more of this, and I for one, am not playing that game.”

The bottom line … writings on the wall
– you cant call yourself free unless you recognise and support open standards
– the big companies have fallen in love again with their own propriety APIs (‘use our tech or walk’ attitude)
– dont get me started on CalDav ..

As ever the maxim applies: if you use a something that is free, you’re not the customer you’re the product
– and in case you were unsure as to what a Maxim is/does, they used to make machine guns 😉 see Wikipedia

Now might be a good time to take up farming in an isolated village somewhere ..

And read these:
blogs-we-liked-google-shuts-down-reader-caldav and also talks about CalDav being closed down

Disclaimer: some of this was gathered and written some time ago, and I cant remember what is mine (I think it mostly is)! very sorry 🙁 #embarrassed

#Mobile news: #Android #Samsung #Linux #4G #LTE #EE

Google blocks Adblock Plus during Android security update
AdBlock Plus no longer works out of the box on non-rooted devices running Android 4.1.2 or 4.2.2, instead having a warning box saying they must manually configure a proxy server .. for the app to work, it must also run a little (proxy)server to filter out the ads before they are shown in the browser.

But Google thinks there is a significant security risk in allowing software to automatically redirect web connections in this manner – perhaps fair enough. Adblock have published an 8-step process for the S3 to get around the problem. However Google has also been removing the app from the market to prevent downloads ..

Alternatively install Firefox browser .. there’s something comforting about seeing that icon again on the home screen. At first glance, the memory footprint is small and the FF team say it now has a minimum requirement of only a 600MHz processor (down from 800). So older phones could benefit: that works for me.

Some comments:
.. Google will not change this and it’s unlikely they’ll even read the complaints. It’s the Google way, they don’t do feedback from anything smaller than governments. And they don’t pay much attention to governments
Do no evil [unless we loose money because people don’t like adverts and try to block them]
My computing device. I get to decide what it downloads and displays. Don’t want to serve me content? Go ahead and block me, I’m cool with that. Just please don’t try to tell ME what to do with MY device
– ed.: it is sometimes said its THEIR OS, market, etc. but whether they supply it free to the phone co.s isn’t our concern

New Firefox 19.0 gets JAVASCRIPT PDF viewer
helping to avoid the security issues that have recently affected Abobe and Foxit products (until someone hacks FF too)

Linux for Mobiles and Tablets
Ubuntu will be making a developer preview on Feb 21st. but it wont be a retail product until at least April 2014. Initially aimed at Nexus devices as they ‘are hackable’.
And Samsung are set to merge Tizen OS and Bada? into a new mobile OS to compete with Android.

EE struggling with take up of 4G
Tariffs certainly aren’t cheap, eg. £36/ mo with only 500MB data (which at full speed would be used up in a few minutes). Three conversely (lov’m-or-hate’m) aren’t planning on charging extra when they roll out the service – you do of course, in both cases, need a compatible phone (not helpful if you’ve only just signed up to a 24m contract, d’oh)

Have to ask, are the current problems with the 3G service down to signal or protocol congestion, or simply that the masts cant get enough bandwidth to distribute to all the connected phones?
– from what we’ve heard, 3G works a dream, and at full speed, when you get away from urban areas.
Is this just marketing hype?
Will 4G slow down too when more people adopt it?
We will start to see in the summer, when the 4G network is opened up to rival telcos.

Apple & EPEAT : really green?

So after just a couple of days, in a rather rare change in direct, the fruity firm Apple, returns to EPEAT ‘eco & green recycling certification’ following a substantial customer backlash. Not that this had anything to do with their change of mind of course
[ for the record, we aren’t against Apple or Microsoft, or anyone else, but do object to hypocrisy or sales gumph ultimately designed to do nothing more for the world than improve their profits ]
It is probably worth considering that it is Apple’s success at producing ‘iconic’ products that puts it in the limelight, and that many other companies probably do similar things ..
Long term, probably Linux and open source is the only way to go .. so many devices become obsolete simply because the software is no longer available that supports them.

Maybe its just that to make things thin, they have to be glued together – is that the secret of modern manufacturing?
Perhaps its time to stop this fixation with all things thin and start worrying about a healthy planet

The Register:
.. pulled all 39 of its products from the EPEAT’s registry of “green gadgets” last week.
Teardown website iFixit speculated that the glued-on battery in the Pro is to blame. The EPEAT standards specify that machines must be easy to disassemble in order for parts to be recycled or upgraded [PDF].
iFixit writers described their experience of taking apart the new MacBook Pro:
That’s why it’s such a problem when manufacturers glue batteries into place with industrial-strength adhesive. When we originally tore down the Retina MacBook Pro, we could not separate the battery from the upper case. The next day, after a lot of elbow grease, we were finally able to get them apart—but in the process punctured the battery, leaking hazardous goo all over.
“We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake,” writes Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior veep of hardware engineering
“Our relationship with EPEAT has become stronger as a result of this experience, and we look forward to working with EPEAT as their rating system and the underlying IEEE 1680.1 standard evolve,” Mansfield writes

– the word ‘evolve’ is worrying

“I am very happy to announce that all of Apple’s previously registered products, and a number of new products, are back on the EPEAT registry,” EPEAT head Robert Frisbee

Mr Mansfield is unlikely to be involved in the effort as he announced last month that he was soon to leave Apple.
“We look forward to Apple’s strong and creative thoughts on ongoing standards development,” said Robert Frisbee.

EPEAT: (for Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display MC975)
– the Macbook got itself ratified within 24 hours of returning to the register
– several of the EPEAT certifications (ending in a GOLD award) are questionable
– several criteria can be obtained by providing extended servicing by ‘the manufacturer’, for 3 years after guarantee, or by 3 ‘approved’ repairers. 4 years lifetime does not seem very eco to us

4.3 Design for end of life
YES Required Easy disassembly of external enclosure
YES Optional Molded/glued in metal eliminated or removable

4.4 Product longevity/life cycle extension
YES Required Upgradeable with common tools
YES Optional Availability of replacement parts
– this could be true though (replaced the fan recently in an older Macbook)

Comments (just some) ..
Over 5 years is “vintage”, Apple has “discontinued hardware service” on them (except in California who apparently told them to go stuff it). Over 7 years is “obsolete” – nothing at all and even service centres can’t get parts.

How is it possible that it has attained this certification when the bloody battery is still glued to the case, has someone tweaked the EPEAT requirements while no one was looking? If the laptop cannot easily be separated into its component parts for recycling whats the point. Looking at the “End of life” requirements on the website, anything glued or requiring manual separation is only an option?
Does that mean they are no longer going to glue the batteries to the laptop casing in a way that makes them completely non-removable and non-replaceable?
Also, does that mean they are going to stop bonding aluminium to glass and plastic in screen assemblies?

That’s the thing with Apple – forced obsolescence. 10.8 is now dropping support for other models so they probably only have a year before they become unsupported. My -2 year old first gen iPad won’t take IOS6