Tag Archives: technology

Time to Look Again at FireFox?

1 Sep

Eons ago all we had was the Mosaic we browser (not strictly true, but that was the big one).

No matter, Netscape came to the rescue with many of the Mosaic team on board, added the blink tag, and started charging for essentially the same thing.

Somewhere along the line Microsoft woke up to the internet and started knocking out their own Internet Explorer for free, eventually bundling it with the OS and taking 95% market share.

A lot of people took issue with this, and it formed the core of the anti-trust lawsuit that shaped Microsoft to this day.

I was suspicious of Microsoft abusing their powers back then, but I could see the logic in using the same rendering engine in the browser for the OS itself, I quite liked IE3 (the proprietary extensions and lack of standards didn’t concern me back then), and Netscape was large and wasn’t yet free.

After a while my Main browser became IE. It worked well for me. Netscape faded away.

Somewhere later along the line Netscape transformed into FireFox in an attempt to right some of the wrongs that Netscape had come to be known for (primarily bloat) and to claw back some of the gains made by Internet Explorer which would see it reach 95% market share.

It worked to a large extent. FireFox was more standards compliant, lighter and faster than IE, and gradually millions of people started to switch.

But as time went on FireFox also started to suffer from bloat. Microsoft had all but lost interest with IE failing to make any significant updates for years. And then there was Chrome.

Google launched its own web browser that was sleek and the world started to take notice. Chrome was to eventually take the crown from a neglected IE, and a struggling FireFox.

Microsoft tried to fight back with later versions of IE, and subsequently Edge (which has become my primary browser, with Chrome always on standby), while FireFox and others like Opera carved out more of a niche market and held onto their respective diehards.

But now it appears the Mozilla Foundation has been hard at work reworking FireFox to correct its ills and prepare it for a bright new future. But with the likes of Edge and Chrome providing a very good gateway to the internet, is there still a place for FireFox on my desktop.

I have some good memories of FireFox being a good browser, and am interested in taking a look out of curiosity, but I’m not sure this is enough to spur me into action.

Has anyone out there used the new release? I’d be interested to know what you think.

If I do give it a try, I’ll be sure to let you all know what I think.

Advertisements

Ultraviolet Video… why won’t it work properly.

26 Aug

I’ve built up a (very) small collection of Ultraviolet videos, a grand total of 17 so far apparently.

But I’ve never managed to watch any of them.

Why?

Well I can download the videos and even stream them online, but the quality is less that perfect. I don’t just mean streaming via my embarrassment of a connection at home, but even through my 80+Mbps work connection.

And by less than perfect I mean grainy and jerky video. Even on downloads.

I used to blame my old Surface Pro 2, but secretly I knew that should have easily taken this in its stride.

But I’ve just tried using my new XPS 15 laptop to watch something, and guess what – it’s no better, and this is a comparative beast of a machine.

Sure it warned me that due to the scaling I have for the 4K screen, playback wouldn’t work full screen, but it isn’t working well enough in and scenario, windowed or full screen, downloaded or streamed.

I linked the account to Flixster, but I doubt this is just a problem for them.

So am I doing something wrong? I pretty much know what I’m doing with a computer so if I’m having trouble I’d be arrogant enough to assume I’m not the only one.

For the moment, I’m at a loss on what to do next. So I’ll move on and worry about this some other time.

It’s a shame as the concept offered so much.

Back on the Upgrade Cycle

19 Aug

 laptop-xps-15-9550-pdp-polaris-02

Once upon a time it was normal for me to upgrade a computer every two years, alternating between my desktop and laptop. As time and circumstances changed, this has fluctuated in recent years. My dates may be a little out here, but in recent years my updates have followed a cycle similar to this:

·        2006 – Convertible (tablet) HP

·        2009 – New desktop PC

·        2010 – New laptop (Acer Aspire)

·        2013 – Surface Pro 2 (October)

So I should be about due for another upgrade, right?

Well the thing is apart from the small screen size I absolutely still love my Surface Pro 2. It’s powerful enough for most of the tasks I throw at it (with the exception of video rendering, which can never be fast enough) it’s lightweight, the pen is awesome, etc. Sure there are plenty of things that were improved in subsequent models, but overall I loved the package. The point is whilst a newer model would be great and provide incremental performance gains, day to day the SP2 is still a fine device.

Apart from the fact that it started producing a lot of noise from the internal fan, and the replacement cost Microsoft quoted me was close to £600.

Dammit.

So whilst the machine is capable enough, I find I can’t use it outside the house without fear of deafening everyone around me. Essentially the SP2 has been kept safely indoors for the last several months.

I took to using my work supplied Dell laptop. A heavy clunky beast, strangely sluggish (for a mid-range machine) with less than stellar battery life. The additional weight meant that more often than not I’d just stick to using my phone and consuming media rather than creating anything.

This was all a little frustrating. My main single part of my commute to work is a 55+ minute train journey between Colchester and London totalling a little shy of two hours where I could potentially be doing something useful… even if only occasionally.

So I started looking around for my next machine. Here was a part of my wish list:

·        Something that sits on my lap better than the kickstand of the Surface Pro machines.

·        More memory, at least 16Gb. If I’m going to use this thing for work I’d like to have that stuff running in a VM and well away from my main system.

·        More storage. The 256Gb SSD of the Pro 2 was slightly constraining (you learn to live with these things), but again having the work VM would require a sizable chunk of storage for duplicate installations such as Office.

·        Bigger screen. The Pro 2 screen is beautiful to watch HD films on, but for using Visual Studio it’s quite restrictive.

·        Pen input would be nice. I used to use this extensively, although not so much in recent months. Having it there as an option is only a bonus though at it’s very useful when you do need it.

·        Touch screen. Once you start using a touch screen it can be really compelling for certain situations, and for mobile development it really gives an edge.

·        Decent trackpad. I guess I never notice this very often with the Pro 2 keyboard as I tend to either have it in tablet mode during travelling (due to that lapability issue) or connected to a mouse when sat at a desk. But on the occasions I do try to use it the touchpad experience on the Surface Pro 2 keyboard only just sufficies.

·        Something not too heavy. One of the reasons I upgraded from the Acer to the Surface was because the Acer was often being left at home due to its weight.

There were other considerations too, but these were the main things on my list.

So what to buy?

After liking my Surface Pro 2 so much and with the noted wish list, the natural contender was a Surface Book. I’ve been looking at these beautiful machines since they were announced and had they arrived on these shores around the same time as the US release I’d probably have snapped one up almost instantly (after all I got my Pro 2 on launch day).

But I’ve got three children now and that price was just too much. Looking at the 512Gb model it had everything I wanted… but at what cost. As for the model with 1Tb of storage….

Then I started looking at the Dell XPS 15. And the more I looked the more I liked:

·        Large (15 inch) 4K touchscreen.

·        Up to 32Gb memory, double the maximum currently available on the Surface Book.

·        1Tb storage with aforementioned 32Gb memory was cheaper than the 512Gb/16Mb Surface Book.

·        Faster than a Surface Book.

·        Better graphics than a Surface Book (that surprised me!)

·        Very good trackpad.

·        More ports, 2 USB 3.0 and one Thunderbolt (also HDMI and full size SD card slot)

·        Much cheaper!

Of course there were downsides too:

·        Heavier than a Surface Book

·        No pen support

·        Worse battery life than the Surface Book.

·        Supplied with Windows 10 Home only, no option to upgrade to Pro (really Dell?!!)

·        Windows install contains a little Dell Crapware (I’m looking at you McAfee) as opposed to the ‘Signature’ installation of a Surface Book.

This was going to be a hard choice… or at least I thought so.

When it came down to it the compromises of the XPS 15 seemed more than acceptable against the advantages, and the machine looked to be a little more future proof too with the additional RAM and storage I could get for the cheaper price.

I love the form factor of the Surface Book, but the Surface Pro 2 is still working should I need to do any Pen development (although I won’t be taking it to any meetings!!!)

So I ordered the Dell. Despite the order status stating the machine wouldn’t arrive for 4 weeks it actually arrived in a little over 2 weeks, not the instant gratification you hope for but not too shoddy either.

The machine actually arrived a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been on holiday much of the time since then so I’ve only had limited time with it so far. The first thing I did was upgrade the OS to Windows 10 Pro (fortunately I had a spare key) and force installed the anniversary update (1607).

I’ve not reset the machine down to a clean state now, I figured I’d see how I get on with McAfee and the Dell software installed for a while (can I last the first year) and performance seems to be good, but I can’t help wondering how much better it could be if I did this. Start-up times in particular are acceptable, buy not as good as I’d imagined. Also there’s a strange bug where I need to restart the device after initial power on due to the ShellExperienceHost service becoming unstable.

I’ve set up a VM for work and assigned it 16Gb of memory and 4 of the total 8 processor cores, and whilst I’m yet to push it, this also seems very responsive and should be faster than the work supplied laptop without bringing the rest of the system to its knees.

That 4K screen is lovely, but frankly after the WOW moment on seeing the Surface Pro 2 screen all those years ago, it’s clearly better but incrementally so. I’ve not done anything to push it yet, with the exception of the 4K videos shot on my Lumia 950 XL, and these really do look impressive, but that’s expected isn’t it? Perhaps OLED will be my next WOW! Moment?

One bad side is that the screen is such a high resolution that some Desktop applications don’t scale properly. Surprisingly Outlook 2016 (yes, the very latest patched version) has the occasional dialog box that appears corrupt. If Microsoft can’t get its house in order it’s no wonder third party apps also fail in this situation.

Outlook Scaling Issue Example Image

The laptop is heavier than I’d like, but I’ve got used to this to some extent from carting around my work supplied laptop. Either way it’s not ideal, but at the moment I can live with it.

The keyboard, despite reviews and my pre-purchase concerns, seems OK. It’s not the best I’ve ever used, but it’s nearer the top than the bottom. I’m getting on fine with it and as I get more used to it it naturally becomes more comfortable. But then that would be the case with all but the worst keyboards out there.

Surprisingly, even in Desktop mode I used the touch on the Surface more than I’m currently doing with the XPS. I suspect there’s something wired in my brain that says Laptop = no touch, despite the fact I owned a convertible (that was closer to a laptop) back in the Vista days. Partly that may be down to the touchpad though. I’ve never used an Apple touchpad which are supposed to be the gold standard, but this is certainly the best I’ve used, and the ability to scroll using two fingers has meant that I don’t need to reach out to the screen as often as I used to. However, I still do tap the screen on occasion and would definitely choose to have touch available rather than not, that’s no contest.

One other thing I noticed quite quickly is that the matte silver back of the lid seemed to start getting scuffed almost from the first time I put the laptop into my bag. I quickly purchased a sleeve to keep the machine protected during transit so that was £30 I hadn’t counted on, but it does “complete the package” and looks quite smart.

So that’s my initial impressions of the new kit. Not perfect (weight, battery life) but I’m very pleased so far. I guess time will tell how I feel going forward. Overall though, No regrets. I think I made a good decision for my needs.

NserviceBus – another day another configuration nightmare

11 Mar

Yep, this seems fair: NserviceBus – another day another configuration nightmare.

It’s not just that the NServiceBus API changes significantly and regularly, but all the little things like the documentation being either out of date or just plain incorrect. For example, try following the Step By Step Guide. When I did this a couple of weeks ago entire classes were missing from the process.

That’s just lazy.

Actually, not just lazy, also unprofessional.

Still, I very much like the irony of the company I’m working for being listed on the front page of the Particular web site as a featured client. Still, I guess it doesn’t say satisfied, just featured.

via NserviceBus – another day another configuration nightmare.

Hotel WiFi

13 Feb

I’ve been staying in a hotel for work over the last couple of nights (the Premier Inn at Bracknell Central, since you ask), so I decided to take advantage of the hotel WiFi at an extra £3 per 24 hours (seriously, when a room is costing £114 per night this should be included).

My Windows Phone 8, er… phone. Connected without issue, but when it came to connecting my laptop (the Surface Pro 2 running Windows 8.1) no dice. The network connection was made, but only offered a limited connection (i.e. no internet so essentially useless).

The redirect/hijacking to the hotel login page was not appearing. Tethering via my phone I searched countless websites for a solution, and ended up trying some fairly exotic admin commands, but nothing worked.

Nothing.

After continuing to try for an hour or so on the second night I stumbled across the solution. My wireless connection adapter was bridged (from memory I think this was to the Windows Phone Emulator adapter), and for some reason this was consuming the redirects (or at least preventing them from appearing).

Deleting the bridge and re-connecting to the hotel WiFi immediately prompted me to enter the password entry page, and from then on everything worked.

A few weeks ago I attempted to connect to the WiFi on London Underground and was a bit perplexed why it wouldn’t show me the login page there, I suspect this will solve that issue too.

So if you ever hit this problem my advice is to check if you have any adapters bridged, and if so make a note of the settings (just like I didn’t) and try deleting the bridge.

Hopefully this will work for you too, if so please let me know.

Nokia Tablet

27 Aug

So Paul Thurrott and others have confirmed that Nokia is getting ready to announce a 10.1″ Windows RT tablet. It’s going to be a high specification with a quad core Qualcomm 8974 processor, 1920 x 1080 resolution screen, etc.

That is great news, except for one caveat: The expected price is going to be $499, or about £322 in the UK, plus taxes on top I’d imagine, so we’re looking in the region of £386, although I expect £399 to be the minimum headline price.

Nokia/Microsoft, you have a problem here. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let a recent mailshot from Ebuyer explain:

So while I absolutely love Windows RT, I can’t see myself advising many to buy this new Nokia device. Yes the Nexus screen is smaller at 7 inches versus the RT 10.1 inch display, but is higher resolution at 1200 x 1920. Also the Nexus doesn’t have Microsoft Office, but most people won’t care.

Also the app selection on Android is far bigger than on Windows RT.

I actually feel the app situation is a bit of a red herring, as almost all the major app categories are covered by RT, and a lot of Android apps are dross, but many are very fine programs indeed.

In favour of the Nokia is also the fact that RT is much more secure than Android.

So it’s an interesting release, but I can’t help feeling the price is going to put off many prospective purchasers, which is a shame.

What we really need is some RT devices @ seven or eight inches to rival the price of the Nexus or Kindle Fire devices. These will, I believe, add credibility to the higher prices of these larger RT devices.

It’s no good having premium devices if there are no standard equivalents against which they can be compared.

Unless of course you’re the only player in town, like Apple was three years ago.

Those days have gone.