Monthly Archives: February 2005

Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings – Update coming soon!

I was looking through Google’s news group archives the other week and I discovered that the Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings page that I run will be ten years old in September. With the new series due to be broadcast any day now I thought it was high time for an update.

The site was originally created by my brother, and I have since taken over the running of it. It is a survey of on-line fandom’s likes and dislikes of the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who. It had, at one point, an automatic script to update the rankings as people voted, but due to a bug this stopped working, since then the votes have been collated by hand.

So once again, with the help of my brother on some of the more technical PHP aspects, I am reintroducing the automatic updates.

I am currently in the process of implementing an IP and cookie system to stop people voting more than once. Although I envisage resetting the results every year to see how peoples’ views of stories change over time, whilst still keeping a grand total vote of all time.

The whole site will also get a full CSS standards compliant makeover as well as a new look.

I will keep you posted with my progress…

Google\’s toolbar sparks concern

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google’s toolbar sparks concern
When this new Google toolbar finds key words in a site it directs people to pre-selected commercial websites, such as a book’s ISBN number which would turn into a link to Amazon. It is only available in America but will no doubt arrive in Europe soon.

This is big news for all web designers, and has some very important ramifications. Personally I think it is a very dodgy territory for Google to go down. What gives Google the right to change a copy write website, especially by adding links to commercial sites?

I’m sure most people are computer literate enough to be able to go to Amazon or their preferred online retailer and type in an ISBN if they really want to. The designer of the site should be able to decide which commercial sites, if any, they link to. Many sites, including University sites, have strict policies about adverts or commercial links on their websites. You could argue that the changes are on the viewer’s computer and not on the server, and so are down to the user. This does not take into account the fact that this change will happen to every user of the toolbar, and so it is in effect dissemination an altered form of potentially copy write materials.

Take for instance an online book retailer, other than Amazon, their website will no doubt be full of ISBN numbers. With this toolbar active all those numbers could potentially turn into links to Amazon. Not what they want I’m sure. They will be stuck having to have expensive rewrites of their site, or just have to put up with losing people to Amazon.

How does Google decide which companies to promote? The Internet has always been about democratising information. I can shop at Amazon just as easily as I can shop at Abebooks. The number of links, to any particular shop, you encountered on your travels through the internet was determined by thousands of individual web sites picking their preferred shop. Now it will be determined by one company; a company already in charge of 92 percent of the pages that people view .

Who controls your toolbar controls your Internet.

iWork and iLife 05 review

I have finally had a chance to have a play with the new iLife 05 and iWork software from Apple.

iLife 05
The updates to iLife are fantastic, especially iPhoto. The ability to control image properties like colour balance and image tilt from with iPhoto is great. It means I no longer have to have the fiddly job of opening and changing a picture in Photoshop then reloading it into iPhoto before I can use it in my DVD slideshows. This alone is worth the asking price.

iMovie now natively supports widescreen, a feature I could have done with in early January when I found out all the Christmas movies had been accidentally filmed in widescreen mode! HD support is interesting but probably only useful in 2006 when some cheaper consumer HD cameras will come out. As usual Apple is ahead of everyone here, even its users.

I love the new menu designs in iDVD with moving drop zones for photos or videos. Everyone I show my holiday DVDs to are always very impressed, unless they happen to have a Mac in which case I can see the look of ‘anyone can do that!’ in their eyes… There is, however, a big omission, out of all the versions of iDVD there has not been one Christmas or winter theme! Come on Apple, everyone makes home movies at Christmas. Where is the gentle falling snow in front of telly tubby snowmen with movie drop zones on their bellies?

Garageband hasn’t had as big an upgrade as Steve Jobs could have led you to believe. Multitrack recording and a tuner are nice additions, and so is the ability to create music scores live, but it still feels far to slow on my eMac. Also I would like to have an easier way to change chords (not keys), with a C or a G for example visible on the master track for each chord change. This would make creating backing tracks for existing song much easier.

iWork 05
iWork is a very mixed bag really. I have never used Keynote before, but I had heard so much about how it was far better than PowerPoint. No one seems to have pointed out that Hypercard on my Mac Classic years ago was better than PowerPoint is today, i.e. it’s not difficult! The effects and transitions in Keynote are very nicely done, and the templates show a design aesthetic and reserve often missing from PowerPoint slides. I was, however, struck by how pedestrian the user interface was. For an Apple program it was far too cluttered and full of idiosyncratic non standard boxes. Both Keynote and Pages both share these same interfaces, and Pages especially struck me as being a bit too much like AppleWorks for my liking. They had a chance to start from scratch with this, but I think they went for the easy option. The templates are fantastic, colourful and well balanced, but I would have liked a few more basic letter and envelope templates. Hopefully they will improve these rough edges and add a spreadsheet and database soon. This could make it an Office killer, but isn’t that what Apple are really scared of? They did it for IE can they afford to do it for Office?