Tabbed Browsing Usage

There’s an interesting article about how users use tabbed browsing and how it affects web analytics at ClickZ. None of this information should make much difference to an average web developer (apart from tabbed browsing means your web pages have got to make a better first impression) but it’s interesting never the less.

Tabbed browsing has made me a lot more efficient at using the internet. I usually have around 4 or 5 tabs open at a time (sometimes up to 15). When I visit a webpage such as Slashdot, Digg or BoingBoing I typically skim through the list of articles opening any which sound interesting in tabs. This means all the other pages can load in the background whilst I read the first.

This has several implications:

  • I use the back button a lot less. In fact, I notice I’m rarely using the back button since becoming a tab user.
  • I only load the Slashdot/Digg page once rather than going back to it. I’m also more likely to skim it and less likely to read what they say.
  • Since I don’t have to wait for each of the pages to individually load, I make my decision on whether the article looks interesting a lot quicker. If it looks boring or tedious, I just jam the mouse button over the close button.
  • Research is a lot faster and a lot more information can consumed.

I must admit that tabbed browsing has at times become overwhelming especially when you reach about 8 tabs. I try to limit myself to around 4 or 5 for that reason.

With the release of Internet Explorer 7 (which will IMO also catalyse Firefox adoption) more and more people are going to be discovering the joys of tabbed browsing so web developers will have to ensure that their websites make a good first impression.

Colour Coding Contacts on MSN Messenger

Sometimes on MSN Messenger I have some issues recognising who someone is from their nickname especially people who change their nicknames every day and don’t prefix it. Sometimes it’s also kinda confusing when two people from different places have similar nicknames.

One nice feature is the ability to colour code contacts – this changes the background colour of your conversation windows and the "toast" popups you recieve when your buddy signs in.

This way you can colour code people – you could give friends from school a red colour, friends from forums another colour, etc. You could also colour code certain people e.g. girlfriend.

To assign a colour to a contact, simply change the colour scheme of your conversation window:

MSN Colour Scheme

Is RSS the new email?

I’m sure most people have experienced it – coming back from vacation and having a huge backlog of emails to read and to reply to. When I came back from holiday this year it wasn’t the e-mail which piled up – it was my RSS feeds.

I had about 100 updated feeds, many of which with several dozen new items. It’s taken me 4 days and I’m still not through reading all of these feeds (just three left). Usually reading blogs and sites through feeds is an enjoyable experience – half an hour to 45 minutes at the start of the day catching up with all the news and gossip. It’s a little tedious to read a months worth of it in a go.

Sure, part of the blame is on myself for having so many feeds and also on insisting that I read everything from the last month. I will admit that it probably isn’t necessary to read every entry from the last month but I don’t want to miss anything important or uber-interesting. It’s the same with e-mail; you don’t have to read every single e-mail but you probably end up doing it anyway. 

Artificial Meat

Damn Interesting’s article on Meat-o-matic is actually kind of scary. NASA scientists managed to grow artificial fish meat in a vat. They took a few small chunks of fish meat, placed it in growth solution and presumbly use some tumour cells or something to make it divide quickly. To replicate exercise, the meat also needs to be stretched. The main aim is to give astronauts travelling to Mars or people living on the Moon a cost-effective way of eating meat.

I don’t find the idea of test tube meat very appetising and I can’t see myself ever willingly trying or eating it but I can certainly imagine a world where artificially-grown meat is commonplace. The population of the world is growing quickly and there are only a limited amount of resources. It’s said that meat demand in China is doubling every 10 years. Growing edible muscle is a more efficient and effective way of enabling everyone to eat meat without the problems associated with waste, pollution and space.

Artificial meat production could evolve into technologies such as the replicators from Star Trek. Damn Interesting has an alternative vision:

Because the idea of vat meat isn’t particularly appetizing, one has to wonder whether these meat machines will become the source of cheap meat for the massive underclass of the future. The rich will dine on corn-fed Iowa beef while the poor masses slave away in the underground factories, lunching on cultured meat tumor-chow laced with obedience-enhancing drugs. It seems almost inevitable.

Perhaps cultured tumour muscle meat is something that we’ll all have to get used to in a couple of decades. 

Connect to MSN using your favourite IRC client

Bitlbee is a really cool program which will allow you to use your favourite IRC client (mIRC, XChat, Opera, etc.) to connect to instant messaging networks such as MSN and Yahoo. It’s quite nice and elegant and will work with any IRC client as it runs as a IRC server locally which serves as a bridge between the IRC protocol and the MSN protocol.

It supports statuses, group conversations and all that so for many people it’ll save quite a bit of memory and desktop real estate as they can combine all their IM programmes into their lightweight IRC client. Obviously it doesn’t support any of the cool stuff like display pictures, nudges or handwriting so it’s no use for instant messaging power users.

You can even use it with Microsoft Comic Chat

Stargate SG-1 Cancellation

This happened a week ago but I was away and still wanted to add my thoughts to the discussion.

Multichannel News first reported this last week:

People close to the production of Stargate SG-1 said Sci Fi Channel canceled the series on the eve of its 200th episode, which aired last Friday night, making the show the first cable scripted series to reach such a milestone.

Spinoff series Stargate Atlantis — which also airs Friday nights on Sci Fi and shares producers and production facilities with the older SG-1 — was said to be unaffected by the cancellation. Atlantis is currently in its third season.

Of course this is disappointing and bad news for SG-1 fans but it has happened before – 5 years ago Showtime axed SG-1. It was then picked up by Sci Fi where SG-1 currently lives. SG-1 fans seem to be putting a brave face on. Producer Robert Cooper says Stargate SG-1 will continue – whether it’s through a movie, another TV channel or a third series. However it seems like Sci Fi’s contract with MGM prevents an 11th season from being shown on US television.

In the past, more Stargate movies and a third series have been discussed quite often. Devlin has wanted to produce the rest of his original trilogy and Cooper has talked about an SG-1 movie for quite a while. The executive at MGM has said they’d like to have another movie which may dovetail into a third television series.

I’ve read somewhere that MGM easily makes back the money they spend on producing the show from selling DVDs and of course they make a lot more money from selling it to international television channels. It’s quite possible SG-1 could continue in it’s current form, but just not be shown on US television.

I am slightly suspect over whether MGM actually wanted Scifi to cancel SG-1 as they allowed them to keep Atlantis for a fourth season. Shows also get more expensive to make each time they get renewed; actors demand more money, etc. SG-1’s cancellation could pave the way for a movie and/or new series. MGM would also have known they couldn’t show SG-1 on another US television network.

Sci-fi shows which should be brought back:

  • Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Quantum Leap
  • Andromeda (Hercules in Space)

I'm Back

Hey guys,

I’m back from my summer vacation. I hope you all had a wonderful summer as well; I certainly did and it was nice to get away from having to read about Vista and Google every single day.

I’ve been away from the net for quite a while so I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes several days just to catch up with all my RSS feeds, and the latest happenings. I’m still in a bit of confusion over whether Pluto is still a planet and over whether Stargate SG-1 has been cancelled or just moved.

There are also several dozen comments on the blog to be read, tons of e-mail and spam, a lot of YouTube videos, bugs to be fixed, tasks to be done, dates to be arranged and all that. 

So please bear with me whilst I get everything back in order and thanks for hanging around

Windows Sounds and Music

I was looking around my Windows folder as I wanted to retrieve copies of the sounds Windows uses. I discovered three very strange sounds:

  • C:\Windows\Media\FLOURISH.MID
  • C:\Windows\Media\ONESTOP.MID
  • C:\Windows\Media\TOWN.MID

I searched around the web and I couldn’t find much about these files. They just seem to be some MIDI songs and I’ve no idea if they are even used by Windows and if so, where.

I found a Windows Feed Discovered.wav file too which I thought was kinda wierd as XP doesn’t have any feed integration but I wouldn’t be surprised if this came from Internet Exploder 7. 

I also came across CLOCK.AVI in the Windows folder a while ago; googled around for this one and apparently some Windows drivers use this for internal timing or something.

Swift: Safari on Windows

Three months ago I posted some links to services which allowed you to test your website in Safari. Most people use Windows these days, and KHTML/Webkit is the only major browser not available on Windows.

Swift 

Click the image for a full screenshot. 

WebKit has since been ported to Windows and there is now a browser called Swift which implements it. It’s at version 0.1 alpha stage and the browser itself is pretty rough – it crashed on me several times, a lot of stuff doesn’t work, etc. Additionally, the mousewheel and right-click doesn’t work.

It probably won’t look exactly the same on a Mac because of things like fonts and screen differences, but it’s a pretty good way of making sure your site and Javascript works with the WebKit engine without having to fork out a few hundred dollars for the Mac Mini. 

(Oh, install it for all users on the system, not "just me" or it won’t work) 

Three Topical Thoughts: Cameras

Standards Sell

I bought a new camera a few months ago. It threw me into a world of terms such as f-numbers, centre-weighted averages, TTLs, CCD sensors, megapixels, et al.

I’m no camera expert and I had a much harder time selecting a camera than I would have had if I was buying a computer. In the end however, many of the cameras seemed to have pretty similar specs and with cameras there is no end of choice.

You’d think that the most important thing which sells you a camera is megapixel number. I purchased my camera because it used standard batteries and standard memory. I’ve had bad experiences with proprietary batteries and when they run out of power after half a day of shooting, you can’t recharge them or replace them.

Excessive Snapping Syndrome 

When people go on holiday, many of them always have their cameras at the ready and try to capture every single image. Every place they go and walk a few steps they take a new image. Certainly I have had this problem too. Looking at waterfronts, scenes and animals through your camera’s screen is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

I guess it’s particularly bad for people who try to record their holiday on a camcorder.

Power Saving

Does anyone have any particular techniques on saving power on their cameras? I’m really talking about the time in between taking photos – when you’ve just taken a photo and you know you might want to take another one very soon.

I’ve tried three things:

  • Photo Mode but turning off display: This means the screen won’t have to update whilst your walking about. I’m unsure if the sensor will still be active; it may still be white balancing.
  • Display Mode: This will keep the screen on, but turn things like the sensor off, saving power. It will contract the lens, using up power.
  • Turning Off: This is a bit slower; it contracts the lens and then has to start up (taking about 3 seconds) which obviously uses power. But it doesn’t waste power doing white balancing, showing display, etc.

Does anyone have any tips for getting the most out of their batteries?