WARNING: This blog contains random thoughts on technology, software engineering, and general all-round nerdery. Read at your own risk. Nerd is contagious.

Monday, August 28, 2006

AOL 9.0 considered badware

From slashdot (comments):
"The bad news at AOL keeps coming. First they get in trouble for releasing search data on more than half a million customers, then it gives away security software with a nasty EULA, now its free client software is accused of acting like badware according to Stopbadware.org, the Google-funded rating group."

Hopefully someone at AOL will get the point. We can't claim to know what the user will or won't like. Let's offer them a service without ramming others down their throat. There's other ways to help people "discover" new products. Other similar tactics, in other companies:
  1. Would you like to supersize it for 25 cents more? (McDonald's, though they don't 'supersize' anymore)
  2. Try our 8-week free subscription to EW weekly? (Best Buy)
  3. Sign up for our Gap card today? It's 10% off!!
  4. Click here to NOT receive FREE email updates and information about our new products
It's like how you have to pay extra to 'avoid' getting telemarketed to death (yes i know about donotcall.gov). I used to think that everyone sort of knew the difference between right and wrong. These are some things that I wish every software developer would follow:
  • Your software is "invited" to a user's computer, don't abuse that trust
  • Install what you need to get your software running, no more.
  • If you are installing a systray app (or something that runs at startup), ask the user if this is ok.
  • Your "update" software shouldn't run outside of the app that you just installed.
Hopefully Vista's UAP will block things like trying to add "AOL is teh best intarnet!!1!!" links to your Favorites and Desktop. OK, rant over. I just wish we could have an official "hippocratic oath" like doctrine applied to our software, similar to this.

Go vote this up on Netscape.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Return of the Intellimouse Explorer 3.0

Due to immense pressure from fans and gamers, Microsoft is bringing back the much-loved Intellimouse Explorer 3.0. It is arguably the best Intellimouse Microsoft ever made, now with improved feet, for better gaming.

In the last few years I went through a couple of different mice, always returning back to this mouse, because nothing else provided the same kind of tactile feedback. The scroll wheel, in particular, is the last one before Microsoft went for the no-notch feel of the new ones. It also is the only one where *clicking* the wheel is the most comfortable (compared to 4.0 and up). Mouse wheel clicking is very useful in Firefox, to open links in new background tabs, as well has closing a tab (by middle clicking on it). For some reason, newer mice (by design) have harder-to-click scroll wheels, and they are annoying for gaming or browsing, in my opinion.

So, if you never had an Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, here's your chance to get a new one! Now, if you also get a Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 (like I did), you'll be all set with your (back to 2000) hardware!

read more | digg story

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back in DC for a week

So I'm going to be back in the Dulles campus starting Friday, staying till next Friday. I'm mainly coming for the Boxely Code Kitchen which is happening tomorrow (8/18) from 1-4pm. In the code kitchen I'm going to cover the basics of Boxely and also demonstrate how to use the MaxiXML service to interface with the Flickr public API.

This is all part of the Boxely Contest we are having. The contest is in-house only, and there are cash prizes involved, as well as a chance to have your stuff be included in the upcoming public release. Submissions are due Sept. 10. If you're an AOL employee, I'm sure you'll get email on it soon.

I'm also here to do some training for Project Infusion employees next Friday (8/25), before I fly back. The rest of the time, I'm going to be working on the public release of Boxely.

Speaking of which, Larry's set up a Boxely community site, so check it out.

I'm currently working on the new toolkit for Boxely and the new samples that showcase the toolkit. Within the toolkit, I've been focusing on cleaning up the library's gadgets. Things such as gadget inheritance, properly cascading style trees, and yes, a new look & feel. We can't have everything remind us of AOL can we? ;)

For those of you who have an questions on Boxely (yes I do Boxely tech support!), or want to request something be covered in the code kitchen, leave a comment.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Nice work, folks

Not to be outdone by the launch of AOL Video, AOL Research FTW! As Shawn said, how 'bout just ONE week?

read more | digg story

AOL Video (beta) launches

So today we launched our beta of AOL Video. First impressions look really great; hopefully we can see some good integration with AOL's UnCut video site in the near future. Mixing professional content with user submitted content in a nice slick interface might be the key differentiator against other sites like YouTube, Google Video, etc.
So far clicking on a video link opens an old school popup "player" window with extras like playlists, etc. I've never like this way of showing video. I think a better approach is embedded video on a page with comments, etc, just like UnCut. (And speaking of UnCut, why do you have to install a "VideoEGG" something or other, just to upload a video?)
I know that everyone on the AOL Video team has been working extremely hard in the last few months to get this beta out the door (nights, weekends, you name it), so definitely big congrats for the team for getting the job done.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Boxely Code Kitchen

I'm running a code kitchen tomorrow of Boxely. It's going to be for pretty much any developer at AOL Dulles. It's to help point people in the right direction for the contest. What contest you ask?

Well, we're trying to release a public version of Boxely at the end of this month. So we are hosting a contest (in house only, sorry!) to see who can make the coolest little app using Boxely and preferably the MaxiXML service. The MaxiXML is a wrapper around the XMLHttpRequest object used to help write AJAX-y apps, but in a local (connected) environment.

Stop by 2-5pm in the Berners-Lee (CC2) room if you want a brief introduction to Boxely and the MaxiXML service and to just pick up contest information. Following that we'll do a hands on demo and try to write up a sample on the spot. Yeeeeeeeeah we'll see how that goes, but we have some ideas ;-)