Chrome 2 Adds Some Serious Speed and a lot of New Features


httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rubd9bqjS64&feature=player_embedded

I’ve had Google Chrome installed since it was still in beta way back in November (it rolled out of Beta in November as well).

From the beginning I’ve said that my two favorite things about Chrome are it’s speed and it’s clean, friendly interface. Even in beta Chrome was by far one of the fastest browsers I had ever used and now, with the release of Chrome 2, it’s even faster and more stable.

One of my early complaints with Chrome was its weak contextual menu. If you’re a blogger and you use Firefox, you’re probably very familiar with the shortcuts your contextual menu provides you. While Chrome is still not quite up to FF standards their new contextual menu is beefed up quite a bit and definitely has many more of the basic necessities.

Surprisingly, one of the most requested changes that Google received about Chrome, and which has actually been addressed in Chrome 2, is the ability to hide the thumbnails on your tabs page. Now you can have all the joy of being able to quickly navigate to some of your most visited sites without all the embarrassment of friends coworkers being able to see that said site is The Hills Gossip Fan Club Blog.

Chrome 2 also features form autofill. This one is pretty much self-explanatory.

Chrome 2 may well work its way up to becoming my default surfing/blogging browser of choice but when it comes to taking care of business, Chrome can’t hold a candle to FF with Web Developer Toolbar and Firebug. Those are pretty much essential tools when I’m working on a project, which is practically daily. It’ll be interesting to see if Google even tries to make any headway in that area of FF.

All in all, if you’re not dependent on a lot of Firefox add-ons for your job, Chrome may well be a light, fast and intuitive option for your browsing needs.

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Rumsfeld and Jesus Torturing Evildoers to Keep America Safe


Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam HusseinIt’s hard to imagine what Bush’s to-do list looked like, but I’m guessing it was probably something like this.

  1. Campaign for President as an evangelical Christian: Check
  2. “Win” the Presidential election after the only person at the only media outlet in the country to claim that you won the state your brother was the Governor of, was your cousin John Ellis at Fox News: Check
  3. Invade an oil-rich country based on trumped and/or blatantly false allegations while preying on the fear of the American public: Check
  4. Snatch people from around the world, transport them to an American military base, torture and release them: Check
  5. Appoint a Defense Secretary who hand delivers war briefings to you quoting Biblical scripture and referring to your war on terror as a crusade: Check

Say what?

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [The quote appears over an image of a tank at sunrise]

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” [The quote appears over an image of a soldier in Baghdad]

“It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” [The quote appears over an image of Saddam Hussein]

“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith.” [The quote appears over an image of tanks entering an Iraqi city]

The briefing’s cover sheet generally featured triumphant, color images from the previous days’ war efforts: On this particular morning, it showed the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down in Firdos Square, a grateful Iraqi child kissing an American soldier, and jubilant crowds thronging the streets of newly liberated Baghdad. And above these images, and just below the headline secretary of defense, was a quote that may have raised some eyebrows. It came from the Bible, from the book of Psalms: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…To deliver their soul from death.”

But the Pentagon’s top officials were apparently unconcerned about the effect such a disclosure might have on the conduct of the war or on Bush’s public standing. When colleagues complained to Shaffer that including a religious message with an intelligence briefing seemed inappropriate, Shaffer politely informed them that the practice would continue, because “my seniors”—JCS chairman Richard Myers, Rumsfeld, and the commander in chief himself—appreciated the cover pages.

Play him off, Keyboard Cat.

Awesome Time Lapse Video of the Milky Way Galaxy


http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4505537&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Time lapse video of night sky as it passes over the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis, Texas. The galactic core of Milky Way is brightly displayed. Images taken with 15mm fisheye lens.

Cheaper iPhone Plans May be Coming to AT&T


AT&T iPhoneIf you have an iPhone you know better than anyone what it’s like to dole out that $30/mo for your data plan. Well, there may be some relief on the way. AT&T may be working on cheaper plans in order to keep their exclusive deal with Apple.

AT&T may have gotten the message. The exclusive U.S. iPhone service provider is considering cutting the price of its monthly service package or offering a range of lower-priced plans, say people with knowledge of the company’s thinking. One plan that could be introduced as early as late May would include limited data access at a $10 monthly reduction, the people say.

The possible price cut likely reflects the back-and-forth between AT&T and Apple (AAPL) as they work out whether and under what terms AT&T would remain the sole U.S. iPhone carrier. Apple may want flexibility in pricing as a condition, analysts say. “We understand it’s part of the extension [of its contract] that AT&T wants to maintain,” Richard Doherty, director at consultant Envisioneering Group, says of the prospect of lower data-plan prices. As Apple considers whether to widen its circle of U.S. providers, AT&T may have less ability to balk at Apple’s requests. Representatives of Apple and AT&T declined to comment.

It would be wonderful to see the unlimited iPhone data plans go down to $20 but I believe that’s highly unlikely. I’m sure AT&T will work out a new pricing structure in order to maintain it’s iPhone monopoly, but I doubt it will actually take a step backwards.

Google Reverses Course, Allows Trademarked Adwords to be Bought by (Most) Everyone


Google AdWords LogoGoogle has announced a change in its AdWords policy that is sure to do two things. It’s sure to make a lot of people a more money, and it’s sure to stir up a quite a bit of controversy. Last Thursday, Google announced on its AdWord blog that it was reversing its previous stance and would begin allowing certain companies to purchase AdWords containing trademarks that they did not own.

…in an effort to improve ad quality and user experience, we are adjusting our trademark policy in the U.S. to allow some ads to use trademarks in the ad text. This change will bring Google’s policy on trademark use in ad text more in line with the industry standard. Under certain criteria, you can use trademark terms in your ad text in the U.S. even if you don’t own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it. This change will help you to create more narrowly targeted ad text that highlights your specific inventory.

For example, under our old policy, a site that sells several brands of athletic shoes may not have been able to highlight the actual brands that they sell in their ad text. However, under our new policy, that advertiser can create specific ads for each of the brands that they sell. We believe that this change will help both our users and advertisers by reducing the number of overly generic ads that appear across our networks in the U.S.

I’m not exactly sure what Google’s stance was before because it is already being sued for selling trademarked brands without permission, not to mention the suits they’ve settled out of court.

On Monday, FPX filed a class-action suit against Google in federal court in Texas, saying that Google had infringed on its trademark and challenging Google’s policies on behalf of all trademark owners in the state. Legal experts said it was the first class-action suit against Google over the issue.

But Google’s acceptance of such competitive uses of trademarks has irked many other companies, including the likes of American Airlines and Geico, which have filed suits against Google and settled them. Many brand owners say the practice abuses their brands, confuses customers and increases their cost of doing business.

Only time will tell whether or not this move by Google will make things better or worse.

Twitter's topics "Hump of Irrelevence" graph


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A pretty witty and very accurate graph of trending topics as they appear on Twitter.

[Flickr/Meg Pickards]

The Inglorious Rise and Fall of Movable Type: Now making products for WordPress


wordpress_knockout_movabletypeBack in the day, when blogging was still pretty much in its infancy, Six Apart launched a (relatively) easy to install and customize standalone blogging platform called Movable Type.

Movable Type was developed by Mena and Ben Trott and, back in 2002, it was about as good as you could get to having your own CMS platform publishing your website. It didn’t take long for Movable Type to corner the market with independent/tech savvy bloggers and site owners.

As Movable Type grew in popularity and, sort of by default, became the preeminent blogging platform at the time, it was pretty well known it was by no means perfect. The core of the engine itself was written in Perl, which is a high level program language and not all that efficient (Perl requires CGI scripting to function). To publish a new blog post, or even to edit an existing post, Movable Type, as absurd as it sounds, had to rebuild every single post on your site. Not only was it an extremely time consuming process, which for obvious reasons only got worse as your site grew, it was an incredibly inefficient use of resources. Still, it had a strong community of citizen journalists committed to using it and everyone just assumed that at some point these issues would be resolved. Well, for the most part…they weren’t.

As Six Apart watched their blogging platform explode in popularity they quickly found themselves in the position of having to make a decision on the future of the company. What no one could have predicted at the time was that this decision would ultimately lead to the demise of Movable Type.

What was the decision? Six Apart decided to circle their wagons, keep their source closed and create an extremely convoluted and hard to understand pricing structure that would charge all users. Needless to say this backfired. Suddenly the community that had supported Movable Type and, understandably, considered themselves partially responsible for its success, felt extremely betrayed. And Six Apart, who had been the darlings of the dance suddenly found themselves reeling from all the negative feedback springing up.

This posting on Slashdot from 2004 turned out to not only be concise, but also prophetic.

“An immensely popular weblog publishing tool, Movable Type, has announced a new pricing model based on “support level, number of authors permitted, and the number of weblogs permitted per license”. MT3D (Developer Edition) for non-commercial users has drifted away from its full-featured, free predecessor and managed to upset many blog authors whose entry summaries can be seen via the trackback feature originating from the initial MT3D announcement. Is this a case of bait-n-switch, or simply a company trying to capitalize on its dominant market share? WordPress (GPL), which is an equally powerful CMS, seems like a perfect candidate for those who are considering a switch to a non-crippled, free alternative.”

And therein lies the rub. Just as Six Apart was clamping down on their code and trying desperately to monetize their product, WordPress was just appearing on the blogging scene. What was so special about WordPress? It was completely Open Source and it was completely free. Six Apart eventually backed down on their pricing structure and continued to offer a free version of Movable Type (that came along with a number of caveats). It was too late though, the damage had already been done.

At the very moment Six Apart was busy alienating its users, WordPress was busy welcoming them into the fold. At that time WordPress was mere blip on the CMS/blog publishing platform radar but that would begin to change rapidly. By maintaining its Open Source stance and inviting people to not only help develop the product but to create plugins and themes to help customize their sites, WordPress eventually put Movable Type on its back.

Remember when I said Movable Type was “relatively” easy to install and customize? Well that was pretty subjective. You needed to be pretty tech savvy to install Movable Type on your own and even then it could take an hour or two to setup, if there were no mistakes. In fact, a major part of their revenue platform was offering to charge you $199.95 just to install Movable Type. Imagine how frustrated you would have to be trying to install a blogging platform to be willing to pay $200 bucks just to get it installed. Part of the genius of WordPress was their Famous 5-Minute Install. That was the hook, and it worked. Compared to Movable Type WordPress was a hundred times more user friendly to the common user.

In the summer of 2007 Six Apart announced  the “Movable Type Open Source Project, a move that will see the release of an open source version of Movable Type in Q3 of this year”.  By then it was way too late.  WordPress had already handily surpassed Movable Type as the blogging/CMS platform of choice and had an extremly large and vibrant community continuing to grow and improve it.

From the outside, it seems that much of Six Apart’s so called success with their Movable Type platform has been with posturing and corporate deals with business people, who were either ill-informed or weren’t tech savvy enough to know any better, as opposed to any kind of innovation.  It’s like the parable of the tortoise and the hare only much geekier.

All of this leads us to Six Apart’s announcement (read: concession) today at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic. Anil Dash, Six Apart’s longtime evangelist, made the announcement that Six Apart has launched a a plugin that provides WordPress users with access to a suite of Six Apart’s add-on features for blogs.

To put this in perspective, this would be sort of like the Yankees announcing that they were renting out their farm system and practice facilities to the Boston Red Sox.

TechCrunch points out that just last year the two companies were going at each other quite publicly and now Six Apart is developing products for WordPress users.

Dash says that this move represents “baby steps” in Six Apart’s tentative first efforts to provide a suite of features and functionality to WordPress users. This a big deal, considering the long standing rivalry between the two blogging platforms. Last year, the two companies had a heated duel via company blog posts, Twitter and in TechCrunch comments.

My initial reaction is that it’s probably too little too late.  Much of what Six Apart is offering overlaps what WordPress already provides which seems counterintuitive.  And, possibly more to the point, I believe there are probably still quite a few old school bloggers that remember how they were treated by Six Apart (Movable Type) when they were on top and aren’t exactly knocking each other down to start using their product again, even if it is as a WordPress tool.

Editor’s note: After much thought I have edited the title and image associated with this post to replace “Six Apart” with “Movable Type”.