Technology

Things the Web Replaced
Published by Toronto Mike on June 21, 2008 @ 16:14 in Technology

webMy kids will never know a time before the World Wide Web. I was already in university when the web arrived, so I have many memories of doing things that I no longer do as a result of this communications revolution. Here are some things that the web has replaced.

Encyclopedias - I think everyone over the age of 30 remembers the encyclopedia as the definitive reference point. It's where I'd start when doing an assignment or writing an essay. The thing about encyclopedias was that they were heavy and expensive and out of date so quickly. Furthermore, you could read them at the library, but you couldn't take them out. The web means I don't even think about encyclopedias any more.

Maps - I remember those big maps that were impossible to fold. You had to have one to plan your route, and you needed a Perly's or MapBook for driving directions. Now, it's all Google Maps for me and the paper map you buy in stores may rest in peace.

Letters - Remember when you had to write a letter, put it in an envelope, slap an address and stamp on it and drop it in a mailbox? My friend spent a year in Sweden and we communicated in this archaic fashion. That wouldn't happen today, we'd keep in touch via email.

Reference Books - It's not just encyclopedias. I used to have one book with info on movies, another with info on rock bands and others with baseball statistics, hockey players, not to mention the good ol' dictionary. IMDB killed the movie book, AllMusic killed my rock band anthology and BaseballReference and HockeyDB killed my sports stats books.

I'm sure there's more, but these are a few things that the web has replaced. Oh yeah, throw the fax machine in there. Who's faxing anymore?

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The Best Firefox Yet
Published by Toronto Mike on June 17, 2008 @ 18:15 in Technology

firefoxWith more than 15,000 improvements, Firefox 3 is faster, safer and smarter than ever before. I've been using Release Candidate 2 of Firefox 3 for a couple of weeks now and I'm loving it. It's faster, that memory leak seems to have dried up and there are neat enhancements all over the place.

It's been four years since I gave Internet Explorer the boot for Firefox 0.9 and I've been converting family, friends and colleagues ever since. Try it for two days and you'll never go back. After all, it is Download Day.

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CRTC, Get Your Damn Hands Off My Web
Published by Toronto Mike on May 17, 2008 @ 10:24 in Technology

webCanadian Thinker is calling it "scary stuff". I think that's an understatement. The CRTC has reversed it's 1999 promise to stay out of the realm of cyber space and is now looking at limiting Canadians' access to online broadcasters and Internet-based radio stations. It may also see a levy charged to Internet service providers to pay for the creation of more Canadian content online and they're looking at the practice of "traffic shaping" by ISPs in this country.

Net neutrality is important and our right to view content regardless of country of origin via this medium is now threatened. As Canadian Thinker said:

The CRTC has enough trouble handling what's on it plate already, without wading into the murky waters of cyber space.

As it stands, the CRTC is nothing more than a lackey for the major broadcasting companies in Canada, I'm sure Canadian internet providers would like to have their competition squashed as well.

Before it's too late, let's tell the CRTC that CanCon has no place on the world wide web.

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Google Friend Connect
Published by Toronto Mike on May 12, 2008 @ 11:21 in Technology

googleThe Google Press Center just made an announcement about Google Friend Connect. Here's what Google Friend Connect entails.

Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social -- and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect (see http://www.google.com/friendconnect following this evening's Campfire One), any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming -- picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.

Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.

I love this idea. I don't know if it will stick, but I'm going to implement Google Friend Connect right here, just for kicks. Stay tuned.

friend_connect_illustration

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Yahoo!
Published by Toronto Mike on May 3, 2008 @ 21:17 in Technology

yahooMicrosoft is withdrawing its offer for Yahoo! after talks between the two companies broke down on Saturday.

My reaction can be summed up in one word... Yahoo!

Previously on Toronto Mike:

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The iPhone is the One
Published by Toronto Mike on May 1, 2008 @ 20:02 in Technology

iphoneThis is been a busy mofo of a week. I'm just coming up for air, was there an announcement about the iPhone coming to Canada?

Oh yes, here it is. In the worst kept secret in Canadian telecom history, Rogers will be bringing Apple's iPhone to Canada later this year.

In 2005, I outlined the ideal phone for me. I wanted a phone that wasn't just a phone, but an MP3 player, web browser and more. Then, in 2007, I declared that I had found what I was looking for, and Apple was calling it the iPhone. The iPhone would be my very first mobile phone.

Since I wrote that entry, work has given me a Blackberry. So long as I'm not seeing an invoice, I won't be switching, but once I'm paying my own way, I'm knocking on Apple's door. The iPhone is the one.

iphone

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Hand-Coding HTML
Published by Toronto Mike on April 30, 2008 @ 17:03 in Movable Type, Technology

webBoing Boing has a little write-up about how NYTimes.com hand-codes its HTML. I'd link to the NYTimes.com article, but you have to register to read it.

I've been hand-coding all my HTML and CSS for a decade now, and I doubt I'll ever do it any other way. Over the years I've tried the design part of Dreamweaver and other wysiwyg HTML editors, but the control I'd sacrifice always reminded me how much faster and effective it is to hand-code.

About five-years ago I wrote about this subject, but I'd like to modify my opinion since then. I still love the control, take pride in the accomplishment and find the entire process to be rather romantic, but I've learnt hand-coding and Movable Type can coexist for optimal performance. The HTML and CSS is still hand-coded, but a sweet CMS like Movable Type can do all the heavy lifting for you. It's thinking smarter instead of harder.

Khoi Vinh, the Design Director of NYTimes.com, says the following:

It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

I couldn't agree more.

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Video On Flickr
Published by Toronto Mike on April 8, 2008 @ 22:12 in Technology

flickrMy favourite photo sharing service is introducing video. They're all about the image at Flickr, so they only let us pro users upload 90 second clips or less.

Flickr keeps getting better. Back off, Gate!

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Google's Free 411 Service
Published by Toronto Mike on March 15, 2008 @ 14:18 in Technology

googleAccording to BlogTO, Google's free 411 service is now available here in Toronto. This is a pretty awesome service from Google that beats the crap out of the 75¢ 411 service we all hate to use. Program 1-800-4664-411 into your mobile phone now and you'll thank me later.

Here's a quick demo of how it works. Remember, it's completely free, so this is a video you actually should watch.

I just tried it and it's pretty slick. You just call 1-800-4664-411, say "Toronto", and name the company you want to call. Then, Google even connects you.

411 is dead. Long live Google's 411.

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Unencrypting WiFi Networks
Published by Toronto Mike on March 3, 2008 @ 16:19 in Technology

wifiThe other day I was downtown with an hour to kill and I had some work to do. I had my laptop with me, but I needed a WiFi hotspot so I could jump on the web. Sitting in the McDonalds in the Eaton Centre at Queen and Yonge, I started scanning for an open network.

The One Zone wireless network was strongest, as you'd expect considering its radio access points are installed on streetlighting poles, but it's not free. Several other WiFi networks were encrypted. One, named The Apple Store, was left open and was just strong enough to get me online so I could do what I needed to do. I was very happy I found it.

This got me thinking... Isn't it awesome when you find an open WiFi network when you need one? It's been drilled into our heads that we need to encrypt our networks, but why? Is the fear that someone will use the connection for illegal activity? If so, why do so many coffee shops and hotels offer open free hotspots?

I'm starting to think of an open WiFi network as a sign of good citizenship. Share access and earn karma credits, spread the love. It's for the greater good, isn't it?

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