Monday, April 21, 2008

Where is the Silverlight nag install controversy?

Silverlight install prompt
(click for full screen install image)

After following the Safari 3.1 on Windows installation controversy here, here. and here, I can't help but wonder why anyone that has to go to on a regular basis hasn't cried out in agony at the unavoidable prompt to install Silverlight. Here's how this is a horrendous user experience:

It is unavoidable. Think Emperor Palpatine's voice from Return of the Jedi. No matter where on Microsoft's site you go to, MSDN, Mactopia, Sysinternals, you are going to get prompted to install Silverlight.

You can't ignore it. No matter how many times you click the X on the prompt, go back to the Microsoft site later, you are going to get prompted again. Over and over and over again.

It's a roadblock to whatever you are trying to do. Instead of the prompt being unobtrusive and just happens to show to anyone without Silverlight installed in a corner somewhere, no, it is a modal prompt for click here to see the full "experience"

Ed Bott posted a comment on this post which included a link to a post of his own. His comment seemed like he was trying to help, but confusing because as I clearly show in the screenshot above, there is no "No Thanks" next to the X. I went to his post, where I was greeted with the unfriendly title Generating fake outrage over Silverlight. Clearly, Ed thought I was trying to counter the posts about the bad Safari on Windows install prompt experience (which again I think is bad), which is not the case. I thought it strange that no one, either Windows or Mac focused, had said anything about the poor user experience I was seeing with Silverlight install prompts on * (the star is very important) with all the talk of Safari on Windows floating around. In Ed's post, he provides one piece of invaluable information, the screenshot of Firefox with the Silverlight install prompt cookie name, to solving this tech mystery. I could have done without the condescension (Side note: of course I have heard of cookies Ed, but it shouldn't have to be my job to figure out the * cookie strategy to not be prompted to install Silverlight), but a tip of the hat to Ed for at least providing the screenshot. This is what is going on:

Ed is absolutely right that if you go to, you see these prompts (click for larger versions):

Internet Explorer 7Firefox 3.1.1

When you click on No Thanks (X) on any of these, a cookie is put on your machine that expires in 1 month (click each image for larger version):

Internet Explorer 7Firefox 3.1.1

How am I seeing a continual prompt to install Silverlight then? You have to understand how I have been using the microsoft site. I hadn't gone directly to until yesterday. I only go directly to other dedicated hosts, these are the two I have been using most, and I was testing with yesterday:

If you visit either of these sites in Internet Explorer only without the cookie, you get the original prompt I show at the top of this post (Firefox and Safari do not offer this prompt even without the cookie). If you click the X on this prompt, no cookie is ever set to record your choice of not wanting Silverlight. Here is the state of my IE cookies before going to MSDN, after MSDN loads but before hitting X on the Silverlight prompt, and after hitting X on the Silverlight prompt (click for larger images):

Internet Explorer Cookies Before Going to MSDN
Internet Explorer Cookies After Going to MSDN, but before clicking X on the Silverlight install prompt
Internet Explorer Cookies After Going to MSDN, and after clicking X on the Silverlight install prompt. Notice no change (other than my slightly different cropping of the window)

There is also some kind of session timeout involved in seeing the prompt in IE. If you haven't been to either of the above sites I list in some time, then you will get the prompt to install, and you can get them to display back to back. I have been seeing this for well over a month. Ed posted another comment saying that Silverlight devs/support techs know about this and it's a rare bug. That said, if you have the cookie from in your browser, you won't see the prompt on sub-sites, well at least for a month, so unless on the other hosts this gets fixed/changed or the cookie expires, you can use that as a workaround

One final point, I have nothing directly against Silverlight (I have concerns about it, but I talked about those last year). I am just trying to keep a development VM clean from unwanted software, to get as close as possible to a known deployment target, and Silverlight is not on the manifest. Obviously, just installing it is the most permanent workaround, and I have had the beta's installed on OS X for a long time. Read my other Silverlight posts

Apple changes Software Update for Windows to mark Safari 3.1 as New

cnet reports (click on link for screenshot) that Apple changed Software Update for Windows to mark Safari, and presumably anything else not installed, as New Software. This is pretty close to what I originally suggested, but Software Update still leaves new software checked by default for installation. Much better than the original, but I think they should go the whole way and not check the box next to New Software by default.

PayPal: Wait, we didn't mean Safari was unsafe...

MacDailyNews links to Wall Street Journal blog report which says PayPal will not block Safari, as previously reported. I can't imagine this is the end of the story...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hulk Smash!

April 19, 2008 from NY ComicCon

Friday, April 18, 2008

PayPal Plans to Ban Browsers Which Lack Anti-Phishing Features

Daring Fireball posted PayPal Plans to Ban Browsers Which Lack Anti-Phishing Features. Looks like PayPal listened to the feedback on their assertion that phishing feature-less browsers were unsafe by ratcheting up the rhetoric a notch and planning a full on ban. Article says the only browsers on the unsafe list are old Internet Explorer versions, but Safari is in it's sites because of the lack of anti-phising and EV certificates. So PayPal, if you are going forward with this ban, why don't you share all your internal data about how effective the measures you are touting are? I love this section heading from the eWeek article:

EV Certificates Unproven, but Best Solution Yet

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finally bought a new image editing tool for Mac OS X

Editing tools in PreviewLast year, I went looking for a decent, reasonably priced alternative to image editing on OS X. I settled on Seashore, which had the right price of free. I have been using that anytime I wanted to push some pixels around, but also Preview in Leopard because it has the right amount of image editing tools (rotate, crop, and annotation) for a lot of jobs. I recommend adding the icons shown here to your Preview toolbar in Leopard.

That said, more in-depth image editing needs keep coming up. From icons, to image compositing, or what I think of as image surgery. With Seashore I can usually get these things done, but it feels like it takes longer than it should. That may be my lack or misunderstanding of the tool, but I started looking at new tools, since there has been a lot of movement in the OS X image editor space in the last last yet.

Back in February, John Gruber @ Daring Fireball linkedto Lukas Mathis extensive comparison of Pixelmator, Acorn, and DrawIt. The review is huge, and I don't have the same needs that Lukas does. He recommended Pixelmator, so I gave that a look at the time, but I wasn't sold on it, and eventually trashed it, leaving Acorn on my system with Seashore. Yesterday I had another image surgery task, and I fired up Acorn to try it on this task, and I got what I needed to do done in like 4 minutes. I think that is just under the time until you get the watermark overlaid on your image, but then I got distracted and the watermark got added, so I either had to buy Acorn or do my stuff over again. Not a huge deal, but I decided I should just settle on image editor and buy something already. So I googled, meaning to find Lukas extensive review, and instead found Jon Whipple's exhaustive comparison of the same three tools that Lukas compared. I actually didn't realize this until I wrote this paragraph to give Gruber credit for linked to the original review. Anyway, Jon recommended DrawIt, so I downloaded DrawIt Lite, which is free, to see if I liked the tool. I didn't pay enough attention in Lukas's review to realize that DrawIt has and iWork style interface, and that was very appealing since I have been spending more time lately in iWork 08.

I started trying to do in DrawIt Lite what had taken me 4 minutes in Acorn, and I couldn't figure out the flood fill tool. In Acorn this worked exactly as I expected. In DrawIt, I keep getting partial fills and weird color artifacts, so I probably didn't understand the tool well enough to make it work. When I tried undoing all the changes to the image I was working on it DrawIt, it crashed on me. I gave up, trashed it, and bought Acorn. I find it amusing that I ended up purchasing an image editing tool that neither extensive shootout recommended, but then again I am not an image editing pro or even semi-pro.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Definitely getting Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Wii for duel mode

Joystiq posted Hands-on: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed duel mode (Wii). I have been looking forward to this game since the Wii shipped, but I have been torn about whether I was going to pick it up for the Xbox 360 or the Wii. Better graphics (which look amazing), or more immersive gameplay. Tough choice. Not anymore though, getting the Wii version is a done deal. With exclusive duel mode, it's not even a contest. As a friend of mine said though, why not get both?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Very good Objective-C tutorial

Scott Stevenson posted an updated Objective-C Tutorial. Good starting place for new Mac or iPhone developers. Also, if you haven't seen C in a while, or ever, then you should probably check out Stevenson's C Tutorial.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

So did you see the Army has actual war robots?

Ill be backNo, we don't have these kinds of robots yet, but we are far closer to combat robots, in fact would have them already, if they hadn't malfunctioned. When I wrote in jest "How long until our robot overlords control us?", I had no idea that the Army actually has robots of war, but they were pulled from duty because they aimed their guns in the wrong direction

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My new car

Here it is, my first Honda, the 2008 Element:

I know what your thinking, that is pretty...ugly. But I think I might love it, here's why:

It's a Stick. My wife taught me to drive stick when we first met. I was all "why would I ever want to do what the machine can do for me?" Wow was I wrong, driving a manual is so much more fun than driving auto, I have been missing it since we traded in our Toyota Celica 3.5 years ago. Driving stick feels like your in a racecar, I highly recommend it.

It's a Honda. I have had Ford Explorers (2 of them) over the past 8 years, drove one weeks after the Firestone fiasco cross-country to CA. The 2003 I just traded-in was a serious pile of junk. I committed to the first Explorer after a disastrous experience with a Nissan Sentra (transmission melted at highway speed, unable to shift). Since the first one made it to CA, I thought Ford had solved their quality problems, I couldn't be more wrong. The 2003 had over $3000 of warranty work done in the first 2 years. When I traded it in, the ABS light was on and off depending on the bumps, the door ajar light got stuck on hours before I was getting rid of it (Honda bonus: Element shows you which door is ajar), the passenger rear window was intermitent, and the passenger rear seatbelt was also spotty. I expect none of these problems with the Honda.

The Element is washable. There is no carpet, only pure rubber flooring and plastic. Seats are waterproof. Exactly what I have wanted. With a dog, kid, and beach/biking/skiing trips planned, why would I want carpet?

My son loves it. We have already decided the Element is a Transformer, Autobot of course. It helps that the seats are completely removable, has the funky edges and orange (officially tangerine) color, and suicide doors. Now all I have to do is put some stickers on it, or flames, and I am all set.

I got a great deal. MSRP was in the low $23,000, invoice was around $21,800, I got it for $20,200. I also got 2.9% financing on it, the lowest I have ever got on any loan, through a special Honda deal. And I got more trade-in value on the Exploder (feels good to say that when its no longer me it might explode on) than I thought possible with all those problems. Impossible to pass up.

Negatives. The Element only seats 4. This is only a minor issue, so it wasn't really a factor in my decision. Also, there isn't a lot of hidden storage, and you may not like the suicide doors. The iPod "connection" is a headphone jack and standard aux power connector.

I am really happy with the purchase, and it surprised me to have fun driving again. The Explorer had really made it a joyless experience.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Got Icons?

My attemp at an application iconI am not good at creating icons. What you see here is an icon for an app I am working on. I had to temp something in. I can photoshop a bit (even if it's not in photoshop) but not good enough for professional quality application art. So I am always on the lookout for free art, since art is just about my indie developer achilles heel. I stumbled on some free OS X developer icons from Matt Ball. I happened to be reading his blog because he released a MBTableGrid, a Cocoa spreadsheet control (Via Cocoa Blogs), and I clicked around his site a bit.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

.NET to Cocoa: + before an Objective-C method is equivalent to the static keyword in C#

I have been reading a lot of Cocoa and Objective-C documentation lately, and there are a lot of methods that begin with a +, and I didn't know what it meant. Here's an example:

+ (id)timeZoneWithName:(NSString *)aTimeZoneName

If you are coming from .NET and C#, then the + is equivalent to the static keyword (does that make the + in Objective-C a keysymbol?). The equivalent in C# would be:

public static Object TimeZoneWithName(String aTimeZoneName)

Meaning that +/static methods are at the class level, not the instance. In Cocoa/Obj-C, you would use the above class method like this:

NSTimeZone *timeZone = [NSTimeZone timeZoneWithName:@"Some Timezone Name"];

.NET to Cocoa: Very simple rules for memory management in Cocoa and fixing leaks

Brett Simmons (maker of the excellent NetNewsWire) posted a link to Cocoa is My Girlfriend's, whom I previously wasn't aware of, tutorial on Fixing Memory Leaks with Instruments. The tutorial is very good, nice screenshots, just the sort of thing you would want. Except I can't use it yet. The Cocoa application I am working on doesn't work with instruments just yet. In the leaks tutorial is a link to Very simple rules for memory management in Cocoa. If you came from .NET and have got used to garbage collection, and you can't use the garbage collection in Cocoa *cough iPhone SDK*, then this article is required reading.