25 February 2009

Finally I Understand the U.S. Finance Crisis

There have been many, many attempts to explain to regular people what the finance crisis is, and what caused it. We have been told that greed and taking insane risks has been part of it, but it's been hard to understand why.

Finally someone has done the masterpiece of explain it in a way that should make it understandable for everyone. In addition it's done in a very good looking way :)

Via NRKbeta via @MartinBekkelund

22 February 2009

Why removing IE6 is hard

There's a current campaign to make people stop using Internet Explorer version 6 (IE6), and upgrade to a more modern browser. It originated in Norway, and has a lot of momentum here, but is also getting noticed internationally (link to Norwegian site). Because a lot of people still use IE6, the people creating web sites still have to include support for this browser in the sites they build. Takes quite a few man-hours, and those hours are not cheap. For more info check out the wiki, IE6: Do NOT want!, made for the campaign or listen in on the twitter stream #IE6.

I am a strong supporter of this campaign. I have been following this campaign from the very start, both on twitter, blogs and news sites. People are very excited, lots of people are supporting it and everyone agrees on what the problem is. Drivers of the campaign have also expressed that they think removing IE6 from use in large companies and government will be the biggest challenge. I totally agree on that. But I have not seen awareness, with some exceptions (links to Norwegian sites), on why so many enterprises and government still use IE6, and why it will be hard for them to upgrade. I feel that many taking part of the campaign needs a better understanding of why this is such a big problem. Only by understanding the problem can the campaign successfully influence government and enterprises.

Why are enterprises/government still using IE6?
A reason often mentioned is that IT-departments need to standardize the software run in the enterprise to simplify support and more. And when all employees use the same browser because of standardization, a new browser must be tested thoroughly before it is deployed therefore making an browser-upgrade expensive. From my previous experience working in an IT-department, I fully agree.

However this is, in my view, not the biggest cost. Enterprises and government typically have a big portfolio of custom-made systems, where a large part of these systems is web-apps, meaning the browser is used to access it. Commonly these web-apps were built supporting only the browser that was the IT-department's standard, typically IE6. Accessing these apps with a newer browser can result in the layout of the pages getting messed up, and even breaking some functionality.

This implies that the task of upgrading the browser must be accompanied by an upgrade/replacement of several of the custom-made web-apps used in the government/enterprise. Building a new system, or even upgrading an existing one, requires a lot of man-hours, or rather, IT-consultant-hours, who usually build such apps. IT-consultants don't come cheap (I know because I'm one of them). The enterprises/government will not take this cost without a very good reason. As long as they are not given such a very good reason, they will keep running IE6 to support old web-apps, until these web-apps are not needed/replaced.

Everyone has known for a long time that building for IE6 only is bad. Why was it done for so long?
One might wonder why the old custom-made web-apps built to support IE6 only are still in use in enterprises/government. It’s a long time since web-developers learned that they should build web-apps with multi-browser support. The answer is that web-developers kept building apps supporting IE6 only for a long time, even when they knew it was bad practice.

I posted a twitter message about this campaign a few days ago, trying to bring up the cost of replacing old web-apps built for IE6. One of the responses I got was this: "If you first develop a solution for IE6 only, then that's a cost you should take. That's bad practice from start to end... :-)". I agree that it's a bad practice, but the world of IT-projects, which develop the web-apps, is a world of compromises...

An IT-project is never funded enough for it to be able to deliver the perfect system. There's always a fight between developers wanting to build a system following best practices and the need to finish on budget and on time. The latter two usually gets higher priority.

If there is a concrete, and current, need for multi-browser support, that need usually gets priority in the project. This is typically the case for non-internal apps, e.g. a portal for customers. Apps used internally only are a different matter. Unless there is a clear policy from the project-owner for multi-browser support for internal apps, this support ends up far down on the list of priorities for the project, and maybe not making it through. If it doesn't, the web-app is built supporting only the browser currently used by the project owner.

Hopefully, most project-owners now have policies requiring multi-browser support even for internal web-apps, but from my own, and colleagues', experience this was not common earlier. This means that a lot of web-apps were built with support only for the browser currently in use at the project owner (typically IE6). This again meant that it would be even more expensive to upgrade to a better browser, since more systems needed upgrading/replacement, therefore pushing an upgrade ahead. This again meant continuing development of internal web-apps supporting only IE6, giving a catch-22 situation. Hopefully IT-departments implemented a policy for multi-browser support when they discovered this catch-22. But that took time, giving the answer to why IE6-only web-apps was built for so long.

14 February 2009

Giving away invites to Spotify

I have a few Spotify invites left over after completing my mission of spreading Spotify amongst my friends and colleagues. Do you want one? Leave a comment with your email, and I'll send you one (if I have more left). It might be smart to mask the email address to avoid spam (e.g. myaddresse at gmail dot com).

Are you thinking "Spotify? What's that?"? If you listen to music from your pc, you really need to check it out! You'll need an invite though, leave your email and I'll provide...

13 February 2009

Internet and music - a perfect match

As do a lot of young people nowadays, I don't use physical CDs when I listen to music. Playing music always means playing MP3-files or streaming music from the Internet. The most common way to play music is using my iPod, both when commuting to work, and at work. Sometimes I use iTunes on the pc.

Lately I have fallen in love with Spotify, an amazing music streaming service which has a huge music library, and you can stream it exactly as you wish (full freedom in picking songs, skipping songs and so on). It has two subscription models, one free with adverts playing at times, and one paid with no ads.

What impresses me the most about Spotify is the client you install on your pc (available both for Mac and Windows). This client looks familiar for anyone using iTunes. The impressive part though, is that it is as responsive as iTunes as well. Find a song, press play, and it starts playing instantly. Skip to the middle of the song and it happens instantly. No noticable buffering. You'll forget you're streaming from the Internet and not playing your MP3s.

iPod, iTunes and Spotify share one thing, they are all able to "scrobble" to last.fm, another great Internet music service. Scrobbling means uploading information about what you're listening to last.fm. By telling last.fm what you listen to, it can show you what you have listened to lately, which songs and artists you listen to the most, and more. However, the real value appears when last.fm compares what you listen too with what other users listen to, and find users sharing your music taste. Based on this it gives recommendations on music you might like, but you don't have already. A great way to discover new music.

I do scrobble from both my iPod, iTunes and Spotify. This covers 99% percent of the music I listen too, meaning that I tell last.fm about pretty much all the music I listen too. My last.fm profile is public, so anyone can see what I've listened to. It feels a bit strange letting everyone know every song I listen too, but then again, openness is a part of the Web 2.0 revolution, which I'm a big fan of.

If you want to check you what I listen to, look here: www.last.fm/user/arakvaag. Or, you can just look below and see which albums I play the most. If you want more info on a specific album, click on the album cover and you'll be brought to last.fm's page for it :)

04 February 2009

I'm on twitter!

I have now started using Twitter. Been testing it for a while, and it is really growing on me :)

You find my tweets on twitter.com/arakvaag.