What's a Browser?

Here is an interesting short video of a guy asking people if they know what a browser is, and whether they know the difference between a browser and a search engine.  Turns out only 8% of the people knew the difference.  The video includes this great quote: "Google predominates the market, obviously."

That number seems shockingly low to me, but at the same time I guess I’m not surprised.  A large percentage of otherwise-intelligent people seem to mentally freeze up when the topic of computers arises.  Couple that with the fact that people don’t actually need to know what these terms mean in order to use the internet, and the 8% result isn’t so surprising.

Still, I wonder why so many people have this kind of reaction to anything computer-related.  I’d say there’s hardly anybody who doesn’t know the difference between, say, their cable TV provider and the various TV channels that they can watch through that provider; yet a similar kind of situation with computer issues totally baffles them.  Maybe the internet is still too new for most people to understand it yet.

The video reminds me of this great article from a few weeks ago.  It’s about some changes that Facebook was making to their login process, and for a while it apparently was the #1 search result on Google when you searched for "Facebook login".  If you scroll down to the comments on the article, you’ll see that there are thousands of them, mostly like these ones:

Quoting confused people:

#5. The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.

#19. This is such a mess I can’t do a thing on my facebook .The changes you have made are ridiculous,I can’t even login!!!!!I am very upset!!!

#28. OK can I long in now

#31. I am not happy!!!,I was starting to feel comfortable with it now I am all confuse How do I sign in?

#43. Nothing like being taken hostage on our own computer :-(

#47. Why wont you let me sign in?

Apparently a huge number of people get to Facebook -- and presumably all the sites that they visit -- not by typing "facebook.com" into their browser’s address bar, but rather by going to Google and typing "facebook" into it, then clicking on the first search result.

It’d be easy to chalk this up to those people simply being clueless, but I think it also shows that, to whatever extent we IT people have tried to make our products and services user-friendly, there’s still a fundamental disconnect for a large percentage of the population which may indicate that on some level we’ve failed.  And ironically this works to Facebook’s advantage, because to many people Facebook is the internet, just as AOL was the internet for many people a decade ago.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

Google Chrome OS

I love this screen from the What is Google Chrome OS video:

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The whole video is interesting and worth watching, too.

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How Does...

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How People Find Me

People come to nodivisions.com because they want answers, and they know they can find those answers here.  For example, here are the search queries used by two of my satisfied visitors just today:

Why is June my lucky month?

What does the Bible say about Ubuntu

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Google Fun

Someone recently landed here by searching for:

How can i Make Very Easy USB mp3 player Circuit Diagrum

Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is "You can’t."

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News To Me

Today I had a website visitor who found my site by searching for pennsylvania no smocking law on Google.  Which was surprising, not only because I don’t have any such information on my site, but also because I seem to remember a fair amount of smocking in various art classes I took while attending grade school in PA.  I guess times are changing.

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Jack Bauer Trivia

I just got a hit from a visitor who found my site by searching for:

does Jack Bauer get overtime

I think it’s a safe bet.

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Hello iPhone

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On Sunday, Kim and I went down to the Apple store in King of Prussia and I got an iPhone.  Despite people lining up outside the stores for hours and even days before the 6 PM Friday launch (including Philly’s mayor John Street), most Apple stores were still well-stocked with iPhones by Sunday, and I had no problem getting mine.  We walked into the store and it was a mob scene: there must have been 100 people in the tiny ~1500 square foot store.  If I had wanted to check out the iPhones that were on display, I would have had to wait for quite a while, because people were three-deep around those displays.

Fortunately, I had been getting psyched about the iPhone for at least the past six months, so I didn’t need to play with one to know that I wanted to buy it.  I just walked up to an Apple store employee and asked, "Do you still have 8 GB iPhones in stock?"  He said he thought they did, and sent someone into the back to check; he came out with my iPhone, and I was out of the store in under 5 minutes.

No one knew for sure how many iPhones Apple was going to have available at launch, hence the thousands of people lining up 6-12 hours in advance across the country to make sure they got one.  It turned out that there were plenty of iPhones, at least at most Apple stores.  It was a different story at AT&T stores -- the only other place that iPhones are available -- with most of them selling out the first night.  All told, the estimates are that Apple and AT&T sold over half a million units during the launch weekend.

I’m not sure why I didn’t go out on Friday night to try and get an iPhone.  I guess I wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to get one right away, plus the word was that it was a hassle at AT&T stores, and the closest Apple store is an hour away from us.  But then as I read various bloggers saying that it did indeed live up to most of the hype, I caved.

One of the ways that Apple is redefining the cell phone business is that the account activation process is handled by each user individually, at home, over the internet, using iTunes.  You don’t need to spend an hour in the store with some clueless salesman getting stuff set up.  There were reports that some people who were already AT&T customers initially had trouble with the activation process, but for most people it was quick and easy: it took less than 10 minutes in my case.

Apple also managed to get AT&T to offer a plan that’s actually reasonable: $60 per month for 450 minutes, with free nights & weekends (and including rollover minutes), and unlimited internet access.  Many (most?) other smartphone data plans are $80-$100 per month, often with only limited internet access, and severe overage charges.

The iPhone itself is amazing.  It’s so thin, so solid, so industrial, the screen is huge and gorgeous, and the interface is so simple and useable it’s like a dream.  The decade-long nightmare of horrible cell phones is finally over.

For me, the combination of the real internet, email, and Google Maps in a portable device is just priceless.  The fact that it’s also got a cell phone, a camera, and an iPod, plus that it’s gorgeous, only make it more compelling.

The screen is about twice the resolution of most standard computer screens, which means that text as small as 5-6 pt is crisp and totally readable.  When browsing the web, though, you only need to double-tap on the portion of a page that you want to read (for example the main content column) and the iPhone automatically pans and zooms that area to be full-screen, with nice large text.  Scrolling up or down, and panning left or right, is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen.

There are a few things that need fixing: there’s no way to select/copy/paste text; you can’t save images (or any files) from websites; you can’t upload files to websites (the Browse/ChooseFile element is grayed out); the Google Maps app lacks the little scale image in the lower-left corner; the on-screen keyboard doesn’t always rotate into wide-screen mode, sometimes forcing you to use the narrower version of it.  But all of those are software issues, and since the iPhone is a computer running Mac OS X, Apple can (and will) simply issue automatic updates via iTunes to fix them.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the iPhone is probably the coolest product I’ve ever purchased.  I can’t put it down, and when I finally do, Kim picks it up and can’t stop playing with it.

Here are some iPhone photos including side-by-side comparisons with a couple of my old phones.

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Fun From The Visitor Log

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I’m #9 for the first one and #12 for the second, just behind a page titled "Cameron Diaz Sweaty Armpit."

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Google Maps Easter Egg

Kim just sent me this one.  Go to Google Maps, click on the "Get Directions" tab, and get directions from New York City to Paris.  In the resulting directions, check out step #23.

Gotta love Google.  The one about the moon was great too.

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Apple Delivers the iPhone

They have done it.  Apple today unveiled the iPhone, which is actually the fulfillment of two long-running Apple rumors: it is the "true video iPod" because the ~entire face of it is a screen, and it is the iPod + cell phone as well.  It also has a 2 megapixel digital camera built in.  On top of all that, it actually runs Mac OS X and includes the Safari browser and an email client supporting POP and IMAP, and it runs on cell networks as well as wifi connections.  This thing is a huge dream come true for many, many geeks and Apple fans alike.

Some of the coolest features:

-multi-touch screen allowing you to operate the iPhone using 2 fingers at a time, so you can pinch/stretch items like photos and windows to zoom them

-orientation sensor so when you turn it sideways, the display automatically shifts

-location awareness built into the integrated Google Maps application

-ambient light sensor to save power by adjusting display brightness; proximity sensor to automatically shut off the display when you move the phone to your ear

...and many more.

Of course they would have gotten abysmal battery life (and would have had to make the thing too thick) if they put a hard drive in it, so it’s all flash-memory based.  This is better anyway, but the cost of flash memory means that for now the iPhone is only available in 4GB abd 8GB models, for $499 and $599 respectively, assuming a 2-year contract with Cingular.  In a year or two when there is a ~40GB model available, I will be all over this.

Oh, and Apple: please, please release a Linux version of iTunes!

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Intermediate Destinations on Google Maps

Google Maps now supports intermediate destinations when mapping routes, or "multi-point directions" as they call it.  This is really cool; now they just need to add the ability to specify a point/destination by simply clicking a spot on the map.

Now I just need somewhere to go...

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Googlism Revisited

I’m doing some updates to this blog application to make the archives page more search-engine friendly (and to improve the chances that searchers who arrive at my site will find what they’re looking for), and in the process I’m coming across some of my older posts.  One of those is "Googlism" and it’s pretty funny.

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Experimenting with AdSense

I just signed up for AdSense, Google’s ad program.  NoDivisions gets about 150-200 unique visitors per day and I’m curious to see if that is at all monetizable.  Right now I’ve placed the ad-box at the bottom of the navigation pane; I plan to leave it there for a few weeks, then move it higher up for a few weeks to see if/how that affects the click-through rate.  But I doubt I’ll be happy with it at the very top of the nav section, before any of the actual navigational elements, so I may switch to a 3-column layout to have a little more flexibility there.

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Custom Route Planning with Google Maps

For a while now I’ve wished that Google Maps would let me create a route by just clicking on the map to create my own points.  Google Maps will give me directions from point A to point B, but I don’t always like the route it chooses; often I’d like to be able to say "Go from point A to point B using a route which goes through point C on the way."

Well WalkJogRun.net does just that.  You just click your starting point, and it creates a marker there; you then keep clicking (creating new markers) along the route you want to create, until you get to your destination.

It’s designed primarily for planning exercise routes as you might have guessed, but it does allow you to set the speed for your route, so it will display the estimated time properly based on the length of the route.

Apparently the site has been around since late 2003, so I’m pretty late on discovering it.  On the other hand it originally used Yahoo and Mapquest maps, and I think we can all agree that the old way of online mapping was barely worth using at all (i.e. non-draggable maps that require the whole page to reload every time you change your view) now that we know the One True Path.

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Google Maps + Terraserver

If you live in or around a big city, then Google Maps provides you with high-resolution satellite imagery of your area.  But in more rural areas, the available satellite imagery is much lower resolution.

Terraserver on the other hand has always seemed to have high-res photos of nearly everywhere in the US.  They may be a little older and in black & white, but it’s better than having no high-res imagery at all.  But the problem is that after being introduced to the joy of the Google Maps interface, Terraserver’s boring old interface is such a pain to use.

Enter mapper.acme.com.  This site combines Google Maps with the imagery database from Terraserver.  Just use the "DOQ" link in the upper right-hand corner.

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Funny of the Day

I get the best hits from people searching the internet for ridiculous stuff.  It looks like I’m #2 on AskJeeves for:

some problems that might happen if you don’t use the bathroom

But what’s really funny is the title of the first hit: "Use a dog crate."

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Random Things in Which I Have No Interest...

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Easter Egg

Check out Google Moon, and be sure to zoom in all the way.

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That's Wack, Yo

Apparently I’m currently #2 on google for the query quotes against wack people.  The fact that someone actually searched for that is hilarious.  If I had a motto or a middle name, that would be it.  Anthony "quotes against wack people" DiSante.

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Google Gets Cooler; Microsoft... Is Still Everywhere

Google bought the mapping company Keyhole last year, and now Google Maps can show you aerial satellite photography of whatever location you’re mapping.  As if Google Maps wasn’t cool enough already!

Google also recently added support for natural-language search queries (like the one I just posted about).  But according to the article:

Quoting internetnews.com:

Google Q&A has strengths and weaknesses, Norvig admitted. ... For example, asking, "What is the population of India?" returns rock-solid results in the form of links to Web sites that answer the question.

On the other hand, the top result for the question, "What is the capital of France?" was "Investment Capital and Banking in France."

... But the queries don’t have to be full sentences. The system identifies both query words, such as "who" or "what," and fact-type terms such as capital, director, population. "To find out who directed "Finding Nemo," you don’t have to put in the ’who is,’" he explained.

I think this is more marketing hype than anything "new" from Google.  Their existing search already ignored common words (like "is") anyway; I don’t see how this new "natural language" support is fundamentally different.

In other tech news, Microsoft’s approach to Windows system security may be changing (which can only mean "improving" at this point) when the next version is released in a year or so.  One huge problem with the current design is the fact that, although Windows supports the concept of different levels of user privileges:

Quoting pcworld.com:

...90 percent of Windows software can’t be installed without administrator access to Windows, [and] 70 percent won’t run properly unless the user is an administrator.

The whole point of having restricted user-level accounts is that you don’t want your users to be able to break critical parts of the system -- even when "your users" just means "you."  You don’t want to use the powerful administrator account for your day-to-day activities, because 1) even if you’re good with computers, you could accidentally delete something crucial, and 2) you run lots of programs written by other people and companies, so you don’t want to give them access to critical parts of the system either.

But as the above quote shows, it’s simply not practical to run Windows with a user-level account, because like so many things in Windows, this security feature was hacked on as an afterthought and doesn’t really work yet.  Until it gets fixed, we’ll continue to be plagued by myriad viruses and otherwise-malicious programs that hijack Windows systems and then modify the system to prevent the user from removing them.

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Fun Things

This photo is very fun.  You almost don’t even notice that it’s a night shot.  The photographer used a 583 second exposure -- yes, that’s nearly ten minutes.  One of the very few things I dislike about my DSC-S85 is that its longest possible exposure is merely 8 seconds.  I have a few somewhat similar night shots, but they aren’t nearly so cool.

Also very fun is the fact that I’m the fifth hit on Google for this:

Quoting some poor soul:

what does it mean when you have the same dream about the same person for over a week?

Yes, what does it mean?  Pray tell, oh Magic Google Ball!  : )

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And Speaking of Domain Names...

I’ve been meaning to post about this for about 6 months now, but somehow never think about it when I’m at my computer.  I have 50 Gmail invites, so if you’d like a free email account @gmail.com with ~unlimited space, just ask.  Because let’s be honest, Google is much cooler than Microsoft, and @gmail is much cooler than @hotmail.

Theoretically this shouldn’t matter for long, because eventually Google will open up Gmail to new sign-ups from the general public... but until they do, the only way to get an account is from someone else who already has one.  My guess is that this has nothing to do with being "beta" or a "preview release" or anything like that, but rather is a test by Google to see how many degrees of separation there are between their employees and everyone else on the planet to whom these Gmail-invites eventually filter.  Well, that, and to create more demand for their product through the artificial scarcity, just as the DeBeers cartel regulates the worldwide diamond trade to make diamonds artificially valuable.

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Two Words

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Random Roundup

On Monday I had 172 visitors, stomping the previous (year-to-date) record of 148.  Then on Tuesday I had 186.  I’d been wanting to re-add my daily visitors bar graph to the site, and having a surge in visitors helped convince me to do it last night.  You can see it at the bottom of the navigation section on the lefthand side of the page.

One reason for the increase in the visitor count is that previously, I didn’t have my visitor-logger on my photos pages.  I added it last week, and discovered that I was getting a few dozen hits per day from people searching for things like beefalo pictures, pistachio insect, and nice scenery, and those search-terms lead them directly to the photo-sets bypassing the main page and the visitor logger.  So it’s not actually a few dozen new visitors, it’s just that they weren’t being logged before.

In other news...

Google Maps is awesome.  It’s awesome because you can click and drag anywhere on the map itself to navigate -- the page never has to reload.  I think that mapquest and yahoo!maps will be switching to this format soon, as it’s just leaps and bounds better than their way of doing it (click, wait for page to load, find what you want, click again, wait again...).  It’s also awesome because it’s implemented entirely in JavaScript, which means it doesn’t require any yucky plugins like Java or Flash.  Finally, it’s awesome because it works in Moz/FF, and it doesn’t spike my computer’s CPU at 100% like many yucky-plugin-based webapps tend to do.

Update: AND, the size of the map-image on the screen isn’t fixed (and tiny) like Mapquest’s is.  If you put your browser into fullscreen mode (press the F11 key), the map is HUGE.  These are the best map features of all time, and yet they seem so obvious... I almost can’t believe no one has done this before.

And last but not least, why does "not at all" mean "not even a little"?

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