Sunday, January 29, 2006
The campaigns will likely be site targeted, rather than contextual, but details on the actual implementation of these new ads are still under wraps. With these kind of top-secret beta tests, NDAs are often requirements before being accepted into it.
Floating ads are ads that either stay on top as the page is scrolled, or ones that "float in" from the side of the page to the center of the page. Expanding ads are those that require user interaction to expand, either with a mouseover or a click. Interstitials are perhaps the most interesting addition to this rich media beta, because they are a format that people love to hate, and that are often more annoying than pop-ups. You have likely stumbled across an interstitial ad - they appear when you click through to read a page, and before they will show you the page, you are bypassed through to a full page ad that you must view before seeing the actual content you were wanting, often by having to click a link on the interstitial ad page.
No further details are known about the new rich media beta test, but I will see what I can find out. I can probably safely say that this is an invite-only beta test to which only a small number of publishers were invited to. So emailing the AdSense team for an invite to this beta probably wouldn't work. But the good news is that often beta tests are turned into features that all publishers can utilize, so if you are interested in implementing rich media through AdSense, keep your fingers crossed and it may be added in the future.
This is definitely a departure from the usual text ads as well as the image and Flash ads in standard ad unit sizes that AdSense usually runs. Rich media ads are usually associated with companies such as Fastclick, PointRoll and Falk eSolutions, so the fact that AdSense is making inroads on this territory is quite significant. If AdSense offered rich media to all publishers, it could really hurt competitor companies offering similar rich media ad formats because of the vast number of publishers that AdSense has.
And if AdSense did offer rich media to all publishers, they could easily add a new clause that would mean companies such as Fastclick and PointRoll would suddenly be competitive ads and not be permitted on the same pages as AdSense. Many AdSense publishers implement rich media ads to compliment AdSense, and as non-contextual, most of these ad products are well within the AdSense terms. But if AdSense decided to not permit rich media ads on pages also running AdSense or AdSense rich media style ads, this could mean that many publishers would drop competitor's ads and just show AdSense... as well as those advertisers flocking to AdWords to get their rich media creatives showing through the AdSense program.
In terms of dominating the online advertising market, AdSense rich media could seal the deal to make AdSense the force to be reckoned with, by not only dominating the online text ad and graphical banner-style advertising, but in the entire online advertising market. Definitely a story to watch.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
So ... what now?
For many players, reaching level 60 is actually the beginning of an all-new game within World of Warcraft. There's epic lewt to be won, bosses to be beaten, and raids to be, uh, raided. This content, however, can be an impenetrable maze of intersecting quests and raid instances. For someone who's just reached 60, simply figuring out where to start can be a daunting task. The chat channels in Ironforge and Orgrimmar are a nonstop flood of abbreviations and acronyms: "UBRS." "Scholo." "Strat." "DM." "LF3M BRD EMP RUN PST!" What does it all mean? What should you be doing first?
That's where this guide comes in. It's not a step-by-step strategy guide; it's simply a roadmap, a "user's manual" to being level 60. On the following pages, you'll find a listing of just about every high-level quest chain in World of Warcraft, overviews of how the major raids work, and other diversions that level 60 players have been known to enjoy.
Whether you've been level 60 for a day or raiding for months, hopefully this guide will take some of the mystery out of WoW's endgame content and help you enjoy life after 60. Happy Raiding!
- Sal "Sluggo" Accardo
Saved for future reference :)
New Bookmarks and History
Improve the browser's Bookmarks and History systems to improve their effectiveness as renavigation aids while at the same time improving the back end for speed and extensibility.
Tabbed Browsing Enhancements
Make tabs behave more like windows in the operating system environment, making them behave more as users would expect.
Improved Basic Content Type Handling
For things like RSS/Atom feeds, mail links etc. Improve discovery and handling user interfaces.
Improve the discoverability and adaptability of the search UI within Firefox.
Bug fixing at all levels where risk is low and yield high, e.g. the blank tab download bug, platform stability, etc.
Some additional things we would like to look at in the Firefox 2 timeframe include:
A freshen of the visual design of Firefox while maintaining high levels of system integration.
Inline Spell Check
The rise of applications like web mail, blogging etc highlight the weaknesses of HTML's textarea widget. We should at the very least offer people the ability to spell check their submissions.
We'd like to know why people leave Firefox. A survey on uninstall would help us find ways to make the software better in future versions.
UI Consolidation and Simplification
Consolidate and simplify user interface in the browser window tying together features in meaningful ways where possible.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The lab, which opened last September, is run by Bill Hilf, a former programmer for IBM. Originally, it was set up to "help Microsoft understand the phenomenon of open source software and improve our products because of that." But over time, the role of the lab has changed, from merely wanting to understand the "enemy" towards a tentative effort to working with them.
One example of this effort is the deal Microsoft struck last year with JBoss, an OSS development firm that creates "middleware" software products that allow easy deployment of Java application servers over the Internet. JBoss employee Marc Fleury explained the move at the time:
Despite all the "conspiracy theories" floating out there, the announcement was very factual: we are focusing on customers. Windows Server is widely deployed with JBoss. Our own surveys show that 50% of our user base is on Windows. Ironically, Java is what enables so many of you to run Windows with our apps: the end-user gets to choose what platform he deploys on and Windows Server gets to compete on the serverside just like any other OS. Thank Java for that unlikely cooperation.The Linux lab aims to continue its collaboration effort by helping companies resolve issues with Microsoft and OSS products. For example, they studied and resolved an issue with Microsoft Visual C++ applications crashing when run from a directory that was shared with Samba, an OSS implementation of Windows' file sharing protocol. They also helped out by submitting minor bug fixes to the Samba Torture Test (smbtorture), a testing tool for Samba developers. Hilf explained the Linux lab's official position:
"We have been successful in identifying popular open-source software applications that our customers are interested in using on the Microsoft Windows Server platform and working with those companies or projects to ensure that solution is well integrated. From an interoperability perspective we look into a variety of areas. First we look at things we know are problematic or difficult to get to work together and attempt to solve those problems. Secondly, we look at areas where we can improve existing interoperability scenarios. Lastly, we look at potential new opportunities where we can bring technologies together."
Microsoft is, of course, an extremely large company, and one small lab testing interoperability with OSS solutions does not necessarily reflect a major change in corporate policy towards open source. The cynics among us will be quick to point out that Microsoft continues to publish reports and studies claiming the superiority of their own products over OSS solutions, and much of the company's corporate culture continues to push a view of a Microsoft-only world. For example, documentation for the MCSE qualification test contains an almost complete lack of examples for anything other than homogeneous Microsoft network implementations, which is rarely the case in most companies.
However, the continued work by the Linux lab may indicate the beginnings of a slow thaw in Microsoft's attitudes towards OSS. Bill Gates himself has already given his blessing to such an effort, at least in theory. Working towards a world where products from many vendors, OSS included, operate together is a noble ideal that should lessen many of the headaches involved in IT. In the end, neither side is going to go away, and so shouldn't both learn to get along with each other?
Apple's stock, though, fell in after-hours trading because Apple offered a forecast that fell short of Wall Street estimates.
"In a sense, it's unfair," Silicon Valley technology analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies Inc. told AFP. "It doesn't seem smart to get out, given Apple's domination with iPod and the new MacBook Pro with the Intel chip."
Apple reported net income of 565 million dollars, or 65 cents a share, for the first fiscal quarter to December 31, up from 295 million a year earlier. The report beat analyst forecasts of a profit of 55 cents per share.
Sales rose 64 percent to 5.75 billion dollars. Chief executive Steve Jobs disclosed Apple's quarterly revenue result January 10 at the Macworld conference in San Francisco.
Consumers snapped up 14 million iPod devices during the holiday quarter, and Apple has now sold more than 40 million since late 2001. The groundbreaking product has transformed Apple from a niche PC maker into the leading purveyor of digital media.
Apple also sold 1.25 million Macintosh computers during the quarter, a figure that was up 20 percent from the year-earlier figure. Apple is in the process of transitioning its Mac line to Intel processors, and it expects to have all of its PCs running on Intel chips by the end of this year.
"We are thrilled to report the best quarter in Apple's history," said Jobs.
"Two highlights of an incredible quarter were selling 14 million iPods and getting ready to launch our new Macs with Intel processors five to six months ahead of expectations. We are working on more wonderful products for 2006, and I can't wait to see what our customers think of them."
Apple issued a second-quarter profit forecast of 38 cents a share on 4.3 billion dollars in revenue. That outlook fell well short of a Wall Street-estimated profit of 48 cents a share on 4.63 billion dollars in sales.
The forecast drove Apple shares down more than five percent to 78.07 in after-hours trades. It had given up 2.22 in the daytime Nasdaq session.
Jobs was being realistic, because the company's cultish followers as well as people considering switching to Macintosh are likely to put off buying computers until the new Intel-driven machines hit the market, Bajarin said.
"The numbers for Macs could have a hiccup because there are buyers waiting for new machines to come out," Bajarin said.
"I think this is one of those transitional issues."
At the recent Macworld exposition in San Francisco, devotees "couldn't wait to get their hands on the new Macs," Bajarin said.
Apple's mid-year earnings promised to be a better measure of the company's status, according to the analyst.
"Once the full ramp-up is there, with laptops and full desktops, there numbers could be very good," Bajarin said.
"What we were looking for was someone to challenge Apple with MP3 players, and that hasn't been the case."
As filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the applications for the term "Mobile Me" cover a litany of technologies ranging from telecommunications and satellite networks to computer services and portable devices.
Apple already has a presence in the mobile-communications realm with the iTunes-enabled Rokr phone from Motorola, which, by most accounts, has not lived up to expectations and has suffered poor sales as a result.
But possible efforts by Apple to push further into the mobile market with an iPod phone have drawn mixed responses from analysts.
New Playing Field
"They certainly have the potential to deliver an iPod phone, based on their design skills and the iTunes platform, but they would be entering a field where they have never played before," said IDC analyst Dave Linsalta.
He cited several possible challenges for Apple, including decisions regarding mobile-network partnerships and sales channels for an iPod phone.
"The company likes to control the distribution of its computer hardware, but with a phone they would need an agreement with wireless operators and would have to license the device," said Linsalata. "There are a significant number of core competencies in telecommunications that Apple lacks."
Still, the analyst said that the iPod has a strong following that could be extended to the world of phones. He also said that Apple could create its own mobile virtual network, much like the one Virgin has created, and offer phone services by leasing network access from an established carrier.
Matter of When
Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman contends that it is only a matter of time before Apple introduces its own mobile phone.
"They certainly have the ability to do this," he said. "Apple strongly believes in vertical integration and controlling the design process, but the question is, 'How do they get into the wireless side?'"
Goodman suggested Apple could focus on device manufacturing only, or get more involved as virtual-network operator.
"The company most likely will add more wireless capabilities to the iPod as well, enabling communications between devices or between the player and wireless networks," he said.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
"Although I'm a designer and not a programmer or server-side specialist, for a few years I've used Apache's .htaccess to a limited degree for clients' websites, primarily for simple URL redirects and setting up custom error pages. Now that I can use Apache’s .htaccess for my own websites, I've been immersed in learning more about how to use this powerful tool conservatively but effectively to redirect URLs and to combat spammers and bad bots. Today’s post provides links to some of the online sources that I’ve found especially helpful."
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Microsoft Windows Fax and Picture Viewer Buffer Overflow Vulnerability (WMF), Exploit and Spyware Reports: Despite tons of hype about this issue, malcode doesn't seem to have taken off. There has been chatter about the detection rate among the various antivirus vendors, basically discussing whether or not they could actually catch a malicious WMF versus just being able to detect known malware contained within a malicious WMF. It doesn’t really matter, does it, as long as it’s being caught?
Many of you have probably seen suggestions from a variety of sources (other than Microsoft, and other than Cybertrust) that a third-party patch should have been applied prior to Microsoft making its patch available. We told our customers, in no uncertain terms, installing a third-party patch is a bad idea! Let me see if I can explain why.
There’s a difference between some tool that modifies a group of settings to achieve a workaround, and one that is entirely binary and alters the way the operating system (or some application) functions. The first you could do yourself and easily verify. The second must be done by the binary, and there’s no certain way to verify that’s all it does. Now some third parties stepped up and said, “Hey, we checked it as best we could, and it looks fine to us!” Well, that’s great, if they’re the ones you bought your OS from and whom you’ll look to for support if something goes awry.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying anything about the author of such a patch, who may have the best of intentions and incredible skills -- that’s not at issue here.
Worse, though, is that we (as security professionals) are constantly trying to stop the public from installing binaries from “untrusted” sources. How do we determine the difference between malware that comes as a screensaver attachment in e-mail, and the best-intentioned, well-written patch for a security vulnerability? Well, if it’s from Microsoft, it’s signed, and we can verify that we trust the signature. We take it directly from Microsoft’s known download locations, and its support people have a phone number you can call if you have problems. Short of that (or the same thing with any other vendor), we should keep to our best practice of not installing binaries we can’t trust and verify.
We shouldn’t forget about quality and assurance either. Testing of a patch from Microsoft is done extensively for us, prior to its release. Despite the apparent concern over this WMF vulnerability (which, as I believed from the beginning, was dramatically hyped), Microsoft still managed to extensively test the patch prior to its release so we wouldn’t run into problems. Can others make a similar claim?
One final note on this subject: Microsoft made a beta of the patch available to some customers as part of that extensive Q&A testing. Someone made that beta patch available to the public. Such a binary should, by reasonable administrators, be treated the same as they would third-party patch. Because despite it being signed by Microsoft, it was not made available from a known and trusted Microsoft download location and Microsoft Support would not be able to provide you with any assistance should it not function properly. Beta software may sound cool, but it’s for testing purposes only, not for production use. It may totally destroy the system it’s installed on or corrupt any number of things. This must be expected from beta software, and a mechanism must exist to provide feedback to the vendor about such software.
What good does it do to, for example, take a copy of the beta patch while not being part of the actual beta and find out it doesn’t work? Since you’ve got no formal arrangement with Microsoft to report bugs in the beta, you instead contact some media outlet. What do you tell them? “Hey, this patch doesn’t work!” Great, now everyone who’s waiting for the final patch thinks it’s broken! Do they know whether or not the problems were quickly resolved in a subsequent beta release? Of course not, how could they? Neither they nor you are part of the beta! Does Microsoft get the needed information about just why the patch is broken? Nope, of course not, they can’t get a dump or know the specifications of the system or even whether or not it was applied correctly.
The bottom line is this: Never let the fear of a security breach cause you to break your security best practices.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
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M. David Peterson just turned me onto a very interesting blogging tool - w.blogger (at http://www.wbloggar.com. It's essentially a reasonably complete word processing tool that's specifically designed for use with a whole host of blogs. I'm still getting a feel for it, but thus far I'm pretty impressed with the product - a standalone blog editor that doesn't need to be online to work, that contains a full set of formatting tools, works with a fairly wide number of blogging servers and is open source to boot. We'll see how well it works over the long term, but out of the gate I could see it being an invaluable addition to my set of tools.
Paradigm Shift, Redux
Every so often I find that, without quite realizing it, I end up in an area that has suddenly become hot. One of the odd facets of working with cutting edge technology is that you reach a stage where you tend to take the technology for granted because of familiarity with it, long before most people have even heard of it. Then, periodically, this little paradigm shift occurs and you realize that everyone else has just caught up with what you've been doing for several years.
AJAX is a lot like that for me at the moment. The implications of AJAX are huge, but they've been huge for a while ... its just that in most cases, the use cases for things like XMLHttpRequest haven't been obvious to most people because of the tacit assumption that because only one platform supported it that it wasn't worth building large applications for (there's something very interesting in that assumption, and that is that even when Microsoft Internet Explorer was the only real player to speak of in the browser space, there was an innate resistance to deviating too far from the existing W3C standards from an application development perspective. My suspicion is that had FIrefox not come along, something else (Opera?) would have come stealing IE's thunder in the same time frame anyway. This isn't diminishing the power of Firefox, but could be highlighting the possibility that developers may not have been as comfortable dealing with Internet Explorer (or Microsoft) as may have been evident at the time.
Regardless of whether that is in fact true, what AJAX has done in the space of the last few years has been to set into motion what looks to be a major, perhaps even tectonic, shift in the way that we build applications, providing the necessary critical link to turn Services Oriented Architectures (SOAs) from being a convenient marketing term into being something far more significant.
One of the critical problems that I felt with the direction of Web Services initially (and through to its now politically more correct SOA incarnation) has been that they have not in fact been very friendly to the one area where they would seem most logical - the web. The original notion of web services seemed so much at odds with the way that the web was set up: build stand-alone, traditional applications that used largely synchronous bindings to external APIs using XML-based SOAP messages, disguising these calls as ordinary object method invocations and performing behind the scenes marshalling between strongly typed C++ or Java variables and XML abstractions of type. It was as if the entire notion of web services in the first place was to get people off of this curious, profit-sucking Internet thing and back to "standard" applications where they belonged, hiding all of the XML and marshalling and the like in the background so that people would use the one true "object-oriented-programming" way that the masters of traditional programming protocols deemed blessed.
I'm going to talk about Java here, but you could readily replace the term Java with C# and have the same conversation. Both are strongly typed languages that generally require large frameworks in order to be able to support all of the potential that the language is supposed to be able to deliver. They are both oriented around the notion that you should build complex class structures to model data, both are "generally" statically typed. They both employed a binary marshalling format for communicating with remote systems, in time replacing (at least partially) these formats with SOAP/WSDL protocols generally applied synchronously. Indeed, I've found with most web services implementations, while the vendors may in fact talk about asynchronous messaging in promoting their products, what actually gets written, at least until people's servers start to melt down, are classical remote procedure calls.
Yet on the flipside, think about most enterprise level applications. Web page design and content is becoming increasingly easy to do within a web browser context, and it is a surprisingly small step from there to building a fully functional document editor (with an open XML standard underlying it of course). Spreadsheets are declarative, and could readily be handled by utilizing some of the capabilities of XForms (indeed, I think that the true killer XForms editor app is going to look a lot more like Excel than it will Visual Basic). Flash already produces far better "slideshows" than Powerpoint and I think that the CMS aspects of XML driven slideshows utilizing SVG will likely be the final nail in the slideshow coffin. Ditto for graphical symbol manipulation programs such as Visio being replaced by browser based SVG that is generally much more lightweight, doesn't require a specialized runtime beyond that necessary to display the SVG, and that creates truly powerful, metadata rich graphics.
However, one of the more significant changes in recent years in the enterprise space has been the realization that one can readily encode business logic state tables as XML and perform most, if not all of the actual decision making process and business decision making through the use of such XML rule-sets. The advantages here are not small - by utilizing XML here you canmake changes to the business logic of system without necessitating rebuilding or restarting the environment, the business rules can themselves be developed from more distributed state logic in a dynamic fashion, testing and debugging can be accomplished through validation methods on the XML itself independently of the running syste,and the XML can be just as readily cached as binary code can. The additional effect of this is that such a distributed architecture can significantly reduce the processing overhead; and can remove the synchronous bindings that tend to lead to both fragile and insecure code.
In these systems, the Java or C# doesn't go away, but it does become more generic, and in some (perhaps many) cases the shift can be significant enough that languages such as Python or Ruby begin to reach a cost effective parity with (or even exceed) the more traditional "heavy frameworks" languages. In essence, server applications become less "aware" of what it is that they are serving - with XSLT or some other XML process languages and XML streams coming from XML-fronted databases or external messaging queues essentially abstracting the specific server nodes such that from the standpoint of the system-level application there is comparatively little distinction between a database, a black-box functional processing node, or, intriguingly, a web client.
AJAX, in turn, represents this same philosophy applied to the web client. The business logic COULD be processed on the client (what's an XForm, after all, but one manifestation of such business logic) or the client could simply take the results of a non-visible server's applied business logic on some internal model and style that through bound XML-based components. Taking this to its logical next step, the number of points where enterprise-oriented Java needs to be in the system continue to drop. Java does not necessarily completely disappear, but its role is increasingly relegated to running the XSLT transformers, filter engines, and socket level communications. This isn't because of the inherent flaws of Java as a computer language - its because XML essentially pushes the level of abstraction up at least a notch, and in such an abstract world you can far more effectively separate model, processing and presentation than you could a generation earlier.
I know that there are a number of people who can (and likely will) argue that the utility factor (the ease of use) of such enterprise level frameworks in simplifying the processing of some piece of the overall business pipeline is where the real benefits come - that it is easier by far to work with invoice objects and invoice item objects and specific methods and events on each of them, for instance, than it is working with relatively large and generic DOMs. To be honest, I'm not so sure that's all that true. An object class, once created, is very constrained in how it can perform operations, and to change those constraints I have to, in general, create a new class from the base class ... in essence adding to the localized framework for that particular domain. With XML, on the other hand, the same XML can be styled in many different ways based upon the transformations applied to, can be validated based upon both typecast and business-logic oriented schematic systems (XSD or RelaXNG for the former, Schematron or XQuery for the latter) and can have the business logic change without needing to even touch the underlying data object in any way.
In a framework oriented system, you and I must perforce agree to the interfaces for not just data but data logic, but in an XML pipeline architecture, all we need agree to is the underlying structure of the data itself -- what you do with the data is immaterial to me. AJAX is part of this latter viewpoint, and in the larger picture will likely represent a major incursion not just into the presentation space (where its already becoming critical) but in the larger distributed application space that's rapidly becoming the norm in dealing with just about any real problem domain.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
EFI was developed by Intel and allows a number of advanced features, including the ability to connect to the Internet from a command shell before the OS is loaded. Since EFI was developed after the rollout of Windows XP, it's not supported by the current or earlier version of Windows (it is, however, supported by 64-bit versions, but the new Macs are 32-bit, so it's back to square one). However, all is not lost: Windows Vista will support EFI, and Apple has said it has no plans to directly block Windows from working on the new boxes. So, if you're a Vista beta tester and have ordered a new iMac or MacBookPro, get those install CDs out; the rest of you will have to wait for the official Vista release, or find a way to hack XP to boot using EFI (which we're sure is about to become a major priority of some of you at this very moment).
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
"The target of this project was to find the weakest system where you can run Windows XP. Have in your mind, that Microsoft official requiering a CPU with 233 MHz an 64 MB of RAM. But that had to be beaten!"
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The key thing is tab browsing that looks and feels like you are using Firefox. Even the search button at the left hand side looks and fells like this free browser. Just as in Firefox you can ad search engines.
There are some extra features as its easier to block the nasty sites and the RSS button is more accusable. Of course you can bookmark tabs as well.
Those who likes Firefox will like the new Explorer no doubt about it but so far I haven't seen anything really revolutionary. If you don’t have one you can download Firefox today and practise for Explorer 7.0
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Monday, January 09, 2006
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Sunday, January 08, 2006
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