People can’t remember URLs

Via an interesting article that reminds us all that “most searched” lists are PR driven, not data driven, “Business 2.0 BETA blog network” is this comment:

“They’re using search engines as navigation, typing website names or even URLs into the search box that automatically pops up in their browser.”

It’s a funny thing to me to watch people do that. They can’t remember an URL, even a short one, so they use search to find a place that they’ve even been to many times. A primary example for this is watching someone I know look for the This American Life page. Instead of remembering that This American Life is at or thinking to head to the Public Radio International website … it’s easier for most users to skip over to yahoo and do a search for “This American Life” and sort through the results.

This kind of searching behaviour is, I suppose, similar to how I now behave with own documents. I use google to search through the papers I’ve posted to my website, and I use spotlight to search through the documents on my machine, and even use spotlight to get to applications instead of going through the finder.

But, it’s interesting to me that I retain information about actual URLs. For example, I still remember that the URL for Ultima Online is even though I haven’t played that game since … when? Nine years ago? Or, that the old URL for O’Reilly was (which gave me a turn because they appear to have given that up, because it’s now some Japanese site.)

I think from a user standpoint, the URL address bar should simply be a search input. I really don’t like the way that new browsers separate the address and search inputs. Why should a user have to pre-parse their input and decide which field to use? I realize that I miss the autosearch feature from IE, which is a bit of a shock to care about IE at all, but using a question mark in the address field turned the input into a search. That was nice. In Firefox, I can set up a keyword “?” which does a google search. Why can’t I do this in Safari’s address field? (Apparently, there’s an add-on that does add keywords, extending Safari, in the way that the old was extended on NeXT, called Saft, but it costs money.)

Hello, I must be going …

I had completely forgotten about Hula. But, I see Slashdot reporting, “Novell Dumps the Hula Project.” There couldn’t be any quid pro quo going on here as part of the Novell-Microsoft deal, could there?

I remember being pretty excited about the Hula server being released as Open Source, but it fell off my radar. The promise was decent server side support for calendaring and e-mail, where so many clients existed without the server component.

It’s not really dead, of course. It’s open source, so the code lives on … although without downloading it I’m not seeing any mention of the GPL. I honestly don’t know how relevant this could have been, but it seems like it could have been a contender.

2.0 is the new 1.0

Reflecting on Slashdot | iPod Has Nothing To Fear From Slow-Starting Zune, I have to wonder about the vicious cycle Microsoft may be caught in. Here’s my thinking: It has become mythic that 1.0 products from Microsoft are shoddy and bad. So, from a company standpoint, if the perception is that 1.0 is bad, why waste resources and time on 1.0? Why not focus that on 2.0 and hope to catch people when they are going to pay attention?

Microsoft basically re-packaged a Toshiba device. So, instead of doing the work, they phoned it in. The first Zune isn’t even what they could have done if they’d actually tried. Zune 2.0 will, in fact, be Zune 1.0. It’s all a shell game.

There’s the vicious cycle. You see, Zune 2.0 will suck as bad as Zune 1.0 would have, had they even made it. And, if 2.0 is the new 1.0, then 2.0 will inherit the mythic failure … and we’ll have to wait until 3.0 before quality happens?

Update ( 29nov06 @ 10:46 am):

I just remembered that the Dreamcast was a kind of Xbox 1.0. The Dreamcast console had Windows CE as an option for developers to use in the stack for porting games, but it didn’t work well at all and very few games actually bothered. So, there’s another example of outsourcing 1.0 to someone else, like repackaging the Toshiba player as the first Zune.

The wikipedia article goes on to say that the ability to use a VGA monitor with the Dreamcast was “was shunned by the public.” Really? I loved that feature. What I hated was the memory cards that had the battery life expectancy of a gnat, and then lived an annoying undead life of beeping at me to remind me that it was dead.

What is up with Zune graphics, anyway?

So, apparently, I ‘m not the only one to notice there’s something strange about the graphics that are being used with the Zune, because Boing Boing notices some installer zen, and some other reader’s comment is linked wondering about the very same porno image I posted about earlier.

I know that crappy ads stick in our minds more than decent ones, but if a graphic design makes you just … bliss out on the bizarreness while the only thing that runs through your head is Lewis Black’s voice moaning, “WTF?!” … can that be a good thing?

I certainly don’t feel compelled to buy a Zune and probably even less so now. It’s just embarrassing to watch. It’s like the socially inept getting a rare chance in the spotlight but really screwing it up. All I can think of is getting as far away from the Zune as I can so that none of the ick rubs off on me.

The looking glass is smeared with grease, and Alice didn’t “fall” in … she got duped and was tripped as part of some high school hazing during her freshman year …

Update (16nov06 @ 12:55am):

Jeff Reifman, or some cohort of his, over at Idealog thinks these ads are designed to get people to talk about the Zune by using crappy ads that get people talking about the ads instead of about the product. The trashbin of advertizing history is full of campaigns that made that mistake.

But, could it be some devious strategy? Okay, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe, folks. However, if a pipe is … suggestive, then let us ponder the notion that it is not a successful strategy to be laughed at in scorn. Just ask anyone that’s ever been in high school about that.

However, let us also ponder that I am not the target audience for ads that reek of sweat and cheap beer and passing out in a pool of … I don’t want to know what. Maybe that does work for someone; someone not me. I just hope they wear protection … who knows where that product has been, and with how many partners. Yuck. I hope there’s current STD test results in the box along with the abusive EULA and BSDM DRM. And, why would anyone want the kind of partner that refuses to negotiate a safety word?

I might feel sorry for the underdog in the market, but I sure don’t have much sympathy for the sloppy drunk that spills beer on me trying to get to the front of the stage only to fall down when everyone is looking.

Update (17nov06 @ 6:26am):

Oh yeah, let the spoofing begin. BoingBoing is on this one. You know, the slightly sepia toned pictures connote nasty nicotine and coffee stains, old and busted, and used up.

See also: How to get ahead in advertising.

How to get ahead in advertising …

Okay, so, I keep seeing these ads for the Zune. Other than that there’s a kind of pathetic quality to the ads themselves which just shows how uncool Microsoft is at heart, I swear to you that every time I see this ad I catch myself wondering why [insert mainstream site] is running ads for pornography.

I mean, seriously, just look at this ad and tell me what she’s doing isn’t bow chicka wow wow. Which makes the headline on this post an unfortunate pun. (Then again, is there any other kind of pun?)

But, back to being uncool, these ads are like others I might expect trying to sell cheap beer. Then, again, that segues quite nicely back into the conversation of porn in advertising.

Oh, don’t even get me started on the phenomenally sexualized Halloween costumes for children that were being advertised this year … I don’t care how much hormone those kids are getting in their milk these days, it’s just wrong to dress kids like hookers. (If I were more uncouth, I’d point out that it’s also false advertizing. You know, there ought to be a law against falsely advertizing for illegal services.) Might as well just go all out and buy them pole dancing kits for Christmas. And, no, a hooker costume that comes in children’s sizes is not a category error (unless it’s for Munchkins which is just bait-and-switch, another example of nasty business tactics!), although that pole dancing kit looks like fun, yeah?

(Reminds me that a bunch of people I know are talking seriously about taking a pole dancing workout being offered by a Pilates studio in Oly … Now, if only someone had thought of making porn an exercise program decades earlier, just think of all the culture war we could have avoided. Oh, and, yeah, I know someone did think of it, really.)

And while we’re at it, just to get our minds off the subject of costumes, what’s with the space invader chic over at Honda? Check out the background image they are using on their Fit pages:

Must be awfully hard to drive, what with having to avoid the earthbase laser cannon fire on the highway … Wow, talk about road rage. It’s relentless, wave after wave of small Honda cars! PANIC!

Congratulations! It’s a Design Flaw.

Via F-Secure : News from the Lab

“When Windows Metafiles were designed in late 1980s, a feature was included that allowed the image files to contain actual code. This code would be executed via a callback in special situations. This was not a bug; this was something which was needed at the time.

This function was designed to be called by Windows if a print job needed to be canceled during spooling.

This really means two things:
1) There are probably other vulnerable functions in WMF files in addition to SetAbortProc
2) This bug seems to affect all versions of Windows, starting from Windows 3.0 – shipped in 1990!

“The WMF vulnerability” probably affects more computers than any other security vulnerability, ever.”

A fundimental design flaw then, is it?

Back in the day, there were essentially no ways to infect NeXT machines. However, I remember having a conversation with someone I worked with that had worked with NeXT boxes longer than I had. Turns out that there was a way. The display system in NeXT was called Display Postscript. Postscript could contain executable code, and so it was possible to have a file, and image, that when viewed on a NeXT machine, would execute arbitrary code.

The display system in Mac OS X is essentially the same except that Adobe wanted to torpedo the display postscript, and so Apple went with, if I remember, essentially what could be called “display PDF” instead. I am not sure of PS files are still vulnerable to embedded code. I have vague memories that the issue was addressed in the past.

So, the flaw in WMF of having embedded executable code isn’t something that was only by design in WMF files. It appears that this design flaw was widely expected in graphic files that were to be used for printing graphics.

I wonder if the design flaw in WMF was developed to copy the postcript funtionality? I mean, would that not just be just? Instead of innovation in vulnerability, Microsoft may have even copied that from someone else, too.

And, some say that Open Source is all imitation of other people’s work?

Score one more for Microsoft’s powers of innovation

Via “Northwest Progressive Institute: WARNING: Windows users, you are at risk to new security vulnerability – act now

Unlike with previously revealed vulnerabilities, computers can be infected simply by visiting one of the Web sites or viewing an infected image in an e-mail through the preview pane in older versions of Microsoft Outlook, even if users did not click on anything or open any files. Operating system versions ranging from the current Windows XP to Windows 98 are affected.

We used to tell people, when I worked at ISPs, that it wasn’t possible. Now it is possible. Just but looking at a website, just by reading an e-mail. No need to even activate an application now. Well, congratulations to Microsoft for their successful innovation!

I once observed in a letter to the editor, I think, of the Computer User magazine, that there was a great significance to the spread of VBA and Macro viruses. What Microsoft had managed to do was create a cross-platform virus, which was more and more likely to be a problem as higher level program environments became available, ones which were not platform dependent. So, here’s another way that Microsoft has innovated in the market place. They are just following their own tradition of innovation in vulnerability.

After all, security is “an opportunity for third party developers.”

Don’t let the border-crossing hit your behind, on the way out.

Via Microsoft on thin ice with S. Korea threat | | CNET

After a four-year investigation of Microsoft by the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), the software giant has threatened to take its ball and go home. The commission is looking into whether Microsoft’s inclusion of its instant messaging software and media player in Windows violates the country’s antitrust laws. In a new turn, Microsoft has said it may be forced to withdraw Windows from South Korea entirely if the KFTC requires it to tailor a version of Windows specifically for the country.

First off, let me boggle about the fact that a company is bluffing an entire country. Globalization in action.

Next, let me get excited that if MS were to do what it is threatening to do, then all those great Korean MMO games would likely move to either Linux or Mac OS X. Now, there’s something to get excited about.

On the other hand, if MS can’t bluff the state of Massachusetts, why does it think it can bluff South Korea?

But, they as much as say that they aren’t going to do it. They say “we’ll pull Windows from your country … or, um, maybe … we’d release a version with different features.” That’s a pretty weak threat, really.

It’s not that much different than how MS supports standards of any kind, just that this standard is a minimal set. MS will implement a standard in a poor way on their system, then point to the straw-man they have created as proof that their own proprietary format is better than the standard. Just one example, look at how the implementation of IMAP in MS products silently unsubscribes the client from shared namespaces. Why? Because it’s competition for Exchange. So, they can claim IMAP support, but not deliver to the client some of the most advanced features. Or, for that matter look at CSS support or the failure to offer PNG support in IE … the list goes on.

So, they threaten, well, offer to support a minimal set of features, and they will do everything they can to make it an annoyingly poor implementation and then whine and prevaricate about how horrible this is in comparison to the full feature set they would have implemented, if it hadn’t been for that interference.

Just read the old articles about MS in court about removing IE, and there’s the pattern of their argument there too.

On the upside, there’s no installation disks …

Via digg, “Microsoft Office 13 will be a Web Application!“:

“No more installed apps on your machine. Everything is going to the web for Microsoft (from an official Microsoft source).”

This isn’t the first time they’ve suggested this kind of move to hosted applications, although one might be forgiven for believing that previously it was FUD against thin clients. Is this FUD against the Google application rumours?

Also, it worked so well to move to a network model when Corel tried to do it with WordPerfect. There was also the Seattle-based company, was it Netdesk, that’s now purely a training company? They actually had a nice product back in the late 90’s. Seems like the Webcrossing people have been trying to make a network desktop of a sort for a while now.

Maybe, just maybe the apps will be on the network, but they will rely on local code, probably insecure code too. Also, people will never want to give up that last bit of illusion about ownership of the product, or trust their data to completely non-local storage.

UPDATE: Ha, someone else notices the similarity to some old promises. I was going to mention Hailstorm in this post originally, but didn’t. The one that got away, I suppose. CNET has an article about the connection, and how everything old is new again, “Windows Live rooted in MSN’s past“.