Lenovo Steps Up

Hot on the heals of the child like complaining from Acer we have Lenovo with a totally different response.

“Although we don’t like Microsoft providing hardware, for us, it just adds one more competitor,” Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said during the conference call in response to analyst’s question.

“[They’re] just one of our many competitors. We are still confident that we are providing much better hardware than our competitors including Microsoft,” he said.

So Acer just complains and threatens to move to competing operating systems (which don’t really exist) and Lenovo says “We don’t like it but we’re going to build better stuff than them anyway”.

I’m sure we can see which company is run by adults and which is run by petulant children.

Acer Whines

So Acer is complaining that surface is competing directly with them (and it is) and threatens that they’ll look at alternatives to Windows.

I can certainly see that they’d be upset, but what alternatives are there? Apple won’t license OSX and the general consumer isn’t interested in Linux (despite how rock solid it is now). So are they going to make their own operating system? Only sell Chromebooks?

Acer there isn’t an alternative, it’s an empty threat. You’ve been making crappy hardware for years and Microsoft got tired of you and the other OEM’s crapping up Windows. If you built nice computer without crapware on them Microsoft wouldn’t have to build it’s own hardware to compete with you. You’ve shown that you don’t have the best interests of consumers (and Microsoft) at heart.

Stop whining that Microsoft is building compelling hardware and you’re not. You’re choosing to build crap.

IE is Doing the Right Thing with Do Not Track

Microsoft gets a pretty bad wrap for it’s browsers. IE (specifically version 6) has been a thorn in the side of every web developer for years. With that type of history it’s sometimes hard to give MS credit when they do right.

In IE 10 ‘do not track’ will be enabled by default, and I think that’s the exact right thing to do for users.

DNT will be enabled in the “Express Settings” portion of the Windows 8 set-up experience. There, customers will also be given a “Customize” option, allowing them to easily switch DNT “off” if they’d like.

I know what DNT is, and I’ve never bothered to turn it on. I even know that I’d prefer not to be tracked. If ‘power users’ like me just can’t be bothered to even find the feature and turn it on, you know that non-tech users don’t have it on either. I’d be surprised if they even know it exists. During the set up process users are presented with an opportunity to turn it off if they don’t mind being tracked.

Yes this sucks for advertisers, but MS’s customers aren’t advertisers. They are doing the right thing for their customers.

They Make Crappy Hardware Anyway

So it seems that there [is some risk to Microsoft][sec] with producing the new Surface Tablet.

> The company says in the document that “our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform.”

The real problem here is the OEM’s. HP, Dell, Acer, and all the others have been making the OC’s they want for so long and have no idea what the consumer really wants. The consumer doesn’t want a computer with a bunch of extra ‘free’ crap loaded on it. They don’t little nag boxes popping up. My last Windows machine was from HP and the second I started it up there were nags to buy all sorts of HP crap.

Knowing this would happen I always build the cost of a copy of Windows in to a new Windows computer purchase. With that new operating system I perform a clean install, to kill all the extra needless crap.

So OEM’s have been building crappy machines with extra bloats software installed. They’re really worried that users might buy the Surface and then they’ll know what a Windows machine can really run like. Then users will expect them to actually build decent machines, and they don’t really want to do that.

If the OEM’s had just produced computers that were actually nice and didn’t bloat out Windows, Microsoft wouldn’t have a reason to produce this tablet. They have to do it because their “partners” have screwed the pooch.

One of the great reasons to get a Mac is they don’t bloat the machine out with useless up-sells for crap.

Via [rogerstringer][rog]

[rog]: http://rogerstringer.com/
[sec]: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/microsoft-admits-risk-in-tablet-plans/ “Microsoft admits risk in tablet plans”

The Long Proposed Death of IE 6

die ie6 from .net magazine
die ie6 from .net magazine
die ie6 from .net magazine

The proposed demise of IE 6 rings with the shouts of joy from web developers the world over, but is it truly on the horizon? While sites trying to kill IE 6 extoll all the valid reasons web designers and developers have to want the death; clients sit and look at philosophical arguments and compare them to the real world dollars of IE 6 users.

The Reality

The truth is that for many sites IE 6 users bring in money. I currently work with an e-commerce site where IE 6 users bring in 12% of the annual income. So that means in the last 30 days IE 6 users brought about $12,000 into the pockets of the owners. Don’t know about you but I would notice that money missing from my pockets.

On top of that there is a marked difference if we don’t provide full support for IE 6. Not having transparency on the images drops IE 6 conversion rates by 50%. Um I’d notice that hole in my pocket.

One company I sub-contract for only supports the latest editions of each browser. I totally love that I don’t have to hack around with IE 6 till it’s perfect. Sure I still check and put in a few minutes on it to fix major items but that’s about it. I do wonder though if the clients realize the real world dollars they could be throwing away by not supporting IE 6?

The Cost

I mean how long does it take really to get IE 6 supported fully? Let’s say it takes a whole work week, 40 hours. If we figure that you bill on the high end of the scale or are an agency with lots of overhead let’s say it costs $150/hour. So in 40 hours we just spent and extra $6000. Yeah we’d make it back in two weeks.

The cost is inconsequential really.

The Right Approach

The right approach when looking at browser support is to evaluate the clients statistics and support their clients. If they balk at the $6000 price of supporting IE 6 show them how much the users bring into the site and how quickly they recover the cost.

Sure I’d rather be building cool sites that just run the latest technologies. I’d rather be using HTML 5 and CSS 3 but more than that I like having food and a roof. I don’t love time debugging IE but I like affording a coffee.

So I’ll keep supporting IE 6 as long as it pays for my clients to do so. Really when I’m hired, I’m hired to give the best advice and solutions for a client situation not the best advice that isn’t a pain for me. Let’s just provide our clients with the right solution and get off our high horses.

Can We Get by with Web Apps?

google docs shot

google docs shot
Are web apps enough?

Web apps have been heralded as the solution to our online and offline lives. We do not have to install software on our machines. Things are backed up online and, in theory, we can edit offline with Google Gears (or other solution).

So looking at this promised land I decided to move my blog writing from Open Office with storage in Dropbox to Google Docs with offline enabled. I have now been writing exclusively in Google Docs for about a month and here is my experience.

The Good

I love the organization of Google Docs. There is just something about the simplicity of the interface that appeals to me. Drag and drop folder sorting is beautiful. Auto saving is great. Being able to check the content of a folder with by winding and unwinding the arrow for a folder is great. It just seems easier than drilling down a file structure and backing out of folders. I love that I am not really flipping back and forth between a file browser and an application for writing. I love that I just have Firefox open and can browse for links and write out of the same interface without having multiple applications running. Since I do much of my writing on a netbook having a single application open instead of a few is a great feature.

I find that the spell check works well and the standard keyboard shortcuts for boldand italic text work great. I really do not notice that I am in a web interface instead of a desktop application.

The Bad

While Google docs seems to promise document syncing and offline editing my experience leaves me wanting much more from Google docs. I typically operate over two main machines, a Vista desktop and an Ubuntu netbook. I take the netbook with me lots of places that do not have WIFI of any sort so I need to be able to edit my documents while offline.

The first fail came for Google docs when I was trying to start a new article over lunch one day. Low and behold the new document button is ‘ghosted’ out. So I scratched my head fired up Open Office and jotted down the notes I had in my head for an article. After a bit of research I found out that you can not create a document while in offline mode. You can ‘hack’ around this by creating a number of new documents while online and then editing them at a later point when you have a new document to write. Not a perfect solution but not too bad either so I could live with that.

The second fail or series of fails dealt with syncing my documents when transferring offline and online. For some reason a month after editing I still have documents that are marked at ‘edited offline.’ Despite the fact that I am currently giving Google Docs every opportunity to sync these items while I sit here online finishing this article in Google docs. Since it appears that the documents are just marked as ‘edited offline’ while still having the content syncedSo while this is annoying again I can live with that.

The final fail item was just today. I had planned to work on a document and finish it off for a blog post. Unfortunately for some reason Google docs decided not to sync that particular document today. So there I am ready to write an article and I get totally stumped. I suppose the great thing about that is I got to finish off this post about the ways in which Google docs has failed me. Maybe it has something to do with the Linux implementation of Firefox but to be honest I really do not care. I just want my apps to work.

The Conclusion

I love the thought of web apps and offline access but at this point I do not think that Google docs is there. Sure if you always have a WIFI connection Google Docs is a great resource but if you are editing offline and online you are out of luck (at least in my experience). I actually love writing in Google Docs but the syncing problems just kill the option for me. I really do not want to switch back to Open Office and Dropbox but I feel I have no choice. So I think I’ll be going back to using Open Office and storing documents in my Dropbox for syncing. The only downside to that is the poor functionality of Open Office for Mac. Fortunately my main machines are Linux and Windows with Mac as an occasional platform (at least for writing).

My next attempt at online document writing will be with Microsoft’s Office Live. Hopefully that is not a bucket of fail. Added after I scheduled the post Unfortunately it seems that Office Live is also a buckect of fail. While many browsers across many platforms are supported there is no Linux support in the Office Live site so my primary writing machine won’t work. I guess that means I’m stuck with Open Office and Dropbox for syncing.

The News: IE to use Webkit & Staying creative

Well here is an interesting development. In a recent developers conference in Sydney Steve Ballmer said that “Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that.” This is very interesting as the rendering in IE sucks currently and Webkit is awesome. I know that for all web designers it would be a wonderful thing to have the problems from IE just disappear.

Second up today is actually an article that i wrote for Design Fix on Staying Creative. It’s a quick list of how to stay creative long term as a designer.

Next is a post on 10 Key items for a perfect website. A very good check list of things to consider when building any new website. I already have a check list of things to consider when building a website but will add one or two from this list.

I am an advocate of having steady work while freelancing. Whether that is a client that has maintenance tasks or an actual steady job to make up some money. Freelance Switch has a good post on things to remember while working this steady gig. Like don’t stop marketing yourself cause it may not always be steady, and keep taking on some good projects. Just things to keep thinking about even through that amazing gig that pays the bills.

Today’s News

While reading  through my feeds today I noticed a post from Sitepoint regarding the use of IE 6. While most of us web designer’s wish IE a quick and painful death we always wonder if we really can stop supporting it. Many notable sites have stopped (37signals) but for the rest of us can we really stop supporting IE 6 when we build sites for our clients?

Die IE 6
Die IE 6

I don’t think that we can, I know that I can’t yet. The reality is that many of my user’s still use it. I could take an elitist stance and tell them to move forward with the times but I think web users are too fickle. If you head to a site and it doesn’t work they’ll just move onto another site. Your competitors are only a click away.

I have always thought that I would drop support for IE 6 when Microsoft did. They have made a practice of only supporting the 2 most recent versions of a browser. In theory that means when IE 8 comes out (in a few months) I could drop IE 6. Really though if lots of people are using it still can I stop.

As a freelance designer it can even be a selling feature. “I still support IE 6 which many of your users are using. No extra cost.” At the very least it is an interesting selling feature.

Ultimately until IE 6 drops below about 5% usage on a client’s site I will still support it.

The second bit of news comes from a fellow designers site. Niki Brown was given a free gift for her readers. If you are interested in getting some business cards printed head over to her blog and participate in the competition. I know I will.