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Comment Re:Industry Changing? (Score 1) 437

Standards aren't important to end users, but they're critical to developers.

I'm having a hard time seeing that as an argument that Firefox changed computing. Firefox is an end-user application. Even in the darkest days of IE dominance, end users could choose from several browsers that worked decently enough. Gmail debuted in 2004, at the height of IE's dominance, so IE didn't prevent innovation and evolution in web programming, either.

Even for web developers, better compliance with standards hasn't changed things that much. Professional web designers still have to make sure everything works in IE6. They depend heavily on cross-browser libraries that hide browser incompatibilities, and they still regularly run across discrepancies, even between different highly-standards-compliant browsers. The web designers who sit near me at work test against IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2, Firefox 3, and a couple versions each of Mozilla, Opera, and Safari. Plus they make special mobile versions of lots of pages, highly optimized for iPhone but also tested against BlackBerries.

And yet I still see professionally-done pages that don't render correctly in Linux Firefox. dominos.com is unusable under Linux Firefox, for example. Whether that's a bug in the page or Firefox or Flash or Firefox's embedding of Flash, it shows that web standards haven't changed the basic rule of cross-browser rendering: if the developers are committed to testing and tweaking their code against a browser, then it will work with that browser. Otherwise, it's a crapshoot.

So, given the continuing need to make everything work under IE6, it seems like the only thing that web standards changed is that there are now four or five decent rendering engines instead of two or three. You still can't be a web designer without being a student of browser quirks. Even if you attributed the entire HTML/CSS/Javascript standardization phenomenon to Firefox, it still wouldn't qualify as one of the top ten apps that "changed computing."

Comment Re:Industry Changing? (Score 1) 437

Standards have nothing to do with it. Browsers are supported on the basis of market share, nothing else. In other words, there's no chance that a sizeable number of people would be left without a working browser. Maybe we'd all be stuck with IE6 (and slightly crappy IE6 renderer-clones on Linux, like we have OpenOffice and KOffice for MS Office docs) -- but what would have been radically different about that? It would suck a little bit not to have tabbed browsing and AdBlock, and a few other amenities like keyword search might be missing, but would that change the web experience so much?

Besides, according to Wikipedia's market share numbers IE had over 90% of users during 2002-2006. I managed to rely on Mozilla and Firefox during that time period, so Firefox's success was not a prerequisite for alternative browsers to work "well enough."

Comment Re:Industry Changing? (Score 1) 437

Agreed. Half the apps the author chose were just winners in markets created by other products. If Microsoft Office had never existed, office computing would not have skipped a beat. Everyone would have adopted something very similar, possibly superior, on the same timeline. The fact that the author favored Mozilla or even Firefox reveals that he is too impressed by winners. What did Firefox change? Would web browsers have stopped evolving and improving without Firefox? Not likely. I used an ancient version of Mozilla earlier today, in fact, and frankly, if we were still stuck on 2002-era Mozilla (with a modern Javascript implementation) the web wouldn't be much different.

For Oracle, the article says,

Oracle, founded in 1977, was able to come of age right around the time database systems became both affordable and necessary for enterprises.

In other words, right place, right time, the product itself was inevitable but Oracle came out on top.

By that standard, Usain Bolt totally changed Olympic sprinting. Without him, it would be a bunch of slow fat guys, right?

Comment Re:What's the point? (Score 4, Insightful) 216

100 cases and 1 death don't give us a 1% fatality rate... we have to make sure those 100 people recover.

100 cases and 1 death don't give us a 1% fatality rate, because we have to take into account the people who got sick and didn't seek medical attention.

Anyway, where do you get those numbers? I thought the latest word was that it might not be any more fatal or infectious than normal. And since nobody has told me what the original fear of high mortality was based on (unless it was the 12 dead out of 312 confirmed cases in Mexico, a terrible statistic to base a mortality estimate on) I'm not inclined to buy into it.

Comment What's the point? (Score 4, Insightful) 216

What's the point of closing schools if the virus isn't virulent enough to burn itself out? If it's about as severe and durable as the garden-variety flu strains that circulate everywhere anyway, then it will continue to circulate in Mexico indefinitely, and wherever else it establishes itself. We can't exterminate it any more than we can exterminate other moderate strains of flu.

So when we reopen the schools, borders, or whatever else people are screaming for, the swine flu will be there waiting... waiting to make us cough and hack and stay home from work... waiting to kill children, the weak, the elderly... waiting... just like the regular garden-variety flu that we get every year.

(I'm not a biologist, I'm just baiting a real biologist to correct or clarify anything I got wrong. Please and TIA.)

Comment Whippersrnappers unaware of old-school techniques? (Score 1) 731

Hell, we seem to be obsessed by them. We romanticize them. We justify using crappy obsolete technology by the fact that it caters to old-school techniques. We seem to think that if it weren't for the old-school techniques, there wouldn't be any opportunity to improve our software using hard work and ingenuity.

"Our software sucks because we use Python, which doesn't offer any scope for hard work and ingenuity. Man, if we wrote in assembler or Perl, we could rock out with some wicked cool code and give our software the hard, nasty edge we need to kick ass!"

No, no, the opportunities for hard work and ingenuity are sitting right in front of us while we daydream about how awesome we would be if the world hadn't gone all soft and candy-assed on us.

Comment Re:Opt-in actually makes more business sense. (Score 1) 162

What you said:

In our geographical market most of the households do in fact reply to junk mail and so forth.

What your GP said:

I've run opt-in marketing campaigns, and have converted multiple employers from opt-out to opt-in. Before the switch, every mailout would result in an inbox full of complaints and threats.


Mike Tyson thought she wanted it, too. Keep your unsolicited junk out of my slot.

Comment Re:It Is Rated R! #6 for Opening Weekend! (Score 3, Insightful) 448

But I'm also glad that I didn't have a stake in it - It had to be an unsettling investment for those who did. It's got to feel good to have participated, but it was obviously a gamble from the beginning. Watchmen is definitely aimed at a niche market.

On the contrary, it was probably a pretty predictable quantity compared to other movies. Not that any new release is predictable, but this one wasn't anything like 300 or Sin City where they were hoping to pull in people who knew nothing about the source material, or like Persepolis where it was unknown whether the enthusiasm for the books would last through the release of the movie (and where there was probably a lot of doubt that fans of the books would even bother to see the movie.) It was a so-so movie based on a popular and prestigious graphic novel. They knew the size of the niche. They knew that the readership of the graphic novel would contain more movie fans than the general population, and, having test-screened the movie, they knew it wouldn't break out to a broader audience or inspire massive rewatching.

Assuming that the broadcast and rental rights were sold before the film screened, the DVD sales are probably the riskiest part -- how many people want to see it again? Will fans of the graphic novel want to buy a movie that failed to do the source material justice (inevitably and maybe blamelessly, but still)?

Comment Re:It's a Zen thing (Score 1) 508

That's the perfect state for when there's a clear path ahead. The conscious mind has a role in creative problem-solving, but sometimes it doesn't know when to get out of the way and let your instincts handle the trivial problems in the marvellously efficient way they have.

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