Category Archives: Opinion

Now, 2011, is a great time to move into Windows Phone development

Earlier this week, over at The Guardian, Matthew Baxter-Reynolds essentially asked the question: Where do the Windows Mobile developers go now?

Except that the article was actually called Why Android is the natural alternative to Windows Mobile for developers. The strapline for Matthew’s article added a little more meat to that statement: “When Microsoft killed off Windows Mobile, it left would-be developers with experience in its tools who wanted to build ‘line-of-business’ apps with a problem: what could they target?”

Matthew’s article covered many topics. It touched on:

  • fabrication of Windows Mobile and Android devices
  • line of business application development using the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone
  • patents
  • BlackBerry and RIM

It’s a well-written piece and I would urge you read it and Matthew’s other material.

I’d like to focus on one small piece of Matthew’s article. Specifically the piece about Windows Phone:

Windows Phone is also a pain because no one has them and no one (yet) wants to buy them. I believe this will improve when Windows 8 hits the market next year, but until then it’s difficult to pitch to customers. Plus you would think migrating software and apps from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone would be easy. It’s not, because of the radically different Silverlight-based user interface model. Windows Mobile is .NET-based and Java-esque.

It is fair to say that much has been written [during 2011] about the uptake of Windows Phone devices. The phone manufacturers [HTC, Samsung, LG, etc.] must be furious with the way the phone carriers [the likes of O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, Three] have failed to market their Windows Phone products. It wasn’t until I was at DDD North on the 8th of October 2011 that I saw more than one Windows Phone device in the same place. In fact, as @scottisafool noted, by virtue of there being a handful of Windows Phone devices in the same place, it put many High Street stores and supposedly phone-savvy supermarkets to shame.

Every market has to start somewhere. Windows Phone is the new kid on the block and it has moved into a block that’s already very well established; current residents include Android, iOS and to some extent BlackBerry. Given that major pundits are referring to Windows Phone as the third member of the mobile ecosystem, I believe it’s fair to follow Matthew’s recommendation to ignore BlackBerry. Unless RIM have an ace up their sleeve, I have to agree with Matthew.

Despite this apparent low uptake, it hasn’t thwarted the application developers. As of today there are some 35,000 applications in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Many of the reputable news sources for Windows Phone report that about 90% of the core apps and games that “the others” have on their iPads, iPhones and Android tablets are available for Windows Phone devices. Whilst that suggests the market is pretty much sewn up, there are still gaps that need filled. Contrast this with the fact there are over 500,000 applications available for iPhone and Android devices and it’s fair to say Windows Phone has some catching up to do. Assuming, of course, that you believe catch up is required. One has to ask how many of the 500,000 or so applications are unique or are so trivial that calling them an application is an overstatement.

Nokia’s presence in the Windows Phone ecosystem should not be under-estimated. Rumours about their device line up have been rife. Leaked photographs of their proposed Windows Phone device(s) have been published, analysed and analysed again. This weekend, October 21st and 22nd 2011, TV viewers in the UK started to see subtle hints from Nokia, the Sea Ray made very short but pointed appearances between adverts in major shows on Saturday evening. This advertising, albeit very short, is very welcome. Windows Phone marketing has been beyond disappointing, a fact that cannot be denied and a fact that isn’t UK-specific. I would hope that advertising picks up as we get closer to Nokia World, October 26th 2011, when Nokia’s devices will be revealed to the public for the first time. Nokia have the ability to produce, market and sell millions of devices. In Europe, they are virtually independent of any particular demographic: kids, teenagers, housewifes, workers / business users, pensioners, the military…they all use Nokia devices.

Whilst Matthew believes no one has them [Windows Phone devices], he does believe that people will want to buy them in the future. And that’s the key: the future. The future for Windows Phone isn’t 12-18 months away, or further. It’s between now and Q1 2012. It’s now. Microsoft’s careful approach, whereby they built Windows Phone version 7.0, used customer feedback to refine it with NoDo and subsequently with Mango, mean they have an operating system that is a first class citizen in the mobile space. It can compete, and win, against the likes of iOS and Android.

Windows Mobile developers will continue to have their market in line-of-business applications for as long as there is demand and device availability. Where should they turn to next? Matthew believes that Windows Mobile developers should be focusing their future development efforts in the Android space. I have to disagree with that thought! The Android market is saturated. Android is an operating system that suffers from considerable fragmentation; there are many versions of Android, spanning major version numbers, still in use today. Examining the various platform versions, I see there are only a few flavours of Android that are “accepted” as primary development targets, which is a step in the right direction. Even if you target the three major versions of Android, the open source nature of Android means that developers might find themselves having to work around issues that are very device-specific.

Windows Mobile developers will find themselves moving from Microsoft’s .NET platform over to Java, which is means moving away from Visual C++ and the Visual Studio IDE. Thankfully, the existence of third-party tools such as MonoDroid, allow us to write C#/.NET code that can be deployed to the Android platform. However getting started with MonoDroid will cost you at least $399, which is very much worth it if you wish to avoid entering the Java camp. On the plus side, once you’ve written your application, it can be submitted to the Android Store and available for sale within hours. Ultimately, moving from Windows Mobile to Android should be considered a complete platform change: all of the tools, software development kits (SDKs), frameworks and deployment targets have changed. You could be buying into a whole new set of problems.

Windows Mobile developers who are considering a move to iOS are in for a similar surprise. Apple’s iOS relies on the Objective-C programming language. I won’t go into Objective-C in this post, but if you need to read more, there’s good content in this article over at The Guardian. Whilst iOS developers don’t suffer from Android’s OS fragementation, they do suffer from Apple’s lengthy application submission process. I’ve heard some developers say the application submission process can take weeks. I’ve also heard that Apple can reject applications without providing any reasons as to why the rejection occured – I believe Apple have gone as far as to ignore some Google application submissions! Not surprisingly, tools such as MonoTouch exist, whereby we can write C#/.NET code that runs on iOS. If I was developing for iOS, I’d be seriously considering the $399 cost for MonoTouch. Again, moving from Windows Mobile to iOS should be considered a complete platform change and one that may have a significant cost attached to it.

Contrast Android and iOs with the Windows Phone modus operandi. Windows Phone applications can be developed using a tool that Windows Mobile developers should be reasonably familiar with: Visual Studio. Windows Mobile developers have been used to working in a managed code environment for some time now and they are particularly comfortable with the Visual C++ language. Windows Phone development will mean developers use their choice of C# or Visual Basic – this shouldn’t be a major undertaking as it’s not a complete platform change. Windows Mobile developers should have a good grasp on the .NET framework. The move from Visual C++ to C# is, in my opinion, fairly painless. Yes, they will have to contend with a new deployment target, however it’s not a case of “all change” as it would be for Android and iOS, developers get to stay in the overall Microsoft ecosystem. And or course, the Windows Phone development tools are free, which is always good.

Many businesses are already allowing Windows Phones to form part of their device portfolio, whether the device is on the corporate asset register or simply owned by an individual. Once the consumer market opens its mind to the fact there are alternatives to Android devices, iOS devices, BlackBerry devices, the business space will see similar such uptake. Consumers have day-jobs, they don’t want to find themselves using a state-of-the-art Windows Phone device to manage their personal life and then to have to use a candy bar to make phone calls in their corporate life. Nokia used to be in the candy bar market, especially for corporate customers…I still have a Nokia 6021 gathering dust! Ironically, I carry a Palm Treo 750 (Windows Mobile 6) instead of the Nokia 6021. I also carry an HTC HD7 Windows Phone – it’s my personal phone. The HD7 gets more use than the Palm does – putting Windows Phone aside, the screen size makes it so much more useable.

Whether Windows Mobile developers choose Android, iOS or Windows Phone, they will still find themselves building their line-of-business applications using a new user interface metaphor – gone are the small buttons and stylus-inspired Windows Mobile user interfaces. Windows Phone, like the iPhone and Android is all about touch, sliding, pinching and tapping. Despite the ease at which I believe a Windows Mobile developer could pick up the Windows Phone development environment, it’s not the main reason I believe that they should move into Windows Phone application development. The ease at which a Windows Phone application can be developed is certainly a very important reason, however it’s not why I’ve written this article.

The primary reason is the exponential growth that we are about to see in Windows Phone uptake, particularly in the consumer space. As noted earlier in this article, during the week leading up to Nokia World, the commercial UK TV channels carried a number of subtle adverts. Even today, Monday 24th October, the free Metro commuter newspaper carried an advert for the HTC Radar – granted it could have done with having more than a “cake” on the screen, it could have showed off the OS! Assuming Nokia World proves to be the catalyst that Windows Phone needs and deserves, Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 are going to see massive uptake in the Windows Phone space. Demand for Windows Phone applications is going to go through the roof early next year, 2012. We need to be developing applications to meet that demand and we need to be doing it now. Rarely do we get a moment like this, we have six months notice that good times are coming: action, now! The Windows Phone market needs you!

So, you see, now, 2011 is a great time to move into Windows Phone development.

Passwords alone, are not enough. Even if they were, are they hard to break?

[As quoted in the Guardian:]

Relying on a single password for more than one purpose, e.g. logging on to your web-mail, instant messaging service, Facebook, Bebo, etc. is probably very commonplace.  Indeed, exposés such as Twitterank, and even it’s parody site TwitterAwesomeness, highlight the ease at which folks will essentially surrender their username and passwords.  Twitterank didn’t just catch the unsuspecting Internet user, they also caught a number of people who really should have known better. 

Sites that do need your Twitter username and password, such as BrightKite, use it in order to post tweets on your behalf.  In BrightKite’s case, it tweets each time you “check in” to their “where am I” service.  The check-in process involves you telling BrightKite where you are, it then sends out a Tweet telling the world.  Such sites make their intentions very clear in the Terms Of Use, Code of Conduct and Privacy pages. 

However, so did Twitterank. The site made it clear what it wanted you to believe it was doing with your username and password.  Even if you didn’t read the Twitterank terms of service or FAQ, it was embedded within the source code, as Barry Dorrans carefully points out.  The speed at which the Twitter population flocked to Twitterank suggests that were there any ulterior motives, the site would be well placed to exploit a significant portion of the Twitter accounts that it had opportunity to harvest.

Twitterank was different.  It relied on our instinctual want to graded or rank ourselves amongst our peers.  No matter how hard we try, we’re all competitive by nature.  We want to know where we stand/sit in relation to our peers.  Some services, such as Twitter Grader have managed to achieve this without the need for a Twitter password.  Granted there’s only so much Twitter Grader can do, however it’s a polite service that has introduced me to a number of Twitter users in Scotland – users that I may not have discovered.

There was little indication whether a Twitterank of 100 was good or bad.  Some users reported ranks of over 200, others, as we’ve seen already, received a rank of zero.  The mathematics behind the site were reported via a comment in this blog as being “Real Math(tm)” and were comparable in accuracy to Google’s PageRank mechanism.  I’m not a mathematician so I won’t be debunking any formula, algorithm or approaches.  Well, not just yet at least.  For Twitterank to have been useful, it would need to allow us to determine whether our rank was better or worse than other Twitterankers (there it is again, I do apologise).

Twitterank didn’t really try to hide its intentions, however because of the the site’s ease of use, instant gratification and rapid publicity, its uptake was huge (it trended TweetStats and Twitter Search, and at the time of writing, continues to do so – outdoing “Obama” and “James Bond”).  The publicity was part of what made it so popular – it sent out a Tweet announcing your Twitterank, including a link back to the site thus encouraging users to discover their own ranking.  In most cases, this would probably be fine, however spare a thought for the Twitter folks who received a ranking of zero – and there where many of them!  Indeed, many Twitterankers (can I really get away with saying that?  Too late now!) tweeted their dissatisfaction at their ranking. 

Amusingly, Twitterank’s creator (@ryochiji) reported on his Twitter feed that low rankers should try again tomorrow.  Oh, so that’s how it works – everybody’s Twitterank will improve over time, that’ll work, great system, yes?  Further information may be found on the Twitterank blog, assuming WordPress haven’t deemed it necessary to close it down.

It’s not all about gullible users though
This morning, at the time of writing, a few hours after Twitterank was exposed for the social experiment that it probably is (or was), saw me reading Bruce Schneier‘s Read me first column in the Technology section of The Guardian.  Bruce writes a great piece explaining how passwords don’t need to be broken per say, but that they are inherently easy to guess.

Without spoiling the article too much, assuming that you are going to read it, Bruce highlights our password selection techniques.  One such method, and one that is certainly very familiar to this writer in his corporate environment, is the keyword+appendage approach.  Users often take their child’s name, their dog’s name, etc. and add a numeric digit or two after the name, e.g. frank01 or rover12. 

Today’s processing power means that software can intelligently guess huge combinations of keyword+appendage passwords in a relative short and acceptable period of time.  Gone are the days when passwords would take days or weeks to crack.  If you need more convincing, think about how long it takes the average WiFi hacker to crack your wireless router/modem WEP encryption keys.  Or even your WPA encryption?

Bruce makes the suggestion of using a personal sentence as your password.  Not the sentence itself, but an obfuscated version of the sentence.  His example (yes I’m spoiling the original article, sorry) uses “This little piggy went to market” – it creates an obfuscated password of tlpWENT2m.  Such as password would take a significant amount of time to be guessed using processing power alone.  Just in case you were tempted, Bruce rightfully advises that we don’t use tlpWENT2m ourselves…oddly enough.

Increasing security, some options
With the ease at which Twitterank coaxed visitors into typing in their username and password, it seems the days of the password as a single source of authentication are numbered.  We need to be considering more secure alternatives that involve “levels of authentication”.  Usablity is the key to widespread acceptance, any product in this space must be easy to use; its interface must be fundamental such that selection of a secure-level authentication token requires little more effort than offering a basic-level token. 

With Twitterank-like incidents becoming more common, I predict that during 2009 we will see the general acceptance and widespread uptake of such authentication mechanisms such as OpenID, and CardSpace (further reading here and here).  You should familiarise yourself with these mechanisms because major web-sites such as Yahoo are gradually introducing them as part of their login process.  Indeed, even the likes of Facebook, where you can be whoever you want to be, may have to succumb and implement a more secure user registration and identity verification process.

Beyond authentication into verification
Going beyond authentication, we need to consider verification, particularly of identity.  The internet has little in the way of process that can help us confirm an individual’s authenticity and identity – how do you know that the person your are tweeting with or Facebooking is the person they say they are?  Twitter had the great fake Sarah Silverman incident of October 2008.  Facebook has many impersonation cases, a few of which I discuss in elsewhere on this blog

Firms, such as NetIDme are well placed to take advantage of the needs of the authentication and identity verification marketplace.  Identity verification through NetIDme processes involves a combination of stages, if you’re in the UK or US they boast a 95% “automatic verification” rate. The remaining 5%, or if you are a child, requires some form of personal contact with the NetIDme team – whether it is a fax or a phone call.  However, prior to the personal contact, you are invited to provide such things as your Driving Licence Number, National Insurance number, Social Security Number or Passport number in order for third party checks to take place.  Obviously this is much more involved and potentially more invasive than a simple username/password combination. The fact we are now able to authenticate and verify who we are, including how old we are, is a key step forward in the growth and maturity of the Internet.

And finally…
At the time of writing Twitterank is still up and running, whilst there appears to be no malicious intent on the creator’s part, the whole debacle in the social engineering space has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many people.  I am sure that no ill intent was ever on the cards, however Twitterank has proven that everybody needs to think about their own on-line security and the implications of password surrender. 

Just think what might have happened to your Twitter feed? “Ah,” you say, “but it’s just my Twitter feed, I don’t really care if somebody hacks it and owns it.”  That’s fine, but a lot of users have a single password, and that is where the problem stems from.  Identity theft often starts from the smallest thing.  I have a colleague whose identity was stolen simply because she left her name on the door bell of her previous house. The house had been sold to a gentleman who then let / rented the house.  The new tenants used the knowledge of the previous owner’s name to start off the identity theft process.  It is that simple.

I’ll leave you with advice that is mentioned elsewhere in this blog:

  1. Don’t use the same password for social networking sites and services that are more important to you such as your on-line bank or your web-mail.  If your password is harvested, as Twitterank could have done, you may find yourself compromised in more than one way.
  2. Avoid simple passwords such as “password”, “itsasecret” or “letmein”.  Amazingly, during my university days somebody actually told me their password was “itsasecret”.  Indeed it was…I logged in and was later accused of cracking the said password.  A little trouble ensued but it was soon dropped when I explained that i had actually been given the password in the first place! 
  3. Consider “upping” your levels of security your OpenID – there are plenty of providers.  Yahoo, MyOpenID and NetIDme to name just a few.  Any progress in this direction, is good progress. Of course, you could always demand OpenID!

Safe and happy surfing!

Further reading:

Password security – even big names fail
Twitterank – celeb or peon? @t_rank

How to Talk to (Geek)Girls Online…Etiquette (link through)

Via Twitter (@UMLGuy), I found myself reading a blog post by Dana Coffey (@crazeegeekchick)

Now, even if I wasn’t married, I wouldn’t dream of doing any of the crazy things that Dana mentions in her blog entry. It’s just not the done thing.

Take Dana’s rule of all rules as an example:

It never ceases to amaze me that men online feel perfectly comfortable asking me about my sexual proclivities or describing their own – and they don’t even know the color of my eyes.

Come guys, whoever you are, wherever you are: please take heed of Dana’s advice…you’re letting the side of decency down.

Here’s the full blog post: How to Talk to (Geek)Girls Online– Social Networking Etiquette

Microsoft “shoe bending” advert, in all seriousness, please…

A recent Microsoft advert, brought to my attention by Colin, is somewhat odd, cool, weird, memorable, etc. Ian then replied to Colin with 1938media‘s response. I was going to prepare a video response to Loren’s video, however I decided to put it into writing instead (largely due to a noisy household, a shortage of production time and toothache).


Gates and Seinfeld spend their time inside a shoe store called Shoe Circus. This is an advert loaded with one-liners many of which have a deeper meaning. For example, in the opening scenes Seinfeld introduces viewers to the shop slogan “Quality shoes at discount prices – why pay more?” and the fact that Bill Gates is inside being fitted out for a pair of shoes. Viewers are free to read into this whatever they like, however the message is obvious: if Shoe Circus is good enough for Bill…then it’s good enough for the rest of us. The analogies with software should be obvious to viewers.

With Seinfeld taking over the role of shoe fitter, he asks Gates’ “is that your toe?” Gates’ response is nothing short of inspired, “no, it’s leather”. Of course it’s the leather that Seinfeld has just touched. Appearances can be deceptive, sheep can hide in a wolf’s clothing, Gates’ is being open and honest with the brevity of his response.

We learn that “the left one’s is a little tight”. Gates does not say much in this advert, this sentence is his longest. Viewers may find themselves feeling that Gates and Seinfeld are actually portraying McCain and Obama with this political reference. However, the opposite is actually true: there is no room for politics in global product development.

Viewers are invited to consider the statement “he’s a 10”. Seinfeld makes this point very clearly with little in the way of semantic fluff and verbal distraction. He is careful to repeat the statement “that’s a 10”. The point that he is making is also clear: there’s no 11 here, we don’t need to be one better than anybody else, we can be as good at 10. These three words have deep roots in the wise words of Spinal Tap whose amplifiers are better than the competition because they go one louder.

Outside the store, the Spanish-speaking family are not interested in Gates and Seinfeld, they are interested in the Conquistador, the shoe itself. This is a clear indication to the viewer that big brand names should not be the primary focus, it is the product that exhibits the quality and usability. Indeed, we can induce some meaning from the definition of conquistador – the explorer or adventurer – products do not develop themselves, exploration and risk are essential in order to move any product development forward.

We have already seen Seinfeld demonstrate the flexibility of the Conquistador, which sends home the a message that products should be flexible and able to meet all your demands, even if wearing leather shoes in the shower is one of your demands. Viewers may initially have thought that the shoe bending was a direct reference to Yuri Geller’s spoon bending activities of the 1970’s, however the producers very quickly put us off the scent with the vision of Seinfeld wearing his clothes and shoes whilst showering.

During the closing of the shoe purchase we learn that Gates has a platinum card for the store. The card itself has a picture of Gates that pre-dates 1980 (readers are invited to work out a more precise date for this photograph on their own). Of course the message that the producers are hoping to convey with this hark back to the late 1970’s is that of stability and the desire to produce quality products since day one. The irony of the loyalty card being called a Clown Club should not be missed – this is a laser-guided “direct hit” against anybody who believes that Microsoft cannot hit the mark with whatever they set their cross-hairs on.

The secondary message suggested by the Clown Club card infers that there are other folks in the club. One might think that members of the same club should play fair, as happens in traditional sporting clubs. Gates’ smirk as he announces that he is a platinum member suggests that other members of the same club may not be playing fair, although this is a statement that is never made directly. The Clown Club card itself rewards holders with Big Top points. These are probably worthless, however this is sending a clear message to the other club members that team work and playing fair are essential in today’s world, points do not always mean prizes. Scoring points against your opposition is not something club members should be entertaining.

During the penultimate message, as Gates and Seinfeld leave the store and the shopping mall, Seinfeld comments that Gates has “mind-melded his Magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft”. We see here yet another reference to the need for team work, the need for the creation of a global playing field, there is no room for a disconnected organisation. Gates short but subtle response, “I have”, drums this point home. A question left unanswered at this point is “where did Gates get his churro from?” The viewer is left to make up their own mind about the origin and meaning behind the introduction of this random and spurious churro.

The closing message sees Seinfeld, a clear thought leader in this field, ask Gates the ultimate question, a question that would normally result in the answer 42. Readers of this piece and viewers of the advert are invited not to panic at this point, as what follows is merely one interpretation of this particular message.

Seinfeld, as we have witnessed throughout the advert, plays the lead part with the most vocal content. However it is Gates’ with his “man of few words” responses that are the most emotive and carry with it more meaning than wordy sentences can come close to achieving. This is a hidden message: quality over quantity.

We may believe that there are take-aways in Seinfelds closing message: “I’m just wondering, are they ever gonna come out with make our computers moist and chewy like cake so we could just eat ”em while we’re working? If it’s yes, give me a signal, adjust your shorts.” Viewers are then either shocked or surprised to see Gates adjust his shorts (for the benefit of UK readers/viewers, we must imagine these to be boxer shorts, as worn under the trousers). Gates’ action allows the advert to close somewhat rapidly, leaving us with the message “The Future…Delicious” and the Windows logo.

The advert’s primary message is clear: Windows 7 will be a product oozing with quality, usablity, flexibity, style and it will integrate with the way you do things. Gates still is still associated with Microsoft, certainly in the eye of the viewing public, hence the choice to use him as part of this advert for future Microsoft products and hence this author’s direct reference to Windows 7.

This advert says so many things about the Microsoft product development process and their products, surely so much is obvious?


A YouTube version of the advert can be found here.

Thomas Lee’s post on the same topic.
An alternative ending can be found here (provided here for reference, not endorsed)
The deal behind hiring Seinfeld

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Yet a lot of firms have instigated a blanket ban…

Just yesterday one of my friends e-mailed me with a small Outlook 2007 font size problem. There is, it appears, no solution as yet. However, unrelated to his original question, I found this link that I knew would be of interest to him in his professional capacity.

I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that his firm block sites such as Twitter. It got me thinking: Twitter, for me and for many of the folks I follow and those who follow me, it’s all about the conversation. Of course for me it’s a software development conversation – at least for the vast majority of the time. Generally speaking, I would think that most employers would be keen on peer to peer conversations and learning opportunities.

The amount of non-work related conversation that I am exposed to whilst sat at my desk (both in Edinburgh and London) is huge and very much irrelevant. Are you interested in your colleague’s telephone conversations? Open plan environments must be nightmare for those folks who can’t use a telephone quietly. I endured overhearing a 20 minute call between the chap sitting at the opposite desk and his umbrella company – I know what his weekly shopping bill is, his weekly rent, credit card spending and his date of birth…and that’s what I can recall without thinking. I was trying to work whilst this conversation took place – however since it was so close and so loud, I was very much distracted. This was just one such distraction that caught up with me today – I know that I’m not alone – blocking out the periphery noise whilst you’re trying to work isn’t easy.

The couple of times a hour that I might want to check-in with my peers, find out what they’re up to, perhaps ask them a taxing work-related question, in some organisations I’m denied that privilege. Compare the level of conversation and usefulness of Twitter to the average office-based morning chatter, it soon becomes clear that employee productivity is thwarted by in-person social networking. Of course, I’m not saying that there is little value provided by in-person conversations, far from it. What I’m saying is the amount of “noise” generated overall isn’t good for productivity, yet little is ever done to address the lost time, the distraction, the interruptions and the stress that such scenarios can create. Instead, the more focused avenues, such as Twitter, are blocked.

In a nutshell
The content that I get from Twitter is far more tuned towards the work I do. Blanket bans are often the result of the few spoiling a good thing for the many.

Next time on Murphy’s Rant
Printing on both sides of the paper, an environmentalists dream or just a source of frustration?

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The Guile of Cuil

Without much hullabaloo, with stealth-like precision, a handful of ex-Google employees (and others) launched a rival search engine: Cuil – which, according the About page is the Irish word for knowledge (although there appears to be some dispute about what it actually means).  Semantics aside, there is even debate over the pronunciation of Cuil – in a press release, its’ founders advise that it should be pronounced “cool”.  I suppose they’re hoping that search enthusiasts will replace “Google it” with “Cuil it”?

Naturally I looked myself up using Cuil.  I was pleased to see my own web-site appear first. However, what is that car doing there?

So then I looked for “craig murphy” tdd. The results were interesting. The results are shown in the image below. Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised to see Wikipedia at the top. I didn’t know that my article Improving Application Quality Using Test-Driven Development at Method & Tools had been referenced on Wikipedia (thanks to whoever is responsible!)  Secondly, the images were, on the whole, reasonably relevant…based on the content – as the picture of the Youngsters at DDD2 demonstrates (more about this in a moment).

On the right-hand side of the image below, the developer.* link, who are those guys? I suspect they are part of the developer.* team on some sort of social outing, but the image is so small it’s unclear what’s going on. Refreshing the search results does sometimes lead to pictures of the book cover for Software Creativity, which is perhaps more appropriate.

However, whilst the images were useful, I did notice that some spurious entries were showing up. Take the result below as an example. It uses a photograph that I took (The Youngsters at DDD) and associates it with a URL linking here: The information at that URL is fairly general – whilst the information that is referenced by Cuil is there, you do have to hunt for it. But it’s not perfect: “Craig Atkinson UK based Artist / Illustrator. Hire me now damn it. CRAIG ATKINSON. fine art + illustration. available…” – this extra information has nothing to do with my search. Some work on the result filters may be required.

Of course, the photograph is on the Internet, although it’s not implicitly in the public domain, I guess that is inferred and assumed.  However this just goes to demonstrate what can happen to your photographs. May be I should start to add watermarks and release some event photos under an attribution model of sorts? That last question was, of course, rhetoric. It’s still interesting to see that Cuil have found a means of associating textual content about me with photographic content produced by me.

Poor typists and the dyslexic fraternity may be disturbed to learn that misspelling Cuil could lead you to sites of disrepute, as the first entry on this Google search confirms: 

At this early stage, I think that the folks behind Cuil have exhibited considerable guile with their claim to have indexed 3 times as many pages as the nearest competition (today, 30/07/2008 – Search 121,617,892,992 web pages). May be they have managed to index that many pages…I’m sure that I’m not alone in wanting to see the infrastructure required to handle the index and user demand.

Within hours of its launch, the publicity surrounding Cuil was frenzy-like: it was both slated and commended as something that will mature into worthy competition for other search engines. More the former than that latter, I might add.

Is it cool to exhibit such guile? No doubt time will tell.

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When you receive bad/poor customer service…what do you do?

Receiving poor customer service is somewhat unacceptable. More so if you have paid for a service and aren’t receiving it.

Paul is enduring such customer service pain and has blogged about it here.

Companies need to understand the power of the Internet – and whilst it’s a current medium, the power of the blog should never be under-estimated.

The effect that bad publicity can have on your search engine rankings can be devastating. One need only search for “company name+suck” to realise why. See what I mean here.

Here’s another example.

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So what’s wrong with 3-Column WordPress themes?

A while ago I fired off a tweet about WordPress themes. Gary responded, as did Oliver.

I can’t seem to find one that just works out of the box.

So, in order to demonstrate what I see as a problem with a theme, here are couple of examples.

Firstly, this one was a perfectly good theme, however notice how the Comments (1) has lost the trailing )

And this one was great too, but why does the post count have to appear on a new line?

Yes, they are probably easy enough to fix, but that means hacking the theme…and when an upgrade to the theme comes along, I’ll have to remember to extract the hacks and re-apply them. Not fun. I’m probably going to have to write my own theme, who knows when I’ll have the time do to that.

In the meantime, whilst I’m happy enough with this Clean [BlueHaze] theme (it’s a 3-column theme, but the left-most column makes it feel like a 4-column theme), I’d be happy to receive recommendations for 3 column themes, minimal, fluid (i.e. wide content area), decent configuration for the column widths, WordPress 2.3 compliant and no hacks required.

Is that a too big an ask?

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Has Apple shot itself in the foot? What do you think?

I’ve been thinking about my earlier post a little more. You know, I’m no marketing guru or press relations expert, but I can’t help but think that Apple might have opened up a whole can of worms: a possible marketing disaster? I do appreciate that there is a breach of contract in play (by those folks who unlocked their iPhones), but if every contract was enforced in this way, where would we be? Surely customer alienation isn’t the right option?

I guess that Apple are simply covering themselves if AT&T decided to seek compensation for the lost revenue. Working out how much that compensation might be is anybody’s guess – are Apple able to identify and quantify all the unlocked iPhones that are in use? Probably not. Instead, they rely on the fact that folks always want the latest and greatest, so they release a firmware update that is capable of identifying unlocked iPhones at source, then it disables them. I would imagine that makes for one rather upset customer (“upset” probably doesn’t really do the customer’s feelings that much justice, but it’ll do for this blog, thanks!)

Apple shoots itself in the foot?

Has Apple shot itself in the foot?

Do you think Apple were right to release firmware that essentially disables the iPhone if it’s not on an AT&T network?

How else could Apple have dealt with this sitution?

Tell me what you think please!

On another note, I couldn’t help but notice my Google Ads on the iPhone post…the irony of the ads still offering iPhone unlocks!

unlock you iPhone ads

Related Information
BBC – Apple iPhone warning proves true
Gizmodo’s recommendation
Customers are not ‘brand accessories’ (specifcally this and also this)

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Do Apple iPhone users who have unlocked their phones deserve to be locked out?

Recent press has confirmed that Apple’s threat to disable iPhones that have been unlocked appears to have come true.

The Guardian’s article title is rather amusing: Apple bricks some hacked iPhones.

Gizmodo has a good piece about it here.

Twitter has gone wild with folks reporting problems, not just with hacked ‘Phones but with regular unhacked devices too. And even Robert Scoble’s son is having problems.

Do you think iPhone users who unlocked their devices deserve to be locked out? I suppose it *is* breach of contract and Apple are simply enforcing that contract…after all, I guess AT&T have a legal position on this too. I’d appreciate your comments.

Related Posts
Has Apple shot itself in the foot? What do you think?

Apple shoots itself in the foot?

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Law Lord flaunts the law – Ride a bike? You must be rich [via The Times]

During lunch today, I was reading The Times, paper copy. I couldn’t believe what I was reading on page 3 (it’s The Times, please!)

Lord Hoffmann, Law Lord
Do you always obey the Highway Code?
Up to a point, Lord Copper. Sometimes I lose patience at lights when there is obviously nothing in sight.

Perhaps Lord Hoffmann’s bicycle is being used for medical emergencies when he flaunts the law like this? I think not.

What would Lord Hoffmann do were he to receive a Notice Of Intended Prosecution for going through a red light without proper authority or need? No doubt he’d say “on yer bike, I’m a Law Lord don’t you know?” Welcome to the UK, one rule for you, another rule for us – this is a civilised democracy in action (or perhaps inaction?)

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