Archive for June 2007

VOIP on the iPhone

Dave Winer advances a theory on why there’s no SDK for the iPhone right now:

There’s one application, for sure, that could mess up not just Cingular’s West Coast network, but the whole idea of an Internet-capable PDA with wifi that wants to be a conventional cell phone. It’s called Skype, and it really worries the phone companies. So much so that they might have made the closedness of the iPhone a condition of working with Apple. Permalink to this paragraph

Shortly after Apple opens the iPhone, if they ever do, expect a compatible version of Skype to follow shortly after.

During a conversation with Daniel Miessler, it occured to me that:

There’s at least one VOIP provider who could still happily have an interface on the iPhone, despite the lack of an SDK: JaJah (http://www.jajah.com/)!

(yes, I corrected a typo I made when posting the original comment. So sue me.)

JaJah provide a service whereby you specify both the number of the person you want to call and your own number; it then calls both ends and joins them together. In effect, you have to pay for two VOIP calls – one from JaJah to you, one from JaJah to the other end – but that’s usually cheaper than paying for one non-VOIP call from you to the other end.

JaJah are the only VOIP provider I know of who provide this functionality. It’s almost too good a deal for them to ignore – They’d be insane not to have a nice interface ready for the iPhone as soon as they can.

PS. Can anyone tell me what unit of time JaJah’s rates are based on? The rates page happily tells me that to call the US from my mobile will cost me 17.9 cents, but it doesn’t tell me what unit of time that rate is for – per second? Per 30 seconds? Per minute? I’m assuming it’s one of the latter two options, but I have no idea which one. Either way though – is the billing per-second, or per-[30,60] seconds? I can’t find anything on the rates page, nor anything in their FAQ, that covers this.

Update: Question 11/15 in the Billing section of the FAQ does answer part of this: JaJah bills in one-minute increments. Still no word on whether the quoted rates are per-minute or some other unit though.

Baby, you're the best

Why is it that the people who don’t have comments on their so-called blogs are the people I want to comment on the most often (I’m looking at you, Messrs Rumble and Palmber and Ms Gardiner)?

The latest comment I want to make, but can’t due to a broken half-blog, is that it’s not The LJ Hooker Theme Song – it is, in fact, Nobody Does It Better, the theme song from the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

I’m sure there’s a post in here about the annexing of popular culture by corporate greed, but I’m too pissed off at pseudo-blogs to write it. I’m sure there’s another post about the fact that between people who would most benefit from a few comments being the same people who refuse to accept said comments… but that theory is disproved by the fact that I allow comments, so I’m not going to attempt to write that one…

Schneier: still the voice of reason

I was going to linkblog about this, but I couldn’t find a way to summarise. Schneier is the only person I know who regularly speaks sense about security and related matters (including, naturally, terrorism), and his Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot is no exception.

The recently publicized terrorist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, like so many of the terrorist plots over the past few years, is a study in alarmism and incompetence: on the part of the terrorists, our government and the press.

:

The alleged plan, to blow up JFK’s fuel tanks and a small segment of the 40-mile petroleum pipeline that supplies the airport, was ridiculous. The fuel tanks are thick-walled, making them hard to damage. The airport tanks are separated from the pipelines by cutoff valves, so even if a fire broke out at the tanks, it would not back up into the pipelines. And the pipeline couldn’t blow up in any case, since there’s no oxygen to aid combustion. Not that the terrorists ever got to the stage — or demonstrated that they could get there — where they actually obtained explosives. Or even a current map of the airport’s infrastructure.

But read what Russell Defreitas, the lead terrorist, had to say: “Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow…. They love JFK — he’s like the man. If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It’s like you can kill the man twice.”

If these are the terrorists we’re fighting, we’ve got a pretty incompetent enemy.

You couldn’t tell that from the press reports, though. “The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable,” U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it “one of the most chilling plots imaginable.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added, “It had the potential to be another 9/11.”

These people are just as deluded as Defreitas.

Go and read the whole thing.

Safari, font rendering, and why it's not likely to change

also known as: stating the obvious thing that no-one seems to have said yet.

I’m famous for that. Apparently some people grow up learning about things like “tact” and “secrets”, things my parents forgot to tell me about.

Anyway.

I’ve seen lots of stories about how Apple releasing Safari on Windows has nothing to do with end users, nothing to do with taking market share from Mozilla or IE. Rather, it’s about letting Windows-based developers test their sites in Safari – and more importantly, letting them test their iPhone apps – without needing to run a Mac.

I can’t find the article that best expresses this, but Ars Technica does a decent job of summing it up:

Even if the Windows versions of Safari don’t gain any significant traction, [it] should at least offer developers a chance to test their wares without having to invest in a Mac.

There have also been a slew of articles about Safari’s rendering of fonts: everything from Joel Spolsky’s detailed look to Michael S. Kaplan’s musings about whether they’ll switch to using Uniscribe/ClearType. Most of these articles seem to imply that, given it’s running on Windows, Safari ought to conform to Windows standards – ie, use Uniscribe/ClearType.

What I haven’t seen is an article that links both of these thoughts:

* Apple chose to have Safari do its own font rendering

* Apple want Safari to be a test-bed for iPhone apps.

I don’t think Apple are going to be switching to using Windows standard rendering methods any time soon. If they wanted to make a serious pitch at stealing market share from the dominant browsers, they would. However, that doesn’t seem to be their intent: they seem to be much more focussed on providing a test platform. If they provide a test platform that renders differently from the iPhone, it becomes a useless test platform. Who wants to use an app that’s 15 pixels wider than the iPhone screen? Who wants to hear the developer saying “But it rendered just perfectly on Windows, the iPhone must be broken!”

No. Apple are going to stick with their own rendering in Safari, so that they can ensure apps tested in Safari on Windows look identical to the same app running on the iPhone.

Well, that’s my theory, anyway.

urltea – shark jumped.

urltea.com was created to fix a deficiency Chris Pirillo saw in tinyurl.com (sorry, I can’t find the original twits – can anyone else dig them up?).

As urltea’s about page says:

Chris Pirillo twittered his frustration at TinyURLs not being ‘pretty’ or ‘semantic’ when he posted them into Twitter, ie, it wasn’t obvious what was behind them.

:

http://urltea.com/1?my-blog

http://urltea.com/1?lol_at_the_photo

http://urltea.com/1?supercalifragilisticexpialedocious

:

The great thing about this though was you could add as much description as you cared, but if it got cut short (ie, by Twitter’s 140 character limit), the url would still function properly, as long as everything before the question mark was intact.

(:s indicate snippage by me)

So why is it that the only person I ever see using urltea.com is Chris Pirillo – and even *he* doesn’t use the one feature distinguishes urltea from tinyurl?


 Spark Plugs vs Pulse Plugs http://urltea.com/qpl    09:31 PM June 10, 2007  from web

Pac Man: A Classic http://urltea.com/qpb 08:31 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Pac Man Fever! http://tinyurl.com/24lave 08:00 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Best Firewall for Internet Security http://urltea.com/qoo 07:01 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Best Windows firewall? Comodo Firewall Pro 2.4.18.184: : http://urltea.com/qoi 05:57 PM June 10, 2007 from web

Mac Pro Subtotal: $6,869.00 - OH, HELL NO! Not without a sponsor or two... no way. I ain't switching. Forget it. 12:26 AM June 10, 2007 from web

The Best Podcasting Client for Windows? http://urltea.com/qjf 06:38 PM June 09, 2007 from web

I Heart Xara3d: http://tinyurl.com/yo8hlb 06:09 PM June 09, 2007 from web

MY SCANNER FINALLY WORKS IN WNIDOWS VISTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 05:12 PM June 09, 2007 from web

The Funniest YouTube vid I've ever seen (NOT mine): http://tinyurl.com/ygon88 04:01 PM June 09, 2007 from web

Oh wait – there’s two uses of tinyurl in there. I guess it’s not so bad after all.

What’s my point? Good question. I don’t really have a point: I just think that it’s amusing that something created solely to fill one person’s perceived lack of a single feature in an existing product – is now primarily used by that person in a way that doesn’t use that single feature, and could just as easily be served by the old product.

Just like a captcha, only more broken.

If you’re one of the few people who has ever felt the urge to comment here, you’ll probably have noticed that I don’t have a captcha here. I used to, but haven’t had one for ages.

You’ll also have probably noticed the amazing amount of spam comments I get. Look at them, all of them!

That about sums up my feelings on captchas: they’re useless. They’re not needed to prevent spambots, and they get in the way of real people. Some of them are particularly bad – about 1/4 of the time, I can’t read the captcha and get flagged as a bot.

Well, now there’s an even more stupid and less reliable way to detect bots, developed by Microsoft:Animal Species Image Recognition for Restricting Access.

There’s a demo on that site. I fail at least half the time. Useful!

I'm lisp

Firefox tab close button jiggers: user configurable.

Dear Mike Elgan,

With previous versions of Firefox, you could just position your mouse pointer on the close box and close large numbers of tabs by simply clicking. Now, with the new version, you’ve got to slowly hunt and peck your way to closing Tabs — just like IE

You might be interested in the browser.tabs.closeButtons preference. I believe you want to set it to 3.

Extensions such as TabMixPlus may also be of interest to you; as well as providing a gui for this (I haven’t checked, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t), they make visible a whole host of other functionality hidden inside firefox.

Thanks for your little rant though, it was amusing. I’m curious about why the preference seems to have changed value when you upgraded though – if you can reproduce it, it sounds like it would be worth filing a bug report about.

HTH, HAND!

(note to self: before writing posts like this, check the responses to see the thousands of other people telling him to do the same).