Archive for December, 2008

Santa’s perfect consumer gadget

December 17, 2008

Santa’s perfect consumer gadget


Christmas is coming – and rather than getting fat, the goose is getting excited about consumer IT.


There’s nothing quite like getting a new gadget from Santa, whether it’s a gaming system, MP3 player or high-tech camera phone.


The theory of convergence would suggest your exciting Christmas toy is likely to be a combination of all of the above – gaming, music, video and mobility.


But while your converged device might seem exciting on Christmas Day, the endless amount of unused applications is likely to weigh down on your enjoyment in the cold light of the New Year.


So beyond the tinsel and trimmings of all-singing and all-dancing device, what add-on extra would really create the most useful gadget from Santa?


Well, Christmas is a time for eating copious amounts of food with the family – and, of course, watching endless amounts of television.


Under those circumstances, what could be more useful than a mobile phone with a built-in remote control for the TV?


You and your family are likely to spend the week-or-so after Christmas Day camped around the goggle box, watching endless re-runs of Morecambe and Wise.


It is a universal role understood and accepted by all men that remote controls are always lost, especially when you need to change channel.


That state of affairs is completely opposite in the case of your mobile phone, which can usually be found at a moment’s notice and is often in your pocket.


Having a converged phone and remote control allows you to cut out the middleman and cut out the Morecambe and Wise.


What’s more, bringing the two together should be simple. The technology doesn’t have to be flashy – most phones could easily add infrared remote control capability.


And if you want to get flashy, take a look at Sony’s patent for a converged device that changes TV channels (see link below).


See, the smart minds are already thinking about how to bring the UK’s two most useful technologies together. Have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Further reading:



Don’t lose your temper with Cross Browser support

December 10, 2008

Applications and code failing to work on particular web browsers is nothing new. Users have suffered because of a lack of cross-browser support since the 1990s browser wars between Internet Explorer (IE) and Netscape Navigator.


The issue gets worse if analyst predictions about mobile internet usage come true; then, we will also have to cater for mobile internet browsers.


And now, another new kid is on the block – will Google Chrome cause issues for cross-browser support or are we entering a new era of compatibility?


First, the bad news – the new release of Chrome is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg. Many users are already struggling with multiple versions of IE and popular open source alternative Firefox, not to mention the Apple-flavoured Safari.


Researcher Market Share reports IE has about three quarters of browser market share, with fast-growing Firefox at about 20 per cent.


Such proliferation causes inconsistencies in the way browsers display information, meaning low quality web viewing for users.


Traditionally developers have fixed issues as they come up with “code forks”, that is writing specific functionality for specific browsers. Whilst a valid approach, the need to add code increases as an organisation grows it’s site and browser-based applications.


The simplest approach to dealing with the code forks issue is to ensure compatibility for the majority-adopted browser, currently IE. But as we’ve seen already, the balance is shifting and IE has already lost ground to Firefox, and will lose more ground to Chrome.


The ideal approach is to abstract the task of cross browser rendering outside of page/application to a “rendering layer”. The rendering layer identifies the browser – this is a simple check of the http header information – and makes pages specific to browsers.


Such a layer would require constant evaluation of new browser releases and testing and most corporate IT departments will opt for “buy” versus “build” of their rendering layer – delegating responsibility for browser compatibility to a software house. 


Programmers, therefore, need a helping hand. And the good news is that quality assurance technologies can also help web developers view their applications in multiple settings and ensure high usability is prioritised. The use of automated test scripts can also assist to ensure both forward and backward compatibility of browser support, without having to extend test cycles to ridiculous timeframes.


Cross browser compatibility issues are here to stay, the question is do you build or do you buy?