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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Net Stole My Identity

Please forgive me; today I’m going to be a bit more philosophical, rather than looking at technical stuff.  It happens to me once in a while; I start thinking too deeply, fall into a few hours of intense pensiveness, and come up with some strange theories.  Then I take two aspirin and lie down, and a few hours later I’m fine and geeky again.  So please excuse me, this won’t last long…

In the book that I used to teach students the A+ Computer Technician’s course, the author at some point made the statement that “If you’re not on the net, you don’t exist.”  With that statement he implied that you had to have some form of online identity in order to “truly be someone”.

That reminded me of the Sandra Bullock movie, “The Net”, about a woman whose entire life was deleted from the “system”.  Suddenly nobody knew her, everyone thought she was someone else, because that’s what the computer said.  Her total identity was caught up in the bits and bytes floating around Cyberspace.  So I started wondering how true this is these days.

I know identity theft to the extent of “The Net” is still a bit extreme; in lovely South Africa, at least, a problem like that would be sorted out with an affidavit, a few Rands, and about 72 hours spent in line at Home Affairs.  But, I wondered, what about the statement that you’re a nobody if you don’t have some form of online identity?

Well, in all honesty, I think it’s nonsense.  I recently started searching the internet for one specific guy.  He is one of South Africa’s most successful businessmen.  He is also a committed family man and very actively involved in charity.  And yet very few people even know who he is.  He is brilliant enough at business to stay in the background, benefiting from the business financially, but not even being seen by most people.  The point is, apart from a few isolated interviews, Google couldn’t help me at all.  He doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he’s not on MySpace (and even if he was, I would doubt that it was actually him), not on Twitter, he doesn’t have a blog (though I would read it if he did), a web site, or anything.  He is on LinkedIn, though, but apparently not very active (he doesn’t have any contacts and doesn’t answer messages).  And yet this guy is one of THE jet-setters in South Africa.  He is known to have contact with guys like Allan Knott-Craig (former CEO of Vodacom) and Ruben September (former CEO of Telkom).  He is notorious as a family man.  And yet, online, NOTHING.  Obviously he isn’t too dependent on his “online identity”…

Which leads to the next question – do we really need technology, and specifically information technology, as much as we think we do?  I’d like to hear your thoughts.  And I may post a full article about it sometime.  But for now, the aspirin are starting to kick in and I’m starting to feel the urge to take up my Lightsaber again.  Must be getting back to normal.  So, until later then.

Lourens, out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Browser Wars–Episode 2: The IE Strikes Back

Look, I know that, when it comes to browsers, I’m dealing with a lot of very passionate people.  Most of us have one browser that we support very passionately.  I seem to be the exception, moving from one browser to the other as I get irritated with some feature of my previous one.  However, for the most part, I use Firefox.

But that might be changing soon.  Last week I downloaded and installed the beta of Internet Explorer 9 on my Windows 7 x64 system.  (Just so you know, the IE9 that I tested in one of my previous posts was just a limited demo, not a fully-fledged Beta.)

All I can say is “wow”.  It really seems like the Empire (aka Microsoft) are trying to win this war with a perfect score.  And with IE9, I think it’s completely possible that they will.

After installing and firing it up, my first thought was “Wow, it’s here already?”  Loading in a mere 3 seconds (compared to Firefox’s 5 seconds) is quite the achievement for IE.  My second thought was “These guys are definitely taking a few hints from Google chrome”.  It has a very clean, Chrome-like interface, though in my opinion, IE9 is prettier, sporting the Apple-like polish and sparkle.


But looks aren’t everything.  So I decided to test one of the greatest things that plagued previous tabbed versions of IE: the painfully long wait while tabs are opened.  Well, I clicked the “new tab” option and, voila!  The tab opened instantly.  And not only did it open, it had an automatically-generated list of the sites that I visit most often (just like Speed Dial, but automatic)!

Security was another thing that plagued IE6 and, to a lesser extent, 7.  But most people agree that, since IE8, the security issues are more or less sorted out (as much as security can ever be “sorted out”, anyway).  If you keep your Windows up-to-date (you DO own a legal copy of Windows, don’t you?) you shouldn’t have any problems.

In all honesty, there are only two negative statements that I can make about IE9 at this point.  The first is that I had some slight display problems (specifically some characters overlapping one another, especially in Facebook).  But since this IS still a Beta, that is excusable, and will probably be sorted out in the final release.  The second problem is not Microsoft’s fault or IE-related at all – it’s the problem with Adobe Flash Player’s x64-support.  Getting any Flash-based content to work in Internet Explorer x64 is a royal pain.  But I finally managed to get it working using the beta of Adobe’s Flash Player code-named “Square”.

So why exactly do I think IE might win the browser wars?  Well, Internet Explorer is already the browser that most people use (granted, often simply because they don’t know that there are others out there, and IE is included in Windows in most countries).  Those that don’t use IE use other browsers for the following reasons:

  1. There is some aspect of IE that they hate (that was my reason).
  2. They use an operating system other than Windows.

Well, as far as reason 1 is concerned, with so many of the problems ironed out, I just don’t think I’ll ever go through the trouble of installing another browser again, when I already have an excellent one included in Windows.

The users of Apple, Linux, and other non-MS operating systems – well, IE9 probably won’t have much of an impact on your browsing experience.

But don’t take my word for any of this – go ahead and try IE9 for yourself.  You can download it here: x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit).  After using it for a few days, please feel free to comment.  I’d love to hear your opinions (as long as you agree with me!  Nah, just kidding…)

So, for now, happy browsing!

Lourens, out.