Firefox 1.5 just not stable

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything here, work and a new company have kept me away form many of the things that I consider a normal part of my life, such as blogging, developing my projects, shooting pool and partying. I was talking with Alex Morganis yesterday and I mentioned that I wouldn’t be back to full time blogging until the beginning of January, however, recent events have prompted me to write this one mini-rant.

Why, oh why, is version 1.5 of Firefox considered to be a stable release? It’s quite simply not, and as a long time user, it pains me to say that this is perhaps the most unstable release I’ve yet tried on my system. In the space of 6 hours working today I’ve had about 15 crashes or hangs with Firefox 1.5. I could accept that level crashes in an early beta of a product, but 1.5 is supposed to be a mature stable release. to be honest, I’ve had better performance with beta versions of 1.5 than I’m currently having.

I always try to ensure that I’ve made sure whether the fault lies with my system before blaming an application for crashing, but a it appears that I’m not alone in my criticism of this release.

I won’t be moving back to IE anytime soon, but I would like to see a patch for 1.5 soon, as these stability issues have to be addressed. Unfortunately I haven’t seen or heard any mention of one on the horizon, although the Firefox developers are usually quite fast at sorting things out.

Graphic design for the horse that will not drink

One of the major challenges I face here in Denmark when designing anything from graphics to a website for a customer is ensuring that I produce a design which the client actually requested. The biggest obstacle is the language barrier. Even though I speak Danish, I’m not perfectly fluent, and still run into a lot of misunderstandings. Of course, the way around this is to ask lots of questions and do some preliminary sketches with the client to ensure that I’m on the right track before I even boot Photoshop or Dreamweaver for the first time.

Yet, the language barrier is not the most difficult designing challenge I face on a day to day basis. A clients lack of knowledge and ignorance of even simple design premises proves to be the bane of many good ideas.

The customer is always right, or so the say. Well in the world of graphic or web design that simply doesn’t hold any water. Recently I was hired to produce a logo for a new company. The company itself isn’t small, and is, in fact the third “off shoot” of a primary company, but one that still needed to develop and brand its own business identity.

After meeting with the client for two hours, from 7am onwards, discussing what was wanted in the logo, and doing multiple sketches, we settled on two ideas which I would take from sketching paper to screen and print. The logo’s not only had to work on web pages, but be scalable for everything from letter heads to the side of 3 story buildings.

I set out by working on the “simplest” of the two sketches, and quickly found that while the concept sounded good, it just didn’t work when developed and spent a couple of hours doing variations on it and tweaking it to get a logo that would be useable, and above all, one that I would be happy and proud to hand over to the client. The concept behind the logo that the client wanted was flawed, which ultimately resulted in a mediocre logo that I felt any hack could have pumped out.

I moved on to the second concept drawing, and while a lot more challenging to bring to the screen, it was immediately apparent to me that if I did this one right it would not only be good, it would be awesome.

Hours later I was done. But, having knowledge of the client already, I duplicated many of the layers of the logo, and redid them in variations, so that the client would have the opportunity to choose between subtle, and not so subtle style variations.

With that done, I called the client to arrange a meeting.

The client arrives and I proudly display the second logo. My master piece! It’s everything the client specified, from shape to content to colour. He just says “and what about the other idea?” I was taken aback.

Still, I like to consider myself a professional, so I explain to the client that while the idea for the first logo was good (it wasn’t particularly, but you have to keep them happy), it ultimately didn’t translate very well to the screen. But as I had, as I always do, translated the idea to screen and done variations, I showed them to him.

At this point it might be worth noting that I always have m ore than one meeting with a client after I start developing something to ensure that things are on the right track before we get to a final product. This meeting was on the same day, a mere twelve hours after I had the initial meeting with the client.

Strangely the client got very excited by the “crap” logo and then, as this wasn’t supposed to be the final meeting, asked if I could take one part of the “crap” logo, and one segment of my “master piece”, and put them together to create a different logo.

Of course I could, but as I explained to my client, it just wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work from any point of view, design, colour, nothing.

But the “customer is always right”, right? So I put the two elements together on a new graphic, moved them around to a couple of locations and changed some colours, at the clients request, so that what was “crap” now became exceptionally crap.

I couldn’t believe it! I was staring at the screen, wondering how this “work” which would best serve it’s life floating in a toilet bowl waiting to be flushed, could ever be rescued and the client was sitting there beaming from ear to ear.

There never was a second meeting. The client asked for the work to be printed, and output in the various formats, which I did and put the lot on a CD for him.

I now get to see that logo all the time. It drives past me on vans, I see it on signs. It depresses me. I do actively try to educate my client, so that they will get what they expect. What this client ended up with wasn’t even discussed in out two hour planning meeting.

Educating your clients is important, they’ve got to be happy with the product they get, and it must work. Still, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

It’s like those horrible print “paintings” of dogs playing poker, that you see in so many dorm rooms, or hanging in single guys bachelor pads. When asked why they’ve got that picture handing the response is always the same:

I may not know art, but I know what I like!

Eldeman/Technorati Blogger Survey Results.

Lots of interesting resluts have come out of the recent Eldeman/Technorati Blogger Survey.

The survey shows a disconnect between the ways companies have traditionally communicated with the blogosphere and how these bloggers want and expect to be communicated with now. The top-down, one-way, press release culture has to be supplanted by an approach based on dialogue and co-creation of brands and corporate reputation. In fact, in many of our client programs we’re already seeing a fundamental re-ordering of the relationship between markets and marketers, with the blogosphere providing a channel for real input and dynamic discussion. Smart companies have also recognized the potential for inside-out communications, with empowered employees and informed consumers as the best sources of credible commentary.

read more | digg story

Opera finally gets it!

Well it looks like the bods over at Opera have finally realised that nobody is going to pay them for the browser when the competition is free. They’ve removed the banner ads from the browser and done away with the licence fee, although you can still get premium e-mail support for $29 dollars.

The Opera browser includes pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, integrated searches, e-mail, RSS news feeds and IRC chat and is a good alternative to IE or Firefox (although I still prefer Firefox).

You can get the latest version, 8.5, from Opera.com.

Technology Hits

Technology Hits is a new link blog that I’ve started just to see what AOL Journals are like.

It is simply a link blog to good technology sites and stuff that I come across, and it should be really easy to update as I can post directly to it using AIM or GAIM.

I don’t expect to develop any kind of “conversation” on that site, and intend just to use it as a link repository.

Oh, if you guys have some good links that you’d like to get promoted or mentioned over there, then just drop me and email at paul.oflaherty at gmail dot com, adn I’ll get them up asap.

Where’s the consistancy Google?

Google have released two new pieces of software recently. One is a the upgrade to the popular Google Desktop Search and the other is the new IM client Google Talk. I’m not going to go into a review of the merits of both programs as that has been done to death over the last few days by every other blogger and technology columnist out there. What I want to look at is the stark contrast between the two pieces of software.

Having spent time with Google DTS 2 (Beta) I was left confused. Between the “news”, “web clips” and “whats hot” it soon becomes difficult to track what’s actually going on, and to track what you actually want to track. Out of the box the software automatically adds feeds from visited sites, which, if you surf a lot of irrelevant sites in search of material or whatever, quickly makes the web clips box a mess of stuff you have no interest in. You can fix this in the options, but it’s not the default.

The design of the sidebar in DTS 2 is good. The interface is smooth and clean, and it’s relatively easy to manipulate the information and view the information once you’ve set it up properly. Unfortunately, the team behind the program seem to lack focus, or vision or at least some sort of clear goal as to where this piece of software is going. They’ve bundled in module upon useless module, many of which are redundant in what appears to be the hopes of appeasing everybody.

I’ve always seen Google as a company with a clear vision, and it’s generally accepted that that vision is one of making all the information of the internet available to the consumer through a seamless Google experience. The team behind DTS 2 have lost sight of this! Maybe they should go hang out with the guys that banged out Google Talk, because that rocks.

Google DTS is THE benchmark for IM clients as it things stand! Okay, I know it’s feature weak at the moment, simply providing IM and PC to PC only VoIP, but just look at that design. It’s clean, crisp, simple, and not bloated with advertising. It’s a measly 900k download, perfect for those still afflicted with Dial Up syndrome, and thanks to the use of Jabber as it’s protocol anybody on any computer can chat on the Google Talk IM network without using the windows client. The choice of Jabber was pure genius here, as Google have only had to release one piece of software, and won’t be under immediate pressure to get Mac and Linux clients out. If your like me, you’ve already set up your GAIM IM client to use multiple Google Talk accounts.

So where is the consistancy? How in one week can Google release two pieces of software, DTS which is awkward enough to confuse not only me, but the likes of Molly Wood of Cnet.coms Daily Buzz, and also such a simplistic, clean, crisp and focused IM client like Google talk? Where is the quality control? I know both products are in beta, but doesn’t quality control also deal with things like consistancy and vision? Is this a sign that things are getting a little sloppy over there, now that all the moneys come in, or is it just a little bump in the road?