Web Development

IE6 Is Dead

Via the Exploring IE (listen to this in the background to set the mood):

Time to pop open the champagne because, based on the latest data from Net Applications, IE6 usage in the US has now officially dropped below 1%!

I’ve officially updated my last IE6 install to IE7. This is great news for the Internet. Everyone on the web benefits by this old browser going away. Developers can iterate faster and do more.

IE7… I’m looking at you now.

Internet Networking

$7.5M For 666,624 IPv4 Addresses

I’ve mentioned the pending IPv4 shortage before. The latest news is Nortel Networks IPv4 block being sold:

Nortel Networks Corp. is doing its bit to alleviate the Internet space crunch, selling 666,624 IP addresses to Microsoft Corp. for $7.5 million.

So cost per IP address is:

$7.5 M / 666,624 = $11.25

$7.5 M sounds higher than it really is. To put this in perspective, a typical web host leases dedicated IP’s for customers who want an IP rather than name based hosting. This is necessary for things like SSL certificates. They will typically charge $1-2/month per IP address meaning they make anywhere from $12-$24/yearly revenue per IP. When you look at it that way, $11.25 really doesn’t seem that outrageous. It’s a decent investment considering an IPv4 address will be normal for at least another 2-4 years (likely more).

Microsoft has played in the business services role in many respects from webmail to hosting (I think that’s now part of Office Live). As they ramp up their cloud offering they will need to offer IPv4 compatible SSL services on customer domains. I think this will pay off pretty quickly.

However, I don’t think we’ll see to many IPv4 purchases like this, the market is still somewhat limited in my opinion.

Around The Web Audio/Video

Microsoft’s “Really” Ad

Microsoft "Really" Ad - Urinal

I really like this ad. Over the past 3 years or so this is what America has become.

Truthfully, I try not to use my phone when walking, talking, using the bathroom, at the table or other situations where it just seems grossly inappropriate. I think I’m one of the last holdouts. Given my inclination to prefer gadgets to social norms, this shows how far it’s gone.

Given this behavior skews even younger than me, I fear the worst is ahead of us.


Firefox On Bing Again

Back in December a Firefox was featured on Bing. They did another one today:
Firefox On Bing


Microsoft Entourage Calendar Cache Problem

I’ve noticed that Microsoft Entourage 2008 sometimes falls out of sync with the Exchange server. This results in missing or outdated events on a calendar. When you use multiple computers and webmail this can become annoying. I’ve traced the problem to the cache in Entourage 2008 becoming either corrupt or stale for some unknown reason. Clearing the cache can be done manually (right click on the calendar and go into “Folder Properties” then press “empty cache”) or can be automated.

Obviously I prefer the automated route. Here’s the AppleScript I wrote:

set accountIterator to 1
tell application "Microsoft Entourage"
        if (exists Exchange account accountIterator) then
            empty cache of every calendar of Exchange account accountIterator
            set accountIterator to accountIterator + 1
            exit repeat
        end if
    end repeat
end tell

Save it as a script, I’ll call mine clearCal.scpt. Now place it somewhere. I’ll use /Users/me/clearCal.scpt.

Now in terminal open crontab via crontab -e and enter the following obviously adjusting the path to point to the script:

0 8 * * * osascript /Users/me/clearCal.scpt

Save (ctrl-o) and exit (ctrl-x).

This will run the script at 8:00 AM every morning and clear the cache. I’m pretty sure this will only worked if your logged in, which is fine for me.

Warning: Clearing the cache means that if an event wasn’t sync’d to the exchange server it will be lost. In my case I find this to be the lesser evil. Obviously if you use this, it’s at your own risk.

Security Software

Two Security Updates

This patch Tuesday I have 3 updates for this XP box. Two of them seem rather similar yet one is given a title that’s much more obvious than the other. Why is one a “security update” and the other merely an “update”. I’m guessing severity, but I don’t think this is very clear. For the “update” it should still be clear that it’s security related regardless of severity.

Security Update for Windows XP (KB972270)

Size: 555 KB

A security issue has been identified that could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to compromise your system and gain control over it. You can help protect your system by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this update, you may have to restart your system.

More information for this update can be found at

Update For Windows XP (KB955759)

Size: 1.1 MB

An issue has been identified that could allow an authenticated remote attacker to compromise your system and gain control over it. You can help protect your system by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this update, you may have to restart your system.

More information for this update can be found at

Mozilla Web Development

Microsoft Joins W3C SVG Working Group

Microsoft is joining the W3C SVG Working Group. Presumably that means there’s some interest in SVG for IE or Silverlight or both. I wonder what led to the change of heart.

I pretty much wrote off any chance of SVG being mainstream in 2005 when Adobe bought Macromedia. Adobe was previously somewhat of a SVG pusher, but Macromedia obviously is the home of Flash. As expected the SVG love dried up. The gap that Adobe filled was adding support for SVG to IE. If IE supports it natively that’s a game changer.

Gecko already has decent support for SVG. WebKit has support for a while. Opera has support as well. Without analyzing in too much detail there should be a subset that’s usable across current browsers and hopefully IE by the time IE 9.0 ships.

I must admit given the choice I’m still more interested in Microsoft supporting <canvas/>, but no word on that as of yet. I’m still hopeful.

Hooray for web standards!


Firefox On Bing

Firefox On

Bing’s background of the day today was a Firefox.

And again a few days later:
Firefox on Bing 2 Firefox On Bing for the second time.

Google Internet

Who Indexes Tweets

I was curious who is indexing the links that people tweet on Twitter. It’s obvious someone does since links get ‘clicks’ almost immediately after submission. To do this presumably they are tapping into the xmpp firehose.

Lets take a look: - - [06/Dec/2009:20:17:43 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 20 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +"

I guess Google has a deal with Twitter. Googlebot indexed just a few seconds after it was sent. As far as I know nothing is actually announced. This is the first evidence I know of a potential deal of some sort. I’d be shocked if Google is scraping the site this quickly.

Edit: Stephen Duncan pointed out in the comments that this was announced in October. Totally forgot about that. - - [06/Dec/2009:20:17:47 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.0" 301 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Butterfly/1.0; + Gecko/2009032608 Firefox/3.0.8"

This is Topsy, a twitter search engine. Never saw this site before. Few tests and I actually kind of like the output. - - [06/Dec/2009:20:17:58 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0b; Windows NT 5.0) Gecko/2009011913 Firefox/3.0.6 TweetmemeBot"

Tweetmeme mines Twitter links and attempts to build a Digg-like index based on retweets rather than Diggs. - - [06/Dec/2009:20:18:05 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 - "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [06/Dec/2009:20:20:25 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 - "-" "Python-urllib/2.5"

Can’t identify these AWS hosted services. - - [06/Dec/2009:20:20:53 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 20 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [06/Dec/2009:20:24:23 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 20 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)"

This is actually Microsoft. Microsoft’s Bing search engine indexes Twitter. I’m not sure why they indexed twice in such close intervals that seems odd for this day and age.

Mining logs a little deeper it looks like when tweets meet certain criteria (such as retweeted) there are other bots that spider them. It also looks like other search engines may be indexing at a slower rate (Baidu for example).

There are several others from AWS and a few other dedicated providers. These servers are obviously trying to keep a low profile, they don’t even have reverse DNS.

So there you go. Just a matter of seconds after a link hits Twitter this all happens.

Here’s a few more from another Tweet that weren’t in the first set:

Edit: More!: - - [06/Dec/2009:20:49:42 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.1" 301 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Feedtrace-bot/0.2;"

Feedtrace is some sort of twitter mining service currently in beta. - - [06/Dec/2009:20:49:45 +0000] "GET /test HTTP/1.0" 301 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; mxbot/1.0; +"

Chainn is a social data mining service with a few apps that make use of the data it collects.

Mozilla Web Development

Debating Ogg Theora and H.264

Since the big HTML 5 news that there will be no defined codec for <audio/> or <video/> there has been a lot of discussion about the merits of such a decision, and what led to it. To quote Ian Hickson’s email:

Apple refuses to implement Ogg Theora in Quicktime by default (as used by Safari), citing lack of hardware support and an uncertain patent landscape.

Google has implemented H.264 and Ogg Theora in Chrome, but cannot provide the H.264 codec license to third-party distributors of Chromium, and have indicated a belief that Ogg Theora’s quality-per-bit is not yet suitable for the volume handled by YouTube.

Opera refuses to implement H.264, citing the obscene cost of the relevant patent licenses.

Mozilla refuses to implement H.264, as they would not be able to obtain a license that covers their downstream distributors.

Microsoft has not commented on their intent to support

I think everyone agrees this is going nowhere and isn’t likely to change in the near future. For the sake of moving HTML5 forward, this is likely the best decision.

Here’s how I interpret everyone’s position:

Apple’s Argument

One of the undeniable perks behind H.264 right now is that there is hardware decoding available and used on on certain devices. One of the most notable is the iPhone. Using hardware decoding means your not using the CPU which results in better performance, and most importantly better battery life.

Thus far there’s no hardware Theora decoder on the market (if you know of any let me know, my research says none), which I suspect is why Apple is hesitant to jump on board. Until there’s hardware that’s proven to perform well, be cost-effective in the quantities Apple needs, and not be bombarded with patent infringement claims, I suspect they’d rather settle with H.264. The patent part is critical. Apple can update software to comply with patent wars pretty quickly, as many other companies have done with software in the past. Hardware is not so easy. Last minute hardware changes are harder to deal with than software because of the many things it impacts, and the inability to update at a later date.

I’m almost positive the lack of hardware support is the exact same reason Apple has been so against Flash support. Remember the YouTube application isn’t using VP6 like regular flash, it’s using H.264 (that’s why it took so long for all of YouTube to be available on the iPhone).

If there’s enough Theora content out there, there will likely be Theora decoder hardware made to meet market demand. To get to this point will be difficult with the amount of VP6 (Flash) and H.264 content already on the web. H.264 alone has a major head start in applications. VP6 has several years of video on the web now (and I still don’t think it has a hardware decoder on the market though that might be due to licensing again).

In the long run, I think mobile technology will improve enough to make this a somewhat unnecessary constraint. Mobile CPU’s and GPU’s are just starting to get to the caliber needed for video. Performance per watt should improve. Battery technology is just starting to get pushed to the limits. This is a good thing for Theora in the long run, but the question is how long?

Until it can be played with minimal impact on battery life, I don’t think any company who has a heavy investment in mobile will want to jump on board.

Google’s Argument

Google has money and can license H.264. Shocker. Google however has trouble when it comes to Chromium. I suspect Google doesn’t care too much about which way this goes since what they support in Chrome doesn’t mandate that YouTube support it. However if the encoding quality for a given bitrate is good enough, it becomes a viable option.

Regarding the quality argument, I’ll simply point to this comparison. I the quality today is comparable already, and likely to get better as the encoders improve. I’ll leave this discussion here.

Opera’s Argument

Opera says H.264 is to expensive to license. I don’t know what the costs are, and what they would be for Opera, but I’ll take their word on it. After all, the do have a product available for free download. While commercial and closed source, they don’t have Google’s revenue stream and I respect that.

Mozilla’s Argument

Mozilla can’t license for downstream Gecko use etc. I’m sure a good part of the argument is also that requiring licensing fees to use <video/> is bad for the web and open source. I agree.

Microsoft’s Argument

No comment. Historically they implemented <marquee/> but not the <blink/>. Make of that what you will.

<video/> could be supported by plugin if needed. I recall Adobe supporting SVG by plugin a few years ago.

Where to go from here?

I think there are a few possible outcomes. As for what I think are the most likely:

  1. There’s a push for hardware decoding that makes Theora on mobile technically possible and working well. If Apple legally is satisfied and jumps on board that changes the game. As I stated earlier I think Google is mostly ambivalent since they support both right now. Opera doesn’t want H.264 anyway, so they are cool. IE 8 can likely be handled by a plugin. Apple really is the deciding factor. Theora is the future.
  2. See what the web does. I suspect at least for a long while the web will just stick with Flash since it works on almost all desktops. For mobile the iPhone and Android make up pretty much the bulk of the mobile video market and that doesn’t look like it’s changing so fast. Content providers that want mobile will encode for mobile. That means 3 target platforms, not ideal but reasonable. H.264 and whatever Adobe adopts is the future.

I know how the media is interpreting all of this. How do other developers, and open source folks see it?