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Microsoft to close European chatrooms

As cases of child abuse rocket, the Microsoft Network, MSN, is to close its chatrooms in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and most of Asia from 14 October. American chatrooms will be accessible by credit-card subscription only. More at The Guardian. The BBC reports some worrying facts from Cyberspace Research Centre:

  • One in five children aged nine to 16 regularly use chatrooms
  • More than half have engaged in sex chat
  • A quarter have received requests to meet face-to-face
  • One in 10 had met face-to-face

As a parent and ex-teacher, I'm glad that  MSN wants to help protect its users - but at first, this total closure seemed like an over-reaction to me.  But then I considered that there are parents out there so lazy or irresponsible that they allow nine year olds to chat or surf the Web unsupervised. If the parents aren't willing to parent their kids, it falls to the chat room provider to do it, however much it smacks of censorship. (Bruce Lawson)

What do you think?

 

September 24, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

New virus preys on old IE flaw!

The worm is programmed to send an official-looking e-mail that says it contains a "cumulative patch" for several Internet Explorer, Outlook and Outlook Express vulnerabilities.

A Microsoft representative noted that the software maker does not send out patches as e-mail attachments.

September 19, 2003 Author: George Petrov

Macromedia listening to DMXzone customers

We expected comments in our MX 2004 forum to be mixed; any new software has those who love it and those who hate it. But one theme that came up disturbingly often was that Macromedia doesn't talk to its customers.

In order to get some action for the community of members that we serve, DMXzone invited the Dreamweaver MX 2004 Product Manager, Jennifer Taylor, to answer DMXzone members' criticisms and complaints about DW MX 2004. This is exclusive to DMXzone registered users.

If you have something you'd like to say to Jennifer, please add it to the MX 2004 forum (please don't email it) before the end of Tuesday 23rd September. If someone else has already made a similar comment/ complaint, please add yours to that thread rather than start another - that way I can see which are the most pressing problems Dreamweaver users are facing.

We will then collate all the threads and send them to Jennifer who will respond to them. It may be more than a week for her to respond, especially if there's many deep technical questions. We'll let you know, of course.

September 19, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

Who will control the internet?

Around 189 countries will be attending the summit in Geneva, where policymakers are due to agree best practices and standards for the Internet and other information technologies.

The summit's Web site (www.itu.int/wsis/index.html) says the meeting will aim to "develop and foster a clear statement of political will and a concrete plan of action for achieving the goals of the information society."

September 17, 2003 Author: George Petrov

Re-write all your multimedia web pages?

Since Eolas won $521million in a lawsuit against Microsoft last month, Microsoft, Macromedia and the W3C have been in conclave on how to work around the patent dispute. Eolas seem to own the patent on a browser's ability to automatically launch and display multimedia programs with plug-ins - eg, click and see a Flash movie/ hear an MP3 / watch a quick-time video.

One way round the monumentally moronic ruling is for broswer manufacturers to insert dialogue boxes ("Are you sure you want to see the movie you clicked to watch, yes or no?") between broswer and plug-in. Another way is to move the data to the Web page itself, rather than pulling it from an external source - requiring a huge amount of work on the part of the developer. That's you.

This issue potentially affects every modern browser, although only Microsoft has been sued. Microsoft is appealing. (More on ZDNet.) It's pretty obvious that Eolas are very petty: their website points out "A final note: Eolas also 'invented' (designed, actually) the now-ubiquitous stylized "e" logo. IBM purchased rights to use it from us in 1997." Well, aren't they clever?

This is an example of a stupid lawsuit and a ridiculous patent, although U.S. patent officers have a history of approving idiotic things like this - for example, Amazon patenting "one-click"  e-commerce.

Maybe if enough people write to Eolas and ask them to stop pursuing this claim, they'll listen. Here's a mail that I sent them today; I'll post any response I get from them.

September 12, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

Studio MX 2004 released

Available for download from Macromedia. As we expected, reception has been mixed. The jump from Dreamweaver 4 to MX was massive - it became almost a different product, with decent CSS support, Accessibility, and all the server-side options. This version is definitely an upgrade. The new FTP functionality should please many (including myself) who would be hurling things at the computer while Dreamweaver attempted to upload a site with all the ability and grace of a hippopotomas on a skateboard. The CSS support is excellent if you're doing most of your work in CSS now. Not everyone is pleased, though.

My friend Dierdre is a full-time DW and flash developer in Birmingham, UK. This morning she told me:

"Flash and Dreamweaver are still extremely buggy! Cowboys...whenever I close dreamweaver, it crashes everything else saying "DW exe has generated errors and will shut down". I know it will, that's what i'm trying to do! As for Flash, some really cool "unique features" that completely screw you up if you do a certain permutation of tasks using certain parts of the extensibility architecture, like the XML to UI API, some of it is just clinically buggy."

September 10, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

Web Page Analyser

Enter a URL in the Analyser to calculate page size, composition, and download time. The script calculates the size of individual elements and finds the total for each type of web page component. Based on these page characteristics the script then offers advice on how to improve page display time.

This is part of the site for the book Speed Up your Site:Web Site Optimisation, which we will be reviewing in the near future.

 

September 9, 2003 Author: Ian Blackham

A Design Challenge

ReUSEIT is, to borrow a quote from the W3Remix contest, "a design challenge for coders, and a coding challenge for designers." Here’s the idea: create a redesign of Jakob Nielsen's useit.com. Design a usable, intuitive layout and navigation, organize the content with usability in mind, and create a work of art which still reflects the importance and influence of Nielsen's work.

September 8, 2003 Author: George Petrov