Mon, September 02, 2002

Washing on the web

This sounds like a great April Fools day joke created by people making fun of SOAP: IBM and USA Technologies announced Friday that they will Web-enable 9,000 washing machines and dryers at U.S. colleges and universities. Called e-Suds, the systems will allow students to check for machine availability on a web site. They can pay by swiping an id or credit card or calling on a cell phone. Students can choose to have the machine add soap and fabric softener. When their wash is done, they can be notified by e-mail. Laundromat owners can also use the web interface to monitor machine status, check water temperature and fiters, and watch usage patterns. Cashless vending should also help reduce the $500 million annual losses attributed to vandalism.

A Reuters story about the machines says “A company that owns laundry machines in colleges in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky will install the machines during the autumn term.” I wonder if Asbury will be getting them.

Blake’s blog

Hixie provided a link to an archive of Blake’s mysterious deleted post that I mentioned earlier. Blake also admits the post made a brief appearance on his site. It makes some fun reading, so here it is:

Oh, what a lovely day. Netscape 7 came out and incompetence is flying everywhere. There are lots of thoughts floating around in my tiny head, and I can’t compile them into a coherent blog. So here goes…

* On the one hand, there has long been a push by various Netscape engineers to turn on popup blocking. As you can guess from Netscape 7, this was a lost battle. “But reviewers will ding us on it when they see it in Mozilla,” they said. “But it will generate negative publicity.” Well, it it did. But let’s forego an extended “told ya so” for now in the interest of moving on.

* On the other hand, c|net is a joke. First of all, Netscape 7 is hardly competing with Mozilla; it’s competing with IE. In light of this, it’s absolutely ridiculous to list “No popup blocking” as a “con” unless they did the same for IE. They didn’t.

* It’s abundantly clear that c|net does not use the product. This became evident when Netscape 6 came out and they gave it a 7, then lowered it to a 4. They reaffirmed it this year with such gems as “We still miss the Netscape 4.x feature that let you right-click any GIF and save it as your Windows wallpaper.” Netscape 7 has Set As Wallpaper functionality. It’s sickening that these people are paid to influence consumer decisions in the tech industry, and they don’t actually use the products.

* This problem is not limited to c|net, it plagues most computer magazines. In pcworld’s quasi-review, for example, they note that “The Download Manager controls and interface are revamped for easier use,” but Netscape 6.x didn’t even have a download manager. All these publications just skim our marketing documents and write broad summaries of a product. It’s disgusting.

* c|net has some sort of vendetta against Netscape. This is not a “wah, they were mean” claim, it’s obvious. They’ve republished the same story three different times, worded differently and with different headlines; as already noted, they never truly use the product; their review is titled “Don’t Switch Browsers,” which presumes use of IE, and then ensures under that that “Most users choose IE.” (Choose. ahem); and they continue to compare Netscape to Mozilla, but have never bothered with IE-Mozilla comparisons.

* The “new” netscape.com is the “old” netscape.com and this took…how long? For a new bar at the top? When I visit in 4.x, there is no roadblock telling users to download 7.0. The extent of the promotion is a tiny “Download Netscape 7.0” link in the bottom left and – the ultimate insult – a popup ad.

* Even if Netscape 7 debuted to mixed reviews, I’d hardly be able to take much pride in it. How do you get worked up over a product when you sped it up by 50% overnight (Phoenix; Minotaur) and added 3 killer features in a week (bookmarks quicksearch; history quicksearch; toolbar customization).

* I wish Netscape would get serious about producing a killer product and assign the tiny team making Phoenix to make a killer successor to Netscape 7. I’d think the terrible 7.0 press, combined with current internal ongoings, would push them to do this. And I wish it would get out of the mentality that the only way to monetize a browser is to stick advertisements everywhere, instead of clever integration (see MSN, Windows XP).

Now I have to go home and hear my friends and family talk about how the press said Netscape 7 sucks. And I have to explain that we got rid of popup blocking because our one site, out of however many billions of websites are out there, has a popup. What fun.

posted by Blake R at 4:25 PM on Aug 29, 2002

It looks like my recollection of the post was only semi-accurate. The real thing is more interesting. I got the gist that he had quickly made large improvements in the browser, but was a bit wrong about the specifics. I also didn’t catch the part about the Phoenix team. Does this mean they are officially supported? I thought this was a free time only kind of project. This gives me some hope that an internal comparison may push management to want the better browser.

In a Douglas Adams-like paradox, now that I’ve found Blake’s post again, Tony Davis’s rant has been removed.

What’s in a name?

It’s okay “Mr. Basil”, I know that Basil isn’t your last name.