Thursday, March 18, 2010

Microsoft says "We are proud of being stupid"

OK, quick rant here. Microsoft, in an attempt to finally have a modern browser is beginning to trumpet their IE9 version of the product. Reading about it yesterday, I was stunned to hear that they were not going to support running IE9 on Windows XP. And if you want to run it on Vista, you better be on the latest Service Pack 2.

I laughed, but figured maybe they were doing something unique that was going to let them leapfrog everyone else and really have a blisteringly fast browser. Then today, I found this site that lets you "test drive" IE9 and has links to all the tests. Being lazy, I just started clicking on the links without downloading and installing the IE Platform Preview. Being slightly dense (or just coming out of a Meatball Sub Food Coma), it took me a bit to realize that everything I was seeing was just running in my own browser. Which happens to be Google Chrome, and not IE. I had been mistakenly impressed with IE9 until I realized that I was just running the tests in Chrome. And Chrome was blowing the tests out of the water.There is a test called "Acid3" that identifies how compliant a browser is to Web Standards. Clicking on the link will open up a screenshot that shows that IE9 scores 55/100. They also give you a link so you can run the test live. Microsoft cautions you that There’s a pause when the score gets to 39 but the test will continue after a few seconds." However, when I click the link, Google Chrome takes all of 2 seconds to rack up a perfect 100/100.

So, I opened IE8 to see what the test drive site looked like there. IE8 can only run 8 of the 15 demos and takes 16 seconds to get a dismal 20/100 score. So, I suppose it is good that IE9 can run all 15 of the tests, when they finally button it up. But, wait! I can run all 15 of the tests right now in Google Chrome. And it doesn't crash. And I don't have to upgrade from XP.

Microsoft is already facing loss of browser share with all the woes that IE6 puts people through and the fact that website after website are declaring that they will no longer support IE6. And now they are making people jump through hoops for a not-yet-released IE9 to get functionality that is available today.

So, do yourself a favor, IE users. Upgrade today. Just not to a Microsoft product. Instead, try Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Curling and the Suspension of Disbelief

I know two facts:

1. Curling is absolutely ridiculous.

2. I absolutely love curling.

The surprising thing is that apparently I am unable to know both those facts at the same time. Let me explain.

First off: Curling. I don’t think I stand a chance of explaining curling properly. That is the job of Wikipedia: Other people explaining stuff with the air of authority so that I don’t have to. But, to give you a quick overview, curling is a “sport” that was added to the Olympics as a demonstration event in 1998, but now is officially recognized with medals. A team of four people engage in what amounts to ice shuffleboard, using 42 lb. granite rocks, with the added complexity of brooms to sweep the ice. I don’t fully understand the brooms, but it results in having the team skip screaming, “hard hard hard hard hard” at the other, while the sweepers work with a cleaning frenzy that is both admirable and comical.

The name itself comes from the fact that the players are able to get the stones to curl and bend around each other on the ice, allowing the best players to almost magically place the stone into the tightest pockets and stop them on a dime. I have yet to see anyone make a stone hook around and travel back the way it came, but I keep watching hopefully.

So, this Olympic season, I was watching curling (and loving it) and my wife came in and sat down and started pointing out how ridiculous it is. I was uncontrollably and immediately jarred back into reality – it was like getting hit with a bucket of cold water. I had been sitting on the sofa a minute prior, absolutely loving watching the match, and here I was having the inanity of the sport pointed out in full and careful detail. And the shocking thing I realized is that everything that she was saying was stuff that I would (or have) said about curling.

I had always fooled myself into thinking that I was this incredibly rational being, who, while enjoying watching curling, still appreciated the ridiculous nature of it. I was just watching the sport ironically. But the reality is that that, in the moment, you really love the things you love, regardless how ridiculous they are. The same thing happens with good action movies with over-the-top action plots and with video games that are capable of constructing completely fleshed-out alternate worlds. Sure, after the movie, you turn to your friend and say, “Yeah, that part where they ducked underneath that pinwheeling car? Pshaw!” But during the movie? You’re saying, “DUCK!!! YEAH!!!” And you really mean it, both times.

So, unfortunately, I realized I am guilty of doing the exact same thing (throwing the metaphorical bucket of cold water to trigger disbelief) when my wife is catching up on her soaps or a movie on Lifetime. So, I make the following promise. “I will stop trying to guess who is going to die in the next Nicholas Sparks movie and will quit pointing out that General Hospital spends very little time in a hospital and should actually be General Mafia. In return, please willingly ignore the glaring stupidity of the “sport” I choose to watch. And if you are extra nice, I will try to explain the new free guard zone rules.