February 28, 2005

Browser Stats: The State of Firefox

Filed under: — 10:08 pm

Nick at Digital Web posted his latest browser statistics, showing a dramatic rise for Firefox—45%, the same result as Kottke posted yesterday. Both showed Internet Explorer at about 30%. Before you get too excited by those numbers, Nick notes that they came from a developer site and do not reflect mainstream usage.

Well, I happen to have a popular site that does approximately reflect mainstream web usage, so I thought some browser statistics might be interesting. The following are February 2005’s browser percentages for The Quotations Page, along with those from February 2004 for comparison.

BrowserFebruary 2004February 2005
Internet Explorer89.93%76.47%
Netscape 4.x0.82%0.45%

Definitely an increase for Firefox/Mozilla, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer, but Firefox has a long way to go before it beats IE on a mainstream site. On the other hand, 14% is very impressive, and Microsoft has a very good reason to get to work on IE 7.0.

[Fine print: Data based on approximately 11 million page views in February 2005 and 9 million in February 2004. Percentages do not add up to 100% because I didn’t include site crawlers, search engines, or RSS readers. Safari, Konqueror, and Camino were all below the measured margin for this site’s statistics, so all I can tell you is that their usage was less than .05% for both periods.]

February 24, 2005

February 21, 2005

February 15, 2005

iBook and OS X: First Impressions

Filed under: — 4:45 pm

After playing with my new iBook for a couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to give the Mac platform a shakedown from a PC user’s perspective. Here are my first impressions:

  • Everyone will tell you that 256 MB is not enough, and they’re right. I added a 512MB chip (total 768 MB) and performance is much better. Installing memory yourself is not too difficult, although you do have to remove the keyboard and it’s a bit tricky to reassemble.
  • The UI is, as you might expect, very well done. I hate to sound like a “switcher” but it really feels like an upgrade compared to Windows XP. It’s very nice to look at, and the animation effects are so smooth and fast that I haven’t turned them off—surprising since the first thing I do with a new Windows installation is turn off all animation.
  • This is a nice little laptop—good keyboard, effortless wireless, and it’s very stable. Since my previous PC laptop was a 400 MHz Sony, the iBook doesn’t have to work hard to impress me.
  • As with every PC laptop I’ve ever used, the trackpad is an annoyance with its default settings. Fortunately there’s a replacement driver called Sidetrack that just about every iBook/Powerbook user seems to recommend. It does nice things like scrolling, but the main feature for me is preventing accidental taps during typing. I’ll probably end up using a USB mouse except when I’m on the road.
  • Setting up a Bluetooth Internet connection to my cell phone was just as difficult as on every other platform, but it works nicely now.

Overall, I’m surprised how easy it was to set up and use this machine. I really expected to be writing about all kinds of strange Mac things that were alien to me as a Windows user, but it’s really not all that different on the surface, and underneath I’m already comfortable with the UNIX core.

February 14, 2005

February 11, 2005

February 10, 2005

Live HTTP Headers

Filed under: — 11:49 am

A post of Simon’s reminded me about Live HTTP Headers, a Firefox extension I have used before, but had neglected to install on the new version of Firefox. This tool lets you watch the headers sent between web servers and your browser, and look at them for any page you’ve loaded.

This might sound purely like a toy for web server developers, but it’s actually very useful for anyone who runs a web site. I’ve found it handy for a few recurring situations in particular: first, to find out whether web server features like gzip compression or caching are working properly.

Second, if you run a complex web site, especially one with advertisements, you’ve probably run into this situation before: pages are loading slowly, or not at all, or only displaying partially. Is the problem your overloaded web server? A delay on the server that hosts an image? A delay or downtime with an ad network? That 3rd-party web counter you installed the other day? One look at the HTTP headers after loading a page will tell you what you need to know.

Third, like Simon did with Google Maps, you can use it for an inside look at the operation of someone else’s web site.

Oh, one more thing: if your site uses cookies, you can view all of the cookies and their values in the headers, which has saved me lots of time debugging my sites.

February 8, 2005

February 7, 2005

Web icons for the design impaired

Filed under: — 11:33 pm

iconsA while ago I wrote a popular post called color tools for the design impaired. It seems there are lots of non-designers like me looking for ways to make quality pages, so I thought a sequel was in order.

While pretty colors are nice, sometimes a few good icons can make a web page look better and make key functions much more clear, especially with web services. If you’re not a graphic design wizard, you may find the prospect of designing ten matching 16×16 icons daunting. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to using characters from Wingdings—there are some great icon collections you can buy for a small fee. Here are some I recommend:

  • Dan Cederholm of Simplebits makes two excellent sets of icons available: Stockholm has clear, colorful icons and Overcast takes a more subtle monochrome approach. Both sets include 16×16 and 32×32 versions of each icon. I own Stockholm and have used these, and modified them slightly to create a new one or two, on my quotations site.
  • twothirty media inc. offers the twotiny icon set. It’s $40 (only $30 until March 1st) for 79 well-designed 16×16 icons. I purchased this set for use in a couple of current projects.
  • IconBuffet has several collections ranging from $19 to $289. They all look great.
  • Buyicons.com offers two collections of icons at $49 each. They seem targeted more toward Mac applications, but can be used on websites also.
  • Update 8/1/2005: Iconkits.com has some great icon collections also, although their prices are a bit higher.

All of these collections are royalty-free: after purchase, you can use them on any of your sites without a fee. See the icon vendors for the specific legal terms—I only have direct experience with the first two.

Yes, there are some free icon sites out there too, but I haven’t found any that have the quality or the clear-cut licensing of the above. The best site I’ve found for free icons is The Iconfactory, although they have more picture icons than simple navigational icons. Suggestions of quality free icons are welcome. Using non-free icons has one clear advantage, though—less people use them, so your site will be a bit closer to unique.

If you want to create your own icons, Dan Cederholm’s article Anatomy of an Icon is the best tutorial I’ve found on the subject.

February 3, 2005

The truth about search engine optimization

Filed under: — 11:22 am

In Basics of search engine optimisation, Roger Johansson of 456 Berea Street explains the essentials of getting your site noticed and indexed by the search engines without being a spammer. I wrote something similar a while back (Top Search Engine Tips) but he includes some information on meta tags, frames, and browser detection that my article didn’t cover.

I also enjoyed Roger’s article on the writing process. This one and its comments are worth a read if you regularly write content for your site. (In case you missed it, regular updates with good content are the most essential part of search engine optimization.)

In other search engine news, Darren reports that google is updating again. Another roller-coaster ride begins…

February 2, 2005

A crash course in OS X

Filed under: — 3:06 pm

While waiting for my iBook to arrive (who knew they shipped from Shanghai?) I’ve been trying to learn a bit about OS X so that my experience won’t be too jarring. The following are links to some introductory articles on OS X that I found useful, ranging from beginner to geek-oriented:

Update: A comment reminded me to mention one great hard-copy resource: Mac OS X: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. I’ve been reading that for the past few days also and it will be most helpful. I’ll post some more detailed impressions of the book soon.

February 1, 2005

MSN Search officially opens

Filed under: — 4:30 pm

The new MSN search that uses Microsoft’s new search engine rather than Yahoo’s results has been in beta testing for a while, but as of today it’s open for business. Microsoft is launching an advertising campaign for the new search engine that will include ads during the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the Grammy awards.

Obviously Microsoft is willing to spend some of their billions to get this search engine noticed. I’m not sure how many people will use it over Google, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Currently my sites get most of their traffic from Google, about 1/4 of that amount from Yahoo, and MSN runs a distant third. The results at MSN are wildly different, though, so some sites will benefit more than others.

Also, Douglas at Stopdesign is impressed that MSN is using reasonably standard XML and CSS for the new site.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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