Sunday, June 17, 2007

First Look at Safari for Windows

Over the weekend I downloaded and setup Windows Safari on a Pentium 3 HT system running Windows XP with 2GB of RAM. After checking out a few sites, I did notice that pages tended to load faster than in other browsers. I figured I would use the browser for a couple of weeks, check out some of its features, and then make a decision if I liked it better than FireFox or SeaMonkey, which are the browsers I like most (I chucked Internet Explorer a long time ago due to the CPU resources it uses compared to FireFox and SeaMonkey).

Then I attempted to access my company's e-commerce system to check on new orders. This of course is a secure URL, and I was not able to get to it in Safari. After entering in my login information, Safari would freeze, and an Microsoft error box came up which asked if I wanted to report the error to Microsoft. I attempted to login several times, but experienced the problem each time. I then decided to try to login to the same secure system on a G4 desktop with Safari, and I had no trouble. So evidently the problem is not within Safari itself, but in Safari's interaction with Windows. I did report the bug to Apple, and thought the ability to report bugs along with screen shots was a great feature. Obviously I could not take a screen shot of the actual freeze, but that would be a useful tool for other problems.

Being that I must access this secure area on a semi-regular basis, I would not be able to make a permanent switch to Safari until this was resolved. As there are many other businesses that use this same e-commerce program, I would guess that it is an error that would be worthy of fixing. Having said all of this, I was very impressed at the page load speeds in Safari, it definitely is better than Internet Explorer, and in the limited browsing I did, it gave FireFox and SeaMonkey a run for their money.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bye It Now?

An article in the Associated Press today reported that Virginia based MercExchange LLC is asking for a permanent injunction against eBay to prevent them from using "buy it now" and "Fixed Price" options on the auction web site. MercExchange claims that eBay continues to violate patents they hold related to the "buy it now" technology. In 2003, a jury did decide that eBay was in violation of MercExchange's patents, but last year the Supreme Court ruled that did not mean MercExchange could get an automatic permanent injunction.

For their part, eBay responded to MercExchange's request by saying that they have already developed a work around so that they are no longer in violation of any patents.

The article did not address what might happen to eBay sellers if MercExchange's request was granted. Would eBay be forced to disable their "buy it now" and "Fixed Price" features? It seems it could be a possibility, but due to the revenue loss that could cause both eBay and many sellers who list primarily in "buy it now" or "Fixed Price" format, one would have to think that eBay would be able to work out some sort of licensing agreement to be able to continue using the technology.

One of eBay's main complaints against MercExchange is that they don't seem to have any other business purpose than to collect and sue over patents. This is not the first case of this. What do you think about businesses that operate this way? Is the US in need of patent reform?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

eBay's San Dimas Beta Begins Today

In case you didn't hear back in April, eBay is entering the desktop arena with a forthcoming program dubbed "San Dimas" which allows users a venue other than a web browser through which they can access eBay. Personally I am in favor of this type of application, and I hope it opens eBay's mind a little bit in terms of allowing third party developers to create add-ons that make it easier for eBay users to find and buy what they are looking for. Not too long ago eBay thwarted an attempt made by a third party to crawl their index of products so auctions could be displayed to users and managed in methods different from the traditional eBay results pages. I know eBay wants people to come to to view auctions and probably aren't thrilled about other companies profiting off their search results, but at the end of the day, the more people you have buying and selling through, the better profits will be, So I believe that opening up to developers will increase interest and activity at the site.

I digress a bit though. The purpose of this post was just to let you know that beta testing for San Dimas has begun, and you can still sign up to attempt to be a beta tester at

The first beta accounts have already been handed out, so it may be to late. I was a bit late to the game myself, if I end up becoming a beta tester, depending on the terms of the licensing agreement, I will share what I can about the program here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Price Point for Open Source Products

As you may know, we have distributed several open source products via our web site for some time now. We do charge a fee, which covers the cost of making the product and the labor involved. It also covers the cost of shipping, as there is no shipping charge added on to the software product cost.

In the coming weeks we will be adding a number of new titles to our offerings, and to get ready for that we have established a new price point for our open source titles, a flat $3.00 which still includes shipping. The reason for this price drop is because we have been able to cut material costs, and also have experimented with smaller shipping containers which has allowed us to cut costs there. Additionally, we will no longer be adding an additional amount for labor, the time it takes to create, package, and mail the CDs will be our contribution to the open source community.

Right now we have two titles available on our web site, both for $3.00. Check out our and Mozilla package at:

and check out Knoppix at:

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Web 2.0 Customer Service

I have noticed an annoying pattern in companies that claim to be Web 2.0 oriented. They seem to be copying the poor customer service techniques of the Web 1.0 generation.

In the last several weeks I have contacted the customer service department web sites of three different companies, which I will leave nameless. I did get a response from each one, but none answered the specific question I asked. Instead, whichever "representative" was in charge of responding to my request gave a response which merely included text that related to my question. For example, one question I asked was where to find out how miscellaneous "fees" charged to an account were calculated. The representative responded with a block of text explaining that from time to time various fees will be charged, and it listed what the names of the fees along with a brief definition of each one (all of this information was already present on their web site FAQ page by the way). But there was no explanation of how they were calculated, which is what I had asked in the particular request, since that information was not answered in their FAQ.

Why have companies decided this is an acceptable way to handle customer service? It's almost as if during training representatives are told "whatever you do, don't answer their specific question- instead, just give them some information related to their inquiry." Imagine if you just moved and you called your phone company because you couldn't remember your new phone number. What if instead of telling you what it was, they just told you that the Yellow Pages is a helpful place to find phone numbers you need? It sounds ludicrous, but that is the unfortunate approach that original Internet companies took to customer support, and it seems a number of Web 2.0 companies are prepared to let history repeat itself.

I understand we live in a world where it seems the customer is no longer always right. But does that mean customers need be treated like idiots? I don't know, but as a part of Rokland LLC, the parent company of, I know we would never even think of treating our customers in this manner.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Coffee Table Computer About Coffee Tables?

Maybe that's something we'll see when Cosmo Kramer gets a look at this new device from Microsoft.