2008 December (3)

Browse Month: December 2008

Sell It Right!

As I was browsing around for some new and exciting Christmas web hosting offers, I found an interesting offer… well, rather an interesting page with an offer. I stumbled on it on Friday and since I already have an account with this hoster, decided to pursue other matters. Today, when I checked on it – it still there. Amazing, isn’t it?

Dreamhost Offer Expiring... Expiring...
Dreamhost Offer Expiring... Expiring... Click on the image to enjoy expiration more.

If you, however, still interested – you may even sign up with Dreamhost using our promo code: ZEALUS200812. You’ll get a free domain while you’re at it.

They Choose Internet Over Sex – But Are They?

CNN has published a result of a survey, stating that any given day women will forgo sex for Internet in almost 50% of the chance. The argument is made that Americans rely on the Internet more and more each day. We’re hooked on ‘tubes.

My guess is that the survey was done online. It’s almost like the infamous online study by large Russian web-portal that clearly showed that 100% of respondents use Internet. Who knew? Given the state of the broadband in US, chances are – most people DO forgo Internet connectivity for other activities.

Those of us who live in well developed areas enjoy omnipresense of broadband. It is as if we almost bathe in it. In New York City I can enter almost any Starbucks and get online using either AT&T’s or T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi. In the college, where I take classes, I can hook up to their Wi-Fi network from almost every college building – even old once that college plans to vacate soon. And if that cafe on the corner, whose name escapes me, isn’t outfitted with own Wi-Fi by the owner, I can hook up my cell phone to my laptop via Bluetooth or USB cable and be online in less then 5 minutes. Or just check e-mail directly from my phone if needed.

Fast forward to rural areas, like my parents’ vacation home in upstate Pennsylvania, also known as upstate NY. Instead of 3G I usually see EDGE or even GPRS type of a signal. That means speeds around dial-up with the same kind of quality. Starbucks cafes are one per hundred square miles or at least one hour driving away. Pretty long shot for casual e-mail checking. Working from such a location is definitely out of the question. So I can hardly see that anyone from nearby population would forgo any kind of activity for questionable pleasure of waiting for contemporary web site to download. Various studies show the average size of a web page is anywhere between 150K to 300K. Add stuffers like banners, banner and statistics scripts, flash elements… just forget about it.

So while Google battles to get their content closer to subscribers by setting up caching servers on ISP’s own networks, maybe it’ll be a better idea to at least give those “forgotten” markets a chance to experience this content. They may still think Internet is a secret army project gone wild…

Cheap Web Conferencing

While reading some TechCrunch news I stubmled upon a new startup – DimDim, that provides a cheap replacement for WebEx and GoToMeeting. With prices of a good airplane ticket or two per month I see little sense in spending money on either. DimDim, however, is free for meetings with up to 20 attendees.

Don’t trust all the raving about not having to install any plugins. For sharing a desktop (my primary use of such services) you will have to install at least one. Also, the whole thing requires Flash 9 to be operational in whatever browser you’re using. If your place of work security rules block Flash – sorry, you out of luck.

The performance over cable (at my home) to cheap Verizon Business DSL (at office where I was trying to troubleshoot something really quick) was decent, the lag was noticeable but not overly annoying. We didn’t test video and audio, since phones are working pretty well so far.

Usability leaves much to be desired. Control elements aren’t always intuitive and are scattered all over the place. First time I started the meeting and tried to share a desktop I was prompted that a plugin is required, leading me to reload the browser and, obviously, killing the meeting in progress, since I was a host. Sending a meeting invite when starting a meeting takes up to 5 minutes and leaves you wondering whether it was sent at all. I usually resend the invite once the meeting starts.

Requiring to set meeting’s length up front also isn’t a good idea – I tend to select 2 hours for a 15 minute troubleshoot call. The reason for requiring to set up a meeting length is a bit beyond me – it could be optional, but not required.

On the positive side of things – the price of service. Most of my meetings require one or two participants, so I am yet to see how system will handle 20 (the limit for free account). Something tells me it won’t be so good.

DimDim also has an open source version of their software, but a brief research on their forums showed that no one so far have been able to successfully deploy it. A call for help left 4 weeks ago is still unanswered. I was unable to find any installation guides on DimDim’s web site and the list of technologies used to build the application (mySQL, Terracota, LightHTTPD, Tomcat, CherryPy, Flash and so on) suggests it won’t be easy task to deploy an open source edition. Therefore I see the OSS version as more of a marketing gimmick rather than actual useful product.

Overall impression from the service isn’t so bad. At the moment I will continue using DimDim’s free edition as there are no real alternatives for such service, as I want to avoid installing any special-purpose software such as VNC or pcAnywhere.