Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Google reader broken

What have they done to the Google reader? It's my favourite RSS reader and since this morning it doesn't work. When I try to access the reader I am greeted with this screen:

google reader

I don't know what's gone wrong, but that certainly isn't right. I can't read any of my feeds now and that is proving rather inconvenient! I hope this issue is fixed soon!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

ITV Catch Up player broken

I rarely come across something so broken that it can't even perform its most basic function. However, in the ITV web based catch up service I've found a contender!

Everyone is at it now, the BBC have the iPlayer, Channel 4 have 4oD and Sky have the Sky Player. I've used them all, the BBC iPlayer is by far the best, though 4oD comes a close second with its huge archive. However, ITV seem to have lost the plot and missed the whole point of a catch up service.... that you should be able to actually watch it!

For a start the ITV Player is web based streaming only, so you can't download content to watch later. It also uses a horrible media player built into the site that has broken controls.

I missed qualifying for the Italian F1 GP today and as it had a lot of incident I really wanted to see it. So I took a trip to to watch it before the race tomorrow, what I experienced I never want to repeat.

For a start the video quality is atrocious, compare it to other offerings and it is massively compressed. Viewed at the default postage stamp size on the website it looks almost passable, but go to full screen and you can't make anything out the pixels are so large! When I think how lovely and almost broadcast standard the iPlayer pictures are I don't know what they were thinking.

This wouldn't be quite so bad if it meant it worked well, but the streaming is terrible. I have a fabulous ADSL connection and am lucky enough to sync at almost the full 16mbps and get great download speeds. So I expected to be able to watch the programme uninterrupted, just like I do on the iPlayer or 4oD. Not so I'm afraid, I was able to watch about 20 seconds of video before it started to buffer, which made me wait a good minute. When it resumed I was given a further 30 seconds if I was lucky before having to wait a similar amount of time for the next tiny segment.

I thought I'd pause the stream and let it download the video in the background for a while, so off I went to make some tea and do a couple of other bits. When I came back and restarted the stream, I got 20 seconds of video before the next buffer session.... it seems the player won't download a large buffer at all!

As I really wanted to see the qualifying session I persevered with this for a while, until roughly half way through part one. At which point for no reason, the player jumped to the ad break and then into part two! Strangely the adverts worked perfectly, no buffering what so ever..... As soon as I was back into the F1 programme the buffer cycle started all over again, until a couple of minutes in when it decided it had had enough of part two and skipped to another ad break..... then another ad break..... and another ad break.... and another..... and another..... It was basically skipping every part of the actual programme and just showing me the adverts!

So, I reloaded the page and decided to try again. Only trying to skip part one, which I'd already seen, but this just set off another ad break loop! The "rewind" button doesn't do anything so I had to reload the page again, and the same thing happened on my third attempt.

I though maybe there was an issue with that feed, so I tried another programme, same thing happened with the buffer cycle ending in the ad loop. I thought maybe it was the browser so I tried IE, same result. I though it might be my computer so tried the laptop, still no joy.

So I haven't seen the GP qualifying, I've wasted a good hour of my evening trying and I'm pissed off! Browsing the ITV forums reveals that there are hundreds of people with the same issues and they go back months. Still they exist, still there are no signs of a fix and still ITV continue to push this "service". It's appalling, if it doesn't work, stop wasting everyone's time and remove it until it does! Don't release buggy, broken webware just to pretend you are competing with other stations, do it properly or not at all!

I know I'm not the only one, but can any of you get it to work? Has ANYONE managed to watch something without any problems?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Chrome - First impressions

So it's here and I've been using it for about an hour now. First impressions are very good, it has a very simple, minimalist UI and I like it!

I don't have anything solid to back up my claims, but sites certainly appear to load faster in Chrome than they do in Firefox. In fact a quick test with reveals that Firefox loaded the page in 8.84 seconds while Chrome did it in 7.3 seconds. Nothing scientific in that, but it gives you an indication.

It also uses less memory, with Firefox and Chrome both having one tab open with identical pages fully loaded reveals Firefox using 125,684k and Chrome only 29,636k. Now a lot of that could probably be accounted for by the various Firefox plug-ins I've got. But that's still pretty impressive stuff!

One thing I am impressed with is the drag and drop. I can take a tab and pull it off the browser to make it a new window. What was particularly cool was discovering that you can drag tabs from Firefox straight into Chrome!

I've not experienced any rendering issues so far either, all the site I've tried work really well. The incognito mode is an interesting idea, you can open a new window in this mode and all your browsing will be kept secret, no bookmarks or cookies will be left behind. They say this is to let you shop for surprise presents, but I think we all know what they really intend it for :-)

Not so sure I get the new Omnibar which combines features of the address bar, and Google toolbar in one. I really loved the Firefox 3 address bar, but so far I'm just not getting the same great experience with it. That might change in time though.

In summary, this is going to be a strong competitor to the big three (IE, Firefox, Safari). Not sure I'm ready to give up Firefox with all its plug-ins just yet but I could see a time when that may happen!

Google announce new browser

So, the inevitable has finally occurred. Google have officially announced their own web browser designed to compete directly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc..

I hate to say it, but it does actually sound rather promising and I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing more. It's called Chrome and you can read all about it in this (of all things) comic strip! One of the big advantages it has is that just like Firefox it's open source.

So the dominance of Google continues, what with Gmail, its GoogleDocs suite, the Android mobile phone OS, now this web browser. They really are starting to dominate not just the desktop, but our lives as well.

How will MS react to this, they've been having a tough time the last few years. It seems they are no longer at the cutting edge. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for the huge corporation, it had to happen at some point.

EDIT: Just heard that the beta is going to be available TODAY! First screenshots are already appearing. Check this out:

Certainly going to be keeping a close eye on this, will be installing and testing this as soon as possible.