god on my side

day 21 of the beard

Today I saw the movie God On My Side by Andrew Denton. It’s an interesting movie about the televangelist industry in the US. I expected it to be about the shonky frauds who harm people, there was one scene in the start of a televangelist claiming to cure diabeties (a very dangerous claim that often results in serious injury to the victims of such frauds), but mostly it was about serious evangelists and not about the frauds.

What was scary was the level of advocacy of Armageddon. These people seemed very determined to have a great war between the US and Russia (haven’t they realised that the USSR doesn’t exist any more?). They advocated taking all possible measures to defend Israel (not ruling out the use of nuclear weapons) and didn’t want any compromise with Palestine (no land for peace – after all peace gets in the way of Armageddon).

One insightful comment by an evangelist pointed out that many Christians have gone wrong in their advocacy in being based on what they are against rather than what they are for. It’s a sad trend that most Christians are not able to express any positive things that they are for and only focus on things that they oppose. On most occasions when they say they are for something it is really a disguise for being against something else, EG supporting Family Values means oppressing homosexuals, preventing freedom of speech (bad language), and banning abortions (even for rape victims).

I am looking forward to the DVD release of this. I’m sure that the out-takes and some further footage post release will be interesting.

Above is the day 21 beard picture.

review of Australian car web sites

It seems that Toyota isn’t alone in having non-functional web sites. In fact it’s better than some, the basic information on the cars is available and it is possible to get contact information for car dealers, also they have a feed-back form on their web site (to which I submitted my previous blog post). Incidentally the Lexus site had much the same problem as the Toyota site (hardly surprising as Lexus is the luxury marque from Toyota). But I expect that if I phoned Lexus to ask about their vehicles I would get a better call-center experience which would make me less inclined to blog about them.

Daihatsu vehicles are sold by Toyota. Their web site doesn’t use Flash, but it has so little content that it doesn’t count.

I decided to quickly review the web sites of car manufacturers that sell in Australia for a fair comparison. I found three sites worse than Toyota, two sites that were equal (counting Lexus), and six that were better than it.

Holden has the worst site, they don’t display any information if you don’t have flash, they don’t even display a phone number! I wonder how much Adobe pays web programmers to pull this sort of stunt. I can’t imagine Holden management saying “if a customer comes to our web site and doesn’t have Flash then don’t display our phone number or any other contact information, they can use Flash or buy a Ford instead”. Obviously some web monkey has run amok and done their own thing without following directions. Probably some people need to be sacked in the Holden web development group.

Volvo Cars has a very bad site. Most of the content is involved with Flash in some way and refuses to load. There is a mailto reference that is broken, and the overview page for the S60 seems to have a JavaScript loop (I aborted the load after it loaded 245 pictures and was still going). The Volvo page for their other business is quite functional although minimal.

Hyundai has a bad site. The front page works OK, but some of the sub-sites to display information on vehicles redirect to sites such as evolveddriving.com.au which are “optimised for 1024×768” and require Flash and Quicktime while others do strange things like changing the size of the browser window. Overall it’s a very bad site, but at least I could find the contact details for my nearest dealer, and it has a feedback form.

Subaru has an OK site. The only thing I couldn’t access without Flash is information on their AWD (All Wheel Drive) technology. Unfortunately they provide no email address and no form for sending feedback.

The main Ford web page claims that Flash is required, but their site just works without it. In a quick test I was unable to find any functionality on the Ford site that is missing because of not having Flash. Ford have a well designed site.

The Volkswagen site makes no mention of the fact that I don’t use Flash, it does however have some strange unused spaces in the middle of the screen. I guess that it recognised that I don’t have Flash and made a semi-successful attempt to work around it. I could get all information I wanted including dealer contact details.

The main Mazda web page displays a message about Flash not being installed and offers a link to a non-Flash version of the site. The Flash section is at the center and the buttons at the sides work if you don’t have Flash. This seems to be a well implemented site.

Citroen has an OK site, no flash that I noticed (although there were large blank areas on the screen at times indicating that something was missing), the information was all available and browsing was reasonably easy. One thing that annoyed me was that there were movies available but only through some sort of JavaScript that tried to play them in my browser. I have never bothered setting up my web browsing machine for playing movies (among other things it has no speakers) so this is a problem for me.

Peugeot has a good site. No apparent flash and it’s reasonably easy to use. It has more pictures than Kia but the JavaScript navigation stuff is fancy. One nice feature is a single page with pricing summaries for all models. If you have $X to spend on a Peugeot you will easily discover which ones you can afford.

Kia has the best site I saw! Not only is there no flash, but it’s well designed, easy to navigate and it loads quite quickly. Please review the Kia site as an example of how to do it properly!

Let me know if I’ve missed any makes and I’ll post an update.

open letter to Toyota

When I visit the toyota.com.au web site it does not display any information on the new Camry, instead it displays a message saying “Unfortunately you do not have flash 8”.

A well designed web site will display information for all users, including those who don’t have flash installed.

The Toyota web site should be aimed at selling Toyota products, however it seems most effective at selling Macromedia products. Anyone who visits the Toyota site is forced to install a product from Macromedia (the Flash viewer) but is not forced to purchase anything from Toyota.

Are your web designers representing Toyota’s best interests or the best interests of Macromedia?

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=flash+security+cve&btnG=Search

If you visit the above URL you will see information on some of the security problems related to flash. Anyone who has security problems on their computer after being compelled to install Flash by the Toyota web site would have reason to blame Toyota for any damage or loss caused by such security problems.

Flash is often prohibited by corporate security requirements (the instructions on the Toyota web site could get a potential customer sacked – and therefore unable to purchase a car). It is not usable by many visually impaired people (while people with extreme vision problems are not able to drive a Toyota cars they should be able to read information about them). It is also disliked by people who want their computer to run all free software, which includes a large number of people who like the Prius.

Rip It Off unless you use windows?

The music sales website www.ripit.com.au has the advertising campaign ripit – don’t rip it off. However the web site displays the below message when viewed on a Linux machine. The “step by step guide on how to enable Firefox” is really a guide on how to get IE code running in a tabbed window in Firefox (so you can get all the security problems that Firefox normally prevents).

Ripit has a big advertising campaign (TV and all the other places) with the slogan “ripit – don’t rip it off“, but it seems that this has the caveat that people who don’t use Windows aren’t wanted as customers. Are non-Windows users expected to “rip off” the music?

What are the options of buying music without dealing with the music cartel? I’m sick of all the things that they do, preventing free trade to articially inflate prices in some countries, ripping off the musicians, putting root-kits on CDs. Eventually the recording industry has to be destroyed. Most money from CD sales goes to the recording industry (not the musicians), the products provided to the customers are of low quality and customers are routinely treated like dirt, the recording industry does no good for society.

From now on I will not buy any CDs or DVDs of music from the recording industry cartel. I will only buy music from web sites that support standard Internet protocols. If a music company doesn’t want to support Firefox then they don’t want my money. For any music industry people who read this, don’t get the idea that I’m unable to pay for music. I have a large collection of CDs (thousands of dollars worth) and was just starting to buy music DVDs when you finally offended me too much.

Thank You for visiting the Ripit Music Store

We have detected that the browser you are using is not compatible with the Music Store that you are attempting to access. This site has been designed to work with Internet Explorer Version 6 or above. Please launch the site in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or click here to download Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.
Also, music can only be downloaded via your Windows PC as this store is not compatible with Macintosh.
If you are using Mozilla Firefox, please click here to view the step by step guide on how to enable Firefox to surf the Soundbuzz Music Store

fair trade is the Linux way

I have recently purchased a large quantity of fair trade chocolate. Fair trade means that the people who produce the products will be paid a fair price for their products which will enable them to send their children to school, pay for adequate health-care, etc. Paying a small price premium on products such as coffee and chocolate usually makes no notable difference to the living expenses of someone in a first-world country such as Australia, but can make a huge difference to the standard of living of the people who produce the products. Also fair-trade products are generally of a very high quality, you are paying for the best quality as well as the best conditions of the workers.

I will share this chocolate at the next LUV meeting, hopefully the people who attend will agree that the chocolate is both of a high quality as well as being good in principle and that they will want to buy it too.

The Fair Trade chocolate I bought cost $6.95 per 100g. I went to Safeway (local bulk food store with low prices) to get prices on other chocolate to compare. Lindt (cheaper Swiss chocolate) costs $3.09 per 100g and has a special of $2.54. The Lindt and the Fair Trade chocolate are both 70%, but the Fair Trade chocolate is significantly smoother, has a slightly better aroma, and a better after-taste. So the Fair Trade chocolate costs slightly more than twice as much as Lindt, but I believe that it has a quality to match the price. Then I compared the price of a cheap chocolate, Cadbury Old Gold chocolate is also 70% cocoa and costs $4.29 for 220g, this makes it between 3.5 and 4.4 times cheaper than the Fair Trade chocolate. But if you like chocolate then Cadbury products probably aren’t on the shopping list anyway. I believe that the Fair Trade chocolate I bought can be justified on the basis of flavor alone without regard to the ethical issues.

All Linux users know what it’s like to have their quality of life restricted by an oppressive monopoly. We are fortunate in that it only affects us in small ways, not in our ability to purchase adequate food and health care. As we oppose software monopolies that hurt us in the computer industry we must also oppose monopolies in the food industry that hurt people in third-world countries. The fair trade programs are the best way I know of doing that. Hopefully after tasting the chocolate many LUV members will want to buy it too.