Archive for the 'Misc. rants' Category

Squarespace

Srpanj 8, 2006

A few days ago, I ran into an interesting ad for Squarespace on A List Apart. The ad said: “Elegant. Powerful. Professional. The better way to put a blog online.” Then I said: “Let’s check it out!” BTW, this post is originally written in Croatian, and you can read it here.

So, I clicked on the link, landed on the site and realized it’s a paid service. There’s a 30-day free trial, so I decided to register immediately, expecting a miracle. But, I can say I was a bit dissapointed, especially when I saw the price. Let’s start at the beginning.

After a couple of minutes of use, the whole thing slowly began to look like a fancy WordPress engine. But, a man’s got to admit it – the whole thing looks great. The whole administration thing is really nice and, although it looks exactly opposite on the first look, it works great and it’s easy to use. After the user logs in, he can add and modify his journal posts and modify the pages without entering the administration module. Nothing revolutionary, but it speeds up the process a bit.

The rest of the work behind a blog is done in the administration area. You can add other modules, change the looks, add members and do many other things with your webpage in there. A “Squarespace” can have many different members with different privileges, which adds a collaborative dimension to the whole thing. As far as the design modification is concerned, the options are many – ranging from simple modifications of the relevant CSS properties (like font, color, margin, padding) using the nicely built web interface, to manual editing of the site’s CSS file. You can also view your website statistics, for which I believe are detailed enough to satisfy most users. The administration area is packed with options, and some of them go into much detail.

But – how affordable is the whole thing? Squarespace has three packages in its offer for personal use – Basic, Pro and Advanced. Each of them costs $7, $12 and $17 per month, respectively. The Basic package doesn’t include support for multiple users, domain mapping (so you’re stuck with the username.squarespace.com domain) or your own URL rewriting. Each of the option includes 100 MB, 300 MB or 600 MB storage space (you can upload your own files up there) and 2 GB, 4 GB or 8 GB traffic per month – again, respectively.

After a more-or-less detailed review, I didn’t discover anything a decent paid hosting service, WordPress (or some other similar blogging tool) and a few plug-ins can’t do, except maybe a few user features, their privileges etc. The Squarespace variant will probably be more attractive to the users who aren’t too comfortable with the computer, but other blogging tools are equally accessible today, so this isn’t much of a feature.

Now, the product isn’t that bad. It looks cool, and it works cool. Still, I’d sooner reccommend an investment into WordPress+hosting, and maybe even +paying someone to set up and modify WordPress to your own needs, than I’d reccommend an investment into a Squarespace package. All in all, I find this to be too expensive for my taste.

Oglasi

Privacy on the Internet – NSA to Collect Data from Social Networking Websites

Lipanj 10, 2006

I've just read a story on Slashdot (well, its "unofficial digest", AlterSlash, to be more exact) about NSA and their funding of the research into harvesting of the information on social networking websites, written like it's some great, revolutionary discovery.

Just think about it a bit. Everyone has access to the information you publish on a social networking website – it's the whole point of a social networking web site. Why shouldn't the NSA have it, too – it's their job, after all? They'll just add the information they collect on those websites right next to your phone calls, bank transfers, health charts, grocery bills and many other things they already have about you. What's the big deal? You choose to publish the information freely on the 'net, it's your fault if they use it against you.

I'm not really using it actively because I rarely send any confidential information over the Internet, so I'm probably the last person who should be giving this kind of advice, but if you publish / send any sensitive information on the Internet and you don't want it to be publically available – use GPG or some other cryptography methods. It's not that hard – there is a great chance that there's a plug-in for your favorite e-mail client available – and it's secure.

I'm all for privacy and I believe that every person should have its own share of it, but if you publish something on a public website, make sure it's something you won't mind the whole world to read. It's public, after all. I am more worried about them collecting information which should be private.

Fonoteka

Svibanj 31, 2006

I usually don't write about the Croatian "web scene" because I have the mental health of my visitors in mind, but I just HAVE to write a few sentences about this lousy attempt of creating the first legal music download site in Croatia. Now, I have to mention that I'm not a big fan of T-Com, the leading… nah, who am I kidding – the almost-exclusive telecommunication services provider in Croatia. Not that I have anything against the gals and guys that work there, I just don't like their… "bussiness plan". But, they do allow me to connect to the 'net every day, so I have to show some respect now.

So, the gals and guys decided recently to launch the first legal MP3 download site in Croatia, called Fonoteka. Behind the obscure address (mdp.tportal.hr – WTF? – http://www.fonoteka.hr isn't working at the time of writing this) lies the revolutionary web service. Not.

The first thing that I noticed is the obnoxious "BETA" underneath the logo. I just don't see the point of marking a web service as "BETA" and trying to sell it (or something at it). Sure it'll be updated and sure it has bugs – which (web) app doesn't? – but don't tell me your product isn't finished yet. Why should I use it if it's not finished? 

Next, the layout. Oh, the horror! The whole T-Portal website shares a similar framed design which makes me want to scream every time I visit it. It just annoys me – sometimes it screws up the "back" button, and I can't simply copy/paste the link to the site I'm currently watching. Terrible.

Now when the site experience is already ruined, let's see the offer… It's not too rich, but it's not too poor, either. The fact that it's not too long online (hey, it's BETA) and that they'll probably add some songs and albums as they go helps them a bit. There are a few albums that are interesting to me (I like albums, not separate songs, so I didn't check out that offer), but now comes the interesting part – the price.

Albums are usually not cheap in Croatian music shops (real-life, not virtual :)) – the price for albums of Croatian performers goes around 60 – 100 kn (around 8 – 13,5 €) and around 110 – 150 kn (around 14,5 – 20 €) for foreign artists. The prices at Fonoteka are: 7,32 kn (around 1 €) for a single song, and 73,20 kn (around 10 €) for a whole album. I wouldn't even think about buying a single song if it was two times less expensive than that. It's just damn too much. As far as the whole albums are concerned – it's true that it's probably cheaper, but when you add the ADSL traffic (or the time on the 'net for dial-up users) you spend to download the album, it's the same. Not to mention the inferior quality of MP3 over a regular audio CD and the lack of the original CD booklet. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather walk a bit to the local music store, buy an original CD for a bit higher price and enjoy the full-quality audio CD with the original booklet.

And the last thing – the payment methods. Or, the payment method. The only way of paying for the songs is over the T-Com telephone / internet bill. Noup, no credit cards, no cheque orders – nothing. Sad, especially because T-Com has its own Pay Way service – an online credit card authorization in real-time. Maybe they'll implement that when they take off the "BETA" out of their logo.

All in all – really poor. Bad site design, poor user interface, weird and monopolistic payment method, insanely high prices and the limited range of songs and albums just don't make me want to use it. Thumbs up for the initiative, but two thumbs down for the implementation and the prices. At least for now.