Monthly Archives: January 2010

MySchool: so wrong

Background: The Australian federal government has finally pushed out a web site publishing performance metrics for all schools throughout Australia. There has been much brouhaha regarding this. For some reason, the go-live wasn’t a quiet one, but a very loud, flick-on-the-switch big-bang go live.

Naturally, the website asploded.

Any website that’s going to be hit by 1% of the Australian population the moment it goes live is going to blow up unless there are some cluey, experienced people behind it. Clever, inexperienced people, or experienced idiots with a large budget might stand a chance if things got progressively worse over time, but turn it on and hammer it on day one? does not have cluey, experienced people behind it. There are various signs.

For a start, what is it with the TLD? seems fine, but what’s wrong with a redirect from given they were the folks running around promoting it? It’s not like myschool is an education institution.

Then you get there. Guess what? It won’t work without JavaScript. At all. Because typing in a string and hitting enter demands the availability of JavaScript. Using <form> is so 2000s. Get with the new decade! It’s so vital to the site that users must not be allowed in if they don’t have JavaScript. Screw the blind! They’ve only got one school to go to anyway.

And the site is slow, amazing slow. But I guess if you’ve got to download all that JavaScript to enter that string, of course it’s going to be slow. Switching to a different set of data? Couldn’t download that and just do a hide/show, no you’ve got to do some kinda AJAX-y postback crap for a massive round-trip delay; if you were dealing with rapidly changing data, that might almost make sense; every year this website will get data updates, so no: this makes no sense. I clicked on it, and a long time later, something happened to the web page. In the meantime, I went off to get a drink. Alternatively, you could just show a table for each year, and skip the damn JavaScript altogether. Why there’s even a backend is beyond me, this whole thing could be served perfectly well – and mind-numbingly quickly – from static pages.

And for the purpose it’s intended for: parents picking a school for their kids. Can you compare schools? No. Open them up in different browser tabs, if you have a tabbed browser (remember: the blind can go take a flying leap). Good thing the site is chocked full of JavaScript. And the JavaScript is used for handy things like map-based locating of schools, and – oh, hang on, no it’s not. There’s no Google-maps mash-up. Good thing the site is chocked full of JavaScript.

Clearly, the entire site has been an exercise in some programmer somewhere bolstering their resume rather than giving the client something appropriate. Either that, or a manager was in charge of the feature spec, and demanded all the latest buzzwords that they had heard but didn’t understand. I’m betting it took more than a year to build. Feel free to speculate.

I’m also willing to bet the price on this site was more than the $50,000 it should have cost (one person, three months). I’m imagining about two or three orders of magnitude more. I’m figuring the servers required for this aren’t running in some guy’s bedroom, even though that would be about all that’s required for such a simple dataset that’s presented in such a straightforward way.

Must try harder.

iPad thoughts

Some thoughts on the iPad.

It looks like a giant iPhone. Having no lid to cover up the screen seems odd.

Some are ripping into its faults, including no iBook feature outside the USA (at least initially), no camera, no USB port, no memory card reader, no Flash support, no multitasking. Yikes.

But I do love the comments about the screen being bigger than an iPod/iPhone, like this is some revelation nobody thought of before.

“A larger screen means that games can be more immersive, as well as allowing for higher detail and bigger animations,” said Peters.

A bigger screen! Amazing!

You mean… just like every other notebook or desktop computer out there?

But hey, it does look pretty nice. I bet lots of people buy them.

I bet it could be almost as successful as the Apple Newton. *grin*

Microsoft Laser Mouse 7000 Recharging Problems

I love Microsoft hardware, regardless of what you think of their operating systems it’s hard to argue they make good mice and keyboards. I bought a new mouse yesterday – a Microsoft Laser Mouse 7000 and left it to charge up overnight but this morning I found it hadn’t. The charge light was flashing red, instead of pulsing green (recharging) or solid green (recharged).

A search shows that this model has problems with its supplied battery. I tried the quick fix for the Microsoft laser mouse not recharging, putting a folded piece of paper on top of the battery to make it press on the battery detector, but this didn’t work for me. A new battery, somewhat thicker than the one supplied by Microsoft gave an initial green glow before it too started flashing red.

If you want to know what battery works with the mouse try an Energiser Rechargeable 900mAh. It has a slightly longer positive terminal and slightly larger girth. The mouse is now recharging fine.

Google vs China

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

— Google blog: A new approach to China