January 28, 2006
A Mouse to Watch Over Us
Want to be the first to know when your site is down? Wouldn't it be great to have a chance to address outages before your client or boss or customers find out about it?
If you are running Tiger (Mac OS X.4.x), WatchMouse provides a free website monitoring Dashboard widget that visits your website on a schedulable basis, graphs availability over the last 72 hours, and notifies you when reachability becomes a problem. Notification is via a pop-up browser window reporting resolve, connect and download times from up to 20 test servers worldwide.
WatchMouse hopes you'll like the free service so much that you'll spring for one of their advanced monitoring package subscriptions, offered in pricing tiers appropriate for smaller to corporate organizations.
Not on Tiger? You can still run availability spot checks as follows:
With WatchMouse's Check Host form, you can query the same servers used by the widget. For convenience, I've created a WatchMouse Check Host bookmarklet—just drag the WatchMouse Check Host link to your Bookmarks bar, navigate to a site to test, and click on the link to generate your report.
I find the above useful when a client complains about availability, and yet their site responds well from my end. If WatchMouse shows good connectivity from locations all over the world, then I can infer the problem is most likely localized to our client's connection.
January 21, 2006
Mac WMP, RIP. Meet Flip4Mac
Following Microsoft's EOL for the Mac version of Internet Explorer, a further withdrawal from the Mac market with the quiet ending of Windows Media development for that platform. Unlike Mac IE, which will become unavailable for download at the end of this month, Microsoft will continue to offer the player through its website.
In an interesting move, Microsoft teamed up with Telestream to provide a free Windows Media component for Apple's QuickTime technology. Telestream's Flip4Mac WMV allows Windows Media 9 and earlier content to be played using the QuickTime Player and plug-in.
According to an AP news item published in the Boston Herald, Microsoft states that playback performance for some Windows Media content within QuickTime will be better than when played through Mac Windows Media Player, which had not been updated since its release in Nov. 2003.
I've recently used the Import version of the Flip4Mac component to perform WMV conversion to QuickTime and it's worked well for that purpose. I did notice some odd behavior after installation which I hadn't explored until now...
NOTE: If you've already installed the Flip4Mac component and then updated QuickTime, you'll want to download the latest version of Flip4Mac that addresses problems with the most recent QuickTime release.
Browser behavior: Safari users will always view Windows Media content via the QuickTime plug-in, however, Firefox users will view the same content through the Windows Media plug-in, if present. If you are currently using plug-in detection to present Windows Media content, keep this in mind as Safari and Mac Firefox users may actually be able to view this content without having the Windows Media Player installed and therefore may be locked out of your content.
DRM: Flip4Mac doesn't support Digital Rights Management for Windows Media content. While Telestream hopes to work something out with Microsoft, If you subscribe to protected content from the likes of Napster or Yahoo!, you'll want to keep the Microsoft player handy and use Firefox for your viewing.
January 3, 2006
Mac IE, RIP
December 31st marked the end-of-life date for the once-great Macintosh version of Internet Explorer, which Jeffrey Zeldman hailed nearly six years ago in Why IE5/Mac Matters, as " the first shipping web browser to meaningfully support two key standards: HTML 4, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1".
Sadly, Microsoft killed the Mac IE project shortly after Apple announced their own browser in January 2003, and as standards evolved and newer, more-compliant browsers became available, Mac IE eventually became a browser no one, not even it's parent, wanted to support.
After January 31st, Microsoft will no longer offer Mac IE 5.x for download. If you have clients who are still hanging on to Mac IE, perhaps because they are stubborn or haven't been able to transition to OS X, you might want to download a build for your archive before it's too late. [OS X, OS 8.1/9]