Firefox beats Internet Explorer

Whilst browsing through the data collected for this blog by Google Analytics in December, I noticed that for the first month ever (well, since February when I started hosting the blog myself) that Firefox has been used by more visitors than Internet Explorer:

Firefox beats IE

Only by a small margin, but interesting nonetheless. With Firefox 3 in beta and the next version of IE a good way off, it will be intriguing to see if this trend continues in 2008. Admittedly this is a small blog and therefore a small sample size. The nature of the visitors here is probably slightly more inclined towards using Firefox (or Safari or others) than IE anyway.

Update: Actually, with the inclusion of December 31st, IE snuck back into the lead by 3 visits.

Next to last

The three online banking facilities I have access to (one UK, two Irish which is another post in itself…) all require me to have a passcode of variable length which they use as a form of wish-it-was-two-factor authentication. They each have a different approach to how to enter it: one asks me to select three numbers at random from drop down boxes with the other numbers represented by ‘*’, whilst the other two just ask me to enter three of the numbers by keyboard into three provided entry fields. Obviously the numbers requested differ on each login attempt.

What they are trying to guard against is the ability for key loggers or other such malicious software being able to read the numbers entered. Hence the drop down box approach to encourage use of the mouse rather than keyboard, the mouse being harder to track.

The subject of this post leads to an interesting technique used by the UK bank. Instead of asking for numbers 1, 3 and 6; or 2, 4, and 5 it asks for first, third and last; or second, fourth and next to last. The help for said bank actually states that “next to last” is an attempt to help mask the length of the passcode. The thing is ever since they introduced this it has been very noticeable that “next to last” seems to get asked for a lot. The question though: is this because it is actually being asked for more than the other numbers because the code behind the site knows that this is a special case number and that influences the “randomness” or is it simply because it stands out more and I just think it pops up more often?

Xbox Live and moving country – don’t

Whilst the kids in Redmond have done a great job in turning XBox Live into the best console online gaming community, the backroom staff who support it in terms of billing need a kick up the proverbial.

Since moving to Ireland from the UK I’ve not got around to updating my XBox Live account. It is registered against my UK credit card, which gets used whenever my membership gets renewed or I buy stuff from the Marketplace. My old card has expired and in any case I no longer want to use a UK card for such purposes. Hence, yesterday I attempted to update my details on XBox Live. Go to change of address, enter new details, but there is nowhere to change your country. Hmm. Try on the web at billing.microsoft.com – again you can edit everything but the country. Phone up XBox Live support and speak to a person who puts me on hold for 5 minutes to come back and tell me that it can’t be done. Proclaim surprise that nobody designing the billing system ever considered that people may move (but then again I expect it was designed by and primarily for North Americans) Ask to speak to a supervisor: “Yes sir, please take down this reference number and give it to the person after I transfer you” Erm, so you can’t even flow my details along with my call, thought that was a basic piece of call-center functionality these days. Whilst on hold for 10 minutes for the supervisor I do some googling and (unsurprisingly) find loads of blog entries about the same problem. Figure that it probably isn’t worth spending any more money on hold to the UK (or at least the virtual UK if you know what I mean) to speak to the supervisor who may never pick up.

It appears that the only way to legitimately move countries with XBox live is to cancel your account and start a new one. The problem here Bill is that I’ve invested time and effort into building up a social community with my current gamertag (which by the way I’ve had since XBox Live was in beta five years ago and I don’t appear to have received any of the free marketplace points you were meant to give me on the anniversary…) and not insignificant time registering my progress on games in the form of gamerpoints. I’m not going to throw all that away. So, it appears that I now have to rely on buying pre-paid vouchers whenever I am in the UK so that I have a stock of marketplace points available should I actually want to buy anything from your service. Oh, and when it comes around to time to renew my Gold subscription I’ll have to make sure I have a voucher for that as well.

Now you are launching things like the video store, encouraging me to spend more money with you. Would be nice if you could actually make it easy for me. Sorry, I thought this was the globalised 21st Century. Obviously I was wrong.

Lotus Connections team blog

I’ve tended not to use this blog to talk about work much, so I’ll gladly point readers off to a new blog from the Lotus Connections product team: Synch.rono.us

I work with Suzanne, Joe and David on Lotus Connections and they are just the right people to bring you news and insight into where the product is going, and how it may benefit you if you happen to be looking for a social software platform for the enterprise. You never know, I might pop up there now and again with a guest entry!