Links and Antilinks

Sympathies and Idiosyncrasies

This page is dedicated to commented links. Every single link on this page will be motivated. That is why there are so few links here initially. You may not agree with me, but at least you will know my opinion.
In my other files on specific subjects I have quite a number of links given in context. I see no reason to repeat them here.

Usability

Usability is a question of whether a web site can be used for its purpose. It sounds simple and the implementation often looks simple. But it is a fact that most web sites have extremely low usability. They are simply not designed with the users in mind, but with the designers or owners in mind. Strange!
But there is one usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, from whom I have learned a lot. Most of his advices are fairly simple and straight forward to implement. Many of his early advices are now accepted as common sense, but in the early days web designers hated him, because he spotted right away when they designed for themselves and not for the users. Jakob Nielsen has written a number of books and reports, but he also publishes a bi-weekly Alert Bulletin wtih a summary of good advice in a particular area. Free and prosperous reading. You can subscribe at his web site http://www.useit.com.

Microsoft

Microsoft is one of my main idiosyncrasies. I simply love internet and its potential. But I hate what M$ is doing to it. Admittedly, some of M$'s products are world-class, but certainly not all. And M$ never invented one single technology that made internet what it is today. Despite this, M$ has created a de-facto monopoly in more and more areas, not only in personal computers, but also on the internet. And if you love the internet, its capabilities and potential, it is about time you start to worry. You want examples? Okay, here are a few:

M$ started off by knocking Netscape out of the browser market. How did they do it? By making Internet Explorer free of charge and including it as a part of their operating system sitting on top of 95% of all PC's. One monopoly was used to create another. But why? It's fairly simple: M$ wants to controls the users' portal to the network. How will M$ then exploit that control? Well, you can look at what they have done so far. First step was to accept keywords in the URI (address) field of the browser. If you supply a keyword instead of an address, M$ will lead you to its own search engine MSN. Note here that although IE is highly configurable, there is no way for you to configure e.g. Google as the preferred search engine for this function, although Google is far superior to MSN in every aspect. The reason for this became evident when M$ joined forces with the company Realnames to sell these keywords. Now companies could buy these keywords and have users redirected to their own home page, bypassing the choices of the search engine. Happily enough, this initiative failed because companies were simply not willing to invest large sums in this conspiracy. Microsoft failed, but the strategy was clear and it was certainly not beneficial for the users and for the open nature of the internet. But M$ never stops. The next initiative in the same area is called Passport (part of M$'s .net strategy). The selling argument of Passport is that users can personalize the use of internet and access the net in this personalized fashion wherever they are. Nice, ain't it? The catch is exactly the same as with the keywords. Microsoft is the spider of the Passport. You will not be able to use Passport without passing through M$ controlled areas of the internet. And guess what happens, if they succeed.

Microsoft's strategy seems to be the creation of monopolies in key areas. When the strategy succeeds, one monopoly will be used to create others. And any single monopoly will be abused to the benefit of M$, while causing damage to the open nature of the internet and its population.

Another issue with Microsoft is security. The close and undocumented integration between Microsoft's own products seems to leave room for no other competitors - except for viruses. You don't believe me? Take a look at this report from CCIA: www.ccianet.org/papers/cyberinsecurity.pdf.[1]

Programs

This section is dedicated to programs that I can warmly recommend.

Mozilla (www.mozilla.org) is a true and worthy descendant of the old famous Netscape web browser that was deliberately driven out of the market by M$ Internet Explorer. Mozilla is fully functional, highly standard compliant and reasonably fast. In addition it is open source and freeware. Bravo. In particular, I like the Firefox version based on the same engine as Mozilla. A simple and user-friendly browser loaded with valuable features and extensions.

Opera (www.opera.com) is an extremely fast web browser with a small footprint. In the most recent versions (7.xx) it is highly standard compliant. An interesting feature is Opera's ability to display well behaved web pages on small alternative devices such as PDA's. Opera is not open source, but freeware in the more recent versions.

Pegasus Mail (www.pmail.com) is one of the oldest e-mail clients still around. It started on top of Novell Netware, but has since survived quite a few platform changes. It may not contain bleeding edge technologies, but it is highly configurable, secure and controllable by the user. It is and has always been freeware.

Spam is one of the negative consequences of being present on the Internet. I receive some 100 spam messages per day, so I get my share. I have found that learning spam filters based on bayesian methods are a good countermeasure. These methods were only recently introduced and are still being refined. Thus, few programs are really effective. I have taken a particular liking in Robin Keir's program K9 (www.keir.net/k9.html). When used as interface between my ISP and Pegasus it has had an efficiency of 99,6% in recognition of spam over a period of three years. Remarkable.

Agent (www.forteinc.com) is an old newsreader that has had its ups and downs. But it has always had a loyal user community. It is fast and rich in functionality, but not always strictly logic in its operation. Remember the good old WordPerfect 5.1? Agent is the WordPerfect 5.1 among newsreaders. Recently support has improved, but so has the commercialism of the owner. Agent comes in two versions, one is freeware, the other is shareware. Registration costs appr. 30$.

Although WYSIWYG editors for HTML code are easy and efficient, they tend to break your code. Nowadays I do most of my editing in UltraEdit (www.ultraedit.com). It has numerous editing features, it is rock stable and it can make systematic changes for you across many files. UltraEdit is shareware, registration costs 35$.

For simple graphics display and editing, IrfanView (www.irfanview.com) is second to none. It handles almost any graphics format you can think of. It makes browsing of graphics files an easy task. An enthusiastic user community has contributed with numerous brilliant plug-ins that increase the functionality and quality of the product, e.g. loss free rotation and cropping of JPEG files. IrfanView is freeware. Highly recommendable.

Professional Archive Searches

If you really want to know about your Danish and Norwegian ancestors, chances are that you need professional assistance. But where do you find the right qualified and credible researchers? I know a couple of academic historians covering the Danish archives and the archives of Trondheim. They are both highly experienced in archive searches and acknowledged for their expertise in former times' handwriting.

In Copenhagen you find the historian Michael Dupont. Together with a partner he has formed the company arkivaren.com (www.arkivaren.com) specializing in genealogical searches for public institutions, companies and private people searching for their ancestors and relatives.

In Trondheim the archives cover Middle and Northern Norway. Here you find the historian Kåre Hasselberg with many years of experience in archive searches for his own research and for private customers. Read more on mr. Hasselberg's homepage (home.no.net/khasselb/english.htm).

Bed & Breakfast

What does B&B have to do with genealogy? Nothing really, except perhaps when you need a place to sleep on your genealogy trips. But I can't resist making some marketing for this charming way of travelling. We have used B&B intensely in Great Britain, where a lot of people open their homes for visitors. But other countries are swiftly catching up.

Can you hold on to a secret? Here it is: If you are ever visiting the wonderful medieval city of Bruges in Belgium, do yourself the favour of sleeping at 't Koetshuis (gastenkamer.be, E-mail info hos gastenkamer.be). In a former horse stable in the center of the medieval city the hosts Barbara and Bernard have made the most charming B&B. There is a common dining and sitting room with an open fireplace and a terrace directly to the city park area. On first floor, there are two separate double rooms, each with its own bath room and spa. All things considered, this is the most charming B&B we have visited. Not cheap, but highly recommendable.


Notes:

1: The report was published in September 2003. It created quite some noise, not only because of its controversial contents, but in particular due to the credibility of its authors. Which, by the way, was no obstacle for the monopoly: The main author Daniel Geer was Chief Technical Officer of the security company @stake. No more so. He was sacked due to this report whose "values and attitudes were not in line with the policy of the company". Do I need to mention that Microsoft is on the customer reference list of @stake? The Empire Strikes Back! [back]

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