HTTP/2… why you should care!

HTTP/2 (originally named HTTP/2.0) is the second major version of the HTTP network protocol used by the World Wide Web”

Now we have that out of the way, there are a few reasons to take notice of this and a few things you may want to do in order to take advantage of it.

What is wrong with normal HTTP?

HTTP is old… in terms of the Internet it is very very old indeed. It was standardised in 1997, when a lot of web developers were still learning learning to walk! It did the job, but as websites became bigger and more complex it was a constant struggle to get the site to display at a reasonable speed, even with modern high-speed connections.

The crux of the issue is the fact that sites are made up of lots of files and the HTTP protocol only allows a certain amount of transfers at the same time. This increased over time but there has always been the situation whereby files sat in a queue waiting to be downloaded by the browser.

What web developers started to do was use techniques such as merging multiple CSS files into a single one, using CSS sprites so icons were downloaded in a single file. All this to get around the queueing system. There was also the problem that if some files got “stuck” then everything else had to wait in line, causing very erratic behaviour at times.

How does HTTP/2 help?

HTTP/2 does away with the queuing system by using something called multiplexing. Without going into the finer details it basically means that browsers can download a lot more content at the same time (if the browser and server both use HTTP/2) and things should perform a lot faster.

Server pushing is also used in order to speed up the rendering experience. In the pre HTTP/2 world the browser downloads the full HTML page first, then starts grabbing the assets it needs such as CSS files and javascript. With HTTP/2 the server is able to send over files it knows the client needs into the cache, so by the time the HTML file is loaded the assets files have also started to arrive. Add in header compression and you have a much more streamlined method of loading pages

So what’s the catch?

While technically there is no requirement for encryption to use HTTP/2, several implementations have said they will only support HTTP/2 over a TLS encrypted connection. There are several reasons for this, which may or may not change over time, but for now you must use an HTTPS connection to take advantage of HTTP/2.

What this means to most users is they must have an SSL certificate for their domain, if not their users will get nasty messages about unsecured connections and/or mixed content.

Should I use HTTP/2?

Google have already stated they are starting to give sites using HTTPS a slight advantage in the ranking mechanism, so now is a good time to at least consider using HTTP/2 for your sites.

That said, HTTP/2 is very new and currently only supported by a hand full of hosts. For now if you convert your site to use HTTPS you will be in good shape to enable HTTP/2 as soon as it is supported on your host, and thus take advantage of a very real boost in performance!

A new beginning

I’ll keep this short, as considering my last post was in 2010 the likelihood of anyone even seeing this is fairly remote.

I’ll also refrain from writing a “I promise to post more often” post. The posts stopped in 2010 as I ran out of interesting things to write about. Since then I have developed an interest in photography, as well as my ongoing interest in all things technology based. I decided to give this blog a new lease of life, while keeping the old content as it still does get some traffic now and again, believe it or not!

If this new enthusiasm does work out then I will be writing about photography, cameras, technology, but especially the Synergy between these topics, covering aspects that will hopefully interest those with similar interests to me, such as backups, editing, printing, as well as anything else that springs to mind.

So… fingers crossed, no promises, but if anyone does read this please drop me a comment and say hi!

Jim

OCZ Vortex 2 SSD – The need for speed

I have been running a 17″ i7 Macbook Pro since it was release earlier this year. Ever since I got it I have been waiting for the price of SSD’s to come down so I could swap out the 500Gb hard drive with an SSD drive and put the 500Gb drive into the optical bay.

Yesterday my 120Gb OCZ Vortex 2E SSD drive was delivered and all I can say is WOW, this thing is fast. OSX now boots in just over 10 seconds and Photoshop launches in 3 seconds flat! This thing is EPIC!

SSD drives are amazingly fast but the price is quite high so the best way to configure the system is to have your Operating System on the SSD drive along with you applications, then have your home directory (profile) on the normal hard drive. This means you can load your original hard drive up with your massive video and picture files, while using the SSD drive for things that will really benefit from the speed.

If you are really short of memory (RAM) then it is always worth upgrading, but providing you have a relatively modern computer (with a decent disk controller) then an SSD drive is far and away the best bang for the buck!

How to stop iWeb putting your site in a subfolder

First of all, feel free to skip to the end for the solution. Please leave a comment if this helped you in any way (or not).

My Dad recently bought a Mac and designed a website in iWeb. When it came to publish the site I configured it and hit “publish”. Up popped a message telling me that the site was now live at “<sitename>.com/site”. Mmm I thought, I must have made a mistake when configuring it. I went back and checked the settings and found in actual fact this is “just the way it works”

Rubbish!

I Googled the situation and found that using the only way people were getting around this issue was to upload their website in an FTP client like Cyberduck. All well and good, but hardly the most tidy solution.

I decided to go about this a different way, by telling the server that instead of looking in the “www” folder as the root of the site, it should instead look inside the “site” folder.

This was achieved by creating a “.htaccess” file inside “www” (or “public_html” as it may be). You need to edit the next bit to fit your site, but you get the idea:

RewriteEngine on
#
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} yoursite\.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/site
RewriteRule (.*) /site/$1 [L]

Note: make sure you keep the slashes the way they are, they look odd but they are needed.
This simply tells the server to look inside the iWeb created folder whenever anyone goes to your site. Set this up once and you should be able to forget about it from then on, it just works.

I hope this helps people resolve an issue that really should not be there in the first place. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Social media spamming

Social media has been embraced by businesses small and large. It is great to see this and it is wonderful to see an interaction between supplier and provider that we have never seen before. All of a sudden it seems like companies actually do care what people are saying about them and they do care about their issues.

Unfortunately this embracing of social media also seems to be being abused. Time and time again I am seeing tweets such as :

“Win an iPad, simply retweet #SpammingCompany”

Really? Would people really do this?

It seems they will.

All of a sudden there are tweet after tweets going out with said companies advert. Whichever way you slice it, this is spam. It is an advert from a company that people did not sign up to receive.

Would these same people be so quick to send out the companies advert to all their friends email addresses if there was the carrot of a “free ipad”? Would they spam their friends in traditional methods? Possibly, but I think a lot of people would think twice about it.

It is a shame that companies are abusing social media in this way. If every company started behaving like this then Twitter would end up with such spam-noise that it will cease to be useful/interesting/engaging, and all you will get is tweet after tweet of people begging for iPads/iPhones etc.

Yes, it is very cheap advertising for a company, and gets the word out very quickly, but it is not what social media is for, and de-values the content on the social media platform.

#RantOver

Jailbreak for ALL IPHONES coming soon

It looks like a member of the Dev Team called pod2g has discovered a vulnerability in the booting mechanism for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices meaning that a jailbreak for iOS 4.1 is just around the corner.

The Dev Team have been producing jailbreaks for the iOS devices for a long while, but what makes this exploit extra special is it is hardware based, meaning that Apple cannot simply update the Operating System and fix it. Any of the aforementioned devices can (and will always be able to) be jailbroken.

This is a major coup for the jailbreaking community, as there has been talk of Apple clamping down on jailbreaking and making it much harder to do.

One thing that may hamper their future efforts is the advent of the Gaming community on iOS. This is something that has enforced legality in the gaming community in the past, as once a device has been detected as being exploited it could (in theory) be black listed from the gaming service. That said, if they had the ability to do that with games, then they also have that ability in Apps too, but as yet Apple have not played that card.

Some cynical people also believe that behind the scenes Apple don’t really mind the jailbreaking going on, providing the majority stay towing the Apple line.

Rumour has it the jailbreak will be with us within a day or so.

New iTunes 10 logo – by Paul, age 5 and a half

I sat down to watch the Apple presentation last week, interested to see what new products and software releases Apple are coming out with. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the new iTunes 10 logo.

Now I am not one to get all upset about these things like a lot of people on Twitter/Facebook/Forums etc, but as soon as it came up on the big screen I just LOL’d (yes, it really WAS out loud!). This thing looks like it was designed by an (underachieving) school kid. The first “web 2.0” tutorial I saw on the web did a better job of making a logo look good.

I can see why they wanted a new logo. The old one has a picture of a CD, and let’s face it, when was the last time we consumed music via CD (yes, I know there’s always one!)?

I could understand if they replaced the CD with an iPod or something. I can even understand the use of a musical note, but this is your bog standard “gel button” with a flat note dumped on it with a bit of glow added for good measure.

I saw a tweet where someone recommended a replacement icon, and immediately you can see it took more than 5 minutes to design:

http://dribbble.com/shots/51446-iTunes-10-Replacement-Icon

At first glance you can see straight away it is a lot more modern (dare I say it, “funky”!) and also encompasses the social media angle of the new Ping service. This icon would not look out of place on any Mac Dock.

I was trying to think how on earth this gel icon go the thumbs up and the only thing I can think of is Steve designed it. I have seen it time and time again where a client thinks they know best. I am sure a lot of you have too. You know the conversation…. “can you make my logo BIGGER?!”.

This has to be a similar situation, and we all know that at Apple nobody argues with Steve Jobs (not for long anyway).

I’d love to hear peoples views on this issue, as I am sure there are many, but looking at the amount of blog posts that have popped up discussing this it is quite clear what people think of it.

I just find it bizarre that a company founded on (and obsessed with) the fit and finish of their products can produce something as laughable as this.

I sense an iTunes 10.1 around the corner, with a slightly more polished logo 😀

How to stop people linking to your images

It is often infuriating when you find people linking to your images online. Firstly they are stealing your bandwidth, and while this may or may not be a problem depending on your host (and the popularity of the site doing the stealing) it is just not polite.

Secondly there is the issue of copyright theft, people using your images without permission, often giving the impression they own, or even created them, themselves. Again, depending on the site/person doing the stealing it may or may not be an issue.

There are a few ways of dealing with this, I will go into just a few of them in this post.

Firstly, you really want to establish whether or not the person linking you image is doing it deliberately and whether they know it is wrong. The first move is usually to simply ask them to remove it.

If you establish this is a deliberate act there are some options open to you:

  • Legal (mostly over the top and expensive)
  • Pass on the responsibility (i.e. ask their ISP to remove the site for copyright infringement)
  • Revenge (will go into this later)
  • Prevention (Instructions below)

I will explain the above points one by one:

Legal

I am not a fan of premature legal action, I think it is often over the top and unnecessary. It is nice to have the option to hand but I would personally keep it as a last resort.

Pass on the responsibility

This is often a good low-effort way of dealing with things. ISP’s don’t like lawyers and they also don’t “usually” know if you are one. If you drop them an email asking them to remove the offending site due to copyright infringement (or even better drop them a letter) then they will often act pretty quickly. This really does depend on the ISP though, so there are mixed results for this method.

Revenge

If you are SURE they are doing it deliberately stealing your images then follow these steps to make their eyes water (or just give them bad press)

  1. Rename your image
  2. Change the link in your HTML to match the new name (so it looks the same on your site)
  3. Change the image (e.g. boat.jpg) to an image of something “different” (you know what I mean)

As long as the linked image has the same filename then people going to the offending site will no longer see the picture of a “boat” but will either see a jpg with your own message or an image of your choice 😉

Prevention

This way is usually the best way of preventing people linking your images (it won’t prevent them stealing them though, but that is another issue)

As long as you have an Apache server (most are) then put a file called “.htaccess” (don’t forget the dot!) into your images folder.

Add the following lines to it, and save it:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ - [F]

With this in place, any gif or jpg images linked from anywhere other than your site will fail to display.

Like doctors often say, prevention is best. I do agree with this, but I also believe “revenge is sweet” 😀

Is Facebook overstepping the privacy mark?

Facebook status’s and Twitter feeds have been set alight over the past couple of weeks surrounding Facebooks “Instant personalisation pilot programme” and “What your friends can share about you” settings.

For those who don’t already know, Facebook has made changes to the settings (defaults) that mean not only do you get to share (or not share) your information with the world, unless you actively go in and change the default settings your friends can share your information on your behalf.

It is all part of Facebooks plan to know everything about everyone, based on a persons friends and their taste in music, clothes etc..etc.. The problem is it is impossible to develop such a model without some form of invasion of privacy and Facebook seems to have battered down the privacy door in order to move forward.

It is one thing having the ability to share your information with the world, but to default it to on (and add default on settings to previously secured accounts) is not good.

Facebook has been criticised for having an over complicated security model, such that you have to dig deep into menus in order to find the settings you need to turn off. It has improved a little over the past year, but not nearly enough.

The funny thing is I read “The Accidental Billionaires” (the story of Facebook) a few months back and the way Mark Zuckerburg is portrayed (rightly or wrongly) it is absolutely not surprising that Facebook act this way.

I wonder if there was a viable alternative to Facebook if their numbers would take a hit? I know a lot of key figures who are cancelling their Facebook accounts, but I guess the general public are just not aware that their privacy is being given away. It is no wonder that Zuckerburg defends Facebook by stating that they are loved by the public, it is just the bloggers and the media that are on their back.

Anyway…

If you want to secure your account you need to do the following:

Go into :

account > privacy settings > Apps and settings > What your friends can share about you

untick all the boxes (if you dont want your friends sharing your info)

Then go back to privacy settings and into Instant personalisation pilot programme

Untick the box

Now, to be completely secure you must visit each of these pages and select “block” (on the left)

Microsoft Docs.comPandoraYelp

That should do it for now. If Facebook sneak in any more defaults I will post what you need to do to turn them off.

Macbook Pro – Delivered (finally)

I ordered a 17″ Macbook Pro on the day the new models were released. Due to speccing it with different hardware it had to be custom built in China. Not a problem usually, but then again there isn’t “usually” a volcano spitting ask all over Europe.

Deliveries halted last week and seeing my Macbook Pro was sitting air-side in Shanghai I had resigned myself to not getting my new machine until next week. However, UPS seem to have come up trumps and my MBP is now sitting at home, just over 24 hours after it was the other side of the world.

It took quite a route to get here though, and I am astounded how it managed to get here so quickly.

I am quick to bash companies for bad service, but on this occasion “well done UPS” 🙂