links for 2007-08-29

2.7 Billion Served: Mobile Phone Usage Dwarves Everything Else

Cameron Moll’s new book on Mobile Web Design points to an enlightening article by Alan Moore in which he compares mobile phone adoption to other technologies. The key paragraph:

Now we have context. 800 million cars, 850 million personal computers, 1.3 B fixed landline phones, 1.4 billion credit cards, 1.5 billion TV sets. How many mobile phones in use today? In use today, yes, 2.7 billion (technically 2.7 billion in January, not December). They sold 950 million phones last year and the total worldwide mobile subscriber base grew from 2.1 billion to 2.7 billion. Three times as many mobile phones as automobiles or personal computers. About twice as many mobile phone owners as those of fixed landline phones or credit cards. And almost twice as many mobile phones in use as TV sets.

2.7 billion. That’s a staggering statistic. Add to that the buzz around the iPhone and rumors of both a Google and possibly a Yahoo phone, and it isn’t possible to ignore the mobile web any longer.

I’m excited. So much opportunity for new discovery, new applications, and ways to make people’s lives better.

Internet Explorer Doesn’t Support HTTP

I was recently pointed to an article on an obscure IE bug that occurs if you name a textarea “tags”. This reminded me of an IE bug that plagued us for months. We solved it when we find a Microsoft Knowledge base article acknowledging that Internet Explorer does not fully support HTTP. Yes, that’s right. Microsoft still does not support the core protocol of the web.

Here is the scenario:

Some Internet Explorer users were encountering problems downloading files from links sent via email. Clicking on the link from the email would not work; however, visiting a web page that linked to the same location and then downloading the file worked.

When we replicated this problem, we could see the file delivered from our servers correctly and a temporary file put in Internet Explorer’s cache for the download. Internet Explorer then starts another application like Acrobat Reader to open the file. Internet Explorer then deletes the temporary file from the cache before the third party application can open the file. Because the file no longer exists, Internet Explorer displays an error message that says:

“Internet Explorer cannot download from the Internet site [filename] from [site].”

In the specific case of downloading files via links sent in email, we believe we have identified the underlying problem. Under some circumstances, Internet Explorer is unable to handle proper usage of an HTTP Header called Vary. An exhaustive examination of the problem can be found here:

This is a bug in that only occurs in Internet Explorer. All other browsers handle the HTTP specification correctly. Microsoft has been aware of the problem since 1999, and instead of fixing it to support the full HTTP specification, Microsoft implemented a hack that works most of the time, but fails in certain circumstances. In fact, Microsoft’s own knowledge base acknowledges that Internet Explorer is at fault when it comes to this issue. The knowledge base states that Internet Explorer does not support the HTTP specification fully:

My hope is that by documenting our findings will help someone else from needlessly trying to troubleshoot the same issue.

links for 2007-08-26

Project Management and the Illusion of Agreement

This weekend I’ve been revisiting Project Management philosophies. I had someone ask me recently whether or not I subscribe to RUP and used UML. I had forgotten what RUP stood for and while I’ve been exposed to UML, we haven’t used it much.

In fact, I was discussing with our program manager yesterday about the difference between project management focused on internal projects and those on customer projects. In the case of internal projects, you are primarily managing cost and resources towards a specific deadline.

Managing customer projects is about managing customers first. Without agreement with the customer and in particular, participation from the customer to deliver on their portions of the project, the other portions of the project won’t happen. More often than not, if a project is delayed, the delay comes from the customer side, not the developer side.

All of this reminded me of two images that sum up the challenges of project management on customer projects:

How do you manage projects? Selecting the right process for the project and organization is very important. Managing and communicating with customers is the key.

Finding Peace in the Middle East

Selena points out a new game called Peacemaker. The game places you in the position of trying to find a path to peace between Israel and Palestine.

I can’t wait to try this game. My favorite class at the University of Oregon was an Honors College course on the Rhetoric of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Each student was assigned a leader involved in the Middle East discussion—Israeli, Palestinian, and even U.N. and U.S. representatives.

We studied our leader’s beliefs, concerns, and politics throughout the course while working towards a term paper that was to encapsulate the assigned leader’s view of the world.

All of this research was actually groundwork for the final which was a mock peace conference. We were to negotiate peace during the final three class sessions. Within 10 minutes of starting our conference, talks had broken down and the U.N. representatives were scurrying between rooms trying to get us to return to the table.

I believe our major accomplishment was the fact that we returned to talks. We never came to any solution.

I’ve often thought about this experience when I’ve heard other people talk about how ridiculous the conflict is and how they should just split the land in half and move on. We tend to think of the conflict as being an easy thing to solve.

It isn’t. Twenty college students with nothing on the line except our researched beliefs barely could agree to sit at the same table. Peace won’t come easily.

So I’m very pleased to hear that there is a game that attempts to share the difficulty solving these issues and that educators are looking into incorporating this into their curriculum. My experience changed my perspective in profound ways. If the game can capture only a fraction of that experience, it will be worth it.