Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Badware. Harumph..

As if spam wasn't bad enough.

I can't tell you how much time I spend clearing out fake reviews of websites on net-guide, because working it out would scare me about much time I spend doing it.

Now net-guide has a health warning on Google, thanks to someone hacking the website to distribute badware.

I've sorted the issue out, so feel free to browse without fear of infection. But net-guide will suffer from a dip in traffic and a blow to the brand because of it.

OK, maybe I could have made it more secure. But I shouldn't have to.

Still, lesson learned the hard way. Onwards and onwards...


Monday, April 28, 2008

Gene therapy breakthrough for sight

BBC News is reporting an interesting story about a young man who has had his sight restored following gene therapy.

This treatment is at a very early stage, and has only been tried with a total of three patients, of which only one has benefited from significant improvement to their sight.

Gene therapy remains an exciting prospect however, precisely because it is at such an early stage of development. Who knows what conditions will be treatable in the future?

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Anywhere, anytime...

I discovered a new web-based screen reader today. This new program, called WebAnywhere, sounds like it could be quite exciting.

Because WebAnywhere is browser based, no software needs to be installed on a computer. That means that a user isn't tied in to a specific computer. It can be used at a friends house or in an internet cafe - on any computer, so long as it has a sound card.

There are similar screen reader programs out there already. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of choice.

WebAnywhere is scheduled for an alpha release - which is the earliest stage of development - at the end of May. In the meantime, the website has more information about what WebAnywhere can do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CAPTCHA Killer and MySpace

Here is - at least in theory anyway - an interesting tool for bypassing CAPTCHAs.

CAPTCHAs are images of words designed to block spam robots. The problem with CAPTCHAs is that they cannot be interpreted by screen reader software users, and so also block these people from registering with websites, commenting on blogs, and so on.

CAPTCHA Killer attempts to process these images and give visually impaired users a solution get to past them. Although before you all rush out to try it, from reading the comments on the website, it seems buggy at best. Much applause for trying to do this, and I hope a working version appears soon.

One other interesting thing I noticed on the CAPTCHA killer website - MySpace prohibit its use on their website. I'd like to know why. It does seem rather vindictive not just bar visually impaired users from the website by using CAPTCHAs in the first place, but to then stop them from using a solution to gain access to the website.

MySpace would be much better to follow the way that Facebook helps people with a CAPTCHA issue. When registering, someone can use their mobile phone to verify that they are indeed a person and not an automated spam program. MySpace has the resources to implement a similar solution, after all.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Edge Upstarts Award 2008 nomination

I'm happy to report that net-guide has been nominated for the Social Enterprise of the Year category in the Edge Upstarts Award 2008. Which is nice.

You can take a look at the net-guide entry, and if you want to, make your thoughts known about about net-guide under the nomination.

Take a look at some of the other enterprises whilst you are there as well. Competition looks tough, as there are some excellent projects to read about.

It is open to anyone to make a nomination, so if there are other social enterprises that you think deserve recognition, then you can recommend them whether you are connected to them or not.

The shortlist is will be announced later in the Summer.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

nip and tuck job for net-guide

Some of you may have noticed that net-guide is a little different today.

We've given it a bit of a face lift. We've re-designed it to be simpler, cleaner, and well, a bit prettier and more modern.

Cosmetic changes aside, we have now introduced a range of colour schemes to make it easier to read for some people. There is a high contrast option for partially sighted visitors, as well as blue and cream colour combinations for any users who like an alternative to black and white - visitors with dyslexia, for instance. Or for anyone who just likes a change. I've been using the high contrast version, just because I really like it.

If you find any changes that you either like or that cause you a problem, do leave a comment below or email us via net-guide proper. I'm especially keen to hear about any problems, funnily enough. It is important to us to get it right.

This is just the first change in what is going to be a year of significant improvements to net-guide. So keep your eyes open for more development news as 2008 marches on.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Faller at the first hurdle

3.55 pm, Saturday 5th April; 20 minutes to go until the Grand National is underway. Like millions of others, I've stuck a pin in the form guide, and selected the three-legged donkey that will crash at the first fence taking my hopes with it. As it is April, I'm looking out the window at a hail storm. So I thought I'd place my bet over the interweb.

When I tried to visit the website of one of the major UK bookmakers, I was greeted with the message, "The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties..."

That's poor website management. We all know how popular the National is, so why they didn't get extra bandwidth to cope with the extra demand mystifies me. I mean, just how much money will they lose today?

The only saving grace is that at least *I* won't lose my money this year.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Entry level audio description freeview box

Have you seen all those ads in the UK by the broadcasters promoting the fact that they provide audio description? If you haven't, well, audio description is an extra narrative voice added to TV shows to help visually impaired viewers follow the visual action.

There's always been two issues with audio description. Firstly, the lack of programmes that have it, and secondly, the prohibitive cost of the hardware.

Now this is cool. ALDI is selling a Freeview digital box that provides audio description. All for a very, very decent price. Whether this price has been achieved by building something that won't last for the length of an episode of Eastenders, who can say. But if you're looking to find out if audio description is something you might like, then this is a good way to do it.

That still leaves the issue of the volume of programmes with audio description. All the major broadcasters are committed to providing more such programmes. But is there anything like enough?

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