Why Is This Even a Question?

What is a Browser?

I have the utmost respect for LibrarianbyDay but I’m going to have to disagree (again) with her latest blog post.   She commented on this video too and feels that the average Joe doesn’t necessarily need to know what a browser is.  Personally I think that is root of most computer problems – people (average Joe or not) don’t know ENOUGH about the machines they use.

Computers are pretty much a part of all of our lives.  We use them at work, at home and they are in almost everything from our cars to our electronic equipment.  I feel that people DO need to know not only what things are called but how to use them properly.  I’m not saying we all need to be programmer and start writing code but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some computer competencies.

It is important to call things by the right name.  If I call it a whatizt but it is actually a howzer you won’t understand what I’m talking about, you won’t be able to help me and I’ll just get frustrated.   As someone who has to troubleshoot computer problems (which can often be user problems) nothing is more frustrating to both the user and me then when we can’t communicate.  Some might say “but you are speaking techie” – no, I am not.  I am known for using plain English but I will call things what they are (often followed by a short description or analogy so non-techies get it).

So let’s not perpuate this culture of not knowing what a browser or an operating system or anything else to do with these machines that are such a part of our lives.  Let’s educate people in at least the basics of computer literacy.  As a trainer I try to pass along nuggets every time I teach a class regardless of the main content.  If they are using computers in the class I’m going to be sure they know the browser we use is Firefox, that tab browsing is fantastic way to make your life easier (CtrlT), keyboard commands, etc.  I don’t think it is expecting too much of people that work with computers daily to know not only the correct words but some basic literacy when it comes to computers.

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Addendum to VPI Experience

Addendum:

Interesting that only seconds after to Twittering my bad experience earlier I had some new followers and one was the co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance.

About an hour later I received a phone call from the supervisor who I had originally dealt with.  She and I were more civil this time.  Turns out she did some digging (sorry to say should have been done the first time but glad it was at least done this time) into my account.  She found something pending (didn’t say what exactly) that was from the time I had originally signed up with VPI.  I found this odd because whatever this was it did not keep me from making claims or receiving my payments.  She also let me know that because my email had contained attachments (2 screen shots so they could see exactly what I was seeing) it had been deleted (even though I got a confirmation email that they had recieved it).  So she asked me to try the web site again and if that didn’t work that I was to submit the email again but without the attachments.

I gave ol’ Firefox a try again and it still doesn’t work in Firefox.  Gave into using Internet Explorer and was able to FINALLY cancel the policies.

A few moments later I got a call from Patty at VPI to let me know that my policy cancellations had indeed gone through.  I thanked her for following up.  I asked her if I could speak to someone in the web dept.  I explained to her my main frustration had started with the inoperability of their web portal.  I enlightened her on not limiting your customers to only one browser (IE is FAR from the only thing out there).  She assured me that the web dept. was working to have their web portal work with Firefox and Safari (odd earlier they only knew that Safari didn’t work with it).

I truly hope that VPI learned a lesson from this today.  Follow up customer service is great but it shouldn’t be in place of good customer service to begin with.  Also that you don’t limit your customers or frustrate them by designing a site that isn’t web standards compliant.  Don’t launch a site until it works in all the major browsers (and OSes too – Linux, Windows, Mac).

I did Tweet that I appreciated them calling me back.  Am I completely happy?  No.  But I certainly feel a lot better than I did a few hours ago.  Thank you for getting back to me but let’s work on getting it right the first time.  🙂

My Tweets:

VPI Pet Insurance just earned a few points – supervisor called back and gave me her ext. plus update on my problems – good customer service

few more pts 4 VPI – told me they are working on getting site to work w/Firefox & Safari never launch a site until it works in ALL browsers

Amendment to the Bill of Rights

I hereby suggest that my country’s Bill of Rights be amended. If the Bill of Rights is about freedom then there is one amendment seriously lacking (no offense to our forefathers they could not have seen this coming). Freedom of browser, web browser that is. I am not one of those open source fanatics that insists you only use Firefox or Opera but I do insist you allow me the right to choose my browser and have your site work correctly in it.

Gone are the days of only one name in the game. It is time for the web-so-called-masters to wake up. Code to web standards and not only will your site work in the browser of my choice but it can be accessible by all. It isn’t that hard to do. Why on earth would you limit the audience you are trying to reach? Are you that ignorant to think that only Internet Explorer is the only choice out there? Come to the Howard County Library and you’ll find it isn’t even an option. We prefer a much more secure (but not completely invulnerable) Firefox, Flock or Opera. Try convincing all the Mac users out there that use Safari or Firefox on their Macs. If you still think that IE is the only game in town you haven’t been looking lately.

I am completely frustrated by sites that “work best in ….” or “must use Internet Explorer only” (like the Baltimore County web site).   If properly coded your site will work best in ANY BROWSER!  I find it insulting that in this day and age of enlightenment and choice there are still those who think that limiting a site to a browser (or god forbid an operating system) is making the right choice.  Keep on making sites that only work in one browser and I’ll (among others) will keep not using your site.

Ignorance Is Anything But Bliss

My iGoogle home page greeted me with an article on Slashdot that couldn’t be ignored.   When Teachers Are Obstacles to Linux in Education article is based on the Blog of helios.   As I read the blog and comments I just sit there with my jaw open.  But then I got to thinking about it.  This is a sad but true reality.  Most people who use computers for personal use don’t know the first thing about them.   Odd thing is most people have come to expect things like Blue Screen of Death, having to reboot after every update (which come more and more frequently), slow to operate, expensive software options, a native browser that doesn’t properly handle poorly coded web sites, viruses and malware directly written for a specific operating system to exploit it’s weaknesses – why oh, why should this be acceptable?

People just want it to work.  They don’t want to be “burdened” (I prefer to say enlightened) with learning a bit about the machine they so naively trust to be secure.  Problem is accepting the aforementioned “issues” as the norm is reminds me of the quote from “The Matrix”  It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. I hope that Mr. Starks is able to educate not only this teacher but many others as well.   Linux is the definitely the blue pill – take it and free not only your mind but your operating system.


Digg!

Shiney But With Substance

Today Google announced their latest coup d’etat – Chrome. Some have denounced it without even being to download it (this was prior to the Noon PDT launch time). To those I say that’s right up there with judging a book by it’s cover. Some equated Google with Microsoft. To those I say, HUH?! How on earth can you compare a company that is strictly proprietary to one that embraces open source with it’s latest and coolest product? Some have complained because it doesn’t have a plugin for this or that. To those I say time will tell. But if I were a gambling woman I’d put my money on Google.

For me personally, it is my browser of choice on my Windows machine at work. If they had launched it today as Linux compatible it would be my browser of choice at both work and home. I think that is a pretty good endorsement that after 30 minutes of playing with it (what a fast download that imported everything from Firefox for me lickety-split) I decided I could do without my colored tabs in Firefox (and other plugins) or my social networks in Flock.

Why you might ask would I be so willing to give up my favorite 2 browsers for Chrome which is still in beta and does have a few flaws? 2 reasons – open source and the amazing fact that if a site should crash my browser it will now ONLY crash that tab and not the whole browser. That alone is enough to make me switch. But you add to the fact that it’s an open source browser and I’m sold.

I’m sure I’ll run into something that doesn’t work just right but I’m willing to hang in there with Chrome as Google has yet to disappoint me.

Kudos to the gang at Google. They have created the next generation of browsers that everyone will be emulating in weeks, months, years to come.

Edit – and if my opinion of it isn’t enough….there is already a listing of the 7 Really Awesome Things About Chrome

Edit part II – ah, the first real problem arises.  But then every new product has to go through growing pains.  Thanks to Michael Sauers for Digg-ing this.

Flock Me Baby One More Time

Cool news from the folks at Flock – Flock2 is released and it has the Mozilla’s Firefox 3 technology to thank. We liked Flock so much that we’ve added it to our new staff and public computer images. So now folks here will have a choice of Firefox or Flock (and possibly Opera).

I love how Flock keeps track of everything for me and I don’t have to have a tab open for Twitter, a tab opened for Facebook, a tab open for my RSS feeds, a tab opened for YouTube, a tab opened for Pownce…..you get the picture. I use the side bar and then leave the main part of my browser for what I need it to do.

Thank you Flock folks…I’m still in love.