Edging Out of IE Support

Having to support a minority of users on IE11 is painful. It’s a browser that is still officially supported by Microsoft, until 2025, but active development has stopped, or at least slowed right down, so the gap between it and other browsers is growing wider with every update.

The growing feature gap means either not using newer features if we’re working to the lowest common denominator or else having to provide polyfills or fallbacks so IE11 can still be used.

But there could be a light at the end of the tunnel, and before 2025. Microsoft Edge is moving from using the EdgeHTML engine to open source Chromium, which will bring it in line with Chrome, Opera and Safari. That’s nice for compatibility but the big deal is that it will be available on older Windows operating systems. Up until now Edge was only available on Windows 10 but it will soon be available on 7, 8 and 8.1 too so more users can drop IE and use Edge as their official Microsoft browser.

The Edge team are going one better than that though. One of the big reasons for clinging on to IE is the use of legacy software which only works on that browser. Edge is introducing an IE11 mode, so users can seamlessly (hmm – I can already hear the massive crash) switch over to IE for specific sites. Very clever.

It looks like we might have a way out of IE11 support in the next 12 months or so. Just need to convince the large corporations to make the switch now but I’m sure Microsoft will be pushing hard on this too. Good news.

Shared User Accounts

I live with my wife and two boys and as you’d expect we have lots of accounts for lots of different services. What’s odd is that the models for the accounts vary quite considerably.

For banking, gas, electricity and water my wife and I have joint accounts – we are jointly responsible and either of us can make changes. Where they offer online services, we each have our own login but are presented with exactly the same data. It’s quite a standard user setup from a system point of view.

A lot of online only services still work on a single one account one person basis. We use Amazon Prime. We’ve both had Amazon accounts for years but when it comes to upgrading to Prime we’re not both going to pay the premium. And if we want to read the same Kindle ebook we’re not going to buy it twice. So, we end up using the one account and Amazon, who are famous for their user behaviour tracking and algorithms, lose sight of one of their users and what’s really happening. That can’t be good for them either.

Both Microsoft and Netflix seem to have recognised the need for shared family accounts – it’s one subscription per household, not one per person. You set up each user with their own login and they can then save their own favourites, watch lists, game progress, etc. It also allows parental control over children. It’s secure too – limited to a single local network so you can’t go giving access to anyone outside of that.

I think more services need to recognise how things are really used and adapt their account models to fit. We need special accounts for couples, families, work teams, businesses, charities, etc.

iOS vs Android vs Windows in 2017

Everyone has their favourite big web company and associated operating system (OS). We’re all either Apple, Google or Microsoft. Maybe not quite all of us. There’s always one weirdo who finds something “better”.

I’d say that for office desk based work most people are either on Apple or Windows (Mac or PC). I’m not sure if any significant numbers use a Chromebook and Chrome as their serious OS. I may be wrong. For phones it’s iOS, Android or, to a lesser extent, Windows. Do people still use Blackberry in big numbers? I’m assuming not.

People who use Windows for work might have any kind of phone. It’s actually pretty unlikely that they’d have a Windows phone as it’s smaller in the phone market. On the other hand, I bet almost everyone who uses a Mac has an iPhone. And without even considering any of the other options.

I’m in quite a lucky position where I work on a Windows laptop, use an Android TV box and an iPad at home so have access to all 3 operating systems. I thought I’d do a quick comparison, nothing scientific, or even particularly fair, just my own impressions. I should also point ut that this isn’t about bashing anything. I think all 3 are great. More or less they all do the same things. It’s the little differences and the UX of them that becomes interesting. Here are some pros and cons for each.

  • iOS and Android are miles ahead of Windows in terms of apps available.
  • iOS is on Apple hardware only whereas you have more choice with Android and Windows.
  • The point of entry in terms of price is much higher for iOS.
  • Android (Material) and Windows have more modern UI whereas iOS doesn’t seem to have changed very much in the last few years. Not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.
  • iOS has Safari as its default browser, which is not quite as feature rich as Chrome or Edge. It’s easy to install Chrome though.

For what it’s worth, I have a Windows 10 phone (Microsoft Lumia 550) and I absolutely love it. The main drawback is the lack of apps compared with the other platforms but I don’t find that to be a major obstacle. Since Windows 10 there’s now a first class web browser in Edge so most services which don’t have a Windows app seem to have a web equivalent.

My phone cost me £55 (about $70) and does everything I need, whereas a new iPhone would probably cost me about 10 times that. My phone doesn’t have a great camera or loads of storage, as you’d expect at that low price but I have a digital SLR camera for that. I’m not going to pretend my Windows phone is anywhere near as good in spec compared to the latest iPhone or but I’m also not convinced that my overall mobile experience is 10 times worse. I feel I’m getting the better deal.

My Software Preferences

I just bought a new laptop and have spent a couple of long evenings setting it up. After babysitting it through the initial tedium of installing, connecting, updating, registering – lots of watching progress bars and restarting the machine every few minutes, I realised that I have my own strong ideas about which software I’m going to use for various tasks.

AVG FreeSecurity
Top of the priority list is security and getting some good anti-virus, anti-spyware software in place. I uninstalled the McAfee 30 day trial. I’m sure it’s excellent but why pay a subscription fee when there are free alternatives. I downloaded and installed AVG Free Version, which is free for home use. It performs scans and updates itself automatically keeping your PC safe.

Mozilla FirefoxWeb Browsing
Windows Vista comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) installed but personally I find that Mozilla Firefox offers a much better web browsing experience. It’s noticeably faster and the add-ons available mean that you can really customise it for your own needs. My personal favourites are Adblock Plus, which collapses known ads in web pages and, of course, Web Developer, which provides all sorts of options and extra information about the web page you are browsing.

OpenOffice.orgOffice – Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations
I boldly decided to ignore the 30 day free trials of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and instead downloaded and installed OpenOffice. It’s open source which means the code behind the software is freely available for software developers to tinker with and suggest improvements. OpenOffice is a suite of applications made up of Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations/slideshows), Draw (graphics) and Base (databases). It’s fully compatible with Microsoft Office so you will always be able to open and edit anything you receive.

Web Development
From my software choices so far it may sound like I’m anti-Microsoft but I’m really not. I’m just a big fan of open source software and the open collaboration. For my web development work I do love Microsoft Visual Studio. There’s a lighter version of it called Visual Web Developer which is free to download and use. This makes it easy, well, easier, to create dynamic database driven web applications.

Open SourceIn summary, there is a lot of free and open source software available and it’s worth looking at your options rather than just going with the big names. Like me you might actually prefer some of the free software over the licensed and for the home user it could save you quite a bit of cash.