Is this the real life, Is this just fantasy?

Mozilla Camp Europe is nearly upon us.


I am really excited about the event (hard not to be), and I am very grateful to everyone who submitted papers for the advocacy track.  This year we will have a very special guest keynoting, Mr Glyn Moody, whose blog I have read for a long time.  And while I don’t want to play favourites with the sessions (after all, there are too many to go to anyway), there is one that I would like to call people’s attention to before hand because it requires a little preparation.

Alina is leading a session on remixing the Mozilla manifesto.  I think that this is incredibly important.  On my first day at Mozilla, Tristan said two things to me: first, that he was pleased to see me (nice), second, read the manifesto.  While I do not think that we will ever be successful in trying to persuade people to use Firefox or Thunderbird or SeaMonkey because of specific public benefit goals or open source or of web standards, I also think that it is really important that we do everything we can to explain to people why these things matter, and what Mozilla is doing about it.

So I think that Alina’s idea is a really important one, and whether or not you can make it to Prague, please take 5 minutes to re-read the manifesto and then spell out what it means to you.  To me, it’s about the Internet being a shared, public resource.

Please use the tag #mymozman to help Alina collect all the thoughts.

A Really Nasty Ad

Like many others, I read about this unpleasant scam whereby someone has paid for the Google Adword “Firefox” to the extent that Firefox searches show their link (which pretends to be Mozilla’s site) in the results:

Picture 1

I couldn’t say that this is Google’s fault, it seems more that one of their customers is acting dishonestly – what responsibility they have for that I do not know.  However, this is exactly the kind of thing that leads me to object to the Omnibox in the Chrome browser.  I think it’s fine that the location bar allows you to use shortcuts to search, but combining the location bar and the search box seems to me to be an unwelcome development.  The search provider is disintermediating the location, presenting an opportunity to hijack the user to the highest bidder.

And as this example so vividly demonstrates, it is locations that we can trust, not search terms.

links for 2009-09-21

links for 2009-09-17

  • Couldn't disagree more with this piece. Browsers are all expanding the capabilities of the Web, they are all driving the Web in different ways. Firefox is there to increase the individual's capability to shape their own experience on the Web. Chrome, which does matter, appears to be trying to make the client irrelevant and to cede all control to Web applications. Not the vision I share, but a vision nevertheless. Browsers do matter. Even Chrome 3.
    (tags: firefox)
  • "Could OpenSolaris be the new Linux? Give it a try" Well, I don't think it needs to be the new Linux exactly, but it must be gratifying for the people in the OpenSolaris project to read how far it has come in four years.
    (tags: opensolaris)

2009-10 Because you think poor is cool

It’s a curiosity that the coming Premier League season is seen as interesting because, for the first time in many years, the league actually looks slightly weaker than the seaon before.  Several stars have been sucked into what one suspects will prove to be the Real Madrid black hole, and, curiously, Manchester City’s new-found deep pockets seem actually to have reduced transfer activity; not actually depressing the market, but somehow ossifying it.  Still, the Premier League gets written about, and for all our distaste at the Rio Ferdinands, and Ashley Coles, and the diving, the play-acting, the lack of dignity, integrity, perspective or humility, and, well, Rio Ferdinand,  there remains something rather compelling about the competition.


The main theme of coverage that I’ve read (and I’ve read rather a lot) is that United will struggle to adapt without Ronaldo’s goals.  The preening, pouting, Portuguese prima donna did, it seems, score quite a few.  I tend to think that this is not the problem facing United at all.  It’s true that the mobility of Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney (and Anderson and Nani)  gave United a very unusual formation with a number of players attacking at pace from deep-lying positions.  And it was in this formation that Dmitar Berbatov looked really rather lazy.  But with Valencia actually playing on the wing instead of Ronaldo playing as essentially an inside forward, United look likely to play a much more conventional, much more United, 4-4-2.

Michael Owen’s contribution will be that of an impact substitute, for which he is ideally suited.  Being as injury prone as he is, it seems unlikely he will train for full match fitness but rather, to avoid getting injured.  What’s more, we saw a couple of flashes last season of a player who looked to have all the talent of a young Rooney, a young Owen even (whisper it) a young Robbie Fowler.  2009-10 may not be the year that Federico Macheda makes his mark at United – he is only 17 – but he looks genuinely dangerous, and plays in a position where youngsters have frequently had a major impact (to the above list we might add Norman Whiteside, and even Francis Jeffers who performed very well at that age).

No, United’s problem this season will not be goals, but it will be the lack of character in the side.  This team has won a lot recently, but the leadership still seems to come from the remnants of the European champions of 1999: Neville, Giggs and Scholes.  Of the newer breed of United players, who really could be counted on in a crisis?  It took one bad performance (or a great one, depending on your allegiance) against Liverpool for United to slip, and to slip badly.  Had United not recovered against Aston Villa (thanks especially to Macheda), it seems likely that Liverpool would have taken the league last season.  United without Ronaldo unquestionably have less of an aura about them – that in itself is not a problem, as there is plenty of talent to redefine United’s attack.  What is questionable is how much grit they can show, now that they need to.


Once upon a time, Chelsea were the team of fancy-dan entertainers.  They’re now the most workman-like in recent memory.  And as the club has tried to buy entertainers, Shevchenko, Ballack, Deco, so has it been the workhorses, Drogba, Mikel, Essien, who have thrilled.  And now, not even two years since Jose Mourinho left the club, Chelsea are trying their 4th replacement, and Champions League specialist to boot, Carlo Ancelotti. Of his three predecessors, not even Guus Hiddink managed to impress so much as Mourinho, and none of Grant, Scolari or Hiddink have ever been as offensive (morally, that is, not tactically).

Mourinho’s legacy remains a team that naturally grinds out the wins.  Those supporters who only enjoy the sport at its most skillful, or attacking, tend to decry Chelsea as boring.  But those of us who also an appreciation for calculation, professionalism and execution tend to me more admiring.

There might be a question over whether Ancelotti himself will be able to adapt.  Serie A is an awful lot slower than the Premier League, and it’s been noticable that Ancelotti’s Milan were comfortable against English opposition when they managed to control the tempo, but prone to surrender 3-goal leads in Champions League finals when they were not.

What will change about Chelsea is the formation.  It seems clear that Ancelotti will play a midfield diamond with Lampard at the point and two strikers, which presumably means Drogba and Anelka and time on the grass for Daniel Sturridge.  Whether Ancelotti will get anything out of Deco is a tantalising, but presumably Lampard’s position is assured.

Of the “big four”, Chelsea’s squad is the only one that is unquestionably stronger this season, if only because of the absence (at the moment) of long term injuries.  Chelsea spent most of last season without Michael Essien, a hugely influential and highly underrated player.  On top of that, Daniel Sturridge and Yuri Zhirkov have arrived.  Sturridge looks to have the role of understudy to Drogba but Zhirkov has been wanted by Chelsea for over a year and appears likely to start games on the wing. Against these developments is the marginal impact of the African Cup of Nations.  Although Chelsea can expect to have more influential players in Angola than other title contenders, the tournament itself only lasts for 3 weeks.

Chelsea look like very serious contenders once again.  If a weakness does manifest itself under Ancelotti, it may be Chelsea’s old one: away games against opposition prepared to scrap, of whom there are rather a lot in the Premier League.


To lose one Patrick Vieira replacement seems unfortunate, but to lose both Mathieu Flamini and Lassana Diarra (and still not to have replaced them) seems careless.  Arsene Wenger’s clearly brilliant at finding talent, and selling on players at the right time, but he does seem to have a problem in keeping key talent – presumably this is also partly down to Arsenal entering the luxury end of the north London property market just as it crashed.  Whatever the explanation, the problem remains: Arsenal’s midfield has no anchor and until that problem is addressed, one suspects Arsenal will be unable to establsh their rhythm every week, irrespective of opposition and are therefore not in contention to win the league.

And while the sale of the unsettled Adebayor for a massive sum was good business, Arsenal’s attack starts to look unbalanced too: Eduardo, Arshavin, Walcott and Van Persie are all excellent, excellent players.  They all happen to play as inside forward, and of the four, only Walcott really has the mobility to play from a very deep position.  That leaves the plainly-not-good-enough Bendtner leading the Arsenal line.  I even read that Van Persie might be pressed into service as a target man, which seems like a dreadful waste.  Van Persie is surely Berkgamp’s successor, and if that should seem like excessive praise, we should consider that Van Persie is the age now that Bergkamp was when he joined Arsenal following some difficult seasons at Internationale.

At the back, Vermaelen arrives with a solid (if overstated) reputation from Ajax, but one suspects that they days of a Sami Hyypia arriving unheralded from the Eredivise are over.  Who was the last player to arrive from the Dutch league and genuinely impress?  (And how many have not lived up to their reputations?).  Touré does not seem to be such a terrible loss, but the lack of a commanding figure in their defence seems yet another glaring deficiency with the current Arsenal squad.

For all this, Arsenal have some incredible talent which is still improving, and Arsenal themselves may be better than last season – but that amounts to achieving Champions League qualification a little more comfortably, and little else.


For all my biases, and whatever the distribution of silverware looked like, I am sure it is my head that tells me that Liverpool were the best team in England last season – my heart, like that of so many Liverpool supporters, didn’t dare believe it.  But it was true.  When Liverpool’s dip came, it was shallow but long, and so far more costly than United’s brief but total collapse.  Meanwhile Liverpool’s peaks were far higher than any other team (the humiliation of United at Old Trafford, the ending of Chelsea’s marathon unbeaten run, beating Real Madrid by 5 goals on aggregate, putting 5 past Aston Villa etc.).

The experts told us that Liverpool needed Gerrard and Torres to play every game to have a chance.  Not true: had Gerrard and Torres played every game, no one else would have had a chance.  Liverpool’s record in the 14 games they did start together?  Won 12, drew 2.

Since Benitez found this formation, with Gerrard playing off Torres as a supporting striker, Liverpool have performed extremely well, but in order for it to work, it relied on one of the best midfield platforms in the league: the partnership of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.  Alonso, of course, has been swept up in the Madrid vortex (and Mascherano’s head was at least turned by Barcelona’s attentions).  And although Liverpool moved decisively to buy the highly regarded Alberto Aquilani, it remains to be seen if he can fill an Alonso-sized hole.  From what I know of Aquilani, he is much more of a box-to-box ball carrier.  Liverpool really need someone who does all their best work in the centre-circle.

Alonso’s quick and tidy distribution to Gerrard was important in establishing the latter as the attacking force he was last season, but it was Alonso’s outlandish talent for seeing and delivering cross-field balls that also helped made the reputations of Kuyt and Riera as attacking wide players of substance.  Both frequently received the ball to (or near) feet and in plenty of space.  It remains to be seen if anyone else will be able to do the same at Liverpool.

The only obvious weakness in Liverpool’s squad last season were the fullbacks.  Arbeloa is a big game player (ask Ronaldo, or Ronaldinho), but Liverpool lost their points in the small games and Arbeloa seems a good fit with Madrid.  Dossena, who resembles a barrel-chested Adam Sandler, seemed uncomfortable doing the basic fullback chores, although he delighted in playing further up the pitch.  Aurelio remains injury prone, Degen we didn’t see, and Matt Damon lookalike Steve Finnan was sold to Espanyol.   The bright point was the emergence of Emiliano Insua to challenge Aurelio for the left-back position.  And now, the acquisition of Glen Johnson leaves the defence looking very balanced and adds even more willing pace to the right side of Liverpool’s attack.

Will Liverpool press on?  We will know quickly.  2008-9 was a serious challenge from Liverpool partly because they started so well (and had a fair bit of luck) , with 35 points after 14 games.  Liverpool have tended to be slow starters, and if they display that tendency this year, the whole season threatens to be an anti-climax.

Manchester City

“Money doesn’t talk, it swears” – Bob Dylan might have been describing Citeh’s transfer policy, but so much profanity has come from the club, that in discussing the likely destination for the Premier League title we probably need to consider them too.  Probably.

Mark Hughes was a manager of tremendous promise and I tend to feel sorry for him.  If given the opportunity to manage a club with an unlimited budget, it might seem rather unambitious to turn the challenge down.  But where Hughes impressed (me, at least) was the way he quickly made his mark at Blackburn, taking over from Souness and creating a disciplined and stiff defence at the start of the 2004-5 season.

Thanks to some rather clumsy PR, and starting from a position of not being able to offer Champions League football, Manchester City have struggled to attract players who are at the top level, and bring Chelsea’s achievement as chequebook champions into focus.  Chelsea, primarily under Ranieri, built a squad to last of young, hungry and professional players.  City, by contrast, appear only able to attract the dissatisfied or the avaricious senior professional and have ended up negotiating transfer fees with clubs well aware that an extra £10 million on the fee would mean a lot more to them than it would to City’s owners.

There have been experts who dismiss City on the grounds that only a handful of their burgeoning squad would make it into a first XI at one of the “big four”.  It’s considerably more than a  handful – cases can be made for Given, Touré, Barry, Ireland, Wright-Philips, Robinho, Adebayour, and possibly Tevez.  How many Arsenal players, by contrast, would make it into a first XI at Liverpool, Chelsea or United?  Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, and maybe Walcott and a fit Rosicky?  (A year ago I would have had Clichy, Sagna and Gallas on that list, but not after last season).

And so, while that doesn’t seem to be a bad start for City, the squad is hopelessly lopsided with forwards, and City have struggled to attract the quality of defender they need.  It’s staggering to think that a fee of around £15 million is now being discussed for a solid player like Matthew Upson, who 13 years ago cost Arsenal a then astonishing £1 million from Luton’s reserves but who has never shown the ability of a Terry or a Lescott.  What is so very wrong with this picture is that there are players emerging at City with genuine potential who it seems are unlikely to progress much further – Micah Richards would presumably be the greatest loser should City sign Upson.  In midfield, will the talent of Michael Johnson have the chance to develop in the way that Stephen Ireland’s has?  It seems unlikely.

It is hard to take Manchester City’s credentials for the league seriously.  What about a top-four finish, which would at least allow them to build with more purpose, and in the immediate aftermath of the ultimate sporting shop-window, the World Cup?  Arsenal might look vulnerable, but I expect they still have enough experience to get through the season ahead of City.


In fact, as serious a challenge for 4th place might come from Everton, who cannot possibly suffer so many injuries to attacking players as they did last season.  Moyes committed, settled and motivated side now has a large number of attacking options (Saha, Jo, Vaughan, Cahill) and even the apparently humdrum players such as Leon Osman chip in with several goals each season.  Everton have a swashbuckling fullback in Leighton Baines on one side, and perhaps the least adventurous player in the league, Tony Hibbert, on the other.  Provided that Lescott has not been too unsettled by Manchester City’s offer to double his salary, I expect Everton to be Arsenal’s biggest rival for fourth place.


The odds I have seen quoted make Chelsea favourites for the title at 21/10, with United at 5/2.   I dismiss Arsenal’s chances, and so 10/1 is not very interesting (similarly 14/1 for Manchester City), but I’ve seen Liverpool quoted at 4/1.  Considering that this is a team that did league doubles over both United and Chelsea last season in spite of several injuries to their star striker, that seems fairly attractive.

And so, for all the many questions the new season poses, I make this one the most important: just how much will Liverpool miss this man?

“And your travelling army of synthetic supporters would be taken away from you”

My past and future will be colliding in Prague this October at Mozilla Camp Europe: the great news is that you do not need to be a fan of legendary Birkenhead rockers  Half-Man-Half-Biscuit fan to enjoy Prague, although I for one will be on the lookout for that elusive Dukla Prague away kit.

More prosaically, the period for submitting papers for the advocacy track is still open, and I urge anyone with an interest in promoting Firefox, Thunderbird, the open Web, or Free software and talking about this at Mozilla Camp Europe 2009 to get in touch.  I would especially urge people to read Mark Surman’s blog to get inspiration about what issues really matter right now, and will matter in the future.  While I am loathed to be negative, we should all be asking ourselves, “what needs to change?”.

If you do not want to speak, but want to suggest a topic, please add it to the wiki.  If you want to speak, please get in touch.

Visit Riga

I am sad to read that Riga feels that it has had too many loutish stag parties visiting.  Having lived for 10 years in Amsterdam, I have seen my share of drunken Brits-abroad behaviour.  But I am especially sad to read that Riga has been defiled in this way: after all, I had my own stag party there in 2005.  We chose Riga not out of a sense that it was so cheap and sinful place – but out of genuine curiosity.  I believe that we were respectful guests, and I remain very grateful to my best man Paul for organising such a memorable trip, and to everyone else who came along.

I only recall seeing one other stag party there at the time, and while they appeared fairly determined to humiliate themselves, they seemed not to be troubling their hosts. As for our group, we marvelled at the architecture, and choked back the tears (literally) in the museums, visited record breaking Skonto Riga and walked the streets, imbibing both the beer and the history.  I wrote about it here: my lasting impression was of a beautiful blossoming city full of euphoric archicture that had been crushed and defaced by Nazi and Soviet occupation.

Riga credit:jaime.silva

Riga credit:jaime.silva

Already I had the sense that Riga was becoming a western tourist destination before it had had a chance to recover its own identity and felt very uncomfortable about being conspicuously wealthier than the natives.  But above all, I had respect for a humble people with an incredible heritage and a tragic recent history (around a third of the population died during the Second World War).  No trip anywhere has made such an impression on me.  Perhaps it wasn’t much of a stag party.  I don’t recall getting very drunk, let alone getting up to the kind of behaviour the Latvians have now had enough of.  I’d even go so far as to say that visting Riga was one of the most sobering experiences of my life.  I urge you to visit and pay your respects to an amazing corner of Europe.

links for 2009-07-31

  • "You, the consumer, are getting screwed too. You are missing out on some great software that’s available on other phones on the same network, without issue, for no apparent logical reason….I’ve reached a point where I can no longer just sit back and watch this. The iPhone ecosystem is toxic, and I can’t participate any more until it is fixed. As people have told me so many times: It’s Apple’s ballgame, and Apple gets to make the rules, and if I don’t like it, I can leave. So, I don’t like it, and I’m leaving." This really shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone – the T&Cs (not to mention the whole ethos) of Apple's products make it very clear who is in charge. Apple are doing very nicely, I am sure, but consumers should also understand how this works…
    (tags: apple iphone)

Open source, embedding, and Opera

“Mozilla is more or less focusing on desktop browsers and that’s complex enough. We are, at any given time, dealing with more than a hundred different deliveries, because we’re not only doing desktops. We’re doing mobile phones. We’re doing set-top boxes. We’re doing cars. We’re doing game consoles. We’re doing all these things. And handling that complexity is extremely hard. And I think that requires fairly good control over the piece of code.”
I don’t what history will make of Opera Unite, but I do think that claiming that open sourcing Opera would lead to complexity, which would prevent Opera from embedding their browser in many devices, is a strange one. What software is embedded more than, say,

links for 2009-07-29

  • "Because while I certainly do believe in the free exchange of ideas, I also believe in the rights of those who produce those ideas in the first place to be rewarded and respected. With ebooks, as with normal books, the idea that you are buying the right to own the content has always been a fallacy embraced by idiots – just try to photocopy your copy of Harry Potter or post it online and see how quickly the lawyers from Bloomsbury come calling." Paul Carr (a writer who doesn't actually write very well) fails to understand why people are upset with Amazon deleting copies of works from their Kindles. The problem is not copyright, it is the idea that you "own" something which is ultimately under the control of a someone else. Sure, everyone agreed to these terms when they bought a Kindle, but having the implications made so material understandably upsets people. I prefer books anyway. Not sure how good the Kindle is for annotating.
    (tags: kindle)