Browsing Browsers

So there have been many, many browsers over the years, but for those people unsure, I will start with what a browser actually is. This is not as stupid as you might think – have a look at this video.

But a lot has changed since then – even though that was not very long ago. As they don’t actually explain in the video, a browser is a program installed on your computer that allows you to view the web – it is not a search engine, it is not a website, it is a program. There are several main browsers out there, some that come with your computer and some that don’t (all versions newest) :

Chrome Icon

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 9
  • Mozilla Firefox 6
  • Google Chrome 16
  • Opeara 12
  • Safari 5
  • Numerous mobile browsers
Internet Explorer is the default that comes with Windows, and Safari comes with Macs. Here is a graph of world usage of browsers in August 2011 (pretty recent then):
Graph of Most Popular Browsers

Which is your favourite?

There have been many arguments over the years as to which browser is the best, and my verdict is Google Chrome. This is simply because it is a lighter program – meaning that it takes up less CPU (processing power) on your computer, meaning it can launch faster and use less battery power on a laptop. It also has sync, which allows you to synchronize all your bookmarks, themes, extensions and even auto-fill and password data. This is all encrypted before being stored on the “cloud” so that no-one except you can reach it.
There are also other reasons why some browsers are better than others. This is usually because of the way that they display web pages. Internet Explorer uses its own “render engine” to take something that looks like this:

<div id=”example-id” class=”example-class”><i><b>Hello</b> world!</i> Having a great <strong>day</strong>?</div>

And makes it look like this:

Hello world! Having a great day?

Different “render engines” make pages look different if they use some code that has not been covered by that “render engine”. There is a handy tool called BrowserLab, that allows you to see what your website will look like on different browsers without having to have them all installed on your computer. For instance, here is my URL shortener, DropURL as viewed in Internet Explorer 6 vs Chrome 13:

Can you spot the difference?

Clearly I have to do some cross-browser compatibility improvement. IE6 has become the nemesis of many web designers because of firstly how bad it’s “render engine” is and secondly how many people are still using it, despite the fact that it is over 10 years old. There is an interesting article on why they are here. It’s “render engine” is bad because it does not support CSS, a way of making websites look awesome, or JavaScript, which allows web pages to be interactive and do clever things. In fact, I like that so much I’m gonna make it into a quotation so other people can quote me on it.

HTML makes a website, CSS makes it look cool, Javascript makes it interactive and do clever things, and PHP makes it work.

And I haven’t even touched on Mobile Browsers, which in themselves deserve a whole other post, but I can’t be bothered to do that, so here is a mini version:

People have been trying to optimize their websites for mobile device browsers a lot recently. In the past,

7% of people only use Mobiles to access the web

the webpage would just detect (using JavaScript) if you were using a mobile device and redirect you to another website with the same content, just a different way of displaying it, more suited to smaller screens. An example – Youtube vs m.Yotube. The problem with this is that every time you want to make a new page, you have to do it twice, once on the normal site and once on the mobile site. Now, however, everything has changed. People are now making intelligent websites, that will change fluently as you resize your browser window to emulate a mobile device. Take a look here, click on a website, and see what happens when you make the windows bigger and smaller. There are also other ways of making a website more mobile-friendly, like making images few and far-between, to make download speeds on pages faster.

I think I have sufficiently covered this topic. If you feel not, feel free to comment below.

Alex, signing off.

Musings about Muse

Adobe Muse Icon

Adobe Muse: The Future of the Web?

So Adobe Muse has been hitting the “headlines” of blogs all over the world, but as far as I can see it has never once appeared in a real newspaper here in the UK. This is strange, as it could be the turning point on the retail of all Adobe products, used by millions of people worldwide.

Adobe Muse, if you don’t already know, is a WYSIWYG website editor, and has been dubbed “Photoshop for Websites”. In reality is it more likely to be “InDesign for Websites”, but that’s more a matter of opinion. Basically, you design your website, set where the boundaries of the header and footer are, and it will generate the code that will work in any “modern” browser. I say it generated code, but it is really more powerful than that, for instance if you rotate an image in Muse, it will generate a rotated version of your image, framed in the transparent box of a PNG. So it also renders images, as well as code.

It has been criticized by many web designers and coders alike, mainly because of the way it spews out <div> tags with no regard for code structure. For instance, here is some code from my Duck House Website, made with Muse :

Too Many Divs

The horror that is spewed out from Muse

And it goes on and on for (believe it or not) 1076 lines. Just for that.

Duck House Productions Screenshot

Duck House Productions Screenshot

And also, there are also other bad web standards conventions, like making a new class for every single new style, which clutters your code with meaningless drivel.

Some more personal problems I have with Muse is that every page has two of its own CSS files – on for “normal” browsers and one for “special and mentally diseased” browsers (ie IE, hey they’re the same!). It is also infinitely difficult to update your master page, because when exporting the changes it has to change 2x the amount of pages in stylesheets and a master one. That means if you have 100 pages, and you make a tiny change to the master template, it will have to update 201 CSS documents. This kind of defeats the point of CSS which is that in order to make a site-wide change, you only have to change one file, But no – Muse has to make it more complicated than that.

Muse, after the end of this year, will cease to be in beta. That means that it will no longer be a free testing service, and that means that you will have to pay. BUT Adobe has decided that instead of being able to pay for Muse outright once, you have to subscribe for $20 per month. I guess this is because Adobe feels that people will dump the program unless they offer updates every few days.

And this is the reason for the hideous code. Because Adobe doesn’t want you to spend $20, make your website, stop using Muse, and continue to edit the code to change your website for ever more. You have to keep using Muse to maintain your website.

So in conclusion, Muse is great for InDesign experts (or anybody) who wants to make a static site quickly and put it up on the web quickly. But they don’t want to ever change it again. Without paying a ridiculous monthly cost. The verdict: download Muse, put it on an offline computer, and ship the exported HTML files onto an online computer to upload the files.

Alex, signing off.

Editing Programs and the Arguments they Bring (and FCP X)

The Clash of the Editing Titans

Hello All,

You may know that I make films. Hopefully you’ve got the hint from the name of this blog. If not then maybe you shouldn’t be here. Anyway, as you probably know there are three main stages to making a film – pre-production (scripting, casting and other planning etc..), production (shooting) and post-production (editing, VFX and distribution etc…).

During the crucial stage, editing, the whole outcome of the film can be decided. Therefore, people have to make sure that they use reliable, stable programs that won’t crash on them at the last minute. There are a great many programs that fit this bill, but which is the best? This argument is probably a.) the most long and b.) the most pointless argument in the history of filmmaking.

Firstly, the three main competitors in this so-called “fight” are:

  1. Premiere Pro (by Adobe, latest version CS5.5)
  2. Final Cut Pro (by Apple, latest version 7 or X depending)
  3. Media Composer (by Avid, latest version 5.5)
For one thing, all the companies begin with A. This has nothing to do with what I’m actually talking about, but I thought it was interesting). Secondly, they all support roughly the same file formats and they all have roughly the same features.
However, the main difference is that PrPro and Media Composer work on Mac and Windows, but FCP only runs on Macs. This is mainly because Apple make Macs and Apple makes FCP.
Another notable difference is that PrPro can work with pretty much any raw files (files that come straight off a camera) natively (with out conversion) but the other two can’t. This is a great advantage for people who use lots of different types of cameras (and especially DSLRs) and need a quick production workflow.
But now, onto FCP X. For most users, it is a very good and useful piece of software. In fact, after getting to know it a bit more, you may find this better than FCP 7. But I’m afraid to say that it’s just not very stable. I wouldn’t trust it with any commercial work for several reasons.
  1. There is no re-connect media.  This means that if (for instance) you realize you’re running out of hard drive space and you move all your footage to a new location, FCP X will decide that you need to completely restart your project from scratch. Not good. I have also heard that occasionally it will just ‘loose your footage’ itself, meaning that you have no way of continuing your project : you have to restart.
  2. It no longer supports multi-cam edits. During a (not so) recent project ‘Ratz’, I was using four cameras to film a play in the round. Luckily, due to PrPro’s multi-cam thing, all I needed to do was sync my four cameras once at the beginning, then run the multi-cam window and just play through, clicking on the angle I wanted, much like a virtual gallery. It is also included in FCP 7 and AMC, But no, this tool was denied to us in FCP X. This means that I would have had to re-sync the cameras every time I wanted to change from one camera to another, which must have been about 100 times in 120 minutes.
But there are also other grouches I have with FCP X. For one thing, it does look a lot like iMovie ’11. This in itself is not a bad thing, but


considering you’re paying over £300 for it, I would hope they coudl improve some of the graphics etc… although I do think that it’s rolling shutter filter (again the same as iMovie) is the best in the world (although maybe not since the introduction of the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects CS5.5, I’ll have to do some tests on that).

I think the real problem is that FCP X behaves like a consumer program (iMovie) but is trying to fill the boots of a much more professional piece of kit, which it fails to do miserably. So, for me at least, I won’t be using it for anything on which I’m on a deadline or anything that I’m doing for not myself. FCP X has been dubbed iMovie Pro and iMovie on steroids, which is perhaps not as unfair as it might seem.
Alex, signing off.

OS X Lion

Hello All

So.. OS X Lion. It’s not a new thing, but I decided to try it out. So I did. It’s by no stretch of the imagination an expensive upgrade – only £20.99 on the Mac App Store and about $30 in the US. It is a very large download (nearly 4GB) – so it might not be a good idea to go download it at your local cafe – you’ll probably be there for more than two hours and the managers will start to get suspicious. Once you have downloaded it, it’s quite simple to install – just run the setup. (*All users except the user running the setup have to be logged out.) After that, it will take about 15 mins to install, shutdown, restart and then take a further 30 mins.

Anyway, on to the actual contents of this new OS. The things that might notice first of all are the GUI changes. For instance, the logon screen does not show the usual background – in fact it has been changed to a kind of texture and your user icons have been changed to circles (a glitch that I found is that they are slightly pixelated, so when upgrading Lion clearly hasn’t bothered to replace those with higher resolution images).

Once you have logged on, you might notice several changes. Firstly, if you used an iPhoto album for your desktop background, it will have reset it to the new Andromeda Galaxy one. (I personally feel that with a little Photoshop work, this amazing photo could become even more spectacular. See my version here.) This can be fixed by simply going back into your system preferences and changing it back. Other minor changes are the scroll-bar has changed to a simple rectangle with rounded corners and in some cases it has disappeared entirely. This is because, like with the iOS, they only appear when you are actually scrolling. Something else about scrolling that you may have come across is that the scroll direction has been swapped to what, in my opinion, is in fact the more natural way to scroll: when you scroll up, the page moves up, allowing you to see further down the page. If you don’t like this, you can change it by going here.

But there are much more profound changes – and because I can’t be bothered to list all of them, you can see them here. The most notable is the full screen for any app, autosave meaning that you never have to bother saving ever again. Probably. But I wouldn’t trust it to be honest. There’s also Launchpad and Mission Control, but neither of these are particularly spectacular in my opinion. If anything, Mission Control is just making OS X more like iOS. But that’s just my opinion. But hey you’re reading this blog, which is all my opinion.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend OS X Lion purely for the great value. It also seems to manage the fairly average power of my iMac 21.5″ from early 2011 better than Snow Leopard did: everything seems a tiny bit more responsive. This is what Windows should be doing. I’m running Windows 7 on the laptop I’m currently writing this on, and I’ve recently (and accidentally) upgraded to SP 1. There have been literally no noticeable differences, other than my display driver stopped working when it was updated with SP 1, so I just ‘rolled back the changes’ and now it’s fine again. Windows should be making every upgrade as cheap as Mac, and making every upgrade better for the user, not just with tidier coding, which is (as far as I can tell) the only difference in SP 1 (and it fixes an issue with HDMI audio for some users running Professional). Groundbreaking stuff. If only Macs were cheaper, then everyone could enjoy computing as it should be without a hefty price tag. I also hate Office 2010, cos that crashes all the time. So, finally, Windows should be more like Apple, and Apple should be less like Windows.

That is all,


(ps prepare for the rant about Final Cut Pro X)

Is Chromebook a Good Idea?

Chromebook Picture

But where's the close button? Oh wait Chrome is the only program...

Hello All,

So Google brought out a new operating system, but this time it’s for computers, not phones. The Idea behind the Chromebook is that all your documents, photos, videos, preferences and the like are stored on the web, meaning that the actual Chromebook that you own does not contain any of your data.

This is much like roaming users in your school or office – the actual computers that you log in to boot off the network and all your personal preferences etc… are also stored on the network. One major difference though is that the Chromebook will (as Google say) not have a hard drive. Theoretically this is impossible – when you boot there must be some firmware that displays before you connect to your first WiFi network, and also what happens if while the laptop is on you move away from a WiFi hotspot and there is no 3G connection (some Chromebooks will have in-built 3G)? Will it just crash?

But there are many more problems with being completely cloud based – what if the Google server is down? What if somehow your internet is cut off? But on a more serious note, how do you know if your data is being sent securely or not? And this kind of machine is much more susceptible to attacks from people on shared (cafe etc) wireless networks.

Google Chrome Icon

The only icon on your non-existent desktop

Then I move on the idea of Chrome being the only software usable on these machines. OK – Google have come up with Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Translate, etc.. (needed for the main bulk of users) but there are still many things that you can’t do, like making films or making websites (you can’t run a localhost server for example, because 3rd party software is not allowed) … I wonder why I brought that up…

I suppose that the Chromebook is meant to be a cheaper and faster version of the MacBook Air, but it doesn’t have the main thing that the Air has going for it – lightness. Also an advantage of the Air is that it comes with the (in my opinion) best operating system on the planet: without using a great deal of battery life it still looks amazing, feels amazing and anybody can develop software for it. (As well as being able to run Garageband, the essential tool for low-to-no-budget filmmakers, and Final Cut Pro X, more about those two coming soon).

For people looking for an iPad with a keyboard, go buy an iPad and go buy a wireless keyboard with the cover to hold them both. The iPad has a multitude of apps that have a variety of functions. For those looking for a cheaper MacBook Air, save up a bit more and buy one anyway. However, if all you do is want a portable but big-screened portal to the internet, I recommend it. As much as I love Google and their products, I don’t see the point of this one.

That is All,


Links to My Stuff

Hello All.

For anyone interested – here are some links to recent projects. (Most of them are heavily intermingled with Duck House Productions, my small yet awesome production company that was founded before the MPs’ expenses.

  1. The Hacker –
  2. The Showreel – http://&#8230; actually you can just go check out all my short films at
  3. The Salamander Suite – good for the everyday computer –
  4. Scribe – the same as Word… only free –
  5. DropURL – an URL shortener with a difference –
  6. DarkRoom Photos – a photo upload site that doesn’t really work –
  7. SpCh – The online spell checker (still on localhost)
  8. MyDB – Free online databases for all (also still on localhost)
  9. Twice – a short film currently in the very early stages of pre-production. Meaning it’s still in my head.
That is all


Welcome to this new and amazing blog about – you guessed it – film and stuff. I’ll be keeping you up to date with all things to do with making films, watching films, and other life-ish stuff. Have fun and don’t hold it against me if I rant. I tend to do that when I get overexcited and angry at the same time.

Oh yes. I forgot to mention who I am – Alex Forey, aged 14 today.

I already know a lot for a 14 year old (but I’m not gonna be big-headed). For instance, I have already done commercial film work, used some of the most advanced software on the planet and I know how to code in over 8 languages fluently… as you might say. I also watch lots of films and go to lots of theatre. Shortly to follow will be my review of War Horse in the West End. If you don’t know where that is you shouldn’t be here. Or go look it up – I don’t want to lose readers.


Until next time.