The Dreaded Abuse of Javascript and Alert Dialog Boxes

I have been finding that people still have been using Javascript on their webpages for creating intrusive alert dialog boxes and interrupting the user experience on their websites.

Two uses in particular that I have in mind is the script to disable right-click, or any other keys, and alert dialog boxes that will interrupt the user when they try to leave their website.

Key Interruption (ie. Blocking Right-Clicks):

Many new web developers, and internet users, often will implement a script on their site that will disable right-clicks.  I’ve seen these since the dawn of early adoption of Javascript on the net. This is typically done because the website owner fears that people will steal their pictures and other website content and maliciously rip them off. In addition to disabling the right-click button on mice, they may try to disable ctrl-c, ctrl-x, etc.

Using these scripts ultimately are ineffective to all but the most casual user who probably just wants to use their browser properly, save an image or snippet text as a note or share on their Facebook. Like all copy-protection schemes, it ultimately hurts the legitimate users and has no affect on anyone who actually wants to steal.

Let’s take the disable-right-click script for example. I’ll layout what I believe are the benefits and the drawbacks to using such a script.

Positives:

+ Unsophisticated users can’t access the “copy” selection in the right-click context menu.

Negatives:

Any user with any sort of computer sophistication can easily get around this.

The most easiest is to do a print screen and crop in Paint.

A user can view the source of the website and open the image in a new tab or save it directly to their drive. Text can be copied directly from the source.

Those who are new to creating websites, or perhaps use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress may not know this, but anything that is displayed on the screen, the user can see the rendered source for. That’s how a web browser like Firefox or Chrome knows how to draw the page!

Most mobile devices, or anything that doesn’t use a right-click per se is not affected by this. Go to a website that’s implemented a right-click blocker with a smartphone, iPad, etc and try to copy and save an image. It will work. In some cases using Apple’s own ctrl-click will also not trigger this being blocked, therefore allowing the right-click to work.

– It blocks functionality.

Personally, I get upset if a website goes out of its way to disable, disrupt, or change how my browser works. Just because I want to right-click somewhere on your site doesn’t mean I’m going to something terrible. I might want to do something else with my right-click however, as there are many other things I can do. It’s going too far to fix a concern. It’s like banning VCRs because you are afraid that people will use it only to make pirate copies of movies. Sometimes if poorly implemented it can break the page on some web browsers.

– It’s insulting to the user.

Like most intrusive measures to ‘protect’ intellectual property, it’s insulting to the user. By forcing a popup and disabling the right-click function on a website you’re implying that the user’s only intent is that of a thief and they deserve a good slap on the wrist because of it. Please, don’t treat your visitors like criminals. It ultimately reflects bad on you and annoys visitors. One thing you don’t want to do is annoy or insult your customer.

– It’s unprofessional.

These sort of scripts have been greatly diminished in their adoption because of the reasons stated above. Using intrusive scripts ultimately reflects badly on the website/owner.

Ultimately, those who want to “steal” your website content have no problem doing so. It’s trivial to get around. Everyone is annoyed by this, and the only real losers are the unsophisticated users and potential new clients.

– Doesn’t stop piracy.

There will always be bottom-feeders who will download pictures off the internet and try to steal them. Like children who steal candy from the gas station, this is a part of doing business on the internet. Thinking that implementing these scripts will save you money is an illusion and really will only harm the presentation of the site rather than prevent any sort of theft.

***

This annoys me so much, here’s an easy way to (temporarily) disable it on a site you are visiting:

[Disable No Right Clicks]

Go to this site and save this link mentioned to your bookmarks or bookmark bar. Whenever you come across a site disabling right-click, click on this link and it will run javascript that will disable the block. It only affects your local cache, so if you come back later you’ll have to click it again.

Firefox will also allow this specific Javascript action to be disabled in the settings. Plugins for other browsers like Chrome can be found as well.

If you are really that concerned about losing tons of money due to picture or text stealing there are some more practical things you can do. Make your images lower-resolution, consider modest watermarks, and clearly state the terms of use. Maybe someone will copy your 500×500 image and make a 8×10 print, but hey… they probably weren’t going to pay $50 for it anyways! It’ll also look like crap.

Social networks are also a great promotional tool. *Allow* them to share your work on places like Facebook or Pinterst. It’ll help get more eyes on your work.

What if they don’t use a watermarked image? Don’t criminalize them. Instead, give awesome service and an awesome project. If someone asks where they got their cool portrait from, they’ll be glad to refer them to you. Also, most people don’t mind crediting you in the description if you ask.

If you are still worried about it being distributed and people taking credit for your work… then I guess all I have left to say is “get used to it.” If this happens, you are probably really famous or have a great product. This is the nature of the internet, and there will always be a percentage of piracy. The RIAA and MPAA deal with this all the time. They fight it tooth-and-nail. A little script will not change that.

Alert dialog boxes when leaving a site:

I went on a bit of a rant about the disabling no-clicks. This is probably equally as annoying.  Thankfully this is almost all but abandoned as a good idea, other than maybe shady advertisements and the occasional small site that doesn’t know better.

These are a bad idea for most of the same reasons that disabling the right click are. Typically I see them used as advertisements… “WAIT DON’T LEAVE STAY FOR 40% OFF!!!!!”

My simple advice is: Don’t!

Harassing your user isn’t going to encourage them to stay. Chances are they want to leave for a reason and annoying popups that prevent them from leaving before they do is only going to make them want to leave quicker.


Kindle Fire Review

After months of waiting  and anticipation after Amazon’s announcement of their new Kindle Fire priced at a mere $199 I finally got my hands on mine. At a price of under $200 I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Most tablets up until now that retailed under $300, much less $200, have been lackluster in quality and performance. The $99 HP Touchpad firesale sent a clear message to manufactures that there was a strong desire for a cheap but decent tablet. Not long after we announcements for Amazon’s Kindle Fire and more recently, the Nook Tablet at $200 and $250 respectively.

How did Amazon do? Not bad. They did take a few corners to get to this price, but so far it’s the best value for the price I’ve seen. It’s no iPad killer, but for the price it’s hard to argue with it’s value.

Hardware

The first impression of the Fire that I got, as it was speculated before, is that this looks a lot like the Playbook. It’s missing a few things however. No cameras, no Bluetooth, no Microphone. All taken out likely to reduce the price. This makes the Kindle Fire less useful as a content creation or business device, and not particularly expandable. You won’t be using a bluetooth keyboard with the Fire, no Skype chatting, no bluetooth pairing with a headset or phone. It might be possible that future accessories using the USB port could expand this functionality, but there doesn’t seems to be any plans to use the port in this manner at this time. Luckily, the power button is a bit easier to access than the playbook. This is good thing as it is the only button on the entire device. No typical Android buttons on the bottom or side, no volume buttons. These are all controlled through the interface. There is an accelerometer for auto-screen rotation, which can be turned off in the settings.

Overall the Fire feels pretty generic in looks. Nothing particularly eye-catching  about the design, but due to its simplicity it’s not ugly or unattractive either. More importantly, it feels solid and well built. Most super-cheap tablets I’ve used have had resistive touchscreens screens with a cheap build quality matching their price. Thankfully Amazon didn’t cut corners here, and while it’s certainly a little thick compared to something like the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1 it feels well constructed and solid.

Memory-wise the Fire has a total of 8 GB of internal storage with no options of expansions. This was likely done to save money and with the expectation that most media will be streamed over the internet. If you have a decent internet connection 8 GB is more than fine, but if you plan on uploading tons of music and videos for a long trip 8 GB may seem a little constricting. Most tablets start at 16 GB of space.

Performance

The Fire has a dual-core 1 ghz TI OMAP processor and 512 MB of RAM. While certainly not the fastest on the block, it’s definitely reasonable, especially for the price. Performance overall has been good and responsive, although in a few instances the performance was a bit sluggish. In particular I noticed scrolling the list of WiFi access points and Amazon App Store seemed to be a bit slow in responsiveness on more than one occasion. Something Apple got right with the iPad and is seemingly overlooked by other manufactures is how seemingly flawless the responsive the tablet is to the touch. In most cases the Kindle was fine, but it is disappointing when it happens. The good thing is that Amazon can improve this performance with future updates to the software.

The Fire is charged through a USB port at the bottom. If you want to add music or other files from a computer you’d use this port for that as well. A normal USB cable is not included with the Fire, only a charging cable.

Display and Audio

The Fire has a 7 inch Widesceen (16:9) capacitive screen that displays at a resolution of 1024×600. Overall the screen looks bright, crisp, and responsive. It’s not LED backlit, but considering the price and the general quality anyways, I think that’s fine.

The audio is delivered through two small stereo speakers at the top of the device. They are decently loud, and while the quality isn’t superb they are decent and what I’d expect from any internal tablet speaker. There is also the typical 3.5 mm headphone jack for connecting to headphones or an external speaker.

Battery

Sites such as Engadget have tested the battery life to be around 7 to 8 hours. I haven’t timed it myself, but this seems about right. I don’t feel that I’ve had to worry about charging my battery after a few hours of use. It’s good enough to get through the day.

Software/OS and Ecosystem

Perhaps what’s the most unique about the Kindle Fire is the Operating System and Software.

The Operating System

The OS is a forked/heavily modified version of Android 2.3. At first glace it may be hard to tell this is an Android tablet, but if you’re familiar enough with Android and dig a little deeper you’ll find it’s Android roots. There are no Google-branded/licensed software such as GMail, Google Maps, Google Music, or even the Android Market. It’s quite clear that Amazon intended that Android will be used as the starting platform. It makes sense. Why put tons of development into creating a new OS when you have a mature open-source OS like Android to get you most of the way there? It’s really only a bother to people like me that know that the “Kindle OS” is perfectly capable of my Android Apps I have on my phone. Unsurprisingly the Kindle uses Amazon’s Android App store, therefore any Apps I purchased there or any other Android apps I’m used to and are located there can be installed with ease. I did notice however that some of my Apps and Games that are accessible from the Amazon App Store are available on my phone but NOT on my Fire. Perhaps this is something that developers need to switch on. I do know that Amazon expects higher-resolution icons for Fire apps.

Thankfully, if you are a power user and there is an Android app you MUST have you have the ability to install any APK file you download like any other Android device. Amazon did not lock this down. I tested this out by Installing Mobile QQ.

Launcher, Ecosystem

The most notable departure from Android is the new custom launcher. The Fire’s launcher is set up much like a bookshelf. The “Home” screen shows your recent books, music, documents, websites, apps, music, video, etc… along with any “favorite” apps you’ve pinned there. You navigate the different screens and features on your Fire through the links at the top of the screen. There’s the Newsstand, Books, Music, Videos, Docs, Apps, and Web. Clicking on each page will show you which of each you have on your device. For the most part it will show content that is associated with your Amazon account that you used to sign in when you started using the device. For example, Books will show your Kindle eBooks, Videos will show videos that you own on Amazon Video or you have available with Amazon Prime. The Fire was designed to consume and buy Amazon content, and the user interface makes it super-easy to do just that. If you have MP3s that you’ve uploaded on your Kindle they’ll show up under Music, but otherwise you’ll need to use 3rd-party apps to view anything non-Amazon related. Amazon will turn on 1-click purchase with your Amazon account (which it will alert you and give you the option to not do) for buying new content for your Fire. If you’re not careful it may be a bit too easy to get into the habit of buying new videos, books, apps and music for your Fire because it’s so easy. I’m sure Amazon intended this. They’re selling the Fire at a loss with the hope of making money back through purchases. There is no reason you can’t get content from other sources however. You can easily install Netflix and Rdio if you like.

So far, out of Amazon’s media services I’ve used Amazon Video the most on my Fire. Performance most of the time was very good, although the one time I brought it to a local McDonald’s sometimes in the beginning it would stop and rebuffer at a lower speed until it got to a quality it would stream reliably. Amazon video will adjust it’s quality to match the connection speed on a desktop as well, but the Fire seems less seamless at this process.

One of the most touted features of the Fire was the Silk Browser. The idea behind Silk, like other browsers such as Opera’s turbo mode or the late Handspring/Palm’s Blazer browser is that some of the page-loading work would be performed by Amazon’s servers and delivered to the Fire to speed up load-times of non-encrypted websites. My experiences so far haven’t shown any improvement in speed and I eventually turned the acceleration off. Maybe Amazon will get this service working a bit better to make it more beneficial. Granted, I used my Fire on my Home’s Wifi. It would seem this feature would be the most useful on something like a  slow 3G connection, which the Kindle does not have.


Final Thoughts

Overall I can recommend the Kindle Fire. For it’s very good build quality and reasonable specs any shortcomings it has are easily made up for its very reasonable price of only$199. It’s by no means an iPad killer, or better than any other top-of-the-line tablet. People who are expecting an iPad should probably stick to an iPad, but for things like reading books, listening to music, watching videos, browsing the web, and using the occasional app and game the Kindle Fire is probably all that’s needed if the 7″ size works for you. It’s also less than half the price. Power users may feel a little taken back that they will need to go through some hoops to make it more of a “traditional” Android tablet, but seeing that APKs (apps other than those in the Amazon App Store) can be installed easily and that it’s already been rooted it should be easy to transform the Fire into a tablet running a more vanilla version of Android and eventually Ice Cream Sandwich when  it arrives.

PROS:

+ Affordable/Good Price for the Hardware

+ Good Build Quality

+ Interesting/Original User Interface (Compared to other customized Android UIs)

+ Great integration and access the Amazon Ecosystem

+ Access to existing third-party software, side-loading of software, and rooting give the platform lots of future potential

CONS:

– Occasionally sluggish

– Some common tablet hardware features are missing, such as a microphone, camera, video out, or 3G

– Only 8 GB of storage and no expansion slot

– No Google Apps or the Android Market Place, not all Apps in the Amazon App Store available (yet)

– No noticeable improvement in performance with the Silk Browser’s acceleration feature

Update (05/41/2012):

Amazon has managed to improve upon some of the sluggishness of the device.  I personally find it fails to capture my long-term interest, as I am going back to my 9″ tablets more, including my HP Touchpad, which while has less apps, has good Flash support and is a more enjoyable web browsing experience. It also supports Bluetooth accessories.