Don’t get lost

Mapminder’s smartest trick is also perhaps its most controversial – mobile tracking, which enables you to pinpoint the exact location of any mobile phone you’ve registered with the service. It uses the same smart maps to show the phone’s position relative to points of interest, enables routing between mobiles if you have more than one registered, and really works very well indeed. Controversy arises over worries about privacy of course, but this is pretty well covered by the registration process. When you enter details of a phone (all major networks except T-Mobile), you have to state whether the handset belongs to a family member over 16, a child or an employee – this makes a difference to the notification text that’s sent to the handset in question, which requires the user’s explicit permission to be granted for the service to be activated, in keeping with the recently introduced industry code of conduct for mobile phone location services.

Don't get lost

There are two situations where this service can prove invaluable: in businesses with mobile workforces (for tracking and forward planning); and for families who want to keep an unobtrusive eye on the whereabouts of their kids. It costs £5 per phone per year and 20p every time you make a location check (text messages can also be sent from the site for 7p a go), but a couple of ‘family packages’ provide excellent value for money. A Mapminder subscription and three registered phones, with £3 of location credit, comes in at £35, while a five-handset package costs £45.

An inspector calls

Netscape 8 ( already introduced us to the concept of a truly schizophrenic web browser, in as much as it supports the rendering engines of both Internet Explorer (Trident) and its paternal forebear Firefox (Gecko). Which one it uses to render a particular page depends on the level of trust bestowed upon the domain you happen to be browsing at the time. Exploit-riddled IE is only allowed to come out and play at fully trusted sites, while everything else gets the Firefox treatment, with pop-ups blocked and ActiveX controls disabled for most ‘in-between’ trusted sites and cookies and JavaScript disabled to the definitely non-trusted ones. You can click to change rendering engine any time you like, which neatly sidesteps IE’s ‘can’t print properly for toffee’ bug and solves the admittedly dwindling problem of sites that are too dumb to render properly in Firefox.

All of this means that, rather surprisingly, Netscape finds itself back in the browser business with a product that has some merit, albeit not quite enough to seriously challenge the dominance of either Microsoft or the rebels at Mozilla. The reason I say this, apart from the fact that I know a one-trick pony when I see one, is that Netscape doesn’t do anything that can’t be achieved by either adding a few extensions to Firefox, or by the even simpler expedient of running both IE and Firefox in tandem. That’s why I think that Netscape will ultimately fall flat, and it’s also why I’m not convinced by the functionality of Paessler Site Inspector 4 (

Also selling itself as a ‘cross-browser browser’, this €39.95 (£26.50) tool appears to offer good value for money, as you get a standalone browser, plus toolbars and context menu options for both IE and Firefox. The fact that this is more than just another browser client is hinted at by the ‘inspector’ part of its name, and the game is given away entirely once you fire up the standalone client, which is actually entitled the ‘Analyzing Browser’. Not only can you do the rendering engine switch to check on-site compatibility across both browsers, with load times for each reported in milliseconds as a bonus, but you also get access to a whole host of site analysis and debugging functionality thrown in.

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