I made it into Google+…first impressions

Today I finally got into Google+ after trying to catch the invite windows. I’d been sitting on 2 invites since day one, but never managed to hit registration when it was unlocked. Today that all changed, and now I get to experience what other techies have been on about.

My first impressions:

  • UI – an emphatic +1. I’ve already changed my gmail theme to ‘Preview (dense)’ because I love the clean simplicity and minimalism; beyond that everything is beautiful and make excellent use of HTML5, CSS3, and all those other web goodies to provide a beautiful interface.
  • UX – again, an emphatic +1. Here, I would have to use the word ‘graceful’ to describe their use of HTML5, CSS3, et al to provide an exceptional user experience. Nothing is in your face about its activity; but the more you look, the more you see.
  • Circles – I like this implementation of what many are calling Facebook Groups. Other than the lovely way of implementing your groups, the UI provides for much better control and understanding of both your own Circles, as well as the Circles that you have been added to. +1 from me.
  • Hangouts – the hangouts interface is smooth. An intuitive, clean interface that doesn’t beg for lots of assistance. It just gets down and does what it’s meant to do. I’ll have to wait til I’m at a real computer (with a web-cam), but then I’m all up for some serious testing of this.
  • Chat – pretty much just the same as Gmail Chat from my first look. That said, gmail chat is a good IM client anyway, so all good.
  • Photos – again, the interface is well implemented. I’ll need to have a decent play over the next few days, but I can’t say I expect to be disappointed at all.

It’s pretty obvious that the word-of-mouth surrounding Google+ and the features it is offering forced Facebook’s hand and made them bring forward the “awesome announcement” that they were integrating Skype into their framework. However, it already makes them look like they’re playing catch-up to Google+; as XYZ said the other day: “they aren’t the first to integrate video calling with social, MySpace did it in 2007, but now it’s the right timing for the product”. Google+ seems to have opened the gate first, if only by a couple of days. Facebook is already having to justify why their implementation is better (“most people only want to use person-to-person”).

The converse is also true though, as it seems Google+ is already fast-forwarding their Beta schedule and allowing more and more invites to be cashed in. This is possibly in response to Facebook’s moves; or, it could just be a response to public demand and the quality performance of Google+ internally for Google. They would much rather offer a schedule of months, and deliver in days or weeks, than the other way around. This is afterall the Google who still had gmail in beta 5 years after launch, but had been fully open to the public for 2 and 1/2 years of that 5 years (Wikipedia).

I’m going to be having a dive into the features as much as possible this weekend, I can’t wait. Here’s a vid:

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embedding a dynamic map of foursquare check-ins into your website

I’ve just been working with embedding foursquare locations in a website, and displayed on a map. After a bit of a fiddle around, I’ve come up with, what I think is, a very simple and dynamic solution. Simply go to http://foursquare.com/feeds/ and get your KML link.

To the end of this append ?count=ABC (where ABC is the number of results you want); e.g.:

http://feeds.foursquare.com/history/[YOUR_PERSONAL_CODE_HERE].kml?count=1

Be warned that you should keep this link private, as it gives access to your foursquare data.

Now, head across to Google Maps and past this link in the search box and click ‘Search’. You will end up seeing a map with your most recent (in my example I used ‘1’) foursquare check-in pin-pointed. This link is dynamic, in that it requests the most recent check-in from foursquare at time of use.

With this you can then grab the embed code from Google Maps and paste this into your site to provide a currently updated map showing where you last checked-in to foursquare. Again, be aware that the link to your foursquare data will be visible if someone knows how to inspect the source code of your page. For this reason, I recommend doing what I have done below, and pasting the check-in/s as images. This is not dynamic, but it is secure.

Loving Google’s logo today

I’m loving Google’s logo today in honor of Jules Vern’s birthday. Fully interactive, with the little joystick off to the right. This means you can navigate your submarine while watching out the windows. There is a treasure to find too (which you can see through the ‘e’ window).

my iPad app round-up

So, I’ve had my iPad for over a month now, and I felt it was time to review the apps I have on it now. I figure a month is enough time to settle into my usage patterns and have discarded apps that just didn’t do it for me afterall.

1: Social Networking –

I don’t run one app for all my social networking, some people prefer to but I have found it better to have apps that focus on one thing, and do what they do do well. For Twitter, I was originally using Twitterific, and had just upgraded to the paid version the day before Twitter released their own app. Since then I have been devoted to the official Twitter app which is clean, intuitive, and just pretty much perfect in my book.

For Facebook, I am still floating between two apps; Friendly and the official Facebook iPhone app. Both are pretty good, Friendly is more aesthetically pleasing due to being designed for the iPad form-factor, while the official FB app seems a little more intuitive and “like” Facebook itself (as you would expect).

I’m also running FourSquare on my iPad, as I don’t have an iPhone (still!!).

2: Utilities / Lifestyle –

I have quite a few utilities set up on my iPad, for news I am running the fantastic NYTimes app, the TVNZ News app, and the NZ Herald app. I also use GeekNews to pull all my geeky tech blogs together into one streamlined place. The Mashable! app is great for a quick check up on what is trending or popping up online currently.
I am currently using PrinterShare for printing directly from the iPad on my home network. This will hopefully change when iOS4 is released for iPad (rumors indicate late November 2010 maybe).
I also have Google Earth, the IMDb app, and a great tracking app – Parcel – which allows you to just put in your tracking code allocated to the delivery you are expecting. Saves having to visit different websites and remember your tracking numbers for different companies. Some other little gems are:
Epicurious
Wikipanion
Evernote
– The WordPress app for blogging on the go
Shazam
Then for a bit of creative fun, I have GrooveMaker and Drums! GrooveMaker lets you mix tracks, and even create your own tracks on the fly. Drums! is just that, a complete drum set on your iPad – in fact, it’s actually three complete drum sets, as you can choose between Standard, Groove, and Acoustic kits. The sound is true to life, so go get it.

3: Web Dev –

A few free web-dev helpers tucked on the iPad too. I’ve got JsAnywhere and three great apps from Interactive Blasphemy. JavaScript Anywhere is a JavaScript tool which enables you to edit your JS script, adjust the CSS, and then view the results in an HTML page. You can email the results to yourself. From Interactive Blasphemy I have robots.txt, which is just that, a robots.txt generator; Password, which generates passwords of random characters of length and complexity specified; and RGB/HSB/Hex, which enables you to create that perfect shade for you web job, and also then suggests good matching and contrasting colors.

4: Games –

Yep, the main reason most people have an iPad. I am personally a big fan of the logic/strategy games. I’ll list them all, then comment on a few of them, with more in-depth reviews being added, along with links to the iTunes store, later on:
– iFighter – essentially the classic fighter game 1945 remade for the iPad
– Harbor Master
– FlightControl HD
– Canabalt
– Gravity Hook
– Angry Birds
– Angry Birds (Halloween Special)
– Cut the Rope
– Pocket Frogs
– Plants vs Zombies
– Fruit Ninja HD
– Steve Young Football
– Build-A-Lot 2
– Blue Block
– Crazy Traffic: Crashed XL
– Train Conductor 2: U.S.A.
– No, Human
– Trainyard
– UFO On Tape
– Railway
– Chicktionary
– NOM
– Fish Eat Fish
– Dismount
– GearedHD
– Air Hockey
– TicTacDojo
– Little Metal Ball
– Soosiz HD
– Physics HD
– Gravity HD
– Tilt to Live HD
– NinJump
– Red Bull RC
– Asymmetry
– 8Bit Rebellion (the Linkin Park game)

Surprisingly enough, I have found my usage of the iPad to be alot different than I planned for. I have found the games an easy way to take a 5 minute break when I need to, but have found that I actually now tend to jump on Twitter or a news site when I want a 5 minute chill out. I am still just working with iBooks as my book-reader and PDF-reader of choice. Primarily because I have no need of the flasher features of the other readers out there. Overall, I have to say that the iPad is proving itself to be very worthwhile as a tool; and I keep finding new ways for it to excel and prove it’s worth.

Google working on Search As You Type

Google has been testing search results that will change in real time as you type into your Google Search box. When you start typing, the search box is moved to the top of the page and results are updated as you type, kind of like a Firefox page search, Spotlight on the Mac, or Windows 7’s “Search programs and files” field in the start menu.

These live search results are not available to the public at present as Google regularly tests new features with very small selections of users. Some of those features never see a public launch, but some do.

It is, honestly, anyone’s guess as to what the benefit of such results would be. The question that ultimately comes to mind, as noted by TechCrunch, is what effect this would have on keyword-based advertising. Given that the entire context of a word can change based on a few letters, it leads to an interesting outcome when your search changes that quickly; but, Google does make its money by displaying contextual ads based on your searches.

Blogger Rob Ousbey discovered the feature and wrote about it. Video follows.

 

(via Mashable)

next post, my fail, Kanye’s a f%$#tard

First off the bat, I didn’t make it through to Round 2 of CodeJam. The issue I posted about on Saturday reared it’s ugly head again and I kept getting the good old crash due to int not handling 10^18 !! Annoyed me a tad, so I haven’t reviewed my attempts just yet. My small datasets worked perfectly with the identical code, so I’m definitely puzzled. I’ll be posting the code once I have the issue solved. I’ll then be able to point out my epic fail that should have been obvious. Ah well, next year I’ll be back in for more. I’m also contemplating doing it in PHP next time instead of C# because I like the cleanlines of some of the algorithmic features of PHP. I’ve reviewed other competitors solutions in PHP and C# also; the other biggie for me is to review my regular expressions as I don’t use them anywhere near enough, so my code is full of while loops/if-else statements etc.

Moving on, I have to say that Kanye West is a “moustache on a woman” (thanks Paul Henry!!) for his efforts at the VMAs the other night. All the copies of the video keep getting pulled from YouTube, so the best I can offer is this link to mashable. Suffice to say, he’s acting like an arrogant douche and jumps into the middle of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to grab the mic and say he thought Beyonce should win!! He got booed off by the crowd, but even so he needs a big slap upside the head.

The video has also been remixed already too:

Other than that, I’m loving MonoTouch!! It’s an interface and IDE essentially which enables you to run your .NET and ASP applications within the iPhone/iPod Touch framework. From the website:

MonoTouch is the Mono edition for Apple’s iPhone and Apple’s iPod Touch devices.  MonoTouch allows developers to create C# and .NET based applications that run on the iPhone and can take advantage of the iPhone APIs as well as reusing both code and libraries that have been built for .NET as well as existing skills.

For example, here is the proverbial “Hello World” demo. So simple and sweet. I definitely want!

That’s enough for right now, but I’ll bring more later today, as well as some updates on launching site in the next few days. 99% done, just final testing now.

quick update: Sen. Al Franken draws US map from memory

I’m busy prepping for Round 1 of Google CodeJam, but I thought I’d quickly post this.

From the blurb:

Senator Al Franken draws a map of all 50 states from memory during an appearance on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midday at the Minnesota State Fair.

This is just plain awesome!!

More goodness later today/tonight. Back to it now.