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:


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:
– The WordPress app for blogging on the go
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
– 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.

easy links to iTunes content

Just a quick post to highlight the funky little tool on the iTunes website for automajickally [sic] generating links to specific apps with the iTunes store. The appropriately named iTunes Link Maker is able to be targeted by Country, Media Type, or Genre/Category; as well as being able to be searched by name.

It has been out for a while, and is not guaranteed by Apple at all. In fact, they go so far as to state

The Link Maker tool is provided by Apple as an accommodation only. Apple assumes no responsibility for your use of any links, and makes no representation regarding their accuracy or performance.

amongst other parts of the disclaimer. But, hey, it’s easier than trying to figure it out and do it yourself. Right??

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)

Apple store outage

The Apple Store has been down for quite a few hours today/tonight. Twitter reports are just that it is down, with no actual reasons yet. All Apple is saying is what is on the site, which is just a “We’ll be back soon” logo. Apparently they’re updating the store, but it wouldn’t normally be expected to be done at such a peak usage time.

Being one week before the iPad release, we can only conjecture that they are reformatting the store for iPad apps and content. I’m not going to bother guessing, because we’ll all be able to see what is what very soon I’m sure.

the weekend has landed

I didn’t get to blogging yesterday, as I was working hard on assignments. You may have noticed the quick post I put up with some music and a video of it. Check it out if you get the chance, Bob Marley is awesome and the remake is brilliant. Just gets me all summery and wanting the sun and sand!! Back to today now, I had the dedication of some friends’ baby this morning, Annabelle is SOOOOO cute it’s ridiculous. Also bumped into some other old friends there whose baby was being dedicated in the same service. Great service, great people, and lots of cute babies. And then there was food afterward. I also started up a page on here linking to useful websites for coding, web-development, anything scripty as a kinda go-to page for quick reference. Hopefully it becomes useful for some of you. Check it out here.

In techy/g33ky/web land, the DDoS of Facebook and Twitter the other day is now being treated as an attack by Russian hackers, specifically targetting a 34-year-old economics lecturer and blogger who criticises Russia’s military presence in the Caucasus. Facebook and Twitter launched investigations yesterday, as a blogger called “Cyxymu” (a latinised version of Sukhumi, the capital of the Georgian breakaway republic, Abkhazia) announced he was the attack’s first target. Max Kelly, Facebook’s chief security officer, confirmed Cyxymu was the target.

Just checked my Twitter account and found that none of my text Tweets this evening from work have made it through. Thanks Vodafone, you’re awesome!!!!

Rumours are starting [via Engadget] that iTunes 9 will have BluRay support. As Engadget says

To be fair, the HD disc format wars are all but over at this point, and the most recent Final Cut Pro actually lets you burn video directly to a third-party BD drive, only to have to play the discs on another, non-Mac device. This is all pretty sketch at the moment, and we doubt the boys in Cupertino will be showing their hands until just after the eleventh hour — let’s not forget, also, that iTunes is also available for Windows which does have other third-party Blu-ray playback software.

So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see now, won’t we??

Gizmodo is also showing off this 16GB USB, plus whatever microSD cards you shove inside. Kinda Osum!! [geekstuff4u via ohgizmo via gizmodo]

Into a night of playing with Microsoft Virtual PC and the WRK for Windows Server 2003 now. Ciao.

more comments on Apple, and other stuff

It’s out and about now that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, has resigned from Apple’s board. Regulators from the Federal Trade Commission had already been looking into whether Schmidt’s presence on the boards of Google and Apple was causing collusion that would diminish competition. I guess the actions of Apple against Google over the past week have shown this to not necessarily be the case! While a statement yesterday from el Jobbso himself indicated that it was the announcement of Chrome OS that triggered this,

Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses … Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest

it is intriguing timing that the resignation comes so shortly after the Google Latitude and Google Voice debacle kicked off. Both parties would be well aware of the signals that would be sent to the world, regardless of PR statements to the contrary, and we know Google management is not impressed with Apple’s attaitude and handling of the situation from the tweet I mentioned last week. It’ll be interesting to see further developments here, as another Google director, Genentech Inc. Chairman Arthur Levinson, remains on Apple’s board. So we should be seeing him gone from one or the other companies soon, especially if the FCC has it’s way. Says Charles Elson, director of the University of Delaware’s Weinberg Centre for Corporate Governance:

If it has been determined it’s a conflict for one director to serve on the boards of both companies, I would think it should be for the other, too. It’s impossible to be on the boards of two companies that are increasingly competing against each other.

Also, here’s copies of the letters sent by the FCC to Apple, Google and AT&T requesting detailed information regarding the lack of approval for Google’s Google Voice app, and the removal of previously approved Google Voice based apps from the Apple App Store [thanks TechCrunch]. Gizmodo is also reporting that the rapid response to the allegations of collusion and other general naughtiness is due to the new Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, who appears to be the driving force behind the agency’s quick response to the Apple-Google situation.

And, yes, it’s been done already, a nice developer man by the name of Nat Friedman has rocked out a script to enable iPhone users to utilise Google Latitude anyway; playnice is a sweet little script which gets your iPhone’s location from MobileMe, passes it to Latitude. It needs MobileMe to work, so you have to give el Jobbso some cash anyway, but it is a fix in the interim. I wonder if Apple is starting to get the hint yet, or if they even care. Methinks probably not. Also, having a look through Nat’s blog I came across these goodies (here and here). They’re from back in the middle of 2008, but are awesome for their concept and results. Nat set out to create and pull together the best one-line program that would fit inside Twitter’s 140-character buffer. Here’s a couple of my favourites, but check out the links to see the full extent of how cool this is.
This one decodes Morse Code:

m=etianmsurwdkgohvf?l?pjbxcyzq;p=0;while read -sn1 c;do [ -z "$c" ]&&p=0&&echo&&continue;let p+=c;echo -ne \\b${m:$p:1};let p+=p+2;done

Here’s an etch-a-sketch for your terminal! Use the 1 2 3 and 4 keys to move the cursor around the screen:

c=12322123;x=20;y=20;while read -sn1 p;do k=${c:(p-1)*2:2};let x+=$((k/10-2));let y+=$((k%10-2));echo -en \33[$y\;"$x"HX;done

And, here’s a prime number generator in C:

main(x,y){for(;x++;) for(y=2;x%y;)printf( ++y/x+"%d\n",x);}

My next pick is that this app here for using iPhones as a payment portal by attaching a card-swipe dongle to the headphone jack will get approved, but then Apple will release their own version and pull the original as it “now duplicates features of the iPhone”. Next I’m going to create an iPhone/iPod Touch application which cooks your battery and cause the said device to catch fire. I simply want to do this so I can get an email from Apple stating my rejection is for “duplicating already existing features of the device“.

Joshua Topolsky from Engadget sums up the news around Apple and all their shenanigans on this report here.

In local news down here in New Zealand, we are finally starting to get some vaguely decent cellular servicing and pricing. Some of the charges we get here in New Zealand would cause people in the US, and even Australia, to have heart attacks. And the servicing and connectivity (or lack therof) is kinda ridiculous. Don’t even get me started on our inability to get decent data plans. I actually nearly brought US international roaming plans into NZ with free BlackBerry Storms when they were being released, because the US deal gave UNLIMITED international data roaming for about US$50 (I can’t remeber the exact figure). Anyway, it was cheaper to do that than to get dta from inside NZ. The stumbling block was not that this deal required 400+ connections (ie Business Plan) because we figured out how to do it through a “club” structure based in the US, but came up when we were not able to find a client useful way to block calls. Who wants a phone without calling ability?? And to leave calling ability in the plan would mean we became a cellular provider and had to chase call costs every month. Not entirely practical as a part-time lurk. The Skype calls route wasn’t fully practical at the time either. Back to the point though, with the launch of a new cellular provider in New Zealand this week, 2degrees and their launch pricing plans here. They’ve halved the cost of texting, and of most calls, so this should hopefully cause Vodafone and Telecom to come to the party and start to be competitive and internationally realistic! I guess it remains to be seen what happens; the only hiccup I can currently see is that they are only offering “Pay-As-You-Go” servicing, which won’t help them bring over bigger corporates easily (hopefully they’ve got this covered) and isn’t the most attractive to me personally. I just like being able to pay once a month, as opposed to needing to remember to top up as I run low. Intriguingly, in Australia Woolworths supermarket chain has just announced they will be getting into the telecommunications market, offering a no-frills mobile phone service.

It’s doing the rounds, but I thought I’d better share it too. Here’s a video of how to NOT demolish a building. Turkish demolitions experts may not be so expert after-all.

I’ve also been polishing a few more tutorials, so I’l have them up tomorrow or Thursday, so stand-by for those. Also, if you’re in the US, check out this competition here. 1800 Tequila are offering one lucky winner the chance to spend $10,000 creating their own “man cave”!!