Archive for Internet

More Google in Your Home

Google announced today on their blog that they will be rolling out a pilot program to bring broadband internet access to the house.  No longer just a web services company, but now also a web access provider?  I wonder what this will do to the broadband service industry.

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gPodder

I use a variety of computers and devices to access information on the web.  I have a home laptop, a netbook, a work laptop and an iPhone.  I tend to try and utilize cloud solutions when possible to keep certain pieces of information synced between the two.  One of these pieces of information is the list of Podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis.  For the most part this list is relatively static, but when I add a new Podcast that I want to listen to, I want that change to take effect everywhere.

This where gPodder comes into play.  gPodder is a free Podcast aggregator that runs on Windows, Linux and OS X.  I currently have Ubuntu running on my netbook and Windows 7 on my home laptop.  The installation on both were simple and straightforward.

Ubuntu

The Ubuntu repository contained the gPodder application, so it was as simple as utilizing a “apt-get install gpodder” to install and place in the “Sound & Video” menu on my Ubuntu installation.

Windows 7

The Windows version is distributed as a zip file, so the installation  was as simple as extracting the files into a directory and then double-clicking on the gpodder application in the extracted directory.

Both versions show a clean and intuitive interface, listing Podcasts on the left and the episodes available and downloaded on the right.  By default it will download the newest episodes, but downloading older episodes is as easy as right-clicking and choosing download.

Since I have an iPhone, I had primarily been using iTunes for my Podcast aggregation.  This works fine for the Windows laptop and my iPhone, but what if I wanted to have these same Podcasts available on my netbook.  I do not download all my subscribed Podcasts to the iPhone, leaving the video Podcasts to reside on the laptop only.  This is where gPodder really shines for me, as it allows me to keep my laptop and netbook and any device in sync.

The one feature of gPodder that drove me to using it, was the web service is provides to keep record of your Podcast subscriptions online and then allow you to set the client to use this web service to keep them in sync.  I created an account for myself at gPodder’s web service site which was simple and straightforward.

So, these were the steps that I took to get my Podcasts in sync between the two computers.

1. I exported the Podcasts from iTunes into a OPML file.

2. I imported the OPML file into one of my gPodder installations.

3. Uploaded it to the gPodder web service.

4. Told the other installation of gPodder to keep in sync with the web service.

That was it.  I now know that if I add a new subscription on my netbook, that gPodder will upload that subscription to my gPodder account and the next time I use the Windows client, it will be present. For someone like me who utilizes multiple devices this is a definite help to keeping another piece of my online life in sync.

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Hovering Above Twitter

I spend a lot of time in Twitter clicking on people who are following my updates or on people who have been Retweeted to see their profile and get more information on them.  This to me is a major buzzkill in Twitter, as it ruins the flow of seeing Tweets go by on the screen, because you now have to go to another screen and then go back and by that time your Tweetstreem has moved on from the point it was at.

Well, Twitter, must have had the same thought and announced yesterday that in any timeline, you will be able to place your mouse pointer on a Twitter username and when you “hover” over it, a “Hovercard” will appear giving you more information on the user.  I like this a lot.  This to me is a great enhancement to the site’s usefulness and I can not wait until it is completely rolled out.  Anytime you can provide more information in stream, not requiring the user to go to another screen, you keep the focus of the user.

Good job Twitter.

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Waze

Ever sit there in your car on the way to work and wonder what the road ahead may bring?  Overhead highway signs will usually give you a time, but not necessarily what is ahead.  What if fellow drivers could tell you what is going on?

Well, that is exactly what Waze offers to do.  It is a social mobile application that provides turn-by-turn navigation based off of live conditions on the road.  When you enter in your destination, it uses data from other Waze users to provide you the quickest and most hassle-free route.

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Right now the mobile application is available for a few type of phones, such as the iPhone (what I have) and the Android.  You leave the iPhone application on while you drive and it provides turn-by-turn directions based on experiences of other users while at the same time providing feedback on your own driving experience of speed and if you want you can communicate speed traps/accidents/construction that will be recorded and provided to other users.

Waze is relatively new and in most metro areas, like mine of Milwaukee, there is not a lot of data.  However, as more and more of us use the application on our way to and from work and other places, it will start to learn more about traffic patterns and that coupled with real-time data offer what all of us want in our commute.  A personalized commute free of hassles.

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What Browser Are You Running?

I do support for family members and other groups that usually is over the phone.  Sometimes I need to know the name and the version of the software they are using.

I found the site www.whatbrowser.org, run by Google which will take a look at the request headers from your browser and display the current vendor and version information.  No longer will you need to have Grandma or Mom try to find the About button, you can just have them go to this page and it will give the current version of their browser.

Now if we could just get people to stop using Internet Explorer 6.0.

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Web for the Average Joe?

Tonight my brother and his girlfriend stopped by the house for a visit.  While he was there, he asked if there was a site where he and his graduate school colleagues could edit and share documents.  Now my brother is computer literate and knows how to surf the web, download stuff and work his computer, but not necessarily up on everything going on in the cyberspace.

Where does the average person go to find out about services on the web?  It started me thinking.  I am not sure.  For those of us in the “know” we usually have read about it on a tech blog or have seen a Tweet on Twitter.  But for people like my brother, these two things do not happen.  Usually what happens is a conversation like tonight where they ask someone with the knowledge and I go, well that is easy you can either use Zoho Docs or Google Docs, and proceed to give a quick 15 minute demo.  So, I thought, maybe I will put a website together that shows people these things, but again, how do you advertise that is out there?

So, I am trying to find a way to publicize to the average computer user about services like Google Docs.  Something where they can go to a website, take a look and go, yep that will work for me.

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Twitvim

I was looking for a Twitter application for Linux today, and stumbled upon a Twitter plugin for VIM, called TwitVIM.  Now being a longtime Unix admin, VI has always been my editor of choice and VIM is just a more feature rich version of VI, so this plugin excited me.

I downloaded the plugin, sourced it in VIM then restarted VIM to use it.  The plugin is pretty simple in that it only lets you post entries and view your timeline.  There is no search or lists or  any of the other more advanced features of Twitter, but it does get the job done.

It constantly amazes me the interfaces to web apps that people come up with.

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Tweeting Astronauts

Looks like astronauts aboard the International Space Station finally have Internet access via this Slashdot story.

There is part of me that wonders why it has taken so long for this to happen.

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Seesmic Look

Seesmic launched their latest Twitter client today called Seesmic Look.  It aims to make Twitter updates more friendly and accessible.

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The interface is definitely a change from traditional Twitter clients and there are three different views that you can choose for displaying your tweets.  The above picture shows the “Playback” mode where Tweets are displayed on your screen in “bubbles” as they are Tweeted by the users you are following.

The “alphabetical” display shows your Tweets sorted alphabetically by who tweeted it.

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And finally, there is a “timeline” view which displays the Tweets in a timeline as they are tweeted.

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On the left side of the interface you can choose what you are viewing in the three display options.

  • Trends – Displays latest trends in Twitter.
  • Inbox – Displays your follower’s Tweets and Mentions.
  • Social – Listing the Tweets from the users and groups that you follow.
  • Favorites – Listing the Tweets that you have marked as favorites.
  • Interests – Listing of Tweets by categories.
  • Channels – Tweets grouped into channels.

I ran into a couple of bugs, nothing unexpected for a new release.  I had trouble with my feeds always updating.  It seemed to randomly “freeze” and I would either have to refresh or choose a different view on the left and then go back to my regular view.

The interface while polished and easy on the eyes, is not conducive necessarily for a laptop user as myself.  It takes up a large swath of screen real estate and shrinking it makes the Tweets less easy to follow on the screen.  It is aimed at a user who is willing to give up the screen, has multiple screens or has a large monitor on a desktop where the screen space is not an issue. 

It definitely is aiming for the casual Twitter user, as it removes some of the ambiguity around who to follow and what type of information is posted on Twitter.  While the typical Twitter user has a following and is following a group of people, people new to Twitter may feel overwhelmed with what Twitter is.  A tool like Seesmic is definitely going to help make Twitter more useful for a larger group of people.  It reminds me in a way of the Pointcast program that would push updates to the desktop and display them in a streaming bar.

While I may not use this on a regular basis, I do see myself using it every once a while, just because of the interface.  Nice work Seesmic.

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Bing Destination Maps

While the big news from Bing is that Bing Maps is no longer in beta, what I was more impressed with was their new feature called Destination Maps.  I always dreaded putting a map into a document/web page/invitation that came from Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Mapquest.  To me the maps were always cold and impersonal.  That was until today.

Destination Maps from Bing allows you to create a map that looks like it was written on the back of a napkin, making it more personal and warm in my opinion.

Here is an example of using Destination Maps to create a personalized map for the Whitehouse.

whitehouse

First go to http://maps.bing.com.  Choose Map Apps from the left hand pane:

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Click on Destination Maps and enter in the address you want to search for in the Search box and click on Search.  This will bring up a normal Bing map showing your selected location.

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Click on Continue to choose that location.  You will now be asked to choose the area of interest that you want the map made from.  Using the slider arrows on the four sides of the box to choose the area that you want a map created from.  When you are done, click on Continue.

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Here Destination Maps will allow you to choose a name for your map.  In this example, I decided on “The Whitehouse”.  Click on Continue once you have named your map.

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The personalized map will now be generated.  You are entertained with an animated “Loading” during the process which is a nice touch.

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From here you can choose four different style, save/print (three sizes, PDF or JPEG), or share on the web for others to access.

I can now attach a map that is more personalized and not some boring perfectly drawn map.

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