Tag Archive for Google

The Socialest Network

Admit it, most of you live here.

Admit it, most of you live here.

Socialest (not to be confused with Socialist) meaning “the most social”. It is how I feel lately with every website on the Internet. Facebook used the be the primary culprit. Their feed, which I always want to read by “Most Recent”, keeps trying to display what it thinks I want to read. And the default setting for new friends is to show “Most Updates”. Zuckerberg and company are trying to curate my experience, to give me the best most awesome items they can mathematically determine – which largely results in me missing everything I actually care about. If I didn’t keep fighting Facebook’s settings, my feed would be entirely populated by items people reshared that have gotten thousands of likes, but when my brother says something cool but gets only 1 or 2 likes it gets hidden.

Due to Facebook’s deluge of ads and app spam (at last count I had over 200 apps blocked from my feed), I would prefer something cleaner like Google+. But then, they are curating my experience as well. Items posted in the last few minutes appear below items from yesterday that are more popular. It’s not as bad as Facebook yet, but it is clearly moving in that direction.

With Google announcing that they are going to retire the Reader application, a place where I spend a huge amount of time reading from my hundreds of aggregated RSS feeds, I have had to go in search of a possible replacement. All of those replacements suck. Each one of them wants to try and curate my reading experience. They want to show me the stuff with the most subscribers, the most likes, the most comments, and they want to bury anything else in the back.

It’s all turning into a popularity contest.

Everyone seems to think not only that they can predict what I want to see but that I want them to. I don’t. I would like to see the things I have asked to see, and when I want to see more things I will go looking for them (which I often do – I mean, you don’t get to have hundreds of feeds in your Reader without seeking this stuff out) or one of the sources I already read and trust will recommend it to me. I read lots of personal blogs, most of which I discovered because they were mentioned or linked to by another blog. What I really don’t need is my reading platform taking my reading habits and trying to select from a database similar items. It could be nice, but as far as I am aware every one of these systems eventually gets greedy and starts allowing people to pay for a better rank or more publicity. My Facebook feed is constant suggesting posts to me of things I could not care any less about that someone clearly paid to have put in front of my eyes.

It has been said, if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product being sold. And that is the center of all of these social networks. They don’t charge you anything because they are selling you. Google+ doesn’t have ads yet, but since Google announced the closing of Reader because they could never figure out a way to make money off it, you have to assume the ads are coming because if they can’t make money off Google+ they will eventually shutter it.

I’m rambling… anyway, I guess my point is that I wish people who stop trying to sell my eyes and control what I see.

Ads

I’ve toyed with ads on the site from time to time. Right now in my RSS feed there are three ads – a Google block, a GameTap ad, and an Amazon ad for Kindle/eBooks. None of them are doing well, but that’s probably because I only have about 70 people who read that feed. On the site itself, I’ve put up Google blocks and Amazon ads, I had the GameTap ad for a little while and I’ve recently switched over to an Amazon search widget (if you use it when you start your Amazoning, I’ll get a tiny commission from anything you buy). I’ve even thought about throwing up a PayPal donation button, but I would feel terrible about that unless I have at least one semi-popular regular feature (see: Man vs Wife – no really, read it and if you enjoy it, share it with others – the more people who read it, the more I’m apt to write it).

This morning I read this article over at Pajiba. It’s worth reading to get an idea of what goes behind funding a popular website. Now, I’m not popular, but it does cost me around $200 a year to keep this place going – a cost I happily pay because I like having the outlet. Then again, I’m not very heavy on traffic. I don’t get 3+ million page views a month. I get about 800, but it is climbing as I post more regularly. I’m incredibly lucky if I earn $1 a month. My best month ever was when someone used my Amazon link and then went on to buy over $5,000 worth of electronics. No other month has even come close.

VisitChart

Pageviews vs Unique Visitors - Not many people come here, but some come twice a day.

However, one of the main things I wanted to point out from that article was the mention of ad-blockers. Yes, running ad-blocking is probably the safest thing you can do, since ads are an attack vector. However, when you do that, you are also dropping yourself from the “view” count for the ads on the sites you visit. Since the ads are how they afford to keep making the content, visiting a site with ad-block running is, essentially, a form of piracy. Now, I know that piracy is a big scary word that gets tossed around a lot, but it does have meaning and it applies here.

But what if a site has terrible ads full of viruses and not-safe-for-work content that I need to block?

Well, in my opinion, if the people who run a site don’t care enough to provide safe ads for their visitors, then you probably shouldn’t reward them with visits regardless of how awesome you think the site’s main content is, so just stop going. Find another site to get that content from, one that cares about its readers. And don’t forget to send in a nicely worded (don’t be profane) email to the offending website and let them know why you won’t be coming back – they just might decide to fix it.

If you enjoy a site for content, unblock it – most ad-blockers have the ability to “white list” sites to allow ads. Keep your anti-virus up to date, and if you get a warning from an ad, contact the site owner and let them know. They actually want to know because they don’t want to be infecting their readers with viruses. Another option is to browse using a browser like Google Chrome which maintains its own Flash, PDF and other things inside its sandbox and doesn’t allow access outside of the browser. And since Chrome automatically updates itself all the time, you don’t have to remember to check for new updates and you can browse with the knowledge that you’ve always got the latest attack protections the team at Google has released.

Basically, you should seek to reward the sites you enjoy because without the reward they’ll fade away.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me for today…

The New New Google

If you haven’t noticed, Google has been revamping their look. Unifying the feel of all their sites. So far, I like it, with my only real complaint being the over abundance of white space. Luckily, most of the apps offer the ability to select a “compact” look that eliminates much of that, squeezing everything in closer together. These days, I prefer whenever possible to hang out over on Google+ instead of Facebook, largely because of its much cleaner look and lack of crap I don’t like.

But all isn’t roses in the land of search and honey. Google’s latest moves have started to bother me. The first being the new YouTube. The pages for any individual video is much improved. It’s cleaner, nicer, and with the new size buttons of regular, large and full screen, it simplifies in all the best possible ways. Which makes the atrocity of their main page such a disheartening failure. I used to be able to quickly review my subscriptions while scrolling, but now, with one or two prolific video posters (I’m looking at you machinima!) my front page is pretty just one or two people, with the odd other video thrown in. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but I don’t see how.

Rolling out to select people now but eventually to everyone is the new Google Bar. Not one of those you install on your browser, but that black bar that has existed at the top of the majority of Google pages for a while now. A short while ago, probably prepping for the new bar, they juggled the apps around. Now that you can see the new design, the reorder of the apps remains. I’m certain that somewhere is a guy at Google who has lots of metrics that informed on which apps made the cut of being on the first level and which ones got hidden behind the “more” entry, at least I hope there is so that I have someone to properly hate.

The New New Google

It's sort of like an upside-down Start Button in Windows.

You see, one of the apps I use all the time is Google Reader (RSS feeds are awesome!) and when they performed their juggling act, Reader dropped off the main app selection. And with this latest revision, Calendar didn’t make the cut. It’s just insanity that Google hasn’t yet, even back in the black bar days, implemented a way to let each user decide the order of apps.

The new prime apps are Google+, Search, Images, Maps, YouTube, News, Gmail and Documents. To begin with I use Google+ a bunch, probably keep it open most of the day. Next I literally cannot recall the last time I when to the Search main page with the intent to search. I go there to see the new logos. (To be fair, I use Bing now for searching just because I earn points that I can spend on Xbox Live spacebucks, so when I used the Chrome address bar to search it goes to Bing, but before that it used Google, and I still can by typing “g” and a space then my search query.) Same with Images, since it’s basically search – I usually just do a regular web search (from the address bar) and then click the image link on the left of the results. Or, you know, I type “i” followed by a space in the address bar, which is my short cut to image searches at Google. I use maps, but not very often. I do use YouTube quite a bit. News works like Search and Images, “n” followed by a space in the address bar. Gmail and Documents are both deserving. So of the 8, I’ve identified 4 that could easily move beneath the “more” and I’d barely notice.

Meanwhile, I use Music every couple of days, Calendar daily, and Reader I use easily 4 or 5 times a day. And yet, with the new design, I have to click the Google icon on the new bar, then hover over the “More” entry and then select my app. Or I ignore the menu altogether just use the address bar to pull up the site. Maybe I’m just not the target audience. I don’t know.

Anyway, enough rambling out of me, though I do hope they allow for some customization soon.

Identity

My pleading had finally been answered and a 1200 baud modem had been purchased. I sat in front of the computer, the card was installed and the software was waiting. There was a copy of MicroCenter’s weekly ad in my lap, and on the back page the list of BBSs had a few circled. I dialed up a place called Safehaven and created a new account. In the earliest of days, I was Jason Blood (though sometimes I was Etrigan). When I moved away from dialing up BBSs and instead calling up my ISP, I became Logan5.  In 1999, I logged into EverQuest for the first time, and while I played around with a few names, I settled on Ishiro (later Ishiro Takagi). These days on Xbox and in a number of other places, you’ll find me as Jhaer (the “h” is pronounced, so it sounds like “hard” but without the “d” and with a “j” sound crammed on the front of it, one syllable).

In each form, I was always me, though I’ll admit to a bit (or a lot) of role play under various guises. But in 1998 I started putting my thoughts on the Internet, and while I was deep into Logan5 (though sometimes J) at the time, I decided to post as simply “Jason” (though often as “jason” – I used to have a long diatribe on why the lack of capitalization mattered, but for the life of me I can’t remember any of it except something about the importance of the self over the collective… yeah, like most kids in college, I went through one of those “I know everything better than everyone” phases too). As part of this, over the years, my social circles have all known about my interests, and I’ve never kept them from my employers. In fact, there are a couple of jobs over the years that I didn’t take and plenty more that probably didn’t bother to make me offers based entirely on their apparent stance on games as a frivolous hobby. So when it came time to enter a social network, like Friendster or MySpace or Facebook, it never occurred to me to not use my “real” name. I am me. Even when I wear another name.

Back in June of last year, there was a kerfuffle surrounding Blizzard’s new Real ID. It was totally and completely out-of-place there, and to this day I’ve only linked my Real ID with maybe five other people (my wife, my best friend, my best friend’s wife, and two other long time “real life” friends). This year, both Facebook and Google+ have taken a much firmer stance on real names, going so far as to ban accounts that don’t use real names.

Now, personally, for myself, I could not care any less. I use my real name on the Internet, and I deter identity theft by maintaining an identity not worth stealing (though if you wish to steal my identity and then pay off my debts, feel free). However, I do understand that some people want to maintain two identities. Even I did at the beginning. In the BBS days I was extremely protective of who I was, if only because in my real life I was kind of a dorky nerd (this was junior high and high school). It wasn’t until I was in the 11th grade that I broke down that wall and actually started meeting the people I’d only known online face-to-face.

— as a brief aside, let me take a moment to let that sink in and allow you to realize how different the world of 1989 is from today. I was a 15-year-old boy whose parents let him, actually encouraged him, to go meet complete strangers he’d met on the Internet. —

And I don’t mean to denigrate people who maintain multiple identities as something I’ve outgrown. My online journey after the age of 15 simply didn’t have much separation. The bulk of my friends we the people I met online, and we took those online friendships offline whenever possible with outings to movies, parties, etc. It was a conscious decision on my part.

Anyway… Facebook and Google+ have been taking a fairly hard-line on all of this, and while they manage social networks, I don’t feel like this is an area they should be so adamant about. Occasionally, the use of real names on the Internet will temper what people say, but not often. Despite posting with a real name, plenty of people are going to continue to be asshats simply because, real names or not, they just don’t consider the feelings of the people on the other side of the screen. Honestly, they are in the business of providing traffic and demographic data. As free services to us, the users, we aren’t the customer, we are the product. Should they care if I’m on their site socializing with the people from work or socializing with people who play a common game with me? I don’t think they should. They should only care that I’m on the site, and into which column they can put me down for selling my eyeballs for ads.

All this was brought on because I saw that Tobold got banned from Facebook. It’s a shame, because he was one of the few people who played games there and actually participated. With him gone, all my games just got harder and I’m less likely to play them. See… that’s the deal with a social networks: ripples.

The Information You Want

I watch the following TED talk by Eli Pariser a while ago and I’ve watched it a couple of times.  Take a little over nine minutes and give it a listen.

In some ways this is very much related to a post I made over two years ago about newspapers. When I go to Facebook, it continually keeps showing me the Top News, and the first thing I do every time is click the link for Most Recent.  To me, Most Recent is better because I go to Facebook fairly often and seeing month old news that I didn’t think was interesting enough to comment on a month ago is useless to me, even if 97 other people feel it is comment worthy.  I use Most Recent and I read all the news back to my last visit.  If something is interesting, I comment on it or Like it, and if I comment on something Facebook is kind enough to inform me if other people comment on it too so I can go back and continue to participate in the discussion no matter how old it is.

Over in the new world of Google+, Tom (yeah, that Tom, everybody’s friend from MySpace) has had lots of interesting things to say, but among them is this entry about how right now Google isn’t giving you control over how your content is filtered.  Largely it’s time based, but popular topics do (or did) rise toward the top, so my feed was filled with people like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and Tom, people who post and then get hundreds of comments within minutes, and my actual friends were buried.  They adjusted that, so I get less of a flood from popular people and see a more linear timeline, but sometimes I’ll see things out of order and I can’t tell why one item is considered more important than the other.  And that, as the video above states, is the problem.  At least, Google+ needs Facebook’s Top News and Most Recent options… at best, they’ll give the users a bunch of options and allow you to create your own custom feeds, and not just based on circles, but also based on circles.  I’d like to be able to push to the top not only popular topics, but ones in which more of my circled people are participating.  A topic with nine thousand comments by strangers may be important, but it’s not more important than a topic with fifty comments of which thirty-five are from people I have in circles.

I don’t mind if there are filters on content, but I want to be able to get at those filters and make adjustments, or sometimes remove them entirely and view them in a simple sorted order (like by date).  The only issue is when, as I said in my post about newspapers, the content creators actually make the content in a way that doesn’t allow certain filters or sorts – if you update a news story rather than posting a second story, the original story isn’t available to be read anymore, depending on how you do your update.

Hopefully, the trend will swing back toward user control over the algorithms that filter our content.  I don’t like the idea of other people (or worse, program code) decided what I should see.

G+N

Trying an experiment this evening.  Should have posted this yesterday, but, alas, I did not.  Anyway, the idea goes like this:

Google Plus Netflix: a bunch of people watch the same movie at the same time though Netflix Instant and run a live text commentary on Google Plus.

This could be awesome.  This could suck.

My main impetus for doing this is the idea of the commentary, but in such a fashion that it was “recorded” but not a podcast, and possible so that if someone watches the movie later they can read the commentary on roughly the same pace.  Also, using a text medium like this means that there is no limit to the number of participants, so I’m hoping we get lots of voices, from the funny mocking tones to the knowledgeable remarking on production values.

Of course, the latter may be in short supply since I chose Birdemic: Shock and Terror as our inaugural film.

If you want to participate, go here.  The movie will start at 10 PM Eastern.

Google+

Allow me to begin with a turn of phrase I stumbled upon that I think sums up quite a bit:

Unlike other networks that I have to actually go to, this one is where I already am.

This above all other things is why I am so drawn to Google’s new social network.  I already keep gmail open most of the time, and I use an Android based phone, and I use the Chrome browser wherever I can.  I use calendar and reader and documents and a host of other Google applications already, so it just makes sense to thread a social network into all of that and put it right at the top of the page for every one of them.

Anyway, if you wish to find me there, click this.

When I first started using Facebook, it was built largely around Groups or Networks.  I remember joining the network for my college and later my high school, one for my work and another for the state I lived in (or it might have been geographic region, I forget exactly).  Of course, that was back when your status was just your status and not a feed of previous status or a place to share random information, but I really liked the groups.  Then the groups got pushed the back and then they went away altogether.  They are back now, but totally different.  Either way, what I liked most about them was that I could talk to someone in the same group as me without having to “friend” them and give them access to all of me.  So I was very happy when Facebook introduced Lists, which I immediately used to sort and group my friends, but still, I missed being able to chat with people who share an interest of mine but weren’t my “friends”.  I suppose to a degree the fault is mine because I didn’t seek out Facebook’s Groups after they re-implemented them, but it is also Facebook’s because they trained me not to seek them out by taking them away in the first place and driving me toward a “one feed to rule them all” design.

I digress.  On Google+ I’m enjoying the Circles.  While on some level they are functionally the same as Lists from Facebook, the interface is much easier to use and it is brought to the forefront of the overall design, not hidden in a dark corner like Lists.  And using Circles when sharing is several clicks easier than using Lists for sharing.  That ultimately ends up being the central factor to why I like Google+ over Facebook so much: everything that is hidden under several clicks in Facebook is closer to or on the surface at Google+.

Google+ also feels more like Twitter than Facebook, which is good.  On Twitter I follow a number of comedians and pundits and other random & assorted people, people who I’d probably have to Like their Fan Page on Facebook.  And again, Liking a Page on Facebook just feels more removed than Following a Person on Twitter, even if the result is exactly the same.  So on Google+ I’ve got a Following Circle that I’ve tossed in the people I’d follow on Twitter that I don’t expect to follow me back.  And while I’m no celebrity, there are people who follow me on Twitter that I don’t follow back, and I suspect the same will eventually be true of Google+.

I’m also excited because I like being in the Beta phase of almost anything, especially when the developers are actually listening.  A couple of rounds of fixes have gone in, and lots more are coming.  It just feels good to be part of the process.  I’ve suggested a few things so far and while I don’t claim all the credit because I’m sure others submitted the same requests it is kind of cool to see those things coming to be.  I’ve made numerous suggestions to Facebook other the years and since not a single one has ever been implemented, either I’m absolutely crazy and wanting things no one else does or Facebook doesn’t listen.

Playing over at Google+ has eaten up a lot of my time and will probably continue to do so.  I’ve always been luke warm when it comes to social networks, dabbling a bit here and there, but I think one has finally pulled me all the way in.  Down the rabbit hole I go…

The Screening Secret Handshake

Once upon a time, I thought that in order to see an advance screening of a movie certain things had to occur.  A) You had to live in LA/Hollywood.  Or 2) You had to know someone on the inside.  Or D) You had to be lucky.

In my younger days, I’d only ever seen “Stay & See” screenings.  That’s where you’d pay to see one movie and then be allowed to stay and see a screening of a not yet released film, or you’d pay to see a screening of a soon to be released film and then get to stay and see some movie that’s already been out a couple of weeks.  The last of these I went to was in 1993, and it was Son In Law (yeah, the Pauly Shore movie) coupled with either Life With Mikey or For Love Or Money (both Michael J. Fox movies).  I can’t remember which was the screening and which was the released film.  But it doesn’t matter.  Anyway, a few years ago, I finally realized number 2 from above and met someone on the inside, someone who worked for a movie promotion company.  Through them I got to see a few movies, but there were times they couldn’t get passes, or couldn’t get enough for everyone.  But at some of these screenings, I met people who let me know that while number 2 was good, D was better and you could minimize the luck part of the equation.

People have asked me, in person, in email and on message board, “How do you to see so many movie screenings?”  Partly because I just want to, and partly because of the FTC ruling, I’ll tell you.  The answer is… I Googled.  Obviously, I don’t use Google to find passes anymore, but it is where I started.  “free screenings” was what I searched for and it lead me to a number of really awful websites and blogs, but by doing the legwork and looking through many of those facades, I found a few places, legitimate places, to acquire passes to free movie screenings.

Before I go on, keep in mind that I live in Atlanta, and these sites are the ones that best service me as someone who lives in Atlanta.  If you Google and search yourself, you can probably find other sites that better service where you live.

Further, if you do get passes to movie screenings, remember, you are a guest and are getting to see a movie for free.  So, don’t be an asshole.  Always put your phone on silent, don’t answer it, don’t text.  Don’t talk during the movies.  Don’t cut in line.  Don’t let twenty friends cut in line with you in front of the people behind you who managed to get there on time (you know, letting one or two people join you in line is fine, but when you have to ask the line to move back and make room, you’ve gone overboard).  Be kind, be courteous, and enjoy your free movie.

That said…

My current favorite place is Shakefire.  They do reviews for movies, music, TV and video games.  They also have columnists who occasionally talk about other stuff.  They have a community built around their forums.  And of course, they give out passes for movie screenings.  You have to join their site to have a chance, and they seem to favor people who participate in the forums over people who are just there to leech passes.  But hey, if you are there for the passes, the least you can do is go post about movies you’ve seen and what you thought.  The whole point of screenings is to get the word out anyway, so, get the word out.

CHUD is another place on the net for reviews and such, and they also give out passes and do other contests, but you’ll have to work a little more for these as they usually ask a question or two you need to answer in order to enter.

Film Metro is a good site for screenings, but they don’t give them out.  Instead you have to keep an eye out for when they become available and claim them.  Sometimes you get to know when, sometimes it just happens.

Another big player is GoFoBo.  This is a site actually run by a couple of movie promotion companies.  With them, sometimes screening just open up and you can grab a pass or two.  Mostly, however, you need a reservation code.  Codes are given to various websites or radio stations or newspapers or other outlets as part of promotions intended to drive traffic.  People used to post GoFoBo codes all over the internet, but GoFoBo has been cracking down lately and convincing people to post links to the partner websites instead.  Finding links for these partners is sort of hit and miss searching, but one place that seems to get a steady flow of them is this thread over at FatWallet.  The FatWallet thread is also a good place to find out which radio stations or other websites in your area give out movie passes.  That link will always take you to the last post in the thread, so you may have to read back to see anything recent you may have missed.  Do them a favor, and make sure you actually visit partner sites and look around, the codes are meant to drive traffic, and a couple minutes of your time is worth the free movie pass you just got.  GoFoBo also runs groups on Facebook, just search there for screenings or gofobo.

Also don’t forget to check out local publications like Creative Loafing or other print media who often have pass pickups at their offices, or will post ads about pass pickups at local businesses.

Anyway, there you have it.  I check those sites about once a day, maybe twice, and in general I end up seeing a screening a week (though sometimes there are weeks with none, and sometimes there are weeks with three or four or more).  To me, the key here is that if you go to see screenings, make sure you tell people about the movies you saw.  Tell friends, post on message boards, write a blog.  The screenings are meant to get the word out about the movie, so, get the word out.

Are You Ready for the Cloud?

If you listen to the pundits of social media and other new frontiers, and especially if you listen to Google, the future is the Internet.  The future is Cloud Computing.  This isn’t a new idea, of course, but just the latest iteration on one branch of computer advancement.  In the beginning, computers were expensive, and big.  Because of that, there developed two schools of thought:

  1. Work on making computers cheaper and smaller so everyone could have them.
  2. Leave the real computer giant and expensive, but find a way for people to cheaply access them.

Out of the first branch, you got the home PC.  Out of the second branch, you got the mainframe and the terminal.  Lots of people like to think of mainframes as being a dead technology, because since everyone can have a PC on their desktop, who needs a giant computer that does everything?  Well, lots of companies still do.  Even with advanced in chip technologies, there are still some very large mainframes being sold, and people still connect to them with terminals, or at least terminal emulation on a PC or a thin client.  I worked for a number of years at Norfolk Southern, and putting PCs in a train yard out in the middle of nowhere was just begging for vandalization and theft… but, put a cheap thin client terminal that does nothing but connect to the network and the mainframe, theft goes way down.  Until I got into programming, I made a pretty good career out of working with 3270 and 5250 and all the things that went with it.

But Cloud Computing takes things a step beyond the old terminal/server paradigm.  It abstracts, and it makes the terminal more generic while connecting to many servers.  Think: web browsing.  If you are reading this, then your terminal (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc) is connecting to my server.  Later, you might connect to Facebook’s server, or CNN’s, or any number of other servers out there.  The one thing that Cloud Computing wants to retain though, is the idea that nothing is stored on the terminal.  Google is a strong proponent of this.  With Gmail, and Bookmarks, and Docs, and Calendar, and many of their other products, they want to take all your files and all your work off your PC and put it on the web, where you can get at it with any terminal.  In fact, Google is going so far as to throw their hat into the ring, not just with their Chrome browser they put into beta last year, but with a full blown Operating System intended to be the window you see the Internet through.  Some people, after seeing the announcement of the Google OS, jumped right into the “Game On Microsoft” mindset, like Google was planning on trying to take down the big cheese.  But John Gruber wrote an excellent write up of putting the Google OS into context.  The fact is, all Google wants is to make a netbook style PC that boots quickly, connects (wirelessly) to the Internet, and gets you all of your apps and documents in the Cloud.

Personally, I’m fully behind the idea.  I have a laptop that I hate using.  The reason is because its battery lasts about 2 hours, however, every time I turn it on that’s easily 5 minutes, and it takes around 2 minutes to get out of hibernation (longer if I put it to sleep with a few applications open).  Its bulky, its hot, and if I’m away from a power source, I really only end up getting about an hour or so out of the battery if I’m using it in short spurts.  That kind of performance is why devices like the iPhone and blackberries have become popular, much longer battery life to be able to jot down notes or check emails on the go.  The only reason I have not yet gone down the mobile device route is that when I write I still prefer a full keyboard (or at least a compact keyboard like the ones you find on a notebook or netbook).  So a netbook that boots faster, runs cooler and utilizes the battery well is exactly what I am looking for.

But, as the title questions, am I ready to ditch my desktop for a workspace in the clouds?  I stopped saving bookmarks to my browser years ago, mostly because it was annoying to have a bookmark in IE but not Firefox, or at home but not at work, and most programs to sync them up were annoying to use.  I still use Outlook for email, but I’m just about ready to plunge into Gmail, especially since my webhost offers a deal where I can have all my domain email addresses be handled by Gmail.  Plus, it finally came out of Beta recently. (snicker)  I do use Google Docs for a few things, but I’m not totally sold on putting all my files out there, especially the ones I want to be sure that no one sees (get your mind out of the gutter, I mean design docs and other things I’m writing).  Recently, I’ve stopped playing most PC games in favor of web based titles, and with the exception of Free Realms and Battlefield Heroes, they’ll all run in any compliant browser.  Even so, I think I’d be perfectly happy having a desktop sit in the corner just for games while having a netbook for all my other tasks.

I might not be ready to sail among the clouds just yet, but I think I’ll get there soon enough… how about you?

Chrome

In case you have been living under a rock, Internet-wise that is, Google released a beta of their new web browser called Chrome.

I’ve been playing with it, and my official review is that I love it.  Its fast, and when a web page does lock up for some reason being able to kill just that one page without killing all my web pages is really nice.  Of course, being a beta, it still has flaws.  There is no integration with many of Google’s other tools (I’m a big user of Google Bookmarks, and while I can use the web page I would prefer to have my bookmarks available in browser), and various plug-ins don’t function (if you use any Cold Fusion web sites that make use of the database table grid tool thing, it doesn’t work).  But I am sure many of those will come in time.

However, playing with chrome introduced me to another thing which had previously been available but I have never used and that is using a single link to read my RSS feeds from my Google Reader.  I have subscriptions to 87 RSS Feeds, and its only growing.  Now, up in my bookmark bar in Chrome, I have a link that says “Next»” and when I click it, my browser navigates to the next unread RSS entry, or rather to the page of that RSS entry.  Now, when I find myself with a few minutes to spare between work items, I just click the Next link and start making my way through my RSS feeds one article at a time.  It really is quite nice.

Another really nice feature is the adaptive search engine capabilities.  Essentially, any website that uses a search where the search terms are in the URL (not passed as session or cookie values), Chrome will parse the URL and add it as a search engine.  When you start typing in a URL and you have enough characters to correctly identify the page (i.e. – it shows as the first option to select in the suggestions under where you are typing), hit Tab.  This will change the URL bar into a Search Bar for the selected web site.  Enter in your search terms and hit enter and Chrome will submit the search as if you had gone to the site and entered your terms into their search field.

And it works with any web site as long as you have performed one search on it.  If you have Chrome, search for something on my blog.  Anything.  Now, go back to the URL, type in “weblog” (or whatever you need to type to make my web site the first suggested option) and hit Tab.  Now type in a search term and hit enter.  You should get back a page of search results.  This kind of thing is fairly nifty as long as you have searched the site before.  Like, if I know that Scott over at BrokenToys.org has written about Hello Kitty before and I want to find it, I would just type in “bro”, hit Tab, then type “Hello Kitty” and press enter.  Bam.  Search results!

Overall, I’m really looking forward to more improvements being made to Chrome.  They have a great start going, and I am optomistic that it can only get better from here.