Monday, January 16, 2006

I am off to Wordpress

Wordpress is faster, has cool looking themes, and has lot more interesting features like site statistics and categorization. My new blog is now http://chunnibabu.wordpress.com.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Slashdot vs Digg
In the last few months there have been a few articles from Wired, Techcrunch, and others predicting how digg is gaining over slashdot. Let's ignore traffic statistics for a moment and see the quality of content. Digg is a nice democratic model where the most important news trickles up trhough the support of dedicated diggers. slashdot on the other hand is a oligopoly, run in the same style as a newspaper or magazine. What appears in slashdot rests solely in the hands of a few. As a result, I find the news items in digg more interesting and varied than that in slashdot. Digg is also a new generation website with a nicer interface and good utilities like spellchecker. That said, I think slashdot is still a more interesting place than digg, and the reason is only one - comments. Any item in slashdot has way more comments than digg. The quality of comments in slashdot are way better: slashdot comments are often well thought out, long, witty, informative, or all; digg comments on the other hand are short and uninteresting. Until digg attracts such interesting comments, slashdot will continues to rule.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Click on those ads, Reward the nice fellas

Could the web be such a nice place without all the nice people creating content for it? Well, big companies like Time pay their content creators, but what about small time content creators? I am talking about the content creators that have all the innumerable websites you and I visit to get tips and answers of programming problems. I have made a decision people - If I do a web search for some tips and land in a site that is helpful, I am gonna click on some of those ads and make get the nice fellas some cash. And I urge you folks to do so.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Microsoft Windows Live - The Real Deal
When Microsoft announced Live this week, I took it for a quick ride and quite frankly it was underwhelming. I called it a farce in my blog and so did lot of others. But I have been watching new developments and thinking about it. Microsoft Live as a product offering sucks, but the vision is big and ultimately help microsoft increase its web traffic and advertising revenue.

The big win in Live platform is its ability to accept third party gadgets. This is unlike google.com/ig, a similar service google followed with after the live.com release. Google ig only accepts simple RSS feeds. In only five days there are already 33 gadgets in microsoftgadtets.com website. Many laughed at the XBOX scheme and wondered why would someone write a gadget for a XBOX? I think there will be lots of gadgets soon - the reason is content providers will get visibility and have another new channel for distributing their application. As you can see from the Expedia and other gadgets, Microsoft live provides an excellent platform for content providers to integrate their apps. In return the content providers bring more traffic to their own sites. The bad news for Microsoft is that gadget functionality appears to be pretty trivial to implement and it will be too easy for Google or somebody else to add it to their portals.

The second big functionality in Live is a floating profile for Windows users, the kind we have in offices. So any windows user will have access to all his files in MyDocuments and his internet explorer favorites through Microsoft. This will in turn secure Microsoft's user base and the popularity of Windows OS. There has been lot of speculation that Microsoft will have a web-based Office, Excel, or IM. I don't think so. Writing a web-based Office suite does not make much sense because it will be too difficult for anyone to write it and won't give much functionality to users. Instead a convenient way for users to access their files anywhere and then edit with locally installed version of office will not only be of help to users, it will also make good business sense for Microsoft. And a web-based IM - Isn't this same as chat that IM's were designed to replace?

Regarding the dismal release of live.com, I will say that the Microsoft PMs and Engineers need to be lot more serious about the quality of the products they are releasing. In today's higly competitive market, taking the users for granted will not be tolerated. Writing web applications is not as difficult as it used to be and if you are not paying attention and commited to your users, there are several upstarts like netvibes that will take over. If Microsoft's strategy to win users for IE is making its web applications like Mail and Live incompatible in Firefox, they will simply lose in both the fronts - IE and live.com.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Yahoo Map Leaves Competition Behind

Yahoo's new map is simply awesome. I haven't seen a more spectacular web application since Google's Map release. Yahoo has proved that it is a force to reckon with. Each and every feature in the map is very well thought out. Here are a few things to note:
  1. When you do a local search, the location overlays show the name on mouse over, not on mouse click. On mouse click, the overlay shows more details like phone number
  2. You can get directions from one point to several locations in the same map. This is a big advantage for delivery and sales people going to many places in the same trip
  3. Real time traffic conditions!
  4. Block search in the top right corner of the map that lets you browse a area in both zoomed-in and zoomed-out mode
  5. Nice printout pages include all relevant like including phone number of locations
  6. Saves all your locations automatically
  7. Categorized local listings
  8. Shows details of each section of a direction in cute little box that appears right below the direction section. When I mouse over the direction section, the section is hi-lited in the main map
  9. Dragging the map is seamless and there are no empty squares trying to catch up when you drag quickly
  10. Browser back button works, and you can bookmark a heavily annotated map and reproduce it later
  11. All toolbars and search boxes are collapsible
Needless to say, Yahoo has far surpassed any other map available today. It is like having Google Earth in a browser. Don't forget, Yahoo is the king of Internet portal, directories, and classifieds. Now that it has the map platform, it will not be long before we see all the data integrated with the map.

When Google Maps was released, the term AJAX didn't even exist. Now when excitement around AJAX was reaching maniacal heights, Yahoo went with a more powerful, and much better suited Flash platform. Purists will object to this, but as long as the users get rich functionality, who cares if it uses a plug-in. After all, 90% of the computers have Flash installed. I bet Macromedia will be breathing a sigh of relief because this announcement will revive fading public interest in Flash. I am happy to see a real large-scale application realizing the dream shown in Flash's Pet Store Demo.

Microsoft should learn a few things from Yahoo. Without much hoopla, Yahoo has released something that will definitely touch the life of millions. Compare this to the farce that was live.com.

Google Announces Music Player

From the moment I received a call from Viral Marketman, Google's product marketing manager, I was frantically contemplating what the secret press conference is about. Today I was blindfolded and taken to a top secret location where the announcement was made. Folks, hold your breath - Google has released Google Listen (Beta), a music player that will directly compete with IPod!

"Today, we have taken another big step towards organizing the world's information," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt in front of a choosen audience of 1000 press reporters. When asked about how Google is going to provide content for the new player, Eric said "We are in the process of converting all the music in the world into gmp3, Google's new music compression format". "gmp3 will make it extremely easy for listeners to find music of their taste," Eric added. Google plans to make all the songs freely downloadable. "We believe that obscurity, not record sales, is the no. 1 problem faced by artists today. By making the songs freely accessible, we are doing a great service to the artists," Google's Founder Larry Page responded when a few reporters raised copyright concerns. "This is a perfect example of fair use as per the US Copyright Laws", said David Drummond, Google's Attorney. "Artists always have the option to opt-out using our simple five page form," Larry added. Artists who don't see their music in Google's database can upload their songs using the soon to be released Google Base.

Google Listen (Beta) will be available by invitation only. Interested users can initiate the invitation process by giving out their own cell phone number, and the cell phone numbers of five friends. "We have carefully installed a invitation process to keep pirates away from our gmp3 music files," said Sergy Brin, Google's other founder. After giving the cell phone numbers , users will be required to send in a home video of themselves dancing to and singing "I Love Google". By doing this, the users give Google the right to display the videos in Google Video. Meanwhile, a Ebay user named GoogleRepresentative has started auctioning invitations.

Omid Kordestani, Google's Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development, explained the business model behind Google Listen (Beta). "We will have paid voice advertisements played whenever a user attempts to play a song". To this, Larry Page added: "The advertisements will only be good advertisements. An antenna installed in each music player will track the location of the user at all times and help us deliver highly targetted ads". Larry and Omid brushed off questions about privacy.

Google Listen (Beta) is released as a Beta now. "The BETA logo is designed to be peelable by the user, and we will let them know when to peel it off," explained Sergey. Steve Jobs in a statement to the press welcomed fresh competition from Google. Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer followed with a press release announcing a new music player gadget for Microsoft Live. "We will have a music player for our users by early 2019, and users will be able to download music through Microsoft Live," he said. He further added: "I also want to take the opportunity to reiterate that I have never thrown a chair in my life".

If you haven't got it yet, then please take a break from your busy life my dear friend - this is a joke.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Flock Review

Flock Review

The curtain of large fonts on flock.com has been finally raised. Ladies and Gentlemen! Flock has arrived. Flock comes with a handful of interesting features, but has it lived to the hype? Unfortunately no. Not at this point.

As most of you know, Flock is built on the solid Firefox codebase by none other than former key Firefox developers. This means that in terms of browsing a website, you will not see a lot of difference. Flock’s innovation is primarily in two areas: information organization, and social browsing.

We all know how much of a pain it is to bookmark and organize a large number of sites. Flock solves this problem through tags and collections. With the click of the star button you can tag a website with easy to remember keywords like “music”, “movies”, etc. This is a good thing if you don’t want to share your bookmarks in del.ico.us, although the option is available to publish your tags to del.ico.us. Collections, as the name says, is simply a collection of websites under some heading like “Web2.0 sites”. Flock makes it really easy to browse through your saved sites by showing them in the full screen. It will be cool for them to add a tag search feature, so that if I type movies in the search box, I simply get all the sites under “movies” tag.

Another cool thing is that flock keeps a list of frequently visited sites. The concept is cool but implementation is a somewhat buggy. For example, I saw Senior Friend Finder in my list and I don’t think I ever visited that site or intend to visit it in near future. My guess is that Flock is saving hidden pop-ups in this list!

Shelf is a neat little tool to store random blurbs of text copied from websites. But, where is the search button to handle this list if it grows too large? When you bring up the Shelf button, it invites you to “Drag and Drop Things” into it, but when you try to do so, the little bastard disappears. What would be better is simply showing a menu item saying “Add this to shelf” when a user selects some text in a page.

Flock touted social browsing as its USP, but I think this is where it fails. I am not sure if a browser is the right place to put a blog editer. I would much rather have it in something like Open-Office or Word. Blogger already has a plug-in for word and I think that is the way to go. I don’t think there is any need for yet another editor. Instead, I would have loved to see a dictionary or spell-check. Firefox already has the beautiful midas framework for embedded rich-text editing. And to make it worse, the new editor is buggy. For photo-blogging, a better option will be simply a Windows XP extension to add a menu item like “publish to flickr” to the right click menu in windows explorer. I am not able to buy the idea of social browser, but hope that the esteemed Flockers will release something later to convince me.

Some other notable things are integration with Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, etc. I am curious to know why Yahoo is the default. Good news for users of public computers: you can clean all the cache – the links, pages, password, and everything that counts by clicking just one button – “Clear Private Data”. Also present is a feed aggregator and reader.

To sum it up, Flock comes with some valuable additions to Firefox, but its main claim of social browsing appears to be conceptually weak. I would use Flock simply because of the organization tools. It is also a good step by the Firefox camp to prepare for competition from IE7.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fixing Image Resolution in Internet Explorer

Do you find images in Internet Explorer a little blurry? Not sure if this is specific to Dell laptops, but I have a Dell Inspirion 600m and some of my friends have later versions of Dell laptops and they all have this problem in IE. IE has a feature called "Use Hi Resolution" that stretches web-pages for Hi-Res screens. This feature was probably introduced to stretch websites designed for lower resolution monitors. Unfortunately, the side effect is ugly blurry images.

The way to fix this is as follows:
  1. Goto Start > Run
  2. Type "regedit" and press enter
  3. In the regedit window, use Edit > Find to look for "Internet Explorer"
  4. Under Internet Explorer look for Main
  5. Under Main look for registry entry "UseHR"
  6. Right click on it and select "Modify"
  7. Change the 1 in Value Data to 0 and exit regedit
  8. Restart IE