Daily Archives: May 20, 2007

Right Plaze, Right People, Right Time

Plazeslogo-New Plazes is getting a major update, and I’m amongst the lucky few to have been invited to play with the preview version…

I’ve been a Plazes user for well over a year now, and I’ve got a small group of friends there. I’ve never understood why the service hasn’t developed more of a critical mass. For those who have not come across Plazes before, it is a location-awareness service that allows you to publish your physical location. The original version did this via some quite clever technology which ran as a small application on your desktop (the “Plazer”) and used your network ID to work out where you were located. Over time, that has changed, and although today you can still run a desktop app, you can also run the Plazer on your mobile, use SMS, or just update your location on a Google Maps interface.

The new version is pretty nice. Rather than just saying where you are now, you can also say where you were, and where you will be – treading into Dopplr territory here. Not only that, you can say what you are (or will be) doing there – rather like Twitter. They also now have a groups feature, which enables places and people to be grouped together – handy for conferences, or for businesses or organisations.

New Plazes

This is an early release that a few of us have been allowed to get a look at, so some things don’t work fully yet… for example, there is no Plazer application (it isn’t needed any more, but I understand that there will be a new version), and I can’t seem to edit the details of a future Plaze yet. I’m sure all of these things will come. I also can’t see where my “karma” for Plazes discovery and usage is, now… I was doing fairly well on the old scale!

The fact that you no longer have to rely on the Plazer is a big deal… it might persuade people like Dale to take another look 🙂

I guess for me, the biggest question is how easy this will be to mashup with other web applications. I don’t really want to type my status / what I’m doing into both Plazes and Twitter (or Jaiku, if I ever move off there). I can see a lot of power and value in Plazes, but it would be nice if all of the web apps I use regularly worked together, instead of building their own empires. No information on the new API as yet.

If you are interested in location-awareness or geolocation applications, remember that this Friday’s Minibar unconference in London is a themed around location – hope to see you there.


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More on handy Mac apps

Yesterday I did a little playing with various applications on the Mac to see if they were going to be helpful…

I have been using using Vienna as a feedreader, and it works fairly nicely. I was reading that Maria Langer uses endo (from the same stable as ecto, which I use for writing my blog entries on the Mac), and since there’s a trial available I thought I’d give it a go. I’m not entirely convinced by the layout… the subscription groups are in a bar across the top, and I would rather have them running down the side, but that’s a comfort thing. There are a couple of nice features, though… it supports microformats like hCard, so if I’m viewing Upcoming events, endo will offer to put them into iCal for me. The setup wizard offered to set up a number of personalised feeds for me, for example the comments that people had left on my Flickr photos, and Technorati links to my blogs – a nice touch.

So far, I’ve been through TextEdit, Smultron and TextWrangler as editors on OS X. Last night Al was telling me about TextMate, and that also has a free trial, so I’m giving it a go. TextMate appears to be a bit of a hardcore programmer’s editor… and since my choice of editor on Windows tends to be gVim, I think this might work for me. There’s a lot to learn, though. I’ll see how I get on.

I’ve heard lots of people say that Keynote is far better than PowerPoint, and then I realised that I have a trial version of iWork on my MacBook Pro, so I can give it a go before choosing to upgrade to the full version. So far it seems nice… I have a number of presentations to give in the next few months and I’d like to see how I get on with Keynote. The animated slide transitions are particularly lovely, and I read that the visual quality of the slides is better than on Windows… it is certainly very easy to use.

Twittervision screensaver
The latest version of the Visionary screensaver runs either FlickrVision or Twittervision (real-time Flickr and Twitter postings popping up on a Google Map), or the 3D version of Twittervision. It’s just a bit of fun, but pretty cool.

And now, a few via Lifehacker

Really simple – Ejector is a menubar app that provides a drop-down menu to eject any device, including disk images. The default Apple version only lets you eject CDs.

People had previously recommended AppZapper to completely remove applications from the machine – AppDelete is essentially the same thing but freeware.

Whenever I plug a camera into my Mac, it launches the Canon CameraWindow software. I spent quite a lot of time trying to stop it from doing this. The RCDefaultApp preferences pane lets you adjust the default behaviour when devices are plugged in, or the default app used to launch various file types. Handy.

So i discovered yesterday (via some Twitterings) that you can hold down ctrl and use the scroll button on the mouse, or the two-finger scroll movement on the trackpad, to zoom the screen. Very cool.

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