Tag Archives: Google

On the Chrome bandwagon

Well Twitter and the interwebs sparked up with discussion of Google’s new browser, Chrome, late last night (UK time) and I thought I’d add some ill-formed thoughts of my own. Don’t expect reasoned, complete analysis at this point: the morning coffee is sitting beside me unsipped…

First thing to say is that I enjoyed the web comic that leaked out a day before the formal announcement, although I did wonder at some of the logic at the time.

  • Chrome installed very smoothly on Vista. For a beta, it’s remarkably stable and well-featured. It has been no real secret that Google have been at least tinkering with browser technology for a while, but they’ve made a very credible entry to the space by coming along with something so (relatively) complete and solid as a first release.
  • I didn’t quite get the reasoning behind the inversion of current UI paradigms with the tabs along the top of the window. I’ll be interested to see how this looks across the major OS platforms. Phil mentions that it’s probably easier when each tab represents a separate process, and Phani points out that it lets them associate the address bar and tools with a tab rather than the window. I guess I’m more used to a platform-native look-and-feel now.
  • Some of the touches in chome-bad-httpsthe UI are quite nice – sites with insecure SSL certificates appear with a crossed-out line through the https, and in common with Firefox 3 it initially warns with a big red page when the site is not trusted.
  • It seems fast, but I typically browse with a lot of tabs open in Firefox so I could just be “used” to a slower browsing experience brought on by bad habits.
  • On that note, the concept that a “bad tab” won’t kill my browser really, really appeals to me. The design of this feature leaves me wondering whether we are going in another technology loop (processes good, threads bad) but I’m willing to be convinced.
  • I like the idea of the start page with thumbnails of favourite pages. I’ll be the other browsers adopt that soon.
  • I like the idea of “application shortcuts” which can go straight onto the desktop. It makes sense. Lots of applications are webapps now.
  • Flash “just works”. Java does not.
  • On the subject of plugins… I’ve come to depend on a lot of the plugins that I can get for Firefox. Given the heritage of the Chrome development team, and the model that the comic describes for isolating plugins / scoping them to a tab, I assume that it will be possible to extend Chrome… but the user-visible extension points are currently limited (no menu bar, no status bar) so it will be interesting to see how they approach this and what the take-up is likely to be.
  • The developer tools that are built-in are very impressive… nice source viewer, element inspector, and the “task manager” with “stats for nerds” gives an interesting glimpse into the way the browser and task isolation is working.
  • RSS feeds don’t appear to display. I half-expected an RSS link to whisk me off to Google Reader – I have no doubt that all my base WILL belong to Google here. Maybe that’s a “todo” feature.
  • Another technical thought – are images in Chrome rendered with colour profiles? I assume so since it uses WebKit, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been saying to people for a while now that Apple has been worth watching… using WebKit as the basis of Safari, Dashboard widgets for OS X, and the iPhone. With this (re)use of the same techology by Google, I’m intrigued to see where all of this will take the browser. With Google’s brand recognition and reach, this has the potential to be a very disruptive move.

Update: WOAH, major licensing issues. And Mark Cathcart brings some interesting perspectives, too. For now, I’m removing Chrome.

Update: as Mark and Justin note below, the EULA has been fixed. Chrome gets a reprieve and can come back to my system, for experimentation purposes at least.

Rationalising email: Gmail, IMAP and Mail.app

The current setup

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of email addresses… and a proportionately large amount of spam to go with them.

For the past five or so years, my mail processing system has looked like this:

  1. Linux server running fetchmail which fetches from a total of… um… 8 (!)POP3 accounts.
  2. All mail run through SpamAssassin which catches probably 90% of the junk, and scripts run every month that clear down and learn from the spam.
  3. SquirrelMail on the same server to provide web access.
  4. Dovecot IMAP on the same server to let me manage the aggregated mail from Thunderbird on various laptops at home.

This has worked well, but it has also meant that I’ve had to maintain a Linux server at home, and I’ve not opened up IMAP access to it over the Internet. So, with Google’s announcement of IMAP support in Gmail, I thought I’d give it another go.

How am I using Gmail now?

It took about a week for Gmail IMAP to appear on my account, as those who followed my increasinglyfrustrated Twitterings will confirm.

It’s a progressive process, but I’ve decided to try to use Gmail’s ability to suck mail from my other accounts. The problem is that I have 7 of them (the eighth is Gmail itself), and Gmail will only let me pull down mail from 5. That actually turns out to be OK, since a couple of them were essentially unused or spam-only accounts, so I’m cutting down on those too.

Using Gmail as the front-end to all of my mail is good for a couple of reasons, and bad for another:

Good – I will eventually be able to decommission the Linux server.

Good – Gmail has good spam filtering, labels and all that good stuff around search, and is mostly accessible.

Bad – it isn’t accessible from everywhere, and my last client actually blocked access to Gmail explicitly, whilst I could still get to my home server very easily. I think this is likely to be the greatest annoyance.

I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to configure Gmail to pull my other POP3 accounts… generally I only had to name the provider and my account details, not enter all of the server information manually. Good stuff.

Changing mail clients

I was listening to the MacFormat weekly podcast the other day and discovered that the new version of Apple’s Mail.app has some very interesting features. Amongst them are some very cool data scraping capabilities (called Data Detectors) that allow todos, addresses and iCal entries to be intelligently created from analysis of the message body. Here’s an example, featuring Roo’s IET lecture next week:-)

My default mail client up until now on the MacBook Pro has been Thunderbird, but that has been largely a matter of familiarity… I decided that it was time to give the Apple alternative a try.

So far, it has been an intriguing experience. I can’t say I’ve found Mail to be the most intuitive application. For a start, configuration for Gmail IMAP was not very easy (here is some useful additional information that wasn’t on the Gmail FAQ). Not only that, but in Thunderbird and Gmail, I’m used to hitting a key for the next unread email, but Mail inexplicably doesn’t allow this. Two solutions:

  1. An Applescript that causes Mail.app to jump to the next unread. I used Quicksilver to bind this to Option-` and it now pops up Mail and switches to the relevant Space as well as moving to the right message.
  2. Probably an even simpler option, that Andrew Webb suggested via Twitter: a Smart Folder which only shows the Unread messages.

unread

Now that I’m getting used to it, I’m quite liking Mail… particularly the ability to jump straight into Quick Look to view images and documents.

Trials and tribulations will be reported as the experiment continues.

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Google gobbling

Google’s acquisition of Jaiku came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Robert Scoble says it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and that combined with Google’s other properties, this will all translate into some super Facebook-killing announcement next month.

The thing is, I’ve been a bit amazed by some of Google’s acquisitions. I can’t say that I see all of them as totally successful. Blogger in particular hasn’t seen much love, apart from a spruce-up earlier in the year when they finally started to catch up to WordPress (and WP has continued to jump forward since then). Picasa? Sorry, but IMO Flickr still wipes the floor with that… Yahoo! has been pretty clever about not pasting logos all over the site and has quietly and neatly integrated Flickr, Upcoming, del.icio.us and other properties. Continuing the Google theme: Jotspot, YouTube… not sure they are examples of sites or tools that have been well-integrated into the Google “family”.

As Mark Cathcart pointed out, this doesn’t mean that all of Google’s acquisitions have been unsuccessful. For instance, Google Earth (Keyhole) is superb, and has great integration with Maps, Panoramio, SketchUp etc.. Google Docs is great too, although I don’t personally use it.

So will the mighty new Googaiku kill Twitter? Personally, unless they do something startling as Scoble suggests, I don’t see why it should. My network is all on Twitter, and despite trying both Jaiku and Pownce, I’ve not been tempted away despite various the outages and wobbles Twitter has gone through. It is simple, multipurpose, and remarkably useful… I don’t know what the business model is, but I know that I like the tool.

The social software space remains extremely interesting. Times change. I wonder what’s next?

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Not feeling the Google love

For some reason, it seems like my blog has largely disappeared from Google. I was previously getting significant daily traffic from searches on all kinds of topics (Message Broker, TomTom, and car tax being the favourites). As of yesterday, that fell to a trickle. I took a quick look this morning, and it is nearly impossible to get my site to come up on a search.

I know that the Google Dance happened recently, and it looks like I’m still listed on their datacenters – but for some reason my posts are no longer hits for specific search terms.

Here’s the irony – yesterday the blog appeared in a presentation at Lotusphere based on the stats growth, and also broke the 40k ranking mark on Technorati for the first time.

Back down to earth with a bump – from ~1000 hits/day to just over 300 yesterday. After all the excitement, it looks like I’m in for a lean period 😦

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