Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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Opera Mini Beta 5 – Optimised for N97 et al.

September 21, 2009

The previous version of Opera Mini worked well on Symbian S60 3rd Edition handsets but wasn’t conceived in anticipation of the touch-screen version of the S60, S60 5th Edition, which can be found on the Nokia N97 and the 5800, to name two. As a result touch functionality didn’t work and the user had to fall back to the hardware keys of the N97 and the virtual keypad of the 5800.

Opera has now released Opera Mini Beta 5 which is a godsend for those with a touch-screen mobiles and brings with it some great new features that should have been part of the inbuilt browser of the Nokia N97, in particular. So, what does Opera Mini Beta 5 offer besides touch friendly browsing.

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Tabbed Browsing
An awesome feature especially on a mobile device which has a small screen. The native S60 browser doesn’t handle multiple windows well and to force a new window you have to create a custom page/bookmark hack as the feature is not available natively. The way this has been implemented on S60 5th adds to the usability as the thumbnails of the page are shown in the tab, which will work well for those who prefer to see the colours/images of a page rather than read the name of the tab to identify it.

Select Text/Copy
One thing that Nokia have missed the boat on is the copying of content from the web browser with their S60 devices. Opera opens up this feature and is activated by pressing down on the screen until a balloon with “Select Text” appears. Once text is highlighted, by dragging a finger or stylus across the screen, another balloon pops up offering options to “Copy,” “Search,” or “Search with,” which allows you to select a search engine. Nice time saving features allowing information to be freed from the browser.

Save Page
You can save web pages to the device so they can be viewed offline. Another cool feature allowing pages to be saved, just like on a PC browser but for a mobile device, options can be set as to where you would like pages saved on the phone, to prevent those ‘low disk space’ errors!

On-Screen QWERTY Keyboard
A handy feature for the N97 which doesn’t have this natively. Sure, there is a physical keyboard but sometimes you aren’t typing enough to warrant opening the keyboard, but just enough that the on-screen number pad becomes an inconvenience.

Speed Dial
Opera Mini b5 can be set to open up on the Speed Dial page, a grid of 9 thumbnails representing your favourite sites, providing you with quick access to them from start up. This has replaced my Start.io homepage and instead the Start.io page can have a speed dial box.

Password Manager
If you hate signing-in to sites over and over again, the password manager will be a boon, although if you frequently misplace your phones, this feature may be better left unused.

I have been Opera Mini Beta 5 briefly, but some sites aren’t formatted correctly, resulting in text overlaps, yet these pages appear normally in the default S60 browser. There’s no bookmark sync, which might have been the feature to get me to install Opera on my PC! Due to the addition of kinetic scrolling for touch-screen devices, the screen no longer snaps to the edges of paragraphs, so when scrolling up and down, unless you keep your finger, thumb or stylus on a perfectly vertical trail, you will find the page moving horizontally also. On a positive note, browsing on Opera Mini remains snappy, great access to pages using speed dial and tabs adds to the experience. With the addition of the qwerty keyboard, convenience and speed seems to have been the primary focus of this release. This is great progress on a great app and a lot of thought seems to have gone into improving the mobile browsing experience, which can be a chore at times!

Give the app a try if you haven’t used it before: opera.com/mini/next.

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Facebook Takes Friendfeed Under Its Wing

August 10, 2009

facefeed friendbook friendfeed facebook Friendfeed, a content aggregator, has been acquired by Facebook, who, besides Twitter are another major rival in the battle for users even though the services can be complimentary.

I have an account at FriendFeed but only use it to aggregate all my content and activity from sites such as Youtube, Flickr and Twitter and occasionally read other people’s feeds. I don’t use it much but then, I use Facebook even less.  FriendFeed became even more interesting when it went ‘real-time’ and comments from users appeared as they were submitted, turning comment threads into a bustling chatroom. This is used to great effect by Leo Laporte, where he creates a new post on FriendFeed at the start of a show and users comment away as if it was a dedicated chatroom. Not long after this addition, I was expecting to see something similar on Facebook.

According to the Facebook release at Mashable, where I first saw news of this takeover, FriendFeed will operate as is for the time being until they figure out what they want to do with it.

Links: Facebook Acquires FreindFeed – Mashable

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When Web Design Goes Wrong

July 23, 2009

No, it’s not another of those programmes like When Stunts Go Bad, but based on the efforts of the branding and web department at or working for Be Broadband, you could start work on such a programme.

Before I start, granted, my site isn’t exactly a masterpiece of design/marketing/branding, but then I don’t employ people who do these things as their job.

Having decided to visit the site and see what was new on the ISP’s forum yesterday, I was greeted with this:

Be Internet Site Redesign

A hideous site, you might say. It looks as though someone wanted an 80’s theme with the neon colours and a dodgy typewriter font but failed to pull off any sort of consistency. The whole page is of high contrast, too many fonts and colours with no clarity or flow, resulting in the eye wandering around. It takes me back to what the web looked like in the mid-90s, which is no good thing.

I wanted to sign in to the forum so the first place I looked was in the black panel on the left that looked like a menu, alas there was nothing there, so I had to scan around a bit more and there it was, in the top right corner in a box looking nothing like the navigation on the left that I was now expecting.

A box at the top of the page was rotating banners with what seemed useless/irrelevant information, a cyan circle, matching the plain fonted Be logo, houses an offer. A garish yellow highlights the three price points Be offers for its broadband and then the trademark pink which Be is probably known by, is demoted from use in the logo to text links.

Over on the Be forums there is a poll, to see it you need to sign up and sign in,the question asked:

bepoll

As you can see, the site is a big hit (sarcasm). Either this is a viral marketing campaign to get Be’s name out to the public which has done so, but made the brand look shabby,or is a genuine re-branding exercise. In its current form the site may put of potential customers by making them think the site has been hacked, the company is unprofessional or isn’t a genuine ISP but a referral site. This could be seen as a good and bad thing for existing customers, with new custom being pushed away, existing customers who may be experiencing congestion could do without the extra load. On the other hand no new customers means that much less investment into the existing infrastructure. As a Be customer, I don’t mind what they do as long as the connection I have remains stable. It would be nice if they had a more professional/corporate looking site, rather than something to appeal to MySpace users, haven’t they heard, everyone is on Facebook and Twitter? 😛

Be are accepting feedback and if you wish to contact them to let them know what could be done to improve the site or anything else, you can contact them by email: whatwethink /at/ bethere.co.uk   replace /at/ with @ If anyone at Be would like me to look at any re-designs to say yay or nay, then let me know I’m in the market for a job!

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Office 2010 In a Browser Near You

July 16, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010 logo Last week, Google revealed that they are working on an operating system to be named the same as their browser, Chrome. It was suspected that the announcement by Google was to whip up some headlines ahead of a Microsoft event on Monday expected to reveal Office 2010.

Articles and blog posts were written asking if this was the ‘end of Microsoft’ but that has died down now. I believe Google’s operating system success will be like those for current netbook OSs at present, such as Moblin and Presto, it will get along, perhaps have a little more success owing to the Google brand but won’t take over the desktop space anytime soon.

Over time however, if Google can provide the touted simplicity, reliability and security from the ground up as well as running the applications and drivers that users require, it will put a dent in Windows sales. If the OS takes into heavy consideration the usability and appearance of the OS, Apple’s OS could come into the firing line also for those requiring an easy to use system but without the high cost of hardware.

However Google do, Office has been reworked for another revision by Microsoft. Office 2010 sees the ribbon bar extended to Outlook, which didn’t receive the facelift in Office 2007, perhaps to ease users into the new UI via the other applications.

There are a vast number of new features; a notable one, although basic, was the live screenshots being taken in the background by Word. As Robert Scoble rightly mentions in his video (from 1min 12), this could come in handy for bloggers. From the Insert menu in Word, the screenshots can be selected from a drop down list and inserted immediately into the current document. See the video of it in action, titled New copy and paste features in Office 2010.

Also, the biggest news of all and of more relevance to remote workers and home users, there will be a free version of Office 2010 available to use via the Internet and will not rely on Internet Explorer to use. This is not the first office suite to go online, there have been pure online offerings from Zoho and Google Docs for a few years now.

Check out the videos highlighting some of the new features in Office 2010 at the official site (via Long Zheng) check out Robert Scoble’s videos of an Office briefing from Chris Bryant, product manager at Microsoft.

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Apple Activation Server Error, Server Down?

June 17, 2009

What happens when there is a rush to buy and activate iPhones….Apple’s activation server goes kaput.

What happens when a long awaited release such as iPhone OS 3.0 go live on iTunes, people want to update so they can use Cut Copy and Paste as well as this new fangled MMS. So many people try to update that once again, the activation server goes down.

itunes-activation-error 

Thanks to another service known for its dubious reliability, Twitter, word is getting around that the small trick of disabling your internet or network connection will let the update take place.

Solution
Credit to @Thiebes for the activation server error solution:

Important note: I found that if backup of contacts to the online service, like Yahoo Contacts, is enabled, iTunes will try to connect to the Internet and sync contacts. As the Internet connection needs to be cut, this will fail and cause the update to halt. Carry out a contacts sync before hand with the internet connection on and then change method of contacts backup or disable it.

When you click on the pop-up saying there is an update, asking if you want to install, click OK or Install, if I remember correctly.

The popup window should change to displaying a progress bar that flashes green along its length, not really indicating any progress and will then say that it is extracting the update/software. When you see this, disconnect from the Internet, or if on a network and you don’t want to affect other users, disable your network connection.

When your iPhone reboots, fire up your Internet connection or enable your network connection again and you’re good to go!

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Did you get your Facebook Vanity URL?

June 13, 2009

facebook_logo At 0000hrs EST, the rush for Facebook’s vanity URLs began. Getting a vanity URL meant that out of Facebook’s 200million people, your acquaintances wouldn’t have to search for you by name and recognise you from the picture, for example, like Twitter, FriendFeed, Myspace, Qik et al. you can just direct friends to facebook.com/yournamehere.

As with domains, there has been a rush to grab sought after names, brands, memes, phrases and totally random URLs. I grabbed mine, www.facebook.com/viran. here are some other fruity ones:

www.facebook.com/default.aspx – yes facebook uses PHP (via Techcrunch)
www.facebook.com/abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
www.facebook.com/iamgod – oh really
www.facebook.com/left4dead2 – as opposed to /left4dead
www.facebook.com/korea – no sign of an account at /china /africa /india and so on
www.facebook.com/12345
www.facebook.com/aaaaa – there are a plethora of alphabet URLs /ppppp etc.
www.facebook.com/lolcat
www.facebook.com/roflcopter
www.facebook.com/lollercoaster

Most likely a deliberate move, /jesus hasn’t been registered and probably isn’t available. Bad luck for all the Jesuses out there. At the time of writing either /Forza3 has been claimed by Turn10 or just hasn’t been registered. Did you get the URL you were after?

Check out more names that may be of interest:
15 Silliest Facebook Vanity URLs – Mashable
Patrick Gage’s List

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Google Making Waves (…groan)

May 29, 2009

Google_Wave_logo Google Wave could transform how we communicate over the web, instead of email, we may all use Google Wave, after all it is being described as what email would be like if it was invented today.

The video is embedded below in which Lars and Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon presented the demonstration of Google Wave at Google’s developer conference, Google i/o. Google Wave compared to the web of today, provides some ‘wow’ moments without Flash, the video shows this better than I can explain it so is worth a watch. If you haven’t got an hour and twenty minutes to spare on the video, I have provided a quick write-up of the features presented.

Wave can be viewed from a browser such as Firefox, on a mobile or from a dedicated Wave client. Full functionality will be available from the Wave client and probably the web browser. Functionality may be limited on the mobile web browsers.

Messaging and Interaction
Messages are threaded, much like Gmail. Unlike Gmail it appears cleaner but this may just be during development when info such as headers are kept hidden.

Multiple contacts can be involved in a ‘Wave’. A wave can be a stream of messages, emails, photos , much like an inbox with conversations going on.

Google_Wave_snapshots_inbox

If contacts have their Wave client open or are viewing it in their browser, they will be able to see the characters appear on screen as they are typed, instead of waiting and watching the typical "Jimbo is typing a message…" notification until the entire text appears. There is a tickbox so you can prevent this from happening for the message you are working on, so the entire message appears at once in the classic fashion once you click OK.

When creating messages, there is a live spellchecker, no longer do you have to complete a message and activate the spell check as it actively works as you type, something I could do with when writing these blog posts!

When a user replies to the wave, they can reply to a message within the stream of messages. Imagine current email, you may have a conversation 10 emails long, rather than replying to the last one with the message appearing as a new email to everything that has been discussed so far, you can go to a message part way along the chain and reply directly to that, and this will be reflected with the message appearing directly below the item that was replied to.

If you wish to add someone to the Wave that you are participating in, you can just drag their name/icon from the contacts list, into the bar at the top of the current wave where the participants are shown. The new user will then have a copy of the thread/wave of messages as you see it so far. Because of the threaded nature of display, the new user, without looking at all the timestamps, cannot easily work out which message was replied to in which order, so the flow of conversation may not be clear. The solution to this is a handy playback feature which re-plays the conversation, displaying items in the order they were sent.

Now, the problem with a Wave of multiple participants, is that you may want to send a message to an individual that you may not want others to see, for which there is a Private Reply option, so only the person you are replying to can see the message. This ensures that all relevant information pertaining to a wave is kept within the wave rather than starting a new email/messaging conversation. Other users can be added to the private reply so it isn’t just limited to the sender of the message you are replying to.

Photos
Adding photos according to the demonstration couldn’t be easier, just drag them from the desktop/file manager, directly into the browser and a new message is generated ready for you to add your own text or more images. In the same vein as the real-time instant messaging, the thumbnails of hte images are displayed before the complete image has been uploaded so that other users viewing the wave can see them. According to the demonstration the drag and drop feature isn’t part of HTML 5 and they want to get it added and standardised and so Google Gears will be required until then for this feature to work.

The photos in the wave can also be turned into a group photo slideshow with minimal effort. Items such as the photos or messages from a wave can also be placed into a new wave or message/message stream where new participants can see what you want to show them and this thread can be kept separate as with a new email conversation.

As with live editing, any edits made to the photos such as captions will appear in real-time in the Wave clients of those who are participating in the wave. This also applies in the scenario when a Wave is embedded elsewhere such as on a website…as below.

API
Using the Waves API allows waves to be placed onto a website, simply adding a blog or site as a participant will allow you to do this once the additions on the website have been done. Another interesting thing is that the wave feature of replying is also available from the website where the wave is embedded. These messages from the web embedded wave appear live within the Wave Client and vice versa. When participating from the web, the user can also continue their participation from their own Wave Client also with the follow up replies also appearing on the web and anywhere else the Wave is embedded. This means that once a comment is left on a site, you won’t have to go back or rely on email notifications to see if there were replies relevant to you, as you will have the stream of messages appear in your Wave client as a new wave.

Collaboration
With Wave’s connectivity and live update functionality, it makes it ideal for live content collaboration tasks. In the example shown a message was sent (wave was started) with multiple participants. An edit was made by one of the participants. This edit showed up in the clients of the other members of the wave as highlighted text along with the name of the person making the edit. The playback option allows edits to be seen in the order they were made along with messages left inline within the document. Messages can also be placed mid document/message by other wave members as a way of commenting/discussing content. Something that could change the way wikis like Wikipedia work with edits, version control and discussion of edits, live on the web, all of which can be hidden to reveal the final document for the public.

Google_Wave_concurrent_edit

With live editing, multiple members of a wave can edit the same document at the same time and this will be shown on the screen with a highlighted block of text as it is being edited, with different coloured blocks representing different users. The demo showed five blocks in different colours darting about the page making edits and creating new text.

Organising Waves
Relevant content and messages may be contained within a single wave but eventually, like email there will be multiple conversations and messages and in this case, waves. The way Waves allows organisation is by utilising tags and these can be seen by everyone in the wave. Also like an interactive and live contents/index page, a wave can be used to link to other waves that may be relevant to the topic. So rather than having information scattered around your inbox across multiple conversations, waves lets you place links to other conversations/waves in a single ‘index or contents page wave’, saving you from searching for various terms.

In the Wave client that was shown, a search can be carried out and instantly, waves with messages containing matching strings will be displayed below as results, without having to press enter or confirm a search. This is nothing new, but with the live and instant functionality of Waves, when another person creates a message/starts a wave containing the text you are searching for and includes you as the recipient/participant in that message, it will appear instantly in your search results.

The message from other participants in the wave with the matching text doesn’t even have to be sent, as soon as the search string is found during composition, it appears in the search results of any participant running a search. If a letter is deleted from the string so it no longer matches, the wave disappears from search results immediately.

Extensions/Gadgets
Like with add-ons for Firefox, additional functionality and what would seem like intelligence, can be added to Waves. The examples included the spellchecker, mentioned previously, that would not just check spelling based on a dictionary of words, but apparently, using its knowledge of context and how the words are used in sentences on the Web, can work out what word should be used when the writer makes an error with words that have homophones, such as ‘to,’ ‘too’ and ‘two’. In the demo, the sentence "Icland is an icland" is typed with the spellchecker correcting automatically to output "Iceland is an island."

Apparently, robots (software ones!) watch the waves and messages from the server in order to carry out actions like the spell check or the live conversion of a plain text string such as "google.com" to a hyperlink and then unlinking it when it is changed to "google.com.a" and then re-linking it when it finally ends up being "google.com.au".

Another extension shown was search related. By clicking an icon in the text formatting toolbar for a wave, a drop down box appeared where the user can type a query to make live results appear and each result has a link "Add to wave," which when clicked adds the link to the current active wave. The same applies for images and presumably video or shopping results from the search extension.Google_Wave_yes_no_maybe_inbox

There were other examples of incorporating collaboration with extensions/gadgets such as a Yes, No or Maybe gadget for a trip to the cinema where users would click Yes, No or Maybe and their name and icon would appear under the appropriate column. Gadgets can allow for integration between other communication services such as the ever popular Twitter, allowing tweets to be posted and searched from Google Wave. There was also a demo of a chess game and collaborative Sudoku game with real time updates and scoring.

Open Source
Google Wave will be open source, allowing other to start up competing wave providers with their own branding but users on different systems will be able to communicate with each other in the same way people can email each other even though they are using different providers. Private replies within users on the same provider’s service stay within that providers systems and will not cross over to the systems of another provider, unlike a message open to the participants from another wave provider. Allowing other organisations to take up Wave and provide their own service might encourage the transition from email. Factors such as service reliability, appearance, customisation options, addition of custom server-powered gadgets/extensions may affect which provider people choose.

When available it should be up at wave.google.com later in the year according to Lars but for now there is a link to the video embedded above along with further links about the protocol, and information for developers.

Google Wave Home
Wave Protocol
About Google Wave
Sign Up For Google Wave
Google Blog Post