Tag: google

Review: Google Reader

Posted by – October 26, 2009

Google Reader's Main Layout

Google Reader's Main Layout

This post has been sitting in my draft folder FOREVER, as I was never quite happy with the formatting or what I wrote.  I decided I’m going to push it through anyway.

I’ve been using Google products for years.  Like most people I’m attracted to the ability to save my work server-side as well as being able to export it to my own local hard drive for safe-keeping.  Most companies don’t tend to do both because their business model is to lock you into their services usually to ensure constant ad revenue.  Google instead relies on innovation and user-friendliness, which hasn’t failed them yet (at least, except maybe Orkut, which I also enjoy…alone), this includes Google Reader.

It all starts off with a pretty simple layout.  The right pane is for viewing your feeds/statistics, the left pane is for navigating your feeds and options.  The ability to use Google Gears to view your feeds offline also gives you a great option for laptop users who will be traveling without wifi access, as you don’t need to install a local news reader.

Viewing a Feed with Google Reader.

Viewing a Feed with Google Reader.

The layout for the reading the feeds is the most important feature however, and it doesn’t get much better than this.  As you can see, it looks very much like any feed reader out there, very simple, with black text on a white background, all the images are there and easy to see.  You can even collapse the navigation pane for a larger viewing window.  With all the different viewing options on how the articles will appear, I think everyone can find a view that they like which is really what customization is really about.

You can track your reading statistics through Google Reader's Trends.

You can track your reading statistics through Google Reader

Another very cool feature I probably couldn’t live without is Google Reader’s Trends.  I’ve always been one to enjoy graphs and statistics (especially when they’re about me; see Review:WhatPulse, Review:RescueTime and DD-WRT Vs Tomato).  However I do find this somewhat useful as if I find I’m reading too much junk feeds, or I haven’t read from a particular feed in many many months; I’ll prune the feeds to increase my productivity.  This doesn’t always work how I’d like however.  In order to get an article to disappear from your ‘new items’ you have to click ‘read’ even though I may just be skipping it as that particular article doesn’t have my interest (Slashdot or Metafilter are two of the big feeds I have trouble with in this regard).  I propose having an ‘ignore’ box as well, which will show up on trends showing how many you ignore, so you can also prune away if the numbers get too high.

For the most part I think Google Reader is the best feed reader out there, although I’ve seen some religious wars with Bloglines vs Google Reader.  The arguments for both sides aren’t very convincing as Google has/is taking all the good features from Bloglines, and getting rid of the bugs and problems Bloglines has (such as duplicate articles in the feed).  It’s all up to you to decide because that’s what the Internet is about; choices.

Here are a few other screenshots of different views, for those interested enough to care, but not yet enough to sign-up.

Google Reader with the navigation pane collapsed.

Google Reader with the navigation pane collapsed.

Google Reader displaying articles with the list view instead of extended.

Google Reader displaying articles with the list view instead of extended.

Safety of Information In the Cloud

Posted by – October 19, 2009

This will be me someday...

This will be me someday...

Most of us have probably heard about how T-Mobile failed pretty epically by losing all of their customer’s sidekick data (as the device has no storage of it’s own, it’s all stored in the cloud).  Luckily Microsoft has stated they have been able to recover “most, if not all” of the information.  However consider the fact that when this news broke, T-Mobile openly admitted to not having backups.

Like many Internet users I rely on Google a great deal of the time.  I use their email service, their RSS reader, their office document suite and of course their search engine.  It appears to me Google has a lot of relaly smart people in their ranks and I not only assume but can pretty confidently say I KNOW they keep backups.  How comprehensive these backups are, and how often it’s backed-up I don’t know.

So it seems I put a lot of faith in Google to keep my information safe, but then again I would have thought T-Mobile would have the same obligation.  This is why I was quite amazed upon hearing of The Data Liberation Front which is a team, well I’ll quote the website:

The Data Liberation Front is an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products.  We do this because we believe that you should be able to export any data that you create in (or import into) a product. We help and consult other engineering teams within Google on how to “liberate” their products.

So basically Google is working to allow YOU (the user) to keep and regulate your own backups without having to find crazy work-arounds like many other services (where their business model is to make it difficult for you to leave).

While most of their help will only help those who are technically minded (such as knowing  to use their forwarding/popmail to grab a copy of all your email as a backup) it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  While cloud computing is definitely making lives easier, it also raises the stakes for catastrophic data loss and we need to be careful to ensure a bad day at Google isn’t a bad year for us.

I’m probably going to write a few guides over the next several weeks on configuring tools and scripts to automating the backup process (as I have been backing up Gmail and other web services for years).

3 Interesting Videos

Posted by – August 9, 2008

I’ve been slacking off on this blog, so in an effort to liven it up, I thought it’d be nice to post a few of the videos I’ve been watching in my spare time.  I’m not sure whether the original uploader has permission to post these, or what license these were put out under.I’ll keep this short though, and get to the videos :

Discovery Channel’s “The History Of Hacking” Documentary

Interesting and if nothing else, entertaining look at the History of Hacking.  Title sort of tells it all.

Documentary on Google

Although I had a good understanding of the first days of Google and the current goings-on, I found this video quite entertaining and informative.  Definitely a must-see for anyone like me who uses Google Services for almost everything.

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture

If you haven’t seen this, you must live in a cave as this video has been making the rounds on the Internet for quite awhile.  Probably due to the sadness of the fact that the world lost such a great professor but hopefully more-so the fact that this lecture has a lot of inspiration and is a great motivator for people to really channel their skills and accomplish their dreams.

Using Gmail’s IMAP Through Alpine

Posted by – July 5, 2008

Alpine is the FOSS version of Pine, which is now dead software. It’s an excellent command-line text-only email and newsgroup reader which I use as I prefer to do all my work through an ssh shell as opposed to a USB drive as some others choose to do.

I thought I’d quickly help anyone who may be having troubles setting up Google’s GMail IMAP server through Alpine as it took me a little bit of messing around to come up with a solid answer. It’s a pretty easy setup if you know Gmail’s IMAP server addresses and especially easy if you’ve used IMAP in the past.

Simply replace the following variables in your .pinerc configuration file (in your home directory):
# Over-rides your full name from Unix password file. Required for PC-Alpine.
personal-name=YOUR NAME

# Sets domain part of From: and local addresses in outgoing mail.
user-domain=gmail.com

# List of SMTP servers for sending mail. If blank: Unix Alpine uses sendmail.
smtp-server=smtp.gmail.com/submit/user=YOUR USER NAME@gmail.com/novalidate-cert

# Path of (local or remote) INBOX, e.g. ={mail.somewhere.edu}inbox
# Normal Unix default is the local INBOX (usually /usr/spool/mail/$USER).
inbox-path={imap.gmail.com/user=YOUR USER NAME@gmail.com/ssl/novalidate-cert}Inbox

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d strongly suggest checking out this page as well as it’s full of useful information on using alpine and other tips and tricks.