Technology Blog, by: David Monaghan.

Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Humorous Evaluation of Windows Vista RC1

Posted by David on November 22, 2006

25% CPU usage running Windows Vista RC1 Remote Desktop, MySQL, WEBrick, Photoshop and Firefox on a Compaq v2406US (upgraded to 638mb, 60gb 7200rpm 8mb)

I was just chatting with a friend – Lee – about my experiences running Windows Vista RC1 32bit build 5600. I acquired this version through the public release about a couple of months ago and have been running it on a couple computers since. One a desktop and one a laptop. Everything is going alright so far although I’m cramped for resources after Firefox has been open for a while. In any case I can usually get through about a week of having the computer on 24 hours a day before having to reboot due complete loss of computer control. In fact I could probably wait for the system to come back to life after killing Firefox and a few other programs but I’m often impatient and rebooting seems to work faster (not manually shutting down by holding the power button but just pushing on the power button will actually shut down the computer after about two minutes at this point).

Anyway this isn’t a real evaluation of the operating system, though I hope the above gives everyone a good idea of the stability I’m experiencing so far… In summary it’s about the same as XP but it’s a bit faster and looks way prettier, not to mention has a ton of cool extras like search (that works) etc. Should you upgrade… in my opinion not yet, for one it’s not been released to residential yet… The reason I started typing this was to share my friend Lee’s reaction to my experience with the voice recognition features in Windows Vista. I explained to him that there was a lot of potential in it and that it does work some of the time for me, but I seem to have a problem with the speed of my computer and the quality of my mic (Compaq 2405US with Motorola HS820). Also I remembered vaguely having problems getting it to switch to dictation in Firefox.

Lee had the following reply which I found quite funny;

“Open the pod bay doors, Windows.”

“Windows cannot do that, Dave…”

I’ve always been a fan of quoting that movie, I especially enjoyed having a sound byte for some time saying “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” upon Windows errors. Ha ha ha, very funny, well I’m sure it’s better if you were there, and are me…

Besides a few minor problems I’m actually surprised at how well Windows Vista is working for me. I wouldn’t say it’s near the stage that XP is at now for stability and compatibility but surely it’s a step in the right direction and during this stage XP was about the same. I’m ecstatic that I can finally search for files on the computer and get results quickly, I’m a huge fan of the search box in the start menu (though I wish more things would appear in the results and later they may), and I’ve got some experiences to share that have made running Vista all the worthwhile for me. I would have run Vista for at least this long even if things would have been worse, mainly because I like to see the current state of technology which will impact my life in a large way. Fortunately Vista runs the programs I need; Photoshop, FL Studio, Audacity, Firefox, Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, AIM, C++, Perl, Ruby, and PHP. Some things have improved from XP, for instance I have a Linksys USB Bluetooth adapter and a Motorola Bluetooth headset. In XP it took me about a day to get the headset functionality out of the thing and then every time I wanted to switch from the Bluetooth to my built in or visa versa the application(s) in use would have to be restarted. Not anymore, in fact I never had to install a driver. The first time I plugged in the USB adapter and connected the headset Skype was running and without restarting it just worked. It took probably a minute to get drivers online from Microsoft I assume and in no time I was back to talking. Today I did this again, only this time it was simply to listen to a podcast I was listening to (net@nite) in Firefox (using Netvibes, gotta love it). I believe the audio does have to be stopped, but I just pause music, plug in USB Bluetooth adapter, turn on and connect headset, then hit play and enjoy the show!

I love having a laptop and now with Vista it’s even better. My battery doesn’t die very often but for some reason lately I don’t seem to be getting a big warning about battery life (need to go check settings but this could be a bug). So a couple of times now the battery has gotten to the point where the computer turned itself “off” and pushing the power button would only give the blinking power light saying “Plug me in or suffer without a computer, your choice”. The beautiful part is that once plugging back in and powering up an unfamiliar screen pops up, it says Resuming Windows. The computer comes back to whatever you were doing, it’s like the computer was asleep, only it was actually turned off. It does take longer than coming out of sleep (especially this new sleep) but it’s a God-send for laptops and actually fairly quick. I just did it now by hitting the hibernate button, the audio show I was listening to came back to life, this post I’m writing, and it tool I’d say less than a minute tops, this is all very nice if you ask me.

I’ve used Remote Desktop through vista with some varying results. Obviously the Aero interface doesn’t work over it but it’s still quick enough to do simple things. Every now and again the connection gets dropped and it doesn’t reconnect, but restarting the client app seems to fix it every time.

Right now I’m listening to TWiT 77 talk about speed problems with Vista’s Aero Glass interface, I’m not having any huge problems here with every feature turned on even though I don’t have a GB or ram, while I do have more than the 128mb the computer came with I’ve only added 512 mb. I did also upgrade my hard drive from a 4200rpm 2mb cache hard drive to a 7200rpm 8mb cache hard drive. This laptop is last years low end model, nothing fancy. If this laptop will run Vista like this I can’t wait to see what something like my Mom’s desktop replacement HP…

I did hear on Security Now! that there are some problems with the 64bit version, but I’ve yet to see anything myself.

Until next time, I think I’m going to go play with WordPress some, I vaguely remember seeing a new feature I’ve been waiting for for what seems to have been an eternity.


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Net Neutrality, Moore’s Law and Podcasts.

Posted by David on June 10, 2006

Three things I’ve been focusing on recently and want to share, they’re all things that people interested in technology should take a look at.

Network neutrality, it’s about the way our technology handles various information. There’s a lot of movement revolving around this term so I recommend checking this out above all else.

Moore’s law is about the way computer technology is progressing, there are various interpretations but the Wikipedia article provides some insight.

Podcasts are probably the most popular of the three things I’m pointing out today so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard of them. While the term comes from the combination of iPod and broadcasting the idea actually stems from many other technologies not related to Apple. RSS or feeds and audio file formats (mainly mp3) among many other things make it possible for users to ‘subscribe’ to a feed which delivers the content in enclosures which make downloading easy to the user and more importantly to software. While the technology combination is extremely valuable the end users wouldn’t benefit from it without the great many sources of content which produce and host the audio to be retrieved. I don’t listen to very many podcasts because I focus my time on technology information (or information technology) but I’d like to share some of those on my list. Before I do so I’ll point you over to Netvibes which I use to aggregate and read all of my feeds including podcasts (Netvibes has a built-in audio player) and recommend that you check out iTunes if you’re seeking the easiest solution. The first podcasts I started listening to was TWiT (This Week in Tech) which mainly features ex-hosts from The Screensavers – a show I got hooked on to feed my tech fix. I also frequent the following technology shows in podcast format; Inside the Net, Security Now!, Cranky Geeks, Drunk and Retired, TalkCrunch, Ruby on Rails Podcast, some of the many course podcasts on Berkeley.edu, and Harvard’s Computer Science E-259. I should mention all of these are free and there are more if you’re willing to pay.

Side Note: This post would have been longer if A) Firefox didn’t crash in the middle of writing the original B) I saved the post on WordPress.com after having more content than I’d be willing to use C) I didn’t open up so many tags with Flash, or D) WordPress.com had an auto-save on the post editor. So this hopefully won’t be happening again and the cool thing is nothing above has to change; Writely.com has auto-save and will upload the posts to WordPress.com. I’ll be making an effort to start writing posts in Writely which I hope will at least match the WordPress experience if not enhance it, wish me luck in the process. Besides auto-save Writely also has RCS, will write and read Word doc files, and allows more than one person to edit the same document at the same time. Want to come and edit files with me but don’t have an account? Worry not, I can get you in there, besides I’d love to start collaborating more with others interested in similar topics.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Computer Shopping.

Posted by David on June 6, 2006

I wrote up this email to my friend (you know who you are) and just before I hit the send button I realized I should post it here instead. I'm not really doing any shopping at the moment but I always have a list of what I'd get running. I use it when I do shop for computers as an end goal and comparison. Perhaps now I'll keep this updated here rather than in my head, no promises.

Here's the message (BTW I refer to a computer as a machine many times, trust me a computer is just a complicated machine);
http://pricewatch.com is really good for finding a good price on equipment though it's sometimes hard to make out what's what.

One of the best retail websites for computer parts is Tiger Direct at http://tigerdirect.com of course.

There's also http://outpost.com which is Fry's Electronics' site but it lacks a full view of what is in the store.

Tiger Direct has a selection and price comparable to going in to Fry's from what I remember. A better deal can always be found but the risk is often in the retailer; Often won't get the part, will get a wrong part, or will get damaged parts.

My Dream Desktop Multimedia Machine

  • CPU: Dual+ Intel 2.5ghz+ 64Bit Processors w/ 1mb+ of L1 or L2 cache and 800mhz+ bus speeds
  • MTB: Supporting processors and with little built on and many PCI, AGP, and PCI Express
  • PWR: 500W+ supporting MB, quiet if possible.
  • HDD: 500G+ SATA or SCSI (8mb+ cache 7200rpm+ 9ms- seek time) (Seagate if possible) and supporting controller card
  • RAM: 2G+ per stick (or one stick) w/ 800mhz+ bus speed (Any brand w/ 1yr+ warranty)
  • GFX: 512mb+ AGP or PCI Express w/ VGA, an optional DVI would be optimal (NVidia if possible) + Obviously the largest screen with the lowest depth and best quality affordable (ViewSonic is good for computer monitors, Sony is good all around, see also Apple's flat-panel monitors), oh yeah and you want two or more if possible
  • PTS: at least one USB and Firewire in the back and likewise in the front
  • ROM: DVD and CD at least, anything better than bottom line would be a bonus (Sony if possible)
  • SND: 5.1 or more w/ optical out and remote (SoundBlaster or better if possible, see also MAudio, and DigiDesign at http://musiciansfriend.com) + Bluetooth w/ headset and audio profiles and bluetooth headset/headphones
  • INP: Optical mouse, quiet keyboard w/ media keys, wireless if possible (Logitech if possible) + drawing tablet
  • FLP: SuperDisk floppy combo drive or just a floppy, if possible.
  • NET: 802.11g/a/b (perhaps n?) w/ MIMO and SpeedBooster + Ethernet 10/100/1000 (Linksys or Intel if possible)

My Dream Mutimedia Server Machine

  • CPU: Dual+ 2.5ghz+ 64Bit Processors w/ 1mb+ of L1 or L2 cache and 800mhz+ bus speeds
  • MTB: Supporting processors and with little built on and many PCI
  • PWR: Redundant 500W+ supporting MB, quiet if possible, battery backup if possible
  • HDD: 4T+ SATA or SCSI RAID (8mb+ cache 7200rpm+ 9ms- seek time) (Seagate if possible) and supporting controller card
  • RAM: 4G+ per stick (or one stick) w/ 800mhz+ bus speed (Any brand w/ 1yr+ warranty)
  • GFX: 2+ Video Input w/ S-Video, DVI/VGA/RCA/Component Video if possible + matching digital video receiver/tuners.
  • PTS: At least one USB and Firewire in the back and likewise in the front
  • ROM: Not needed
  • SND: 5.1+ channel audio input w/ optical if possible + digital video/audio receiver/amplifier/tuner/distributor (combo or separate units) with 5+ video/audio outs
  • INP: Infrared and/or RF and/or Bluetooth remote functionality (all if possible)
  • FLP: Not needed
  • NET: Dual 802.11g/a/b (perhaps n?) w/ MIMO and SpeedBooster and/or dual Ethernet 10/100/1000 (Linksys or Intel if possible) and/or dual fiber channel and Bluetooth w/ headset, audio and video profiles

My Dream Multimedia Laptop

Okay, the laptops a huge dream, otherwise it's pretty obvious… as close to that as you can get…

Hope I didn't miss anything too obvious or important…

I recommend also looking at the current Mac lineup, they have a computer as cheap as $600 that is pretty powerful and insanely small (see the Mac Mini) as well as much more expensive and powerful machines.

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Columnist or Reporter?

Posted by David on May 21, 2006

My journalism background. I walked backwards into writing, one day I decided to start up a website and later a blog. Now I've got a history of many various blogs, none of which have really taken off but I never started writing to be popular. You could say that blogging became an addiction for me. Once I realized that not only do I like writing but that some people might actually enjoy reading it I began analyzing my writing and what I do on my blogs so that I could be more effective.

Columnist or reporter? This is probably entirely obvious to people with a background in journalism but as I explained I have very little and I just started to ask myself, "Am I a columnist or a reporter?" Hopefully even the highest level professional journalists will agree that the difference between these two types of journalists are a bit difficult to distinguish from one another especially to the untrained (not to mention the rapidly changing technologies). From what I can tell the major differences between a columnist and a reporter are; First the motivation behind the content and second the process of acquiring and presenting the information. A columnist is the driving force behind their content and isn't expected to follow the same process of acquiring information from official or creditable sources in an unbiased way, while a reporter is expected to acquire their information from sources they can cite and is usually motivated by something like popular demand (mass media) and the search for unbiased information. Now the lines are blurry here according to some, blogs are being considered a sort of mix between these two styles of journalism and it seems that many of the people contributing content to blogs are completely unaware of this looming question.

So what am I? That't the question I've been asking myself, "Am I a columnist or a reporter?" I think the answer is obvious and I consider myself at this moment to be a columnist (at least on this blog) but now I'm starting to research what I would have to change to be considered a reporter. In any case I enjoy writing for the public and it's enhanced my writing skills (one of the real reasons I started writing material to publish). Recently I've wondered a lot how journalism might be changed by blogging and how journalism as a whole will end up in the next five, ten, twenty, etc. years. It's very interesting to me, everything that has to do with communication is under rapid evolution at an always accelerating pace. Anyway thanks for listening to my short ramblings on this, uh, column? Okay yeah, hope everyone had a good Sunday and I'll talk to you soon.

Post Scriptum. I've been thinking about the possibility of publishing in audio form, if I have something to publish but I don't really feel like writing at the time, or if I can get some friends together to talk about technology, I may even think of some other reason(s) but I'd be happy to hear what anyone thinks about such a publication here. I know one advantage to the readers or listeners in this case would be the ability to obtain the information I'm publishing while doing something which requires the use of their eyes or hands. I should also mention that obtaining information for the blind would probably be much smoother in such a format rather than through the use of a speech synthesis application. Anyway, lemme know if you have an opinion, as usual you can contact me at monaghan.david@gmail.com and don't forget that you can leave a comment for others to see. I'd also be interested in starting up a podcast with someone else, if you've got broadband and Skype we're half way there, I'm a hobbyist producer using FL Studio and Audacity and I know may way around enough of the technology to find anything we need. Don't forget to tune in later for a link to a cooking blog and podcast I'm going to start up with my good friend Scott and my Mom Jaimie (two excellent self-taught chefs) which I'll be producing, editing and writing for.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Sex, porn, XXX, and Korea.

Posted by David on May 11, 2006

Google Trends, that's what brought me to use these words together. I was just testing out the service after reading TechCrunch.com's article about it and started trying out all sorts of things, a few out of interest for what gets searched for but most just to get an idea about how well it works. So far I'm pleased and I bet it's pretty accurate as far as Google's records go. I haven't spent more than five minutes using it, I just wanted to mention it for those who haven't taken a look.

See this search I did for "Sex, porn, XXX, and Korea" which I thought was interesting.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Tools | 4 Comments »

Woot Blog Podcast, Candy for Your Bluetooth Headset.

Posted by David on April 22, 2006

I know most of you probably don't listen to your podcasts via bluetooth, but I do and some others must as well. Regardless of how you listen this audio show about technological products is a riot, my Mom referred me to it knowing im in to anything technology related and especially those which incorporate humor. More and more humor is being used as a teaching aid, I hope this trend continues because I feel it's easier and faster to learn something using tools which make the information more interesting and therefore more memorable and humor is one of those tools in my opinion.

The shows I've heard have all taken the technology product at hand (I believe it is a product which they are offering on their service, the one product they are offering at the time) and created what seems to be a spoof song with comical lyrics about it. If you haven't already seen and heard this I recommend you take the time to at least give it a try, the blog which has podcast links embed in it is at http://woot.com/blog. This brings up my love of podcasts again, learning via audio recordings is extremely efficient for me, and having automatically retrieved information is almost too good, I am talking about podcasts which are becoming more and more popular because of these and many other reasons.

If you're wondering where the podcast links are on the page I referred to; They are located at the bottom of each post with the text, "Click here to listen to the podcast"

Posted in Tools | 1 Comment »

Mozilla Keywords Out, YubNub Commands In.

Posted by David on April 18, 2006

On my search for the seemingly endless amounts of web applications I've found another service which changes the way I browse the internet, it is YubNub.org. At first YubNub looks like a somewhat humorous and friendly interface to Google and other utilities, but it becomes quickly obvious that YubNub really is exactly what it claims to be, "A social command line for the web." YubNub combines web searching with the Unix command line and gives users an open interface to add commands using a simple syntax with some advanced features.

One of the first interesting features I noticed was the ability to create commands which accept parameters. I'm also a big fan of the names used for two of the most useful commands on YubNub; ls (lists commands) and man (shows information about a command). Both of these commands take options just as you may expect, typing 'ls google' will list commands with Google in the name, description, or command source (URL). Using 'man g' returns the description for the 'g' command (Google search). Creating a command is very simple, the syntax is similar to Firefox's keyword syntax but also sports more fancy syntax to make commands much more powerful. If you're looking at creating a command check out 'if', 'ifThen', and 'foreach'. I should also mention that while 'ls' is great for finding a command, 'ge' is much better for discovering great commands.

Please go give YubNub a try, even if I have confused you with some of the more advanced features. I can't imagine there is a faster way to search and browse the web than this, and it's really not very hard to type 'g search term' rather than google.com. Even if you normally use a link/bookmark to pull up your search engine and just type the search term, remember that you're loading two pages when you could be loading one, besides that if your hands are on the keyboard why take them off? Currently when I want to search Google this is what I do;

Type: ctrl+k

Type: g search term

Hit enter key

That's all, the results are up for whichever search term I typed in. On another subject; If I see a result I want to pull up I hit the forward-slash key (/) and type the link text in until it's highlighted. Then I can enter and I'm there, hands never leaving the keyboard, much faster than using the mouse and loading a search page. On yet another subject; If I can think of a search term which I know will pull up the result I want as #1, I can use the goto command which performs an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search in Google (which simply loads the first result without showing the rest, can be tricky but it saves even more time).

Okay, let's egress from this digression… 😉

After a short while I realized that I needed an easy and quick way to access the YubNub site, but I already have a dashboard I like to use as my home page and don't care for opening more than one page when I start up (that's one more than I'm used to, and I may switch back soon.) The first solution I thought of was a keyword, simply enough one could be created and used but to type in a keyword to use a service that offers more keywords (commands) seems redundant, even if it's one character. So the best solution I've come up with so far is to replace the default path Firefox uses when entering a url that isn't a Mozilla keyword and isn't a real url (this is easy enough for any computer user to accomplish, put about:config in the address bar of firefox and hit go, then find keyword.url and double click to replace url with "http://yubnub.org/parser/parse?command=", quotes added for display purposes). With this quick edit of the Firefox config I can now access YubNub's power right from the url bar like it's built in. There's a better way than simply changing the default keyword url and I've finally seen the light. This has been available the entire time, I just never saw the benefit of using it until now. The best solution I can find now; Using a YubNub quicksearch (in Firefox), which is a small change for me, I'm used to using ctrl+l to access the url bar and I've gotten accustomed to this since using YubNub as the default keyword url but I've been dying for history and completion (at the very least for commands I've typed in). Now a simple ctrl+k brings me to a the one and only quicksearch I have installed, YubNub, and what I type gets saved in history for use later on. There's another problem I encountered when using YubNub as the default keyword url; The command \\ doesn't work, Firefox get's confused and in return I get an error message. Not being able to use even as little as one command is reason enough to switch, and I'm glad I finally did, I'll be happy to finally have history of my the commands I type in. Now if only I could get auto-completion for commands and options, this I would imagine is best suited for a Firefox extension.

If you're interested in using or already have been using YubNub and haven't already seen the Installing YubNub page I recommend you check it out. There's a long list of Firefox quicksearch plugins and more.
There's a wealth of commands, and anyone can add more. Had to get this out, I know most users won't understand let alone use this sort of service, although I could be wrong, even though it's not any more difficult to use than Google, the default behavior is to search Google. I really think this is a keyword killer for me, I've looked through the keyword list I have now and can't find anything I have that isn't already available, aliases can also be used if you've gotten used to a certain keyword as well although I'm not sure how that works with existing command names from another site which ties into YubNub nicely using the '!' command. I'm sure a few geeks out there are glad to see this, hope you're one of them.

I should mention that using YubNub as the default Firefox keyword.url does not override your keyword settings, keywords will still work, in fact they will override the default keyword.url if they exist (which might become a problem if you have a keyword which overrides a YubNub command).

Posted in Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Ning.com, a Free Social Web Application Host.

Posted by David on April 15, 2006

You may have read about Ning recently on WebMonkey, if not I recommend you read it; What Is A Ning?

For those who haven't read the article, looked at Ning.com, or haven't heard about it elsewhere, Ning.com is a web service which allows anyone to create, copy, and host web applications on the Ning framework. The Ning framework consists of a web server, MySQL, PHP, many PEAR modules, the Ning Content Store, the Ning PHP API and the Ning PHP Components API. Included in the Ning API's are some nice time savers like bloging, comments, tags, and more interestingly hooks into external APIs like Flickr's, Google Map's, etc. The title of this article suggests that Ning is free and it is but, the free service offers 1GB of public content and 100MB of private content for free, the source code of a freely hosted Ning application is public and released under an open source license allowing other users of Ning to use it indefinitely. Google AdSense advertisements are places on all free applications as well though currently they are allowing users to customize their ads and aren't running any at all by default. Alternatively subscriptions can be purchased to enable various features like custom or no ads, private source code, and more storage. If you ask me this is a really nice service model and is more than accommodating to free users and paid members alike, I'm working on a couple of free apps right now, one I copied and one I started from 'scratch' (if you feel comfortable calling it that).

So what can you do with Ning? First let me address those who aren't PHP literate; You don't have to code to use Ning. To say Ning is a free social web application host could mean a few things, what I intend to describe is a free social web application which allows users to host their own web applications (social or not). What makes Ning a social web application is the way they allow sharing of source code between users of the service, any Ning member can literally copy a web application to their account essentially allowing them to host (and modify) it. Now I'll address you developers out there; The control is yours, make that new MySpace, Blogger, Digg, del.icio.us, Flickr, and add those features they ignored in your emails (I don't personally hold any grudge against the named companies more than any other, they just appear as I thought of them, I have emailed these companies and many more like them with feature requests/bug fixes; I mean less to single them out than I do to use them as examples). The Ning.com site has a built in file browser and text editor which works just fine but I prefer to use my local GVim which Ning let's me do via SFTP (so any other IDE capable of using SFTP can be used as well).

I just started using Ning last weekend and haven't spent much time evaluating it so I apologize for the lack of information about the service and the company behind it. If you are wondering if this article is part of the 'Long List of Web Applications' series, yes and no. I plan on editing this and a couple other articles for use in that subject but first I have to create catagories (which is waiting on a solid function list) and retrieve more information. Be sure to check out Ning.com (http://ning.com) in the mean time.

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The Long List of Web Applications

Posted by David on April 11, 2006

Welcome to the beginning of many articles focusing on web applications where I, David Monaghan, will be contributing reviews of these applications to this blog by following the guidelines discussed later. First I will explain my plan on how to present this information as well as my reason for doing so.

This article is still under construction and will be the focus of my work on this blog until it is refined to my satisfaction, at which point I will move on to reviewing the applications. Each application review will be presented on an individual article and will be categorized on this blog in the categories which match the functions it provides. In the next few paragraphs I will explain my reasons for starting this project. Obviously if you're interested only in the information you're more than welcome to skip ahead to the next section, 'Global Web Application Information'.

I've been a professional user and a hobbyist developer until recently, I started with web development and every time I try to escape I am led back here. Now that I'm finally taking the time to really develop a web application there are a ton of other people doing exactly the same thing. It's not that five years ago there weren't many new web-apps being developed and released but nothing compares to what's going on these days. Often one of the first things to be identified when starting a business is a function; This is best determined by viewing the current market and identifying demands which aren't being met. This series of articles is the beginning to my solution to the question, "Which demands are being made on web applications which aren't being met?" I am going to identify these demands being made by myself and those around me by looking at current software (web or otherwise) and common functions which we collectively use. Rather than identifying a particular application as a solution I prefer to see functions being provided by them and the abilities of the applications regarding these functions. By first identifying these functions and how they can be implimented I should find a very fine set which is easier to translate to real world usage rather than remaining focused on an application as it's used or viewed alone or as a piece of software in one genre of other solutions. As the information is added I believe patterns will emerge of covered and uncovered functions which can be used to asses the current market of web software and which pieces are missing.

I've been keeping my eye on web applications for a while now, it's always been obvious to me that the easiest way to develop a cross platform and rich application is via web technologies. Linux, Apache, MySQL, HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, and Ruby. All free. These technologies make up the vast majority of web applications on the internet today, I started learning HTML and was referred to the rest when teaching myself to build and publish web applications and it's become apparent that not only is the web the easiest way but it is the best way. Many developers are seeing the same things I am, there is a flood of services and companies using various business models to offer free and rich applications to the masses, and the users are starting to trickle in already despite the fact that hardly any of these services is out of testing stages of development. Many of the business models revolve around a system parallel with Flickr; A full and free service which attracts users and offers more professional services available for a fee. This seems to be working well for these start ups in many different ways, Flickr as most know was purchased by Yahoo! but what is really amazing is those services which seem to have little concern over making money, however this is a false perception, these types of start ups are (if popular) often seeded by investors or bought by giants, e.g. Digg and del.icio.us, this offers a sort of high-risk incentive to start-ups who have little capital but lot's of knowledge and enough time to design, create, and publish (host) something which is highly useful.

With all of these changes I've found it hard to catch up with the mass, there are plenty of great ways to find services like this but it takes a lot of time to also research the applications once they have been identified and located. Then comes in 'The Long List of Web Applications', this series of articles is my solution to this dilemma, for myself and those who may be on the same adventure or who may just be looking for a good solution to problem X. A good list of the services needs to be created and organized and should include thorough reviews which examine a standard set of elements among certain groups of applications. I thought of trying to organize such a list into categories on one page but soon realized that many of the services wouldn't be able to be categorized into only one section and I didn't want to list any one service more than once (I hate needless repetition). The solution to this will be to document how this information will be collected and categorized, categories will be created on this blog to contain individual posts which will represent one service. These posts will be placed in the categories matching the functions of the application (thank God WordPress.com allows multiple categories) so that browsing them may be as simple as possible.

Global Web Application Information

As you should now understand this document doesn't contain a list of the web applications which have been or are being reviewed, the application reviews will each be contained on individual pages. What this document does list is the standard set of elements which should be included in the review of every application without getting into details relating to specific functions, that will be covered later.

  • Application Name
  • URI
  • Company Name
  • Company Birth Date
  • Privacy Policy (Light Version)
  • Terms of Service (Light version)
  • Licenses Used (for Service and Pontent Provided by Users)
  • Version History (with Changelogs)
  • Business/Service Model
  • Costs
  • Server Technology
  • Application Framework
  • Application Language(s)
  • Internal Data Formats (Security)
  • Import/Export Data Formats
  • Average Bandwidth
    • CPU
    • Memory
    • Hard Drive
    • Network
  • User Interfaces (Screenshots)

For applications which are hosted on the web there are some different aspects which should be noted;

  • Hosting Solution(s)
  • Geographic Location of Server(s)
  • Average Downtime
  • Advertising

While this list contains everything which should be documented for every web application, it doesn't contain everything which should be documented for individual web applications. Before we discuss more information about specific applications we need to identify types of applications and organize them accordingly, this can prove to be difficult. Luckily we can use a system which is fairly open in organizing content in that WordPress allows blog posts to be contained in one or more categories defined by the blog's administrator. Because when looking for a web application a user most often has a function or a set of functions in mind I've decided to organize these tools by their function. Once these functions have been identified and organized a category will be created to represent each function. The first post under each category will provide the information which guides the reviews of software with the function corresponding to the category, after of course a definition of the function.

Application Functions

On to defining the functions, which again define the categories. This list is a work in progress which I personally started months ago and have slowly worked on, it was designed to account for all pieces of software a computer could have installed on it's hard drive but it is now being extended to identify the demands of today's computer user(s).

You may wonder at first why some of these functions listed don't seem like they should be provided by web applications, you also may notice that this list doesn't seem to reflect the actual software types available today. Surely there are at least a few of these functions which can't actually be performed on a remote machine (oh imagine the horror if this wasn't the case), however web applications might provide a function which is somehow related to this function and might provide it for the server it runs on but has a web interface. Also you should know; This list is my dream of the future of software, in this dream there are well thought out services which perform a very limited set of functions with one focus in mind; "To be infinite in nature." Translation: Easy access, no limits, standards compliance, and integration with other software whenever possible. Many applications today have elements which are locked down to a small scope of information associated to the function provided, my biggest complaint recently has been over contact organizer software. I feel that I should be able to keep information for my contacts for at least the following; Birthday, baptism, wedding, child birth, and death. Not one piece of software I have used will keep track of all of this (in a user friendly way), and I have many more things that I would like to keep like; Graduation, election, promotion, retirement, etc. Let's not forget that some people don't have just one wedding, one child birth, one anything, if I want to keep two death dates why shouldn't I be able to? Someone out there has died twice I know it, and if I knew someone who did I would want to keep track of it in my handy software (when was it Jimmy died the first time anyway?)

My idea of this perfect set of functions which software should provide makes up the contents of this list, however far from reality it may be. I'm not trying to imply that one piece of software should provide each of these functions, in some cases I feel software suites, bundles, or "multi-function" applications are actually the best solution. Note: I tried to rate the list of functions by importance but don't quote me please…

  • BIOS
  • Filesystem
  • BootLoader
  • OS
  • Command Prompt
  • Programming Language
  • API
  • SDK
  • IDE
  • Host (Service, Server, etc.)
  • Network
  • Browser
    • Local
    • Network
  • Firewall
  • Anti-virus
  • Spy-ware/Ad-ware/Mal-ware Detection & Removal
  • Backup
  • Performance/Analyze
  • User
  • Calculator
  • Media
    • Text Viewer
    • Image Viewer
    • Audio Player
    • Video Player
    • Text Editor
    • Image Editor
    • Audio Editor
    • Video Editor
    • Text Creator
    • Image Creator
    • Audio Creator
    • Video Creator
    • Drafting
    • Model
    • Animate
    • Index
  • Messaging/Communication
    • Text
      • Snail Mail
      • EMail & Mailing List
      • RSS
    • Auido
    • Video
    • Newsgroup
    • Forum
  • Encyclopedia
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Translator
  • Spreadsheet
  • Presentation
  • Asset
  • Process
  • Project
  • Contact
  • Calendar
  • Search
  • Syndicate
  • Aggregate
  • Dashboard
  • List
  • Map
  • Route
  • Track
  • Shop
  • Auction
  • Stream
  • Publish
  • Bookmark (Placemark)
  • Journal
  • Forum
  • Catalog
  • Comment
  • Rank
  • Proxy
  • Cache
  • Voice to Digital Text
  • Digital Text to Voice
  • Analog Text to Digital Text

Have I Heard of, Have I Seen, Have I Tried…?

I'd be glad to get input regarding not only the function list but also the list I'm not making of web applications, I have already seen a good amount of them but know there are probably twice as many or more that I haven't. I'm currently using Del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia to keep track of these applications, here are the links;

Those I've used: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Those I've seen: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Those I've heard of: Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

If you're looking for one big list you can have it, the previous three we're generated by pulling up my bookmarks using the webapps tag and a tag set I devised to organize them (iveused, iveseen, iveheardof). I have also tagged some of them with keywords describing the service but need to do more of that.

See all of the webapps I have bookmarked; Ma.gnolia, Delicious.

Please give me your feedback, I'm working on this a lot in the background and have been anxious to know what everyone thinks of this project. I've actually been thinking about changing the scope of these articles from web applications to just applications or to technology in general. Please let me know what you think about a scope change, the list of web applications, the idea in general, or just the direction of this blog. You can reach me, as usual, at monaghan.david@gmail.com.

Posted in Cultural Forces, Techniques, Tools | Leave a Comment »

Netvibes.com updates make for home page bliss.

Posted by David on April 9, 2006

Since the last time I’ve looked around at the various dashboard applications I have accounts with, Netvibes.com has apparently added some new features that have bumped it up to the top of my list, moving Google’s Personalized Home down to number two for the time being.

The two features which were added; Tabs and Authentication. Now I have an entire tab dedicated to various feeds served up by RememberTheMilk.com, most of which are password protected.

Besides any new features Netvibes has always had a superior interface, an integrated feed reader, podcast player, and shading of widget windows.

I’m not sure if this is new but Netvibes grabs the favicon for each of the feeds, very nice. Another new feature that appears to have come with tags is icons for tags. Thanks to this nice interface I can finally load up with more feeds without worry of scrolling through pages and pages of feeds. Netvibes truly solves many of my problems, and obviously I encourage you to give it a go, the service is free and you can start your new page at http://netvibes.com.

It should be noted that Netvibes has a feed reader which handles RSS, Atom, and XML feeds. If you are not familiar with these technologies you should take the time to learn as much as you can about them, you have probably used services which offer them without knowing and they can save you time if you visit more than one frequently for information available in these feeds. If you still don’t understand what they are, here’s another stab. Feeds (RSS, Atom, XML, etc. are formats for feeds, also called syndicates) are files published by various sources of information, most commonly news, which are intended to be collected by feed readers (also called aggregators). There are more feed readers than you can shake a stick at, web based alone, and I can’t say that I’ve tried all or even most of them.

I decided while contemplating the design of a feed reading system that feeds are not the only piece of information which should be available in applications providing access to feeds, or at least different views need to be supported once all the pieces of information I frequent on the internet are available via feeds. Since currently feed technology is still being explored for it’s potential, and standards have not yet fully developed for all of the information involved in these potentials, the only way to get a working system to inform the user of these pieces of information is through the use of modules which each handle their own type of content; Weather, mail, bookmarks, events, news, etc.

Posted in Tools | Leave a Comment »