Chrome’s Windows 8 Mode

Screenshot 2014-04-09 08.51.06

If you switch Chrome to “Windows 8 Mode” it creates its own little environment, complete with draggable windows, a task bar and a clock. It looks like a complete little operating system. (I’ve never used Chrome OS – but the screenshots look familiar).

This seems utterly daft to me.

Windows 8 mode services a very specific purpose. It’s full- or split-screen apps with no sense of windows. Think of them as panels. This approach – whether we enjoy it or not – is supposed to be consistent.

Chrome comes in, adds its own layer, and confuses the heck out of anybody who happens to click the wrong button. Am I still in Windows? Where have all my programs gone? Why is something different here? Anyone who has helped friends and colleagues with basic computer needs will know that the simplest change – the tiniest disruption – can cause users to lose their bearings.

For what it’s worth I don’t necessarily appreciate Windows 8 Mode either – I find the whole thing a half-way compromise between tablet and desktop that fails both sides. A dichotomy of inconsistent metaphors and actions. It’s a mess, but the last thing we surely want is another company (Google) throwing things even further off kilter.

As a proposition, I quite like the idea of Chrome OS, but as a separate choice only. Chrome in Windows 8 Mode appears to fail to appreciate the good things that Windows 8 Mode brings (yes, there are good bits) and wilfully catapults its users into a confusing, inconsistent environment. It reaks of the 90s trend of building apps with their own confusing controls and windows just because we can – although I suspect Google genuinely has long-term plans for what it’s doing here.

Heartbleed

A vulnerability has been found in the encryption library OpenSSL, used by a huge proportion of web and Internet services. This bug allows malicious users to access bits of memory on the server and potentially read enough information to render the encryption useless.

Worse, having obtained the right data, they could compromise the security of past and future communications allowing eavesdropping, impersonation and stealing of data.

The vulnerability, known as Heartbleed, was found by researchers at Google and Codenomicon. While publicly announced only yesterday (7 Apr), it seems the bug has been present since December 2011, and was part of a release in March 2012.

The various affected Linux distributions have been speedily updated and I updated our servers this morning. We must now wait and see how quickly the fixes will be applied to other servers and systems.

The effect of this bug is serious: it undermines the security protocols used throughout the Internet, and an attack is apparently undetectable in ordinary logs. This means that high-profile websites might be well-advised to renew their security certificates, so that any ‘exposed’ details cannot be used in a future attack.

Google Maps Mobile v2 – using Cell ID

Google have just released Version 2 of their Google Maps Mobile, with the most obvious feature being the ability to locate the user even if they don’t have GPS – using the current Cell ID.

From the press release “[GPS technology] is supported on fewer than 15 percent of the mobile phones expected to be sold in 2007”

Go get it now, point your phone to google.com/gmm

Facebook Friends’ Birthday Thingymajig

http://dev.svenlatham.com/friendcal/

Finally, I’ve found a use for Facebook 🙂 This little tool will take all your friends’ birthdays and create an iCal file from them. The resultant URL can then be put into your favourite calendar program (I use Google Calendar), so you can see all your friends’ birthdays in one place.

This is very basic at the moment and I can’t guarantee it’ll be up and running for long (but I’ll try). It’s also very hacky, so expect nasty errors if something goes wrong!

Please give it a go if you have a Facebook account, and let me know if it works.

After this, FOAF extraction…. 🙂

Google Reader comes out of Labs

Google Reader has officially escaped its test tube and gone into the big wild world. It’s taken nearly two and a half years to do that, but the teary-eyed announcement yesterday officially moved Google Reader from its ‘Labs project’ status into prime time. Many would argue it did that a long time ago with or without the label. The system is already reported to carry 10TB of data, crawls some 8 million documents and grows by 4% weekly.

With the announcement localised versions of Google Reader were introduced on their respective TLDs, including reader.google.fr and reader.google.co.jp. Let’s hope for many more enhancements to this already excellent application in the future.

Google Reader Next Button

While we’re on the Google Reader subject. On the ‘Goodies’ tab (click Settings in Google Reader) you can now add the ‘Next’ bookmark.

Every time you click the bookmark you are taken to the next unread item in your browser, in its original context. So, for example, if you subscribe to a bunch of blogs, you’ll be taken to the new posts within the blogs themselves. This is an alternative to the “traditional” reading of feeds in aggregators, and was one of the lame complaints about aggregators I originally cited to Scoble ;-P

It means you don’t even need to load Google Reader into your browser before reading articles, which definitely scores points on my aggregator checksheet for speediness. It also means you can see an up-to-date list of comments and -if they’re your thing- trackbacks. Of course, you do have the page loading times, DNS, etc. to add on.

It’s going to be a preference thing, and the best way I can explore it is to load it up and give it the test of a few days.

Further down on the Goodies page you also have the Subscribe bookmark, which lets you subscribe to the current page in Google reader (assuming it has a feed). Firefox, IE7 and Opera (I think/am sure) all do this now, but it’s always handy to have.

I have another post brewing about all of this [sighs of restlessness from the back seats] but it’s taking a few days to brew. You could always subscribe to this blog in the meantime 😉

Google Reader

Google’s new feed reader is neat. Very neat.

Okay, it’s not new any more, but in the few weeks it’s been out I’ve been able to give it a real test drive. After my unnecessarily long rant about life, the universe and feed readers back in July I decided to give Google another go.

My main requirements for a decent feed reader are straightforward but demanding:

  • It’s got to be FAST. And I mean fast. This thing is going to be used several times a day, every day. Any delay/slowness is a negative and will be noticed! Google’s reader is quick, responsive and elegantly handles large numbers of feeds. We’re assuming here that I already have a browser open (which I do, nearly always). Even better – because the application is always running (when you think about it…) it already has my unread items ready before I’ve even opened it. Compare this to desktop readers, where you have to wait.
  • The less clicks the better. So showing all unread feeds in a single view is a plus. I just scroll down with Google (you can also use keyboard shortcuts).
  • It needs to be reliable. No complaints here yet.

These sound like any web-based aggregator would do, but I could never get on with Bloglines and other comparable web-apps. Google Reader hits the sweet spot, and I can highly recommend it.

I have further thoughts on the Reader. As soon as these fall out of my head I’ll be sure to post them.

Google + Youtube

One of the interesting things that’s naturally been pushed to the back of the headlines is that this announcement comes very shortly after Google have announced an agreement with SONY BMG and Warner Music, and YouTube announced similar agreements with Universal, SONY BMG and CBS.

That’s a lot of content suddenly available for GooTube. Definitely a grade up from your average Shakira spoof video.

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Hello Slough

Thanks to Google Analytics (free web stats service) which I’ve been running on this blog for a few months now, I can tell that I have a particularly high concentration of readers in Slough. Hello.

Unfortunately, IP address geo-location still isn’t brilliant. But you can hardly blame them. For every dynamic IP block there might be users from across the country using that IP at different times, so you may as well just say ‘somewhere in the UK’. Usually it seems that the geo people just use the ISP’s headquarters or dial-in POP as a reference.

Static and ‘sticky’ IPs are more accurate, since you know the user of the IP is not likely to change location. These tend to be quite precise (I have a few from Fareham and Gosport). If you look at NTL reverse DNS entries, for example, you can normally narrow it down to the local POP (so all Fareham IPs are based in Portchester, which is basically Fareham anyway).

Google Analytics by the way is now available for all – you can sign up here.

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