Posts in Category "Technology"

Google Movies

This week’s Google announcement is the new "movie" operator. Read all about it
at Google
Blog
. Basically, type "movie:divorce lawyers" and get back Intolerable
Cruelty
(I love that movie). Click on Intolerable
Cruelty
and in 0.02 seconds, see reviews along
with the following disclaimer:

The selection and placement of reviews on this page were determined automatically
by a computer program. No movie critics were harmed or even used in the making
of this page.

This week, it’s probably IMDb (or rather Amazon,
who ownes them) and Rotten Tomatoes (owned
by IGN) who are doing the soul searching.

As Computers Evolve, Our Standards for Computing Don’t

I came across an article the other day by Peter Seebach entitled Where
Does All the Processing Speed Go
that articulates something that really
bothers me. It starts out:

Computers are getting faster all the time, or so they tell us. But, in fact, the
user experience of performance hasn’t improved much over the past 15 years. Peter
looks at where all the processor time and memory are going.

The crux of the article, if you don’t feel like reading it, is that while computers
are constantly getting faster, our experience with them isn’t. Although our experience
may be improving in other ways (aesthetics, features, portability, etc.), the day
to day experience of sitting down and doing something relatively simply can still
seem excruciatingly laborious. I typically use a 1 or a 1.25GHz PowerBook G4 with
a gig of RAM, and my impression is that these are about half the resources I actually
need to give me the experience I really want. I have an IBM ThinkPad next to me
running Windows XP Professional which, in many ways, is faster, but is less consistent
and reliable. Sometimes it just hits me that it’s 2005, probably 20 years since
I got my first computer, and:

  1. Computers still seem slow.
  2. A great deal of software is still unstable.

As the article points out, computers are doing a lot more today than they used
to, which is certainly the case. At this particular moment, I’m running Dreamweaver,
Quicksilver, Xnippets, multiple terminals with connections to multiple servers,
Proteus, vim, Eclipse, NetNewsWire, a VPN client, Stickies, Calculator, Mail, and
Firefox with several tabs. And that’s just in the foreground. In the background,
I’m running JRun and CFMX 7, MySQL, Apache, a firewall, and probably tons of other
stuff I can’t think of right now. I’m very good at maxing out and optimizing my
computer’s resources, however (I’m constantly watching CPU and memory usage), so
even at half or even a quarter the number of processes, it wouldn’t really feel
much faster. The issue is not so much all the applications I’m running as it is
our standards. We simply don’t expect our experience to get much better, and therefore
it doesn’t. We expect features and aesthetics more than we expect performance.
The best experience I’ve had with a computer was spending four years using Linux
as a Java developer. In my opinion, Linux is the fastest, most pleasant OS to use
on a daily basis, but of course, unless all you do is software engineering, it
doesn’t support enough applications to make it feasible for most people (including
me these days).

I’d like to see hardware manufacturers and software engineers start treating performance
as a feature. I’d like to see our standards as computer users go up a notch. As
I sit at my computer all day just about everyday, I’d like to start feeling like
it was 2005 rather than 1985. Am I alone here?

Another Day, Another Google Beta: Google Takes on Maps

I’m not poking fun. I love Google. Besides Macromedia, they are probably my favorite company.
I’d probably play with Google action figures, if they had them. Anyway, here goes
another Google beta: Google Maps.

So far, pretty impressive. I’m sure the mood over at MapQuest is
a little somber today, though they must have seen this coming.

Ask Jeeves to Purchase Bloglines?

Google purchased Blogger, and now the rumor, according to this
InfoWorld article
,
is that Ask Jeeves is going to purchase Bloglines. Although I don’t use it on a
regular basis, I really like Bloglines (I use a local aggregator instead). I haven’t
used or even seen Ask Jeeves in years. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about
that silly little butler until today. A cursory glance this morning suggests
that Ask Jeeves has refactored their search experience to be as much like Google’s
as possible, just like everyone else out there.

Personally, it doesn’t seem like a fantastic fit to me, but business is business.

New MSN Search Offers RSS

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the new MSN
search
. But did you know it
offers search results in RSS? (I didn’t, until I read about it on Lifehacker.) Do
a quick
search
, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the familiar
orange button that we have all come to love.

Optimized Firefox Builds

By now, I’m sure all you Firefox users have seen how you can tweak Firefox so that it loads and renders pages faster by configuring it to open more simultaneous connections. (If not, check out the post on Hack A Day). But did you know that you can optimize Firefox further by downloading optimized builds? At least Mac users can. I assume the PC builds are already pretty well optimized, but I definitely noticed a difference with the optimized PowerPC build.

Google’s Been Busy

  1. Google acquires Keyhole:

    Keyhole is the 3D digital earth pioneer—the only company to deliver a
    3D digital model of the entire earth via the Internet. Keyhole’s groundbreaking
    EarthStream™ technology combines advanced 3D graphics and network streaming
    innovations to produce a high performance system that runs on standard PC’s
    and commodity servers. Both high performance and intuitive to use, Keyhole’s
    solutions enable anyone to manipulate a rich map of the earth composed of imagery
    and feature information.

  2. Google launches Google Scholar (beta,
    naturally):

    Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature,
    including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical
    reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles
    from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories
    and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

Live (Almost) from Paris

Mike Chambers is in Paris right now, taking pictures with his Sidekick II and posting them to Vision. If you’re an art fan, check it out.

As an aside, I’m so amazed by technology sometimes. Yesterday, Mike was in a cafe in Paris and I was sitting in a line to get my car inspected in Virginia (I’m sure he wished our situations were reversed!) and were we able to chat in real-time as though we were both right in front of a PC. And thanks to MXNA Mobile, we were easily able to keep up with Macromedia community news at the same time. There’s no question that wireless is the wave of the future.

The First of Many New Search Options

In the old days of search, there was HotBot, Yahoo!, AltaVista, Excite, MSN, etc. Then there was just Google. For a very long time. The word “Google” became synonymous with “search”. People started Googling rather than searching. Then Google started making too much money and attracting too much attention. Now everyone is working feverishly either building new search technology, or digital music systems (in fact, some companies are doing both). Amazon has officially released their first attempt to compete in the search space with A9. It’s sort of like Google, but with personalization. You can sign in with your Amazon credentials, and save searches, notes, bookmarks, etc. And it will automatically keep a history of everything you search for. It also automatically returns images along with text results, which is pretty nice (images courtesy of Google, ironically enough). Oh, and it’s slower than Google, but it’s still plenty fast.

I’ll give it a try. I love changing my habits, and experimenting with new technology. I’m not sure how much I’m going to like the personalization angle, though. Not only am I undecided about how useful it will end up being, but I kind of like the idea of quick, stateless and anonymous web applications. I already have 136 different accounts with various websites (not including anything associated with Macromedia), and it gets old always being asked for a username and a password. Yes, Amazon remembers your login information, but only for that session. And I’m also wondering if my search history is going to end up being used to suggest products to me on Amazon. Not necessarily a bad thing, I guess, but also not something I’m 100% comfortable with.

So what search technology do you use? Likes and dislikes?

Firefox 1.0 Preview Release Now Available

I’m a big Firefox fan, but recently, I was forced to downgrade from .9x to .8 because of certain bugs that had been introduced (OS X version). Even though it was frustrating to have to roll back, Firefox is still my favorite browser, so I’m really hoping for a better experience with the 1.0 preview release. It’s still a “technology release,” which means “While this software works well enough to be relied upon as your primary browser in most cases, we [the Firefox team] make no guarantees of its performance or stability,” but it has enough interesting new features (Live Bookmarks, improved find, Password Manager encryption), that I’m very curious, and anxious to give it a try. All we need now is for Firefox to come with Flash!

You can check out the new 1.0 preview release at the Firefox page on mozilla.org.