Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Holidays

Well folks, this will be my last post for the next week, I'm traveling to the west coast of Newfoundland for the holidays and my internet connection will be very limited. Happy Holidays and go enjoy the cloud!!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Dear Facebook: It's Time For A Change

Facebook, the great cloud computing social networking app., has allowed people to connect  with friends from many locations and time periods.  But,  since its  pop culture status, things really haven't changed much (except for the "new  Facebook" adjustment, basically tabs were added and somethings were reorganized on the page). So, here are a list of things that should be changed/fixed:
  1. More Customization: I am getting so sick of the facebook colors, please allow users to at least change the colors of their homepage, and possibly fonts. With the advancement of cloud webpage editing apps., more customization should be easy to add. 

  2. Better Messaging: Personally, I find the messaging system very primitive, maybe they could start with the ability to have drafts of a message. 

  3. Photo Tagging: Picasa Web uses a system whereby a person is tagged in just 1 photo, face recognition software tags them in the remaining photos. This would make facebook life so much easier, I get really sick of tagging the same person over and over.

  4. Feed Errors: It really annoys me when someone does an update and it doesn't show up until days afterward, or doesn't show up at all. I am not a programmer, but I'm thinking its not that difficult to solve this problem. 

  5. Photo Viewing: Facebook often loads photos extremely slow and sometimes not at all. Again, this is basic and shouldn't be that hard to fix. Also, how about the ability to simply view the photos as a full screen slideshow.

  6. Calendar: Sure you can add events, but how about having your very own calendar, maybe something like Google calendar
I'm not the only person feeling this way. I 've chatted with friends (online and in person) about the need for these changes, people are getting bored with facebook, its become very static. When facebook came along, it was a revolution for social networking, it did things that other apps. like myspace or hi5 couldn't do. If another social networking app. could come along, and offer something new, like social networking across multiple websites (Google's OpenSocial is attempting to do this) or some of the ideas above, I think that people will switch and facebook will become another hi5

Friday, 19 December 2008

Google Docs + Desktop

Google Docs had teamed up with Desktop! There is now a   Google Docs Gadget for Google Desktop. So, once this gadget is installed, all you have to do is type in the search box, and your docs will be searched, amazing!! Files can be dragged and dropped into this, so instead of having to upload 1 file at a time via the uploader within Google Docs, many can be uploaded with this gadget. This is a great example of how cloud computing can be integrated with a desktop application, hopefully more of these will be released to help bridge the separation between the cloud and desktop. Also, it really seems that Google is pushing the development of Google Docs, this is my 2nd post about them in 1 day and on the Official Google Blog, there is a posting about refining image searches for specific types of photos (i.e., clipart) which will make finding and adding these to Google docs that much easier. 

Google Docs: What It Needs To Be Great.

         Well after posting a comment on the Official Google Docs blog about the future of Google Docs and hearing nothing back, I've decided to predict what the future of Google Docs will be. 
          First of all, lets begin with the near future, maybe what Google Docs will be able to do in 1 year. It can import and export most of the common file formats, although there is no support yet for .docx. The word processor, Documents, is in badly nead of page view. Fixed-width view is now available, but margin changes in printer settings are not reflected on the screen, there are no page breaks unless the user inserts them, and alignment of text varies depending on zoom level. All of this really needs to be fixed up. I checked out Zoho writer and they do have a page view, but margins did not seem consistent and again text alignment varied with zoom level. Another thing needed by Documents is an equation editor, science geeks like myself are constantly writing documents that contain equations and not having one in our word processor is a major pain. The only way for me to solve this problem is to use an online equation editor and then copy and paste the equation into my documents. Another feature that should be added is the ability to copy and paste pictures from the computer to a document. This can be only be done with online photos, any photos on the computer must be inserted by going through the whole insert photo process. More photo formats besides the two (JPEG and possibly TIFF) should be allowed to insert into a document.
         Now lets look at spreadsheets. Out of the three applications, I have used this one the least. Last week (early October, 2008) the interface was updated, which was much needed. For smaller spreadsheets, its speed is on par with desktop based applications, but when they get larger, especially when extra sheets are added, it sure does slow down, this definitely needs to be fixed up. Besides that, more numerical formats should be available. Currently, the number of places after the decimal place can only be defined to 2, this is a major inconvenience for number crunchers like myself. Also, the graphing needs to be improved, and trendlines (line of best fit) should be added. As far as I know, these features aren't available on other online spreadsheet applications, but if they are, let me know. 
The final application to be discussed is Presentations. This application is extremely easy to use and offers basic presentation editing. Youtube videos can be easily inserted, along with photos, and some basic shapes. The only animation available is incremental reveal, but what I've realized lately is that the more fancier ones are distracting. Powerpoint files can be uploaded and slides inserted into a presentation, and I absolutely love having a chat window within the viewer, it works very well for getting students involved in discussions. So, the big things that this app. needs are: a few more animations, increase the number of available shapes, ability to upload videos from desktop, editing of html and css, use of special characters, and subscript/superscipt. Maybe they can produce something similar to sliderocket if they can get the Native Client technology working. 
Right now I would classify Google Docs as good. It has a good set of basic features, and offers excellent collaboration features. With the deveopment of teachnologies such as Native Client, Docs will hopefully be classified as great, and will have a full set of features similar to desktop apps. I can't wait for the future!!

New Google Docs Help Forum

For all of you Google Docs users out there, there is a new Help Forum. I gave it a try and the new question and answer format is a great improvement. Also the ability to add a picture to your profile is and the ability to vote for the best answer are also great additions. Hopefully more Google Help forums will follow this format. 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

A Zoho and Google Partnership

It looks as if Zoho and Google are teaming up to create a powerful 1-2 punch in the fight of cloud computing vs. traditional desktop programs. For those of you who don't know, Zoho is a cloud computing company that offers cloud apps. similar to Google Docs. They are somewhat more versatile than Docs, but still not at the same level as desktop applications. So, on December 16th, Zoho announced that applications created with it's Creator Web Database Application tool will run on the Google App Engine. The beauty about Zoho Creator is that the average user (not a programmer) can use drag and drop tools to make Web applications that can be added to sites. Probably due to its easy and versatility, more than 130 000 apps. have been made. This is an excellent move to promote cloud computing, hopefully more people will become aware of the power of the cloud and enjoy endless collaboration possibilities and save money.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

More Google Docs and Gmail Mashing

Gmail and Google Docs have come together once again. Now, emails can be easily converted into documents with the click of a button. This is a Gmail labs feature, and once enabled, simply click on "Create a document" and an email is easily converted into a document. With all of these great features, why would anyone not use Gmail? 

Monday, 15 December 2008

New Cloud Apps. with Google Web Toolkit

Google Web Toolkit (GWT) is an open source Java software development framework that allows web developers to create Ajax applications in Java. As noted on the Google Code blog, since its release there has been many excellent applications. Below are some videos of a few of these and it shows how powerful the cloud is becoming. 

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Gmail has PDF Viewing!!

Gmail has added yet another excellent option, the ability to view .pdf files within the browser, complete with all of the graphics and formatting (see photo below). The viewer is like what is seen in Google Docs which also allows the sharing of .pdf files with others, and the Gmail version also has a 100 page limit. It is accessed by simply clicking on view in the attachment section of the email. This feature is an excellent addition, allowing people to access their .pdf's from anywhere within the cloud. 

Friday, 12 December 2008

New Blogger Features

Yesterday there was a new option added to Blogger: Import and Export. This feature is able to merge at least two blogs into one, individual posts can be moved from blog to blog, blogs can be easily exported to the hard drive for backup, and it allows blogs to be easily moved to other blog providers. To use all of these features, all you have to do is go into settings. For more details on this, check out the Blogger blog. 

Thursday, 11 December 2008

No more Beta for Google Chrome!!!

Update: It looks like the rumors were true, Chrome is now out of beta!! I think this is the fastest time that a Google product has come out of beta. You can get the details on the Official Google Blog posting, highlights include its speed increasing by 1.5 since its initial release, Mac and Linux versions on the way, eventually extensions will be available, and this latest versions has most of the bugs worked out. This looks like another winner for Google. 

According to rumors, Google's Chrome Web browser will be coming out of beta. There is no word on when this is happening, but people are expecting it soon, possibly as early as Thursday at the Add-on-Con, which is a conference about browser extensions. This timing would set up computer makers to bundle Chrome with their systems in the New Year. Before this occurs, there are still a few bugs in Chrome that must be worked out such as  errors with some Java scripts, general website incompatibility issues, and the biggie for me, only being able to resize an image by going into the HTML (this really sucks for Google Docs users). Also, there are no versions of Chrome for Mac or Linux. Personally, I find Chrome the superior browser over FF and IE. I find it extremely fast and easy to use. Occasionally I have to switch back to FF or IE, waiting for the long webpage loads is like watching paint dry. So, if the Google Chrome People can get their product out and 99% bug free, it will definitely strengthen their position in the web browser war.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Gmail labs ALMOST has SMS Text Messaging

Update: This feature is finally available!! Check out the Official Gmail blog for more details. Note that it is only avialable in the US so far.  

Gmail labs just keeps rolling out the features....almost. After a very short release, SMS text messages will soon be able to be sent from Gmail chat. Its an amazing idea, being able to contact your contacts no matter where they are as they will receive messages as texts. The Gmail people are saying that this feature will be available within 2 weeks. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Google Magazine Search

Google has partnered with publishers to help bring more magazines (both current and archives) onine.  Searches are done through Google Book Search and magazine hits will be tagged with "magazine." Magazines currently available for searching range from Popular Science to New York Magazine but the number will grow with time and eventually magazine results will appear alongside Google Search results. I tried a couple of searches but came up with very few magazine hits, hopefully this will grow fast and people will be able to read any magazine in the cloud. 

Native Client = Google Operating System?

Native Client is an open-source project recently launched by Google. The goal of this is to create "a technology that aims to give Web developers access to the full power of the client's CPU while maintaining the browser neutrality, OS portability and safety that people expect from Web applications," (Brad Chen, Google's Native Client team). This is still at the research stage, but once fully developed it would be similar to Java, Silverlight, or Flash, but have that special Google touch. Dare I say "Google Operating System?"

Monday, 8 December 2008

Gmail Has Tasks (aka To-Do list)

Gmail is becoming such a powerful app and at a fast rate. The newest addition is the ability to add a task (aka to-do) list. 

This is a labs feature and once enabled adding a new task is as simple as clicking the list (or + symbol) and typing away and emails can be converted into tasks. In the past I would I have a work task list on my work computer, and an at home one on my home computer. Now I can have it in Gmail, and have access to it from anywhere. This is the beauty of cloud computing, it just makes life a lot simpler. 

Salesforce-Google Partnership

Today, it was announced that would team up with Google for a cloud computing partnership. Just in case you didn't know, Salesforce is a cloud computing company dealing with business applications. This agreement sort of builds on their 2 year relationship and will allow developers at Salesforce native access to Google's distributed storage system, and any Google App Engine developers access to the Salesforce platform. How will Microsoft counter this?

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Fire in the house!!

Hello everyone, the Google house has burned down, it's time to rebuild with a new blog name, Google's Cloud, and focus. I started this blog, The Google House,  in June with the goal of covering major news in the world of Google. After six months, I realized that Google is an extremely big company with major news occurring too often for me to do a good job with, I'll leave that for the excellent bloggers at Google Blogoscoped and Google Operating System. So, I'm going to refocus my efforts, and concentrate on Google centered cloud computing. For those of you who don't know, the cloud is a metaphor for the internet, basically programs are ran through the internet and not the desktop. I find this whole concept very interesting, and have switched most of my work as an university instructor to the cloud. I really enjoy having access to my files anytime or anywhere, and not having to rely on backups such as USB memory sticks. These cloud based apps. are bringing people together on projects, creating a very social network, and changing the world of everyday computing. I'll be talking about apps. such as Google Docs, Google Sites, Blogger, YouTube, and also web aspects of desktop favorites like Picasa Web Albums. So, keep coming back to this blog for news, reviews, and discussions in the world of cloud computing.