Sunday, April 10, 2005
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Spell with Flickr
Here is a really cool use of the online photo sharing service Flickr. Enter any word and have it displayed as randomly picked photos. A number of innovative uses of the vast collection of photos on Flickr are popping up these days. Amaztype is another.
No wonder Yahoo! recently bought it.
Update - There are many more user created Flickr hacks. Find a list of them at The Great Flickr Tools Collection.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Indian portals and innovation
Rajesh Jain mentions the lack of innovation in the Indian portal scene in a post about IndiaWorld, supposedly India’s first portal (frankly, I hadn’t even heard of it). I think he has hit the nail on the head when he says, “we've stagnated in terms of innovation”. But innovation apart, right now I think they should concentrate on just giving the people who visit their site a good experience. Especially Indiatimes, one of India’s largest portals, which seems to me, is a page full of annoying flash ads with some news bits and details of its other services thrown in as an afterthought. But wait, Indiatimes has been extremely innovative when it comes to advertising. This slashdot post mentions that the hugely annoying ‘floaters’ are becoming more prevalent on the web these days. But, Indiatimes has had these from as long as I can remember. These ads that block the main site itself, with frame rates that put the latest computer games to shame, are so annoying that I’m sure not a single visitor would want them. Indiatimes is not the only offending site, Rediff, India’s other big portal is equally (in)considerate when it comes to their users. To be fair, Rediff is a tiny bit better. Blake Ross, one of the guys responsible for Firefox, captures the futility of such exercises perfectly in this post. I can understand that the portals need to make money and the users can’t expect an ad free site with good content. But, aren’t there other ways to achieve this, without annoying the hell out of the very people who turn to them for a variety of services (hint, hint).
Maybe it’s good news then, that Yahoo is planning to invest in Indiatimes. A change in culture is definitely in order. Or maybe not, considering that Yahoo is also irritating-flash-ad-happy on many of its sites. Maybe it is the similarity of their ideas in bugging their users that is bringing them together. To be honest, I really don’t care right now about all the brilliant technical innovations that these guys can come up with. If they do, great, but till then, give me a usable site that I want to come back to. Users on the net usually don’t have much say in how big portals like these work. But, we do have one more thing….choice. Google News beats them hollow when it comes to news aggregation, I no longer use their mail and I don’t shop online anyway. So, not even the semi-sleazy pictures will take me back to Indiatimes. The browser I use is good enough to fend off the worst that is thrown at me, but, that’s only till the next ‘innovation’ in advertising technology, so, I’d rather get used to something else.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Internet Explorer will finally get tabs
The Office Weblog points to a WinSuperSite preview of IE 7. Apparently, it’s confirmed that IE 7 is going to have tabs. Big news, but not unexpected. I can’t even imagine that Microsoft would release IE 7 without a feature as critical as tabs, given that every competitor’s biggest selling point is the ability to browse with tabs. What would really be news is if IE 7 had an integrated RSS reader, something like Onfolio and not live bookmarks in Firefox. IE has a lot of catching up to do in terms of features and some which I feel *have* to be included are those like mouse gestures, a good bookmarking system, an intelligent password management system, ad blocking and basic ones like a search box. These are the bare minimum as other browsers are already there. Also, Microsoft specific features like better integration with Outlook can definitely be an advantage over the competition. I’m sure MS will look to tie in their own services like MSN Search with IE 7 and that is one area where other browsers will always have an upper hand, unlimited flexibility for the user. I really hope MS proves me wrong, but I seriously doubt it.
The IEBlog has more information, but nothing very specific.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Finally, something from Google is out of beta!
Looks like the brutal competition in the desktop search space has forced Google to bring it’s application out of beta in a break of tradition. New features include the obvious suspects, support for PDF, and a wider variety of mail clients and browsers. There’s also support for multimedia files (audio, video and images) which can be searched for using their meta data. For all the remaining two hundred odd file types that GDS does not support when compared to Yahoo! desktop search and X1, they’ve provided an SDK, so that it’s users will come up with plugins. Very smart, considering that they’ve already covered the file types used by a majority of the market. If there really is any demand for other file types, plugins to add support are bound to come out from it’s user base. There are already some plugins available, and the Any text indexer could be quite useful.
I’ve installed GDS in it’s latest avatar as it now supports Maxthon. I’ll be using it mainly to search through my history. The excellent capability of GDS to search through web history is what is going to make life tough for services like Filangy. That’s because if you can install a toolbar as required by Filangy, instead, you might as well install GDS and enjoy the better experience.
Another reason I’m going to use GDS is because of the floating deskbar. It’s a little search bar which doesn’t hog space on the taskbar, and can be conveniently placed anywhere on the desktop. Also, the integration of desktop search results with web results, which wasn’t working earlier with Maxthon is something that should be very useful.
The next feature I’m looking forward to is the integration of Gmail with GDS. Gmail with an offline mode, searchable through GDS would be heaven for e-mailing.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Copernic's Desktop Search v1.5 Beta
Copernic recently released a beta version of their Desktop Search v1.5. The list of new features is pretty long. One new feature that really stands out for me is the button that allows jumping from one keyword occurrence to the next in the preview pane. This can be an extremely useful feature when searching through large documents. It’s great that Copernic is actively listening to its users and is implementing features that are being requested/demanded by them. One bug I noticed in this beta version is that the icons for PDF and HTML files are incorrectly displayed in the file list pane. But, mainly for the reasons I mentioned in my desktop search comparison, i.e the speed of the searches and excellent preview, I’ll be sticking to Yahoo! desktop search for the time being. I search through a lot of PDF’s and powerpoint presentations at work and the preview of PPT’s has still not improved in CDS, and it’s quite slow with large PDF’s. Copernic is coming out with feature packed updates more often than their competitors, and I just might be forced to switch when the next version comes out.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Google has added weather forecasts to their growing list of services. The weird thing is, it’s only available for US locations. Google Maps being US only is understandable. But, weather information from all around the world is already available on The Weather Channel. I wonder why they chose Wunderground, which is a US only service, as their source. Maybe it’s because they’re pitching it as a way to get weather info through the phone too (SMS), which isn’t available elsewhere. Still, a web only forecast shouldn’t have been a problem for other locations. As far as I know, The Weather Channel doesn’t charge anything for the data, as many browsers make use of extensions and sidebars which pull in data from there.