Sunday, July 8, 2007

Get Invited!

 Remember when invites to GMail used to be scarce and were sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars (I wonder how the buyers feel now) , well nowadays you don't need to be invited to GMail, but there are hordes of other web services that are invite-only. Now a cool little site, InviteShare, popped up that lets you get invites to invite-only sites (apparently rather quickly), and if you happen to have invites to a particular site, you could share them as well.

Now the concepts is great, and the site is designed very efficiently, but its doomed to fail because of two reasons. Firstly because people are expected to give out invites without any compensation what-so-ever, when GMail were shared, people usually exchanged it for something else, even if it was a postcard from the recipient. And secondly because there are far more people who want invites than there are actual invites, a fraction of which will end up on InviteShare, the majority of visitors won't find any invites for the popular sites.

Still, if you're dying to get into a beta-only site, give InviteShare  a spin, and you may get lucky.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

And the winner is...

So the wait is finally over and I'm about to announce the winner of the iPhone contest, but before I do, I would like to say that there are no losers in this contest, just a lot of non-winners.

Anyway, without further ado, the winner is...

*drum roll*


Congratulations Anonymous.

Sorry about my lame sense of humor. The real winner is, in fact, Anonymous with the email address:


Congratulations to him (or her). I have contacted "2ashraful" and will ship his iPhone as soon as I receive further details.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this contest, and thanks to all the people who read my blog, and everyone who subscribed to my feed.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Living without Google - The Alternatives

It seems that with each passing day Google keeps getting bigger and bigger, and keeps gobbling up start-ups and churning out cool products. And everyday we become more and more dependant on them. Once upon a time, Google used to be just our search engine of choice, now its our email provider (GMail), feed reader (Google Reader), blog host (Blogger), entertainment provider (YouTube), and a hell lot more. And not surprisingly more and more people are trying to move away from them, or at least wondering if its possible. So let's take a look at some of the alternatives we have for Google's services.

1. Web Search: Search is Google's core business and they are best at it. Alternative search engines do exist and a handful of them work amazingly well, but the problem is each of them only suit a few people really well, and are practically a nightmare to use for others. Refer to Read/Write Web's Top 100 Alternative Search Engine list to find one that suits you.

2. Image Search: When looking for photos try Flickr or Zooomr. These two happen to have the best collection of photos on the web. Smugmug is also a great one. If you're looking for images rather than photographs, try Snap Images.

3. Blog Search: One word. Technorati.

4. Google Video: Since Google also owns Youtube the only other good alternative seems to be DailyMotion. DailyMotion is as old as YouTube, and although its not as popular as Youtube, it has a loyal following, and it always has new and interesting videos to waste your time.

5. Google News: If you always want the latest news, the best thing to do would be to add news feeds to your feed reader. If you prefer getting your news from one single site try Newsvine. Not only does Newsvine have all the latest news, its layout and design is also easy on the eyes. Newsvine's strongest feature is its columns which, although written by the users, are always surprisingly well-written, thought-provoking, and witty.

6. iGoogle: Google is a late entrant into the personalized homepage market, and as such, there are a lot of rival products that are better than iGoogle. My own personal favorite happens to be Netvibes, which is light years ahead of iGoogle in terms of ease of use, features, and aesthetics.

7. GMail: Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail Beta, are the only viable alternatives.

8. Google Calendar: 30 Boxes, is more than just a calendar, its a personal organizer. Like Google Calendar its easy-to-use and has a simple interface, but unlike Google Calendar it has strong social aspects, and can integrate with Flickr, Webshots,, LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook.

9. Blogger: Wordpress is an open source blogging platform that is used by some of the largest blogs on the web, include several corporate blogs. You can use Wordpress on your own web server, or use to get a free hosted blog. Several other free wordpress hosts also exist.

10. Google Docs and Spreadsheets: Zoho Office Suite not only has a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications but also database, note-taker, wiki, CRM and many other applications. All applications can be used as standalone products, or with other applications. Zoho Office suite also proves their word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications for use on the iPhone as iZoho.

11. Google Reader: NewsHutch. Read my review of it here.

12. Google AdSense: Bidvertiser and BidClix, are two alternatives to AdSense that let you become an Ad Publisher for free and start earning money. Yahoo! Publisher is also a great alternative that has great payment options, including checks, direct deposit and Paypal.

13. Google Analytics: IceRocket's Blog Tracker is perhaps the only free alternative to Analytics that is even close to being as extensive and useful. Blog Tracker is easy to use and is under active development (although their blog doesn't seem to be updated often). I, myself use both and find myself using Blog Tracker for often, only using Analytics when I need an in-depth view about my blog's stats.

All in all, although there are many alternatives present, only a handful of them are better than or as good as Google's offering. And until some of Google's rivals become more innovative, we are stuck with Google. Although its not so bad, after all what other company has a corporate motto that says "Don't be Evil".

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Leave a comment and win an iPhone!!!

To promote my new tech blog (the one you're at), I decided to hold a little contest, the winner of which will receive an iPhone. To enter the contest all you need to do is leave a comment, and I will randomly select a winner.

The iPhone will be in its original packaging, complete with the following:

  • Stereo Headset
  • Dock
  • Dock Connector to USB Cable
  • USB Power Adapter
  • Documentation
  • Cleaning/polishing cloth

So leave a comment, and you just might become the lucky owner of a brand new iPhone. The contest will end on the 4th of July, 2007.

I'll send this to international users as well, since a lot of readers seem to be from outside the U.S. but keep in mind that if you are outside the U.S. you won't be able to make calls, unless someone manages to unlock the iPhone.

To keep yourself updated, please subscribe to my feed. It's free.

UPDATE: The contest is over, the winner is announced here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

New consistent UI across Google services?

I just came across a blog which believes that the new look for Google Docs and Spreadsheets (or rather Google Office) could be an indication for a new UI for GMail. The author even includes a mock up of how such a look for GMail could turn out to be.

From this mock-up it is easy to see that the new look is much more aesthetically pleasing than the current UI, and it retains the simplicity and ease of use that made us fall in love with GMail in the first place.

However, this might end up becoming more that just a new look for Google Office and GMail, it could easily turn into a consistent interface across all Google Services, which so far has been rather fragmented. This interface could easily blend in with services such as Google Reader and Google Calendar, as well as others like Google Groups and Google Photos (Web Albums).

A unified interface would increase usability since, once a user becomes familiar with any one service, he or she could easily figure out how to use the other ones, thus increasing adoption. Google's competitors, namely Microsoft and Yahoo! has so far been unable to implement a consistent interface across their web services, and this could put Google another step ahead of them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

iPhone and the rise of Web 3.0

The iPhone is set to hit the market soon, on June 29th, that's just two days away. The iPhone will be an important landmark in the history of technology, although a lot of people may not realize it now. You see, I don't see the iPhone as a mobile phone or an iPod, although its both. The iPhone is an internet communication device. It'll be to the internet, what the iPod was to digital music. Now many will cite references to the contrary, mostly towards the lack of 3G support. That's true and the first version of the iPhone probably won't be that spectacular, neither was the first version of iPod, but it will definitely get the ball rolling.

Soon there will be an iPhone in everyone's hand and then for the first time, we - the users - will be always connected. This will be followed by the rise of Web 3.0, when services will be created not under the assumption that the user is tied down to a desktop PC, but is on the go. An example of such a "mobile" service is Twitter, which lets you post short messages in your profile, stating what you are doing at that precise moment, so given that you keep your profile updated, your friends can always know exactly where you are and what you are doing. Another example of such a service - which is already rather useful - is Google Maps, which gets a special treatment on the iPhone already, GMaps can be used to find directions or find a good restaurant or store nearby (think of the potential of targeted advertising). The usefulness of such applications will be amplified by many degrees if the iPhone becomes successful.

The iPhone is definitely a great device, but the price may not be within the reach of the demographic that Apple is targeting, although high prices never stopped the iPod from being propelled to the top. Only time will tell, I guess.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Windows Seven: Facts and Speculations

Its no secret that Microsoft has already begun work on the next version of Windows, Windows 7 (formerly, Windows Vienna). Little is known about, since Microsoft is keeping mum on it, lest it should repeat the disaster that was Vista (or rather Longhorn's) development cycle. Let's take a look at what we know so far about Windows 7.

1. It will be released in late 2009 - This is perhaps the only solid fact that we know about Windows 7. Other than Windows Vista, all previous Windows versions have been released within at least 3 years of each other, so with Vista's debut in January 2007 we can safely assume Windows 7 so be in stores by late 2009 (or at the latest early 2010).

2. It will be a minor release: According to Microsoft, every other release of Windows will be a major update, therefore, since Windows Vista was a major release, Windows 7 is set to be  minor update. However there is still some chance that Windows 7 will be a major release. Firstly it bears a whole new version number, secondly since Windows Vista was largely a disappointing release, Microsoft might be compelled to make the next version much more interesting.

3. There will be both 32-bit and 64-bit versions: Although the official word so far is that Windows 7 will be 64 bit, it should be noted that when Windows XP was released, Windows Longhorn was planned to be a 64-bit version only. Since most of the PCs in existence today are 32-bit, with so signs of a radical shift to 64-bit anytime soon, Windows 7 should be released in both 32-bit versions.

4. There will be a new UI component: When Microsoft first drew up plans for Windows 7 (back when it was codenamed Blackcomb), there were rumors that the current UI will be replaced with an entirely new one, with some reference to a sort of radial-dial. Where are no chances for a complete overhaul of the current interface, MIcrosoft has been working on several new UI ideas, some of which may slip into Windows 7. Indeed, this might be a way to transition us from the current UI to the new one in future WIndows releases.

5. Hypervisor: Microsoft is currently working on a new hypervisor system codenamed "Viridian" with OS integration at the lowest level, and already Windows Vista includes extensions to boost performance when running on top of the Viridian hypervisor. We can expect Windows 7 to have a higher level of interaction with Viridian.

Now, those are the only tidbits, that we know of yet, or have heard rumors about, but there are some other minor specifics that we can easily guess. We can safely assume that all current bundled applications will be updated, some more than others, below are some speculations.

1. Internet Explorer 9: This is an easy guess, IE7 is out already and IE8 is set to be released in mid-2008, so we can fully expect IE9 to ship with Windows 7. Internet Explorer 7 was a rather rushed release, as Microsoft tried to stem the growth of Mozilla Firefox, and most of its new additions (such as tabs) seem flaky at times. Therefore we can expect IE8 to be a solid release, which, rather than introducing new features, improves the current feature-set, and makes the UI much more responsive. This seems to make Internet Explorer 9 a prime candidate for new and innovative features.

2.Windows Media Player/Windows Media Center: Its a given that new versions of WMP always make it into new Windows releases, and Windows Media Center are also expected to be a regular bundled application with all new versions of Windows. We can expect WMP12 and WMC Fiji with Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and future versions to be included in Windows 7.

3. Virtual Desktops: Mac OSX already has it, and Linux had it for a long time, so it would only make sense that Microsoft will be implementing virtual desktops into Windows 7.

4. System Restore: With OSX Leopard's Time Machine making such an impression with the general public, it can be expected that Windows 7 will improve upon its own backup tool.

5. Paint.NET: So far this has been an independent project that was under the guidance of Microsoft, but Microsoft has always acknowledged that Paint.NET with one day replace the current 'Paint' application in Windows.

There is also a slight possibility that Microsoft will be integrating Windows Live services much more strongly into Windows 7, although it might raise allegations of anti-competitive business strategies. But there might be certain unique Live services that make it into Windows 7, such as Live Drive. Other Microsoft services such as MSN Soapbox might also be a significant part of applications such as Windows Media Center.

It is still too early to tell what shape Windows 7 may take, but we can hope that the recent wave of innovations we have been seeing from Microsoft will carry on into the next two years.