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.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Newshutch - The Google Reader Killer

Online feed readers have been steadily gaining a lot of popularity, as more and more users make the switch from desktop applications to the the web. Google Reader, in particular has become immensely popular among the majority of bloggers and tech enthusiasts. These early adopter are a rather influential bunch, and their preferences can give a clear indication of the rise or demise of a product. However, Google Reader isn't an innovative product by any means, and the reason for its popularity is simply because Google managed to go about building a feed manager the right way. They avoided adding any superfluous features that made the product unnecessarily complicated, this made it simple and easy to use. It is this simplicity, something which is lacking in competing products that has made Google Reader such a success.

Enter Newshutch. Its not exactly a new product, indeed it has been around for about a year now, but the early versions had a few too many kinks in it, causing users to abandon it early on. But after using it for the past few days I must say that it has improved a lot, in fact its solid enough to work as my default feed reader. First of all, its interface is very neat and clean, having only the most basic components of a feed reader, which makes it very fast.

All your subscriptions are listed on the left side, this list only feeds with unread new items but you can change the option to include feeds without unread items as well (like Google Reader's default view). They display the favicon of each feed, and the total no. of unread news items. There's also a rather large button that lets you mark all as read.

The actual news items are displayed on the right side and has a "river of news" view. By default Newshutch does not mark individual news items as read, when you scroll past them but you can set it to do so in the options. You can also mark each separate news item as read, which makes them move to the bottom of the page, or you can mark the entire feed as read at once. Each feed or news item can also be "flagged" which is like bookmarking them, which makes them easier to find later on, this is similar to Google Reader's "Starring" mechanism.

Managing feeds is also a straight forward affair. To add new feeds you simply click the appropriate link and type the site address in the field. Newshutch can also integrate with Firefox, so you can click on an RSS Feed icon/link on any site and have it added to your Newshutch reader instantly. Renaming a feed, or deleting a feed takes just a few clicks. Adding categories and sorting the fields into their own categories is also simple and effortless.

Newshutch is a great product but it lacks in a few departments. Firstly, it doesn't allow you to view multiple feeds at once, so you need to view each feed separately, letting users view all updated news item (at least for each category), would be a nice option. As I mentioned before the UI is very clear and uncluttered but its also a bit too dull, changing the colors would also be a welcome change, or perhaps supporting themes so that each user can customize its look to their liking. Sometimes the reader chokes on large OPML files, which is rather annoying since importing OPML files is probably the first thing many users do. Finally, they should improve the UI to be a bit more responsive and smooth, because sometimes it feels a bit shaky. Indeed Newshutch still has a beta vibe about it but don't let that stop you from trying it, you don't even have to sign up to use it, just head on over to and give it a shot.