Hey, iPhone users, does the iGoogle page render properly on the iPhone? I’m asking because I just saw this interesting article about iGoogle gadgets and “web worker productivity”. Since I usually do a lot of stuff on the web, specifically using Google’s offerings, having these cool little widgets on iGoogle on the iPod touch would help make the iPod touch more like a PDA. I’ve become rather dependent on Gmail, Google Reader, Calendar, and Maps, so usually I’m not as interested in desktop apps for mail, RSS aggregation, calendars, or mapping. If they’d work on mobile Safari, that would be all I’d need (along with easy network access, of course).
Please leave a comment if you’ve tried the iGoogle homepage on your iPhone. I’d appreciate it!
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Noticed that in Google Reader, where there are audio files embedded in the RSS post, there’s now a little link to pop the embedded player out into a separate window. I think before if you navigated away from the post it would disrupt the player, so being able to pop it out is a nice little touch. Even if the player didn’t stop if you went to another post, it’s still nice to have it in a separate window for easier access. I don’t usually stream from Google Reader, but in a pinch it’ll do.
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Being a big devotee of using the Google suite of web apps, this Read/WriteWeb article about web apps for students really piqued my curiosity. Though it’s supposed to be student-oriented, this list of sites could be useful for those of us in the “real world”, too. The list is broken down into categories like Office Replacements, Notetaking, and Studying, with a lot of well-known and not-so-well-known sites from Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Facebook to NoteMesh and Calcoolate. Take a look, this list is a pretty awesome resource for those of us who like to live online in “the cloud”.
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That’s probably not the best blog post title, but perhaps it will grab your attention more.
I’ve come across a ton of interesting stuff that I’ve wanted to post about but haven’t because of various reasons. So I’m just going to dump it all here, stream-of-consciousness-like.
As I mentioned before, I found some online mind mapping applications that look promising:
1. bubbl.us: Very bubbly-looking, easy-to-use mind mapping site. You don’t even have to sign in to start. When you sign up for a free account, you get the capability to save and print your mind maps. It was nice (I used it for mind mapping the Sansa Connect review I did), but I didn’t like how it did not intelligently move the bubbles around so that they didn’t overlap each other. I spent just about as much time rearranging the bubbles as I did mapping out ideas.
2. MindMeister: This mind mapping site made the rounds on Twitter (as I noticed it, perhaps others on Twitter were talking about this before) when Steve Rubel was sending out his invites to the first 20 or so people to direct messaged him. Unfortunately I missed out, but when I was looking up online mind mapping sites last night I came across a review on Download Squad that said they were able to get an invite to the private beta right away after requesting one directly. That was also my experience, luckily. This site was a lot less flashy and bubbly than bubbl.us, but I liked the clean look. I also appreciated that it was more intelligent about moving around nodes as I entered text. I used this service to mind map out my review for the Yahoo Music Unlimited (not yet published) subscription service. Hopefully I can paste in the mind map without all the hassle of reformatting that I had to do for the Sansa Connect mind map dump.
MindMeister is free for a trial period, but after the trial is over, there’s a monthly subscription fee (sorry, can’t remember it right now). I think there are also limitations to the free account, like you can only create up to 5 mind maps, but don’t quote me on that.
* Incidentally, I have 20 invitations for MindMeister to give out, so let me know if you want one.
3. Mindomo: No private beta on this one. I signed up for an account but since I’d spent so much time on the other two, I ran out of time to check out this service. At first glance it looked like it had more formatting features, but the hotkeys to spawn child and/or sibling nodes didn’t seem as easy-to-use as the first two sites. More impressions later after I’ve played around with the site more.
All of these sites (AFAIK) offer collaboration features, so that you can share your mind maps and even edit mind maps simultaneously with other people. I don’t mind map enough for that feature to be useful to me right now. Mainly I was looking for a free or inexpensive way to do some quick mind maps on my iMac. There are a lot more stand-alone applications for both OS X and Windows that I might explore later.
Next topic: I bought a Wii a few weekends ago! My Twitter/Jaiku friends already knew this (come on, join up, people!). *smirk* The hubby and I went on a blitz shopping run on April 1st (a Sunday) because I’d read that some stores were going to get a new shipment of Nintendo Wii consoles that day. We didn’t get up as early as we were planning to, but luckily after checking a few stores in a couple different ‘burbs, we were able to get the next to the last “ticket” for a Wii at Toys ‘R Us in Downers Grove. So that’s why for a while I was kind of blog silent; I was spending much of my free time playing Wii Sports or WarioWare Smooth Moves. The Wii is an awesome console that is largely aimed at casual gamers like me. We have short attention spans, only want to play some games for short bursts rather than all-day frag fests or whatever, and may not enjoy having to learn a lot of complicated button combos or strategies just to play a game. The interactivity on the Wii with the motion-sensitive controllers is pretty awesome. I meant to buy Super Paper Mario tonight, but forgot while I was at Target this evening. Oh well, I’ll pick it up tomorrow.
Topic #3: Though I had read about it a while ago, I just got around to playing with Songbird a couple nights ago. Songbird is a Mozilla product that basically is a music-centric web browser. When you go to certain websites like mp3 blogs, it will create a “web playlist” of all of the downloadable/streamable tracks on that site, and you can play the tracks without having to download them to your machine first. It provides many ways to explore and find a lot of great music very quickly. It can act as a replacement for iTunes or other music management software, and through extensions can even sync with iPods or other USB devices. It’s also cross-platform, working on OS X, Windows, and Linux.
I am not entirely sure how it all works, and I’m sure I’m not giving the program justice with my lame description. So just go to their homepage and click on the “Watch the screencast” link. The voiceover is cheesy, but it really demonstrates the cool features of this media app. It’s still pretty beta, so keep that in mind. But don’t let it prevent you from trying out this cool app!
Topic #4: I just saw news today that the iRiver Clix 2 finally went on sale, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on ordering it. I hope it arrives in the mail very soon! I’ve been following the Clix since the first generation device that was called the U10 (before the name change), so I’ve waited long enough.
Now I need to return or sell the Sansa Connect to offset the price. *sheepish grin* To be fair, the Clix 2 is cheaper than the Connect at $199, but has the same 4GB capacity (an 8GB version is supposed to come out in June, but I can’t wait). Yes, it’s lacking the WiFi and all of the associated goodness of the Connect, but I gain a bigger screen, video playback capability, Flash games (eh, just a nice little bonus that I probably won’t use much), possibly better podcast support, and the cool Clix interface. It also can switch between MTP and UMS, so if I wanted to, I could just use UMS and drag and drop files to it, never needing sync software again. But it also supports music subscription services, so I might try a Rhapsody subscription. The MoTR guys seem to like the service a lot, so I’ll give it a try. Stay tuned for a review of that device.
There are a few more interesting topics I have wanted to blog about, but I think I’ve overloaded this post already. Sorry, I had to get all caught up!
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Interesting. As I was checking my Gmail, I saw this little ad at the top of the page for WriteToMyBlog, a web-based blog editor. I clicked on the link and it automatically brought me to webpage that has a standard-looking word processor interface. I'm typing out this post in the editor right now. Seems like an interesting service, especially for bloggers who don't like the web interface of their current blogs. A quote from the top of the page:
"WriteToMyBlog is a free web based word processor for your Blog.
Create Post Entries for your Blog from right here, completely free, no
membership required, can Post to multiple Blogs simultaneously, manage
your Posts, works with all major Blog programs, and is easy-peasy!"
If this works okay, it might be a nice alternative to use when I don't have my own computer with me (in which case I'd be using Windows Live Writer). Now, I just happened upon the ad, so if it turns out later that there are some issues with it, I'll post updates. For now it seems okay. Now to actually post…
Editor’s Note: As you can see, the post showed up successfully! I am editing it from WordPress.com to add this little note and clean up the category tags. What’s nice about WriteToMyBlog is that you don’t even have to sign up for the service. If you wanted, you could just bring up the site, type a quick post, and hit publish, upon which the site brings up a little dialog box for you to sign in to your blog service. You can save the login info, which would save a cookie to your computer, but you don’t have to. I wonder what their business model is…to get bought by Google or Yahoo, like Writely and other Web 2.0 sites did?
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry about the new changes to Google Reader, there is an option to share feed entries on a publicly-accessible site. Google Reader also offers an RSS feed for it. So I’ve added the RSS feed to my blog’s sidebar.
If you’d rather see the HTML version of the feed, check here:
Or, if for some reason you want to add the RSS feed to your own aggregator, here’s the raw link:
So at least if I am not able to blog about things due to busy-ness or laziness ( ), I can still share interesting articles with you guys this way. I’m warning you all right now, a lot of the articles are probably going to come from Engadget, Gizmodo, JKOnTheRun, or GottaBeMobile, so if you read all of those sites already, my “interesting links” feed will probably seem redundant. But I am interested in stuff beyond gadgets (shocking, no??), so occasionally other feeds will show up, like Moleskinerie, or DPReview, or perhaps even a link to a podcast or two.
Another warning, I may get tired of marking items for sharing at any time, but I’ll at least try it for a week or so, to try and add content for you all to check out between blog posts. Let’s see how the experiment goes…
Last night I stumbled upon a story about the changes that Google made to their web-based RSS aggregator, Google Reader. Then I saw the article on JKOntheRun about it, after I went to check the new Reader out. I didn’t like Google Reader much before because the interface for scrolling through the feeds was kind of clunky. There was this smooth-scrolling sidebar that listed your feeds, and then when you clicked on one, the sidebar would then list the stories in that feed. It was too slow to navigate many feeds in a short amount of time.
But now they’ve changed it up, and I like it! The integration with Gmail is particularly nice. Sometimes I will use Furl or the e-mailing functionality in Newsgator or Rojo to forward articles to my friends, but I would inevitably forget to copy myself on it, so I didn’t have a record of what stories I forwarded, or to whom I forwarded the stories. Now with Google Reader, when I e-mail a story, it gets stored in my Sent Mail “folder”. Nice!
I haven’t played around with it too much yet, but I know I like the “river of news” expanded view, because it matches the way I read my RSS feeds. I basically just choose one feed and skim the articles until I end up at an old article I’ve seen already. I prefer this method over the “list view” in Reader, which looks like a Gmail view of article headlines — the headline is analogous to the subject line of your e-mails, and then there is an excerpt of the article presented following the headline. If you have Gmail you know what I’m talking about. I guess I kind of sort through my interest in articles by the photos that accompany the headline. Then if there aren’t any photos, I take more time to consider the headline. Sort of judging a book by its cover, I know, but hey, that’s how I skim my feeds.
There is a way to mark articles to share them on a public page that you can share with other people, kind of like how people on Digg can see what their friends have been Digging, or how del.icio.us/Furl users can see what other people are reading.
Another new (?) feature in Reader is the ability to stream audio and video (?) content, like podcasts (or netcasts, like Leo Laporte would like to rename them ). Actually, I’m not sure if video content can be streamed through Reader, because I know there are some Gizmodo articles that embed YouTube videos, and those weren’t visible in Reader.
I probably won’t use this feature very much because I prefer downloading the content and listening/viewing it offline on a mobile device, but again, it’s a nice feature to take advantage of in a pinch.
I’m glad to see these updates to Google Reader. I am more inclined to use it now, because of its integration with Gmail, as well as its clean, simple interface. I was switching back and forth between Newsgator and Rojo (mainly using Newsgator recently, due to Rojo’s flakiness during their upgrade) ever since I decided to go back to online RSS aggregators instead of desktop apps. I really like Newsgator for the most part, and I may still switch to it if Google Reader starts acting up, but for now I’m going to stick with Reader for the next few weeks or so and see how it works out. Yes, I’m willingly getting sucked into the Google Grid.
Last week I decided to try out a standalone RSS reader application again, to see how it would compare to using an online RSS reader (mainly so that if Rojo or whatever online feed reader I'm using goes down, or has some maintenance issues, I have a "backup"). In the process of trying to find a decent freeware RSS reader — I decided on RSS Bandit; will blog about it separately later — I found out about this free service called Feedlinx. It is not a typical online feed reader service like Rojo or Bloglines. If you use it one way, you can essentially convert your RSS feeds to automatic e-mail lists (you can control the frequency of the e-mails).
However, the more interesting way of using Feedlinx is to sync up the read/unread status of your feeds with any RSS reader you use, online or standalone. As I understand it, you enter your feeds into Feedlinx. It will, in turn, convert your feeds into a special Feedlinx URL that you plug into your feed reader of choice. So if you use a standalone reader at home, and another standalone reader at work, each application will reflect the same read/unread status for your feeds. Same with using an online reader.
I haven't yet tried out this service, but if it works as promised, this can free you up to use different methods of monitoring RSS feeds without having to do manual synchronization (if it even applies to the particular reader you're using), as well as keeping feed status synced between different devices like your tablet and your PDA/Smartphone.
Pretty cool! I will try this out sometime and report back on how well it works. If anyone tries this out before I follow up, please let us know how it works out.
If you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention RSS, don't worry because
- I'm planning to write a more thorough post extolling the virtues of RSS later
- The link that I'm going to talk about may cause you never to need RSS (which would be a travesty).
Anyway, I like to use an online RSS aggregator called Rojo to keep track of the various websites that I like to follow, like Engadget, Lifehacker, Boing Boing, Google News, a bunch of Tablet PC-related blogs, and on and on and on… Sites like Rojo allow you to aggregate the content from several websites onto one page so that you can get all of the information from those various sites (as long as they provide an RSS feed link) in one place. Using a news aggregator can also show you what sites have been updated, when they're updated, so that you don't have to waste time hitting a certain page every so often, only to find out that it doesn't have any new content. But the main advantage to using an aggregator (online or using a desktop application) is that you can view a lot more information in less time. Some would argue that RSS aggregators can be huge timesinks because you can hit more websites in less time. Let's save that argument for another time, shall we?
The site I want to talk up is a different kind of web aggregator, though. Instead of you setting up which websites to track, popurls.com has a predefined list of sites that it presents headlines for (in the case of media sites like Flickr, it presents thumbnails) in a sort of 3-column-newspaper kind of motif (sort of).
I stumbled upon popurls.com accidentally. IIRC, I was reading a comment thread on Lifehacker about what RSS aggregators people liked to use. I visited the site and was very impressed. It takes popular "Web 2.0" and/or news websites like Digg, Flickr, Youtube, Fark.com, del.icio.us, etc. and presents their top 20 stories (or pictures or videos) of the moment. I'm not sure how often they update the site, but I'd guess it's updated at least hourly to keep the content fresh.
I was going to intersperse some screenshots here, but WordPress is being a PITA, so I'll just mention a few things about the site and let you explore it further, if you wish:
- Its design is nice and clean
- At the top right is a little toolbar of sorts that lets you customize the look and amount of content on the page, as well as open a little form to enter a search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com, Technorati, Amazon, and Wikipedia
- You can hover over the headlines and get a little "tooltip" story summary
- At the end of the list of 20 headlines, there's a link to display more stories, which extends the column of headlines
- The media sites that are tracked (Flickr, Youtube, Google Video, etc.) display sets of thumbnails that nicely break up the columns of text
- There is a very good diversity in site coverage — it isn't just all tech news sites
A lot of the sites that popurls tracks were new to me when I first visited, so I think a lot of people would find new and interesting content here. Since their goal seems to be tracking the "latest buzz", you can get a pretty good idea of the major stories that are on the Net's collective mind. Popurls is a good alternative if you like which sites it tracks, and aren't really inclined to create your own account on an online RSS aggregator or set up your own desktop application. Even if you already have a favorite RSS aggregator, I think Popurls is a good supplement.