Category Archives: google

google docs as a wiki?

The "On the other hand" selfportrait

I love Google Docs. The fact that you can share documents online with anyone in a matter seconds and collaborate on documents is something I really miss when it’s not there. Like at work. With MS Office. And emailing spreadsheets and documents back and forth. Blegh.

In fact, the whole document publishing/sharing thing even allows you to use it as some sort of rudimentary open wiki site. You can share any text document and publish it as an internet page. But you can also open this page up for editing by anyone, with or without a Google Account. How’s that for openness?

// how it works

Once your document is published, you change the share settings to public for the internet, and allow anyone on the world wide web to edit the page as well. You don’t even need a Google Account to be able to edit the page, but if you have one you have some more options of course.

It’s awesome.

When two people are editing the document at the same time, they will even see the changes happening live on their screen. By clicking the name in the top right corner of the other person viewing the page, they can even chat about what they want to do with the page. There’s more room for collaboration by using the comment feature. Just select a portion of text and insert a comment for it (you can only see those when you edit though).

And it’s all free.

// downsides?

You don’t have the same level of control over this kind of editable open page as you’d have in a regular wiki website of course, but then again you didn’t have to set up a website either now did you?

Depending on who’s editing your page might evolve into something that looks like a good old Geocities or Myspace mess of clashing image, font types and colours, but if people behave a little it might turn out just fine.

Maybe not to be used for too large and open projects as it’s too easy to vandalise, but for smaller groups this might be the cheapest and easiest way to set up a shared online mini-site open to anyone who receives the link.

If you want to give it a shot, there’s a completely editable page right here, with roughly the same text as I’ve posted here.

Photo by dhammza, cc-licensed

it ain't cool if you just dump your files

One thing that continues to bug me about some software is that by trying to be user-friendly and idiot-proof, assume they can just make choices for you. Like where to install the software and where to store the files or databases created by it.

The installation folder for example is something I like to choose myself. I also do not like it when everything is just stored by default under the “Documents and Settings” folder. It might be common policy, but some databases or files just grow to damn big to be stored right there.

TomTom backups for example. The damn things go in your Documents folder FFS. Or the Picasa picture database. Too damn big I tell ya! It’s bad enough already that Windows keeps downloading service packs and Internet Explorer updates and stores them by default somewhere on the system drive. But if everyone starts stuffing it’s data on the classic C-drive where your temp-folder and your profile folders are also located you’ll be running out of disk space in no time.

So please think of the poor people out and their limited hard-drives and put one of those nifty questions in there that allows you to select a folder where you want them to put your stuff. You know what? You can even suggest a default location if you don’t want to bother the user with making choices. How awesome is that? I think I’ve even seen that a few before actually.

Photo by scottog, cc-licensed

ie8 finally caught up

Did you see the puke commercial Microsoft has running to promote IE8? They pulled it already on their own site but it’s on Youtube now so it’s gonna stay out there for now. But the thing is that they are throwing some big bucks at it to promote their latest IE release which bring us the awesome novelty of… euhm… nothing I guess.

Microsoft has been playing catch-up when it comes to it’s browser of years and they finally built a new version which can compete with Firefox, Chrome and Opera. So basically now they also have tabs, crash protection, phishing protection, pr0n- euhm.. privacy-mode and can-you-fucking-believe it web standard compliance! Microsoft built a standard compliant browser! Amazing isn’t it?

Anyway they clearly feel like winning back some of that lost browser market share as they duke it out on a comparison page with a big ad campaign and some other browsers. I say “some” because they left out Safari and Opera which are at least equally big as Chrome right? But hey, I guess they wanted to stand face to face with their nemesis Google I suppose. Some of the comparisons are biased and funny. Like the security one. If you click through to that NSSLabs report it shows that IE 7 was scoring the worst of all. The tests also match IE 8 RC1 with Firefox 3.0.7 Not Firefox 3.5 which was also out around that period in beta form which is a pity and makes the report a tad incomplete IMO.
This item is particularly funny in another comparison:

Internet Explorer 8 is more compatible with more sites on the Internet than any other browser.

That’s not hard now is it, if most website builders had to make sure their site works on your older non-standard-compliant crappy browsers because 90% of folks where serving using IE back in the day.

The good thing however is that there is finally a safe IE version out there that non-techies can use to safely browse the web and not get their systems infected with malware, trojans and virii.
Cause when that happens it’s up to us geeks to go over there with our disinfecting USB-sticks and waste our time to to get that PC back up and running again.

Time we could spend better on writing cool Firefox add-ons for example.
I still recommend Firefox 3.5 though which now has tear-off tabs, the awesome bar, anti-virus software integration, massive customization possibilities, a spell checker, full zoom (images and stuff as well), support for hundred of search engine (or Wikipedia etc) and so much more.

Photo by Garry, cc-licensed.

stats are like crack rock

If you have a website yourself, your stats pages are like rock to a crack whore. Well maybe not that bad, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be checking them out a lot. In my case I’m using several separate stat services, which each give me different and interesting view on what’s going on.

I use the extreme tracking site so I can get a nice overview of the last visitors, activity of the last days, weeks and months. Google Analytics is awesome for its many graphs, and click-through interface which allows you to dig deep in your collected hits and figure out whatever you feel like figuring out. Most popular pages, search queries, referrers, you name it. To be frank, Extreme tracking has these as well, but with the Google tool you can select the time period you want to see, compare it to another etc. It’s crazy. It’s like having access to your HTTP logfiles and running AWStats on it, but better, since you don’t have to get into that technical nitty-gritty of actually running those Perl scripts and all.
If you don’t want to give more stats-power to Google, because you know that’s why they give this tool out of free, you can try out Piwik. It’s open source, so you can host it yourself and has enough features to get a statistics overdose from.

Another interesting stats service is the one from WordPress.com, which works by installing the stats plugin out of the box with Jetpack on your WP blog. You are running WordPress right? You should, cause it rocks!  Anyway, they don’t really add any new info, but the dashboard to visualize the info is very simple and easy to work with. It gives you a quick overview of what’s going on without having to do a lot of interpreting.

That being said I noticed something interesting in my hits last year. I got about 200 extra hits a month by doing that awesome Jeskola Buzz 60×60 compilation. The result was that some people who also sent in some music for the compilation posted about it on their own blogs, while linking to my own post. Apparently this boosted my Google PageRank in such a way that I started getting a ton of extra hits almost instantly. It’s still going at that rate now, so it’s safe to say a changed PageRank is causing the additional traffic, and not some extra exceptional traffic caused by the actual 60×60 thing. This is also reflected in the referrer hits, as none of the pages is getting an exceptional amount of hits since then.
The same effect occurred again this January after a Twitter conversation about Windows system tools resulted in a blog post by @SirWumpus linking back to one of my own posts on the topic. Interesting isn’t it?

So this is a good SEO tip isn’t it? Do something cool so that people link to your site, and you will get extra hits. Sweet!

Edit 2017-02-12: removed the broken WP stats plugin link and updated the content a bit.

Picture by azrainman, cc-licensed

find a place to sleep, the easy-peasy way

One thing that can be so annoying when you’re planning a trip on the fly is finding a hotel or a nice bed and breakfast to sleep over. Usually it means you throw down the location and the obvious keywords in Google and hope for the best. Usually you’ll also end up wasting time on tons of hotel-booking sites which don’t even show you places near where you are looking for. Those sites get indexed anyway because they function like a crappy online phone book full of advertising banners. Blegh.

So this one time I was using Google Maps to plot out the location of quarries we where going to end up diving in, when I noticed it actually knew some of them by entering “quarry”. Then I tried looking for “hotel” and “bed and breakfast” ét voila, a whole bunch of those reddish balloons appeared on the map, indicating places and phone numbers to sleep over. Awesome!

The cool part is that you can see right away which ones are interesting geographically, and which ones aren’t. Some of them might be in a town you didn’t even know was there. In fact, we ended up just over the border in France in a sweet little B&B and had an excellent weekend. There’s no chance I would have ever found that one without Google Maps for sure.

It just makes so much sense to put places on a map isn’t it? Funny nobody really thought of it before, or executed it properly. So no more dull searches on badly designed websites for me. It’s Google Maps from now on when I’m planning trips.

So if you’re a hotel or bed & breakfast owner, you might want to get your data in there. Resistance is futile, after all.

Photo by Face it, cc-licensed

getting gmail notifier to work over https

A while ago over at the GMail Blog they announced that from now on you could start using GMail more securely than ever. Awesome! All you have to do is follow the instructions on their blog post, and enable https mode for all your GMail actions in your options, ét voila, you where so much more securely reading your emails.

The problem however with this mode was that not everything seemed to be working fine with it. The small traybar app known as the GMail Notifier instantly fails to connect to the Google server as soon as you turn the setting on. No more instant notification when you receive an email! We can’t have that right?

Luckily there’s an easy fix available for that now. It’s described right here in the Google support forum, and all you need to do is download a small zipfile, import notifier_https.reg by double clicking it, and restart your notifier.

Soon, you’ll be seeing those pretty notifier popups again, more secure than they ever where.

Photo by Catcubed, cc-licensed

why windows desktop search sucks ass

windows desktop search suckageSo I’m using Windows Desktop Search at work for quick retrieval of emails and files since we’ve grown so used to the “search instead of sort” motto Google thought us. It’s WDS not because we want to use it, but because we have to from the IT guys. They got a bit spooked by the fact that Google Desktop Search allows you to search from other computers, which means parts of company files are stored on Google servers on teh interweb. And t3h intahweb is dangerous! I can get that really, even though it’s a feature you have to activate manually for it to work…

Anyway, so the damn Redmond solution to search it is. Most of it works swell though, but there’s this one thing they got it really wrong. That one thing is the integration with the OS. Yep, you read that one right, their own bloody operating system.

You see, when you’re explorer your files and want to search a file by hitting CTRL-F you used to get this simple Windows search box in the left panel. It’s basic, but it works. Now this panel has of course been replaced by the more advanced, and also more complex Windows Desktop Search. Even if you haven’t indexed the current folder in WDS!

Now, the guys at MicroSoft aren’t stupid, so they warn you about the fact that the current folder isn’t indexed. They also advise you to use the so-called “Search Companion” instead, which is that old search box. They also put a picture of that stupid yellow canine in there again, probably because they found out that the animated search companion bitch (I bet it’s female) is the first thing you turned off after you installed XP. Is that thing still around in Vista btw? I wonder.

Instead of warning you that the search form they are putting up is completely useless, how about directing you to that bloody search companion right away, and save me the frustration of having to do that myself. In a pop-up window of course, using the same window wouldn’t be confusing enough.

So the only option is to index the whole fucking disk if you want to get rid of this nuisance. Which of course eats at your disk space, slows your searches, and stuffs your search results with results you never wanted.

Excellent suckage if you ask me.