Pretty Cloud

I’ve become a fan of all things Google as of late. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m definitely drinking the koolaid, I am not unaware of problems with working solely in the cloud. [1]Cloud is basically everything is online, apps, data, storage, etc  That said, I’ve been using gmail, picasa, docs, maps, etc for years. Recently, I’ve jumped on the beta bandwagon of Google’s new music and +1 services. I’ve rambled enough on +1 already so no need to be redundant, redundant.

Storage is pretty excellent. Each service gives you a default amount of usable online storage. That said, you can upgrade to 20 gigs for just $5.00 a year. [2]They offer even more if you are truly a memory hog.  Even better, the storage is shared across all your Google services. This is a big bonus for me and a large factor in my decision to use many Google services.

Gmail has come along way since its inception. Its now very robust and user friendly. Its built in spam filter is excellent. The new +1 like theme is very easy on the eyes. Enough said.

Maps has always been excellent via the web or mobile. Google continues to integrate it with Places and Navigation. Maps has been my go to service for directions, MUNI, etc for years. The navigation mobile app is awesome as well. The down side of course is it requires a cell connection to triangulate the gps.  That can be a problem when you ride a motorcycle thru the middle of nowhere. lol

Picasa is good but not yet excellent. I say ‘not yet’ because I have high hopes for the service that has sort of floundered in feature updates until recently. Storage, uploading, sharing, and even editing is pretty good. Its integration with +1 is obvious and also off to a very good start. Unfortunately, organizing, tagging, and otherwise managing content once it’s online is not all that great. Batch editing/organizing is very lacking and cumbersome. I’m hoping as the merger into +1 continues, this will change. Picasa also has a desktop app. While the app is very robust, its also a bit confusing. The interface is cluttered and its very easy to get confused on what is where. The mobile site is basically for viewing and sharing. While there has never been an official mobile app, the new +1 mobile app has pics integrated. It could use some more features. I recently migrated all my pics from flickr over to Picasa. I got a sick kick out of deleting my flickr account. lol They charge a ridiculous $25.00 a year for a fraction of the storage offered by Google. The only call to fame flickr still had over Picasa was its online organizing. Not enough to make me pay an extra $20 a year though.

Docs is doing better after also languishing for awhile. Dropbox is still more user friendly, especially via the mobile app. Mobile Docs tends to be sluggish. I’m still bouncing between the two currently. For stuff I need quick/dirty access to, I still use Dropbox. For generic storage and not so high-demand stuff I use Docs. Primarily because of the storage options mentioned above.

The beta music service works as advertised but it is still very basic at this point. It offers storage and playback, both of which work flawlessly. Currently, there isn’t much beyond that. You can download your music to a device or computer. Its still beta but I hate that its so basic as to be too basic. Google has a habit of doing that, so all is not perfect. I’m hoping it gets some major feature upgrades.

So there ya have it. My review of all things Google [3]Actually, not all. There are a ton of services that I don’t use  lol  The down side to cloud computing is of course, access. If you don’t have access then you don’t have shit. Several services offer offline support but that sort of defeats the purpose IMHO. That said, we are fast approaching an age where the entire planet will be blanketed in some sort of access to the web. The only time I really don’t have access myself is when I’m out riding the bike. Otherwise, I’m plugged in to the hilt, just like a good little borg.


1 Cloud is basically everything is online, apps, data, storage, etc
2 They offer even more if you are truly a memory hog.
3 Actually, not all. There are a ton of services that I don’t use


I was lucky enough to score a beta invite to Google’s new +1 (plus one) aka Google+. [1]Thanks to several blog buddies who sent me invites I’ve been using it several days now and already I like it way better than Facebook. First and foremost, if and when you ever decided to leave Google+, you can take all your data with you. I’d love to see you try that w/FB. Mind you, some of the features are very similar just with different names. Friend groups are called Circles for example.

Visually, the layout is very user-friendly and easy on the eyes. I found it very simplistic and uncluttered. One might say too uncluttered. Of course, being in beta that is understandable. Anyway, if you’ve ever used Facebook, you’ll find some familiarity to it. Overall, it’s a much nicer interface. Navigation is super easy as well. While everything isn’t 100% integrated, its very easy to bounce around to your gmail, calendar, contacts, youtube, buzz, etc via the ever present in-page toolbar that is common to most Google sites. Your news feed aka Stream is pretty straight-forward and easy to navigate as well.

My personal opinion is that integration is going to be key for Google+.  Right off the bat, you get the option to merge your existing Picasa account when you sign up. The two services worked seamlessly together. Changes/additions/deletions in Picasa showed up immediately in +1. You still have to do most of your editing/organizing thru the Picasa site directly. I expect that will change over time. Google has focused on tying a lot of their services together and +1 is obviously going to become the hub of that integration. Not to mention, you have easy access to your main Google dashboard right from the site via the afore mentioned toolbar.

The chat function is called “hangout”. You can chat with up to 10 people at once, with or without video. I encountered one bug while using it but I think it had more to do with my cheesy laptop cam. Otherwise, it worked as expected.

Privacy is much easier to use. For some this will be a big bonus. Beyond the option to take your data with you if you leave, every section can be customized to your liking. It’s a simple right click on the section to customize settings. Some are auto-shared, others are not. I found it very intuitive. You can immediately make changes. It also respects your settings from Picasa as well i.e. public vs private albums.

A huge bonus for me was the mobile app. Its currently only available for Android devices but I read an iOS version is coming as well as a mobile website. The mobile app is equally simple and easy to use. It had one feature which I fell in love with immediately. You can set you Android device to automatically upload your pictures and/or videos from your phone directly to the site. You can upload all your existing media as well as auto-upload any new media you acquire. Even better, the upload directly is automatically marked private. This is obvious for so many reasons but I appreciate the fact that they realize every pic I take with my phone isn’t always fit for “public” consumption. heehee  Sharing is expected and made easy but it isn’t forced on you like Facebook does.

There is a new feature which I’m still getting used to called Sparks. Its basically like their tag service which lets you set a saved search option that constantly updates. In other words, if you like all things Android, you can set a Spark that updates constantly from across the web with any references to Android. You can set it to be as detailed or vague as you want. Basically, you save a key word or phrase and it will update for you continuously. I currently consume most of my news via my phone’s RSS app but this might be a nifty feature for those who don’t utilize their phone for reading.

People are already incorrectly referring to it as a “Facebook killer.” Hardly. Facebook is firmly entrenched into our way of life. And I don’t think Google is under any illusion it will kill Facebook. That said, this won’t be a failed venture like their Wave Project. Google’s only failure here would be to let the service languish as it has for a variety of other beta projects in the past. Its obvious Google has big plans for this new service and if I’m right in my thinking, it will quickly become a portal for all things Google and social networking. Even in beta, its off to a huge start. Done properly, it will become the competitor that the doomed mySpace used to be. Competition would encourage FB to actually respond to more user feedback/complaints. A good thing in my book. Both FB and Google have huge user bases, of which often overlap, so I can’t either killing off the other.

Of course, being in beta there are a few cons. I think many of these will change over time. The biggest being you can only auto-add friends via your current list of Google users. You can manually add/invite others but that is very time consuming. There is currently no option to add friends directly from your Twitter or Facebook accounts. You can search your hotmail or yahoo email, but I don’t use either of those so that didn’t help me at all. There is very little integration outside of other Google services. You also can’t import or export to/from Twitter. You can pull an RSS feed of your stream but that’s sort of a workaround.

As mentioned, the service is off to a roaring demand. In fact so much in demand, inviting others has been turned off a couple times already. If you’d like an invite, make sure your email address (preferably a gmail one) is included with any comments below.

PS. I’m sure you noticed, I added the +1 icon to my blog posts as well. click, click, click!


1 Thanks to several blog buddies who sent me invites

Nexus S

I recently acquired the Nexus S phone from Apple guy. He got it as an xmas present from me when he’d reached his limit with the abysmal service from AT&T. Sadly, I couldn’t permanently convert him to the good side of the force. He kept having issues with the phone and made the jump back to an older iphone hacked to work on Tmobile’s network. [1]Apparently, the 3g and the 3gs iphones both work on Tmobile once hacked

Anyway, so the phone has come to me and we sold my beloved Nexus 1. I hated to do it as I loved the N1.  The N1, while having plenty of external storage, had very limited internal storage. Only certain app makers have taken the time to allow apps to be moved between internal/external storage. As Android has taken off on a plethora of devices, the problem is fast becoming moot. But, it also means my old N1 was quickly running out of available internal storage.

I’m loving the Nexus S overall. I can’t seem to reproduce all the problems that Apple guy was having save one. [2]I think he just refused to be converted  That being the battery life, which is disappointing. I can burn thru the existing battery in about half a day easily with just moderate use. Its apparently something to do with how often the phone reports errors back to Google servers. There is a hack out for it but I don’t wish to wipe the phone again just to test it out.

Everything else is pretty good. The internal storage is more than adequate for my needs. The processor is just as fast, if not faster. The screen is super clear and very responsive. It has more codec support and some of the minor but annoying hardware designs that plagued the N1 have been rectified in Samsung’s version of the Google phone.  My one hardware design complaint is the the volume rocker. It sticks out just a tad more than I would like and I often accidentally adjust it just by handling the phone.

This should tied me over for at least another 6 months to a year. lolol


1 Apparently, the 3g and the 3gs iphones both work on Tmobile once hacked
2 I think he just refused to be converted


Well, mark your calendars. Hell has officially frozen over….yours truly bought an iPad. Lol I’ve been tinkering with it for a couple weeks now and thought I’d give you MY review on it. For the record, I don’t hate Apple, I just never cared for how proprietary they are or the lack of compatible programs. The latter isn’t so much of an issue anymore so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And considering who the hubby worked for, it was inevitable. hehehe

Hardware: Basically, its a giant iPhone w/o the actual phone. The device is sleek, trim, and very stylish. It has a very solid feel to it, albeit an adjustment for carrying it around. Apple has always gotten high marks in this area. Simply put, they produce very aesthetically pleasing products. While adding to the overall appeal, the screen is glass and just begs to be broken if you drop it. I highly recommend you get a case or cover to protect it.

We ended up with the 16 gig version. By some standards that is considered tiny but I doubt I’ll ever use all of it. I use my phone as my mp3 player and while I can see using music once the multi-tasking update comes out, it will be more of a convenience than a required feature. If you plan to use the iPad as a laptop replacement you might opt for one with a bigger drive. It comes with Bluetooth and wifi built in; however, I have yet to get the bluethooth to work for file sharing. It works fine for using a keyboard though. Overall, the hardware is of the same impeccable quality you would expect from Apple.

Software: Apple is way ahead in this arena in terms of sheer numbers. Being on the market longer, that is no surprise. Anyway, the store has a good mix of free and paid apps. I downloaded several that were equivalent to mine (on Android) and had mixed reviews. Some were equal if not better and others outright sucked. I also hate the built in email app as it takes way too many clicks to switch between email accounts. These are all style issues of course but were of particular annoyance to me.

I don’t care much for the OS at all. Granted, again, this is mostly a style and comfort issue more than functionality. The OS is responsive and has yet to crash on me. [1]I was only able to get the browser to crash twice.  Currently, you can only run one app at a time. There are some very small exceptions on push services but overall a total failure there. The new OS v4 coming out soon is supposed to remedy that and I eagerly await it. [2]Apple guy hacked ours of course so I have limited multi-tasking already. My biggest complaint with the OS is the difference in activating submenus. In Windows, no matter the version, you know its a simple right click to activate a submenu in virtually any application. Even Android borrowed from this with its long hold tap on the screen to bring up submenus, regardless of the application. Apps on the iPad seem to randomly utilize their own version of activating submenus. It gets a bit annoying trying to figure out each apps implementation of the submenu process. Again, a style issue but my biggest annoyance. The copy/past functionality, which came as add-in after the fact, is a bit odd as well. It is not at all intuitive and completely alien to what you would expect. The OS is designed from a simplistic approach and while very aesthetically pleasing, I’d argue its a tad too simple and caused more work than necessary at times. On this area, I still give Android props for better implementation.

Summary: The iPad is a sleek usable device pushing the bar on convenience and portability in our ever increasing conversion of PDA’s, phones, netbooks, and laptops. Let’s face it, Apple sets the standard that others follow. Even Android takes queues from Apple’s UI.

If you are an Apple fanboy, you’ll be right at home. Everything will be familiar and easy. Over 95% of the iPhone apps work in various levels on the iPad. On the other hand, if you a more recent user like me, you might like it but you won’t be blown away. Apple might have set the bar but Google’s Android is catching up and fast. I’d love to port Android over to the iPad. I’d be happier than a pig in slop.

If you are a long time Windows/Linux user, you will definitely find Android a tad more user friendly. And speaking of, if Microsoft doesn’t get their act together soon, they may find themselves pushed completely out of the market. Apple & Google will be the dominate players regardless IMHO.


1 I was only able to get the browser to crash twice.
2 Apple guy hacked ours of course so I have limited multi-tasking already.


One of my biggest frustrations with the blogging world as of late is the lack of compatibility for mobile devices. More and more, people are accessing the web and online content via mobile devices like the nexus one, droid, iphone, ipod, blackberry, palm, etc.

Many mobile gadgets due a decent job of parsing/displaying data for reading. Newer gadgets will even render complete HTML content as well. Hell, the new breed of pda/phones have chip speeds equal to computers of only 5 years ago. Clearly, processing power isn’t the problem.

The big problem is trying to squeeze webpages meant to run on a computer screen onto a device a fraction of the size. To their credit, most mobile device makers have ingenious rendering or zooming techniques. That said, its still extremely annoying, especially if you are surfing a lot.  Even worse, most professional sites often incorporate scripts/plugins/flash that won’t run on most mobile devices. And again, the problem is not from processing speed. No, as usual it boils down to petty proprietary rules, squabbles over licensing, poorly written software, and last but not least, greed. All of which are sad, pathetic, and stupid. For the corporate aspect, companies need to get their act in gear or perish. The need for mobile access is far from stale and is only going to increase. Not to mention, in today’s economy, companies need to encourage access any way they can.

For a medium wholly dependant on exposure, I’m really surprised more folks haven’t updated their sites/blogs to accommodate mobile exposure. Hell, my blog isn’t even that popular and I’ve had a mobile version for several years. [1]To be fair, I upgraded my mobile app months ago and just realized tonight I hadn’t activated the change. While the old app did the job, the new one is sooooo much nicer. Feel free to give me … Continue reading  There is already a niche industry to handle the demand. More people/companies just need to realize and take advantage of it. 

For myself, I consume most of my online content via my phone now. Its just easier with my schedule and time constraints. Sadly, for the blog world, commenting or interacting is still painfully awkward or even impossible at times. Not to mention, extremely frustrating.

The point of my little ramble? All you companies and dedicated bloggers out there, upgrade your sites for mobile consumption already! Sheez, bulky computers are so 90’s. :p



1 To be fair, I upgraded my mobile app months ago and just realized tonight I hadn’t activated the change. While the old app did the job, the new one is sooooo much nicer. Feel free to give me feedback on it.