Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chrome on Linux

I have been a Chrome user since I first heard about it shortly after it was released in beta. I have watched it grow and become a beautiful and incredibly usable piece of quality software. However, since I spend most of my time in Kubuntu Linux, I am unable to use Chrome for my day to day browsing. I like Firefox, but I miss the screen real estate and the speed I get from Chrome.

A couple of days ago I came across instructions for installing a pre-alpha build of Chromium on Ubuntu, and I decided to give it a try. Even though many features do not work, I was pleased with how well it did function overall. It is fast, and hasn't crashed on me yet. Granted, I haven't pressed it too hard.

Upon starting this build of Chromium, one is greeted with a somewhat unfriendly warning that this should not be used, and should not be blogged about. Since sending in bugs and blogging are not helpful, the only thing that is helpful is contributing to the project.

Being a Computer Science student, a Linux user, and a Chrome enthusiast, and a Google evangelist, I decided that I would apply to the Google Summer of Code program this year and try to work on Chromium for Linux. Although I cannot hope to singlehandedly port Chromium to Linux since it a monumental task, I would like to do my part while learning more about the technologies involved.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Gmail Labs features do you really use?

I check Gmail Labs regularly to see what new features are available. Sometimes the things one can do with a Gmail account are just silly, like Email Addict. If I need a fifteen minute break from email, I can take one without Gmail's help. There are a few Labs features I find indispensible though, and here is my must-have list:

I have been waiting for this for so long! I adopted tasks as soon as it was available. It would be nice if it were always visible like contacts and labels, but I can live with the pop out. Nested task lists let me organize tasks into projects. There is just something satisfying about checking of a completed item.
Right-side chat and Right-side labels
I love distributing the screen real estate because it just makes sense when you are using a wide screen monitor, especially a laptop with a measly 800 vertical pixels.
Default Reply to all
Ugh! How many times have I replied to a group and wondered why only one person responded? Too many. The problem is that I just start typing in the quick reply box and hit send before my brain has time to intervene. Defaulting to reply to all reduces the amount of thinking I have to do.
Text messaging in chat
It seems I always remember what I wanted to tell a friend just after they log out. Sending them a quick text without picking up my phone is just great. Plus it is perfect for getting the last word in an argument.
Title tweaks
I'm really bad about opening way too many tabs. Being able to see exactly what is open with a glance eases my tab confusion.
Google Calendar gadget
Who doesn't want to see their calendar in a short and sweet agenda format when they're emailing and chatting? It is great for quickly checking my appointments before agreeing to a lunch meeting that might run long.
Google Docs gadget
Granted, I don't use Google Docs as efficiently as I should. Even when I'm working in Kubuntu I use Microsoft Office 2007. I am one of those weird people who like the ribbon interface. I also do not like the behavior of the enter button in Google Spreadsheets. Anyway, I frequently write simple how-to docs and share them with my users with Google Docs. Having those quickly available for reference is useful at least once a week.

A pretty slim list considering all that is offered. I like to keep things as simple as I can and still have the functionality I need to get my job done.

What labs feature do you think is too useful to do without?

Internet Explorer 8 won't be my browser, but it might be ok for my users

Image Credit: lejoe
It's really funny reading through my RSS feeds yesterday, all were praising the release of Internet Explorer 8. Every other post touted IE8's interface improvements, speed, security, standards compliance, and all around awesomeness. Today, however, every other post reads "Internet Explorer 8 is not as fast as we thought" or "IE8 already hacked" or "IE8 turns out not to be the coolest thing since sliced bread."

I haven't used IE for any purpose other than testing in years, but even I got excited when I heard how much better it is supposed to be than its predecessors. Still, you won't see me rushing to replace Chrome or Firefox anytime soon. I may however push IE8 to my client machines because I can't trust all of my users take my advice and use a quality browser like Chrome or Firefox. I want them to have a positive internet experience. I want it to be fast, and it absolutely must be secure. If IE8 can get them a little closer, I'm going to do what I can to give it to them.