Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends... but sometimes misses a couple of weeks. I apologize for the lack of entries the previous two weeks, no point in going into details - just chalk it up to life and shit happens. I'm heading out of town this week for Pacific Media Expo, so I'll be in Long Beach, CA from this Thursday through next Tuesday. I'm going to try to get another entry out this week before I go, but I can't promise anything more than trying my best.
Next up - Google! Google has had three major releases in the past week or so. First up, Gmail is now available for anyone with a cell phone. You no longer need an invitation to get a Gmail account, now anyone can sign up provided you have a cellphone that can receive SMS messages. You sign up, Google sends an SMS message with a code to your phone, then you enter the code online to confirm the account. It helps prevent bots from signing up and using Gmail to spam.
The second major release is Google Desktop Version 2 beta. The Google Desktop software has been greatly enhanced with a number of new features. You can run it as a Sidebar on your Desktop, with a number of different information panes, and there is an API for 3rd party plug-ins. Perhaps some of you enterprising webmasters might write a plug-in to do something special with content from your site. Of course, it also has built in RSS and Atom feed support. I find it to be a fairly nifty resource.
Third is the release of Google Talk, Google's new IM client. Google Talk runs on the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), which is the formalized version of the Jabber protocol. So any Jabber client can also work on Google Talk's network, such as Trillian, Gaim, and iChat. Google Talk is fairly no frills currently - no skins, graphic emoticons, etc. But some of us like it that way, and if you want all the bells and whistles you can always run one of the other clients. I've personally used Trillian and Gaim. I used to use Trillian Pro on Windows and Gaim on Linux from back before there was a Windows port of Gaim. These days I'd just recommend Gaim. If you've never used it, Gaim supports may different IM networks in one client - AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, MSN, Jabber, IRC, and more. And it is open source and free - you can't lose.
While I'm at it, I'll just plug Google Toolbar again, it is really a nice addition to your browser. What can I say, I think Google has some great products, and it is the only search engine I ever bother using. The only thing I've had some trouble with is Google Web Accelerator. It does work, and it can speed things up a bit, but I can't recommend it yet. The prefetching is a bit glitchy - and it can have nasty side effects like pre-fetching the 'mark everything as read' links when you're browsing a web forum. And if you're doing development you want to do your testing with it off, to make sure you're getting your own pages.
From Google to Gadgets - in particular the Palm Treo 650. I've had one of these pretty much since the day Cingular made them available. Over the past few months I've found a few pieces of software I find incredibly useful that I recommend to anyone with a Treo, or a Palm in general:
- AvantGo - This is actually available for PalmOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and BlackBerry. Subscribe to new channels and have them synced to your handheld, or read them wirelessly. I regularly read CNET News.com, AnandTech to Go, Palm Infocenter.com, PC World.com, SciFi Channel, vnunet.com, Wired News, InformationWeek Daily, and more. A great way to keep up with the news, with over 600 channels and the ability to create your own custom channels.
- Directory Assistant - This is a front end to YP.com that uses your Treo's wireless link to look up directory information. It is like having all of the Yellow Pages in your Treo (or other Palm Phone, such as the Kyocera 6035 and 7135, Samsung i500, etc.). Once you have a listing it can even get directions from you, via MapQuest.
- Filez - A freeware file management tool and system utility for PalmOS. Far more powerful than anything built into the PalmOS.
- Graffiti Anywhere - On Palms that already support Graffiti this gives you the ability to write it anywhere on the screen, not just in the dedicated input areas. (Hence the name.) But PalmOS devices with keypads, such as the Treo, usually lack Graffiti support. The libraries are still there in the OS, but there is no way to do the input. With Graffiti Anywhere, there is - now you can use Graffiti on a Treo and other keyboard Palms.
- KeyCaps650 - Have you ever found a very simple little application that makes a world of difference? This is one of those applications. I think it is something that should've been in PalmOS to start with, and at the same time it is one of those things you didn't realize was missing until you had it. There are also versions for other Treo models. So what does it do? It allows you to type capital letters and punctuation on the Treo without using the shift or option keys. There are a few different ways to configure it. I have mine setup so that a 'double click' on a key within 180ms will enter the punctuation (normally option then the key) while holding a key down for 200ms will capitalize the letter (normally shift then the key). You can adjust the timeouts, and there are other options for what the flags are for the two options. I can't believe the difference this has made in making it so much easier, and therefore faster, to type on my Treo.
On a final note, I recently upgraded to a 60GB iPod and I was looking for some way to dump my iTunes Library.xml into a reasonably formatted HTML page. I'm probably going to end up writing a PHP front-end for dynamic manipulation - sorting, searching, etc - but I was looking for something quick and dirty for now. I found itunes2html.xsl which was decent, but it just dumped the tracks in the track order in the source XML, and it also included a bunch of data I didn't see any point in having in a file meant for human consumption. So I modified it to sort by Artist, changed the order of fields in the table, and reduced the data shown, and this is my version. It is quick and dirty, I admit, so I might clean it up some more. But it works, and you can always modify it as you wish. Since I have a copy of XMLSpy for my work I did the transform in that, and this is the end result. That's my entire music collection, 11,720 tracks, ripped into iTunes. (Well, I didn't rip my old cassettes, or the few LPs I still have...) Go ahead, make fun of my musical tastes - heck, even I don't like everything in there. Fair warning, that's a huge file.
Well, I guess that's all for this time. Until next time...