Google

Google Chrome

Today, Google release a beta of their new browser software, Chrome. Like Mozilla Firefox, it will be Open Source. This comic strip explains the concepts behind it. The ideas look good, very solid.

There is the possibility of 'Browser Wars' re-erupting - but if they do, I don't see it repeating MSIE/Netscape, as there new features were introduced ad-hoc. There is more emphasis today on being standards compliant - and this is a good thing. I don't imagine that Google would want to promote non-standard html code, it'd make their core business more difficult - and so another standard compliant browser out there will be a kick to MSIE to get those remaining issues quashed (especially with CSS).

The bigger risk is google being too big, too powerful and breaking their 'don't be evil' motto (some would say 'too late'). Fingers in too many pies and all that. Whilst Chrome has the potential to squash all before it - I don't get that vibe at the moment. Let's see how things develop.

Links:

Mapmaker

Google has opened up its mapping software for certain areas. It can be a little clunky at times (the list of edits I've made isn't exhaustive, if something is awaiting moderation it cannot be tweaked easily and so on). It's not always clear what the road classifications are supposed to be - but I'm working on the basis that if I put in a best guess, it can always be tweaked if not quite right. Nevertheless, it can be fun, as well as useful (I've been mapping Iceland, I've done a lake, Klerfarvatn, a glacier, and lots of roads concentrating around the Blue Lagoon and Grindav&iaciute;k in the south west). Some of my changes have been accepted immediately, some depend on other changes, and so are pending, and some are in moderation awaiting checking.

Maps are currently editable in a few areas, probably selected for the lack of existing map features, so if the mapping experiment fails, google can delete the mapping info and be back to where they started.

The areas editable right now are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Grenada, Iceland, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, Pakistan, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam.

Even changes which are approved take a little while to be rendered and appear on the maps - this is especially true for some large features.

Reader and Bloglines

As I've previously discussed, I've recently moved from Bloglines to Google Reader. So far, I'm loving it - the 'share' feature alone is great (and will be better the more of my acquaintances use the site... hint...hint...). As well as appearing on murky.org's homepage (as I type), my shared links are available here, as well as within your own Reader account, if I'm one of your contacts. Heather Hopkins has done an analysis of the two sites. Bloglines is ahead of Google Reader (but I seem to recall that it did have a head start). Interestingly, users of Google Reader tend to read much more news, and users of Bloglines tend to view much more photography.

What's interesting to me is how (with a little wobble) the sites have tended to move up and down together, one isn't pulling ahead of the other, despite how bloglines decided to (factually) spin it by pointing out they were ahead.

I've used Reader for about a week now. Long enough to get the feel, not long enough to be locked in. The ideal time to make a judgement.

Bloglines somehow feels, to me, a little more developed. One can keep items unread (though google has the 'star') (UPDATE: This is actually wrong, there is an unread feature in reader - thanks Aq) and the feeds are sorted by feed. In Google Reader the feeds seem to be arranged chronologically, which isn't always desirable (I'd want to sort oldest first, or by feed with oldest first) (Update: I had a blind spot, you can change the sortorder).

The general interface for reader is just slick. You can select one feed at a time, but I just hit 'all items' and scroll with the mouse wheel. As items are displayed they're marked as read (you can scroll up if something zoomed past too fast). Hitting the 'star' marks the item as something you want to look at later. Hitting 'share' will do the obvious of sharing it with your contacts (who use reader) as well as adding it to a webpage.

When they first implemented 'share' they got it very wrong indeed, everything was shared. Bad, bad idea. What happens now is that one manually clicks 'share'. Each feed can be 'tagged', I have tags like 'cycling', 'comics', 'rugby' and 'science'. You can make it so that everything in a given tag is shared (my tags are all private). I don't see any need to do this - if someone wants everything in a feed they can subscribe themselves! The sharing feature, right now, is pretty damned good - and it works 'as expected', which is about the best that any software feature can expect.

Instead of 'sharing' (for public consumption), one can 'star' (to make it easier to find something later). It is so easy to 'star' something - very easy. So easy that one can end up with loads of items to read 'later' (I'm starring something for more considered perusal)... but then, it's very quick to scroll the starred items - and of course, there is a top notch search function. (There are keyboard shortcuts)

I've only found one problem with reader. That is occasionally it will say there is one new article, but refreshing everything doesn't reveal it. This is a weird bug, but wait a bit and it generally clears as other articles come in.

The other issue is pretty minor. It's the stats. There are a whole load of metrics which help you to pick out the feeds you read all the time, and those which you always miss. These seem to be based on if a feed is displayed (so I tend to read 100% of items as I view all items and scroll) - I'd much rather have a list based on how long each item was on screen for. For example, I scroll through slashdot pretty fast, stopping occasionally, but I will tend to linger over sites like xkcd and Bike Noob, I will click through to sites like Yehuda Moon. Stats based on clicks and time on screen would be much more useful to me than simply the fact that an article has been on screen for a few seconds.

Bloglines does share some of this, but on the whole, I think I'm a Google Reader convert. I did look at it once before - and moved back. This time, I gave it a chance and I'm staying. There's something about the way it's put together which is really nice - now, if only more of my friends were using it to 'share'....

.... and it's been built with the blind in mind too, that's got to be a good thing.

Of course, this site's feeds are easy to access:

Main Feed:Add Murky.org to GoogleSubscribe with Bloglines

Comments: Add Murky.org Comments to GoogleSubscribe with Bloglines

Google Mail flaw makes Open Relay

Google Mail's servers have a security flaw which could allow spammers to send unlimited amounts of spam. Given that most other providers trust gmail, this means that lots of spam could get through due to google being whitelisted. I don't *think* it affects the security of arbitrary accounts on gmail, so for individual users, no action is needed.

Whilst whitelisting for email providers is generally a good thing, it does highlight that whitelisted emails do need to be verified periodically as even trusted sources can have problems.

As I write, there is no comment from the gmail blog. The last post they made was about how to search emails.

The attack appears to be 'man in the middle' and so relies upon an interception between you and your account (or indeed, for you to be the bad guy to send spam). For most people this will mean that their computer has been taken over by a virus, or their ISP is dodgy (unlikely if the ISP wants to stay in business... but then there is phorm). However, a man in the middle attack could be more likely in a setting like an internet café. In other words, the attacker needs to get in between the user and gmail.

It seems the most likely attack would be for the spammer to open a gmail account, use it directly to spam, and then move on if it got blocked.

The details aren't fully published, and I'm a little out of my comfort zone, so I'm speculating a bit - however, I'd be surprised if this wasn't patched quickly.

Del.icio.us Reader

For several years now, I have managed my RSS feeds by using bloglines. Bloglines is pretty good - but this won't mean anything if you just thought 'what's an RSS feed?' Many sites now have an link which is friendly for computers. This is called an RSS feed (or an 'atom' feed - the differences aren't important). An RSS 'aggregator' is a program which can sit on your computer, or it can be a website which you log into, which monitors the RSS feeds you have subscribed to and then brings all that info together in one spot. It's like an email inbox for the web. You don't have to monitor all your favourite sites for changes, you just monitor the aggregator and all the changes appear there. This site has it's own RSS feed, as does most sites, from the BBC to xkcd, Yehuda Moon and WWdN.

You can often tell if a site has a feed by spotting this icon (it might be in the address bar).

RSS Icon

This site also has feeds for comments left on the site.

Some websites don't advertise the feeds, but if you put the address of the site into your feed reader, it can sometimes find the feed for you. (Remember though that not all sites have feeds).

Anyhow, as I mentioned, for some time I've been using bloglines. I've just moved over to Google Reader. (This was a simple job, involving 'exporting' my existing subscriptions from bloglines and then importing them to Reader).

Reader has some nice features. One of my favourites is 'sharing'. If I see something I like, I can 'share' it. People who have me as a contact can see my 'shared' items if they use Reader. An RSS feed (surprise!) is also generated, and people can subscribe to this by copying the link and pasting it into their aggregator, and a webpage is generated too.

Another nice feature is that you can use a 'bookmarklet' to 'share' any item you find on the web. A bookmarklet is something that you add to your browser bookmarks, and it does stuff when you click on it.

This is pretty good, and has the capability of replacing some of the functionality of the excellent del.icio.us. Although, I think I'll be using del.icio.us for quite some time still. "What is del.icio.us?" I hear you cry (well, possibly think).

It's what's called a 'social bookmarking site'.

Essentially you have some 'bookmarklets in your browser, and when you find a site you'd like to bookmark, you click the bookmarklet and it is added to del.icio.us.

Using 'tags' will allow you to find the site again. The nice thing is that you can search the site for tags added by other people (and yes, you can make sites you bookmark private to conceal some of your more esoteric tastes).

My bookmarks are here, and the eagle eyed might notice that there is a feed for the bookmarks (at least, for the public ones).

Del.icio.us also features something called an 'inbox'. If I see a link that I think a friend might like, I can tag it as for:friend. E.g. someone who spots a link I might like can tag it for:murkee - and it will appear in my inbox - my inbox is private, but it too has its own RSS feed which I can subscribe to.

I don't even have to remember the login names for my contacts to send them a link, as I can 'add them to my network' and it will remember them for me, and I can send a link to their inbox my clicking their name when I bookmark. It's simple to add someone to your network (must be logged in).

I hardly ever visit del.icio.us itself, though I use it daily. My inbox is monitored via Reader, and I use handy buttons on my browser to search the bookmarks if I want to find a link again. It's really nice.

The big advantage of all this is that wherever I go, I can find my bookmarks. I can keep up to date on sites I like to read. It's good. (I also have a script which regularly backs up all my bookmarks by downloading, you guessed it, an RSS feed).

Google Reader

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN SUPERCEDED Add to GoogleIt may have been around for a little while, but I didn't notice - so it was news to me that Google now has an RSS aggregator, first impressions are that it looks good - although I prefer the bloglines interface. (See this article for more on RSS and what it can do).

To add a feed one simply searches (ooh, let's say 'murky.org') and then one can preview the feed in the reader and hit 'subscribe'. (If you click the link in this paragraph and do not have a google account, you will need to create one).

GMail Annoyances

The firefox gmail plugin has been working well. Too well... it's been wonderful. The auto login no longer works. Gmail have implemented a 'copy the graphic into the box' type of login which has rendered the plugin impotent.

Nasty - and incredibly unfriendly for blind people.

It's a pain really, I think they've done it to defeat 'pop goes the gmail' and such, but the firefox gmail plugin did not remove any ad revenue from gmail, as one still had to use the site to read the email.

Fortunately the plugin uses the gmail persistant cookies, so a manual login every fortnight is needed, a pain, but not insurmountable.

Firefox is still an excellent program, despite the gmail problem. One could've used the tabs to have gmail open in the background to do the same job as the plugin - it's just not as nice.