Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Horrible Turn

When it comes to the future of the entertainment industry, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog was years ahead of its time. To this date, the only music I have purchased on iTunes was the soundtrack to Dr. Horrible. When looking at the entertainment industry, more money does not mean better quality. It is only appropriate that this short film has prompted a follow up project.

It was Dr. Horrible on Twitter who tipped me off to the unauthorized prequel of the amazing internet musical. Horrible Turn is a fan made short movie that explores the high school lives of our favorite characters of the sing along blog.

The movie is a filled with nonstop allusions that will make any Dr. Horrible fan smile. There are enough that the movie is worth a second look just to catch all of them. Not only does the film build the foundation for the main characters quirks, but it explains how Billy transitioned to Dr. Horrible and how Captain Hammer became... well Hammer he was never a very nice guy.

It is worth watching after the credits as there is a ballad to Captain Hammer from an unexpected character. It is probably the best song in the entire movie. At the very end there is a blooper reel that is just incredible and really makes the move truly wonderful.

Horrible Turn from Horrible Turn on Vimeo.

To everyone that worked on the move, great job! I really enjoyed it.

Is there such a thing as too much Google?

With the introduction of the Google Accounts Dashboard I have a better idea of just how many Google products I use on a regular basis. I'll attempt to list most of them and just how I use each of the products. I realize this list is not comprehensive; because I am sure there is some Google Product that I am using that I was not able to remember.

Gmail: I used Gmail constantly throughout the day. Probably the most important of all of the Google products that I use since I have so many email accounts leading to the same inbox.

Google Contacts: Historically, Contacts has been an awful product. However, with the synchronization with my iPhone contacts, this has become my central place for all of my contact information. Since it bridges multiple Google products, my motivation of keeping this up to date and comprehensive has more than doubled.

Google Calendar: It took me a long time to convert to using Google Calendar. The main thing I was missing was the colors for different events within a single calendar. Also, the ability to keep a calendar and contacts in the same place made Outlook hard to walk away from. Now I have multiple calendars shared with various people and groups. Like most Google products, the collaboration really makes this product more useful than it would be in a vacuum.

Google Tasks: This product is so tightly integrated into Calendar it almost doesn't qualify as a separate tool. This is my first semester using Google Tasks, and as a product it just isn't there yet. However, it is improving so quickly, it is fine to use. Many of the features that I wanted it to have when I started using it have been slowly introduced. The main thing I would like to see is tighter integration with the iPhone.

Google Sync: This is essentially Exchange support for email, contacts, and calendar. I only use the sync with my contacts and calendar on my iPhone, but it is absolutely life changing. This sync has made the usefulness of Calendar and Contacts much more than it was before it was syncing with my phone. I have tried using the push email, but it does horrible things to my battery life on my iPhone.

Google Docs: While it will never replace Microsoft Office, especially OneNote, Google Docs are very important when it comes to anything collaborative. When working in a group on a school project, the first place I turn to is Google Docs.

Google Talk: This product is very interesting; I use it primarily because I am always inside of Gmail. My preferred chat client is Skype. The main reason I am not thrilled with Google Talk is because the desktop client is just annoying. The fact I cannot guarantee encryption is enough for me to just stay away from it everywhere except for within Gmail.

Google Voice: I am very new to Google Voice and do not use it on a regular basis. It is the number that I give out on my business cards, and I have my voice mail being sent to the account, but most people have my existing cell phone number. The product itself if very exciting and the future is something that may change the way I use my phone. It will take me years to transition to fully using Google Voice.

Google Reader: While I have almost 100 feeds in my reader, at time I find it hard to keep up with it. I go through phases of using it on a daily basis and not using it for weeks. While it is a useful product, I don't find myself using it unless I have the free time and need a distraction.

Google Alerts: Since I only use Alerts through Google Reader, I don't feel like I use it very often. Almost all of my alerts are feeds in Google Reader and they are almost all vanity alerts about myself or sites that I manage. It is a useful product, but sometimes it just returns garbage.

Blogger: This one is a little obvious. This blog post is hosted via Blogger. At this time this is the only blog that I have through Blogger. While it is tempting at times to switch to some other product such as Square Space, the price tag of free is hard to beat.

Feedburner: In the same category as Blogger, my feeds for my blog and several of other feeds that I have are run through Feedburner. It is a nice service and gives useful information and control over any feed. However, the fact that it is owned by Google really doesn't affect me.

YouTube: YouTube is an interesting for me, I do not use my personal YouTube account very often, but I use the account set up for STUG for posting Tablet Tips quite a bit more. Aside from watching a lot of content hosted on YouTube, it is my preferred place to host video. Google is definitely pulling the internet along with providing essentially unlimited video hosting via YouTube.

Google Wave: This is a very new product from Google and I am still learning how to use it. Since only a few of my friends have accounts I have not had the opportunity to use it as extensively as I would like. However, I do have a class project that I am able to use Wave with so that will be my first venture into the product. My opinion is that Wave will help shape the future of the internet and is the model that will be adopted that will replace the static page.

Google Finance: I have my portfolio included as part of Google Finance, but I find it hard to update and not very useful. When I am looking up information, this is the first place I'll turn, but as for maintaining a useful reflection of my portfolio, it is lacking. Overall, a useful product for information, but it is not worth keeping portfolio information here. My brokerage account provides me with more than enough data and information in a guaranteed accurate format.

Google Analytics: For tracking all of the visits to the websites I manage, Analytics is my first and only choice. It simply works. There are plug-ins for Drupal and MediaWiki, the two many CMS that I use on my sites. The historical data collected by Analytics is very useful, bit the number of visits I get to my sites are still very modest.

AdSense: To be honest, I am not sure why I use AdSense. I have not made any significant amount of money the entire time I have had ads on my Blog. I now have ads on my personal website as well. I have this aspiration that my site will become wildly popular and it will actually cover the hosting fees, but that day has yet to come. Overall, it is an interesting product and the ads are not intrusive enough for me to remove. I will keep them mainly because they make my site feel more connect to the rest of the internet.

Google Webmaster Tools: This product provides information that is much more interesting that anything Google Analytics provides. On the sites where I am trying to show up in search results, having an insight to how Google actually sees my sites is priceless. I can also learn interesting trends about who is linking to certain pages and what search terms are bringing people too me in a way that Analytics doesn't provide.

Google Groups: This product is mostly useful for school and SSSC. I use Groups for archiving all of the emails sent out over the SSSC list and it works as intended well. For the Freshman Council's, I set them up with a Google Group so they can be more independent and not depend on someone else for communications. Overall, the product does its main job well. However, I would like to see some expanded APIs and a better SPAM filter.

Google Maps: This was a product that I almost forgot to include. Since Maps is not as tied to an account it doesn't feel as integrated as many other Google Products. When I need directions or am looking up information about a location, Google Maps is typically the first place I'll look. However, I will often turn to Live Maps for their Birds Eye View which gives much more detail than can be found on the satellite or street view images from Google.

Picassa Web: This is a product that I rarely use, Flickr is my primary image host / storage for web based pictures. The integration with other Google products has made it almost impossible for me to avoid Picassa entirely, but when I need to do something with pictures, my Flickr Pro account is my first choice.

Google Code: I have only started using Google Code a few months ago and have found it to be very useful. The interface and tools have the Google look and feel which makes them very easy to use. However, there are limitations to the product that make it still feel very young. Unlike many other Google products that simply do not place caps on your usage, the limits on Code make me nervous. There are multiple small projects that I would like to publish, but with the limit of 25 projects that you can create I feel like I should save them for more important things. It is reassuring to see Google contributing back to the open source community.

Google Chrome: This is the only client side Google application that I use. Google Chrome has essentially become my primary browser because it is so fast. I still use Firefox, just not as regularly. Chrome is simply an amazing browser that is forcing all of the other browser companies to double down on their efforts at paving the way to the future of the web. If only this would motivate Microsoft to update IE to be a modern browser.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What is Wrong with Windows 7?

I am very, very disappointed in Windows 7. As an early adopter, I was not able to have an enjoyable beta experience. Unfortunately, experience has remained the same through the release candidate and the final version.

I'll document why Windows 7 is such a bad operating system and an even worse Microsoft product:

Windows simply will not crash or cause me any major problems. It simply works! This is simply unacceptable from a Microsoft product. Consumers have come to expect a certain quality of service, and this product is not delivering.

In Microsoft's defense, I have had a few problems. There were some missing drivers during the early part of the beta, but these did not really affect me in any noticeable way. However, on a fresh install Windows 7 manages to find all of the drivers I need using Windows Update, installing them without any need for intervention. I enjoyed searching obscure manufacturer sites for mislabeled drivers. What am I going to do with all of this free time you have given to me?

I have had some programs lock up, but it would be hard to blame Windows 7 on this, they probably would have locked up if I was running Windows Vista or XP. When something does crash, it simply re-launches itself in the exact state I left it in. This is definitely not an optimal waste of my time.

Recently I did have a standby session crash (this is when your computer is in standby and it shuts down improperly and reboots. However, this has only happened once in Windows 7, I would have at least experienced this 2 or 3 times in Vista. It even sent an error report on the problem back to your home base so you can analyze the problem. If you know about the problem then it will be easier for you to fix! Not cool...

Fortunately, there are still the occasional wireless problems, but like Vista they can be automatically fixed by selecting "Troubleshoot problems." It seems that this works a higher percentage of the time than it did under Vista. Again, this is another instance of Microsoft going in the wrong direction. I would recommend you simply change this button to bring up a progress bar that simply never stops loading, similar to how it functioned under Windows Vista.

The only thing I have to look forward to is a beta release of Windows 8, which will hopefully be a buggy product that causes lots of problems with existing software. Even more exciting, it may not work with existing drivers! However, with this release being a year or two away, I do not know what I will do until then. I'll just have to rough it out using Windows 7 until some buggier product is made available.

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