Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Week of Google+

Playing around in Google+ has been fun this past week. Mostly because some of the conversations I enjoy partaking in have moved to this service and I've had access to some people that I usually wouldn't. But I don't think that Hanging out with the Dells and Zucks of the world is going to last. Maybe those that post to the Photography-on-the-Net forum will stick around a little longer.

So that brings us back to the service.

The Facebook killer.

The Twitter killer.

Well, maybe.

We'll get back to that.

Google+ (so far) is a combination of three services. Circles, Sparks and Hangouts.

Circles are different groups of people with whom you'd like to converse (Facebook?). They can be groups of friends, work colleagues, those who share a similar interest, etc. that you establish. People can belong to more than one Circle and you can choose to send information out to all Circles or just some.

You can share your bad jokes with your friends without letting your work colleagues into your warped sense of humor.

You can discuss how to hack the Mac OS without your boss seeing that you like to do that kind of thing.

And asking you if you can do that to his PC.

Trust me, you don't want to have to have that conversation.

Circles is missing a few things but I must acknowledge that this is still beta software (whatever they call it nowadays) so there is hope that we'll see these functions added later. The obvious ability to cross-publish is missing (post once and it appears to Twitter and Facebook so this becomes the site you go to). The ability to manage and then share Circles would be nice. I'd like to create a Circle of my friends who like to take photographs using Canon cameras (for instance) and share that Circle with everyone in the group - rather than having to request that each member sets up and maintains the same Circle themselves. As I said, a couple of things missing but really good for a beta.

Sparks are those interesting bits of news that you'd like to have waiting for you when you have time to read about them (Google search?). This function allows the user to set up a series of custom searches that you establish to be regularly updated and available to browse when you have time. You can either browse through the list of topics or type in your interests to add them to your selection. Your interests will appear as a link under your profile picture. You get a page of information on your interest any time you want to see what is going on in that world. Hacking, Photography and Macintosh are interesting Sparks to keep me up-to-date with my interests (though Photography is a little too generic).

It works but I can type in the same search into the Chrome search bar and get there pretty quickly (0.13 seconds quickly).

The last feature is Hangouts which offers free group teleconferencing. It's a nice feature that will probably prove to be much more useful once my family and IRL friends get on the service. Right now, its a distant second to Skype. The ability to have multiple users teleconferencing and that the main camera switches focus to whoever is speaking are nice additions. Just make sure you don't have the radio playing in the background unless you want all of the attention on you all of the time (okay, it even handled that pretty well).

Will Google+ be the Facebook or Twitter killer?

I don't think think that the service will replace the short form capability that Twitter offers. Twitter allows the user to shout out an idea or a question and maybe get a response.

Facebook might have more to worry about. But any social network is only as useful as the network of people it attracts and keeps. If the people I want to talk with are here, then I'll be here. If the people I want to talk with move on, then so will I. If enough of us move on then the service will die (MySpace). The implementation of Circles where I can just share certain information with a particular group remains a draw.

So that's my take as one of the third tranche of reviewers. Post a comment with your e-mail if you'd like an invite to see what the fuss is about yourself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Must Have Software for Any Mac Owner (2011 Update)

It might be a mistake to post this list just before Apple releases Lion but I've made mistakes before and its a habit I'm having a hard time breaking.

So, a while back I posted a list of must-have software for anyone running the MacOS (check it out so that the information isn't just repeated here).

You may recall that I avoided listing the obvious (and expensive) like Photoshop, Microsoft Office (yes Office which I still find to be required for a fully functional spreadsheet and to be full compatibility with my place of work), etc. and focused on free or low-cost.

Most of what was listed previously is still efficacious. I thought it due an update as its been about 18 months since that list was published so here are a few updates:

Security

CCleaner - A mac version of the popular Windoze program (still beta but works well).

Internet

Chrome - A fast web browser using Xmarks and LastPass (this replaces Firefox which became bloated, buggy and slow)
Frostwire - P2P (replaces Limewire for obvious reasons)
Google Notifier - Check email and events without having to open the browser

Video

EVOM - Convert video formats (replaces Visual Hub which is no longer being developed)

Audio

MAX - Convert audio formats (replaces Audial Hub which is no longer being developed)