Google - Make up your minds!

So, Google is on two separate and opposing rampages. On one hand, they're talking about halting new releases to improve quality and integration, and (as mentioned in a previous post), even cutting their product count by a full 20%. On the other hand, they're making acquisition after acquisition. It just doesn't add up - do they want more products, or less? Are they bulking up or slimming down? I'm a rabid technophile, I read more tech news than most people read "real" news. So, which is it, Big G?

Anyone who's read my blog knows I'm all for speculation, but this one has me stumped. I'd hate to see good in-house projects get dumped in favor of bringing in products from the outside - not so much because of the products themselves, but because of Google's merger habits. You see, when they bring out a new in-house product, it's, well, Googley. It's got the familiar Google UI, and it typically has some level of integration with existing Google products - at the very least, it shares Google's accounts system. But when they buy something up, well... how long have they had Blogger, and they're just now integrating accounts into it? And that's pretty much it. The UI is still the same dismal Blogger UI they've always had (and yes, I am using the "new" Blogger Beta), the Google logo is nowhere to be found, and integration is nearly non-existent. When they bought YouTube they stated they were keeping Google Video around, which indicates to me that they are planning on keeping the YouTube brand separate from Google for the foreseeable future.

With all their talk of wanting to scale down product count and focus on integration, they seem to be doing a lot of acquisition which works against both goals. It just doesn't add up.


Ahhhhh, Holidays.

It's that time of year again! Not quite time for decorations, presents, pies or turkeys, it's that special time that couples around the globe spend arguing over one thing: who's family gets which holiday.

I'm not a big holiday person. I celebrate three holidays a year: my birthday (who doesn't love getting presents?), halloween (which I missed out on this year), and new years (a time of new beginnings, punctuated with alcohol and fireworks.) My mom isn't big on holidays either, but wants to see us at some point in the winter months, so a few weeks ago I told my girlfriend she could pick who gets Thanksgiving and who gets Christmas. She chose Thanksgiving with her dad and Christmas with my mom. In the intervening time, people have made plans and time off requests and so on, making the matter rather set in stone.

To muddy matters more, it turns out my dad may be in Asheville (where my mom lives - my dad lives in Texas) for Christmas as well, making it a two-parents-with-one-stone kind of thing. On top of that, my girlfriend's dad's anniversary is on New Years. Plus, her family traditionally celebrates xmas on New Year's because they often can't get together for xmas.

Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I see anniversaries as something of a private deal, a couple celebrating their coupledom, typically with flowers, jewelery, fancy meals and lots of sex - things you really don't usually share with others, particularly your kids and their partners. So, being invited to my girlfriend's dad's wedding anniversary is a little bit, well, creepy. That aside, the xmas-for-New Year's thing makes sense in a way, but seems a little unfair - I don't try to celebrate thanksgiving on valentine's day with my parents just because we didn't spend thanksgiving together. And before you knock the comparison, you should know that I see New Year's as a romantic holiday - start the year together, end the year together kind of thing.

New Year's gives you a chance to close the book on all the ills of the year past, and set the stage for all the good in the year to come. I think partying, drinking, romancing, and, of course, fireworks, do this quite well; creepiness and making up for lost time do not. Besides, Atlanta has far more impressive fireworks displays than does Roanoke, or Asheville.

Of course, it doesn't help that her whole family hates me - I'm far too liberal and godless for their tastes. One holiday a year is bad enough, especially since it's the longest holiday of the year. I'm not giving up one of the holidays I actually like.


Bush Moves Toward Martial Law

An article on Toward Freedom details a bill signed into law recently by President Bush which removes restrictions on his ability to declare martial law within the United States. It leaves me wondering what's left. I've seen laws rewritten, removed, bent, and broken - eminent domain, habeas corpus, and now martial law; I've seen rights and privileges eroded - education, health care; I've seen treaties ignored - the Geneva conventions, which we signed, and the Kyoto treaty, which we did not; I've seen our government trick and corrupt the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Even if we manage to oust the Republicans from office, I'm beginning to wonder if it won't already be too late by the time we have the chance - in two years, will we have any rights left? How many enemies will we have by then? I worry too that we may face a time very soon when our greatest fear is no longer international terrorism, but terrorism from within; the terrorism peddled by the White House, the Senate, and the House; terrorism peddled by MSNBC and FOX News; terrorism so insidious we don't even realize it's already happening, and it's already having a deeper impact than any bomb ever could.

My girlfriend recently flew to Los Angeles on a business trip. On this trip, they searched her bags, and found some prescriptions (in her name, of course), and some makeup (under 3 oz). They wanted to take the medications until she called in a manager to verify that the GIANT SIGN in the terminal was correct, that she was in fact allowed to keep her prescriptions. But the original security examiner, upset that he had to call his manager, and upset at having been proven wrong, instead confiscated the makeup, which he had been ready to let her take aboard. Purely vindictive.

I will say this: they have, more or less, the right idea: it isn't the Al-Kamirs we need to worry about, it's the Smiths. It's not furriners, it's 'mercans. But what they have wrong is that terror isn't in your makeup or your meds, it's not even in your luggage: it's in your mind. When we carry ideas around the country - wrong-headed, mob-mentality, un-thought-out, angry, fearful ideas, we land with a bomb in our heads, a bomb that goes of slowly, over hours and days and weeks, a biological weapon that infects everyone we talk to and everyone we judge and everyone we persecute, a weapon more powerful than a nuclear bomb, a weapon sneakier than a stealth bomber, a weapon more accurate than a laser-guided missile.

Ideas are the most powerful weapon of all - and the most powerful medicine, the most powerful defense, the most powerful single thing in the world. So many of our ideas today are dangerous, they're weapons of terror inflicted upon ourselves and each other every minute of every day. But just as these ideas have been given to us to use on one another, so too can ideas be passed around which save us from the terror, ideas which mend the wounds of propaganda, ideas that can save the country and save the world.

So please, please, I beg you - have a good idea. Do it today. Do it now. And when you've got it, share it with everyone you know and everyone you see.

It's the only thing that can save us now.


Why I hate iTunes, but use it anyway

Let me preface this post by saying I'm not an Apple-hater. In fact, I was once an Apple-lover, a die-hard Mac-user. I had an Apple //c when I was 5, a Mac SE when I was 9, a Quadra 605 when I was 13, and a PowerMac G3 (blue & white) when I was 16. The first time I had used a Windows PC was when I got a job doing tech support for an ISP, so I had to learn Windows both for use as my workstation and for troubleshooting calls. My first Windows PC I built myself when I was 19.

Then MacOS X came out, and I sold my Macs and went straight-PC. I hate MacOS X. I know a lot of people love it, but, well, I disagree. It's worse than Windows, by a significant margin. But, enough ragging on OSX. I'm here to rag on iTunes.

You see, when I got this nice new job here in ATL and started making decent money, I went out, and I bought me an iPod. Loved the thing. They're just awesome. Small, lightweight, brilliant interface, good audio quality, good physical quality. Overpriced, but hey. I had a new job.

Some time later, a friend bought me a new iPod Video as a gift, and I gave the old iPod mini away to a friend. I love the new iPod even more than the old one. I even put an iPod adapter in my car so I can hook the iPod directly to the stereo - works great, I can control the iPod from the head unit, and it displays track info on the head unit's display. Awesome. Love it.

Basically, iPods are the shit.

The problem, however, is in the software. You see, iTunes is godawful. Dreadful. Ghastly. Really, really bad.

It doesn't work with multiple users. AT ALL. It gives each person a seperate library; purchases from ITMS don't show up for both users, and neither do playlists; if one person has iTunes open, the other can't open it or control the other instance, and if you switch to another user from the user that's running iTunes while it's playing, the audio goes all choppy until you force-quit the app. The application is a resource-hog. The interface is awful.

I like the iTunes Store - it's usually cheaper than buying CD's, and I can make purchases from the comfort of my livingroom and immediately put them on my iPod without having to rip CD's. I do feel a little gipped on quality settings, and I feel thoroughly gipped by the DRM. You see, I'd happily buy tracks off of ITS all day long, if I could play the damned things in, oh, say, WinAmp. I would buy Apple's hardware, I would buy Apple's content - the only part I don't want is the part they don't make a penny off of, their free software. But can you remove that piece of the equation? Well, sort of.

You see, you can burn and re-rip your ITMS tracks to get plain MP3s, it's just a pain to do so. After that, you can play them in any player you want - but you still need iTunes to update your iPod's library. Of course, you could re-flash the iPod BIOS in order to use a different app to manage it, but then you lose all accessory functionality - e.g., my car-stereo hookup. So, it's a no-win situation.

Why not switch to another MP3 player, and another online store? Well, all the online stores have DRM issues, and most of them use WMA, which I hate even more than AAC. On top of that, because Apple dominates the player market, they own the accessory market too - a good 90% of accessories are only available for the iPod, or if they work with other players, feature very limited support (i.e., audio only, no support for controlling the iPod via the device or gathering track info from the iPod for display on the device.)

So, I suppose at this point I'm suck with iTunes. But, Apple, you've got a choice: either get iTunes into shape, open up access to ITS and iPod to other software, or expect to lose a good hunk of market share as soon as decent alternatives become available. Because I'm already more than ready to jump ship as soon as a decent alternative appears.

Google’s Internal Company Goals

As mentioned on Slashdot, Google Blogoscoped posted an article about Google's internal goals, and it's actually really interesting. It mentions some upcoming projects like a revamped Google News, Gmail 2.0, Google Archive Search, and "Another interesting feature foreshadowed in the Google papers was to grab relevant locations & dates from web pages allowing users to 'view results on a timeline of map.'" I'm not entirely sure what the last one might look like, but it certainly sounds interesting.

What interested me the most about this post, however, was the note that Google intends to "Count total number of Google products and reduce by 20%." When I first read this, I found it somewhat worrisome - I use a lot of Google products, and I'd hate to see a much-loved product hit the chopping block.

But I don't think that's going to happen - not that I don't think they'll reduce the product count by 20%, but that I don't think that means many products will disappear. There are basically 3 ways they could remove a product from their product count:
  1. The obvious: dump the product entirely. I'm sure this will happen to some products.
  2. The unlikely: sell off products. I doubt if this will happen to any Google products; if they see fit to keep it online, they'll keep it in-house as well.
  3. The sneaky: combine disparate products into a cohesive whole. E.g., Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools might become a single, combined entity.
Since they've already stated that they want to tighten up integration between their various products, I see #3 as being a highly viable option for them to use to reduce product count; it lets them kill two birds with one stone without actually having to "kill" a product.

At least, I hope they pick #3 if they're looking at slimming down one of the many Google products I use on a daily basis.


Chronos Update Updated

Okay. Chronos is back up and running stable and solid. I ran Prime95 for about 3 hours with no problems, CPU steady at 44 degrees. Ran BF2 for about an hour, again no problems. So I'm hopeful that it might actually be finally fixed. By this time tomorrow, well, I'll be moderately certain that it's fixed. At this point I'm just hedging my bets. I might call it fully fixed if it's still stable this time next week.

Chronos Update

It was all going so well. Quake 4, 1280x1024, maxed out, smooth as silk. Battlefield 2, 1600x1200, maxed out, smooth as silk. I played Q4 for about an hour with no stability problems. I played Battlefield 2 for about 15 mintues, and Chronos turned off. Again. Only this time, it wouldn't turn back on.

So I pop the case, unplug everything but the CPU, HSF and mobo power connector. Still no boot. I haul the POS to CJ's place. No boot. Swap PSU's. Boots. Swap back to my PSU. Boots. Boggle. Swap back to CJ's PSU, and CJ takes mine in his bawx. His bawx boots fine. Runs stably. I take his PSU. Still boots. Haul it back to my appartment. Tired, went straight to bed. Got up. Hooked up Chronos. Won't boot. Unplug, replug. Boots. BIOS. I hear the screen res flipping as if it's about to load up windows. I get hopeful. I've got a steady HDD light. Good... good... good... screen remains black, HDD light remains on. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. No sign of progress. Solid HDD, blank screen, but the screen isn't in sleep mode - it's just blank.

So, Chronos is back in critical condition, YET AGAIN. I feel more and more an idiot every day.

Also, I've cancelled our trip to Asheville this weekend. I'm just not up to it. My girlfriend is sick, my cat is sick, my PC is sick, my project (at work) is sick (buggy, and I'm not sure what's wrong with it), my appartment is a wreck. I have no costume.


Chronos Reborn

Chronos is back with the living, for the most part. I'm having some drive lettering problems, and I've yet to really reinstall everything, but it's booting and I'm using it to post this right now. Photos to come later.

Update: turns out it requires an act of Congress to reletter your system drive, so I get to reinstall again. But I have an upgrade copy of Windows, and the Win98 disk with which to authorize it is at CJ's house, and CJ is at work. So... Chronos is back in critical condition until such time as I can reinstall windows AGAIN. YAY!


New Parts Arrived

My new parts arrived (mobo, GPU and thermal grease) about an hour ago. I've taken photos but can't import them via the laptop (no Picasa), so I'll post photos once Chronos is back up and running. Not sure when that will be, however, because I can't get the farking HSF off the motherboard. It's an Athlon64, with your standard 3-stage retention clip. I've released the tension lever, I was able to unhook the clip opposite the lever using a screwdriver, but I can't for the life of me get the last clip (the one on the same side as the tension lever) off. It's starting to piss me off. However, the knowledge that lovely new parts are just waiting to be installed is keeping me in a fairly good mood.

I've been messing with the HSF for the last half hour or so, so I'm giving up on it for the moment. I've got some quick work to do, then off to Best Buy to pick up a legal (gasp) copy of Windows XP, and something with which to break in my new GPU (Neverwinter Nights 2 if they've got it, possibly Battlefield 2142 if they don't, but the whole spyware thing has turned me off of that title - maybe I'll find something else to toy with.)

More news here when it happens.


Why won't MS make a handheld?

Microsoft has sternly declined to enter the handheld gaming market, and insists it isn't changing it's mind any time soon. And that may be true... for the Xbox division. But with MS smartphones doubling in number every year, with better mobile processors, higher-bandwidth cellular, and wider-range WAN technology coming out all the time, I see them pouncing on the handheld market like a starving hyena in 2-3 years.

They're already hinting at integration between smartphones and Xbox Live, allowing cross-communication with buddies who are online on Live, and possible viewing of stats and "downloadable game content". This is where it starts - the day Xbox Live Mobile debuts is the day Sony and Nintendo had better tighten their grips on the handheld market.

They start by offering Xbox Live Mobile services for cellphones and smartphones. This starts with communication link-ups, stats viewing, maybe trailer downloads. They start offering downloadable games you can buy with points from your existing account. Then mobile games start featuring Achievements which affect your Live Gamerscore. Players start seeing games that offer interaction between the version for their Xbox and the version for their phone.

Then, that's when the unthinkable happens: Microsoft releases a new hardware unit, seeking the same glory Ngage failed to achieve, an all-in-one cell phone/smartphone/handheld gaming console. Actually, I'd bet good money it'll be an MP3 player, too - and probably a camera (maybe an option, like the regular and deluxe 360 packages?). I see games being purchased solely through direct-download - possibly a retail push with a flash-based format, like the SD-based Nintendo DS.

Personally, I still love my GameBoy Advance SP, and I've not yet been impressed enough with the Xbox 360 or the PSP to buy one. But, given a handheld offering from MS, I might have to give it a spin.

Parts on the way...

ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe ATi CrossFire 3200 mobo
ATi Radeon X1900 XT 256M PCIe GPU

Rush + next day, so hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow. NewEgg to the rescue!

PC Problems (Pt 3)

Okay, went over to CJ's, swapped PSU, it still dies. Swapped RAM. Still dies. Found out one of the cables was interfering with the front case fan - shouldn't be a big deal, particularly since the entire front of my case is a vent, and even more so because the side panel was off the whole time I was testing it at CJ's. Unhooked unnecessary devices. Still dies. All fans are operating properly, nothing feels hot (CPU, GPU, southbridge, or drives).

So, tomorrow I'll be buying a new motherboard, and if that doesn't resolve the issue, I'll be sorely pissed off. But for now, it's half past two in the morning, so I'm going to bed.


I've failed at Halloween...

I've failed. Halloween is coming up - in fact, I'm going to a party each on Friday and Saturday. And what am I going to be this year?

I have no freaking clue.

Hey Larry and Sergei!

I hope somebody's listening, because Google has some glaring gaps in their coverage.

First and foremost in my mind, they need a download service, something like C|Net's Download.com. I'm shocked that this has yet to happen. It's got to happen sooner or later. I just hope it's sooner.

They need to add Google Docs & Spreadsheets to Google Apps for Your Domain. I've got Apps FYD, and while it works well, it's, well, it's not much - it's Gmail, Gtalk and a WYSIWYG page editor. That's it. I expect more from them out of an offering like this. I also thoroughly expect this to come out in an appliance like the GSA. I think such a product would do really well.

For some reason Hello is still a seperate program from Gtalk. They've got to fix that. Scrap it and integrate Picassa into Gtalk to send images that way.

They've got to have a truly wicked project and source management system - any chance we might see this opened up for use by open-source projects? They could probably knock the wind out of Sourceforge. Sourceforge is a good site, but it's not the best user experience in the world.

They're now vaguely tracking music listening habits via Gtalk to Google Trends. This is silly. Especially since they have a video property and no music property. They need to get off their asses and snap up Last.fm, or just fork the project (it's open-source, after all). Build the Scrobbler into Gtalk and/or GDS, merge the Last.fm database into Trends, and combine your Last.fm profile with your Google profile. I know they don't typically take on competitors head-on, but this gives them a handy way to take the scenic route to a fight with iTunes, and in a good way - in a way that would let Google truly ambush Apple, particularly if Google is able to swing a deal offering DRM-free content that could be put on any player, not just specific players. I'm not naive enough to expect Google to go into commodity hardware sales.

If they're going to push the whole Sitemaps thing, they should have Blogger and Google Page Creator automatically generate Sitemaps and automatically submit them to Google. Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics should both be tied directly into the admin panel for Apps FYD. AdSense and AdWords can be tied into it too for those using AdSense and/or AdWords with their GAFYD site.

I'm amazed we haven't seen an official virtual disk service from Big G yet. Many people are using what's now nearing 3G of space on a Gmail account as disk space, and various tools have been created to facilitate such use. But wouldn't it be better if they just made something for that purpose? Tie the client into GDS? Use it for storage, file sharing, backups, transfering files between work and home... Oh, the possibilities.

And, last but not least, I have to gripe about the quality of Google Page Creator. It's lousy. It's buggy, and it doesn't give you nearly enough flexibility to make a decent site. And on top of it all, it's deathly slow during pretty much all operations. I'm hoping they improve it fast, otherwise I'm going to have to ditch it.


Prosper: P2P Loan Agency/Network


"The online marketplace for people-to-people lending"

Very interesting. I kind of like the idea - it's somewhat like the stock market (well, more like the bond market), only with real, genuine, honest-to-goodness people. My only concern is over Prosperity's trustworthyness in terms of their fees and their criteria for borrowers. It looks like a good system, though; I may just try it as a lender to see how it goes. Or maybe I'll take out a loan to fix up my ailing PC.

PC Problems (Continued)

Still can't figure out what's wrong with Chronos, and it's starting to piss me off. I've found a reliable way to generate a crash: if I load up Rome: Total War, it will crash. Sometimes it dies before it goes fullscreen, sometimes it dies while loading, sometimes I get all the way to the main menu and I'm able to select "Continue Campaign" before it tanks. I tried clocking my 1.8GHz Athlon 64 3000+ down to 1.2GHz (CPU multi from 9x to 6x), and it's still tanking. I also turned my auto-shutdown temp from 60C to 65C with no luck. I doubt it's a heat issue at this point. Last night I cleaned the case out and made a brief visual inspection of all components, and everything looks good.

A couple of times it's died before it even posts, which is particularly alarming. I'm going to try to borrow somebody's (probably CJ's) PSU for a little while to see if that resolves it; if that doesn't fix the problem, I'll probably replace the mobo and go from there. I'd just hate to buy a new mobo to fit my last-gen CPU, only to find out I need to replace the CPU - if I have to replace both, I'd rather move up to current generation (AM2 or Core 2).

Blah. This r suX0rz.


That's right boys and girls, it's time to talk about Wii. I'll start by saying this: I want one. I'll be standing in line somewhere on launch day to buy one. I think the controller is brilliant, the virtual console is awesome, and they've got a lot of really interesting and innovative titles coming out for the system. Plus, the system and games are cheap, and the online service is free.

My only real gripe is with the online service, which won't be featuring online multiplayer until next year, and games released between now and then won't gain the feature after online muliplayer launches. I'm really dissappointed about this, and was hoping for more out of Nintendo this time around.

Launch day I'm looking at Excite Truck, Zelda (of course), and Red Steel. I'm really excited to see what an FPS feels like with the Wiimote. I've always loved FPS games on the PC and hated them on consoles, because of the unintuitiveness of dual analog sticks. I think this will be a breath of fresh air.

As for Zelda, well, I haven't really gotten into a Zelda game since Link to the Past on SNES, but with all the hype being poured onto this title, I've got to see what's what. I'll give Link another chance. Besides, this is the first time a system has launched with a Zelda title - they're putting a lot of stock in the game as a showcase for the system, which means they've done their very best with it.

Excite Truck, well... I'm a Burnout Revenge addict (PS2 & 360), and Excite Truck looks like it bears enough similarity to be worth buying on that merit alone. Plus, I'm looking forward to seeing how the controls feel for a racing game on Wii.

I'm also looking at Elebits and/or Trauma Center for my girlfriend, and we're both desperately hoping they come out with a Katamari sequel for Wii.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for NWN2 to finally be released so I can occupy myself with that until I've got my hands on Nintendo's lovely new little white box.

Internet Perspective

So, okay. I've started blogs before, and they tend not to last me long. I get distracted, I get disheartened from lack of readership, or I just plain get bored with it. I'm trying to stick to it this time. Why? It's a Web 2.0 thing.

Web 2.0 is a term that's been flying around the industry for the past couple of years, and nobody is quite sure what it means. There are countless definitions, and countless "experts" willing to point out what qualifies and what does not. There are two main Web 2.0 camps, it seems, and we'll call them types A and B. A says it's the tranformation from web pages to web applications, including all the AJAX and SOAP and web services goodness that's so popular right now. B says it's the transformation from a top-down content-buffet where one group posts content and the other (majority) group consumes it, into a bottom-up collaborative user-content-driven system where everybody posts content for everybody else to consume.

Now, I think that both are very interesting points in the evolution of the internet, however, it is coincidental that they happened around the same time. Neither requires the other; they're no more related to eachother than a car is related to where it's going. The only reason they've been given the same name is because they're happening at the same time; this does not, mind you, make them the same thing.

As a developer, I've done quite a bit of work with the Type A definition. It's cool and you can do some really neat stuff with it, but it's much more evolution than revolution. Type B, on the other hand - well, the jury's still out on its revolutionary qualities, but I will say that it represents a much more fundamental shift in the internet, and in our world as a whole.

Where once we were fed the opinions of the rich, famous, and overqualified, we are now all engaging in millions of gigantic conversations between the average, mundane, and underqualified. Blogs were just the beginning; behold Wikis and social networking sites and YouTube and Flickr. These sites are about mass-publishing, not just mass-media. They're about everyone making their voices heard. They're about participation.

And that's why I'm trying the blog thing again. Participation. As steeped as I am in technology and the internet, as much time as I spend browsing the internet and as much time as I spend building the sites that make up the internet, I'm not a very good participant. You can browse the web, or you can join in. Well, damn it, I'm joining in.

I'm still undecided on my level of Internet intimacy. Some people are more than happy to post every intimate detail about their lives and their thoughts and their feelings for all the world to see and comment on, like their own personal reality TV show. I'm not that much of an extrovert; I have a lot of ideas, some of which I want to share with the public, and some of which are my own. I suppose that's a line each person must draw for themselves.

So, feel free to examine my music listening habits, or my personal photos, but don't expect all to be laid bare.


PC Problems, Ho!

I've got a DIY box (Chronos III) I built almost a year ago. Athlon 64 3000+ (1.8GHz), ATI Radeon X800XL PCIe, 2GB DDR-400, and a total of 460G of HD space across three drives.

Over the last couple of weeks, it's been turning off. No warning, no errors, no memdumps, nothing in the system log. It happens in the middle of the night when the machine is idle, it happens while you're using it under low CPU load, it happens under high CPU load. It's like a narcoleptic - you're having a conversation, and suddenly *off*. So that's fun.

I'm trying to work out the problem; MemTest86 completed 2 passes with no errors. I recently added a USB hub, so I unplugged that - still happens. The PSU is good quality, but there are always bad apples in the bunch, so it's always a possibility. It could be a heat issue as well, though at this point I doubt it.

Anyway, I just hope I've got this resolved by the time I've got NWN2 on this box; that game will probably have me doing one last upgrade (to an X1950 Pro, when they hit shelves) before Wii comes out, at which point I doubt I'll have much left to spend on my PC.

If anybody has any suggestions, post a comment...


Getting Google-Eyed

Okay, I'm a regular reader of Ars Technica, which is a regular poster of Google news. Every time Google makes some nifty new toy, Ars posts about it.

So, when I look at the tiny toolbar in the top-left corner of my Gmail and Google Calendar pages and notice two new links, I'm intrigued. So, what do I do? I sign up for both Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Picasa Web Albums.

I started with Docs & Spreadsheets, and I'd have to describe it as "not bad". It's still in beta (isn't everything?), and it shows. There are serious inconsistencies with the interface, and I experienced one point when the application said my connection had been lost, and along with it, my changes - oddly, I didn't actually lose any changes, but regardless, that's not a good sign. I wouldn't use it for anything work-related honestly, but I will say it makes a decent home word processor and spreadsheet suite. I like the collaboration and sharing tools; they're simple but effective. Revision control is a very nice feature as well; being a developer and used to using revision control when programming, I'm glad to see it catching on in other areas.

I uploaded some files by email, both in the body of the email (which works very smoothly, but takes a while to process), and as attachments (takes an extremely long time to process, and I ran into some problems, which I was able to resolve by searching the Google Group dedicated to the application.) I also tried editing and creating new documents through the web interface. I uploaded spreadsheets and text documents by email and by upload form, and created a new one of each via the web interface. Everything worked well, but there are some inconsistencies between the two applications (such as the way documents are renamed), and the interface for Spreadsheets can be irritating, as you have to switch between tabs to switch between formatting and data entry/formula editing. I don't know how many spreadsheet functions it supports, but probably not many - this might present some difficulties when importing more complex spreadsheets, so I wouldn't recommend it.

On the whole, however, it is an application I will continue to use for my personal use going forward, and for some documents I need to collaborate on for work purposes, that aren't mission-critical or highly confidential.

On to Picasa Web Albums. This works extremely well. There are a couple of minor bugs with the (again, beta) Picassa 2 software with the Web Albums upgrade. I already had and have used Picassa 2, but I had to download and install the new version seperately (no auto-update as Gtalk has.) There are some minor glitches with the upgrade that are unrelated to the web album feature - UI glitches with scrolling, for example - but the web album works quite well. You select your photos, click a button, give the album a title and description, and it resizes and uploads the photos to your free 250M of storage. For $25 per year you can upgrade to 6G of storage, plus the ability to post video.

You can re-caption, re-name, and reorganize photos via the web interface, and you can add to existing albums from within Picasa. The web page also gives convenient links to email your friends from your Gmail account, and the links are fairly easy to remember (it's basically your Gmail address). It also accepts uploads from Apple's iPhoto.

This is something I will definitely be using going forward, because I share a lot of photos to keep in touch with friends and family across the country. I would recommend it as a photo-sharing service, but it is not a social networking site; you are only intended to find someone's web album if they tell you about it. They do, however, offer methods of embedding your photo feed into your blog or (shudder) MySpace page.

Now, this got me thinking on everybody's favorite debate: What's next for Google? Well, they just announced they want to slow down on new product development, and spend more time refining their existing offerings and integrating them together. This is what Google Docs & Spreadsheets is about, and we're going to see more of that. Web albums was a simple matter of leveraging their existing technologies; we're going to see more of that, too.

I also see a few holes in their big push areas. They've got many-to-many text (Google Groups), one-to-one text (Gmail), live one-to-one text (Gtalk), one-to-many text (Blogger), and live one-to-one audio (Gtalk Voice Chat). I see live many-to-many text (chatrooms built onto Gtalk), live many-to-many audio (Gtalk conference calls), and possibly live one-to-one video (Gtalk video chat) on the horizon, easily. The reason I say possibly on one-to-one video as it's still not hugely popular, and it still doesn't work very well. However, Google is known for changing those traits in everything they touch, so they may be able to pull something out of their PhD-lined hat.

That's everybody's communications. They're also taking care of everybody's media, with Google Video and a recent YouTube acquisition, and of course Picasa and the new Web albums. What's missing is, of course, audio. I see an appeal to independent artists, and possibly another grab of public domain material (like their recent indexing of all books whose copyright had expired). I can definitely see an acquisition in this space, and I particularly like the idea of Last.fm coming under Google's wing. I think it'd be a really good matchup, and I think it'd do great things for both companies. But, of course, this is all conjecture - only time will tell what Big G has planned.