Posts in the "Reviews/tests" Category

Releasing Inline Code Finder as a Google Chrome extension

I put a lot of time into ensuring web interface code quality, both for code in projects I work in and in doing code audits for other web sites. One of the best ways to find undesired inline styles, inline JavaScript events and javascript: links, I believe, is my Inline Code Finder extension and now it’s available for Google Chrome as well!

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Windows Vista doesn’t rock my world

Windows Vista is now finally released, and Microsoft are banging on their marketing drum, blowing their PR horn. I had the chance to try out a release candidate of it and have also seen some of the final version. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t tested it too much, so my view probably isn’t as balanced as it should be (therefore I won’t cover deeper functionality).

But from what I’ve seen, frankly, I’m not impressed.

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Iron Maiden rocking in Stockholm

November 17th I went to see Iron Maiden play in the Globe arena in Stockholm. This was the first of four gigs in Sweden (three of them planned in Stockholm), concerts that sold out as soon as the tickets were released. I though I’d tell you a little about my history with Maiden and also what I though of Friday night.

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is outstanding!

I love taking and looking at photographs, but I am in no sense a professional photographer; rather the happy amateur! Therefore, I’m constantly on the look-out for better photo management and photo editing tools, making viewing and enhancing images better. As of lately, I’ve been taking Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for some test drives.

The one I definitely prefer and regard in that “war” is definitely Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and wanted to tell and show you some things about it.

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Lost, season three, is finally here – do we ever want Lost to end?

Season three of Lost has just begun, and episode one is outstanding! The first five minutes probably had me sitting with my jaw dropped, and the “reward” scene had me laughing out loud (don’t worry, there will be no more spoilers here)!

Let me try and speculate here why Lost is so good and what I think about its future.

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I’m on Flickr – pros and cons

When I first heard about Flickr I liked the idea, but being the rebel I am, I was a bit reluctant to use it since everyone was hyping it so much. However, for those of you that haven’t noticed the little Flickr icon and link I’ve added to this web site: I now have a Flickr Pro account.

During this summer I decided to finally take the plunge, and this post is about what I think is good respectively not-so-good with Flickr.

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My MacBook Pro – first-time Mac owner

First and foremost, let me tell you that I don’t abide to the poor labeling of being a Mac fanatic or a Windows user. I’m a computer user, period. I use the programs and computers and programs that are good, no matter what their eventual name might be.

With that said, I hope this post will be balanced and fair instead of just trying to take sides, and informative no matter from what angle you’re coming.

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Evaluating Box.net

As all of our lives, or rather the services we use, become more and more web-based and moving away from being locked down to one specific computer, online storage capabilities is definitely a huge part of that transformation. Sure, one can drag an USB memory stick around or a MP 3 player with a hard drive etc, but I prefer just getting online and downloading things.

As of lately, I’ve been testing the Box.net service, which has a nice sleek interface and is easy on the eyes.

A picture of Box.net

The general features are:

  • 1 GB storage for free (with prices starting at $4.99 per month for 5GB)
  • Private sharing
  • Public sharing
  • Desktop Sync software (upcoming)
  • Work groups

Uploading

There are two basic ways to upload files: through Flash and through drag and drop, and since I’m a big fan of drag and drop, that’s the option I use.

Flash upload dialog

A picture of the upload dialog

Drag and drop upload dialog

A picture of the drag and drop upload dialog

Sharing

One great feature is sharing your files. You can either share them privately with other Box.net users or you can share them at a public URL for anyone to download, with optional password protection. Very handy, as opposed to e-mailing large files, sending them over IM or something similar.

The Public sharing dialog

A picture of the public sharing dialog

What I miss

I would love to have FTP access to my account, for easy and swift uploading. Sure, Desktop Sync might happen, but I’d like to have free access to my file structure and to use my FTP tool of choice.

 

Conclusively, I think Box.net is going places. They’re still working on some minor issues, but they’re also very humble and open for feedback, so just let them know if you have any questions.

Except from a good service, Goowy‘s file sharing is based on the Box.net API and they have also become a module in Netvibes, so they seem get their share of attention. :-)

The creators of Box.net also blog about the service and what’s going on in terms of competitors’ services, for anyone wanting to stay on top of things.

Go try it out now!

Testing Google Calendar

As of recently, I’ve had enough of trying to keep track of appointments and other assorted obligations. Fredrika writes things for hand in her little secret calendar, which means there’s no way I can stay on top of things going on or actually double-check when I’m not actually in the same room as here.

This led to me starting to look around for web-based calendar services, where one can enter data and it will be available from any computer at anytime, and also get reminders. Just as I was testing some services, Google were kind enough to apply to my needs and released Google Calendar.

Google Calendar has got the look and feel of GMail and other Google applications and you can just start using it with your existing Google account.

Different views

Google Calendar supports five different views:

Day
A picture of Google Calendar's Day view
Week
A picture of Google Calendar's Week view
Month
A picture of Google Calendar's Month view
Next 4 Days
A picture of Google Calendar's Next 4 Days view
Agenda
A picture of Google Calendar's Agenda view

Creating events

It is very easy to create an event: just click the desired date/time and enter a subject. You can then drag and drop existing events to move them to another date/time.

A picture of creating an event in Google Calendar

Notifications

It’s possible to get a notification through an alert box, e-mail or a SMS text message. I would love that last option, but it seems like it’s only available for US citizens.

Sharing

You can also share your calendar and events with others, which is a great thing! This lets you have your own calendar, share some or all events and then also color-code your and other calendars’ events to easy distinguish whose appointment it really is. Your calendar with the events labeled as public is made available at a public address, and there’s also a private address you can use in other calendar applications.

Missing features

I would love some way to synchronize the information with a PDA or cell phone and be able to use it offline.

 

All in all, a great service that is yet another step for me from being dependant on just one specific computer.

My video iPod

In December, after some serious thinking, I decided to get me a video iPod, the fifth generation of iPods. I already have a third generation iPod, but took some time to find arguments to convince me (and my dear Fredrika) that it was a good idea to get another iPod just one year and nine months after the first one.

How could I motivate this to myself? Well, there were some factors that pushed me over the brink:

Being able to watch video
I think the MPEG 4 format is awesome, and I love watching videos on it. To me, the screen size is just fine.
The color screen
Color is always nice, right?
The design and size
It looks oh-so-good, weighs practically nothing nowadays (4.8 ounces/136 grams) and is almost thin like a leaf.
The price
I got a 30 GB one, definitely sufficient for me, and it’s actually cheaper than most of its matching alternatives (not to mention that the alternatives usually weigh three times more and are five times as thick).
Commuting
I commute at least two hours a day (and if you meet me in real life, give me a hug and please tell me you share my pain) and watching videos is about the best way to kill time (perhaps for sex, but that isn’t really suitable on the suburb trains…).

I’ve also seen that there a number of porn movies available in iPod format. I sincerely don’t want to know what people are doing with an iPod in one hand and… shivers
Besides, if one would want to get off holding an iPod, the design of the iPod would be such a turn-on by itself. :-P

A disturbance is that the software isn’t perfect, it has a tendency of sometimes freezing when the battery goes low and you’ve just watched a video. Just remember to hold down the Menu key and the Play key to soft reset it and you will be fine. Aside from that, I wish they would’ve thrown in an AC adapter. One doesn’t want to fire up the computer only to charge something through an USB port (and why does the computer have to be on for that?).

Conclusively, if you’re looking for a MP3 player with a nice hard drive, I most definitely recommend getting an iPod. I hesitated for a while, took the plunge, and haven’t regretted it for a single second!

If you don’t have movies in the MPEG 4 format, you can use free tools such as the Videora iPod Converter for Windows and iSquint for Mac to convert it.

A closer look at Ma.gnolia

A while ago I got an invitation to beta test the new social bookmarking service on the block: Ma.gnolia. I was interested in it from day one I heard about it, however back then I had no idea what it was about. My reason for being biased is that I love magnolia trees, Fredrika and I used to go look at a huge one in a park close to where we first lived together and I also recently got her two magnolia trees for her birthday.

First, let me outright say that I’ve never really found a need for a bookmarking service, my main need and interest lies in following feeds; instant information and then it’s gone. If there’s anything I have a great need for finding again, I search on the web using Google and mix of suitable keywords. Therefore, it’s interesting to see that Ma.gnolia’s slogan is:

Found is the New Search

I personally don’t think that it will ever happen; I and a lot of other people do constant searching on the web and in applications. I’m sure a good service can complement searching, but it will never replace it.

A picture of the Ma.gnolia header and the navigation

Features

The idea is to save all your bookmarks and have them available on the web from any place. It’s also about tagging your bookmarks and finding other people’s. So far, just like del.icio.us but looking a lot better. There are, however some features and here’s a list of them:

  • Save bookmarks, publicly or privately
  • Tag bookmarks
  • Send bookmark to one or several of your contacts
  • Send bookmark to one or several of your groups
  • Find other people’s bookmarks
  • Join special interest groups
  • See your contact’s latest additions
  • See your groups’ latest additions

The factors I find very appealing is the ability to join certain groups covering special topics, and to add a few key people to your contacts’ list that you know will add interesting bookmarks. The nice thing with contacts is that it doesn’t have to be a two-way relationship. You can have anyone as a contact without getting permission and anyone can add you as a contact.

They way I see it, there’s no downside with people adding you as a contact without your consensus, all they can see is your latest bookmarks. However, I guess in the long run it might be interesting with closed groups that require an invitation, or perhaps a “Make this bookmark only available to certain contacts”.

There are also different views in the Tags section where you can browse your tags, your contact’s top tags, your groups’ top tags and everyone’s top tags, and they can all be viewed in a tag cloud or in an A – Z listing.

A picture of the Tags section

The start page

During the beta period, the start page consisted of your, your contact’s and your groups’ latest bookmarks. A good initial view that unfortunately was replaced with a Ma.gnolia Hot Bookmarks and a Ma.gnolia Featured Linkers section after it was launched February 15th. The hot bookmarks are fine, but I would definitely prefer seeing my contact’s latest bookmarks as opposed to the featured linkers that I haven’t chosen nor is interested in. Now you have to go to the Bookmarks section to get the beta start page view. Also, once you’ve left the start page, the only way of getting back is clicking the logo. Perhaps a Home link should be added?

A picture of the Ma.gnolia start page

Other sections on the start page, in narrower right column, are Recent Bookmarks, Hot Groups and Hot Tags (and also Hot Bookmarks for other pages than the start page). All valid, but I really miss a listing of my tags. I gather most people will use this service as an archive for their bookmarks, nothing more, nothing less, so I think it’s a waste of an extra click to go the Tags section first.

A picture of the right column sections, containing sections like Recent Bookmarks, Hot Groups and Hot Tags

Something that’s weird here, though, is that the start page just exclaims:

Welcome back

and then I go to the Bookmarks section that says:

Hello, Robert

Shouldn’t the start page be the most personal one?

Listings

Most bookmark listings contain three actions for every bookmark, with the addition of a fourth to easily switch your bookmarks between being private or public. The problem arises when I look at listing for a specific tag; then there’s no way to add it to your bookmarks and its name is linked to the URL itself. I missed it a couple of times, but the only way to add it is to choose the option View Details. I definitely feel an add functionality is missing there.

Another thing which I dislike is that the listing in the right column leads directly to the URL that the bookmark point to. I guess makes it easy to just go to that web page right away and see if it’s interesting, but there’s no way to add it from that list. Functionality I think should be added as soon as possible.

Another thing that would be nice to see right away in the listings is how popular a bookmark is, i.e. how many people have the same bookmark.

Design & code

The design is very nice with smooth and balanced colors. Default font size is good and it’s very easy to get a fast overview on what’s every page. Unfortunately, there’s a an ad space in the header, something that has to be there for revenue, most likely, but also something that ruins the cleanliness of the web site (it was so beautiful during the beta period :-)).

I also like the dimming of the entire web page when I want to delete something. Kind of hard to miss… :-)

A picture of the delete dialog

Another thing that looked good during the beta period was the state of the code, but now there seems to be some minor flaws in every page and also a few inline events. All-in-all, though, the code seems to be well-structured and semantic, so there’s definitely hope.

Gripes

The web site is, most of the time, fairly slow. This is disheartening since it’s a very nice service otherwise, and I really advise them to look into this as soon as possible. Soon the honeymoon period is over with the service being new, so it should be addressed right away. Also, for performance and small usability enhancements, dare I *GASP* suggest using some AJAX (Pssst! Look at ASK…)?

The issues with the listings are annoying but minor. I don’t think it would be a big deal to change that.

 

Conclusively, I’m not sure that I have the need for a bookmarking service. But if I ever will, Ma.gnolia would be my choice. The good news is that Ma.gnolia is publicly available now for everyone, so I urge you to go check it out!

 

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