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Archive for October, 2006

links for 2006-10-31

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October 31st, 2006 at 6:19 pm

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Publish Your Desktop to the Web: YourMinis is Live

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The Goowy developers let the cat out of the bag yesterday by announcing the availability of YourMinis.com, a fully-configurable web-based desktop based on Flash. Everything about YourMinis is configurable and redistributable: you can create as many tabs as you like and drag so-called minis onto them. Minis are widgets with specific functionality: from PIM applets such as calendar, notes and to-do lists to bookmarks, photos, videos, email, weather, stock quotes, it’s all there. Similar to applying a regular desktop wallpaper the tab background and the title bar of each mini can be individually changed. Here’s a screenshot of what you can create in just a few minutes after signing up:

yourminis_feedview

Even in pre-release mode YourMinis offers quite strong support for RSS reading already: it comes with a preloaded catalog of popular feed categories, you can add as many feeds of your own as you like and even import an OPML file from your local hard drive. Feeds can be viewed as a quicklist (with each entry’s contents in a pop-up) or as a regular two-pane browser.

The nice thing about YourMinis is that everything about it is dynamic, interactive and very attractive to the eye. From the YourMinis team blog I understand the developers are proud they have some outstanding graphic designers on board.

Click on this badge to open a transparent, live version of the very same tab:



yourminis_badge

Each mini has a drop-down menu icon containing a list of functions that are specific to that mini: for the Flickr widget these are functions like Thumb View, Full View, Photo Search, User View and Set As Background.

Published tabs are differentiated from unpublished ones through a little orange antenna next to the tab drop-down menu icon. Apart from embedding a tab on a website, you can also point your visitors to a full-page version of the tab: my public page for example is at http://ct.yourminis.com/cleverclogs. It seems you can create as many pages as you like. At this moment I’m also displaying my GMail account on the tab, I’m not so sure I’m going to keep it that way.

yourminis_publish

YourMinis.com roadmap
According to the Welcome to yourminis.com blogpost several impressive enhancements are on the drawing board already:

  • a browser plugin for quick access to your personalized page (Firefox and Flock add-ons to be launched first, others to follow)
  • auto-detection of web feeds, videos and other data sources on pages that you visit with the option to add those to your personal page
  • tabs for communities with the option to for community members to contribute and subscription to tabs
  • YourMinis badges

Suggestions for improvements
YourMinis still deserves the ’beta’ epithet: it sometimes behaves a bit unexpectedly and still seems a tiny bit rough on the edges. At one stage earlier today the service became unresponsive and I had to close the Firefox tab and reload the service. I had no unsaved data on any of my tabs, so this wasn’t a big deal for me. Then, while preparing this blog post the Flickr mini lost connection to my photo stream and showed no images. Several other minis were added to my tab without my asking. There’s a YourMinis support forum where users can connect to the developers directly and bring up issues.

Track what others wrote

I quickly created a news radar for YourMinis (thanks for choosing a unique name ;-))


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October 30th, 2006 at 6:53 pm

links for 2006-10-30

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October 30th, 2006 at 6:20 pm

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links for 2006-10-29

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October 29th, 2006 at 6:17 pm

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links for 2006-10-24

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October 25th, 2006 at 1:38 am

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The Ubiquity of RSS: iPod, Opera, and Sony Reader

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Steve Rubel says he’s so infatuated with RSS that he set out to find ways to surround himself with RSS in and around the house. In yesterday’s blog post Pimp Every Room in Your House with RSS Steve describes using RSS on a TV set, how to create an RSS-enabled refrigerator magnet (yes!) and several other ways to take RSS wherever you go. Complementary and complimentary to Steve’s inventory I found a couple more tools, devices and services:

 

Read RSS on the Apple iPod

An attractive cross-platform solution is Life2Go by Kainjow, LLC. This tool was formerly sold under the name Pod2Go. Life2Go already was a popular iPod management tool for Mac OS X and from July 2006 it’s also available for Windows users with some features to still be ported. Life2Go’s feature set is very broad: it lets you transfer weather forecasts, movie times, stock quotes, gas prices and loads of other kinds of data. RTF, PDF, HTML and TXT are supported as well. You can also use your iPod as a personal backup device. The PDA functionality of Life2Go is currently only available to Mac Users. Very impressive feature set. Life2Go costs USD12.99. Life2Go download for Windows; Life2Go download for Mac

Life2Go_Adding_Micro_Persuasion_Feed

Then there’s iGadget from iPodSoft, the successor to iPod Agent and formerly known as PodPlus. Yesterday version 2.03 of iGadget was released. iGadget works with iTunes 7 now. In addition to its feed reading capabilities, iGadget lets you transfer personal data like contacts, appointments, email, tasks, driving directions and weather forecasts to your iPod (including the iPod Nano). iGadget runs on Windows PCs and a license costs USD19.99. Get the iGadget download.

NewsMac Pro, a full-fledged RSS reader for Mac OS X by ThinkMac Software, allows you to synchronize headlines with Palm PDA devices, with cellphones and with iPods. The synchronization occurs after the headlines have been converted into the so-called iSilo format, a file format that allows you to display content on handhelds running on the Palm, Symbian Series 60, Windows Mobile, Windows CE or Windows operating system. iSilo documents can be created on a Windows or Mac desktop using the iSiloX desktop application. NewsMac Pro costs USD24. Get the NewsMac Pro download.

Other tools and services that allow you to synchronize feeds on an iPod are iFeedPod (by Carnglas Software, for Mac OS X, free, download iFeedPod) and iDropper (by Mark Qvuist, for Mac OS X, free, download iDropper).

Update 2006_10-31: I just found out about iPodulator Pro 2, a tool for PC and Mac OS X users to convert web pages and RSS feeds—text-only—into the iPod notes format. iPodulator is produced by ThePlaceForItAll.com. Get the iPodulator Pro 2 download.

Read RSS on Portable Devices

Any wifi-enabled device that is capable of running the new Opera 9 for Devices browser can access a web-based RSS reader, such as Bloglines, Rojo, Google Reader, Netvibes, Pageflakes, NewsGator Online, or My Yahoo!. The Opera browser has received quite a bit of media attention because of the launch of its Nintendo DS browser on a cartridge in Europe earlier this month. Opera will also be available for the upcoming Nintendo Wii. Other devices supported by Opera are the Sony Mylo, the Archos Portable Media Player and the Archos Personal Media Assistant, the Nokia 770 and the Sharp Zaurus. The Opera website has a gallery of Opera powered products.

Read RSS on E-Ink Devices
From what I read in the thread The Sony Reader in our hands Sony’s new e-reader doesn’t support user-selected RSS feeds (as opposed to a selection from Sony’s own feed list), but that may have changed in the mean time (Sony Style website quote: "Take along web newsfeeds, blogs and more to read"). Gizmodo reported in January that the Sony Reader supports RSS with images (blog post: Live from CES: Hands-On with the Sony Reader).

Sony_Reader

David Rothman points to a modified version of RSS Owl that allows users to create 130 x 70 mm PDF files, which can easily be displayed on the Sony Reader.

According to the Sony Style USA store there’s overwhelming demand for their e-book gadget, so don’t expect yours to ship before November 30th 2006 (Sony Portable Reader System (PRS-500, this page also has lists of features, specs and accessories). Price is USD349.99.

Read RSS on Smart Phones and Pocket PCs

Of course cell phones and handhelds are the most obvious portable devices to support RSS. There are numerous RSS readers for Symbian Series 60, for Windows Mobile, and for phones that are capable of running Java applications. I’d like to take the opportunity to direct you here to the extensive list of RSS Readers at RSS Compendium. In my opinion Peter Scott does an outstanding job of continually classifying and describing RSS tools. The RSS Reader section is now divided into 10+ different platforms. It would be ridiculous to copy-cat his work here.

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October 24th, 2006 at 2:49 pm

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links for 2006-10-24

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October 24th, 2006 at 3:30 am

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Search Clouds Increase Relevance of Search Results

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On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of its ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea.

No matter how precise your keyword query, search engines don’t always produce the type of results that is relevant for your research goal. So far I’ve constructed hundreds of compound and advanced search queries myself and each time I’m surprised about the noise that inevitably slips into the search results. Some of these erroneous results can only be detected with the human brain. Yesterday, for example, Fred Zelders sent me an email message to inform me about an irrelevant search result in one of the blog search feeds in RSSonate, my RSS-in-the-blogosphere monitor. I really needed to read the post to which he referred twice before I could confirm he was correct in his observation:

Macbook_RSS_disambiguity

Surprisingly RSS in this case stands for ’Random Shutdown Syndrome’, an ailment from which quite a few Macbooks notebook computers seem to suffer, where apparently they start to randomly reboot themselves. On further investigation I was actually stunned to discover that AbbreviationZ (an afiiliate of Answers.com) lists 40 additional ways to resolve the abbreviation RSS.

Fred’s feedback is expecially valuable to me because he is very knowledgeable about RSS and OPML technology. I know he subscribes to RSSonate ever since I launched it and in turn I often visit FeedFiles—a comprehensive repository of RSS tools—to see if he or his son perhaps already reviewed.the RSS tools I’m discovering. Fred’s blog Fred on OPML is in English, his other writings seem to all be exclusively in Dutch.

Over the years I’ve seen a couple of initiatives and attempts to cluster search results around topics of interest. Clusty immediately comes to mind of course. Another way to improve the precision/noise ratio is by using advanced syntax techniques, like category, tag or in-title search.The major search engines and some of the blog search engines offer query modifiers like these to improve the search results. Other engines allow you to indicate the scope of your search: for example, commercial vs non-commercial search results. If I recall well Yahoo! offers this, but as a search engine it just won’t click with me.

On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of it’s ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea. Joel mocked up this impression of what a Google search query containing the words ’Nintendo’ ’Wii’ ’launch’ and ’date’ could look like if it were accompanied by Search Clouds:

Search_Clouds_by_arc90

I like the implications of Joel’s research: it clearly shows how useful it would be to have his concept of Search Clouds implemented in search engines, giving an immediate clue which page could be most relevant to my research goal. Imagine that in my search engine profile I could also maintain a persistent list of tags and keywords; Search Clouds would then be able to visually indicate to what extent a search result is likely to match my profile…

The Arc90 sandbox Arc90 Lab has been on my radar ever since I discovered their Link Thumbnail feature, about which I blogged a few months ago in my blog post Pull Quote Mystery. It’s rewarding and encouraging that Chris LoSacco from Arc90 indeed followed up to the promise he made in the comments section on CleverClogs, saying Joel would continue to improve the usability of Link Thumbnail: in the blog post Updated : New Link Thumbnail Goodness Chris announces that they now rely on the new thumbnail service WebSnapr instead of Alexa.

Note that there’s no download or web service to Joel’s project yet. I would appreciate it if he’d continue working on Search Clouds. I’d be delighted to provide extensive feedback if and when he needs it. Tell me, what techniques do you use to fine-tune your search results?

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Written by CleverClogs

October 23rd, 2006 at 4:14 pm

links for 2006-10-23

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October 23rd, 2006 at 3:23 am

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links for 2006-10-20

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October 20th, 2006 at 6:32 pm

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