Today is a good day to code

Google Blog Search Tool

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Google, Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Google Blog Search Tool

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperGoogle recently launched a beta blog search tool. I have only been using it for one day, but so far I am impressed. I noticed that I was being crawled pretty heavily for the past few days and the Google blog search seems to have just about all of my pages. The Googlebot has been back to my site almost constantly since then.

The only questions that remain are how does Google rank blogs. Most of the time PR is a non-factor for blogs, which explains why most of the good blogs were so hard to find on most search engines. Many people don't link back to blogs, so links aren't always the most accurate indicator of popularity. No one seems to have an answer. Probably the best way to think of it is more along the lines of how does Google know that a site is a blog. It seems that it goes by the XML feed. Still, if it went by the XML feed alone, it would surely not have found so many of the pages of my site since I only include the most recent 10 or so blogs in my XML feed. It must have some patented criteria that it uses to separate blogs from non-blogs. I'm sure the SEOs have started their engines and are already working on ways to game the system. I guess they figure that if they can get a site onto the blog search they have a better chance of getting to the top. I'd say that they were right, although I'd wager that Google has a very good algorithm that is looking for fraud.

All in all, since I am a developer I find myself more often than not looking for information in blogs, so for me this new blog tool is very cool. I am not sure how it does this, but it determines blogs that may be of special interest to me based on my search and puts those at the very top. Maybe it uses the history to determine these. We'll find out soon. It is already better than IceRocket, and as soon as they add RSS / Atom agrigation, it may be better than anything else for a portal. We'll just have to wait and see.

Google Blog Search


Reaching into the Cradle for Programmers

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Google, Microsoft, Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Reaching into the Cradle for Programmers

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperOne of the biggest issues facing America, other than Katrina of course, is that we will lose our cometitive edge in programming, especially in the face of offshoring and the like. One of the ways in which to combat this eventuality as I have commented on earlier in my blog is to add value to our programmers. One thing to look at is what makes up a good programmer, or not good but rather an effective programmer.

Effective programmers may not be the best at all the technical tricks in programming, but they can take a set of good specs, some user feedback, or a problem and churn out a piece of software that solves that problem. The ability to do this comes not from college, or advanced courses in algorithms using C++. This ability is established at a much earlier age. Probably somewhere between ages 3 and 5. Most of the people that I consider to be good programmers started writing code at around age 10, and have a strong artistic bent. Usually around the same time as they start writing code, they begin to take things apart to see how they work, to quote a friend. These traits should be sought out in elementary school, and should be encouraged through high-school. Many would say that this takes the self-determination out of a child's path to adulthood. I would argue that it helps them find their path, many of these kids would want to be programmers, if they knew what it was to be a programmer. Most of them are strong problem solvers, even if they aren't that good in math.

For the most part, the extreme emphasis schools put on learning math to be a good programmer is ludicrous. Obviously if you are developing new encoding codecs or security algorithms you have to be good at math, but that is only one kind of software development. There are many other aspects of software problem solving that don't involve that kind of math. Also, people can continue to learn math outside of school, even though most don't.

A good way to start your child down the path is to keep them assembling blocks of logic to solve a problem. There are many games, especially video games, that enforce this type of thinking. To maintain our lead, we have to enhance our kids' creativity and their interest in software development. There is still plenty of work to be done, just look at most web sites, web applications, and operating systems. They are hardly ideal. This is why Google and Microsoft are coming under so much criticism from their recruiters. They focus mostly on the education, but that hardly makes one a good programmer and therfore are often turning their nose up at creative individuals who could make an immediate impact. Developers take many strange and divergent paths to get where they are, it takes a good recruiter to understand those paths to hire good programmers when they find them.


Audio Auctions? eBay and Skype?

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Google, Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Audio Auctions? eBay and Skype?

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperThe acquisition mania has finally reached fever pitch with eBay buying Skype. This paring doesn't make any sense. The immediate question is what is an online auctioneer going to do with a VoIP telecommunications company.

One possible idea is that eBay could do audio auctions, but even being the most probably solution, this is completely inane. Ebay could be attempting to broaden their reach, but this would be futile. As an example, I don't know anyone who actually uses Amazon's A9 search utility. I would probably have pegged Skype for Google, but I think that the price was too high. Still, I just can't figure this one out. When eBay purchased PayPal, that was scandalous, but it made plenty of sense. But this one is beyond me. If anyone has a clue, please reply.

eBay Buys Skype


Possible Apple and Google iTunes Deal

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Possible Apple and Google iTunes Deal

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI am really ambivalent on the possibility of a deal between Google and Apple to help the search company figure out how to deploy a music solution similar to Yahoo's launch. Google hasn't been making software for Macintoshes. I am still waiting for Google to release Google Earth for the Mac. It shouldn't be that hard, since they already have a direct 3d implementation. I could see if it were, perhaps using Direct X, or using Active X controls to display it in the browser, but this is a standalone program. Does Google really care about the Apple users out there? On the flip side, there is a really strong business case for the deal.

If Google were to feature songs in the iTunes music store it would be possible for them to expand their iPod penetration even further than the amazing levels it has reached. Believe it or not, the numbers say that the once rabid iPod acquisition rate has begun to plateau, and profitibility of the devices has been diluted by the proliferation of the iPod Shuffle. Still, the problem is that most of the people I know who live in the middle and south-east of the country don't really understand the iPod, podcasting, napster, or anything. Many of them still frequent CD stores. The iPod is mainstream in America's big cities, but it is still fringe on main street America. Google has managed to penetrate much of that market, to a much higher level than the iPod, and Google is a trusted name, much the way Westinghouse was in the fifties and sixties. For Apple to tie itself to Google's image can only be a good thing.

Google, however should take care. Any such deal is going to further Microsoft's already boiling ire. They aren't ready for all-out war with Microsoft at this time, no matter how rich they are. Google is still very dependent upon Microsoft's technology as they have the OS market. When the Google OS comes out…. Sporting a thin client Linux system with a slick interface and applications delivered over the web, then Google will be ready. While they are probably working on something like this behind the scenes, they are wisely not parading it in front of Microsoft. Still, as paranoid as Microsoft is, Google should not tie itself too much to the rival Apple, although it would be better for customers, me in particular as a Mac user, it may not be wise to wake a sleeping giant by shouting in their ear.


Yahoo is Using Flash in Maps Beta

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Google, Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Yahoo is Using Flash in Maps Beta

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI have to applaud Yahoo for using the best technology for a particular job, not being influenced by buzzwords, or fear of the unknown. Google has embraced Macromedia/Adobe Flash MX for their new beta of the existing Maps product. Google has used AJAX, and probably to a lot more man hours than Yahoo has had to spend on their Flash product, they have achieved almost total browser compatibility.

I can understand developers using AJAX to prevent lock-in, but Flash is pretty much ubiquitous, and with Macromedia's efforts to establish it as a platform will hopefully enable more open development of swf files. At any rate, it would be possible for other companies, and possibly open source development of swf generating IDEs. Whether or not this will happen, for asynchronous data transfer from the interface layer and the model layer, I have been hard pressed to find a better solution than Flash. It has a better than 90% penetration rate, it is available for just about every modern operating system, and on top of that it has a small and fast runtime, and allows for easy animation. It is clearly a better solution for web development and rich web applications than Java, and AJAX, no matter how great the developer does not allow for the type of animations and control that Flash does. Flash is definately the best solution for developing animated maps.

If developers don't feel comfortable with Flash, and I'm not quite sure why they would be, Yahoo has made an AJAX API avaliable. I haven't played with that, but I have something in mind for their Flash API. I'm interested in finding out how dynamic it can be. I'm looking forward to working with it. You can find it here.

Yahoo Maps Beta


Microsoft Windows Live

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Google, Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Microsoft Windows Live

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperEveryone has been slamming Microsoft now that they are finally realizing that software is dead, and are making baby steps toward totally web hosted and distributed applications and services. Yes Windows Live is ameteurish, even for a public beta. It doesn't seem to have any more functionality than Yahoo!'s my.yahoo.com site, and in fact it falls way short in terms of usability and integration. For example, I started trying to use their live bookmarks, only to find out that I can't access them from the live home page as a plug in module. This would only seem to be logical, and I suppose that it will be coming in a future version but it seems like they have approached this launch with the lack of a plan. The AJAX they use is really cool, but it doesn't work from my Mac, or really from Firefox. It only seems to be of use when combined with the MSN toolbar which no one really downloads.

It would seem that Microsoft is preparing to make good use of Avalon with this, but there are no indications that they embracing open standards any more than they did when they brought out DHTML a while ago. This type of proprietary approach hurts innovation, and I have to say that if this is what they are bringing to face Google, then they have a long and uphill battle. I'll have to reserve complete judgement until I see the new and revamped Live webmail. This could be really cool, and the rest of the Live Office suite could be sweet too. It is just too early to tell. I don't think that Live is really useful at all for anything except for the curious to check out.

While I think that Microsoft could have done better, this is a definate step in the right direction, and I hope to see more steps toward embracing web development in the future. If Microsoft works with developers and the market, I think they would find that they would be a much more stalwart competitor like IBM and less threatened by newcomers moving onto their turf. I also think that Microsoft is beginning to dangerously veer away from their core business of top-of-the-line office software and operating systems. It is hard to tell now what their business is, and while they are very cash rich, dilution of a business' mission can not be a good thing.


Google Desktop 2 – Another Step Towards Google OS

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Google, Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Google Desktop 2 – Another Step Towards Google OS

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperOne of the first things I noticed upon installing the second iteration of the Google desktop was how polished it was. As wonderful as Google Earth was, one of my gripes was that the user interface was so ugly. Google desktop, however even in beta feels like a polished product. It's ability to sniff out the sites that I am visiting and tailor the news captions to my tastes has been going fairly well, and the search feature is very good. I love that it keeps an index of my Gmail so I can search it as easily as outlook.

Then Google announced it's “Google Talk” IM service. Apparently it is compatible with just about everything similar to the Jabber client. I'd imagine they are going to integrate that into the Google desktop at a point in the very near future. So, now Google has search, a portal, email, and IM. I think that pretty much puts them on level with the other major internet players, and makes them a threat to everyone. Microsoft has to be seriously biting their nails over the Google desktop, not because it is polished, pretty, etc… But instead for the API that will allow developers to write applications that can run in it, similar to Yahoo's Konfabulator, or Apple's widgets. One of my other gripes was that the Google desktop didn't cache pages from Firefox, they have fixed that, which makes it usable for me, except that my main machine is a Mac. That places it squarely as a platform that could potentially marginalize Windows, and pave the way for Google to releasae their own operating system. It has yet to be seen if Google will start releasing their products for the Mac and for Linux. I truly wish they would, but the Google desktop is top notch.

Google Desktop


The Microsoft Trinity

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Companies, Google, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Microsoft Trinity

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperThis maneuver makes sense in the business world, but it has yet to be seen if Microsoft can truly let these vast entities they have created within the company function independently enough to behave like companies. I think that Microsoft didn't go far enough with the reorganization. It may have been better if they had broken the company up further.

The MSN group should remain on its own, however it should have the full backing and cooperation of the other units. They should focus on adding more web functionality to their applications, like automatic backups for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to a virtual drive so that you could work on things on the road and away from your personal computer.

What Microsoft has done may improve their ability to react to Google, but that is the operative word, “react.” They will not gain a greater ability to innovate. Their organization won't allow it. They are too tied to their established business cash cow. What will happen however is that Google will see this as throwing down the gauntlet, and they will accellerate their pace for world domination.

In a nutshell, here's how I see things shaping up. Google will launch their nationwide Wi-Fi service that will be free, mostly secure, high-speed internet for everyone. This will be followed by a huge surge in advertising revenue, anticipating the expansion of their market. Microsoft will launch something that is vaguely the same, several months to a year later. Then Apple will release Mac Mini's with Intel CPUs first. This will prompt many PC users to buy a mini just so that they can get their hands on OS X for intel, which will by some amazing feat be cracked at launch to run on any PC. This will do two things for Apple. The first is that it will undermine sales of Windows Vista, second it will increase their Mac sales numbers because they will be moving product. Google will follow with more business oriented applications based entirely on the web, using their desktop application as a vehicle. They will start building widgets for the macintosh that mirror those available through the dashboard. This dual-attack on Microsoft will prove to be too much. Microsoft will remain around, constantly behind Google and Apple and will end up like Sun supplying products to the top 1% of the market while enjoying none of the fame of Google and Apple. Apple will be back where it should have been all along; as the dominant computer manufacturer. Microsoft will remain a close second, but they will continue to slip away until they perform another reorganization.

That is the future. Put it in your pocket right next to your iPod nano!


What Does Google Want With Weak AOL?

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Companies, Google, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

What Does Google Want With Weak AOL?

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI'm sorry, but Google buying AOL would be a huge waste of money. First off AOL has nothing that Google doesn't have, and buying it to compete with Microsoft would be stupid. The analysts still don't get it, Google isn't afraid of Microsoft, or anyone for that matter, nor should they be. They are the 500lb gorilla of search. You could take MSN search, multiply it by two, add AOL search, then add the traffic of all the other search engines sans Yahoo and it wouldn't add up to half of Google's search traffic.

The reason Time Warner is of course considering selling AOL to Microsoft is because it is lame. There are only two good things that have come out of AOL in the last decade. The first is AIM, the second is Winamp which does indeed whip the llama's ass. Still, the success of Winamp has not lead to a decent music service, and AIM has not lead to anything except a great platform with an annoying client. They just launched an email service for non-AOL members a little over 6 months ago. They are cash rich and bloated.

For that matter, two sagging fat companies like Microsoft and AOL does not a Google killer make. Why can't they see this? If they read more Sun Tsu – The Art of War, which should still be required reading for any executive in corporate America. Everyone needs to write off broad-based search. Google has won, there is no catching them. Instead they should focus on what they do that Google doesn't in an effort to contain them to search. By trying to follow them in whatever they do, they are following their plan. That is one of the over-riding concepts to the Art of War, if your enemy is larger and more powerful than you are, you have to annoy them into making a mistake. Having them follow you all over creation will weaken them, and allow you to destroy them at home. In this instance Microsoft will follow Google on everything they try to do, while taking their focus more and more off their operating system only for Google to release the Goffice and the GoogleOS. Effectively destroying Microsoft. What Microsoft should do is focus on making Office more available on the web, meaning web based Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for enterprises. They should be focusing on making Vista more than Windows XP service pack 3, it should be robust and provide new and amazing features.

AOL should focus on getting its large base of rural customers onto broadband even if it means losing money. That is the only way to push in the TV over IP that the TimeWarner partnership was supposed to bring. The fact that the majority of their users are on dial-up should signal a problem for them, in addition to the growing impatience of their parent corporation. If they weren't so fat, they would wake up and realize they need to do something right now other than looking for another sugar daddy to keep them providing the same stale services they have been serving up for the past decade.

Other than Yahoo, no one has been able to change their business model to fit Google. Obviously both of them have been reading the abovementioned book. They are playing each other perfectly. Watch that space as the battle between Yahoo and Google will be the future of computing. Short of a miracle of clarity, which Microsoft is capable of, they are going to go the way of IBM. Rich, but not important to the cutting edge of information technology.


The Windowing Graphical User Interface

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

The Windowing Graphical User Interface

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperNaturally if you ask most people about the biggest recent advance in the history of desktop computing, most of them would say that the windowing graphical user interface is it. While the GUI is definately a significant leap from the textual interface used in all Unix variants, I am somewhat dismayed by the lack of progression in interface technology.

It seems that the pioneers of these technologies can only think in Windows. It would be interesting if Apple and Microsoft, instead of focusing on improving their GUIs, were doing work in earnest to come up with another method of communicating with computers. Naturally, artificial intelligence and excellent speech recognition come to mind. With the incredible number crunching performance of current desktop computers, there is no reason for there to be no decent speech-to-text conversion software. Dragon is really good, but as far as controlling the OS, browsing, and writing software, it is far from ideal. For example, the computer should be smart enough that when developing in Dreamweaver I could say cffile tag. It should then put cffile tags with the cursor inside of the right less than symbol for me to add attributes. If the next command that I spoke was not an attribute of that tag, then the cursor should jump between the tags and begin copying in text. These things should be built into the operating system as APIs. But perhaps I shouldn't be looking to Apple and Microsoft to do these things. Maybe they are too focused on directly competing and keeping up with each other to really innovate. Maybe the open source community can come up with something to knock them off.

I definately don't see the GUI taking a dive anytime soon, but for devices like cell-phones, there isn't a much better method of controlling them than talking to them. I should be able to have it read-off my incoming SMS messages, and I should be able to dictate a response back to the phone. Intel has some pretty powerful mobile processors debuting, and they could easily handle this sort of rudimentary voice recognition software. I should be able to browse the web from my phone where it could read off the contents of the pages that I found while I am driving or whatever. It only makes sense.

As far as search goes this makes URLs and DNS somewhat unnecessary. Obviously you should be able to say triple-w dot whatever dot com and have your computer browse there, but who would actually do that. Wouldn't you just go into Google and say blah dot com, or more likely blah? This has been something that has come up several times in blogs and in discussion boards. More and more Google is becoming the primary way people find websites. This is good in that accessing information is more straightforward for most people. It is bad in that all pages can not appear on Google. Google seems to realize this, and that is why the blogsearch site has been launched, to give more people a chance to be found. Without DNS, and without having to know the web address of the site you want, a combination of voice and Google's search technology can make files on a computer available through the voice browser as well as any assets on the world wide web. Wouldn't it be great to just, as you are walking out to work say as an afterthought, “I want for you to find the best price on this movie, download it, and forward it to my television.” When you get home from work, you could just say to your television, “start a movie.” That is where we need to be going. Having all computing centralized around having multiple desktop machines in a home is a dead end. Devices and home servers are the future, and the graphical user interface is not the interface for this future.