Category Archives: TechnoFrazzle

Tracking traffic through twitterfeed

I've been using twitterfeed as a means to broaden my scope of readers generally because I'm trying to generate more conversations with others about things that really interest me. The cool thing about using twitterfeed is that it is an easy way for me to quickly broadcast my blog entries and to top it off, it uses snipurl which is pretty handy. The reason why I like snipurl is that it allows me to claim my links and then provide me with information about the number of clicks and the number of unique clicks. However, because of the way it does a redirect, Google Analytics does not know how to identify the source. So I decided to suffix my URLs with tags to help me figure out where it's coming from.

The strategy was simple but the trick was trying to find a way to do this without generating new code for it. I tried looking around snipurl and twitterfeed to see if they had any means of accomplishing this. snipurl had a way of modifying your snipr link by tagging it which wasn't useful to me in this scenario and twitterfeed had the ability to prefix text like "Thinking about [blog entry topic]" but didn't have a way of suffixing a url. While in the room with my developers, someone mentioned Yahoo Pipes which I've heard of before, played with it a little bit and had very little success to it. I decided to give it a try. After a couple of hours, I have success. So I'm going to give it a go with this blog entry. Hopefully this will give me some more insight as to how effective twitter really is.

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Cheap is not free

I'm typically a big fan of TechCrunch and it is one of my two must-read blogs that I read every chance I get. The other is DownloadSquad but I have to say that this blog entry definitely missed the mark on the topic. I'm definitely a big fan of trying out different webmail services that are free just to compare them and have had many an email account purged over time but personally I don't have a problem with that in principal or in practice.

In principal, these companies make money through advertising and an inactive user is not any different from a deadbeat customer. Yes, while storage is indeed much cheaper than it was a few years ago. Cheap is still not the same as free. Any business has to be financially prudent as going out of business does no one any good. I think sometimes it's forgotten that the primary purpose of most companies is to make money. Usually by providing users with something useful or convenient that will by in some means generate money but it's still primarily to make money.

In practice, if I'm not using an email account at least once a month, it's really not that important to me anyway. I've got multiple accounts sometimes with the same provider but I access them at least once a month. I think most companies have pretty generous terms in terms of the activity requirement. Another thing to note too is that most of the major providers give you a means to back up your email via IMAP, POP or HTTP. There's no real excuse to having your email account not being backed up.

In general, I think this blog post was a bit off and looking at the general comments, it looks like most of the commenters agree with the sentiment.

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Maturing web products

Lately I've been playing with more and more web applications like Newsgator, Evernote and Task2Gather. All of these products are good at what they do but no where to being the best products in their individual category. What sets them apart in my mind is the ability to be accessible through different platforms such as desktops, mobile devices and web. As the web continues to mature and "web 2.0-esque" products become capable stand-ins for desktop products combined with mobile devices that have both the computing capacity and network accessibility, the demand for products to be accessible at all times through multiple devices will increase. Another outcome of the evolution of this maturity is the ability to integrate with other web applications. An example of that is the integration of Remember The Milk with Google Mail for instance.

Google is by far the leader in the web platform space. From the point of productivity applications, there really is very little need for anyone to leave the Google domain. For most, Google Maps is the defacto map product. Google Docs is a decent product. I am more than happy to use the word processor and spreadsheet to do simple stuff on the web. People either love or hate GMail and there is nothing better than Google Reader on Firefox with Greasemonkey scripts running on it. Most of these apps also work with Google Gears making them capable desktop stand-ins. I thought it was a bit strange that Google didn't seem to invest that much effort into the mobile space. Outside of Maps, it's approach seemed minimal; limiting it's offerings to mobilized versions of their web sites or a litter of small and clunky Java applications that no one really wrote about. I hope things will change with the emergence of Android as I believe Android will give Google a devastating advantage to integrate into its already vast set of web services and APIs.

I am currently a heavy user of Newsgator and I've started to use Evernote a bit more. Having the ability to have my RSS feeds synchronized and bookmarked or "clipped" has made me a more productive reader. I also like the fact that I can publish my bookmarked articles to Twitter through an RSS feed. What impresses me most is how natural the flow is. I don't have to do anything extra to perform these steps. Another product that I'd like to see integrated across multiple platforms are something like Mint.com.Technorati

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Minor problems with Evernote

One of the problems of trying new technology is sometimes things fall apart in the attempt. I’ve been trying to use Evernote as the primary means of writing blog entries but I’ve run into some issues doing so. You can bet your money that Evernote is in one of my upcoming posts. Overall, a good product idea but with some minor issues partly because of how I use them. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch up over the next few days. I’d like to try to top the number of entries from December. From a non-blog perspective, we’re on a full court press at Zoocasa. We’ve got some big plans for Q1 2009. It’s so weird writing that year still.

End of year Shopping Deals for Windows Mobile Software

If you're looking to buy software for your Windows Mobile devices, be sure to take advantage of the end of year shopping deals at both Pocketgear and Handango. You can get 20% off with PocketGear up to January 12, 2009. The promocode for PocketGear is GETBACK20. You can get 25% off Handango with the promocode of 25NOW. This deal lasts up to December 31, 2008. I also noticed a deal of 30% off SPB Products on Handango up to Dec 30, 2008. The promocode for it is SPB30OFF. 

Google, the Microsoft of the World Wide Web

It has been really interesting watching Google manouver its way into being the next Microsoft of the web. I'm not sure if Google will run into monopolistic issues but I am certain that Google will be the dominant platform of the not so distant future. It's not hard to see if you simply look at Google's investments in terms of what it has purchased and built.

Until the emergence of Google Apps, Google seemed destined to be a search engine that generated a tonne of revenue from its advertisement capability. It had odd offerings here and there that seemed fragmented at the very least. As soon as it launched Google Apps, it was rather obvious that Google was building towards the business markets as well. Looking at Google Apps for the very first time, I couldn't help but think about how close the offering was to Microsoft Exchange; it offered organizations the ability to host email, share calendars and even offer instant messaging capability. With the additional capabilities of wiki, blogging and document sharing, you essentially have most of Sharepoint's capabilities. It's hard not to offer small clients to use Google Apps as it is easy to setup with minimal operational and maintenance cost.

Google reached further to the consumer with Android and Chrome. The reasoning behind it really is simple – it's about control. The hardest thing about developing any software is the inability to determine where it is going to run. One of the most challenging thing about developing for Zoocasa is that we have to cater to a large number of browsers. A lot of our code gets "dirty" to account for the way different browsers react to different pieces of the code. So Chrome makes sense. The strategy would be to develop functionality that would work best on Chrome before venturing out to other browsers. The other thing to note is that the browser is the new desktop. The browser is by far the most used application that I have as it is the window to how I manage my life. I still use Firefox as my primary browser, venturing into Chrome every once in a while.

Android is particularly interesting for me. The one thing that Apple did right was that they limited devices and the Apple App Store was simply brilliant. Google seems to be building the best of both worlds. There already is an Android App Store and by choosing HTC as their first manufacturer, you can be certain to find Android on traditionally Windows Mobile devices. Android will give Google the ability to reach a user in the most personal of spaces. Outside of my wife, my mobile device is my next closest confidante. I have it with me wherever I go. For instance, on this trip, I have my phone but have left my trusty Asus R1F at home. Given that Google has a whole battery of web services, Android makes a tonne of sense. Right away, Android would be a killer device if it integrates into all of Google's core apps like mail (including contacts), calendar (including tasks), reader, news, picasa and of course search.

FriendConnect is going to be interesting. The function that I see it to be most useful is to be an LDAP-like service. One of the most frustrating for corporate users is to have to have multiple login ids and passwords for multiple systems. The web is littered with many small applications that make our life simpler. If FriendConnect can simplify this, it would make life simpler for webizens every where.

What most people fear about and rightly so is handing so much personal and private info to an external entity. This will be Google's Achilles heel and something that they will have to maneouver and struggle with over time. But that being said, Google is going to be the platform to contend with in the WWW.

Sent from my HTC Touch Pro®

Finally got my Touch Pro

After weeks of searching, I finally got my hands on a North American version of the Touch Pro, also known as the HTC Fuze which is sold by AT&T. The search was extremely tough and after 3 failed attempts I finally have one in my hands. After much pursuit, I finally was able to swing a deal with mitsubishiman of Howard Forums. The deal itself was relatively straight forward and was completed in one night.

There’s actually much to write about the Touch Pro even though the device is very similiar to my Tytn II which I still really enjoy using. Because of that, I am going to split this blog entry into multiple posts as not to bore people to tears with the length of the post. Even with the same form factor, I am still adjusting to the Touch Pro and I’m not quite as proficient with it as I would like.

With every iteration of HTC devices, the product gets smaller and feels better built. It is definitely no where as heavy as the Tytn II. It is both thinner and narrower than the Tytn II although it is also slightly thinner. Because of that, the Touch Pro actually looks like a small brick. I don’t love the dimensions of it and personally as a whole, I think it looks very awkward. Since this is modeled after the Touch Diamond, it has the uneven cuts at the back. Personally, it does nothing for me but I’ve had at least one postive comment on that aspect. The casing is very shiny and plastic making it smudge frequently. I actually miss the rubberize feel of the Tytn II. That being said, it feels like a solidly built device.

The major reason for the upgrade to the Touch Pro is the screen from specification. The one thing that bothered me about the Tytn II was that it didn’t have the fully flush screen and that impeded my ability to use it as a one-handed device. Tapping at keys at the edge was very inprecise. The other thing that I looked forward to was to have a VGA screen on my mobile device again. I have to say that I was elated with the implementation of the screen. Not only is it completely flush and VGA, the display is crisp and clear. The only way to describe the screen is gorgeous.

One of the design decisions on the Touch series is to make the devices as touch friendly as possible. By doing so, they have also reduced the number of buttons on the device. In fact, there is only one programmable button. They have also removed the soft buttons as well. It takes a bit of getting used to and the flushed screen makes it easier for it to work. I have to admit that I do miss the soft buttons, the “ok” button and the jog wheel.

The layout is different and the keys are smaller. Fortunately, it is not so small that it is hard to type. But it is different enough that i still feel clumsy on it. For instance, I keep hitting the ok button on the lower left corner expecting the shift button. I don’t like the fact that the spacebar key is almost miniscule and that you can no longer hit the function key and spacebar combination to cycle through to get to the appropriate symbol. Instead, you press function and space and then select the appropriate symbol on the screen. That’s a bit awkward. Fortunately though, the majority of the symbols that are required for my daily use are available on the keyboard.

All in all, I love the physical aspects of the device. It is a beautiful phone to behold. Even with the pictures, it is hard to describe how beautiful the device is. More on the other aspects of the device in the next set of blogs.

[Had to recover this blog post from old emails to myself]

Sent from my HTC Touch Pro

System Outage for the weekend

I had hoped to start playing with Ruby on Rails this weekend as I had an idea I want to build. It was mostly to support how I use the Windows Mobile device. As I was busy upgrading the environment, I lost connectivity to my DHCP server and eventually my whole environment as I was stuck not being able to recompile VMWare server as I needed to download the header files for the new kernel. I was in a bit of a catch-22 situation: need internet up and running to fix the vmware server and need vmware server up and running to get to the internet. So it was time to develop work arounds to fix the problem.

While diagnosing the problem, I discovered quite a few issues with my hardware in my environment.

  • Network card not being picked up by the main VMWare server. I'm not sure if this is a hardware issue or not. I swapped network cards but the issue still exist.
  • D-Link router does not want to assign IP addresses through DHCP.
  • Lacie NAS which I use like a SAN might run the risk of corruption.

Over the weekend, I was either reminded or learned a few things along the way.

  • Running my virtual machines on a LACIE in striped mode seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I'm not so sure.
  • Microsoft Small Business Server is a great idea but it's really not for me. I don't like the idea of having DHCP, DNS, Mail Server, Domain Controller and SQL Server all on one machine. I'm going to start splitting up the services to different VMs.
  • Pre-allocating a virtual machine size at install is a good idea in principal but the reality of my situation is that I don't really generate that much data on my virtual machines. For those that I do, I have a pre-allocated hard drive and full time NAS to do that.
  • Can't have all my eggs in one basket. Having all of my external services hosted here is risky. When I was down this weekend, there was no way of redirecting either blog or mail traffic. A good friend has offered to help me host a small virtual machine that will act as another external DNS server, secondary mail server and web server.
  • My server rack at home was a mess and it being messy just adds to the issues. Took the time to clean up the environment this weekend.
  • While running my own hardware environment has taught me a lot about network setup, it is also extremely time consuming.

I'll update this post with a drawing of my physical hardware layout when I get to the office. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

 

Asus is Awesome

For
those of you who have been following my Tweets, you might remember my
complaints about a green line appearing on the screen of my Asus R1F.
This generally happens, especially with LCD screens. Anyway, I was
debating whether or not to take the opportunity to pick up an R1E but
there isn't enough of an incentive to pick one since the hardware specs
are about the same. So I opted to try to fix it.

So I called
Asus in the afternoon, from my phone number they were able to confirm
my asset and contact info. They emailed me my RMA number without even
having to ask me for my email. CRM at its best. How amazing is that.
One of the major benefits of buying an Asus notebook is that the repair
centre is a 10 minute drive from me. When I dropped off my notebook,
the technician did a quick assessment and said that it would take a
couple hours to fix. That came as a surprise. My previous experience is
that it typically takes around 3 days. I was pleasantly surprised when
I got a call in about an hour to say my notebook was fixed.

I
have 3 Asus notebooks now and have had to do warranty repairs on all of
them to date. Most of them were human fault rather than manufacturing
fault (i.e. Niece falling on screen, dropping of device, etc). Even
though they are more expensive to purchase, the warranty and level of
service have made it all worthwhile. I will continue to be a loyal Asus
purchaser after this.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

The mobile platform and me

There isn't a day when I don't realize how dependent I am on my mobile devices. To me, the mobile platform amazes me in much more than just the geekery, it's an extension of who I am and very much a way of life for me.

What makes the mobile device unique is that I can have it with me all the time. I use it not only as a source of information but also as a means to capture information. The majority of my blogs are written from my windows Mobile. It's a bit ironic but I'm much more comfortable writing a blog from my Tytn II then I am in front of the computer.

The availability of high speed internet makes the accessibility of information almost immediate. This was not always the case even 3 years ago. A good example of this paradigm is Google Maps for Mobile. My contact information doesn't need to be accurate to the minute and even if I don't have access to email, I can always be reached via SMS. On the other hand, being able to locate my whereabouts or the means to get to a destination requires access to a rich data source immediately. This is much harder to be relevant without access to high speed internet access.

Not only is data available at high speeds, it is also now available at significantly more reasonable rates in comparison to a few years ago. Now I can do more than just the critical tasks like managing personal information and communication. There isn't as much of a cost barrier when utilizing social tools like Twitter and BrightKite. It also allows me to update my news aggregators more frequently allowing me to feed my need for constant information.

Regardless of how you might feel about the iPhone platform, it is hard to deny its impact on the consumer mobile platform. Outside of the multi-touch paradigm and the accelerometer, Windows Mobile has long been able to do everything an iPhone can since at least 2003. Somehow, the small screen mobile phoenomena never seem to have caught on by the masses. It's almost as though the Windows Mobile was too pragmatic for its own good. It took Apple and the wow factor of an iPhone to gain mass consumer acceptance. A very telling tale is software development by platform. Companies like BrightKite and Whrrl have chosen to launch with a native iPhone application and forego a native Windows Mobile app. They've more or less chosen to depend solely on third-party developers to develop these applications instead. A very interesting outcome indeed. I think in the next little while, it'll be difficult for newer internet sites not to have mobile friendly sites for it to be successful. You can give most of the credit to Apple for that.

I am very excited about the next few years in technology mobile space. We are yet to scratch the surface of the potential of this platform. I am even more excited about what this would mean for the social medium because mobile makes the social medium much more relevant because it makes accessibility to your network and information so much more immediate.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

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