Sam Davyson

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30/03/06 - 16.03

Ma.gnolia Out. Del.icio.us In.On February 13th 2006 I moved over to ma.gnolia.com for online bookmarking, and I posted about the change and reviewed the new service. I had previously posted about and used del.icio.us which is pretty much the standard tool for online bookmarking. Ma.gnolia has generally behaved well (apart from the one hiccup) and I have enjoyed the bonus features that is offers in comparison to del.icio.us. I like the permanent links for each bookmark, I like the way it saves you pages as they were when you bookmarked them, I like the way it sometimes gives a screenshot, I like the private bookmark feature, and the groups are ok. I have however experienced a few bad points too. It is much slower than del.icio.us, mainly I suspect because of its much more done up interface. It also has recently become covered with image adverts which don’t help the loading time or the look of the page. The tag clouds are also quite frankly rubbish. There is just something wrong with the different sizes, the contrast is too poor.

I have found that the extra features tend to distract from the focus of the site, and make my bookmarking less productive. Del.icio.us has a no nonsense interface, and are there adverts? I never saw any. They have also just released private bookmarks and inline editing. So I am moving back to del.icio.us, with a slightly shorter domain this time. The import function is down for the time being so I will wait for that to go up, then I will change the sidebar and my bookmarking bookmarklet.

March 30th, 2006 - 4.03 PM | No Comments »

More A2 Content, Other Updates

26/03/06 - 22.38

I am pushing more content into the A2 section. I am not going to post about them all individually so this is a summary of the latest developments. I nicked the code from my Physics Section C questions and put Biology Module 4 Notes in it. It works well and I was surprised at how few changes were necessary. I also created a Chemistry Organic Synthesis Chart which I have already upgraded to version 0.1.1. Currently there is one chart up, in a few weeks that should be three. I have started some Physics Notes in the style of the Chemistry Topic 17 ones, but it could be a fair while before they get online.

I have added a last modified strip to the end of the A2 Page and updated most daughter pages to the allstyle.css sheet. I have also added a similar strip to the bottom of the Archive Page. I am currently podering how to deal with general site updates. This blog is all very well but I don’t think I can use it as a changelog. This means I need to make a seperate changelog (which will detail every change) somewhere else. I know I have the Site Update Blog which used to do this, but it needs an overhaul. I have also changed the search on the site recently to a Google Search from MSN. I have not fully worked through the change yet and you may find bits of the MSN Search lying around. The search gets a place on the homepage and its own page. I want to make the structure of the site a little looser soon allowing /a2physics to end up at the right place or /a2phys etc. I think php can help with this.

March 26th, 2006 - 10.38 PM | No Comments »

Riya is not Flickr

24/03/06 - 19.38

Riya LogoThis review is a little late. The beta went out on Tuesday when I instantly registered and got uploading. Now on Friday I have finally used Riya properly for the first time. Let me explain why it has taken a while. Firstly though a quick overview of what Riya is about. Riya is a Photo Search Engine. It allows you to upload your images, have them scanned for faces and text and then after training it should identify people in your photos making it easy to search later. Users do end up with large quantities of photos online which may remind you of Flickr but importantly the emphasis is different. Riya is mainly about searching and Flickr is mainly about sharing.

My experience

I ignored the message on the website that said Windows XP was required to use the uploading tool and pressed on with an earlier windows version. It downloaded the uploader fine and installed it (which with this application are mysteriously the same process). It ran ok and I showed it the photos I wanted it to upload. It then proceeded to think and said “Uploading Photos…”. It remained like this for a while before annoucing that my photos had been uploaded. So much for Windows XP I thought, who needs it. I clicked the link it provided and… No photos online. Ok. I guess you do need to use XP. So this I did and I set it to upload a much larger bunch of photos this time (about 1700) and left it running overnight.

Before I actually left it I checked that the photos were being uploaded. And yes they were slowly trickling onto the site. Slowly is definately the key word here. I began playing with the Riya site identifying some of the faces as they came in. I then went to bed. When I logged on the next day I expected that I would have lots of faces to identify. But no. All my photos were online but Riya claimed that there were no unrecognised faces. For a split second I actually thought it was true, could it really have identified everyone after such little input? No. It hadn’t. I browsed my photos and found thousands (actually literally thousands) of boxes on my photos around faces which asked “Who Is This?”. But when I backtracked to the people page there was apparently no one left to identify. Manually going through an identifying every face would pretty much defeat the point of Riya it was all about making it easy. The faces should have been showing up.

I went to the support area and posted on the Wiki, and then on Munjal’s blog as a comment and finally in an email to Riya Support:

I logged in expecting to need to identify hundreds of faces to train Riya to everyone in my collection. However the bar with “unreognised faces” is empty. Did it miss all the faces? No. Browsing the photos reveals that the faces have been found and each photo asks “Who is this?”. But for some reason on Manual Training or on the bar on the People page no faces that need identifying are found. This is strange because I think I have in excess of 1000 faces requiring recognition in my collection.

Is this a bug of some kind? How can I get all the faces I need to ID together on one page rather than having to browse every photo? How can I stop this going wrong in the future?

The response came back a few hours later:

Unfortunately I am unable to login to your account right away. But I’ll be able to soon. Let me look at what exactly happened to your images after you uploaded them. Did you go to the manual training section. Do you see a lot of unrecognized faces there? Have you trained your image set atleast once? I’ll get back to you as soon as I can have a look at your account.

I emailed back to explain further. And then I waited. I checked the site on Wednesday and Thursday for any sign of a fix. Today when I logged in it was fixed. There were loads of faces to identify and I was able to carry on with getting to see how Riya works. I must say although obviously it would have been nice if the bug hadn’t have occured, and if it had all worked smoothly first time. But this is a beta, I understand that. Many people were unaffected by the look of the blog posts I have seen. A hiccup, to be expected.

Drag And DropI clicked the manual training and got to work. The idea is that you identify some faces and then Riya identifies some. You tell Riya which of the ones it picks are right and from that it learns even more. Eventually I presume when you upload new photos Riya will recognise the same people with good accuracy. The page is pretty long that you have to fill in. 5 faces wide and a fair few rows. They have added AJAX to try to make the identifying easy and there is a really low resolution gif animation at the top of the page that briefly demos it. I didn’t find the AJAX useful at all. Dragging and dropping didn’t seem to work effectively for me. So instead I tabbed through the name fields. I was glad to see that it has autocomplete for the names so on most I need only type the first few letters and it would fill in the name and email address (if I had previously put it in). The autocomplete works on the basis of alphabetical order I think rather than the most popular name first which perhaps is not the most sensible way to arrange it. If Riya doesn’t chose a face you put “Not A Face” or in reality “No” and autocomplete does the rest. If you don’t know who it is (a distant relative, someone Riya found in a crowd) you write “Don’t Know” or in reality “Do”. However say that you write “Don’t Know” and then accidently add an extra letter. Just an innocent typing mistake. Well. As soon as you have written it Riya adds the name to your contact list and for all the other photos in the batch writing “Do” suggests your “Don’t Know” + other letter rather than “Don’t Know” as it seems your contacts always have preference to the automatic Riya names. This is terrible as it means that for the whole batch I have to drag drop, or type the whole of “Don’t Know” everytime Riya has made a mistake. Luckily new contact names created in the process of training that do not have a photo assigned to them through the training are flushed off your contact list by the time it is finished. So it doesn’t effect the next time.

Once you are done with the photos it has given you, you click “Done” and Riya thinks for a long time, the page turns to a recognition animation image. And you wait. It doesn’t normally take too long and Riya comes back with faces for you to reject or to accept. The page looks nice and is designed well. You just click the ones that are wrong and then press done again. The counter of “Recognised Faces” updates in the corner. You are advised to repeat the training process as many times as you can (at least 5) for the best results. I am finding that with every time I train the number of images it finds that match the people I have identified decreases. This is because slowly all the images in my collection are getting identified. I still have some unidentified though and these will be used the next time I opt to train. You can also batch train which offers you people Riya thinks are the same person and asks you who they are. I found with low recognition rates this method wasn’t as efficient as the “Simple Training”.

I am not fully sure what happens to the people who you say you “Don’t Know” to. I mean if they are a relative who’s name I can’t remember then I want it to keep the image in the set of unrecognised faces. If it is someone from a crowded beach who I literally don’t know then I want it flushed from the system. Riya doesn’t know what I mean when I say “Don’t Know” and I havent worked out yet exactly what it does with these faces.

And that is basically Riya. You upload, you train, and you have Riya find people in your photos.

Quirks

Riya makes you a “People” page with all the people on with their latest picture and their name. Clicking on them does a search in your photos for them. As with all Riya searches you can change the area of search between Your Photos, Your Friend’s and the Public’s. This is all very neat. But when you click from the contact page the default is your own photos. When I click any of the people from my contacts I get alarming few results. Say 11. However I know that Riya has found way more than 11 instances of the person in my photos and clicking on the “Edit” next to the contact name reveals to me the “Training Set” for the contact. For the same person who gets 11 results I have more than 70 images of them in the training set. Why aren’t all of these images found in a search? Why are the results at all different? This is particularly worrying I think when the emphasis of the site is, as I say, on search. It becomes even worse when you have a contact for which you have trained Riya with say 3 photos. It should find these 3 when you search, but it tends to find zero. So someone that you have as a person in your photos, cannot be found in your photos. This needs a fix. (See update below).
Riya puts your photos into Albums for you. These are based on the folders the photos were in when you uploaded them. You can not rename them as far as I can see and you cannot more photos from one album to another once they are uploaded. A photo can only appear in one folder. This is odd, and perhaps is related to the Beta status of the product. I am sure (at least I hope) that more functionality will be added to control this in the future.

At the moment you can’t easily grab the URLs of your photos. This is coming soon though. A work around is to share them with your own email address and you get a link back (a really long one with loads of funny letters) that directs you to your photos. This is not the link to the image though, more the link to the image page. Rotating images is another feature “Coming Soon” and it explains why many of the photos I have in Riya do not have faces identified on them. Riya is looking at the photos the wrong way (i.e. from the side). I think when they integrate the rotate it would be cool if all the photos could be scanned for sideways faces and suggested to me for rotation. Maybe futher in the future auto rotation could occur upon upload if only sideways heads are found in the image.

The user interface for the search results pages is odd. Once you click on one photo you can navigate to the others using the squares that appear either side of the main image. These are just plain green squares and they show a preview of the photo they represent when you hover over them. Clicking on them changes the displayed photo by JavaScript. The URL of the page does not change but the image displayed does. This leads to the back button being broken, sending links of images not being intuitive (you send the link but it shows the first photo you looked at in the search as changes you make afterwards do not affect the URL). I think this should be changed as soon as is possible.

You can’t add images through the browser. The reason for this is clear at the moment, the uploader tool does the image processing too which saves Riya loads of resources. Using a browser it is more likely that the server will have to do more work. This really changes the way that Riya can be used. You wouldn’t quickly upload a screenshot like you might to Flickr as it would simply be tool much hassle. Riya works well with lots of photos uploading at once, Flickr is better at doing smaller numbers.

Best Bits

Riya is a site that was designed for 1024 by 768 screens. This means that all of my screen gets used and when I use a 1280 by 1024 most of it is used. This is not like Flickr which is still designed for 800 by 600. The upshot is that the photos are displayed much larger on the photo pages in Riya. Much larger. They basically fill my browser screen and make the images in Flickr look rather like thumbnails.

You can chose to have your images private on Riya. All of the ones I have put online so far are. But sharing is easy at any level. You can add a contact and let them see everything. You can send an email to someone with a link to a particular album. You can just share one photo. These last two do not require that you register for Riya which is such an advantage as family members (particularly older) are always reluctant to be bother to sign up for things. This brings the sharing to a new, easier level.

If your photos which are private match someone’s search terms they will appear in the persons search results. Wait a minute? I thought they were private. Yes they are, it doesn’t show the image but it shows you a form which sends a message to the image owner and you can explain why you want to see the photo. It is then really easy for the image owner to see the message when they log in and dismiss it or allow it. This does however bring me to a bit of a quirk. If I have let someone see all of my photos (i.e. they are a “Friend”) when they search for terms that match my photos they might see nothing in their photos. That is to be expected. When they switch to view their friends photos (which includes me) they see the pictures that they were looking for. Curiously though they notice that they are also results in the public images. They however are all private ones which require submission of text to the content owner to view. But the sets of photos are the same. The private photos seen in the public tab are also from me, and they are photos that the user can easily see if they change their search to my photos. So why are they marked as private? It gives the situation where a user can request access to a photo to which they already have access. Madness. The photos should be actually shown in the public view if the user does have access to them rather than stating they are private.

The comments system on Riya is really neat. I think it uses AJAX or something to put you comment on straight away. It certainly works that way with descriptions. Which have your little photo next to them. This is the same one that is use to identify you in your people page I think.

Riya is not Flickr

Riya is a new release, Flickr is currently one of the most popular photo sites available. For this reason alone it is not too fair to compare. But even so you could say that if Riya wanted to challenge Flickr it would have to start beating Flickr despite being considerably younger. However this is not Riya’s aim. I am sure of it. They are both playing in the Photo space but the services offered by each site are not the same. If you expect that Riya is going to be Flickr + Face Recognition then you are mistaken. Riya is not so socially geared. It is ideal for having your family albums online to share with other family members or friends or the world but it isn’t that good for anything else. Riya works best with people, and generally the same people over and over again.

I want to make it very clear that these two products are not the same. There are some very important differences. Riya is free for as many photos as you have. Flickr needs a payment if it is going to be usable beyond 200. Flickr stores your photos at the original size. Riya doesn’t. They are all resized to one size for display online before the upload. Riya is clearly designed for handling more photos and trying to get them organised. One way is the face recognition. Another way is the text recognition. Another is tagging…

Riya is not about to knock Flickr out. I think though it is about to bring a new community of photographers online. Watch it happen. Riya.com.

As requested: riya, riyarocks, riyasobetaithurts.

Update: This has been improved all ready. It appears that the search engine part is a lag or so behind the actual photo collection. I am confident that in the next few days the search numbers will be spot on.

March 24th, 2006 - 7.38 PM | No Comments »

Hotmail Closure (Part 1)

21/03/06 - 20.38

This is part 1 in which I describe the various types of Hotmail Closure notices. In part 2 I explain how I acted to try to bring a help article to Hotmail’s help directory to say that “Hotmail is not closing, and they do not forward emails by chain mail”. Read that here.

I am not a Hotmail user. I used to be, but I don’t intend to return in the near future. Even the facelift due shortly doesn’t give it anything on Gmail in my opinion. However I know a lot of Hotmail users. And I therefore get a lot of messages from Hotmail.com. Sometimes the content of the messages suggests that Hotmail is running out of resources and will have to close in the near future. The messages go on to say that they need you to forward the message to 20 contacts or so to keep your account active. The messages come in various forms. Some are pretty convincing like: (View Large)
Hotmail Sample

And others are purely embarassing:

Hey it is Andy and john the directors of MSN, sorry for the
interruption
but
msn is closing down. this is because too many inconsiderate
people are
taking up all the name (eg making up lots of different accounts
for
just one
person), we only have 578 names left. If you would like to close
your
account, DO NOT SEND THIS MESSAGE ON. If you would like to keep
your
account, then SEND THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE ON YOUR CONTACT
LIST. This
is no
joke, we will be shutting down the servers. Send it on, thanks.
WHO EVER DOES NOT SEND THIS MESSEAGE, YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE
CLOSED AND
YOU
WILL COST £10.00 A MONTH TO USE. SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR
CONTACT
LIST.
NOW YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO. PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD THIS or REPLAY.
COPY THE
WHOLE EMAIL. GO BACK TO YOUR INBOX AND CLICK ON NEW. AND PASTE
THANK
YOU FOR
YOUR ATTENTION

Some cite a BBC article from a few years ago at this address:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1189119.stm

All of them request for you to get forwarding the message along to save yourself your acocunt and/or money for your account. These messages are not new at all. And all of them are completely bogus. There is to be no closing of Hotmail in the near future, or even the distant future. And even if Hotmail did decide that it was going to start charging users (which I have to say is fairly unimaginable with the current competition) then they would contact everyone individually. Hotmail do not and will not send you important service changing information via forwards. I havent checked but I am pretty sure they would break the terms of the EULA if they didn’t.

I started to get a little sick of these messages. Especially since I don’t even use the service. For some reason people kept believing them and kept forwarding the message on. Not only that but as you see at BreakTheChain.org these messages are pretty dangerous. Everytime you forward the email the addresses contained within the email pile up. I have some messages in my inbox with hundreds of email addresses on from steps further up the chain. If I were a spammer then I would be a happy person. I wanted to send out a message to everyone who sent me a forward of this nature (and everyone they were sending it to) that clearly stated the above and linked to a article on the Hotmail help where this information is clearly shown. Only one problem. This information is not clearly shown on Hotmail’s help. It isn’t shown at all. I guess at this point I began to sympathise a little with the “forwarders”. They had no one telling them that these things were completely false. Apart from intuition, how were they supposed to know?

On 4th March 2006 I wrote to Hotmail customer support. I know I am not a customer but it was the most suitable link I could find on their website. I requested a new article on the subject described above. Since then I have been exchanging emails with their support people. All of these emails will be published on this blog as soon as I have got to the bottom of the issue, that will be part 2. So far I have sent five messages and got 4 replies. The ball is in their court at this moment, but I expect a further reply very soon. I have written to four different representatives (always someone else replies) and as of 20.36 GMT on Tuesday 21st March there is no help article up.

March 21st, 2006 - 8.38 PM | 8 Comments »

Riya

21/03/06 - 17.16

Riya is the service that changes PhotoSearch forever. It is the world’s first Photo Search Engine that searches inside your images for people, and text, to help make all of your photos more organised than ever. You identify the people in a few of your photos. Then it identifies the people in the rest. Apparently it works really well. They have rocked Demo 06 picking up a Demo God for their presentation and now they are releasing their first public beta.

I have been wanting to try out this thing for a long while now. When I got an email through this afternoon I signed up straight away. I wont be able to get any photos up until later tonight. Full review will follow.

March 21st, 2006 - 5.16 PM | 1 Comment »

Zoho – Online Office

15/03/06 - 21.49

Another area that is hotting up like the calendars is the online office space. That is applications that allow online editing and saving of documents. These range from standard word processors up to spreadsheet applications and online slideshow tools. Systems like these are all set to become the next generation of office tools. The next Microsoft Office. As I write Microsoft are preparing their take on the scene. I am not sure of the exact name but I am sure it will have Live in somewhere, definately a beta, maybe a Windows too. Rumours are rife that Google is preparing a suite to compete with all of these services, and the recent acquiring of Writely only serves as evidence for this case.

At this point it is key to note that the race is still on. No one has made a full office system that works totally via your browser all locked up under a single login. I know a blog that is devoted to this one aim, where a recent victory was celebrated when for the first time every office service became available online. The next step is getting it all with a consistent layout and interface, with one logon, from one company. As you’d expect Google and Microsoft are the big names that are up for this. But there are smaller new companies that have started to offer office services. Some just offer one or two, but Zoho is going full out to cover everything. And whilst Google and Microsoft are preparing theirs, Zoho has some services online now. So you can go and word process online right now with ZohoWriter or plan events with ZohoPlanner or (coming really soon) calculate things, and organise data with ZohoSheet.

ZohoWriter Logo

When I first heard about this online office idea I was skeptical. It would always be too jerky I thought for it to ever be reasonable to use. And when I found ZohoWriter I was anixious to see if it would be smooth enough to be usable. Let me tell you: it is. It is not exactly like Word. It is not as feature rich, it is not quite as intuitive and it is a little more jerky. But it is usable. And most importantly it works completely in your browser. ZohoWriter also takes advantage of its webbased position. Whilst it keeps in touch with the obviously dominant desktop side of word processing, allowing the import and export of documents (as Word or Open Office going in and as Word, OO or PDF going out), it also adds new functionality. It lets you share documents with friends and you can chose to allow them to view or allow them to contribute to the document too. This is great for group projects. But don’t worry about someone (even if they are a “friend”) deleting some content that you wanted. ZohoWriter supports versioning. Every save is saved with a version number and you can always switch back to any previous version in two clicks. The whole interface is written in AJAX to make everything super smooth and it is relatively bug free. The initial loading time for the application is significant. It even has a loading bar — but once it is done the rest of the processes are wait free. It supports tabs allowing you to have multiple documents open at once without windows all over the place and it autosaves for you. It has a great full screen feature that probably offers me more typing space than Word can. There are a few hitches with the import of documents and the loss of some formatting but overall it is what you expect — Word in your browser.

Zoho Writer Interface

[ View Full Sized ]

ZohoSheetThe other two applications from Zoho that are directly linked with the office, that is the Spreadsheet and Planning services, are very similar. ZohoSheet is very new and is currently only in a private beta. When I tried it I found it to be impressive at first. Just like with the Writer product it seemed like Excel in the browser. But it lacked serious functionality. It could calculate things, and it could work with basic formulae. It however doesn’t allow for the extremely useful dragging of formulae or numbers across many cells to avoid lots of arduous work entering the same (or a similar) things again and again. It also can’t graph yet but I am told that this feature is on the way. I certainly hope so. It is much nicer to see your numbers in a picture than as endless rows of data. Again you can import data and you can share your ZohoSheet once you have it uploaded with or without write permissions. And again the interface is slick (and consistent) and fast. This product still needs a fair bit of work, and I do hope that it gets it, but then it will be brilliant.

ZohoPlannerZohoPlanner is an older product. But simpler too. It is not really immediately comparable with anything that is found in Microsoft Office but it allows you to make day to day to do lists in a very neat way. It will add them to a calendar, remind you of events (if you wish), and produce page summaries of what you have going on. It is not by any means a calendar application. It is strictly centred around to dos rather than having boxes of days. I made a page quickly enough of things that I would like to do with my website and shared it publicly (i.e. with everyone). The page produced it this. It allows for comments on the list and when I have done one I can tick it off on the list. It is all very nice. Simple, but nice.

Overall I think that Zoho is a company that is doing great things. It is innovating in a space that is about to be hit by the web giants. But notice Zoho have beaten them to it, they are there now whereas the others are only coming soon. I hope that Zoho keep building and start to integrate their services into one suite. I know that would make Ismael very happy.

March 15th, 2006 - 9.49 PM | 1 Comment »

Ma.gnolia Down

15/03/06 - 20.35

Ma.gnolia Down

[ View Full Image ]

Possibly the most embarrasing thing to happen to a startup? Forgot to reregister their domain name by the looks of things! Don’t worry though, ma.gnolia is back online now.

Update: It is down again at 22.00 GMT. Message now says that “This domain is currently under construction”. I have just sent the following mesage to product manager Todd Sieling, who commented on my initial review of ma.gnolia:

It seems that ma.gnolia.com has fallen off the web for the second time today. Could you guys let the users know what is going on? And maybe set up an (external) blog for future such outages.

But the message came straight back with server not found. It appears that they are really, really, really down.

Update 2: Ma.gnolia.com is back up.

Update 3: Message from Todd:

We had a domain renewal snafu that has now been fixed. I’m not sure what happened that you saw us go off twice, but as far as I know everyone who should be able to get back on can.

So there you go!

March 15th, 2006 - 8.35 PM | No Comments »

Online Calendars

13/03/06 - 22.01

There are loads of web calendars out there right now. Most of them new. Most of them AJAX. Most of them very similar. Everyone is talking about the sudden crowding of this space. And it is perhaps funny to wonder: Why does everyone suddenly need an online calendar? Today I read an excellent piece about all these calendars. It said that all of these startups are aiming themselves at the same goal. With Google bringing out a web calendar in the future it is expected that Yahoo! will update their calendar offering and for this they may want to acquire an AJAX calendar startup. In the post this is compared with Yahoo! buying Oddpost when Gmail was released.

Now, Yahoo! might not buy a calendar service. They might be able to develop their own from scratch (although their are obvious time implications, especially if they havent started already). And it might be ace. I feel myself thinking that calendar apps cant be that hard to make if so many have sprung up so quickly recently. Or Yahoo! might decide that they want to buy one of these small firms. Note: one. That leaves the rest of the calendars fending for themselves. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that not all of them are going to survive.

I have recently tried out four of the calendar services. I chose what I regard to be the four biggest players that are all new companies, and all offering glitzy calendars. I signed up to and trialed:

  • Spongecell
  • 30 Boxes
  • AirSet
  • Calendar Hub

None of them are perfect. I have a clear favourite but I think each of the above have good and in every case some unique features. I appreciate that there are other calendars out there, but I wanted to compare very much like for like in a strictly controlled test. I used each calendar for a period and iimported a lot of events from a CSV so that I didn’t have to go through the process of adding hundreds of events to each service. So note that I am accepting at this stage that there are differences between each service. The interfaces differ. The features differ. The styles differ. I also noticed the following difference:

Spongecell:

30 Boxes:

AirSet:

CalendarHub:

Need I say it? There is a clear winner isn’t there? With 30 Boxes you get more calendar in your calendar. The calendar is simply bigger. This is so important. It makes the emphasis of the service clear I think. This is pretty much the big reason that I go for 30 Boxes over the others. It gives you a calendar. And a big one. And no other junk.

SpongeCell isn’t bad it is uncluttered with a menu at the side. It allows dragging and dropping. This seems a curious feature in my mind. How often do you completely change the date of an event and still keep the event the same (i.e. the same time). Not very often. Also the columns don’t keep a constant width which makes the whole thing look ugly. The one box to add your events is very powerful tough. It is very good at recognising what you are talking about and putting it in the right place. SpongeCell is also the only other service that provides the calendar squares as squares rather than rectangles. I think this is the more natural shape for them.

AirSet is something more than a calendar service. I have absolutely no idea what but there are buttons everywhere that must do something. It seems that the calendar is just some branch of something else. It is cluttered. And many of the buttons are images that makes things slow. The squares are rectangles and the calendar area is not very good. It is quite powerful though I am told. I suppose it depends on how you get into it. I found that it was fiddly and really perhaps too powerful.

CalendarHub was actually the first online calendar service that I ever used. I hated the huge amount of stuff in the pop up boxes for event entering. It doesn’t maintain equal column widths. It doesn’t have square boxes. It has a small calendar space. And unlike AirSet this is just a calendar so why is the space so very small? I don’t know. This is probably joint with AirSet as my least favourite of the calendars.

So not only does 30 Boxes offer the biggest area of calendar, and square boxes, and a simple technique (one box) for adding events. It also does a whole bunch of other things. Now I must admit at this stage I have not probed very deep in the other services. Some or all of this functionality may be available with some or all of the other calendars. In 30 Boxes you can completely change the skin. You can make your own if you like and then remotely skin the interface. You can also add “web stuff” to your calendar. That is any RSS feed. I have my bookmarks, my Flickr photos and a few other bits all streaming into the calendar. These remain subtle in the interface so they don’t cover up the actual events for the day.

So Yahoo! if you are reading this. And if you are thinking of shopping for a calendar in the near future then I have one recommendation alone. 30 Box it.

March 13th, 2006 - 10.01 PM | 3 Comments »

Chemistry Topic 17 Notes

13/03/06 - 19.53

Cell DiagramI have typed up and styled some notes for Chemistry A2 Topic 17. This is the first thing in the section and one of the very first for the A2 area as a whole. It is also the first time that I have gone for HTML / CSS styled notes rather than offering Word / PDF documents to download. This format is much better suited to the web and although adjustment for browsers can be tricky overall the process runs smoothly. It includes a key points section which uses PHP to show the different points in a very similar way to the section C questions for Physics AS. I have made two stylesheets for the section. I plan to make similarly formatted notes for several other parts of the site. And I have started a list of “to dos” with the great Zoho company, that you can see and comment on here.

March 13th, 2006 - 7.53 PM | 1 Comment »

Section C Questions Online

10/03/06 - 22.51

Section CI have added a page with preparation material for Section C in AS Physics. For the first time this has allowed me to constructively use my recently attained PHP skills. Instead of making individual pages for each sheet and formatting them all like I did once upon a time for the Chemistry Revision Cards, I made the links put variables into the functions to call the relevant images and titles. It is all therefore controlled by a single page. So any changes to the format are easy to make and can be made for every page instantly. It allows me to easily offer two sizes of the pages too.

I will probably use similar techniques to help save time when producing new pages of new (but similarly formatted) content. This should help to bring more of the site online in the near future. Up next: Physics notes.

March 10th, 2006 - 10.51 PM | No Comments »