Sam Davyson

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London is in the UK

29/06/06 - 15.05

Jamal's UtopiaIt definately is. Even the blog itself agrees. So why do I find that on this new blog from Jamal there is Americanism after Americanism? First he talks about candy, then soccer. Oh heavens, what next.

But other than that this blog is an excellent insight into the mind of a London student who has suddenly found himself with no enough to do. So in comes blogging of course. I am not sure that I would agree with the description that he’s put forward. It reads “out of his sheer grace, Jamal will hereby enlighten all”. I think that is perhaps a bit of an oversell. You shouldn’t get too excited, each post will probably not change your life. That is not to degrade the blog, the few posts that there have been so far have certainly been worth the read, I just don’t want you complaining back to me that I am pointing to something here that perhaps misrepresents itself.

As you can see it is still getting into shape. The Blogger links are yet to be edited from the Google News/Edit Me/Edit Me classic combination, and so far we are only at three posts. But it is promising stuff, so play along with me: spot the americanism. Here is the feed.

June 29th, 2006 - 3.05 PM | No Comments »

Google’s Paypal is “Checkout”

29/06/06 - 12.32

Yes finally today one of the longest rumoured Google services had been released. And the good news: it isn’t even a beta, this is straight away a full product. I think this is probably something to do with the nature of the product. Google is a huge brand name, it is very trusted. But people may be a little skeptical about entering their credit card information into a beta service. So what is this thing? It is almost identical to PayPal. It allows you to pay for goods at a variety (and I imagine an ever increasing list) of stores using your Google Account login information. So you only have to fill out your credit card information once, and then you just need your Google Account login, and you can buy your stuff.

It also offers a few nice things like it claims that it will track the shipping of the products, although I personally would be hugely surprised if the shipping service they gave was accurate or up to date. I find whenever dealing with delivery the further you are from the original people who are posting it to you the more and more out of date the information gets. But we will see on that one. There is also an order history which I suppose is nice, and there is a way that you can review the people you have bought off.

The real killer for this service is, like so many of Google’s new services, its integration. Particularly this time with Google Search. If I can search for “Laptop” and have a product page with “Buy Now” buttons which use the checkout service that would be great. I can’t see this integrated into Froogle right now but that seems totally stupid so I imagine that it is, but just somehow subtly. The other key thing is how many companies take it up. I am not sure how this will work out. Google is becoming well known for good but unpopular products (I am not going to quote that Finance figure again), and this one looks good, so popular?

June 29th, 2006 - 12.32 PM | No Comments »

Streamload, 25 GB. The Catches

27/06/06 - 13.36

Update: Someone from Streamload has replied in the comments. Some of the issues raised in the post are in fact incorrect. Most notably there is no upload limit. The limit is applies to downloads. See the comments for more info.

There are plenty of cool things about having 25 GB free storage online, heck that is more than the storage I pay for. But what is never immediately clear is what the catches are. How can they be offering something so good without people like me moving their whole sites over to Streamload?

Well there is first of all an instant catch. You can only transfer 500 MB of stuff a month. So that means it would take you 50 months to reach the incredible 25 GB they advertise. That is over 2 years. And the way things grow storage will not be worth very much in two years time so I am pretty sure the investment that Streamload are making here is not such a significant one. They are really only giving you 500 MB of space today, and then 500 MB more if you stick with it for a month. The 500 MB catch also has other implications. It means that you have to be careful about how much you are uploading. It isn’t some massive 25 GB store where you can drop anything anytime worry free. It is more like a small letter box into a well size storage area.

Second problem is always going to be the experience. If you have to upload one file at a time then it is really worth paying for something more usuable. In the case that you were forced to upload a file at a time it would be clear that the 500 MB uploads per month was some figure they just plucked from the air. They could have offered 5 GB since no one could literally pass enough files through the system in a month to reach the limit on a one upload at a time basis. But luckily Streamload it not one upload at a time. They have this neat thing where you drag and drop files and they upload. Ace. So where is the catch then?

The Catch

Man! What a cool company they have some sort of joke message after you have uploaded some files. And you can see the need to keep you smiling because it is no joke. Your files will not be in your file manager after you have uploaded them. I imagine they have some process backstage that they work through pretty slowly that gets yours files in the list. I uploaded some files before I started to write this review. And there is still no sign of them. This is a major blocker for me. If I am going to upload something I want to be able to see it online and I want it to be there straight away.

What you want is FTP transfer for an easy to use UI, and no worries about uploading lots at once. And I was amazed to find that they offer an FTP upload service. It is not well advertised, and so far I have had little success in making it work. I mean the files I have FTPed up are not there yet. And I am not sure they let you download by FTP which is odd. But if you want a go with FTP it is ftp.streamload.com with your streamload username and password.

There is also a maximum filesize that you are allowed to upload at once. I find their documentation difficult to follow but I think it is 25 MB. That is pretty reasonable I guess. Most people don’t have photos bigger than 2 MB. But for movies and big data files. They could be 50 MB or so. So Streamload will no allow you to upload your biggest files, but for most files I must admit this is really not an issue.

The final thing is this is not web hosting. I don’t think that you can make these files univerally available with a URL. Or if you can I think the amount of stuff you are allowed to place “in public” is very limited. Why would they limit this? One word: Bandwidth. If you have your photos stored on their servers that only costs them the initial transfer costs, the storage costs and the cost whenever you transfer back. But having something public more people can download it all the time. Several hundred download means a big bandwidth bill.

The overall user interface is pretty nice though. There is nothing major to complain about. Apart from the fact of course that my files still aren’t there.

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June 27th, 2006 - 1.36 PM | 21 Comments »

Set 4 – The Web Riddle

26/06/06 - 14.43

Set 4I have just finished the script that is going to put levels 13 – 16 live on Wednesday 28th June at 4 PM BST. This is what the gateway will look like. It has been a tricky job to write this latest set. And as you can see I’ve been helped by numerous people on its way to completion. Splasho contributed an entire level. Probably the best level in the set. Very applaudable. Rob, Ribrob, and Ammar, all played their usual roles telling me when to stop working at an idea, telling me when something was terrible, telling me when more clues were needed and all that. They rarely saw full levels just snippets. Ken and Lina both travelled the full length of the set, with Lina doing an extra level that has now been removed. Ken mocked up an entire new version of one level and helped out with sorting out technical issues with another. Trevor supplied the idea for the last part of the last level, for which I am very grateful. Many thanks to everyone involved.

So if you are a riddler, I hope you enjoy. It is set 4 of the web riddle, and it is coming to you on Wednesday.

I originally said that Ribrob would be writing the whole of set 3. But then that sort of never happened. He may be writing set 5 perhaps jointly with myself. We will have to see. Rest assured set 5 will be out much sooner than you expect.

Note: Set 4 is only open to those that have done set 3, you’ll find the link appearing on the last page of set 3 at said time. If you are new to riddle then it is not too late to start jump right in.

June 26th, 2006 - 2.43 PM | No Comments »

Diigo Is A Good Idea, But Not A Good Implementation

26/06/06 - 13.07

Diigo is del.icio.us meets Wikalong. That is bookmarking meets site comments. It is something that del.icio.us has the potential to do, but doesn’t do. And it is something that is (certainly if a critical user mass is reached) that would be extraordinarily useful. But what actually is it?

Let me explain by continuing this comparison with del.icio.us. Take this page it is the del.icio.us page for Google.com. It is full of comments about the site. Now everyone knows what Google is so the comments aren’t very useful. But maybe you are about to sign up for a service and want to check whether it is reputable, or maybe you’re buying a product and you want to check for other peoples reviews. So lets now take this page instead to see what people think of Diigo.com. So what is the difference between diigo and del.icio.us? They both have this comments thing for sites. Well two words are the difference.

Diigo is Picture 6.png. You don’t have to fish around by going to del.icio.us to see what people think of a site, it is written on the page in front of you. People can even specify particular words that they are interested in, or want to comment about. Perhaps they could highlight the $100 shipping costs on a products page in the small print. Or the clear flaw in a politician’s argument. The potential is pretty obvious. It makes the web experience interactive. Everyone sees the same pages — why shouldn’t you talk about them. It truly is therefore annotation. Not just bookmarking but also highlighting and adding “stickies”. It is like Gabbly’s live chat for every page, but comments are permanent.

diigo.pngI am sure you will agree this is quite a complicated idea, and since the vast majority of surfers still use browser based bookmarks it seems to me that broadscale adoption is a long way off. And that is a shame. Diigo will only be “worth” using if more people are using it. Luckily at the moment they let you post to somewhere else at the same time so that you can keep your del.icio.us up to date whilst you try out the new tools.

So diigo is a smart idea, a clever one even if (thinking Wikalong again) it is not new. The implementation of the idea is what determines the flopp factor for this service. And quite frankly I am not impressed. It comes as an extension for Firefox and a plugin I imagine for IE, or for the worst case scenario it is a bookmarklet for any other browser. I am using the extension and it is awkward. By default diigo gives itself far too much. A right click reveals a diigo command at the top. A single click gives another diigo menu. It also gives you an extra toolbar (which I hastily removed). The right click menu is silly too. It should just say “Bookmark…” but no it is a diigo subsection that you have to move across into. Messy.

The screenshot to the right gives you a good comparison between the way diigo and del.icio.us integrate themselves. Note that the “Search Web” thing is also diigo’s doing and it opens sub menu after sub menu all for absolutely no reason. Search is easy enough. I click my search box and type. It is more of a bother to highlight something and then navigate through that maze of engines to find some decent results. Why they include this is beyond me. Do one thing, don’t make a mess at the same time. The windows that pop up for you to fill in notes, and tags about the bookmark/highlight/sticky you are making are browser based. It is not a pop up. This is nice I suppose. But it too is cluttered with stuff I am not interested in. The amount of options available in the options panel of this extension gives some indication of how over complex this tool has been made. Yes it is a good idea, but good implementation is needed. And right now, with a website UI that also leaves much to be desired, diigo just doesn’t have it.

If you would like to give this service a whirl yourself, then be in touch and I will invite you in.

June 26th, 2006 - 1.07 PM | 2 Comments »

Diigo – When Bookmarks Aren’t Enough

24/06/06 - 18.20

I am playing around with Diigo right now. I am taking an extended review period so I get a real feeling of what it is like to use the service to keep track of things. My feelings so far are mixed. Some things in it are smooth others more bitty. And I find some of it all a little too complex for an activity that is supposed to be making things easy for me. Anyway we’ll see.

June 24th, 2006 - 6.20 PM | No Comments »

Zoho Show is Incredible

24/06/06 - 00.13

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As Arvind commented on the previous Zoho post, Zoho have just released their newest product. They fill the final whole they had in their office set, and release a slideshow tool: ZohoShow. And boy they have done a terrific job. It is like nothing I have seen before. It makes Writely look like a typewriter and puts Google Spreadsheets to shame on pure desktop feel and usability. But wait. They aren’t powerpoint products, lets be fair and compare like to like. How does it compare with ThumbStacks? It basically buries it.

Now I will be the first to admit that they have probably taken a lot of Thumbstacks in the producing of this tool. The Flickr integration idea for images is very similar, as is the overall UI. But ZohoShow beats ThumbStacks for the overall implementation. It is much slicker, and much more desktopy. I actually feel that it may be easier to make slideshows using this tool that in Powerpoint. I think that speaks volumes.

If you want to give it a quick feel then there is a demo account so you can try it in one click, or you can fill out four fields and register for an account. I would seriously urge you to. But say you are even lazier than that. Just click here to check the very quick presentation I made about the service. Thank you very much Zoho, you continue to raise the bar in the very competitive word of web office. Things are getting better and better.

June 24th, 2006 - 12.13 AM | 1 Comment »

Opera Wins Me Back

21/06/06 - 00.22

Maybe you should try it?

Opera 9.

June 21st, 2006 - 12.22 AM | No Comments »

Opera 9 Released

20/06/06 - 17.30

And now here comes another big browser upgrade. I am all over the place right now with browsers. Firefox is the default but I was very into Flock when I first saw that and I think Safari looks nice and now… Opera 9.

I was just about to switch it to the default and blog about it when I loaded up WordPress and everything seemed to go wrong. I will have to look into whether this is persistent. The facts though as crystal clear. Opera is fast, feature rich, and nice to look it. I think I’ll go for it.

June 20th, 2006 - 5.30 PM | No Comments »

Zoho Become a Sponsor

20/06/06 - 17.18

TechCrunch SponsorsTechCrunch have now got Zoho as a sponsor of the blog. This is a big commitment from the company since the spot costs $10,000 per month and there is a minimum term of 2 months (although I am sure that Omnidrive somehow slipped away before this). I love Zoho. I don’t use their products regularly at all but I used them briefly to write a review in which I found that their services were the most usable out there.

And not only that the unique (or at least near unique) thing about Zoho is that they are offering multiple services. In what could become a complete solution to your online office system. They need to tie them all together and make the UI’s really consistent, make it a single logon for all of them and then: bingo! Who needs Microsoft Office? Ok. Maybe the usability that Zoho can provide at this stage doesn’t quite match that of Office but it is improving and the convience of having yor documents stored online is immense. The only other companies that look set to do something like this are Google and Microsoft. But the fact of the matter is simple: Right now Zoho has everything but a slideshow tool, Google has one application up and only in limited test form and Microsoft has nothing. One up to Zoho.

June 20th, 2006 - 5.18 PM | 1 Comment »