Harshdeep 2.0

July 7, 2006

New avatar of Abazab

Filed under: Internet, Mobile, Video — harshdeep @ 10:21 pm

Some time back, I talked about Abazab and Umundo – these applications let you upload videos from your mobile (and desktop too) to your blog.

Looks like Abazab has got a face lift – the playbox looks much better now and it’s more functional. One thing that I like is the clip browser on the right hand side.

I’m still using my old blogspot blog to host my abazab playbox.

Sharing of uploaded video clips has also been enhanced. If you happen to like a video in someone’s playbox, just hit the share button while your mouse is hovering over that particular video in the clip browser and enter your friend’s email id. Your friend doesn’t need to go through any registration process to view the video – all he has to do is visit a static link that is mailed to him – pretty straightforward and very usable.

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Fastest way to upload pictures for your blog

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 9:08 am

Allyoucanaupload is the fastest and the simplest way to upload images to show on your blog. I’ve been hosting all images for my blog on it ever since I discovered it.

UI of the webpage is designed to let you do one thing – upload pictures. Can’t get simpler than this.


This is not flicker – you don’t need to create an account. If you lose the URL it generates for the uploaded image, there’s no way to get it back – you’ll have to upload it again.

Very useful if you host your blog on a public server.

June 16, 2006

Umundo: Abazab’s nemesis

Filed under: Internet, Mobile, Video — harshdeep @ 5:48 am

vs

The similarity between Umundo and Abazab does not end with their difficult-to-spell names. Like Abazab (that I mentioned in my last post), Umundo let’s you upload videos directly from your camera phone. People can view your videos at a webpage that Umundo creates for you, or you can embed a widget on your own webpage just like Abajab. Here is my Umundo page.

MobileCrunch has a comparison between the two.

One annoying thing about Umundo is that once you’ve uploaded a video, you can’t delete it. This is a serious handicap especially when you are dealing with public sharing of personal videos.

Update: Deletion is now possible in Umundo as mentioned by the readers in the comments.

June 13, 2006

Abazab says yo!

Filed under: Internet, Video — harshdeep @ 5:53 am

This is the subject of the beta invite I just got from Abazab. I quickly created an account, shot a little video from my Nokia 6630 and uploaded it (you've to mail the clip to me@zab.bz to upload it – the address is tied to your account through your email address). It's kinda cool actually. It let me customize a widget in which others will be able to play the videos that I upload – they call it the playbox. With my limited aesthetic sense, this is how it looked after some tweaks –

Abazab widget

In case you want to see a very exciting video of my cubicle walls showing off a Geek Quiz Certificate and Best Special Effects trophy (for an amateur commercial that I didn't have anything to do with), please follow the link to my old Blogspot blog as WordPress won't let me insert the HTML clipping for abazab widget.

I think it would be very useful to have community playboxes in Abazab. For example, there could be a common playbox for everyone in my college batch – everyone can post videos, they are all there in the same playbox and anyone can host it on his blog. It'd be a cool way to stay in touch.

Register for Abazab beta here

June 10, 2006

Zyb – Online mobile data backup

Filed under: Internet, Mobile — harshdeep @ 9:35 pm

Zyb betaNewly offered Zyb is essentially a free online backup service for mobile phone data. It lets you save the contacts and calendar data from your phone to its web servers so that they are safe even if you lose your phone.

There are, of course, other methods for backing up mobile data. I have a Nokia 6630. I can use Nokia PC Suite to couch my mobile data in the safety of my laptop, home computer or a CD. In case I lose my phone, I can buy a new one and use the backed up data to load it with my contacts etc. But wait – I’m using Nokia PC Suite, right? If my new phone is not a Nokia, I can’t extract anything out of the backed up data – it’s a blackhole for me. Maybe I’ll find a hack to convert .nfb and .nfc files created by Nokia PC Suite to backup my data to something that can be used to update the new phone. Maybe I won’t. In any case, it will be time consuming.

Zyb sounds like a better option in this respect because it supports a wider range of mobile phones.

It synchronizes data using SyncML (Synchronization Markup Language), a platform-independent synchronization standard backed by Open Mobile Alliance. Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Siemens AG have been making their phones compliant with SyncML for quite some time now.

Setting Zyb up on my Nokia 6630 was a breeze. They have done a commendable job at making the setting up process simple and tailormade for specific phone models – at least for 6630, I found very specific instructions.

However, synchronization wasn’t that smooth. I kept getting “Connection failed” error. Curiously, this error would come after 66 or 191 out of 271 contacts have been uploaded. Maybe it’s got something to do with the buffer size used in the transmission. I guess Zyb’s servers have been overloaded with sudden deluge of users right now.

Apart from data backup, Zyb provides some other neat features as well. For example, if your friends (who have a Zyb account) change their phone number or other details, it gets automatically updated in your Zyb database and consequently on your phone the next time you synchronize.

Zyb doesn’t provide a way to integrate with Outlook yet. They say they are going to provide it for a fee in some time. As of now, one can buy an Oulook plug-in here to do the job.

But there are security issues involved in using a service like this. Many users will hesitate uploading private information like contacts and calendar details to a remote server unless they are absolutely convinced about the security of their data. It will be vey important for Zyb to gain that kind of confidence.

Since mobile phones are quickly taking on the responsibilities of a laptop, are more prone to theft and get upgraded more frequently, mobile data backup is becoming important and Zyb seems to be a timely solution.

April 2, 2006

Clash of Online Image Editors

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 1:24 pm

Most of the day-to-day applications (word editors, calendars, personal organizers, spreadsheets and more) are becoming available on the web and they are finding users too. It's obvious for Basic Image Editing apps to follow course. I say Basic, because despite the cool AJAXy and Flashy web apps coming up these days, it's still a long way until we can expect to see professional Photoshop-like functionality delivered over the web.
Out of the available options right now, I think and are the most promising.

Both have an interactive AJAXy interface – the kind we have come to expect from web applications these days. Pixoh has a more desktop-like workspace – you can drag the image around on the screen and resize it by dragging the corners.

The feature set is pretty limited in both the applications, but PXN8's toolbox is comparatively much richer. Both of these are under continuous development, so more features should be on their way.

PXN8 toolbox

PXN8 Toolbox

 

Pixoh toolbox

Pixoh toolbox

Pixoh Toolbox

As these applications become more mature, it would be interesting to see how they are going to make money. Both are free services – I think they are gonna stay that way. PXN8 shows Google Ads, but Pixoh doesn't seem to have any business model in place yet. Maybe they are just betting on getting bought by a bigger fish.

March 11, 2006

Eye OS – the first open Web OS

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 8:03 pm

In my last post, I talked about Goowy. And I mentioned that they should seriously consider allowing third party developers to develop applications for their Web OS.

It’s a repeatedly proven fact – enabling others to develop applications for your platform is a surefire way to success. As more and more developers start writing applications for your platform, it becomes more useful and attractive for a common user. Two most conspicuous examples – Windows and Flash.

While I wish that folk over at Goowy will do this someday, there is another Web OS that already provides an API for developing third party apps – Eye OS. In that sense, Eye OS is the first open Web OS.

Eye OS is Open Source. You can create an account on their public server here or download it and install it on your own server.

Here’s a screenshot of Eye OS in action
Eye OS Screenshot

Applications
While some applications come preinstalled, there is a variety of applications that you can install later. Word Editor, Spreadsheet, Blogger, Chat, Audio Player, Browser, Calculator, Calendar – here’s the complete list.
A lot of applications can be installed only if you are running eyeOS on your own server and not if you have an account on their public server.
More applications are continuously being added by third party developers. Here’s the API if you want to write your own killer app. You can either use PHP or Flash.

File Sharing
An important aspect of a Web OS is the accessibility of data everywhere. You can keep your files on the server – I’m not sure about the storage limit on their public server. However, there is no folder structure to arrange/categorize the files.

And though I could upload/download files from my computer to Eye OS, I could not see them in the Eye OS viewer – it kept saying “You can’t access this file”. Well, it’s just a minor bug, I think 🙂

Bug

Look
A lot of effort has been made to give it a desktop-like look. The theme is configurable – here is a screenshot of the mac theme.

Mac Theme

Possible Improvements
Integration with the desktop – to add contacts, all you can do is enter them manually. There is no option to import contacts from other applications or web email sites. Same for other apps like the calendar – it would be nice if it integrates with Outlook calendar for example.

I’d also like to see more applications like To-do lists, rss readers etc. But Eye OS does not have to worry about that. They should be concentrating on providing a smooth development experience. Developers will take care of the rest.

March 9, 2006

Goowy, the Web OS – showing off the power of Flash

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 2:59 pm

The concept of Web OS – having all your applications and data available on the web through the browser irrespective of the hardware and OS of the system you are using – and its requirement is understood for quite some time now. But there haven’t been any good implementations.

Till now.

Recently I discovered Goowy. And I was amazed. Though it is still far from becoming a Web OS, they have done a pretty good job packaging the entire thing with an interesting user experience.

The entire website has been built in Flash. That explains the nifty animations sprinkled around the site. Here’s a screenshot

The applications available currently are –

  1. Email – you get a @goowy.com address with 2GB space.
  2. To-do lists
  3. RSS Reader
  4. Calendar
  5. Lots of Flash-based games
  6. Small applications like Stock ticker, weather monitor, Flickr viewer, Google Search etc.

The Mac-like application bar at the bottom of the website makes the intention of Goowy developers clear – it’s gonna be the web equivalent of a desktop OS.

Flash vs AJAX

The fact that folk at Goowy decided to use Flash instead of AJAX to provide the “rich internet application” experience seems to have paid up.

Goowy has almost bridged the gap between the UI of web and desktop applications. With Flash, creating animations is far easier – that’s the primary thing it is known for. Things like accessing the right-click menu are not even possible in AJAX (yet?) (for example, in Goowy, you can right-click on an email and select the delete option from the menu that pops up – this isn’t easily doable through AJAX)

However, all this doesn’t come free of cost. The load time for Goowy is slightly on the higher side – all those nifty animations need higher bandwidth than what would have been required for a simpler AJAX implementation. There is a lag in entering text while composing an email, even on my super powerful workstation.

Feature ideas

I’m sure the developers at Goowy are working full-steam to add new features to their wonderful app. There is so much for them to do right now.

Some features are already in the pipeline – they are just grayed out on the main page – like sharing files and instant messaging. I don’t know how Techcrunch got the screenshots of IM working in Goowy.
I’d like to see widgets for storing bookmarks. Also, some kinda post-it notes would be very useful.

But the most important feature would be to somehow allow third party developers to develop widgets/applications for their site. I’m not sure how they should be doing that but if they can get the attention of third party developers, the usability and acceptance of Goowy will increase a lot.

And yes, resizable windows for minis would be a nice improvement.

PS: Protopage is a good starting point for a software that could later expand into a full-fledged Web OS, but it seems to have constrained itself to be a Web Desktop only (with online bookmarks, personal notes and RSS Reader)

March 5, 2006

Issues with Virtual Earth Technology Preview – Privacy and Feasibility

Filed under: Internet — harshdeep @ 9:57 am

It’s been some time since you’ve been able to see the aerial view of your apartment building complete with the cars parked in the front and the outline of the jogging track. Where do you go from here?

Microsoft people sent cars covered with cameras all over Seattle and San Francisco to capture the street-level view of these cities. Using the data, they built up this site where you can virtually drive (or walk) around the city, with real snapshots of the buildings around you.

However, I’m not sure how they are going to tackle the privacy issues regarding the people and cars appearing in these pictures.

(Digression – Some time back Indian government had complained against Google Earth for providing easy availability to the layout of high-security regions like airports. Didn’t get to hear what Google had to say about this.)

Another issue is scalability. Right now it’s available only for Seattle and San Francisco. I don’t think the costs involved in shooting every nook and corner of the world can be justified. Add to that the need to constantly update the database as roadside views change quite frequently (what if the Barista store you want to virtually drive to was opened after the camera equipped cars had already driven through the area). Even if they are planning to make it available for major cities (in the US) only and even though they are the richest company ever, I think costs involved are just too high.

Here is a Channel 9 demo video.

March 2, 2006

Web Applications: Hype + Buggy Software = Disaster

Filed under: Geek, Internet — harshdeep @ 8:12 am

Popular wisdom for Web Applications is to make frequent releases with limited features, test the market/get feedback, put more features, get more feedback, … This strategy works because

1. You can release the application sooner than later. Competitors have less chance of sniffing out your idea and releasing the duplicate even before the original.

2. You don’t need to worry about the users installing the updates. Everyone automatically gets the latest release as soon as you update the application on your servers.

3. User feedback/surveys let you better filter and prioritise the features you want to put in your application.

But frequent releases do not give the developers the liberty of releasing buggy applications – even in the beta stage, web applications can not afford to have serious bugs if they want the first set of customers (generally the trend setters) to come back. Greater the hype, higher the risk – more people will check out the application and, if it’s buggy, more people will know about it and few of them will ever come back.

Case in point – BlogMad

I’d read about it on some popular blogs, so I’d registered myself to be intimated about the public beta. I got their mail today morning, and when I tried it out, it simply wasn’t working. They should have avoided this at any cost.

Update: After the initial hiccups, BlogMad seems to be working fine now.

Update 2: Anshul reported a (minor?) BlogMad bug in the comments section – “I tried taking part in the lottery on BlogMad and got myself 2 tickets. However when I refreshed the page, I had been issued 4 tickets and not 2. Not very pissing off but nonetheless irritating.”

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