Archive for the ‘Squigglocity’ Category

Find the nearest awesomeness

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

GPS = cool
Google = useful
GPS + Google = amazing

One of the coolest things about my new droid phone is the GPS and mapping capability. The marriage of GPS with real-time access to google’s massively indexed search info is just an absolutely beautiful thing.

When you can speak into your phone (android’s speech recognition is also amazing) something like “find the nearest pizza” and it instantly pops up a map with markers for pizza joints overlaid…well, that’s just downright cool. But it blows my mind when I can touch on any of those markers and it brings up the address (with an offer to navigate there), and the phone number (with an offer to call automatically), and reviews, and the web address, and a ‘street view’ of what the place and its surroundings look like…you have to see it to believe it.

I’ve seen the future, and it is Google

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The more I play with, er, I mean use, my new droid, the more I’m convinced Google might just pull it off. Pull what off, you ask? A web-centric, cloud-dwelling, device-hopping, browser-based future of computing. It’s been talked about for a long time, and I’ve been one of the most cynical skeptics, but Google might just have a shot at getting the necessary pieces in place.

The droid I’m typing (tapping? texting? thumbing?) this on, or any other Android-based, GPS-enabled smart phone for that matter, is one piece. Their Chrome browser-like operating system will be another. But the necessary glue that makes the whole thing click is Google’s massively-indexed, near realtime, ubiquitous web search capability.

I’m still not convinced that we’ll be at a point anytime soon where we can all ditch our local apps and data. I’m a huge fan of open source tools like OpenOffice, the Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus, and I can’t yet envision a time when a browser-based document or image processing app will ever provide the richness or power of those PC-based apps. But I’m more and more convinced now that we’ll very quickly be at a point where the majority of tasks for the majority of users could be handled with Google’s brave new web-based paradigm. And when they release their Chrome OS later this year (hopefully), I think we’ll be still one step closer to realizing the potential of that paradigm.

Is that a computer in your pocket?

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

My wife was good to me this Christmas…never mind whether I was a good boy and deserved it. She got me a droid, and I must say I’m impressed and overjoyed. I had put off getting a “smart” phone because I thought all of them looked, well, not quite smart enough. Mobile web access is handy in a pinch, I told myself, but it all looks so restrictive. How in the web wide world could I possibly be productive without my Firefox and OpenOffice and Inkscape and what-not?

Well…let me tell you, Google has just about figured that all out. I’m not saying they put all that stuff on a phone, but they’ve put together an incredibly useful and rich mobile OS and toolset. And Motorola has partnered that environment with a downright sexy phone. I’ve always liked Motorola phones and this one doesn’t disappoint. It feels solid and substantial. The keyboard is small but functional (I’m typing on it!). The screen is bright and beautiful. And the phone sound quality, signal, etc are all fine. But what makes the Droid a truly exceptional device is Google’s Android OS. Wow…Google just gets it. And now, thanks to my wife, I get it too.

all in a name = inane llama = animal lane = La Alien Man = ???

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Does anyone else find it strange that a writer named Ina Fried is writing about a guy named Ian Freed?  No, there’s no other obvious connection besides their strangely, nearly anagrammatical names (Ina Fried is a writer for CNet, while Ian Freed is Vice President of Amazon) but still, Ina Fried…Ian Freed?  Wow.  Add to that the fact that Ina used to be an “Ian” herself…strange, indeed.

All that aside, the new Kindle 2 from Amazon does look cool.  I still think I’ll hang on to my old hard-backs, but these devices could start to get really interesting in another generation or 2.

Oh yeah, one more thing…any coincidence that Ian Freed’s name can be anagrammatized as “Read Fine?”

Samples, and Templates, and Themes…oh my!

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I’ve been using glFusion for the last couple of weeks, trying to get the hang of it, figuring out its strengths and weaknesses, being a pain in their discussion forums.  So far, I think I like more than I don’t like, but one of the suggestions I made early on in the forums (one that the dev guys behind it had already started to address) was to remove all the sample content that gets installed by default every time you setup a new glFusion site.

The default install (default theme is called Nouveau) for glFusion shows some off some of the features and capabilities

In an effort to help new users quickly understand some of the key features and capabilities of the system, the developers included several “stories” (the glFusion term for articles or blog-type entries) and “static pages” in the install.  That’s cool the first time you install it, which for me is the time I’m just checking it out and seeing whether it’s something I want to use.  Unfortunately, that means that every time I install it on a new domain, I have to go delete all that sample content or somehow otherwise disable it so it won’t show up on my new site.  That becomes a bit of a pain about the 3rd time you have to do it, especially because the method to delete each static page or story involves several clicks and scrolls.

So I asked in the forum whether they could:

  1. make it easier to delete sample pages, stories, etc (i.e., single-click delete on the list of stories/pages)
  2. change the install procedure to at least make it optional to install sample data

One step ahead of me
As I said above, luckily the developers had already begun to address this based on other requests from users.  They’re currently working on a new 1.1.2 version and they incorporated an option to install (or not) sample data into the installation script.  Great…but as I started to dig deeper into glFusion, I realized that the issue is a bit more complex than that.  See, I’ve used (or at least tried) a bunch of Content Management Systems (CMS) over the last several years, and I think I’m beginning to develop a feel for what I like and don’t like about them.

Some systems (Joomla, Drupal, etc.) tend to focus on community-driven and/or blog-style sites.  That’s not to say you can’t use them to setup a simple store-front or info-only site, just that by default they install as a full-fledged community/news/blog site.  Other systems (CMS Made Simple, ModX, etc.) seem to be very good for setting up a more static (info-only) site, but those systems make it a bit harder to setup blogging, news, and community features.  I find glFusion to be a pretty good compromise between those two.  It has features built-in for community and blog/news, but it can also be stripped down to be a simple static site.

What now?
The more I started to synthesize all my thoughts around this, the more I realized I’ve been searching for the perfect open source CMS, one that can be all things to all admins and users.  OK, I admit…that’s a bit unrealistic and maybe too much to ask of free software.  But I’m going to keep searching.  Better yet, I’m going to continue to get more involved in the development communities for some of these systems and suggest/request ways that they can become more (if not all) to more (if not all) admins and users.

I’m also thinking about a set of criteria that I can use to determine for each site I want to setup what type of CMS I want to use.  Here’s a very high level first attempt at classifying sites based on the way you expect potential viewers/visitors to use the site.

If you expect visitors to be… …you might want to use
[visit your site only to find out more
about your organization, company,
service, etc.  No need for specialized
or customized content]
CMS Made Simple, ModX
[Some customization of content
based on membership.  Limited
participation in forums, subscription
to news categories, etc.]
glFusion, ModX
[Highly customized content based
on membership.  Members able to
add articles, media, etc to create
true collaborative community site.]
glFusion, Drupal, Joomla, etc

I’ll develop that further in another post. For now, I’ll just close by saying I think glFusion can easily become that be-all system, but it’s going to take some adjustment on the part of the glFusion dev community, as well as some compromise from me and other users.  One such compromise might be the use of templates/themes to make a given site act/feel the way I want it to without requiring the underlying system to change its focus or features.  In other words, If I want a community-driven site, I need a theme that has community-type stuff on the page (i.e., a Login block, Who’s online, polls, forum/news posts, etc.).  If I want a static store-front site, I need to use a theme that is mostly blank except for navigation, header/footer sections, and a main content block.  glFusion is sadly lacking in ready-made themes, so maybe that’s the first and most obvious place for me to start to contribute.  It would be for my own good and, I hope, for the good of the glFusion community (devs, admins, end-users) as a whole.