Daily del.icio.us for Jun 15, 2006

Google’s Picasa Web Albums – No Flickr Killer, Yet!

Google launched a beta version of the Picasa Web Albums earlier in the week and I got invited to participate in the beta of the product. Picasa Web Albums is Picasa’s newest feature, designed to help users post and share their photos quickly and easily on the web.

Picasa has always had the ability to take you existing pictures and create html based or webpage slideshows but you needed to have a host where you could upload and display these pictures. I’ve been using Picasa since it became free with the Google acquisition and it has always worked great. Picasa is really my favorite program for managing my photo collections and it’s worked great for that purpose. I always used the ability to upload and print pictures directly from Picasa to Ofoto and other online digital photo printers.

The latest beta which as the Picasa Web Albums is exactly like the older (v2.0) of Picasa but the first thing I noticed that was different was the extra button in the bottom of the application named ‘Web Album’. Clicking that button allowed you to upload the selected pictures to the web and stored on Google’s servers. The first requirement is a Google account and you get 250MB of free storage space. For $25.00 per year, you can get a subscription to an additional 6GB of storage. While the fee is comparable to Flickr, the storage limit is something different. I have a Flickr Pro account and I essentially have unlimited storage capacity – The only restriction I have is a monthly upload bandwidth limit.

Picasa Web Album

The user-interface is very simple and with a few simple clicks, you can upload your pictures directly to your Google Picasa Web Album site. One of the things that make Picasa stand apart from Flickr is that Picasa offers image manipulation ability while Flickr just offers hosting. In the past, I would export ‘fixed’ pictures from Picasa and upload them to Flickr or create web-pages out of Picasa to share with family and friends. Once you create an album, you can share it with friend and Picasa lets you email people to share the location of the album.

Share Picasa Web Album

I took some pictures from my recent vacation in Hawaii and put them up using Picasa. The album interface is full of Ajax goodness like Flickr but there are a few subtle differences. A nice feature that I haven’t seen in Flick is the ability to ‘Download Album’ which allows you to download a complete album to your computer. Each album is also accessible and available as an RSS feed which is also pretty nice. It also appears that you can add a user as an RSS feed and see future uploads in your feed reader.

All in all, Picasa Web Albums is a pretty neat idea and a very simple, yet elegant interface. I didn’t see any Google Adsense ads on the site yet but I am sure that will come. Being a Picasa fanatic, I guess I’ll start using the Web Albums but I wish you could get the same result but my web host for storage. I know some of the hosted features of comments, etc wouldn’t work without the Google backend but I would live without those features of have that type of functionality still tied back to Google. Oh well – Time will tell and once the API opens up, people will come up with some pretty creative solutions.

Daily del.icio.us for Jun 14, 2006

Scoble News Bogs Down Podtech.net (via Netcraft)

I guess this is a good problem to have – Netcraft is reporting that PodTech.net’s web site is struggling to handle all that link love generated by Scoble’s announcement about leaving Microsoft and joining Podtech.net. I guess I am probably just adding to the noise and making the problem worse. 🙂

Netcraft performance chart

The impact of Scoble

It’s great to see all the coverage of Scoble leaving Microsoft – For the uninitiated, Robert Scoble is a very popular blogger that works for Microsoft and Robert achieved what millions and millions of dollars could not do. Through his blog, Scoble humanized Microsoft and offered some much needed transparency that led a lot of people to rethink their assessment of Microsoft as an evil company (Disclaimer: my brother works for Microsoft). By opening up Microsoft via channel 9 and getting other people (3000 by latest count) within Microsoft to blog, Scoble enabled people access directly into Microsoft and peeled away all of the facade to show Microsoft as a company of people where product decisions get made by developers and managers coming to some consensus and now via some master evil plan. For the record,Scoble is leaving Microsoft to join a startup in San Francisco named PodTech.net where he will serve as vice president of content media and help PodTech.net and get them a ton of exposure. Congratulations to the PodTech.net team as they are getting a great person on their team and the added bonus is all this publicity is a huge plus – You can’t buy publicity like this.


scoblesleaving.jpg

I knew this story would be great fodder for the blogosphere but it’s great to see ‘real’ news organizations like AP, Reuters and BBC News covering his departure. Who would have guess just a year ago that a bloggers departure from a company would generate this much attention from the media? I guess this just reaffirms the power of the blog and how important blog will continue to be as companies move forward to get their message out and market their brand. I can see a future where bloggers will be like free-agents in sports, blogging for the highest bidder. 🙂 For the record, I am willing to leave my current employment for a seven figure salary and I’ll bring my 500 blog readers with me. 🙂

I wonder what Microsoft will do to replace Scoble. I do hope they replace him with another blogger as companies need a public face and I think it’s crucial to have that one blog that’s the face of the company.For Microsoft, Scoble has been that just like Jonathan Schwartz is for Sun and countless other examples. I guess the one positive for Microsoft is that people will now finally believe Scoble that Vista does indeed rock. 🙂

Daily del.icio.us for Jun 08, 2006

Network Neutrality: Why it really matters?

Let’s hope Congress does the right thing and adds in adequate protection to guarantee Network Neutrality as life without it could really suck. Can you imagine a world where people who use Verizon as their ISP not being able to get to Google as Microsoft is paying Verizon to make MSN the preferred search engine. So all traffic to Google could be blocked or QOS’d down to a trickle. Can you imagine using a 4 MBps Internet connection where your connection to Google or other sites is a trickle of 56 Kbps? Can you imagine your Skype call sounding like crap because you are using AT&T as an ISP and they would rather sell you their VoIP services?

It’s funny how the Telecommunication companies essentially want to blackmail content providers and consumers. When I surf to Google or Flickr or Digg or Live.com, I am using my local Internet connection that I pay for – Sites like Google, Flickr and Digg also pay for the bandwidth they use and so the consumer is paying to get to the provider and the provider is paying to connect to the Internet. But my ISP now wants to give one company priority on their networks over another, for a price. Sounds pretty shady, doesn’t it?

Can you imagine how this would just totally kill innovation on the Internet? If we don’t get Network Neutrality, innovative companies like YouTube, Flickr, del.icio.us and countless others would have never been able to launch as they wouldn’t have been able to pay the Telecom companies extortion. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo would be able to afford it but new upstarts would be left out and can you imagine a world where there is no real competition? Look at Microsoft and Internet Explorer – After Netscape died, Microsoft essentially disbanded the IE team and didn’t add any new features in the browser for almost 6 years. Competition is critical and fuels innovation and without competition, we have stagnation and the consumer suffers.

Web2.0 or Bubble2.0, depending on your perspective has largely been made possible by the ubiquity of the high-speed Internet access. Even Al Gore, the creator of the Internet has spoken up on this issue. 🙂 At a recent speech, Al Gore said “Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy. It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates.” (Via FreePress.net)

Daily del.icio.us for Jun 06, 2006

  • Do you need a highly scalable architecture? Do you need to be able to handle hundreds of transactions a second? What works in small web apps doesn’t necessarily hold together in big apps under heavy loads. Binildas C. A. has this introduction to coding an
  • Discover three Ajax data transport mechanisms (XMLHttp, script tags, and frames or iframes) and their relative strengths and weaknesses. This tutorial provides code for both the server side and the client side and explains it in detail to provide the tech

Google hits a home run with Google Spreadsheet

I just got my invite to play with the latest offering from Google, the Google Spreadsheets and my initial reaction after playing with it for the past hour is incredibly positive. Unlike some of the duds Google has launched recently, this is a pretty nice, robust and useful offering.

I started off by creating a simple spreadsheet and tried out some simple formulas and it worked – I shouldn’t be surprised but I was. Tying in =(a1 – a2) actually worked and that’s pretty cool. Here are 2 simple screen-shots from my playing with the formula.

google-spreadsheet1

After I hit enter, the results are plopped into the cell.

google-spreadsheet2

The other neat thing was that the formula was saved in my document and the numbers updated when I changed one of the columns involved in the formula. I know it sounds pretty simple but it’s great to have a web application behave like a fat-client application.

Google Spreadsheets have a ton of other formulas that you can apply and it seems to offer all the functionality I use out of Excel. The collaborative feature also has great possibilities but that’s limited to people who have Google Accounts only at this point. Weird but I guess that’s something that they are working on to include anyone with an email address.

google-spreadsheet3

A couple of other nice features include options to export to Excel (xls), CSV and HTML. The Excel export works great and I was able to open up the exported spreadsheet in Excel as you would expect. The HTML export also works but the generated HTML does not validate which seemed odd but I know this is beta [insert your own joke here] software.

In addition to creating new spreadsheets, you can import existing Excel documents and this application did a great job of importing the spreadsheet with a ton of data and some complex formulas. I am very impressed with the overall functionality and overall usability of this application. Would I dump Excel to start using this? No – The accessibility and collaboration features are great but there are privacy concerns that would not make me comfortable using this application with some personal and confidential data. Maybe when GDrive launches, we will feel more comfortable about how data is encrypted in storage, segregated from other users and protected from hackers. Till then, I’m sticking with Excel for my rudimentary needs.