Archive | July 2011

A tour of Blogger Draft

Blogger has finally come out of the bushes with a whole makeover, probably the first in ages. Although this is still called Blogger Draft, it has become a default for most of its users already. The new layout or as I would like to call the ‘New Blogger’ has a rather simple yet slick design, and is indeed very organised compared to its predecessor.

 The new dashboard has the same features as its predecessor but the design is obviously different. You can view your primary and secondary blogs seperately now, but unlike its predecessor, doesn’t allow you to create a new post or edit the designs or settings straight away. You can also easily manage them as primary or secondary blogs by using the little arrows that appear when you hover the blog names.

 The landing page for each blog now gives you an overview of your blog with stats like pageviews, comments, posts et cetera. It also has a couple of Blogger related posts for its users. The navigation bar that used to be at the top now comes to the left side and looks much neater than the previous one. On the top bar, (as you can see in the screenshot above) is a navigation to the dashboard, new posts, all posts and to the blog respectively. Overall, this interface is much cleaner and more appealing.

 Click on Posts lands you on the ‘all posts’ page and not the ‘create post’ page. The only changes here is the design and not the usability has the features still remain the same.
The ‘create post’ page on the other hand looks completely different. Post title is right at the top where the ‘Publish’, ‘Save’ and ‘Preview’ button is now located. Formating options remains the same while the space to write your post is just the white box over there (which expands as you type and kinds off give a office application touch). The post settings at the side is a good touch too. Everything is really organised, easy to use and there is a location option too.

 The Layout section of Blogger Draft is more or less the same. However, Blogger has introduced some new features (it may not be ‘new’ at the time of this post, but is certainly something we really need) and one of it is the Favicon option. I remember stuggling through codes trying to insert a Favicon but Blogger wasn’t accepting it. Now, blogger have an easier way of using favicons with no codes necessary.
 Blogger also has a couple of new gadgets in their list. Although personally, I don’t use gadgets on my blog (everything is coded and inserted in the HTML) this is certainly something that will be usefull for the many. Users can now follow by email and have their popular posts and stats on their sidebars.

 Blogger Draft has differentiated ‘Layout’ and ‘Template’ which used to be together but subcategorised as ‘Page Layout’ and ‘Edit HTML’. The Template section encourages bloggers to use the Blogger Template Designer instead which although may have some great features can be quite annoying for the average blogger who prefers to edit the html and css codes instead. But no worries, unlike previous versions of the draft, this one still gives the option for bloggers to edit their layout the old school way.
 The Edit HTML function is just in a better design now but a few good stuff is that it uses more of the screen now so your codes aren’t crammed into a small box, and when you save the template the cursor still remains at the same spot so you don’t have to go searching for your codes again.

There has also been an addition to the Pages feature. Users can now create tabs to redirect its readers to another web site. Although this can be done via editing the html, it would be useful for the bloggers who have no experience with html and css.

Overall, Blogger Draft is certainly a great step forward by Blogger. It has grown over the years to be more friendly towards an average Blogger with no coding experience so bloggers can actually get the most out of their blogs. The interface may be confusing at first, but it stands out over its predecessor. This is also well called for considering the many changes going on at Blogger which will soon be known as Google Blogs.

Don’t forget to tell us your opinion on Blogger Draft in the comments section below.

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Joining Team BlackBerry

Well, I did owe my BlackBerry an article.

As much as I like Android and attack iPhones, I somehow rather got a BlackbBerry as my smartphone. It was a BlackBerry Bold 9780, a rather nice and common BlackBerry which of course has more features than Curve. It was also my choice over Torch, for which I had no liking to have a phone using both touch and type.

So as I have joined Team BlackBerry, this post is dedicated to my new Blackberry and how it’s like to be using one.

First Impression
BlackBerry has always impressed me with its slick design and much simple UI. The Home screen features very useful controls at my finger tips – Connections at the top with all the indicators, Notifications and the apps at the bottom. I really liked how it all went and honestly, it didn’t take me long to get used to it.

It is also rather easy to get tutorials for using a BlackBerry. If not for those already preinstalled in the phone, there are many sites offering great tips for the first timers. Getting started is also rather easy with the setup page being rather straight forward as I would call it.

Internet on the go
With internet on the go, life is definitely good. I synced in my Gmail as well as my social media applications – Twitter, Facebook and IM. It is all rather easy to use and the notifications come in fast so you are constantly updated. Browsing the internet is also rather easy. The BlackBerry default browser does allow tabbed browsing so you can open multiple tabs while browsing. Of course, the screen is rather small compared to the iPhone and most Android smartphones but still, the sites loads fast and good enough for normal browsing. However, BlackBerrys does not support Flash, which seems to be a problem when loading certain sites.

OS support
Unfortunately, BlackBeryy does not support Linux operating systems, or in other words their desktop manager doesn’t run on my Ubuntu 11.04. This is indeed a problem. I am still appalled on how could RIM ignore an operating system while building their smartphones. Yes, I am much aware of the low number of users using a Linux OS but still, why give Windows and Mac the monopoly here.

I tried downloading LinBerry which is an application – still under heavy development – that acts as a BlackBerry desktop manager for Linux. However, after downloading it I realized that the application is in Spanish and there is no language options. After Google translating some words, I had to give up on it because I couldn’t be translating every single word I see.

And apparently, the Desktop Manager doesn’t seem to work even by using WINE – because WINE only helps for the rather basic Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Office.

Battery Life
Smartphone battery life is a joke. But I think we are all used to it now. BlackBerrys battery life doesn’t last you very long. And for it being a business phone that is heavily used while travelling, this really isn’t very acceptable. The apps are always running when you’re not using it, which now I have to constantly remind myself to exit this apps properly to save my battery life.

Charging it is however easy to do. All BlackBerrys come with a customizable charger that allows you to change it according to the type of plug you are using. That is indeed very well thought of by the guys at RIM. Another thing that I like is the ability to charge it using the USB cable. This also allows me to have my phone beside me when I’m on my laptop as it charges using the USB. No need to find a power socket anymore.

BlackBerry App World
Compared to the Apple App Store and the Android Market, the BlackBerry App World is not that amazing. Most of the apps that you get for the iOS and Android aren’t available for BlackBerry. However, there are still plenty of good apps that we can choose from and maybe it needs us to be slightly more adventurous in trying out something new.

What I didn’t fancy about App World was how unorganized it was. First of all, going to the App World from your BlackBerry device is very confusing, which made me go to it using my computer. The apps are categorized by the type of applications and the price, but not by what device you are using. This indeed creates a confusion and is a waste of time. Most of the nicer apps (and the ones I wanted) were available for the PlayBook. RIM should have created another choice to sort it out based on what device you are using.

BlackBerry Messenger
How can you have a post about BlackBerrys and not talk about BBM, right? Well on a personal opinion, I think BBM is one useful app created by RIM. Have free texts to all BlackBerrys out there does make it useful and economical to most BlackBerry users out there. Of course, BBM shall be facing competition from Apple when iMessage is out but still with the simplicity of the app and how secured the data is, I think BBM will still stand out.

Customizations?
BlackBerrys aren’t as customizable as their Android friends which runs on an open-source platform. The most you can do is organised all your apps in folders (which you can name and choose colours as you like), choose the amount of rows to display in the tray, background image and all the rather usual stuff.

Comparing it to the iPhone and Androids
I’m one of those people who would not succumb to buying an Apple product. Nothing personal, but I just don’t think it’s worth paying so much for an item that is the same with its competitors. Moreover, Apple is a company which goes “This is how it’s done, you can’t change it” and that is something I personally don’t agree to as I don’t think a manufacturer should decide the hardware and software you use. Androids on the other hand are my much preferred choice (as I mentioned at the start of this article) for everything the iPhone doesn’t let you do.

However, BlackBerrys do stand out against these two. I really love the way it keeps me updated with my emails and social media sites. The simple UI makes it really easy to use and the fact that it has an actual keypad makes me more efficient as touchscreen keypads results you to pressing the wrong keys. The only minus point against the iOS and Android is, and has always been, the lack of Apps. Perhaps it’s time RIM start encouraging developers to develop for BlackBerrys too instead of just focusing on the iOS and Android. Nevertheless, BlackBerry does have some great apps and games that can be used by its users, although most of the nicer ones require you to fork out some money.

Obviously, there are its pros and cons, but I am enjoying my ride on Team BlackBerry :)

Purple Jane Chrome App Gives You A More Personalized Shopping Experience

Purple Jane

Got hooked up by the guys at Purple Jane to try out their new Chrome App, and since I love Chrome Apps (not to mention the amount of posts mentioning it in this blog), I gave it a go.

Purple Jane is a web application that helps you pick the right clothes for you, in the perfect colours, and makes the whole shopping experience much more exciting.

Purple Jane2

Installing this app is as easy as all the others – just head over to the Chrome Web Store and look for Purple Jane. You need to use Facebook Connect however (which isn’t something I like doing) so I hope they provide more options soon. Anyways, once you’re logged in, you need to do a small test. This test basically checks on the colours that suites you best. I actually felt the test was rather nice and exciting, or maybe because the interface was rather good.

And after a series of colourful questions, they shall tell you your best colours and users would be given 3 options for finding clothes namely, Net-A-Porter, Gilt and Mr. Porter.

This sites make it rather interactive for you to find wonderful clothes and shall be perfect for any shopaholic out there. It allows you to shop by colour and certainly gives a really personalized shopping experience.

I recommend you give this app a try and seem how amazing it is for yourself. Till then, kudos to the guys at Purple Jane.

Moving to Natty Narwhal: More Is Expected

In the previous two parts of Moving to Natty Narwhal, I mentioned all the features Ubuntu has, especially those that are not on Windows and Mac. As much as I like my Ubuntu experience, there are a few things missing from Ubuntu 11.04 that I would love to have.

Can I customize Unity?
Unity has been a huge part of Ubuntu 11.04. I did mention how much I liked it in my previous post, however, it can be slightly inconvinient at times. First of all, as Ubuntu is created to make the most out of keyboard shortcuts, it can be a pain for mouse users. In fact, it is rather annoying to get back to your desktop using your mouse. Especially since I had a “Show Desktop” icon on my Windows, and being rather used to that icon, I keep searching for my desktop on the launcher.

Unity Dash

Unity also lacks the ability to customize, which frustrates most of the Ubuntu community. The dash remains the most un-customizable part of it. It would be great if I could choose what shortcuts I want on my dash. They should also allow users to place the most common apps on the dash according to their own preferences.

Running Applications
Basically, you can know what apps are running through those little arrows on the launcher, but the fact that the Unity launcher hides itself makes users easily forget what apps are running. Pop-up Chrome tabs have at many times disappeared behind the main Chrome window, and I only realise it’s existence when I close the main window. “Alt+Tab” is currently the way to switch between apps, but this can be slightly confusing at times. I hope that a better way would be created to easily switch between running applications.

Viewing System Files
Unlike on Windows, it ain’t easy viewing the hard disk as a whole on Ubuntu. I’m still not able to all the files on my hard disk and know how much space it takes. For example, I still don’t know how much hard disk space is taken up by my Windows partition, or how much have I taken up by those wonderful applications I downloaded . On this part, Ubuntu really loses to Windows because My Computer was much more useful.

I need a proper Office application
Being someone who is too used to Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is a pain. Though it looks much more like MS Office 2003 and before, the interface can get a little complicated. I am still unable to make the most out of the design, and the way the features are displayed makes it really complicated for its users, especially the new ones. I still get rather annoyed at how you get pop-up tool boxes – and also the embedded ones – as it disrupts your focus while typing. I haven’t given OpenOffice a try though, but I don’t think it would be much of a difference. I hope Office applications on Linux gets better, as I don’t like rebooting to my Windows every time I need to use one.

Ubuntu Logo

Maybe proper marketing?

“Half the people who use computers, don’t know a single damn thing about computers.” Or maybe that’s just my opinion? Well, if Ubuntu Linux is this good, why are people still insisting on Windows – and for the based-on-the-looks-buyers – Mac OS. Sometimes, you can’t really blame this users as they probably haven’t heard about Linux or Ubuntu. Linux has to get their game right and make computer users realise that there is a more powerful OS out there.

So, I shall let this be the end of my three part documentation on using Ubuntu 11.04. If you missed Moving to Natty Narwhal: What’s New? and Moving to Natty Narwhal: The Switch, don’t forget to read it.

Till then, I will continue using Natty Narwhal as you wouldn’t seem me back on a Windows OS for long. I’m a Ubuntu convert.

Gmail rolls out a new look

Google has not only introduced Google+ – which took the social media by storm with many more looking for invites – but also redesigned Gmail.

Gmail now has a more organized and less cluttered look, making it easier to use as users can get the best out of the features offered.

You can get this new look by going to the Settings page > Themes > “Preview” or “Preview(Dense)”. There’s a slight difference between the two themes which may or may not be noticed by users.

Google intends to work more on this and users can expect more to come. Tell us what you think about the new Gmail look. Do you prefer this one or the old one?