Mozilla Labs: Ubiquity

31 08 2008

Ubiquity is a Firefox extension that aims to empower users and allow them to tell the browser what they want to do. It allows everyone, from common users to developers, to create their own mashups depending on the need at hand.

Ubiquity isn’t just a fantasy or a concept idea, it is already in the early stages of being developed. The current version is 0.1 and it can already email your GMail contacts, look up things on Wikipedia, show you the weather, define terms, get maps, and so much more.
You can download Ubiquity from the announcement page. This will be an XPI file, which you just open with Firefox. Once installed, you will be taken to the about:ubiquity page. I would suggest from here, taking a look at the User Tutorial. This will help you get to know a few of the commands, but there are so many more things that you can do. To see everything that Ubiquity can currently do, you can visit the command page, which lists and describes all current commands. (This can only be viewed in Firefox.)
Ubiquity is kind of restricted right now. It’s not completely functional using Linux (but Mac and Windows users are good to go.) The email commands only work with GMail right now. And of course there are probably bugs that need to be worked out in some of the commands. But if you are developer, you can write commands for Ubiquity. Read the author tutorial here.
Of course, there is tons of information and links for support and discussion on the announcement page. I may be a nerd, but I think this is really exciting! I’m happy to be part of the early stages and to have the opportunity to shape the future of Ubiquity and see the evolution of it.

Update Р09/13/08: 
Here is “The Ultimate List of Custom Ubiquity Verbs” from ReadWriteWeb


Aurora Browser Concept

6 08 2008

Adaptive Path has joined forces with Mozilla Labs to create Aurora. This is actually part of Mozilla’s browser concept series which allows designers to showcase their visions of the future of the web.

Right now, Adaptive Path has two videos showing some of Aurora’s features. They are kind of cheesy, and I don’t understand why the people in the videos aren’t actually shown talking (watch them and you’ll see what I mean.) But they do a good job of showing the browser and the multiple different things that it can do, both at home and on a mobile device. There are several more videos that are “coming soon”. I subscribed the RSS Feed so I can see them once they come out.
If you want to watch these videos for yourself, you can visit Adaptive Path’s Aurora page. The videos are also in HD on Vimeo. I would suggest watching at Vimeo, just because it is HD and you can go into Full Screen so that you can actually see what’s going on.
This is really exciting new technology, and I would love to see it available to consumers. I know that will probably be a while, but I’ll still look forward to it!

Update – 5/7/08
The third concept video was posted today. Follow the same links as above to watch!

Update – 5/8/08
The fourth, and final, concept video was posted today. Again, you can watch it from Adaptive Path’s website or from Vimeo (which I recommend.)

Having watched all of the concept videos now, I have a semi-better idea of the Aurora browser. However, I think that there are many more fine details that should be explained. At least two of the videos touch on the use of RFID. In order for a user to get this data, the object/product/etc. in question would have to have already been tagged, making the technology useless on any product that has been produced previously (without RFID.)
When a user wants to share data, invite others to an event, or contact others, does that person need to be using the Aurora Browser as well? It seems like in order for the proposed collaboration to take place, each user would need to be using this, otherwise there would be no way to accomplish whatever it is that you were trying to do.
Does this take the place of an operating system, or is it a browser like we know today? Does it just deal with your chats, internet, online shopping, and email? I guess that’s what was so confusing to me, because in the “screen shots” it seemed like it was either a full screen application, Aurora was independent of your computer, or it was all that you would ever need. If it was independent, what would be the way that data is shared between the two devices? If it is just an application, does the way that data is organized in Aurora affect how it is organized on your computer?
I know that this all ties in with the semantic web, and I’ve been really interested in the semantic web for a while now. However, it is all kind of confusing in how it would actually work. I think that the ideas and the potential are fascinating, but it’s the specifics behind it all that need to be worked on.

Problems with iPhone 2.0

29 07 2008

I, like many others, was looking forward to iPhone 2.0 and 3G day. Many of us stuck it out while Apple’s servers wanted to collapse from all the traffic. We downloaded app upon app, figuring out which ones were useful, novelty, or just plain pointless. Well, after we all praised our new phones and software (with the exception of MobileMe), we started to realize that everything wasn’t so perfect after all.

Here are the things that I find most annoying about my iPhone after the 2.0 update. I’m putting the 4 that are freshest in my mind, but as I think of more (because I’m sure there are more), I’ll add them.

1. My battery life has gone down the drain. Before the update, I didn’t think that the battery life was too bad. I mean, sure it could have been better, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. Everyday I am down to 20% of battery life. Is this a scheme to get all of us to buy a second charger or a car charger? I hate more than anything when my phone dies, and it is just too often of an occurrence now.

2. Syncing has now become a pain in my ass. If I want to sync anything else (pictures, music, etc.), I have to “re-sync” my applications. What I mean by this is you HAVE TO select that you want to sync your applications, otherwise it will delete all of them from your phone. But once you re-sync, all of your logins are cleared from your applications, and everything is in a different order than it was before. So you waste your time putting it in again when all you really want to do is use the application. Why isn’t there an option to not sync them, but in a way that just leaves everything the way that it is?

2b. ¬†Another thing that is sort of related to this is the process of updates for applications. Here is an example: Pandora is on homescreen #4 on my phone and NetNewsWire is on homescreen #1. I updated both of them today. Well, it’s nice that it gets rid of the old version of the application, and it’s great if the application you are updating is the last icon of the first homescreen, like my NetNewsWire is. However, Pandora was now placed in the last spot of the first homescreen. Why doesn’t the application just get updated and stay in the same spot that it was in to begin with? It almost makes all of the organization pointless since it constantly has to be redone.

3. Why do we not have copy and paste? I know that Apple stated it was not top priority, and I know that MagicPad (still waiting for approval for the app store) can do copy and paste. Mind you, this is only copy and paste within that one application, it doesn’t work with Safari or Mail. It just kills me that one of the most basic text-editing functions hasn’t been included yet.

4. My phone seems to have a mind of it’s own, or it’s just really unhappy. Before iPhone 2.0, my phone would RARELY restart on it’s own. After the update, I can’t even count how many times it’s just restarted randomly. I’m just using an application, or closing one down, and everything goes black. Eventually I see the silver apple, and I know my battery didn’t die, at least. But why does it do this? And I switching between applications too fast?

With all the problems I, and many other iPhone users, have been having, it’s not suprising to read an article titled “Is Apple Becoming Microsoft” (which is similar to this article.) The main points that the first article makes are:

  • hardware shortages of extremely popular products
  • computers crashing during activation at Apple and AT&T stores
  • buggy 2.0 software, which Apple “inflicted” on their customers
  • formal apology for MobileMe performance
  • installing software on user’s computers without their knowledge

Ok, I think it is a little harsh, and I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that Apple is becoming Microsoft. However, I do believe that some of the things that they have done could have been handled better. To me it seems like some more planning could have been done. But just because of that doesn’t mean they are now Microsoft, because there a plenty of companies out there that could have benefited from a better plan.

Finally, I know that this is not Apple’s fault, but it is so sad to see a really cool application be unusable by anyone because of the city that they live in. I live in Reno, NV and sure, it’s the “biggest little city in the world”, but it’s not THAT small. And it’s sad to not see us on the list of supported cities in some of these applications.

The one that I was most looking forward to was UrbanSpoon. I think this is an awesome application, and something that I would actually use. (Somehow I am friends with people who are all just like me – extremely indecisive when it comes down to where to eat, or even what kind of food to eat.) When this first came out, instead of telling the user that their city was not supported, the application just crashed. They have since come out with an update, which tells you your city is not on the list and asks you if you would like to suggest a city. Why, yes, I would! I applaud them for trying to make this application better (but I still wish I could use it NOW!)

What are the things that bug you the most about the software update / iPhone 3G? Do you think Apple is becoming Microsoft? And what applications have you been unable to use?

For real this time

11 07 2008

Alright, so now that I have made it through what Gizmodo was calling iPocalypse, I can finally give you my thoughts.
After your data is restored to your iPhone, you will get a message telling you that your phone has been activated. You will then get a message telling you how to rearrange the icons on your homescreens. The update forgets any of the rearranging that you may have done in the past, and puts all of the icons back to their default positions. For instance, I had placed my SMS in the dock instead of having mail there. But the update puts mail back in the dock and SMS back in the homscreen. Also, any other icons that you had on other homescreens move to fill up the empty space on first homescreen. Not that this is really a big deal, but it is just a little annoying. I will probably be getting rid of most of the non-default icons right now anyway because most of them now have App-equivalents.
Obviously, the App Store icon is new. Clicking it takes you to the “new” section (which still cracks me up, because they are all new for the time being”), and then there is also a “what’s hot” section. I was hoping that there would be some way for the App Store to know what I have already downloaded through iTunes, but there wasn’t, so I guess that has to be done through sync.

Well, on my way to go the sync, I’m running into the same iTunes error message again, and the “Accessing iTunes Store” message that goes on forever. What do I need to go to the store for? I’m already activated? I just want to sync!!!! Is this going to take another two hours? I really just want to see how it all works… I guess in the meantime, I can talk about other stuff.

There is another new icon – Contacts. Which is nice because now you don’t have to go through the phone icon in order to view your contacts. Search in contacts is great and will be a total time saver! But I recall that tapping the top of whatever screen you are on would take you to the top. For example, if you were in the ‘V’s of your contacts, tapping the top where it says ‘All Contacts’ would take you back up to the ‘A’s. But, this doesn’t seem to work, so is this is just a feature if you bought the new phone?
Update: I realized that you actually click up top where the time is shown, and that will take you to the top.
The Calendar has a change too. When you are tap a day that has an appointment, it would usually just show you the start time and the title of the event, and you had to click on it to see anymore information. Now, underneath the title is the location of the event.
One of my biggest pet peeves with maps was that it gave you the option to view traffic. But in my area, it never worked. If I scrolled over to the next big city it was fine. I never really understood this because I don’t live in a small town… but that’s a topic for another day. But now maps tells you if traffic is unavailable. The area you tap to change views and see traffic has changed a little bit, but it’s probably just for aesthetics, not functionality. When looking for current location, you now get a message stating that maps would like to use your current location, and asks you to deny or allow. Interesting too, that bus stops and the direction the street goes are now shown in map and hybrid views.
Because the phone is now “location aware”, camera also asks if you want it to know your current location. This is awesome, because I can now see how it ties into Apps like WHERE and Whrrl.
None of my alarms were restored after updating. Not that big of a deal, but still would have been nice if I didn’t have to reset all of them.
Calculator in vertical mode looks a little different, and as we know, turning it horizontally will put it into scientific mode.
Settings has a couple of changes as well. Support for MobileMe to sync everything in the “Fetch New Data” area. Mail, Contacts, and Calendars is all in one area now. And any applications that have settings will now show up in Settings (for example, SmugShot has a spot in there.)
I think that’s all, I think I’m going to watch guided tour again, because I honestly don’t remember all of the changes that were going to be made. And if I do remember them, then I can’t remember how to do them.
What I would have liked to see:
An option to set an alarm to go off everyday, without having to manually select every day. I think there should be an option that literally says “Every day”.
Traffic in more areas. Why doesn’t Reno get traffic, it’s not that small!

Need a break… back later with thoughts on Apps

Ok, I’m back…
I downloaded several Apps, so here is what I think of them as I go setup and play around with them:
Friend’s profiles look exactly like what you would see in the iPhone’s contacts area. Tapping on a physical address opens Maps, tapping a phone number immediately calls the person instead of asking if you want to call, and tapping an email address opens Mail.
I think the Facebook App is setup very nicely and is very easy to use.
Very cool! MUCH MUCH MUCH better than the online mobile version. You can do pretty much everything on the App that you can on the actual website. You can also search for people by their name now, instead of just an email address. I love it! But the only thing that I noticed after playing with it for a while is that it doesn’t tell you that you have new comments.
Right off the bat asks you if you want it to know your current location. Again, this is because it is now “location aware”. You then get a message asking if you want to setup an account (ie. for people who already have an account… kind of misleading.) The alert noise honestly scared me when it first happened… not sure if I will keep it.
Easy setup of new account. May take some getting used to when actually using. We’ll see…
Update: I did end up getting rid of this App.
Very slow to load. There are a lot different thing integrated into this though, and it seems like it is better setup that Whrrl to be honest. They are pretty similar in what they are aiming to do. But I thought I’d get both and decide what I liked best. Using WHERE will probably eliminate my need for the Yelp! App. I can honestly see myself getting a lot of use out of this App and I’m really excited to use it!
Like I just said, WHERE will probably eliminate my need for the Yelp! App, but may as well take a look at it anyway. However, I can see where it could useful when looking for something specific. Maybe I’ll keep it on there for now and see if it meets a need.
I think this is an awesome concept. But how much would I use it on my phone? Especially with out a way to select text? I could definitely see myself using it on my desktop. So maybe I’ll hold off on this until I use it on my computer.
I didn’t have a Jott account before, so I had to register for one. Annoying thing: you have to tap in the middle of the text box in order to use it… weird. After registering, you are sent a SMS in order to validate your account, this takes a while. Waiting….. Waiting….. Still waiting….. Ok, well, since Evernote also has the ability to do voice notes, I got rid of Jott. Never did get that text message…
I know some of this is kind of scattered brained. But I hope it helps someone.

Later in the day I ended up adding a couple more applications. I haven’t had the time to try them out yet, but if I feel that you’d benefit from what I have to say, I’ll write a blog.

Words cannot even describe

11 07 2008

This is perfect:

Thanks failwhale!