18 October 2005

Every mainstream consumer doing typical tasks should consider the Mac

In a Wall Street Journal preview of the upcoming new Windows Vista operating system upgrade, is this morsel on Mac superiority.
You also won't have to worry about Vista if you buy one of Apple Computer's Macintosh computers, which don't run Windows. Every mainstream consumer doing typical tasks should consider the Mac. Its operating system, called Tiger, is better and much more secure than Windows XP, and already contains most of the key features promised for Vista.

Things just work better on a Mac.

Other good news for Apple:

"Through August, Apple's share of the U.S. retail market for computers, excluding online sales, grew to 6.6% from 4.3% in the same period last year, according to market researcher NPD Group," Wolverton reports. "And even without taking into account sales of the newly introduced iPod nano, Apple's share of the U.S. retail market for digital-music players edged upward in recent months to 74%."

13 October 2005

Google Reader

Google has been relentless in developing internet applications, and the latest to enter the realm of public beta is Google Reader. Google Reader is an online newsfeed aggregator, that allows one to turbocharge their web browsing experience. It's Google's foray into a crowded market of RSS or Atom readers.

What the heck is RSS or Atom and why should I care? I wish not to get technical here, but when you point your web browser at an internet site, underneath the seams, it fetches a slew of source code in HTML format that your browser program then takes and renders a suitable display presentation for you. Many sites, including most news sites and blogs also offer a sitefeed, that is arranged in a much simpler format. Typically, it's a short list of less than a dozen items, with a title, link, and descriptive summary (or full article text) — an RSS/Atom aggregator then takes this universal formatted sitefeed and allows one to skim through reams of web sources, with the option to fire the browser at the full page sitting behind the summary feed item. What are the advantages of this method of grokking the world wide web?

  • One can hit all of the internet sites they frequent in a quicker and much more efficient fashion. And it's plain which items are newly added and which are those already read.

  • Access and content display is much faster, since all the garbage is culled off, and you're only left with the "meat" of what you want. Some feeds only offer a headline, some only lead paragraph(s) of an article, but others (including most of the popular blogging software offerings) include the entire contents of an article. No waiting for 212 images to load in your browser, or for a giant table to render properly.

  • If an item is of interest, your newsreader allows you to simply click to the source immediately, moving your browser to that particular web page. Sort of the equivalent of speed reading, it's speed surfing.

  • Some aggregators permit you to view newsfeeds for all of the sites you subscribe to in chronological order, offering a hotlist of all the new items added to the sites you're most interested in.

Now, back to Google Reader. I've been using RSS feeds for a while now, and even here on the home page, you'll note Yahoo! headlines and local Arizona headlines that are just RSS newsfeeds. I've written server side processes to cull headlines from notable sites and used client programs on my Powerbook. But I've long wished for the available time to develop my own internet, server located newsreader. Google reader is the best reader I've used to date, at least in terms of conceptual useability, acknowledging that is a beta product in dire need of refinement and added enhancements.
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