New Google Chrome OS: Admission of a Mistake?

In mid-December 2010, I was pleasantly surprised when I was selected to receive a free beta prototype of Google’s Chromebook, called the Cr-48. In return, the only thing Google asked of me was that I test the system and let the company monitor my usage so that it could determine what improvements needed to be made. Within the agreement with the company was the restriction that I was not allowed to sell or give the unit away, and in turn, Google would then provide me with free updates (this has recently been done away with) for the life of the machine.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Google Chromebook concept and how the system functions, let me provide a very basic description of the project. Google’s goal in designing the Chromebook was to create a lightweight, small laptop (netbook, or notebook) sized computer that would require less hard drive space. To accomplish the latter, Google planned to store the information in the cloud, thus eliminating the need to store all of the operating software on the computer itself. Additionally, Google was searching for a non-Windows based OS that wouldn’t be plagued by constant infection from viruses, malware, and other annoyances that always seem to plague personal computers using the Windows OS.

So when the Cr-48 arrived, I was excited to try something new and different. I am happy to report that, during the past 17 months, I have found the pint-sized laptop to do what Google advertised. I also found that its Chrome browser performed the required functions quite satisfactorily, however, during this 17-month time period, Google provided numerous updates and fixes to the original operating system. One of the improvements it incorporated was the addition of a file system intended to make the Chromebook more ‘personal computer’ like. As a result, the operating system appeared to offer everything that a busy traveler might need while they were on the road and, as of today, my beta product continues to purr like a kitten.

However — and there is always a however — the Google Chromebook has failed to attract an audience. This is unfortunate because the concept was sound, but there was one problem with the Chromebook: the price. At the time of testing, the production team concluded that the Cr-48 price point shouldn’t exceed $250, but the company refused to follow its advice and introduced the first Chromebooks at a price exceeding what the market would endure, resulting in dismal sales. The timing of the release was also against it since it occurred nearly simultaneously with the release of Apple’s new iPad, which immediately began to sell like the proverbial hotcake.

In retrospect, one shouldn’t have compared the two since I know that I don’t need to explain the overwhelming success of the Apple iPad tablet computer to you and the fact that it is just fun to use. However, one does need to recognize that the Chromebook is not a tablet computer but rather a miniature business/working computer. The Chromebook is perfect, though, for those seeking a superior iOS. I have found it more reliable than any other OS currently on the market, including Windows 8, Chrome OS, or Android. So what strategy or marketing ploy could Google attempt to increase the attractiveness of its Chromebooks?

Well, Google has not been resting on its laurels and, just this last week, answered this question when it released a new and improved operating system for its Chromebook. Until this release, the only change I had noticed was that the new Chrome OS was not being made available for owners of the Cr-48. When I contacted the company to ask why the existing Cr-48s were no longer receiving the promised updates, I got no response. However, since that time, we have been assured by our friends at Google that the Cr-48 would continue to be supported in the future.

So what is all the hype about its new OS? To me, it was obvious when the new Chrome OS appeared to take a step backward into the past. The icons on the desktop — yes, desktop — looked like something from Android and it had included a taskbar at the bottom of the screen similar to what Microsoft has used for years. I believe that the company’s thinking is that, while Microsoft is moving on with its new Windows 8 and a completely revamped Windows experience, Google is providing the consumer with an old friend that they don’t have to relearn.

So why did Google change the appearance of its Chrome OS? One can only ponder the reasoning, but my guesses would be:

  • Improving the ability to access files and folders.
  • Improving the ease of use by providing a taskbar for users.
  • Realizing the fact that the Android’s popularity and the Google Chrome OS’s failure is no coincidence.

So while Google tries to pick itself up by its bootstraps, one must wonder if the idea behind the Chrome OS was sound to begin with. On the other hand, one could also ask if the concept for the Chrome OS was just too far ahead of the times and people were not ready for an entire cloud computing experience. To see this as a possibility, one only has to remember why Microsoft’s first tablet flopped, whereas Apple’s iPad has become synonymous with the word tablet.

What is your take on the Google Chromebook?

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by blubrblog

Amazon or Google: Who Will Win the Tablet Price War?

Amazon or Google: Who Will Win the Tablet Price War?On Saturday morning, March 31, 2012, while performing my daily ritual of searching for subjects of interest, I stumbled across an article written by Mike Elgan of PC World. In his article he made an assessment of the tablet market in which he predicted an upcoming price war between Amazon and Google. In reading his thoughts of the upcoming battle, there were many points that I wouldn’t hesitate to agree with, but there was one issue to which I took exception — that being his comparison of the upcoming price war between these two industry giants.

The parts of the article that I would tend to endorse include the concept that Apple has little to fear from its less expensive (aka cheap tablet systems) competitors. Of course, those of you who read my articles are aware that I believe that Apple is, in fact, the company that is and will continue to be the dominating force in the ‘luxury tablet’ market. This makes me question just where Amazon and/or Google will find themselves since companies in recent history — in the form of HP, Asus, Motorola, and Samsung — have previously attempted to garner a share of the tablet market only to find that the consumer preferred to remain loyal to Apple and its superior iPad and iOS.

Now, admittedly, this is assuming that Google is actually going to introduce a tablet computer, of some type, in the very near future. Over the past few weeks, speculation has run the gamut, but overall seems to point toward Google introducing a 7″ model, manufactured by Asus and/or Samsung, that will operate via some form of Google Android. So, while I tend to concur with this thinking, we need to look at a few of Google’s past missteps in other markets.

To list just a couple, you can look at either Google’s attempt to enter the smartphone market with its Nexus mobile phone, or its attempt to introduce the pint-sized Google Chromebook into the laptop market. Both of these attempts failed due to the lack of public interest in already oversaturated markets. However, while the smartphone was the first to be withdrawn from manufacturing, Google moved ahead with the Chromebook, allowing a few to be distributed for testing. I was fortunate enough to be included in this testing process and obtain one of the first Cr-48 test units. It is worthy to note that this small unit still works and I find it useful when traveling. This means, at least to me, that the idea was sound and that Google had every reason to expect the Chromebook to be successful — but it wasn’t. It seems that consumers turned their noses up at it merely because the tablet computer is just more fun to use.

In reality, this is probably because, for the majority of us who use a computer to play a few games, write an occasional email, and/or do some surfing, a tablet computer is all we may need. In addition, a tablet makes an excellent venue from which to read books, magazines, or other documents. The reason behind this is how much easier the tablet is to maneuver in comparison to a hard copy book; now that the clarity of the new screens has been improved, one can’t beat it as a means of relaxation. Note that, today, tablet screen clarity is far superior to that of the original Kindle models — to the point of affording the consumer the ability to control screen brightness, font size, and background at the push of a button. Additionally, smaller tablets, such as the 7″ Amazon Kindle Fire, are far easier to carry around in either a women’s purse or, in my case, in my jeans pocket.

Amazon or Google: Who Will Win the Tablet Price War?In Mr. Elgan’s article, he suggests that Google may have a huge advantage over Amazon in that Google can market its tablet as being built by various vendors. This is where I tend to disagree. I don’t think that this will necessarily be the case and here are a few facts to counter this assumption:

  • The Amazon Kindle has a loyal clientele of followers who buy a ton of books from Amazon and Amazon alone.
  • Since the Fire was introduced to the market in November of 2011, it has become one of Amazon’s most successful products.
  • Though Apple leads the pack in revenue generated for application developers, Amazon already holds the number two position, placing Google in dead last place.

Last, I took offense to Mr. Elgan’s comment that people who buy the Amazon Kindle Fire are cheapskates who wouldn’t support Amazon by making future purchases from its marketplace. I own an Amazon Kindle Fire as well as an Apple iPad and have found a huge variety of movies and books that I have chosen to purchase from Amazon’s marketplace. This is in addition to the applications that Amazon provides for Kindle users. I believe that Amazon is a profitable company because it pays a higher rate to developers for creating worthwhile, affordable applications for its product. In addition, anyone who orders from Amazon — even those who do not consider themselves cheapskates — may wish to take advantage of Amazon’s Prime account that offers free shipping for all products as well as free entertainment in the form of movies, TV, and games.

So even though I admit to being a regular Amazon user who owns a Kindle Fire, has a Prime account, and buys applications from the company, I am also a fan of Google. My opinions and comments are not the result of any economic attachment or interest in the survival of either company. It is just that I personally believe Amazon is currently in a better position to win this particular battle.

Why You Should Google Yourself

With the start of a new year, it’s wise to take the first steps toward improving your online presence if you haven’t, already. These days, it’s rare for an employer to not Google your name and see who you are outside of the interview. This gives them a more accurate perception of what you’ll be like after you’ve been hired. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best online presence.

Some people act as if their Facebook presence and what they post to the Web through various channels won’t negatively affect them. This isn’t true. If you proudly display pictures online of yourself drinking or taking part in lewd acts, this reflects negatively on you; the good impression you made upon a potential employer in that job interview is likely wasted if he or she happens upon a more… candid representation of your extracurricular activities in a Google search.

With the growth of Google and its social network, Google+, you can’t escape the wrath of Google — for better or for worse. The company recently pushed out a new social search feature that, by default, will give you search results based on you and who you know over what might be relevant for a search that someone else might make for the same subject. This has, of course, sparked controversy not only because Google is magnifying the importance of its own social media project (Google+), but also makes what might be otherwise obscure (and embarrassing) content that people have made over the years a little more visible when their names come up in search.

For example, because my name is less common than, say, “John Smith,” if you search for Craighton Miller on Google, you’ll find me in the top results — including my blog, personal site, and even my Twitter account. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to build up a positive name for myself online so that when I am Googled by a potential employer, this positive view of who I am is reflected. If you’re looking toward taking control over your online presence and putting your best face forward, creating a website or personal blog for yourself is an excellent first step. It’s pretty easy these days to set up a free WordPress.com blog, for example, to create a personal site or portfolio for employers to see.

And no matter how unique you think your name happens to be, there’s bound to be someone out there who shows up when others are searching for you; make sure that you stand out enough so there can be no doubt as to which you is being represented in the best light possible. If you’ve got an evil twin out there who shares your name and is constantly being disruptive in online communities, being aware of their misdeeds and taking measures to distance yourself from their transgressions can go a long way when it comes time to prove that you’re not that guy.

I recently went through an interview where my name was Googled right there in front of me; we were instantly able to bring up my personal site and see my portfolio and positive name that I’ve made for myself online. If I had not had such a visible online presence with sites that were clearly in my control, any number of other Craighton Millers might have the power to besmirch my good name through their irresponsible actions on other networks (like Facebook) and forums. In the case of this interview, it would have been easy for me to point out search results that pertained to me, but you’re not always going to be lucky enough to plead your own case. By Googling yourself often, you can be aware of doppelgangers out there who — inadvertently or purposely — might be mistaken for you. Then you can make an effort to counter this.

A general rule of thumb that I like to use: If you don’t want the whole world to see what you have to say about something, don’t put it on the Internet. Once it is posted to the Internet, it is very hard to get it removed. For example, take Facebook and the photos that get posted there. If you delete a photo from Facebook, it isn’t really deleted; it stays on the network’s servers and can even show up in Google searches. Search engines like Google also cache websites; if users can access the site directly, an earlier, cached version can often be served up and viewed.

If you don’t Google yourself, then you won’t be prepared to explain any unfavorable results that might show up somewhere down the road — such as during that crucial job interview. Create a strategy to protect yourself from negative and irrelevant information, and be ready to answer for any lapses in judgment you may have had along the way. If you focus on optimizing your own content to reflect positively when your name is brought up in a search, you should see these good results crawl up toward the top over time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner you start being aware of how you’re perceived when your name is Googled, you have a better chance of taking control of that perception.

For instance, I have a friend who shares his name with a criminal. Unfortunately, because my friend doesn’t have much of an online presence, the criminal shows up at the top when his name is Googled. In short, if you care about your online presence, don’t be like my friend! Even having a personal blog that’s updated regularly should knock down such inaccurate and unflattering results.

Think of Google as Big Brother. He knows everything from where you live to who your family and friends are to what kind of music you listen to. He’s seen all of those embarrassing photos you’ve posted. I’m not repeating this point because I like to see myself type; I’m repeating myself to remind you that the Internet knows everything. Chances are that if you input any personal information to a website, it will show up somewhere. Remember MySpace? The information that you left behind when MySpace was in its heyday is still there and is indexed by Google.

In short: It’s never too early (or too late) to gain a positive influence online.

For the start of 2012, try to create a personal blog if you don’t have one already. It’s so easy these days — and can be done for free. My favorite blog website is WordPress. It provides free blogs that are easily managed and customized with hundreds of themes from which you can pick. If you are feeling a little more advanced, you can install its software on a Web host and expand your blog even more.

If you have some good Google search stories about what happens when you Google your name, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Top 10 Essential Google Chrome Apps

Google Chrome has grown quickly in 2011, both the browser in popularity and its expansive app store, which features both apps and extensions to bring further functionality and usability to the light and fast browser. Having used Google Chrome since its infant stages, I’ve watched it grow and become increasingly streamlined and sleek. Its introduction in the very late part of 2010 gave way to the browser to grow in 2011 with the added functionality for developers to create mind-blowing extensions. With millions of Google Chrome users out there, the store has had time to settle in and give us an accurate standpoint on the top apps offered in the store. Below, I’ve listed some of my top essential Google Chrome apps that you might find of great use and should consider giving a try.

TweetDeck: Before Twitter acquired TweetDeck, it used to be a single application that ran on Adobe’s AIR platform. It was a great hit in the Twitter community because of added functionality that gave users an experience above and beyond the Twitter site or even the official Twitter app. When Twitter bought out TweetDeck, it created a powerful, multi-platform package that encompasses all of the major operating systems from Linux to Windows and even Mac. It also has a mobile version and a Google Chrome version. Without requiring extra programs to be installed, Twitter created a native Google Chrome app to integrate with TweetDeck that includes the same features as the regular, full download app. This provides for a better experience all around because you don’t have to install TweetDeck on all of your computers. Just by installing Google Chrome, all of your apps are synced and downloaded to the new browser, and it brings all of your settings over.

Evernote Web: Evernote is huge when it comes to online note taking. I use it frequently when in class to write notes about a lecture. The best part about it is that I can not only take notes, but attach files, such as presentations or special reading that I’d have to refer back to when reviewing my notes. I’ve used its desktop app for a while now and was pleasantly surprised when it started offering a Chrome app. It brings everything from the desktop app into your browser window. I can attach documents and manage my different notebooks and different notes. When in school, I bring one computer with me to a lecture while I keep my main computer in my dorm room. It’s easy for me to switch between computers because everything is stored in the cloud and it’s managed by the browser. All of my settings and places where I left off are picked up in the proper place, which is great for someone like me who is very impatient about searching through notes. Evernote is great for the organizer or note taker for sharing documents and switching between computers frequently.

WunderList: WunderList is by far one of my favorite Web apps for Google Chrome. It’s geared towards those people who like to make lists and check off as they go. For a college student like me who has to juggle schoolwork, homework, and my Internet habit, I have to constantly make lists to stay on task and remember everything that I have to do. This is also another one of those multi-platform apps that has desktop and mobile versions that sync across all the platforms to keep up. I love it because I can add homework or ideas to my list while out and about on my phone and when I get back to my room I can quickly open up Google Chrome and review my list of tasks to complete. I’ve had fun messing around with all the different options of the Web app and have been impressed with its ease of use and great style. For those who need that list of things to do, this is a must have.

Top 10 Essential Google Chrome AppsCloud Reader (Kindle): Whether you’re on a break or just need some time to relax, I’ve found, like many others that reading helps the mind think and process information. Not everyone has a physical Kindle e-reader, and the library’s not always going to have the book you need. Amazon has an extensive library of Kindle e-books ranging from free to just a couple of bucks. If you have a Kindle but it isn’t close by, or you just want to catch up on a couple pages of your Steve Jobs novel, Amazon offers its Kindle reader app in the Google Web Store for you to read at your convenience. It features everything that the desktop and Kindle can do for you. It can sync your last read page between your Kindle or any other device that you use to read your Amazon books, it’s fully customizable for your reading settings, and it’s great for those short reads during lunch.

NYTimes (New York Times): This app I’ve found to be better than the website itself. You can access any part of the New York Times website from this app and it provides, in my experience, a better overall ease-of-use over the website. It cuts out a lot of the clutter that you get on the main website and you can still access all of sections of the full website from within the app. It provides many features that can tend to your reading needs, it has easy keyboard strokes to navigate through the app, and your reading views can be customized. For those who need a little extra assistance reading on the Web for reasons such as poor eyesight, just as with the Kindle app, you can adjust text size and customization for easier reading.

Netflix: Not a day goes by that I ever regret being a Netflix subscriber. The movie streaming service has saved me a load of money year after year for all the movies and TV shows that I watch. If you have a Netflix subscription, this app is a must have for quickly accessing your library and your instant video queue with your browser in just a few simple clicks. The Netflix app offers the ability to sync what you’re in the process of  watching so that you can pick up from where you left off on another device. For example, if you were watching The Office but left off halfway though, you can quickly pick up from your computer in a snap.

Layers: The simplest way to describe this is that it’s like Flipboard for your browser. Layers grabs your social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter with all of your favorite RSS feeds from your sites that you like to visit the most and gives you a single combined layout of all the top and hottest news in a clean layout that is optimized for viewing and reading without any extra bloat. It eliminates all the clicking and brings everything to you that you can even interact with. If your friend posts a picture on Facebook, you can see it and comment from Layers without leaving your screen; after you’re done you can easily flip to the next item.

HootSuite: One of TweetDeck’s biggest competitors, HootSuite not only brings in the ability to view both your Twitter and Facebook networks, but allows you to post to many others. It has a column layout that flows with your latest posted updates from friends and lets you add many columns based on what you want to see. It flows just as well as TweetDeck does, but its advantages in being able to add RSS feeds and additional posting locations to your list may make it even more useful. I’ve read mixed reviews about both services, so you may find that you prefer one over the other.

ScratchPad: This Google-created app is amazing at what it does; it’s simple, but very powerful. ScratchPad is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a virtual notepad to scratch down notes or ideas from your browser without having to leave your current page. It syncs with Google Docs to keep your information in the cloud. It’s very simple and provides only the most basic of commands to bolden and italicize text as well as just a few other transformations. It’s exactly like having a piece of paper and a pen by your computer always, and it comes in handy more often than you might think.

AngryBirds: No app store is complete without a version of AngryBirds. Google’s store has just that: a fully functional AngryBirds game. It has its own twist with it and secret hidden gems only found in the Google Chrome edition, but it’s very fun for passing the time while waiting or to procrastinate. You can’t escape those birds; they’ll follow you everywhere you go.

That was my list of the top apps that you should investigate and consider downloading while visiting the Google Chrome Web Store. If I missed anything or you have your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

How to Upload iPhone Photos to Google+

Google+ is here and most of us are getting used to it and finding out all of the cool features and functionality of this, the newest social media service.

One mysterious and challenging routine to figure out is uploading photos to the service from your iPhone. Before the release of the Google+ application for iOS, the HTML5-powered Web site offered no way to upload photos from your device to the service to share with the people in your circles. With the release of the Google+ iOS app, we now have this functionality.

To upload a photo from your iOS device to Google+, go into the App Store and download the Google+ application. It should be downloadable for 3Gs iPhones and up as well as the iPod touch.

Second, you’ll either need to have already taken the picture with the Camera app or you’ll need to be ready to take a picture. Once you’ve made your decision, launch the Google+ application.

On the main screen of the application menu, tap on Photos. To take a picture to be uploaded, click the camera in the upper right hand corner. If you already have a photo you want to upload, click the mountain picture next to the camera in the upper right hand corner.

One you pick or take your photos, you’ll be prompted to Share your thoughts and add content and captions to a picture before it’s uploaded. From this menu, you’ll also able to pick the visibility of your picture. You can share your photo with a specific circle or with no one at all; by default, the picture is only published so that you can see it, so you’ll have to adjust it for others to view.

The last option before you submit your photo is location. By default, it will include your closest location to the picture. So if you’re security conscious, be sure to switch this off or — better yet — turn off location services for the whole Google+ app to prevent a slip up.

From here you can click Post and your photo will be uploaded and added to your Google+ album. It’s as simple as that if you are able to get the Google+ application for your iOS device, but what if you can’t get the application?

How to Upload iPhone Photos to Google+If, for some reason, you can’t download the Google+ application from the App Store, try a free alternative called Piconhand. This will take your photos and use Picasa as a bridge for uploading the photos before importing them into your Google+ profile.

To use Piconhand, download the application and sign in with your Google+ credentials.

Create a new album and name it what you want. Then, add pictures to it and select it.

In the bottom left corner there should be a Start button; once you start the process it will upload your photos to Google+.

Once you are done there, go to your Google+ account and adjust the visibility of the album — voila! You’re finished.

Happy uploadings.

New Google Search Android App Simplifies Interface, Adds Features

Despite being the #1 most important thing Google does, the search app for Android has always been a little sparse. Android has gone through several interface changes, but the Google interface has remained largely the same. Hell, even the Google Mobile Web Search page looks better than the stock Android app.
As you can see in the image to the right, the new Google app for Android matches the light text on dark background look of the rest of the Gingerbread OS, and overall just looks much sleeker than the clunky white interface of old.
The post on the Google Mobile Blog about this new search interface was removed a few moments after posting, but that should be coming back soon with an official announcement of the new search app. According to Google, here’s what the new search app brings to the table:

  • Suggestions grouped by type (suggestions for Web search as well as matches for the term on your phone), with Web suggestions appearing at the top.
  • Country-specific suggestions and search results for all countries with Google domains.
  • Long press to remove history items.
  • Faster, smoother performance, with an updated and simplified user interface.

It also looks like the new version will allow you to search within other apps on your device as well, rather than just the stock Google apps. In the settings page, you’ll see a “Searchable Items” page that will allow you to select which apps you would like to use for search. There’s also a new look for the Google Search Widget, which you can add like any other widget by long pressing on your home screen. Another cool feature is the ability to customize one of the search suggestions — just click the little arrow next to the suggestion and you can edit it before searching.
Once the new Google Search app goes live, you’ll be able to download it from the Market on all Android devices running 2.2 and up. Enjoy!

How to Use Google Analytics

A site, no matter what, should use Google Analytics to keep track of visitors and statistics. It’s the easiest tool for managing a Web site to track and analyze data about its visitors and demographics. It’s a free and powerful tool to help you get to know your audience better and know what it is looking for.

How to Use Google Analytics

To get started, we first need to get a Google Analytics account by going to http://google.com/analytics and clicking on the Sign Up button to create an account. If you already have a Google account, you can sign in to your Google account and enable Analytics from there.

When you get into your Google Analytics account, you have to set up a profile for the Web site where you want to implement the code. The wizard will guide you through a simple setup process that will ask you for your Web site address and some other information about your site. Once you go through the setup wizard, you’re given a code to input on the Web site so that Google can track this data. It works with all platforms including WordPress, Tumblr, and any site where you can customize the HTML.

It’s suggested that you place the code in your footer right before the closing body tag of the site. You may also put the code anywhere on your Web site, but that’s the suggestion. Adding the code to your site will not affect anything with your theme layout or content; it’s just there to run in the background.

How to Use Google Analytics

As soon as your site is enabled on Google Analytics, you can view a vast variety of statistics including visitors, traffic sources, content, goals, and e-commerce. The information is organized into sub-menus and allows you to track almost anything and everything, including keywords that are hitting your site the most.

After about a month of data tracking, you’ll be able to see long-term graphs and your history with a long graph. The longer you use Analytics, the better the graphs will be able to tell you about your audience. So, if your site isn’t enabled for Google Analytics, you’re missing out on learning what your audience wants.

Google+ Finally Released for iPhone

The wait is over for Google+ users with iPhones: the official Google+ mobile app is out now on the App Store (check your version number — make sure it’s 1.0.1.1809, as an earlier test version was accidentally released initially). This is great news for iPhone and iPod touch owners, however, there is no iPad native version of the app just yet, so iPad users will need to stick to the mobile site right now, or deal with using the iPhone version in pixel-double mode.

The iPhone app is pretty much a carbon copy of the Android version of Google+, released alongside the service a couple of weeks ago. A Google employee had previously said that the app was submitted to the App Store right after the Android version came out, so we can only assume the delay was due to Apple’s approval process.

However, the app finally coming out is a reason for Google+ iPhone fans to celebrate, as it’s definitely a huge improvement over the mobile site. Here are some of the things that the iPhone app brings to the table (keep in mind, these are also part of the Android app).

Nearby Circle

Swipe to the right from your main stream and you’ll be able to see public posts from people who are near your physical location. This is a great feature for large events like concerts, festivals, and sporting events.

Push Notifications

The mobile Web version of Google+ lacked push notifications (obviously), but now with the iPhone version, you’ll be able to be notified when someone tags you in a post, circles you, comments on your post, or reshares it with others.

Location Check-In

You could check-in with the mobile Web version, but the app allows you to do cool things like attach pictures to your check-in to make them more interesting to your followers.

Huddles

We finally have a good cross-platform IM tool now, as Huddles is part of Google+ on both iOS and Android. Huddles is a group-chat program that lets you send mass text messages to your circles, and lets everyone easily monitor the discussion going on.

Overall, the Google+ iPhone app is a solid addition to the Google+ family, and the only thing I noticed were some stability issues on iOS 5 (which is to be expected). Head to the App Store and get it now if you’re an iPhone-using Google+er!

How to Post Animated GIFs to Google+

One of the coolest features of the new Google+ social networking site is the ability to embed animated GIF images right in the timeline. Have you ever wanted a little bit of motion in one of your status updates to catch someone’s eye, or to post a hilarious GIF that you found only to discover that, once on Facebook, it’s frozen in time and no longer animates in the timeline? On Google+, however, you can get GIFs to animate, but to do so you have to upload them in a certain way. Here’s how:

Save the GIF to your desktop.

If you don’t already have the image saved on your computer, find the image that you would like to embed and right click on it. Select Save Image As and save the GIF file to your desktop for easy access later on.

Add the image to a status update in one of two ways.

Next, we’ll upload the image to Google+. If you just link to the image in a status update, it won’t animate. You need to either create a new album with the image in it and share that album, or attach the image itself to a status update for it to animate in the timeline for other people.

To attach the image to a status update, click the camera icon in the lower right-hand corner of the text entry box for your update. Select Add Photos and then browse your computer for the GIF. If you see it animate in the preview, you are good to go. When you post it, it will be animated in your timeline.

Alternatively, if you’d like to create an album of GIFs in your profile you can do that as well. Click the profile button (), and then click the Photos tab. Click Upload New Photos, and you’ll see the photo upload window pop up. Title your album Animated GIFs, or whatever you’d like to call it, and then click Select Photos from your Computer to browse to the files.

Once you get the photo uploaded, if it’s the first photo in the album, it will automatically be shared. If not, you need to click the Share Photo button to share that individual photo, and it should animate in the timeline. It’s as easy as that!

Disclaimer: Some have reported that not all animated GIFs work. We have been unable to find a pattern as to why some work and some don’t, but in general if you do not see the GIF animating in the preview window before you make a post, it also won’t animate in the timeline and you’ll have to find another version of the image that might work. We have submitted a bug report to Google and hopefully it will clarify what GIFs are kosher and what aren’t before Google+ is open to the public.

Are Computers Only Paperweights when They Don’t Fulfill the Needs of the User?

Are Computers Only Paperweights when They Don't Fulfill the Needs of the User?Over the course of the last several days I have read a multitude of articles on the Internet claiming that, without an Internet connection, a computer is nothing more than a paperweight. In general, it appears that many of these authors had decided to limit their focus to the new Chromebook series, being marketed by Google, which made me question if all computers should be evaluated using such standards. In considering this, I believe the argument begins when we discuss tablets and smart phones in comparison to the traditional desktop or laptop computer.

In my opinion, trying to compare these devices to each other is ludicrous. It is like comparing a radio to a television wherein both devices provide a form of entertainment but in a completely different way. One must acknowledge that with the use of either of these devices one can stay on top of current events, but the way in which they deliver this content, to the consumer, is completely different. While radio is perfect in some settings, like the office or car, televisions deliver the same audio information but add a visually interesting aspect to the presentation. This comparison is so simple to understand that no one tries to suggest that one is better than the other or to compare them in the same category.

With this in mind, why would anyone want to spend their time trying to dissect and compare traditional computers to the specialized devices that we now find available in the marketplace?

According to the author of an article in the New York Times, the Google Chromebook he tested was basically worthless because it currently requires an Internet connection in order to function. Another person supported this view in their comments by inaccurately stating that you couldn’t listen to music or watch a video without an Internet connection. These comments were apparently submitted by people who have never used either the Cr-48 test computer nor the new Chromebook itself or they would have realized their error as I have put mp3 files onto a USB drive and played the songs effortlessly. However, I do realize that there are still some issues that Google needs to address including how to use its assortment of utilities, such as Google Documents, offline.

Having said that, I believe that each of the newer devices, whether they be Apple’s iPad, Google’s Chromebook, or one of a variety of devices from smart phone companies, will fill a specific need for specific people. However, it is important that they not be compared to each other or to the traditional desktop or laptop computers as each has its limitations. For example, the Apple iPad fills a need for the consumer requiring the ease of portability, Internet connectivity, or for the user wanting to limit their use to playing games. The good news for Apple is that the masses already understand this, which explains why Apple is struggling to meet demand for the popular iPad.

Can an Inexpensive Tablet from Vizio Succeed Where Others Have Failed?

Can an Inexpensive Tablet from Vizio Succeed Where Others Have Failed?On May 24th, I wrote an article entitled, If You Can’t Beat the Apple iPad on Features, Beat the Price. This article comes to a similar conclusion as one written by Robert Scoble in which he gives his opinion on Vizio’s computer tablet and why he thinks it could shake up the tablet marketplace. His assessment is based on the premise that many consumers don’t want to spend $500 or more for a premium device from Apple when Vizio’s tablet, priced inexpensively at just $350, will meet their needs.

However, we are all familiar with the traditional differences between an Apple computer and the PC. The first noticeable difference being the cost of the devices from these two manufacturers, with Apple marketing to the discriminating computer user, thereby being much more costly than the PC. The iPad’s higher cost is understood, however, when one sees the quality devices Apple manufactures that operate with its own OS, making them less susceptible to tampering than the Windows OS. In contrast, the PC is less expensive, while meeting the needs of the masses, thus making it a favorite among consumers. I find myself in this latter category, because of price, since I believe in getting the most bang for my buck.

While I agreed with Stoble’s article, I did encounter one section that needs to be clarified. Scoble states in his written article that the Vizio tablet will hit the store shelves in July. However, in his video of the new tablet, it is mentioned that it is scheduled for release during the first quarter of 2012. In addition, he fails to mention that the Vizio tablet will be using the new Google Honeycomb OS, which Vizio feels is the best stable Android release. As far as its hardware components go, he only mentions that the Vizio will use a 1 GHz processor and come with dual stereo speakers. This is a fact that is mentioned at least three times in the interview. He also points out that Vizio will have its own application to sync its tablet with its Vizio televisions, home theater systems, and other devices that it produces.

It should be noted that Vizio is becoming a well known contender in electronic circles due to its aggressive pricing in the home television market. To see this, one only needs to walk into any Walmart or Costco to watch these Vizio TVs flying off the shelves and one must note that Vizio makes a great product for the price and a solid option for that second, third or fourth TV that may be needed to replace older SD televisions. I believe that Vizio could do for the tablet and smartphone market what it did in the HDTV marketplace, in that it will provide a well-built tablet computer at a reasonable price.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Why Google Needs to Finish Its Chrome OS ASAP

Why Google Needs to Finish Its Chrome OS ASAPNearly 18 months ago I had the opportunity to try the beta version of Google’s Chrome browser for free. Being free and a new browser product, we knew better than to expect perfection. However, after using the browser, I found that it did not measure up to the Firefox browser that I had been using for years. Unfortunately, while others will try a product just because it is free, they will dump it just as quickly for the competition if it doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Since last December I have been using Google’s Cr-48 Chrome OS notebook and am seeing the same problem as with the beta browser. Overall, the OS fulfills my needs but with updates coming out every few days Google has failed to correct two of the things that frustrate me, as a user, the most.

Google’s first priority may need to be an improvement to its filing system — in particular the file manager. Though the latest edition of the Chrome OS has a file manager, it does not include the ability to drag and drop files, pictures, images, and so forth to the system. This means that I also don’t have the ability to drag and drop files to an SD card. I should note, however, that while the OS was quick to recognize the SD card when I first installed it, I found it irritating that it doesn’t retain the knowledge and the SD card notification box pops up every time I open the notebook’s lid.

The second issue is with Google Documents. While it’s simple to use and it mimics other word processing programs, it requires a connection to the Internet. This is not an issue as long as you have a Wi-Fi or 3G connection available, but when you don’t have an Internet connection, you find yourself unable to finish your work.This could occur on a long plane flight or in someone’s home where a connection is unavailable or in an area where 3G isn’t available. In these instances, being able to use any of Google Docs features — which were at one time available to use offline — would be a huge benefit.

Notably, Google has previously mentioned that the new Google Chromebooks would have this capability when they are introduced for public consumption on June 15, 2011, but rumor has it that they might not not be available by that date.

Until these two features evolve and become a standard part of the Google Chrome OS, I believe people are going to take a wait and see attitude to this new kid on the block. As a result, Google and the companies that produce the Chromebooks may see dismal sales.

Comments welcome.

Understanding Google’s Chrome Operating System

Understanding Google's Chrome Operating SystemOn June 15, 2011, Google will introduce its Chrome operating system on two new computers. One system is being made by Samsung and another is being made by Acer. Features will vary between the two devices as will pricing. However, the most important aspect of what Google is going to try to accomplish is not the hardware that will distinguish the Chromebooks, but its new, untried Chrome OS.

Yes, Google has sent out thousands of its Chrome OS enabled notebooks to be beta tested in the field. I received mine in mid-December and have now had ample time to test, diagnose problems, and use the system as I would use my personal laptop system.

The most important reason why Google Chrome OS is different than Windows or OS X is that there is no hard drive on a Chromebook. Files that we traditionally would store on our computers are, instead, stored in the cloud. The second most noticeable difference is that the Google Chrome OS is a browser and depends on applications to perform specific functions.

So what is the main attraction of the Google Chrome OS?

It fast boots in about 10 seconds or less.

There is no Windows, OS X, or Linux operating system.

All of your stuff is stored online. If your notebook is stolen, you can still success your important documents online from any computer.

If you already have a Gmail account, this will be your Chrome OS ID.

The Chrome notebooks are smaller and lighter than a traditional laptop.

What are the main disadvantages of the Google Chrome OS?

You may not like having to store your stuff on a Google server.

You must either have a Wi-Fi or 3G connection for the system to function properly. Note: Google states it is working to have Google Documents, plus other features working offline.

The cost of a Chrome notebook — between $350 to $500 –may seem high to some, since Windows powered netbooks are less expensive.

The most important question that consumers will be asking is if a Chrome OS notebook will be right for what they need to accomplish or not? Not having an Internet connection at all times could be a deal breaker for some. I personally see the Chrome notebooks as a supplement to a desktop or laptop computer and not a replacement to either. Just my two cents’ worth.

Comments welcome.

How to Add the Google +1 Button to Your Site

Google released today the +1 feature for publishers to embed on their own sites. The +1 button is in direct competition to the Facebook Like button found on almost every site out there.

Google has made the process of adding the +1 button simple for anyone. With a quick walkthrough of adding the +1 button to your site and posts, you’ll have it running in no time. I’m sure that CMS-like sites such as WordPress will have dozens of +1 plugins available in the coming days, but in the meantime this is what you need to do.

There are two parts to the code that you need to insert into your site; Google offers an easy to use the page to customize your button and grab the embed code. Go to that site and configure the button in the way you’d like it displayed on your site. As soon as you’re done there, follow the steps below.

Step One

The Google +1 tool page explains to Web masters what they need to add to their Web site. For Web masters who have a standard XHTML Web site, you’ll simply need to copy the following code and insert it before the </body> tag on a Web site: <script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js”></script>

Step Two

After you add the JavaScript code to your Web site, Web masters can paste <g:plusone></g:plusone> wherever they want a button to appear on the site. Using Google’s +1 tool, you can configure the size and other advanced options.

Another common use for Google +1, besides using it inside of the page itself,  is adding it to the sidebar as a generic location for +1 activity.

Additionally, the Google +1 button doesn’t have a set URL that it reports to when users press the button. The current setup crawls the page for the proper URL. If you want the Google +1 button to report a singular URL address, use something like this: <g:plusone href=”https://lockergnome.com”></g:plusone>

We hope that you found this useful and will look forward to seeing Google +1 buttons popup all around the internet in the coming months.

How to Protect Your Gmail Account with Additional Recovery Options

About three years ago I was locked out of my Gmail account, which was an experience I do not want repeated. Apparently someone tried to access my account on numerous occasions, so in order to protect my account, Google locked the account. During the time I was unable to access my Gmail, I had to go through a bunch of hoops before I could regain access to my mail. I will never forget the exasperation I felt, since the process took almost five days and involved an email exchange from myself, via my primary email, to Google, before the problem was resolved.

That was then and this is now. Thankfully, the process for recovering access to your Gmail account has been improved with advances in technology. In order to take advantage of some additional reset options for your Gmail account, do the following:

Open your Gmail and select Accounts. Click on the option: Change Password Recovery Options.

Once you access this area, you can add additional email accounts where password reset options can be sent. You can even set more than one email recovery address. You can choose to have a text message sent to your mobile phone. You can also choose a voice message to be sent to your landline telephone. In addition, you can reset your security question as well as reset your account password to one that is more secure.

During the setup process, you will receive a text message or voice message with a verification code. The process of recovering your account can further be accessed by a set of ten additional unlock codes that you print out as a further precaution, so that you can access your account even if your mobile phone is not available.

I would highly recommend that if you have a Gmail account you take advantage of these additional recovery options. This could save you a lot of time some way down the road if your account is locked because of unauthorized attempts to access it.

Comments welcome.