Archive for the ‘Nerd Stuff’ Category

Kindle Fire

November 17, 2011

Fire!For the first time in my life, I seem to be the first person I’ve talked to to have the latest electronic toy, one of these. It doesn’t have the enormous coolness factor of something shiny and made by Apple, but still.

Overall I’m loving it. I’m using it more as an extra-portable and convenient web-browser/time-waster than as a reader and Amazon-content-delivery system (its obvious purpose), more cheap-and-small iPad than expensive Kindle. Which was pretty much my plan. It works great for that. It even works for some things I honestly didn’t expect it to, like reading powerpoint presentations (I wasn’t surprised so much that it tried as that it succeeded).

Of course there are some annoying things about it. Many would (I assume) apply to any mobile touch-screen toy—typing is painful, mobile websites are missing bits I take for granted (e.g. formatting in gmail). Some (many? most?) android apps don’t seem to be available in the amazon appstore—that is probably changing even as I write.

But the single most annoying thing is something I had expected to be trivial. I had figured it would be trivial to download a free ebook—from Project Gutenberg, say—and start reading it immediately. Not so! You can download a .mobi file, and then it just sits there refusing to be read. The quickest way I’ve found to get the demmed things to import is to

  • open QuickOffice
  • Documents/Downloads
  • Hold your finger down on the file, and pick “Send” when the menu comes up
  • Email it to your kindle account
  • Wait a while. Wait some more.

Isn’t there a better way to do this? If not, for the love of heaven why?*

On the subject of free ebooks, I’d like to give a shoutout to someone calling herself Cthulhuchick for digitizing the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft and making them available in a nice free edition. Also for picking a great nom d’internet.

* Maybe I’ll answer my own question: Amazon has no interest in my reading stuff I didn’t buy from them.


Chrome, continued

September 6, 2008

I just tried to edit a Google Groups page using Google Chrome, and I see:

Page editing not supported in your web browser. Download a new copy of Firefox or Internet Explorer to edit pages.


Apart from that, I continue to be pretty impressed with Chrome. A few more observations:

  • I’ve seen a few crashes, and Google’s claims about sandboxing the tabs and apps seems mostly true:  a crash in one tab or app doesn’t usually bring down the whole browser.
  • I like the way that there’s no status bar taking up space all the time; addresses appear over the lower left corner of the window when you mouse over links, rather than in a dedicated space.
  • In-page search is incremental (as with Firefox), but has a few nice features: the browser tells you how many matches it found, and highlights both a “current” match and all the others, in different colors. It also shows you in the scrollbar area where the matches are, although it doesn’t let you click the indicators to go there immediately. I also like the location (upper-right) of the search window, I suppose because both my attention and the cursor are more often near the top than the bottom of the page.
  • Chrome DOES work with Java, but requires JRE 6 update 10, now in beta. Perhaps they needed the experimental “serialize user’s soul” feature…
  • While I wish the javascript debugger were friendlier—one thing that has annoyed me repeatedly is not being able to click on an error to go to the source; I’m told I should open the file in the inspector, but I seem not to be able to do that—but the DOM/css explorer is nice. Apparently webkit has a fuller version, but AFAIK it doesn’t work with Chrome (only Safari).
  • For some reason Chrome installs itself in your local app settings directory, not in \program files. I suppose there must be some reason for that…
  • The Application Shortcuts are surprisingly nifty for such a simple feature: all they really do is remove the browser ui. I have to assume that this is a harbinger of things to come. Chrome will become Google’s general application framework, a central part of their plan for world domination. Googlezon approacheth!


September 2, 2008

google-chrome1 As the entire nerd world knows, today Google released a beta of its new browser, Chrome. I’m not really sure why they’re bothering; like everyone else, I’m vaguely assuming it’s something to do with to competing with Microsoft IE8 and its pornGoogle-blocker. Like others, I suspect it’s more likely to take market share from the more virtuous Firefox. The rest of the world can speculate more productively than I about what’s going on between Google and Mozilla.

I’ve been using Chrome for entire minutes now, and so far it seems pretty nice. It’s not enormously different from the rest of the world’s browsers, but then, other than generally behaving better what is there to do? And behave better it claims to do: read the comic book(!) to find out how (summary: multi-processing! one process per tab, basically).

The browser’s look and feel is Google-like, simple and streamlined—despite the name, it’s really not all that shiny, and I mean that in a good way. There’s no distracting flash cluttering up the screen; pretty much everything you see is functional.

Like IE7, Chrome has no menu bar; unlike IE7, it seems to have no way to get one. Which is probably just as well—if the browser is well-designed for menulessness you shouldn’t need them, and they can only clutter things up. The tabs are outside the rest of the app, giving a feel of “application inside tab” rather than “tab inside application,” which frankly doesn’t matter much to You the User, but which does presumably reflect the architecture of the browser. Having tabs on top does give the app a slightly different feel from most apps, especially with Windows Vista Aero.

The address bar does more or less what Firefox’s does, as far as I can tell. One nice feature is that the hostname is bolded, so it stands out from the rest of the URL, which for long crufty URLs is nice. There’s no search box, I suppose because the address bar is supposed to do all the searching you need. I’m not quite sure that’s true, as the dynamic autocompletion hints aren’t what they are in a real searchbox; they’re mixed with address history, I suppose.

To its credit it does seem very fast, both opening from scratch and opening new tabs. That’s one of my very few major beefs with Firefox; it takes so darned long to start the first time. IE starts relatively quickly—I assume that’s because most of its entrails are wrapped around the OS, and hence already loaded—but opens tabs infuriatingly slowly. Firefox can also hang waiting for applications, which Chrome claims not to do; but I can’t really judge that yet.

The controls and options and settings are all simple, which is excellent. But of course the downside is that there are settings that just aren’t there. They’re mostly minor things—new tabs open next to the tab you’re in, while I’d like them to open at the far right; I’d like to make the controls a little smaller to save screen space (both settable in FF)—but they’re on the “need more features” side of the too-simple/too-complex spectrum. IE, being a Microsoft product, pegs the too-complex needle, and not for any discernable reason; MS’s Internet settings dialog is an Abomination Before the Lord. Firefox does an excellent job of presenting options, and indeed Google’s options box seems to be copying Firefox’s philosophy, just without so much there yet. I do see some tiny niggly UI flaws—there’s no ellipsis after “Options” in the tools menu, for example. I’m a stickler for other people getting fiddly details right.

I think what I miss most from Firefox is Adblock Plus (you can argue with me about the propriety of adblockers some other time; the quick version of my position is that I don’t mind ads per se—in fact I rather like good ones—but I can’t abide all the animation and seizure-inducing flashing, and most repugnant of all the noise, of so many ads). Chrome will of course accumulate plugins, but that might be one Google doesn’t really want to accumulate.

Some other problems. Chrome does not seem to run Java(!) I assume that will be fixed during the beta (but when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME…). There’s no Print Preview (haven’t tried printing yet; that’s something browsers generally don’t do well). It doesn’t render unicode characters outside the Basic Multilingual Plane properly (see this for a simple example). (I filed a bug about that one, using the handy built-in bug reporter.) I’m sure there are more that I’ll run into. Or that I’ve already forgotten about.

Hm, what else? There’s gdb-like javascript debugger, not as nice as Firebug or Dragonfly (unless I’m missing something), but for what it does my initial impression is that it looks pretty solid. The individual-tab task manager and memory stats are neat, but I don’t know if I really have much use for them.

Well, that’s more than enough for now. My plan is to use both Chrome and my beloved Firefox for a while, and see if I get sick of Chrome or decide I can’t live without it.