I just learned about the custom theme feature in Gmail. For a long time I’ve wanted to use my own background in Gmail and now I finally can.
If you’re a fan of Minecraft and you’re looking for a good background to use in Gmail, I put one together. Feel free to click the image below and use it. I recommend the Dark theme option when using this image, but the choice is yours. Enjoy!
|From Game Blaster 64|
Outside of accidentally opening Internet Explorer the biggest annoyance on the web is mailto links. These are usually masqueraded as a ‘Contact Us’ link which you’d expect to forward to a web form. What ends up happening is either your operating system attempts to open a mail program (who still uses those, seriously?) or it forwards you to gmail (less annoying but still annoying as hell).
The theme of this game jam is Growth.
We’re still trying to figure out how that will be implemented in our idea for a Rogue-like, but our first few ideas are pretty promising.
If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to be ruthless and pull the plug after those two hours and switch to the game. If we let it slip and say “we’ll do one extra hour on the engine” we’ve lost.
Wish us luck!
If there was one website that needed a new UI it was Youtube.com. The site’s design hadn’t changed significantly since it’s introduction in 2005 and it was slow, heavy, and out-of-date.
Since the purchase of Youtube by Google, a few new features have shown up from time to time including the ability to sign in with your Google Account. Unfortunately, the site still felt like a third-party product and not part of the Google package.
In line with the across-the-board design upgrade to all of Google’s offerings, Youtube has just upgraded its design to match its Google siblings, Gmail and Docs. It’s a huge boost in terms of design and functionality, but it’s not all peachy. First, the bits that work well.
- The Account Switching feature that’s found on Google Docs and Gmail is a very welcome addition, especially for people that make Youtube videos but also have a personal account with separate preferences and subscriptions.
- The site is much faster. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to actually watch videos on the site now. Before, the site would stop loading randomly, usually just as we sat down to eat after clicking Play or when showing someone a video you’ve raved about.
- Buttons are in the right spots and don’t move while the site is loading. I’ve griped about this sort of UI mistake before on other websites, especially twitter.com. The problem is something will move as soon as I go to click on it because another part of the website has loaded. I end up clicking on something else (usually an ad) that I didn’t want at all. It’s terribly frustrating and (thankfully) has been much improved in the UI upgrade.
And now for the not so good. Don’t worry, there isn’t much.
There is way too much stuff on the front page. When Google first launched their search engine, designers lauded the simplicity of their design. It was common to compare yahoo.com up against google.com. Unfortunately, the front page of Youtube seems to be going in the wrong direction: more and more things just keep getting piled on the front page until it becomes a cluttered mess and I’m unsure exactly what I’m supposed to be looking at.
What’s your take?
This may not be new to many folks, but I just discovered a neat feature in Google Analytics that lets you set up scheduled, regular reports in several common formats.
This came in handy with a Powerhouse Web Solutions client who wanted to know who was hitting their website, when, and where from, but is not technically savvy enough to navigate the myriad of options found on the full Google Analytics website.
To get started, simply log into your Google Analytics account and view the stats for the site you’d like to have reports for.
Then, click the E-Mail button as seen in the above screenshot and set your options. I like the idea of the Analytics Overview page being E-Mailed but if you want one of the drilled down reports E-Mailed, simply click the E-Mail button while browsing that particular page.
You can E-Mail yourself (and CC to other E-Mails) reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and they can be generated in the PDF, XML, TSV, and CSV formats.
Normally, I configure Google Analytics to have a separate client user for each website so that they can log in and see their full stats directly. But, this works really well in circumstances where the client may not have the time or technical know-how or where you’ve got to send a report to a higher-up.
What other neat tricks are hidden in Google Analytics? Share them in the comments!
Great news! I just received the confirmation E-Mail letting me know I am now an official DZone MVB, or Most Valued Blogger. Blog posts from my Develop in the Google Cloud blog will be featured on the DZone site along with many of the other DZone articles from other MVBs. This will provide some extra exposure to yours truly and makes me really happy to boot!
I’ve been working on a Java/Google App Engine project called Quoats that displays a random quote from around the web. It’s a simple app that I thought would be a great way to get my feet wet with the platform and something I could share on my blog. So far, I am really enjoying a number of things about Google App Engine and Java including JDO and Google App Engine’s persistent storage mechanism. Tres cool.
If you’d like to learn more about Quoats, you can check out the project page (and the source code) on Assembla.
Tonight at Guelph Coffee and Code I walked the group through the first steps of learning PHP. Because our projector was unavailable, I substituted its functionality with Google Wave. Even though I’ve had access to Google Wave since the summer, this was the first time I had truly used the service.
When I first heard about Google Wave, the idea seemed intriguing enough. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it could be used for. I’m a huge fan of Gmail and other Google communication tools including Google Apps, so I had faith they’d pull something cool off. However, my first few attempts at trying it were met with less than stellar results.
Truth be told: I couldn’t quite see how it could help me communicate with my friends and colleagues any better than Gmail. So, a few days after receiving notification of my acceptance into the world of Wave, I abandoned it and went back to my life with E-Mail.
What We Did
Using Google Wave, the group followed along with my presentation of syntax and functions and contributed their own code snippets and links. I was able to quickly type example PHP code into the wave and have it appear on their screens as I was typing it instead of all at once when sending the message. The removal of the wait-message-wait-message barrier is critical to its success in groups. It’s just as easy as talking.
This sort of instant chat has been done before, however, most notably with ICQ chat back in the 1990s. But, back then we weren’t quite the society were are today. Have to give credit where credit is due, though.
I knew it was going to go well when after pasting my first code block into the wave, the others in the group started to modify the code without me prompting them. After returning from the fridge, there were already 3 or 4 new lines of code directly beneath mine were with perfect syntax. It was fun!
Is It E-Mail 2.0?
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I love Gmail and it will take a lot to move me away from it. Perhaps its a case of uncertainty with respect to how it will interact, if at all, with Gmail in the future.
Even after tonight’s experience, I still have a hard time defining Google Wave or identifying its place in my communication paths. But there are two things I know for sure: It’s great in groups and makes an excellent discussion platform when your projector is down.
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The world’s fastest web browser, Google Chrome, has recently been released on the Linux platform. This is big news since it will greatly improve the web browsing performance of many of the world’s netbooks.
I’ve been a huge fan of Google Chrome since it appeared in the summer of last year, but haven’t used it heavily simply because of the lack of Linux support. It is installed on my Windows 7 virtualization, however.
Word on the street is that Google Chrome is also available for Macs, so if that’s your platform, take a look!
One thing that I think is important to note that I haven’t seen anyone pick up on is this line on the Official Google Blog post about Chrome being available for Linux and Mac:
“At Google, most engineers use Linux machines …”
Hmm.. No wonder they’re winning! ;)
Go for it -> Download Google Chrome for Linux
As a web developer my job is more than just programming code. I’m required to cut up graphics, keep up-to-date with web standards (CSS, XHTML, et al.), and build a reputation for myself in a way that many other workers in many other jobs simply aren’t required to do.
There has always been a need for every worker in every industry to maintain a good level of professionalism and efficiency in order to gain a good referral when looking for future employment, but with web developers this is amplified.
Everything about the web is social; we chat online, send E-Mails, play online games, receive world news instantly, and have public profiles on any number of social networking services – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Orkut, and more. There is competiton everywhere. Everyone is fighting each other for attention and recognition.
Who’s out there?
Computerworld suggests that 1 in 5 employers looks at prospective employees on social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, and others) to determine if that person would be a good fit for their company. With numbers like that, you cannot afford to be reckless with regards to your online persona.
What can you do?
This first part of this article is designed to get you up to speed on a few techniques and sites that will help you build an online persona that future employers, when searching for you, will find.
I got my first programming gig because my employer found me on Google. The same could happen to you. Let’s make sure what they see shows you in the most positive light possible.
The most important things you can do when creating an online profile is ensuring that your data is always accurate, timely, and professional. Always imagine that your boss can see everything you put online — because he/she can! Never let data grow stale. Always be adding, updating, and building.
To start, there are three websites you will need to create an account on. Those three are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We’ll go through each briefly, but I always recommend that some time is spent with each one to get used to the features it offers.
Who hasn’t heard of Facebook? Unless you’ve been living under a technological rock for the past few years, you’ve at least heard of this service. Facebook is a website where over 90 million people have created profiles that allow them to share photos and contact details, network, and meet friends. Put simply: If you’re not on Facebook, who are you?
LinkedIn is Facebook’s older, more experienced cousin. This site’s specific purpose is to build an online resume and accomplishments list that other people in your industry can use to search and find you. While Facebook is geared to a more personal audience, LinkedIn is strictly for professionals. Over 35 million people have built online profiles already and there are more joining each day. Chances are someone you know or work with is on this site.
As you build your profile, consider it an online resume. This will help to give you an idea of what it should look like to someone reading it.
A neat feature that LinkedIn has is the ability to search your E-Mail contacts for people on LinkedIn that you might know. This saves you the hassle of trying to build an initial network. From there, you can be introduced to people that they know and so on, building your network even larger.
Ah, Twitter. You’ll either love it or hate it. I personally dislike this service, but I find myself using it every day. It is a uniquely simple but completely addicting service. The idea is called ‘micro-blogging‘, meaning that you send brief (140 letters or less) updates of what you’re doing or thinking and people can respond. The photo at the top-right of this article shows a typical Twitter experience.
As you continue to update the world to your thoughts and work, people will begin to ‘follow’ you and they will get your tweets (the term for each update you put out). In turn, you can ‘follow’ their tweets.
The biggest draw of Twitter is that you can find and communicate with very high-profile people you may never normally have access to. Some top CEOs and other big-wigs are on here. If you communicate often enough and start to gather a following, you can find yourself in a conversation with people you never thought possible!
This ends part one of “How to Network in a Web 2.0 World.” Continue onto Part 2.0.