Archive for January, 2008

Jan27

Google Docs: upload made easy

Last Thursday (January 24th) Google released a pretty useful tool that allows you to easily upload documents from your computer to your Google Docs account. The application is simple but it allows you to drag-and-drop files to upload or gives you the option of adding a ‘Send to Google Docs’ option on your right-click (a.k.a. the context menu) . My experiment with the drag-and-drop worked really well but I didn’t have the same luck with the right-click. I’m sure I’ll give it another go.

You’ve always been able to mass-upload documents via email but the size limits it imposed on uploads was really annoying.

One thing I didn’t care for was the fact that I had to be running the upload application in order for the right-click functionality to be present. I understand they wouldn’t be able to actually upload the file but allowing me the option and then sending them to Google Docs the next time I started the app would be more useful for me.  I’m running a lot of software everyday for work so I like to trim the fat wherever possible.  Here’s a screenshot for all you visual people.

Google Docs Uploader

All-in-all I think it’s a pretty good tool and if you read the API documentation (link below) I think you’ll find that there are a lot of opportunities for further applications.  Besides the point I mentioned above, I’d like to see folder support.  I use Google Docs for collaboration and if I’m working on one specific topic I’d like the ability to upload an entire folder to the group.

You can get the application from Google here but it does require the .NET Framework 2.0. For you technical people out there you can also review the Google Documents API documentation for a little more information on what the protocol offers.

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Jan24

Time Warner is getting greedy!

According to several news sources that I frequent – Time Warner is considering a usage based charge for internet services. What a ridiculous notion – that’s never going to fly!

Here is a few reasons this model is absolutely absurd:

  1. Photos: Tons of people from all ages share photos online. One bummer about photos…they tend to do be kind of big files, unless you limit that on your camera or edit them, which is really going to eat up your bandwidth. More bandwidth = more money.
  2. Music: Downloading music from iTunes does it’s damage to your bandwidth as well. With an average size (at least of my songs) averaging between 2.8 and 3.2 megabytes a piece you’re you could be looking at a pretty expensive internet bill if you’re an avid downloader of music.
  3. TV/Movies: With the rise of the internet it’s inevitable that videos and TV will eventually be delivered via the internet. In fact, it’s already in the works. Apple (iTunes) and Netflix are already offering TV and movie offerings streamed directly to you over the internet.

I’m sure that part of the reason they’re looking into this is because of the rise in popularity of online video (YouTube et al) and photo sharing (pick any random website/social network and they probably offer photo hosting/sharing…) which taxes the service providers network. While I’d like to feel sorry for Time Warner (and other internet providers for that matter) and the fact that they feel their network is being used too much (what did they think would happen)…I find it rather difficult given the fact they (Time Warner Cable: TWC) made almost $2 billion in profit for fiscal year 2006. I hope everyone caught that hint of sarcasm.

I already have a problem with what cable companies are charging for ‘unlimited’ (even though it was discovered that Comcast wasn’t exactly net neutral) access to the internet and now they want to put limits or charge you more?!? What is going through the minds of these companies these days?!? Is that what a CEO that makes nearly $9.5 million dollars a year thinks up?

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Jan12

Gmail gets mailing lists

My addiction to Gmail continues today (official post was last Thursday) as they roll out a ‘new’ feature – group mailing lists. The group feature isn’t exactly new, I’ve had group assignments in my Gmail contact list for about a year now but now I can send an email to everyone in a group without having to remember everyones name…let alone making sure I got email addresses right.

Getting set up is extremely easy, I had a new group with members set up and ready to email (test group for my screenshot) in roughly two minutes. I’ve got a couple different groups but they’re useful for family and friends.  Makes sending out the family news a whole lot easier.

When sending an email all you have to do is start typing the group name and Gmail will populate the email addresses for everyone in the group.

Gmail gets mailing lists

Sorry everyone, this is only available for IE7 and Firefox 2 or newer.

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Jan12

Real-time Instant Messaging?

What exactly is AOL/AIM thinking? They had a great instant messaging client that was used by everyone. I used it non-stop in college and for the first couple years of my professional career. It’s a great communication tool and if the project I’m on now didn’t have a policy against AIM I’d still be using it.

While it’s a great client I feel like the folks at AIM are getting a little distracted from their main mission and spending time on features that would be better left out. According to the Beta website for AIM they have included a new feature in AIM that allows you to display your typing in real-time. Meaning when person A and person B are talking with real-time enabled, person B would see each letter that person A is typing show up on the screen individually.

Not only is that just absurd. Who has the time to sit and read each letter as it’s typed trying to figure out the word or phrase their friend is typing out. I don’t know about everyone else, but I prefer to read complete sentences rather than individual letters.

Here’s a shot of this non-sense in action thanks to the AIM Beta page:

Real-time Instant Messaging Sounds Bad

AOL – what a waste. I feel like you should be spending your time on more productive features.

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Jan12

TSA drops the ball…again

I travel every week and TSA never ceases to amaze me. Their security screening processes are so antiquated and inefficient. Their first blunder was allowing GAO investigators to successfully sneak bomb parts past security screener’s. By the way, I remember flying a day or two after this report broke and security screening was impossible.

While I don’t claim to know what’s going on at TSA, I’m pretty sure each employee writes their own handbook on screening and security procedures. Last year I traveled through 16 airports and maybe one or two of them had similar practices/requirements. Some don’t care about belts, others demand they be taken off or threaten ‘extra’ screening. I had one person tell me that he’d personally make sure I was in security for an extra 20 or 30 minutes if I didn’t take my phone holder off my belt (the phone was not in it) to walk through the scanner. Have I mentioned that TSA employees possess great people skills?

TSA’s second blunder has made it possible for unsuspecting citizens who use TSA’s web based tools to be victims of identity theft. Nicely done!

It turns out that it’s good to be friends with TSA employees because TSA has awarded a contract (without competition) to a web design firm that the awarding employee previously worked for and where he still maintains good friendships. What conflict of interest?!? According to a quote in a Washington Post article it sounds like TSA has awarded this company approximately $500,000 in business. I wonder how many of those projects also didn’t have any competition.

The contracts aren’t the issue, it’s the fact that the design firm built this ‘no fly’ list complaint tool but wasn’t securely transmitting the information from the web to the web servers. This security vulnerability exposes the personal information required by the tool (social security number, birth date, etc) to potential theft which could result in identity theft.

I guess the GAO got it wrong when they praised TSA for how it handled sensitive information.

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Jan12

Bank of America Buys Countrywide

The less-than-stellar mortgage lending industry got a huge show of support yesterday when Bank of America agreed to buy Countrywide Financial for $4 Billion. Obviously this won’t solve problems but it goes a long way in showing that someone believes the housing and mortgage market will eventually recover.

According to a Wall Street Journal article (quoting numbers from Inside Mortgage Finance), Countrywide and Bank of America controlled approximately 25% of the mortgage market during the first 9 months of 2007. That puts their market share at slightly more than twice their nearest competitor which is at a distant 11%. I’m curious to see if this plays out negatively as Bank of America seeks regulatory approval for the acquisition.

Given the state of the mortgage market, the acquisition will probably win Bank of America some bonus points as it teeters just below the 10% limit on U.S. deposits as regulators look to relax this restriction. Bank of America will also be getting a relatively large (I’m assuming some Countrywide members are already BofA account holders) base of potential new business – they’ll be able to offer their new members banking and credit card services which could be a huge selling point. I’ve also read rumors of tax breaks but nothing firm so far.

I think we’ll see some other large mortgage lenders at least enter into discussions, if not get bought out, by suiters. While the mortgage lending market doesn’t look great for most of America, it’s a prime acquisition target while prices are low.

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