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There is an interestingly named tool called Swiffy that is designed to allow developers to easily convert Flash (.swf) files to HTML5. A lot of you are probably thinking “So what? What exactly does this mean for us, and why should we really care all that much in the first place?” A good question, for sure. Why should you care?
The answer is simple. There are, sadly, a lot of devices out there that are simply incompatible with the Flash format. For example…the iPhone. For mobile devices without Flash support, running Flash-like animations was generally impossible without a third party extension for your device. As a result, many devices simply went without. Swiffy’s going to change that, naturally. It’ll allow you to use Flash content on devices that don’t have a Flash player, and its webkit ensures that it’ll function in browsers like Chrome and Safari. Wait, it runs in Chrome? Why?
The Story Of Swiffy
The idea for the program came from an engineering intern- a new hire who joined the mobile ad team last summer and has since become a full-time member of the team. Pieter Senster noticed that there wasn’t really any cohesive solution to the issues which arose when one attempted to run flash content. He wanted to change this, particularly where it pertained to mobile ads. Thus, the idea behind Swiffy was born. No word on who came up with the name- it sounds like an imitation of the Swiffer brand of cleaning products.
Anyway, The tool’s evidently incredibly simple to use, as well- all you need to to is upload a .swf file, and Swiffy will return it in HTML5 format. Since it just debuted in the labs, it’s naturally still in its early stages- so it can’t convert all flash content. Not yet, anyway.
I’m sure that once the tool is complete and out of the labs, it’ll be able to convert pretty much any .swf file from its native format into HTML5- allowing anyone, anywhere to view flash. It’s pretty clear that a technology like this is mostly for mobile users, isn’t it? People who run devices without a native flash player. Of course, mobile devices don’t really concern us, do they? What we really want to know is what this means for Google. More specifically, we want to know what this means for Chrome.
Swiffy and Chrome
Given that Chrome already has a shockwave plugin, it seems kind of strange that Google would be looking into making Swiffy functional in Chrome, doesn’t it? I’m not really sure what their motivation is, here- after all, they’re supposedly partnered with Adobe to integrate Flash support into the Chrome browser. Why would they bother developing a program like this? One word for you folks: ads. See, a lot of Google’s ads are in .swf format. And, since a lot of devices don’t support flash, that means a lot of users don’t see Google’s ads. You’re following me here, right?
Or maybe you’re still wondering when the hell I’m going to address what this means for Chrome.
Right. Well, I’m sure at least a few of you have noticed that the shockwave plugin has been behaving…just a touch odd lately. Perhaps it’s just me, but I noticed some time back that it was crashing a hell of a lot more than usual- and a hell of a lot more than it should. Pretty sure I’ve remedied that problem for the time being, but there’s always a chance it might come back in full force. A tool like Swiffy means that those of us fed up with shockwave flash can do away with the plugin if it doesn’t eventually start playing nice with the browser again.
There is another route Google could potentially go with Swiffy, as well. It could be that, while Google’s still looking to integrate flash, they also want to give their users the option to make the browser fully HTML5. I’m not sure what they- or Adobe, for that matter- would gain from this, but there it is. It’s either that, or they want to release a version of Chrome without shockwave flash support- unlikely as that seems.
It’s all speculation, one way or the other. We’ll just have to see what Google does with Swiffy once it’s finished.
Google’s new social networking service has reached twenty million members, according to data from ComScore. ComScore doesn’t have any official word from Google on this one- they’ve evidently based their estimates on a “global measurement panel” consisting of two million web users.
Those are good numbers – but the reality is that the number was passed in early August. When trying to research the numbers for where the service is at today, there really are no solid answers. It starts to make one wonder whether Google+ is starting to peter out – and it’s not something that is welcome news, but just an observation.
However, first and foremost, the service is still technically a closed environment- last I checked, if users want to sign up for Google +, they need to get someone who’s already signed up for the site to invite them (speaking of which, anyone who wants to nab an invite can drop me a line). You can’t simply sign up for Google +. With that in mind, the statistic becomes a little more impressive, doesn’t it? That’s not all, either- even more shocking is the fact that Google hasn’t actually even begun officially marketing the service on their search engine- most of what’s been circulating about G + has been word of mouth.
Not only that…Facebook took over two years to get past the twenty million mark- Google + took 23 days.
“I’ve never seen anything grow this quickly” said Andrew Lipsman, Comscore’s Vice President of Industry Analysis. “The only other site that matched this kind of visitor accumulation in a short period of time is Twitter back in 2009- but that happened over several months.” It seems as if Google’s got their finger on the pulse of the social network at exactly the right moment- when Facebook and Twitter both launched, social networking was a very different beast. They’ve changed it. They’ve popularized it. And now, Google + is capitalizing on that by doing what they do- only better. Plus, the fact that they provide a viable alternative to Facebook-which seems to be one of the more popular businesses to hate on these days- is icing on the cake.
There’s the added benefit of how well browser addons seem to interact with G +: particularly addons for Chrome via extensions. In only a few short weeks, we’ve seen more Google + inspired applications and extensions surface in the webstore than we’ve seen for Facebook since Chrome launched- and many of those are geared towards helping users make the switch between social networks. Something tells me that if things keep going the way they’re going, those kinds of extensions are going to be seeing a lot more use. Granted, we’ve yet to see many Google + apps that are specifically designed within the platform- but as the devs have a bit more time to fiddle around with the Google + developer kit, the applications will eventually come.
There’s still a long road ahead for Google +- Facebook has over 750 million, and Twitter over 200 million. Given those rather staggering numbers, 20 million kind of seems like a drop in the bucket, doesn’t it? Of course, if Google + continues to grow at the same rate it has been in its fast start, that road might be rather quickly traversed.
Just yesterday, Google announced that Google Docs will now support the .zip and .rar archive file formats. Decent, no? Now, there’s actually a problem with this announcement- thing is, in order to actually open one of the formats, you needed to download them first- which is true of pretty much any file you want to add to Google Docs, really. That’s all well and good if there’s .zip or .rar files you’ve got saved on your computer that you want to upload and share on the cloud; but what if there’s an archive file online that you want to open? The whole process of download-upload-unzip-access seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it?
A fellow by the name of Arpit Kumar’s come up with a solution; developing an extension known as “Open ZIP and RAR With GDocs.” Basically, on installing the extension; whenever you see a direct link to a .zip or .rar file, you can simply right click and select “Open in Google Docs” from the context menu. At that point, you’ll be taken directly to Google Docs, which will open the archive and show you the files inside.
There’s really no interface to speak of here. All the extension does is add an option to the context menu that appears when you right click a link to a zip or rar file.
Eminently useful. Believe it or not, opening the files directly in Google Docs-rather than having to go through the download-upload process- actually ends up saving a lot of time; particularly in the case of larger archives. Kumar’s app basically cuts out the middleman-which is always a good thing. Ease of use is another point in its favor- all you really need to do is click.
Final Score: 5/5
The “Open Zip And Rar With GDocs” extension pretty much does exactly as promised, and thus far I’ve found no problems with it. If you’re planning to do any work whatsoever with archived files in Google docs, I’d say this extension is a must-have. My one complaint is that in the case of a file where the direct link is not readily apparent (say, it has a ‘click here to download’) button, the extension can’t really do much. A minor concern- and ultimately an irrelevant one. I’m sure that if the need arises, the extension could potentially be updated to access those types of files as well. This extension can be found free on the Chrome Webstore.
To be fair, this site’s been around for quite some time- and we’ve covered it at one point in the past. Still, it merits something of a revisit now that Chromebooks have hit the market; don’t you think?
What Is It?
How many of you remember Dosbox? For those who don’t; it’s an x86 DOS emulator, designed to allow modern-day users to play DOS games on Windows. While that might not sound particularly impressive- or noteworthy-to play any of those games without DosBox involved a great deal of overly complicated mucking around in the Windows system files, or searching out a version of whatever game you wanted to play that would be compatible with the software of modern-day systems.
Either way, too much trouble. For anyone with an itch to jump back into the old days, Dosbox was a godsend. Now, you’re probably wondering what the point of this history lesson is, right? You’re trying to figure out exactly why I’m sitting here babbling to you about DosBox. Software emulation ahoy! DosBox has come to Chrome, via Chrome’s Native Client.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet NAClBox.
Guess what I’ve got for you today, folks? You guessed it- more Google + themed Chrome extensions and applications. What, you thought I was done? It’s like I’ve said before- Google + is gaining steam with all the speed of a runaway locomotive. With that in mind, there’ll always be new extensions to cover, new means by which the developers are improving upon an already excellent platform. Granted, the array of extensions I’ve found this time aren’t quite as impressive as some of the addons I profiled in previous posts, but they’re all still useful in their own way- and they’re definitely the sort of tools that someone, somewhere, is going to need.
This time around, we’ve got some added functionality for Google’s “+1″button, a non-malware extension that lets you add Facebook to G+, and some minor cosmetic overhauls for Google’s social networking platform. Enjoy.
You know, while I love Google Chrome, I’ll be one of the first guys to admit that Chrome’s start page is boring as hell. It’s just so drab, and bland, and…empty. Thankfully, it looks like Google feels the same way- word is, they’re planning a colossal revamp of the startpage. As they should- with both Opera and Mozilla focusing on their own ‘new tab’ screens, Chrome’s startpage is something Google simply cannot afford to ignore anymore.
For their part, each of the major browser developers are going for their own unique ‘style’ of sorts. Mozilla is looking for a means of integrating a permanent Home Tab into the browser- something that goes beyond a simple ‘new tab’ page and instead is present in the browser as a permanent app. Details are rather sparse on this one, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mozilla found some way to tie it into social networking in some way.
Opera, on the other hand, is using widgets- giving their start page a rather deep sense of customization by allowing users to pick and choose what they want to see when they open their browser. Definitely a good idea, and one that I hope Google considers adopting for Chrome, at least in part. Anyway, you’re probably wondering what Google’s doing to give the Chrome startpage a bit more zazz, right?
To that end, I’ve got some rather cool features to show you folks. No word on when they’ll be arriving in the Chrome browser, though- they’re currently in the process of making their debut on the Chromium platform. See, the way Google’s setting up their start page appears involve organizing the elements into ‘pages.’
In a lot of ways, Google’s “Circles” are something of a mishmash of Facebook’s friend system and Twitter’s followers system. You’ve got the sort of personal connections you can make on Facebook coupled with a twitter-like system of friendship known as “circles.” Consequently, there are a lot of people obsessed with who’s added them to their Circles on G +- just as you’ve got folks on Twitter who’ve an unhealthy compulsion to gather as many followers as humanly possible. In many cases, it all seems to come down to a popularity contest. On Twitter, it’s at the point where you’ve got what I like to term ‘fair weather followers’ who follow people just to get them to follow back, then proceed to unfollow them once that ultimately irrelevant little counter on the right side of their page goes up by another little tic. As you could imagine, there are a lot of Twitter apps designed to notify users when they’ve been unfollowed. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something like that for Google +?
Currently, there’s an extension that at least purports to do so. I wouldn’t trust it, though- and I’m not sure you should, either.
I’ve always gotten some enjoyment out of memory match-type games. They’re a simple, enjoyable way to waste a few minutes of the day. I’ve also always loved role playing games. There’s just something entertaining about seeing a character you’re playing get better, faster, and stronger, able to take on increasingly insurmountable challenges with ease. Plus, there’s the story- I’m a sucker for a decent narrative(though, to be fair, that’s not necessarily something I go into a browser game fully expecting.)
Naturally, when I saw the game “MatchHack,” which labels itself as an “open source, RPG matching game,” I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try- with mixed results.
Here’s another Chrome Extension that gives Google + a bit of a makeover. See, here’s the thing- as you get more and more people sharing posts with you, and begin to add more and more folks to your circles; your stream can start to feel a bit…overcrowded. Maybe a bit cluttered and overwhelming, to boot. When there’s a message with too many new comments on it, it could potentially dominate the entire stream- whether you care about those comments or not.
“G + Me For Google +” purports to enhance “the Google + web app to make it much easier to process a large stream of incoming posts and comments,” helping it to “unlock the potential of its real-time updates.” According to the developer, the extension adds the following features to Google + through Chrome:
- Notification status visible at all times
- Collapsible comments
- Collapsible posts
- Real-time comment count on collapsed items
- Mark comments as read
- Two available modes: Expanded and List.
- Mouse-over instant preview(currently only available in List mode).
Not only that, the developer’s also gone so far as to include a list of extensions and apps their addon’s compatible with. The only extension it’s incompatible with is Comment Toggle- but I’ve found I rather like this addon more than the former anyway- so it’s ultimately a nonissue. Now, there are evidently a few minor glitches with the extension- the ‘j’ and ‘k’ keyboard shortcuts don’t really sit well with the addon, and occasionally the comment count goes a little wonky as a result of people deleting their comments: In other words, you could very easily see a post with a comment count of zero or negative comment counts.
My Thoughts On The Extension:
I decided to take G + Me For Google + for a test run, and I’ve gotta say- I liked what I saw. First things first, I’ll explain the two formats to you. Expanded mode looks fairly similar to standard Google +, with one additional feature: each post in your stream has a small gray bar above it. Clicking on that bar will collapse the post down to a single row. You can also collapse or expand comments- which automatically marks the post as ‘read’ (more on that in a moment). All in all, pretty nifty- and it works a hell of a lot better than Comment Toggle.
List mode is probably the coolest feature of this extension. See, in List mode, all of the posts in your stream are automatically collapsed down. Each collapsed item displays the name of the person who published it, the time at which it was published and the number of comments it has received. If you’ve already marked it as ‘read’ the comment box will be gray. If there are any unread comments, the comment box will be red.
If you want to focus on a single post in your stream, all you have to do is click on it. The post will expand, and any other post you happened to be looking at will automatically collapse. You can also mouse over posts to see them in an overlay on your screen-sort of like how +photo zoom zooms into pictures. All in all, it gives the feeling of having a sort of ‘Google + dashboard’ to work off of, and makes sorting through what can often amount to a massive volume of messages a far less daunting task.
You can grab G+Me For Google from the Chrome Web Store, as always.
Google Voice is great, isn’t it? Lets you call and text from your computer, send SMS to and from your phone, and generally just provides a great service as keeping in touch is concerned. The problem is…it’s not actually available outside the US. Plus, I’m sure there are quite a few of you who, for whatever reason, don’t want to use Google Voice, even though you have it available to you. Fortunately, there are alternatives. We’ve already looked at one a little while ago- Mightytext. Today, we’re going to look at another one, known as DeskSMS.
Right off the bat, I’m going to make it clear- you could do a lot worse than this application. Whitson Gordon of Lifehacker labels DeskSMS as quite possibly the best application of its kind. After doing a bit of my own research on the extension, I’m inclined to agree with him- at least partially. While I don’t know of enough alternatives to say whether or not this is the best piece of software out there, it definitely ranks among the upper echelons.
You’re given a number of options regarding how you want to manage SMS on your system, and how this management will relate to your phone. Any time you receive a text message, DeskSMS will automatically forward this message to Google Talk, Gmail, a web interface, or the Chrome extension. Hell, if you’d prefer, you can go with all of the above.
One particularly nice touch of DeskSMS is that it allows you to respond to text messages with your instant messaging software- no additional steps required. Just receive message, send response, and you’re done. As an added bonus, it’ll send the response using your phone number, rather than an email or internet phone number.
Where it really shines is the interface- it’s a simple, no-fuss affair, and it’s amazingly simple to set up and use. All you need to do is download the Android app, then install the extension onto whatever platform you’re running it on. Once you’ve done this, link the extension to your account, and you’ll be prompted to select what services you want to forward and you’re good to go.
There’s one problem with this software. If you don’t have an Android phone, you’re pretty much out of luck.
Those of you who do can grab the beta of this extension from the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to download its counterpart from the Android Marketplace.
If you’re one of those folks that love how Google + looks, and want to give yourself the feeling of taking it with you everywhere, I’ve got a theme for you. It’s called Google + Theme, and essentially does precisely what one would imagine- overhauling Chrome’s appearance so it more closely resembles Google’s runaway social networking site. The developer, Ruocaled isn’t particularly descriptive about the specifics of the theme. Hell, even if you don’t like the look of Google plus, this theme looks pretty damned spiffy.
I’ll provide you folks with the details, if you like.
The theme changes the color of both the downloads bar and tabs bar to a rather smart-looking gray-black hue. In addition, the active tab is slightly darker than all the others, and features an orange highlight along the top. It doesn’t make any particularly noticeable overhaul to your startpage- aside from adding a background like the one in the picture, seen above. Alternatively, you could download Ruocaled’s other theme- it’s basically the same thing, except it features a chibi mascot for Google Plus known as “Google Plus-Tan.” on the start page, instead of the image shown above. Oh, he’s also developed a Nyan cat theme-complete with instructions on how to craft an animated version for yourself.
You can download Ruocaled’s “Google + Theme” here, or his “Unofficial Google + Theme Ft. G+ Tan” here. Oh, and for those of you using Incredible Startpage…both themes work just fine with that extension.
Are you a fan of old school puzzle games? If so, I’ve got a treat for you today. Here, for your enjoyment, is The Secret of Grisly Manor. Developed by Firewalker Games, The Secret of Grisly Manor casts you as the nondescript grandchild of a famous, eccentric engineer who’s recently gone missing. You’re tasked with entering your grandfather’s mansion and unraveling the mystery of his disappearance- as well as how he was able to send you a letter in spite of having apparently vanished.
So basically, you’ve got a vanished relative and a creepy mansion filled with intricate puzzles and odd clues all in all, pretty standard fare for a puzzle game, right? The question is whether or not it holds up to the old conventions, and does them proud. Let’s find out.