Archive for 'Reviews'
I’ve been pondering the merits of Google+ recently, especially in light of the fact that Facebook has made some changes to their interface recently. Note that I said, “changes” and not any improvements. In fact, I think what they have done is more than a nuisance more than anything and serves to suggest that maybe Google+ is a viable alternative social network.
But enough about Facebook. One of the key elements that I have always found intriguing about Google+ is the fact that the idea of Hangouts is something that Facebook is unable to compete with right now. Indeed, the new Google+ Hangout Check will even indicate for you if anyone is actually hanging out.
Maybe I don’t have enough Hangout-centric people in my Circles, but it seems to me that the whole concept has petered out. Although I must say, the Hangout Check extension is actually quite useful because when you are not focused on Google+ you can still have an idea if there are people you want to chat with face to face.
Is Google Hangouts a linchpin of Google+ and the overall Chrome space? It’s too soon to tell. Something suggests to me that many people are still a bit uncomfortable with the idea of videoconferencing with friends, despite the fact that many companies already use some form of it for long distances meetings as well as for hiring people remotely.
Once people do use Hangouts and find that they are not uncomfortable or perhaps embarrassed in any way, however, when they use it maybe there will be potential. But there is going to be that hurdle that needs to be overcome, and it won’t be that easy.
via Chrome Story
“A writer always writes. Always.” Billy Crystal said that in “Throw Momma From The Train.” Wasn’t the most sane character in the movie, but good advice nonetheless. Cloud Computing enables one to access their work/workspace from any computer. In some cases, even a cell phone. Cloud computing makes it easier than ever to follow that advice.
An essential component of the writing process is the composting of your ideas. I have two tools that help me do this: A Moleskin (yes, those expensive things) which I use to keep scribblings of random thoughts and ideas and Penzu, an online journal which I can access through any computer, preferably my Chromebook. (You can only do this via Penzu Pro. More on that later.) Personally, I do like to put pen to paper for the shorter thoughts so I use a Moleskin, but one could use a program like Simple Note to “capture” one’s random thoughts, and in some ways, could be a bit more convenient, especially if you have the program on your smartphone.
I use Penzu for everything from writing “longer” scribblings I’m compelled to put to digital format to longer ramblings which I may or may not share with the world later on. My moleskin scribblings frequently become seeds for my Penzu entries that usually run over 500 words per entry, which is the quota I try to keep. “A writer always writes. Always.” — Billy Chrystal, Throw Momma from the Train.
So, you now you ask: an online journal. Couldn’t you use just any blogger platform for that?
I suppose you could, but there are several features Penzu offers which sets it apart from your standard blogger app. Penzu is designed to be used as a private journal rather than a means to publish articles on the Internet. “Private” is its default mode, meaning every entry you write will not be seen by others.
Penzu’s interface seeks to emulate a journal page and it succeeds beautifully. In full screen mode, this is especially evident. There is a room for the title, the date is automatically entered for you and can be modified. As you write, a draft is automatically saved which is very helpful when you are in the heat of your rhapsodising. You can concentrate on your inspiration and just getting those thoughts down.
Photos can be easily uploaded from your computer or Flicker and links can easily be embedded on the page. All entries are search-able and can be tagged, utilizing the benefits of digitized text. Helpful for bringing together the free-flowing ideas you have recorded previously that may be related.
You can use Penzu for free. Just sign up and start writing. However, a yearly subscription of $19 will get you a Penzu Pro account which will add some features that you may find very handy like interface customizability and other features like the ability to e-mail an entry to your journal. One recently added feature is the “Help” button which can give you some writing ideas if you need inspiration. Remember writers: consistency is key, just keep those words flowing even when the well of ideas feels like it’s gone dry. Being given a topic to write about can aide in this.
Penzu Pro allows for a user to keep multiple journals. All your journals can be downloaded to your computer. There is no question: the data you keep in Penzu is yours and can do with it what you wish. If you have another digital journals, these can be uploaded.
Besides the fact that you have a password to log into your Penzu account, there are additional privacy features that one may utilize in Penzu Pro. You can encrypt your journal and even specific entries. No more worrying about whether someone will take a peek at your ramblings and jucy confessions when you are away.
You can say, Penzu offers the benefits of both a paper journal and a digital one.
Distraction Free Writing:
Having all those great ideas, rambling floating around in your moleskin and/or “cloud” journal isn’t enough to produce. I think of those things like making clay. A “mass” of thoughts, ideas, impressions have been created. Now it’s time to shape them into a definite statement, a first draft.
For this stage, I use a “Distraction Free” text editor that lets me focus on the writing at hand. To paraphrase Brittany Spears, it’s just me and the words, baby. There are many such editors out there. Some of them cost money, but the good news is The Chrome App Store carries a selection and most are free! Just do a search for “writing” and they’ll pop up. My favorite is Pillarbox. This is the best one I’ve found so far, and yes, it is one of the free ones. I love typewriter scrolling and Pillarbox is the first Chrome App to offer this feature. (That I know of anyway.) You just type and the text scrolls up as you stay focused on the line at hand. If Heminway could do it, so can you! Another plus is that Pillarbox requires no internet access. If you by chance close your browser window, your text will still be there the next time you open the application.
You can’t — as of yet — save documents in Pillarbox. It’s not that big of deal really. When I’m done with my first draft, I just cut and paste it to Google Docs for further editing to the final draft. An on-line based word processor is probably what you want to use for editing anyway. One thing to keep in mind is that Pillarbox doesn’t sync text between browsers even you have enabled the “sync” in Chrome, at least not yet. This is likely to change in the future. Until then, you will want to cut and paste your text and save it in Google Docs or the like if you plan to access this draft from another computer.
This is the stage where I use Google docs exclusively. I know there are other online office suites out there, but Google Docs does fine by me. Not really much more I can say about it. Not really a fancy office suite, but Google really knows how to provide the essential features the majority of people which results in a nice, clean interface.So there you have it. A Cloud Based Workflow for writers. Happy writing!
Many people complain that the Chrome Web Store is just full of book marks. I guess you could see it that way, but I do find it handy to have a source of these apps which are available in one place for my perusal.
I’m sure there are a number of want-to-be adopters out there just waiting for the day when all of these services will be also be available offline. And yes, it is only a matter of time before that functionality will be available. Right now, there are a few applications that are available in the web store that don’t require web access to perform their designated function. One of the best I’ve come across is “Pillarbox.”
Pillarbox is an application that gives you a customizable full screen text editor that aides in creating a distraction free writing environment. You write words, and they appear on the screen. As you write, you get a word count on your bottom left corner, and on the bottom right, you have a clock. Move your mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen and you have the option of setting a timer. This allows for a frequent practice of writers: the “Timed Writing” in which you just write what’s on your mind for a designated amount of time.
For me, the stand-out feature of this little — and free — application is typewriter scrolling. Every line you type scrolls up when you finish, with the new line remaining at the same eye level. follow your cursor down to the bottom of the screen.
Pillarbox saves the text you’ve been working on for the next launch, so it’s a bit like having your document being backed up automatically. One thing to keep in mind is that Pillarbox doesn’t sync text between computers even you have enabled the “sync” in Chrome, at least not yet. This is likely to change in the future. Until then, you will want to cut and paste your text and save it in Google Docs or the like if you plan to access this draft from another computer.
With Pillarbox, it’s just you and the words.
In an effort to see what the Browser Gamer world had to offer besides Angry Birds, I checked out a game called Realm of Mad God, a MMO shooter. “MMO” stands for “Massive Multiplayer On-line” Game” which means many, many people are playing along with you. While you’ll find many playing in this world, in the form of pixilated sprites scurrying around, you won’t find jaw dropping CGI here. Realm of Mad God’s look is a throwback to those old Nintendo games. The websites motto is “It isn’t a game unless you can see the pixels.”
Oh, and it is free to play!
In this Retro-Fantasy Realm you too are a little pixilated sprite — a warrior, wizard are among your many choices for your character — that traverses a 2D environment populated with scorpions, snakes, evil archers and the like. You move around this land with the A,W,D,S keys and you shoot by clicking your mouse in the direction you want to shoot. That’s basically it, but who said fun had to be complicated. There are many levels in this game, many lands to explore.
You have the option of teaming up with other players to fulfill quests and battle evil, or you can go at it solo. Before you go off to strange lands via portals, you have the option of trading with others or buying weapons, potions, armours, and rings you may need on the rough lands you will encounter.
A big dynamic in this game is “PermaDeath.” In Mad God’s Realm, dead is dead. When you die, that’s it, you can’t take up where you left off as in games like Diablo. You start over with an new character. The point is to improve on the amount of fame points you accumulate. While your dead character may not have the benefits of the knowledge you accumulate through play, hopefully, your next character will.
Realm of Mad Dog is a casual game, which allows for much flexibility. You can play for as little as five-minutes or adventure on for hours. For each session, you try and pick up as many “fame” points as you can before your inevitable demise. If you decide to make a Mad God account, your fame score will be kept in memory for you to beat the next time you play.
There is the opportunity for some rich game-play here, especially if you interact with others to fulfill quests. I was quite amused and recommend trying this game out.
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.
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.
Designed by Halfbrick Studios(you might remember them as the guys behind Fruit Ninja) Monster dash is a game about running really fast. And shooting monsters. And…that’s about it. Believe it or not, those are they only things the game really needs to work. And hey, their best known game is about attacking pieces of fruit with a katana, so this premise is actually a bit of a step up, if you think about it.
If you’ve been looking for some entertaining puzzle gameplay, but coming to the sad conclusion that it might just be an itch you’re unable to scracth…I might be able to help you out. Introducing Hiive Game’s Creatures & Castles. Originally developed for smartphones (I believe it made its debut on iOS) Creatures & Castles follows a very simple premise.You’re a kid who snuck out of their parents place in the dead of night to steal treasure. There is a castle. It contains treasure. You want that treasure. You’re not in the habit of asking nicely though- and in the case of this castle, it probably wouldn’t do a whole lot of good anyway.
What follows is a mildly entertaining- and, at times, somewhat challenging- puzzle game.
If you’re a member of more than one social network, managing your connections and feeds can sometimes feel a touch overwhelming. Having to visit each site separately in order to view your feeds and updates can be rather tedious. What’s more, keeping track of multiple RSS feeds….it tends to get downright bloody confusing What’s more, if you want to share something to each of the networks you’re part of…chance are, you’ll have to visit each one individually.There are some applications that exist to facilitate inter-network sharing, but much of the time, they aren’t quite enough.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a dashboard from which you could view your social networks?
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Layers.
“The Battle of London- October 15, 1940. The Axis’ flying armada are en route to London. The Allies are outnumbered 1,000 to 1. You cannot save the city, but you can stall the Axis long enough for London’s citizens to evacuate. Good luck, pilot, and Godspeed.”
That’s how the game Steambirds: Survival, the sequel to the eminently popular Steambirds, opens. It’s pretty obvious right off the bat that this game’s set in something of an alternate timeline World War 2-I suspect the setting is vaguely steampunk in nature- where the Allies are losing the war- severely. Guess which side you play on?
The game touts itself as a turn based, aerial dogfighting strategy game in which you face off against wave after wave of increasingly deadly foes. There’s also 24 distinct planes-each with their own unique style- to choose from.
A dark and terrible entity called Oryx The Insane- also known as The Madgod (Thanks to Oblivion, I’m going to forevermore picture him with a scottish accent) has lured heroes and champions from all over the world to become food for his vast hordes of minions. How he did it is irrelevant. Wine, women and song? Glory in battle? Tax breaks? It doesn’t really matter how you got here. What matters is that you’re here, his minions are hungry, and you don’t much fancy the thought of being dinner.
This is basically how Realm of The Mad God- a co operative, top-down massively multiplayer ‘bullet hell’ styled shooter designed for Google Chrome- is set up. Pretty standard stuff, right?
The slogan for the Chromebook is “Ready When You Are.” The truth of the matter is that’s only partly true because services many find essential are not being offered yet. Ironically, one of these services is one of the biggest sources of web traffic in North America, accounting for 24.71 percent of aggregated traffic is not accessible via Chrome OS. The cloud app I speak of, of course, is Netflix. Netflix is one of those services that validates the cloud because it allows the user access to thousands of movies and television shows (about 12,000 to choose from) via the Internet and can make you wonder whether you need a dvd collection at all.
Yet, Chrome OS — the ultimate cloud operating system — is currently unable stream Netflix movies. It’s taking time for Netflix to migrate to the HTML5 technology. Not a small feat considering the amount of movies they are streaming. The Netflix plug-in is in the Development Channel for Chrome OS, so it is only a matter of time that it will be available. But the fact is that it isn’t working yet.
What is a Chromie supposed to do in the mean time? You may be a bit disillusioned by the change Netflix’s pricing plans as well. Such questions may lead one to ask: what are the alternatives?
Well, the ones that come to my mind are Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. All of these services can be used quite easily in Chrome OS and that shinny, new Chromebooks.
Hulu is mainly for television shows, though if you get Hulu Prime, you get access to the Criterion Library. Many excellent films are to be had here for the film connoisseur but more mainstream movies are not in Hulu’s offerings. So if you want the latest Adam Sandler film, you are out of luck.
There is also YouTube. YouTube has been working hard to extend its digital offerings and offer commercially produced movies as well as user content that has come synonymous with the brand. It offers 3,000 movies for rent, some of them at no cost. The issue I see in this service is that the movies you are most likely are going to want to watch are rentals. A Netflix streaming subscription is $8 a month. That would be only two rentals on YouTube.
Last, but not least is Amazon Prime. If you are a big Amazon shopper, this may be a no brainer for you because you get free 2-day shipping as a member of Amazon Prime. The “Prime” catalog, while it has many movies and television shows to stream, is not as extensive as Netflix. Amazon has around 5,000 movies for streaming, however 1,668 of them offered for free on-demand streaming for Amazon Prime members. Not a very high number if you ask me.