Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Chrome OS Social Update Dilemma (or Sorry Gwibber - All is Forgiven)

I miss Gwibber, there, I said it. After being annoyed, frustrated and generally dismissive of it I have realised it is one piece of software I really miss, having been 'Gwibber-less' from December 2010 until February 2011. Mainly due to me deciding to have a monogamous relationship with my Chrome OS Cr-48 and not sleep around with other operating systems, though I have 'stepped-out' on it with Window's XP once or twice. Suddenly I realised that I no longer had little bubbles popping up on my desktop any more with little parcels of social networking news, often too quick to read, but my connection to my virtual friends nonetheless. Hence my quest began to find the best replacement on the Chrome OS using Cr-48. 

I soon discovered many apps and extensions in the Chrome Web Store, but I needed something that would do most things, hence my list was narrowed down to five apps. I preferred apps over extensions because I do not like how the pop-up boxes appear on-screen and the apps could run full screen on a pinned tab. I used each app for a week until finally settling for a clear winner, for me anyway! So in order of trial I begin.

Hootsuite was featured in one of the little Google boxes on the right of the Chrome store, so I figured if it is good enough for Google, it is good enough for me. The interface is fresh, bright and clear. They also allow you to type your updates and have it send at a specified time, which I thought was a really nice feature for those of us that do not want to blast out a handful of updates at a time. BUT I soon found the caveat to many of the Chrome Store's apps, free to install and use, but all the good stuff you have to pay for. For most users the stuff to pay for will not matter, Hootsuite pulls in your feeds from multiple accounts and displays them via a tabbed layout. On the Cr-48 it did get very slow at times and the adverts popping up regularly in your feeds did no favours either. Overall I ranked this third place, mainly due to it being slow, not all your feeds are displayed on one page and the constant reminders you are using a sucky free version and your life would be a million times better if you pay for the full-featured version.

Everybody has tweeted about TweetDeck, well in many of the blogs/tweets I read, and I often see people requesting a version of it for the Ubuntu desktop. After a week I just did not see what the fuss was about and was rather disappointed. Before I say more, what I did like is that you can use it 'straight out of the box' without creating an account. The black theme I did not like, never do, personally I prefer softer, brighter themes as they are easier on the eyes. A plus is that you can put all the feeds you desire on the page in front of you, no need for tabs, but the columns do not re-size so you may need to scroll left and right. The layout is very clean and well designed, you can add your twitter and facebook feeds no problem. Overall though it did not grow on me, there are no annoying adverts, again slow to use at times on the Cr-48 so this ended up in fourth place overall.

OK...streamie for chrome was my attempt to think out of the box a little, something that would not be as flashy or slow as my previous two attempts, but was still intuitive and easy to use. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, gives you your twitter feed, you can post message and is a full screen app...but so what? It would be just as conveiniant to leave your twitter page open on a pinned tab and check in now and then. It is clutter-free though and elegant, so if you like your desktop minimilistic then I think this could be for you, but for me, it comes in fifth place overall.

After a week of Streamie I returned back to the world of full featured social networking apps with a blast and discovered my second favourite, the raccoon's favourite, Seesmic! This is a very nice and well done app, it works relatively fast and smooth on the Cr-48 compared to the others, the design is not as polished as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, but it is simple, clear and efficient. Setting up a free account allows you to access multiple feeds and away you go. You do have to scroll left to right to see multiple accounts, if you have them, but you do not mind that thanks to the speed, no annoying adverts and updates worked everytime. What is not to like?  Like I said, it is not as polished as the others, but that is really my only complaint, it was going to take something very impressive to knock this off the top spot...

I first used Yoono years ago on Firefox, but it would run in the side-bar, it looked too 'busy' and at the time I just did not need it...but how do things change. On Chrome, and on the Cr-48, for me it is a perfect match. You get all your feeds, auto-sized onto a single screen, you click a picture in your Flickr feed and it starts a on-screen slideshow, all your updates and messages from every linked account are indicated on the left bar, not in your face, but clear and effective, that includes the feeds you have not given columns to. It is easy to repy, retweet, like, comment, etc., but they do include one advert on the left of the page, but I think it is more then worth it. They also include multiple themes for whatever mood you are in. It is easily my number one and the best fit I think there is for Chrome OS for me. Even with all those features it is still very quick and smooth on the Cr-48. This is what I recommend you try if you are still looking for the perfect match to Chrome.

So there you go, my top 5 social networking apps for Chrome, Chrome OS and the Cr-48. I know many will disagree, but I found the best for me. The Chrome Web Store has plenty of options and I recommend you give anything you find a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.


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Monday, 10 January 2011

In the wake of the attack on Rep. Gifford should we call it terrorism & is this the end of lone-wolf terrorism?

Another excellent post from Brigitte L. Nacos which questions why people are not prepared to call this attack an act of terrorism and simply white wash over it with the usual assumptions that the guy must be crazy. I agree, and writers like Sam Harris have already pointed out that only the liberal left would be the ones left surprised by these acts of violence and terrorism. This pressure-cooker is of the creation of many right-wing pundits, but equally by those who shrug it off as crazy rhetoric and that only a few would sipping that crazy kool-aid.

Now we have a mess that needs to be cleared up and due to the 'now media' we should ask if any terrorist attack takes place in isolation by so-called lone wolves? Propaganda, indoctrination, training, support, etc. are all facilitated by others via the internet, and I expect the FBI are combing through all of Loughner's computers to assemble a full picture of his web-footprint. With careful analysis, some good may come from this.

Amplify’d from
According to evidence presented by law enforcement officials in court, Jared Lee Loughner planned the assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) well in advance
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that the Tucson shooter shared other causes and grievances of the right-extremist milieu—predominantly directed against the “unpatriotic” liberal and moderate enemies that do share their extreme ideas. For that, he did not have to attend actual meetings of so-called patriot or militia groups or even know any of those movements’ activists.
 “The ubiquitous nature of the Internet means that not only threats but also hate speech and other inciteful speech is much more readily available to individuals than quite clearly it was 8 or 10 or 15 years ago.”
Was the attack, then, the insane act of a mad young man?
As far as I am concerned, the premeditated attack that killed six persons and wounding a dozen others was an act of terrorism by definition. Terrorism means after all the deliberate, politically motivated targeting of civilians or non-combatants.
Strange, that the chattering class has far less of a problem calling similar acts of violence inside the United States “terrorism,” when the perpetrators are identified as Muslim Americans.
But starting with the election of President Obama, the emergence of the Birther movement, the revitalization of the extremist patriot and militia movement, the threatening nature of the Tea Party advent during 2009 town hall meetings at the heights of the health care reform debate, and peaking again during last year’s bitter election campaign, right-wingers have been particularly extreme in the rhetoric of hate and division.   
Although one would hope that Sarah Palin did not want to encourage real life attacks on the targets she pinpointed during the campaign, the fact is that she publicized a graphic that displayed gunsight-style crosshair targets on the districts of 20 Democrat politicians that supported Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, among them Representative Giffords. The idea was to “take out” those opposition candidates—in the next election. But placing the “hit list” side by side with Palin’s gun-blazing "Don't retreat, reload” phrase, this stuff could be understood quite differently.
Sarah Palin's 'target list'
What happened in Tucson the other day should be a wake-up call for extremists of all colors and, more important, for the majority that tends to remain at the sidelines of political discourse.
It does not bode well that right-wingers have already began to push back against critics of their demagoguery and hate speech—and, of course, on their ridiculous interpretation of the right to bear arms based on the second amendment.
By now it the time for real American values to prevail. 

Monday, 3 January 2011

Some Numbers from AfPak 2010

From the AfPak Channel at Foreign Policy magazine, some numbers on casualties in Afghanistan and links to a further 3 reports on the Afghan war. It all makes for sobering reading at the start of 2011, combined with what is looking like the collapse of the Pakistani government and the tentative position of the Afghan government this could end up being another interesting year in the region.


Amplify’d from
More than 700 international troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2010, 498 of them Americans (LAT, Pajhwok).
Nearly 1,300 Afghan policemen were killed last year, a decrease of
seven percent over 2009, and civilian casualties went up 20 percent in
the first ten months of 2010 over the same period in 2009 (Reuters, Tolo, Pajhwok, Post).
On Christmas, top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus visited
troops in Kabul, Kunduz, Farah, and Helmand, where the Journal reports
that British troops are gaining confidence in Afghan security forces,
often seen as feckless (AP, WSJ).
Pajhwok reports that Taliban fighters, Afghan officials, and
international forces have agreed on a cease-fire in Sangin district in
Helmand (Pajhwok).
And Afghan ethnic minorities express frustration with their
under-representation at the officer ranks, which are dominated by
Pashtuns and Tajiks, in Afghanistan's security forces (AFP).
Post has three reports on the Afghan war: one profiling the U.S.
military hospital in Kandahar, which treats soldiers, civilians, and
insurgents alike (Post);
a second noting that the U.S. Army's official history of the battle of
Wanat -- a July 2008 clash in Kunar that sparked four investigations --
"largely absolves top commanders of the deaths of nine U.S. soldiers and
instead blames the confusing and unpredictable nature of war" (Post);
and a third looking at the U.S. presence in the Pech Valley, where the
focus is on fighting such that "Afghan officials can figure out a way to
coexist with a committed and ideological resistance" (Post).