Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

June 2011 Posts

Google Plus, a lot like Buzz so far

Thu, 06/30/2011 - 02:39 -- rprice

I remember the first few days that Buzz was around... there was some activity there, the tech people were all talking about it (plus the obvious privacy backlash). Then it died. It died a quiet lonely death, and nobody smelled the body until a few years later...

When Google+ started.

Will this "project" go the way of Wave, Jaiku, and Dodgeball? Will they open source Hangouts, like they supposedly open sourced Wave?

What about some way for me to advertise that I want to be found in relation to ... X? I guess the web (and Google search) already have that covered? The lists are cool, but a listserv does not exist here, and part of me hopes the Googlers never create a way to spam everyone. That would make this exactly like every other social network, and Google keeps contending that it is not a social network. Therefore, what is it?

I absolutely can't wait for tomorrow's Social Media Day / Mashable meetup at Urban ReThink and Tummelvision - that is going to be epic. I actually had a little chat with Heater Gold today on Plus, and all because I mistakenly thought they might have already taped this week's episode.

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Google+ 1st Post

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 18:06 -- rprice

I heard about Google+ about from a million places when I checked in to the world this morning, and as I write this Leo, Jeff and Gina (or is it Leo Jeff and Gina now?) are chatting about it and discovering new things about it on TWIG.

Google What?

Really curious about some of the features? See the official Google announcement page or read the article in Search Engine Land

One thing I don't understand is why Google is releasing this as a suite of products... from the company that is so famous for launching things in "beta", why not just roll out one feature at a time?

Clearly, the Profiles, Plus One feature (and Buzz?) were part of the rollout of this product, but today they introduced so many new features and new paradigms that I don't see this as a staged rollout anymore.

Did they feel it wasn't compelling enough to simply have posts that could be shared with a select group of people, or to have a Google branded group messaging service (several of which launched in the past few years at SXSW) that was only available on Android phones?

Clearly, one of the great launches today is the Hangouts - group video chat - for up to 10 people, for free. While there are a lot of group video solutions, many of them cost money - making the product free is a great way to get people to try it, and use it whenever it is needed.

(for those of you reading on facebook, there is a video here)

This was something I asked for on the Our Yellow House podcast - a Chat Roulette about a particular topic. For example: there is a group here in Orlando that has a TED meetup once a month. They watch a video from TED, then proceed to have a 45 minute discussion inspired by that video. What if you don't live in a big city, where it is a bit easier to get together in person? You still want to participate in the conversation, but you can't get a group together. Now you just need to start a Hangout and get a discussion going.

I can already see a great application here for the Drupal Dojo - a weekly virtual meetup group that shares knowledge about Drupal.

Having an IRC chat with sound and video is going to be huge for collaborative groups.

In my job, I have at least one phone call every week that can last as many as 5 hours... right now, we open up Skype and get online, then start working. Through the open audio channel, we don't necessarily have to be "on the phone" the whole time, but when we have a question for the other person (who is sitting 2,000 miles away), there is a zero connect time. Skype has video capabilities, but if your call has more than one person on it, you can't use video anymore. A really important part of my job is seeing what the other person is seeing, and the solutions to make that work tend to cost money - anywhere from $15 to $50 to hundreds of dollars a month. This is free.

There were some interesting social conventions brought up in the TWIG episode - like do you announce yourself when you enter or leave a Hangout? Apparently when someone says something dirty you can do a "hand check", and I'm sure other conventions will pop up, a la hashtags, @ signs and other hacks introduced on Twitter.

A few more anecdotes:

  • When we first started doing Likemind in Orlando, I would sometimes have a hard time waking up and making it down to the coffee shop, and I had to walk, so instead of missing 20 minutes of the meetup, I just had John RIfe open up Skype from the event and have me join via telepresence. This again, is great for that.
  • There is a Drupal meetup in Broward County sets themselves up with a Skype channel while they are holding the Broward Drupal meeting to let other people join in if they choose. Traffic in South Florida is notoriously bad, despite the fact that most areas of the metro are not physically far apart, it takes a long time to get across town, so this is a good choice for locals or anyone else around the world who wants to join in.

Back to my rant about rolling out too many new features all at once...

If the Googlers are such experienced engineers, then why don't they just show us one tool at a time, UNIX command-line style? It feels a bit UNIX-y to have these different tools and let each of them be used one at a time, but why show us so many all at once? There are a lot of new vocabulary words here (something that I know is confusing from the Drupal community - Node, Taxonomy, Entity, Field, Views, Panels, Pages, Context, etc have been hard for some to keep straight), and there are obvious ways to combine the tools here - phrases, as it were - I'm sure new ones will emerge eventually.

Still, I wonder if it will be too confusing to "the masses" - the people they will clearly want to be stealing from Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft. We all saw Wave go crashing down because of the numerous new concepts and difficulty of understanding how to use them all and make it work. Also, Wave was a little too much of a walled garden to be useful right away. At least with Google+ it seems like making things public isn't too hard.

I could go on, but without an invite and some more experience, that's about what I'm thinking for now.

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Streaming Music from a NAS at Home to an Android Phone

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 18:05 -- rprice

I have a huge music collection that I digitized years ago that I don't / can't carry around with me everywhere. I have been keeping my files on a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device I picked up on rebate - basically some hard drives connected to a low-powered computer with a network cable. I've been looking for a way to play tunes when I'm out in the yard weeding or gardening, or when I'm halfway across the globe. Following is a summary of how I got it to work.

Given the massive number of Android apps in the Market, I figured there must be some way to get the music from the NAS to my phone, and it turns out I was right. This solution is pretty nice, because it doesn't require me to keep a computer running all the time, just the NAS and my Wi-Fi Router.


D-Link DNS-321 2-Bay Network Attached Storage
Had I known about the 321's big brother, the D-Link DNS-323, or the less expensive DNS-320, I might have searched around to buy one of those. They both include a USB print server on top of the built in FTP and file serving capabilities.

The 323, though, has grown a serious hacking community around it. On the DNS323 Wiki, hackers detail a quick way to load software onto your NAS, like a web server, bittorrent client, and more. If you're not afraid of a little hacking, check out this wiki!

One of the many nice features of the D-Link DNS-321 Network Attached Storage is the ability for it to act as an iTunes server. The iTunes sharing feature uses a protocol called DAAP, or Digital Audio Access Protocol. DAAP is now available as a means of sharing media between many different devices and programs, and it turns out my phone is one of them.

There is a smart little program for Android called DAAP Media Player that does one thing very well - connect to a DAAP server on your local Wi-Fi (by auto-discovery) or on the web (if you have the address). You are presented with some broad song categories, and the ability to browse by artist or album. If you read the app's description, you also learn that there are a number of ways to publish your media library via DAAP. In this case, the DNS-321 does the job just fine.

In my case, I have a static IP address at home. This means I can point a domain name at the IP address for my house, do a quick configuration to do some port forwarding on my router (port 3689), and to quote Steve Jobs, "boom", I can now get to my music library from anywhere on the planet.

Isn't technology cool?

Yes, I also have a membership to the Google Music Beta, where I have already uploaded about 6,000 songs, but I don't know how long the beta will last, if (or what) Google will charge in the future, and if they will ever shut down the service. This way, I can take control of the service on my own terms.

I also realize that Amazon and Apple have similar services - more on this in a future post. As a rule, I prefer to manage this sort of thing myself whenever possible. From where I'm sitting, I'm not giving up anything except a bit of time to make it work.

This library represents almost a decade of digital packratting, as well as several plastic discs I ripped. That was a huge investment for me, and I want to make the most of it. I see this as a great way to get everlasting value out of my collection.

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How to Sync Bookmarks, Pin Tabs and more in Firefox 5

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 12:56 -- rprice

Mozilla has promised to put out several new versions of Firefox this year, I guess they are taking a little bit more of a Google Chrome path, to release quickly, and innovate. They have some really great stuff in their Mozilla Labs, which I have blogged about before.

Here is a quick one about connecting Firefox Sync with your mobile phone or other computers:

Some more really cool features are the ability to create Tab Groups, which you can save, or use as an alternate to switching between windows.

App Tabs are small tabs that stay visible in your window even when you have tons of other tabs open - they glow blue when they get updated, and they even stay attached to your window when you quit the browser and start it back up.

What's your favorite new feature of Firefox?

Want to see more cool stuff that Firefox can do? Check out https://demos.mozilla.org/

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