Fun with Fluid – Bringing Web Applications to the OS X Desktop

Recently I discovered Fluid, and I fell in love immediately. Its simple interface belies the power this tool provides. Because I rely so heavily on web-based applications, particularly the services Google offers, Fluid provides convenient access to the sites I visit hundreds of times a day.

Fluid, a single site browser generator for Mac OS X, takes a specific website and turns it into a standalone desktop application. With support for Userscripts.org, the applications generated by Fluid can be extensively customized and integrated with existing desktop applications. Particularly useful is Fluid’s support for Growl, which provides notification support for many OS X programs.

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The Branding of DROIDs

Right now, two companies are promoting their Google-Android-powered mobile phones as DROIDs. The first is the Motorola DROID, the second being the HTC DROID ERIS.

It struck me as strange that two competing companies would brand their devices so similarly, notwithstanding the obvious tie-in with the Android platform.

As it turns out, “DROID is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies. Used under license.” Both the Verizon Wireless online store and the company’s commercials promoting the devices provide this clarification.

So, that answers that question. George Lucas’ Star Wars empire receives a royalty for each DROID-branded device sold and can license the name to whoever it likes.

Flavors.me vs. AIM Lifestream & Streamy

A new service called Flavors.me, currently in invitation-only beta mode, hopes to become your online destination for all things social. The idea behind the service is simple, and certainly not new, but Flavors.me’s execution far surpasses its competitors such as AIM Lifestream and Streamy.

Flavors.me, as well as AIM Lifestream and Streamy, creates a central location to display tweets, Facebook posts, pictures, reading lists, music interests, and much more in something referred to as a lifestream (little L makes a big difference).

The idea behind Flavors.me is somewhat different, though, as it creates a publicly-accessible page. With the new service, rather than having multiple online destinations where interested people can find your web presence, you can direct them to one place that aggregates the otherwise-disjointed information.

I recently received an invitation to the Flavors.me beta, and I have to say, the service far surpasses that of AIM Lifestream or any other competitor. First, unlike its competitors, Flavors.me pages are meant for sharing and cannot be password protected. Second, its interface is much simpler, yet it boasts some important features that other services lack. In addition, the overall design is much cleaner without sacrificing aesthetics.

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Condescending Mobile Phone Carrier Nicknames

There are certain things I’m quite outspoken about, and my preference for Verizon Wireless over every one of its competitors is one such example. My disdain for Verizon’s competitors largely stems from living in New England, where Verizon dominates.

Over the years, I’ve come up with condescending nicknames for two of its three nationwide competitors, but T-Mobile has always been one carrier that escaped my venom.

AT&T became AT&WeSuck, while Sprint, following its merger with Nextel, became SprintSuckTel.

Have you devised a creative name that both derides T-Mobile’s inferior service while clearly identifying the carrier?

I ask because I’m working on a future post regarding the four nationwide carriers. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below.

Second BlackBerry Outage In A Week!?

Last Thursday, the company that makes BlackBerry smartphones had a problem with its equipment that prevented some users from receiving email on their devices.

Tonight, Research in Motion (RIM) is experiencing a total service outage effecting North and South America. For at least an hour, I’ve been unable to access any data services from my device, including internet service and email.

In the case of BlackBerry, all emails routed to the device travel first through its data center, a setup intended to reduce the load on individual corporate email servers. As the recent problems highlight, however, such a design can have devastating consequences if RIM’s data center goes offline or experiences some other downtime.

One very minor lesson learned: BlackBerry users now know what it’s like to be an iPhone user on AT&WeSuck.

Update: It appears that the problem was resolved around 3:05 EST on December 23 as I received a number of previously-undelivered emails at that early hour.

BlackBerry Storm with OS 5 Runs Faster With Less Free Memory

My biggest complaint about the BlackBerry device software is that application memory is limited to whatever space is left after the operating system is installed. This means that, while my first-generation Storm has a MicroSD memory card, I cannot run applications from the card. As a result, I am somewhat limited in how many applications I can add to my device. To address this problem, newer BlackBerry models include significantly more Flash RAM than does my Storm or did previous BlackBerries.

Ironically enough, while OS 5 takes up more space than its predecessor, my Storm is more responsive with the new software. I regularly run low on memory, but even when the device prompts me to delete unused applications, its performance isn’t impacted. This revelation came as quite a surprise, considering the improvements to the interface’s appearance that OS 5 brought.

Perhaps the minor changes, such as reducing the 3D effect on buttons, reduced the processing power needed to render the Storm’s user interface just enough to improve the device’s overall response. Whatever the reason, I certainly don’t mind that my device rarely displays its clock-face-like “please wait” icon.

Response from DreamHost Regarding Its Ongoing Nightmare

My web host, DreamHost, recently moved its operations to a new datacenter, resulting in major outages and headaches for myself and its many other customers (see “Regarding My Site’s Downtime” and “Ongoing Server Problems Test My Patience, Hamper Productivity“). So overwhelmed with complaints was its support staff that the company resorted to canned responses to customers’ inquiries.

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Ongoing Server Problems Test My Patience, Hamper Productivity

As visitors may have noticed, disparate.info has suffered a number of outages over the last few days. My host, DreamHost, has experienced a number of problems with the servers powering this site (and many others) since it began moving its equipment to a new location. The recurring issues are disconcerting because, on more than one occasion, DreamHost has announced that it had resolved the problems only to discover that it hadn’t. I’ve been a customer for four years, but never before have I experienced problems of this magnitude, and the ongoing issues are testing my patience.

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Twitter’s Newest Feature Aims to Standardize User-Initiated Convention

As Twitter grapples with its explosive growth over the past months, the service has begun formalizing practices its users created. First, it was the use of “@” to identify a user’s handle, followed by hashtags (#[term]) to better organize tweets on related topics and aid in searching. Most recently, Twitter has formalized the retweet process. Early Twitter users adopted the “RT @[handle]” syntax to indicate tweets that were the product of another user. Now, users for whom the beta feature has been activated will find a Retweet button (Retweet Button) on individual tweets. The resulting tweet is marked with the chasing-line icon in place of the familiar “RT” tag. Below is a screenshot of the announcement, which includes an example of how retweets are now displayed.

As co-founder Evan Williams explained earlier this week, the move was in part motivated by Twitter’s desire to standardize a function that has become central to the service. As part of this new feature, users will only see retweets from others that they follow, a change intended to cut down on the redundancy that can result when a popular tweet is retweeted by many users. That decision, while controversial, should reduce the clutter (“noisiness” as Williams referred to it) that some Twitter users have complained about. Personally, I think the move was a smart one, because the appearing/disappearing act the Retweet function has played recently was getting annoying.

The announcement that appeared atop my Twitter page after I recently retweeted.
The announcement that appeared atop my Twitter page after I recently retweeted.