Saturday, January 8, 2011

Microsoft's SkyDrive and Online Office Suite

I just found something very interesting.

I have been using Google for just about everything I can think of in my life, so unfortunately for now Microsoft has missed the boat of having me as their customer online. I still have an account with them but don't use it all that frequently. The main reason for this is that Microsoft has always offered an inferior product online to almost any other company out there.

At first their only offering was Hotmail, not bad and it certainly revolutionized the world of free online email, but it didn't keep up for long; it was a great innovation and they captured the online world with it. But then they slept on it, the few improvements made didn't keep up with other companies online offerings. Then came the "Live" branding and a new level of effort was put into their online free products. They greatly improved, once again surpassing much of the competition, however they are still playing catchup to Google in this area. During this period Google has captured a good chunk of their user base, especially the tech minded people.

The online world started expanding from just email offerings to online storage and office suites. Google was the first of the two giants to hop on board with free online office documents and forms of online storage. Then Microsoft came out with a massive free online storage offering trying to dwarf it's competition. I even use this for the shear volume they offered; at one time it was 20GB.

Most recently they have finally caught up to Google's online office suite offering. There have been quite a few smaller companies offering online office sweets for free, but the convenience wasn't there for me. Extra logins, slow load times, etc, all kept me away and happy with Google's ever improving version of office applications. Now it appears Microsoft has finally rolled out a free version of their office suite completely usable online.

With this Microsoft is once again within sight behind Google and I have hope that Google will be given a run for their money. However, I will continue to stay with Google for now for two reasons. One, I am already entrenched there and moving would be hard. Two, Microsoft still has very busy graphics intensive pages that just don't feel like a pleasant environment to me. Also their organization is still lacking. Google has a simple and consistent organization that makes it easy to find all my stuff. While Microsoft has gotten better, their online environment still feels confusing, unintuitive, and heavy.

But, for those who want an alternative to Google's online documents. Microsoft is now a good alternative. I'm very happy to see this progress on their part, I was almost ready to write off Microsoft as having given up in the online race.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Latitude Tracker - Google Chrome Browser Extension

Edit: I originally intended on hosting this Chrome Extension on the chrome extensions website. But then I discovered that google had locked out all developers unless they paid a $5 fee for the privilege of giving away free programs to people. I expect google will probably find a better solution for the problem they were trying to fix, but in the meantime I'd still like to make this extension available to people, so I zipped it and uploaded it to google docs. Click on the title to download it.

Unfortunately you will have to manually install it by:
1. unzip/unpack it to a folder
2. open chrome ( web browser )
3. click the Wrench button/tools/extensions
4. click Developer Mode
5. click Load Unpacked Extension
6. select the directory you just created when you unzipped the file and press ok.

This is v0.3, a kind of google beta, if you will.

It is designed for laptop users to keep their Google Latitude positions automatically updated.

1. Shows your current location on a map.
2. Updates your latitude account with your location periodically.
3. option to set how long ( in minutes ) between updates. default 5
4. option to set how long ( in minutes ) it checks back if an error occurs. default 1
5. option to turn it off, or update with a custom position in coordinates. default auto

Currently it updates your Latitude account every 5 minutes, as well as shows you a nice little popup with your position in coordinates and on a google map.



I have to thank the "Google Latitude Updater" project from google code which doesn't seem to have made it to production, but had some crucial code to help me over a rough spot.

Also the "Geo Location" chrome extension which can be found on the chrome extensions site. The popup and geo locating code showing your position on the map actually came from there; I intend to add to it in future versions, but for now not much has been changed.