Google’s growing chaos

I’m confused. Google has a lot of products nowadays. A non-exhaustive list of its biggest ones would include Search (along with its various nuances—Image Search, Blog Search, Book Search etc.), Mail, Maps, News, Froogle, Calendar, Documents & Spreadsheets, Photos (Picasa), Groups, Reader, Video and that’s by no means comprehensive.

Some of them are marketed on the various country homepages (Google US, Google UK etc.) just above the search bar. And some stuff is surfaced on top of some of its personalised services. But it’s not consistent. Here’s how it looks.

There just doesn’t seem to be a consistent aproach to this. Overall, it’s a mess. Google has got away with a shoddy user-experience for too long. It’s time to rationalise.

Best death scenes ever

I’m currently watching Final Destination 2 on Channel 4. It is a mediocre movie. But it has some phenomenally good death scenes, some notable ones (by no means all of them) detailed below.

Genius.

The darts final

I’ve not watched any of this year’s darts for a bunch of reasons. But I did catch the last half of the final, which I was surprised about, tuning into a match at 6–0, first to seven.

Martin Adams had won the first six sets before the interval. He and a seemingly dejected Phil Nixon walked out for what looked like a formality.

One by one, Nixon clawed his way back into the match. After winning the seventh, and even the eighth, you didn’t think much of it. When he got to 6–4, alarm bells started ringing, both for Mr. and Mrs. Adams, the latter leaving the arena as the pressure became too much. Her husband had no such option.

And Nixon continued his remarkable comeback, taking sets eleven and twelve, tying the match at 6–6 to set up a final, deciding set.

Unfortunately, Nixon crumbled, wayward darts spattering the 5 and 1 beds to allow Adams to hold his nerve for a double-top finish. 7–6 to Adams.

Fantastic TV.

Great high-res. picture of Manhattan

A great, very high-res. shot of Manhattan from Jersey City, showing our old home, where I used to work and the venue for weekly Sunday-night football.

Worth a look.

The futility of the cricket

My wife keeps seeing the results from England’s 20Twenty matches against Australia on the news. This after our 5–0 drubbing in the Test.

Each time, she implores them (via the interactive medium of shouting at the TV) to "just come home", given the futile plight that they are engaged in.

I have to say that I agree. They should really have come home for Christmas to save some despair and eat some turkey

Email merge?

I’ve often thought it would be useful to have an email merge facility in Outlook, similar to Mail Merge in Word. And I’ve often looked for this feature, to no avail.

But finally I’ve found it. Instead of being in Outlook, where you might expect it, it’s hidden within the Mail Merge feature of Word. Strikes me as bizarre, but there you go!

Worst moments in songs

I don’t think we’ve had this one. But possibly the worst moment in any song is Paul McCartney’s vocal noodling in Hey Jude.

Any other contenders?

Quote of the night

Quote of the night’s TV, from Keith Allen’s Tourette de France:

"You don’t have to have Tourette’s in a Little Chef to stand up and shout out ‘This f*cking food is f*cking shit’".

Genius!

At last: a reduction in .gov.uk sites

The report by Sir David Varney last month prescribed a reduction in the number of departmental websites, instead using Directgov and Businesslink as the primary information and transactional channels for citizens and businesses respectively.

Finally!

And it seems the report has developed an impetus, the BBC today reporting the Cabinet Office’s decision to close down 551 sites, with "hundreds more … expected to follow". They estimate the total number of sites currently out there at 991, although this seems woefully low, especially if you bring in local government.

This makes me happy because (a) the government web-presence is currently chaotic and (b) I project managed the implementation of Directgov. So it’s nice to see its ever-increasing profile. However this news has been a long time coming.

The new iPhone

The iPhone has just been unveiled at Macworld in San Francisco. According to Steve Jobs its screen is 3.5" across its diagonal (with a resolution of 160 pixels per inch), and it’s only 11.6mm deep. Funny how he mixes his imperial and metric lengths.

He could have gone for 88.9mm across (with 6.3 pixels per mm), or else gone for 0.45" depth.

Incidentally, the iPhone itself looks sweet.

Update: Nasa’s going metric, as of today, for moon activity.

Further update: more detail on the iPhone. The phone itself is fricking unbelievable. I love it. The interface is poetry, and 95% of the functionality is beautiful, both in its simplicity and its offering.

The iPod part of the phone has advanced in leaps and bounds. Most of these advances relate to the fact that the whole thing is running OS(X), but I also love its "accelerometer", which is essentially a gravity-detector, orienting your screen according to the way you hold it. That’s particularly neat, although I have no idea why they chose that name.

The traditional phone bit is also great. They’ve taken all of the annoyances with regular phones, and simply addressed them all—switching between calls, accessing contacts and a particularly snazzy visual voicemail, allowing you to listen to specific voicemails rather than trawl through a plethora to listen to the one that you want.

However, there is one area that is dreadful, but which is a symptom of keyless devices: typing. SMS texting and writing emails is cumbersome to say the least. Jobs says "I’ve got this little keyboard which is phenomenal. […] It’s actually really fast to type on".

He’s lying. It took a long time for him to type a one-line text message, which was no doubt rehearsed many times over. With traditional mobile phones, there used to be a comfort factor. The feedback that the keys gave me (a little click with a tangible pressed/released state) confirmed that my press had been recognised, and I could move on to the next letter. Intelligent texting allowed 90% of the QWERTY user experience, without needing the space for all those keys. (When I typed QWERTY just then, I actually touch-typed it, instead of swiping my finger across the top row. Weird.)

My current phone (T-Mobile’s MDA) has a slide-out keyboard, which offers similar, vital feedback, although the QWERTY keyboard is a little cumbersome for the two thumbs that remain free (hooray for opposable thumbs!) while my fingers cradle the unit.

The touch-screen for typing doesn’t work for me—nor, it seems for Steve, who undeniably had trouble. (This in spite of the whoopings of the notoriously "Apple did it so it must be good" crowd.) It’s not as if it’s the lack of SMS take-up in the US that has driven the weakness, as the "keyboard" is similarly important for web browsing and email, fundamental offerings of the iPhone, what with its Google and Yahoo! partnerships.

Lastly, Apple’s introduction of Safari onto the phone doesn’t work too well for me either. It displays the full webpage as it would appear on my 15.4" laptop monitor. It’s illegible, but you can zoom in easily. But how do I know what to zoom into? I don’t. But I can zip around the screen to try and find what I’m looking for, as long as I know where to zip. I’d prefer a linear view on such a relatively small screen. The whole idea of graceful degradation and the beauty of stylesheets goes out of the window.

But neat nonetheless…

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