Saturday, October 14, 2006

Google Labs Does It Again - Check Out Reader!

I'm a big fan of Google. I think they are pushing the envelope of what can be done with web applications, but with a focus on usability that is very refreshing in this day and age. Their new AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) applications like GMail, Google Maps, Google Calendar and most recently Doc and Spreadsheets give a very desktop application feel to web delivered applications that bring their utility to another level.

A new addition to their pantheon of services is the Google Reader. It is an RSS (Really Simply Syndication) feed aggregator. I've been using it almost exclusively for reading the "web sites" I typically browse for the past week and I have to say that I love it. I've toyed with RSS readers in the past, but with the exception of Podcatchers, I've never really bought into the concept. Reader has won me as an RSS convert.

Content is King!

The beauty of RSS is the separation of the content of a web site from the page that normally publishes it. For example, a typical story page on MSNBC includes a banner ad at the top of the page. Followed by a line of MSN standard navigation controls. Now add in the MSNBC Logo, their navigation menu, ads, links etc. All of this junk surrounds the stuff you really want, the actual article of interest. The typical RSS feed gives you all the meat without any of the trimmings. It only contains the actual article content, allowing an RSS reader to present content from various sources in a consistent manner.

Google Reader Screenshot

Reader does this in all the AJAX glory of Google's other cutting-edge apps. The interface is very clean, neat and efficient, as we have come to expect from Google. It allows you to group your feeds (referred to as subscriptions in Reader) into folders which can be viewed individually, or as part of the "All items" view. GMail users will be familiar with the "Starred items" concept for highlighting items of particular interest. You can also share items. When you click "Share" on an item, you are adding it to a personal RSS field that you can share with others (mine is linked to this blog for example. See the links section in the side bar). This allows you a one click solution to communicating to interested parties items of particular interest. I'd like to see the folks at Google Labs enhance this functionality to allow for multiple feeds, perhaps a single feed filtered into multiple feeds by tags. For example, some items I want to share with my friends, but others I'd like to share with my colleagues and still others I might choose to share with both.

Reader is worth a look. Even if you have tried RSS catchers before and been dissatisfied, do yourself a favor and check this one out. It it's a winner in my book.


Hello again everyone. I believe I will be resurrecting this blog. I find that I spend a lot of time restating the same information in various emails and conversations. This indicates that a single point of reference for this type of stuff is called for. Rather than creating an entirely new blog, I'll just bring this one back from the dead.

Not much content to add just now, but be on the lookout for stuff as it comes up.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Googlebar 2.0 / IESpell - Great Stuff
I don't usually go in for browser add-ins, but I found a couple recently that are worth mentioning. First the Google toolbar or "Googlebar" as it is known:

Google Toolbar

This guy has been around for a while, but the 2.0 revision includes a really well implemented pop-up (including pop-under) blocker. I'm also warming up to the AutoFill feature.

The second add-in that I've really been enjoying is IESpell:

IE Spell

This nice little add-in allows you to right click in any HTML form field (like the one I'm blogging into right now) and spell check it! Until MS puts Word style "check as you type" style checking into IE, this is the next best thing. It works great.

The best thing about both these add-ins, they are both free! Enjoy.

Friday, September 05, 2003

I love the Scotts Corporation
I'm sure many people are familiar with the Scotts Corporation, the makers of the popular "Turf Builder" series of fertilizer. Not only are their products very good at what they do, they have one of the very best and practical uses of an email alert system I've ever seen.

When you register with their website, they take some key information from you about your lawn, the type of grass and your zip code. With that information, they select the appropriate lawn care plan for you. Now, when it is time to apply fertilizer to my lawn, I get a nice HTML formatted email telling me which of the diverse collection of Scotts products my lawn is currently hungering for. It also includes good tips. For example, they mentioned that if you have any bare spots in your lawn, now is a good time of year to attempt repairing them.

This is simply one of the most useful email newsletter systems I've used. And I can't sing its praises enough.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Save Classic Music
I'm becoming a classical music aficionado. The more I listen to it, the more I get out of it. My friend Aaron plays for the Fort Worth Symphony orchestra, so I've been fortunate enough to be able to attend concerts at a greatly reduced cost. This has served to fuel the fire.

The health of the classical music community appears to be in jeopardy. Concert attendance is down, music sales are slipping, ensembles and even orchestras are going bankrupt at record rates. This state of affairs has prompted budget record label, Naxos, to sponsor a contest:

Naxos - Saving Classical Music Contest

This contest challenged us, the classical music listeners, to come up with suggestions on how to fix the problems the industry is currently experiencing. I participated. I didn't win, but I will be featured in the "Divertimenti" section that is coming next week, if you really want to read my letter. But, the people who did win, deserve to. They had some really good suggestions. I particularly enjoyed the letter from Grand Prize Winner Joe Long. These are a good read. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Friday, August 29, 2003 The place for Emily Pictures!
As many of you are aware, Lori and I were blessed a short time ago with a beautiful baby girl, Emily. For all the latest news and information about her, be sure to check out:

I host this site to make it easier to disseminate news and pictures about our growing family. You can find many pictures of our new arrival here and keep up to date on her progress. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Welcome to Larry's new blog.
I've decided to make a foray into this new web logging arena. Currently, I'm hosting my blog on blog*spot, but look for that to change soon. I'm currently configuring my server to handle my blog, so we will soon be ad free.

This blog will be my place to sound off on what I think is currently cool and not so cool about life and the world of computers and the web in particular. I suppose, the current topic is Blogging and Blogger in particular. I don't have an opinion just yet, as I'm just starting to try this out, but I suppose that I'll have an opinion soon. Check back soon for more details.