Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘beta’

NewsGator Inbox 3.0 beta

Posted by Fred on April 17, 2008

NewsGator has released a new beta of version 3 of their now-free NewsGator Inbox, which lets you read feeds in Outlook, just like any other email message.  It has some useful features compared to my usual reader, the web-based Google Reader.  Grab a copy and install – it’s very straightforward, but here it is in pictures (click for bigger):

Let\'s begin.  Click Next.Your standard EULA. You know you\'ll ignore it, so accept and move on.Clicking install seems like a good idea.

Lookee, a progress bar.  Installation is fast, so don\'t blink.Already done.  Click Finish.Now set up synchronization.  Set up a new account or use an existing NG account.

Standard \Time to add some subscriptions. Use the OPML import to move feeds from a different reader.All done. Let\'s get started.

Some useful links here, but be sure to disable it or it will be annoying.

Installation was straightforward, but some issues came up right away.  The OPML import from Google Reader didn’t work properly for me, and it imported only the first feed in the list.  This is probably an incompatability with the XML file Google creates, but we can work around it.

 

An additional try with the XML file didn’t work any better for me, but NewsGator Online did.  Login to NewsGator Online, and click on Add Feeds. 

From here, click Import, and you’ll be able to upload the same XML file you used before:

Success! The Google feeds now appear in NewsGator Online, and because Inbox 3.0 syncs with NG Online, they’ll show up in Outlook.  To get there, however, you’ll need to update the subscriptions.  Clicking Refresh on the NewsPage (what you’ll get by clicking My News in Outlook’s Folder List) seemed to have no effect, but the toolbar button did (it’s the arrow next to the NewsGator Inbox dropdown).

Now you can read your RSS feeds in Outlook.  I’ve only been using it for a half a day, but a couple of features seem quite useful.  One problem with Google Reader is that if I don’t read items for a few days, they really pile up.  It would be best just to ignore the unread count, but I’m psychologically incapable of doing so.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to mark only certain posts as read.  NewsGator solves that problem, and offers to do so automatically:

You can also do this cleanup any time you want by using the NewsGator Inbox dropdown.

Inbox 3.0 also lets you easily post to your blog about any item.  Setup was a breeze – just open Options from the dropdown and click Posting Options.  Choose WordPress.com and fill in your account information.  Now you can post automatically using the NewsGator Publisher plugin.  Using the plugin is a bit clunky, however.  There’s no toolbar button, and no right-click option.  You have to choose Post to My Blog from the NewsGator Inbox dropdown:

If you use the NewsPage view, it’s a bit easier.  Each post has four buttons at the end.  The last one is a Post to My Blog link (I highlighted it in the image).  I don’t particularly care for the NewsPage view, however.  I know Dave Winer says I should like the River of News format, but I don’t.  I like folders – I don’t want a story on NewsGator Inbox to follow a story on how pitiful the Tribe is this year.  This brings up the other issue I have with NewsGator Inbox.  The Outlook Folder List shows your NewsGator folders, but it doesn’t tell you how many new items are in a particular folder, or if therre are any new items at all.  You have to expand the folder to see individual feeds.  You also can’t click on a folder to see a River of News-style list of all items in that folder, nor get a NewsPage view of a single folder.

NewsGator Inbox thus isn’t perfect, but it has some advantages.  I’m in Outlook all day long, so it is an easy way to read news.  Posting to the blog from an item works well, and works even better if you use the Windows Live Writer plugin instead of Publisher.  Feed and post management is easier than on Google Reader.  It should also work well offline, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Google now has offline access to Reader, however, so this isn’t the advantage it once was.  Plus, it’s free.  I plan to use it for a while and review it more fully later.

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FF3 beta 4 Gmail bug, with a fix

Posted by Fred on March 13, 2008

Have you upgraded to Firefox 3 Beta 4? Gmail giving you fits?  When I upgraded, I found that Gmail would no longer open messages, and would just hang on loading.  Disabling a Gmail-related extension didn’t help.  IE7 continued to work just fine.  There is a workaround, which solves the problem in two steps.

gmail_old_version.png

(1) Switch to the old version of the Gmail interface, which you can do with the link in the upper right corner of the page.

gmail_new_version.png(2) At this point, Gmail will open messages just fine, but to get to where you were with Beta 3, switch back to the new interface by clicking the link.

That’s it.  Gmail will work fine, and will continue to work fine after logging out and back in again.  Don’t ask me either why it didn’t work before or why this workaround fixes the problem, as I have no idea.

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Hulu Hoopin’

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

hululogo.jpg

Want to check out Hulu? Mashable has 2500 invites, which you can claim here.  Right now, there are 2,304 left. I still don’t like that there are only nine episodes from Friday Night Lights available (and only five from Season 1), but I grabbed an invite anyway. NBC’s strategy is stupid, but you take what you can get.

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Firefox 3 Beta 2 Released

Posted by Fred on December 19, 2007

Mozilla released the second beta of Firefox 3 yesterday. As always, there’s a bunch of under-the-hood changes affecting security, speed and stability (better protection against cross-site JSON data leaks, 30 plugged memory leaks, Cairo). But there are some interesting UI and front-end functionality changes.  The biggest such change appears to be to the location bar. It’s a whole lot prettier and easier to read. Compare FF3 to IE7:

locationbar_dropdown.png

vs.

ie7_locationbar.png

Firefox provides more information, and the list is just easier on the eyes.  The new beta also greatly enhances auto-completion on the location bar.  Type in a word, and Firefox will provide suggestions based on your bookmarks and browsing history.  The browser searches against URLs, but also titles and tags (assuming you’ve added tags to your bookmarks):

ff3_autocomplete.png

This could be very useful for people like me.  I hardly ever bookmark anything, and have taken to treating Google like a giant bookmark list (I never claimed to be either organized or bright).  The feature would be even more useful if more sites actually gave their pages useful titles.  But that’s a gripe for another day.  Mozilla continues to make improvements to the Places feature that collects bookmarks and history in a single interface.  It’s probably not a new feature, but I just noticed that you can now delete individual entries from the browser history – now you can cover tracks without making it obvious that you covered your tracks, since nothing says Inappropriate Browsing! more than an empty history list:

history_delete.png

Finally, the developers have improved the download manager (which is already a lot better than FF2, with pause-and-resume, etc.).  The Downloads window tells you where a file came from, and when and where you saved it.  You can also search the downloads list:

ff3b2_dlmgr.png

If you’re running FF3b1, update now for the security fixes if nothing else.  If you’re not, the usual caveats about running beta software apply, although this beta has only crashed once (strangely enough, it closed upon hitting the stop button on a RealPlayer stream).  The only big downside is that the browser remains a memory hog. I’m using 189 MB right now (granted, I do have 10 open tabs). IE7 shows only about 50 MB with 10 tabs open (yes, I know the memory footprint isn’t really comparable, given IE’s hooks into Windows).  FF3 also sports a new welcome page, complete with killer robot and straight-out-of-70s-prog-rock font.  At first I wondered where they came up with this:

ff3b2_robot.png

But then I realized someone’s been jamming to prog rock:

triumph-just_a_game.jpg

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Firefox 3 Beta 1 released

Posted by Fred on November 21, 2007

 firefox3-title.png

Monday night, the Mozilla crew officially released the first beta of Firefox 3. This is hardly new news, but I was traveling yesterday so this was my first chance to check it out.  I had tried some of the early alphas of 3.0 (Gran Paradiso), but haven’t really used it much lately.  Many of the changes from 2.0 are under the hood – check the release notes for details on security and performance changes.

As has already been much discussed, the new version makes significant changes to the way bookmarks and related information are organized.  At the end of the URL address bar is a star:

fx3_star.png

Click the star once to add a bookmark to the base bookmark folder using the site’s reported name as the bookmark name.  Firefox will report that the site has been added with a different star:

fx3_star_on.png

Click the star again, and you can rename the bookmark, add it to a folder or add tags for metadata:

fx3_edit_bookmark.png

That is a handy organizational tool – you may never need the Organize Bookmarks menu again.  Those tags come in very handy in the new Places feature.  Firefox 3 adds a new folder to the Links bar, conveniently called Places.  It’s full of information about, um, places:

fx3_places.png

Here you’ll find quick access to your most recently bookmarked pages (Firefox 3 calls them starred pages, which makes sense given the new way to add bookmarks), recently visited bookmarks, most visited bookmarks, recently/most frequently used tags and overall most visited pages.  This could be useful for navigation, but it will also just be interesting in the way Google Reader trends is interesting – what sites do you really visit the most?

The other new feature that I liked immediately is the elimination of the extension whitelist.  You’ll recall the extension two-step from Firefox 2 if you added an extension from the developer’s site or somewhere other than the Mozilla Addons site  – click allow, add to whitelist, install again.  Now you just click Allow in the warning bar that appears at the top of the screen and the install proceeds automatically.

Like all Firefox betas, this one’s not quite ready for prime time.  If you rely on extensions, most of them will not work – only Adblock Plus worked upon install for me.  Firefox will offer to check for updates, but this will most certainly fail.  Some developers have posted beta versions on their own sites, so check the Addons page for links.  I successfully updated Download Statusbar this way.   If the extension was updated for the Firefox 3 alphas, you can make it work on the beta yourself (this may also work to go from 2.0 to 3.0b1, but it may not).  Here’s how to do it using a stock XP install:

  1. Download, but do not install, the extension file (it will have a *.xpi filename).  You can right-click on the install button and choose “Save as…”
  2. Rename the file, changing *.xpi to *.zip.  The xpi files are just compressed files, but most decompression utilities don’t know this.
  3. Unzip the renamed file, and open the install.rdf file in a text editor.  Notepad will work just fine, but third-party editors are easier to work with due to the way Notepad deals with line breaks.
  4. Search for something that looks like this: “<em:maxVersion>3.0a8</em:maxVersion>”  This entry tells Firefox not to allow installation on anything more recent than 3.0 alpha 8.  Change it to 3.0b1.  You can also change it to 3.0 to make it work on anything up to the 3.0 final release, or an even higher number if you want, but I change it to this because you never know whether it will actually work with later versions.  Plus, hopefully the developer will release an official update.  Save the install.rdf file.
  5. Select all the files and folders in the folder you unzipped in step 3, right-click and choose Send To > Compressed (zipped)Folder to create a new *.zip file.  Windows will by default give it a name based on one of the files in the compressed archive.
  6. Rename it back to *.xpi. I usually just rename it to what we started with in step 1.
  7. Drag this new *.xpi file and drop it on an open Firefox window to start the install.  After a restart, you should be good to go.  This process worked for several of my extensions, including Forecastfox, Linkification and Stylish.

The onle thing I had hoped the developers would address that they didn’t was memory usage.  Firefox is still a memory hog (120 MB right now, with  five tabs open and seven extensions installed).

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