Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Tools

New Tools

After years of getting along just fine without it, thank you, I decided today I really ought to take a look at Google docs.  Why today?   Well, a friend, Ravi Narayan, had pointed me today at http://wave.google.com/, a rather long video intro to the soon-to-be-released Google Waves service.  The first 5 minutes of the video is boring as heck, but if you stick with it, I promise you it gets better.   They make a few mentions of the Google docs tools that I've been meaning to look at.  So, I finally had fresh motivation to at least look at the Google docs tools.

It was remarkably painless to get started.  Biggest hassle was that enabling the offline mode of operation required installing the Google Gears add-on to my Firefox browser.   And, of course, that required me to exit and restart the browser.  That wasn't so bad.  I confess that so far I've only really tried the word processor.  Puzzling to me that it doesn't seem to have any sort of program version identifier except for saying Google docs beta in the top left corner of the window.  I'm running Firefox 3.0.11 on Ubuntu 8.10 Linux on an Acer 5315-2122 notebook PC.   The Google Gears Firefox extension is 0.5.21.0.

I noticed the the Google Docs word processor makes it trivial to "publish" the document to a blog.  Since I've been told more than once that I really ought to try blogging, I went ahead and set up a blog account on Google's blogspot.com.   I was peeved to find that drew.blogspot.com is already taken, though quite inactive so far as I can see.   But seeing as my full name is Robert Drew Davis, I settled for rdrewd.blogspot.com.  Too bad I can't manage to be more humerously creative on demand for naming the blog.  So it goes.

If you still have time on your hands after watching the Google Waves video, I stumbled across this unrelated 40 minute video by a Google executive who gave a very nice lecture at his alma mater: Jonathan Rosenberg: Inside the Black Box.   I think you'll find that watching it is time well spent.

If you'd like a shorter video about a bit of the innards of Google Waves, see Google Wave: Live collaborative editing.

Know even less than me about Google docs?   Here's a video to get you oriented in less than 3 minutes:  Google Docs in Plain English.   And here's another even shorter one to explain the offline option: Google Docs: Working offline.

Having frittered away hours today watching these videos on youtube, I don't feel as bad about that time as I do with the non-refundable minutes I spent watching Charlie the Unicorn (Lesson:  Don't give in to peer pressure) and An inconvenient dessert.  So, while I'm on the topic of videos, I'll make a wish for software that I don't have a clue how to write:   I wish there was software that would  make it easy to skim through a video analogous to the way I can skim through a web page or a book to get the general idea without investing the time to actually see it all.  If it actually requires some level of machine understanding of the audio and video content, I believe it's going to be a long time before such a tool materializes.

Drew
Revised 12/07/2009 to touch up the link so it works while you're logged into the Google Wave preview.