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Windows XP Twice as Fast as Vista?

Ouch. This hurts. Devil Mountain Software, the outfit that had previously declared Vista SP1 a Performance Dud came to the conclusion that Windows XP SP3 Yields Performance Gains – about 10% compared to XP SP2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the very same tests show the outgoing operating system, XP twice as fast as Vista, the “flagship” OS. No wonder Forrester Research says Vista’s biggest problem is XP. smile_omg

Of course most users won’t notice it. Why? Because very few upgrade their existing computers from XP to Vista. We don’t buy operating systems, we buy computers: try to get one without Vista. (Fact: most of Microsoft’s Vista Revenue comes from the OEM channel.)

The Vista-based new screamer clearly runs a lot faster than the 3-year-old laptop running XP, but in reality it’s running at half-speed – the other half eaten by the Operating System. Which proves my earlier argument abut this being a pointless arms race: buying faster and faster machines only so they can maintain themselves and barely let us use basic applications.

Unless those applications are in the cloud. smile_wink

Related posts: PC World, Hardware 2.0 and TECH.BLORGE.com

Update (12/14): Coding Sanity has found a solution.

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Desktopized Web-Applications are a Great Convenience

Mozilla Lab’s Prism, which allows you to ‘desktopize’ your web applications – i.e. represent them by a desktop icon and run them in their own window – is generally well received, so I’m really surprised at Josh Catone’s assessment on Read/WriteWeb (one of my favorite sites):

Except for the minor convenience of running oft-used web apps in their own dedicated window and making them accessible via a desktop icon, Prism isn’t really all that exciting in its current form. It doesn’t offer much of a benefit over bookmarks and your current browser window.

Sure, offline access will be great, when it’s here… but don’t underestimate the importance of users’ convenience, Josh!

I love the fact that about the only program need to launch is FireFox – but I often find the browser too restricting. Now that large LCD’s are getting less expensive, more and more of us find ourselves working on 24″, 32″ ..etc screens – the browser does not allow smart use of all that real-estate. For example I like to use different window sizes for different (web) apps, and often want side-by-side windows, which I could not get using FireFox tabs. Launching another browser session was a rather resource-wasting workaround.

I’ve been using Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show in a desktopized form for almost a year now (literally, since the tool Zoho uses is called “desktopize”). The pic to the right shows part of my desktop, with 3 Zoho icons. They all pop up in my pre-set window size and position, and disappear to the system tray, even if I close my main browser session.

If this “convenience feature” becomes more mainstream, with Mozilla, Adobe and whoever else backing it, I believe it will lead to increased migration to Web applications, so I’m all for it.

Related posts: Read/WriteWeb, CrunchGear, Download Squad, WebProNews, CyberNet, Digital Trends, TechBlog, Compiler, RIApedia, Google Blogoscoped, Mike Chambers, The Universal Desktop, Jeremy’s Blog, Mashable!

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Gmail IMAP and Microsoft’s Desktop Push

You’ll have to appreciate the irony of this TechMeme screenshot:

Microsoft’s Jeff Raiker defended desktop applications, mocking of Google for “backtrack(ing) on what we’ve been saying and to offer things like Gears in order to be able to be offline and or take advantage of global computing power”, reports Infoworld.

As if to support Raiker’s statement, just minutes earlier the hot item on TechMeme was Google’s Gmail offering IMAP. Yes, it’s there, if you don’t see it in your gmail account, log out and come back again.

Unlike POP access, which is basically a dumb download, IMAP synchronizes your mail folders (not just the Inbox) with your online account, and your read/unread status..etc are maintained both in the desktop client and online. In fact IMAP is an easy way to sync several desktop clients on multiple machines. (Note: Gmail does not have folders, but I assume labels would take their place – assume only, since I no longer use desktop email software)

Where’s the irony here? IMAP is clearly beneficial only if you use a desktop email client* with your gmail account, which is exactly Raiker’s point. And a bit of a personal irony: for over a decade I was a faithful Outlook user, mocking my friends who used web-based email (typically Yahoo) for their personal accounts. How could they live with such a dumb, slow service?

Well, times change: Outlook grew fat and slow, it needs a cornucopia of software fighting for CPU and memory: virus scanner, desktop search (Copernic), backup (Mozy), sync with other desktops (Foldershare), and who knows what else, all of which need updates that tend to fail … what a nightmare! I ditched the desktop and have never been more productive! I’m using Gmail natively, on the Web, and am quite happy with it, so IMAP means nothing to me. (Apparently I’m not alone, as evidenced by the 5-600 readers my client to Gmail migration guide written half a year ago is still getting every day). For all other productivity needs I use the Zoho Suite. Incidentally, little birdies are singing that Zoho Writer will soon have offline edit capabilitiessmile_wink.

Seamless online/offline computing, as it should be.

*Update (10/24). This post was my quick first reaction late last night, when the news first hit (in fact before it became official news). As Marc Orchant correctly points out, IMAP may very well be useful even if you don’t use a desktop email client, as it makes it really easy to use the client software on your mobile devices, and still have a sync’d Gmail on the Web.

Update #2, (10/24): Simplified Guide to Importing All Your Archive Email Into Gmail

Related posts: Download Squad, CyberNet, Mashable!, Infoworld, Zoho Blog, TechCrunch, ParisLemon, Moonwatcher, Ars Technica, Good Morning Silicon Valley,

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Zoho DB for Data Manipulation & Reporting

Impeccable timing: just days after Computerworld named Zoho Creator one of five web apps they can’t live without, Zoho DB is released today. While Creator is an application generator, DB is primarily for data manipulation, analysis and reporting. You can create a new database or import your dataset from an existing spreadsheet, be it Zoho’s own Sheet or MS Excel. The UI is instantly familiar, as it reminds us of a spreadsheet, but one with drag-and-drop goodness, allowing the user to easily analyse data, create charts, reports, which, as typical with Zoho apps you can embed in your web page or blog, and of course other Zoho Apps.

Fur deeper analysis you can create Pivot Tables with simple drag & drop. Zoho DB Supports Query Tables – tables created based on a select query from a different table. It understands queries in many SQL dialects: Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, Sybase, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Informix and ANSI SQL. This sets Zoho DB apart from the rest of the industry, and it’s made possible by leveraging another Adventnet (Zoho’s parent) product: SwisSQL. In the near future it will also allow users to import and export database schemas.

The best way to get a feel for the capabilities is to watch the video introduction, then get your hands “dirty” by diving into Zoho DB yourself.

Some of Zoho DB’s features will soon be available in Zoho’s spreadsheet application giving users a choice where they analyze their data – and of course you will be able to access the same data via applications built with Zoho Creator.

Attendees at the recent Wiki: Beauty & Beast event heard Zoho’s Raju Vegesna talk about how eventually Word processors like Zoho Writer and Wikis should morph into each other. This may sound off-topic, but it’s another hint to Zoho’s philosophy of allowing users access their data via their application of choice, no matter which other application they used to create it. It’s all about the (work) flow, not data formats.:-)

See also: TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CenterNetworks, Zoho Blogs , Mashable!, Between the Lines,

Update: Ouch, Rod reveals Zoho’s most secret plans: Today – Zoho DB – Tomorrow – Zoho Beer

Update (9/6): Ask Zoho: What’s the difference between Zoho DB, Creator & Sheet?

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JotSpot…Gspot … Google Wiki

So they figured Gspot would be too risky a name for Google’s JotSpotTongue out, it’s now (almost) official: the new name will be Google Wiki.

JotSpot was (I assume still is) a good, user-friendly wiki, and if it comes back now, it took Google almost an entire year to release it after the acquisition. I hope that means they rethought everything and integrated JotSpot well into a number of offerings.

  • It could provide for much better document management than the current Docs &­ Spreadsheets UI.
  • It overlaps with Page Creator, also with the simplified version found in Google Groups – in fact Groups which is no longer just email lists but a rudimentary collaboration platform and JotSpot could very well be merged / integrated.
  • Finally JotSpot tried to provide primitive applications (spreadsheet, calendar..etc) all of which have a better Google counterpart, so one would hope they will be replaced, too.

In fact there are so many opportunities to waive the wiki into Google’s current offerings, I can’t even imagine what it would look like… or, perhaps, are we going to see a standalone wiki? Thinking

Related posts: Google Operating System, Google Blogoscoped, Read/WriteWeb, TechCrunch, Download Squad , Mashable!, Insider Chatter, Ben Barren, Squash, Parislemon.

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Flow vs. Structure: Escaping From the Document & Directory Jungle

I do not think/work/create like a machine.

My thoughts flow freely and I tend to discover relationships between events (hence “Connecting the Dots” above in the Blog Header), so I like linking things – at least mentally. Why would I confine myself to the rigid directory & file structure that computers have forced on us for decades? There are better ways… let’s look at some.

A while ago Atlassian CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes wrote and excellent piece on how Enterprise Wikis Replace Shared Drives. Shared drives as collective document depositories are a disaster, we typically can’t determine where, to put things, and certainly don’t know where to find them. And if we do find a document, how do we know whether we have the latest version? How do we know who changed what in the dozen other copies with similar but cryptic filenames spread around the shared drive?

Wouldn’t it be easier to use the equivalent of a directory structure with meaningful names, the ability to attach longer narratives to our documents and find them easily via search and tags? That’s essentially what you get when you use an enterprise wiki as your “shared drive”. Think of not documents/files only, but the very reason they exist: in business we typically work on a few “projects” at any one time. If we create wikis / wiki pages for each project / function, the page content becomes the “narrative” that describes what we do, why and how, and further supporting details are in the document attachments. There really is no reason to bury documents (doc, xls, ppt) in some central dumping place (document depository) anymore – they belong to the wiki page (project description) where by definition they are in context. Of course they can be used in several other places, in different context, which is where linking comes handy – linking to wiki pages as well as other content (documents, web sites, etc).

Now that we established the wiki as the “glue” to tie all our documents together, let’s take a step further. As we get comfortable with the wiki, we’ll often wonder when to create a separate document and when to use native wiki pages. If your wiki supports a rich word processor, textual content can easily move in the wiki pages themselves. (Interestingly, Blogtronix, the Enterprise 2.0 platform vendor uses the “document” metaphor for what others call a wiki-page.) Of course whether we call them pages or documents, they should still be easy to share with “outsiders”, by using workspace or page-level permissions, or exporting to PDF and other file formats should you need to “detach” content and email it.
This works well for text, while for other needs we shoot out to the point applications and attach the resulting files (ppt, xls… etc.)

However, like I stated before, I do see the irony of working in an online collaboration platform (the wiki) yet having to upload/download attachments. Atlassian’s Webdav plugin for Confluence is an elegant solution (edit offline, save directly to the wiki), but for most other wikis the process involves far too many steps. Why not directly edit all these documents online? This of course takes us to the old debate whether the wiki should become the new office, or just the “integrator” holding the many pieces together. As a user, I don’t see why I should care: I just want seamless workflow between my wiki, spreadsheet, presentation manager, project management tool …etc. Such integration is easier when all applications/documents are online, and there are excellent applications from Zoho, ThinkFree, Editgrid, Google, to do just that.

Working directly on the Web is not just a matter of convenience. Zoho’s Raju Vegesna points to mobility, sharing & collaboration, presence & communication, auto-Versioning, auto-save, access & edit history as native benefits of web-documents.

As we link web documents to each other, and smoothly transition between applications, a paradigm shift occurs: the definition of what we call a “document” expands. Offline, a document equals a file, defined by application constraints. Spreadsheets, presentations need to be saved in their own specific format, and they become “black boxes”: there’s not much we know about them, other than a short title. There is an overhead in opening every one of them, they need to be virus-checked, then “stitched” together to support the “flow-thinking” I was referring to earlier.
Those boundaries are stretched on the web: a document is no longer a file of a specific type, generated by a specific application: it’s a logical unit, defined by context, which weaves together content created by several applications.

Zoho’s Notebook is an experimental application that allows us to create, merge and store information the way we think, no matter whether it involves writing text, drawing charts, shapes, crunching numbers or recording/playing videos. Experimental in the sense that we don’t know how it will be used. In fact I don’t know what the future web worker productivity / collaboration tools will look like, but I suspect they will have elements of Notebook – multi-format, multi-media – and wikis – user-created structure, everything linked to everything – merged together.

Files, formats become irrelevant: there is only one format, and it’s the Web, defined by URL’s.

Additional reading:

Update (11/13/07): Read I Hate Files on Collaboration Loop. (via Stewart Mader)

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Windows Seven in 2010. Does Anyone Still Care?

So the next OS from Microsoft will be Windows Seven (where’s Windows 6?) – does anyone still care?

I simply don’t get it: Vista is barely out, nobody seems to like it, CIO’s refuse to upgrade, analyst firms tell them to wait, individual users who tried it switch back to XP, others time their new PC purchase so they can still get an XP machine – generally speaking Vista was as poorly received as the ill-fated Windows ME.

Apple is gaining market share, the major computer manufacturers are offering Linux PC’s, the Web OS concept is getting popular, applications are already on the Web – can anyone clearly see the shape of personal computing in 2012? (Yes, I know MS plans for 2010, I’m just adding the customary delay.) Will it still matter what OS we use to get on the Internet? How can Microsoft be so out of touch?

Considering the resistance to Vista ( see this Computerworld article on making XP last for 7 years) why would the world want to upgrade switch to yet-another Windows OS in five years?

Of course I’m not saying nobody cares. This hypnotized crowd certainly does. smile_yawn

Update (7/23): ZDNet’s David Berlind is asking the same question.

Update (7/25): Why ‘Seven’ and Not SP1?

Update (8/9): a very good analysis by eWeek: Broken Windows

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Pre-AJAX AJAX Applications

OK, so this title does not make a lot of sense … I’ll explain:
There’s a lot of hype around AJAX ( Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which, in laymen’s terms is a set of technologies that allow web applications to have the look’n feel (and speed!) of desktop applications.

Traditional “web behavior” has been one of the main reasons for user reluctance against hosted Enterprise Applications, and innovative companies have come up with AJAX-style solutions for quite a while. Norway-based 24SevenOffice, a provider of hosted, modular All-In-One applications (ERP, CRM, email, calendar ..etc) has had an AJAX-like UI for a year and a half or so. Of course the term AJAX did not exist, so they had to explain at length the benefits of a faster, friendlier, easier-to-use Web Application.

It took a brand like Google, and the gliding-sliding oh-so-beautiful and fast Google Maps for AJAX to become a “household” name and one of the hot IT trends this year. Now longer do we need the long explanation, AJAX is chic du jour, all new web apps have it, and the major hosted Enterprise App’s also go the AJAX way: see NetSuite’s announcement. They claim to be first major business application with broad support of AJAX, but as stated above, they are a little late to the party… Late or not, it’s nice to see mainstream adoption and friendlier Web-apps finally.

For more technical info, as well as a good compilation of reference material, check out Rasmus’ 30 second tutorial. (via Jeff Nolan).