The Best of MV Tech Blog: 2012 Edition

If you have WordPress Jetpack plugin installed you should have your 2012 Annual Report by now. Below is the summary.

\"MV

WordPress only reports the top 5 in the annual report so I used Google Analytics as well to get the top 10.

My top referring sites in 2012 are mostly social networks  – Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook, Youtube and  XDA Forums.

Also, according to WordPress some of my most popular posts were written before 2012 so my writing has staying power. Sounds awesome! Now, here\’s the list:

10. Windows 8 Consumer Preview VirtualBox Installation Step-by-Step: It seems that many people interested to test Windows 8 in virtual machine. VirtualBox is free so it\’s not surprising it is popular.

9. iGoogle Alternatives – Find a New Start Page Before Google Shutdowns iGoogle in 2013: After all, many people still use a start page. I\’m not sure if it was a good move for Google.

8. BlueStacks on Windows 8 to Run 400,000 Android Apps: BlueStacks is getting better and better and if they continue to make more Android apps run with 100% compatibility on Windows 8 it might become the best way to run Android on x86 machines.

7. Google Black Navigation Bar: Remove, Disable or Change It: People are still not stopping to make Google black navigation bar a facelift. Maybe Google should consider giving more options to people like how Microsoft gives more option to customize Windows start menu and Apple, OS X dock.

6. Windows 8 Release Preview VirtualBox Installation and Error Troubleshooting: This is a surprise because I have three Windows related blog posts in top 10.

5. 8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 1): Game of Thrones is one of my favorite show this year and it will return on March 31, 2013 as  hinted in HBO teaser.

4. Browser Wars Illustrated: From #7, up to #4. I never thought browser wars is that popular.

3. Free Facebook Mobile Access (Philippines Promo): While the promo is not available anymore, some people are still looking for free Facebook access using their mobile phones. With the increasing availability of LTE phone I could see that it will stay on my top posts for quite a while.

2. Kindle Comparison Chart – Kindle Fire vs. Others: Same as last year, still in #2. I really think I should write more about gadgets.

1. How to Wisely Use DFA Passport Appointment System: Still my #1 post. I hope it still serves as a helpful guideline for many Filipinos who are confused on how to get the new Philippine e-passport.

I wrote a total of 83 posts this year and this is my most active year in blogging yet after my long hiatus in 2008.

I know I can do more next year so I am excited to start 2013 already. In just a few hours, it\’s already 2013. Happy New Year !

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New Yahoo Mail Smells Like Gmail (2012)

With ex-Google executive Marissa Meyer reigning the purple company as CEO, it is not surprising why Yahoo seems to be on trance in releasing many updates on  their key web applications and services. It is clear that Yahoo is determined in catching up  the competitors.

Ever since I reviewed the New Yahoo Mail in 2011, I used it once in a while only but it never replaced Gmail as my primary email client anymore. Then came the new Outlook.com in Q3 2012 which is a radical rebranding of Hotmail. At the moment I use Outlook.com more often than Yahoo already. Then a few days earlier I received the newly updated Yahoo Mail and Yahoo claims that it the best ever Yahoo Mail ever. Is it really the best update ever?

New Yahoo Mail Features

Below is the screenshot of the new email composer. Is it much more refined compared to the older version? I can\’t really remember. However, when compared to Gmail and Outlook  I think they are all about the same now. Gmail took a minimalist approach after they revamped the composer recently and it currently lacks emoticon support unless you switched back to the older email composer. Outlook has the most number of emoticons (or should I say emoji?) while Yahoo still sports their very old line up of standard emoticons.

\"New

The features highlighted in 2011 are the following: visibly faster email, enhanced security, mobility and integration, ease of use, automatic organizer and personal archive.

This year, the features are somewhat the same, just in different packaging. At first you may not notice the difference but the user interface had been refined and simplified to make logging in and writing email faster than ever.

\"New

The dark buttons are gone. Instead of words —  Reply, Reply All and Forward are now just big icons. Several buttons are labelled to make sure that you don\’t confuse them with other icons such as Delete, Move, Spam and Actions.

Other noticeable difference is the removal of Yahoo Messenger, Sign Out, Options and Help links at the top to make room for a generic Yahoo pull-down menu at the top right corner, followed by Yahoo Mail logo, search mail / search web, then finally user account links, options and a home icon linked to Yahoo.com homepage. Finally, Yahoo Mail has so much cleaner and intuitive UI.

Resemblance to Gmail

If you put Gmail and Yahoo Mail side by side, you\’ll start to notice the similarities. Gmail has one black menu bar at the top. Yahoo is using a menu icon (three stacked rectangles) where all other Yahoo services are linked. Then you have one big search bar, then you user account links and other options at the right.

Yahoo and Gmail both use monochromatic icons. The only reason my icons in Gmail are colored in the screenshot below is because I am using Gmelius.

Even the placement of Yahoo Contacts is reminiscent to Gmail, except that in Gmail you have to click Gmail to get access to a drop down option for Contacts and Tasks.

\"Gmail

I don\’t think Yahoo is ripping off Google here but Yahoo is dangerously going in that direction.

iPhone, Android and Windows 8

Perhaps the best part of this New Yahoo Mail update is that Yahoo updated their native apps as well.

Windows 8 in particular is treated with an interface designed only for Windows 8. It comes with notifications and live tile support exploiting new features of Windows 8.

I also like the Android and iPhone app because they offer superb mobile email experience similar to Gmail.

Conclusion

The New Yahoo Mail can be described in three words:  fast, easy and anywhere. It really is the best release of Yahoo Mail so far despite looking more like Gmail after each iteration.

The native apps on Android, iOS and Windows 8 gives a consistent experience across different platform and has very high quality, which shows Yahoo can really compete in the apps space when it really tries. Let\’s hope Yahoo will continue to come up with more innovations.

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Best 15 Travel Apps for Android and iOS

Below are 15 travel apps for Android and iPhone that my wife and I use when travelling. I use Android as my primary phone while she uses iPhone. From time to time we swap phones because I don\’t get all the apps I want in Android and sometimes it is the other way around.

These apps are all available in both Android and Apple iOS devices. I hope that these can make your travel easier and more fun.

Travel Apps for Android & iPhone

\"Kayak

1. Kayak

When booking deals for hotels, flights and cars, Kayak gives a lot of options even for most remote place that I tried booking. I mainly use this for researching accommodations but it has other features that will delight seasoned travelers.

It can also consolidate your travel plans in \”My Trips\” which can be done easily  by forwarding booking confirmation emails to [email protected]

Kayak also conveniently gives you a ready-made packing list that you can use to track every items you need to pack to make sure you don\’t forget anything.

Other features include flight tracker, price alerts, airline directory, airline fees, airport information (powered by  GateGuru), currency converter and inflight GPS tracking.

Two features that is existing in iOS but lacking in Android are Tours and Attractions, which gives you a list of places of interest to go with tour guides, and Buzz which lists flight search trends.

\"Tripit

2. Tripit

Even before Kayak added \”My Trips\”, TripIt has been parsing airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals receipts and other confirmation emails to create your master itinerary. It is better in organizing your itineraries because it makes them available in one place and you can share it with family and friends who uses Tripit too.

When you add people in your Inner Circle, you can automatically share your complete itinerary with other people using Android or iOS — it is a great way to inform anyone in your Inner Circle your whereabouts.

\"Flight

3. Flight Track

If you do a lot of business travel, you need this application. It has real-time status for gates, delays and cancellation. You can also find alternate flights and view seat maps.

\"Hostelworld

4. HostelWorld

If hotels is not your thing and you prefer back-packing then HostelWorld is the perfect app to get a cheap place to stay.

\"XE

5. XE Currency Converter

It was tough choosing the best free currency converter.

Before sticking with XE Currency Converter, I was using Oanda Currency Converter. It was great but it can only show 1 currency at a time and there was no log when was the latest exchange rate update.

So I switched to XE Currency Converter because it has live exchange rate and I can refresh it anytime I want.

\"Expensify

6. Expensify

This app lets you log expenses, scan receipts, log time with an hourly rate and use mileage, odometer or gps as reference to any bill. Scanning receipts is as simple as taking picture of the receipts and letting Expensify process it using Smartscan that  automatically logs properly whatever value found in the receipt using OCR. The free version is limited to 10 free smartscans a month but when you upgrade to pro, each scans is priced at 20 cents each.

\"Lemon

7. Lemon

If you don\’t need to log mileage then Lemon is a simpler alternative to Expensify. It also lets you process receipt using their OCR technology. You get 25 free receipt processing a month. With a pro account, you can even process line item details – i.e. every item on your grocery receipt will be recorded not just the high level expense value.

On top of this, Lemon can also keep a digital copy of your cards — not just credit cards mind you. It works on IDs, loyalty and membership cards. I don\’t know if Apple copied the idea of Lemon but before Apple\’s Passbook for tickets and coupon, there was Lemon for cards.

\"Foodspotting

8. Foodspotting

When you go places, you need to find recommended great local dishes, not just restaurants. What\’s great about this app is that it\’s all about dishes. You can find the best food nearby and get recommendations from people you follow.

\"Foursquare

9. Foursquare

Since Foursquare upgraded their app to more than a check-in app, I started using it to find recommended places using the Explore feature. You can search for specials, trending, food, coffee, nightlife, shops, sights, outdoors, arts and entertainment. Some of the tips are very helpful to get the most out of the scenic spot or trendy places.

For food and beverages, Foursquare is starting to function like Yelp but unlike Yelp, Foursquare is available in many places, mostly generated by users. You also don\’t get a menu; you simply get tips on what to eat from random users who check-in on those places.

\"Triposo

10. Triposo

I only discovered Triposo lately and it is has travel guides for most countries. The best part is that it is free and it works offline. No need to worry about data access on remote places without signal. You don\’t need to worry about roaming charges with this app.

Each travel guide you install presents you a travelpedia where you can learn the basic history, culture, architecture  and music of the country. It also has some phrasebook that can be handy. It has popular destinations with guides on what you can see and don on those places.  It even has \”eat, drink and sleep\” section to find where to hang out at night, drink coffee and get hotels accommodation with all the contact details and address that you can use to get there.

\"Tourist

11.  TouristEye

This is another app that can work without internet connection. When you add a place in your trip, it will download an offline copy of all the information of the city that you have chosen. That includes maps, all the attractions, restaurants, entertainments, tours and transport information.

It doubles as itinerary planner and travel journal too.

\"Google

12. Google Translate

The latest version of Google Translate is now essential to any traveler going to a foreign country with a foreign language. You can take picture of any sign and with Google\’s character recognition it can translate any language to english.

\"Google

13. Google Local

When you install Google+ in Android, you also get Google Local. It replaced Google Places. This app is actually merged with Google Maps, Navigation and Latitude in Android because it is contained in one unified application. However,you need to install Google Local separately in iOS.

Zagat ratings are incorporated in Google Local because Google purchased Zagat, remember? I still find the 30-point scale unusual but at least it gives you an overview on how good a place is. Google Local also aggregates other reviews from sites like TripAdvisor so you can\’t find TripAdvisor in this list as it is redundant already.

Google Local is also linked to Google+ Local Pages so you can use your Google+ circles to get recommendations.

\"Google

14. Google Maps

Too bad iOS replaced Google Maps in iOS6. It is still the most detailed map available for free and it has live traffic information where it is supported.

Indoor maps for selected places are particularly helpful in navigating unfamiliar buildings. In Android you can also cache map area so you can use Google Maps even if there is no network signal. This is very important if you are going to an island or rural places.

I can\’t think of any maps with chock-full of features that is so easy to use. Good news for iPhone users, you can still use the mobile web version of Google Maps.

\"Siri\"

15. Google Now / Siri

We call them personal assistant and knowledge navigator apps. However, these apps can be your travel buddy too.

Google Now is only officially available in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It incorporates several features from different apps and made them accessible using voice commands as well location triggers. Some of it features includes traffic guide, public transit information, next appointment notification, flight delay forecast, place recommendations, weather, translation, currency conversion and time conversion.

Siri has almost the same set of features but Google Now is location-aware while Siri is not. For travelling, Google Now gets an edge because it doesn\’t require voice input all the time but when you\’re bored while on the road, Siri could be fun.

Google Now and Siri are applications that can seriously change the way we use information around us.

If data roaming is not an issue then Google Now and Siri is the perfect companion in any place you wish to go. Of course, given the choice I would still travel with my love ones.

So now, it\’s your turn. Let me know what\’s your favorite travel apps for Android or iPhone.

 

 

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Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 1).

Below is my summary of classes 4 to 6 of Power Search class by Google Search Education.

Find facts faster

Class 4 focuses on other tools that makes searching faster and easier.

Search by Image

Google Image search by image feature processes the image and looks for the best possible match for other pictures. It is great for  finding the description of image, what it is and where it came from.

A great tip from Daniel Russel: If you found something you don\’t know, just take a picture of it in white background, then use search by image to search the web. It\’s like taking Google search in the real world.

Search Features

\"Google

Basically these are search string shortcuts that you can use in order to find what you really need really fast.

movies + [location]

capital of + [location]

weather in + [location]

weather + [zip code]

flight code

time + [location]

common disease/medical condition/medical term

There are more and the complete list is located here: Google Search features

Conversion and Calculator

I have used this for a very long time already. You can use this to convert about any US units to metric units. Just use the search format:

[number units in units]

\"Google

population of [place]

You can do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using Google. There are also easter eggs like this one:

\"Google

If you trigger this specific Google search features, Google will show up a new area for converter or calculator as seen above.

Left hand panel and Date range limiting

You can use date range limiting to limit the recency of Google search results. In news, this is very important so you only get the freshest ones.

For books and other reference materials, you can use this to search for very old archives. Want to find which books are published during 1980\’s? Just go to Google Books and filter them.

Translation and search

Most people would be familiar with Google Search but beyond that, most people don\’t know that you can use Google to search for translated foreign websites.

That is the end of class 4. Class 5 focuses on checking facts when doing your search.

Checking Your Facts

Credibility

Some pointers:

  • Highest ranked webpage does not mean the source is credible.
  • Different terms make different implications, so choose the query terms appropriately.
  • Do a variety of search, not just one. Always do one more search.
  • Look at the URL – sometimes it signals where the perspective of the page.

Using time range filter you can check whether this quote is really from Martin Luther King.

\”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.\”
—attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you look at the search results over time you can get a hint how it got published after 1999 but not before it. Of course something is fishy here.

Variant Data

One challenge about doing web searches is the vast amount of data available out there that a simple fact could have one or more subtlety involved in it.

You have to ask question like: does this fact vary based on some contextual information?

You need to find the source. Where it came from? How was it measured?

Use the precise information you have to verify source; Use a generic description to confirm fact.

Don\’t add your answer into your query  to avoid confirmation bias (believing a pre-conceived notion).

Using Books to verify a quote

Quotes are typically hard to find where they came from but books offer authoritative information for this type of information.

WHOIS

If you need to more information about the domain name of a page, there are WHOIS database that can give you information on who owns it.

How do you know if an entity is a business? Use the entity name and the term [contact]. It should give you information how to locate it and how to get in touch with it. That\’s why if you are a business you should always have a \”contact us\” page

Misconceptions

  1. You cannot buy a better ranking
  2. A Google service logo on a site does not mean Google has vetted it
  3. Google ads on a page does not mean Google has vetted it
  4. Rank is not equal to authoritative

That\’s the end of class 5 and now for the last class.

Putting it all Together

Combining methods

Doing good search is an iterative process. Starting from simple search to a complex search with filters

Think broadly

Using other tools in combination, streetview, maps, translation, etc.

All the tools are available online and the best training to practice all these are the activity that comes with the online classes. The reason I summarized this class is for me to look for the lessons quickly when I forget something. Of course, the best learning materials are still found in Power Searching with Google website.

There are two extra two hang out videos with the search experts. You can get valuable lessons from these, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhhiXxiAVtM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwlpViuIYgU

Just in case you are interested on how the certificate looks like, see below.

\"Google

Hint: the font used is Helvetica.

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Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 1)

Google Search Education

If you have used Google a lot, you might be seasoned enough to know how to get the best search results but even if you are using Google for a very long time you might be using the wrong approach in your searches.

I have participated in the first Power Searching class with Google Search Education. It is the first of its kind combining online classes with Google+ hang out activities and forums to have interactive search education. If you happen to participate on early registration last month, you probably got a certificate. However, even without a certificate this is worth your time.

I have taken down notes and summarized the entire curriculum. Now, read on.

Learn the Basics of Google Search

Class 1 talks about how filtering image searches by color, how Google search works and the art of keyword choices.

Searching images is an easy task but if there are many options available it gets a little challenging. Color gives you filtering options that you may not find in the text associated with the image. It gives you information only available to the eye. For example, if you are searching for old photographs, you may want to use black and white so that only old photos will appear.

The art of keyword choices can be learned and you just need is:

  1. think what you are trying to find,
  2. choose words that you think will appear on the page and…
  3. put yourself in the mindset of the author of those words.
The words you use will influence the kinds of results  you will get from search. This is might be common sense  but some people don\’t alter the search term a little bit to get what they are looking for.
In the example given by Google, notice how you can get the best search results by changing a simple phrase.

Bad: What was the old city in san francisco bay called?

Better:  old city san francisco bay

Best: ghost town san francisco bay

\"Google

The best option is to use an  alternative term for old city, which is \”ghost town\”, giving you a precise target on old towns and cities. Also note that you have to get rid of unimportant words that doesn\’t help with the search at all.

Word Order Matters

Every word matters in your query and even the word order matters for common phrases. For example, try searching for sky blue and blue sky. You\’ll get very different results.

\"Google

What does not matter in Google searches

  • Capitalization
  • Most special characters: § ¶ ¥ £ € © ® ≅ ≠ √
  • With a few exceptions like C++. C#. #hashtag, Google+, $100

Control-F / Command-F

Find functionality is in your browser and it helps speed up in finding what you want to search from a particular web page. This is kind of surprising but according to Google, only 10% of all searches knew about using CTRL+F or Command+F.

That\’s the end of class 1. Now for class 2, the main subject is interpreting results.

Using search result suggestion

There are several ways in which Google search results can help you suggest what you are trying to find.

Panels on the right hand side

The results here are often taken from from Wikipedia.

With the addition of Google Knowledge Graph, the right panel helps you provide answer. Google is now able to identify entities and it knows the nodes and relationships of different information. It is very useful for a very popular entity. Google compiles information about persons, animals, books, movies, etc

Autocomplete

It a great way to sense the kind of things other people have been looking for. Sometimes the suggestions in autocomplete can help you get unstuck as you search, or get new ideas about how to approach finding something you want.

Search-as-you-type

It works in tandem  with autocomplete search. Search-as-you-type gives you search results without you needing to figure out a whole query.

Related searches

For me, this is very useful in searching because it can give you a different approach in finding what you are trying to find.

Thinking more deeply about your search

Another method to build more targeted queries is to learn new, more precise terms to describe what you seek. Often, these terms show up somewhere in your search results, and if you are attuned to noticing them, you can use them to help you find information faster.

For example if you are looking for [immigrate send money home]

You may notice the word remittance.

\"Google

You can use dictionary in Google using the syntax below:

define [word]

\"Google

Understanding Different Media

When you do search in Google, you are not only confined with the classic text search. You can explore different modes in Google  searches: images, videos, shopping, etc.

Sometimes the best answers is in images so when suggestions comes up for that, go check it out. If you are looking for how-to instructions a video instruction might be the best reference you are looking for instead of images. If you are looking for the price of a gadget, look for shopping. If you are looking for scholarly materials for research papers and thesis, use Google Scholar.

Sometimes, using other Google products such as Google Maps can help you plan your travel by utilizing street view.

All these are available at the left panel.

Reading Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)

Using Page Preview

Apart from skimming the results, you can use this to check what can be found inside the webpage from search engine result pages.  Instead of visiting each links you can hover the guillemets  or the sideway chevron when you hover at the search result block.

\"Google

Understanding Individual Search Result

I\’ve mentioned result block awhile ago. So do you know the parts of a search block?

Here it is:

\"Google

Page title is in blue, web address is green and snippet in black.

Take note that the snippet is generated by Google algorithm and it could contain different part of the page content. You have to watch out for the ellipsis because it means that other text before or after it are truncated.

If you are searching a relatively large website, a box right below in the SERP will appear. In essence it gives you the option to search right within the site.  It is similar to using  the site: operator to restrict results to a domain, website or directory.

Using the entire results page

Sometimes you are presented with contradicting information so you must understand what you are looking for first before jumping to a conclusion. Like if you are searching for different types of cats. There are several organizations that categorizes cats so the exact number of breeds would vary for each organization. If you do not try to understand this first, you will be confused why there are different count for cat breeds on your search results.

Different kinds of content

Previously, we looked at different media available through Google such as images, videos, news, etc. There are more such as blogs, discussions, recipes, patents, books, 3D models, and legal documents.

Take note that the left panel does not appear on tablet computers (iPads and Android devices).

That concludes class 2. Class 3 covers advance techniques using operators.

Advanced Techniques using operators

Here are the different operators that you can use in Google

site:

The site: operator restricts the searches on a particular website or web page.

filetype: pdf, doc, docx, ppt, pptx, txt, csv, dat, kml

If you are interested on a specific filetype, you can use the filetype operator to get only filetypes you are interested.

minus operator removes search results we are not interested in.

Original query:
[ salsa ]

To remove “salsa as dancing” we use:
[ salsa –dancing ]

To remove the vegetable too:
[ salsa –dancing –tomatoes ]

OR and quotes

Use quotes to do phrase search and use OR if you want to combine ideas together, like if you are searching with synonymous words.

Take note: you must use OR in all capital letters. Otherwise it will not work.

1. OR is all capital letters
Effective: [uk OR england]
Ineffective: [uk Or england]
Ineffective: [uk or england]

2. OR acts on the words touching it
Effective: [“tesla coil” OR “jacobs ladder”]
Ineffective: [tesla coil OR jacobs ladder]
Generally, OR only applies to the words directly on either side of it, so search engines read [tesla coil OR jacobs ladder] with the OR only applying to coil and jacobs.
Google interprets this query to mean that you want all the pages to have the words tesla and ladder, since they are not next to an OR. Only putting the two names in quotes, you make the OR apply to tesla coil and jacobs ladder as set phrases.

intext

It allows you to find pages that have a specific word in the body of the text somewhere–it forces inclusion on the page.

When you search for multiple terms on it, some terms my drop out because they are not frequent enough. If you want to force the inclusion of that word on the page, you use intext.

Example:

[coral bleaching site:stanford.edu intext:geophysics]

If you  need more advance search options, you can always use the advance search (gear menu) found at upper right side.

\"Google

That\’s the summary of classes 1 to 3 of Power Search course by Google Search Education. I will cover classes 4 to 6 on my next post.

Read part 2 here: Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 2)

 

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iGoogle Alternatives – Find a New Start Page Before Google Shutdowns iGoogle in 2013

It\’s a sad day for iGooglers because Google is going to axe iGoogle in November 1, 2013. Google gave  iGooglers 16 months to move on and find a new start page. There are only few worthy iGoogle alternatives left in 2012 unlike 5 years ago.

\"iGoogle\"

I still remember between 2005 and 2007 — these AJAX start pages keep on popping up like wild mushrooms and I know there will come a point that the bubble will burst. The decline seemed gradual as more mobile devices replaced desktop.

Google wants to focus on Chrome and Android platform in giving personalized information or dashboard and I agree with Google that today\’s web and mobile apps gives you more personalized real-time information at your fingertips and you don\’t need to look at your start page most of the time, or it totally replaced the need for start pages or home pages. This is the reason I predominantly use Android — widgets.  However, for the majority who are still using desktop as their primary tool in getting things done, there is still room for iGoogle alternatives.

iGoogle Alternatives

The following are some  iGoogle Alternatives that is worth reviewing if you are coming from iGoogle.

Netvibes

\"iGoogle

From (re)mix everything to dashboard everything, Netvibes remains my number favorite in start page / personal dashboard website. In fact I have been using Netvibes since 2005 and it remains my top choice in this category.

There are many things that make Netvibes unique from all other start pages because it supports  premium features for dashboard intelligence. It gives you tools for collaboration, curation, sentiments analysis and analytics. I think they coined the term \”dashboard intelligence\”  to position their service along business intelligence. With real-time monitoring it can be used for brand monitoring, e-reputation management, product marketing, community portals and just about everything where you want to use dashboard.

Protopage

\"iGoogle

Protopage is a decent iGoogle alternative based in London, UK. It still has a beta feel to it even though it\’s about 7 years old now. You can say that it has survived the test of time and still thriving.

If you are looking for widgets and feed aggregation, Protopage got it all.

MyYahoo

\"MyYahoo

MyYahoo is the only remaining portal/start page coming from a major media and internet company. Microsoft already closed Live (my.live.com) way back in March 2010. iGoogle will follow soon in November 2013. If you are using Yahoo services, it is still a great alternative to iGoogle but you are limited with Yahoo services  only.

Some of the lesser known alternatives are symbaloo.cominbox.comkiiosk.com24eyes.comwebwag.com and nowsy.com

The Start Pages Deadpool

Wonder what happened to other start pages? They are dead.

  • Eskobo
  • Goowy
  • Live (my.live.com)
  • Pageflakes
  • Zoozio

Pageflakes is one of the promising competitor out there but due to several outages, lagging behind competition and stale product development, it was discontinued on January 2012.

I am sure more AJAX start pages will join the graveyard soon but iGoogle will join the party sooner.

Opinion

I think iGoogle should have been transformed into a new product or service. With the explosion of big data and the increase number of new media, there is still a need for a place or dashboard to aggregate these pieces and chunk of information. By filtering the noise and giving options customization it could serve as a personal dashboard.

Maybe Google has a bigger plan. Who knows?

What\’s your thought about this? Is start pages and personal dashboard dead?

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Enhance Gmail and Fix Common Annoyances with Gmelius

I love Gmail. It is my primary web email client and I use it in Google Apps for Business as well. My only gripe is that you can\’t really control how it looks and there are little options to modify the user interface the way you like it. You get themes and Gmail labs experimental features but there are basic things that Google left out that\’s why I still look for ways to enhance Gmail using userscript and browser add-ons or extensions. Then comes Gmelius!

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Here are the features that I like in Gmelius:

Gmail without Ads

I don\’t hate ads. Some ads fit their purpose but for some people who really don\’t like ads, this is a great feature.

Clickable Gmail logo

For inexplicable reason Google removed this basic navigation practice to put a home link to Gmail logo. Gmelius puts the missing link back to Gmail logo.

Colorize Navigation Icons with Labels

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Google use monochrome icons for the archive, spam and delete in the latest version of Gmail. This is my number #1 annoyance in Gmail for me because it is easy to confuse yourself with the gray icons even if you know the order already. Gmelius can put the text labels back and also add colored icons to make the navigation more intuitive again. It\’s one of the best feature that really enhances Gmail UX. Great work!

Put Google Reader on the Black Navigation Bar Menu

It is fairly simple option that Google doesn\’t give to users. Finally, there\’s an easy way to put Reader in the top navigation menu. One caveat is that it replaces Google News so if you use both Google News and Google Reader, you have to make a choice. I use Google Reader much more than Google News so it is an easy decision for me to enable this feature.

Toggle Header and Footer to Save Space

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With Gmelius you can also remove the header and footer to get more viewing area for your email. The header could be toggled using shortcut (experimental) and with this feature, you can immediately click sign out at the upper-right corner.

More Features

Of course, there are more features available but those are my personal favorites.

See the screenshot below for more available features.

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You can get Gmelius for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

There are more Gmail tweaks out there. Let me know what\’s your favorite so far and let me know if you like Gmelius.

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