Google Earth for Mac, alternatives

It seems a lot of Mac owners, like me, are anticipating the arrival of the Google Earth client for Mac. Alas… it is nowhere in sight. 🙁 But do not despair. Actually, there are alternatives available, here’s three I can think of. ‘Virtual PC for Mac‘, ‘Remote Desktop Client for Mac‘ and ‘Google Maps‘.

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Yahoo! Site Explorer Beta

Site Explorer Beta is open for public:

Why is this search different?

Site Explorer allows you to explore all the web pages indexed by Yahoo! Search. View the most popular pages from any site, dive into a comprehensive site map, and find pages that link to that site or any page.

Now if someone can explain me how to view the most popular pages from my site, please do! Furthermore I’m a little underwhelmed, because I’m not sure what this form of search could be usefull for.

Google Blogsearch & Webfeeds

At first look there are no orange XML/RSS chicklets in Google Blogsearch. But if you look at the bottom of the page just above the pagination there’s this line where you can subscribe to either an Atom or RSS feed for the search results.

E.g.: “Thinklemon” search results in Atom and “Thinklemon” search results in RSS.

This is great stuff for some ‘egosurfing‘. 🙂 But I have to give it to MSN Search. As a search engine they were there first.
If it weren’t for Firefox’s Live Bookmarks I would just have missed this option.

Update: It seems that the feeds are ordered by relevance per default. You’ll need to sort your results on date first (top right) and then subscribe to get a feed ordered on post date.

Google Earth: Impact Structures Top 25 (was 10)

And here it is! My first public experiment with Google Earth.

Vredefort Impact StructureSome time ago I stumbled upon the Earth Impact Database. A table with all 172 confirmed impact structures on earth’s surface. Putting one and two together I figured it would be nice to see those impact structures visualised inside GE. I also figured it to be a nice side-project to learn PHP, KML and XML on the way. After some trial and error, some code-borrowing, testing and hacking I present you:
A top 25 of the largest confirmed impact structures on earth.

If you were impressed by the dinosaur extermination power of the Chicxulub crater off the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Wait till you see the Sudbury and Vredefort ‘dents’. 😉

Download the impact structures top 25 kmz
(Google Earth required). Or click the picture to see what you’re missing.

Continue reading “Google Earth: Impact Structures Top 25 (was 10)”

Progressive layout

My website definitely needs an overhaul. I’ve been using the default ‘Kubrik’ theme too long. Surely I could download and run another theme. But, being a webdeveloper/designer, that is beneath my standard ;-).

Last may I stumbled on this concept of ‘Progressive layout’ by Alessandro Fulciniti. The concept is simple, build a ‘liquid’ or scalable layout using CSS and use a piece of JavaScript to limit the display-width of the layout. E.g. Whenever a browser window is at it’s ‘maximum’, make it a fixed width layout. When the browser window is scaled below a boundary value, change it to a ‘liquid layout’. Even below a set threshold change it back to a fixed width layout again. See Alessandro’s example of a 3-column layout with and without the concept in place. (Open up and resize your browser! See what is happening to the width of the layout?) This is something I’ll probably want with my layout. (Degrading nicely for old browsers, mind you)

Ever since the inception of the internet people had the choice of fixed or liquid/scalable layouts. Each one had their pro’s and con’s. But this has never been combined before (I think). Looking at and testing Alessandro’s code I found something that annoyed me. When you load up the above demo’s and scale them, the margins are variable. This got me thinking and testing myself. Scalable below a certain threshold using the liquid layout, above the threshold fixed width. And here’s my demo.
It currently is a ‘proof of concept’. Whenever the browser window is smaller than a 1000 pixels (960px + 2 * 20px) it changes to a liquid layout. I’ve tested it in IE6, FF 1.0 and Opera 8.0 and it works. IE5 has some trouble switching to liquid. So before I’ll release the script I’ll have to do some testing. 🙂

(Feedback is welcome)

Apple iBook. On Second Thoughts.

Apple iBook 12" It’s officialy a month ago since I bought my 12″ Apple iBook. Coming from a WinTel world I must admit, it has been an overall positive experience. But there also have been some quirks I haven’t got used to.

So here’s a short list of things I hate or love about my Mac:

  • Dashboard is overrated. I’ve looked at it maybe 3 times. The concept of widgets is OK, but it’s on the edge of geekiness a.k.a. ‘who’s using it?’.
  • No Delete-button. There’s only ‘Backspace’. Why? As with the rest of OS X, it’s too keyboard centric, meaning I have to use Command+… everytime I want to get something done. Like switching applications. The dock, despite it’s coolness does NOT replace the Windows taskbar. I’ve got to hand it to Windows, where I’ll be operating my mouse all day and occasionally using the keyboard.
  • Killing applications. I still do not fathom the concept of killing all windows and still have the application running in the background. Please tell me why I want a memory hogging app running in the background without an apparant GUI?
  • Microsoft should learn about this installer alternative of ‘packages’. Installation is just a matter of dragging a package to your ‘Applications folder’. That’s it. No questions asked. It’s there. Use it.
  • The same with de-installation. Just drag it to the bin and you’re set. It’s gone. (Apart from some deep-hidden settings that you did not get away, even with using ‘regedit’ on Win. In fact it brings back the good ‘ol DOS days, drag’n’drop this time. :-))
  • Exposé rules! Besides patent-issues, this could make Windows great. For all you MS people, imagine this: Just press one button and see every app running as a thumbnail and seeing what it is doing at the moment. Imagine having several Mediaplayer windows open and seeing them playing all at the same time, while checking your downloads progress. (Again: Why not a mouse-button somewhere in the GUI?)
  • As for default browsers. Safari RSS is not all that. So I’m sticking with Firefox + extensions. I could not imagine living without.
  • It is when I switch to my Dell that I sorely miss the trackpad with scrolling capability. Trackpads have been around for ages, why didn’t they come up with the idea of using two fingers to scroll a page before? It is like the scrollwheel on a mouse. Once used to it you can’t live without.
  • Standby = Standby (or Sleep as it is called on a Mac). Meaning, whenever I close the lid of my iBook it does what I want. Namely, go to sleep (or standby) in a moments notice. And here’s the big part. Whenever I decide to open the lid, the OS springs back to life, sub-second.
    (In fact I just did it just now. Just for fun. :-))
    I noticed this, while waiting in vain for my Dell to come back to life from a standby. It never did… and it’s not exemplary for this Dell. Be it hardware or OS, it’s not working on Wintel.

So here it is. My list of quirks after one month of Mac. 🙂

(Added: trackpad with scroll)
(Added: sleep/standby)

Comparing Apples and Lemons*

So how do you compare an Apple running OS X with a Windows based PC? Many a flame-war has started over this matter. Just a few examples:
Win vs OSX

  • Apple geeks will tell you any PowerPC 0wnz Intel. But it seems Intel 0wnz Apple soon.
  • Microsoft alledgedly has copied the Mac interface, in fact it was a Xerox first. (On a sidenote: How come I can spend a day just clicking around on Win, while having to resort to keyboard on OSX? Just stick with “the Aqua eye candy is no match for the Luna Theme“.)
  • Apple hardware is more expensive than your generic Dell. Well, that is a fact, but the jury is still out on on the verdict of lemons.

In short: The MS camp stands squarely at the Apple camp. And vice versa.

Back to the question: How do you compare an Apple running OS X with a Windows based PC?

Continue reading “Comparing Apples and Lemons*”

GMail down?

Funny to notice this. It’s a free service. You know they know everything about you by scanning your e-mail. There are/were dozens of alternatives. But still you get upset when it’s not working.
In other words: “How dependant are you on something that’s free?”

During the day I noticed GMail was a little flakey. I somehow attributed that to the network today, because it was not only GMail being flakey. But I’ve seen the below message more than enough.

Google Down

Makes you wonder. What on earth is happening at ‘GooglePlex’. Did Larry have enough of it and re-signed up for a Hotmail account? Did Serge spill his coffee? Anyway, I haven’t seen an outage like this from Google in quite a while.
Makes you hope you don’t see this in the morning headlines: “GMail inboxes hacked by mega-spammer.”

(All I wanted to do was send this ‘important’ document. ;-))

Added: I see a clear breach of policy here: “… users may not: Interfere with other Gmail users’ enjoyment of the Service“. I reckon all Google employees a first hour user, so why are they getting away with spoiling my enjoyment? 🙂

The Joys of Shared Hosting

… are of course the low price tag and not having to maintain the server yourself.

Crash The downside however, is that you are at the mercy of your mostly unknown neighbours. Who happen to reside on the same server. So what happened? was out of service for quite a while. 14 hours straight to be exact.
All because one neighbour (un)willingly decided to play not so nice. Cascading in a total server melt-down. Apparently the wrong-doer has been kicked and all should be well for now.

Lesson learned? Don’t go experimenting in a live-server environment!!! Thank you. If you must, please experiment locally and test your stuff before release. How? See XAMPP from They have ready-to-go Apache+MySQL+PHP+Perl packages for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux and Solaris.
So if you decide to create infinite loops from hell. It’ll be only your system that crashes.

Just a thought.

The present: Most people come to you via a search engine (probably through Google, although Yahoo! is on the return). Some people come via Technorati, Bloglines or other RSS feed engine. And some are family, friends, co-workers, affiliates, … the people you meet in real life. All 6 of them. 😉

Given the state of current search engines, they’re stumbling over one another for the largest and fastest index, and the state of the ‘distributed web’ via RSS services (*cough web 2.0*). Does it really matter whether your site is in ‘shape’, a.k.a. designed? What matters these days is crawlability and indexability. In fact with add-ons like GreaseMonkey you cannot even be sure that your visitors will see what you’ve intended. Shuther to think what you’ll break when you update your site for someone running a GreaseMonkey script.

The future: Here’s my thought. What if? I’ll just revert to HTML 2.0. Google & Co understands it very well. And instead of chronological blogging or filling my web space, I’ll just put up thoughts and keep on writing on them totally visibly for you.

Hold up. That’s called a wiki!

Yes. 🙂 But think of it. What’s so different from a blog? Blog (and forum) people put up ‘updated’-tags in their posts to signal a change. So what if I don’t have to care about that? I’m thinking cross-over wiki/weblog. Just let me write, note, jot, expand, figure out, take a sidestep, draw, video-tape it or just delete. And you, my audience, all 6 of you, could comment in the proceedings? You know, just like a weblog. You’re probably saying OPML? No, from what I’ve seen it’s not what I want.

Come to think of it. It’s much like building your own personal Wikipedia, pinging around whenever I press a button (feeds), having a sitemap so search engines (G. Sitemaps) are filled with their hunger, put up an OPML to keep mister Winer happy, put up a webservice/API so every webdeveloper can rehash my content on their mobile, … Who cares about my site? It’s about distributing it.

Like I said, just a thought.