The Spin Cycle

Google Chrome OS - All You Need is Web

Blog Via Email | November 24, 2009

Google announced the release of Chrome OS to the open source community last Thursday (November 19). This release is far from a finished product and Google said it doesn't expect to ship it on machines until late 2010. This release has been about getting the community involved in the development of the OS as well as drumming up some publicity for its eventually full release.

Google's Gone Loco...

With the release of the OS code and some previews of how the OS functions, many in the industry have been left scratching their heads thinking Google are crazy. I've personally been trying to digest the implications of what this OS means. Obviously, this OS shows Google is still pushing their ideology of having the web as the ultimate software development platform but they have out done themselves by allowing no room at all for native applications on the OS. This means no native Skype app, no native word processor, not even a native calculator. So if you want your application to appear on Chrome OS you are going to have to develop for the web.

Chrome OS is a paradigm shift. Why critics are thinking Google is crazy is because they think no one will want this OS let alone want to purchase a computer with this as the primary (and only) OS.

Google is not lining Chrome OS up to be the OS on your primary computer (yet) but rather the OS of choice for your secondary computer which Google believes you will spend more time on as it will handle your day-to-day activities perfectly. Plus it will be super fast, secure and simple (once you stop wondering how to install Skype).

Why the Web?

So why are Google are pushing the web as the only platform to develop software? We'll they do have the a number of superior applications in this space and their advertising empire is based around people interacting with the web. Can it just be a move to ensure a prosperous future for themselves? Being the biggest fish in the pond are they just trying to make the pond bigger?

Important Factors for Success

To have this paradigm shift take place it's going to need numbers. Google needs to push a huge number of units. They also need these numbers to matter so application developers can't ignore the fact that their apps need to work well for the web. And vice-versa. Google needs a higher quality of apps available on the web so they can push more units. This is a Catch 22 situation which will probably mean Google is going to have to push really hard for one side to take off first as it's more than likely not going to happen naturally. This could mean the subsidising of units.

One crucial factor of success is the continued evolution of the web as an application developing platform. Web applications need more access to the features housed inside computers such as cameras, graphics processors, accelerometers, etc. Without more access, web apps are considerably handicapped compared to their native app counterparts. This, however, is not an issue for all types of applications. Web apps also need more capabilities when there is no internet connectivity.

The Future of Chrome OS

More than likely the OS will take off slowly on release. It will at least sell some units as the price point will be right whereby anyone curious will be able to pick one up and play with it as it's not going to break the bank. The product and the publicity behind it will remind developers of the benefits of the web and that in itself will be a win for Google despite how low the unit numbers may seem.

This platform however is not going to go away no matter how bad it may launch - it's definitely here to stay. It will morph over time but it's hard not imagine it moving in the direction of a phone OS as well where it could conceivably compete, merge or even replace Google's current phone OS - Android.

Whatever happens is still any ones guess. It's a brave and bold move by Google and only time will tell if the critics are right in calling them crazy.



Google Chrome OS and the Google Ideology

Information Technology | July 9, 2009

Yesterday, Google annouced their new Chrome OS. Although there have been many rumours over the years that Google would develop its own OS for x86 based machines, the unvieling of Andriod, in November 2007, seemed to put most of those rumours to rest. From the get go, Andriod looked capable of branching out into the x86 family and it has since been shown to be possible. There have now been anouncements that Andriod will be released on netbooks as early as sometime this month.

So with Android on the verge of release on netbooks, why mention a new OS that is under development especially for netbooks? Perhaps it's to help stir up some hype about Google being active in the OS market but maybe the two events are unrelated and Google is just announcing Chrome OS to get the open-source community ready to support it.

I've spoken about Google's ideology before when the Chrome browser was released. The announcement of Chrome OS is in much the same philosphical vein. Looking at the marketing decision to name it Chrome OS shows that they don't care if users get confused between the Chrome browser and Chrome OS. I think it is safe to say consumers will be baffled in understanding the difference. In Google's mind, there is no difference - at least as far as consumers should be aware. Chrome is there for brand association and to be the portal that gets consumers to their data. The whole philosophy behind the Chrome browser is to make the OS fade into the background by reducing the "chrome" which is the space around the edges of the application window.

So, this shows Google's cannons are faced straight at Microsoft. Google are taking the free and open-source route and using the race-to-free to destroy Microsoft's main cash cow - Windows. Google has its cash cow with its advertising empire but it knows the web is a volitile place and the advertising cow could easily slip and break a leg one day. As I've also mention before, Google are messing around in a much bigger industry - the Energy Space. If they reach their goal of RE<C they will essentially be able to print their own money and perhaps world domination will ensue - I guess we'll have to wait and see.



Development Move from XP to Leopard

Information Technology | June 29, 2009

With the upgrade path to Vista avoided and the prospect of Win7 on the horizon, as a software developer you have to be careful to choose the right technology at the right time. With a broken laptop running XP, which I've talked about before, my hands were tied in making a new purchase. With the new purchase came a number of things to consider, the most major being; what should my primary OS be?

XP wasn't the perfect development OS for me. The majority of the code I write is in PHP running on a Linux server. Although often painful to install, WAMP (WIndows, Apache, MySQL and PHP) served me pretty well over the years as a development platform but it was far from perfect. Under Windows you can't install the GD library for PHP which I tended to just work around.

With most of my work being designed for Linux I would have loved to have gone the whole hog and used Linux as my main OS for development as Ubuntu is an amazing OS. Unfortunately, due to my ColdFusion days I became addicted to Allaire ColdFusion Studio which is now Abobe Dreamweaver and it's an addiction I can't break because my coding efficiency decreases massively when not using it and Dreamweaver can't run on Linux - even through WINE.

So one crutial application forced me to rule out an entire OS. The only two real choice remaining were to keep on the Windows path or give OS X a spin.

Now if you've been into an Apple store in the past couple of years you may have noticed something. There tends to be an army of employees there to for technical assistance as well as sell Apple warez but there tends to be an even bigger army of customers wizzing in and back out of the doors with all sorts of purchases. With the hussle and bustle in the store it feels like frenzy. Apple really have the most sort after electronics in the Western world.

I'm not sure if any readers have been past a Sony Style store lately but everyone I've seen (and I've seen about 5 in the past 6 months) has been deserted. This is not really surprising but it's amazing to see the contrast to an average Apple store. I did hear some stats semi-recently that the OS X market share (as seen on the net) had hit around 10% and had actually come back slightly on the last survey. From what I've seen there feel like there is massive shift even if the stats don't support it. From a developer stand point it's an interesting change and one worth noting.

So, of course, I bit the bullet and picked up a Mac. Getting the development process streamlined again has been pretty slow and frought with complications I was really surprised to see and I'm still not there yet. Information on forums has been a little weak but there has been enough to get by.

There were a couple of apps that almost had me tied to Windows before I cracked but with Dreamweaver and the whole Adobe suite available on OS X, I can make do for now with the other apps and I'm sure new apps will be developed to fill the gaps as more people jump away from Windows and the OS X application market grows. That being said, there feels like there are already a host of new applications to explore which should hopefully make the jump seem well worth it in the end.



A Consumer's Dilemma

Lifestyle & Culture | June 5, 2009

As some readers know, I'm currently on an 8 month trip through the Americas. It's Day 5 and everything has been pretty peachy to date.

I'm currently in Portland, the land of no sales tax and I'm contemplating a purchase. My laptop is over 4 years old and has one broken hinge. If the screen moves a couple of degree away from vertical it falls closed or against my knees. I'd get it fixed but it's not the only problem with the machine. I'm not sure how much longer it can last. In someways it's quite amusing, in other ways... not so much.

Not being a big consumer buying a laptop is a big investment for me. Especially since I expect the thing to last for at least 4 years. I've been tossing up the idea of a netbook, especially the models known to be hackintosh compatible. The problem with this idea is the suitable ones are mostly only available through online purchase which is near impossible to do while travelling from city to city.

I almost gave in to the idea of buying a MacBook but my body wont physically allow myself to do it. They are over priced and franky to trendy for my liking. I thought "hey, I can just cover it with stickers and no one will notice." I am a fool.

The other main reason for not wanting a Mac is if I lose it or break it. Travelling can be pretty hard on equipment. Also, not forgetting, Apple's WWDC announcement is coming on Monday, anyone would be stupid to buy anything Apple related before Monday as Snow Leopard will probably be announced along with a host of other interesting releases.

So here I stand, forced to make a purchase before my second hinge snaps setting my screen free from its laptop oppression while having limited choice on a rather important investment.

I'm at the crossroads.

What would you do?



Google and the Energy Space

Business | April 4, 2009

The Google founders and the CEO of google.org gave a talk at the World Economic Forum's Annual General Meeting in Davos last year. The talk covered parts of the debate on global climate change and 3rd world poverty. Most interestingly the talk gave a number of details regarding the fairly new business venture for Google and their goal of RE<C.

RE<C is an acronym for Renewable Energy less-than Coal, which means developing electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal.



Google can say that they are playing around in the energy game partially because of their views on climate change but it should not be forgotten that one of Google's biggest expenses is energy. They are the modern day energy refiners. Naturally a move into the energy space makes a lot of business sense.

The beauty of RE<C is that the goal is very clear. The only way for renewable energy to succeed is to take away the only reason to still use dirty energy - cost. If renewable energy is cheaper you can be an evangelist and save money - that's a big win/win.

The Google founders are engineers at heart and they have an incredible record for entering markets that seem to have little room for competition and then decimating the competition with the use of innovation (search, webmail, maps, etc). This is a brand new field for them but the principles are the same. The majority of large energy companies have failed to innovate for a long time and they have grown fat on their success. Who better to knock them off their perch than the most successful engineers of our time?



Entering a new Epoch

Science | March 18, 2009

Looks like we might be entering a new geological epoch - Anthropocene. I think it's a somewhat valid call. Human kind are transforming the world in a massive number of ways. This will no doubt leave a massive mark on the history of the Earth. The classification is still under discussion and far from formalised. I can't help but wonder how long this epoch will last for. My guess is that Machinapocene is less than a century away. So let's make this one last as long as we can.



Key to Social Networks - Ask for your Email Password

Information Technology | March 5, 2009

Pretty much every social network site I've ever signed up with has asked me for the password to my email account so the site can spam all my friends and invite them to the social network. At least... that's what I think they're trying to do.

I'm not sure if they access the account through some sort of API or have a home-built scraping mechanism that dives straight into your email account. Either way - it's dodgy and bad practice at best.

I know I'm not the only one who is alarmed about this. Giving out access to your email account gives the recipient more power than most people realise. If the recipient (read - social network site) is just going to spam your friends one time and that's it - I would consider that a lucky break. It's very tempting to anyone with that much power to perhaps delve a little deeper and do a little extra data mining.

For instance I picture that there wouldn't be much extra effort to sift through someones email to see if they just happen to using a competing site. This is just one thing they could be interested in. They could essentially search on any topic and gain a host of marketing information that shouldn't be available to them.

I'm a big believe in buyer beware and people just shouldn't be entering their email account passwords! But, of course, they do. Is it just the power of suggestion or do they think it is mandatory?

The whole premise behind the way this is being used on social networkers really does boarder on phishing.

I'm not sure how much this technique plays in the growth of social networks but it seems to be the case that as soon as one site started it (I'm not sure who) others would be handicapping themselves if they didn't do it.

As a web developer I just think it's poor form and I hope somehow it comes back to bite these sites in the arse.



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