How do I get those cute little pictures next to my comment?

This is my Gravatar. Those with sensitive stomach's had best avert their eyes
This is my Gravatar. Those with sensitive stomachs had best avert their eyes

Have you noticed that when some people comment, they get a little picture of themselves next to it?

What is a gravatar?

A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites. Avatars help identify your posts on web forums, so why not on weblogs?

Gravatar – Globally Recognized Avatars.

Basically, these guys provide a service that sends back your pretty little picture, so that people everywhere can know that it really is Geoff Matheson posting a comment on their blog because nobody else would possibly pretend to look like that. And Gravatar got bought out by Automattic who run WordPress.com, so once you sign up for a Gravatar, you’ll see it popping up next to your comments all over the web. So go do that today!

Best use of Twitter ever

“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.”
There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick… on TwitPic.

The above comment was posted along with the picture linked on Twitter, only moments after the (now famous) plane landed in the Hudson River in New York.

This is why citizen journalism on the web, and twitter (combined with camera-phone integration) is freaking awesome. This is how news gets broken in 2009. And how cool is the picture!

WordPress 2.7 – Just Makes Sense

The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard
The New WordPress 2.7 beta 1 dashboard

I’ve been a big fan of the WordPress platform since the moment I started blogging on wordpress.com (I had one of the early invites and managed to snag “geoff.wordpress.com” – it now seems a shame that I’m not really using it), and I would love one day to put the tedium of Oracle Database Administration behind me and just spend my days modifying WordPress as a CMS for small to medium enterprises. So in short, I’m a big wordpress fan.

So once I saw that the latest beta was out (version 2.7), I went ahead and installed pretty much straight away. There are a whole bunch of niggling little issues that this version is fixing beautifully. For starters, the entire UI has received a complete overhaul – which seems a little premature seeing as it was less than a year ago that they revamped for 2.6, but I really doubt that anyone could be complaining. After 2.6 came out, the wordpress team copped some flak with regard to the usability aspect, so they got experts in. And now, everything has just started making sense.

One of the biggest frustrations I had previously, was that in order to schedule a post to publish in the future, you would set the date that the post should appear, and then press publish. But when you press publish, you always had that fear that the publish button was going to override your scheduled date, and that you should be pressing “save” instead. But now, the geniuses have made everything make sense: the words on the button change when you alter the publish date. So as soon as the date gets set, the button text changes from saying “Publish” to saying “Schedule”. It’s a tiny little thing, but the mindset means that you could feel confident in trying to teach less advanced users to use the really cool features, because the User Interface just works.

The screen real estate in the back end is much more efficient, and reduces the likelihood that you’ll actually need to scroll down the page – a common niggle with the previous setup. The dashboard has been changed again, and I think they’ve finally nailed a setup that really encompasses the things you want to know when you first log in. They’ve made pretty much all of the backend pages available through drop-down menus, which makes life a bunch easier when you’re trying to find that obscure option you’ve changed once before.

Basically, while I wouldn’t want to be the person saying you should upgrade to a beta version, you should definitely be looking forward to the next release of WordPress. 2.7 is a great step forward in the evolution of the world’s best blogging system.

Google Chrome – Shiny, but not there yet

Googles new browser - Chrome
Google's new browser - "Chrome"

Google have released a new internet browser out into the wild : “Google Chrome” – to compete with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. There’s a little bit of confusion around exactly why Google would want to do that given that they are deeply involved with Mozilla Firefox: both in developers and cash, but it starts making sense once you use it. This browser is fast. And it’s especially fast for applications with a lot of Javascript – GMail, Google Docs, Google Maps, etc. It has a shiny new Javascript virtual machine running under the hood, and it works a treat. Beautiful.

So, here’s the Geoff wrap up in a few short points:

Why You Would Use It

  • Makes fantastic use of screen real estate – barely takes up any room at all which means you’ve got tons of room on the screen for the stuff you actually care about.  More stuff fits on your screen, which means you have to scroll less, which makes the world a happier place
  • Freaking fast – I’ve said it already but this canes the buttocks off either of the big two browsers just in terms of speed.
  • Default Home Page – Every time you open a new tab in Chrome, instead of a blank screen, the page shows a grid of your most visited sites that are accessible with the click of a mouse. Because this is driven completely locally, you’re not waiting for the homepage to load up over a slow connection – it just works. Sure it’s probably stolen from Opera, but it’s a good idea
  • It’s Google – and they make good stuff. The big positive about Google is that they have a philosophy of “release early then iterate”, meaning that the failures of today will likely not be there tomorrow.

Why You Wouldn’t Use It (at least all the time)

  • No RSS Support – now I realise that this might not mean a lot for some of you, but there are a bunch of us that this will raise alarm bells for. Not only do you not get the cute little feed icon showing up in the address bar of a relevant site, but if you click on an RSS feed link, you just get garbled junk.
  • Missing features – because it’s early days, there are a few features that are easy to get used to in Firefox that feel missing in Chrome. Ironically for a Google product, Chrome doesn’t have a search bar, but instead has you typing search queries into the address bar, which seems to me to be a little counter-intuitive. Maybe I just need to get over it
  • No extensions – For a long time Firefox user, this is a bit of a sad one. Extensions are pluggable bits of code that magically do fun (or useful) things to your browser to add functionality. At this stage there’s nothing like that for Chrome, and while I think that’ll change, for the moment that’s a deal killer.
  • It’s only on Windows at the moment, which means people who have a choice about their OS are unlikely to be able to use it yet.
  • You might still be stuck in the Internet Explorer world where you didn’t realise you had a “web browser” other than the big blue e.
So for the moment, it won’t be my primary browser of choice. Although I could actually imagine that if I was doing anything significant in Google Docs for example, I’d be a fair chance to fire this one up. The real key will be seeing how Google continue to develop this one, and whether the reasons not to use it really do disappear overnight.
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My Beautiful iPod touch

I must admit that I do feel like a bit of a sell-out having bought an iPod touch, aka: the phone planless man’s iPhone. But a combination of seeing a shiny new iPhone in the wild and having already decided that I didn’t have enough justification for getting an iPhone, plus apple having a good deal going on refurbished iPod touches led to a moment of weakness that I’m having a hard time trying to regret.

The ongoing wait for home Internet has meant that I’ve had this little beauty since Monday but haven’t had it all updated until last night. And with all the funky apps that you can pick up that’s when she really comes alive. Apart from anything else this post will have been completely written in the wordpress app, which has been remarkably well designed. Like a massive chunk of the iPhone apps, it just does what you expect it to, in the way you expect it to work.

Suffice to say my train trips just got a whole lot more bearable.

China steals internet crown from US – theage.com.au

China’s booming Internet population has surpassed the United States to become the world’s biggest, with 253 million people online despite government controls on Web use, according to government data reported Friday.

China steals internet crown from US – web – Technology – theage.com.au.

This is made more impressive by the fact that the internet addressing system currently doesn’t even really cater for chinese characters, and that the Chinese are only able to see parts of the internet that don’t cast their illustrious government in a negative light.

Twitter – To tweet or not to tweet?

Haven’t quite resolved the big question posed in the title there at this stage, but for the moment I’m giving Twitter a fair dinkum go. It’s taken me a fair while to work out whether or not I really care about Twitter – but after having had fun playing around with Instant Messaging and Facebook status messages for a while, I figured it’s my new chance to be hilariously funny on a micro-type level. So for the time being (at least) feel free to subscribe to my Twitter RSS, or just check out my Twitter page. You might also have noticed the “Geoff is currently” widget on the right hand side, which is obviously being fed by twitter too.

Anyone else using Twitter? Good? Bad? Indifferent? I’d be interested to know.