16 February 2013

A First Look At Discourse, A Next-Generation System For Forums


Forums are an important part of the Internet, but they’re also one of its most dated ones. I mean, when have you last used a forum and were wowed by how simple and fun it was? Alternative discussion systems like Stack Overflow. Quora, and even Reddit were all developed as ways to surface high-quality content that escaped the traditional drawbacks of forums.

And yet, the forum is alive and well, embodied in XDA developers (just one of the seven best forums for learning about Android, for example). That’s because, well, forums are needed. But do they really have to be so cumbersome? Certainly not, says Discourse, a cutting-edge project from Jeff Atwood, one of Stack Overflow’s founders. Let’s break Discourse down a bit, to see what it offers.

It’s a Work in Progress


That screenshot shows an error I got on Discourse this morning. That’s not to say the service is bad, but just that it isn’t ready yet: Atwood and his team feel things have progressed far enough to share them with the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete working product. There’s no definitive feature list, the demo they have online now resets every 24 hours, and you will see the random error popping up here and there. But it’s more than impressive enough to look at.

Topic Listing

Rather than use a large hierarchy of forums and sub-forums, Discourse uses categories that feel a bit like tags:


Much like Stack Overflow, there are just a limited subset of categories you can pick from when authoring a new post:


Initially, the overview page mixes content from all different categories, but can be quickly filtered down to just a single category:

View topics

You can see who’s participating in each discussion at a glance; this view only shows up to five participants, even if a discussion has many more.

Single Topic View

Discourse is a forum, and just like every forum, it has a topic view:

topic view

At first blush, it seems similar to many other forums. An original post, followed by a reply (or 150,000, if you’re on XDA Developers). But what’s that bar under the original post? Let’s take a closer look:

Topic bar

This info bar appears only under the first post in a thread, displaying the thread’s vital statistics at a glance: This thread was created three days ago and last updated two days ago (it seems like not all posts are removed with every reset of the demo site). The other stats are just as easy to follow, and the avatars at the end show you who’s participating.

Authoring a Topic

Topic reply

Both replying and authoring a new topic happens in a bar that floats at the bottom of the screen. You can either write using BBCode or Markdown. The right side of the pane renders your text as you type, making it easy to spot any formatting errors without having to click a Preview button.

On the top-right corner of the bar, there’s a little down-arrow letting you minimize the toolbar. You can click it mid-post, and this is what happens:


Discourse saves your draft in the background, server-side. This means you can log off, go to a different computer, log back on, and continue writing right where you left off. But even if you don’t switch machines, being able to minimize the post and having it just a click away is a great way to browse other topic for reference. It makes it easier to carefully author replies, because you don’t need another browser tab to work with existing posts.

User View

Just like many other forum systems, Discourse offers a user profile page:

User Profile

The Discourse page, however, is a far cry from any other forum user page I’ve seen before. The sidebar lets you slice and dice that user’s activity, and you can click into every post they made, see what they liked, and so on. Note the “Trust Level” entry at bottom-left: Just like Stack Overflow (and the other StackExchange websites), Discourse has a self-policing system built into it. Looking through Discourse’s “meta” forum (a forum containing discussions about the platform) did not reveal much additional information about the feature, but I did dredge up a thread on automating trust that mentions a ratio between “flags” and posts as a way to detect bad users (i.e., if you don’t post very much, but a great many of your posts are flagged as bad content, you probably deserve a low trust level).

Unlike Stack Overflow, where the user’s point rank is very prominently displayed, in Discourse it has been abstracted into a “trust level” and squeezed into a tiny corner of the user’s profile. That feels like a conscious design choice: Forums are often more “democratic” than dedicated Q&A sites like StackExchange.

Not an End, But a Beginning

I love Stack Overflow, and Discourse currently gives an indication of being just as disruptive, exciting, and fresh. What you don’t see in the screenshots is how fluid and airy the system feels: Interactions are smooth even at this early stage, and the UI really does feel re-imagined. I, for one, hope to see Discourse become a powerhouse platform in the world of Internet forums. Did you try it out? What did you think?

The post A First Look At Discourse, A Next-Generation System For Forums appeared first on MakeUseOf.

Get Tweeting On Windows Phone With Multiple Account Support!

Although the platform supports social networking integration, there is still a need for full apps of services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on Windows Phone.

A quick look at the Windows Phone apps + games service (where you can find Twitter) will reveal an endless list of Twitter related apps for the device – which is strange as Twitter functions (such as Tweeting and retweeting) can be found in the People Hub!

So, why do so many Twitter apps exist, and why would you choose the official Twitter app as your preferred choice?

The answers are interesting…

Why Does Windows Phone Need a Twitter App?

When you boot up a Windows Phone and head to the People Hub, you will see a list of your contacts, their telephone numbers and email addresses. If you add a social networking account to your phone, you will also see what these people are up to on services such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Twitter can also be added, but like Facebook and LinkedIn, integration is limited.

That is to say that although you can see what people are posting, you cannot necessarily fully engage with the service in the way you might with a dedicated app. For instance, the People Hub doesn’t support Twitter lists.

As a result, there is an official Twitter app for Windows Phone. There are also many third party apps all trying to improve on the original, with varying degrees of success.

Twitter App Features

The Windows Phone Twitter app has various features and functions that make it an attractive choice. Although it could be argued that there are better alternatives available, it remains the best of the free to use, ad-free Twitter apps.

Providing support for multiple Twitter accounts, hashtags, photo uploads, insertion of usernames from your friends (enabling you to direct messages @ them) the app also provides location-aware support (which can be disabled) and directs notifications to the Start screen when you’re mentioned or your posts are retweeted. Search is also available, as is access to custom lists.

There are also two themes available, dark and light, but sadly there is not a live tile feature which would display the number of retweets, for instance (a feature available with other Twitter apps).

Tweeting, Retweeting and Configuring

The most important thing about this Twitter app, however, is that it is easy to use.

To make a new Tweet, all you need to do is tap the Compose button, and enter your thoughts using the keyboard, complete with autocorrect options. It is from this screen that you can add photos, either from your library of images or from either of your Windows Phone’s cameras. Direct messages can also be sent using the Message button, although note that as per Twitter’s rules, these can only be directed to someone that you are following and who is also following you.

You can view your own profile with this app, and while doing so you will notice that there is an Edit profile option in the ellipses menu. Editing options allow a new profile picture, display name, description, location and website to be added.

Good App or Bad App?

A check of the rating for this app on the Windows Phone app store will reveal an app with around 3 stars out of 5. I’m not totally sure what the individual users that have left a low rating have found wrong with the official Twitter apps as the problems described are not anything I’ve ever come across on either a Windows Phone 7 or a Windows Phone 8 handset.

Speed issues affect all Twitter apps (usually due to capacity problems), and as this official version offers multiple account support (rare among even some of the paid third party apps) there really is no reason not to recommend this free application.


The official Windows Phone Twitter app is published by Twitter (some “official” apps are released by Microsoft) so there is plenty of reason to expect a solid, slick and full-featured app.

While Twitter search is present, this app can unfortunately be slow at times, although that is often due to issues with the Twitter service itself. Most frustrating, perhaps, is the “gap in time” created between uses of the app. This effectively means that when you’re not using, and your Twitter activity continues elsewhere (perhaps on your PC), the app doesn’t display anything when it is relaunched apart from what it is happening on Twitter at that very moment.

This can prove very frustrating.

However, given the support for multiple accounts, camera and images, lists and direct messages, this is a very good Twitter app that is free to use but could do with some behind-the-scenes improvements to keep it relevant.

The post Get Tweeting On Windows Phone With Multiple Account Support! appeared first on MakeUseOf.

Yummly Lets You Share Recipes Just By Saying “Yum”

Fans of online recipe sites may have heard of Yummly before as it’s been around for a while. But recently it’s had one hell of a spruce-up and added a whole lot of new social features and other updates to the site. Browsing Yummly has never looked better and sharing recipes is now as easy as pressing “Yum”.

Yummly launched back in 2010 and is currently one of the fastest-growing food sites on the net. Their main aim is to bring in recipes from all over the web, making the recipes easy for you to search and find your favorites. Now that they’ve added their new social features, they are well and truly ready to become the Pinterest of the food world. Now is the time for you to test out the upgrade and see for yourself!

Yummly’s Re-Vamp

Yummly has always been very useful as a search engine and easy on the eyes, however the recent overhaul has made it look fabulous. The recipes are bright and appealing, and each recipe is shown with images of similar recipes alongside it. So if another one catches your eye, you can jump directly to that recipe instead.

As well as bigger photos, Yummly has added new recipe sources, improved the search functions so that it’s smoother and faster, and added taste profiles to give better recommendations to you. The rating of each recipe is now more accurate, incorporating Yummly user ratings and other social feedback alongside the reputation of the source site generally.

Yummly Search

Yummly have made recipe search as easy as possible, ensuring all food requirements are taken into consideration. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegetarian, gluten intolerant, hate spinach or just trying to cut back on calories; Yummly lets you filter your results to find just what you’re after. As well as foods you love or hate, you can also filter by holiday celebrations, cuisine, diet, courses, the source site of the recipe, cooking techniques, tastes (e.g. salty, bitter, sweet), nutrition, brands of ingredients or how recently the recipe was added.

When you’re viewing the recipe, you can see the full list of ingredients, links to the original recipe, nutritional information, taste ratings, tags and more. It’s very easy to see if this is something you’re going to enjoy and whether you have all the ingredients on hand.

Social Sharing On Yummly

It’s really easy to share and keep track of the recipes you love using Yummly. Log into Yummly using Facebook or Google credentials and you are ready to go. Logging in will also allow you to save your diet and allergy preferences, plus a few links to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also choose in settings whether to share your Yummly activities with Facebook or not.

If you have chosen to share your activities with Facebook, share your favorite recipes with Facebook by simply clicking “Yum” on anything you like. Yummly will also keep track of all your “Yum’s” for later. You can also comment on recipes and share those comments with Facebook. Regular social sharing buttons are there too, so you can quickly Tweet, Like, Pin, Stumble or email the recipe.

The “Yum’s” also act as a popularity indicator for the recipe. You can quickly see that a recipe with over 200 “Yum’s” is worth checking out in more detail.

Yummly Remembers What You Like

As long as you are logged in, Yummly can filter every search you do according to your taste preferences, which you can save in your settings. These settings are also easy to override if you change your mind and want to look for something else.

Need More Recipes?

Let’s face it, all cooks need more recipes. The fact that the internet has many great recipe websites doesn’t mean we’re ever going to stick with just one. You can also get your daily dose of food porn from: Epicurious; Foodily; Punchfork; Gojee; great YouTube cooking channels; sites that inspire you to start baking; a number of great vegetarian recipe sites; some old favorite recipe sites; recipe sites with tasty visuals; great sites for holiday recipes.

What do you think of Yummly’s new social features? Will you be sharing your favorite recipes on Facebook?

The post Yummly Lets You Share Recipes Just By Saying “Yum” appeared first on MakeUseOf.

15 February 2013

Are You Being Unfollowed? Check With These Apps and Plugins

In my opinion, one of the best things Facebook ever did was to let users “unfriend” each other without any notifications. There have been numerous examples where I’ve regretted “friending” someone, and I’ve avoided tons of drama thanks to this unfriend-in-secret feature. Now, there are apps and extensions that will let you monitor when people unfriend or unfollow you on Facebook or Twitter.

The procedure to figure out who is no longer friending you is quite simple: simply compare your current friends list (Facebook) and followers list (Twitter) to a previous record and look for differences. If someone is no longer friended to you or following you, then the conclusion is obvious.

If this is something that you’d like to know, then you can use the following services to track your unfrienders and unfollowers.

Unfriend Finder [Facebook]

Unfriend Finder is a simple extension that works across all of the major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Maxthon. It began as a Greasemonkey userscript (which you can still install) but now it’s a widely recognized unfriend tracker extension for Facebook.

Over time, Unfriend Finder will notify you of unfriends and friends who have deactivated their Facebook accounts. In addition, whenever you send out a friend request, Unfriend Finder will let you know when that person hasn’t yet accepted the request – even notifying you if they chose to ignore your request.

Who Deleted Me [Facebook]

Like Unfriend Finder, Who Deleted Me will track changes to your friends list in Facebook. Instead of being an extension, however, it’s an app for which you need to grant Facebook permissions. Once you grant access, the tracker will update you with daily emails regarding changes (unless there were no changes).

The site has been running for just over 2 years now, and has over 100,000 users. It’s a great service if you like receiving email notices instead of browser-based notifications. One downside is that users can hide themselves from Who Deleted Me, which may result in slightly inaccurate friends tracking.

TwentyFeet [Facebook & Twitter]

TwentyFeet is a social media stats tracker that works on both Facebook and Twitter as well as a few other popular social networking services, like MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook pages. It can send you updates through email, RSS, or right on the website with charts and histories. If you use multiple social networks, this is a fantastic service.

Unfortunately, TwentyFeet’s free package is a bit limited. It lets you track one free Facebook account and one free Twitter account. For additional accounts, or for YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook pages accounts, you’ll need to upgrade to Premium. Payment is done through “credits”, which can you purchase on the website.

Who Unfollowed Me [Twitter]

Who Unfollowed Me is a service that tells you who unfollowed you since the last time you visited the site. All that’s required is a few simple clicks and nothing more. Not only that, but it’ll tell you who you’re following that isn’t following you back AND who’s following you that you aren’t following back.

This is great for people who don’t want regular emails or direct messages on Twitter but would prefer to check manually every once in a while. The feature set is pretty simple, though, so if you’re looking for something highly customizable and powerful, this may not fit the bill.

UnFollowers.Me [Twitter]

UnFollowers.Me is very similar to Who Unfollowed Me but with a few extra bells and whistles. Not only does it show you who unfollowed you, it has a dashboard where you can perform simple actions like following/unfollowing, blocking/unblocking, autofollowing people who follow you, sending tweets to multiple users, inviting users to follow you, and more.

You can keep yourself updated by visiting the site whenever you want, or you can set up simple email or tweet notifications over regular periods. Overall, it’s a fantastic service that is easy to use and quite useful.

JustUnfollow [Twitter, iPhone, Android]

JustUnfollow is a website that has a number of Twitter management tools: automatically unfollow those who don’t follow you back or users who are inactive; automatically follow fans who follow you; tracker for users who unfollow you; tracker for users who follow you; follow the users that another account follows; whitelists and blacklists for more user control.

The best part is that JustUnfollow comes in two mobile app varieties: one for Android and one for iPhone. Now you can manage your Twitter followers remotely through your phone, which is exponentially more convenient than using a traditional website dashboard!


In the end, knowing when someone unfriends or unfollows you can become a big burden. You may end up offended or you may feel betrayed, especially if someone you thought was a good friend does it. That’s why I personally don’t use these services. However, if you’re dying to know, then these services will help you.

Are there any other apps and extensions that track unfrienders and unfollowers that I missed? Please share them in the comments!

Image Credit: Follow Button Via Shutterstock

The post Are You Being Unfollowed? Check With These Apps and Plugins appeared first on MakeUseOf.

Use Windows 8 In Style With These Amazing Metro (Modern) Apps

windows 8 modern appsAs a Windows Phone user since the platform launched in 2010, I had a hope that Windows 8 would be a big success for Microsoft, if only to see some imaginative implementations of the tile-based user interface once known as “Metro” (and now referred to as Modern).

Sadly, Windows 8 hasn’t quite taken off yet, but this shortcoming certainly isn’t due to a lack of apps. After all, there are several years’ worth of traditional Windows desktop apps to fall back on! As for those optimized for use under the Start screen and the Modern UI, however, there are several that really take advantage of the platform and its new visual style.

Whether you’re using a Windows 8 RT device (such as the Microsoft Surface) or a standard Windows 8 computer, the following Windows 8 Modern apps will help you to realize the true power and potential of Microsoft’s new consumer computing paradigm.

Fresh Paint

Windows has never really shipped with anything nearing an effective paint toolbox since the 1990s. Although the traditional Paint application (the same version that was updated for Windows 7) is included, the Windows Store offers Fresh Paint (covered previously on MakeUseOf), a free app that has proved extremely popular among users so far.

windows 8 modern apps

This touch-based app can be used with a mouse, but it is for fingers that it is really optimised. Several brushes are on offer, along with background color fill options, pencils, backgrounds textures and the ability to take snapshots of your finished images.

In addition, various DLC is available, free and premium. The Finding Nemo pack might cost a couple of dollars, but the there is also the free Fun Pack full of paint templates to get you started. As Fresh Paint itself is free from the Windows App Store, this makes for lots of fun for no expense!

Ideal for younger users, Fresh Paint has potential beyond just colouring in. Add a stylus and you have an instant sketch pad!


While it doesn’t attempt to replace high-end tools such as Photoshop, Fhotoroom is a free app that enables you to easily crop, resize, edit and adjust the colours on images and photos that you have saved to your Windows 8 computer.

windows 8 modern applications

Optimised for touch, you can also add frames and various exposure alterations as well as some interesting filters for the Instagram-esque approach. Most crucially, this is a very easy-to-use application!

Note that Fhotoroom – which must be installed from the Windows App Store – isn’t entirely free. If you want to pay for the pro version you can unlock additional filters, but you should find most of what you need is available in the free app.


While I’m not what you would call a OneNote enthusiast, I do admire its ability at cross-platform syncing of notes, and have used it often over the past few years since I bought my first Windows Phone.

windows 8 modern applications

This latest version is available free and independently of Microsoft Office from the Windows Store, and offers a fascinating new touch-based user interface.

As you type your notes, a small arrow appears, and upon tapping it you will be presented with the menu wheel, a great new way to offer the traditional Microsoft formatting options in a compact, contextual setting. A different menu will appear if you have text selected, for instance.

With the ability to sync your notes via SkyDrive to other devices, OneNote is an unmissable Windows 8 application! You’ll find OneNote in the Windows App Store.

7digital Music

Music lovers who want to grab the best new music, download it to their computers and sync with other devices should make a beeline for the 7digital Music app, which offers the latest albums and individual tracks in MP3 format, complete with preview listens and competitive pricing.

windows 8 modern applications

You will of course need to sign up to use the service, but with low prices and regular sales you should easily find the music you want to listen to and own.


Barely a day goes by when I don’t check Wikipedia for information (usually system specs, or the birth and death dates of a notable person) and while its natural home is surely a traditional web browser, the Windows 8 app for the website is pretty astonishing.

windows 8 metro apps

As you can see from the screenshot, Wikipedia is optimized to run in landscape mode, although as with most good apps it easily switches to portrait mode when the tablet is rotated. Amazingly, however, this app turns the famous online encyclopedia into a virtual book – just like a traditional encyclopedia!

In other words, into the encyclopedia that Wikipedia has always wanted to be! You’ll find this free app in the Windows App Store.


It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been keeping abreast of developments in the technology world to learn that Microsoft’s most recent big acquisition, Skype, is available as an app for Windows 8.

windows 8 modern apps

While not as integrated as many users (and Microsoft) may like, this piece of software is pretty much vital for communications and messaging, particularly as Windows Live Messenger (formerly known as MSN Messenger) is to be retired.

The touchscreen interface on Skype is quick and effective, making it particularly useful for the tablet/hybrid users. Favourite contacts can be specified while the links that you will need to use to buy credit or get a subscription are present, although these open in the browser rather than allowing transactions within the app.

Free to download and use when calling other users, the Skype app will of course require you to setup a subscription or a pre-pay account for calling landlines and mobiles.


Windows 8 may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there can be no denying the fact that publishers that are supporting the touch-based platform are doing their utmost to present a selection of stylish, cool and usable apps.

If you’re planning on trying to sell the idea of a Windows 8 computer – particularly one of the tablet devices – to your friends, then make sure you have installed these apps, and use them at every opportunity!

Remember, these apps will work with both Windows 8 RT devices and standard Windows 8 tablet, hybrid and desktop computers.

Do you have a preferred Windows 8 touchscreen app? Let us know!

The post Use Windows 8 In Style With These Amazing Metro (Modern) Apps appeared first on MakeUseOf.

14 February 2013

Most anticipated Mobile Games of 2013

This year is shaping up to be a big one for mobile games, with a number of long-anticipated titles set to be released at last and more studios than ever trying to push the capabilities of the latest devices to the limit. Everyone's got their own wish list, so here's our run-down of the mobile games we're looking forward to most - and if you don't own a current-generation mobile phone, it may be worth investing in one just to play some of these titles!

Infinity Blade: Dungeons (iOS)

The prequel to the biggest iOS franchise ever is looking great - and from the trailer, it looks set to have a more Diablo/Torchlight-esque feel to the gameplay than the previous games. Sadly the game's development is currently on hold after Impossible Studios was axed, but this is definitely one worth waiting for.

BadLand (iOS)

The lovely-looking BadLand has shades of Limbo in both its artistic and gameplay style, but interestingly it's offering multiplayer support for up to four people. Described as a side-scrolling, physics-based puzzle/racing platformer, it's packing a lot into one game, and the first multiplayer trailer promises frantic screen-tapping action.

Assassin's Creed: Utopia (iOS, Android)

If you wondered how the building-leaping action of Assassin's Creed will play out on a mobile, don't: this looks like it'll be more of a city-building game set in colonial America. There will still be plenty of battles mixed in with the Sim City-ish gameplay, though. It's an unusual direction for the series and it'll be interesting to see whether it works.

Year Walk (iOS)

In Sweden, apparently it's traditional to take a long walk on New Year's Day in the hope of divining the future. It's a strange premise for a game, but this 2D adventure is already looking as beautiful as it is mysterious, and promises a mix of adventure, horror and "interactive art". Check out the trailer for a closer look at this spooky, folklore-infused title.

Double Fine Adventure (iOS, Android)

Anything by Tim Schafer, the man behind some of the world's best-loved adventure games (Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle) is definitely worth waiting for, and this Kickstarter project attracted over $3 million of fan backing in just a few short months. Details on the game itself are still sketchy, but it's hard not to be excited by a new Double Fine game.

Can Mobile Monitoring Be Any Simpler- I guess Not!

We have increased the pace of our loves manifold and it seems the time simply slips out of our hands and we don’t have enough time for anything. And in all this, our family and work priorities compete furiously. Technology has addressed this burning issue with the mobile monitoring technique. Why?

The Hassle of Monitoring:

Technology has come to our rescue because monitoring kids and employees in the age when everything is personal and private has become impossible. You can’t possible meet all your kids’ friends, listen to what they talk about over phone and same is the case with employees when you are out of office or when they are. So you need a sound monitoring system that can work on its own and in stealth mode.

Say Hello to Hassle-Free Monitoring:

Fortunately now it is possible, with the help of mobile monitoring apps, you can easily monitor kids and employees all the time and anytime. You only have top install it on their smartphones once and the rest it will do on its own.

Why We Recommend StealthGenie?

The reason why we recommend StealthGenie to almost all out readers is that it is safe and very easy to use. It can be installed on any of the:

  • Android

  • iPhone

  • BlackBerry phones

Exclusive Features:

The best part about StealthGenie mobile monitoring app is that it has loads of features that are fun to use and they work in full stealth mode never letting your kids or employees knowing about it. The exclusive features are:

Recording phone surroundings: this feature is a must have and you can listen to all in-room conversations in addition to recording calls. So your kids or staff will have no way of hiding stuff from you.

Trigger alerts: by defining certain words or contacts in the list, you can get alerts as any of the listed items comes in use. You can also get alerts as your target phone user changes SIM card. Thus hanky-panky is off bounds.

WhatsApp and iMessage monitoring: In addition to monitoring SMS and e-mails, you can also log WhatsApp and iMessage chats so if your kids and employees use WhatsApp or iMessage thinking you can’t know, they are mistaken.

Some Glitches:

There are slight glitches, too. I happened to use it for a long time and a few times, there was a delay in data uploading. But I complained about it to the 24/7 customer support team and they fixed my issue. StealthGenie has yet to come up with any restrictive features so until that time, I would rate it at 8/10.


I guess, mobile monitoring cannot be any simpler than StealthGenie. It has understood the core concerns of parents and employees and that’s what they are basing their app on. Try StealthGenie for yourself and simplify the hassle of monitoring forever.

Google OS, Developed in 2006

It turns out that Chrome OS was developed before Google Chrome. Jeff Nelson, a former Google engineer, started working on a Google OS prototype in 2006. The goal was to make Firefox run faster, so he used this browser.

"It was a chopped down Linux distribution - as so many 'new' operating systems are, these days. I wrote the first version as early as July 2006 and showed it around to management. Instead of launching a project, the response was extremely tepid. My boss complained, 'You can't use it on an airplane.' Actually, you could as, under the covers, it was still a bare-bones Linux distribution and could execute any Linux program installed on it," Jeff explains. "The main priority when I started constructing the operating system was the need for speed - to create a super-fast operating system."

Jeff was developing web apps at Google and he had to restart the browser frequently. "Restarting the web browser was a particularly slow operation, often taking 30-45 seconds, whether IE or Firefox, Linux or Windows. However, even simple tasks such as displaying a directory in a file explorer were unreasonably slow operations, requiring several seconds for a task that should be nearly instantaneous. (...) The solution? Move the entire desktop operating system into RAM. By moving the entire operating system into RAM, that immediately took off the table the largest performance bottlenecks in the operating system: File I/O."

Most tasks were now completed almost instantly, Firefox restarted in 1 second and even the code compiled faster. The problem was that RAM is a volatile memory, so you could lose data if you didn't save it to the disk. He solved the problem by only using web apps and performing some backups to a local storage media. Web apps solved many other problems: avoiding software installation, using less storage, many apps weren't available for Linux.

"Thus, tracking down web apps to replace any and all functionality normally found on a desktop, became a priority. That's how the seeds of the webapps on the Chromium desktop, albeit originally written in HTML and running on Firefox, were planted," concludes Jeff.

Google released a lot of web apps in 2006: Google Chat, Google Page Creator, Google Calendar, Google Spreadsheets, Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, Google Apps for Your Domain.

{ via Chrome Story}

13 February 2013

How To Turn Your Handwriting Into A Font

handwriting fontAdd the ultimate personal touch to any document: turn your handwriting into a font and use that. There’s a lot of creative potential here, and it’s a lot easier to do than you’d think thanks to MyScriptFont.

Friends don’t let friends use Comic Sans. It’s just a bad idea. If you want a font that looks handwritten, don’t mess around: create a custom handwriting font with your own writing and use that.

Once you do so the possibilities are endless. You can easily use your own handwriting for that comic you’re working on. You can add “hand-written” notes to your favorite photo. Or you could just type notes and print them, because you’re too lazy to actually write a letter but want to pretend you did.

It’s entirely up to you, and with MyScriptFont the process to create a handwriting font couldn’t be simpler. Download and print a PDF, then fill in the squares with your own handwritten letters. Scan that, upload and the site will do the rest. Let’s work through the process together right now.

Making Your Handwriting Font

To get started head to MyScriptFont.com. You’ll see the following straightforward instructions:

handwriting font

Download the PDF and print it out. Use a black, felt-tipped pen and fill in all of the letters. Yes: you have to use an actual pen and paper. Accented characters, which you’ll find at the bottom of the page, are optional but recommended. When you’re done, scan your printed document in grey-scale.

cursive handwriting font

Save your scanned file as an image and you’re ready to upload. Head back to MyScriptFont.com and upload your filled in form. You’ll need to wait a while; the processing can take a while.

cursive handwriting font

When it’s done you’ll see a preview of your new font, and be able to download it. My handwriting is terrible, so my font kind of sucks:

cursive handwriting font

Happily my wife Kathy has legible handwriting, so her font works quite well. Check it out:

handwriting font

These handwriting fonta are great for adding a personal touch to documents, so use your imagination. Your handwriting reflects your personality, so this font will as well. Sure, it’s not as flexible or emotive as your actual handwriting, but it’s a great way to quickly add a personal touch to a presentation or document.

Not sure how to install this font on your computer? Don’t worry; it’s easy. Tina outlined how to install fonts on Windows, Mac and Linux, so check that out if you’re not sure what to do with your new font file. On most systems you can simply open the font and click the “Install” button, but the above directions can help if you’re not sure what to do.


Of course, this isn’t the only way to make your own handwriting font: we’ve outlined tools for making your very own fonts before. If you want to try your hand at typography those tools are worth checking out, at least to start with.

Found a font on a piece of paper or online image, but aren’t sure what font it is? Rather than designing it yourself you should check out WhatFont, a site that can identify almost any font. You won’t be disappointed.

How are you going to use your custom font? Let me know in the comments below, along with links to your creations if you’re so inclined to share with the world.

The post How To Turn Your Handwriting Into A Font appeared first on MakeUseOf.

WebM and Broken Promises

Two years ago, a surprising post from Chromium's blog announced that Google Chrome will drop support for H.264 HTML5 videos. "Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies."

Nothing happened since then, so I assume that Google changed its mind. Mostly likely, Google hoped that this announcement will increase WebM's adoption, but that was wrong. Other than YouTube, few other sites converted their videos to WebM. Why spend time and money to convert videos when they could simply use a Flash player?

After all, Adobe Flash doesn't support WebM and that's the second broken promise: "As Kevin Lynch mentioned today at Google I/O, we are excited to include the VP8 video codec in Flash Player in an upcoming release, which will help provide users with seamless access to high quality video content on all of their Internet-connected devices," announced a blog post from 2010.

Adobe didn't support the VP8 codec, so Flash is still mostly H.264-only. And so are Internet Explorer, Safari, iOS, Windows Phone. WebM is mostly non-existent in the mobile space and that's where the future lies. Even if Android 2.3+ supports WebM, there aren't many devices with hardware acceleration for WebM.

Now Firefox's Windows nightly builds allow you to play H.264 HTML5 videos using the Windows Media Foundation backend. "That means if you're using a Windows computer that already has a licensed H.264 decoder installed, you'll be able to enjoy HTML5 video that's been encoded using MPEG LA's codec."

That means in the near future the most important browsers will support H.264 videos natively and WebM will matter even less. There's a VP8 successor that's more efficient, there's WebP for images and there's the WebRTC API for native video chat apps, but H.264 will continue to dominate web video. Those broken promises just made it more obvious.