Make Google Reader Pretty with Reeder for Chrome

Make Google Reader Pretty with Reeder for Chrome | 40Tech

Google Reader is the best RSS subscription collector out there — but only as a base. In practice it has one of the ugliest user interfaces I’ve ever come across. It’s busy, cluttered, and generally hard to look at and use. If it weren’t for all of the apps that utilize Google Reader within their own UI, I’m guessing it would have tanked along with other unwieldy Google services. Thankfully, some enterprising folks have used browser technology to re-skin Reader into something that actually makes content easy to consume. One of the best is Reeder for Chrome.

Reeder for Chrome Screenshot | 40Tech

First things first: Reeder for Chrome is not an official extension by the creator of Reeder for iOS and Mac, Silvio Rizzi. It was created by @DazChong, someone who loved the slick design and easy usability of Reeder. 40Tech’s Evan Kline shares that love — he’s included Reeder as the first of his top 10 consumption apps for the iPad and one of the top 10 Mac App Store apps he can’t live without, and has cited it in several posts as his go-to app for RSS.

Note: Reeder for Chrome will, at some point, be changing its name to avoid confusion.

Reeder for Chrome delivers. It may not have all of the features you’re used to from the actual app, but most of them are there, and the look and feel makes Google Reader not just bearable, but a pleasure to use. It is especially useful for Windows, Linux, or Google ChromeOS users that want what those Mac folks have.

Download Reeder for Chrome

Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You’re Looking For

Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You're Looking For | 40Tech

In our last post on Google Wave, we talked about the impending final shutdown of the service on April 30th, 2012 (it is currently in read-only mode), and the potential for Apache Wave and Walkaround to keep the real-time collaboration tool going. We’ve even done a bit of hunting on our own for a suitable Wave alternative, but the reality is that Wave was a bit ahead of its time. Fortunately, another possibility for resurrection has surfaced: Rizzoma.

Rizzoma is a free, open source version of Google Wave that boasts some improvements to the look, feel, and function of the service. Some of the features they talk about on their site are an easy to use mobile version that actually works, improves search, the ability to to assign and track tasks within Rizzoma, easy team management and content sharing, and a built in mindmap mode.

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Rizzoma also promises the ability to re-install your favourite open source gadgets from Google Wave, and the ability to import your old Waves to the new platform.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that Rizzoma’s current level of marketing far outstrips the actual state of the product. Their website looks very promising, with a big button that says log in with your Google account and a video that makes you believe that the service is ready to go. I don’t know if it was an oversight on their part that they don’t include a note that the service is in beta and most of the truly awesome features are still on their way, but the reality is that a newcomer to Rizzoma will likely find themselves confused and disappointed. At least for now. After a bit of hunting on their support forums, I found that the bulk of what’s promised should be available within a month.

Right now, @mentions work, basic document creation, editing, and collaboration is available, the mobile version is functional, and the improved look and feel is on point. Importing your old Waves is also working, via the WaveShortcuts Chrome extension created by Project Volna — who are also the people behind Rizzoma. Importing your Waves via the extension is fairly simple, and the final result is readable and usable, though huge Waves with a lot of nested upon nested replies could get a bit unwieldy.

If you have been on the hunt for a Google Wave alternative, or are just looking for a real time collaboration tool that works across platforms, Rizzoma looks promising, despite the potential marketing/first impression snafu. If they are true to their word about getting the big features up and running effectively within a month, then we may finally have a winner here — proivded they can get enough support. Rizzoma is definitely the most promising Google Wave alternative I’ve come across so far. If you are at all interested, you may want to check them out and start importing your Waves now, as the time window is closing fast.

Check out the video below to see where Rizzoma is taking Wave:

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Learn how to import your Waves to Rizzoma:

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Check out Rizzoma and tell us what you think!

My Conversion from iCal to Google Calendar

My conversion from iCal to Google Calendar | 40Tech

40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Michael Carper.

When I began college, I was determined to keep track of all my homework, papers, tests, and scheduled activities. A staple of college scheduling is the syllabus, which lays out the due dates and assigned readings and homework for each class. However, syllabuses are just pieces of paper. I realized that it would be a huge pain to look up daily, from four or five different sources, what the assignments were for that day. I wanted to look at a single source and grasp all the work I had to do for that day, and for that week. More importantly, I wanted to keep in mind upcoming tests and papers several weeks ahead of time, in order to prepare time to work on them.

With this predilection for planning, I looked to my built-in OS calendar, iCal. There were many advantages to using it. I didn’t have to boot up Chrome or worry about web browsing. I could organize by color, assigning one to events, one to assignments, and another to work. I actually put my entire class schedule, as well as ordinary things like “lunch,” into iCal. I put not only due dates, but little reminders when certain benchmarks should be met in prep for those due dates. It was my lifeline.

However, little problems grew to be big annoyances. The most striking was the way iCal handled longer titles. I copied entire reading assignments into iCal. For some single class periods, this could include multiple texts or several page selections. Shorter entries would be completely displayed in the month-long calendar view, which I always used. I didn’t need to see my days broken down in the traditional week-long format, but I did want to see the tests and papers on the horizons. However, in this view, longer entries were simply abridged. There was no indication that an entry was actually much longer than it appeared, since they always stuck to a single line. On several instances, this lack of informative UI actually led to ignored homework assignments, since the entry was actually much longer than appeared and contained more readings than it appeared to. Ironically, in those instances, my calendar made me less prepared.

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Fall of my freshman year

There were other little things, as well. Entry of events was very manual; you had to put all details in only their specific field. Once made, you could not edit an event after clicking on it, but instead had to go to its “edit” page. The tethering of iCal to my Mac turned out to be a disadvantage, since I often ended up with hours to spare, homework to do, and no personal computer at my fingertips. I couldn’t sync it in any way with my iPod Touch, either.

So beginning of my junior, I finally took a look at Google Calendar. Since I had been a loyal Gmail user for many years, it only seemed natural. Immediately I noticed where GCal improved over iCal. The most prominent was the ease of creating events. I no longer had to cycle through different boxes to mark the date and time. Instead, I could simply jot down, “meeting 12-1” as an entry name for a certain day, and there it appeared, from the 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM slot. And if I felt like changing it, I could edit the entry title from the pop-up that appeared when I clicked it the first time, unlike iCal.

It wasn’t just the cleaner, more pleasing UI that won me over. Accessing my calendar outside my room was as simple as accessing my email–just log in to Google. I could access it on my iPod as well, albeit not with an official Google app. School events were always announced via email. I could either copy and paste the location and time details from one tab to another, or I could even click “More” in Gmail and create an event based on the email. If viewing an online calendar, such as the one published by my college, I could even import all the events into mine.

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December of my junior year

Six months later, I still haven’t taken advantage of everything Google Calendar has to offer, like sharing my calendar with others or inviting them to scheduled meetings. Those two functionalities are so amazingly useful, it’s a pity I’ve only encountered them at places I’ve interned. The rest of my fellow students, unfortunately, are still stuck in the Stone Age, with their paper syllabuses and calendar. Some of them may have progressed to iCal, marking their progress into the Bronze Age. They, and everyone else, should wise up and join those of us with our Google Calendars in the Golden Age.

I will add that I’ve tried the Fantastical Calendar app. Fantastical syncs with iCal or Outlook, but not Google Calendar, so I had to export from Google Calendar to iCal and then sync Fantastical with iCal. It’s UI is very nice. The recognition of event details is more intuitive than Google Calendar’s, expanding its recognition to location details and invitees whose address you have in your Contacts as well. You can read more about it in Evan’s review. My judgment is that although it has the best user interface, the ability of Google Calendar to sync with other Google apps, especially through email, is invaluable. Since I always have a web browser opened anyway, leaving a tab for Google Calendar is hardly cumbersome. $20 is a lot for calendar software, but, in my opinion, is something that would be used everyday. So if I spent less time on Google, Fantastical would be my go-to calendar.

Michael is a student at Wabash College and writer for the Reading Glasses Shopper blog. He realizes that actually the Iron Age, not the Golden Age, followed the Bronze Age.

Which PC and Mac Browsers Are Fastest?

Web browser speed tests

If you want to squeeze every last ounce of speed out of your browsing experience, then check out the latest browser speed tests at Tom’s Hardware. The site takes a look at several browsers on both the PC and on a Mac, and offers results in several different categories. The site then crowned a winner on each platform, as well as overall.

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Google Demotes Itself (Chrome) in Search Rankings

Chrome demoted

Do a Google search for “browser,” and Google Chrome no longer appears on the first page of results. In fact, as of the time of this writing, I’m seeing a hit for Chrome appear on the seventh page of results. Has Chrome suddenly become less relevant? Nope. Instead, Google has penalized Google Chrome for a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines involving paid links. Google requires all paid links to use the nofollow attribute, so that the link doesn’t pass “Google juice” via Google’s search ranking algorithm. A sponsored post for Chrome appeared on a blog, and did not use the nofollow attribute. The demotion followed.

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How to Set a Keystroke to Open a Firefox Tab in Chrome – And Keep Flash Out of Firefox [Mac]

Keyboard maestro firefox to chrome tab

Lately, I’ve been seeing how well I can survive without Flash on my MacBook Air. I find my browsing experience to be faster without it, but every now and then I need Flash to use a site. We previously talked about how to watch many YouTube videos without having Flash installed on your system, but what about other sites that use Flash? My setup involves using Firefox as my main browser on my MacBook Air (I use Chrome on my iMac), and switching over to Chrome when I need Flash. Chrome has Flash built in. My setup lets me automatically open my Firefox tab in Chrome, which supports Flash by default, by using a keystroke. Here’s how.

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How to Watch YouTube on Your PC or Mac, Without Flash

YouTube without Flash

There’s no way to say it nicely – Flash is a resource hog. On a beefy machine, you might not notice it, but if you’re running something like an older MacBook Air, Flash could bog your system down. You can try living without Flash – or even use a browser plugin to block it, but then you run into problems on a site like YouTube. Fear not, though, as YouTube gives you an option to watch videos without using Flash.

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Google Wave’s Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It

Google Wave's Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It | 40Tech

Yeah, yeah, I know. Google Wave is dead and gone, right? Not quite. We already talked about the potential of Apache Wave, and mentioned that the Google original is still available to those who care to squeeze every ounce they can from the innovative flop. Today, though, Google circulated an email to Wavers containing the end dates and Wave’s last gasp.

Wave was originally supposed to only be maintained to the end of 2010. For reasons of their own, however (likely to court potential future developers like Apache), Google let that date blow by with the waves still… waving. The final shutdown date is now, officially, January 31, 2012.

As of that date, Google Wave will become read only. Exporting waves (individually) to PDF will still be possible up until April 30, 2012. After that, the service goes down for good.

If you love your Wave and want to keep using it for your projects, you can keep going with the open source forks, most notably Apache Wave and Walkaround. Walkaround has an experimental feature that allows — or at least attempts — to import all of your waves from Google Wave. This will stop working on April 30, as well, so if you want to take advantage of it, do it before then.

Personally, I want to see more of Wave’s features integrated into Google+ and Google Docs, especially the potential for third-party addons. I don’t see Google opening that up anytime soon, as it could take Plus down paths they aren’t ready for, but who knows? Maybe down the line, eh?

What do you think?