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Friday, September 10, 2010

Google Chrome Sync Feature

Yesterday, while I was on the computer, I tried to open an application and the computer decided to freeze. Nothing that a reset can't fix, I thought. So I reset, and waited. And waited. And waited...but Windows would not start, I was stuck at a black screen with nothing I can do. Safe Mode did not work. Last known good configuration did not work. Nothing worked. Luckily, I had another partition with an older copy of Windows that still worked. I booted that copy and reinstalled Windows, and selected the Repair option for the affected partition. That fixed it and, thankfully, everything is back to normal.

The reason I'm telling you all this is due to the fact that the main thing I was interested in saving was the data that Chrome stores: Bookmarks, Settings, Passwords and so on. I managed to find where it saves its information in Documents and Settings, yes, but that was cumbersome and it does not allow merger with another copy of Chrome on another machine. It will only allow overwrite, and that is something I don't want.

After some clicking, it turns out that Chrome has a nice feature called Sync, found in Options under Personal Stuff. Sync is very easy, all you need is a Gmail account and you're all set. Sync stores your settings and bookmarks in the Cloud, on Google servers with access from any computer. Just log in with your Gmail account and it will Sync all the information you've selected. This is very good if you're recovering from a crash.

I have used other bookmark managers before, namely Foxmarks, but after a while, it became too heavy. It is especially noticeable when you first start your browser and it starts to sync. The browser became so slow and annoying that I decided not to drop Foxmarks and risk losing the data. It is also restricted to bookmarks and passwords, settings are not saved. I did not know of Chrome's Sync feature until today, and that is why I've been without a backup all this time. Never again!

Note, I remember using a Firefox extension that allowed you to save your settings and data to a file, and if I remember correctly, there was a 3rd party service that would do host your data on their servers. It works the same as Chrome's Sync, but the main difference here is that Sync is not 3rd party and it's not an extension. It's a built in feature, ready to go.

Way to go Chrome!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Backup Even in the Cloud

A few weeks ago, I opened my Youtube account and wanted to have a look at one of the channels I'm subscribed to. I browsed to my subscriptions page and I was ready to click on the channel, but there was no channel name. It disappeared and so did all my other channels. I thought that I was doing something wrong, or they moved the links to somewhere else on the page or site. But a simple Google search revealed that I'm not mistaken and I'm not the only one with the problem.

Try this Google search, "youtube subscriptions gone", see what you come up with. All my channels, and everyone else's, are lost in cyberspace. The Cloud has proven itself less reliable than promised. Backup whenever possible is still crucial to preserving data. One problem with Youtube subscriptions is that there's no way to back them up. I hope they learned their lesson and will fix this in the future. And I hope you will learn from my lesson.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Glide Present II

I've been away from this blog for too long. I stumbled upon it today while looking for something, and I remembered that it was here. When I got here, I started reading the entries and thought I should continue with Glide and their offerings. This entry is about their presenter, as you can see from the title.

My first encounter with Present was not so good, I obviously was in a hurry, or was expecting it to be more like PowerPoint. Today, I had a bit more time and was expecting it to be different from PP. I created a test presentation with about five pages. The experience was smooth and straightforward. When I tried to save the presentation, it took longer than expected, but worked OK. Those were the pros. The cons are not directly related to Present, but rather to some 'logistics' surrounding it.

Glide Present provides an Export feature. The only export options are PowerPoint and PDF, which is fine. But the problem with their export is that it does not happen right away; it is queued for later export. That later export never occurred! I looked around the site to see if there's some way to know how long I have to wait in queue, or to cancel the export, but there was no indicator whatsoever. Export is a great feature, but definitely needs to be improved.

Another good feature provided by Glide is eMail. Direct from Present, you can click the eMail button, and it will pop up a window with a standard email client 'Compose' page. Your current presentation is attached to the email already, just enter the recipient's address, subject and body and you're all set. Or are you?

Your recipient will be surprised to find that there is no attachment, just a link in the mail body to the presentation on Glide website. They will get another surprise when they are prompted to enter their password. And finally, the shock, when they enter their password (assuming they are registered Glide members), they will see the password as it is being typed, there are no stars (****) to hide it. A minor bug, yes, but after the bad experience so far, it kinda adds up.

After your recipient is logged in, they are presented with a page with options to view or download the presentation. The view option worked fine, but the download option opened an empty page and it would not download. Shame that such an important feature has not been given the time it deserves.

To conclude, Glide has a good presenter, good export and sharing options (email), but they don't work as they should at this moment. I will send Glide my notes and hopefully they will get things fixed.

Seeya next time.