Tag Archives: Review

Google’s New Search Engine

Thanks to a post by my friend Daryl, I’ve been looking at the improved Google search engine, codenamed Caffeine. Google has had a bunch of competition lately. Bing which is Microsoft’s new search engine recently launched, followed by an announcement that Yahoo will use Bing as its engine.

The current version of Google updates its index on a schedule. This means that sites that have only just been crawled will have to wait a while before being included in search results. I have experienced this with my site, only recently has Google started giving me hits, although they have been crawling my site for about a month.

Google’s new search engine use a new backend which not only improves the time required to perform a search but allows indexes to be easily updated. This means Google can now include real time sensitive results such as those from twitter or from my blog minutes after I post. This means that instead of searching the web of about an hour ago you are now searching what is on the web now.

Effectively Google is making a real time search engine. Where informatin is avaliable to you as it happens. Imagine the implications of having an auto updating search results page where new results dynamically appear as they are posted. This is thereason why Google is pushing the Pubsubhubbub protocol and blog pinging services.

Random Thought: Google Androids wpToGo application makes it easy to post from my mobile, but it’s a bit of a pain in the thumbs.

Gnome Terminal

Gnome terminal is probably one of the most unappreciated applications applications I use. Not a single day would go by where I don’t start an instance of Gnome Terminal. The same could also be said about Firefox except that I appreciate Firefox and recognise its usefulness. So here is the first of my posts on applications that I think deserve a much better appreciation.Gnome Terminal Icon

Gnome Terminal is a terminal emulator and it is the application I use 99% of the time to access the command line interface of my Linux PCs. The version I’m currently using comes with 2.26.2 and its version number matches that. Gnome Terminal can run my shells, SSH to another machine, start a terminal program or tail log files. The main reason that I use it so often would be because I prefer to use Gnome as my desktop environment.

I imagine that if I used KDE then this post would be about Konsole instead, if I used XFCE then it’d be Terminal and other environments have their own respective terminal emulators. Gnome terminal does your run of the mill terminal emulation just like any other terminal emulator but it also offers several other features.

My favourite feature has got to be transparency, without a compositing windows manager it looks pretty average but with one it give you true transparency. I don’t know exactly why, and I can only remember needing to look through terminals a couple of time, but I think that transparent terminals make me more productive. It certainly feels more productive (unlike wobbly windows, desktop on a cube and maximise and minimise animations).

So take a moment to appreciate your terminal, whether your using xterm, Gnome Terminal, Konsole, Terminal or aterm, chances are you use it many times a day. As one of the most used applications on my machine I know it is also one of the most unappreciated. It certainly deserves better, imagine what the impact of a bug (even small) would be. So here’s to Gnome Terminal, supporting my Linux hacking day in day out.

Random Thought: Is the worlds first infinite loop still going?

Firefox Personas

Does anybody reading this remember Hotbar for IE 5 and 6? Remember how it came with dozens and dozens of adware and spyware apps. For anyone who doesn’t remember this was back when Bonzi Buddy spoke to us to distract you from the fact he was tracking everything you did online. When anybody who was somebody had a Geocities pages and was ‘programming’ in HTML. When marquees scrolled past and all Javascript did was make flashy pictures follow your cursor around. Yes that’s right I’m talking about the Web 1.0 days.

Firefox Persona LogoPersonas for Firefox does essentially what Hotbar did for IE, except it doesn’t pollute your PC with all sorts of nefarious software. This comparison isn’t quite fair though. Personas has drawn on the experiences of Web 2.0 to provide a simpler immersive themed atmosphere.

A Persona is an extremely simple way to theme your browser. There are five parts that make up a Firefox Persona. The header image is shown behind the menu bar, the navigation toolbar, the bookmarks toolbar and any other toolbars you have up the top. You set it as a 3000x200pixel image. The footer (a 3000x100px image) is shown behind the status bar and if show the search bar. You also set a text colour and an accent colour for any text that will be shown in front of your backgrounds. Finally you set a name for your theme as you upload it to Mozilla.

The best thing Personas has over themes is that you don’t have to restart Firefox in order to apply them. This leads to some especially neat features, for example while browsing for a new persona for your browser when you mouse over a persona it gets applied as a preview. This means effectively when you are looking for themes you get to see exactly what they’ll looks like before you pick them. You can get Personas from Mozilla labs, or at its dedicated website. Also see Mozilla’s blog post about Personas.

Random Thought: The Linux kernel must have a bad heart, every time it panics it dies.

The New Google Reader

This morning Google announced some new features for Google Reader. These features make Reader feel like a social networking website. I think Google is taking an interesting approach to social networking. They’re refitting all their existing products to include social features. It still feels a little separate though. There isn’t a feel of congruency across all the applications.

You can now decide who sees your shared items, and who can comment on them. I don’t see this as a feature I’d likely use as everything I share is already on the web and if I block people from seeing it on my shared items then they can just find it elsewhere. I have a feeling that Google did this to fight off the hordes of people yelling loudly about privacy lately.

Google Reader now displays information from your profile and a link to your fully profile at the top of your shared items page. What you can store on your Google Profile appears akin to what you can store on other social networking sites. A link to your profile is kind of a different approach to social networking. Sites likRSS Feed Icone Facebook and MySpace focus on your profile and links to other features. Google’s approach seems to be to add social features to all their applications and link that to a profile. This approach seems to me to be the best way to muscle in on the social networking scene.

Google Reader now includes a button to ‘like’ a post. This is the most controversial features as it adds an extra line to the post and takes up a fair bit of screen real estate. I don’t notice it taking up too much space, that could either be due to the fact I’m used to having a small screen on my laptop and on my desktop my monitor is big enough for me to not notice. I think the idea is great, you can easily find people who like the same things you do and follow them. The only issue i have with it right now is that everyone is clicking like on everything and there are way too many people to sort through to find somebody with similar interests.

This is an interesting approach for Google, but i believe it will pay off. Google is creating a social network that isn’t about having friends or getting the most views. Google’s social network is about people similar to you and things you like.

Random thought: Punishment in real life: You perform an illegal operation and you go to jail, Punishment in computing: You perform an illegal operation and you get killed.


This application I use almost as much as my terminal application. Also this application means that I now hardly ever type SSH any more. No more remembering my username on each host, remembering the options that host accepts and no more configuring each and every environment to update the xterm title to include the hostname.

At workΒ  I have 109 hosts setup in my SSHmenu, this seems overwhelming but using menus and submenus i can hide away most of the clutter. I don’t ever have to remember the username I have on that host, any other hosts I have to go via on the way or even whether I can X forward from that machine. All that is abstracted away by a simple menu. SSHmenu will also set the title, size and colours of the terminal so you can ever have different colours for different hosts. Production hosts red, development blue and testing servers green for example.

The innate beauty of SSHmenu is that it is so easily hackable. On the SSHmenu website there is even a hacking guide. Normally it does SSH but there are instructions on how to add telnet support, and if you were savvy enough it would only be a small step to add rdesktop or dsh support.

If you manage or use more than 30 servers I’d highly recommend you check out SSHmenu. On Fedora its a simple ‘yum install gnome-applet-sshmenu‘.

See Also



Random Thought: Why does my software that says Windows XP or better not work on Linux?