"Gosh, I sure wish I could make Firefox look more like Google Chrome," you ask yourself. I'm not going to question your choice of browsers--however you decide to surf the Web is up to you. Nor am I going to point you in the direction of some kind of Google Chrome skin for Firefox. It's not like Chrome and Firefox are that radically different in regards to the look of their buttons and such. Differences exist, but nothing so groundbreaking as to warrant a customized skin for your Firefox browser. Plus, I think it would look lame. Case closed.
Or is it? Google Chrome does have a nice interface as a whole. I'm not talking about its colors or its icons, but its general layout. You do get a little bit more screen real estate to work with over Firefox's available space. Status bar? Gone. Giant bar of tabs? Relocated to the top of the browser. Favorites toolbar? Well, that's still there... but suppose you wanted to alter this, as well as Firefox's other GUI bars, at the touch of a button. You could jam on the F11 key to enable full-screen browsing, but then you lose the rest of your Windows interface in exchange for the extra browser room.
Now is the point in our one-sided conversation where a useful add-on called Hide GUI bars comes in to save the day. I'm not going to belabor the point too much, as I bet you can tell exactly what this extension does by the name itself. As always, I'll get into specifics after the jump!
Seesmic, popular creators of the Seesmic Desktop and Seesmic (for Windows) Twitter utilities, have partnered up with Microsoft to unleash a new way to browse the real-time Web. Don't roll your eyes just yet: I realize there are just about as many different ways to engage Twitter from a computer as there are tweets to track. I, too, was skeptical upon downloading the company's new Seesmic Look client. These fears didn't last long. It's clear that Seesmic has really put its time into a thorough analysis of the existing market, because there simply aren't any other Twitter clients that look quite like, well, Look.
Woe to the open-source developer that doesn't showcase his or her work.
I'm speaking, of course, about the most important tool on any open-source project's landing page. It's not the feature list, nor is it even the download button--it's the screenshot. When I take off my Maximum PC hat, I'm an average consumer with simple needs: I need a program that does what I want it to do, is relatively easy to set up and maintain but, most importantly, looks good.
The thing about hunting for open-source alternatives is that it's real easy to find quite a number of programs that mimic the success of a popular program or treatment. Need an open-source Photoshop variant? Piece of cake. How about a Content Management System? Sure. Now, how about... an application that looks just like Adobe Premiere? Danger, Will Robinson, danger!
Try as you might, it's just not going to be same experience--even if a program performs as well as its closed-source variant--if the interface flat-out sucks.
In a relative sense YouTube is big--it’s ten times more popular than its nearest competitor. But, YouTube isn’t satisfied--the average user spends a mere 15-minutes a day on the service. It looks at TV and laments: “[People] spend about five hours in front of the television.” And that’s action YouTube wants a piece of.
What’s YouTube’s plan? To give users what they want, even if they don’t know what they want. That way, YouTube hopes, users will spend a few more minutes per day at the site. (And, fingers-crossed, generate more ad revenue for YouTube, which is still losing money.)
According to Jamie Davidson, an associate product manager at YouTube, “every 45 seconds, [users] are stuck at a decision point. Any time there is a decision point, people may leave. We don’t want to take out the interactivity, but the default user experience should be a lot easier.” However, the current search-engine paradigm YouTube uses, Davidson concedes, isn’t the right one for discovering video.
The solution seems simple: let the users decide. Problem is YouTube users generally don’t know what they want. YouTube processed some 3.8 billion search queries in November, second only to its overlord Google. But, rather than specific requests, searches tend to be for general things, like “kittens”, or “funny pranks”. YouTube’s answer is to burrow into your soul, using sophisticated data-mining techniques like Netflix and Amazon, to find hits that match either what you’ve shown a preference for in the past, or what others ‘like you’ are watching.
None of YouTube’s efforts at innovation are expected to be rolled-out anytime soon. But, the ideas, as they come up for serious review, are expected to first see light of day at TestTube, where YouTube shows off its experimental efforts.
Do you want to know how long I’ve been doing this? So damn long that I covered the original Monkey Island games. Friends, back in my day, we had only two colors (black and not-black—and black’s not even a color!), and we liked it!
Actually, it kind of sucked, and one of the pleasures of covering games throughout the 1990s was watching sound and image improve to the point that spectacular graphics barely warrant a mention. If you can’t make a game look and sound good in 2009, you really should be making something other than games. Burgers, perhaps.
It’s illuminating to be able to play something you remember fondly from ye olde days, only with the ability to hotkey back and forth between the old game and a shiny new version. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a gorgeous hand-painted version of the original game, with a slightly “improved” interface. This has been laid right on top of the old game, and the most fascinating thing is the ability to hotkey 19 years into the past with each new screen.
“We’re basically looking at a new look and feel for Google,” Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search product and user experience, told the website last week. “It’s an overall cleaning up of the search results page.” The most notable addition seems to be that of a column on the left side of the results page.
The “All Results” section on the left side of the page has given way to tabs that let you switch between different types of search modes: all results, news, maps, images, books, maps etc. Similar search terms are displayed just below these tabs. The option to filter your search results by time is also included on the left side.
Anyone who follows Intel closely knows that they don’t just pump out high end CPU’s, but they actually dedicate entire teams to “pie in the sky” ideas of what future technologies might look like. This could be anything from an x86 cluster of CPU’s to render video, or in this case, using your brain to control a computer. It may sound farfetched, but its something Intel and its researchers have been actively studying for sometime now.
Currently scientists are focusing on how the brain reacts when interacting with a computer, and then learning ways to interpret this data to execute commands on the machine.The idea here is to allow your thoughts to take over for your mouse and keyboard. Intel is of the belief that an implant would make this easier, though I’m not entirely sure how many volunteers they are going to get with that idea. “Eventually people may be willing to be more committed… to brain implants" said Intel’s Vice-President of future Technology, Andrew Chien. "Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts”
You may have your doubts, and so do we, but it might interest you to know that researchers have already made significant strides in the field of reading brain patterns, and have already identified certain words such as “bear” that cause everyones brain to react in a similar manner. “I think human beings are remarkably adaptive,” said Chien, “If you told people 20 years ago that they would be carrying computers all the time, they would have said I don’t want that, I don’t need that. Now you can’t get them to stop. There are a lot of things that have to be done first but I think implanting chips into human brains is well within the scope of possibility”. Chien speculates we will be lining up for implants as early as 2010.
Google had announced last week that it was going to overhaul the Google Docs interface over the next few weeks. Some of those changes have already taken place. One notable change is that the filter for “PDFs” has been supplanted by “Files” in the "items by type" slide-down menu.
While most 3D controllers force you to either load yourself up with markers or hold a controller in order to use them, some students at Northeastern University have managed to create an interface that is based off of the theory of electrostatics.
The interface is made up completely of copper pads that sense an electrical field above them, allowing users to have a pretty sizeable workspace. So far, they’ve been able to create applications that allow you to draw, move 3D models around, and even scratch a digital record.
If you’d like to see it in action, be sure to check out a video of it here.
There are numerous companies that are currently working on technologies they hope would revolutionize the computer navigation landscape. Amongst the audacious researchers pioneering the touchless revolution is John Underkoffler, who owns a gesture tech start-up called Oblong Industries that recently raised $8.8 million in funding. Underkoffler has to his credit the honor of counseling the Minority Report crew regarding the depiction of futuristic technology in the movie.
Forbes reports that he is spearheading an utterly secretive project that deals with a touchless, gesture-based computer interface. All applications would be controlled merely by gestures.
But Oblong is not alone as alternative navigational interface industry leader Gesture Tek and gaming hardware manufacturers like OCZ Technologies, Neurosky, and Emotiv are also in the reckoning. Some of the researchers are really pushing the envelope with technologies that allow users to control applications and games using their gaze and even thought.