Tag Archives: Google

Tools of the Trade

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my blog of late must know that I have had my head buried in my new job. A career change certainly has its rewards, but also involves a learning curve. Since my time is precious of late (no surprise that blogging has taken a back seat), I thought a good theme for a blog post would entail the tools that save me time. My new role involves more client face time – meetings, time on the road etc, in fact I have never seen my work calendar with so many occupied blocks of time, so my dependency on keeping my schedule in order has never been more important. Below is a list of the software applications that make my career that little bit easier to manage every day….

Microsoft Exchange 2007 – Yes, I hear the groans, but before I receive the comments about rigid IT departments who break out into a rash with the mere mention of Microsoft Exchange, let me tell you why the latest version – Exchange 2007 – is so productive. No matter what anyone says, I refuse to believe that any other mail server is as feature rich as Exchange. Taking aside the fact that Exchange is only happy when tied at the hip with Active Directory, in my opinion it is hands down the best messaging platform. Exchange has provided Outlook Web Access since version 2000, and the newest version still provides the same rich AJAX-like-user interface (introduced long before AJAX was a common term) to emulate the rich client version in a web browser. The new version integrates with SharePoint, allowing me to access my document libraries from anywhere on the Internet. Since version 2003, Exchange has supported MAPI over HTTP, and because my employer is nice, I am able to access my mailbox, calendar, and tasks using Outlook on my work laptop at home, as if I never left the office. Finally, my favorite part about Exchange – I can synchronize with my Windows mobile device, so can receive push email, calendar and tasks whilst on the road – how nice is that?

Outlook 2007 – I cannot talk about Exchange without mentioning its partner in crime – Outlook. Once again, find me an email client that can do half of what Outlook can (Outlook Express does not count because it is technically Outlook on a diet). I mentioned MAPI over HTTP above, which I use constantly when away from the office. 2007 includes an RSS feed aggregator, and like OWA, Outlook 2007 now connects with SharePoint to access document libraries, task lists and calendars. If you are an SMS hound, you can also send and receive SMS messages using the Outlook Mobile Services. Personally, I think the Internet Calendars feature is a lifesaver – I can access my personal Google calendars and overlay my off work schedule with my daytime schedule to see what the week has in store.

Windows Mobile – My Pocket PC phone combo (HTC PPC 6700) cost me a chunk of change when I brought it, but almost a year later, I never regret my decision. I cannot count the number of times I have been away from my computer and needing to get access to important information in an email, calendar information, or contact information. I think of my PPC as an extension to the office –the other day I was stuck in traffic on the way to a client meeting. So, I called my boss for my client’s telephone number, so I could inform them I would be late, and he was able to email it to me without having to relay numbers over the phone.

Google Apps for Your Domain – For a while, I was hosting an Exchange server at home to look after my email, mainly because I wanted email at my own domain name and I could not stand the half-baked web clients offered by the cheapest hosting clients. Only problem was is that, although Exchange is very nice, it is a problem when something goes wrong. Not so long back, I remember pulling an all nighter trying to get my server back online after a disk crash. When I heard about GAFYD – free email hosting for your domain email, I decided to let Google take the responsibility of backing up my email and worrying about offline issues. As far as everyone else is concerned, nothing changed; they can still email me at the same robgarrett.com email address. However, I get the feature rich web client of Gmail to access my domain-hosted email. No more headaches if my broadband connection goes down, or concerns with hardware redundancy.

Google Calendar – My wife and I used Google calendar long before I switched to GAFYD, which also uses the same calendar engine. Google calendar provides me, and the family, with a nice UI for shared calendars, and because it is Google, I can search for any appointment in seconds. Prior to Google, my wife and I were in constant battle over miscommunication of appointments – paper calendars were lost, emails about upcoming appointments went astray, and I found out about most planned events on the evening before they happened. I guess you can say that Google saved my marriage.

Foldershare – There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that all-important file is on another PC and you forgot to copy the darn thing over before a big meeting. Fortunately, there is Foldershare. FS synchronizes files between multiple computers of your choice, and I use this application exclusively to manage access to my important files.

Groove 20007 – Much like Foldershare, Groove enabled me to synchronize my files with other computers and peers, only Groove has many additional features. For one, Groove permits collaboration against SharePoint document libraries. So, my peers and I can work on documents together and when ready I can synchronize the changes to our company SharePoint server for archival.

I could go on, many more products exist that enable me to shave vital minutes off my day, but the above list contains the main tenants. Between these applications, I can collaborate on work items, schedule appointments, stay in touch with the office, plan my weekends, and gain access to all information when working remote – pretty cool.

Google Custom Search

You just gotta love Google

I thought the Google nerds were cool when I found out that I could display their search result in my own site (not that I use it because CS comes with packaged search). When I found out that I could host my domain email at Google apps I was ecstatic because I could dump my complicated Exchange setup.  I use Google Adsense to make me some pocket money from visitors to my site, and of course, I rely upon Google’s main search to get me through my day job as a software developer.  So when I heard about Google Customized Search, I just had to take a looksy.

I first heard about Google customized search thanks to an episode on DotNetRocks (side note: if you’re a .NET developer then you just have to listen to this Podcast) with guest Dan Appleman.  Dan is the owner of SearchDotNet.com – a site which is a dedicated search portal for anything .NET related. 

So what is it?  Well it’s what the name suggests, Google customized search is a new application to provide customized Google search results based on indexed web sites of your choice.  In Dan’s case, his site aggregates Google results for anything .NET related.  The bets part is that I know the search results from Dan’s site are credible because Dan hand picked the list of sites that Google displays results.

So, I just had to try this out.  You may now notice an additional search box, drop down list, and submit button on the title bar of my site:

These new controls enable users to search for customized content from Google.  Of course, RobGarrett.com is present in the list of sites to display results, but a number of credible web sites with information on SharePoint and MOSS are in the list for the SharePoint/MOSS custom search.

So why would you come to my site when http://Google.com/ is less to type in the address bar? (woot, you don’t have me linked aggregated via RSS? Wassamatter with you?)  Simple, when you execute a search in one of my customized search engines you can be sure that the results you get are likely to get you what you are looking for as a reader pretty quickly.  No more trawling through half-baked web sites that have have stale content, or content copied from more credible sites, simply come to my site and find out about SharePoint from well respected expects on the subject.

What’s in it for me?  Well, aside of attracting more visitors to my site, the search results display adverts linked to my Adsense account.  So when you search via me you’re helping to put money in my pocket to pay the electric bill [;)]. 

Google Gadgets On Your Site

I may be a tad bit out of date, but I found out yesterday that it is possible to host Google Gadgets on your own web site.


Google has provided hosting for custom built gadgets for some time, just as Microsoft has.  However, as far as I am aware, I know not of any easy way to host Windows Live Web Gadgets on your web site like those of Google.  Come on Microsoft! It’s not hard, do not force users to use Live.com to make use of the vast array of gadgets in your collection.

All that is needed now is some enterprising person to invent a mechanism to host both Google gadgets and Microsoft Live gadgets on either Google.com, Live.com, or third-party web sites – Web based gadgets are just images, JavaScript and a bit of XML glue after all.

Check out the gallery of Google gadgets that work with your website here.

Google Calendar Sync with PDA

 At last! Someone has answered my prayers and released a Google calendar synchronization service that actually works.


I love Google calendar – both my wife and I use it to keep our busy life in order – but it’s frustrating when I am on the move and my trusty Pocket PC is ignorant to my upcoming appointments. Sure, there are some solutions out there, but none that work well. GooSync came to the rescue.

How does it work? GooSync is an online service, which establishes a partnership with Google calendar to maintain a synchronization history. Software is available for download to your PDA (WM5 in my case) to provide sync with GooSync over the air, without ever involving your PC (of course you need a data plan for this to work).

I’ve just installed the WM5 sync client on my PDA and have attempted a sync with my calendar – so far it’s worked well, I’ll let you know how well it works out in an everyday environment.

Google Analytics

I’ve been playing with Google Analytics this last couple of weeks to see how I can improve readership of my blog.  I noticed this morning that over the last week 13 people from Microsoft have been reading my blog:


 

Thanks for the support guys, I’ve been using Windows Vista RC2 and Beta 2-TR of Office 2007 lately, and I am thrilled with both products – I cannot wait for RTM (when I’ll upgrade my XP MCE box to Vista Ultimate).

BTW, if you’re interested in using Analytics to track your Adsense clicks, then see Adsense in Analytics.

Google Browser?

This morning I was reading more about the rumors that are circulating about the Google browser.

It’s apparent that Google doesn’t want to think of itself as just a search engine company, and the addition of GMail and Google Desktop Search to their repertoire certainly shows that. However I cannot but help wondering if Google has bitten off more than it can chew.

Google has always been known to have produced a good reliable search
engine, which 9 out of 10 Internet users use and love. I personally
don’t use GMail, but from the number of invites floating around I
understand that GMail must be a desirable service, and the desktop
search engine is in strong competition with Microsoft and Yahoo. As far as browser wars go, surely we have enough choices with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera, without adding another contender to the mix?

None of the browser development teams can agree on a standard for
CSS or JavaScript, and as a result cross-browser development can be
frustrating. Is Google going to revolutionize the users browsing
experience enough to turn the heads of existing IE and Mozilla users so
that we can do away with cross-browser development? Hardly.

News of Ben Goodger‘s move from the Mozilla Foundation
to Google has sparked a lot of interest in the blogsphere. Many believe
that Ben will be working on Google’s new browser, and I have to
admit, his move seems much less coincidental and more strategic.

Google is already a brand name on the Internet scene, my
Mom – not so computer literate, knows of the large organization based
out in California. Are Google to be the next Microsoft, who currently
dominate the software market? Jason Kottke believes Google will be serving a large pace of future software pie and is convinced that Google will be working on their own operating system in time.

I’m sure that Google will rise to occasion and announce that the
rumors of a “gBrowser” are true shorty. I’m waiting with skeptical
curiosity to see how the story pans out.

Google Suggests…

This is really cool: http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en. Google is ahead of the curve once again, and introduces a search screen that auto-completes the search terms based on what other users have searched for previously. It’s real fast too.

Here’s how they did it… http://dotnetjunkies.com/WebLog/anoras/archive/2004/12/12/36161.aspx

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