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Category: Technology

Google’s Chrome and everything else

So, before Oracle launches its kit for web and desktop, Google has announced the launch of its own browser – Chrome. Heavily using the technologies from Webkit (Apple) and Firefox, this browser will be open-for-source. But, the question is – why another browser?

I think Google now arrogantly realizes that the ‘web’ and especially the ‘search’ territory are mostly monopolized by Google Inc’s products. In addition to the search business, Google has worked quite aggressively, during last 3-4 years, to capture other territories which have larger hit counts. For example, blog, docs, payment gateway, social networks, mail, chat, open source codes, albums, news, software packs, and most recently, Knol (Google’s version of Wikipedia). Google has been exclusively promoting Firefox browser (as referrals or Google packs) since few years. So, Google has realized, assuming that netizens worldwide use Google products extensively, why should they use other browsers and why should Google still promote Firefox. Additionally, when Microsoft launched IE 7, it explicitly promoted Windows Live Search through its web browser (quite natural to Microsoft). Though, later Microsoft had to accommodate other providers after Google cried out loud. Now Microsoft has launched newer version of Internet Explorer, IE 8, which is Beta 2 release. In Internet Explorer 8, the search box has two listed search providers – MS Live and Google. But, the default search provider is the Microsoft Live. If a user is such naive that she doesn’t care about which provider is she is using and she only cares about searching the web, she will obviously use Windows Live Search instead of Google Search. Though Microsoft doesn’t violate the legal matters here, it definitely tries to outcast other competitive products in its own products. In recent times, Google-Microsoft war increased more after Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt offered his open support to Jerry Yung, during the much louder episode of Microsoft’s bid to buy Yahoo. With the launch of Google’s own web browser, one can expect this tussle to continue further. For now, I will wait for the responses of Microsoft and also, Mozilla. Also, how much hiccup is coming on the way of developers who will have another browser in which to test their web applications to make sure of browser compatibilities.

There is one pretty interesting part of this launch. For the first time, I have seen an entire comic book launched to promote a product and make users understand all know-hows of it. Google’s Chrome comic book describes most marketable features of the browser graphically. And I think it is really interesting. Read the Chrome comic book here. This is one such cool strategy which is going to be really popular in the marketing world.

As far as the coolness of Google is concerned, not everybody is impressed with it. One of them is Sergey Solyanik who just left Google to join Microsoft after his one-year stint at Google. After he left Google, he wrote a post about it on his blog. Here is what he has to say about the coolness at Google:-

The culture part is very important here – you can spend more time fixing bugs, you can introduce processes to improve things, but it is very, very hard to change the culture. And the culture at Google values ‘coolness’ tremendously, and the quality of service not as much. At least in the places where I worked.
Since I’ve been an infrastructure person for most of my life, I value reliability far, far more than ‘coolness’, so I could never really learn to love the technical work I was doing at Google. I was using Google software – a lot of it – in the last year, and slick as it is, there’s just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it’s a different 10% every week – the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced. This across Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, and more.

So, let’s see how this coolness-vs-reliability works with the product where it matters the most. Here is the download link for the Chrome browser.

As of now, when I am using Google Chrome, it seems a nice experience. Let me summarize the features of Chrome that I experienced so far. Very sleek and cool design, faster, doesn’t cover too much window space (vertically you only have two rows of controls – one for tabs and another for address bar et al, in spite of other browsers where the toolbar stuffs eat almost 25% of your window’s vertical space), and so on. In terms of coolness, Google really rocks and Chrome holds the similar promises. Nevertheless, the first thing which catches you eyes is its design and transitions. Other nice features are – download files feature, incognito window (no cookie or history will be recorded for a site opened in this window), developers panel, address bar which also works as search bar and taking suggestions from history/bookmarks/Google suggestions, etc. Furthermore, the greatest of them all is that all tabs run as different processes (or programs). This significantly improves speed and security. Speed because you can monitor and manage which tab is consuming much CPU and memory. The task manager of browser shows the CPU and Memory usages of each tab (hence, website opened in those tabs). In your ‘windows task manager’ also, each tab appears as different processes. So, you can kill those killer processes anytime you feel some trouble. Security because, the tabs are not allowed to communicate with other tabs or the computer. This means, all malwares will have no ability to enter into other territories. For the rest of the user experiences, I found many of the features of Safari and Firefox in Chrome. But then, Google has already announced that it has used Webkit (mother of Apple’s Safari) and Firefox quite extensively. So, for that, we can forgive Google.

Indeed, there are also some lack of features for users and hiccups for developers. From user’s point of view, bookmark manager, full screen control, and page magnifier are absent. As far as the technical hiccups are concerned, its too early to find them out. But, within two hours of usage, I found two errors and both of them are related this blog of mine. First, the double click dictionary feature (after you select a word and double click it, a window opens which go to freedictionary explaining everything about the word, ie, dictionary, synonyms, history, abbreviations, etc). Second, FCKeditor, a very popular and free web-based text editor, which I used in my blog’s admin module, doesn’t work at all. When I opened the admin part, I could see the text area where it supposed to have the editor in place. These are only two as of now, but again, these were quite trivial to me. And that results to that I can’t scrap other browsers and use Chrome only. I am sure I am going to find other bugs or limitations in the browse as I use it more in coming days.

On the other note, here is an interesting comic book series, Silicon Apartment, featuring Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and occasionally Steve Ballmer. Pretty hilarious, must read!!

Talking of Bill Gates, let’s refresh our memories, laugh off, and call it a day. Heh!

BSOD – 1
BSOD – 2

Chrome logo source: Google. BSOD Images sources: Google Images, dansdata.com

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Youve got to find what you love

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

 I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Original Speech By "Steve Jobs"; Image source: wikimedia.org

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