Submitting Anonymous Usage Statistics

Being a software developer myself, I tend to pay attention to application functionality and options a little more than the average end user. I’ve noticed that over the last few years when I encounter an option to ‘submit anonymous usage statistics’ I gladly and immediately enable it.

Knowing that you can gain valuable information about the way your end users are using your product, it makes sense for a software developer to include this option and frankly I’m baffled that its not available in most all applications.

I’d like to use this post for two reasons:

  1. To encourage you and others to consider enabling this option in order for developers to get the accurate information that they need to make their product even better!
  2. To maintain a list of these options in various applications that I stumble upon so others are aware.

As I gradually increase the number of applications, feel free to point out applications that I’ve missed and I’ll add them to the list!

Application List:

 

Adium

 

Banshee Media Player

 

Eclipse

 

Google Chrome

 

Google Drive

 

Google Music Manager

 

Opera

 

Ubuntu Software Sources

 

Google Music Manager

 

 

Opera 11 in OS X

This is a post that I started a couple of months ago, but finally just got around to revising (since Opera 11 has since been released) and finishing. Hopefully its all in tact. 😉

Being fairly new to Mac OS X, I was excited to install Opera and see how it compares to the default browser Safari as well as others such as Firefox and Google Chrome in terms usability and appearance.

While I hadn’t used Mac OS much since version 9 and then briefly OS X (with my old iBook before it died), I did remember that Opera didn’t exactly have the most elegant user interface. Nor did most other third party web browsers that I tested at the time. Then again, OS X wasn’t as refined then as it is now either. Keep in mind, these are my opinions and you are free to have your own. 😉

I was happy to find that Opera seems to have the most natural feeling user interface when compared to Firefox and Google Chrome, using Safari as the standard since most die-hard Mac users are likely familiar with it the most.

While I didn’t capture Safari in a view where the tabs are visible, the image above is a decent comparison of the browsers’ default address bars and navigation buttons.

As you can see, the buttons, address box and search box in Opera mimic those found in Safari quite well and are not much of a change at all for any ex-Safari user. The tabs used in Opera are also very similar to those found in Safari (pictured below), with the most significant exception being that they are flipped vertically and placed above the address bar (in Opera) rather than below (like in Safari).

While some people may prefer Firefox or Google Chrome over both Opera and Safari, the point remains that their designs are inconsistent with the overall look and feel of the OS in general. That’s not to say that Opera doesn’t have some inconsistencies of its own. There are a few of them, but most of what I’ve found are minor detail tweaks that are needed to perfect the skin.

Just to mention a few things that are stand out to me, the “New tab” icon size should be decreased slightly, retaining the Opera style while removing the unnecessary bold touch. If you compare this button to the same button found in Safari you’ll notice that Opera’s approach is a bit too bold and that changing this makes it more elegant looking (in my opinion of course).

The borders for the navigation buttons, address box and search box should all be slightly adjusted to match the colors used for these in Safari. There are slight inconsistencies among these, with disabled button borders being darker than enabled button borders.

Another inconsistency with Opera is that text boxes in the address bar are not highlighted with a blue glowing border when they are focused…as they are in Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. Its difficult for me to see if this is advantageous or simply an oversight, however, the “pro-integration” side of me certainly thinks this should be fixed to match the behavior of other browsers in OS X.

Various icons throughout the user interface need to be desaturated to remove color for consistency. An example of this can be found in the address box with the drop down icon. If you look close, the drop down icon is actually blue whereas other similar icons, like the drop down icon in the search box, are gray scaled. This is also a bug I’ve seen in the Windows and Linux skins, but the OS that demands attention to detail is likely the one that this is most noticeable on.

The Speed Dial page, though it was “invented” before the other spin-offs, now uses a darker background that makes it feel a bit more familiar to Safari’s implementation. I find this to add to the integration effect, whereas previous Speed Dial background images felt out of place. On the other hand, Opera doesn’t boast comparatively appealing 3D thumbnails or features to those found in Safari. Instead, the Opera Speed Dial packs in a redundant search box and no immediate method of searching through your history (visually at that!) or displaying your top visited sites automatically.

With a default Speed Dial tab open, knowingly or not, you’re looking at three different ways of searching the Internet…all with the same available list of search engines. You can search from the address bar by simply prepending your search terms with a specific search engine “keyword”, from the dedicated search box in the address box or from the additional search box in the Speed Dial. If I had any influence on this design, I would remove both dedicated search boxes and make the address box smarter and more visually suggestive of performing a search when it is in use.

While I’m suggesting changes to the Speed Dial tab, why not take advantage of Opera’s ability to generate thumbnails of pages to give the user a visual of the pages they are searching through just like Safari is capable of? With the ability to generate these thumbnails already, there is no reason why Opera shouldn’t implement a similarly more appealing visual search of previously visited sites.

As I said before, all browsers have their problems with UI design and integration, especially in Mac OS X. Of the available browsers for this platform, the one with the most features and the best OS X integration is far and away Opera 11. The performance improvement isn’t bad either, with my test results showing Opera 11 beating out Safari 5.0.3 easily in the SunSpider benchmark. You can take my opinions with a grain of salt if you wish, but you should undoubtedly give Opera 11 a spin if you haven’t already!

Google Chrome OS

We’ve all heard the rumors about Google secretly building an operating system…or was it just my imagination? 😉

Now that the news about Google Chrome OS is out, I’d like to be the first to start a few new names for the operating system.

From the Unix side of the naming ideas I come up with Google ChrOS which would be pronounces Google Crow-S (similar to the idea of BeOS). It could be shortened to read GOS, making it “short and cool” like Mac, but it just doesn’t have the same cool ring to it. Or how about Google COS? Or GhrOS?

I’m not a big fan of the current name Google Chrome OS. Some would say that this is a very Mac naming system, but I think Google OS 1 would have been perfectly fine. Even if Chrome is later evolved to a point in the operating system that later barely resembles Chrome as we know it today it could still continue with this naming system as Mac OS did with 8/9 and then X which was completely different.

News of Google Chrome OS has been spreading like wild fire through my Google Reader feeds and even via Twitter reaching at least 6th place on Trending Topics.

With Google’s experimental project called Native Client (NaCl) in the works, it appears that Google is attempting to do something similar to what Microsoft attempted to do ages ago with ActiveX. Where Microsoft has (in my opinion) failed, it appears that Google’s Native Client may succeed at allowing support for web browsers to natively execute code for a deeper integrated position with…Google Chrome OS.

With all of this news about Google finally graduating their entire suite of web apps (from what seemed like and eternal Beta stage to what is now considered final and safe for public usage) it seems all too clear that they have an evil plot to take over and dominant the PC world.

The general idea of Google Chrome OS is similar to what I have been want to create for nearly two years now. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t originate this idea, but then again neither did Google. 😉

Basically, Google will be using the Linux kernel to start up and run in the background and to handle hardware and software interactions. That is all in the background, things you won’t see all that much of.

What you will see is that when you turn on your computer, instead of seeing the dominance of applications in the sense of executables, your applications will be web based applications that integrate nicely with the rest of the system.

In fact, if Google is able to implement this operating system as I would love to have been able to do myself (had I of been able to of found the time) then it will integrate so tightly with the web applications that you will (hopefully) not notice a difference between the two.

This is important for any operating system. The sense of integration is clearly important. Take a look at Mac OS X for example and their strict code of proper layout and design with a balance of clean and elegant user interfaces. If Google Chrome OS is able to bring this level of integration from the web and merge it with the general set of tools and applications provided then it just may be a success.

With so much of our time being spent on the web already, will it really be that difficult to make a move to a web based operating system?

Several tools are also available straight from the web, just proof that the web is the future! Take this web based screen recorded for screencasts provided by Screenjelly!

You can watch most anything video-wise from the web already! The one thing that I’m really waiting for is for large amounts of storage in the clouds for a super cheap price!

Just a neat little cartoon to leave you pondering. 🙂

google-chrome-os-cartoon

A Brand New Google Favicon

I’m not sure how long this has been online, but tonight I noticed an updated Google favicon. –> google-icon

google-favicon

If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, the favicon is the little icon that you see in your browser’s address bar or in the tab.

I’m assuming that the change is an effort to reinforce the branding of the Google Chrome browser which has a very similar looking application icon.

From a design perspective I have to say, well done Google!

An Opera Skin to Match the Ubuntu Dust Theme

I’ve been using Ubuntu 8.10 for a while now, since the first alphas were released, and I’ve been watching the artwork for Intrepid Ibex develop.

Now I think I’ve decided which theme I will be using in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex and that is the Dust theme. You can get an idea of what it would look like on the Dust page, but I have mixed the dust theme with one of the proposed wallpapers for Intrepid Ibex that seems to mix well.

After mixing those, I realized that I couldn’t find a good skin for Opera to match the rest of the desktop so I set out to make my own.

I’m really not a big fan of the current default Opera skin, so I set out to find a skin that I felt was universally considered intuitive and easy to follow. That theme to me was the Google Chrome theme.

I had checked weeks ago on Opera Skins and found that no one had made a Google Chrome theme yet. Fortunately, this time I found one and it was done pretty well.

I grabbed the skin Chrome 1.92 and extracted the contents. Then the fun part began. All I had to do was replace a couple of images to make the header tie into the Dust theme title bar and desaturate the rest (or a great deal of them).

After that, zipped it up and tested it out. Here is what I got:

Opera is on the left, compared to Firefox on the right with a theme that was developed by someone else to match the Dust theme.

I will most likely make a Dust skin from the default Opera skin as well, but for now I’m enjoying the Google Chrome-Dust theme. 😀

I’ll upload it to the rest of my Opera skins soon. I just need to polish up a few graphics and implement the Dust scroll bar (as seen in Firefox) for consistency.

UPDATE (2008-10-08 @ 6:06 PM):
The “Opera Google Chrome Dust” or “Dusty Chrome,” which ever you prefer, is now available in it’s initial release:
https://www.kyleabaker.com/goodies/opera/skins/opera-google-chrome-dust/

Google Chrome: First Look at a First Release

Details regarding Google Chrome, which if you haven’t heard yet is Google’s new web browser, were recently leaked through a comic that Google released to a selected crowd of people and then the the world when it was leaked online.

The comic images show many different features of the Google Chrome browser and help to explain what’s different about Google’s browser compared to other browsers that are already available. It’s worth a read and you can read it here.

After refreshing my browser for nearly an hour, Google’s Chrome web site finally became live and I jumped at the chance to download this brand new product and give it a review.

Well the review will come shortly, however, I will go a head and reveal some screenshots of the browser and a first look response: shockingly impressive, simple and very stable!

If you want to download Google Chrome and try it for yourself then just navigate over to http://www.google.com/chrome and download and install away. Google Chrome is currently only available for the Windows platform, but Macintosh and Linux should be available soon!

Google makes a web browser: Google Chrome

Although it was rumored for a long while, there were plenty of people doubting that anything would ever pan out.

Google has released a few details to the new browser in their official blog. Many people have given the rumored browser the name gBrowser, however, Google seems to think the official name should be Google Chrome. Regardless of the name, I think we are all excited to see what this browser will have to offer!

According to Jeff at the Big Blue Ball, Google will be releasing Google Chrome for the Windows platform today!

Google is getting their fingers into everything these days, and the latest foray is a new web browser called Chrome. According to the official Google Blog, Chrome will be available for download on the Windows platform beginning sometime Tuesday, September 2.

Google Chrome is built on top of the Webkit project so standards support and compatibility should be rock solid from the start.

After the initial release in Windows, Google Chrome will be released in versions for Macintosh and Linux.

I’m excited about more competition coming to the table to push and progress the web! I hope everyone understands what this will change!

Stay tuned for my thoughts and a review of Google Chrome. Until then you can read the comic strip that Google posted a link to in the Google Chrome blog post. I’ve taken the time to post the comic here, however, all work done in these images has been done by Google and I am only posting the comic here.

UPDATE:
To keep an eye on Google Chrome and test it as soon as it is released, point your browser to the following address and refresh as frequently as you wish. The link should become live and switch from the current 404 to the product page with a Windows download link. 😉

http://www.google.com/chrome

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Google Chrome before it is released you should head over to the entry that is already in place at Wikipedia.

UPDATE 2:
Google Chrome is now available! Download it now! I’ll be posting some screen shots shortly. Screen shots are posted here:
https://www.kyleabaker.com/2008/09/02/google-chrome-first-look-at-a-first-release/