FriendFeed Should ReadWrite

I’ve been using FriendFeed for about three months now, and I like it but I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. One of the big pluses for most people is that it decentralizes blog conversations allowing people to interject comments into your Lifestream. But it’s this very feature that makes me not like it as much as I might.

I’d really like to see a way for FriendFeed to pass comments to the service that the content is coming from. For instance, if I post a photo on Flickr, and no one comments on Flickr, but 50 people on FriendFeed start a conversation about it, I’d like those comments to be passed to the photos comment page on Flickr. Similarly a blog post that has several comments on my blog, should gain the interjections added from my friends on FriendFeed.

How This Would Work

The biggest question, of course, is how would all of this work? One option is to simply extend the functionality of the various APIs that FriendFeed uses to connect you to your social networks. FriendFeed would connect to the service and the user would approve it to use their account (think Flickr and Flickr Uploader). This would allow FriendFeed to read and write to the users account.

Tricky part is figuring out if the person on FriendFeed has an account on whatever the service is that your content exists on it. If the user doesn’t This could be solved by simply using a dummy FreindFeed account. For example on Flickr…

    FriendFeed says:
    @FFUser1 “nice photo, man!”
    @FFUser2 “I like the shadows”
    @FFUser3 “where was this taken?”

That would all be one comment when passed to your Flickr Account. Of course if the commenting user did have an account on Flickr, their comment could just be posted to the correct content using their account data which FriendFeed would have been given. These comments would be organized in the chronological order they were received, allowing them to maintain their context.

To add a layer of privacy, there could be a little option for users that says something like “Keep My Comment on FriendFeed”, for those people who don’t want their comment to passed through to the service the content comes from. For instance I’d do that If I were to comment on my own posts. And perhaps a global setting that would allow users to always have that box checked or unchecked.

FriendFeed, in fact, already does this with some services like Twitter (re: the above picture) but most of it’s other services are excluded which leads me to believe that it’s got more to do with each specific service’s APIs than for lack of the FriendFeed team’s trying.

Since there are hundreds of way to create a lifestream these days (Socialthing, Tumblr, pipes.yahoo.com, Facebook etc.) I feel like the ‘writing’ aspect would be a huge asset to the FriendFeed community.

Yahoo’s Mistake?

Last year I had a Yahoo account that was disabled because of a phisher. They wouldn’t restore it. Along with my Yahoo account I lost access to my Flickr page, my Upcoming, etc. Anything that was a Yahoo subsidiary. Yahoo is draconian in this way. If you violate the TOS on one of their sites, you’ve violated it on ALL of their sites. After contacting the Flickr administrators directly, however, they were willing to restore my account. Unfortunately you can’t even use Flickr without having a Yahoo.com account.

I don’t really like Yahoo. I don’t like the UI, I don’t like the customer service ‘culture’. There’s a million and one reasons why I don’t use it. Unfortunately they’ve made some really smart moves by acquiring some of the coolest up coming (no pun intended) web services. However, my experience with Yahoo highlights the main reason for my contempt and probably the main reason why Microsoft ’undervalues’ the company.

The problem is it’s become a company of satellite technologies that rarely complement and often compete with the core Yahoo! services. For instance, Yahoo bought the social book marking service del.icio.us back in 2005. Yet to this day Yahoo also offers bookmarks.yahoo.com which allows users to essentially do all of the same things. It took until 2007 for Yahoo to finally get a clue and shut down photos.yahoo.com which was in direct competition to Flickr.

There’s also an interesting trend that really just amounts to a lack of technology integration. For instance why can’t my Yahoo!Group also act as a community in MyBlogLog? Moreso, why can’t events that my Yahoo!Group is planning be reflected easily on Upcoming.org? Why spend 100 Million Dollars developing the news editorial site buzz.yahoo.com when it isn’t even used on the main yahoo.com home page? Why can’t my Jumpcut.com videos somehow be linked to my Flickr page? It’s because Yahoo, in spite of it self, has a history of acquiring web technologies and stiffing them. In the case of wretch.cc, the popular Taiwanese blog platform, a change in the Terms of Service sparked a mass exodus by users.

Most of the success stories like MyBlogLog, Upcoming, Flickr and Del.icio.us have survived simply because Yahoo has allowed them to prosper and grow with minimal involvement on their part. Microsoft faces similar hurdles. Close association with the big corporate brands equals backlash while looser association may spark some distrust but with minimal complaints.

Until Yahoo’s assets are integrated cohesively they’ll continue to be their own worst enemy with the usefulness of the ‘Yahoo experience’ being undermined by the separateness their individual acquisitions attempt to maintain.

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11 Ways to Put Your Old Computer to Work

Like many of you, I’ve got two or three old computers around the house that are older than five years old. There’s the 7 year old HP513, the 6 year old iMac, 5 year old iBook, the TWELVE year old Acer Aspire and so on….

These computers are so old that they aren’t really good for much of anything any more. After using quad-core PowerMacs and dual core laptops, going back to a 768Mb RAM, 1Ghz Processor is dreadful. You may be in a similar situation but here are a few ways to make that old computer work for you instead of against the feng shui of your apartment!

Ubuntu

1. Make it a Linux Machine
I’ve always been curious about Linux but aside from a Xandros, I had no experience running it. So the first thing I did with old my Microsoft machines was either replace and reformat the hard drive and install Linux.

It never hurts to have new experiences and now I can say things like, “Can you call me back? I’m installing an adaptive readahead daemon from the command line!”

This is the biggest downfall of Microsoft, I no longer have my OS install disks and buying a version of XP is still so expensive that it isn’t worth the expense. So turning to Linux to bring those old machines back to life is your best option. Linux isn’t magic, it won’t turn your old computers into lighting fast machines, but you’ve got significantly more control over the speed of your system than using Windows. Not sure how? This tutorial breaks it down for the inexperienced.

2. Turn it into a Torrent Machine
Although the GUI will seem slow as molasses, things like uploads, downloads and file sharing should remain unaffected by the speed (or lack thereof) of your system. On my 7 year-old 513 Pavillion with 768Mb RAM, 1Ghz Celeron Processor machine, I still get up to 40KB/s upload rates and 20KB/s downloads.

So turn that old machine into a torrenting behemoth, especially if it’s a desktop and spends most of the time just sitting around any way.

3. Let it Participate in Important Research.
There are programs that you can run that will allow your computer to participate in world-wide efforts to search for extraterrestrial life, analyze micro-protein data, or to cure cancer. Not convinced of the effectiveness of these programs? Discovery Magazine recently researched 14 of them: click to read on.

Supercomputers are expensive, so investigators with lots of data and little budgets have turned to distributed computing: relying on free help from volunteers who download programs onto their home computers and run the software to analyze small chunks of data. The results are then sent back to researchers to crunch further. Just what has come from a decade of such homegrown efforts? We look at 14 programs to see if they’re worth your processor’s time.

4. Simple Home File Server
This tutorial from How to Forge will show you how to turn your old machine into a network-able file server.

5. Make it a Media Server
Who needs Apple TV when you’ve got a six year old Dell in your basement? As long as you’ve got the proper codecs and player (Winamp, VLC, DiVX etc.) most machines can still play video back. To integrate your old computer with your home theater system, however, you may need a few extra items. Perhaps a wireless keyboard/mouse combo (estimated cost $50) and you can control the computer from your couch. Or you may want to install a video card with a Video Out connector (avilable for less than $100) will let you hook your PC to your television, eliminating the need for a monitor. A number of new home theater systems accept VGA inputs anyways, in which case you can just go straight from the computer to the television.

The most obvious use though is to use it for backing up and serving your entire digital music library for which you’ll just need a cheap 1/8" to RCA audio cable which you can fget from any computer electronics store.

6. Turn it into a Public Server
Every computer is essentially a server, or at least has the capabilities to to serve files. If you have a broadband connection, there are many ways to turn your old machine into a server that could be used to host your own website. Apachee is a free software solution that you may want to look into. Be careful though, many ISPs have a clause in their contracts with you what will prevent high usage of bandwidth for serving websites and files. If you thought Comcast was pissed people who used a lot of bandwidth for torrenting, wait until you try to host a website that gets Dugg!!!! Regardless, here’s how.

7. Donate It
There are a number of schools and charitable organizations that could use an extra machine. Who knows, after they find out how you’ve tweaked it to make it a faster more reliable machine maybe they’ll want to hire you to do the same for their other machines. I’m planning on donating at least one of my own to refugee families who’ve come to the U.S. for asylum.

8. Take it Apart and Sell It For Parts
Believe it or not, a large segment of the population in the U.S. are still using computers older than four to six years old. When you look at the world population computer owners are in the minority, far out numbered by people who have old machines or who don’t have computers at all. That said, there is a healthy market for computer parts that are no longer being manufactured or sold in stores. We’re not talking lots of money here, but you can almost always squeeze a few dollars out of an old computer just for the prehistoric, hard-to-find RAM that’s in it. Ofcourse if you save it long enough, it becomes a ‘classic’ at which point you can get tons of money fgor it on ebay. (Think Apple 2’s or IBM computers)

9. Use It For Back-Up Purposes
Take the hard drive out and place it in an enclosure. The computer may be useless but if the hard drive is still spinning, it’ll make a great place to back up files. The catch her is, do you really want your most important data backed up on a half-decade old harddrive?

Alternatively you can keep the computer running and use it for the sole purposes of an additional back-up in case your newer computers crash. Assuming you have a real back-up solution, old computers make great places for redundant back-ups.

10. Use it for Distributed Processing
This ones tricky, but some programs like Apple’s Logic Pro are well known for their ability to offload certain processor tasks to another computer. Any Mac can be used for this, Mac Mini’s are ideal because they are stackable and cheap enough that you can dedicate two or three to nothing other than node processing.

11. Make it a Word Processing/E-mail Machine
Get a nice flat screen monitor for it, put it in the kitchen, office or living room and make it your household writing system. If you remove all the programs, and reduce system tasks to a minimum, your old computer will make a great text editing station.

Publishing iCal Calendars Without .Mac

So I was trying to figure out how to publish my feed from iCal so that friends could subscribe to follow me. Found this post that explains how to do this using Box.net

iCal calendar publishing is pretty darned handy. It lets you view shared calendars by subscribing to them directly in the iCal application. Unfortunately, unless you have a .Mac subscription, Mac OS X Server, or some other WebDAV-enabled server at your disposal, publishing iCal calendars is impossible – iCal publishing requires WebDAV. But now there’s a way.

Box.net offers free 1GB accounts, and their servers run WebDAV. So here’s what you need to do, in a nutshell:

1. Set up your box.net subscription (easy and fast!).
2. In iCal, publish your calendar (Calendar -> Publish) to https://www.box.net/dav, using your box.net account name (email) and password.
3. Subscribe to the calendar in iCal (Calendar -> Subscribe) at http://www.box.net/dav/Your_Calendar.ics. NOTE: Do not use https here.

Digitizing Every Album I Own

Right now I’ve just begun the monumental task of ripping every single CD that I own to my computer. Why? Because it’s a little known fact that CDs suffer from bit rot. The ‘half-life’ of consumer burned CDs (especially the older ones burned on older burners) is only about 6 to 10 years. Do you have any files you burned to CD in 1997? Try to open that CD now and if it doesn’t work, now you know why.

The life of pressed cd’s (usually the ones you buy in stores) is quite a bit longer but that won’t prevent scratching, theft, or losing them. My goal is to archive every CD that I own onto an external hard drive then I’ll upload it all online for offsite archiving. The idea is to preserve these files for my benefit, and the benefit of others.

I estimate that between all the physical CDs, self-created Mp3 CDs and downloads that I’ve purchased, I have about two or three hundred ‘albums’ worth of data to archive. I estimate an album to have somewhere around 500MB’s of content. Each album compressed down to mp3 form will roughly equal 50MB’s of data. So if I estimate high, that’s about 150GB’s of MP3’s that I plan to create. Then I’ll have to find a place to store them online.

Right now I’m using MediaMaster, a free service with unlimited storage. The problem is although they allow you to upload your files, you can’t download them later. You can only stream them while connected to the internet. This is fine for now, but I want to make sure that I can access my files later. Also, I’m not to confident that Media Master will still exist in 10 years. I need something more reliable. If only Google would debut that GDrive service that everyone keeps talking about! But this is a topic for another day, ripping these CDs alone will probablly take until mid next week!!!!

QC

The one thing that the guys at Facebook have latched onto that the people at all these other social networking sites hasn’t is a little thing called quality control.

What am I talking about? At MySpace you may have noticed that anyone can alter their pages style using various methods (as long as it isn’t javascript). It seems like everyone from amateurs, to pros to markers want to “pimp their myspace”. The results can range from the gaudy to heavy-handed designs like this.

At Facebook it’s different in a “you can buy a car in any color you want as long as it’s black” kind of way. Basically, they give you a basic template that you can use and like or….leave the service. This ensures that all user profiles are easily read and it reduces potential security holes. Any attempt to modify the code of a FaceBook page is blocked through the security measures in place on the site.

In this post by hyalineskies, a way around FB’s security measures was uncovered. This allowed him to alter his page for a brief period until FB noticed and fixed things. You can read about this hack attempt and the results here.

A year ago I hated Facebook (mainly because I couldn’t use it). When they first launched they were only available to students and alumni of colleges who still retained their school e-mail addresses. To me, that worked against the idea of social networking entirely by ‘excluding’ part of a potential larger audience. The FB staff had an agenda though, one that I now more fully understand…

    1. Don’t grow to fast
    2. Exclusiveness breeds interest
    3. Protect the Integrity of the mission
    4. Protect the aesthetic of the service

All of these things are in direct opposition to the philosophy of other sites, like MySpace, which:

    1. Grew very quickly
    2. Cares nothing for aesthetics
    3. Whores itself to spammers and advertisers
    4. Was never, and never will be ‘exclusive’ in anyway

In many ways FB are creating a reliable, trustworthy and impressive ‘brand’ and aim to protect it. There’s nothing wrong with that. If MySpace is the McDonalds of social networking, FaceBook is the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Yeah, you can still order the cheese burger but they’re not going to let you in the door without the shirt and tie.