Saturday, October 28, 2006

Egypt and Google CodeJam

I will still not loose the dream of seeing bright Egyptian software developers climbing up the ladder and reaching top ranks in the Google CodeJam competition. The top 3 winners this year, 2006, were from Russia and USA. I still believe that one day not so far from now an Egyptian will reach the top.

Perhaps as Google comes to Egypt, it will make a CodeJam for the region.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Control the Googlebot!

Hey, this is really really an interesting new feature! You can actually control the speed at which Google spiders your website! Amazing, isn't it?

Google Webmaster Tools (previously called Google Sitemaps), provides you with interesting stats about how often the Googlebot (Google's web spider/crawler) is actually visiting and crawling your site. The amazing thing is that you can even control the frequency by which the Google Bot is visiting your site to make it either visit your site more often or less often than it normally does. The stats show on a graph plotted against time the number of pages the spider has crawled in your website per day, the number of kilobytes it has downloaded and the time it spent downloading your web site pages each day.

Kudoz again Google.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Google Office in Cairo!

At long last, Google has decided to open office in Cairo, according to ITP.

We have eagerly sought after this for long and even created a wiki page asking for the establishment of Google Egypt.

Although the regional Google office in Cairo is said to focus on marketing activities, yet I still believe and strongly hope that such presence would evolve one not-so-far day into a fully fledged Google R&D development center to be based in Cairo, similar to the one Google has in India.

Cool Word Processing!

Oh my gosh! How more cool can word processing be than this? Although I have been using Google Docs (formerly Writely) for a while and loved its functionality and features, yet I just discovered a feature I have not used before and it turned out to be really cool.

Google Docs allows you to see past versions of your document. You do not have to setup anything or configure it to do so, it does so by default! At any given time, you can go to your document and see past "Revisions" of it. It's like a time machine where you can go back in time. It's a really really cool feature that is not only cool but actually useful.

To use this exciting feature in Google Docs, all you have to do is open a document then click on the Revisions tab. Then select any point in time, in the past, and you will find in front of you how the document changed since that time! Amazing!

Kudos for you Google again and a gain.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

AJAX, Flash and Java Applets

The web first started as static HTML pages. Later dynamic web pages were introduced putting life into the web by interacting with databases and the user. Those dynamic web pages collectively enabled web developers to develop web applications using a server side scripting language of their choice such as Perl, PHP, ASP, JSP, Python among several others.

The problem with web applications was that compared to regular desktop applications they were pretty much slow in response time. An attempt to answer this issue came from Sun by introducing and strongly pushing Java Applets as the way ahead to create dynamic rich web applications that were responsive much the same as their desktop counterparts.

The problem with Java Applets was that they were heavy to load, not to mention you had to have the JVM installed on your machine. Microsoft, being an opponent of Java due to its threat on Microsoft's operating system and office monopoly, tried to push Flash forward as an alternative for Java Applets. Indeed Microsoft managed to throw Java Applets from their hoped for place and position Flash instead. First Flash was touted as the means to do animation for the web, which was also what Sun was pushing Java Applets to be, a way of making rich graphics and animation on the web, later Flash was pushed further and proposed as a method for making rich web clients that are interactive with users much the same as web applications, Java Applets tried to do so as well but failed.

While both Java Applets and Flash failed to gain widespread acceptance as the way ahead for rich web applications that mimicked desktop applications in their look and feel and response time, JavaScript attempted to be a way to perform some sorts of animation on the web as well as interactivity with the user within the web browser (client side interactivity). Yet JavaScript by itself fell short of creating the sought after web applications due to its inability to talk to the server.

Enter AJAX. AJAX appears to be the answer for what Flash and Java Applets failed to achieve. Indeed Google is pushing AJAX forward and using it in many of its applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Maps and many others.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ruby on Rails

Today I managed at last to make Ruby on Rails work on my website hosted at BlueHost. Ruby on Rails is a web application framework that lets you create web applications in a more neat and much faster way than using PHP. Here is a simple introduction to what Ruby on Rails is all about.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Google Office!

Google has just integrated it's online word processing and spreadsheets applications. Google is aiming at an online web based alternative to Microsoft Office. Go try your hands with Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Same Time Document Editing!

You can think of Writely as the Google version of Microsoft Word. You might ask, what's the big deal, Word is doing fine already. But let me tell you why I love Writely.

First of all, all your documents are saved online instead of being saved on your physical computer. This means if your computer breaks down, a hardware failure happens, your hard drive is locked or damaged or any other disaster happens to your computer, your documents will still be safe, having been saved online instead of being saved on your physical machine. Of course you access your online document via a username and password, so don't worry about any intruder gaining access to your private documents because they are secure. Another cool thing is that you might switch computers, in this case you can still easily access all your documents, because simply they are stored online. If you want to access your docs from home, from work or from anywhere, they are always there. Sure there is a catch to this, which is the computer must be connected to the Internet, but who hasn't got a net connection these days anyway. Hotspots are sprouting around, so even in the streets you'll have access to the net. The future is pointing towards total connectivity where you can access the net from just about anywhere.

Besides being able to access your documents from any computer, the second cool feature of Writely is that you can decide to share one or more of your documents with a friend or colleague. You may allow one of your friends to view a document you wrote. You may even give this friend permission not only to view your document but to edit it as well! Amazing! You are in control. You can allow as many people as you like to view or edit the documents you with them to view or edit. You will realize how cool this feature is when you actually use it. If you are working on a document of yours and one of your friends, whom you've granted permission to edit that document, is editing it at the same time, you almost instantly see the edits as your friend types them! Try it, because it is a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Linux is Easier to install than Windows!

It is not secret that installing Linux on your machine is always more difficult than installing Windows. At least that's what I have believed up until yesterday when I bought my new PC. I have previously tried installing Linux in my machine years ago. I know that installing it is usually not smooth, sometimes it misses the monitor, other times it cannot figure out the modem. I remember the hell of trying to make Linux connect to the Internet via a dial up modem. One might argue that it was not fault of Linux, but that such internal modems have been designed for Microsoft Windows and blaming Microsoft for monopolizing the market. Yet the point was still valid, if you tried going online using those dial up modems you could be lucky after some hard work to succeed. I remember having to recompile the kernel, an older version of it, in order for the dial up modem to work.

When I bought my new computer, I did have in mind putting Linux on it, at least as one of the options. The old miseries of trying to install Linux and making it figure out all the hardware came to my mind. I hoped that I can ask those who have tried and select hardware that is Linux-friendly. Yet I did non of that. I just bought the hardware and prayed it would work smoothly with Linux.

It seems that my prayers have been answered. Yesterday I installed Novel's SUSE 10.1 distro of Linux on my new machine. In below an hour Linux was setup and all hardware configured except just for the wifi card. The following day I decided to scrap Linux and install Windows just to check if the wifi card was working or not. The wifi card had a CD with it which said it has software and drivers for Windows only. Not so nice of them, but that was the case. Anyway, I installed windows, but guess what. After installing Windows it did not detect by itself the sound card, the LAN card nor the video card! I had to use the CD that came with the motherboard to set them up. Linux had done that the previous day by itself and did so very smoothly! That was the time when I realized, and for the fist time, that installing Linux can be easier than installing Windows!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Google Code Search!

Google blog announces Google Code Search. This is really amazing. Image search, video search, blog search, all that can be accepted normally, but code search! That is really amazing. I'll try to explore it further. But I think it is a great thing. I've been using Source Forge to look for code, now Google Code Search will push open source to the limits. I believe it's effect on the web would be enormous in the coming period and beyond.