Chrome rant

First, take a look at this. Bunch of ‘monsters‘ written in the processing language. This little language from MIT is even more versatile than I first thought. I’m thinking of writing a small visualization bot of sorts later on, which might take some time since my primary medium of choice Mathematica just got bumped upto version 7. I’m harassing the school depot so I can get the latest copy without having to pay the ridiculous price tag that comes with this (albeit vital) program environment. 

These days I find myself using three web browsers at once, four if I include a little text-only script stuff (much like modified emacs) that I use exclusively to communicate with my school computer (which does all the heavy lifting these days). 

I use IE for all those pesky Korean/Japanese community sites that requires all those active x for full functionality (yes folks. For all the glitter the Asia is a backward place when it comes to CC licences and GNU philosophy) so I can keep in touch with people there. I’m currently in process of bugging them to ditch the crappy web services and migrate to twitter/tumblr/swurl/friendfeed. For some reason there’s already a sizable Japanese community on the twitter I think. Though most of them just ends up making a post or two and revert back to their original active x crap services (because all their other friends are still on the other service. Ugh).

I use firefox for all the research stuff. I have noscript which block out practically every single content on the website except for pure text unless I manually configure the site to show its content, which is a lifesaver when I have fifty tabs open and some website decides to pull in ‘bling is the thing’ flash content on my laptop. The ADP is just as essential. I usually spend most of my time in firefox without encountering a single ad, so less distraction, and less processing power/RAM wasted for something I’m not going to buy anyway. The zotero and ‘science toolbar’ courtesy of the thriving firefox plugin/extensions community makes making notes and bibliographies a sinch. I can practically fly through dozens of archives and scientific data depots on the web in course of minutes using my fully customized setup.

And then there’s the google chrome. The chrome is still in the beta stage (like most other google services really), and lacks some significant functionality like ADP and zotero integration, but I still come back to the browser time and time again. There’s something innately elegant about the basic design and layout of the chrome browser that make it a joy to use it to surf the web. And the speed isn’t half bad either (I guess all that webkit engine hypes have a good reason). I like how the bookmark bar appears and disappears at the touch of a shortcut, and I like how I can browse the web without using the mouse.  I love the maximum amount of screen estate allotted to the content of the website itself instead of browser interface, a big faux pas firefox 3.0 made with its big shiny buttons. I love how i don’t have to lose entire sessions of tabs when a single tab fails to respond. I can just shift-esc, pull up the in-browser taskmanager, and cancel or troubleshoot the problem tab. I love how the ctrl-f brings up the search bar at the top of the browser window instead of the bottom, and I like how it doesn’t take an entire line of my screen estate. it’s ergonomically sound, and just plain makes sense.

Google chrome is the browser I use when I ‘just want to go to Disney Land’, so to speak. And since the chrome is open source I can live with my conscience, unlike with IE (though I wouldn’t use it if it was open source). Google chrome is the web browser firefox 3 should have been. And things can only get better as the time goes, with the obvious amount of effort google is pouring into the chrome browser.


Enhancing Mutitasking to Enhance Our Minds

I find myself writing less and less these days. With the amount of workload I had been subjected to lately, most of my writings tend to be in physical format. They are written on notebooks with ink and lead, and usually accompanied by crude drawings to illustrate ideas that words alone can’t describe effectively (my horrible verbals skills take part of the blame). Or else they are so closely related to my current work/thesis that I can’t help but to feel a bit reluctant to share them with the unknown masses of the global network, a source of endless chagrin for me since I consider myself an avid believer in the openscience/science 2.0 future. Of course, then there is the fact that I am getting increasingly worn out by the time I get home which makes it harder for me to stay up like an insomniac manic compulsive and type away musings in the night.

During my recent sojourn through the net I came across an interesting blog post in a random tweet. The post is titled “Enhancing Multitasking to Enhance Our Lives“, and it should resonate with anyone who experienced the effects of the distracting information overload that is so common to people of our generation. The author describes her experience with the occasions of information overload and proposes an interesting system to organize her information based on the ‘tabbing’ system found in most modern web browsers (she focuses on FireFox, however). It is an interesting read and I would recommend it to anyone who uses the net for reasons other than viewing random junk on youtube and facebook, i.e. serious work (not that there’s anything wrong with occasional youtubing or facebook-networking).

The problem of information overload had been around for a disturbingly long time. While the modern world wide web stands out as one of the most important achievement (emergence?) within the information history of humanity, there are recorded cases of respectable figures of society complaining of information overload in 1700’s, citing the emergence of political/philosophical ‘pamphlets’ that were so common in those times. If we still had the proper records I’m sure we would have been able to find some similar parallel in any civilization with a copy-distributable system of information not limited to written language, dating from the age of Sumerians. While the overloading capability of information in this day and age is disturbing, I’m sure we’ll be able to find a decent method of organization and concentration through all that mess just as we have done so for thousands of years… There are already quite a number of strides being made in that regard, like the integration of AI-like systems of increasing accuracy and sophistication, and smaller scale community based toolset proposals like the one made in the aforementioned blogpost (as for the web browser project for helping concentration in face of massive amount of information, I’m placing my bets on Google Chrome-based Academic research browser… I believe there are already a number of webkit based research oriented browsers on the OS X platform).

The real problem of such abundance of information might be the social implications of the breadth-first approach to the information lacking introspection and patience. The world at large is already quite a problematic place with massive disenfranchisement of certain sectors of the general human populace from the fruits of human civilization. Access to superficial information without any depth might as well work to exacerbate the discontent of the population at disadvantage… While there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to be discontent with their situation, lack of understanding as to the true cause of their condition will commingle legitimate discontent with perceived fantasy… At that stage any well-mannered group of concerned citizens might as well turn into a group of frenzied mob, turning their anger towards certain generalized group of people/culture/circumstances as was frequently observed throughout the course of human history. Of course, I am running a sort of generalized simulation, but it is true that proliferation of knowledge without depth can be destabilizing to the society at large.

Neal Stephenson’s recent book, Anathem, also talks about the possible dangers and discomforts of the information overload. Those of you who like nine hundred pages of science fiction and philosophizing might want to pick it up. Personally I enjoyed it very much, and might put up a review sometime soon.

Wondering chrome

A little life update, as usual.

Now I am not as busy as before… Meaning that I have fewer deadlines to worry about at the moment, though there are a number of them looming on the horizon. Now that I have a bit of time I want to write a proper blog post like I did before, but the sudden relaxed lifestyle led to an unexpected flood of ideas and curiosities that I just do not know where to begin writing now. Oh well, I guess I gotta take it slow and one at a time.

Google Chrome had been generating a lot of fuss since the very moment it was released, from the interesting user interface and multi-processing/self-contained architecture to its future development as a product of the ubiquitous Google nation (especially with Android OS set to come up in a very near future, and who knows what other surprises Google has in store for us with all their employees getting 1/5 workday set aside for personal projects). Those of you who have not tried Chrome yet for some strange reason should at least give it a whirl, see how it is like.

Despite some issues with the technical execution (usually centering around accessibility issues and memory-hogging… Which should be expected of a beta product) and the draconian EULA included with the default Chrome distribution (which Google claims is a mistake on their part), I must say that I like this browser, and can not wait to get my hands on the final release. There is certain atmosphere of simplicity and elegance sewn into the very fabric of the program itself that appeals to me. It is like looking at a baby. So little now, yet with so many promising future ahead of her/him/it.

Indeed, the true appeal of Google Chrome is not what it is right now, (though it is one nifty browser as it is) but what it can become and what it can push other browsers to aspire to, using its extensive database support, opensourced architecture, and inevitable wave of third party plugins.

Now that I think about it, maybe even the whole memory-hogging issue of the beta Chrome is some part of its intended design acting up (of course, it is the multi-process architecture gone bad, but beyond that). With Snow Leopard update coming soon from Apple widely proclaiming full support/utility for the 64bit+ architecture, it makes me think if Google also has in mind some sort of 64bit utilizing browser architecture that had been designed from the ground up to take advantage of the advances in hardware/software mode.

Whether you like Chrome or not, its development in the future will certainly be worth keeping tabs on.