Tag Archives: Chrome

This morning’s BostonGlobe.com report

The next few weeks should be interesting as the folks at the Boston Globe work out the bugs at BostonGlobe.com.

Starting last night, the site stopped working on my almost-four-year-old MacBook using Chrome and Safari. (Might be just my set-up, though I did reboot.) On the other hand, it still works fine with Firefox, for which I’ve recently been developing a new appreciation, as it seems to be the most stable of the three major Mac browsers. No problems on my iPhone or on Mrs. Media Nation’s iPad, either.

I’m glad to see Dan Wasserman’s editorial cartoon made it to the site today, and I hope syndicated cartoons will be included on days that Wasserman isn’t drawing. The comics are online today, too. Maybe they were yesterday, but I couldn’t find them.

Other observations: clean as the site is, the organizational scheme is a bit bewildering, with many different options. I feel as though I’m missing stuff. The “Today’s Paper” option doesn’t seem to be quite that. It would be nice to have a clearly delineated separate section of everything that’s in that day’s print edition.

Also, how about combining all the little “Names” tidbits into one column? Other “g” shorts could be combined, too. I don’t want to keep clicking to read 90-word items. It’s one of my main peeves about GlobeReader, too, and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

An alternative metaphor for reading the news

Times Skimmer. Click on image to see for yourself.

I don’t remember when Times Skimmer was first unveiled by the New York Times, but I do remember being unimpressed. Recently, though, I took another look, and it struck me as new and improved. It’s a different way of experiencing the newspaper, and I think it’s got some real promise.

As with Times Reader, a subscription-only e-reader product, the free (for now) Times Skimmer is laid out in horizontal pages that you can flip through quite efficiently. Skimmer, which compiles the Times’ RSS feeds, is more up-to-date than Reader (though the latter does have a “Latest News” section) and gives you a more-complete snippet of each story, making it unnecessary to page through every story to see what the sometimes-cryptic headlines are all about.

Reader’s advantages over Skimmer are three-fold: (1) you can download the entire paper and take it with you, so you don’t have to be connected to the Internet in order to read it; (2) Reader is typographically more pleasing, as Skimmer simply taps in to NYTimes.com when you click on a story; and (3) with Reader you’ve got that day’s Times as opposed to a collection of RSS feeds — a distinction that matters to some of us elderly news junkies.

So what do you get from Skimmer? A different way of looking at NYTimes.com that rationalizes the overstuffed, jumbled website. I’ve found several stories using Skimmer that I would have missed if I’d been reading the website or Reader. Among them: this excellent feature from the Lens blog on the last photographs taken by Times photographer Joao Silva, gravely injured in Afghanistan.

One annoying omission from Skimmer is the Times’ book news, including the all-important Sunday Book Review. There are RSS feeds both for books in general and the Book Review in particular, so it wouldn’t be hard to add — which makes me think the omission was deliberate. Based on my incomplete reading, it seems that some book news pops up in the arts feed, but only a few highlights. Unfortunately, there’s no way for us mere users to add feeds to Skimmer.

Skimmer and Reader are the inspiration behind the Times’ Chrome app, which became available last week. As with Reader, you can download it and take it with you; as with Skimmer, it’s a compilation of RSS feeds. I’ve played with it a bit, and though it’s promising, it’s not quite ready for prime time.

Reader, Skimmer and the Chrome app, with their simple, horizontal layouts, all seem to have been devised with tablet computers in mind, although Reader won’t run on an iPad and never will unless the Times moves away from its reliance on Adobe Flash. (There’s also a separate Times app for the iPad, which I have not had a chance to test-drive.)

As such, they represent an interesting alternative to the website metaphor we’ve all grown accustomed to over the past 15 years.

Tuesday tech talk from a non-techie

Welcome to the tech blog whose author almost knows what he’s talking about. I know just enough to be dangerous, folks. Here are three tidbits for your Tuesday morning.

1. Beyond Google Reader. Last week Laura McGann of the Nieman Media Lab was rhapsodizing to a group of us about the glories of NetNewsWire, an RSS aggregator that resides on your computer rather than in the cloud, as is the case with Google Reader.

I was not entirely unfamiliar with NetNewsWire. I’d played with it before, but preferred a competitor called NewsFire. Several years ago, though, I made the switch to Google Reader and hadn’t looked back.

But lately, like many people, I’d found myself looking at Google Reader less and following interesting links from Twitter more. In part it’s because I really like Twitter. In part, though, it was because Google Reader just wasn’t all that satisfying — it’s slower than using a good client-based news reader and shows you less content before you click.

So a few days ago I reinstalled NetNewsWire and found, to my delight, that it now syncs with Google Reader, which means you don’t really have to decide. It’s fast and free (if you don’t mind looking at advertising; I don’t). If you’ve been losing interest in Google Reader, give NetNewsWire a try.

2. From Chrome to Safari and back again. When Apple unveiled Safari 5 a few months ago, I made the switch from Google Chrome. Though not quite as fast as Chrome (I’ve seen test results that say otherwise, but that’s not my experience), Safari was aesthetically more pleasing. My favorite feature, Reader, isolates the text in a story or blog post and presents it in as a beautifully rendered, easy-to-read page. On a properly designed website, Reader will even find the jump and display that, too.

Then Xmarks went out of business. Xmarks is a browser extension that lets you sync your bookmarks in the cloud and use them across multiple computers. An e-mail from the company outlined the alternatives — free for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, but $99 for Safari via Apple’s MobileMe service.

As it turns out, there are at least two free extensions for Chrome — Readability Redux and iReader — that do what Safari’s Reader does, and are more customizable besides. So goodbye Safari.

3. The future of Reader. OK, different Reader — now I’m talking about Times Reader and GlobeReader, the paid electronic editions of the New York Times and the Boston Globe built on Adobe Air.

I’ve been a big fan of Reader since it was unveiled a couple of years ago, but I find that it hasn’t kept up. And with the development folks furiously working on iPad and mobile editions, it doesn’t seem likely that much brain power is going to be devoted to improving them, my wish list aside.

I recently asked Globe publisher Christopher Mayer how many subscribers GlobeReader had attracted. His answer: that’s proprietary. But, anecdotally, I’ve heard that neither Times Reader nor GlobeReader has attracted many paying customers.

Here’s what I like about Reader: it’s fast, it’s highly readable and you don’t need an Internet connection once that day’s edition has been downloaded. What I miss, though, is the richness of the Web — the slideshows, the videos, even the advertising. Lately, more often than not, I find myself using the “Today’s Paper” feature of NYTimes.com, supplemented with Chrome’s iReader extension. (I still tend to use GlobeReader because the “Today’s Globe” section of Boston.com can be so slow.)

Maybe the Reader editions have a future. But my suspicion is that they are just going to fade away for lack of interest.

Come on and Safari with me

Click on image for larger view

Because I had a lot of writing to do yesterday, I indulged myself with some quality screwing-off time and installed Safari 5, the latest version of Apple’s Web browser. I can’t say I expected much. Safari has always been feature-laden but sluggish. The new version, though, is speedy enough that I may make it my primary browser.

For several years I had been a dedicated Firefox user. But after Google released Chrome for Mac earlier this year, Firefox seemed downright slow by comparison. Chrome blazes, but it doesn’t have much else to recommend it. I especially don’t like the way it displays type — it seems like everything is either a smidgen too small or too large.

The new Safari, by contrast, is slick and attractive, and has a lot of nice touches. I’m a big fan of the Top Sites window, a graphical representation of my most-visited stops on the Web. Chrome has something similar, but the customization features are minimal. Safari also handles bookmarks nicely. Most important, it seems as fast as Chrome, and, unlike Firefox and even Chrome, it doesn’t gag on the Boston.com ad server.

The most interesting feature of Safari is something called Safari Reader. Open a page with an article on it, and a clickable label appears in the address bar. Select it and a new window opens with a nicely formatted text page. Unfortunately, Reader makes it easier to avoid advertising. But since photos within the text are displayed, I see no reason why ads couldn’t be embedded as well.

Reader is especially nice for complex sites with tiny type, such as the example I’ve included above from the New Haven Independent.

One problem is that Web designers have to write to Reader’s specifications or it won’t work properly. NYTimes.com, for instance, handles jumps with aplomb, whereas Boston.com, upon encountering a jump, incorrectly displays the first page again. Reader is going to have to prove very popular in order to force Web designers to change. But it could happen. Safari, after all, isn’t just for Macs (and PCs), but for iPads, iPhones and iPods as well.

No sooner did I tweet my enthusiasm about Reader than Alex Johnson responded by telling me that the same feature had been available in other browsers for some time. Sure enough, I found an extension for Chrome called Readability that did exactly the same thing. But it was glitchy compared to Safari Reader, which Johnson concedes is “the better option for Mac-only users.”

Safari also has a built-in RSS reader, but on first glance I see no reason to switch from Google Reader, which I love. (A lot of programs named Reader, eh?) There doesn’t seem to be any way of pulling my Google Reader feeds into Safari, which would be a minimum requirement for me even to test it.

Between Safari and Chrome, I doubt I’ll be using Firefox any time soon. I’ll try Version 4 when it is released later this year. For now, though, Firefox has definitely fallen behind.