Thursday, September 5, 2013

Google Chrome Apps Launcher Misconception -- Launcher Icons Can Be Standalone Too!

Today, Google released a new category of apps previously known as "packaged apps", and they've now dubbed them as just "Chrome Apps", as announced on both Lifehacker and TechCrunch. Both articles state that a new launcher icon will appear in the task bar of Windows and, eventually, in Mac OS as well.

However, for developers and application designers who strive for a more "standalone" user experience, this may appear as a shock. While those articles are factually true, the articles overlook one very important point: These apps also get their very own launcher icons that can be found in the Windows Start Menu and in the Mac OS Finder Applications folder.

Under the hood, these launcher icons use a command-line startup flag called --app-id that takes the application id, found in the "Window -> Extensions" section of Chromium. When run, this command launches only the app, without starting a browser window.

In Windows, and on Linux, it's actually a shortcut, but on Mac OS it appears to be a binary file.  Below is an example of a few launcher icons from some example apps I've installed, as well as Synclio, the WebRTC VOIP Chrome application I'm building at work with our team.

Perhaps this hasn't been announced because it's still in progress, but rest assured that Google and the Chromium team are diligently working hard to make sure that our apps will appear standalone, providing the user with a seamless user experience up to and including how the apps are launched.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Restoring Lost Hard Drive Partitions With TestDisk

After 6 months of running Windows 7 on my Sony Vaio, I accidentally ran a rogue EXE file while trying to install a driver for an HTC Evo so I could install an Android app on a co-worker's smartphone.

By the next day, my Windows 7 installation was showing some signs of being defeated. By 5pm that Friday, I was no longer able to boot into Windows 7.

To make a long story short, I installed Ubuntu 11.04 after moving all the data from the laptop to an external media drive. Since that time, I have been struggling to get the 11.04 installation running smooth on the laptop.

I installed Linux Mint 11 to see if it would be any better. Since it is based on Ubuntu 11.04, it suffered from the same freezing problems.

After following some advice on the vaio-f11-linux Google Group, I upgraded Mint 11 to the 2.6.39 Kernel. I started with Linux Mint because it wasn't my production OS and all my data was still accessible on the Ubuntu partition. Mint is also based on Ubuntu, so if he kernel upgrade went without problems, I may consider doing the same on Ubuntu. On Mint, with the new kernel, the problem I was facing with the laptop freezing appeared to be resolved.

Because I've been telling my coworkers I'm going back to Windows 7 if this isn't resolved, I went ahead and repartitioned my hard drive and installed Windows 7. Also, I'm facing a problem with my USB Controller, which Sony says can be resolved by updating the BIOS, a task only possible from Windows 7 64 Bit. I left the other operating systems intact and also left room for more Linux OS installs to see if another platform might run better on the Vaio. Even if I move to Windows, I still want to see if I can get a good, stable Linux platform running on the Sony Vaio.

So, I ended up triple booting Ubuntu 11.04, Linux Mint 11, and Windows 7.

However, after recovering Grub2 after the Windows 7 install removed it, I noticed that all of the Logical partitions on the extended partition were missing, and in their place was 1 large unallocated block.

GParted and the Ubuntu Disk Utility both showed the same scenario. I decided to just go ahead and reinstall Mint as all of the steps I did to make it stable were still fresh in my mind.

After getting the live CD loaded, I thought to Google the situation first. I'm glad I did, because it led me to a really cool utility by CGSecurity called TestDisk.

TestDisk 6.12 detected the lost partitions and repaired them, all from the Mint Live CD. After rebooting and running update-grub, I'm now writing this article from my formerly missing Linux Mint 11 installation.

Had it not been for this tool, I'd be spending another weekend installing operating systems.

Basically, if you think you've done something to your hard drive. STOP! Download TestDisk, and see if it can help you rebuild your partition tables or save any lost data.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Building Social Networks for Experts

I created a Building Social Networks proposal on StackExchange for a Q&A site dedicated to questions for expert and enthusiast Social Network builders.

The purpose of the site is for people to ask and answer questions related to building social network platforms. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn have prompted the creation of other innovative social networking platforms, such as Wisedame and many other mobile social networks.

As mobile gains more and more of a foothold in terms of connecting people, those experts who are building these networks will need a place to ask great questions and contribute knowledge back to the community.

If you want to see this proposal succeed, please check out the StackExchange "Building Social Networks" proposal on Area51. Please be sure to "Follow" the proposal. We need 50 followers to proceed to the next phase.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Use IE7 in Windows 7

Try to ignore the fact that this post is about a Microsoft tool. After my rant about how Microsoft people are horrible, anyone reading this is probably a bit perplexed about the title.

To make a long story short, I got a new laptop, and it came with Windows 7.

I am working on deploying live chat software for a client, and despite my hatred of Internet Explorer, more than 50% of the world's population still uses it, and it's up to me to put aside my personal distastes and make my clients' happy.

I found a bug in IE7 using IECollections. Generally, when I find IE bugs that I can't seem to immediately find the answers to, I figure it's just caused by the fact that I'm not using a real version of IE7. I spent over an hour trying to find someone in the organization who had IE7 installed, and another 20 minutes trying to get a screen share started to verify that we were really looking at IE7.

Well, after stumbling around Webmasters Stack Exchange, I found this question about How to Test IE7 on Windows 7. It turns out it's very simple. That link will show you a picture that will speak a thousand words. Go ahead, check it out!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

StackOverflow Changes Name to StackExchange

The best time to make changes to something is during times of change. If you know your name isn't marketing your products to the right target market and need to change it, the best time to make that change is when everyone is watching, such as when you're recently awarded $12 million in venture capital funding.

If no one is watching and you change your name, there is a very strong likelihood you could skip away into obscurity. If no one was paying attention, there will be no transition of existing brand loyalty and brand recognition to help keep you afloat.

The name "StackOverflow" speaks to programmers, but it is meaningless to non-programmers. Non-programmers know "StackOverflow" as some wierd, obscure programming term. If you're a Motor Vehicle Repair enthusiast and your friend tries to convince you to join this Q&A network that was originally a Q&A site for programmers called StackOverflow, they may look at you like your crazy and pretend they never got your email invite to the private beta.

The reason for the name change was to fit the contours of the other Q&A sites that have absolutely nothing in common with programming. It was a strategic decision, and it was the right decision.

It's important to understand that the famous programming Q&A Site,, is still called Stack Overflow. The company changed it's name, not the Q&A site itself.

I am working on one of the newest Q&A sites, targeted at project managers. Project Management Stack Exchange is in public beta and has some great, experienced users who are able to help answer your professional project management question. If you have project management experience, we could use your expertise. Sign up for an account today!

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Convince Project Team Members to Use Web-Based Tools

As Web technologies get more and more advanced, and as user interfaces become richer and snappier, desktop tools will decline. However, it's tough to convince some people to use the Web based tools.

According to this resource on How To Encourage Team Members to use Web Collaboration Tools, it's important to get over the initial reluctance.

There are some tips that you can use to help motivate people to accept the change:

Show them the value of the tool

Managers want to know that the tool isn't something that you just happen to find on some obscure website that hasn't seen a pageview of more than 10 in the last two years. From a risk perspective, if no one else is using the tool, then what's the point of the original developers spending their time maintaining it. Managers want to see that there are recent updates and that other reputable organizations are using the tool. It also helps to show a Google Insights search demonstrating upward trends.

Get support from others in the organization

As a project manager, it's your job to persuade people to join your cause. To accomplish this, you'll need to be attentive to who your audience is. While managers want to see low risk, employees on the team want to know that it's not going to create more unnecessary processes that impede their workflow.

The best time to try something new is during a time of change. For example, if the team has reorganized and has a new technical leader, he or she may be open to new ideas simply because no patterns have yet been established. If the team has new employees, the training they receive can include the new software. Trainers should approach the new employees with the software as if it were something already used within the organization.

Sign up users for a test drive

Sometimes the best way to gain support for a new tool is to just simply start using it. For push-based tools like Basecamp or Manymoon, this is easy, just sign up members of your team so that they get emails from the tool. With Basecamp, for example, the users who reply to the emails end up unwittingly using the tool. After a few weeks, it will become a habit to continue using it.

Some of these tips were originally suggested by Pawel Brodzinski, a consultant and coach in the field of software project management. For more information, check out the Project Management Stack Exchange Q&A Site.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to Use Stack Exchange Area51 Advertisements

I was part of the Project Managers Stack Exchange Private Beta. We were brainstorming some ideas as to how to promote the site, and so far the ideas we came up with include a Facebook page and blog articles. The idea of placing banner ads on a blog or website is of course another creative way to help spread the word.

The problem is, the only banner ads available are within the Stack Exchange network itself. They're essentially inlined into the page using data:image URLs, which doesn't make it easy to just grab some code and place it on your website.

Armed with Chrome Debugger, I set out to see what would be involved in placing an Area51 banner on my blog.

On one of the Stack Exchange sites, I used the inspector to view the HTML for one of the banner ads. It consists of inline CSS, a DIV and TABLE element that contains a hyperlink to the Area51 proposal, and the commit percent. The hyperlink innerHTML contained the name of the proposal.

While It's possible to paste the CSS, HTML, and JavaScript in an HTML page, the only way Blogger would accept the inlined CSS was through an IFRAME. As you can see, I've embedded the Running Q&A Proposal in this article:

DISCLAIMER: Stack Exchange and Area51 images and content are property of the Stack Exchange Network and are subject to the Terms and Conditions. Use of this content in this article falls within the "fair use" section of the Terms and Conditions. You must obtain written permission from Stack Exchange prior to use of this content.

Feel free to view the source of the IFRAME to get the code. Just paste everything within the opening and closing BODY tag on your site, or copy the entire HTML page to your Web server and use an IFRAME to embed the advertisement in the desired location.

I made comments in the code to show the 3 items that represent the proposal link, proposal display name, and percent committed.

View Ad Source

Since the view source link doesn't work in the inferior Internet Explorer browsers, you can also download the code here by right-clicking and selecting "Save File As", or "Save Link", or whatever the most popular way to save files in Internet Explorer is these days.