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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Website Redesigns

Facebook and Google recently announced major overhauls of their interactive homepages, and Google's page comes out with the better result.

Facebook's new site is available to the general public at, and once you visit the link the entire site overhaul is available, along with a link to revert back to the previous version of the site. The redesign doesn't add much in terms of raw features, but I did notice a "Comment" link available for a status change. Facebook Chat is still integrated, and continues to maintain any current chats between tabs and while navigating around the site. Unfortunately, my sidebar Facebook Chat bookmark broke, and I haven't yet found a way to fix it.

While the reorganization is nice, and the AJAX-ification makes life easier for navigating the site. Applications, which quickly crowded profiles and made navigation messy, are now on their own "tab" of the profile page, and the rarely used "About Me" information also receives its own tab. While the re-organization is nice, I did have a few issues switching between tabs.

The worst, though, is that there is a large amount of wasted space on larger monitors. With the new wider layout, Facbeook is no longer limited to the center of the screen, but the wider layout doesn't contract as the window is narrowed. As a result, there's a gap in the middle that makes the site unweildy.

Google's interactive homepage, iGoogle, was also throughly redone, and now features a more intelligent integration of Google's technologies. Chat is available both in a tab and in a bar along the bottom, so quick conversations are always at hand. Also, GTalk is still accessible from Google's own desktop client and third party clients, so the chat interface is redundant if you choose to make it so. The tabs also now list all their content, and when the title is clicked on in the left navigation bar, it brings up the box with expanded information and filling the full screen. As an example, GMail lists only a few messages from the inbox while on the page view, but when in fullscreen view the standard GMail is available inside of iGoogle. RSS feeds come up in a view very similar to Google Reader, and the Weather view goes on steroids.

iGoogle is a great update, but its not fully available to the public, and still has a few issues. Some RSS feeds don't come up properly (missing some links, feed titles, etc.), and sometimes are handled by the box view instead of the Google Reader view when in full page view. Also, a few issues exist when moving boxes between columns.

The new Facebook and the new iGoogle are both welcome redesigns, but neither is quite ready for prime time. iGoogle has some bigger issues, but is still in a closed beta (a signup is required, and is really designed for developers). Also, its the better redesign. Facebook is in open beta, and only has a few niggling issues until everything is ready for public release.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Home Workspace

After my last post (and the significant gap between it and now) on a home dorm room workspace, I thought a good start would be to evaulate my home workspace.

For starters, here's my (admittedly messy) desk at home. 

To be honest, it's not even a very good picture.  I have a nice, high-back desk chair, a widescreen LCD at hte center of my desk, a full keyboard, and my Mac to the right, on top of my unused printer.  Out of frame to the left is my tower desktop, for when I need Windows or blow off some steam (and take out some Team Fortress 2 punks).  The desk itself is rather small, and the room is in pretty good shape beyond the desk area.

I'm comfortable with this style and layout, although it is a little cramped, but it provides a good basis for a dorm room layout because it is compact and because I can't make any permanent changes without angering my parents during my summers at home.

  •  Keeping the tower to the left of the desk keeps it both out of the way and easily accessible.  As a bonus, its flat top is a nice place to keep blank CDs, headphones, and the power adapter for the Mac.  Here's a photo:

    Tower, with some stuff on top of it.

  • The laptop can't stay where it is.  I don't use the printer over the summer, but for school I'll be generating a decent amount of paper with all the fun papers and source code I'll be writing.

  • The plastic drawer and cabinet come through once again.  I don't know where I'd be without those two bits of storage.  They're dirt cheap, reasonably durable, and easy to find.  Staples has a good collection of plastic storage boxes here, in their online store.  

So there's my starting point.  Next I'll start to finalize a plan, followed by a suggested parts list.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Ideal Dorm Room Workspace

When it comes to getting organized and taking control of the myriad day-to-day tasks everyone has to deal with, Lifehacker is one of the best resources around.  Recently, this blog ran an article on completely revamping your workspace, starting with clearing everything out, building/repurposing furniture, getting everything organized, and finally installing the finishing touches. 

Reading over this article kicked my mind into gear.  As a student, I face a number of challenges that make setting up an ideal workspace even harder.
  • No changes can be permanent.  Since it's just a dorm room, I'll need to clear out come the end of the year.
  • I can't cause any damage.  Anything that involves an irreversible change is considered damage.  So bolting something to the side of my desk is out, because there's no way to repair the screw hole.
  • Speaking of desk, I can't choose most of my own furniture.  My bed, desk, and dresser are all chosen for me by the school, and are the same as everyone else's.  I can, however, bring my own desk chair.
With these challenges in mind, I can start planning everything out and creating a good workspace.

Here's a few of my initial ideas:
  • I have two computers, a desktop and a laptop.  The desktop requires an external keyboard & mouse, but something like a door-mounted letter tray attached with stick-on hooks would work as a place to keep them off my desk.
  • Depending on the shelving that's put over my desk, and any rotation software on the laptop, I can velcro the laptop to the underside of the shelving and save desk space.
This is just an introduction.  I hope to add ideas, and maybe remix old ones, for the rest of the summer.