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All posts in Web Applications

The Most Frustrating Thing About Web Apps …

… is when they are not working and you aren’t sure if it’s just you or if the service is suffering an outage.

Web Apps - Confusing

Earlier this week I read this question in the Warptest mailbag,

“Dear Warptest, how can I tell if my Gmail, iCloud or other web services are down or if it’s just me?” <redacted>

The Answer(s)

Ok <redacted> let’s take a closer look at the popular web apps: –

Google App Status

  • The Apps status page (like most Google services) is geolocated and no doubt provides status on the servers my Gmail, Apps, Google+ etc are running from.
  • The page displays a chart of status for the past 7 days, you can scroll back in time and there is a handy RSS feed for each set of services.
  • The web services are divided between those covered by the Google Apps SLA and those not.
  • There is a link to the Apps help page and from there you can report an issue. This is one click more than either Apple or Microsoft’s page requires.

Apple Apps Status

  • The Apps status page displays the time as UTC +03 which is not my timezone. Is this a bug or does Apple not geolocate? Unsure.
  • The page displays an extensive list of web services (who knew there were so many?) and below a nice date / time slider bar to check status for different times.
  • A nice touch is the link on this page to contact Apple support for further help.

Microsoft Apps Status

  • The App status page UI is in keeping with the typographic New Windows UI and displays current status in the main pane.
  • For historical details you need to click on a specific service and the page will display past, recent issues related to the service selected.
  • Again you can report your issue from the web page

If you want your finger on the pulse regarding web apps like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other popular Apps then DownRightNow is the site for you.

  • The site provides a central dashboard for all these apps, their status and history.
  • The site encourages an element of crowdsourcing allowing users to report new issues via the site or their Twitter account. They have a good FAQ to explain the recommended hashtags when you tweet.

The Warptest POV

These are useful tools for techies who are faced with issues with Gmail, iCloud, Facetime or other popular services.

The real problem is what do you do next if according to the App Status your web apps (is/) are working properly?

One trick is if you have a smartphone, then check the mobile app for the service too. Even if you have issues with the desktop app, you may still be able to keep on working on your phone.

Of course, if it’s a recurring problem only with you then I expect I’ll be hearing from you to see if I can help out.

That should answer our mailbag question today. If you have a question of your own then send it in, don’t be a stranger.

Web 2.0 and my Resume (see earlier article)

Well last week was the hi-tech job fair in Tel Aviv and even knowing what to expect (it used to be in the main hall of the Tel Aviv Conference Center; about 5-10 times larger) on walking in I was a little shocked to see 5 companies recruiting there instead of the usual throng. Yes, it was just a little depressing and worrying for even the most positive of us. Many of us standing there in queues to get to the recruiters discussed this but really, no one knows what will happen next.

Regardless, I had prepared for the event doing more work on my resume and business card. As I have said both had to be memorable and I wanted the business card to leave an impression. Whilst I haven’t taken the time and invested in getting a print house to run me off a batch I have created, designed and printed a bunch myself using Word and Office Depot’s marvelous Business Card Inkjet Paper.

The card has my name, job description or title, email, linked in, blog address, twitter and cellular phone number on the front. On the back I wanted to put a tag cloud describing me and my skill-set. To this end it behooves me to give credit to a great web app that allowed me to create my personal Tag/ Skill cloud: – TagCrowd takes free text, a file or URL and with various options allows the user to customize their very own Tag Cloud.

But (big but) this is a Java app and there is no export feature to allow the user to take the Tag Cloud and make something off it in a textual format. Enter the trusted screen grab or Print Screen button. Alternatively you can use a PDF driver like Cute PDF to print the Tag Cloud to PDF.

Needless to say with a little magic and a dash of luck my Skill Cloud now resides in my resume and business card (as seen below).

It is a definite sign of intelligence when you find other smart people who have the same idea as you but it’s also a sign that you need a stronger coffee blend in the morning if you have the idea five minutes after them.

My resume has been a challenge to me on several levels; as my job hunt progressed in the past I have had positive responses to the design and layout even though I broke one of the cardinal rules that all the people in the know, blogs and books tell you: it was a two page document.

I didn’t see how to pare down the level of detail to one page and still maintain confidence that I was showing my full skill set to prospective employees. In my moments of doubt I wondered if maybe I was simply overwhelming them with detail and not presenting a polished personal brand.

I have been the one recruiting in the past so I tried to get my head around being the recruiter who needs to understand the terminology and can grasp my brand in a short glance yet have a resume that still stands out from the pack.

I have a rule of thumb for productive brainstorming to solve any problem: –

Use a pencil and pad and do the brainstorm away from the computer.

I decided to sketch a “map” of how the resume should look. I used to be a cartographer at one time so maps of any kind always appeal.

Whilst doing this I wondered what was missing from my resume and how the resume fitted into all the information on the Internet about me. I wanted it all to jell into a cohesive picture that did represent my personal brand. My attempt at creating a business card for networking events helped me realize I wanted my LinkedIn, Blog and Twitter addresses in there; (I also wanted my Facebook link but since I feel that I use Facebook for my Social Networking more than Business I have left it out until I can revamp my profile there sufficiently) I also added a head-shot photograph to the personal information section.

I was (surprise, surprise) having a cup of coffee when it occurred to me that this was evolving into a Web 2.0 Resume; something was missing and still trying to reduce the document down to one page my Management and Technical Skills sections leaped out as important but in need of reducing in size drastically.

Today I took a metaphorical meat-cleaver to some of the details having realized that the ultimate Web 2.0 component needed adding: a Tag Cloud based on my technical and management skills and experience. 

The act of ensuring the tags I felt were the most important and thus prominent in the cloud made me look long and hard at my skill set which in turn helped me refine how I describe myself.

What is left for me to do?

    1. Translate to Hebrew: this I am going to post online and add a link to the English version for the more and more infrequent occurrence that someone in hi-tech requires the resume in Hebrew.
    2. Revamp my Facebook profile and add the link.
    3. Create a ready to go PDF copy of English and Hebrew resumes.

The resume is down to one page and I am hammering out the formatting so that I can insert the tag cloud as a vertical sidebar in both the Word doc and PDF alike.

In away the process of doing this has been more about self-awareness and interview preparation than just redefining my resume. Now I just need to get some good hits and sit down in the interview calmly and confidently knowing that I am the best person for the job. Wish me luck.

Maps and Locational applications on the Web are hot news. What makes these relevant to the Interactive Web are that both Google and Microsoft provide ways for the run-of-the-mill user to create there own maps using baseline content and enrich this by adding GPS, Geo-metadata, photographs and 3D CAD Sketches.

Both of these contenders allow the user to search for a location and create a base-map of: –

  • Map
  • Satellite Imagery
  • A hybrid of both data-sets

Google’s application is a local installation that interacts with their web Geo-data: Google Earth. Their web Geo-search tool is of course, called Google Maps.

Microsoft simply installs a link in the Start – Program Menu to Virtual Earth which is their Live Maps.

Each allows the user to create their own maps and publish the creation to the web however, Google Earth goes one step further by following classical GIS (Geographical Information System) style using layers. Each layer of data may be enabled/ disabled for the location allowing a richer, more customizable map. Microsoft has just released a beta add-on called Map Cruncher that apparently provides layer level customization of user data-sets but as yet they do not provide layered data within their maps the way Google Earth does. I say “apparently” because I have yet to try this out.

Each allows the addition of 3D CAD Sketches: Google uses Sketch Up their locally installed application and Microsoft their beta equivalent called 3DVia (created with Dassault Systemes) also a local application.

Both require the user to be logged in to their respective Google ID or Windows Live ID to publish and share their maps.

Google’s search within Google Earth shows other published data-sets in their proprietary KML/KMZ format which if shared by other users may be displayed and used.

Microsoft Offered me the opportunity to install something called the Microsoft Location Finder something I have as yet been unable to get to work. This allows a user connected via WiFi to the Web to see their own location in the Live Maps instead of simply using the IP address to provide a rough location. For the laptop user on the go this can be an invaluable add-on feature to get your location on the fly.

Google Earth have added a toggle feature to look outwards to the sky and stars.

Each have a pay business model for companies but the business models are something to investigate and blog another time.

Real World Implications: being able to search the web for shared data-sets and publish your own allows for a great variety of uses some more sinister than others: Google was asked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to lower the satellite imagery resolution over Israel during the 2nd Lebanon War for fear that Hizbullah were using the imagery and coordinate data to target their Katyusha Missiles.

Also more recently Google Israel was reported in the Israeli news as being petitioned in the courts to remove false data published by a Palestinian. The Geo-data erroneously located what he claimed was an annexed Palestinian village however, the Israeli village located there had been built on open land and this claim was untrue.

Many of us who know the history of GPS are aware that the US DoD intentionally dithered the coordinate data available to civilian GPS users for years to prevent its misuse.

In short, these applications provide a powerful toolset but the user should verify the age of the base-map data content as these satellite images and maps are not updated every day.

Technorati Tags: ,,Windows Live Maps,Microsoft Virtual Earth,Geographical Web Services,