«Why You Should Use Google Apps with a Personal Domain Instead of Your Gmail Account»

posted Dec 7, 2010, 8:09 PM by Wei Wang   [ updated Dec 7, 2010, 8:30 PM ] published an interesting article by Kevin Purdy with the above title. I mostly agree with the author, although I don't think most ordinary email users care that much about data portability.

The point I do agree with the author is that it is not that hard to use Google Apps services with your own domain, personal or professional. If you are a real estate broker, for example, wouldn't an email address with your own company's domain look and sound more professional to your clients than You still get all (well, pretty much) the benefits of Google services, i.e., reliable, accessible, etc.

I said pretty much above because the consumer Gmail and other Google services do seem to get upgrades more aggressively than Google Apps. Depending on your personal preference, that may or may not be an advantage -- I personally do think the consumer services are slightly more user-friendly, your mileage may vary.

Ubuntu for Seniors

posted Sep 8, 2010, 12:33 PM by Wei Wang   [ updated Sep 23, 2010, 6:09 AM ]

I have recently started volunteering with the InternetHelpers, a not-for-profit organization here in Ann Arbor, to provide a bit of basic computer and Internet introduction type of training to the senior residents of Parkway Meadows. These seniors are from China or Taiwan, which is why I got involved -- They needed someone who can speak mandarin Chinese. So I thought who could do better than I?

Anyway, the InternetHelpers have also installed four PCs donated to them in the Parkway Meadows main complex. Since those are old PCs (really old!) they are installed with Ubuntu Linux -- 10.04 Lucid Lynx, to be exact, which is the other reason that I got involved.

Of course, I touted the virtues of Linux as much as I could: Free of cost, free of restrictions, and free of virus, to name a few. That last point seemed to caught the attention of one of the seniors in particular. Truth be told, these seniors knew next to nothing about computers or the Internet beyond the terms. They didn't know how to move the mouse cursor, they didn't know where the @ sign was on the keyboard, etc. So, to them, there was no difference between Microsoft Windows and Linux.

So, I helped this old lady purchase a Hannspree netbook -- She liked my little Asus EeePC 901 in the class. The Hannbook came with 1GB of RAM and 250GB of HDD space. I left Windows 7 Starter on there, installed Ubuntu 10.04 desktop version -- I tried the netbook remix but that didn't work, probably because I only had a 1GB USB key drive to put in the downloaded image, which Ubuntu's website stated that 2GB free space was required.

Everything worked after the Ubuntu installation, except for the microphone when we tested Skype. I fumbled around in the Pulse Audio configuration for a while and figured that one out. Pulse Audio picked two separate devices for audio input: the webcam (a bit strange, isn't it?) and the internal mic. I set Pulse Audio to take audio input from the webcam -- that was it. Skype worked like a charm.

Before I helped her register an account on Skype, we had to first get an email account. Since the class touched on Google search and Google services in general, we went directly from the Google search page to Gmail. After that, it was really just getting her head straight with her user ids on the machine, Gmail and Skype, as well as all those passwords. Hopefully, this setup would enable her to talk to her kids, one somewhere around here and the other back in China.

In summary, here is a list of the things I put on the netbook:
  1. Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx
  2. Google Talk plug-in for Firefox -- I have not told her about that one yet, in fear of getting her confused about Google Talk and Skype. The fact that Google Talk Call phone function only appears when Gmail's display language is set to English is another factor.
  3. Skype
That's it. I am interested in how she gets along with Ubuntu -- I believe she will do just fine. The only concern I have is somebody who uses Windows and knows nothing about Linux comes along and interfere.

Follow Google Group Using Google Reader

posted Apr 1, 2010, 9:32 PM by Wei Wang   [ updated Apr 7, 2010, 12:38 PM by Wei Wang ]

Google Reader is a feed reader. It can be used to subscribe to and read many kinds of RSS or Atom feeds.

Here, I would like to introduce the Google Reader to the Ann-Hua Chinese School community. I have helped the AHCS moving their mailing lists to Google Groups. By default, each Google group is set to archive the Discussions, which is basically emails sent to the group.

Whenever you see an RSS feed symbol (right), or an XML sign (XML), on a Group or a blog page, you should be able to click it. There are many feed readers, Google Reader is one such product provided by Google. One may subscribe to many feeds in Google Reader, thus creating an aggregated view of things interesting without having to visit each individual website that provide those feeds.

For example, if one is a parent at the Ann-Hua Chinese School, by subscribing to the Ann-Hua Community Center (AHCC) group feed, then set one's membership in the group to no email, one may avoid getting emails from the group in the inbox but is still able to follow events in the group in Google Reader. Any new message posted to the group will show up in the Google Reader.

Besides following a Google Group, or some blog, Google Reader may be useful for following news feeds. News organizations such as CNN, XinhuaNET, etc. all have their own news feeds. Ann-Hua Community Center also keeps a few news feeds about events at the AHCC or the local community of the Ann Arbor area.

Enhancement to flickr-show

posted Mar 10, 2010, 5:35 PM by Wei Wang

Planning some enhancements on the flickr-show Google Gadget:
  • Background image loading: to prevent image loading interruption by slide show timer;
  • Click image to go full-window inside browser.
  • In full-window mode, display tool bar for show EXIF, go to original site, exit full-window mode, etc. Also, display current batch of photos in thumb nails for mouse click selection.
Further ideas for enhancement and improvement will go to this wiki page on the Google Code project site.

Google Apps Channel on YouTube

posted Feb 15, 2010, 9:23 AM by Wei Wang   [ updated Feb 15, 2010, 9:34 AM ]

YouTube Video

Google Apps is a suite of cloud computing based services from Google, including Gmail and Google Docs. A Google Apps Channel on YouTube showcases use cases of various organizations moving to Google Apps. Here is one of a financial services company.

Get a brief introduction with this Google Apps Quick Tour video.

We at 9Rivers believe that Google Apps services small businesses well and we are always at your service with your Google Apps needs.

«Five Ubuntu Features You Didn't Know About»

posted Feb 15, 2010, 8:54 AM by Wei Wang

Article by Ken Hess of the Linux Magazine. Haven't tried any of them yet. But they sure sound interesting.

«Java vs. C++? Really?»

posted Feb 14, 2010, 10:46 AM by Wei Wang

Read an article by Scott Quint on JDJ with the above subject. Very well argued the point that, Java vs. C++ is simply a silly question to ask. Language is not a deciding factor in implementing a project. The nature of a project and the composition of a project team determine what language best suites a software development project.

"Microsoft’s Creative Destruction"

posted Feb 5, 2010, 6:07 AM by Wei Wang   [ updated Feb 5, 2010, 7:15 AM ]

The New York Times Opinion article
by Dick Brass, published on February 4, 2010, was shared on the Washtenaw Linux User Group's mailing list.

After reading the article, I can't help thinking that Microsoft is actually a victim of its own closed-source culture. The two examples the author gave clearly show that, with the closed architecture of their own software, there is virtually no way for one group to introduce a new technology, a different approach of doing something, into a product of another group without disrupting the product owner.

That, in my opinion, is the real cause of their failures.

The Small Business Server Replacement is Clear(OS)

posted Jan 7, 2010, 5:47 AM by Wei Wang

Read the article in the Linux Magazine.

All the things that the ClearOS offer are obviously available in any flavor/distribution of Linux. But the approach of employing a web-based front end for system management makes a lot of sense.

Also, the ClearOS Web Management Interface looks a lot like Webmin.

Personally, I use Ubuntu now, on netbooks, desktop and server. Webmin is missing in Ubuntu, which is a shame. There are some reason seen somewhere on the Net but I would rather see Webmin enhanced to deal with any security concerns than to see it disappear from a popular Linux distribution. Obviously, there are people using Webmin in Ubuntu anyway.

Problem with Google Spreadsheet Printing

posted Dec 20, 2009, 8:34 AM by Wei Wang   [ updated Feb 5, 2010, 6:36 AM ]

I have been looking for a way to print Google Docs spreadsheets without the grid lines, which you would assume is a rather simple thing for Google to implement. But apparently I am not the only person who has this problem.

From that thread of discussion on Google Docs help forum, it seems that it should be possible to implement a Google Gadget to show a spreadsheet without the grid lines, which may then lead to printing without the lines.

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