Top Alternatives To Google Reader

Google recently announced the discontinuation of Google Reader, a product with a vocal following now scrambling to find alternatives. Of course a lot of people have already voiced their opinions about Google keeping products like Google Sites and Correlate open while discontinuing Reader. Others are asking if RSS is already dead benefiting Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We have compiled a few alternative RSS readers for you when Google Reader close down July 1, 2013.

 

Feedly

Feedly were quick in trying to catch Google Reader users, with a feature where users can connect their Google Reader account with Feedly and get the same setup and feeds as in Google Reader. This works like a charm with just a click, and takes a few seconds.

Another interesting feature with Feedly is the updated user interface, Google Reader wasn’t the prettiest product on the market but Feedly really looks great and displays the subscribed feeds in a beautiful way, almost making RSS fun again.

It’s possible to customize the main page of Feedly, for example adding widgets displaying stock market movements, your Facebook or Twitter feed.

Feedly is available in the browser or on mobile devices (Android, iOS and Kindle).

Feedly RSS reader screenshot

 

Netvibes

Netvibes is not entirely a RSS-reader, but a dashboard application for following almost anything online. Getting started is quite easy, you don’t even need to create an account. Start by entering a topic that you want to follow, Netvibes will then compile a set of standard widgets. The widgets include sources such as Twitter, Facebook (open posts), Google blog search, Yahoo News etc. It’s then possible to add sources of your choice using RSS.

Netvibes has two different modes, widget and reader mode. The reader mode has the classic RSS-reader feel to it. Beside using Netvibes in the browser there are also apps available for Android and iOS. It’s possible to import your Google Reader data to Netvibes, but the process is a little bit more difficult than Feedly’s. (http://blog.netvibes.com/easily-migrate-from-google-reader-to-netvibes/

Overall we like Netvibes, but mainly from a monitoring perspective where it really is shining.

Netvibes RSS reader screenshot

 

 

NewsBlur

NewsBlur is another browser based RSS-reader alternative to Google Reader, also available for Android and iOS. The app is updated in real-time when new stories from an RSS-feed is added. An interesting feature is the blurblog, each user gets an individual public feed where it’s possible to share stories.

We think the interface has too many options and buttons for it to be compelling for a wider audience, but this is of course individual preferences, and we know some users like these kind of interfaces.

NewsBlur RSS reader screenshot

 

The Old Reader

The Old Reader is perhaps not as well known as the alternatives above. It’s a light-weight browser based RSS-reader, with no other real options but we really like the minimalistic interface. It used to have Google Reader import but according to their blog they had to turn it off temporarily to be able to handle the traffic. There are also no mobile apps for the Old Reader.


Google Drive – Google moves into cloud storage

Google has finally released their own online file sync service after years of rumors; Google Drive will primarily enhance the experience for existing Google Docs users but also strikes a blow to some existing file sync and sharing services.

It’s not like there isn’t any competition in the online backup and file sync sector with services like Carbonite, Dropbox and Microsoft’s Skydrive. Although it isn’t surprising that Google is moving in to the space it is much less dramatic than most industry “experts” seem to think.

Each Google user have to apply for Google Drive before it’s activated, once it is up and running the existing Google Docs directory will become Google Drive. The difference between Google Drive and the old Docs directory is that it is possible to automatically sync files between Google Docs, a desktop/laptop computer and Android devices (Ipad and Iphone apps are on the way when this is written).

Syncing from a desktop or laptop is done by downloading an application running in the background automatically syncing selected files. We tested the app with Windows 7 without any issues.

Another interesting part of Google Drive is the collaboration options, although they already existed in Google Docs it’s now possible to easily share a document using Google + or even better e-mail a link to a bulky document in Google Drive using Gmail.

Google Drive also saves all changes to documents, making it possible to go back to previous versions easily. This makes Google Drive more similar to Dropbox than pure backup services like Carbonite.

When we tested Google Drive it was apparent that Google put some time into making the app display different file formats, for example it is possible to view Photoshop and Illustrator files without any third party programs.

Google offers 5 GB of free storage, which falls somewhere in between Dropbox (2 GB) and Skydrive (7 GB). It is enough storage for most personal needs, however Google offers up to 16 TB of data. 25 GB of data costs $2.49 / month and 100 GB $4.99, compared to Dropbox which offers 100 GB for 19.99/month this is cheap. When buying Google Drive space, the storage can also be used for Picasa.

The ones that should be scared of Google Drive is not Microsoft, because it is not a threat to Skydrive as Microsoft’s alternative is integrated in Microsoft Office, tightly. Instead Google Drive is a direct attack on services like Dropbox and Sugarsync, which has nothing to offer in terms of integration. Overall Google Drive is a good product, it has more value than Dropbox but is also a solid alternative in it’s free version.

Google Glasses – Is augmented reality the next big thing?

It seems that when a tech company gets too extensive cash reserves they always want to go into augmented reality creating wearable computers (Microsoft and IBM has already been there).

Google has a research project going on, the company wants to create glasses connected to Google’s services to provide an augmented reality. The glasses will be able to display chats, messages, the weather and maps in a person’s’ field of vision, according to a post the company made on Google+.

Controlling the Google Glasses is done by voice commands (similar to the IBM wearable computing efforts mentioned below). If you want to know what a day with Google Glasses is like view the video below:

Perhaps the market is ready for these type of devices, but it is doubtful that such glasses will be used for checking the weather or video-chatting. More likely usage scenarios are for providing information about anything the users sees, gaming and navigation in terrain.

Google is certainly not the first tech company to create wearable computers. Most wearable computer efforts for consumers has been failures.

One example is IBM who launched their wearable computer derived from a ThinkPad laptop in 1998. It had 233 MHz Intel processor, 64 MB RAM and was able to run Windows 98, according to the company website. The computer was controlled using voice commands.

Of course the computer never hit the market, and the commercial didn’t do it any favours either:

Cloud Operating Systems: Google Chrome OS (Chromium)

Everything is moving into the cloud and so is the operating system.  Previously Microsoft released the Windows Azure Platform,  also a number of smaller players such as Good OS (gOS), EyeOS and Glide have hit the market. Google is however surprisingly late to the game with the hyped release of Chromium better known as Google Chrome OS. Why the name confusion? Chromium is the open-source project connected to Google Chrome and Chrome OS.

GoogleChromeOSlogo

We downloaded the open-source version of Google Chrome OS, built it and ran it on a netbook using a USB-drive. It was also tested in a virtualized environment (VMWare). The version of Chromium we tested was 4.0.253.0, it is not a finished product so this review is more of a hint of things to come than a complete overview of a finished product.

Building the Google Chrome OS source-code is not easy for everyone; there are a couple of images of the system floating around on the net usually made for USB-drives or a virtualized environment. For example you can download Google Chrome OS image files from: or.

Chrome OS is actually built on the Linux kernel but with its own windowing system. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Google managed to get this product released and working avoiding the hurdle of device drivers that other operating system developers have to worry about.

Starting Chrome OS is very fast, it only took about 10 seconds to bring up the login screen. When launching it on a netbook problems started directly when trying to login, since the Wi-Fi networks password hadn’t been initialized it could not login using my Google account. Instead I had to connect it to a cable network, and then it worked fine. The login sequence is probably something Google will have to work on, if I had been on the road trying to connect to a secured Wi-Fi network it wouldn’t have worked.

When logging in to Chrome OS you are greeted with a Google Chrome web-browser window launching Google or your Gmail account. There is also a tab in the upper left corner containing shortcuts to different Google and Internet-services, such as Google Docs, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Facebook etc. Very few of the applications in Google Chrome OS is native, most of them are run in a browser window. The calculator is the only app that runs from within Chromium and pop-ups in the lower right corner of the screen. Most cloud applications worked like a charm and they were fast to use. We used Google Wave, Zoho among others without any real issues.

The user interface is very plain and light-weight compared to Windows 7, MAC OSx or Linux. If you compare it to other cloud OS interfaces it still is plain, both gOS and Glide look much better. To enhance the UI there are a number of available themes for Google Chrome and also the Google Chrome OS. In the upper right part of the screen there is a battery indicator, a switch for turning on and off Wi-Fi and Ethernet and an icon for controlling the rest of the OS. The menu-options are a mixture of the ones available in the Chrome browser and operating system specific options available in Chromium.

If you compare Chrome OS to other operating systems on the market it is minimalistic and not very flexible. Google’s intent is that Chrome OS is for netbooks, but there are plenty of situations using a netbook without any Internet access, for example on the plane. Chrome OS also does not give you access to the inner workings of the computer, there are not that many settings that you can change by default. Comparing Chrome OS So what Chrome OS got going for it is that it is minimalistic but it is also what works against it. Linux is so far a much better free alternative for netbooks than Google Chrome OS is. Google have partnered up with netbook manufacturer and we will probably see Google Chrome OS netbooks during 2010.

Another interesting user case for Chrome OS could be in a corporate environment, clients would not need any programs installed and the need for extensive administration would be gone. The problem is that Chrome OS cannot be used in a local network (EyeOS have this capability); it has to connect to Google. There will probably be extensions to get this capability though.

Of course the operating systems of the future will be more connected to the cloud than they currently are, however I think it will be highly dependent on the software and services available in the cloud. Most of the services available work quite well on netbooks (hence the targeting by Google), such as Google Docs and Zoho. But heavier applications and games still remain on the desktop, for example there are many photo-editing apps in the cloud but none with the advanced features seen in Photoshop. Graphics applications such as Inkscape and Google SketchUp also still remain on the desktop, and probably will for some time. However for average novice users requiring a word processor and the occasional web-surfing Google Chrome OS might be it, especially in a year or two when it has been more developed.

Google Earth 5

Google Earth version 5 is here, what’s new you ask? Well if you ever wondered what the ocean-floor look like or what New York look liked five years ago you will love Google Earth 5.  But we don’t stop there; we also take a look at all the other features in Google Earth in this walkthrough.

I was always a sucker for Microsoft Encarta’s map features back in the day when compact discs where all the rage. Google Earth is basically an enhanced version of that, with satellite imagery, embedded photos, live updates and thousands of other features.

gearth2

The satellite imagery in Google Earth varies in quality, all world cities are modeled in great detail, and in some cities it is even possible to view photorealistic 3D-buildings and sights. Google Earth also has street views, which is a 360 degree panorama of a bunch of intersections and streets in world cities such as New York, Tokyo, London and so on.

Rural imagery is however limited in comparison, and is usually looks like a grey slurge with black dots. This is also true for a lot of smaller countries in Europe, such as Scandinavia. Even-though the region has one of the highest Internet penetrations in the world.

It is possible to apply certain information on most map-views. For example street names, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, sights tagged by National Geographic and so on. This makes Google Earth usable when on the road, hook the program up to a GPS device and you got a neat navigational system in major cities. Google Earth is also available for the IPhone and Symbian enabled phones, such as Nokia.  There is also the Google Maps application for JAVA-enabled phones, Maps is less resource intense since it contains less features than its big-brother.

Google beefed up the ocean part of Google Earth in release 5. Now you can travel below the high-seas and look at ship-wrecks, Cousteau’s ocean world and so on. The maps of the ocean floor are surprisingly good, but the use for them will mainly be in educational contexts.

gearth1

Another interesting feature in Google Earth 5 is the ability to turn back time by using historical maps, the maps and imagery is not that old since most views will only date back to 2000 or 2001. It is interesting to watch some cities growth but for this feature to be really useful the maps would have to go back much further.

Google Earth is not just about Earth, the program also features neat views of the sky and universe. It is not as in-depth as Microsoft’s World Wide Telescope, which has superior written and video content. However for just a quick-tour of the universe Google Earth will do.

gearth4

The advantage of Google Earth is the community behind it. There are several websites with interesting sights in Google Earth, and there are forums where people share what they have discovered in the Google Earth imagery.  It is also possible to record your trips in Google Earth 5, share them with friends and family or save them for other occasions.

Google Earth is a great piece of educational software, it tries to be a lot and succeed in many areas. However the rural map areas are not that great making Google Earth unusable as a navigational tool in some areas and countries. The sky feature is great but there are programs that simply do a better job of describing our universe.