Me @ F8

June 6, 2007

Hey, I was on news.com again 🙂 (no no, this isn’t like last time)

Me @ F8

Haiping (a long time colleague of mine and now an engineer at Facebook) is standing behind me. I wonder why they didn’t get our names to add to the picture caption.

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In my new condo up in San Francisco, we got fliers to sign up for a high speed internet service called Webpass that claimed synchronous 45Mbps for about $30 / month if you pre-pay annually. Too good to be true? Well, I got it setup, paid $350 for the year, and here’s what speedtest.net says:

And that’s through a Linksys router. When I hook up my computer straight to the tap it’s even faster!

The technician told me that what they’re doing is dropping a T3 line straight to the building and all the residents signed up for the service are sharing it. He told me there are currently only about 20 people from my building signed up, so that means I’m probably getting a T3 all to myself most of the time. San Francisco rocks!

On the Plaxo front, we’re testing out an early release of Plaxo Mobile 3.0, a new WAP access product (direct link). Built on WAP 2.0/XHTML, this app allows you to get access to all your Plaxo contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes from the web browser on your mobile phone. If you already have a Plaxo account and you can’t wait, just point your mobile browser to http://labs.plaxo.com/mobile.

This means you can sync your Outlook, Mac, Thunderbird, or Yahoo! address books to Plaxo and then access it on your mobile phone. (Well, you’ll still have to pay for wireless internet charges, but come’on, don’t you have an unlimited data plan on your cell phone by now?)

If you’ve got questions, run into trouble while trying it out, or want to give feedback, please feel free to contact me, join our Google Group, or e-mail the team at labs-mobile@plaxo.com.

ORose tipped me off yesterday that I Google had indexed my blog post about H&R Block’s Tango e-file tax web app (or rather, lack of e-file web app I should say 🙂 ). Check out the Google search for “Tango HRBlock.com”, I’m currently the thrid organic search result.

Google search for "Tango HRBlock.com"

Now I’m definitely not an A-list blogger, but it seems that the bloggers over at H&R Block should have seen my post fly by on their blog search feeds. I even linked to their Tango Tax Blog on my previous post, but it looks like they dont’ have trackbacks turned on 😦

Oh well. If anyone from H&R Block is reading this post, I’m still waiting for my refund…

Just got Joost!

April 5, 2007

I registered for the Joost beta a few weeks ago and today I got an e-mail saying I’d been invited to the beta. Yay!

I downloaded the client, registered, and started watching. Wow. As soon as the network gets up and running, I think this could be huge. They’ve got a good amount of content right now and the interface and experience is pretty amazing. Basically, you start the program and you just start watching TV. You can change channels and pick any show on the channel – kinda like a TiVo that you never had to setup.

jooststart

Here’s what it looks like to choose a channel:

joost2

And here’s what a show looks like (looks pretty much like regular TV 🙂 ):

joost

The interface is super cool and allows you to do quite a bit. Here’s a screen where you can see how they are looking to turn watching TV into a social experience. It looks like you’ll be able to chat with other people who are watching the same show in real time.

joost3

The only thing I’m missing is even more great content. If users could upload their own content and stream it over the network it would be insane. I know typically episodes of 24 are available on bittorrent less than an hour after they are aired and if I could get it in Joost, I’d never bother with my Media Center again!

UPDATE 4/11/2007: Rita and Sarah of the Tango team responded to this post down in the comments. Looks like they’re working on the problems and hopefully will have everything good to go by next year. Thanks for following up 🙂 I’ve posted a follow up as well.

Now this is unbelievable. H&R Block, one of the largest retail tax filers in the country I’m sure, released a product called Tango this year. It’s supposed to be an online e-file web application except for one thing: there’s a known issue where the program can’t actually e-file. The workaround? Print out the tax return and mail it in.

WTF?

While using the app, I could definitely tell it had quite a few bugs, but I figured it’s a new product, whatever, I’m not here to evaluate the UI, I’m here to file my taxes. Except it can’t actually file my taxes either. That’s a pretty major bug in my opinion – when the only feature that matters is broken.

For anyone else who’s tried Tango or is thinking about trying it, let me fill you in on what you’re going to run into:

HRBlock.com's Tango sucks

Above is a screenshot of what will happen after you spend about an hour wrestling with the insanely slow and bad UI they built in Flex. That’s right, the IRS will reject your tax return because you need to fill in some info about dependents – which I don’t have.

While we’re on the topic of bugs, the second biggest one is performance. I know what you’re thinking: it’s just a tax program. However, when it takes minutes to fill in text input boxes and save the data (equivalent to a simple HTML form), something is seriously broken. If you’re using Tango, you better get used to seeing this screen:

HRBlock.com's Tango sucks

Since you’ll probably be staring at it more than 50% of the time you’re using the program. What is the program saving exactly? I’m just clicking the navigation!

Hey HRBlock.com QA team, here are a few more for you to file:

  1. If you specify ‘S’ or ‘L’ for short term or long term cap gains in the “Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds” section in the Income tab, Tango will flag it as an error – even though that’s what you need to do.
  2. A bunch of the “Learn More” buttons actually just show a yellow box that says to click on the general purpose “Help” icon on the right – both of which give no info.
  3. Quite a few of the “Help” content sections are actually blank. You’ve even got the accordion style control, but when you expand it, there’s nothing there.

Wow. Quite poor if you ask me.

They even have a blog; except that they seem to have a duplicate entry in there called “Ba dum, Ching: Rhythm and Meter in Language” (duplicate here). Maybe I’ll get some blog love? Help Rita! My Tango experience is terrible! 😦 

Last thing: I call up the customer support where the guy tells me all these are known issues. And I say, “ok, can I have a refund at least?” and he says, “Yeah, I’ll put your refund request into a queue. We’ll get back to you.”

@#$%*&@#*&$&@#&$%@*&#!!!!

First, if you’re a Mac user and you aren’t using Quicksilver, you’re missing out.

What does Quicksilver do? With a quick keyboard shortcut (I usually define mine to be ctrl-space), a little window pops up. You simply start typing the name of the program or file you’re looking for and it finds it automatically. So, instead of hunting around to find the program you want to run, you can use the keyboard shortcut and get to it in less than a second. It also learns your frequently used shortcuts to make it even quicker. On my computer, if I want to run Firefox, I hit ctrl-space, type ‘f’, and hit enter. Much quicker than the mouse.

So, one of the things I had missed when using Windows machines is Quicksilver, which is a Mac only program. I longed for the quick access to all my programs. Then one day, on lifehacker, they did a quick post about Launchy and my dreams were realized. Quicksilver for windows!

launchy

Anyways. If you’re a Mac user, download Quicksilver. If you’re a Windows user, download Launchy. Your computer use will never be the same 🙂