SiliconFilter

Hands-On With OnLive’s Windows 7 iPad App: Nice Tech Demo, Not That Useful Yet

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Earlier this week, we reported that OnLive was about to launch an iPad app that lets you stream a remote, OnLive-hosted Windows 7 desktop to your tablet for free. The free app appeared in the iTunes store earlier tonight and we got a chance to put its through its paces.

Given OnLive's core competency of streaming high-end games across the Internet, it doesn't come as a surprise that streaming a relatively basic Windows 7 desktop doesn't pose much of a problem for the company. Everything runs very smoothly. While there often is some perceptible lag – especially when scrolling through documents or using multi-touch gestures to zoom in and out – it's never so bad as to become a dealbreaker.

OnLive Desktop - Windows 7 on the iPad

Word, Excel and PowerPoint – But No SkyDrive Access and No Browser

So here is what you get with your free account: access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint (the 2010 versions), as well as the ability to sync documents from your desktop. Given that OnLive's business plan depends on selling you additional storage, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise that the productivity apps are pretty locked down. You can't access date your stored in Microsoft's cloud on SkyDrive, for example. Office's "Save & Send" option has been disabled to prevent this.

The free version also doesn't include access to a browser. This will come in the paid versions versions, according to OnLive, but those won't be available for a while.

You do get 2GB of free storage on OnLive's servers, though, as well as Mac and Windows apps to sync folders from your desktop to OnLive.

More Caveats

Here are a few other caveats: the free plan, which is the only one available right now, only provides "as-available" access to your desktop. Access depends on availability, so don't use this as your only option for giving that important presentation. Paid accounts, which will launch later this year, will give you priority access, but apparently won't come with a service guarantee either.

Nice Tech Demo – Not Very Useful (Yet)

For now, then, the OnLive desktop is a nice tech demo. It's clearly the child of a transitional period where we can't do everything we would like to do on our tablets yet. Editing documents isn't one of those things, though, thanks to a growing number of native apps for the iPad and while many will surely install the app just for the sake of it, I venture to guess that the free version won't find too many regular users anytime soon. In the enterprise, there may just be a niche for this, though, but only once administrators can deploy their own apps on these remote desktops.

The OnLive app also clearly shows that Windows 7 wasn't developed with tablets in mind. It works alright, but feels like a chore compared to iOS or Android.

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8:31 pm


Don’t Like the New Google Reader? Here Are Three Alternatives

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Once upon a time, Google Reader was just one of many RSS readers out there. Today, though, it can often feel as if Google Reader really is the only game in town when it comes to subscribing and reading news feeds. Today, Google launched the largest update to Google Reader in a long time. While it brings some new features (especially integration with Google+), it also does away with a number of useful tools that many users came to rely on in the past. Reader’s social features, for example, are now almost completely gone. You also can’t bundle a set of feeds and share them with friends anymore, just like you can’t share comments about stories with your friends in Google Reader.

Given all of these changes – and a new design that isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – here are three alternatives that are worth checking out. Most of them don’t recreate the social features that Google Reader used to have, though, but given that those aren’t coming back as Google is moving to Google+, now may just be the best time to switch to a new feed reader anyway.

Feedly

Given that you probably already manage all of your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service (there are also various mobile and tablet apps).

Go Desktop: FeedDemon (Win) and NetNewsWire(Mac)

Before Bloglines, Google Reader and numerous other web-based RSS readers, most of us relied on desktop apps to regularly ping and update our feeds. The idea of using a desktop app may sound odd in this day and age where everything is on the web, but there is still something to be said for a good desktop app that neatly integrates with the rest of your system.

netnewswire_text_logoQuite a few of the older readers are now unmaintained, as their developers have moved on, but for Mac users, NetNewsWire is still more than worth a look (though I can’t really recommend NetNewsWire 4 Lite, which is the only version that is in the Mac App Store) and for Windows users, FeedDemon is still the app to beat. Both of them are still under active development, sync with Google Reader and offer at least some support for social sharing features (NetNewsWire, for example, also support Instapaper).

Personally, I use a combination of Feedly and NetNewsWire as my main setup for reading feeds.

Host Your Own: Fever

fever_smallIf you want total control over your feed reader without using the desktop because you want the convenience of being able to access your feeds wherever you are, take a look at Fever. It’s one of the prettiest and most fully-featured self-hosted RSS readers out there today – but you do have to pay $30 for a license.

What makes Fever stand out is its speed (it can ping a lot of feeds and can do so pretty fast) and its built-in memetracking feature which ranks stories based on how often they are being talked about by other sources in your feeds. You can even put feeds you don’t normally read into a separate folder that you don’t read but that influences the Fever algorithm.



3:16 am


Skype Group Video Calling Comes Out of Beta and Goes Premium

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Skype just launched the next update of its client software for windows and while there is little new in this version, the company did move the group video calling feature it introduced just a few months ago behind the premium firewall. Users who want to host video conferences with multiple users will need to get a subscription to Skype Premium ($8.99/month) or get a day pass ($4.99/day).

This move doesn’t come as a surprise. When the company announced this feature last year, it already stated that it would start charging for it sooner or later. These group video calls allow users to host between 3 and 10 people in a video chat room. To use this service, only the person who starts the group chat needs to pay for this premium feature. Everybody else on the call can just use the service for free.

Skype is also bringing group video calls to users of its business version, which gives corporations more control over how employees use the service.

For now, group video calling is only available on Windows machines. Skype hasn’t yet announced when it plans to bring this feature to the Mac.

More Skype News

It’s obviously been a very busy day for Skype. Not only did the company announce the acquisition of mobile video streaming service Qik, but Skype also just announced that its software will soon allow users on Verizon’s 4G LTE network to make mobile video calls.



4:16 pm