Boxee will soon be available to less priviledged

Image via Wikipedia

Boxee, the awesome media center application that aggregates many online media sources onto one platform is opening up next month for anyone who is interested in a beta.  I’ve been on the alpha, and love it.  This integration has me seriously thinking dropping the dreaded cable bill.

boxee blog » opening up the alpha

we’ve been in closed alpha for a long time. after Jan 8th are going to open up the alpha, and work diligently on getting the beta out. the number of users who signed up for the alpha has overwhelmed us (over 150,000), and went well beyond our original expectations.

we get asked frequently about why we keep it closed, especially given the fact that it is open-source. the answer is that the product is still very much alpha, and we wanted to scale our servers gradually. but the demand is overwhelming and we don’t want to have users wait for months for their invites, so we decided to open the Jan 8th release of Mac and Ubuntu to everyone.

If you just can’t wait until then, I think I can grant alpha invites to a limited number of folks. Leave a comment, and I’ll see what I can do.

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MindMeister updated

Screenshot of the MindMeister mind map editorImage via Wikipedia

MindMeister, an online mind mapping tool I wrote about a while back, has recently been updated.  Some highlights:

New Features:

  • Links on ideas (URL and email links, links to other maps and nodes)
  • Note and link previews
  • Automatic layouting (no overlaps)
  • Automatic canvas resizing (for large maps)
  • Export as PDF
  • Start new map from idea
  • Changes view date slider
  • Browse public maps (with rating)
  • Zooming in public maps (iframe)
  • Team Edition
  • MindMeister API


  • Reworked, more organic lines
  • Enhanced printing (choose size)
  • Remove icon via right-click
  • Display only changes since last visit
  • Cut & Paste between maps (not only copy)
  • Link to node (in Copy as Text)
  • Simplified main menu

Steady improvements to MindMeister have really made it a powerful online, collaborative mind mapping tool.

37Signals’ Backpack gets an update

There are few web 2.0 companies that get as much positive buzz as 37Signals does. For the uninitiated, 37Signals is the company behind some of the more practical web applications and productivity tools available today. One of their most popular applications, Backpack, was recently updated. Essentially, backpack is a light wiki-type application that allows you to create task lists, manage notes, and store files all within a simple/elegant web interface. When first launched a couple of years ago, Backpack received enormous amount of buzz, and helped catapult 37Signals into the web 2.0 mainstream. In recent times, however, Backpack had fallen behind in updates, and quite a few users openly wondered if 37Signals had abandoned the project. While the company might have put Backpack on the back burner, it has re-assumed center stage with some nice tweaks and enhancements to the interface. A complete list of updates can be seen here.

Search, finally


I’ve used Backpack, on and off, since it’s inception. The application is deceptively simple, but can also be very frustrating. One of the major frustrations that drove me away from daily Backpack use was the lack of a search capability. Well, as you can see on the right, that has been corrected. Can you imagine having a central repository of notes, ideas, or tasks that didn’t have any ability to search? Just by adding a search capability, 37Signals has substantially enhanced the usability of Backpack. Search is not perfect, as it only presents back the page on which a searched term resides.

Move stuff around

Another major complaint about Backpack was the inability to move sections (lists, notes, attachments, etc.) from page to page. 37Signals had already incorporated a slick drag-drop capability to move stuff around within a page, but not to other pages. This has now been fixed. Sections can be dragged onto other pages, and sections can be moved about anywhere on a given page. This is really, really nice. One big miss here is that individual list items can’t be moved from page to page. I’d certainly like to see that sometime soon.

There are a bunch of other tweaks worth checking out. Overall, this is a worthy upgrade to Backpack, not a huge improvement, but they’ve addressed many shortcomings in this iteration.

By the way, Satchel users will be happy to hear that the upgrade only caused minor hiccups in the ability to synchronize Backpack with the PalmOS based Satchel.

Socialtext takes wikis offline

Wikis can be a powerful tool to collaborate with a bunch of people, manage notes, and meta-tag all types of content for future reference. With all their strengths, however, one of the biggest fall backs of the wiki is the inability to be productive in a wiki environment while disconnected from the cloud. Well, that may soon be a problem of the past. Socialtext has introduced an interesting open source partnership with the developer of the TiddlyWiki (which is very popular among the GTD crowd). Now, with the combination of Socialtext and TiddlyWiki, you can ‘disconnect’ sections of a wiki for offline use and editing. You can ‘reconnect’ through a simple synchronization interface.

Socialtext Unplugged | Socialtext Enterprise Wiki

Socialtext Unplugged is collaboratively developed with Jeremy Ruston of Osmosoft, the creator of TiddlyWiki. Socialtext Unplugged is an application within a single HTML file, which also means it is cross-platform.

This is a really nice feature to have when the cloud is not reachable. It seems like the team over at Socialtext is trying really hard to make its product as easy to get to as possible. Earlier this year they rolled out the Miki, a light client version of the wiki. With a Miki you can access wiki pages via your Treo or other wirelessly connected PDA.

New theme time again!

Well, I shouldn’t say that with such excitement, since I put a lot of time into customizing Squible for this blog. Overall I like the look of this theme, but as it stands today, it is awfully flaky on some browsers….especially the beta Microsoft IE 7. I know that is more the fault of the big M than of the Squible developers, but what an I say. My statistics show a growing number of visitors are coming in via IE 7, so I guess I should be ready to handle that. When I first kicked off this blog, I was using a very, very simple theme. I’m looking for a new theme that replicates that simplicity. Since my last theme update, the WordPress community has expanded the number of themes, increased the quality of those themes, and generally been humming with activity. So, I’ll be off on a hunt to find another workable theme over the next week or so. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: I just found this great Ambiru single column theme over at the If..Else Blog.  I did a little bit of editing, removing the standard category approach by opting for a tag cloud, and added a feed link in the title.  I like the look of this theme a lot.  I think I’m going to stick with this for a while.

Just got an invite for Gmail for your domain

I signed up for the new gmail for your domain service that Google is beta testing (isn’t Google in permanent beta mode anyway?).  Well, I just received an invitation to turn on the service, along with the option to add up to 25 users to that domain.  At first glance everything looks just like gmail, with ability to make slight changes.  I’ll give this a real test in a few days, and log my impressions here.