Automatically Detect Displays in Mac OS X using AppleScript

If you’re anything like me, you need a large display to be productive (I used a 24-inch LCD when I lived at home and was later spoiled by using Dan Tran’s 30-inch monstrosity when I was in Seattle).

Fortunately, Mac OS X has great support for multiple displays. However, one weird quirk I am often frustrated by occurs when you initially connect the external display to a MacBook or other laptop.

If you do it the proper way, the MacBook should still be sleeping (or turned off) when you connect the Mini DisplayPort (or DVI, for older models) cable to your laptop. However, in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard), my MacBook Pro would never automatically register that a new display has been connected and turn it on accordingly.

Hence, I would have to manually go to System Preferences each time I connected the external display (a very frequent occurrence personally, as I took my laptop to school everyday), go into the Displays preference pane, and then manually click on the ‘Detect Displays’ button.

System Preferences - Displays

System Preferences - Detect Displays

Eventually, I decided this simple action HAD to be scriptable and looked into AppleScript to figure out a way to do it. Suffice it to say, I tried a bunch of different methods, without satisfying results. Eventually, some adept Googling and a lot of experimentation led me to (in my opinion) the simplest and best code for automating this simple action.

Please note that all credit for the final code goes to ‘Fess’ from the InsanelyMac forums. I’m just posting this here as a permanent and convenient reference for anyone else who runs into the same problem.

Set up an AppleScript with the following code:

tell application "System Preferences" to activate
tell application "System Events"
    tell process "System Preferences"
        click menu item "Displays" of menu "View" of menu bar 1
        tell button "Detect Displays" of window 1 to click
    end tell
end tell
tell application "System Preferences" to quit

Please note that you have to save this script as a “.app” file or otherwise it won’t work. If you’re not sure how to do this, TUAW has a great tutorial.

To activate this script especially quickly, I named my app “Detect” (original, right?) and use LaunchBar to open it (I set it to the keystroke shortcut “dd”).

This simple script has saved me untold time and I hope it does the same for you!

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Living with 75 Things

Amazingly, all of this stuff was packed into that bag in the top right and a small knapsack.

As I write this, I’m 20,000 feet in the air, en route to Chicago. I’ve just left Seattle, where I’ve been living for the past 2 months.

On the plane, I have a very small knapsack and one overstuffed carry-on bag. I didn’t check in any luggage, so those are actually the only bags that I have with me.

Between those 2 bags and the things I have on my person, I’m only carrying 75 items.

That’s right, 75 things in all.

That’s pretty much all I brought with me 2 months ago, too. And the crazy thing is that I actually didn’t even need all that.

The fact of the matter is that I have been happily living with fewer things than I used to cram in my car trunk alone.

Minimalism in Action

Sound impossible? Perhaps to some people. But ever since I started pursuing a clutter-free life in early 2009, this has actually been a dream of mine: needing so few things to live and work that I could pack everything into one bag and travel wherever my heart desired.

I’m not the only one crazy enough to attempt this: in 2008, Dave Bruno started the 100 items challenge. The idea to permanently live with so few items was radical at the time, but many minimalist bloggers have since followed the same trailblazing path in recent years.

But while I’ve been slowly decluttering ever since I discovered Unclutterer and Zen Habits, I knew I needed to do something radical to really jump-start myself on the path to minimalism. So last year, I called up my good friend Dan Tran and asked him if he wanted some company this year. He graciously welcomed me and so I found myself on a plane to Seattle only days after graduating from college.

Now, I feel like my decision has been vindicated. I haven’t been at a loss for anything while staying in Seattle; in fact, I actually put a bunch of stuff I wasn’t using back in my bag after only a week.

The 75 Things

But before I get ahead of myself, let me share with you exactly which 75 things I’ve been living with:

Clothes (47):

  • 8 T-shirts
  • 2 sleeveless athletic tees
  • 6 button-down shirts (3 short-sleeve, 3 long-sleeve)
  • 7 pairs of pants (athletic shorts, jorts, blue khaki shorts, pajama pants, 3 pairs of jeans)
  • 9 pairs of boxers (8 cotton, 1 Ex Officio travel pair)
  • 8 pairs of socks1
  • 2 belts (one black, one tan)
  • Zip-up hooded sweatshirt
  • Jacket
  • Pair of Timberland shoes
  • Pair of gloves
  • Beanie hat

Electronics (9):

  • 13″ MacBook Pro + charger2
  • iPad + charger
  • iPhone + sync cable
  • Canon Rebel XS DSLR camera + 2GB SD card + charger
  • 3 portable hard drives (1TB, 1TB, 250GB) + sync cables
  • Apple remote
  • Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter

Toiletries (8):

  • Contact lenses
  • Contact lens cleaning solution
  • 2 pairs of glasses
  • Deodorant
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush

Other (11):

  • Wallet
  • Passport (for weekend excursions to Canada)
  • Water bottle
  • 2 pens (black, blue)
  • Portfolio
  • Double-headed screwdriver
  • Towel
  • Fleece blanket
  • Small knapsack
  • Carry-on luggage bag

Too Much: Travel Light or Pack Everything?

As we were counting up everything, Dan actually remarked, “that’s a lot of stuff.” That’s an almost crazy notion, considering I was able to pack it all into a carry-on bag and knapsack, not to mention the fact that most people live with thousands upon thousands of items (go ahead and count your stuff, I’ll wait!).

But even crazier is that I actually agree with him—I definitely did over-pack. This was the first time I’d lived away from my old home for more than a week and I wasn’t entirely sure of what I’d need (a screwdriver? a media remote?!).

All of the “extra” stuff I packed—the things I never touched or packed away after only a few days—fall into 2 general categories:

1. Too Many Clothes: Let’s face it, I packed a lot of clothes. Interestingly, when I was originally packing for the trip, I had even more clothes but they didn’t fit into my carry-on bag (12 t-shirts, more button-down shirts, etc.). When I started taking stuff out of my bag at midnight the night before my 8am flight, I was worried it might not leave me with enough. On the contrary, I found myself actually taking clothes out of my weekly rotation. For example, I packed away 2 of the t-shirts and 2 of the long-sleeve button down shirts because I only wore them to delay doing the laundry each week; by putting them away, I forced myself to adhere to a regular laundry schedule and wear only the clothes I felt most confident in (most people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time, an idea derived from the Pareto principle).

2. Too Many “What If” Things: Despite my best intentions, I fell into the trap of packing things that I really wouldn’t need regularly; instead, I should have remembered the “Buy It There” philosophy, which advocates buying cheap “what if” items only if and when you actually need something, not weighing down your bag with everything from the get-go. For example, I really didn’t need the gloves, beanie hat, screwdriver, remote, blanket,3 or 2 extra hard drives,4 just to name a few.

(By packing even lighter, I could have hopefully avoided stuffing my bag to the point of bursting!)

However, in practice with BIT, I did buy some stuff in Seattle too: a pair of Ex Officio travel underwear, a 2 oz. bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, deodorant, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and 2 new pairs of glasses (purchased online!). As you can see though, most of the stuff I bought was consumable products, which helps keep my material objects to a minimum (as they will be used, replenished, or replaced over time).

Could You Live with 100 Things…or Less?

If my experience is any guide, it is both surprisingly difficult and easy to maintain such a lifestyle with a minimal number of possessions. You should and will expend significant cognitive effort figuring out exactly what things you need to live and work. However, once you decide and actually limit yourself, I truly believe you will not be at a loss for anything. I honestly had a blast living with so little and would not trade it for anything.

What about you? How many possessions do you need to live your ideal life?

  1. Some minimalist bloggers actually count all pairs of underwear or socks as one item; I think that’s cheating, so I’m counting each pair as an additional item. ↩︎

  2. Since chargers/sync cables/memory cards are pretty much useless on their own, I’ve chosen to count them as part of the item they’re designed to be used with and not as their own unique separate item. ↩︎

  3. My friend had some for guests already. ↩︎

  4. Let’s just say I’m really paranoid about my backup strategy, as you darn well should be too. ↩︎

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The iPad: Unpublished Premonitions on Tablet Computing

Note: This post was actually drafted almost one year ago (Feb. 2010), after the iPad was announced but before it was released. I never published it then, but I think it’s an interesting read now that we know much more about how people are using tablets in general and how the iPad specifically has fared in the market (namely, a rollicking success). Without further ado, a blast from the past…

On the day the iPad was announced, I immediately tweeted this:

The iPad is utterly underwhelming.January 27, 2010 7:49 pm via web

At the time, I could see no practical uses for the device; it was just a larger iPod Touch to me.  The cost, despite being lower than projections, was still too high for the masses.

The iPad is the best digital picture frame you’ll never buy.January 27, 2010 10:28 pm via Twitter for iPhone

However, after deep rumination and lengthy conversations with fellow technophiles, I’ve come around on the iPad (and tablets in general).

Now, I hope and believe the iPad will be the ultimate device for going paper-free. There, I said it…yes, the iPad does actually have a real-world use.

Past Attempts

Other companies have tried to fill this need. Amazon debuted their Kindle DX last year, with a 9.7″ E-Ink screen and PDF support. Unfortunately, the $489 price tag was just too expensive for most people to justify for a single-purpose device. I seriously considered purchasing one for school — cheaper textbooks over time would help defray the higher upfront cost — but ultimately, it was too limited of a device (I instead purchased a Kindle 2, but sold it after a few months because of the dearth of textbooks available for it).

Some people advocate netbooks as superior to tablets in every way – smaller, cheaper, and infinitely more useful. However, for the purposes of trying to go paper-free, a netbook falls far short of being an effective tool for anyone. Would you ever want to curl up in front of your fireplace with a nice eBook on your netbook? Enough said.

Why the iPad Will Be Different

Simply put, I believe the iPad will be the tipping point for people that have contemplated going paper-free.

The iPad is different than the eReaders that have preceded it because you can not only READ documents on it, but you will also be able to EDIT documents easily (thanks to Pages and many other similar apps that will surely be released for it).

Moreover, the iPad represents the first true instance of a “digital piece of paper.” Just think of how many physical objects something like that can replace: books, magazines, textbooks, comic books/graphic novels, kids’ books, cookbooks, and just about anything you would store in a file cabinet.

The iPad may not be a good single-purpose device, but it sure can replace a lot of other screens in our lives.

Don’t Pre-Order Just Yet

However, not everything will be hunky-dory. There are many concerns that still need to be addressed or clarified by Apple. For example, Apple has said that the iBooks store will sell ePub files. However, will these books be DRM-free, like Steve Jobs argued was a necessity in the iTunes Music Store? If not, I suspect book publishers will severely restrict our ability to use purchased books, from preventing people from copying passages into other apps to disabling sharing a book with a friend.

Furthermore, in order to be a true replacement to paper, tablets must be appliances, not computers. I don’t have to worry about my toaster getting infected with a virus and I shouldn’t have to worry about my tablet either.

The iPhone has established a strong precedent in this area, but tablets are a new beast with new problems. It should be interesting to see just how well the iPad holds up in day-to-day use once millions of people get their hands on one.

What Does This All Mean For You?

Tablets are going to change everything.

“Normal people” hate their computers. They hate rebooting every time an application crashes, they hate updating virus definitions every day, and they hate how slowly iTunes runs on Windows.

The iPad, and tablets in general, have the power to change that. By abstracting away complex computing paradigms (like the file system), end-users will be presented with a simple device that lets them just get things done. Tablet apps must and will be simpler, but I suspect many people will be happy with that trade-off.

For example, my own family members only use a few apps on their computers. My parents use Firefox, Microsoft Word, and some tax software. My grandfather uses Firefox, iTunes, and a simple Mah Jongg game. My sister uses Chrome, Word, Picasa, and an IM client. How many of these apps can’t be replicated on tablets? How many of these programs can’t be improved with a fullscreen touch-enabled interface?

Even if you don’t want to replace your entire computer with a tablet, it can still be useful as a paper replacement. For example, my sister will be going through the college application process this fall. By the time she actually starts college (in about 18 months), I can almost certainly guarantee she will be using a tablet device for textbooks (and so will many of her peers, if for no other reason than textbook piracy). Before you know it, lugging around a backpack full of heavy textbooks will seem downright antediluvian.

All in all, this is going to be one exciting year in technology. I don’t know if the iPad will be a hit with mainstream consumers (still too expensive for my blood), but I am confident it will finally introduce tablet computing to the masses. And hopefully some of them can take advantage of it to finally go completely paper-free.

Will you be buying an iPad? Why or why not?

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The Setup: Stuff I Use (2010)

I’m continually fascinated to learn what hardware and software people I admire use. The Setup does a fantastic job interviewing prominent technologists about this exact topic. One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Stamatiou, has created a version of this as well, which I’m blatantly stealing (with permission!).

Computer Setup

  • Laptop: 13.3-inch unibody MacBook Pro (2.4GHz Core 2 Duo/4 GB RAM/250GB hard drive)
  • Monitor: BenQ 24-inch LCD
  • Mouse: Logitech MX Revolution wireless mouse
  • Keyboard: Logitech Wave wireless keyboard
  • Speakers: Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX speakers
  • External Hard Drive: Seagate Freeagent (500GB), Western Digital My Book Essential (1TB)
  • Home Server: HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server (4x1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 HDDs)


  • Cell Phone: Apple iPhone 4 (black 32GB)
  • Tablet: Apple iPad (16GB Wi-Fi)
  • Digital Camera: Canon EOS Rebel XS 10.1MP DSLR
  • Router: Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 (802.11g)
  • eBook Reader: Amazon Kindle 2 (sold)
  • Video Games: Xbox 360 (sold)
  • Media Receiver: Apple TV, original Xbox with XBMC (sold)
  • Projector: Optoma DV10 DLP Projector (built-in DVD player) (sold)


  • Email/Calendar: Google Apps (custom domain)
  • File Sync: Dropbox
  • Online Backup: Mozy
  • Video Rental: Netflix
  • Web Hosting: MediaTemple (gs)


  • Web Browser: Firefox (primary), Chromium, Safari
  • RSS: Google Reader
  • Blogging: WordPress
  • Twitter: Tweetie
  • To-Do Lists: Things
  • FTP: Transmit
  • Web Development: Coda
  • Virtualization: VMware Fusion with Windows XP
  • Media Player: VLC Player
  • Office Suite: Microsoft Office 2008
  • Music: iTunes
  • Photos: iPhoto
  • Backup: Time Machine
  • Other: TextExpander
  • Other: TunesArt
  • Other: iStat Menus
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Going Google-Free: A Video Postmortem

Before I started this little experiment, I was wary of just how big of a monopoly Google seemingly had on useful web services.

So, I decided to live without Google for a week.

How difficult was it? Well, at first I was incredibly frustrated. I recorded a short video (but to abide by my own rules, I sent it to someone else to upload to YouTube for me):

As you can see in that video, recorded on only my first day of the experiment, I was already second-guessing myself. However, as I progressed through the week, I found it became easier and easier to use some of the alternatives.

I chronicled my story in tweets, where you can see an evident progression from being obsessed with Google products to finding equal, if not superior, alternatives from other companies.

In the end, I found myself rather happy with the results of the experiment. I recorded another video, where I further expounded on the reasons I believe myself and others feel so connected to Google, but also why we have reason to be legitimately excited for the future:

All in all, I must say that I found this little experiment to be a bit of an eye-opener on the power a single company has over the Internet. However, after trying so many new products this week from startups and competing online behemoths, I believe that singular stranglehold on trailblazing products may now be waning. More than anything, I am ridiculously excited about the future of the Internet and what the days and years ahead will hold.

What about you? Could you ever go a week (or longer!) without using Google products, now or in the future?

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Living Without Google: A Story in Tweets

Could you live without Google for a week?

I survived just that harrowing experience, despite being a very heavy user of the wide breadth of Google services and products. I was happy to be joined in this crazy little experiment by Nitesh Arora, a relatively light Google user; the contrast in our experiences by the end of the week was very surprising indeed.

Here is our story, in tweets:

Incredibly frustrated in the first few minutes of going #GoogleFree by just trying to find the Google logo on Flickr or Bing’s Image Searchless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Are there any free RSS readers that /don’t/ sync to Google Reader? #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi you use a LOT of google products…seriously :Pless than a minute ago via HootSuite

Just realized I “can’t” use Google Maps app on my phone…finding address for businesses is going to be a pain the arse now. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

It’s only been 2 hours, but going #GoogleFree is almost as bad as #summerclasses. Almost.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Ooh, good call. I did like it when I tested it a few weeks ago. #GoogleFree RT @probablydan: @rkudeshi Bing iPhone app!less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

#GoogleFree is a movement, @Nitesh_Arora is doing it too! Hey @probablydan @mostaghimi @peteabbate @alexromano up for the challenge?less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi you kidding? I for one welcome our new @google overlords. also I’m on a blackberry- life sans google is worse w/o a usable browserless than a minute ago via web

@rkudeshi I’m def not. Having an Android automatically DQs me several times simultaneously. Plus wouldn’t want to. But admire those who canless than a minute ago via web

@rkudeshi I’d totally try social media free week but then I’d have no one to tweet/post to tell them about it. Plus my ego wouldn’t allow itless than a minute ago via web

@alexromano @rkudeshi I don’t understand why I’d want to be #GoogleFree. They’re pretty good at what they do.less than a minute ago via web

@peteabbate 1) privacy 2) see how pervasive one company is on the web 3) determine if it’s possible (and how difficult) 4) crazy ol’ Ravi!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

My thoughts and reaction to going #GoogleFree, in video: [yes, I note the irony]less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

wondering how @rkudeshi is going #googlefree while documenting his experience on google-owned YouTube??? :)less than a minute ago via web

@JoshuaBamboo I had my sister upload it ;-). Slightly cheating, but people wouldn’t watch it otherwise (and not terribly timely next week).less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

D’oh, my voicemails are stored (and transcribed!) in Google Voice. Don’t call, just text me? #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

@rkudeshi Best of luck with this week! I bet it’s tough!less than a minute ago via web

Started making a list of YouTube videos I want to watch next week…it’s already double-digits :-/. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Just realized I hadn’t checked my email at all today…I haven’t missed anything important & I’ve been way more productive. Yay? #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Are music videos on hosted by Google? I know they’re crossposted to YouTube, but not sure on the main site. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi All I know is the music videos hosted on Vevo have a butt load more advertisements then the same exact ones on YouTube.less than a minute ago via web def using YouTube tech (, now UMG trying to force MTV to use it too ( Wow. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Thinking about adding links to my social media profiles to the ol’ resume…yay/nay/whoa?less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi im thinking the lack of google is hurting your judgmentless than a minute ago via New Flock

#GoogleFree Day 2: not nearly as bad as yesterday. Bing search/maps are good enough. No Gmail/GReader/YouTube makes for one productive dude.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi If you have Silverlight installed use the awesome @silverlight version. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

@nitesh_arora how’s #GoogleFree going for you? Had to make any changes whatsoever? ;-)less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi very slight ones…no youtube is fine but my default search on everything is google. oh well, bing works :) #googlefree is easy!less than a minute ago via HootSuite

Learning just how many unique Google services are nice, but hardly necessary: Voice, Alerts, DNS, Buzz, Picasa, arguably Reader. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi google voice is absolutely essential for me- when I changed phone numbers, its the only one I gave outless than a minute ago via ÜberTwitter

@rkudeshi i used to use flock for rss/browser since it was basically just firefox with an rss. but then i found greader and never went backless than a minute ago via New Flock

@DominicPody Gah, YouTube link…can’t watch :-/. than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi how much time are you spending finding articles without the amazingness of reader?less than a minute ago via New Flock

@mehal88 Very little. Downloaded a desktop RSS app, need to install it. Using Twitter, Flipboard (iPad app), and Techmeme more for now.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Interesting #GoogleFree moment during road trip: Navigon’s GPS app couldn’t find Pat’s or Geno’s, so we had to use Bing to find the address.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Very cool Bing feature: search for any song and it lets you listen to the entire thing thanks to #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Oh, interesting…Bing/Zune only lets you play the full song the first time, then 30-second snippets every time after. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Seeing no real changes in my daily life by going #googlefree …using bing on my mac & changed the default search on my BlackBerry=mostly itless than a minute ago via HootSuite

Can’t decide if #GoogleFree is making me more or less productive…email/RSS/YouTube time is now apparently being used for bubble baths.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi Do you have a rubber ducky to keep you company? lol PS Props for proving that #Google doesn’t, in fact, run the world! #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via HootSuite

@AshODonnell No ducky :-(. Based on the last few days, they’re getting pretty close (almost feels like I’m going through drug withdrawal).less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Interesting #GoogleFree revelation: with an RSS reader, I start working after reading. Without it, I just explore the Internet endlessly.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Whoa…Bing’s image search has a very cool feature to find more sizes of the same picture. Immensely helpful. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Pretty sure I’m going to stick with Bing image search & Bing maps after this week. #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

The best thing I’ve learned this week: you really don’t need to leave your email open 24/7 (or even as much as 2/7). #GoogleFreeless than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi I never left my email open 24/7. In fact I was awfully surprised the large number of people who actually do.less than a minute ago via web

@rkudeshi I guess a lot of people do it for Gmail’s chat options, but I’ve always been a fan of the standalone Google Talk application.less than a minute ago via web

@TheyCallMeGTab That’s why I did. I usually closed it when I was writing/studying, but now having it closed by default is a lot better.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Hard to believe it’s the last day of going #GoogleFree. Last few days, I’ve barely noticed being without Google (other than YouTube).less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

@rkudeshi Same here! Bing gives me pretty good search results…youtube was missed though :/less than a minute ago via HootSuite

Today @rkudeshi & I are free of #GoogleFree … Only major changes during the week? Google Search & Youtube.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

Woo, #GoogleFree finally over! Both harder & easier than it seemed.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

So, was that better or worse than you would’ve thought? Up for trying the #GoogleFree experiment yourself, for a week or maybe even longer?

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Could You Live Without Google for a Week?

Google, in little over a decade, has become the most pervasive company on the Internet. They freely give away their best products and we have correspondingly embraced them.

Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of the Google products I frequently use (and you probably do too):

  • Google Search
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs
  • Google Maps
  • Google Reader
  • Google Voice
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Image Search
  • Google News
  • Blogger
  • YouTube
  • FeedBurner
  • Picasa
  • Google Adsense
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Checkout
  • Google Buzz
  • Google Talk
  • Google Latitude
  • Google Alerts
  • Google Groups
  • Google Translate
  • Google DNS

These are just the ones I personally use; more of you probably use things like Android, Buzz, or Latitude, not to mention all the different Google services hidden in the code of millions of websites across the Internet. The full list of Google products is downright scary (click here if you dare to take a look).

So What’s the Problem?

Other than potentially Facebook, there is no company we trust with more of our personal data. As benevolent as Google may be (their unofficial motto is “don’t be evil“), they are still in the business of harvesting data and finding ways to profit from it.

Even if you don’t trust Google with your mail or calendar, many of their services (Analytics, AdSense, FeedBurner, etc.) are embedded on websites you visit. If you want to view web videos, Google-owned YouTube has become the de facto standard.

Today, it is almost downright impossible to surf the Internet without encountering Google. The privacy implications are astounding. Heck, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has even suggested everyone be entitled to a name change to avoid the all-seeing eye of Google.

Google isn’t content on resting its laurels on its web services, either…they’re rapidly expanding into operating systems. Google’s Chrome OS, a browser-based operating system, is looming. It will launch on netbooks, but how long until it is refined enough to run on full laptops and tablets?

Google’s Android operating system for smartphones is also seeing incredible adoption; it’s gone from an iPhone also-ran to doing more than 200,000 activations every day (the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units in the 3 frenzied days following its launch; Google’s regular pace is now matching that in little over a week year-round).

One Man’s Bold Experiment

Today, I face a dilemma: I willingly use and love many Google services but I am increasingly concerned about the privacy implications. So what am I going to do about it?

Very simple; I’m going to try and go for an entire week without using a single Google service.

My goal isn’t to make this permanent; I think Google provides many great best-of-breed services. What I do hope to do is raise awareness of the pervasiveness of Google and identify some good (and hopefully a few better) alternatives to many Google products.

Effective immediately, I’m blocking all Google services from my computer (with one small caveat; more details tomorrow!). If I click through to a Google-owned website (for instance, shortened YouTube links on Twitter), I will not view the content. I will not use programs that exclusively sync with Google services (for example, desktop RSS readers that sync with Google Reader).

Will this be hard? Honestly, I have no idea. Google has been a major part of my life ever since I started using a computer. Using the Internet without Google is as incredulous an idea to me as using a computer without Internet access.

Could You Go #GoogleFree too?

Think I’m crazy? Think you could you do it too, even if only for a day? Join me on Twitter (I’m @rkudeshi), where I’ll be using the hashtag #GoogleFree to chronicle my journey!

How do you think I will do? Any suggestions on Google alternatives? Chime in below in the comments and let me know what you think about my crazy idea!

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Twitter Just TKO'ed with

Twitter's on the warpath!

Twitter is on a warpath and the casualties are counting.

iPhone apps? Twitter bought the best one, Tweetie (and they recently released their own official apps for BlackBerry and Android).

URL shortening? Twitter gave rise to and now they just cemented its downfall.

A better web client and built-in picture support? The smart money says it’s coming, and Seesmic, TwitPic, and others should be scared.

Back in the Good Ol’ Days

TinyURL launched in 2002, but didn’t gain widespread appeal until Twitter adopted it as its official URL shortener. Back then (2006-2009ish), Twitter had nary a concern for money. They were focused on building the best service possible (or at least one that didn’t go down every other minute) and welcomed an ecosystem of outside apps and services built on top of the basic Twitter platform. This dichotomy worked out beautifully: Twitter wanted to grow and scale, and they basically got free outside help.

Back then, it was actually in Twitter’s own interest to avoid monetizing the service. As the anecdote goes, you don’t know what a company’s worth until it starts making money. That is, without ads or paid subscriptions, Twitter’s earning potential seems limitless. Seem counterintuitive? Perhaps at first. Basically, once a company starts making money, by implementing ads or charging for premium services, investors start realizing just how much — or how little — a company is truly capable of making. But until that point, everyone can still dream of fistfuls of cash just dropping from the sky.

However, the honeymoon can’t last forever. Now, with investors presumably breathing down their necks and Twitter becoming a true pop culture phenomenon (the Oprah moment!), Twitter needs to start figuring out how to pay off investors and become a financially successful company with plans for an IPO down the line.

In Pursuit of Money

Make no mistake, all of Twitter’s recent changes are a result of the company “growing up” and preparing to launch its advertising platform. Without controlling how the end-user views tweets, it becomes impossible to guarantee the wide dissemination of Twitter’s own advertising platform (that is, without hijacking the Twitter stream with spammy and unimaginative advertising tweets, now explicitly prohibited by Twitter’s recently revised Terms of Service).

Twitter bought Tweetie and rebranded it Twitter for iPhone because it was, by far, the best mobile client available. Creating its own app from scratch would’ve required significant effort and expenditure and many power users may have stuck with Tweetie anyways if they believed it to be better. By adopting the best client as its own, Twitter guaranteed widespread initial acceptance.

In contrast, picked up steam on its own, but only went mainstream after Twitter started using it as the default shortener on Power users liked it because it provided analytics and, more recently, branded URLs for its Pro service users (such as TechCrunch’s or the New York Times’ However, with Twitter’s impending shortening service, will lose its most valuable asset: prominent placement on

In short, URL shortening services went viral, but only because they helped users maximize the utility of Twitter’s infamous 140 characters limit. If Twitter now allows full URLs in tweets, why would anyone bother using a URL shortener?

Without Twitter, can a URL shortening service still be a viable (and profitable) company? If Facebook’s copy-rather-than-acquire precedent is any model, competing services are going to have a tough time.

Will Get Rocky Balboa’ed or Can It Bounce Back?

Now, the onus is on to innovate or die. They have already begun offering some premium services, but they need to go much farther.

I suspect they will need to shift some of their focus from their core business (short domains) to other ancillary services, like small landing pages for consumers or a full-fledged analytics service for microblogging services (like Tumblr and Posterous, in addition to Twitter).

Or they can just hope Google acquires them.

What do you think – can survive this onslaught from Twitter or are they just a feature, not a company?

[photo credit: flickr/mdverde]

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I'd Pay For a Hulu Subscription If…

Hulu logo

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Hulu, the premier online legal TV watching destination, will be launching a paid subscription version next month. Hulu Plus, as it will be called, will charge $9.95 monthly for access to the back catalog of some of the shows which they currently only have up to 5 episodes of. Would you pay for such a subscription service?

Despite being an avowed television and digital media aficionado, right now I would NOT pay for this type of plan. As it stands, access to a few more episodes from the current season of the shows they have available is simply not compelling enough for me to fork over $120 of my hard-earned money every year. However, what can Hulu do to get my money?

I’m glad you asked. I’d pay for a Hulu subscription if…

  1. HD Video

    Simply put, the paucity of HD shows on Hulu is maddening. They have a few in a special walled-off section of the site, but they’re one-off episodes, not for entire series (or even seasons of a show). In order for any paid subscription plan, Hulu simply must offer HD versions of their shows – 720p will suffice, but 1080p would be even better.

  2. Can I watch on my TV?

    Hulu, understandably, has tried to restrict companies like Boxee from being able to play its videos on TV-connected devices. This is primarily because Hulu is actually owned by the major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, and Fox each have a 30% stake in the company). However, in order for any Hulu paid plan to have traction, consumers MUST be able to watch shows on their TV. Ideally, this would be through partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Apple, on the Xbox 360 and Apple TV and other such devices.

    The most important caveat is that rights holders (read: the networks and production companies) should not and can not be allowed to restrict their shows from being watched on TVs. When Amazon released the Kindle 2, they included a text-to-speech feature on all ebooks; however, after pressure from book publishers, they allowed this feature to be restricted on a per-book basis. For Hulu Plus to be successful, Hulu must not succumb to outside pressures as Amazon did.

  3. Access on more portable devices (Netflix model)

    Netflix has succeeded in the digital video space because of its ubiquitous access. Simply put, Hulu must follow Reed Hastings’ lead and do the same. As a consumer, I want to be able to start a television show on, continue watching it on my TV, and then finish it on an iPhone or iPad. Hulu Plus may find consumers willing to pay for access on their computers and televisions, but it won’t be a ball-out-of-the-park hit unless it is available on the products consumers are increasingly using: phones, tablets, and digital media players.

  4. More formats (Silverlight instead of Flash?)

    Many people are happy with I am not.

    Simply put, using Flash to display videos is a nice cross-platform solution (and easier for web developers), but it stutters like crazy on my Mac computer (and multiple underpowered Windows PCs I use from time to time). On the other hand, I have never run into these issues while watching an ‘Instant Streaming’ movie on Netflix. This is primarily because Netflix employs the competing Silverlight platform made by Microsoft. Silverlight is a newer technology and is optimized for streaming web video; Flash was never designed for this purpose and such features have essentially been hacked on in the aftermath of YouTube’s wild success.

    In an ideal world, Hulu Plus will support Silverlight instead of, or at least in addition to, Flash. A man can hope, right?

  5. Fewer commercials

    Internet users are trained early to expect websites to fall into one of two categories: advertising-supported or subscription-based. falls into the former; users watch one or two commercials every so often in exchange for freely watching television shows. However, in order to get consumers to pay up for Hulu Plus, there must be fewer commercials.

    Unlike many other people, I do not expect Hulu Plus to be completely devoid of advertising. As NBC CEO Jeff Zucker has said on behalf of the entire television industry, “We can’t trade analog dollars for digital pennies.” With Hulu Plus expected to be only $9.99 monthly, it will already arguably be a much better deal than cable or satellite — which the average household pays nearly $75 for, but still has plentiful commercials on almost every channel.

All in all, that’s what it’d take for me, seemingly the perfect target audience, to pay for Hulu Plus. What will it take for you to subscribe to Hulu Plus?

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The Setup: Stuff I Use

Note: Idea borrowed from Paul Stamatiou with permission.

This is a list of applications, products and services I personally use on a regular basis. I was not paid for placement of anything on this list, they’re all things I personally find useful. If you have any suggestions about applications, products or services to try out or replace what I’m currently using, I’d love to hear about it!

Computer Setup

  • Laptop: 13.3-inch unibody MacBook Pro (2.53GHz processor/4 GB RAM/250GB hard drive)
  • Monitor: BenQ 24″ LCD
  • Mouse: Logitech MX Revolution wireless mouse
  • Keyboard: Logitech Wave wireless keyboard
  • Speakers: Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX speakers
  • External Hard Drive: Seagate Freeagent (500GB)
  • Home Server: 4 terabyte custom-built Windows Home Server (4x1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 HDDs)


  • Cell Phone/DAP: iPhone 3GS (black 32GB)
  • Digital Camera: Canon EOS Rebel XS 10.1MP DSLR camera
  • eBook Reader: Amazon Kindle 2
  • Video Games: Xbox 360 Arcade (20GB hard drive)
  • Media Receiver: Apple TV (40GB)
  • Router: Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 802.11g wireless router
  • Optoma DV10 MovieTime DLP Projector With Built-In DVD Player
  • Original Xbox with XBMC


  • Email/Calendar: Google Apps for my domain
  • Telephone: Google Voice
  • Backup: Mozy
  • File Sync: Dropbox
  • Web Hosting: MediaTemple (gs)
  • Video Rental: Netflix


  • Web Browser: Firefox
  • RSS: Google Reader
  • Blogging: WordPress
  • Twitter: Tweetie
  • To-Do Lists: Things
  • FTP: Transmit
  • Web Development: Coda
  • Virtualization: VMware Fusion with Windows XP
  • Media Player: VLC Player
  • Office Suite: Microsoft Office 2008
  • Music: iTunes
  • Photos: iPhoto
  • Backup: Time Machine
  • Other: TextExpander
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