Feature: The Great Ars Cloud office suite shootout

As cloud computing gains steam in the enterprise, many IT shops are looking for ways to move stuff out of their own server rooms and into someone else's. This has given rise to services like Google Apps and Office 365, which offer e-mail, calendaring, and other Web-based services that completely replace not just software running on your company's servers, but also software running on your company's desktops.

One of those software products is the venerable Microsoft Office, which is ubiquitous in most offices. In this, the first in a series of articles comparing different cloud office solutions, we'll be looking at productivity apps from Google, Microsoft, Zoho, and ThinkFree to compare not just their features and interfaces, but also their ability to integrate with existing systems and work with Microsoft Office documents.

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Feature: Apple’s iBooks Author: the iTunes of self-publishing apps?

Apple's much-hyped iBooks Author came out a while back, and Cupertino hopes the free app can become the iTunes for the self-publishing textbook world. Available solely through the Mac App Store at a healthy 320MB, I've been putting iBooks Author through its paces in the hopes that the interactive iBook will bring me some added sales of a recently self-published e-book. I wanted to get this review out sooner, but you can't really know how well this program works unless you actually have something to publish. A bird's-eye view of a publishing tool doesn't do it justice—you have to use it in production to really see its strengths and weaknesses.

Unfortunately, I added another delay by wanting to publish my iBook before this review went live. After a week and a half, my iTunes publisher account still wasn't approved (book not even submitted yet). I gave up on that, and here we are. It seems that iBooks Author has inherited Apple's infamously slow app publishing times, so that's one mark against Apple's iBook publishing experience.

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Review: A Valley Without Wind remembers a new past

On the top shelf of my closet, behind the empty 3DS packaging and under a pile of discarded component cables, there's a green shoebox where I keep my past. At the top of the heap are rainy afternoons spent playing Age of Empires II, a backup copy of which sits in the box. A handful of guitar recitals, day trips to the zoo, and a crashed Lego X-Wing collect dust beneath painted rocks and tubes of pogs. My old (former, not elderly) girlfriends live there in as many sloppy notes, first crumpled into my pocket, then folded neatly at the bottom of a box to remind me that, at some point before, I changed my world.

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Feature: For today’s IT professional, the iPad is an addition, not a replacement

When I think about the iPad as a sysadmin's tool, I don't think about it in terms of can/can't. Obviously, the iPad can be a sysadmin tool. Heck, I used Windows Mobile 6 phones as sysadmin tools. It wasn’t a lot of fun, but if you were really far from a laptop, tin cans with string, or a sharp stick and soft dirt, you could do it. Prior to getting my first iPad, I used my iPhone to some effect. The truth is you can use an iPhone (or really, any smartphone) as a sysadmin tool as long as you have a decent Web browser and few key apps. But it is not a particularly enjoyable experience.

Yes, I know, “sysadmin” and “enjoyable” seem like they’re mutually exclusive. The small screen of the iPhone, and the small size of its keyboard have always made it one of those “if you have to" tools. Things like VNC or other similar remote logins were... well, you can do those sorts of things on an iPhone, but I always tried to avoid it. It’s easier to drive home to the MacBook Pro than use the iPhone.

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Carsabi points the way forward for buying a used car online

After two years of living in Europe, my wife and I have returned to the US—specifically to Oakland, California. Although there are some public transit options (and I bike a lot), we’ve decided that we want to get a car to share between the two of us. So, I turned to where most of us turn these days to buy pretty much anything: Craigslist.

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Feature: Hands-on: getting work done with Google’s new Aura interface for Chrome OS

Google attempted to introduce a new approach to computing when it first launched Chrome OS in 2010. The operating system consists of little more than a fullscreen Web browser perched atop a rigorously-hardened Linux environment. The platform makes some unusual trade-offs, eschewing conventional native applications in exchange for bulletproof security and low-maintenance stateless computing.

Although the unique approach that Google is pursuing with Chrome OS offers some intriguing benefits, the platform hasn’t inspired enthusiasm in consumers. It offers limited functionality and a poor user experience compared to more conventional alternatives. Chrome OS in its current state is simply too alien and too restrictive to appeal to a mainstream audience. But that’s about to change in a major way.

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Feature: Hands-on: getting work done with Google’s new Aura interface for Chrome OS

Google attempted to introduce a new approach to computing when it first launched Chrome OS in 2010. The operating system consists of little more than a fullscreen Web browser perched atop a rigorously-hardened Linux environment. The platform makes some unusual trade-offs, eschewing conventional native applications in exchange for bulletproof security and low-maintenance stateless computing.

Although the unique approach that Google is pursuing with Chrome OS offers some intriguing benefits, the platform hasn’t inspired enthusiasm in consumers. It offers limited functionality and a poor user experience compared to more conventional alternatives. Chrome OS in its current state is simply too alien and too restrictive to appeal to a mainstream audience. But that’s about to change in a major way.

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I am SEO and so can you: tool helps tweak content for search, Twitter

If you’ve ever wondered how some website that looks like it was an early draft from the proverbial infinite number of monkeys on infinite keyboards managed to get to the top of a search result page instead of something you actually want to read (or something you’ve written), you’ve been victimized by the dark art of search engine optimization (SEO). In the never-ending battle for the top of the Google search results page, and for advertising click-throughs, marketers and bloggers enlist an ever-changing bag of tricks to game search engine algorithms, often with the help of SEO consultants and a collection of tools that track the best tactics of the moment.

I recently got an advance look at the latest version of a tool that helps bring SEO to the masses. InboundWriter, a web-based software-as-a-service offering, coaches bloggers and other writers for the web on how to tweak their content based on best practices tuned to the user's site strategy. The latest version, due out next week, adds a feature that tracks topics on Twitter to find similar material—giving bloggers potential new sources, and marketers an eye on their competition.

Whether giving the masses the power of SEO is a good thing or not is another question entirely—while InboundWriter can optimize pages for search, following its advice to the letter doesn't make you a better writer (though the new Twitter research tool certainly can make you a better-informed one). But like the honey badger, Google doesn't care if you're no Raymond Carver. To get a feel for what SEO experts think determines a "high-quality" page from the standpoint of a search engine, I used InboundWriter to search-optimize this story. I'll let you be the judge of the outcome; InboundWriter gave it a score of 99 out of a possible 100.

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I am SEO and so can you: tool helps tweak content for search, Twitter

If you’ve ever wondered how some website that looks like it was an early draft from the proverbial infinite number of monkeys on infinite keyboards managed to get to the top of a search result page instead of something you actually want to read (or something you’ve written), you’ve been victimized by the dark art of search engine optimization (SEO). In the never-ending battle for the top of the Google search results page, and for advertising click-throughs, marketers and bloggers enlist an ever-changing bag of tricks to game search engine algorithms, often with the help of SEO consultants and a collection of tools that track the best tactics of the moment.

I recently got an advance look at the latest version of a tool that helps bring SEO to the masses. InboundWriter, a web-based software-as-a-service offering, coaches bloggers and other writers for the web on how to tweak their content based on best practices tuned to the user's site strategy. The latest version, due out next week, adds a feature that tracks topics on Twitter to find similar material—giving bloggers potential new sources, and marketers an eye on their competition.

Whether giving the masses the power of SEO is a good thing or not is another question entirely—while InboundWriter can optimize pages for search, following its advice to the letter doesn't make you a better writer (though the new Twitter research tool certainly can make you a better-informed one). But like the honey badger, Google doesn't care if you're no Raymond Carver. To get a feel for what SEO experts think determines a "high-quality" page from the standpoint of a search engine, I used InboundWriter to search-optimize this story. I'll let you be the judge of the outcome; InboundWriter gave it a score of 99 out of a possible 100.

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Review: Fez’s world-spinning puzzles drive us to distraction

It's hard to think of an indie game that has had more prerelease buzz and attention than Fez. Polytron's Phil Fish has been working on the game for nearly five years now, teasing fans with trailers and small trade show demos as he constantly put off planned release dates to perfect it just a little more. The game that is finally seeing the light of day today shows the care that went into creating a world full of hidden depths, but some players might find those depths a little too well-hidden.

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