Product & Startup Builder

Follow up - Instructions for running Particls on Mac

Added on by Chris Saad.
We have had a lot of interest in a recent post showing David Cancel from running Particls on his mac.

Well Nik, our Business Development manager here at Faraday also has a Mac and he wrote some step by step instructions for getting it all up and running. There are really not that many steps so don't blink!

1. Install Parallels on your Mac.
From their site Parallels is described like this:
Parallels Workstation is a powerful, easy to use, cost effective desktop virtualization solution that empowers PC users with the ability to create completely networked, fully portable, entirely independent virtual machines on a single physical machine.

2. Install Particls on the Windows installation running inside Parallels
This should be a simple matter of downloading the app from the URL provided in your invite, running the setup and stepping through the wizard. Again this should all be done inside the virtual Windows installation

3. Hide the chrome
To have Particls appear to be running on the Mac OS Desktop without the Windows desktop in the background, you will need to select the Auto-Hide the task bar so that the Windows task bar is hidden.

Then Within the Parallels software you need to select the button "Coherence" which is below the Full Screen option to remove the windows desktop background.


Got to love Mac

Thanks Nik!

Are you a Peepel Person?

Added on by Chris Saad.
The original genesis of the idea for Touchstone came about when I was working on Web-Based Enterprise software back in the day (you know... Those Web 1.0 days?). The issue very quickly became apparent to me that if you wanted to display an alert like Outlook routinely does from a web-based CRM or CMS system, you were in trouble. There was no convenient way to do it.

So the question arose in my mind... "How can you alert the user to stuff". Then other questions followed... "how do you build a unified alerting tool that worked for all applications - not just the ones I was making" and then "how do you keep the user in control of all this alerting without overburdening them with a rules engine".

The result is Touchstone. It's scope has expanded to handle news and content discovery and all sorts of other things, but at its heart, it is still a way to get messages from the web, to the user - on their own terms.

Enter Peepel (Disclosure: Peepel and Faraday share an investor). At its surface Peepel looks like the newest player in the Web office suite marketplace. What it actually is, is a realization that online environments need to be platforms. Just like Windows is a platform for other software on the client-side.

In the diverse coverage that it's getting today and over the next few weeks most blogs will probably focus on the office stuff. But I actually think the most interesting part is the environment that is being built out to support the applications themselves. Windowing, File Handling, Task Manager etc.

One of the pieces of that environment will be Notification. And notification is what Touchstone is all about.

"A document in your workspace has just been updated..."

"A spreedsheet you are monitoring has been updated..."

"Chris Saad has logged onto Peepel..."


So I look forward to see Peepel grow into its own and establish a viable platform inside which a whole range of applications can live - and notify - for the user.

Check out Peepel!

CleverClogs announces OnePipe

Added on by Chris Saad.
Marjolein over on CleverClogs has announced 'OnePipe'.

Here's how she describes it:

"As far as I know OnePipe is the first solution to offer generic, on-the-fly feed filtering based on URL parameterization."

And that's exactly what it is. She has used Yahoo! Pipes to create a generic feed filtering service in the form of a bookmarklet.

Simply Highlight some text on the page, click the OnePipe bookmark and you are presented with links to the feeds on that page filtered by the words you highlighted.

It is like a bookmark driven FeedRinse or a very rudimentary Touchstone.

Well done Marjolein.

OT: 666 Subscribers

Added on by Chris Saad.
Our subscribers go up and down as you'd expect. But I thought I would note that right this very second feedburner reports that we have 666 subscribers. Please invite your friends to subscribe so we can move of this terrible number.

Of course you could change the number if unsubscribed as well - but I'd prefer you didn't do that. ;)

This has been a public service announcement.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Added on by Ash.
Stress levels have been pretty high for a few days at Touchstone HQ. We’re at the business end of alpha and experiencing the typical Braxton Hicks that a start-up experiences as they prepare for beta.

It’s been long tiring week and the team are exhausted. But it’s ok – it lets us know we’re still alive.

A (seriously) lucky few have had the opportunity to actually play with the beta version and so far the feedback has been extremely positive (perhaps they will write something pleasant in the comments to this blog post to make us feel special).

The only problem preparing for the long anticipated beta is that, at some point we have to turn off the ideas (something we’re all struggling with).

If you’re a newbie to our humble little blog, please make sure you sign-up (on the side <-- over there) as a matter of urgency. Trust me! It’ll be worth it.

Site Stats

Added on by Chris Saad.
Just a quick note.

We now have a 3 month average Alexa rank of 90,413 (although our chicklet in the side bar does not seem to have been updated right now).

And we have a Technorati rank of 37,642.

Just a few days ago we were 100,000+ on Alexa and a couple of months ago we were 100,000+ on Technorati.

But who keeps track of these things :)

Thank you all for paying attention to us. We know your attention is very valuable.

A new improved Tangle

Added on by Chris Saad.

Marty and the boys over at Tangler have launched an updated version of their platform. If you have not seen it yet and would like an invite, drop me a note in the comments (include your email address please) and I will see if I can hook you up - I have inside connections ;)

In other Australian Web 2.0 news, Cameron Reilly seems to be Buried Alive at the moment. At least that's the advice his email auto-responder gives me. Do you need help Cam? Do you need food, water and/or ipods? We're here for you my friend.

The Secret Life of an Entrepreneur

Added on by Ash.
Life is hard enough for an entrepreneur, let alone a Internet Start-up Founder. I am incredibly fortunate in that I am surrounded by a loving wife, very passionate and focused (and supportive) partner(s) and surrounded by developers who are far more gifted programmers then even I could ever hope to be. Sometimes, these people are the only reason I can go on.

The Touchstone Team has a huge level of faith and determination and a growing level of enthusiasm from the community (even some of our very own "fanbois and girls") which only catalyses our efforts. All-in-all, Touchstone (even right from the beginning) seemes to be slightly blessed.

It is however, not all rosy. It strikes me today as I sit here programming and blogging between episodes of Mythbusters and Grey's Anatomy on my wedding anniversary pondering how I am going to push a few lines out tonight between courses at my step-father's 50th birthday party.

Families (esp extended ones), girlfriends, in-laws and the Tax Department for some reason just dont seem to be very supportive when I whip out my tablet shouting "Eureka! I just solved how to factor views over time over importance!". They also don't seem to appreciate how satisfying it can be solving memory leaks, or understand why slowly transforming into an albino Hunchback of Notre Dame with sever allergy to sunlight and fresh (non recycled) air is an acceptable means to an end!

I guess they just don't understand the 'space', which is weird considering they all happily use MySpace! Im not sure what it is that can make these people so counter-supportive. Maybe they think they're helping or that they are trying to help us see reason, and it's their attempt to protect us from failure.

but it doesnt work that way. As an Internet Start-up Entrepreneur, our brains seem wired differently to other people. Success is not permanent and failure is not fatal, we all understand that. Small sucesses are like a drug, and miss-steps only drive us to go harder still.

Through sheer determination and willpower we will topple mountains! And so it continues....

The Bigger the Company, The More We Expect

Added on by Ash.
3 severe security vulnerabilities in 3 weeks, is not good for any software company these days. But when you're a company held with much higher standards and expectations (at your own request), its far far worse.

Haochi uncovered another XSS vulnerability that easily and without the victims consent can steal cookies and hijack your Google account. Just like the others, victim's need only visit a hosted site by a malicious attacker. I can only imagine the panic at Google as they try to put out these spot fires.

Blogger Garett Rogers, highly recommends "making sure you are completely logged out of your Google account while browsing the internet, until we have an official statement from Google stating their security team has thoroughly reviewed every Google property for these types of vulnerabilities". This seems a bit alarming, but maybe it's better to be safe then sorry.

That being said, no-one suggests staying logged out of Windows until Microsoft fixes the bugs.

Well, maybe if they were black, white and feathered they might.
... or if they often felt compelled to put an "i" at the start of their surname.

Did I Miss a Memo? I Thought the Browser Wars Were Over?

Added on by Ash.
According to Mary Jo Foley, the Safari Web Browser may be coming soon to Windows' users. I can't even begin to understand if this bothers me more from a CSS designer perspective (anyone who's tried making a complex CSS design for Firefox, IE AND Safari knows what I mean), or more from a Business perspective.

The browser wars are over. We've all moved along (or so I thought). Since RSS our focus has shifted from the medium (the site) onto the content (through our feed readers).

Why would anyone bother to compete with Mozilla/IE on any platform? Seriously, Apple - Mozilla and Microsoft have got it covered.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia

Added on by Ash.
In case you've been living your life under a rather large rock, there is this site called Wikipedia, and it one of my personal inspirations. You see, I consider myself somewhat of a sociologist and I am fascinated by any group of people collaborating and focussing on a single goal. To me, Wikipedia is the ultimate embodiment of on-line collaboration and cooperation.

Touchstone has just informed me that Wikipedia has just turned six, which makes it more or less one of the few remaining "old school" start-ups still around from the *ahem*, the 'you know what'!

I wanted to take the opportunity to extend a warm "Happy Birthday" to the crew over at Wikipedia, and wish them the best of ongoing luck with what I believe, to be one of the best examples of world cooperation ever conceived. Thank-you for showing us a glimmer of what we can become if we work together.

You Can't Stop The Signal

Added on by Ash.
A recent Techcrunch article struck me today. Someone created a Windows Mobile iPhone skin:

Today Apple is engaging in similar [legal] tactics against a number of bloggers who simply reported on the fact that someone created a skin for Windows Mobile phones that looks exactly like the new iPhone user interface [...] If Apple wants to go after the guy that made the Windows Mobile skin that looks like the iPhone, fine. But to bully bloggers who are simply reporting on this is another matter.
Now, at the risk of dragging Touchstone into a cease and desist land mine, obvious bullying tactics like this are simply ridiculous. It's not the first time Apple has been so aggresive with the community. There was the Apple Rumor mill Wars, the more recent demanding that YouTube videos be removed from sites and various issues with the use of the iPod brand. Can I even say Podcast now?

This is the latest in a long line of over-the-top legal war-mongering. Apple has earned a lot of respect and loyalty from it's fan and not only does this irritate me, it may well kill one of their key stratigic advantages by acting this way.

Which is why I posting it here.

My theory is that if a company is going to actively and aggressively try to stop the blogosphere (which is largely only opinion anyway) then I will add to the news. What are they going to do if several million people post about it? Sue everyone? I don't think so.

So here it is!

You can't stop the signal.

Well done Microsoft; Another 1 Step Forward, 5 Steps Back

Added on by Ash.
For those of you like me who are too stubborn too busy to move to Gmail; our worse nightmares have been realised. Microsoft Outlook (whom consumes approximately ¾ of the corporate world’s email client market) will no longer render HTML emails with Internet Explorer, but instead with the crippled Microsoft Word HTML Engine.

I read David Greiner’s post on the Campaign Monitor Blog, and I agree with his sentiment totally.

After picking up the contents of my desk off the floor and taking a few deep breaths, I tried to come up with a few decent reasons why Microsoft would go in this direction. Here's what I came up with.
  1. Security - But wait! Microsoft have touted Internet Explorer as "a major step forward in security". Surely they'd just replace the IE6 rendering engine with IE7 and be done with it. I'd also love to know how float and position impacts the security of an email in any way.
  2. Consistent rendering - By default Outlook uses the Word engine to create HTML emails, which it's done for years now. Perhaps Microsoft figured that in order to keep the look and feel of emails consistent between Outlook users they'd display emails using the same engine that created them. But what about the millions of other email newsletters out there that aren't created with Outlook or Word? If an email is created with Outlook, then surely it should display perfectly in a modern browser like IE7.
  3. They hate us - OK, this one might be pushing it, but I'm running out of explanations here. Don't get me wrong, we're not Microsoft bashers here. Both our products are developed on Microsoft's .NET platform and we've been a fan of their development environment for the better part of a decade. But seriously, they've taken 5 important years off the email design community in one fell swoop.

Without entering the Plain Text/HTML debate, there is simply no sense to Microsoft’s Product design decisions lately. I think we’re starting to see what happens in the IT marketplace when it takes a company too many years to release new versions of their software.

They claim that they are going to start itterating faster yet we have not seen any evidence of this so far.

I personally needed Outlook to load faster, use less CPU/Memory and respond far, far faster than it does. I didn’t need its HTML rendering handicapped. Like I said, Microsoft seems to be failing me in areas it used to excel.

Congrats Edgewall Software

Added on by Ash.
On behalf of the entire Touchstone Team, I would like to extend a sincere congratulations to the Team over at Edgewall Software, for one of their products "Trac" recently winning the UK Linux & Open Source Awards for Best Linux/OSS Developer Tool.

This award is truely deserved, and as manager of the Touchstone Development Team and a big fan of Trac, i am very happy that they have received the credit they deserve for producing, in my opinion, the best value Project Management Tool on the market.

Trac, for the uninitiated is:

" enhanced wiki and issue tracking system for software development projects. Trac uses a minimalistic approach to web-based software project management. Our mission is to help developers write great software while staying out of the way. Trac should impose as little as possible on a team's established development process and policies.

"It provides an interface to Subversion, an integrated Wiki and convenient reporting facilities.

"Trac allows wiki markup in issue descriptions and commit messages, creating links and seamless references between bugs, tasks, changesets, files and wiki pages. A timeline shows all project events in order, making the acquisition of an overview of the project and tracking progress very easy.

Trac really does speak for itself, and for anyone who might be considering an IT start-up, you simply cannot beat it. It's built-in support for subversion repositories, code/file browser, ticketing, wiki and plug-in systems make it simply one of the best Project Development Tools available.

Again, congrats Edgewall Software, and keep up the good work. You can learn more about Trac at the Trac Website.

Oh, To Have a Feed

Added on by Ash.
As many of you are probably aware, the Touchstone Team are avid Firefly fans. I was recently reading my feeds (from incidentally) and noticed that Jewel Staite has a blog! Yay I thought, now THATS something I have to read.

Alas, look, no feed!

It took several minutes for Chris to calm me down, obviously, this was very uncool. Even now, I am still confused as to how and why an excellent actor like Jewel could have a website which a) looks worse then a teenage girls MySpace page and b) doesn't have an RSS feed. 5 minutes and I would have a blogger blog publishing to her website looking smick, easy to update and feeds for all to burn.

Bah. I almost wished I'd never found the site in the first place.

From One Founder to Another...

Added on by Ash.
Over the Christmas break, the Touchstone development team has taken some personal time out to remind their families that they are still alive. Since this naturally has slowed the pace of development, it has taken some of the pressures away from me as a director and founder to take 5 minutes to reflect on the past year and realise the massive steps we’ve taken both professionally and personally.

After this reflection, I have realised how lucky I am to have a partner and friend like Chris. I know there are many other ‘dual founders’ out there, but I’m sure none of them have quite the same relationship as Chris and I. We’re both burdened with an over-abundance of passion and opinion, and while this has on occasion raised some eyebrows in the office, we never let ego get in the way of decisions and we’re very careful to support each other when it’s needed.

Plus, there isn’t anything quite so depressing when you’ve fallen in love with an idea or aspect of the business, and your co-founder tells you that it can’t “be that way” – and you knowing in your heart that he’s right. But when he doesn’t hold this against you, you realise how lucky you really are.

Chris, you are an intelligent and co-operative friend and colleague and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank you for your effort, tenacity, patience and inspiration which helps push me past what I previously thought impossible.

Thankyou buddy.

The Things I Care About

Added on by Ash.
One of the important distinctions that we often have to make for Touchstone is that a personal relevancy engine is very different to a recommendation engine. It does forma part of the puzzle, but we feel that there is enough recommendation engines out there, but not enough engines which filter down the noise, based on many of the same principals.

Let me share a brief story with you:

Touchstone shares its office with another development team (a start-up doing other…stuff). We all get along very well and the teams work play nicely together. Today I started conversation based on an alert I got from Touchstone. During the conversation (about a possible cure for AIDS) someone asked:

“Where do you get all your medical news? Because I’ve got my Tech news covered, but I am interested in Medical Science, but don’t ever get exposed to it.”.

And I honestly had no idea.

I had no clue, because it was actually Touchstone that told me, and like many other’s when Touchstone is doing its job (which is infrequently because I am always running the least stable and most experimental version available) I couldn’t care less about the “source”. I don’t feel I NEED to know. I replied “I don’t know, umm, prolly Reuters?”

This got me thinking. Does the source matter? How and more importantly should Touchstone suggest new sources of information to you over time? Where does Touchstone stop being a personal relevancy engine and start being a personal recommendation system? Should it start tracking new sources with or without your permission?