Google Gears: A Step in the Right Direction

I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Chicago, just chilling before another full day at the ASCO Annual Meeting.

I installed Google Gears, the new offline capability by the folks at the Big G. I love the idea. When I want a feed fix, and I don’t have wifi I use my Blackberry to get to my Google Reader feeds. But let’s face it, it’s not the same as having the full size keyboard and screen.

Google Gears is ridiculously easy to get going in Mac OS X. It’s just a Firefox add-in. When Firefox restarts, Google Reader now has a little icon you can click to take Reader offline. It downloads the latest 2000 articles, and works nicely. You get a gray box where images would normally be. I tested by clicking the “offline” button and then turning off the hotel’s wifi.

Potential? Absolutely. Now, not so much. It is an early beta, after all. More of a “lookie and see what we can do!” You have to not only know you’re about to go offline and click the button, you have to keep the browser window open and on the Reader page. So let’s say it’s Tuesday morning and I know I’m heading to the airport. I don’t want to pay for the wifi at the gate, so I click the button to fetch those feeds. I then shut down my computer because I don’t like sending a powered-up laptop through the security scanners. I get to the gate, fire up the MacBook and have no way of getting to my offline feeds since I can’t load the Google Reader page to begin with.

This is supposedly a big thing coming in Firefox 3. So Google Gears appears to be more of a “proof of concept” right now, with some limited usefulness. The true power will be when I can launch Firefox and fire up my Google Calendar in all it’s rainbow glory regardless of the status of my internet connection.


4 responses to “Google Gears: A Step in the Right Direction”

  1. Judi, surely it must be possible to have the Reader page load from the browser cache? And then connect to the feed cache to read ’em?

    ‘Cause boy, if not I can sure see why you say it’s just proof-of-concept! Not really any use at all otherwise.

    I wonder if you hibernate your laptop instead of powering down – would the saved state allow you to use Reader after wake-up?

  2. I’ve sent sleeping (not powered down) laptops through the airport scanners for years without any trouble. There’s not very much any scanner could do to a sleeping system. It’d be different if the screen was on, or perhaps if the hard drive was spinning.

  3. A few years ago, I had a drive that gave me quite a headache after going sleeping through an airport scanner. Ever since then I’ve been shutting down my computers to go through security.

    Yesterday, I tried every which way I could to get Reader back after quitting Firefox without being online and I couldn’t do it, even trying the “work offline” menu item.

  4. Jusi:

    I notice Remember the Milk (the to-do app) has just released the same offline functionality. I’m going to play with it and reader’s offline functionality on the weekend – sure hope RtM doesn’t have the same limitations you’ve discovered here. Thanks for the heads-up about it.