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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Searching Google Search With Google Suggest

Google Search, the item that put Google on the technology map, has just been updated with a new feature called Google Suggest, which provides real-time suggestions while your searching with the world's #1 search engine. This product has been in Google Labs for quite some time, and has finally graduated and will now appear on the Google.com homepage, note that the time of this posting it hasn't appeared on the Google.ca homepage. The whole purpose of this is to save time, for example if you type in st. lois instead of st. louis, you can select the proper spelling and st. louis search item from a list of search suggestions. In this case, I would select st. louis blues, since they are my favorite hockey team. Google Suggest is a nice, simple addition to Google Search, and is very good at saving time.










Sunday, 24 August 2008

Microsoft + Jerry Seinfeld = Stuck In The 90's
In case you haven't heard, Microsoft is going to get Jerry Seinfeld to advertise its Vista OS, for the low low price of $300 million. I'll admit that I still watch reruns of Seinfeld, that show about nothing is just so funny, I actually want the commercials to be good, even though I am not much of a Microsoft fan. But, I just can't see how these commercials are going to help Vista, Microsoft just isn't "cool" anymore and the public sees Vista as an overpriced bad product. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the area of cool belongs to Google and Apple , they release products that are extremely user friendly, are updated frequently, and changes are made to better the user experience. Microsoft seems not to be following these basic guidelines, Vista is absolutely brutal. Now I'll admit that I own a computer running Windows XP, but the reason for this is cost, Apples are too pricey for me, and convenience, I would love to switch to Linux but it would cause so many compatibility problems at home and at work.
If this was the late 90's when Seinfeld was at its peak, and Microsoft was closing in on it's own high, the commercials would have been a great success. Now they'll be as cool as plastic rubber bracelets, extremely baggie jeans, Limp Bizkit, and that greasy dirty grunge look.


Google Roundup for August 17th-24th

The Olympics are almost over....two weeks of sports I barely watch is enough for me. Here is some news/updates in the world of Google:
  • Check out this Google Earth visualization of geothermal energy available in the US. This allows viewing of geothermal energies at various depths along with time animation to view the different depths.
  • Google News has released a feature called cross-language search, not much else to say here, pretty self explanatory except that you will only see results in a different language if they are as good as those in your own language.
  • If your interested in the US political campaign, check out google.com/powerreaders. Here you can see news shared by the Obama and McCain political campaigns, this is viewed in Google Reader.
  • If your a Google Checkout user, you can save money ($5 or more) at many stores, note that this is for a limited time.
  • If your you are using YouTube on your phone, you may have seen some display ads on pages of the YouTube mobile site in US and Japan.
That's it for news in the house of Google, check back again next week.
Google Earth+Geothermal Energy

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Google Docs Gearing Up for Back to School?

I just read the latest Google Docs blog post that thanked their interns for the hard work over the summer. If you read it through, lines such as " oops....I almost gave away the other killer features which haven't launched yet" appear. My prediction is that in the next month or so, maybe even the next couple of weeks, there are going to be a bunch of new features released, just in time for all of those students heading back to school. I use Google Docs for a lot of my work, I just love avoiding the file transfer step and being able to access the document from anywhere, including my phone. Once these programs become a bit more advanced, I'm hoping to avoid my desktop based word processor, spreadsheet, and presenter. Watch out Microsoft, here comes Google Docs!!!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Listen to Google: Its All About the White Space

Maybe you have heard about "white spaces", maybe you haven't. Anyways, these are the unused portions of the TV spectrum that could be used to expand internet access through low power personal devices. Basically, this could allow affordable, high speed wireless internet access nationwide (the nation being U.S., haven't heard too much on the Canadian side of the border). If this happens, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must allow it. This decision will come in the next few months, in anticipation of this Google has launched a Free The Airwaves awareness/action plan. I like how Google mentions in its official blog that they have a "clear business interest" in this, at least they are being honest. If you want more information on this, such as why companies like Microsoft and Motorola are supporting the use of white spaces, check out this article at cnet.


Sunday, 17 August 2008

Google Roundup for Aug. 10th-17th

I hope you all are enjoyin' the Olympics. My country, Canada, finally got some medals, yesterday they picked up 7, and what about Phelps for the US, crazy hey? Here goes another round of roundup:
  • As you all know, we are undergoing climate change. One of the most affected areas is and will be the Arctic. If you have time, check out the animations in Google Earth provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center for 30-day ,60-day and 90-day showing the change in Arctic ice.
  • If your an ESRI software user, your GIS information can be viewed in Google Maps with the ArcGIS JavaScript Extension.
  • To increase it's appeal to the international market, Google News is available in 9 more countries, check out this post for more details.
  • If you have a RSS feed, and you are using Adsense, ads can now be placed in your feed, and the list of languages and countries for video units has increased. Languages supported are: English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish; countries included: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States.
  • Google Calendar is now available in 38 languages, recent ones added are: Latvian, Romanian, Filipino/Tagalog, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Hindi and Indonesian.
  • If your a user of Google Docs forms, then a few welcomed changes has occurred. These are now accessible in the Docs List page and from within other editors (i.e., Presentations). Also, the forms interface has become more user friendly.
  • I love Google Reader, and an excellent feature has been added. Instead of only being able to share with all of your friends, now a custom friends list can be created to selectively choose who you want to share with.

Climate Change via Google Earth.

Friday, 15 August 2008

There is an Android (a.k.a. Possible iPhone Killer) Coming

To begin with I used to be a cell phone hater, I thought it was just another bill, and a total waste of money. Two months ago I purchased a Motorola Krzr, and it has changed my life so much that I cut most of my features on the home phone. I was thinking about getting a smartphone, but at the time the new iPhone 3G was coming out and it was only offered by Rogers in Canada, I wanted to wait for a while until some competition dropped the prices and other competitive smartphones came out (Apple products are too expensive!!!!). Now it looks like the first Android phone should be released from T-Mobile this fall, hopefully before the holiday spending spree, and will be on a HTC phone (Check out the YouTube video below). There will be an Apps store, hopefully with many being available and useful; Android will need it if it wants to compete with the iPhone. Originally there was supposed to be many Android based phones, but they were all delayed until 2009. What this means is that the world of smartphones will evolve rapidly over the next 6-12 months, damn its hard to keep up with technology hey?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

No Gmail!!!

Yesterday/today (depending on where you live) Gmail went down for some, probably most users. Those who were affected tried to log in but were given the deadly message of "Temporary Error (502)", whatever that means. Apparently it lasted for two hours, I never it experienced because I was in bed dreaming about football, my girlfriend, water chemistry, cycling, and sunshine. The cause of the outage was a temporary glitch in Google's contacts system which caused Gmail not to load properly. Google, like the good people they are, apologized via a blog post. I guess Google technology, like all technology, is not perfect, there will be outages, bugs, delays, and crashes. Some people are jumping on the bandwagon and claiming that instances like this display that cloud computing will never work and we should stick with traditional desktop software..blah blah blah blah blah. My response to this is, how much time is wasted by this traditional software freezing/crashing/bugging out? The answer is a lot. The real issue that the Gmail outage raises is Google's poor technical support, which is basically a user group. Google definitely needs to put some of its big money in this area, they're good for it.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Google Roundup for August 3rd - August 10th

Things picked up from last week with a ton of news/updates. Lets begin:
  • This is one of many Google Earth updates. There is a new layer for the Olympic Games, just go under Geographic Web>Places>Summer Games 2008. It is really cool, it will give you such things as today's events and fly you to the event location.
  • Some of the icons in Google Earth have changed, check out this post for details.
  • Finally road maps for China have been added to Google Maps, definitely done in time for the Olympics. I recently bought a Motorola KRZR cell phone, accessing Google Maps mobile definitely makes life much easier.
  • Check out the pic below of Michael Weiss-Malik who proposed during a street view shot outside of the Googleplex in Mountain View. Also take notice of the long lines.

View Larger Map
  • New street view imagery is available for Google Earth and Maps. Countries added to the list are Australia and Japan, hopefully street view will hit Canada soon.
  • Check out the Google Earth Plug-in Driving Simulator. Note that this is only available for Windows users.
  • If your an Olympics fan (I find it OK), take a quick look at the Summer Games section provided by Google News. To see more Olympic related products from Google, check out this blog.
  • For people in the US, Walgreens has been added as a print provided. I didn't know the order prints feature existed for Canadian users, but we only have one provider :(
  • In an earlier blog that I posted, I gave Google Sites an excellent review. Every user can now use Sites on their own domain, and use their own URL.
  • To keep track of the Olympic games, check out the 2008 Summer Games Gadget for Google Desktop. For cellphone users, go to www.google.com/m/summergames.
  • Google Docs recently won an award in the Breakthrough Product Category for Windows IT Pro Magazine, I definitely agree with that one.
gadget screenshot #1
Olympic Gadget for Google Desktop
This was definitely a busy week on the Google front. Hopefully it will be another exciting week in the world of Google.

Google Sites is Amazing

As mentioned in last weeks blog, Google Page Creator (GPC) will not be allowing any new users and those that have accounts will have to switch to Google Sites by the end of this year. I kind of sensed the end for GPC, there zero news/updates being made by Google. Last week I switched to Google Sites (I refer to it as Sites), and I find it amazing, it can do so much more than what Google Page Creator could. Before you read the following details, check out my site created with Sites and the pic below to get a sense of what it can offer.

Web Site Creation with Google Sites
As the name implies, websites (Google defines this as a collection of web pages) can be made with Sites. The number of websites created is limited by the storage, 100 MB for the free version, 10 GB for those that pay for Google Apps (only $50/year, other services included). Similar to GPC, there are templates, but the selection seems to be better with Sites and editing of the page components (i.e., Header text colour) is easily done, very close to how Blogger does it. Unlike GPC, the sidebar and body width can be easily changed, it was a big pain and task to do this in GPC. Sites handles images very well, which was a major criticism of GPC, and text is easily wrapped around it. As you notice from the pic above, the actual editing of webpage content is very similar to Google Documents (which I now use for my blogging), much better than the editor in GPC. Gadgets can be added, there are quite a lot available but I've encountered problems with text wrapping around these. The biggest improvement over GPC is the ability to add gadgets that can handle uploaded files, announcements, lists, and text (text box). I am currently using files and announcements, these are created as separate pages, and the gadget just condenses these to a small box. For example, if you look at the page that will be used for one of my teaching courses, a files section will be found. This is actually a web page that is condensed to be seen in a nice, easily viewable box.
Sites is a excellent product, and a great advance over GPC. Once again Google has created another hit product.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Google Docs: Keep the Updates Coming!!

Two updates were just released for Google Docs. The first is for probably the weakest offering of the Google Docs package, Presentations. One of the key offerings that this was missing was animations. I use these in my presentations, nothing too flashy, but for some points you want it to just appear on demand. Now it is possible to do this, in Google terms it is called sequential reveal. When an object is clicked on, a box will appear around it, right click and Incremental Reveal can be selected. There are no flashy animations, just appear, but it gets the job done. Another excellent feature introduced is full screen mode in documents. This can be accessed through the view menu or by hitting Ctrl+Shift+F, awesome. I think it is excellent how this free software is constantly updated, Microsoft and Corel should give this a try. With Microsoft the wait is ~3 years with significant illogical changes, for Corel the wait is 1 year with very few changes, if any. Free is the way to go these days.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Google Roundup For July 28th - August 2nd
This week has been sort of quiet on the Google front, with only a few updates and new features on Google Products, here it goes:
  • Again more Google Earth news, and this involves the upcoming Beijing Olympics. The satellite imagery has been updated showing the venues for the upcoming Olympics and some of the buildings are done in 3D. Hopefully the air quality will improve, it is going to be brutal for the athletes trying to compete in the pollutant rich air. Also, like the majority of people, I am outraged that the media covering the Beijing Olympics are subjected to censorship via blocking of certain Internet sites (i.e., Google Searching democracy). This is the year 2008, I had thought that those days were behind us.
Beijing Olympic Buildings in Google Earth
  • For the Google Sites users (I still haven't tried this product), you can now change the width of the whole site (previously 100%), text boxes, sidebar and header or these can be turned off completely. Another well needed improvement that has been added is being able to preview the site in a viewer.
  • I just visited the Google Page Creator site and they are not allowing any new signups. They want people to start using Google Sites, and those with existing Google Page Creator web pages will have to switch to Google Sites later this year, hopefully this will be somewhat automated.
  • Google Apps is becoming very popular, there are currently more than one million users worldwide in the education field. Some big schools using this include the University of San Diego and Notre Dame. I am using it for most of my new documents, with the exception of those that contain private student information (its a rule at my university). I just love the beauty of being able to access the docs anywhere.
  • The YouTube Screening Room has over 5 million views since it was launched over a month ago, amazing. New features added to this include an easier way to leave film comments and an easier way to get reminders of new films released every two weeks.

That is all for this week, come back again next week for more Google News.