An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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May 31, 2007

YouTube Signed a Content Deal with EMI

EMI Music signed an agreement with YouTube that will allow the video sharing site to distribute music videos produced by the label. "In addition to making available clips from acts like Coldplay and Norah Jones, EMI and YouTube plan to develop a system that provides for consumer-created content that uses EMI music and video," reports MediaPost.

"They've demonstrated the content management technology, and we're satisfied with its efficacy, and we look forward to using it", said an EMI representative about YouTube's technology for filtering content.

Last year YouTube negotiated deals with other three music labels: Universal, Sony Music and Warner before it was acquired by Google.

It's interesting to see that if you search on Google for the name of a popular song, a YouTube video is almost always in the top 10 results. Moreover, the result includes a thumbnail and a video plus box that offers an easy way to play the video on the same page. The embedded video players will capture more attention and record labels want to be a part of this new ecosystem.

Apple TV Will Play YouTube Videos

Steve Jobs announced that Apple TV, Apple's set-top box that allows you to play digital content from your computer on high-definition TVs, will receive an update that will enable it to play videos from YouTube. "This is the first time users can easily browse, find and watch YouTube videos right from their living room couch, and it's really, really fun. YouTube is a worldwide sensation, and Apple TV is bringing it directly from the Internet onto the widescreen TV in your living room," said Steve Jobs. The free update will be available next month.

Apple TV will connect to a custom YouTube site that contains a selection of popular and recent videos. YouTube will convert the videos to the H.264/MPEG-4 video compression standard so you can watch higher quality videos on your widescreen TV. "New content will be added every day and the entire YouTube catalog will be available by the fall."

May 30, 2007

Google Gears - Offline Functionality for Web Apps

Web applications bring your data online and make it available anywhere there's an Internet connection. But happens when you're on a plane or when you can't find a WiFi hotspot?

Google launched an open source browser extension for IE and Firefox called Google Gears that enables web applications to be available offline.

"Gears is an incremental improvement to the web as it is today. It adds just enough to AJAX to make current web applications work offline. Gears today covers what we think is the minimal set of primitives required for offline apps. It is still a bit rough and in need of polish, but we are releasing it early because we think the best way to make Gears really useful is to evolve it into an open standard. We are releasing Gears as an open source project and we are working with Adobe, Mozilla and Opera and other industry partners to make sure that Gears is the right solution for everyone," explains Google.

Once you install the extension, every Gears-enabled web application will ask your permission before storing data offline.


Depending on the functionality implemented in the application, Google Gears caches resource files so they're available offline, stores data in a SQLite database that has powerful search features and synchronizes data in the background.

Google Gears will enable you to read the most recent messages from Gmail while offline or to edit your documents in Google Docs even without a network connection.

Google Reader is the first Google application powered by Gears. To enter the offline mode, just click on the small arrow and all the recent feed items are downloaded to your computer. You can disconnect from the Internet or click on "work offline" in your browser and you will still be able to read your favorite feeds in Google Reader. Like in any feed reader installed on your computer. Well, almost, because Google Reader doesn't download images or other multimedia files embedded in the posts.




You can even close Google Reader's tab and try to load the site again: it will instantly show the cached data. Try to add tags to a post or star it; once you go back online, Google Reader will synchronize the data.


P.S.: Another nice update in Google Reader is that you can see the exact number of unread posts for each feed. Google Reader learned to count beyond 100.

Update: Here's a presentation from Google Developer Day Sydney that explains the motivations behind this project and shows some demos:

Sounds in Google Earth


As promised, Wild Sanctuary has released a layer for Google Earth with more than 30 sounds collected from all over the world.

You can hear the sounds of the Kenyan savannah, a sudden rain in the forest, a mysterious spring chorus of loons and peepers, the bells of Notre Dame de Paris. My favorite is a soundscape from Hawaii, "an aural voyage beginning at a beach along the Maui coast, and descending below the surface into the depths of the sea, before emerging to the shore, once again. The sea pulsates with biological sound."

The layer can also be displayed in Google Maps, where the sounds are played using an embedded audio player.

Visualize Google Desktop Results on a Similarity Map

GDS Images and Document Maps is an add-on for Google Desktop that creates a map from your pictures, documents and email messages. The files are placed on the map by calculating their similarity, so it's likely that related files are close. For images, the similarity is based on the distribution of colors.

You can pan the map, zoom in or focus to a specified area of the map by defining a rectangle using the right button of the mouse.

This is especially useful to see the big picture if Google Desktop returns a lot of results and also to visually determine clusters of related files.

Visually Rich Homepage for Google Korea

Google continues to try to increase its local presence in countries where its market share is small. After localizing many products in Russia, building special services for China, now Google focuses on Korea.

One of the first changes is a new homepage for Google Korea (English version) that uses icons to represent the services and provides more information if you hover over the icon. The homepage includes links to search services (images, news, blogs, groups), but also to Gmail, Google Talk, Calendar, Notebook, Toolbar, Desktop and Picasa.

"It was important where our classic minimalism wasn't working that we adapt," explained Marrissa Mayer to Search Engine Land. Asian Internet users want a more visual experience and Google's plain text pages aren't very appealing.

May 29, 2007

Bring the Mashups to Google Maps

Google Maps API was the most successful API ever created by Google and the tool behind a lot of cool mashups available on the web today. There are sites that collect the most interesting mashups (like Google Maps Mania), but it's still difficult to remember all of them. Google introduced My Maps last month, a simple way to build custom maps, and now they let you mix your favorite mashups.

How to add the mashups to Google Maps? With mapplets, mini-applications similar to Google Gadgets. "Mapplets are mini-webpages that are served inside an IFrame within the Google Maps site. You can put anything inside this mini-webpage that you can put into a normal webpage, including HTML, Javascript, and Flash. Google provides a Javascript API that gives the Mapplet access to services such as manipulating the map, fetching remote content, and storing user preferences."

There's already a test page that features some mapplets and they're pretty impressive: real estate search powered by Google Base, distance measurement, movie showtimes, weather, earthquake information and more.

The nice thing is that you can activate more than a mapplet at a time, so you can see the movie showtimes for Shrek 3 in your area and measure the distance between two locations, like in the screenshot below.


Find more about the new "mashup of mashups" from this demo:

The Earth is Closer: Street Views in Google Maps

Google Maps launched a new way to explore our geography: at the street level. In a limited number of locations, you'll find a button that says "Street View". Once you click on that button, watch the street marked with blue lines and click on one of them to see a street view for that location. To navigate along the street, click on the white arrows or use the arrow keys. You can also rotate the image and see a complete a panoramic view.

The feature is available only for Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area, but it will be extended as soon as Google has more street-level imagery.




And here's a short demo from Google:



Philipp Lenssen from Google Blogoscoped thinks "this looks & feels amazing, albeit there's potential privacy issues due to the level of detail (you can make out individual faces, license plates and so on)". Now all we need is some real sound and a way to integrate information about different places.

Jeopardy Google Daily Challenge


What is Jeopardy? A very popular quiz show created in the United States 43 years ago where each answer must be formulated as a question.

Sony Pictures Television, the company that produces Jeopardy, teamed up with Google to enhance the online version of the game.

"The Jeopardy! Google Daily Challenge Sweepstakes features an extra clue from one of the categories in that day's Jeopardy! Visit Jeopardy.com each day from June 4th to July 13th, to play a new clue and you'll have a chance to win one of the daily $100 giveaways. By entering every day, you'll increase your chances of winning $5,000, $10,000, or the $25,000 Grand Prize! Remember, you must enter the correct response for your sweepstakes entry to be valid. Not sure what it is? That's where the powerful Google Search engine comes in."

There's also a gadget that reminds you to participate, but the competition is open only to the US citizens.

May 28, 2007

Google Buys GreenBorder, Web Sandbox

Google bought GreenBorder, a Mountain View-based company that creates security software designed to protect a computer as you surf the web. According to Silicon Valley Watcher, GreenBorder developed "an easy solution to virus, spyware, and trojan threats by isolating each Internet session from the rest of the PC and earlier Internet sessions. The beauty of the Green Border Pro software is it doesn't need to be updated to guard against new virus signatures or new types of malware. It creates a secluded, virtual Internet session and when you are done, it flushes everything away, in your cache and in temporary files."

The application was initially a sandbox for Internet Explorer, but now it also supports Firefox and lets you open files downloaded from the Internet in a virtual environment. Each application protected by GreenBorder has a colored border around the window, so you know you're safe.


Other features include:

* Keeps your PC from getting infested by "drive-by" downloads.

* Blocks theft of your private identity information.

* Prevents thieves from stealing your confidential files.

* Protects your applications from hijacking.

The Windows software is still available as a trial version at Download.com, but the full version used to cost $29.95 / year. Hopefully, Google will release a free version.

{ via Googlified }

Gmail Filters

Gmail's filters are a simple way to organize your messages automatically by providing a set of rules. Like most email clients, Gmail applies the rules to the messages you receive and to the sent mail.

Here are some of the most common Gmail filters:

1. Categorization filters

If you receive a lot of messages that need a distinctive category, create a filter that attaches them a label and archives them.

To separate your messages, you could share a different version of your email address that adds some information after the plus sign. So you could put this email address in your blog: daniel+blog@gmail.com, instead of daniel@gmail.com. All the messages are sent to your address, but now you can create a filter that labels the messages sent to daniel+blog@gmail.com.

2. Search filters

You can create filters for frequent queries. Just type in the "has the words" box your query (this list of Gmail operators should help):

has:attachment - messages that include attachments
filename:.mp3 - messages that include MP3 attachments
is:unread - collects all the messages you haven't read yet (or you marked as unread)
label:voicemail - the voicemail from Google Talk

3. Separate your identities

If you forward messages from other mail accounts or use Gmail's mail fetcher, create filters that attach labels to these messages. Just enter the appropriate mail address in the To field when you create each filter.

4. Newsletters

Newsletters save you time and bring (sometimes) useful information, but they also clutter your inbox. If you receive daily newsletters, create filters that label the messages and archive them, so they don't stand in your way.

5. Blacklists

If you don't want to read messages from a bunch of people, create a filter that sends to trash each and every message received from them. Just enter their email addresses separated by OR in the From field. I made a small script that makes it easy to build a blacklist.

6. Anti-spam

Gmail's spam filters are pretty good for most people, but that doesn't mean you won't see false positives. If most of the spam mail that reaches your inbox has some easy to identify traits (for example, it contains "lottery"), create a filter that sends these messages to the trash. Because you won't mark these messages as spam, you won't be improving Gmail's spam filters. Also you may lose some genuine messages if you don't build your filter carefully.

7. No more spam counters

If you don't like to see how many unread spam messages you have, create a filter that marks as read all your spam.

Type in "Has the words": is:spam
Check Mark as read
Click OK to Gmail's warning

You should check the messages marked as spam from time to time because you may lose important messages incorrectly classified by Gmail.

8. Backup filters

Create a filter that forwards some of your messages to another account. You could send all the messages that include attachments, so you could easily delete them when you reach Gmail's storage limit.

This Greasemonkey script (that requires Greasemonkey and Firefox) lets you create filters from each message by filling the email address of the sender and the destination address.


Also when you create a new filter, Gmail provides an option to apply the rules to the existent messages (you can't forward existent messages using filters, though).

May 26, 2007

Screenshots of YouTube's New Player

YouTube tests a new version of its player that will improve the way you interact with videos and will create a cinematic experience.

The player will add a feature that was already available in Google Video: jump to any part of the video even if the video isn't fully downloaded.


For each video, you'll be able to see around ten related videos. You don't have to wait until the video ends to play a new one because they're available as thumbnails if you hover over the video. The effect is similar to the dock from Mac OS X. You can also click on the two arrows to go to the previous / next video.


The "menu" button gives you access to the embedding code or to the URL of the YouTube page that shows the video. If you click on the button, the video is smoothly minimized in the left corner and it continues to play.



Update. Here's the new player (thank you, TOMHTML):

Restrict Google Image Results to Faces, News

Google Image Search has a new feature that lets you restrict the results to some general categories. For the moment, the only categories that are available seem to be faces and news-related images, but other categories should follow.

The image results for Paris are pretty diverse, but most of them are about the French city and Paris Hilton. Now let's restrict the images to faces by adding &imgtype=face at the end of the URL: we get all kinds of images, but all of them show faces. Google uses face detection technology to select only images that contain faces and that may be the first visible result of the Neven Vision acquisition.


The restriction to news-related images seem to include only images posted to news sites like BBC or New York Times.


You can try the two restrictions in the search box below:





{ Via Blogoscoped Forum. }

Update (June 24): The options are now available in the advanced search interface in a new section titled "content types".

May 25, 2007

Google as a Personal Assistant

Google wants to be more than a search engine that finds some pages on the web in response to a query. Google wants to become a personal assistant that organizes your information, enhances the search results based on your preferences and recommends interesting things for the future.

Eric Schmidt was quoted by Financial Times to say: "The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?' ". While the questions seem tough or too important to be answered by a search engine, Google's goal is to transform all the information gathered from your queries, actions and options into something useful. Unlike your ISP, Google allows you to use its search engine without creating an account and is transparent about your options.

Of course, a personal assistant needs to be trustworthy because you provide it with your personal information. It also needs to show up at work whenever you need it, anticipate your actions without being annoying, do background researches to answer your questions properly, prioritize information according to your interests.

Who knows, maybe in the future Google - the personal assistant - will know more about you than yourself. But it will hopefully be more subtle than the now defunct Clippy.


Directions Without Highways in Google Maps

If you use the directions from Google Maps and you're afraid of driving on highways or you're a biker, you'll definitely like the new option to avoid highways. "When you click the Avoid Highways checkbox, the route instantly updates to one that tries very hard to stay off of interstates, motorways, and other major roadways. This may give you a much longer path, but one that you may find more suitable," explains Google LatLong Blog.

For example, if you go from Redmond to Mountain View and avoid the highways, you need 8 extra hours.

May 24, 2007

Google News to Add Videos and Social News Features?

Computerworld has an interview with Nathan Stoll, from Google News. The interviews reveals some of the philosophy of the product and possible future directions.

Google News wants to respect editors' choices in regards to the importance of a news and only one section from Google News is generated by looking at the popularity of a news. Another important idea behind Google News is showing more than one perspective for a news, and this is partially achieved by clustering related news.

Videos could enhance the way you understand a news. "To the extent that a lot of those [persectives] are in video and becoming available online, we'd certainly love to make those perspectives available and easily discoverable. With the YouTube team, working hard, it's certainly an area we'd like to make progress in."

Google also ponders the addition of features from social news sites like Digg. "We offer a most popular section on the front page of many of our editions. That popularity ranking signal is different from how the front page is ranked, which tries to reflect what editors are publishing on their sites. If we introduced a Digg-style feature, it would be more similar to that popularity metric."
What are you doing on the social news front, along the lines of sites like Digg and Slashdot?

Obviously Google has a number of products and services that touch on those types of areas. In News today we offer a number of customization and personalization features. If I was to give you themes about areas that we're working on, that would be one area in which we're very interested.

An internal document leaked from Google last year mentioned about a "radically improved [version of Google News that should allow] other news sources, and organizations and individuals mentioned in news stories to debate specific points". Google also licensed content from AFP and AP to be able to use the full text of a news.

Google Talk Gadget, Now with Emoticons

The showy Google Talk Gadget has three sets of emoticons right there, next to the input box. You know, just in case you want to express your feelings and you can't find the right words.

You can choose between three skins: rounded, rectangular and black&white emoticons. If you select a different skin, all the emoticons from the current conversation will change to the new look.


{ Thank you, Saurabh. }

Mobile Google Calendar


Google launched a mobile version for Google Calendar, available at google.com/calendar/m. To use this application, you need a mobile browser that supports XHTML, cookies and SSL (for authentication).

The features are limited to browsing the list of previous and upcoming events and adding new events using Google's natural language processor. Even if it's very basic, the mobile Google Calendar shows a link to the map of the place where the event happens, so you know how to get there. You can also select the calendars used by Google to display events.

For notifications, don't forget to register your phone from the desktop interface and to set SMS reminders for each calendar important to you.

{ via Google Blog }

May 23, 2007

Google Cross-Language Search

Google released a new tool as part of Google Translate that lets you find pages that are written in languages you don't speak. Just type a query in your native language, translates your query in other language and shows you the results from the localized version of Google in your language.


"Now, you can search for something in your own language (for example, English) and search the web in another language (for example, French). If you're looking for wine tasting events in Bordeaux while on vacation in France, just type "wine tasting events in Bordeaux" into the search box on the "Search results" tab on Google Translate. You'll then get French search results and a (machine) translation of these search results into English," explains the Google blog.

This feature is available for all the combinations of languages supported by Google and doesn't bring anything new, it just makes things easier. Here's how I searched multilingually before this feature existed:

* Go to Google Translate and translate [wine tasting events in Bordeaux] in French.

* Copy the result and paste it in the search box from Google.fr.

* Get the URL of the search results page and translate it to English.

Yahoo already has this feature for French and German, but the implementation is better: you just type your query in French or German and you will get results obtained by translating your query in other 4 languages, including English, Italian, Spanish, German/French.

Technorati's Authority


Technorati made some changes this month to show it's more than a blog search engine. "Technorati continues to grow well beyond its roots at the leading blog search engine; increasingly, we are the main aggregation point for all forms of social media on the Web, including blogs, of course, but also video, photos, audio such as podcasts and much more", noted David Sifry last month.

The site also introduced a score for each blog that measures the "authority". The pretentious name has one purpose: to cover the real meaning of the number. "Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has," explains Technorati's blog. So each blog that links to me (no matter if it's a spam blog or Slashdot) increases my authority with 1. Imagine what would happen if Google's PageRank was proportional to the number of links to a page in the last 6 months: the top search result for most of the queries should be a page from yahoo.com or google.com, sites that would have the PageRank 100,000. It would be easy to increase your PageRank: just create a new site that links to you; it's as important as a link from New York Times. But fortunately, Google found a better way to rank web pages:
PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at considerably more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; for example, it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important." Using these and other factors, Google provides its views on pages' relative importance.

Related:
How Google Blog Search ranks results

Download US Patents as PDF

Google Patents added a button that lets you download the PDF version of a patent. The option is available from the overview page and in the sidebar, when you browse the patent. Now you don't have to rely on other sites that fetched the documents and converted them to PDF, but didn't have a very good search.

Why should you read patents, you may ask? Well, you could find interesting details about Michael Jackson's special shoes that allowed him "to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity", the design of the Statue of Liberty or an advanced state of the art movie theater.


{ Thank you, Mark. }

Preview Documents with Docufarm

Docufarm is a Firefox extension that lets you preview online documents. Everytime you click on a link to a PDF, PostScript file, Word document or PowerPoint presentation, the file is quickly downloaded on Docufarm's servers and you can see an almost instant preview of the file. Unlike what you see from Google's cache, Docufarm preserves the original formatting of the document and shows the images included in the document. While the file is searchable, the Docufarm interface only shows images for each page of the document, so you can't copy text.

This extension is useful for a quick overview of a document because the interface doesn't make reading the document an easy job (except for the PowerPoint presentations that look very nice in the slide view).

Docufarm also lets you search for supported documents available online and the results seem to be provided by Google.


{ Thank you, Laurent. }

May 22, 2007

Gmail Doubles Maximum Attachment Size to 20 MB

Gmail upgraded the maximum attachment size from 10 MB to 20 MB. Gmail was quite forgiving and you could send more than 10 MB in some cases, but now it's possible to send at least 20 MB in one message.

Of course, few mail providers will accept a such a big message, so it's safe to send messages bigger than 10 MB to other Gmail accounts, to Yahoo Mail Plus or to other premium accounts.

It would be nice if Gmail showed a progress bar for the upload and if uploading files to Gmail was faster and more reliable. But maybe we're asking too much.


{ Thank you, Rauz. }

Hot Trends in Google Search


Google Trends has something new: a daily Zeitgeist. Google lets you see the 100 queries that had the biggest evolution in a certain day. For now, Google only shows the "hottest" queries in the US, but other countries should follow.

For each query, you can see a graph that shows the popularity of the query, related searches and the top results from Google News, Blog Search and Web Search. These results should explain why the queries are popular.

Like the old Zeitgeist, Google Hot Trends will be an archive of the most important queries. That means you can select a day from the past and see the people, the events, the questions which defined that day.

According to Reuters, "Hot Trends (...) will be refreshed several times daily, using data from millions of Google Web searches conducted up to an hour before each update".

The list for May 21 includes two very long and improbable queries:

* #26: [what did lawyer ellis rubin suggest prison inmates could donate in exchange for reduction in their sentences in 1992]

* #90: [who was the first new world explorer to take a dip in the springs of what's now hot springs arkansas]

... and is topped by Avandia, a drug prescribed to treat diabetes that was found to increase the risk of heart attacks.

May 21, 2007

Google Cracks Down on Made for AdSense Sites

JenSense reports that a lot of AdSense users who built sites with almost no original content, but full of AdSense ads, had their accounts removed.
Numerous AdSense publishers have been receiving emails from Google the past couple of days stating that their use of their AdSense account is an unsuitable business model and that accounts would be disabled as of June 1st, giving publishers about two weeks notice to prepare for the loss of the AdSense accounts... and since it seems that arbitrage publishers are the ones receiving this account disabled email, to give those publisher enough time to shut down accounts or use an alternative source for their outgoing traffic.

These users usually bought cheap keywords from AdWords and sent the visitors to their sites that also displayed ads, but for more expensive keywords. The sites didn't contain almost anything valuable, most of the time they scraped content from other sites, but they made a lot of money by tricking users.

May 19, 2007

Google Korea to Verify the Age for Adult Queries

Google intends to comply to the local law from Korea and ask users to confirm they're at least 19 if they use one of the 700 adult queries defined by the Korean government. Google's reason is that every other search engine and portal that operates in Korea does that. You can see what happens if you search for "sex" in Yahoo Korea. To verify your age, you need to enter your name and your national resident registration number, an unique identifier.


Google wants to increase its local presence in Korea to compete with search engines like Naver that dominate Korea's market. But they can't do that without respecting the law, even if it's absurd.

That's a tough challenge for a company that cares about ethics, but they already made their decision when Google started to censor the search results in China.

It's also interesting to note that Korean search engines mix the content from a lot of specialized search engines in one page and often images, videos and news are at the top of the page, while web pages are somewhere at the bottom of the page. Also Q&A sites similar to Yahoo Answers are very popular in Korea.

An article published last year by Associated Press explained why Koreans don't prefer Google:
Google has seeped into many aspects of online life across the globe, but the Internet search engine has failed so far to make any notable inroads in one of the world's most-wired countries: South Korea. Users here are some of the most Internet-savvy in the world, with millions of people running their own blogs and taking advantage of omnipresent broadband hookups and Wi-Fi hotspots. South Koreans would seem like natural Google users, but the leading search engine is merely a bit player.

Experts say Google's struggles here stem from unique factors in the Korean market, as well as Google's reliance on its software rather than human expertise to get search results. The Korean slice of the Web is relatively small compared to the English-language chunks of cyberspace. Koreans often come up short when trying to find information in their native tongue. To remedy the situation, Naver — which is more like a Yahoo-esque portal than a mere search engine — came up with what it calls Knowledge iN, where users post questions that are answered by other users — creating a database that now totals more than 41.1 million entries. (...)

"Google's site is just not enough for everything. Their search results especially are too limited," said [a Korean student]. "I think Google is paying less attention to Korean Internet users' demands."

Enso - A Command Line for Desktop Services

Enso is a new kind of software that wants to bring the power of command line to the normal computer user. Every program installed on your computer has a set of features, but most of them work only locally: you need to import the data, process it and then export it to the initial program. You need to translate a text, so you have to select the text, open a translator (or go to Google Translate), paste the text, translate it, copy the result and paste it in your text editor. Wouldn't be nice to select the text, press a key or enter a command and have the translated text in your editor? Enso wants to make this and any other similar feature possible.
"Having to change programs to perform simple tasks -- such as make a quick calculation or look up a definition -- it breaks your concentration, takes you away from the task at hand, and wastes valuable time," said Aza Raskin, president of Humanized and son of the late Jef Raskin, creator of the Apple Macintosh. " Humanized's Enso applications are designed make common computing tasks easier and faster to perform, without breaking focus or forcing the user to switch applications. Enso takes Jef's legacy from vision to reality, revolutionizing the way we use computers the way the Macintosh did back in 1984."

Enso can be seen as a feature launcher. You press Caps Lock and then enter the command that modifies the select data. The program autocompletes the command name, so you only have to type the first letters. Then release Caps Lock and you have the result.


Select a text in any program, enter the google command, and you get the Google results instantly.

Other useful feature is launching programs, which works similar to Launchy. Enso stores all the programs from your Start Menu and lets you access them by typing open followed by the first letters from the program's name. You can also attach short names to files by selecting them and typing "learn as open", followed by the alias.

Another cool command is go. Just type it and a list of the names of all the open windows will appear. It's much easier to switch from Firefox to Open Office, especially if you have a lot of programs that clutter your taskbar.

For now, Enso is a shareware that costs $24.95, works only in Windows and offers limited functionality. But it's also a wise idea that could improve your productivity dramatically if you could write your own commands or download other people's commands.

The video below, which has almost 90 minutes and is titled "Away with Applications: The Death of the Desktop", explains more about this and the author's philosophy on software. Instead of building bloated software, Aza Raskin suggest to build services available at the OS-level, for any other application. "Web applications are often more usable than their desktop-based counterparts because each one does one thing and does it well. Desktop applications used to be the same way, but over time -- as applications grew to support the users in the long tail -- each became a complex portmanteau of all possible features."

<a href="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-6856727143023456694&hl=en">Link to the video</a>.

May 18, 2007

Phone Calls in Google Talk

We didn't see any update for Google Talk in the last 5 months (the latest major feature was Vista support), so next release must add something important. A plausible hypothesis is phone calls. Google inserted this screenshot "from the future" in a presentation for Google Apps. We can see revealing messages like: "Show dialpad", "Call details", "Enter a name or phone number".


{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Google Maps Aliases

Sometimes you need to find the same address on Google Maps again and again. Google saves your addresses, so you can just type the first characters and use the autocomplete feature. But wouldn't be nice to assign friendlier name to these long and boring addresses?

It's easy to do that: enter the addresses, followed by the friendly name inside the brackets, like in the screenshot below.


Then when you need to find the same address on the map, type your alias and select the address from the list of suggestions. You can manage the aliases in the "saved locations" section.

Should Google Buy FeedBurner?


When I first heard about FeedBurner I wondered what's so great about "burning your feed". Well, you get stats for your feed, you can customize your feed, add dynamic content at the bottom of each feed entry and transform that weird XML file into a nice HTML page that lets people subscribe to the feed.

FeedBurner transformed from a site that offered a way to make your feeds more humane, to the one-stop-shop for bloggers. They now offer stats for your blog, email subscriptions for feeds, ads for feeds and blogs. FeedBurner has dedicated services for companies, so there's no wonder that AOL, Wall Street Journal, Reuters are among their clients. But even if FeedBurner grew so much over the years, they keep adding new features, the customer support is excellent even for non-paying users.

There's a rumor that says Google intends to buy FeedBurner and this seems a very good idea. Not just because FeedBurner is the Google of feeds and has a great team. What could FeedBurner do for Google?

* make Blogger's feeds smarter out of the box

* FeedBurner's services could become totally free (currently you have to pay for more advanced stats)

* offer a lot of interesting information to mine

* integrate the stats for feeds with Measure Map and create the perfect analytics solution for blogs

* FeedBurner has a very big number of feeds: more than 700,000. Google has a lot of advertisers, but the AdSense for feeds program is still in closed beta.

May 17, 2007

No JavaScript, No Google Navigation


If you disable JavaScript in your browser, you'll notice that the recently updated Google.com doesn't have too many navigational links anymore. That's because the menu from the top left corner is written entirely in JavaScript.

Google, that usually writes pages with graceful degradation in mind and builds custom interfaces that don't require JavaScript (Google Maps, Gmail), forgot about the browsers that don't support JavaScript (text browsers, some mobile browsers) and the users that have JavaScript turned off for its biggest assets: the homepage and the search results pages.

Here's a quote from Google's guidelines for webmasters: "Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site." That means there's another problem: Google.com will be more difficult to crawl.

Google Video Starts to Index Third-Party Video Sites

As promised in January, Google Video started to index videos outside the Google Land (YouTube + Google Video), one of the first steps necessary to qualify as a video search engine. The first video site seems to be Metacafe and the screenshot below illustrates a query that returns only one result: a video from Metacafe. In most of the cases, YouTube videos dominate the search results and that isn't likely to change unless Google limits the number of results for each site, like they do in web search.

While Google sends you to Metacafe if you click on the title link, the preview option shows the video in a Google Video player and, what's more, Google actually hosts the FLV file.


Unlike the videos from YouTube and Google Video, the results from Metacafe don't have previews and information from metatags in Google's main results. The only new addition is a thumbnail:


{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

The World Wide Web, as Seen by Google

At the Searchology event, where Google talked about its history and launched some major new features, a slide caught my attention: this is the World Wide Web* today, or probably the most important sites and the links that connect them. Too bad we can't see the address for each node.


* "The World Wide Web (or the Web) is a system of interlinked, hypertext documents that runs over the Internet. With a Web browser, a user views Web pages that may contain text, images, and other multimedia and navigates between them using hyperlinks." (Wikipedia)

Slideshows for Your Photos


It's the week of the slideshows at Google. After the Gmail slideshow for presentations, Picasa Web lets you create a sleek slideshow for each one of your albums and embed it in your blog. It's not as hot as Monoslideshow, but it doesn't cost $20 either.

The options is available only for your albums (both public and unlisted), but if you change the albums ID and the username in the code you could use it for any album from Picasa Web.


If you want a customizable slideshow and you know some JavaScript, there's an AJAX slideshow control launched by Google as part of their API for feeds. You can use it for any MediaRSS photo feed (like the feeds from Flickr), change the number of images, the scaling, the transition time and other options.

A similar AJAX slideshow available only for Picasa Web Albums, but easy to create even without knowing JavaScript, can be found at this site.

Related:
Google's photo screensaver

The Old Google Search Moves to AOL

While Google pushes a new platform for a more comprehensive search and changes its layout, some of the users want the old Google back. Well, I'm happy to announce you that I found the old Google. It was so mad that Marissa and Sergey threw it out the door. So it decided to move to the creative people from AOL (and I bet that Google approved this move).


May 16, 2007

Google Launches New Design, Universal Search and a Site for Search Experiments


At the Searchology event that happened today at the Googleplex (and is still available here), Google talked about the past, the present and the future of search. They explained that search is a difficult subject with a lot of problems yet to be solved, but search is still Google's core competency.

Universal Search

Google launched the universal search that adds news, images, videos, books and local results in the standard results. "Google's vision for universal search is to ultimately search across all its content sources, compare and rank all the information in real time, and deliver a single, integrated set of search results that offers users precisely what they are looking for."

This screenshot shows a video integrated in the main search results and a Plus Box that lets you view the video inline. And in the case of Nosferatu, you can see the whole movie.


New Design

The interface we talked about last month will also be live for everyone. Google adds a horizontal navigation menu to all of its services, but the menu will feature different links based on the page you're currently viewing. Everything will go live in a few hours.




Search experiments

But the most exciting launch for those who try to find all the new Google features is Google Experimental, a new place from Google Labs where you can see new features and layouts tested for the search results. You can play with them and send feedback so that Google makes them better and they eventually become a part of the Google search experience.

As anticipated here, Google tests new ways to view results. "With the timeline and map views, Google's technology extracts key dates and locations from select search results so you can view the information in a different dimension." So you can view the location a page refers to on a map. There's also a timeline view that shows results sorted by the most important dates included in the pages.


Another cool new feature is keyboard shortcuts for the search results. For example, you can navigate in the list of results by pressing j and k and visiting the selected result by just pressing enter. Like in vi and Gmail.

Google also tests two designs: one that places the navigation links and the refinements to the left:



... and one that moves them to the right:



Now you don't have to change your cookies to test new designs anymore, you can just use them from Google Experimental. That doesn't mean Google's random experiments end here: they'll still test features on small samples of users, but those who want to see the new features have a Google site to quench their curiosity.

Searching for meaning

But Google's experiments with search continue. In the next weeks, Google's quality will improve by including results from modified queries that are likely to produce better results.


They'll also translate your query into 11 other languages and show results from these searches if they're relevant. Just in case you search for [French recipes] and the best French recipes are... in French. Using Google Translate, you'll be able to read the pages in your native language. As if everyone spoke a single language.

To sum up

Google's search results will be better because they'll include content from specialized search engines. Google will translate your query to different languages and even slightly alter it to show better results. It will also be easier to navigate to other Google sites and to go to the most appropriate service for your query.