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

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June 30, 2009

Google Toolbar's Improved Web Page Translation

Google Translate can be used to translate many web pages, but you can't use it for pages that require login and for Ajax-powered web applications. You won't be able to translate a Gmail message, a Google Docs document or a Facebook message without copying the text to Google Translate.

I've mentioned in March that Google Toolbar tests a translation feature that extracts the text from any web page and translates in real-time. The impressive feature is now available in Google Toolbar 6 for Internet Explorer and it works extremely well.

By default, Google detects when a page is not in English (or another preferred language) and it offers the option to translate it. Language detection doesn't send text from the current web page to Google's servers, but you'll need to send the text when you translate the page.

"When you visit a webpage in a different language than your Toolbar, Toolbar will display the translation bar near the top of your browser window and ask you if you'd like to translate the page. Click Translate to translate the page, or click Translate on your Toolbar. Click Show original or the x icon to close the translation bar and view the original webpage. If you change your preferred translation language, Toolbar will remember your language preferences and use them when translating pages in the future," explains Google.

Here's a Gmail message written in French:


... and here's how Google Toolbar replaces the French message with the English translation:


If you open another Gmail message written in French, Google Toolbar will automatically translate the text.

"The new Translate feature is available in all international versions of Toolbar, including English, and the translation service supports 41 different languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese," mentions Google's blog.

Another improvement is that Google Toolbar's word translator is now available in the 41 languages supported by Google Translate.

June 29, 2009

Google Reader Lite

Google Reader's homepage has been updated and it features a small feed reader with three categories: "news", "sports" and "popular". The iframe points to this page and I think Google Reader should offer a customizable version, so you can embed it in your site.


Google already offers a cool AJAX Feed API that can be used to display the most recent posts from one or more feeds, but Google Reader's interface is more user-friendly and it lets you read the posts without leaving the page.

YouTube as a Medium for Community

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, gave a talk at the Library of Congress about YouTube and its role in the participatory culture. He explains how one of his videos, Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us, became very popular in just a few days and how this popularity took him by surprise. The video was remixed, translated, it was the starting point for a conversation at a global level.

To find how people communicate on YouTube, Professor Wesch and his students studied YouTube and the way anonymity, interactivity, authenticity and popularity define it as a new medium for community.


{ via YouTube Biz Blog }

June 27, 2009

Gmail Increases Maximum Attachment Size to 25 MB

Now you can send bigger attachments in Gmail, as Google increased the maximum attachment size from 20 MB to 25 MB.

"With Gmail, you can send and receive messages up to 25 megabytes (MB) in size. Please note that you may not be able to send larger attachments to contacts who use other email services with smaller attachment limits. If your attachment bounces, you should invite them to Gmail," suggests Google.


For some reason, Gmail's Flash uploader doesn't allow me to upload files that are larger than 10 MB. The error message is "attachment failed" and Google's suggestions aren't very helpful. Switching to the basic uploader in the settings solves the problem, but it's more tedious to upload multiple files.

{ Thanks, Ben. }

June 26, 2009

Solving Linear Programming Problems Using Google Spreadsheets

Google Spreadsheets has a new feature that lets you solve linear programming problems. "Informally, linear programming determines the way to achieve the best outcome (such as maximum profit or lowest cost) in a given mathematical model and given some list of requirements represented as linear equations," explains Wikipedia.

Google's help center has an article that details how to use the new feature. You can test it using a template offered by Google, but it's not very intuitive and it didn't work for me. I got an error message when clicking on Tools / Solve: "The goal specified must be a cell containing a valid formula."

June 25, 2009

Google Voice, Available in the US

Two years after acquiring GrandCentral, Google is about to open an updated version of the service to all US users. Google Voice is a free service that provides one number for all your phones, so you can add some features that help you manage phone calls: blocking calls, recording calls, answering from any of your phones, transcribing voicemail and more.

NBC reports that the service will start to be publicly available today and Google confirms the news: "Invites to people on reservations list starting to go out today." In March, Google Voice was released as an upgrade to the existing GrandCentral users and you could request an invitation using a form from Google's site.


Network World found that Google reserved one million phone numbers from Level 3, preparing for the public launch of the service. A major hurdle slowing the adoption of Google Voice is getting a new phone number, but Google tests a feature that allows users to port their existing numbers to the service.

Update: Apparently, Google Voice won't be publicly available, but you'll get an invitation if you've previously requested one. "We are happy to share that Google Voice is beginning to open up beyond former GrandCentral users. If you requested an invitation on the Google Voice site or previously on GrandCentral, keep your eye out for an invite email," says Google's blog.

{ via Lifehacker }

Google Account Recovery via SMS

Google added a new password recovery option: you can now associate a mobile phone number with your Google Account and Google will send a recovery code by SMS.

"Since most people use cell phones these days, we decided text messaging would be an easy, convenient addition to our password recovery options. To set up password recovery via your mobile phone, just sign in to your account and click Change Password Recovery Options. Enter your mobile phone number and current password and then click Save. If you lose access to your account for any reason, you'll be able to regain access by entering a code we'll send in a text message."


For now, the options is only available in the US, so you need to use a US proxy to see it. Google also updated the password recovery settings page to include all the account-recovery options: secondary email addresses, text messages and the security question.

Update: the feature is now available everywhere.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

Google City Tours

Google Labs has a new experimental project that could become a part of Google Maps: City Tours. The service "helps you identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips to most major cities. You just specify the location of your hotel and the length of your trip and City Tours will map out an itinerary for you," explains Google.


For now, City Tours doesn't offer too many interesting features: it only lists popular sights and it suggests when you should visit them. You can edit the information about a place and you can add new sights, but the options are very limited.

It would be useful to show more details about sights from Wikipedia and from image hosting sites like Flickr or Panoramio. Google works on landmark recognition, a project that associates images from the web with landmarks, and City Tours is an obvious application.

{ Thanks, Dan. }

June 24, 2009

Tips for Making Websites Run Faster

Installing a fast browser is not always enough to have a good experience when you browse the web: many web pages aren't optimized for performance. To help webmasters improve their sites, Google launched a new section as part of Google Code: "Let's make the web faster", which includes useful articles, videos and downloadable tools.

You'll learn how to optimize CSS declarations, how to optimize JavaScript code and avoid memory leaks, how to use the best image format and prefetch resources.

Google also released a Firebug plug-in for Firefox that evaluates web pages and provides suggestions to improve them. Here are the suggestions provided for this blog's homepage:


* There is 58.8kB worth of JavaScript. Minifying could save 15.7kB (26.7% reduction). Google provides the minified versions of all the inline blocks and external files.

* The following cacheable resources have a short freshness lifetime. Specify an expiration at least one month in the future for the following resources: [list of resources].

* The following domains only serve one resource each. If possible, avoid the extra DNS lookups by serving these resources from existing domains.

* An inline script block was found in the head between an external CSS file and another resource. To allow parallel downloading, move the inline script before the external CSS file, or after the next resource.

* A width and height should be specified for all images in order to speed up page display.

* Serve the following static resources from a domain that doesn't set cookies: [list of resources].

June 23, 2009

New Options for Translating Web Pages

Google's translation service has more options when you translate web pages. You can now set a different destination language and translate a new web page by entering its address in the persistent input box. There's also a new interface that displays the translation in tooltips, so you can still read the original text.


Bing Translator, Microsoft's translation service, has an interesting option that shows the original page and the translation side by side, much like in Google Translator Toolkit. This interface is very useful for those who are familiar with multiple languages and Google should add it as an option.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

A Retro Plastic Box

Keith Coleman, Gmail's product manager, points to a product that can be bought from eBay: a full version of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. If you think it's not very interesting, read the description:
It's brand new and never been opened. My boss bought it right before I moved the whole company over to Google Apps.

We never looked back, but here's your opportunity to live it up, 90's style, with this great, retro piece of Microsoft 2007 software.

Unique features include:

* Lengthy key you have to register with a company!
* Real, plastic disks known as "CD's".
* Huge files saved ON YOUR COMPUTER!
* The thrill of wondering if you've backed up your data recently after your on-site hard drive dies.
* Appeased paranoia that your contacts will never be extracted by an international organization bent on stealing your identity and submitting LOL cats to all your business contacts.

Throw off the Web2.0 zeitgeist, and know that your entire business can fit in a single plastic box that can easily be left under a train seat.

As a bonus, your software will be Platform Dependent, meaning it will only run on "Windows" (not included).

While mocking Microsoft Office is endearing, many businesses still need to use it and the transition to Google Apps is not always easy. That's probably the reason why Google started to offer a tool that synchronizes Google Apps with Outlook. "You get the cost savings, security and reliability of Google Apps, while employees can use the interface they prefer for email, contacts and calendar. Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is a plug-in for Outlook 2003 or 2007 that lets you keep using your familiar Outlook interface after switching from Microsoft Exchange Server to Google Apps."

June 22, 2009

Chrome Tests an Updated New Tab Page

Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome, includes a more customizable new tab page. You can easily pin, remove and reorder thumbnails without having to enter in the edit mode. Pinned items are always displayed in the new tab page, which now shows only 8 thumbnails, even if they're no longer frequently visited.

The list of search engines and the recent bookmarks have been removed and there's a new section of recent activities that includes recently-closed tabs and recent downloads. Another new section is called "recommendations", but it's still a work in progress.

You can hide the thumbnails, hide the list of recent activities and the recommendations if you don't find them useful.



The updated tab page is not yet ready to be released, but you can enable it if you have a recent Chromium build (Windows, Mac, Linux) by editing the desktop shortcut and adding the following flag in the target field:

--new-new-tab-page

June 19, 2009

Authors Are More Visible in Google News

Google started to display author names in Google News, so you can easily find the articles written by your favorite journalists. If you click on the author's name, you'll find his most recent articles and you can subscribe to a feed or get alerts by email.


Another recent feature is the addition of links to Wikipedia articles that offer some helpful context. "Currently, we’re showing a small number of users links to Wikipedia topic pages that serve as a reference on current events," explained a Google spokesperson.

Gay Google

Caleb Eggensperger noticed that Google shows a multicolored bar above the search results when you search for [gay], [lesbian] and other related terms. Google's colorful bar is not accidental: at the end of June, there are many gay pride celebrations around the world.


"Googlers care deeply about creating a workplace that affords equal treatment for all our staff, and while we do it regardless of any accolades we think our efforts might bring, recognition from outside organizations does mean a lot to us. (...) It's particularly exciting given that this is a time of rapid growth for our population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees (whose group name is, naturally, Gayglers) around the world," mentioned a blog post from 2007.


{ Image licensed as Creative Commons by Clay Caviness. More photos from the 2007 NYC Pride Parade. }

June 18, 2009

Google Translate for Persian

Google has always released services that are useful to better understand major events: new imagery that shows the impact of Hurricane Katrina, special search engines for last year's earthquake in China, search trends for 9/11.

Google Translate included an early version of a translation system for Persian, in response to the recent events from Iran. "We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran. Like YouTube and other services, Google Translate is one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world, and vice versa — increasing everyone's access to information," says Franz Och, from Google.

The translation tool can also be used to read articles from Iranian sites, but the quality is less than adequate. For example, here's the translation of the latest 50 Twitter messages tagged #Iran and written in Persian (Farsi).


Blogger Starts to Show Ads

Blogger started to display a block of contextual ads after publishing blog posts. Until now, Google's blogging platform didn't include ads and it was only monetized by making it easy for publishers to use AdSense ads.


It seems that Blogger followed the advice of Evan Williams, the co-founder of Pyra Labs, Blogger's parent company: "Put Ads in the App Interface: For example, the published landing page alone must get millions of views a day. And it's the perfect point for someone to go elsewhere. See if you can target it off what they wrote about. No one will mind (much). And strengthening your revenue story will strengthen your position in the company."

A New Interface for Google Books

Google's book search engine has a new interface that adds many missing features. The sidebar has been moved to the left, you can now embed a book by click on "Link" and selecting the embedding code, there's a new thumbnail view for pages and the table of contents can be accessed as a drop-down.



The search option that restricts the results to a book has been improved: Google sorts the results by relevance and it's easier to navigate betweeen the search results. "Now, for public domain and partner books, we've made it easier to see exactly where your search term appears within the book by showing you more context around the term, including an image from the part of the page on which it appears. You can click on those images to navigate directly to the pages inside the book," explains Google.

June 17, 2009

YouTube Adds the Wonder Wheel

YouTube added the "wonder wheel" visualization tool for exploring related searches interactively. The feature has been launched last month for Google search and it's now available in a different context.

Type a general term in YouTube's search box, click on "Search" and then click on "Wonder wheel" to find some suggestions. As you click on the suggestions, YouTube shows the search results next to the wheel and it lets you go back to the initial search terms.

"The Wonder wheel visually presents connections between related searches and your search term as an interactive diagram. Click the different nodes in the diagram to see how searches can branch out," explains Google.


While the idea seems interesting, I didn't find the "wonder wheel" very useful. It only works for some searches and the suggestions aren't diverse enough.

A Browser Is a Search Engine

Apparently, many people don't know what's a browser and they think it's the same thing as a search engine. I've recently quoted some posts from Google Chrome's help forum which were strange: users didn't like Chrome and they thought that the old search engine was better. "I want the old Google search engine, not Google Chrome. How do I go back to regular old Google? I want to change my default search engine from Chrome to Google."

Scott Suiter, a former Google intern, asked 50 passersby from New York what is a browser and the responses were almost unanimous: a browser is a search engine. Some even said that their browser is Google.



According to Wikipedia, "a web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web." But search engines are the applications that help you find web pages and they're so important that they became synonymous with web browsers. It's an involuntary synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part of an object is used to refer to the entire object.

{ via Andy Baio }

June 16, 2009

Set Gmail as Default Email Client in Firefox

Last year, Firefox 3 added the option to associate protocols with web applications. A common way to link to mail addresses is using the mailto: protocol, so you'll often find links like security@google.com.

When Firefox 3 was released, Yahoo Mail was the only webmail service that could be selected directly and the instructions for adding Gmail were complicated. Gmail has been added to the list of mail applications and it's easy to set it as the default email client in Firefox and open all the mailto: links in Gmail, without installing extensions:

* For Firefox 4+, click the Firefox drop-down menu and select Options > Options. For Firefox 3.0-3.6, go to Tools > Options.
* select the Applications tab
* search for mail
* select Use Gmail from the list of actions associated with the mailto protocol
* click OK to save the settings.


If you want to set Gmail as the default mail client for your computer and not just for Firefox, install Google Talk, Gmail Notifier for Windows or Google Notifier for Mac.

Artist Themes for Google Chrome


After adding themes to iGoogle and Gmail, Google intends to skin Chrome and some of the initial themes will be created by famous artists. New York Times reports that not all of the illustrators and designers contacted by Google were happy to license their works for free.

"While we don't typically offer monetary compensation for these projects, through the positive feedback that we have heard thus far we believe these projects provide a unique and exciting opportunity for artists to display their work in front of millions of people," explained a Google representative.

Some recent Chrome builds include the option to "reset to default theme", but Google doesn't offer a gallery of themes or some guidelines for creating your own theme.


Immediately after Chrome's launch, many people started to create themes for the browser by editing the default.dll file, but the file is overwritten by the automatic updater and the format was changed in the latest releases.

Note: the screenshot shows a theme created by Google. To install it, you need to install a developer version of Chrome and to enable extensions.

June 14, 2009

Browsers Cache YouTube Videos

YouTube managed to achieve something incredible: browsers now cache YouTube videos and you can load the same video multiple times from the local cache. Try to go to a YouTube video, wait until the video is buffered and then reload the page. You'll notice that the video starts instantly and you can watch it directly from your browser's cache. This works even if you close the tab and open the same page later.

If you have a slow Internet connection or if you frequently watch some videos, the new feature allows you to cache the videos, close the browser and watch the videos at a later time. You may want to increase the size of your browser's cache to preload longer videos. Here are YouTube's recommendations for dial-up connections:

"For best results, you may want to start the video player and then click on the PAUSE button immediately. Then, wait until the red progress bar has reached the end of the video before playing it. Allowing the entire video buffer lets you watch it without interruption."


Videos will load from the browser's cache even if they're embedded in a web page, so this feature is not limited to YouTube's site.

June 13, 2009

Google to Launch a Microblogging Search Engine

Google prepares to launch a service that indexes and ranks content from microblogging services like Twitter. Since it's very easy to post updates and the posts are usually very short, micro-blogging services are great for live blogging, posting real-time information about an event.

Twitter's search engine has two important drawbacks: it's limited to Twitter and it sorts the results by date. While there are other search engines like Tweefind that try to sort Twitter posts by relevancy and search engines like Twingly that index multiple microblogging sites, none of them does a great job.

Much like Google Blog Search, Google's microblogging search service will sort the results by relevancy and it also be integrated with Google's web search engine: the keywords that are frequently used in recent posts will trigger a MicroBlogsearch universal search group.

Here's the description used in Google's localization service:

"Recent updates about QUERY. This is the MicroBlogsearch Universal result group header text. A Microblog is a blog with very short entries. Twitter is the popular service associated with this format."


In May, Marissa Mayer discussed the significance of Twitter for Google:

"What's really happening in Twitter is that there are a lot of clues in it in terms of what's happening that's interesting overall. It's similar to what we see in Google Trends, where people will often type what they're interested in into the search box, and we can make some predictions off of that. So we are interested in being able to offer, for example, micro-blogging and micro-messaging in our search. Particularly in Blog Search and possibly in Web Search, but we don't have any particular plans to announce."

June 12, 2009

Integrate Google Latitude with Your Google Profile


If you want to display the location from Google Latitude on your Google profile, follow these steps:

* set your location using the iGoogle gadget or the mobile application.

* enable the public location badge, by selecting "Enable and show city-level only" or "Enable and show best available location". You should be aware that your location is now publicly available and it can displayed in a variety of ways using Google's API.

* edit your profile and select "Display my Latitude location". Google mentions that "your location appears on your profile, below your name, occupation, and city where you live, as long as you've updated it on Latitude within the last 24 hours."

In other news, Google started to show rich snippets for the results from Google Profiles. Google extracts structured data about jobs from profiles.

Yet Another Mobile iGoogle

Sometimes it's very difficult to understand Google: in 2008, Google released a great iGoogle interface optimized for iPhone, but it was discontinued one year later. "We've decided to direct iPhone users to the standard mobile iGoogle page. We've found that people hit iGoogle from lots of different phones -- we want to ensure you'll all see the same version," said a Google employee in January.

The regular mobile interface is very basic and it's only able to show feeds and a small number of gadgets. The mobile iGoogle doesn't have tabs and it's optimized for WAP phones, not for today's smartphones.

Google changed its and mind and decided to release a new iGoogle version for iPhone and Android phones. "This new version is faster and easier to use. It supports tabs as well as more of your favorite gadgets, including those built by third-party developers. (...) One of our favorite new features is the in-line display of articles for feed-based gadgets. That means you can read article summaries without leaving the page. You can also rearrange gadget order or keep your favorite gadgets open for your next visit."


To see the new version, visit iGoogle.com if you have an iPhone or an Android phone and click on "Try the new Mobile iGoogle". Google doesn't let you switch to the new version, so you need to bookmark the page. If you have a different phone with a WebKit browser, try to see if this page works well: http://www.google.com/m/ig?uipref=6.

June 11, 2009

Find Creative Commons Images in Google Image Search

Google Image Search added the option to restrict the results to images that are licensed using Creative Commons, a list of flexible licenses that allow content creators to share their works with the world.

The options aren't yet available in the interface, but you can use the search box below to find images that are licensed using some of the most popular Creative Commons licenses:



Images labeled for:








The four options displayed above combine different Creative Commons license, but you can create customized searches for other combination of licenses:

* public domain images:
http://images.google.com/images?q=mountains&as_rights=cc_publicdomain

* images licensed using Creative Commons Attribution:
http://images.google.com/images?q=mountains&as_rights=cc_attribute

* images licensed using Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike:
http://images.google.com/images?q=mountains&as_rights=cc_sharealike

Last month, Yahoo Image Search added a similar feature, limited to Flickr images. "By launching the Creative Commons license search with Flickr and making it available to all our Yahoo! Image Search users, we aim to promote reusable work and to be transparent about the guidelines issued by the creator of a particular image," mentioned Yahoo's blog.

Disable Google SearchWiki

Google Search's preferences page includes the option to disable SearchWiki. Just click on the checkbox next to SearchWiki and you'll "hide the ability to share, promote, remove, comment, or add your own results".


If you like a less cluttered interface for Google's search results or you don't use SearchWiki, disable the option from the preferences page.


"SearchWiki lets you customize your Google Web Search results by ranking, removing, and adding notes to them. You'll see your changes whenever you do the same searches while signed in to your Google Account, or until you decide to undo them. You can also see how other users have tailored any given search results page with their own notes and changes," explains Google. The feature lets you personalize the search results and it's especially useful for repeated searches. Marissa Mayer says that "40% of searches on any given day are repeat searches for that user".

Visit DisneyLand Paris Using Google Street View

Disneyland Paris is the first amusement park available in Google Street View. "Last October, as the last few rays of sunlight remained high enough in the sky, Disneyland Paris opened its gates early to our Street View car to capture some of the magic at street-level. We drove up Main Street USA (outside of Paris!), through Adventureland, and around Fantasyland and even in Walt Disney Studios Park," explains Google.


This shows some important uses of Google Street View: helping tourists plan itineraries and conducting virtual field trips.

You can also view an impressive 3D model of Disneyland Paris in Google Earth. "More than 85,000 photos (450GB worth) were taken over a 20 day period for this project. The castle alone is comprised of over 354 textures derived from over 2,000 photos. (...) There are over 500 unique landscape elements that were created to make the park look as realistic as possible."


The unofficial Google Earth blog reports that Google added a lot of new 3D buildings. "Google has been slowly adding cities using an unpublished methodology where vast numbers of buildings for large areas of cities are being rendered in 3D with photorealistic textures. The photos appear to be aerial in some cases, in others they seem to be from the ground. But, they are using an at least semi-automated process judging from the cases where some buildings are not properly dressed with the photo textures."

Advanced Search Options in Picasa Web Albums

Picasa Web's search feature has been improved and you can now filter search results: choose an aspect ratio (landscape, portrait, panorama), select a size (small, medium, large or extra large), filter videos and view the files that are licensed using Creative Commons.

Just click on "show options" to enable the tool belt with advanced filters. The new options can be used to search the public photos uploaded by Picasa Web Albums users, the photos uploaded by your favorite users or your own albums.


Picasa Web Albums indexes tags, captions, album titles, album descriptions, and album locations, but many photos don't have proper metadata and they're not searchable.

If you've been using Flickr's advanced search page to find Creative Commons-licensed images, Picasa Web is another place where you can find images that can be reused or modified. For example, 81,302 from the 3,064,934 search results for [Oslo] are licensed using Creative Commons.

June 10, 2009

Manage Databases in Google Fusion Tables

Google Labs has a new service for visualizing data: Google Fusion Tables. Unlike Google Spreadsheets, the service is optimized for large data sets, so you can import tables of up to 100MB.

"The goal of Fusion Tables, as with other database systems, is to manage larger amounts of data than spreadsheets typically do. This size difference leads to a focus on a different set of functionalities. For example, Fusion Tables focuses more on bulk operations on the data (filtering, aggregation, merges). These operations are typically not necessary for smaller collections of data stored in spreadsheets. In contrast, spreadsheets preserve complete flexibility in managing data -- you can put any value you want in any cell and work carefully to format your spreadsheet to make it look nice," explains the FAQ.


You can import spreadsheets from your computer, select one from Google Spreadsheets or open a table from the gallery.


One of the samples, titled "Popular Baby Names -- 1880 to 2008", has 129,000 rows, but Fusion Tables displays 100 rows at a time. To manage a such a large amount of data, you can apply filters, show aggregates, create views that only include some of the columns.

There are many options to visualize the data: on a map or intensity map, using lines, bars, pies, scatter plots, motion charts or on a timeline. For example, you can visualize the popularity of the name "John" in the US, which has slowly declined since 1924.


To see which are the most popular male names in the US since 1990, I added two filters: year >= 1990,rank <= 3 and then I aggregated the data by male name. The bar chart shows that Michael is the most popular male name.


The service has rough edges and there aren't many options to perform computations: there's no support for SQL or GQL queries, the sorting options are limited and you can't add data using forms.

Even if it's just a pre-alpha version, Fusion Tables has built-in collaboration features: you can invite people as viewers, contributors (they are allowed to add columns, but not to edit the existing columns), collaborators or owners. Anyone who is invited can add comments to a cell or a column.

{ Thanks, Surendra. }

June 9, 2009

Google Translator Toolkit

Google Translator Toolkit is a new service that lets you translate documents by editing the translations automatically generated by Google. "Google Translator Toolkit allows human translators to work faster and more accurately, aided by technologies like Google Translate."

You can translate documents stored on your computer, web pages, Wikipedia articles and Knol articles. After importing a document, Google generates the translation, displaying it next to the original text. You can select a sentence from the original document and Google lets you edit the translation.


Google Translator Toolkit includes the collaborative features from Google Docs: you can invite other people to edit or view your translations, but the application doesn't display the collaborators that are currently editing a document.


An interesting feature is the "translation memory", a database of already-existing translations. "As you translate new sentences, we automatically search all available translation memories for previous translations similar to your new sentence. If such sentences exist, we rank and then show them to you. Comparing your translation to previous human translations improves consistency and saves you time: you can reuse previous translations or adjust them to create new, more contextually appropriate translations."

Google's service will make it easier to translate documents online, but it's also a great way to improve the quality of the machine translation service.

{ via Blogoscoped Forum }

June 7, 2009

Google Video Adds Search Options

Google Video exposes some advanced search options directly on the search results pages: click on "show options" and you can choose between three layouts (TV view, list view, grid view), pick a duration interval, sort the results by date or view only the high-quality videos.


Google has recently added a similar feature for web search results and, even though it should make the advanced search options more visible, most users will never click on "show options" to find them.

June 5, 2009

Google Chrome for Mac and Linux, Dev Preview

In the past 9 months, Google Chrome's developers have been hard at work to post the Windows version of the browser to Mac and Linux. Even if the Mac and Linux versions aren't ready for the general public, Google decided to release a developer preview for those who want to use an early version of the browser.

"In order to get more feedback from developers, we have early developer channel versions of Google Chrome for Mac OS X and Linux, but whatever you do, please DON'T DOWNLOAD THEM! Unless of course you are a developer or take great pleasure in incomplete, unpredictable, and potentially crashing software. How incomplete? So incomplete that, among other things , you won't yet be able to view YouTube videos, change your privacy settings, set your default search provider, or even print," explains the Chromium blog.

The Mac version requires Intel CPU and Mac OS X 10.5.6, while the Linux version requires Intel Pentium 4 / Athlon 64 or later CPU, and Ubuntu 8.04 or Debian 5 or later.

I installed Google Chrome 3.0.183.1 in Ubuntu 8.10 and the process was painless. Most web pages are rendered properly, with the notable exception of the pages that require Flash or Google Gears. The settings dialog lacks many of the options that are available in the Windows version, the bookmark manager doesn't work, you can't change the default search engine, but these are just missing features that will be added in the near future.

Google Chrome for Mac:



Google Chrome in Ubuntu 8.10 (initial warnings):


June 4, 2009

Enhanced Zooming in Google Street View

Google Maps added a new way to zoom in the street view imagery: by double-clicking on the object you want to see clearer.

"We have been able to accomplish this by making a compact representation of the building facade and road geometry for all the Street View panoramas using laser point clouds and differences between consecutive pictures. As you move your mouse within Street View, you'll notice that the cursor now has lightly-shaded geometry attached to it - it will show an oval when your mouse is following a road and a rectangle when moving across the facades of buildings," explains Google. The cursor geometry is called "pancake" and it's a shortcut for the best image that shows the object you've selected.


While the new feature is moderately useful, it's very annoying when panning the image. You're almost afraid to click on the image because the zooming icon suggests that you are about to zoom in. I'll use the keyboard shortcuts to navigate through Street View from now on: up/down/left/right arrows, Page Up, Page Down, +/- for zooming.

June 3, 2009

Google Squared Adds Structure to Unstructured Data

Google Squared, the service that automatically generates lists of entities and associated attributes, is now live. "Google Squared is a new way of organizing information on the Web to make it more useful and structured," explains Google.

For example, if you search for [African countries], Google Squared generates a list of countries, then it finds attributes that should be appropriate when you describe a country (capital, currency, image/map) and it tries to find values for the attributes. Google Squared shows only the first 7 results, but you can always add new results and even new attributes. Clicking on the first blank column, Google Squared suggests 5 new columns: area, religion, language, GDP and Internet users.



A search for [endangered species] returns relevant search results, although Wikipedia has a more comprehensive list.


Google Squared is good at finding palindromes from a lot of sources:



Google Squared's results aren't always great: if you search for [Motown], Google finds relevant artists like Diana Ross or Marvin Gaye, but it mixes them with songs like "Got to be there".


If you find mistakes, Google Squared lets you remove rows, columns, select alternative values for attributes and save the customized square online so you can share it with other people.

The service seems to be a clever combination between Google Sets, which creates sets of items from a few examples, and Google Q&A, which extracts facts from the web (an example: [Britney Spears' mother]). In fact, you can even start with an empty square and dynamically add items and attributes.