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

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July 30, 2014

Google Drive's Quota Page

The new Google Drive interface has a cool feature: it shows all the files you've uploaded, sorted by file size. Mouse over the storage stats at the bottom of the page ("X GB of Y GB used"), click "Drive" and you'll get to this page that shows the quota used by your files, so you can quickly delete some of the files you no longer need. Interestingly, the URL: https://drive.google.com/#quota also works in the old Google Drive interface.



The page doesn't include the documents, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, drawings created with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings or converted to the Google formats.

The old Google Drive interface also had this feature. You had to click an arrow icon next to "owner", pick "quota used" and sort by quota. Google Drive only displayed the files from the current folder, so you had to use this URL: https://drive.google.com/#all to see all your files. The new quota page is more convenient, but the new Google Drive interface no longer lets you sort folders by quota used.

64-Bit Chrome for Windows, Now in Beta

2 months after the Dev/Canary channels, the 64-bit version of Chrome for Windows is now available in the beta channel. It's still limited to Windows 7 and Windows 8+ and you obviously need a 64-bit operating system.

"To try it out, download the 64-bit installer from our Beta download pages. The new version replaces the existing version while preserving all your settings and bookmarks, so there's no need to uninstall a current installation of Chrome," informs Google.


The 64-bit Chrome brings some actual improvements: better performance and fewer crashes. 5 years after releasing the 64-bit Chrome for Linux, it's time for Windows users to upgrade to a 64-bit browser.

Paul Buchheit on Startups

Paul Buchheit, the ex-Googler who created Gmail, gave a talk at Startup School. There are a lot of interesting ideas and many of them have something to do with Google.

Paul talks about the danger of experience and dogma: "Just because it didn't work in the past doesn't mean it won't work in the future. Likewise, what worked before may not work again. The best opportunities live in our collective blind spots. To most, they appear to be bad ideas, or simply unimportant." For example, many people thought that writing the Gmail interface in JavaScript was a bad idea, but Gmail worked well, browsers improved and now web apps are commonplace.

The man who came up with Gmail says that "to be innovative, we need to evade the limitations of established thinking. Creating an innovative new product often means spending years working on something that most people doubt the value of." To be able to do this, you really need to love what you are doing and ignore the voices that tell you that what you are trying to achieve is impossible. As Larry Page says, maintain a healthy disregard for the impossible.

Trying to solve interesting problems also helps. "Interestingness is a sign of unexplored or under-explored territory. If I already know what the outcome is going to be, that's not very interesting. (...) But I find that great startups exist in a space of productive uncertainty. Regardless whether they succeed or fail, I'm likely to learn something interesting," says Paul Buchheit. That's one of the reasons why he picked Google back in 1999: he believed that Google couldn't compete with Alta Vista, but at least he'll learn something from the smart people at Google.

Google as a startup was different from the way people perceived it. Even if Google was mostly a search engine, Google founders had bigger ambitions. "Larry wanted to store and search the whole web in memory, even though our machines only had 1/4 GB of RAM. It was unrealistic at the time, but Moore's law moves fast and very soon we were doing it, but only because everyone's thinking was already oriented in that direction. He also wanted self-driving cars that would deliver hamburgers. That hasn't happened yet, but I bet it will."

For Paul Buchheit, money are only the "fuel" that helps you achieve a mission, not the main goal of a business. "For me, startups are more than just a clever way to make money. They are machines for harnessing the fire of human self-interest, creating a self-sustaining reaction capable of rapidly transforming the world."

July 27, 2014

New URL for Google Docs

If you go to docs.google.com, you might see this message: "Soon, docs.google.com will start taking you to the Google Docs application, not Google Drive. You can always get to Google Drive by using drive.google.com." Until now, docs.google.com redirected to drive.google.com without displaying this message.


"You may be using docs.google.com to access Google Drive. With the launch of the new Google Docs editors home screens, docs.google.com will redirect to the Docs home screen, where you'll find all of your Google Docs and Word files," explains Google.

Some useful URLs:

* docs.google.com, google.com/docs - Google Docs (the first URL still redirects to Drive for now)
* sheets.google.com, google.com/sheets - Google Sheets
* slides.google.com, google.com/slides - Google Slides

Google Tests Timeline View for Knowledge Graph

Google tests a timeline view for Knowledge Graph cards. For a query like [World War I], Google's experimental interface displays a chronological list of important events obtained from Wikipedia articles.


Mouse over an event and Google shows more information, including images, relevant dates and snippets from Wikipedia articles. Click the event to perform a Google search.


By default, Google only highlights some of the most important events, but you can zoom in to explore to see even more events. Google uses colors and parallel axis to distinguish between different types of information.

Here's a video that shows this feature in action. Right now, the timeline view looks like a tool for power users and Google will have to create a simplified interface when this feature is publicly released.

Back in 2007, Google Labs added a timeline view for Google Search. Google News Archive also had a timeline view. These features displayed relevant search results about important events related to your query.


{ via Florian Kiersch - translation }

Animated YouTube Channel Art

YouTube now lets you upload animated GIFs for channel art. The maximum file size is 2MB and the minimum dimension is 2048 x 1152. "For optimal results on all devices we recommend uploading a single 2560 X 1440 px image," informs YouTube.


Here's an example of channel that uses animated GIFs and a video that explains how to create animated channel art using Photoshop:


{ Thanks, Sterling. }

Gmail Setup Widget

When you create a new Gmail account, Google now shows a widget that helps you learn how to use Gmail, choose a theme, import contacts and mail, change profile image and more.


"Gmail now has a setup gadget to help people new to Gmail get started. This gadget helps people set up their Gmail account with actions like adding a profile picture and creating an email signature, and teaches them to use features like undo send and creating an auto-responder. The setup gadget is hidden once the person completes all actions, dismisses the gadget or after two weeks. It can be relaunched from Settings," informs Google.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

July 25, 2014

Extended Google Play Music Trial for Chromecast Users

To celebrate Chromecast's first birthday, Google extended the Play Music All Access free trial from 30 days to 90 days, but only in the US. You can redeem Chromecast offers from this page. "In order to check for available offers, we require you to share your device's serial number with Google. We use the serial number to provide your device with offers that may be relevant to you," informs Google.


The extended trial is only available if you haven't subscribed to All Access and you haven't used the 30-days free trial. There's more information in the help center:

"Promotion only open to users in United States who have purchased and set up a Chromecast on or before September 30, 2014. Users must set up their All Access account and redeem their code by September 30, 2014 to be eligible for the offer."

What happens when the free trial ends? You'll pay $9.99 per month until you cancel the subscription.

"Once your trial period has ended, you'll be automatically billed each month for your All Access subscription. As an active subscriber, you'll have access to unlimited streaming music from All Access. During your free trial, you can cancel at any time. Unless you cancel, you will not be charged until the start of the first paid billing period."

{ via +Google Play }

Google Shows Images Next to Search Answers

I mentioned in a previous post that Google answers complicated questions using information from web pages. Now Google also shows images next to the relevant snippets. Here's an example for [galaxy s5 focal length].


Here's another example for [iphone 5s focal length]. This time, Google highlights the wrong answer:


A search for [iphone focal length] returns a row from a table that compares focal length for the latest 4 iPhones.

July 21, 2014

More Secure Gmail Authentication

Google has a new settings page that lets you enable or disable access to less secure apps.

"Some devices and apps use insecure sign-in technology to access your data. Choosing Disable prevents these less secure devices and apps from accessing your Google Account. Choosing Enable increases your chances of unauthorized account access but allows you to continue using these less secure devices and apps."



Many mail apps use insecure sign-in standards:

* the Mail app for iOS 6 or below
* the Mail app from Windows Phone 8.0 or earlier
* some built-in Android mail apps not developed by Google
* desktop mail clients like Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird.

If the access to less secure apps is disabled, you'll see a "Password incorrect" error when signing in and you can't set up a Google account on your device. "Google may block sign in attempts from some apps or devices that do not use modern security standards. Since these apps and devices are easier to break into, blocking them helps keep your account safer."

A Microsoft article explains that "Google has increased its security measures to block access to Google accounts after July 15, 2014 if those accounts are being set up or synced in apps and on devices that use Basic Authentication." Another article informs that "Windows Phone builds earlier than 8.10.12359.845 [Windows Phone 8.1] use Basic Authentication and therefore may be impacted. Windows Phone builds later than 8.10.12359.845 use Open Authentication (or OAuth) and therefore will not be impacted".

All Google products use OAuth 2.0, so if you use the desktop Gmail site, the mobile Gmail site or the mobile Gmail apps, you're not affected by this change. 90% of Apple devices are using iOS 7, so most iOS users are not affected. If you use Android mail apps built by OEMs like Samsung, the built-in mail app for Windows Phone or a desktop app like Outlook or Thunderbird, it's a good idea to make sure that the "enable" setting is checked on this page.

An article from April provides more information:
Beginning in the second half of 2014, we'll start gradually increasing the security checks performed when users log in to Google. These additional checks will ensure that only the intended user has access to their account, whether through a browser, device or application. These changes will affect any application that sends a username and/or password to Google.

To better protect your users, we recommend you upgrade all of your applications to OAuth 2.0. If you choose not to do so, your users will be required to take extra steps in order to keep accessing your applications.The standard Internet protocols we support all work with OAuth 2.0, as do most of our APIs. We leverage the work done by the IETF on OAuth 2.0 integration with IMAP, SMTP, POP, XMPP, CalDAV, and CardDAV.

In summary, if your application currently uses plain passwords to authenticate to Google, we strongly encourage you to minimize user disruption by switching to OAuth 2.0.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

July 18, 2014

Create Reminders in Google Search

You don't have to use the mobile Google Search app to add reminders. Just search Google for add reminder or create reminder, enter a name, a date or a place. You can also enter specific queries like: add reminder to buy milk tomorrow or create reminder to buy sandwich when I am in Chicago. Just click "remind me on Google Now".



You can create reminders for tasks, places to visit, events and more. You're notified of your reminders in Google Now, which works in Android, iOS (using the Google Search app) and Chrome for desktop.

Create Google Calendar Events in Google Search

You can now create events from Google Search. Type create event, add event, new event, add meeting or schedule appointment and Google shows the details for a generic Meeting event that starts in a few minutes. You can add the event to your calendar or click the time to go to Google Calendar.


A better idea is to enter something more specific: create event for Monday at 10am: write the report. This way, you can create the event directly from Google Search and you don't even have to open Google Calendar. It's similar to the "quick add" feature from Google Calendar, except that you need to add some text like "new event" or "create event" and detection doesn't work that well.


You can click "edit event" to open Google Calendar and make some changes.


This also works when you use voice input.

{ via Search Engine Land }

The New Google Alerts UI, Now Available

As previously anticipated, Google Alerts has a new interface inspired by Material Design. For some reason, Google only shows the new UI when you are logged in, while displaying the old interface if you don't log in to a Google account.

The new UI is a lot simpler and focuses on managing alerts and creating alerts with one click. The old Google Alerts homepage exposed a lot of advanced options, which are now hidden. There's a long list of alert suggestions: companies, people, countries, musical artists, industries, places, athletes, as well as your name and email address (the "me on the web" section).


For example, you can type "Google" in the huge input box at the top of the page, click "Create alert" and that's it. Google shows a preview, so you can see what results you may get.


There's a "show options" link that shows the advanced options, so you can choose sources, language and region, how often to send alerts, how many results to include and the delivery option: email or feed. The nice thing is that Google remembers your options and it uses them the next time you create a new alert.


Google Alerts lets you edit or delete alerts and shows a special icon for feed alerts.


Here's the old Google Alerts:

The New Google Drive for Desktop

I just got the new Google Drive desktop interface. Google shows a small box that asks you to try the new Drive. You need to go to the Settings drop-down and click "Experience the new Drive".



Here's the welcome page with a small accessibility icon:


The new interface has a lot in common with the new desktop home screens for Docs, Slides and Sheets. All of them use the new Material Design.


Here's the contextual menu:


When you click a file, it's selected and the info pane shows more information about the file. There are no more checkboxes: click to select, double click to open.



There's an updated "new" button that lets you upload files and files, but also create new documents.


You can now resize the sidebar:


It's easier to select files: click and drag your mouse over several files or press Shift to select a range of files or press Ctrl to select non-consecutive files.

July 17, 2014

Chrome App Launcher for Linux

In Chrome 36, the app launcher also works in Linux. Now this feature is available for all major desktop operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS and Linux.

To add the app launcher icon, Google suggests to "search your computer for Chrome App Launcher and
pin it to your system's launcher or panel for easy access." You first need to enable the App Launcher by adding a Chrome app from this page.

Here's a screenshot from Ubuntu 14.04:


Gmail's Special Phishing Warning

For some reason, Gmail displayed this phishing warning when opening an email newsletter: "Be careful with this message. It contains content that's typically used to steal personal information." There are two links that allow you to "Report this suspicious message" or "Ignore, I trust this message".


A help center article explains that Gmail "shows you a warning above any message that looks like a phishing scam but comes from an address in your Gmail contacts list. When a suspicious message like this is sent from an email address of someone on your contact list, it's possible that the person's email account was compromised and used without their permission to send a malicious message."

Google advises you to "read the message and decide if it seems like it was written by the sender. Consider whether it sounds like the person you know, contains suspicious links or content, or asks you to do unusual things like send money or provide personal details. If it seems like your contact's email account was compromised and used to send this message, please click Report this suspicious message within the warning. The message will be marked as 'sent from a compromised account,' and you'll send a report to the Gmail team to help us improve our detection of compromised accounts."

You may be wondering why Gmail doesn't flag the message as spam. Messages from your contacts are never moved to spam. In fact, that's one way to make sure that you receive messages from someone and they're not added to the spam folder: add the email address to your contacts.

I checked to see if the messages was sent by one of my contacts and the answer is no. That's strange, maybe this is a Gmail bug.

Redesigned Incognito Page in Chrome 36

Chrome 36 brings a redesigned incognito page with a bigger icon, a heading, shorter text and card interface. There are some changes to the text: Google removed "however, you aren't invisible" and "[going incognito doesn't hide your browsing from your] governments and other sophisticated attackers", but kept "your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit". Google also removed the text which informed users that extensions are disabled by default in the incognito mode.


Here's the old new tab page for incognito mode (screenshot from Chrome 35):

July 16, 2014

Google Tests a Search Card for Live Events

There's a Help Center article about a Google experiment that shows relevant Hangouts on Air in Google Search. "We're rolling out an experiment where you can easily find YouTube live events or Hangouts on Air to watch by searching for the event on Google.com. For example, if an author is answering questions about their latest book in a Hangout on Air, you can search the author’s name to find and watch the event," informs Google.


Apparently, a live event will start to show up in search up to 3 hours before it starts. You can find a list of Hangouts on Air and YouTube live events.

"If the event is happening now, you can touch the play on the video to watch the event live. If the event is happening later in the day, click Yes under 'Are you going to watch?' to add the event to your Google Calendar."

Flash Warnings in Google Mobile Search

I still remember when Flash support was an important selling point for Android. While you can install Flash and use it even in Android KitKat, Adobe no longer updates it and Chrome doesn't support it.

Now Google decided to show warnings next to search results that use a lot of Flash content, but only for iOS and Android 4.1+ devices. "Starting today, we will indicate to searchers when our algorithms detect pages that may not work on their devices. For example, Adobe Flash is not supported on iOS devices or on Android versions 4.1 and higher, and a page whose contents are mostly Flash may be noted like this:"


The warning says: "Uses Flash. May not work on your device." You can tap "try anyway" or "learn more". The reason? "A common annoyance for web users is when websites require browser technologies that are not supported by their device. When users access such pages, they may see nothing but a blank space or miss out a large portion of the page's contents."

Google recommends developers to create modern multi-device websites using HTML5. For example, Google's Web Starter Kit is a simple framework that supports the Web Fundamentals best practices out of the box.

Google Forum Search, No Longer Available

Back in March, I posted some URLs that allowed you to get back some search features that were removed by Google from the search interface: forum search, recipe search and more. It looks like forum search is no longer available. "Google completely disabled it so now you can no longer filter Google search results by discussion forums," reports Barry Schwartz.


It's sad to see that Google removed a very useful feature that allowed you restrict results to forum threads, while keeping the app search feature, which mostly returns mobile apps and Chrome extensions.

As a workaround, you can add "forum" or "forum (topic OR thread)" to your queries.

Google Adds Support for Bitcoin Conversion

Google's currency conversion added support for bitcoin, a virtual currency introduced in 2009. If you search for [1 bitcoin to usd], [1 BTC in USD], [bitcoin eur], [convert 1000 gbp to bitcoin] and other similar queries, Google shows the interactive currency conversion card that also includes a historical chart.

Last month, "Google Finance partnered with Coinbase to launch a bitcoin price tracker that enabled BTC-to-fiat price conversions across a wide range of global currencies." This update uses the same data.


"Bitcoin is often referred to as a currency, but it does not conform to widely used definitions of money," suggests Wikipedia. "Economists generally agree that to qualify as money, something must be a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account. Bitcoin has some way to go if it wants to meet these criteria. It does best as a medium of exchange."

{ via Search Engine Land }

July 13, 2014

YouTube Tests Simpler Buttons

Here's a new version of the YouTube experiment that changes buttons. This time, YouTube only shows icons for "add to playlist", "share", "more" and it no longer includes labels.




New Google Alerts Interface

Anjo CerdeƱa, a reader of this blog, found a new interface for Google Alerts when opening the site. It uses Material Design and it has a few new features: a "me on the web" section and a list of suggestions for companies, people. countries, places, industries and more. It also shows your alerts and a simple box for creating a new alert.


I don't see the new Google Alerts UI, so it's probably still tested by Google. I expect to see more and more Material-inspired design refreshes.

The classic Google Alerts homepage is only focused on creating new alerts and it shows a lot of advanced options, as well as some information about Google Alerts. To see your alerts, you need to click "manage your alerts".


{ Thanks, Anjo. }