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August 31, 2006

August Recap: Google's Deals of the Year

What's so great about this month? Let's see:

Google's deals

Google made a lot of deals this month: with AOL to bundle Google Toolbar and Desktop with Real Player, with XM for Radio AdSense, with News Corp. for search and ads, with Viacom for Google Video ads, with eBay for VoIP ads.

New features

You can now save locations in Google Maps, find Google Video and Google Books on the homepage, have a better blog at Blogger so people won't laugh at you anymore. Google Talk adds voicemail and file transfer for the 42,000 happy users. Gmail has an MP3 player.


Google Spreadsheets, Google Analytics, Writely are available for anyone. Gmail doesn't need invitations in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Google WiFi is finally available for everyone in Mountain View.


There were too many birthdays: Google Talk has one year, Blogger turned seven, Linux is 15, Sergey Brin is 33.

New products

Gmail for Your Domain becomes Google Apps for Your Domain.

The most popular post (Analytics says that):
Create email blacklists in Gmail.

The most meaningful post (I say so):
Google Persistent Memory.

The best Google product of the month:
Eric Schmidt, for all the great deals that will mean a lot in the future and for being a part of Apple's board.

<< July recap

Google Wants To Team Up With Emmy Winners

If you're in the US and search for one of the Emmy winners, like Julia Louis Dreyfus, Google has a nice little ad that says "Google congratulates". Here's the text of the landing page:

"We were rooting for you to strike gold at the Emmy Awards ceremony the other night, and we were thrilled when you did. As firm believers in accountability, Google salutes professionals like you who have accomplished great things.

The question is, what's left to conquer?
To explore additional collaborative opportunities in this field, please contact:"

The question here is: what does Google want? A partnership with Google Video? Here's one possible translation:

"We liked Seinfeld, but never seen anything great from you since then. We were surprised to see you winning an award.

The question is: why do you Google yourself? You must have a big ego and you must want some money to feed it. Drop us a mail. We know you hate people, but we're Google."

{ Via One Park Avenue. }

Are You Logged In?

I have a little conspiracy theory. First there was the Gmail account: few people had it, many were afraid of it, some would pay money to have it. Then there was the Google account: you already had it if you used Gmail, it wasn't very useful. Then Google started to add some services to Google account: Froogle WishList, the personalized homepage, the personalized search and many more.

Before creating the Google accounts, Google used to rely on cookies to save preferences. The new accounts are a way to save personal stuff and all Google services have something to save. But not everyone visits Froogle Wishlist, or Search History, not many people have heard of Google Spreadsheets or Picasa Web. But everyone has heard of Gmail and a lot of people use it, although it's in beta and it still requires invitation. I think Gmail was created to make people have a Google Account and remain logged in.

What's the most common activity on the Internet? Email. What's the most visited subdomain on Yahoo? Yahoo Mail. People check their mail all the time and won't log out too often.

Now all Google services will migrate to Google Accounts (AdWords and Orkut have migrated; Blogger and Writely are next) and you'll have more reasons to be logged in. But why would Google want to be logged in? By combining the information from all these services, Google can know more about you, improve the search results and ad targeting.

This is just a conspiracy theory that passes through my head everytime I see my username above the search results. I could delete the personalized search service, but I would still be logged in.

If you're wondering about the picture above, Google accounts' codename is GAIA, which is the goddess of the earth, in the Greek mithology.

This quote is from Susan Mernit (September 2004):

"Google's much speculated integration of services seems to have moved forward a step with the further integration of Google Accounts, a control center for those of us who subscribe to any combination of gmail, Google groups and Google search or news alerts.

Apparently, this new feature's been live for a week, but I was shocked when I tried to sign up for a news alert and Google immediately defaulted to my gmail account--not the place I'd planned to put it.

Clearly, the moment when gmail is the underpinning to link all the services together--including Blogger, Picasa, and Froogle--is coming closer., And that is going to make A LOT of people pay attention."

Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 Improves Visual Theme

The second beta of Firefox 2 includes a slick redesigned chrome, in addition to the features already available in beta 1.

Mozilla hired Radiant Core, a company from Toronto, to design the new theme. IT Business says that the "criteria for the [theme] proposals included that they respect native OS look and feel (Firefox runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms), that the themes appear modern and contemporary with current Web and client apps and appear consistent across platforms."

So now we have translucent buttons, an improved search box and new tab strip that shows the active tab prominently. There's also an arrow next to the last tab that hides a list of all the open tabs.

You can download Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 for:
Windows (5.6 MB) | Mac (18 MB) | Linux (9.2 MB) | Other versions

In order to be able to use the incompatible extensions, follow the tips from here.

Google Calendar Gadget Shows All Your Calendars

Google Calendar Gadget for Google Desktop is an easy way to view your calendar without visiting Google Calendar site. Now the small gadget allows you to view all your calendars or only the calendars you want, not just the main calendar.

It's also easier to add events in the calendar without going to the site. If you enable the alerts in Google Desktop, you can be notified about the events. Even if your Internet connection goes down, you'll still be able to see your calendar and get alerts.

The gadget requires Google Desktop 4, which was also updated to version 4.2006.825. If you already have the gadget, you need to download the new version.

Add events to Google Calendar faster
Google Persistent Memory

Site 24x7 - Free Website Monitoring

Site 24x7 is a free service that lets you monitor a site's response time over time and sends alerts if a site is down or slow. You can set how often Site 24x7 monitors the site: the smallest interval is 5 minutes.

What's nice about this service is that you can get alerts by mail or SMS if something bad happens with a site: slow load time, most of the content is changed (defacement?), HTTP errors. Reports can be sent to any number of mail addresses and phone numbers, but you can only have 10 free SMS notifications per month.

The service is in beta and will continue to be free after it's officially launched, although it will have some limitations for the number of monitored sites.

You can try a demo to see how it works.

August 30, 2006

Google Relaunches OCR Software

Tesseract is an OCR engine developed at the HP Labs between 1985 and 1995. HP decided to abandon OCR research and, for ten years, the software's development has been frozen. Last year, HP made Tesseract open source (Apache License) and Google, together with a research institute, have continued the development of the program. Now Google announces that the new version is pretty stable and that it's the best open source OCR engine.

"A few things to know about Tesseract OCR: for now it only supports the English language, and does not include a page layout analysis module (yet), so it will perform poorly on multi-column material. It also doesn't do well on grayscale and color documents, and it's not nearly as accurate as some of the best commercial OCR packages out there. Yet, as far as we know, despite its shortcomings, Tesseract is far more accurate than any other Open Source OCR package out there."

OCR is useful for Google Book Search and it could be useful for Picasa or Image Search in addition to an object recognition engine. And, if Google improves the software, it could be launched as a successful alternative to commercial applications. Currently, the software has no UI and it can be run in Linux and Windows.

Use camera phones for OCR

Learn SEO From Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

Vanessa Fox from Google and Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Watch (unfortunately, not for too long) talk about search engine optimization. They share a lot of interesting tips for webmasters, by placing everyone in the story of Buffy, the vampire slayer. You'll find a lot about forums, links, bad neighborhood, link baiting, having your own domain, authority, SERPs and the discussion is really entertaining. The audio file has 68 minutes and it's an episode of GoodKarma, at Webmaster Radio.

Direct link to the MP3 file [63 MB]

Eric Schmidt Is a Member of Apple's Board

Apple and Google have the most loyal users and are similar in many ways. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, is now the eighth member of Apple's board.

Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, said that "like Apple, Google is very focused on innovation and we think Eric's insights and experience will be very valuable in helping to guide Apple in the years ahead." Before becoming Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt worked at Sun and Novel.

"Apple is one of the companies in the world that I most admire," said Eric Schmidt. And he's not the only one from Google who does that. "How did Apple and Madonna stay cool and innovative in the past 23 years? Not by being perfect, but by constantly reinventing themselves," concluded Marissa Mayer at a Stanford seminar.

Although I don't think this would mean some big changes for the two companies, here's what could happen:

* more attention to Mac users from Google's part (Picasa, Google Talk for Mac)

* a partnership between Google Video and iTunes Store

* a better way to deal with Microsoft's competition (Vista, new Office, Zune)

Google software for Mac
The best speech of Steve Jobs Lite - File Hosting With Less Limitations

I've written about, a service that provides 1 GB of free online storage. To increase the adoption, has released a new service called Lite, that allows you to upload a file of up to 10 MB and get a direct link.

You can upload any kind of file and there are no traffic limitations. You don't have to register, although you have to provide an email address, so that if you decide you need to manage your uploaded files, you can sign in for a account. If you don't want to do that, seems to work.

For photos, you also get a thumbnail, so you just have to copy-paste the code into your blog. I think this service is a good replacement for All you can upload: you don't have options for resizing, but you can do that with any image editor, and you can upload more than photos.

If you upload audio files (I've tried only with MP3 files), offers you a very slick Flash player, so you can embed it into your blog.

All in all, this is a very good file hosting service if you don't have a domain or you don't want to pay for the traffic.

Download Public Domain Books From Google

BBC News reports that Google has started to allow users to download public domain books as PDF files in Google Book Search. To find books available for download like Dante's Divina Comedia, you need to restrict the search to full view books, but not all the results will have the download option.

HTML view (plain text) should follow naturally for public domain books, as the downloaded PDF contains only the scanned pages, without OCR. Google should also improve the way books are read online, by optimizing page view for any resolution. The download option for public domain books will be followed shortly by an easier way to buy books directly from Google.

Project Gutenberg offers 19,000 free ebooks, but their content is not searchable online. The books can be downloaded as text files.

Google's Digital Library of Alexandria

August 29, 2006

Google Apps For Domains, Mocked By A Hosting Company

Intermedia.NET, a company that says it is the "US Leader in Microsoft Exchange Hosting" has released a satirical press release, in which shows the limits of Google Apps for Your Domain. I already showed some of the problems with Google's offer in a previous post, but here is the funny copy from Intermedia.NET:

Intermedia.NET, the US leader in Microsoft Exchange hosting for small and medium businesses (SMBs), today praised the innovative new service, Google Apps for Your Domain. By offering 24x0 support, no wireless access and scanning of company email and documents, Google has bucked the trend of what companies expect from a business email provider. The Apps for your Domain key features:

* 24x0 support. This is important because companies for whom email and schedules are mission-critical will want to know they can pick up a phone and get support 24 hours a day, 0 days per week. Google also gives the option of filling out a support form and receiving an automated response.

* No wireless access. Where Intermedia.NET hosted Exchange gives users access to information via BlackBerry, Treo, Q or any other device, Google has bucked this trend, perhaps suggesting that wireless email is in fact a productivity-sapping distraction for employees.

* Private data read by others. Google Apps for your Desktop again bucks the trend that businesses should not allow outsiders to read their proprietary documents and email. Businesses can rest easy knowing that Google is looking at all emails and documents.

* Ads inside applications. Clearly, employees are more productive when their business applications stream ads for online poker sites and pills to combat ED.

* No uptime guarantee. Rather than a predictable 99.9% uptime guarantee, such as the one offered by Intermedia.NET, Google does not provide a set percentage of the time when email will be up and running. This keeps corporate collaboration more exciting, by allowing staff to guess whether the system will be working or not.

"While we are happy that Google is making people aware that business-quality email is essential for small and medium businesses, we do have some reservations," said Serguei Sofinski, CEO of Intermedia.NET. "There is a large difference between an enterprise-class, proven Microsoft Exchange system with 24x7 fully-managed telephone support and wireless access, and a more basic offering with 24x0 support, embedded ads and no wireless access."

Of course, Intermedia.NET fails to see that Google's offer is free and that they'll launch a premium package without ads and with full support. I wonder if Microsoft has anything to do with this attempt of being brave.

* 100 mailboxes
* 1 GB Mailbox space
* 24x7x365 support
* 99.9% uptime guarantee

* a lot of mailboxes (I've heard about someone who received 200 mail accounts)
* more than 2.5 GB space and growing 2 GB space
* mail support for admins
* no uptime guarantee

{ Via Inside Google. }

Flickr Adds Geotagging

Flickr allows you to geotag your photos. You need to go to Organize mode, click on the map, choose a location and drag the photos to that location. Flickr uses Yahoo Maps, that are less detailed than Google Maps, especially outside of the US. By default, the location of the photo will be available to anyone, but you can change that for all your photos or on a case by case basis.

Flickr should also try to guess the address from the tags or from the title, as most people write the location there. But in the future most cameras will have GPS or they'll be integrated with a system like Sony's GPS-CS1, "a 3.5 inch long GPS device that will add geographic data to pictures taken with your Sony digicam".

Flickr has created a screencast to explain how to use the new feature.

To see all the photos that have been geotagged, visit this map.

Picasa 2.5 allows you to geotag photos in Google Earth
Panoramio - geotag photos in Google Maps

Homepage 2.0

For many users, browser's homepage was a nice page that included news, horoscopes and recipes. The homepage was usually a portal like that allowed some customization, but whose content was provided by partners and its own verticals. "Do you want news about cars? We have MSN Cars. We also have weather, classifieds, games, sports, tech and horoscopes. All from MSN."

The new personalized homepages (like IGoogle, Netvibes, Windows Live) give people more choices. You can add a module from your favorite news provider or your favorite weather service. If it doesn't have a module, you can create one. While the Homepage 1.0 was founded on centralized content, the Homepage 2.0 is based on feeds and shared content. If Homepage 1.0 tried to lock-in the consumer, the new personalized homepage wants to be truly yours. When more services will open and create APIs, the personalized homepage will be a mashup of your online life.

ReadWriteWeb asks
what will be the business model of the Homepage 2.0. Some ideas are letting businesses create their own branded homepages or affiliate marketing. But I think the answer is delivering ads that are appropriate for your preferred content. You choose what you like and the ads respect that.

In the meanwhile, I'll stick with my Homepage 0.1, that is about:blank.

Badware (True Beauty Lies Within)

Badware is an umbrella for an interesting type of software. While you think it's just a screensaver with pretty landscapes, the program also includes a stealth dialer if you use dial-up so you pay more for the Internet, it will change your homepage, your default search engine and even your life. You'll also get completely unrelated software that loads at start-up, pop-up ads and many icons on your desktop.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is a "photo slide show of over 40 extremely high quality photos of the now famous Jessica Simpson with 103 transition effects, adjustable speed and mutable music."

But if you look behind the nice pictures, you'll find that:
Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a number of Trojan horses, or applications that can secretly install additional programs without disclosing to the user that any installation is occurring.

None of the bundled applications included with the Jessica Simpson Screensaver can be closed by a typical user. They must be closed by killing the individual processes from within the Windows Task Manager.

While Jessica Simpson Screensaver comes with an uninstaller, this only uninstalls the screensaver itself, not the bundled applications. None of the bundled applications includes an uninstaller, making uninstallation very difficult for a typical user. At least one of the bundled applications, GetMirar, actually requires the user to download a separate uninstaller from their website.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a stealth dialer called AvenueMedia (also known as "Money Tree"). Stealth dialers attempt to dial up numbers (such as 'adult' sites) with the user's modem, thereby incurring charges for the user.

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is bundled with a number of programs that display advertisements on the user's computer and track the user's web habits (e2give, GetMirar, EzuLa) or log the user's search terms (Safesurfing).

Prutect, one of the applications bundled with Jessica Simpson Screensaver, attempts to close or disable various anti-spyware and anti-virus applications (such as Adaware, Norton Internet Security, and Spybot Search & Destroy) if it finds them on the user's computer.

The adware that is bundled with the Jessica Simpson Screensaver causes numerous pop-up ads to appear on the user's desktop. Sometimes these ads are triggered by a user's search; sometimes they appear without any action being performed by the user (e.g., just leaving the computer alone).

Jessica Simpson Screensaver is one example of badware (or malware). Campaigns like StopBadware (that provided the description above) try to find this kind of software and make people aware of the danger of installing deceptive software. Google is one of the sponsors of this campaign.

August 28, 2006

A New Breed Of Spam

Who said spam can't be interesting? A new breed of spam hit my mail box. They aren't the usual mails that claim they'll help solve your medical problems or win a lot of money. Not at all: they contain excerpts from famous books. I could read texts from Stendhal, Galsworthy and they are very good.

"Yes, old man, I've been washing them ever since, but I cant get them clean. The first remark from Smither confirmed the uneasiness which had taken him forth.
It was HERE we came on your mother, Jon, and our stars were crossed.
She could call tomorrow, of course, openly at Green Street, and probably NOT see him. Could so short a sound mean so much, say so much, be so startling?"

As any quality content has a price, the mail comes with an ad attached as an image: it tells me to buy stocks from PPTL. I'll take that into account the next time I'll decide to make investments.

The mail was marked as spam by Gmail and didn't come alone. All the mails had he text from the Project Gutenberg, albeit they had some parsing errors. Another interesting thing is that the phrases are in random order, so it's pretty hard to make up something meaningful.

Related: Spam art

Why a Corporate Google Office Won't Be Successful

After Google launched a corporate package that includes mail, calendar and Page Creator, the question that rises is: will they be successful?

I think Google will only be successful with their program for schools and will have a moderate success only for small organizations.

Why? Businesses don't want to lose control over their information. Storing mails, documents, web pages on Google servers sounds tempting, but businesses want predictability and control. They'll also fear that Google's services aren't that reliable (Gmail has problems daily) and their image will suffer. "I couldn't answer you mail, dear client. Gmail was down for about an hour."

A solution like Page Creator is useful for students that want to have a personal page, but a small business won't be satisfied with such limited options.

Then there's the problem of privacy. A compromised Google Account might result in the disclosure of a lot of sensitive data. Google also has the right to close an account without giving any explanation. Furthermore, revealing to much data about your business to Google would seem unacceptable to many people.

eBay and Google Launch VoIP Click-to-Call Ads

Google will start to place ads on eBay and will become the exclusive provider of text ads outside of the US. Google will also use "click-to-call", a feature that makes it easier for businesses to connect with customers: with one click, you're able to talk for free with someone from the company that placed the ad. They will start to test the two components at the beginning of next year.

As of today, "click-to-call" works this way: you provide your phone number, Google calls your number and connects you with the company. In the near future, Google and eBay will use their VoIP clients (Google Talk and Skype) for click-to-call.

This move is interesting if you take into account that Google started to offer this year Google Checkout, a service that could evolve into a PayPal rival. Still, eBay is one of the largest advertisers on AdWords and the partnership will be good for both parties: Google will have more pages where to show ads, while eBay will makes sure Google will not expand too much into its area. It's also a good way to promote their VoIP clients.

Another interesting aspect of the agreement is that "the companies will also explore interoperability between Skype and Google Talk via open standards to enable text chat and online presence."

August 27, 2006

Google Launches Corporate Package

CNet reports that Google will expand Gmail for Your Domain into a much more interesting offer. Google will start to offer Google Apps for Your Domain, a hosted service that includes Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Page Creator. The service is mainly targeted at businesses, universities and other organizations, as it allows them to provide the same Google experience in a customized package.

The service is free, but Google will start to offer a premium service with larger storage, ad-free and with support at the end of the year.

Google's Dave Girouard said: "Organizations of all sizes face a common challenge of helping their users communicate and share information more effectively. A hosted service like Google Apps for Your Domain eliminates many of the expenses and hassles of maintaining a communications infrastructure, which is welcome relief for many small business owners and IT staffers."

The offer will, most likely, be more substantial in the future, with the addition of Writely, Google Spreadsheets and other applications and will start to look like a true Google Office. Google tried to be more attractive for corporate users by creating enterprise versions for Google Desktop and Google Toolbar, but without much success.

Amazon Grid

Amazon has two interesting services for developers.

One is Simple Storage Service (S3) that allows you to store and retrieve almost any amount of data. "It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites."

The other one is the just-launched Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) (limited beta), a service that enables you to use Amazon's computing power for your own needs. You can install your own applications and libraries and select the configuration. explains it's not too expensive to use EC2: "It costs 10 cents per full hour of usage + usual S3 bandwidth fees. That means that if you run it 24/7 it will cost around $72/month + bandwidth. That's cheaper than a dedicated server (with reliability similar to what I expect from Amazon) but more expensive than an unmanaged VPS. However, look at the specs: an instance is roughly equivalent to a system with a 1.7Ghz Xeon CPU, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth (bursting to 1Gb) and that's a lot of power, sounds like Amazon will put a lot of smaller hosting companies out of business."

The service is very useful for start-ups that need a lot of computing power and a good scalability of their service.

I think Google needs to offer a similar service to attract more developers and to outsource the power of their servers. Google already has a proxy service and a open-source software hosting project. Maybe a free virtual computing environment (a Google Grid) is not that far.

Edit Web Pages Instantly In Opera

Opera has many interesting features. One of the most useful feature for webmasters (and not just for them) is "reload from cache". Load a web page, view the source and edit the code. After you finished, click on "reload from cache" and see the updated web page.

This way, you don't have the edit code locally, preview in the browser, upload it and then preview the page again. It's also useful if you want to create screenshots for a page that contains sensitive information. For example, you can remove the username from Gmail and other Google pages.

Opera also has a toolbar for web developers, similar to a well-known Firefox extension.

Update: For Firefox, there is a much more complex extension that lets you modify a Web page from the browser. It's called Platypus.

10 great features from Opera

August 26, 2006

Google's Quest For Information

So you want to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Some information is available for free (the web), other information requires subscriptions or should be bought (books), there's information too hard to find (rare documents) and information too personal (your emails).

The first content acquisition for Google was Usenet, a collection of bulletin-board messages. "With more than 500 million individual messages and growing fast, Usenet and its thriving community is one of the most active and valuable information sources on the Internet," said Larry Page in 2001. Google improved the search for the Usenet messages and added the ability to create new groups. Google Groups.

Google bought Blogger in 2003 and along with a blogging platform, it acquired a growing community and an interesting playground. This time, Google doesn't have the intellectual rights for the content created with Blogger, but it can understand better the phenomenon.

With Keyhole, Google got in 2004 a huge database of satellite imagery. "Keyhole's technology combines a multi-terabyte database of mapping information and images collected from satellites and airplanes with easy-to-use software."

While Google usually crawls the web to find information, Google Video was a surprising move. "Upload all your videos to us," said Google last year. While this didn't remove the copyright issues, it was a smarter move than indexing videos from the web. They control the content by controlling the way it is obtained and provide a unified user experience.

Another surprising announcement was a new version of Google News, that will include content from the Associated Press. Google also said it will financially compensate news organizations for their content.

So what do you with all this content you produce and store in your own servers? Marissa Mayer says the line is thin, but they know how to handle it. "Google is a technology company, not a media company. If we were creating content ourselves, that would create a bias and could affect how we would position other content. That's why we've been careful not to create a lot of content."

In an interview from 2004, Larry Page said: "Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that's a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results. Their search engine doesn't necessarily provide the best results; it provides the portal's results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible. It's a very different model."

It's hard to remain impartial when you produce your own content. When you search for an address, Google shows links to Google Maps and to other competing services like MapQuest. Will this ever change? Will Google try to keep you more on its properties? While this is perfectly understandable from a business point of view, users want the best answers. And many times, Google doesn't have (own) the best answers.

Google Gadgets In Your Firefox Sidebar

You need to have a big ego to try to be Google, but Philippe Goetz did just that. He created a Firefox extension that lets you add the modules from your Google Personalized Homepage to the sidebar of your browser. The solution is independent to Google, so the modules (or gadgets) are rendered directly by the browser.

Although Google Gadgets Sidebar is still in an early phase, it's pretty stable and looks very similar to Google's implementation. A limitation of this extension is that some of Google's official gadgets (Gmail, Google Bookmarks) don't work because their code is not available in the source of the gadgets. Others (like Google Calendar, Google Reader) are available.

The advantage of this solution is that you have the gadgets in front of your eyes as long as you keep Firefox open. You don't have to use Google Desktop or Google's Personalized Homepage and, for most gadgets, you don't even have to be logged in.

The main disadvantages are that you have to find the address for each gadget in Google's Directory and that the extension and Google's homepage aren't synchronized.

How to add gadgets to the extension?

* go to Google's Directory
* search for the name of the gadget
* copy the address of the xml file
* paste the address in the "New gadget" input box (in the sidebar)

The extension can be installed only in Firefox 1.5. If you have Firefox 2.0 or above, download the extension, rename it to zip, open the the archive, replace <em:maxversion>1.5+</em:maxversion> with <em:maxversion>3.0</em:maxversion> in install.rdf and rename the file back to xpi. Then drag the xpi file to your browser window.

August 25, 2006

Linux 15th Anniversary

Hello everybody out there using minix -

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)

PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.

Linus Benedict Torvalds, Aug 25 1991

15 years ago Linus Torvalds wrote for the first time about his project on Usenet. Linux kernel, together with the GNU project have created what it's known today as GNU/Linux, or simply Linux. Google's servers and many other millions servers run Linux. For a small history of Linux, check this site.

Release Candidate and Cheat Sheet For IE7

What's new in Internet Explorer 7?
* tabs
* feed reader
* better CSS support (including CSS2)
* security (phishing filter, protected mode in Vista)

Now that the first release candidate for Internet Explorer 7 has been released, the IE7 team decided to create a reference sheet, that includes most of the keyboard shortcuts and some tips for common tasks disabling the add-ons.

One useful thing to know if you want to install the latest release is you don't have to uninstall a previous version of IE7. As usually, the download requires WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage).

Microsoft says it tried to provide a better support for standards, but it's difficult to do that without breaking many sites.

Paul Thurrott says in his review:

"Internet Explorer 7 RC1 is faster, more stable, and better looking than previous IE 7 betas, so it's a required update for any users who installed IE 7 Beta 3 or earlier. As for IE 6 users, I think it's both safe and prudent to migrate to IE 7 now: You'll be able to upgrade to the final version fairly effortlessly and the security enhancements and new functionality should win over even the most jaded. It's not a perfect browser, but IE 7 is hugely improved, and even in this prerelease version is worth considering. I don't think there's enough there to sway Firefox users quite yet--maybe IE 8?--but IE 7, even in RC1 garb, is looking good."

While it's a clear improvement over IE6, I would've liked the new version more if it didn't change the interface radically. The chrome takes too much space, it's less customizable and the buttons' order doesn't make too much sense. It will be interesting to see how many IE6 users will migrate to Firefox or Opera.

Useful links:
Download IE7 RC 1 (Windows XP SP2, Windows XP Professional x64, Windows Server 2003)
All the public versions of IE7 (FileHippo)

Google Talk, Not Just An Instant Messenger

Google Talk is not just an instant messenger, it's a communication platform.

One of its use was Gmail Chat, a great way to chat with your contacts inside your browser. You don't need an application and the message is instantly received if your contact is online. "See when your friends are online and decide for yourself how you want to get in touch with them. Email and instant messaging don't have to be so different. And why should you always have to remember whether something important was said over email or IM? We've made it easy for you to save chats, so you can search for them, print them, even reply to one over email."

Google Desktop also uses Google Talk and it integrates the application into the sidebar. Google Talk is the basis for Google Desktop Sidebar Communication API. "Google Talk serves as the communication medium for Sidebar gadgets. If a user is logged into Google Talk, a gadget can get a list of which of the user's Google Talk friends are currently online. Once it has the list of online friends, a gadget can send and receive data from the same gadget running on an online friend's machine." One simple example is a game, a more complex one could be synchronized file sharing.

Even though it's not used explicitly, Google Spreadsheets has a feature that allows you to chat with the persons you're sharing your file. "The chat window is a convenient way for you to see who else is viewing and editing the spreadsheet at the same time as you. You can chat with each other about the changes you're making, in real time."

And Google doesn't want to stop here. "Our users love the chat integration within Gmail, and we're planning to make it easier to chat with your buddies through other Google services," says Lewis Lin from Google.

When they talk about LibJingle, a library that implements some extensions to XMPP and it's used extensively in GTalk, an interesting phrase is mentioned: "In addition to enabling interoperability with Google Talk, there are several general purpose components in the library such as the P2P stack which can be used to build a variety of communication and collaboration applications. We are eager to see the many innovative applications the community will build with this technology."

Some of these innovative applications will be used by Google and integrated into their services. A chat for Writely or Google Calendar, an easier way to share files online, real-time collaboration in Google Search - all of these using Google Talk network? They're not out of reach.

What's so great about Google Talk's future
Google Talk tips

August 24, 2006

Search Library Catalogs

Google Book Search is a good way to find books and then buy them or borrow them from a library. Now the site includes the option to search library catalogs: you can either use the advanced search or look at the bottom of the search results. Google says there is a pretty good chance that libraries are close to you, but that doesn't happen all the time, as Google has information only about libraries from 30 countries.

I think it would've been much better to show the libraries where a book is available on the book page, right next to the bookstores where you can buy it.

Google's Digital Library of Alexandria
How to use Google and become a better student

Is Google Godly?

This blasphemy has a really interesting argumentation. Matt MacPherson says that Google is ubiquitous (everywhere), omniscient (everything) and immortal (everytime a server dies, it can be replaced easily). Google remembers everything, and many people depend on it.

The idea is not new. Three years ago, Thomas Friedman wrote an article for New York Times that quoted Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace, a WiFi provider: "If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with WiFi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."

Google is just a metaphor for the perfect search engine, that could answer to any question, could understand your thoughts and could make material barriers insignificant. But playing God may be dangerous and may melt your wings.

{ In the image, Icarus, by Boris Vallejo. Read about the legend of Icarus. }

DivX - The Revolution Of High-Quality Videos

DivX launched at the beginning of the year DivX Web Player, a plug-in that allows you to embed videos into a web page. But we can already do that with Flash plug-ins, you'll say. It's true, but this plug-in allows you to view high-quality DivX files and it needs as an input the location of a DivX file. So it doesn't transcode the video as a FLV file, like YouTube or Google Video's Flash plug-ins.

So we have high-quality videos, big files, broadband connection. One thing is missing: who hosts the files? DivX considered this problem and launched Stage6, a place where you can upload your files, share them with the rest of the community, rate them, and even get paid for your work. Unfortunately, to upload videos you need to install another plug-in. I couldn't make this plug-in work, but it must function properly for the rest of the people who've uploaded videos to the site.

DivX describes the new site like this:

"Stage6 is the next evolution in digital media. What does that mean? It means we want to improve the experience for finding and viewing good media online. It means having access to high-quality video on the web that actually looks good in full screen, rather than the all-too-familiar choppy, pixilated, low resolution videos we are all accustomed to seeing online nowadays. It means being free to burn backups of our media and take it with us wherever we go. It means having the freedom to watch Internet videos anywhere and anytime we choose on any device we want, even on our TVs, without cumbersome digital rights management (DRM). It means having a voice in the content we consume. It means being able to easily share cool content with our friends, discover new content our friends think is cool and, perhaps most importantly, make new friends along the way."

DivX Stage6 feels a lot like YouTube, but the quality of the videos is impressive. You can view the videos in full-screen and even download them.

I reminded you some days ago that DivX has signed an agreement with Google so that "Google and DivX can work together in the connected home to give consumers, content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers the freedom to move content across secure devices and platforms." Maybe we'll soon see high-quality videos on Google Video too.

Until then, the video-sharing community launched by DivX is in alpha-stage, it needs some money and may not get a strong adoption because of the plug-ins necessary to upload and view the files. But someone had to start the revolution and DivX is the right company for that.

Google Competitions

There are some interesting competitions going on at Google.

First, there's Google Gadget Awards, where you can submit a gadget for Google Desktop or Google Personalized Homepage and win eternal glory and a Google trophy. But you need to know that : "only university, college, or vocational school students with email addresses ending in edu and who live and attend school in the United States are eligible for the Awards."

The categories are also interesting: Most useful gadget (judged by Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine), Most intelligent gadget (judged by the President of Stanford University), Gadget most likely to help you get a date (judged by Slashdot's Commander Taco), Most addictive gadget and Prettiest gadget. The deadline is November 1, 2006 and the winners will be announced in December. To create a gadget, it's enough to have a basic idea about HTML and JavaScript.

Then, there's Google CodeJam, a competition for the toughest programmers where you can win $10,000 and maybe even a job at Google. The deadline for registration is September 5, 2006. You need to know Java, C++, C#, VB.NET or Python and have a solid Math background.

If you decide one of the contests is right for you, go for it! Good luck!

August 23, 2006

Google Talk's Birthday Logo

There are so many Google birthdays these days that it's hard to write about something else. First, Sergey Brin's birthday, today Blogger turns seven, and tomorrow Google Talk will have one year of existence. So I decided to create a calendar to keep track of the most important Google events.

What's a birthday without a small change? Customize Talk found a nice Easter egg: if you change the date of your computer to August 24, Google Talk's logo will change. That means more than 44,000 users will have a big surprise tomorrow.

One year ago, Google Talk's Chad Thornton wrote:

"Designers rarely get to work on their dream projects. When I was researching instant messaging in grad school, the prospect of designing a new instant messaging product was fanciful at best. When I came to Google, the odds improved a bit. When I became the designer on Google Talk, it still didn't quite seem real until we launched today.

Google Talk is far from perfect, but it's a start, and we chose to start with simplicity. Big plans are in the works, but for now I'm enjoying it for what it is. Hope you do too."

I think it's on the right track.

More GTalk:
Why do I think Google Talk will be the best IM
All about Google Talk's latest version

One-Screen Visualization For Google News

Many people say news are boring. They have so many words, and so little information; they talk about life, but they are not lively.

Newsmap is a different way to look at the news. You have one screen, that contains all the important news from Google News. The colors represent different categories of news, the font size is a measure of the importance of a news.

"Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information.

Newsmap does not pretend to replace the Google News aggregator. Its objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media."

Newsmap could also be used as a screensaver.

Blogger Turns Seven

Seven years ago, on August 23, 1999, Pyra Labs gave birth to Blogger, a publishing system that will redefine the web. Back then, Evan Williams (co-founder of Pyra Labs, now CEO at Odeo), was very happy to announce the news:

"We just launched a cool new tool at Pyra. It's called Blogger. It's an automated weblog publishing tool. Unlike Pitas, which, don't get me wrong, is cool, Blogger FTP's your updated weblog page to your own server after each post. This means you can have everything "under the same roof," as Jack put it the other day. You retain complete control. In fact, no one even has to know you're using Blogger. It just makes your life simplier. Check it out. (Coming soon: Automated XML channel creation.)"

In February 2003, Google buys Blogger and rewrites the platform, adding new features and removing the premium ad-free service. Now Blogger is in the middle of a new upgrade.

Meanwhile, both co-founders leave Pyra Labs (Meg Hourihan in 2001, Evan Williams in 2004), and now Jason Goldman leaves Google too. It's really interesting to read their motivations.

"For me, it's a little under 20% of this life on Earth. And it's the time when I find myself thinking a lot about a particular question: What should I do next?

I'm not sure what the answer to that question is, but I've decided it's something different than I do now. And I need some perspective to answer it. So, I've to move on. I.e.: As of this Friday, I will no longer be employed by Google.

Yes, I'm leaving my baby (or is it an adolescent by now?), in the hands of an awesome team we've compiled over the last few years. And I'm taking some time off to think.

I've always dreamed of creating something that lived on, while letting me go create something new, creating things having always been my passion. During the bad times, though I considered it, I couldn't leave because Blogger wouldn't live on. During the good, I just wasn't ready. Now, I'm ready. And, while it's not easy, it's incredibly fulfilling."

Jason Goldman describes the best the power of a such a simple way of expression:

"I struggle with excessive skepticism and in many ways would be a natural blog-hater were it not for the fact that, to me, it's undeniably awesome that people can so easily put their profound, profane, revolutionary and ridiculous thoughts online. To me, this is so obviously the fullest expression of why the web is the most important invention of our lives."

Address Recognition On Google Search

Adam Trachtenberg reports a new experiment in Google search results page. Some of the pages that contain addresses have a new option below the snippet: show the address on a map. If you click on the link, you see a small image from Google Maps and a link to the interactive map. As usually, the new feature is available only to a small number of users.

Google wants to include its specialized searches in the main search, so, for example, if you search for a restaurant, you'll easily find pages that contain the address of the restaurant.

Google Toolbar has a similar feature, that also works with Google Earth, Mapquest and Yahoo Maps.

In "The next step in search", I predict that search engines will try to "grasp the meaning of a page and of its parts, to create a semantic web algorithmically. The next step for Google is to structure unstructured information, and to turn the web into a Google Base."

{ Thank you, Ramibotros. }

New Google Local onebox
Other design experiments

Gmail Opens In Japan

After Australia and New Zealand, Gmail will be available without invitation in Japan. "We want as many people to have access to our service. The change has had quite a significant impact in Australia and New Zealand," said a Google representative.

Gmail was initially an invite-only service, then users from the US and other countries could get Gmail by SMS, and now more countries can have Gmail directly from Google clearly prepares for the public release of Gmail, after more than two years of beta-testing.

I wonder which of the three email services will get out of beta first: Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Windows Live Mail?

August 22, 2006

New Legal Problems For orkut

In case you didn't know, Google has a social network called orkut. 72 percent of its 16 million users* are from Brazil. The rest are Google employees, their friends and some early adopters. MySpace has 100 million members, so orkut is not that far.

There are a lot of nice people on orkut, some of them promote racism, others like to spam the community. There are even some people who love kids there. But the Brazilian prosecutors don't understand that and ask Google to pay a $61 million fine as orkut has been used "to organize criminal activity and promote child pornography". They also want information about the users. But Google protects the user information. "We have obeyed all the judicial orders that requested we remove undue content. Some orders demanded that we turn over user information for investigation and we complied," said Nicole Wong about a previous request.

It's very sad to see a closed-circle community like orkut closed by a Government. And it's also very sad to see kids on social networks like orkut, instead of building their education and trying to become better persons. This way, when they'll get older, they won't promote child pornography.

* information from the Reuters article. Wikipedia claims there are 26 million users and 66% are from Brazil.

Also see:
Criminal activities on orkut

Audacity - Free Audio Editor

Audacity is an open-source tool for editing audio files. You can use it import MP3, OGG, WAV and MIDI files, mix them, add simple effects, remove silent portions or background noise. Audacity is also great for recording audio files, like a podcast. It's easy to use: you can cut and paste selections.

Audacity works on Windows, Linux and Mac. If you still use Sound Recorder or if you think you need to use a commercial audio editor, try Audacity.

You can find interesting things about the software from its site and from Audacity Wiki.

Other great software:
Real Player, clean version
FreeRam XP Pro, memory optimizer
Launchy, start menu replacement
Truecrypt - encrypt your sensitive information
More underground software

Use Google to Be a Better Student

Many children will go back to school in a short while, so I put myself a question: How would I use Google for my school projects, if I were in high-school again? Let's see:

For math, I could use Google Calculator for unit transformations and to compute complicated expressions. Google Scholar would be helpful to find interesting papers.

Geography would be more pleasant with Google Earth and Google Maps. Imagine all the great photos I could include from Google Earth. I would also use Google search to learn the capitals, the flags, facts about population, area or language. Just type: "Iran flag" or "capital of Iran". For economical information, I would definitely check out Gapminder.

For history, I would type historical events or figures in Image Search and try to imagine the whole scenes. I would also use Google Directory to find high-quality sites, like the ones about Napoleonic Wars.

For chemistry, I would learn more about interesting experiments with Google Video. Google Search may show information about the elements.

Google Earth would be nice for Biology too. The content from National Geographic would make a virtual visit to Africa possible.

Google Groups is helpful to solve many computer science problems. I could find interesting books with Google Books and even read some snippets from important books.

Google Translate would help me learn more foreign languages, I could use the define: operator to find word definitions, Google's spell checker to improve my English, Image Search to know more about art, Google Video to listen classical music, and Writely to write some of my papers or collaborate with my colleagues. I would also use for the related searches that are useful to explore a field.

Sometimes you can be a better kid if you have some nice tools. They can't replace good books, but they can complement them.

Gmail Has An Audio Player

Gmail has a built-in player for MP3 attachments. If you receive emails that include MP3 files (maybe a podcast or a public domain recording), you can listen them directly from Gmail.

This is feature was initially used only for the voicemails sent from Google Talk. Google uses a Flash player, similar to the one from Google Video.

You can create a new filter for MP3 files, so it's easier to find them. You need to add a new label.

{ Thank you, Chance McClain. }

Why Google Talk Will Be the Best Instant Messenger

When all will be said and done, when Google Talk will implement the suggestions from this page, when Gmail will be out of beta, we will see why a program must be developed with the users in mind. After implementing file transfer and voicemail, Google Talk developers say:

"Now, we're off to the next version. I can't tell you what your #2 and 3 suggestions were, but I do know that they're on the way."

While Google Talk is available only for Windows, Google will release versions for Mac and Linux. Microsoft doesn't intend to release Windows Live Messnger for Mac (there's just a limited Microsoft Messenger for Mac), while Yahoo has a very old Yahoo Messenger for Linux.

Open protocol
Google Talk uses an open protocol, XMPP, for instant messaging and Jingle, an extension of XMPP, for VoIP. While Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger are interoperable, the real basis of IM interoperability was put by Google Talk. There are also plans for AIM interoperability. In fact, you can already use GTalk to chat with your friends from other IM networks, but it's pretty complicated.

Simple interface
Unlike other IM clients, Google Talk has a very simple and clean interface. There are no ads, no menus with too many options.

Chat in a browser
While there are services like Meebo, that allow you to use multiple IM networks from your browser, Google has implemented this for Google Talk in Gmail, treating IM conversations the same way as emails. Google also records the chat logs and makes them searchable in Gmail.

Google says: "Google Talk currently does not encrypt chats or calls. But we are working hard to make many improvements to Google Talk while it is in beta, and we plan to fully support encryption of chats and calls before our official release." Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger don't offer encryption.

Google Talk is included in Nokia 770 tablet, and can be used on a BlackBerry (Yahoo Messenger is also available).

File size
You can argue that it has less features, but Google Talk setup has 1.45 MB, Yahoo Messenger has 9.5 MB and Windows Live Messenger has 15.3 MB. This is a good indicator for bloatedness.

I'll conclude with a small description from a review at FileForum:
"Lightweight and simple. I think it's great."

August 21, 2006

Google Tests Ad-supported Syndicated Videos

Google announced this month a deal with MTV that will allow bloggers to post content from MTV Networks and earn some money from the ads. Shows like Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" and MTV's "Laguna Beach" will be rotated in a video channel.

"This gives us access to top video content, plus a new source of revenue for our content partners," said at that time David Eun, vice president of content partnerships for Google.

Search Engine RoundTable has information from one of the 150 publishers that were elected by Google for the beta test.

"Google's Streaming Video Content + Ads enables website publishers to display streaming video ads and video content from MTV Networks on their own sites. Partners will receive the video and streaming video ads as a JavaScript object that will embed a Flash player on their site. Google manages all the hosting and streaming of video.

For the initial test, we will be using channels of video content provided by MTV Networks, such as from their Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, The N, and Nickelodeon channels. The video content is mostly short-form clips of up to a few minutes in length."

The ads are provided by MTV, have around 30 seconds, are shown between segments of the video content and are CPM-based.

Here's one live example, that features an interview with Christina Aguilera.

Sergey Brin As Seen On Google

How is Sergey Brin presented on The descriptions vary, but one word is repeated more often than the others: morality.

Sergey Brin

... is co-founder and President, Technology at Google.

... is under tremendous internal pressure to abandon his principles.

... is finding that purity just doesn't scale.

... is Google's moral compass.

... is well known for saying that the rule the company operates by is "Don't be evil."

... is jet-lagged; he has the vaguely disoriented look of a young man still finding his bearings after a very long, strange trip.

... realized search is number two online activity and checking e-mail is number one.

... is still cryptic about a possible Google browser.

... is taking Cambodian children as an example of how democratic and wide-spread their search engine is.

... is a perfect example of a young entrepreneur: young, good looking, and fabulously rich.

... is a technologist. He is woefully under-equipped to handle the subtle difficulties of human communication.

... is passionate about the intersection of biology, technology and genetics and envisions a day when computer users will be able to Google their Genes.

... is considering coming back to Stanford to finish his doctoral degree.

... was quite cocky about his intellect, often trying to prove teachers of various subjects (read: Math) just how wrong they were.

... is known to spend some lunch hours on the beach volleyball court [from] the Google campus.

... is not considering to buy Microsoft.

... is notoriously skeptical about the semantic web.

... has even compared the Google search engine to the computer HAL in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey".

... has said that the perfect search engine would be like "the mind of God".

... is a Russian success story.

... his birth date is August 21, 1973.

Happy birthday, Sergey Brin!

{ The facts and opinions presented here may not be accurate. }

Google's US Market Share Drops One Percent

This is something you don't see every day: Google's market share in search for US has dropped from 44.7% in June to 43.7% in July, according to data from comScore Media Metrix. After 11 months of consecutive gains, Google search drops one percent, and that results in more market share for Yahoo (up from 25.5% to 25.8%), AOL and

Here's a chart that shows Google's US market share in the first half of this year, as measured by the same source.

We'll see next month if this is a trend, and Google's traffic acquisition deals aren't effective, but, most likely, this is just a transitory decrement in popularity.

Update: Nielsen / Netratings says that Google's US market share in July was 49.2%, down from 49.4% in June.

Google Groups Updates

Some Google Groups have an interesting feature. While typing the title of a new topic, Google will show similar topics in a sidebar. This is useful to reduce the number of duplicate posts, as most user don't search for topics before submitting a new one. This implicit search is very powerful and it's currently implemented in the groups owned by Google (like Google Desktop group), but it will most likely be extended to the rest of the groups.

If you have a technical problem or you want to monitor a specific topic, you can also create alerts. There are two kinds of alerts: instant alerts (you'll be notified as soon as Google finds a new match for your query) and digest alerts (you'll get a daily or weekly digest if anything new is found). Besides groups alerts, you can also select web search alerts and news alerts. As Google explains:

"A 'News' alert is an email that lets you know if new articles make it into the top ten results of your Google News search. A 'Web' alert is an email that lets you know if new web pages appear in the top twenty results for your Google Web search. A 'News & Web' alert is an email that lets you know when new articles related to your search term make it into the top ten results for a Google News search or the top twenty results for a Google Web search. A 'Groups' alert is an email that lets you know if new posts make it into the top fifty results of your Google Groups search."

You can add operators to your group alert. Some examples:

* add [] to restrict a search to posts created by an author. Be sure to use the author's posting email address.

* add [insubject:query] to search only on the subject lines of the posts. For example, if you want to find posts that contain Google Mini in the subject line, type [ insubject:"google mini"].

Google Groups is a good place to solve technical problems and most Google products have a support group.

August 20, 2006

Google's Master Plan

Maybe we should stop trying to guess the next Google services. What's next for Google is right here on a big whiteboard from their GooglePlex. The photo was taken last year by Niall Kennedy and includes a small part from their master plan. As you can see many projects that don't have a tick in the whiteboard have been launched.

A bigger and more comprehensive image is available here, but it's not very clear.

As you can see, there are a lot of verticals and new domains: travel, health, TV, games, reviews, marketplace, dating, real estate, jobs, mortgage, pets, music and many ambitious projects like redesigning TCP/IP, and HTTP and creating a new generation of web based on BitTorrent.

Other pieces from the puzzle (half jokes, half serious projects):