Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Google+ Bar

A page from the Google+ help center explains the reason of the new Google navigation bar:

The Google+ bar, which appears at the top of Google products, is your connection to Google+. You can share what's on your mind, view your Google+ notifications, access your profile, or jump to a range of other Google products. For case, to get to Google+, all you have to do is click +[your first name].

When you're signed in and look at the Google+ bar, you'll see your full name or email address displayed with a photo or avatar next to it. This helps you recognize which account you're now signed in to. You can sign in to numerous accounts at once and switch between them using the Google+ bar.


One of the most attractive feature of the bar is notifications:

When you receive a notification, the notification area in the Google+ bar will turn red and show the figure of new notifications. If you click the notification area in the Google+ bar, you’ll see a synopsis of your recent notifications. When you click a notification, a preview of the event that generated the notification will emerge in the drop-down menu. You can take action on each notification right from the notifications menu, like commenting on a post or adding up someone to a circle.

The navigation bar has been morphed into the Google+ bar and it ought to be more useful. Maybe at some point the bar will take in notifications for Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs and other Google services.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gmail's New Inbox Styles

Gmail's Priority Inbox is an superior version of the regular inbox, with customizable sections for power users. For some people, Priority Inbox looked threatening, so that's most likely the reason why Gmail tests a new version of the regular inbox that integrates Priority Inbox and three lightweight versions of the Priority Inbox.


"Try out all the new inbox styles to see what fits you best. You can always switch back if you change your mind," informs a Gmail promotional box. There are five inbox types: classic, important first, unread first, starred first and Priority Inbox. The three new inbox types could easily be obtained by customizing Priority Inbox, but it's much easier to switch flanked by them. It's the first time when Google uses tabs in Gmail interface if you keep out Gmail's settings page.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Chrome addition for Google Music

While there's no official addition for Google Music and not even an app in the Chrome Web Store, you can install a really cool third-party addition called "Better Music Beta". The extension adds a button that shows in sequence about the currently playing song, lets you pause the song, go to the next song, add a thumbs up or a thumbs down. There's also a notification that shows up every time the song changes.

My favorite characteristic is the Last.fm integration: if you enable it, Better Music Beta scrobbles your songs and lets you openly show that you love a song by clicking the "heart" icon.


The downside is that you still have to open Google Music in a tab, since the music stops playing if you close the tab. Converting the addition into a "background app" would solve this problem.

Google Music requires an invitation and it's theoretical to be US-only, but it works even if you're not in the US. Google only checks your place when you request an invitation and you can always use a US proxy for this one-time action. Another attractive thing is that, even though Google Music lists Flash as a requirement, the service works pretty well on an iPad.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Box.net Integrates with Google Docs

Box.net, a popular online storage service, added an alternative that allows its users to create and edit documents and spreadsheets by Google Docs, but without leaving Box.net. The files are stored by Box.net, but they can be shortened using the regular Google Docs interface.


"Beginning today, Box's 6 million users can simply create and work together on Google Docs and Spreadsheets from within Box, as well as edit the existing 50M+ Word and Excel files previously stored on our platform. Google Docs allow entirely new forms of collaboration – like concurrent editing – that are not possible within desktop applications, and now these capabilities are easily obtainable to Box users. We believe that the mixture of Google Docs' collaborative restriction and Box's content management will transform the way people work," suggests Box's blog.


The addition has a lot of quirks: Google Docs still displays the navigational bar and some options that only makes intelligence for Google's services. When you edit a text from Box.net, the file is provisionally added to the Google Docs list, but it's quickly removed after the restriction window is closed. At some point, Google Docs will also add hold up for third-party apps, so it will be interesting to see if this feature will be better implemented.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Google's New Currency Converter

Google rationalized the One Box for currency conversion. Until recently, when you searched for [1 usd in eur] or [200 gbp to peso], Google displayed the consequence and that was it. The new OneBox includes a graph for historical switch rates and an interactive tool that lets you select a different currency from a long list or modify the value you want to covert and instantly get the result.

A similar tool is obtainable at Google Finance, but it's more suitable to access it from Google Search and you don't need to search for USDEUR to convert US dollars to euros. For some motive, when you search for [currency converter] from the US, Google tries to be helpful and shows that 1 US dollar = 0.6957 euros.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thousands of “hackers for good” build applications for humanity

Earlier this month, thousands of “hackers for good” gathered in more than 19 dissimilar global locations—from Berlin to Nairobi, and Sydney to Sao Paulo—to contribute in Random Hacks of Kindness #3. These teams are now off and running, working with NGO and government advisors to end their applications for humanity.

In partnership with Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, we founded RHoK in 2009 to build and support a community creating open basis technology for crisis response. At RHoK #3, we prolonged the mandate to comprise climate change, and we also recently announced that we’re broadening the scope in the prospect to tackle any development challenges.

Of the more than 75 solutions submitted for judging at this year’s global events, many are already on their way to making a dissimilarity around the world. The UN, in partnership with the Colombia government, is allowing for adopting the shelter management system developed at RHoK Bogota to aid the 3 million victims of winter flooding in South America. Of the nine hacks submitted for judging at RHoK Sao Paulo, two are previously in use and two others may be further urbanized and incorporated into the restructuring of the National Weather Service. The winning application at RHoK Philadelphia, developed in reply to a problem proposed by the World Bank Water group, is set for further development at the WaterHackathon, RHoK's first community-sponsored occasion, later this year.

At the RHoK Silicon Valley event at Google’s Mountain View campus, we chosen three winners:

* SMS Person Finder enables anyone with a phone to interrelate with Person Finder, a software application that Google built to help people attach with their loved ones following a disaster. The Google Crisis Response team is working with this group to put together their application into future Google Person Finder deployments
* Hey Cycle makes it easier for people to reuse and recycle items by setting up email alerts when free items that they’re looking for are entered on freecycle.org
* FoodMovr connects people with overload food to others who need it through a simple live application

We’re proud to be one of the founding partners and continuing sponsors of Random Hacks of Kindness and look forward to seeing these application make a difference. Stay tuned for future RHoK events, and go after the progress of the community at RHoK.org.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Google's Gay Rainbow

It's not the first June when Google changes the hunt results interface when you search for [gay] and other related terms. While in 2009 and 2010 Google added a colorful bar under the search box, this year there's a rainbow next to the search box.

June is the "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" and there are many smugness parades all over the world. Last year, Google's blog built-in an article about gay parades and the Google employees who participated.


"Google supports its LGBT employees in many ways: raising its voice in matters of policy, captivating a moment to remember the plight of transgender people around the world and going the extra mile to make sure that its employees are treated fairly."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Google's Lists of Related Searches

Google in progress to show a new universal search result with related queries. If you search for the name of a category, Google will list some of the most popular members of that category. For example, you can search for [German cars], [rock bands], [Indian food], [nuts], [clouds] and Google will show a list of items from that group. Google says that they are the top references for that question and it will also list three sources, without linking to the appropriate pages.

The feature is powered by Google Squared and it's not very new. Most of the results were available if you chosen "related searches" from the search options sidebar.

"Sometimes when you're searching, you're not just looking for one exact result, you may be looking for a list to start a series of searches. For example, if you search for [greek philosophers], many search results talk about well known philosophers like Plato or Aristotle. Typically, searches like these are the start of a research task, where you follow up by probing to learn more about each item in the list, in this case each philosopher," explains Google.


Just like the connected searches box, the "top references" box lets you try different queries without having to go back to the preceding page. If you click one of the connected searches, the box is moved at the top of the page and you can quickly sample the results for all the other items.


Google also in progress to show relevant lists for actors, movies, TV shows, music artists, writers, painters. For example, when you search for [Picasso], Google shows a list of famous Picasso paintings and small thumbnails. Searching for a movie or a TV shows brings a list of actors, searching for a singer shows a list of albums, while typing the name of a writer proceeds a list of popular books.


Google Squared, Google Q&A, "best guess" results and linked searches are just the tip of the iceberg. Google uses its huge index of pages from the Web to take out information, find facts and correlations, create lists and hierarchies, understand the meaning of a query and produce complex answers. At the recent Inside Search event, Alan Eustace said that his title distorted from "Senior VP of Search" to "Senior VP of Knowledge" because search is too limiting and Google's goals are much broader. They "go beyond the association of information to understanding and facilitating the formation of knowledge".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Google Instant for Image Search

Google Instant is now obtainable for image search results, but only as an experimental feature. After you allow "Instant on Images", Google will found to auto complete your queries and show image results before you finish entering the query. It's a great way to try dissimilar queries and see the results almost right away.

Unfortunately, there are some confines that make this feature less useful. "Search by Image will not work if you opt into this experiment. Also, Instant on Images is obtainable only if you already have Instant on Web. Finally, this experiment is enabled only for the Images search result page, not on the Google Images home page."


You can try this feature without joining Google's experiment: just append &esrch=ImagesInstant::PublicOptIn to an Image Search URL, like this or bookmark this page.

Google also additional an experiment for Voice Search, which allows you to try the feature before it's available for you. Voice Search only works in Google Chrome 11+.

Google says that you can't select multiple experiments at the same time, but I've managed to allow both Voice Search and Instant on Images. For some reason, you won't be able to use Search by Image when you allow Voice Search, even if Instant on Images is disabled.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Google Adds Voice Search, Visual Search and Results Prerendering

Two of the most significant Google mobile services: voice search and visual search will now be obtainable from your computer.

Voice search, a feature that's built into Android, also works in Google Chrome and allows you to search using your voice. Chrome additional support for the Speech Input API back in April and it's the only browser that implemented the API. Right now, Chrome's speech input feature is only accessible for English.


"We first offered speech credit on mobile search, but you should have that power no matter where you are. You should never have to stop and ask yourself, 'Can I speak for this?' — it should be ever-present and intuitive. So we've further speech recognition into search on desktop for Chrome users. If you're using Chrome, you'll start to see a little microphone in every Google search box. Simply click the microphone, and you can speak your search," explains Google. The feature is steadily rolled out, so you may not see it yet.

Google Goggles is a full-fledged visual search engine that's attentive in a mobile application. But why do you have to buy a smartphone to use Google Goggles when you could just upload an image to Google and find related pages and images on the Web? "Search by Image" does more than TinEye, the "reverse image search engine" that lets you find an image on the Web.


"Google uses computer visualization techniques to match your image to other images in the Google Images index and additional image collections. From those matches, we try to produce an accurate 'best guess' text description of your image, as well as find other images that have the same pleased as your search image. Your search results page can show results for that text description as well as linked images," mentions Google.

You can drag and drop an image to the search box, paste an image URL in the search box or click the camera icon and upload an image. Google generates a hybrid results page that shows both linked images and Web search results for the corresponding text query.

Google also a urbanized two extensions for Chrome and Firefox that let you right-click on an image and use it as a query. "With these extensions, you can begin a search on Google using pictures on the web. You can find out photos of places, learn more about art pieces, identify landmarks, and more."

While voice search and visual search are useful, the most inspiring search feature launched by Google today is Instant Pages. The new feature only works in Chrome 13+ (available in Canary/Dev Channel and soon in beta), but it will thoroughly improve your search experience. Chrome prerenders the top search result if it's likely that you will select it, so you no longer have to remain for the page to load. You might remember a feature called "prefetching" that was first supported by Firefox. Prerendering is a lot more influential than prefetching.

According to a Chrome developer, "prefetch is Firefox style prefetching of resources particular (just populating the cache). In Chrome, with prerender, we don't just download the URL specified, but render the whole page counting running all the JavaScript and downloading and rendering all the embedded resources."

For most users, Instant Pages will look like magic. They'll search for [nytimes] or [amazon], click the first result and be astonished to see that the page loads instantly. Google says that this feature saves 2-5 seconds on a characteristic search.

But Chrome's prerendering is not imperfect to Google searches. Any Web developer can use it by inserting a link element with a special value for the "rel" attribute. "Sometimes a site may be able to predict with sensible accuracy which link the user is most likely to click on next -- for example, the 'next page' link in a multi-page news article. In those cases, it would be faster and better for the user if the browser could get a head start loading the next page so that when the user clicks the page is already well on its way to being overloaded," suggests Google.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Google Experiments with Removing URLs from look for Results Listings

Google tests a new feature that replaces the URL with the site's name in search results snippets. David, who noticed this change, says that he searched for [madvertise] and "most of the results looked normal, with the website title, snippet and URL. However, two search results displayed the website name instead of the URL. In the close screenshot, the 6th and 7th results show 'LinkedIn' and 'Facebook' respectively, in the position where the URL should be."

Google has always tried to make search results listings more useful, but replacing the address with the site's name doesn't add value and draws unnecessary notice to the results from a list of hand-picked popular sites.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leading the charge in the direction of an electric vehicle fleet

Over the last few years, several inventive electric vehicle (EV) technologies have emerged in the marketplace and we’ve been working to inform our green transportation infrastructure. As a result, we’ve now urbanized the largest corporate EV charging infrastructure in the country. We’re also counting the next generation of plug-in vehicles in Gfleet, our car-sharing program for Googlers.

When Google.org launched the RechargeIt plan in 2007, there were no commercially obtainable plug-in hybrid EVs on the market. So we bought several Toyota Priuses and had them retrofitted with A123 Hymotion batteries to create our own mini-fleet of plug-in hybrids to show the technology. It was the birth of Gfleet, which has since become a valued perk and makes it easier for Googlers to use our biodiesel shuttle system to commute to work by given that green transportation options for people after they arrive at the Googleplex. The new Gfleet will include more than 30 plug-ins, starting with Chevrolet Volts and Nissan LEAFs, several of which have already here and are obtainable for Googlers to use today. We’ll be addition models from other manufacturers as they become available.

To juice up our new cars and give more charging options for Googlers, we’ve been working with Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint® Network to carry on to expand our EV charging infrastructure. We’ve added 71 new and faster Level 2 chargers to the 150 Level 1 chargers we’ve installed over the last few years, bringing our total capacity to more than 200 chargers, with another 250 new ones on the way. The ChargePoint Network provides us the charging data necessary to path and report on the success of our green transportation initiative.

Overall, our goal is to electrify five percent of our parking spaces—all over campus and free of charge (pun intended) to Googlers. Our expanded charging system has before helped several Googlers choose to buy new EVs of their own, and we hope others will, too.

All told, Gfleet and our biodiesel shuttle system result in net yearly savings of more than 5,400 tonnes of CO2. That’s like taking over 2,000 cars off the road, or avoiding 14 million vehicle miles every year! But we’re only one company, so we hope other companies think about how they can slot in these new technologies into their own infrastructure. By supporting new, green transportation technologies, we’re enabling our employees to be green and liability our part to help spur growth in the industry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A doodle for an instrumental inventor

The electric guitar brings back memories for me of exchanging riffs with friends and tiring out cassette tapes as I meticulously learned songs. Today, we’re attempting to restructure that experience with a doodle celebrating the birthday of musician and inventor Les Paul.

For the next 24 hours on the Google homepage, you’ll find an interactive, playable logo enthused by the guitar developed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee that made the sound of rock and roll possible.

As well as his guitar work, Les Paul experimented in his garage with inventive recording techniques like multi tracking and tape delay. In keeping with this spirit of tinkering, those of you in the U.S. can click the black “compose” button to record your own 30-second track. Just strum the strings or trigger notes with the letters or numbers on your keyboards. Clicking the button again will exhibit a link to share the songs you’ve made. (For example, here’s a little tune I put together.)

If you’re curious, the doodle was made with a mixture of JavaScript, HTML5 Canvas (used in modern browsers to draw the guitar strings), CSS, Flash (for sound) and tools like the Google Font API, goo.gl and App Engine.

I hope you have as much fun playing with and division the doodle as we did making it (special thanks to engineers Kristopher Hom and Joey Hurst and doodle team lead Ryan Germick for their work). Crank up your computer volume and create some music!

Chrome Shifts Into a New Gear

Chrome 12 is now obtainable in the stable channel and all the Chrome users can try the new features.

1. App search in the address bar.


2. Clear Flash cookies (or Local Shared Objects) using the "Clear browsing data" dialog, in its place of visiting a webpage.


3. Chrome Sync no longer uses a modal dialog and it's now properly included with the tabbed settings page.


4. Safe Browsing borrowed a feature from Internet Explorer 8: checking downloaded files for malware. Right now, this characteristic only works for Windows executables and shows a small message in the download bar.


5. No more Gears in Google Chrome. You'll no longer be able to use any app that relies on Gears to give skin like offline storage or web workers. The only Google repair that still used Gears was Gmail.

6. Hardware accelerated 3D CSS (or 3D transforms). Chrome's blog suggests to try "Shaun the Sheep", an experiment that uses WebM video and 3D CSS to create an immersive app.


7. Chrome for Mac asks for substantiation when using Cmd+Q to quit the application. "When you press Cmd+Q, it brings up the floaty panel telling you to hold the key combo. When you do, it quits after 1.5 seconds." That sounds irritating.


8. Print and Save buttons in the PDF viewer.


9. A better border for adding start pages.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

YouTube's Pages for Blogs

Philippe Lagane dotted a new YouTube feature: a special page that lists the most recent videos embedded by a blog. The page includes short scraps from the blog posts and allows you to play all the videos and add them to a playlist.

A Google search for [site:youtube.com/social/blog] returns about 40 results, but it's possible that all the blogs indexed by Google will be included. The new pages could become an option to channels for blogs that embed content from other publishers.


YouTube already has a part titled "popular around the Web" that includes the most viewed videos fixed on other websites and shows messages like "As seen on: engadget.com" after that to the videos.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Google's IPv6 Test

As promised in January, Google will test IPv6 on June 8. IPv6 is the new version of the Internet Protocol which allows a lot more strategy to connect to the Internet.

"Google has been supporting IPv6 since early 2008, when we first began offering search over IPv6. Since then we've brought IPv6 support to YouTube and have been helping ISPs allow Google over IPv6 by default for their users. On World IPv6 Day, we'll be taking the next big step. Together with major web companies such as Facebook and Yahoo!, we will allow IPv6 on our main websites for 24 hours. This is a crucial phase in the transition, because while IPv6 is broadly deployed in many networks, it's never been used at such a large scale before."


Google expects that less than 0.5% of the users will be unnatural by the test. There's even a page that tests your connection and detects IPv6 connectivity issues. Even if IPv6 will be enabled for 24 hours, IPv4 will continue to be accessible.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Creative Commons Videos on YouTube

YouTube added a new feature that lets you alter the standard video licensing and switch to the Creative Commons Attribution license, which allows other people to reuse your videos. "Others may copy, distribute and create unoriginal works from your video — but only if they give you credit."


The new feature is used in YouTube's video editor, which lets you search for Creative Commons videos and use them to create a new video. YouTube says that there are already more than 10,000 videos from organizations like C-SPAN and Al Jazeera, but that's just the beginning.


YouTube will surely become the largest library of Creative Commons videos, but it's strange to see that it took so long to add a license that encourages creativity. The first Google service that included with Creative Commons was Google Web Search (2005) and it was followed by Picasa Web Albums (2008) and Google Image Search (2009).

If you want to find Creative Commons videos on YouTube, click "Filter & Explore" after performing a search and choose "Creative Commons". You might also add ", creative commons" to your query and search for [paris, creativecommons].

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Superstars and Nested Labels, Now Standard Gmail Features

Gmail's blog announced that three experimental features have graduated from Gmail Labs: superstars, nested labels and higher IMAP controls. There's also a Gmail Labs feature that will no longer be available: the Google Search box.


Superstars extend Gmail's starring feature by adding up different types of stars for flagging messages. For example, you could use the red exclamation mark to flag very important messages and the orange quotes to emphasize the messages that need a reply. The characteristic is not obtrusive since you can trigger it by repeatedly clicking a Gmail star. You can go to Gmail's settings page to modify the list of stars.

Nested labels have enhanced a lot since Google added this feature to Gmail Labs. You can add sub-labels from the menu, quickly rename or delete sub-labels, pick a sub-label from a hierarchical list when you create a filter. Nested labels are still a hack and there are many issues that need to be addressed so that users no longer notice the completion details. For example, messages that use nested labels don't inherit the parent label.


Advanced IMAP controls are only useful if you want to modify Gmail's IMAP features when using mail clients like Outlook or Thunderbird. You can disable auto-expunge and ask Gmail to wait until the client updates the server, delete messages instead of archiving them when you mark a message as deleted and bound the number of messages from a folder.