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

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August 31, 2011

New Features for the Google +1 Button

That was quick. After a few days of testing, the improvements to the Google +1 button are publicly available.

When you mouse over the button, Google shows a list of friends that +1'd the page. The same list is now displayed next to the button if you change the code and select inline annotations. This is the new default option when you generate the code, but not everyone will like it because it takes a lot of space. Google probably chose this option because you're more likely to +1 a page if some of your friends already did that.


The Google +1 button also lets you share a page to Google+. After clicking "+1", Google shows a box where you could enter your comments and choose one or more circles. Google shows a title, a thumbnail and a short snippet from the page. By default, they're automatically generated, but developers can explicitly annotate the page using the schema.org microdata or the Open Graph protocol, which is also used by Facebook. At the least, you should add a tag for the image that best represents the page.

Offline Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs

As promised, Google brought back the offline mode for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. The updated apps use HTML5 features and no longer require the Gears plugin.

For Gmail, Google chose the easy way out and tweaked the tablet interface. You can only use it in Google Chrome after installing this app from the Chrome Web Store. The app lets you archive and label email, compose new messages and read the messages you've received, but it doesn't have all the features from the standard version. The interface is more suitable for tablets, so this is more like a temporary workaround instead of a definitive solution.



Offline Google Calendar and offline Google Docs aren't yet available to everyone and will be rolled out in the coming days. Google says that the offline mode is built into the apps, just like the Gears version. "Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you're offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don't have a connection. Offline editing isn't ready yet, but we know it's important to many of you, and we're working hard to make it a reality. To get started using Google Calendar or Google Docs offline, just click the gear icon at the top right corner of the web app and select the option for offline access," explains Google.

I don't see the offline settings for Google Calendar and Google Docs in my account, but offline Gmail is disappointing. It only works in Chrome, it has a different URL (https://mail.google.com/mail/mu/), the interface is optimized for iPad and Android tablets and it's very limited. Hopefully, Google will add support for offline access to the regular interface.

Chrome's Most Important Feature

Ben Goodger, a former Mozilla developer who now works at Google on the Chrome team, thinks that autoupdate is one of the most important Chrome features.
Autoupdate is one of Chrome's killer features. It is magical because it continuously updates an entire development platform invisibly, frequently. Supporting it has driven how we structure our development processes. It was also one of Chrome's first features. Delving back into project history long before we launched publicly in 2008, the autoupdate project was one of the very first we started working on. The idea was to give people a blank window with an autoupdater. If they installed that, over time the blank window would grow into a browser. And today, some five years after our autoupdater started updating a mostly blank window that could barely load webpages, it is now an engine for delivering an incredibly sophisticated web technology platform onto our users' computers, which in turn allows web app developers to build amazing new online experiences. I have never seen such an effective platform update mechanism before.

Chrome automatically updates in the background and makes sure that it always has the latest features and bug fixes. You don't longer have to worry about version numbers, the list of features from the latest release and you can no longer decide that it's a bad idea to upgrade to the new version because of an annoying change. Extensions also update in the background and you're always using the most recent versions. That's a great thing for developers, who don't have to support legacy Chrome versions and spend so much time testing their sites and extensions. It's also a great thing for users, who can rely on a secure browser that has the latest security fixes and it's better protected against malware. They can also use the latest Web apps without having to worry about updating their browser.

Chrome's rapid release cycle works well because of the autoupdater. Annoying users with notifications about the new releases makes people delay updating their browser. Some of them will find ways to disable the updater and will continue to use an old version of the browser. Ben Goodger thinks that making the updater invisible is very important:
Chrome's autoupdate system is deceptively simple. I say "deceptively" because as a user it appears completely invisible, but really there are a lot of sophisticated technologies and processes that support it. The key point here is "completely invisible." We have made numerous improvements to the autoupdater over the course of Chrome's life, including one major change a while ago when we sped up the frequency of our releases from once per quarter to one every six weeks. But from a user perspective Chrome is still well.. Chrome.

I'll expand on invisible, because it's important:

The Chrome autoupdater works quietly in the background, never notifying you. If there's an update, it'll download it and prepare it so that the next time you start the browser it's the latest version. Sort of like how the next time you load GMail it's the latest version.

I think the autoupdater is the most important Chrome feature because it's the enabler for the other features. Ever since it was released back in 2008, Chrome has constantly improved, supporting new Web technologies, adding new features to the interface, new APIs for extensions and cutting-edge security features. Without a powerful autoupdater, many Chrome users would still have an outdated version and wouldn't be able to use them. Sometimes, removing choice can dramatically improve a software.

{ via François }

August 30, 2011

Google +1 Extension for Chrome

Now you no longer have to wait until your favorite site adds a Google +1 button. If you use Chrome, you can install an extension that lets you +1 any Web page. The extension is developed by Google and it acts just like a +1 button: it shows the number of +1's and it becomes blue if you've already +1'd a page.


An obvious privacy trade-off is that the extension sends the list of the pages you visit to Google's servers, but this information is not associated with your account. "Google doesn’t keep a persistent record of your browsing history as part of the process of showing you a +1 button or otherwise use the fact that you personally have visited a page with the +1 button. Google may keep some information about your visit, usually for about two weeks, to maintain and debug its systems," explains Google.

{ Thanks, Kristian. }

Google Trusted Stores

An unlisted video uploaded to Google's YouTube channel announces a new service for shoppers and sellers: Google Trusted Stores. The program "makes it easy for online shoppers to identify stores that provide an excellent online shopping experience," explains Google. The URL of the new service returns an error message: http://www.google.com/trustedstores, but that's because it wasn't officially launched.


It's likely that Google will show a Trusted Store badge next to the ads for the online stores that provide a great experience and have a good track record of shipping on time and providing excellent customer service.


Right now, Google shows an average rating and a link to user reviews:


Update: The video is now private.

{ Thanks, Ward. }

August 29, 2011

New Interface for Google Docs Apps

Consistency is great, but not when it makes an application more difficult to use. Google Docs tests new interfaces for the document editor and Google Spreadsheets. Inspired by Google+, the new interfaces remove all the colors from the icons and other UI elements, remove the Google Docs logo, add new scrollbars and a "Collaborate" menu that includes all the features from the "Share" drop-down.




The new grayscale buttons from the toolbar make it more difficult to find the right feature. They're are less intuitive, harder to distinguish and look like disabled buttons. Compare the two versions of the "paint format" button (the fifth button):


Unlike the new interfaces for Gmail and Google Calendar, the updated Google Docs apps don't use too much whitespace. You can switch to the new interfaces by clicking "Try now" in a small message that announces the changes when you open a Google Docs document or spreadsheet. To go back to the old UI, choose "Use the classic look" from the "Help" menu.

In other related news, Google Sites also tests a new UI:


{ Thanks, András, Louis, Thomas and Cougar. }

Google Indexes Images a Lot Faster

Google Image Search used to have an index that wasn't updated too often. At some point, Google started to include images from Google News articles, so you could find images from recent events.

Now Google Image Search's index updates in real-time for many pages, just like the Web Search index. A few minutes after publishing a post, I was really surprised to see that an image from the post was already indexed by Google.


A search for [cartoon] restricted to the past hour returns 41 images and not all of them are from news articles and blog posts. Google Image Search still doesn't index all the images as soon as the pages are indexed by Google, but the improvements are noticeable.

Slide's Apps to Be Discontinued

One year ago, Google acquired Slide, a company that developed third-party apps for Facebook and other social networks. At that time, Google mentioned that the goal was to "make Google services socially aware". Slide continued to operate as an independent start-up inside Google and developed photo sharing apps like Photovine and Pool Party. Slide's CEO, Max Levchin, became VP of engineering at Google.

New York Times reports that Max Levchin will leave Google and most of the Slide apps will be discontinued. A Slide blog post confirms that "in the coming months, a number of Slide's products and applications will be retired. This includes Slide's products such as Slideshow and SuperPoke! Pets, as well as more recent products such as Photovine, Video Inbox and Pool Party." Slide's team says that "many of these products are no longer as active or haven't caught on as we originally hoped".


A Google spokesperson informed the New York Times that most of the Slide team will continue to work at Google and many engineers will join YouTube. If Slide was a talent acquisition, then why Slide's team didn't work on Google+ and why popular games like SuperPoke weren't ported to Google+?

AllThingsD offers some answers: "Although Slide as an independent start-up had not matched its lofty expectations and valuations — at as much as $500 million in a 2008 funding round — its acquisition brought Google some key assets: Social Web expertise at a time when it was dearly needed, and Levchin, who famously founded PayPal. But that was last August. Since then, Google has entrusted its social efforts to two of its existing executives, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, who led the team that created Google+. Levchin was left on the fringes with Slide as an autonomous subsidiary, reporting to Google co-founder Sergey Brin."

Google Calendar Grays Out Old Events

Google Calendar found a way to separate old events from upcoming events: old events are now grayed out. The interface also grays out future recurring events because it's likely that they're less important (this was an experimental feature in Google Calendar Labs).


If you don't like the new features, it's easy to disable them: go to the "Options" menu from Google Calendar's navigation bar, select "Calendar settings", go to the "Event dimming" section and disable these two options: "Dim past events" and "Dim recurring future events".


Google says that the brightness of these events is reduced "so you can focus on today", although you'll be able to better focus on the future, as well.

{ Thanks, Cougar. }

August 27, 2011

Google Sets Will Be Shut Down

Google Sets, one of my favorite Google Labs experiments, will be shut down on September 5, just like Google Squared. Launched in 2002, Google Sets is the only experiment from the early days of Google Labs that's still available, even though it hasn't graduated.

The great thing about Google Sets is that it only did one thing and did it very well: automatically generating lists from a few examples. Google Sets used the explicit and implicit lists from the pages indexed by Google and tried to find the lists that were relevant to the examples entered by users. For example, you could enter "Honda" and "Toyota" and Google Sets returned a long list of car brands.



The patent filed in 2003 explains that, at that time, there wasn't any "mechanism for quickly and efficiently generating lists of items given one or more example". Web pages included a lot of lists: some of them were created using special HTML tags (<ul>, <ol>, document headers), others used tables, while most of them were items separated by commas or tabs. The patent was filed by Simon Tong, a researcher who contributed to Google's ranking algorithm, designed AdSense's targeting algorithm and Gmail's spam detection's learning algorithm, and Jeff Dean, who designed Google's crawling, indexing, and query serving systems, BigTable and MapReduce, the initial version of Google's advertising serving system and a lot more.

Google Sets was the building block for Google Squared, a service that generated lists and information about the items. If you type "dogs" in Google Squared, you'll see a list of dog breeds, related images, descriptions, the size and the country of origin. The list of dog breeds is now also displayed at the bottom of Google's results page for [dogs]. The attributes aren't yet available in Google Search, but this feature will probably added in the future.


While Google Sets and Google Squared will no longer be available, they're still used in Google Search to better understand the content of a page and to provide lists of related searches.

Update: Google Sets is still available as a Google Spreadsheets feature.

August 26, 2011

Creating a Google Account Requires to Enter Your Birthday

Last year, I reported that creating a Google account requires entering your birthday if you are in the US. It seems that this requirement is no longer limited to the US and changing your location can't be used as a workaround.


If you're younger than 13 years old and you enter your real birthday, you'll see this message: "Google could not create your account. In order to have a Google Account, you must meet certain age requirements. To learn more about online child safety, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website."


Children's Online Privacy Protection Act makes it difficult to collect personal information from children under 13, so that's probably the reason why Google decided to prevent these users to create an account. For example, Google would have to "obtain verifiable parental consent from the child's parent." That's not the case when your school created a Google Apps account for you, since the school has to obtain parental consent.

It's interesting that you can't edit your birthday from your account and that Google deletes the accounts of the children under 13, unless they provide a way to show that the birthday is incorrect. From Google's FAQ:
You can re-enable your account by following our instructions to confirm that you are old enough to have a Google Account. You will see these instructions when you attempt to sign back in to your account. We currently offer two ways to confirm your age:

1. Sending in a signed form via mail or fax with a copy of your current, government-issued ID showing your date of birth, or
2. Performing a small transaction ($0.30 USD) on a valid credit card.

Creating a Google account is more and more complicated. Sometimes Google will ask to enter your phone number in order to confirm that you're actually a human (and not a bot) and now you also need to enter your birthday. Some services require to create a Google Profile and if you want to use Google+, you need to use your real name or "the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you". If something goes wrong, you'll have to prove that it's your name.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

August 24, 2011

Lists in Google Snippets

I've mentioned two weeks ago that Google started to label pages that include search results. For some of these pages, Google's snippets now use lists, so you can distinguish between separate items. These snippets are twice as big as the regular snippets (4 lines vs 2 lines) and they include useful information like prices or dates.


Sometimes Google is confused and shows similar snippets for blogs, especially if homepages look like search results pages.


Google's snippets usually include one or more excerpts from the page that include some of your keywords and are separated by ellipses.

Update: It's official. "If a search result consists mostly of a structured list, like a table or series of bullets, we'll show a list of three relevant rows or items underneath the result in a bulleted format. The snippet will also show an approximate count of the total number of rows or items on the page," explains Google.

Short URLs, Back in Google Maps

After a brief disappearance, short URLs are back in Google Maps. This was one of the most popular experiment from Google Maps Labs and it's now a standard feature. Just click the link button next to the search box and click the "short URL" checkbox. The new short URLs use g.co, a domain recently acquired by Google. All the URLs that start with "http://g.co" send you to Google domains, while http://goo.gl/ continues to be a public URL shortener.


Google Maps is the service that generates very long URLs with many unnecessary parameters, so the short URLs are useful not just for posting a Twitter message or sending a text message, but also for writing an email, a comment on a blog post or for adding a Google Maps URL to a document. Google Maps also needs to automatically change the URL from the address bar, so that you don't have to use the permalink button.

{ via Google LatLong }

August 22, 2011

Music Rich Snippets in Google Search

Last week, Google announced a new flavor of rich snippets, this time for music pages. At that time, I couldn't see the new snippets, but now they should be available for everyone.


"With this new feature, site owners can mark up their pages using the newly created music markup spec on schema.org, and search results for that site may start displaying song information in the snippet so that users know that there are songs or samples there for them to listen to. Several initial partners have implemented the music markup on their sites, including MySpace, Rhapsody and ReverbNation," explained Google.

The new rich snippets include links to music pages that could be found by visiting the search result, but it's faster to bypass the search result and start to play a song. It's important to mention that the songs aren't played on Google's results pages, so you still need to go to a different page. You'll only see the music rich snippets when your query includes the name of an artist, a song or an album.

Google also shows rich snippets for events, profile pages, recipes, videos, reviews and products. "With rich snippets, webmasters with sites containing structured content—such as review sites or business listings—can label their content to make it clear that each labeled piece of text represents a certain type of data: for example, a restaurant name, an address, or a rating."

At some point, Google will make structured data searchable and it will be a lot easier to refine results. Recipe search already lets you do that and it's pretty useful.

August 19, 2011

How to Try Google's Cleaner Interface

I mentioned in the previous post that Google tests a less cluttered interface and there's now a way to try it. Techno-Net noticed that you can change the NID value of a Google cookie and get the same interface.



Here's how to do this in Chrome:

1. Install "Edit this Cookie", a cookie manager for Chrome.

2. Go to Google's homepage and click the yellow cookie icon from Chrome's toolbar.

3. Find the line that starts with NID, click it, select the value (Ctrl-A or Command-A for Mac), delete it, paste the following value (use Ctrl-V or Command-V for Mac) and click "Submit cookie changes":




Here are the instructions for Firefox:

1. Install Cookies Manager+ and restart the browser.

2. Go to Google's homepage.

3. Press Alt-T and select "Cookies Manager+". You'll also find the option in the "Web Developer" item of Firefox's unified menu.

4. Search for google.com and find the entry named "NID". If you're not in the US and you use a different Google domain, search for your domain (for example: google.co.uk in the UK).

5. Click "edit" and replace the content with:




Opera already has a cookie manager that lets you edit cookie values. You only need to go to Google's homepage, right-click on the page, select "Edit site preferences", go to the "Cookies" tab and edit the item that starts with "NID".

I couldn't find some great cookie managers that worked in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Safari, but the instructions should be similar.

Sharing the "NID" value allows other people to try an experimental Google interface. The next time when you find an interface that looks different and you send a tip to gostips@gmail.com, you can also include the NID value of your Google cookie.

If Google constantly changes the "NID" value and you can't use the experimental interface for too long, delete your Google cookies and start again. What if you don't like the interface and you want to go back to the regular UI? Just remove the "NID" key or delete its value using the cookie manager.

August 18, 2011

Google Tests a Cleaner Interface

Google started to test a variation of the search interface I mentioned the last month. The experimental interface removes all the icons from the sidebar and the icons for Google +1 and Instant Preview, which are displayed next to the results.


When you mouse over a search result, Google shows a bigger Instant Preview icon in a vertical bar. Mouse over the bar, and you'll a large screenshot of the page, the links to the cached paged and other similar pages and the Google +1 button.


Like the previous variation of the experiment, Google's header and the search options sidebar are sticky, so you'll see them even if you scroll down. It's the perfect interface for implementing infinite scrolling, which is also tested in a separate experiment.



{ Thanks, Herin. }

Google Chrome Adds Support for Native Client Apps

Almost three years after its announcement, Native Client is almost ready for prime time. It's enabled in Chrome 14, which is now in beta and will reach the stable channel in less than a month.

Native Client is a very complex framework that allows browsers to run native compiled code in a sandbox. Google's goal is to "maintain the OS portability and safety that people expect from web apps", while allowing developers to use their preferred language. Right now, the only supported languages are C and C++ and Native Client only works in Chrome for Windows, Mac and Linux.

"Native Client apps live on the web platform, so you don't need to create separate versions of your app for each operating system. Rather than relying on OS-specific APIs, Native Client apps use Pepper, a set of interfaces that provide C and C++ bindings to the capabilities of HTML5. This means that once you've ported your code to Native Client, it will work across different operating systems, and you only need to maintain one code base. Today Native Client supports the Pepper APIs for 2D graphics, stereo audio, URL fetching, sandboxed local file access (File API), and asynchronous message passing to and from JavaScript. In future releases we will be adding support for hardware accelerated 3D graphics (OpenGL ES 2.0), fullscreen mode, networking (WebSockets and peer-to-peer connections), and much more," informs Google.

Google announced that developers will be able to upload their native apps to the Chrome Web Store once Chrome 14 hits the stable channel. In the meantime, Chrome 14 users can try the examples from this gallery: a pi generator, a sine wave synthesizer and John Conway's Game of Life.


NaCl (Native Client) + Pepper -> a lot of games, business apps, educational apps, image editors and virtual machine software running inside your browser. Suddenly, Chromebooks are no longer that limited.

Audio Pronunciation in Google Search

Google added a new feature to the dictionary OneBox: audio pronunciation. This feature was available if you clicked "More" to read all the definitions, but now it's more accessible.


Google uses Flash to play the audio file, so the feature doesn't work if you disable Flash. It's interesting that Google shows the audio icon if you use an iPad, even though the device doesn't let you install the Flash plugin. The HTML5 audio tag is a better option for iOS devices and for the browsers that support it.

Weather Layer in Google Maps

Google Maps added a layer for weather. Just mouse over the satellite box and select "weather" from the list of layers.

"When zoomed out, you'll see a map with current weather conditions from U.S. Naval Research Lab. And, if you look closely, you can also tell if it's day or night around the world by sun and moon icons. Enabling the weather layer also gives you an instant weather report for friends and family living around the world," informs Google. Weather reports are powered by weather.com and include information about the current conditions (humidity, wind speed, temperature) and a 4-day forecast.



The nice thing about Google Maps layers is that you can combine them. For example, you can enable both the terrain and the weather layers, like you can see in the screenshot above.

August 17, 2011

Google Tests Infinite Scrolling for Search Results Pages

After testing a persistent header, Google continues to experiment with infinite scrolling for Google search results. A Webmaster World user spotted a new box that replaces the standard pagination links: "show more results". When you click the message, Google loads the second page of results below the top results.


Barry Schwartz says that Google tested a similar interface back in June. I remember that SearchMash, Google's old playground for search experiments, used infinite scrolling in the first iterations. Last year, Google Image Search added infinite scrolling,

There are many extensions that add infinite scrolling to Google search results pages. One of the best is AutoPager, which is available for Firefox and Chrome.

Gmail's Newest/Oldest Pagination Features

The latest Gmail design refresh replaced pagination links with arrow buttons. Even if it's not obvious, the navigation links that sent you to the newest/oldest messages are still available in the new interface. Just click the message similar to "11-20 of 3903" from the screenshot below and you'll see the two options that appeared to be missing.


This works for Gmail's search results and when you click one of the labels. For example, you can go to the "All Mail" system label, click the pagination message, select "Oldest" and find the first messages from your Gmail account.

For the search terms that return a lot of results, the only pagination feature that works is "newest" because Gmail shows vague estimations for the number of results like "1-20 of hundreds" or "1-20 of thousands" and it can't determine the last page of results.

{ Thanks, jpp. }

Undocumented Shortcut for Caps Lock in Chrome OS

One of the most important changes Google made when designing the keyboard for Chrome OS notebooks was replacing the Caps Lock key with a search key. While the search key is not very useful since it only opens a new tab, the Caps Lock key made a lot of comments, forum threads and emails unreadable.


If you really need to use the Caps Lock key, there's a way to change the search key into a Caps Lock key in the settings. Unfortunately, this is time consuming, especially if you constantly switch between the search key and the Caps Lock key. There's a better way: press both Shift keys at the same time to enable or disable Caps Lock. It's an undocumented shortcut that works in the latest versions of Chrome OS.

{ Thanks, Cougar. }

August 16, 2011

Google Related for Chrome

Launched as a Google Toolbar feature last month, Google Related is now available for Chrome. "Google Related works in the background to find you the most interesting and relevant content on the topics you're currently viewing. For example, if you visit a restaurant's website, Related can show you a map, reviews from Google Places, mentions from across the web and other similar eateries that you might want to try," informs Google.


Google Related is a good opportunity for Google to track all the pages you visit and to offer something useful in return. After all, Google Related is a lot more useful than the PageRank button from Google Toolbar or Internet Explorer's Suggested Sites feature.

The bar is displayed at the bottom of the window, but not for all the pages. If there's not enough information related to the page, you won't see the bar. For example, Google Related is not displayed when you visit CNN's homepage, but it's displayed when you go to a CNN article. Another great thing about Google Related is that it shows various types of content, depending of the page you're visiting. Sometimes you'll see news articles and images, for other pages you'll find maps, local results and in other cases you'll see videos that play without leaving the page.

Google Related would be even better if you could see the related content on-demand (for example, by clicking a button). This way, you would no longer send your browsing history to Google and Google would get less information, so it's quite obvious why Google didn't add this option. Hopefully, Google will release an API for Google Related and other developers will create better extensions and widgets.



Update. Here an interesting quote from the book "I'm Feeling Lucky" by Douglas Edwards, who was Google's director of consumer marketing and brand management until 2005:
To tell you the PageRank of a site, Google needed to know what site you were visiting. The Toolbar sent that data back to Google if you let it, and Google would show you the green bar. The key was "if you let it," because you could also download a version of the toolbar that would not send any data back to Google. The user could make the choice, though Larry and the engineering team believed — and hoped — that most people wouldn't pass up the advanced features just because Google might learn their surfing habits. We're talking free extra data here. While knowing the PageRank of a page might have only nominal value to users, knowing the sites users visited would he tremendously valuable to Google. The PageRank indicator provided a justification for gathering it.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

Google Catalogs Returns

Two and a half years after discontinuing Google Catalogs, the service returns as an app for tablets. "The Google Catalogs app features digital versions of catalogs across many popular categories, including fashion and apparel, beauty, jewelry, home, kids and gifts," explains Google.

Right now, the app is only available for iPad, but Google promises to release an app for Android tablets soon. You can find catalogs from stores like Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Sephora, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and a few others. The application lets you find information about products, buy them, add them to favorites or to collections. For some of the products, you can watch videos or view photo albums. If you like one of the catalogs, add it to favorites and you'll get notifications when new issues arrive.



While the list of catalogs isn't impressive, Google says that it will continually add new catalogs. There's even a form for merchants.


{ Thanks, Herin. }

August 15, 2011

New Google Movies OneBox

Google's OneBox for movie showtimes has a new interface that offers information about more movies. It's much easier to compare movies and you can click "show more movies" to expand the OneBox. Google links to the Google Movies site, which shows short snippets from reviews, trailers, small photos, but also links to IMDb.



Here's the old OneBox:

In other related news, François Beaufort spotted that the Google.com sprite, which includes all the images that are used in the search results pages, added 4 icons for flight search, music search and movie search. Back in March, TechCrunch noticed that the music search feature no longer worked. "The music search feature introduced in 2009 is currently unavailable while we make some updates to the user experience," explained Google.


{ Thanks, Surat. }

Google Buys Motorola

Google found a way to solve the problem of Android patents and it's only three times more expensive than acquiring the Nortel patents: buying Motorola for $12.5 billion.

"Motorola has a history of over 80 years of innovation in communications technology and products, and in the development of intellectual property, which have helped drive the remarkable revolution in mobile computing we are all enjoying today. (...) In 2008, Motorola bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of its smartphone devices. It was a smart bet and we're thrilled at the success they've achieved so far," says Google's CEO, Larry Page.

A few days ago, Motorola's CEO said that the company owns "one of the strongest and most respected patent portfolios in the industry. We have over 17,000 patents granted and over 7,000 patents pending with particular strength in 2G and 3G essential, non-essential patents important to the delivery of competitive products in the marketplace, video particularly compression, decompression and security technologies and finally, a leading position in 4G LTE essential." Sanjay Jha also said that IP was important to differentiate from other Android vendors. It's clear that Motorola didn't want to license its technology to other Android OEMs, so Google's solution was to buy Motorola.

Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG had a unanimous reaction. "We welcome Google's commitment to defending Android and its partners." After all, it's Google who created the software, so Google has to spend $12.5 billion to solve the mess.

Google promises that Android will continue to be an open platform, but the other Android OEMs will have their reasons to doubt. Google's biggest acquisition to date could be an answer to Android's problems, but also the beginning of the end for Android as an open-source mobile operating system. Motorola released two of the most important Android devices (the original Droid and the XOOM tablet) and Android smartphones saved it from bankruptcy, but Motorola is a US company that can't compete outside of US and it doesn't have a good track record when it comes to releasing the latest software updates. Buying this company to save the Android ecosystem will only work if Motorola disappears.

Update. An interesting quote from Motorola's CEO (June 2011): "I expect consolidation to occur. Our customers are consolidating, and our supply base is also consolidating. But my view is that consolidation occurs in some interesting ways. I'm not convinced that handset manufacturers acquiring other manufacturers is the best way for value to be created for shareholders. Consolidation across content manufacturers and hardware and software manufacturers -- I see a bunch of different ways for this consolidation to occur, to create shareholder value and create different structures to the industry. You've already seen the acquisition of Palm by HP, a very interesting acquisition that brought software and hardware assets together. The relationship between Microsoft and Nokia also speaks to that. Do we expect Motorola to be an independent company? I don't know yet. I hope very much that we are."

August 13, 2011

Google Cloud Print Apps

Google Cloud Print has a new homepage with more information about the service, a helpful video and a list of products that work with Cloud Print.

"Using Google Cloud Print, you can make your home and work printers available to you and anyone you choose, from the applications you use every day. Google Cloud Print works on your phone, tablet, Chromebook, PC, and any other web-connected device you want to print from," explains Google.

It's interesting to notice that not many Google products integrate with Cloud Print. By default, you can only print documents and Web pages in Chrome using Cloud Print if you have a Chromebook. There's an unofficial extension that adds support for Cloud Print in Gmail, Google Docs and for some local documents. If you have an Android or iOS device, you can use Cloud Print in the Gmail and Google Docs mobile apps. For Android, there's an unofficial app that lets you print files from your phone using Cloud Print. For iOS, there's an advanced app that offers a lot of print-related features, including Cloud Print support, but it costs $9. Google needs to add native support for Cloud Print in Android and to develop an iPhone app for Cloud Print.

For more information about Cloud Print, watch this video:


{ Thanks, Herin. }

Google Tests a New Instant Interface

Google experiments with a new search interface for the desktop that borrows some ideas from the recently launched tablet interface. There's a big "Search" title below the Google logo and Google Instant predictions are displayed below the header.


The new interface looks weird because of the label that shows the number of results and separates the search box from the list of suggestions. Another issue is that Google Instant only shows 2 suggestions instead of 4.

{ Thanks, Bradley. }

Change Google's Search Domain in Google Chrome

Update (July 2013): There's a better trick that also works in Chrome for Android and iOS.

If you don't live in the US, Google likes to think that the localized version of the search engine for your country is the most useful. That's the reason why it redirects you from google.com to google.tld (google.co.uk, google.fr, google.co.jp etc.).

I prefer the google.com version because it has the latest features and search results are a lot better. To switch to google.com and bypass the redirect, you can click "Google.com in English" at the bottom of the homepage or just go to google.com/ncr. The early versions of Google Chrome used to respect my choice and adjusted the search domain after a restart. Now Google Chrome no longer checks the Google cookie to see if I changed the domain and only determines the right domain based on my IP.

One way to solve this issue is to create a custom search engine for google.com, but the downside is that you lose the search suggestions. A better way is to edit a settings file. Here's how to do that:

1. Close all Chrome windows.

2. Go to Chrome's user profile directory (for example, in Windows Vista and Windows 7 the path is: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data\).

3. Click the Default directory and open the file Preferences in a text editor like Notepad, TextEdit or gedit.

4. Find the two lines that include "last_known_google_url" and "last_prompted_google_url" and change the Google URL from "http://www.google.tld/" (.tld=.co.uk, .fr, .co.jp etc.) to "http://www.google.com/" or any other Google domain.


5. Save the text file and restart Chrome.

6. If you see an infobar that asks if you want to switch to your local domain or keep google.com, choose the second option.

This should work even if you want to change Google's domain from google.es to google.pt, from google.be to google.fr or any other combination. If you live in Portugal, but you'd like to use Google Spain and don't know how to change the country in Google Chrome, this trick should be helpful.