Monday, 30 June 2008

Google + Family Guy = This Doesn't Sound Right!!

It looks like Google is travelling down yet another avenue, this time web-only TV. It was announced today that Google and Seth MacFarlane, who is the creator of the extremely funny show Family Guy, reached an agreement to distribute web-only episodes of the series "Seth MacFarlanes Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" which is being described as a "New York Cartoon but edgier." To promote the show, the service Google Content Network will be used, it's the first that I've heard of this service and is probably the same for a lot of you readers. The promotion works by using AdSense video clips of Calvalcade promos and then embedding them on web sites that Family Guy fans, who are typically males under 30 (I still fall in this group, yessss!), typically visit.

This deal is definitely going to make Google and MacFarlane a load of money. The average viewer is spending more and more time in front of the computer and less watching the TV (I just reduced my digital cable to basic), so it makes more sense to start airing web-only episodes and to have advertising with these. Hopefully the content will be as good as concept.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Google Roundup for June 21st - 28th

Since there is so much happening in the world of Google, I decided to start a summary called Google Roundup which mentions important Google news/products not mentioned in my blog. I'll usually post it sometime during the weekend.
  • If your a NFL or MLB fan or just a fan of Google Earth, you should check out the website called EarthSwoop, which has 3D models of their respective stadiums. So far it is only for Windows, but by August other operating systems and browsers will be supported any anyone can contribute their own collection, the Argentine bridges is very cool.
  • AdSense is hot in terms of online advertising, this week the 50,000 th person signed up to the English version of the AdSense help group. I'm one of them.
  • Google loves mobile technology (check out the Android project), so much that they created the Google Mobile Community. This is a general discussion group where basically anything about mobile phones is discussed.
  • Google also launched a site dedicated to the world of mobility; Once you find your phone type (I have a Motorola), free products can be easily accessed.
  • If your a logged in user of Youtube, the personalized homepage that was only accessible to a small number of users is now accessible to all logged in users. I tried it out, the layout is OK, but the customizability is excellent.
Thats it for this week, check out the rest of my blog for more news/reviews.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Watching My Computer on the TV

There is a new gadget for Google Desktop called the Google Media Server. This is a Windows application and obviously requires Google Desktop which can search your computer for media files (audio, photos and video). The receiving end of this technology must be a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) device such as a PS3. So far this gadget has been given mixed reviews, with complaints about it not working with the XBox 360 and software problems.

IPhone Canada Pricing from Rogers

Here is a summary of the iPhone pricing from Rogers:
  • 400 MB data, 150 min, unlimited weekends and evenings, $60/month
  • 750 MB data, 300 min, unlimited weekends and evenings, $70/month
  • 1 GB data, 600 min, unlimited weekends and evenings, $100/month
  • 2 GB data, 800 min, unlimited weekends and evenings, $115/month
The prices seem reasonable, but my high student loan debt ($440/month in payments) combined with an ever rising price of oil (it hit $142 today) won't let me buy one for a very long time. For more information on Rogers iPhone Canada pricing check out this article.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

My Five Favorite Things to do With Google Earth

Like a lot of people, I love using Google Earth , my five favorite things to do with Google Earth (free edition) are:
  1. Calculate distances for potential bicycle rides using the ruler (Tools Menu) function, also examine elevation changes.
  2. Looking at animations such as those released at Popular Science.
  3. Using the flight simulator (Ctrl+Alt+A)
  4. Exploring space with Sky (planet shape icon underneath menu), my favorite feature is planet animations.
  5. Random exploring of the high resolution areas of the planet, especially those with streetview and with lots of topographic relief. I spend a lot of time circling the globe and looking at GigaPan images.
Google Earth is an excellent product, I can literally spend hours exploring my city or solar system and I am constantly discovering new features of this program. Go Explore!!!

GigaPan Image of the Golden Gate Bridge

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Google Documents

So far I've reviewed Google Spreadsheets and Presentations, and last but not least, its time for Google Documents. Again, like the other members of the Google Docs team, this is done online or offline and requires none of those file transfers. When this program was first released, it was extremely basic, but it has evolved and now includes such things as offline access and the ability to view and hopefully soon edit pdfs. The things that I like about Google Documents are:
  • No software has to be installed thus it can be accessed anywhere
  • Online and offline access
  • Handles basic word processing well
  • Easily shared with others for viewing/editing
  • Easily published as a webpage
  • Excellent special character selection and ability to input unicode.
  • Google Docs folder layout and transfers are excellent
  • Frequent updates

Google Documents in Action

Some drawbacks of using Google Documents for word processing are:
  • Doesn't handle figures very well
  • Margins can't be adjusted for viewing but can be for printing.
  • Colour palette for text and background is limited
  • Very few "advanced" features available (i.e., endnote, footnote)
  • Font types are limited
  • Bullets/numbering has glitches
  • No thesaurus
Google documents definitely needs more work, but it has come a long way since its release. I use it for basic needs, anything more I switch to OpenOffice, the main thing is to stay away from those Microsoft products.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Google Ad Planner

Today Google announced Ad Planner, which is a free tool advertisers can use to track the popularity of websites. Other services like Hitwise and Nielsen are $subscription$ based. The whole idea behind this is to help agencies decide where to place ads and it works by simply entering information on a desired target audience and Ad Planner will display the most visited sites based on the criteria. Currently, it is in testing mode and users must apply here. Google just keeps on rolling out the products.
Google AdPlanner

Android Delayed

Some bad news for people in the US and China waiting to buy phones with Android software, the release date has been set back to the fourth quarter this year, and not the third quarter. This cell phone operating system seems super cool and revolutionary, you should definitely check out the Android page. Hopefully a computer Google Operating system will be next on Google's to do list.

Android in action

Monday, 23 June 2008

Google Docs Shortcut

Just got this great tip from the Google docs blog. If your creating a ton of documents, go to this official Google docs post and shortcuts for a new document, spreadsheet, and presentation can be added to the navigation toolbar. I just love how Google is constantly adding shortcuts/updates to their suite of programs.

Total Eclipse in Google Earth

If your wondering where the total solar eclipse will be on August 1st, just check this out to view it in Google Earth. For more info, check out this page, it is very well put together and like me, you'll learn much about eclipses.

Apple Safari 3.1.2 - an Update

I finally had a chance to check out the latest version of Apple's web browser - Safari. This update, 3.1.2, seems fast but I don't think its as fast as Firefox 3.0. I mentioned before about the random freezing of the program, so far this hasn't happen with the update. The biggest things they fixed were security related, especially the "carpet bombing" flaw which resulted from Safari automatically downloading executable files based on internet explorer settings although security issues still exist, but this is also true for the other browsers. One more thing, I like the way FF3 handles tabs, Safari requires too much keyboard pushing to open a link in a tab and also select. For now I am sticking with FF3.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Firefox 3 can now run the Google Earth Plugin

Today it was announced by the Google Earth plugin now works in Firefox 3.....yesssssss!!! With this, Google Earth can now be used within the Firefox 3 browser. I have never tried it until ~5 mins ago, give it a shot with the milkman game, it is so fun!!!

Google Presentations

Google Presentations is part of the Google Docs suite of software which is free and done online. This is the newest member of the three (others are spreadsheets and documents) and the most basic. Right now it is somewhat limited but simple presentations can be made and can be easily embedded into a website or blog (see below). Problems that I encountered are:
  • No special characters
  • No subscript/superscript
  • Shapes are very limited
  • No animations

Advantages to using this program are:
  • No file transfers
  • Sharing with others is super easy
  • Presentations can be easily added to a website/blog (~4 clicks)
  • Gchatting can occur within the program
  • Videos can be added to presentations with ease
  • Does not require any software installation
Hopefully Google Presentations will evolve like other members of the Google family and the world can move away from PowerPoint.

Presentation Created with Google Presentations

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Adsense Not Working

Just tried to log into Adsense, and got the following message:

"The Google AdSense website is temporarily unavailable. Please try back later.
We apologize for any inconvenience."

Hopefully it doesn't last too long, Adsense if very addictive.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Google News Experiment

Google announced today that Google News will be undergoing some changes in the next week or so, these will be random and experimental. The whole purpose is for research and will only affect a small number of individuals, hopefully I will be one of them. I am a big fan of Google News, I love how the top stories are constantly updated, how alerts about topics can be sent to your email and how its just a whole collection of news available on the web. I think its an excellent resource for staying informed.

Popular Science and Google Earth

I just read this from the Google Earth Blog, Popular Science's July issue is highlighting the use of Google Earth for aiding in visualizing the environment. There are 5 visualizations highlighted:
  1. Volcano Tracker: This is the coolest, basically watch volcanic ash plumes.
  2. Storm Trooper: Watch air flights going into storms
  3. Emotion Map:3-D visualization of people's emotions in Greenwhich, England
  4. Arctic Eye: Watch the Arctic Ice melt
  5. Flight of the Bird Flu: Track the bird flu virus
My favorites are the Volcano Tracker and Arctic Eye, I had problems getting the Bird Flu tracking to work properly.

Google Earth

I'm quite sure that most computer users have used/seen Google Earth in action, so I won't talk about how it works. This is just an amazing program, it has changed the way that we physically view our world and it is free although there are paid versions with more advanced features. This program is used everywhere from news to classrooms. Last week I attended the Summer 2008 American Society of Limnology and Oceanography ASLO conference, 90% of the sampling figures (excluding those produced by GIS software) included some sort of Google Earth image. Again, like all Google Products, the product is often updated, with high resolution imagery updates occurring approximately every 4 months. The latest update included:
  • New navigation controls, but I sort of liked the older one better
  • More 3-D buildings
  • Watch the sun
  • Street View
  • High Res photos are dated, which was greatly needed
One more thing, this has been out for a while, but Google Earth has a flight simulator, all you have to do is press Ctrl+Alt+A, and begin flying around the world, enjoy!!!

Canadian Bill C-61

Check out the video below about the debate between the NDP and finance minister Jim Prentice, also listen to this audio file, all I'm going to say is that I'm not a fan of the Harper government.

The Debate!!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Google Maps for Mobile

Check out this video of the Google Maps for Mobile, this was a recent winner for a contest at the See into S60 blog, enjoy.

And the The winner is...

New Yahoo Mail....Who Cares!!

Yahoo announced today that they are offering two new domain names, ymail and rocketmail. Currently they have 266 million users, followed by Microsoft at 264 million, and Gmail at ~100 million, but Gmail is growing at a faster rate. I didn't know until I read the Tech Observer blog that rocketmail was the first free email, I guess its kind of cool that they are reviving it. Anyways, I find Gmail much more user friendly and advanced compared to yahoo mail (which doesn't allow forwarding of emails to addresses outside of hotmail or live) and hotmail. I really don't think that this move will make much difference to yahoo's current state, there is just no attraction to them nowadays, maybe its the name or logo or the power of Google.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fireox 3.0

Yesterday Mozilla released FireFox 3.0, which I am currently using to write up this blog. In the past I used a previous version (2.something) for most of my web surfing, but I found it rather slow, but faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer which is absolutely brutal. FireFox 3.0 is much faster, and comparable to Apple's Safari which is fast, but often freezes and when terms are typed in the navigation toolbar (i.e., Google webmaster), even though the site has been visited before, the "Safari can't find the server" screen appears, this gets really annoying. According to Mozilla, FireFox 3.0 is 3x faster than its predecessor and 10x faster than Internet explorer 7. FireFox 3.0 was super easy to install, and only a few plugins had to be added. Besides speed, it has a somewhat new look, uses less memory, and has an improved bookmark feature. Something I just discovered is that in Blogger, adding photos is super fast with FireFox 3.0, and unlike Safari, I can alter the dimensions of posted photos. Along with the 7.6 million people that downloaed FireFox in 24 hours, I'm definitely going to be a FireFoxer again!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Page Creator

If you want to easily design a website, Google Page Creator is the answer. I have developed my first webpage with this product and it was super easy to do. Like most Google products, you need a Google account, then you can start creating and adding pages to your site. With a few simple clicks, images, links, and headings can be added along with basic text formatting and bulleted/numbered lists. The webpage can have several different looks, such as 1 column, and there are about 15 different colour/design templates. There are a ton of gadgets that can be added, examples of the ones that I am using are Picasa web album viewer , the periodic table, and a simple fish animation. The Google page creator discussion group is extremely helpful and here is an example. One of the negative things about Google Page Creator is the column width, I wanted to increase it, so I posted the question on the discussion group, and within 1 day an answer was provided that involved producing a css file and adding some provided code, and it worked!! If your wanting to make a simple, yet sexy website, you should check out Google page Creator.

Snapsot of Google page Creator Editor

I like igoogle

Are you in need of a personalized homepage? If you are, then you should check out igoogle. This basically adds gadgets to your webpage for stuff ranging from facebook status updates to baseball scores. The gadgets that I am currently using are:
  • Google Talk: Allows chatting within the homepage
  • My Facebook: Basically facebook in a box. Status updates, photos (delayed), profile, and most of the facebook goodies can be viewed here.
  • Gmail: Inbox can be viewed.
  • Google News/Technology: Feed of top headlines in the world news and technology sections of google news.
  • Hotmail: Yes, I am ashamed to have a hotmail account, but I've had it for years and random old friends email me here. I can view hotmail messages with this gadget.
  • Google Calendar: I can view all of my events plus I can use quickadd to add an event.
  • Google Map Search: Self Explanatory
  • ESPN NHL Scoreboard: Scores of NHL games are frequently updated (no hockey until October :(
  • MLB Scoreboard: Similar to NHL Scoreboard.
  • Google Docs: Lists most recently edited docs.
There are many more gadgets available. Also, the theme (header) of the webpage can be changed and tabs can be used to organize gadgets. What I love about this program is it's timesaving ability. Instead of searching a series of webpages, I can quickly see them on one personalized homepage on any computer or mobile phone. Google you have done it again!

Typical igoogle webpage

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Google Picassa

          Google Picasa is another piece of free software from the people at Google. This software is very easy to use, although I do get a bit confused with their photo indexing which collects and organizes all of your photos. Pics can be viewed as a slideshow, and also as a timeline, from oldest to youngest in terms of being added to the computer. 
          Now the good stuff, when a photo is double clicked on, the photo editing mode is entered, here you can do all sorts of quick, easy, but effective stuff. First of all there are Basic Fixes including adjustments for colour and red eye removal, next Tuning involves increasing highlights, adjusting colour temperature, and finally Effects can produce a black and white photo in one click, sharpen an image, and various focus options. Photos can be starred and then exported to an album, or uploaded to Web Albums which is basically an online photo storage solution that allows photos to be viewed by others and can be accessed through GMail and there are various gadgets that can be added Googles webpage development tool Google Page Creator. Through Picasa, photos can be quickly emailed, printed (prints can also be ordered), or blogged about. 

Before Picasa

After Picasa

Saturday, 14 June 2008

PDFs Now Viewable in Google Docs

          Good news for all of you Google Docs users, PDFs can now be uploaded and viewed in Google Docs. They are uploaded just like any other document, the file size limit is 10 MB if uploaded from your computer, and 2 MB from the web, and 100 PDFs can be uploaded in total. I uploaded a 210 kb file, and it was super fast. In the Official Google Docs Blog they also mention that the PDFs are not editable....yet, I can't wait for this feature to be added. 
          I just love the way how everything can be stored online, it just makes life easier. For example, I am currently conducting some drinking water quality research which equates to a ton of PDFs. These are currently on my work computer, so if I want to view one of these at home, I need to transfer it to a USB memory stick, which in the rush to finish the workday, I often forget. Now I can upload all of my PDFs, and view them anywhere, life just got a whole lot easier. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Google Store

It seems like everyday I find something new with Google, today is is the Google Store. Here you can buy a bunch of stuff ranging from office supplies to mens and women clothing, all with Google and/or Blogger logos on it. It is environmentally friendly, with most of the clothing being organic and a lot of product packaging being made from recycled products. Currently, shipping is free in the US for all items shipped via UPS ground in the continental US, shipping rates to Canada are reasonable. I am definitely ordering a Blogger t-shirt , I'll put posts when I order it and receive it, along with pricing. 

Monday, 9 June 2008

New iphone

As expected, Apple announced the new iphone today, the cost is around $199 (American), and is going to be released in 70 countries, including Canada where Rogers will be the provider, both are going to make a ton of money off of this. The new iphone will have 300 standby hours of battery life, five hours talk time, 7 hours of video, and 24 hours of audio. As for surfing the web, it is about 3x faster than previous generation iphones. Along with this, there is a strong emphasis on Apps for both the ipod touch and iphone such as video games and a mobile version of ebay. Looks like Apple has another winner.

                         Steve Jobs giving his keynote speech

Google Talk Labs Edition

I am a huge fan of Google products and for the most part I think that they are advanced and easy to use. The product that was needing an update was Google Talk and it finally happened with Google Talk Labs Edition. The program itself is super fast and responsive, not like that Microsoft Messenger junk. Contacts that you are currently chatting with are viewed as tabs, and emoticons have finally been added. Besides that you can launch Gmail, Calendar, and Orkut directly from Google Talk ,there is a snooze option where you can disable notifications for 1 hour and the interface is a lot more pleasing to the eyes. Google Talk Labs Edition is a success. 

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Apple WWDC 2008

Tomorrow (Monday, June 8th) at 1 pm eastern time, or 2:30 Newfoundland Time, Steve Jobs the CEO of apple will deliver his keynote speech at the Apple WorldWide Developer Conference. It is expected (almost 100%) that a new 3G (= faster) 8 GB iphone will be announced, the current ones are 8 GB and 16 GB. For more details on this and photos visit Mac Rumors . Another rumor that hopefully will happen is a new redesigned Macbook, either way I'm buying one in August. I am totally addicted to Apple now, and I don't even own a Mac. The whole Apple image is just smoking hot, its the cool thing to have, and it works, and makes life easier, Apple is da bomb!!

Google Spreadsheets

Google Spreadsheets is part of the Google Docs software that is free and done online. It has standard spreadsheet features such as a ton of functions (equations), freeze rows/columns, and insert images/charts, although this is a bit limited. Hopefully in the near future they will add a quick button for producing a line of best fit (aka trendline). What I love about Google Spreadsheets and the whole line of documents is that it is done online which equals to  zero file transfers. I can work in my office on a spreadsheet, and save it (it autosaves very frequently, kind of like blogger) and then view and edit the same spreadsheet at home without transferring any files. I can easily invite friends to view or edit the spreadsheet, and it can be published to allow people to see it. When editing the spreadsheet, it is done in real time, such that me and a colleague can be edition the same spreadsheet but on different computers. 
Those geniuses at Google have also solved the problem of loosing your internet connection. They refer to this as "offline access", all you need to do is install Google Gears, and it is done by "cloud computing." Microsoft feared this feature so much that they came up with their own version, but it is extremely slow and you need the expensive Office software in order for it to work. Googles version is fast, with minimal delays. 
Compared to other popular spreadsheets like Excel and Calc, it is somewhat basic, but I think it is good for the average persons needs. Features are constantly being added that are based mostly on user demand and it has advanced quite alot since its release. If you need help, you can search Google Groups which has all of the answers to most problems plus Google Docs has a good help page. Google has yet another hit software product. 

    Google Docs Offline Access

Friday, 6 June 2008

Ethanol as Biofuel

Thursday night I watched a really good episode on the use of ethanol as a biofuel in Canada, it was aired on CBC's The National. The main points of the story were:
  1. Neither environmentalists nor business wanted to use ethanol as a biofuel, it was a government thing. 
  2. Government created a market for ethanol by requiring all gasoline sold in Canada by 2010 to contain 5% ethanol. 
  3. There are some ethanol plants in Canada, but there is not enough corn grown so it has to be imported from the US.
  4. Major environmental problems of this include high CO2 and smog emissions released from combustion of it, agricultural runoff from farmlands used for growing corn leads to eutrophication, ethanol which is very water soluble can enter ground and drinking water and eventually may end up in drinking water supplies, land that was once used for growing food is now used for biofuel source production thus decreasing food supply and increasing prices, and producing ethanol is very energy intensive.
  5. If all of the agricultural land in the world was used to make ethanol, it would only meet a fraction of the world's energy demand. 
I guess the final point that we can take home from this is that ethanol is definitely not the solution to our energy supply problems and we should be focussing more on energy reduction and more environmentally friendly renewable forms of energy.

Gmail Labs

Today when I checked my Gmail account, and went under Settings, I discovered a new feature titled labs. I had been familiar with Google labs where new products are released and public users provide feedback. After discovering this new feature I went to the Gmail blog and did some "research." Currently there are 13 features, with many more on the way. I really haven't played around with them, but there are some excellent ones such as Superstars which adds additional star icons, Custom Keyboard Shortcuts (self explanatory), and Mouse Gestures which allows the mouse to control navigation of email messages. Its because of this openness, and features such as a 7GB storage, and access to photos, calendars, and documents all within the Gmail interface that makes it so appealing. I love Gmail!!!

                                Reasons to Use Gmail

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Chlorine Disinfection ByProducts (CDBPs)

As the name says, these potentially and possibly carcinogenic chemicals, both small and large, are produced as a result of chlorine that is used in chlorination reacting with dissolved organic matter (DOM, the stuff that gives some water a yellow-brown colour) in natural waters. In my neck of the woods, Newfoundland and Labrador, it is a real problem, some communities have values of the most well studied group, trihalomethanes (which contain chloroform), at 800 parts per billion (ppb), this is 8x greater than the Canadian Drinking Water Guideline. The actual mass/volume consumed may not seem like alot, but one should realize the amount of water consumed over a week, month, or year. I should mention that this problem is not just a Newfoundland and Labrador thing, it is in most places that use chlorine as a form of chlorination and researchers think that there are over 500 different compounds produced. We could simply stop using chlorination, but the untreated water may cause sickness from bacterial growth. Other forms of disinfection are available, but these are not as simple and cheep as chlorination, or have a residual effect, and some such as ozonation also produce toxic byproducts. The question is, what should we do?

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

itunes Movie Rentals Comes to Canada Eh!

Today Apple announced that in Canada (and the UK), movie rentals and purchases can now be done through itunes, this is amazing!! The current selection is at 1200; if I wanted to watch Juno, it would cost $4.99 (all prices are in Canadian) to rent, or $19.99 to buy, no more driving to the local Blockbuster!! I think that you have 28 (or 30) days to watch the rental, but if you start watching the movie, you have 2 days to finish it. I haven't actually tried it yet, but when I do I'll post something, although I am really cheep. On another note, as things are moving online, such as music and movies, some of the evil internet providers like Rogers  are starting to place download limits on customers and if they go over this, they have to pay extra, what a bunch of idiots!! Everything is moving online, including the once "desktop" software, I think it is outrageous they are doing this, we all have to fight the power!!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Definitely Buying a Mac!

There has been an executive decision made by me, myself, and I, a Macbook will be purchased sometime this summer for Sheldon Huelin. Today Apple announced the Back to School promo which is very attractive; if you buy a Mac for college, you can get a free ipod nano or touch. There are some restrictions, but basically it applies to students, faculty, and staff and you can get up to a $319 (Canadian) rebate toward the ipod, so you really get an 8GB ipod touch for free. I am definitely going for the ipod touch, woo woo!!

                                Touch the ipod touch