Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Google Search is Cool and not Cuil

Like most people, when I want to search something, I use Google. I've tried other search engines and they don't have the same appeal, either their interface is unattractive or the search results are just poor. A couple days ago, Cuil (pronounced cool) came along, a new search engine created by two former Google employees. Claims were made that they have 3x as many webpages indexed as Google and they protect a persons private information (i.e., no weblogs), some were seeing this as a definite Google killer. I tried it out, and my experience was not cool. For the first three hours I couldn't type anything into the search box, apparently they had a server failure, results are given in columns so its hard to tell which hit is the most relevant, and I couldn't figure out how to do an image search. Two aspects that I did like was the Explore by Category Box and the tabbed bar at the top which gives relevant searches, click on this link to see the result of typing Google in the Cuil search engine. I think that Google Search offers so much more, such as specifically searching books, journal articles, news, images, blogs, maps..etc, basically more options are available for the searcher. Also, people turn to Google for so much more than search, I use Docs for Office-like applications but online, Google Earth to explore the world, Gmail for email, Calendar to organize my life, and the lists goes on.
Cuil is not Cool or Kool
In response (I think so anyways) today Google announced some new search features (will start appearing in the next few days) to allow searchers how their results are customized and these will appear as messages in the upper right corner of the search results page. When "more details" is clicked on, information on location (based on computer's IP address and can be specified by the user), recent searches (kept for a limited time and deleted when browser is closed), and web history (which can be signed out of). As Google admitted when Cuil was released, competition is good for business. This new ability to view some of those search secrets is a huge step forward for the internet searcher.

Monday, 28 July 2008

I've Been on Vacation but Google Hasn't

For the past 2 weeks I have been on vacation, enjoying life on the west coast of Newfoundland, it has been excellent. Now it is time to get back to work, and briefly summarize what has been happening in the world of Google, here it goes:

  • Walking directions are now available in Google Earth and Maps, both are in beta.
  • Check out the 100 panoramas for Havana Cuba available at the 360 Cities website or they can be viewed in Google Earth.
  • There is a new version of Google Earth 4.3 (beta) available here.
  • 10 years ago the very first Google index had 26 million pages, last week it hit 1 trillion.
  • Google Knol was released to the public last week. Knols are defined as "authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects." This service is similar to wikipedia except the author identity is given, and authors can receive money via advertising for their entries. I gave it a quick look and read an article on Psoriasis, the author's name, picture, and job was provided and when his name was clicked on, more info was given.
  • Google Docs announced that templates are present for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. As of today, the total number available is 309. I think this is an excellent advance for the google docs package. I have to work on a resume for my brother, and I will be using one of the many templates for resumes available with Google Docs. As more great features like this are added, Google Docs will be an Office killer.
I think the biggest news is Google Knol, this is getting excellent reviews and provides accountability to a huge section of information available on the web. Time to go work on one of those knols.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Pay Attention Microsoft: We Love XP!!!

Well, its finally time for me to upgrade my work computer after 3 years of intense work as a lab instructor. The basic specs on my old computer are; 3.0 GHZ Pentium 4 processor, 1 GB RAM, 120 GB hard drive, and Windows XP. The computer worked fine, and throughout its lifetime it was very stable but it was slowing down when starting to run memory intensive programs such as Google Earth and Corel Draw. My new computer will have an Athlon 3.0 GHZ dual core processor, 4 GB RAM, and 250 GB hard drive, and it will still have XP. YESSSS!!!! It will come with the Vista installation disks, but it is highly unlikely that I will install it unless vast improvements are made. After reading one of the CNETs blogs, I realize that I am not the only one refusing to buy/install Vista. For example, Intel has decided not to upgrade 80,000 desktops from Windows XP to Vista. I teach at a university and I see a larger proportion of Macs around and I hear one common quote, "I hate Vista, I would of bought a Mac if I had the extra money." Maybe with the amazing back to school deal (free iPod touch with purchase of a Macbook), I'll see even more Macs on campus.

My repulsion toward Vista is based on a brief experience, it was so bad I didn't want to go back. I was trying to use my simple and common 2 GB Kingston USB drive with a Vista Machine, I kept getting messages like "cannot find driver", eventually the machine locked up, and restarting still couldn't get the simple USB drive to work, BRUTAL!!! By no means am I a computer pro, but an operating system be intuitive, work with most current computers, and be able to handle most devices, so far Vista gets a failing grade in all of these. Vista has done Microsoft a ton of damage, I think it has led people to highly criticize anything that they release, and will be like this until they release a better operating system or some software that is just amazing. They better hurry up though, the Mac and Google people are picking away at the Microsoft market share, they realize that like consumers really like innovation, instead of the same ol' crap (sometimes worst) in a different package. On that note, my vacation has officially started, back in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Live with Google Lively

Google released a new 3D virtual social networking experience today and is currently present in Google labs. I visited the lively website and I sort of get the feeling its like Facebook with a more personalized 3D look using characters...not sure if that makes sense so check out the video below. I haven't had a chance to actually try it out yet, but will do so when I return from vacation.

Monday, 7 July 2008

For Those Who Forget to Sign Out of Gmail

This will give information on whether the account is open in another location and the IP address. If you don't know the IP addresses of your computers (I don't!!), click on the
Details link and this will come up:

This will give information on the current open session along with other recent sessions and whether they were accessed by iGoogle, IMAP, mobile... etc and it also provides the IP address of the current computer. Finally, the coolest feature is that all other open sessions can be signed out of, amazing. You gotta love those Gmail updates, especially for us forgetful on the go using multiple computers people!!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Google Roudup for June 29th - July 6th

This week in the world of Google has been somewhat active, but not as much as others. It amazes me that Google is involved with so many projects, and the number is continually growing. Here is a summary of the world of Google for June 29th - July 6th:

  • UbiqWindow has a cool video of a computer screen projected in mid-air a person interacting with Google Earth by touching the hologram. Super cool.
  • Mike Pegg is one lucky and hardworking blogger. He is the writer of the Google MapsMania blog and now product marketing manager of Google Maps API. Pegg was hired on because his blog was so good.

  • If your a Nine Inch Nails, they have released a Google Earth file showing distribution, geographically, for 1.4 million downloads of The Slip, which is their latest album. I'm not a fan of their music, but this is a great idea.
  • The iGoogle gadget of the week is the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Countdown. It should be interesting to see how the poor air quality is going to affect the athletes in Beijing.
  • Google Apps is popular and the number of users is growing very fast. It is just 17 months old, and 500 000 organizations use it as part of their business, and 3 000 sign up daily. Hopefully my workplace will be signing up soon.
  • If your a iPhone or iPod touch user, there is a version of Google Talk designed specifically for both.
  • For those of you interested in seeing top films from around the world, check out the The YouTube Screening Room, where there is a fresh lot of movies.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Tour de France via Google Earth

I'm a recreational cyclist and I love it!! The terrain in my neck of the woods, St. John's, Newfoundland is hilly and we have some strong winds, but besides that there are no real traffic problems and the roads are in OK shape. Like most cyclists I am a Tour de France fan, and I would love to be in good enough shape (without steroids) to complete (not compete) the course, maybe it will happen, maybe.....Anyways, to the point of this posting, Google Earth has Street View imagery (you are given a view from the street) for the whole Tour, it is simply amazing. All you have to do is make sure that the Street View layer is checked off, take a trip via Google Earth to France, look for the camera icon, double click on it, and voila, you can see what the cyclists see, plus you have time to look around. The resolution of the photos is good, I spent 10 minutes looking at a fruit stand along the way, and examining the hill inclines/lengths is exhausting. Go for a ride via Google Earth!!!

Tour de France Street View

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Google Docs Makes Life Easier

Vacation is about to start and as part of the annual event I'm going to take a trip over to my hometown of Robinsons, Newfoundland, located on the West Coast of this great island. The total trip is 800 km, so instead of doing this by myself, I decided to be environmentally friendly and look for passengers. I posted an ad on my workplaces rideshare website and one on Facebook. After not getting any responses, I decided to put posters up around my neighborhood, but before I could do this I would have to create them. I could do this with a traditional offline word processor, in my case Open Office Writer, or I could use Google Documents which is part of the Google Docs pack and done online. If I went by tradition, I would create the document, save it to my hard drive, email it out for comments, review comments, transfer it to a USB Memory stick, bring it to my office, load it to my computer, and print off copies of the posters. This seemed like a lot of work. I used Google Documents and I simply created the document, added others as collaborators, reviewed the final document, and then viewed printed copies at work. Much simpler isn't it? I think that Google Docs is the way of the future, it eliminates all of those file transfer steps and makes collaboration much easier saving you all of that precious time that can be spent surfing the web and watching Youtube videos.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

No More Adsense Referrals :( Google Now Searches Flash :)

Today had some bad news and good news for Google users. First lets start with the bad, Google announced that the AdSense Referral program will be retired at the end of August. For those of you who don't know about this program, it adds a referral button (for a particular product) to a publisher's website, and when someone clicks on this button and connects to the product, the publisher earns money. Google noted during the release today that the Google Affiliate Network, which is basically the DoubleClick Performics Affiliate Network, will replace the AdSense referral program. For any users that are running AdSense referral ads, they will run until the last week in August and any code on the respective website(s) should be removed before then. Google would not say why the program is scrapped, but chances are it wasn't a big cash earner.

Now for the good news. Google has developed a new algorithm for searching Flash files that contain text. To get an idea of how popular Flash is, approximately 98% of internet connected computers have Flash Player installed. The type of Flash files searchable include menus, buttons, websites, and banners. This is good news for web designers of Flash sites, since now they will be more easily seen by those search engine crawlers resulting in much better search results and more advertising money.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all of you Canadians out there!! The things that I love about being Canadian are:
  • Free health care
  • Hockey, hockey, and more hockey
  • CFL football
  • Canadian bacon
  • Canadian hard rock bands such as Alexisonfire, Sum 41, and Billy Talent
  • Tim Hortons coffee
  • Our laid back/relaxed take on life
  • Maple syrup
  • Polar Bears
  • Moose (to watch, not eat)
  • William Shatner
  • Toronto Blues Jays (the baseball team)
These are just a few of the things that I love about Canada, there are many many more. I'm a proud Canadian eh!!