Saturday, 28 February 2009

Drawing in Google Docs...Maybe?

I just got this info over at the Blogoscoped blog. The people over there did some searching and it there are strong hints in the form of images from urls that a drawing feature is coming to Google Docs. This will be a great addition since this is one of the major limitations in Docs, especially Presentations. Currently there are just a few shapes present that can be resized, but it's very limited. Hopefully this will happen soon, and personally I think it should already be there, since other cloud computing presentation apps have it (i.e., Zoho). 

Friday, 27 February 2009

Google Maps: Maps Maker Graduates and User Photos In Street View

Google Maps is a fantastic program, and what's making it even better is that users like yourself, can edit maps and release them to the web via Google Maps Maker. This week, there were 16 graduates (countries) and these are now all present in Maps:

There has been a lot of work put into these Maps, some users have added up to 10,000 edits. This is truly fantastic that people will commit their time to work on editing these maps. I guess the whole driving force between this and open source in general is that people enjoy working on projects that they are extremely interested in. Anyways, check out the before and after photo below to see how this editing has added to the richness of Google Maps:
Another feature added to Maps is popular photos in Panoramio can now be viewed in Streetview
Check out the video below to see how amazingly awesome this is. Soon there will be no need to travel to places, everything will be in Google Maps!!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Blogger Gets a New Friend: Friend Connect

Again, Google is trying to get more social. Until today, the only social feature was Following, now this has combined with Google Friend Connect to make blogging even more social. When a follower joins a site, it will show in their Friend connect profile, allowing more and more exposure to blogs. Google decided to add this feature because Following was limited to Blogger sites, now any site (i.e., wordpress) that has Friend Connect can be followed. Note that for blogs that were already using Following, they have been migrated to Friend Connect. I think this is a great feature and is fantastic for the evolution of social networking from a handful of websites to millions. 

Check Google's Health With Apps. Status Dashboard

As you know, Google has a lot of apps. out there. Most of the time they are working, occasionally, as seen on Tuesday with Gmail's outage, they fail. So, Google has decided to make available the Google Apps Status Dashboard. With this, you can check the status of the apps, such as service disruptions of service outages. This will be excellent when problems are encountered and users are unsure if its a problem on their end or Google's end. This is definitely another piece of the Google Operating System

Google Adds New Attachment Interface for Gmail

Finally, a mainstream email app. has read my mind about the problem with adding attachments to an email. Google announced yesterday that multiple attachments for Gmail can be selected by simply holding the Ctrl or Shift key. I gave it a try and it is fantastic. In the past a user would have to click on attach, find the file, then click on open and then repeat this for x number of attachments. Now this is simplified to a few clicks. This is a big time saver and reinforces my decision I made 2 years ago that Gmail is the best web email out there. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gmail Outage: Maybe They Want Everyone To Go Offline?

Update: On The Official Google Blog, an announcement has been made stating that the Gmail outage is over. Many apologies are also present on this post. 

At first I thought it was my internet connection as I saw
Gmail loading very slow and then no new messages were on in my inbox; this was at my home computer where offline access is not enabled. I came to work and could check emails that came in last night since I have offline access enabled on my work computer, maybe Google wants everyone to have this?  Maybe they are saying, "if you had offline access enable, you could check those important emails." Next I came across this post on the Official Google Blog. The problem with Gmail was discovered 9:30 GMT, and right as I am writing this post, Gmail appears to be working again in Canada and most of the US. Anyways, when events like this happen, it brings up the scariest point when depending on the cloud, if it goes down, all of our services will also go. For me, the advantages of cloud computing heavily outweigh this disadvantage. 

Friday, 20 February 2009

Google Earth API Works in Chrome

Finally, the Google Earth API works in Chrome. This was  a major pain for Chrome users, because to see some of the cool stuff being done with the Google Earth API, we would have to use another browser such as FireFox. The API seems to be a bit faster in Chrome, but the difference with other browsers is not as great as webpage load times. The next thing needed in Chrome, is image resize handles, I hate having to go into the HTML and adjusting image size. 

Google Presentations Gets New Features

It seems that the folks at Google Docs have been listening to their users, more features have been added to Google Presentations.
  1. Objects can be flipped horizontally and vertically. The Docs team is calling this rotate, but it is far from true rotation.
  2. Objects can be aligned to different areas of slides.
  3. There can now be an even distribution of x and y space between objects.
  4. Objects can be horizontally and vertically centered on slides.
  5. In Presentation mode, the default is no longer showing the Chat sidebar. Also, various options such as Printing and Producing a Duplicate are available from a menu at the bottom of the screen.
These are OK additions, but where are the major additions such as insert symbols, true rotation, more animations, slide transitions, and the ability to draw objects. Currently I am using Sliderocket to work on a presentation, it is much more advanced than Google Presentations. I'm seriously considering using this to meet my presentation needs.

Google Tells Canada How to Manage It's Internet

As I was doing some web browsing I came across this excellent interview between the CBC and Richard Whitt, Google Inc.'s chief telecommunications and media lobbyist in Washington. The interview discusses differences between Canada's and the US's view/plan for broadband infrastructure. As many of my fellow Canadians know, we are definitely behind our neighbours to the south; our cellphone selection is very limited (no GPhone up here), cellphone and internet rates are much higher up here, there is no talk of a 4G network, and many rural communities still have dial up!! Here are some highlights of the interview:
  • The recession may hurt the climb towards 4G and the stimulus package doesn't give enough money for this goal.
  • More conservative governments (like ours) usually lead to lower involvement in infrastructure such as broadband.
  • More competition is needed in Canada (i.e., Rogers is the only carrier of the iPhone).
  • Throttling benefits are not really known and thus should probably be avoided. Maybe the heavy users should be charged more?
  • Witt seems to be a fan of Verizon's business plan of offering a better (faster) service to customers and expected more to follow.
  • He provides a good description of the economic benefits of broadband, from the "digging of the trenches" to applications developed by companies.
  • Witt provides his view of net neutrality, here are some quotes:

    "the internet is the biggest success story in the history of human interconnection"

    "a place (the internet) where barriers to entry are very low with various innovations and entrepreneurship [resulting]."

    "The problem is, if you start creating hurdles by blocking it (the internet) or creating fast lanes and slow lanes and broadband companies picking winners and losers, all of that creates the wrong kind of impediments to innovation"

    "Google is a company that was born and raised on the internet, we wouldn't be here without it, so we very much believe in the principle of innovation without permission."
So, if you get a chance, definitely give this interview a read through. Excellent job CBC on posting such a good sci/tech story.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Google's Gmail Allows Theme Customization

Well, here goes another weekly Gmail update. This amazing web app. now lets users choose their own colors for themes. All you have to do to activate this is visit Settings and click on Themes and then locate Choose Your Own Colors. Once changes are made, you can go back to the defaults by clicking on "Reset." Gmail is getting amazingly customizable. I tried out both Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, and in terms of features/customization, they are very primitive compared to Gmail. I think that if Google could find a workaround for the scary Patriot Act, more schools/governments/businesses would sign up. Anyways, great work Gmail team.  

Google Docs Moves To The Desktop...Sort Of

The Google Docs Team has added a nice feature; Docs, along with Calendar and Gmail, can now be accessed from the desktop. To get this, just go to Google Pack, and there is an option to install desktop access points, in the form of start menu items, desktop shortcuts, and in the add/remove programs section. Gmail can be chosen as your default mail client and all three of the apps can be used in a tab/address bar/bookmark bar - free version of Chrome. I think this is a nice addition, but they should focus more on putting features (i.e., more objects in Presentations) into the Google Docs apps and make it more robust like Zoho. Anyways, check out the pics below of the installation process and what the finished product looks like.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Editing Google Spreadsheets With Your Mobile Device

The Google Docs people have released another great feature, the ability to edit spreadsheets on the T-Mobile G1, the iPhone and iPod touch, and the Nokia S60. To give it a try, go to This is a fantastic feature and will make mobile computing even better. I am still amazed that we can view cloud based spreadsheets/docs on cellphones, and now with the ability to edit them, it is mind blowing.

Update: Google has also added more features to spreadsheets.  Data validation has been added, which allows control over what collaborators can enter into a spreadsheet. Forum summarys can now be viewed for a spreadsheet, and the size limit of spreadsheets has been increased. 

Google Chrome on the Mac

I just got this screenshot from the chromium developer group of the Chrome browser for Mac. So, it seems as if they are on track to get it released within the first half of 2009, maybe a browser version could be next?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Chromium Updates Dictionaries; Google Gets More Social

As most of you may know, spell check can sometimes be wrong in browsers which means they are in need of an update. Over at the Chromium blog, they recently announced that they have been updating the dictionaries for the Chrome browser. They have added more than 1000 words and the recent dev-channel release has these updates. Now when you type in words like antivirus or webcam, they will appear as correct spellings. 
Now to the second part of the heading, Google is definitely getting more socialGoogle Friend Connect has been out for a while now, yesterday Google announced a new social bar and a new social web blog. This can be placed at the top or bottom of your page and will basically allow visitors to interact with each other. For more details check out the video below. I think this is going to be big for Google. People are getting tired of being social on just a handful of sites that, for the most part, remain very static and have very little customization. Also, similar people look at similar websites, this will allow people to socially connect easier. Great work Google. 

Locating A Person With Gmail

Gmail had added another great innovative feature, email signatures can now contain the location where the email was sent from.  This is easily activated in labs and looks like the pic below:

It simply works by using your public IP address which means it may not be accurate all of the time. On the blog post, they mention that your browser of choice should have the latest version of 
Gears to ensure accuracy. This is an excellent feature that I'll be definitely activating for my emails. Gmail is definitely the fastest evolving email out there, and is catching up with the two biggies, Hotmail and Yahoo mail. 

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Javascript Master

For all of you Javascript heads out there, check out this video by the JavaScript King, John Resig. I've been trying to get through the Google code post, thank goodness for Google Search. I'm realizing that I have so much more to learn about JavaScript.

Calendar/Contact Synching for iPhone and Windows Mobile

My girlfriend has had a Blackberry Pearl for 8 months and I've heard her mention quite a few times about syncing Google Calendar and Gmail contacts with her Blackberry calendar and contacts information, now it is available for the iPhone and Windows Mobile devices.This is an amazing app, basically contacts and calendar events will be synced between your phone and Gmail/Google calendar, all within a matter of minutes. This will be really useful when upgrading your phone. In the past 8 months I have went through 3 phones (2 broke within 30 days), and having to enter contact information is a real pain. So, in order for this to work, your phone must support SyncML (do a Google search to see if your phone is supported). If your phone can support this awesome feature, check the  device-specific information. My phone, the LG-Dare, doesn't support this feature, boohoo, but it is a nice user friendly phone, hopefully in the future LG and Google will become friends.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Print Preview in Google Docs

Finally, Google Docs has gotten print preview. I've been wishing for this feature a lot over the past year as I was getting tired of exporting the file to .pdf, going back to the Google Docs file to make the appropriate changes, the back to .pdf, and so on. With this new feature, documents (not spreadsheets or presentations) can be previewed before printing . 

The print preview viewer is very similar to the .pdf viewer, the only difference is that print settings can be accessed. This is a nice addition, and will make printing exams for my students much easier. Jeez, has this ever been a busy week for Google, announcements galore!!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Google Docs Offline Access Now In More Languages

Finally, Google Docs gets an update, offline access is now available in 29 languages!! This is a great addition but remember that only documents can be edited offline, spreadsheets and presentations can't but they can be viewed.  Also, .pdf files cannot be viewed offline. Personally, I don't find these limitations that major because I am rarely without a connection. I cannot remember ever loosing the internet connection at work (time = 42 months) or in my current apartment (time = 36 months). Nowadays, we can't survive without this connection to the world, with the exception of Docs :)

Google News + Your Site

Google News can now be easily added to your site.  All you have to do is go to this simple wizard, and with a few clicks, you can add this neat feature to your website. Basically, you can control the type of news stories viewed on your site, check out mine below. I use Google News for most of my reading, I really enjoy getting news from various sources, way to go Google. 

Google Chrome's Market Share Increases Again

At the expense of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome's market share has increased to 1.12% in January from 1.04 in December. IE is at 67.55% (a drop of 7% in 1 year), FF is 21.53%, and Safari at 8.29%. These numbers came from Market Share and are considered very reliable. Hopefully the numbers will continue to increase for Chrome, the fastest browser (according to benchmark tests).

Browser Usage (Source: Market Share)

Monday, 2 February 2009

Google Earth 5.0 and Gmail Tasks for the iPhone/android

     Well, today has been a big day for Google, it began with the announcement of Google Earth 5.0 and continued with Gmail tasks available for iPhone and Android users. With Google Earth 5.0, you can now explore the ocean. I downloaded 5.0 and gave it a shot, it is truly amazing when you hold down on the PageUp key to zoom in and you go beneath the ocean and can travel the seafloor in 3D. I won't say much more about this, but definitely check out any continental shelf, the relief here is amazing. It should be noted that you have to check off the new ocean layer to do this exploring, also there are tonnes of data points for your ocean exploring. Other features of this update are historical imagery, which allows you to see several images over the years for many different locations (given as a timeline), make sure to check out the melting of the polar ice caps, truly scary. This new version of Google Earth also has 3D Mars, I haven't had time to check it out, but you can explore the 3D terrain of Mars (in the same menu location as Sky) and there are a lot of high resolution images. The final feature is Touring, which allows users to easily add narrated, flythroughs of tour locations. 
    The other announcement, not quite as big though, is Gmail tasks are now available for iPhone and Android users, and can be accessed from any xhtml phone. Like the Gmail computer version, tasks can be added/deleted with ease. Make sure to check out the official Gmail blog for a very funny way of promoting their new tasks addition. 

Explore the ocean (above) and new Gmail Tasks for Mobile (below).

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Google Docs:2009

I spend a lot of time using Google Docs, it meets all of my needs plus I love having access to my files from anywhere, it is truly fantastic. Recently, I discovered that I can view documents and spreadsheets on my newest toy, the LG Dare. So, I've been wondering , what does Google Docs have in store for 2009. Next, I decided to do a Google News Search, and came across a recent interview by the folks at VentureBeat with the Product Manager of Google Docs, Jonathan Rochelle, here are the highlights:
  1. Expect an increased integration amongst Google Docs and Apps.
  2. The Docs team seem unphased by Microsoft's and Apple's plans for online collaboration tools.
  3. Google Docs will add features to satisfy most users. The app will get bigger, but not so big that it becomes confusing to use (unlike Office 2007).
  4. Google Docs will continue to be free.
  5. It will probably be a beta product for most of 2009
To see the full article, click here. 2009 looks like its going to be exciting for Docs users.