Palm lays the smack down on Pre theme for Android

Posted on August 13, 2009. Filed under: Google, Mobile World | Tags: , , |

By Chris Ziegler, Engadget


Android’s supposed to be all about peace, love, and openness, but that apparently doesn’t exempt it from copyright law and trigger-happy general counsels (who knew?). In a move that should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, Palm has sicced its legal team on the makers of the aptly-named “Palm Pre Android Theme” that borrows icons, wallpapers, and mojo (not to be confused with Mojo) directly from webOS. The concerns center around the usual suspects — graphics copyrights and trademark infringement — and the company is demanding that they cease use of the Pre’s interface, name, and all that good stuff by some date that’s been redacted from the leaked letter (we’re assuming it’s soon). To be fair, Palm comes out and says that it “appreciates that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery,” but at the end of the day, they’re concerned about the potential for consumer confusion. Interestingly, to the best of our knowledge, they haven’t given the iPhone-based theme the same treatment — but hey, maybe it’s easier to confuse a Hero with a Pre than it is an iPhone… or something.

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Google Chrome to reach v4 before Firefox? Work begins on Chromium 4.0

Posted on August 13, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

google chrome
Version numbers probably mean more to the general public than to regulars at DownloadSquad. When it comes to Chrome, however, Google seems like they’re hoping to catch up with Opera by the end of next year.

After doing an install from Buildbot’s snapshots, I checked Chromium’s about screen. Lo and behold, build 23129 is tagged as While it’s just a number, it means, of course, Chrome will likely hit v4 long before Firefox ever does.

Other than the version number I haven’t noted any obvious changes as of yet.

Technical Program Manager Anthony LaForge posted a note to the Chromium-dev board announcing that the move was made to reflect the code freeze on Chrome v3. “There is still a bit of work that needs to be done for 3.0 in terms of stability and fixes,” he wrote. “To that end we will be pulling changes into the 195 branch (what will become the stable release).”

This isn’t the first quick version-to-version jump Chrome has seen. Chrome 3 hit the dev channel less than a week after Chrome 2’s release back in May. Looks like I was off the mark about Chrome hitting version 8 or 9 before Google ditched the beta tag on GMail…

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How to opt out of Google and protect your privacy: Move to remote village

Posted on August 12, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad

google remote village

may be the top search engine in the world, and it may collect a lot of data about you if you use its email, chat, photo, or video services. Heck, even if you’ve avoided every Google product, Google probably still knows a few things about you if you’ve ever done anything that might have possibly left a trail on the web.

But America’s finest news source, The Onion, lets us know that Google has a new service that lets you opt out. All you have to do is click the opt-out button and a van will show up at your door and relocate you to a remote 22 acre village where you’ll be expected to sever all contact with the outside world. Your home will be destroyed to protect your privacy.

You can check out The Onion’s satirical video after the break. Sure, it’s all a joke. But you know what? It does highlight just how difficult it is to stay off the grid in the age of the internet.

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20 Great Google Secrets

Posted on August 11, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet Market, SEO | Tags: , , |,4149,1306756,00.asp

excl.gif No Active Links, Read the Rules – Edit by Ninja excl.gif

Google is clearly the best general-purpose search engine on the Web (see

But most people don’t use it to its best advantage. Do you just plug in a keyword or two and hope for the best? That may be the quickest way to search, but with more than 3 billion pages in Google’s index, it’s still a struggle to pare results to a manageable number.

But Google is an remarkably powerful tool that can ease and enhance your Internet exploration. Google’s search options go beyond simple keywords, the Web, and even its own programmers. Let’s look at some of Google’s lesser-known options.

Syntax Search Tricks

Using a special syntax is a way to tell Google that you want to restrict your searches to certain elements or characteristics of Web pages. Google has a fairly complete list of its syntax elements at

. Here are some advanced operators that can help narrow down your search results.

Intitle: at the beginning of a query word or phrase (intitle:”Three Blind Mice”) restricts your search results to just the titles of Web pages.

Intext: does the opposite of intitle:, searching only the body text, ignoring titles, links, and so forth. Intext: is perfect when what you’re searching for might commonly appear in URLs. If you’re looking for the term HTML, for example, and you don’t want to get results such as

, you can enter intext:html.

Link: lets you see which pages are linking to your Web page or to another page you’re interested in. For example, try typing in


Try using site: (which restricts results to top-level domains) with intitle: to find certain types of pages. For example, get scholarly pages about Mark Twain by searching for intitle:”Mark Twain”site:edu. Experiment with mixing various elements; you’ll develop several strategies for finding the stuff you want more effectively. The site: command is very helpful as an alternative to the mediocre search engines built into many sites.

Swiss Army Google

Google has a number of services that can help you accomplish tasks you may never have thought to use Google for. For example, the new calculator feature


lets you do both math and a variety of conversions from the search box. For extra fun, try the query “Answer to life the universe and everything.”

Let Google help you figure out whether you’ve got the right spelling—and the right word—for your search. Enter a misspelled word or phrase into the query box (try “thre blund mise”) and Google may suggest a proper spelling. This doesn’t always succeed; it works best when the word you’re searching for can be found in a dictionary. Once you search for a properly spelled word, look at the results page, which repeats your query. (If you’re searching for “three blind mice,” underneath the search window will appear a statement such as Searched the web for “three blind mice.”) You’ll discover that you can click on each word in your search phrase and get a definition from a dictionary.

Suppose you want to contact someone and don’t have his phone number handy. Google can help you with that, too. Just enter a name, city, and state. (The city is optional, but you must enter a state.) If a phone number matches the listing, you’ll see it at the top of the search results along with a map link to the address. If you’d rather restrict your results, use rphonebook: for residential listings or bphonebook: for business listings. If you’d rather use a search form for business phone listings, try Yellow Search


Extended Googling

Google offers several services that give you a head start in focusing your search. Google Groups


indexes literally millions of messages from decades of discussion on Usenet. Google even helps you with your shopping via two tools: Froogle

which indexes products from online stores, and Google Catalogs

which features products from more 6,000 paper catalogs in a searchable index. And this only scratches the surface. You can get a complete list of Google’s tools and services at

You’re probably used to using Google in your browser. But have you ever thought of using Google outside your browser?

Google Alert


monitors your search terms and e-mails you information about new additions to Google’s Web index. (Google Alert is not affiliated with Google; it uses Google’s Web services API to perform its searches.) If you’re more interested in news stories than general Web content, check out the beta version of Google News Alerts


This service (which is affiliated with Google) will monitor up to 50 news queries per e-mail address and send you information about news stories that match your query. (Hint: Use the intitle: and source: syntax elements with Google News to limit the number of alerts you get.)

Google on the telephone? Yup. This service is brought to you by the folks at Google Labs


a place for experimental Google ideas and features (which may come and go, so what’s there at this writing might not be there when you decide to check it out). With Google Voice Search


you dial the Voice Search phone number, speak your keywords, and then click on the indicated link. Every time you say a new search term, the results page will refresh with your new query (you must have JavaScript enabled for this to work). Remember, this service is still in an experimental phase, so don’t expect 100 percent success.

In 2002, Google released the Google API (application programming interface), a way for programmers to access Google’s search engine results without violating the Google Terms of Service. A lot of people have created useful (and occasionally not-so-useful but interesting) applications not available from Google itself, such as Google Alert. For many applications, you’ll need an API key, which is available free from

. See the figures for two more examples, and visit

for more.

Thanks to its many different search properties, Google goes far beyond a regular search engine. Give the tricks in this article a try. You’ll be amazed at how many different ways Google can improve your Internet searching.

Online Extra: More Google Tips

Here are a few more clever ways to tweak your Google searches.

Search Within a Timeframe

Daterange: (start date–end date). You can restrict your searches to pages that were indexed within a certain time period. Daterange: searches by when Google indexed a page, not when the page itself was created. This operator can help you ensure that results will have fresh content (by using recent dates), or you can use it to avoid a topic’s current-news blizzard and concentrate only on older results. Daterange: is actually more useful if you go elsewhere to take advantage of it, because daterange: requires Julian dates, not standard Gregorian dates. You can find converters on the Web (such as


excl.gif No Active Links, Read the Rules – Edit by Ninja excl.gif

), but an easier way is to do a Google daterange: search by filling in a form at or

. If one special syntax element is good, two must be better, right? Sometimes. Though some operators can’t be mixed (you can’t use the link: operator with anything else) many can be, quickly narrowing your results to a less overwhelming number.

More Google API Applications offers three tools based on the Google API. The Google API Web Search by Host (GAWSH) lists the Web hosts of the results for a given query


When you click on the triangle next to each host, you get a list of results for that host. The Google API Relation Browsing Outliner (GARBO) is a little more complicated: You enter a URL and choose whether you want pages that related to the URL or linked to the URL


Click on the triangle next to an URL to get a list of pages linked or related to that particular URL. CapeMail is an e-mail search application that allows you to send an e-mail to with the text of your query in the subject line and get the first ten results for that query back. Maybe it’s not something you’d do every day, but if your cell phone does e-mail and doesn’t do Web browsing, this is a very handy address to know.

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Google unveils Caffeine: Next-generation search tech

Posted on August 11, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad


Google is turning to the public (or rather, web developers) for help testing its next-generation search infrastructure, code-named “Caffeine.” The changes have to do with the way Google crawls the web and indexes content, so you shouldn’t notice any changes int he search engine interface.

In order to try out the new version, visit, and start searching. You can share feedback with Google by hitting the “Dissatisfied? Help us improve” box at the bottom of the page and sending a message with the word “caffeine” in it.

Overall, the search results look pretty similar, but there are a few minor changes. Some items may be ordered a little differently, while the text descriptions of some pages look different.

If you aren’t particularly interested in testing the new technology to help Google out, here’s another reason to give it a try: As far as I can tell, there are no ads on the Caffeine interface. I’ve conducted a few dozen searches, and so far I haven’t seen a single sponsored result. Of course, that’ll change by the time the new code is integrated into Google’s main product. But it’s nice while it lasts.

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Latest Google Chrome dev build adds Windows 7 jumplist support

Posted on August 10, 2009. Filed under: Google, Windows | Tags: , , |

By Lee Mathews, Downloadsquad


Though the recent release of Firefox 3.6 alpha 1 didn’t prioritize support for Windows 7’s jumplists, Google has flicked the switch in the latest developer channel build of Chrome.

As you can see in the screenshot above, Chrome’s jumplist works just like any other in Windows 7. Recently browsed sites are listed below those you pin to the list. Space is also reserved for quick access to recently closed tabs and opening new windows – both normal and incognito.

Quick access to (I might as well say it) porn mode is a welcome change. Sure, you could set up it yourself by adding a command line argument to your Chrome shortcut, but this is a much more elegant solution. That’s assuming, of course, you’re on Windows 7 and can take advantage of the feature.

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Google Earth Pinpoints Where Missile Targeted Taliban

Posted on August 10, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , |

By Erick Schonfeld, Tech crunch


The leader of Pakistan’s Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, may or may not be dead after a CIA missile hits his father-in-law’s home in the remote “Zangarha area” of the country. But now we can see exactly where that missile hit, and we don’t even need access to a spy satellite. Thanks to Google Earth, we get the image above.

Stefan Geens pinpointed the location on his blog Ogle Earth using location information gathered from news accounts. He also figured out where the supposed burial ground was. A decade ago, only a handful of people would have had access to such satellite imagery. Today, anyone can download it for free. CIA and military satellites are still higher resolution, but it makes you wonder how fast the geo-information gap between governments and citizens is closing.

We’ve also seen recently how the Untied States Holocaust Memorial Museum is using Google Earth to graphically document the ongoing genocide in Darfur. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to hide from Google Earth, which makes us all Big Brother in a sense. That’s a good thing (better us than a single government or corporation).

Unfortunately, Google Earth is only retrospective. You can’t see what is happening across the globe right now. Maybe one dayit will be closer to real time.

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How I Learned To Quit The iPhone And Love Google Voice

Posted on August 10, 2009. Filed under: Google, iPhone, Mobile World | Tags: , , |

By Michael Arrington, Tech crunch

noiphoneAt the end of July I declared my intention to quit the iPhone and AT&T, port my mobile phone number to Google Voice and use any mobile device that I pleased (or lots of them at once) in the future. Like others, I will no longer blindly follow all things Apple. Today I’m pleased to report a status update on those efforts: complete. I am no longer a member of the Cult of iPhone.

Porting my phone number to Google Voice was a three day process, which I was pre-warned about. The mobile carriers in the U.S. have made the porting process between them fairly easy, and it occurs over a couple of hours. But they are in no hurry to help customers move their phone numbers to Google Voice, and so it took a few extra days. Also, I’m one of the first people to port their phone number to Google Voice, and there are always a few hiccups when you’re a guinea pig.

A week ago I was an unhappy AT&T iPhone customer. I couldn’t get cell phone reception here at my house and so I was always missing important calls.

Today I’m a happy Google Voice customer. My old mobile number, which all of my contacts already have, now rings simultaneously on my home Vonage phone and the TMobile myTouch 3G Android phone that I’ve started using (and, by the way, TMobile works just fine here at home, too). If I want to start using a new phone, I can make a switch in the settings at Google Voice and calls will ring through to that instead. no carrier will ever have a stranglehold on me again.

iphoneNot only are calls being sent to both of my phones simultaneously now, but all my voicemails are now aggregated at Google Voice and immediately transcribed and emailed and SMS’d to me (complete overview of Google Voice is here). And since I’m using the Google Voice application for the Android, all my outgoing calls appear to be from my existing phone number, not the one assigned to the phone.

Single best feature of Google Voice: Call blocking. Someone spams my SMS or calls me too much, I click a button and they can never call or SMS me again.

So what’s the downside?

I had to pay the AT&T termination fee of $175. But that’s it.

And this myTouch phone (which TMobile has supplied to me for free for a test period) is an excellent piece of hardware. I believe it is superior to the iPhone 3GS – it loads the camera app and video app faster, and web pages load in about 2/3 the time it takes on the iPhone/AT&T (likely more AT&T’s fault than the iPhone). The Android apps are far more interesting because they have the ability to integrate with any native function (so, for example, Google Voice, banned on the iPhone, has taken over the myTouch native dialer). And I can run persistent apps in the background like Google Talk, which lets me keep a chat window open to contacts all the time.

Google Voice really is nearly perfect. The only thing that would be better is if they became a MVNO and offered mobile services directly as well. And tethering would be a nice feature. But for now I’m extremely happy with my mobile situation. And I plan to never do business directly with a carrier again.

Want to port your mobile number to Google Voice and do what I’ve done? You can’t just yet, but porting will be released later this year publicly. Prepare yourselves, and don’t sign any new long term contracts with your carrier. Life will soon be good for you, too.

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Which Search Engine Do You Choose In The Blind Test?

Posted on August 9, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet Market, Microsoft, Yahoo | Tags: , , , , |

By Michael Arrington, Tech crunch

blind search engine

 you tried out this blind search tool yet? It provides results from Google, Yahoo and Bing in three columns but doesn’t tell you which column is which search engine. You then tell it which one you think shows the best results, and you then see which answers are from which engines. I keep choosing Yahoo as the best results.

A few search engine experts we’ve spoken with over the years say that users tend to think Google results are better just because they’re from Google. If you take any search engine and put the logo on top, it tests better. So Yahoo results with a Google logo will always test better than, say, Google results with the Yahoo or Bing logo. People are just used to thinking about Google as the best search.

This search tool strips out all the branding, so you’re forced to really think about which results you like better. And early results showed a much more even distribution than Google’s 70% market share would suggest: Google: 44%, Bing: 33%, Yahoo: 23%.

The score keeping feature was removed when people found a way to game it, but you can still run the test against yourself and see which search engine you really like the best. Too bad the one I seem to like will shortly be mothballed.

The tool was created by Michael Kordahi, a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft.

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Lifehacker starts Gmail Ads bloodbath

Posted on August 6, 2009. Filed under: Google, Tech News | Tags: , , |


By Jay Hathaway,

do massacres and bloodbaths have to do with your Gmail account? Lifehacker has discovered that they could be the key to getting rid of the pesky, hard-to-block text ads that show up next to your messages in Gmail’s web interface. It turns out that advertisers don’t like being associated with certain keywords, falling into categories like profanity and tragic violence. Rather than risk an amusing (at best) or offensive (at worst) ad placement, Google just doesn’t display ads next to messages that have a certain density of these keywords.

Lifehacker was able to take advantage of this filtering system to create an email signature that should eliminate the ads. Rather than going the profane route, they whipped up the following innocuous statement: “I enjoy the massacre of ads. This sentence will slaughter ads without a messy bloodbath.” If you can live with a violent email signature, you can probably come up with your own variation.

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In The Pre-Chrome OS World, Google Optimizes Gmail For Netbooks

Posted on August 6, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet, Tech News | Tags: , , , |

by MG Siegler, Tech crunch

Google is clearly enamored with the netbook space. We already know that it’s serving as an entry point for the new Chrome OS, but Google isn’t just going to sit around and wait for that, it’s starting to optimize its experience for netbooks already. labnolab

Tonight, Google has just released a small new feature in Gmail Labs so that users can optimize their email service for viewing on netbooks. It’s a small, but noteworthy setting as netbooks have become popular, yet most still run sites just as full-sized laptops would. Gmail’s engineers apparently had a problem with that, so they launched the new “Remove Labels from Subjects” feature.

Basically, this does exactly what it says, removes the labels that are normally in front of subject lines in Gmail. The idea is that this will save a lot of screen real estate, especially on netbooks.

While a lot has been said recently about the growing differences between Apple and Google, this attitude towards the netbook is as good of an example as any. While Apple has said time and time again that it isn’t interested in the netbook space (at least as it’s currently comprised), Google is clearly thinking about it a lot.

Google also notes that using its Chrome browser in full screen mode is a good solution for netbooks. That is, of course, until Chrome OS is released.

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Chrome’s New Feature: Click The UI Designer To Close The Window

Posted on August 5, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet, Tech News | Tags: , , |

By MG Siegler, Tech crunch

This is just kind of odd. Look at the picture below. See the picture of some guy in place of the “X” button? Yeah, that’s this guy.

Apparently, one of Google’s Chrome UI designers, Glen Murphy, has inserted his face into the latest nightly build of Chrome. Specifically, this is the Linux build, which is meant for developers and testers (we haven’t been able to see it on the Mac or Windows versions).

Our tipster was pretty surprised when he downloaded the nightly build and saw a person’s face staring back at him, so he asked around on the Chromium irc channel, and found out it was Murphy (who you can see in a picture here from SXSW three years ago).

Apparently, the next update will remove Murphy’s face. Oh those Googlers, always messing around.

google chrome features

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Google Acquires Video Compression Technology Company On2 For $106 Million

Posted on August 5, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet, Tech News | Tags: , , |

Google and On2 Technologies jointly announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire On2, a developer of video compression technology. The acquisition is expected to close later this year. On2 markets video compression technologies that power high-quality video in both desktop and mobile applications and devices and also holds a number of interesting patents.

on2Some of its codec designs are known as VP3, VP4, VP5, TrueMotion VP6, TrueMotion VP7 and VP8. Its customers include Adobe, Skype, Nokia, Infineon, Sun Microsystems, Mediatek, Sony, Brightcove, and Move Networks. On2, formerly known as The Duck Corporation, is headquartered in Clifton Park, NY.

Under the terms of the agreement, each outstanding share of On2 common stock will be converted into $0.60 worth of Google class A common stock in a stock-for-stock transaction. The transaction is valued at approximately $106.5 million.

According to the release, $0.60 per share represents a premium of approximately 57% over the closing price of On2’s common stock on the last trading day immediately prior to the announcement of the transaction, and a premium of approximately 62% over the average closing price of On2’s common stock for the six month period immediately prior to the announcement of the transaction.

Important to note is that On2 once had a market cap in excess of $1 billion at its peak, after going public on the American Stock Exchange in 1999 following a merger with Applied Capital Funding (which was already listed at the time). Before its entry on the public market, The Duck Corporation had raised $6.5M in venture capital funding from Edelson Technology Partners and Citigroup Ventures.

Back in 2001, On2 made waves by releasing their VP3 compression technology to the open-source community, including their patents on the technology. The technology lives on in the form of (Ogg) Theora. You can find more information about this here.

The agreement is subject to On2 stockholder approval, regulatory clearances and other closing conditions.

Google is reluctant to dive into specific regarding the product plans until after the deal closes, although it’s conceivably related to its immensely popular video service YouTube.

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Latest Google Chrome Beta Is “30 Percent Faster,” Supports HTML5, And Is Prettier Too

Posted on August 5, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet Market, Tech News | Tags: , , , |

by Erick Schonfeld, Tech crunch

Google just released a new beta version of its Chrome browser for Windows PCs. The company claims that it is 30 percent faster than the current stable version of the browser (based on V8 and SunSpider benchmarks).

googlechromelogoWhat may be more significant, though, is that this is the first version of Chrome that adds some support for HTML5, including video-tagging capabilities. The latest Firefox 3.5 beta also adopts HTML5, which allows for all sorts of cool things inside Web video like links and other interactive elements. It lets you treat video more like a Webpage. Along with Google’s acquisition of On2 today for its video codec, it looks like Google is getting behind open video in a big way. (Read this post from last year for more on the evolution of HTML).

The new Google Chrome beta is also prettier. Those themes we’ve been telling you about are now fully incorporated. And the new beta also improves the New Tab and Omnibox features.

When you create a new tab, Chrome shows you thumbnails of the sites you visits the most often (just like in Safari). These act as automatic bookmarks. Now, you can rearrange the thumbnails in any order you like by dragging and dropping them, or you can pin one down so that it doesn’t move even if you don’t visist it as much as other sites.

The Omnibox is Chrome’s all-in-one address and search bar. As you type words in, it gives you drop-down suggestions, which now have icons distinguishing between search results, bookmarks, and Websites.

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ThinkFree UNI-Paper lets you embed office docs online

Posted on April 2, 2009. Filed under: Google, Tech News | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad


ThinkFree Office is a web-based office suite similar to Google Docs and Zoho Office. But the ThinkFree folks set themselves apart from the crowd last year when they released a desktop client that lets you edit documents on your computer and synchronize them with a web server.

Now ThinkFree is back with a Flash-based document viewer that you can embed on any web page. Just upload your Word, Excel, PDF, or PowerPoint file and ThinkFree will spit out some code you can use to share the document. Honestly, the new ThinkFree UNI-Paper service looks pretty much the same as the embedded document viewers from Issuu, docstoc, and Scribd. But the difference is that UNI-Paper is linked to a powerful web-based office suite, so you can edit your documents and then grab the embed code all from one place.

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Google’s got a new Chrome beta

Posted on March 18, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet, Windows | Tags: , , |

By Lee Mathews, Downloadsquad

On the official Google Chrome blog a few hours ago, Google announced the release of a new beta version that falls somewhere in between the stable and developer branches.

Apart from the speed improvements in Google’s V8 javascript engine, several new features have been added. In addition to the drag-to-split side-by-side browsing feature demoed in the clip above, the new Webkit core includes autoscrolling, full page zoom, and form filling.

If you’re trying to get your hands on it, you may need to be patient. A number of Twitterers are having the same problem I encountered: The downloader application looks like it’s working, but the actual setup process never begins. The announcement only came a few hours ago and Chrome devotees are likely hammering the download servers, which may be partly responsible.

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Dell Adamo arrives tomorrow? Google seems to think so

Posted on March 16, 2009. Filed under: Google, Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Paul Miller, Engadget


Thanks to a fortuitous search on Google Ireland, friendly tipster Niall spotted this rather intriguing sponsored link for Dell Adamo. Instead of the vague “Learn More” promised by similar sponsored links in the States, the ad on Google Ireland says that we can “Discover the Love Story on 17/3.” Dell has been pretty mum on a release date — most details, in fact — for this laptop, so it’d be quite the pleasant surprise to be staring at an order page for the thing as of tomorrow. Of course, the sponsored link goes to the same old splash page for Adamo we’ve got, so we’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to find out what this really means — maybe Dell’s planning on teasing us another few months with vague statements and flashy imagery; wouldn’t that be thrilling?

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Jaiku micro-blogging client goes open source

Posted on March 15, 2009. Filed under: Google, Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad


Google has released the source code for micro-blogging service Jaiku. The company announced earlier this year that it would cease development of Jaiku. But instead of shutting Jaiku down altogether, Google has moved the project so that it now runs on Google App Engine.

Meanwhile, now that JaikuEngine is avialable to the public, anyone can set up their own version of Jaiku. And developers can help contribute to the project. It should be interesting to see how the project fares. While Twitter certainly dominates the micro-blogging space, it’s possible that the new open source nature of Jaiku will make it attractive to open source enthusiasts. There’s also the possibility that by making the project open source, developers will contribute new and exciting features more quickly — but only if a strong developer community grows around JaikuEngine.

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10 iGoogle themes that actually look good

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , |

By Jay Hathaway, Downloadsquad


Hell is other people’s iGoogle themes. I love the custom Google homepage as much as the next person, but the selection of user-submitted themes is, frankly, atrocious. The list ranges from photos of Angelina Jolie to photos of some guy’s dog, with very few options that actually hold up over weeks and months of being in your face whenever you open a new browser window. Instead of subjecting you to the worst of the worst — maybe we’ll save them for a Fugly Friday — I’ve collected my top 10 well-done iGoogle themes.

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Google Reader adds comments, risks wrath of web publishers

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: Google, Internet | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad


Google Reader has added a new feature that makes reading RSS feeds a more social experience: You can leave comments on other users’ shared items. In other words, if your friend clicks the share button next to a blog post or news item in Google Reader, it will show up in your Friends’ shared items section along with any comment they’ve left. Now you can also comment on their comment. If multiple friends have shared the same item, you’ll see multiple conversations.

All told, the feature looks and feels a lot like FriendFeed. But there’s one major difference: Google Reader displays the full text of any articles that make their full length items available via RSS. So if your’e someone who only clicks through to articles you’ve read in your RSS reader to see what comments other people have left, this new feature could keep you from ever clicking through to the original web site. And that might be fine for you, the reader. But web publishers who rely on advertising might not be nearly as happy about this development.

Right now Google doesn’t import comments from blogs, so there’s still original content on the original web site. But there’s also currently no way for blogs or other web sites to import comments from Google Reader, as they can from FriendFeed. That may change in the future.

What do you think? Are you likely to use the new commenting system? Would you rather use FriendFeed? Or do you just visit web sites when you want to read and participate in the comments?

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Google relaunches GrandCentral as Google Voice

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

By Brad Linder, Downloadsquad


Nearly two years after acquiring “one telephone for life” service GrandCentral, Google is finally preparing to relaunch the service with new features. GrandCentral has been in private beta for the last two years. Over the next few days Google will be prompting existing beta users to upgrade to Google Voice before rolling out the service to new users in a few weeks.

GrandCentral lets you set up a single phone number that you can give out to anyone. When they call that number, it will ring any phone number you’ve linked to the account. So you can print a single number on your business card, and people will be able to reach you on your home, work, and cellphones. The service also lets you record phone calls, screen calls, create rules for calls coming from specific numbers, and receive email notifications of voicemail messages.

Google Voice has all those features, plus a few new ones, like the ability to make free calls to US numbers and cheap calls to other numbers, make conference calls, and send, receive, store, and search SMS messages.

You’ll also get transcripts of all your voicemail messages. That alone is pretty cool. Google will use an automated method to convert speech to text – a service other companies are charging for. Why? My guess is because Google wants to monetize GrandCentral the same way it has Gmail: With contextually relevant ads that will show up in your sidebar. And in order to determine what ads are relevant, Google needs to translate speech to text.

The company admits that the automated transcripts won’t be perfect. But the company has been fine tuning its speech recognition software for the last year or two with the Goog-411 service.

You can find a more complete list of Google Voice features at the Google Voice homepage.

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Google Also Likes To Use FriendFeed For R&D; Reader Gets Conversations

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

By Jason Kincaid, Techcrunch

google-readergooglereaderlogoIt looks like Facebook isn’t the only site to draw inspiration from FriendFeed. Google Reader has just launched a new feature that gives users the ability to comment on items that have been shared by their friends, allowing them to hold conversations focusing on each individual story. In other words, it does almost exactly the same thing as FriendFeed (at least for stories shared through Google Reader).

There are a few key distinctions. For one, conversations in Google Reader are only be visible to friends of the user who originally shared a story (FriendFeed allows comments to be displayed to the public with input from users who aren’t your friends). But Google’s blog post notes that it has more for its new comment system on the way, and it wouldn’t be surprising if public sharing is on the roadmap.

Also important to note is that there’s apparently no way to export the conversations that are held on Google Reader. While this is likely because of the private nature of the conversations, it can’t be welcome news to services like FriendFeed, which thrive on being able to import activity from other sites.

We’ve heard that Google has been toying with this idea since at least 2007, when we noted why some blog owners may well be opposed to it. For those blogs that send out full feeds (rather than summaries or the first paragraph of their posts), this new feature could potentially move the conversation away from the blog and onto Google Reader.


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Google Now Lets You Target Ads At Yourself

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Google Adwords, Internet Market | Tags: , , |

By Erick Schonfeld,

google-ad-preferencesGoogle is wading into behavioral ad targeting in a big way today. It will start placing cookies on consumer’s browsers to collect information about their interests whenever they visit sites that show AdSense contextual ads. Then it will show ads targeted to those interests to the same person as he or she browses the Web on other sites that also serve AdSense ads (which is a large portion of all commercial sites).

Since Google already knows what each site or page is about, it will use this information to place each user in one of 600 subcategories of interest. If you visit tech blogs often, you are probably interested in technology. If you visit Trulia, you are probably in the market for real estate. Through AdSense, Google can now target ads not only based on the context of the page you are on, but also based on the context of the pages you have visited in the past, even if you are on a site that is completely unrelated. For instance, as a completely hypothetical example, it might show you a real estate ad targeted to the towns you were searching on Trulia when you visit a gadget blog.

Not only will Google now target ads at you based on your interest, but it will also let you target yourself. Anyone can go to Google’s Ad Preferences Manager and see exactly how Google is categorizing their interests. (Most people will probably see nothing right now, since this program is only being rolled out on a test basis and will gradually expand). Now, here’s the really smart part: Google lets you add or remove any interest. In effect, it is inviting you to declare what kind of ads you wan to see. You can also opt out of the program completely.

While most people will probably never bother to tweak their ad preferences or even be aware that they can, this represents an important new precedent in online advertising. Why should the ad networks be the only ones who can determine how to target ads at consumers? Why not let the consumers self-target if they care to do so?

Google knows that its interest-based targeting algorithms need a lot of work. Even if it can get just a small percentage of people to correct the algorithm, that data theoretically could be applied to other people with similar browsing patterns. Google gets to say that it is giving users more privacy and control, while collecting really valuable data that will help make its targeting more effective. In the online ad game, whoever can target the best can charge the most.


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Finally GrandCentral To Launch As Google Voice.

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Google, Tech News | Tags: , |

By Leena Rao, Techcrunch

googlevoiceGrandCentral, a phone management service that first launched in 2006 and was acquired by Google for $50+ million in 2007, hasn’t been in the news much lately. Other than a few good natured jabs at their marketing gimmicks and coverage of outages, that is. Get ready for that to change as the service prepares for a public launch under a new product name: Google Voice.

The 21 month delay between acquisition and relaunch was, unfortunately, expected. Like most Google acquisitions, the service has been rebuilt from the ground up, a lengthy process that has in the past taken an average of 16 months or so.

Now, though, Google is ready to fully launch Grand Central/Google Voice. Key new features have been added that make the service absolutely compelling (each is described below). The basic idea around GrandCentral is “one phone number for all your phones, for life.” Grand Central gives you one phone number that can access all your numbers, whether they be cell, home, mobile, and work numbers; the GrandCentral numbers stay the same, as many of these number change over the course of a user’s lifetime. Here’s our quick and dirty guide to using the old GrandCentral.

Most people have never used the service, because Google froze new accounts after the acquisition. The freeze isn’t being lifted yet (and we’ve heard there are tens of thousands of people on the wait list). But starting Thursday existing accounts are being given the option of switching to the new service and gett access to the new features. Over the next several weeks Google will begin to let new people in. Some people, impatient to try out the new service, have been paying as much as $650 on Ebay for an account.

The service was free and is still going to be free. Users can purchase credit (much like Skype) to make international calls at rates far below what they normally pay. GrandCentral will also remain solely a U.S. service.

New Features:

Google’s added new features and plugged some big holes that limited the original service. Some of the more useful and innovating new features (and see screenshots at end):

Text Messaging: Google wants people to use their Google Voice phone number exclusively (and in fact it’s the only way to use it properly). A problem with the original service – it didn’t allow text messaging, so you had to tell people your mobile number as well if you wanted to send and receive text messages with them. Now, Google Voice will accept text messages and forward them on to your mobile phone. You can respond to those messages as well. Google is using the existing Gateway technology (which is used by Google Chat) to power this feature.

Voicemail Transcription: Google also added a nifty transcription feature (which is using the same subscription service as Google 411) for voicemails. All voicemails are transcribed easily saved into the system and searchable. Users can add notes or tags to voicemails and each transcription details how confident Google is about the success of voice transcription; Google Voice highlights word in lighter color that they are not confident were subscribed properly. And transcription takes about 30 seconds to be seen in the system from the end of a voicemail. All in all, Google may have unkilled the dreaded voicemail.

Friend Settings: Google has added new settings that allow users to route calls from specific people straight to voicemail, or your mobile phone, etc, instead of having to state their name and then be forwarded accordingly.

New User Interface: The primary user interface for Google Voice is through your phone via an audio menu. But users can also log in to the website to administer the account and view activity. This interface has undergone a makeover – It now looks very much like a comprehensive Gmail inbox with tabs for Voicemail, SMS, Recorded calls, Placed calls, Received calls and Missed calls. And the Google Voice is easily integrated into the list of links to Google apps at the top left of each application. All SMS and transcribed voicemails are searchable and taggable, which is very useful and will change the way people interact with these messages. Google also says that full integration with Gmail is coming, but won’t say when. Personally, having all my email, SMS and transcribed voicemails in a single inbox could be life-changing. You can also respond to text messages from the interface and initiate phone calls, which then calls your designated phone and then the recipient.

Conference and International Calls: Google Voice also added a conference calling feature allowing conference calls of up to six participants and recording abilities. International calls can also be made through the system at very reasonable rates. For example, voice calls to France are $0.02 per minute, to France mobile phones $0.15 per minute, and to China $0.02 per minute. These rates are about the same as Skype’s international phone rates.

Our First Impression:

Google is finally bringing us the voice service that was promised back in 2006. With Grandcentral, you no longer have to wrestle with 3 or more phone numbers and multiple email and texting devices. You give out one phone number, administer it with a website or voice menu, and forward calls to various devices depending on who’s calling and when.

Google has also fixed most of the limitations with the original service. Outages are a thing of the past, they say, and there won’t be any further reassigning of phone numbers. The new SMS feature means you don’t have to give out your mobile phone separately. And the voicemail transcription and search feature is a great addition.

Still, users have to get over a big initial hurdle – getting all their friends to start using a new phone number instead of the old ones. Business cards are to be thrown out, new ones printed. Contact cards updated. Etc. There’s nothing Google can do to fix this problem.

But they can prove that the service is reliable. No dropped calls. No outages. Proper support even though its a free product. If they do that they can conceivably control the phone numbers for millions of people…and eventually find a way to monetize all that power.

We have 100 Google Voice accounts to give out to readers, but you must have a gmail account. If you’d like one, please send an email from your gmail account to (note that this isn’t an account we check regularly) with the exact subject “Google Voice Account” – the first 100 will get an account invitation from Google.



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Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?

Posted on March 10, 2009. Filed under: Google | Tags: , , |

By Brian Solis,


Depending on which numbers you source or believe, all reports agree that the blogosphere continues to expand globally.

As the leading blog directory and search engine, Technorati maintains a coveted Authority Index which is considered amongst bloggers as the benchmark for measuring their rank and selling their position within the blogosphere. (At least until recently). Authority in the index is defined as the number of blogs linking to a website within the last six months. The higher the number, the greater the level of Authority a blog earns.

However, a disruptive trend is already at play. While blogs are increasing in quantity, their authority–as currently measured by Technorati–is collectively losing influence. For instance, just last November, Technorati counted 32,493 links towards gadget blog Engadget’s “authority.” Today, it counts half that amount (16,326). Even TechCrunch’s link authority as measured by Technorati is down by several thousand links, yet its relative position in the overall ranking (No. 3) hasn’t moved.

In its annual state of the blogosphere last year, Technorati revealed that it had indexed 133 million blog records since 2002. In March 2008, Universal McCann published a report that indicated 184 million blogs worldwide were created, with 346 million people reading blogs globally.

Blogging is entrenched in the mainstream. Indeed, consumers, businesses, content publishers, and media channels are embracing blogs as a way of engaging existing and reaching new readers to build an ecosystem around relevant conversations. It’s the convergence of dialog and journalism, creating a new generation of interconnectedness between publisher and community.

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