The New Gmail is Terrible

The new Gmail layout makes Hotmail look more and more appealing. The separation of content and chat frames makes scrolling down the friends list in chat difficult and the extremely large spacing between emails means less work can be done. Why on earth would Google permit something like this from happening, and not provide a way to revert to the old Gmail look? Hopefully this is not a sign of what is to come with Google products, otherwise I would wager on Microsoft and Apple…

If you haven’t switched yet, DONT DO IT! See prompt message below (which is interesting because they way they phrase it is confusing). Select the “continue to the old look”, which really should have been “continue WITH the old look”. Something seems fishy and if you choose the new look you will be in loads of mental anguish over something so dramatically worse it will make your eyes bleed.

If you’ve already made the mistake like I did of switching to the new look, I’m sorry for you. Hopefully very soon Google will enable a revert functionality to start using a functional email client again.

iTv and Google TV

Apparently both Apple and Google are working on top boxes that will connect to the TV and enable applications to be run. I have yet to read details on what kind of apps will be available or why this would be useful or necessary, or perhaps both companies are blindly pursuing a technology that no one wants or needs. Microsoft has no comment on this technology and seems to be sticking with its bread and butter business of enterprise software, operating system, the office product line,  and the XBox.

Google Image Swirl

Today I happened upon a new product in development in Google labs called ‘Google Image Swirl‘. It is basically a tree based structure of related photos, right now only the common image search terms are available. This is great because it is a non-verbal way of searching for images, the way it probably should be when the discrepancies are hard to form via words. Swirl becomes even more useful when searching for faces of famous people. Below are a few screen-shots:

search for nuclear on google swirl

search for money using google swirl

search for elvis on google swirl

Google May Quit China – Leave Millions Without a Choice

Google is now deciding whether or not to stay in China, according to Google’s official blog. According to Google, “In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google.” More can be found on the offical blog post, such as who these attacks were targeting etc.

In any case, this move is sure to cause headaches for the millions of expats living in China using Google technology such as Google docs, maps, etc. The reason for this is that from at least my experience Google USA is blocked, most likely so that users cannot use the image search. Of course there are ways around this, such as using a proxy, but that is a headache and puts users at risk of their information being recorded.

Google Caffeine – faster for less

Google has unleashed Google Caffeine, a snappy new name for a snappy new product that apparently speeds up it’s already infamously fast Google Search. A testbox has been set up at http://www2.sandbox.google.com/

A quick test of the search term “Adam Lee” results in half the search speed, but less than half of the results. Apparently, part of the code includes sacrificing results for speed. This is not something I am worried about though as I am not going to look at number 40,000,000 in the list and 10,000,000 suits me just fine (the numbers represent the amound of entries corresponding to my previously mentioned search term).

I believe the hype and new release are perfectly timed to stem the rise of the Microsoft-Yahoo underdog team. Microsoft obviously has a keen interest in making Bing better, and it has made some improvements that have shown results, including a rise in market share since Bing’s birth. Google is basically saying, “this is my territory, get out!”

Microsoft and Yahoo Finally Join Sides

The two underdogs in the online search industry are joining up, according to sources who have yet to reveal themselves. According to Reuters, Bloomberg, and Businessweek, the deal has come to a close. Microsoft will buy out Yahoo search. Yahoo, on the other hand, will be hosting Microsoft’s AdCenter technology for it’s own ads and utilizing Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Although the deal seems complex, I think it’s simple to see that companies are starting to band together to stem the rise of one of the worlds most fastest growing tech companies, Google.

However, I think it’s a bit too late. Google has already gathered over 60% of the search market, and continues to deliver excellent product for free. Among these are Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Maps. It has established a reputation for delivering highly tuned efficient products that benefit those that use them and also pioneered the use of context focused ad placement and still makes most of it’s money through Adsense and Adwords. Although it has keen expertise in the hardware area (Google custom creates their servers themselves), it remains focused on web technologies and the move towards browser-like operating system.

In other news, Apple rejected Google’s ‘Google Voice’ app on it’s iPhone.

Is Google Chrome OS in Response to Microsoft Bing?

I think it’s not a surprise that Google is starting to invade Microsoft home turf after Bing, a revamped version of Live search, went online on June 3rd. The surf engine has shown an increase in popularity, be it slow. Not to mention it was favorably rated (by PC Magazine, etc.) as compared to some of Google’s other potential competitors (Cuil in particular).

Now, Google is fighting back and bringing the former OS King to battle over whether users want a comprehensive and hefty operating system like XP or Vista or an operating system that does the bare minimum and relies more on internet browsers to do work. If the latter turns out to be more popular, it could spell bad news for other Microsoft products such as Word, Excel, and others in the Office product line, and conversely help with Google’s online applications such as Google docs.

Perhaps the age of storing information on ones personal computer has passed and now is high time to store everything on online servers, but I am still wary of that possibility for the reasons below:

1. Not everywhere is internet accessible, and even internet accessible locations may at times block certain sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

2. Looking at the Terms and Conditions of most free storage sites, no guarantee is made that the data will not be lost. Furthermore, on other sites (such as Myspace etc.) information submitted becomes the property of the site submitted to. Google is better in this in that it does not claim rights over your information, but does reserve the right to have automated crawlers review your information to present you with relevant ads.

3. There are some things I would not put online period.

The advantages, however, of keeping information online are the following:

1. No need to store on hard drive, which in itself has multiple security advantages.

2. Multiple computer can access the information without physically transferring it.

3. With web 2.0 the information you submit can be commented on and rated, such as interesting photos you upload to Facebook etc.

Although the scope of Google’s OS is still uncertain, I think it will have Microsoft employees a little more on edge than they have been.

I Still Prefer Firefox To Google Chrome

After all the commotion over Google’s Chrome browser subsided, I quietly switched back to primarily using Firefox for my internet browsing needs. Yes, Chrome has a nice logo and yes, Chrome was “made” by Google. However Firefox is still the grandparent of open-source fast and secure internet browser technology and Chrome quite honestly is a collection of pre-existing open source code, the bulk of whose was from Firefox.

There are still quite a few bugs in Chrome I would like to see ironed out before it because the click of choice in the startmenu. Of course, there are times when I need more than one browser open at a time, for example if I want to access two Facebook accounts at once, or two Gmail accounts at once. But when that is not the case that I will most likely be using Firefox.

I need not mention Internet Explorer, for it is but a thing of the past. The only use Internet Explorer has is for testing scripts that in more secure browsers wouldn’t be allowed to run at all (mainly VBscript and Javascript).

In conclusion, the gist of this passage is that I still prefer Firefox over Google Chrome.

The World’s Increasing Dependence on Google’s Integrity

As Google puts forth more web-based data intensive applications for free, more and more people are coming to rely on Google for document, email, and photo services. Google has expanded its reach to allow for free personalized / group websites, and also has its own personalized friend spaces (Orkut). In addition to the above, Google owns YouTube and its videos, and crawls personal information (such as your e-mail, GoogleDocs) by way of automation to present relevant data. This data crawling is justified by Google based on its non-personal nature (because it is using algorithms to search your information to find ads instead of directly looking at your works).

This presents a new challenge to our generation, are we to trust Google to run all forms of our internet lives in using highly effective and free tools by a company who became famous for freely archiving and linking the World Wide Web? What happens if Google becomes Microsoft? Now it relies mostly on income from the relevant ads presented with Adsense, but how long will that last? BotNets are being developed at this very moment to utilize a zombie computer (a computer that has been hacked and is now secretly holding a BotNet) to serf to the attacker’s website and click on his/her own ads to generate income to fund their hacking projects. Can Google protect its advertisers from click fraud?

It is quite noticeable that we as a Web Civilization are moving towards a more WebOS dominant environment. Computers, cell-phones, and palm pilots all rely extensively on their ability to connect to the web, and more and more data is being outsourced from the PC to the Internet. Only time will tell if these free information reserves will remain free or secure.

Google Flu Trends

http://www.google.org/flutrends/

Google has, based on context searching, developed a service that tracks indicators of the flu. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control ), these results are two weeks ahead the CDC survey techniques, and can serve as a useful tool to help warn the CDC of flu outbreaks. The way Flu Trends does this was posted on the site:

Each week, millions of users around the world search for online health information. As you might expect, there are more flu-related searches during flu season, more allergy-related searches during allergy season, and more sunburn-related searches during the summer. You can explore all of these phenomena using Google Trends. But can search query trends provide an accurate, reliable model of real-world phenomena?

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.

Below is a screenshot of today’s flu situation according to Flu Trends:

Flu Trends was a product of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic non for profit branch.

Facebook To Change Layout

Facebook, the most popular social networking site traditionally open only to college students/alumni/faculty is planning on going ahead revamping it’s design. Now you might be wondering why such a sucessful company would risk it all on such a bold venture? The answer is more simple than it seems, money. Money makes the world go round, as it is said.

Now the ways Facebook will make money with it’s new layout are simple, more clicks to get where you need to go means more space to shower you with traditionally discrete ads. More ad views means more potential ad clicks, and more ad clicks means more money for the bottom line. Now there are quite a few members against this new idea, as there were quite a few members against letting Facebook open up to the public. However there is little doubt in my mind that the plan will proceed.

What can you do? Traditionally we as Americans tend to think that Democracy is always the way, be it in government or the website we frequent ever so frequently. The truth is, there will be no popular vote, and in a few more weeks the “switch back to old facebook” link won’t be there any more. Now I know that this is sad news, and I know you have a lot to say about it, so please comment on this post and tell me what you think. To comment simply click the post title.

Firefox Still Better

Alright, I have in the past few days discussed how I was insatiably excited for Google’s new Chrome web browser. Today all I have to say is that it is no better than Firefox. We all know Google made Chrome using open source code including Mozilla’s, and we all know that Google Chrome supposedly is a step closer towards a Web OS. However after using it for a day I have encountered quite a few problems and have missed any major improvements in speed or usability. Chrome also has instances of freezing or displaying a web page wrongly (such as the upper right hand corner of my blog); Firefox has no such scruples. I still am a fan of Mozilla, a basically non for profit organization who makes all of their money for allowing Google to be the default search (approximately 80 percent of their income). Mozilla will still draw more devout GNU support based on it’s opus understanding of the value of free software and countering inefficiencies found in other web browsers.