Asfaar Burhaniyah 2.0

Asfaar Mubaraka of al Dai al Fatemi Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin (tus) across the globe since 1424. (previous asfaar shall be added too insha allah as soon as possible.)The Placemark centered is the Current Location of His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin (TUS). comments are welcome.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Syncplicity Integrates Zoho

Syncplicity, a document synchronization tool integrated Zoho into their application recently. This Sync tool lets you synchronize your documents from your desktop (PC-only currently) to their web application.
If you have Syncplicity installed on your computer, you can right-click on a document on your desktop and choose  the ‘Edit in Zoho’ option for editing your document. This opens up a window with the Zoho document editor. When the ‘Save’ button is hit in Zoho editor, it saves the file to your local folder and also your Syncplicity account, thus keeping your document in sync. This works with Zoho Writer & Zoho Sheet Apps now with Zoho Show to follow.
Similar editing option is also available in their online application to edit documents online. After you save the changes, the documents are saved on their servers.
And here’s a nice screencast done by the Syncplicity team, demonstrating the integration.
We’d like to thank Syncplicity for integrating Zoho. Our other API Partners are here. If you have integrated Zoho into your application, do let us know so that we can profile you here and list you as a partner in our partners page.

Rich Media Advertising Campaigns from HP

hp-touchsmart-pc HP is running an innovative advertising campaign on some technology blogs for their upcoming TouchSmart series which are desktop computers but with Tablet PC like touch screen.
These ads are done in Adobe Flash and pop-up when you hover the mouse over the ad.

The more impressive part is the 3D look and the interactive nature of these ads - you can read specs of the machine, watch demo videos or even place an order from the ad itself without visiting the advertiser’s website.
I spotted the HP ad on Lifehacker but it’s no longer there. You can however still experience the ad from the screencast video video.
Am not sure if such an interactive effect is possible with the upcoming Google Gadget ads but this is definitely very effective and non-obtrusive rich media advertising.

Your Data is Finally Yours - Export Data from Google's Services

Google mentioned in many occasions that it doesn't want to trap users' data and some of its services have started to provide import/export options. Here are some of the ways to export your data from Google's services:

* iGoogle lets you download the list of gadgets, feeds, themes and their corresponding options if you go to the settings page and scroll down to the "Export / Import" section. The resulting XML file can be imported to another Google account and those who are familiar with XSLT could covert iGoogle's data file to OPML, so you can subscribe to the feeds in Google Reader or any other feed reader.

* Google Calendar has options to export your calendars one by one as iCal files, but it's much easier to export all the calendar you created by going to:

* Google Docs lets you export your documents as an archive of HTML files and images. To export your files, restrict the Docs list to documents, select all the files and choose "Save as HTML (zipped)" from "More actions". Zoho can already import your documents and there's a Greasemonkey script that helps you download all the files from Google Docs, not just the documents.

* Blogger added in the experimental version available at an option to export the posts and comments from your blogs as an Atom feed. Hopefully, developers will write scripts that convert Blogger's feeds to the formats accepted by other blogging services.

* Google Bookmarks can be exported as a HTML file, but for some reason browsers can no longer import the bookmarks. The web history or search history can be exported as a RSS feed: (replace 1000 with the number of items you want to export).

* Gmail lets you export your contacts as CSV or vCard, but Google automatically adds all the people you send a reply in the list of contacts.

It would be nice to export all your data from a single page, so you can delete a Google account or switch to a competing service without losing your data.

Google Euro Championship Doodle

Tonight, Spain will be playing against Germany in the European foot(as-in-soccer)ball championships final. For this special event – people in Europe are often found partying on the streets when their team wins – Google launched a logo doodle contest a while ago, and today presents the winner on the homepage of Google homepages of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The logo was selected from 3,800 competitors and received over 300,000 votes, Google says, and is drawn by 17-year old Mai Dao Ngoc from Germany. Additionally to having her logo showcased on the homepage, Mai Dao Ngoc was given a computer by Google employee and original logo artist Dennis Hwang during the ceremony.
As for the winning doodle itself, it shows a crowded and colorful cartoon style rendering of all kinds of football-related things. While some in the forum thought it was ugly, I think it looks neat, though it doesn’t work well at all in the small size shown on the homepage... and Google missed the chance to link it to a zoom version on the details page when you click it.

Additional to the desktop homepage, Google also had one winner be selected for a special mobile doodle.

Want to Study in China? check out - Google China's Universities Overview Tool

The Chinese Google Rebang site – a listing of hot searches as well as a general info directory – provides a new research tool for prospective university students in China. The tool is called Gaokao Zhuanti, which can be roughly translated to “Special Subject: College Entrance Examinations.” I asked native speaker Aaron Liang from Canada to provide more background info about this, and he says:
<GaoKao) in June in order to go to college or university. After the exam, they get an answer sheet and start to evaluate their scores. Then they compare their scores with the requirement of each institution in the past and choose which one they want to go. Basically, better institutions require higher scores. This is brutal because first, the grads don’t know their true scores; second, the requirement of each institution remains unclear till they know how many students are applying and what their scores are.>>
Now, Aaron continues to explain, Google introduced this new service as part of Google Rebang to help “the grads to choose the institutions.” He says:

I asked Google China to tell us more about how this new tool came about. Google China’s Jia gives more details:
<<... the idea came out during one of the team meetings of Rebang project. We wanted to do something for the millions of students who prepare for Gaokao. We did not crawl the data because there is no good sources on the web – they are either incomplete or incorrect sometimes. So we licensed data from Gaokao China, a partner who focused on offline gaokao service. In the future, it would be great if we could cooperate with universities so that they could feed us the data, or even with education departments so that students could search their scores directly at Google.>>

The details page for a university when you click on it from the overview. Here, Tsinghua University and its academies are presented, with links including pointers to related Google China image, video, map, and partner searches (Google-partnered social site Tianya Laiba).

UndeleteMyFiles Recovers your Deleted Files

UndeleteMyFiles is a very useful freeware that can recover files which have been deleted accidentally, from hard disks, USB flash drives, CF and SD cards and other storage media. It is the quickest and the easiest way to recover files from digital media and devices, because of its simplified two-step process. Unlike most of other recovery softwares, this one is absolutely free to use.
Here are some of its key features that I found from its website.
File Rescue - The File Rescue Wizard is a quick and easy way to find and recover deleted files from PC. It employs a simplified two-step process that enables you recover any files that used to reside on your system.
Media Recover - The Media Recover Wizard is a quick and easy way to find and recover deleted media from PC and digital devices.It employs a simplified two-step process that enables you recover any files that used to reside on your system.
Delete File Search - The Advanced Delete File Search provides a great variety of specialized filters that allow you to find and work closely with specific deleted information and files.
Files Wiper - The Security Tools allow you to delete any files permanently without recovery.Also provide an option of Windows context menu integration.
Emergency Disk Image - The Emergency Disk Image can be a critical tool when salvaging lost data because it provides a way to save all data on a particular drive to a single file and recover intended items over time without risk of loss due to use of original drive.
Mail Rescue - Also features a Mail Recovery Wizard to recover deleted mails.
Download UndeleteMyFiles

Sylpheed - A Multiplatform Email Client

Sylpheed is a fast, light weight and a user-friendly email and news client. It will run on just about any Linux or UNIX compliant system - Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X. And works on Windows as well. The interface is 3-paned display, similar to popular email clients like Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird etc. The interface is also designed to emulate the mailers on Emacsen, and almost all commands are accessible with the keyboard.
  • Simple, beautiful, and well-polished user interface
  • Comfortable operationality which is built in detail
  • Well-organized, easy-to-understand configuration
  • Lightweight operation
  • High reliability
  • Internationalization and Multilingualization support
  • High-level Japanese processing
  • Various protocols support
  • Security features (GnuPG, SSL/TLSv1)
  • Powerful filtering and search
  • Junk mail control
  • Flexible cooperation with external commands
Sylpheed is an open-source application that can be freely used, modified and redistributed.
Download Sylpheed 2.5

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gmail Productivity Guide

Email Couch Potato: Get Productive with Gmail
Last time we redirected all of our email accounts to the one place, our central email hub at Gmail. Once you have all your accounts trickling into Gmail, you’ve got to manage that flow of information so that a) it’s possible to get through all of your email in fifteen minutes or less and b) it’s easy to find next week, next month and next year.

The Inbox is Sacred

You must learn to see your inbox as an almost sacred place: the worst sin you can commit against it is leaving messages in there to rot. I’m not talking about days or weeks. You’ve got to deal with each message in your inbox during your email processing session. It cannot be in the inbox once you’ve finished.
Since we’re using multiple email accounts, we have them filtering into a variety of labels. If we don’t, the boundaries between the roles and information associated with each account becomes blurred and quite often, just plain confusing. The inbox is a very useful tool for processing and this separation is an unfortunate necessity.
In the last post we talked about using the All Mail feature to replace this, but the problem with this approach is that you can’t “process out” the incoming information this way. There are a couple of alternative solutions we’ll address in a moment, but the simplest way at this point is to deal with all mail as though it were in your inbox - it’s an attitude hack, rather than a technological one.

Dealing with Messages in Your Inbox

The first step to processing your email is, obviously, to read it. Unfortunately, this is where many people stop (and it’s frustrating when you’re trying to get solid communication going).
Read smart, not hard. Give the subject and first paragraph of the email a scan to determine its relevancy, because there will always be emails that are pointless and you don’t need to read them. If it’s totally useless to you, you can delete the message. “Never delete an email again” is not a mantra I totally believe in.
If you’ve kept the message, you can read it properly. By the way, I should mention that if more than 15% of your inbox processing consists of deleting messages, you’re probably not creating enough pre-qualifiers and smart “obstacles” to people who want your email address. The + hack works well here, which we’ll get to soon.
Once you’ve finished reading the message, you must process it. There are a few outcomes:
  • Reply and archive,
  • Reply and delete,
  • Reply, turn it into an action, archive
  • Turn it into an action, archive
  • Archive
  • Delete
If you’re turning the email into an action you’ll almost always want to archive it, not delete it, for future reference. For messages that you need to deal with later, or that call for you to perform a task, turn that into an action in your task list or GTD software immediately and then clear the message out of your inbox.
Creating actions from emails before clearing them out of your way is the best thing you can do for your email productivity. Keeping emails in the inbox because there is a task pending creates “email apathy” and things become unorganized and cluttered.

Alternative Solutions to Using All Mail

Using All Mail should work perfectly if you process each unread message as soon as you open it and read it, but perhaps it’s just not working for you. There are a few other ways to deal with this.
Starring All Email - the Star feature of Gmail is useful for marking items of interest that you want to come back to later (even though, under this system, we try to avoid that). If you don’t need or use this feature, you can make it work as a faux inbox. The star will indicate that a message needs to be processed.
Go back to the Filter setup window under Settings, and set the To: field to an asterisk (*). The To: field tells Gmail to select emails based on who the email is sent to, but the * tells it to pick up all email. We’ll go into the asterisk and its usefulness to filters in a moment.
Click Next Step and tick the “Star it” box. You now have a filter that stars all your incoming mail, and as you process each item, you can remove it from the list by clicking on the star, which is usually next to the “From” field in list view.
Not using automatic filters is another solution that I do not recommend. This takes all the power out of your system, but it will cause every email to flow straight into the inbox where you can process it into labels manually. I think this defeats the purpose and adds extra work that the computer can do for you, and in my experience it has been far from an optimal solution.

Using Asterisks in Filters

I mentioned the asterisk before when we talked about setting up a filter that stars your incoming mail. The asterisk, simple as it is, provides a very useful tool and provides more dynamic email filtering.
Let’s take a look at how it works. Say I have a regular client who has given me three different email addresses (it really does happen). I don’t want to have three labels for each one of those email addresses, and I want to basically treat them all as one. Using the asterisk we can achieve this really easily.
In the To: field of the filter setup, place an * before the rest of the domain name. So let’s say I have, and To route all these email addresses into the one place, using one filter, all I have to do is set the To: field as *
This works with the other fields, too. For instance, if I receive email from a whole bunch of people at one company to my main address and want to separate it from all my other mail, I can set the From: field to *

The + Hack

And finally, we have the + hack. This is great for pre-qualifying your email. Despite the fact that the sender may be a stranger you’ve never met or heard of before, you know what the email is about because it landed in the right label. Almost sounds like magic.
With Gmail, you can add a + add the end of your username with a keyword attached. For instance, if your email address is you can still receive messages directed to Better yet, you can apply filters to these email addresses. I use this on my own site, where goes to a Post Ideas label, and so on.
Better still, you can create semi-disposable email addresses without having to go create one with a disposable mail service. If a site is demanding your email address and you’re worried they’ll send you spam, just add a +sitename to your address and you can always filter that material to the Trash later on.
Stay tuned for more advice on setting up a productive email system with Gmail.

Google Talk goes Social

I know it seems hard to believe, but your Google Talk contacts will become... your Google Friends. Everything started last year with an innocent addition to Google Reader: automatically broadcasting your shared items to your friends. If you use Google Reader, you probably noticed that you're subscribed to the shared items from your Google Talk contacts. Many complained that their Google Talk contact list includes many people that are not necessarily friends. "I have business contacts, school contacts, family contacts, etc., and not only do I not really have any interest in seeing all of their feed information, I don't want them seeing mine either," explained a Google Reader user.

But how does someone become your friend in Google Talk? You can send or accept an invitation, but there's another option enabled by default: "Gmail automatically determines which contacts you'll be able to talk to without having to invite each other," based on how frequently you mail each other. And since Gmail contacts include all the people you've ever replied to, you'll end up with a new Google Talk friend after replying 2-3 times to someone's messages.

Here's a screenshot from the recently launched Google Friend Connect, a service that brings social features to ordinary web sites. As you can see, Google Talk is listed next to Facebook, orkut and hi5.

The invisible social network needed a way to expose information about its users, so you can now create a Google Profile. There's even a shortcut for accessing your profile:

But without a place where you can share interesting stuff with your friends, Google Talk would be just a virtual social network. iGoogle, the site where you can aggregate all the things you find important, will become Google's main social site when the new version of iGoogle will be released. Among other features, the new iGoogle will add a Google Talk widget, support for OpenSocial applications and a gadget that shows updates from your friends. iGoogle's gadgets and presumably some Google services will be able to push updates to an activity stream that will be shared with your friends, which happen to be the Google Talk contacts. That means your GTalk contacts will be informed when you share a post in Google Reader, when you upload photos in Picasa Web Albums or post a review in Google Maps.

This is actually the Maka-Maka project revealed last year in a confidential Google video that has been accidentally published. "The new central place for social activities will create feeds for all or your events (activity streams) and share them with your contacts," I mentioned in that post.

That means Google Reader's sharing feature was just a rehearsal for a much bigger release that will make the hidden Google Talk social network more visible.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Goodbye, Bill Gates!

Today is Bill Gates’ last day at Microsoft as a full-time employee. Goodbye and good luck.


KML Validator

Many of you are probably familiar with Feed Validator, a free service that checks to see if your feeds, including KML, are valid, and also makes recommendations based on best practices. Now Galdos Systems has released a new service, KML Validator, specifically for KML.

KML Validator gives you a nice simple interface, and helpfully displays relevant portions of the OGC KML spec to explain error messages. They provide two different ways to access their service: upload files for validation, or point to a URL of a file on the web. The site also has a helpful set of FAQs about KML.

For those of you who want to check your KML files, and want more than just basic XML Schema validation using the KML Schema, KML Validator offers a nice new choice.

Google Pomoc : Google Answers for Poland

In much the same way that Google launched the Russian-only Knowledge Search almost exactly a year ago, a new Google Help site has now been launched by Google Poland.

The site’s FAQ page (available in English) explains:

Google Help is an unmoderated forum for users wanting to discuss Google Products. We encourage you to ask questions, answer questions from others and exchange experience. A Google employee will pop in from time to time and post and their message will appear with a badge. Note: only posts marked with a Google badge are approved by Google.>>

It then goes on to list the rules of the new site:

  1. Keep it safe. Remember, your posts can be read by users around the world. Don’t make the mistake of posting personal information of any kind, especially your passwords, your phone number, or your credit card number. No Google representative will ever ask for this information on Google Help.
  2. Keep it clean. The forum are for users of all ages, so do your part to keep a lid on foul language and grouchy attitudes.
  3. Keep it on topic. We reserve the right to delete messages that are intentionally off-topic – like commercial advertisements or other promotional material, spamming/excessive multi-posting, chain letters, and binary (non-text) postings.
  4. Be nice to beginners. A lot of users look here for help and advice. Being courteous and patient won’t hurt, and will definitely help in keeping a good atmosphere, especially for those, who are making their first steps online.
Given the much more English-looking URL – vs. – perhaps Google plans to make this an international service that will eventually replace Google Answers, which was shut down in November 2006.
Despite the official Google Poland blog saying that the “Poland version of Google Help is the premiere of this service in its current format - Poles can benefit from it as the first in the world” (via Google’s machine translation) it looks like the Polish “Pomoc Google” site uses exactly the same layout and technology as the Russian “Otvety” site, although they both use different service names* and require the user to signup for each one separately.
[Thanks Rafal Mateja!]
*The Russian site uses the Knowledge Search service and the new Polish one uses Google Help.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Export Or Merge Your Multiple Blogger Blogs into One

export-blog Q1: Do you have two or more blogs on Blogger and need to merge them into a single blog ?
Q2: Are you looking for a more simple option to backup all your blogger blogs including comments ?
Q3: Do you need to migrate your blog from Blogger to WordPress or another blogging platform ?
Q4: Do you want to move certain stories from your current blog into a new blog ?

If the answer to any of these question is yes, here’s something for you.
Blogger has added an Import / Export feature in Blogger that lets you backup your blogger blogs to the local hard drive as an XML file.
The XML file will have all the articles that you have written plus the reader comments. Now WordPress too has an Import Blogger feature but it ignores the comments so this latest Blogger feature will prove very useful.
To export your blogger blog, go to, login with your Google Account and use the Export link from the Settings | Basic tab. This would just save your blog to a text file, the blog would still remain on Blogger as it is. Full instructions here.
If you chose to import this XML file into a new (or existing) Blogger blog, the new posts remain unpublished by default though you can also republish them as soon as Blogger is done importing the file.

Google's Blogger Updates

It's raining with features in the experimental version of Blogger, available at To try these new features, it's a good idea to visit Draft Blogger and temporarily enable "Make Blogger in Draft my default dashboard" at the top of the page.

Probably the most important new feature is the inline commenting system, that lets you post comments without opening a new page. This year, I tried using a pop-up window for the comment form, but it's still inconvenient to post comments. The new option, which can be added in the Draft Blogger by going to Settings > Comments > Comment Form Placement, uses an iframe to display a textarea and a list of authentication options:

I added the inline comment form to the template, so you can try it. For now, you can't preview the comment before posting it and I haven't figured out how to add the option to delete your comment.

Another extremely useful new feature lets you import and export your posts and comments. "Now you can export all of your posts and comments into a single, Atom-formatted XML file for easy backup. You can then import the posts back into Blogger, either into an existing blog or into a new one." The option is available in the Draft Blogger by going to Settings > Basic. Please note that the exported XML file can be quite large: for example, this blog's entire archive has 10.2 MB.

Blogger has a new post editor that borrows a lot of new tricks from Google Page Creator. You can move the images inside a post and dynamically choose between different sizes of the image. The new editor is smart enough to no longer replace newlines with

tags when you add tables, lists, styles, scripts and objects. There's also an improved preview option that uses your template to style your content. Unfortunately, the new editor lacks many features currently available: auto-save, spell checking, video upload and the toolbar for editing HTML.

Blogs that use the new layouts can add star ratings to get feedback from readers, but I'm not sure if this is a useful feature. There's also an option that integrates Blogger with Google Webmaster Central: you can automatically add all your Blogger blogs with a single click.

This is one of the biggest updates to Blogger and many of the new features are long overdue. If everything goes well, all these features will soon be available in the standard Blogger interface.

Blue Whale in Life Size

Recently I stumbled upon an amazing site which uses flash to show the Blue Whale in Life Size.
its here. Check it out. Do wait till the tiles get loaded.

New iGoogle in Testing

Announced in April, the new version of iGoogle that brings social applications is tested in a small number of randomly selected Google accounts.

The new iGoogle places the tabs on the left-hand side of the page and you can expand the tabs to see the list of gadgets and status information, like the number of unread Gmail messages. There's a new chat feature borrowed from Gmail that lets you chat with your contacts while visiting iGoogle - that means iGoogle gets a sense of presence because you'll know when your contacts are online. Since the chat feature will be enabled by default, it's obvious that Google will be able to add options for sharing items and discussing posts with the contacts that are online.

iGoogle also adds a list of updates from your contacts similar to Facebook's newsfeed: you can see stories shared by your contacts in Google Reader, recent photos uploaded to Picasa Web Albums, Google Talk status messages, shared iGoogle themes and gadgets.

Another change is that gadgets have an expanded interface, called canvas view. Gadgets authors will take advantage of this to display more information and make their gadgets more interactive, while your feeds can be read in a Google Reader-like interface. In the future, iGoogle will support OpenSocial applications and the transformation to a social site will be complete.

Google announced that the canvas view will be rolled out to a small percentage of users this month and to more users in July, while the OpenSocial applications "will not work in production until later this summer".

Google Media Server

A surprising Google Desktop gadget released by Google enables you to share your media across devices. "Google Media Server uses an open technology known as Universal Plug n' Play to stream media to consumer electronic devices. The UPnP specification allows for a variety of hardware (gaming consoles, set-top boxes, photo frames) to communicate and access media from your home PC."

The Windows-only gadget lets you share all the media content indexed by Google Desktop or just the files from some of your folders. Google Media Server can also share some of your Picasa albums (from your computer or from Picasa Web Albums) and the videos uploaded to YouTube.

Google's application requires to authorize the devices that are allowed to access your files, but there's an option to allow any device to access the Media Server.

Google Desktop's blog mentions PlayStation 3 as an example of UPnP-enabled device. Google Media Server's team says that "the only way to connect the XBox 360 to a UPnP server, was to have a service that is only found on Microsoft services (used for registering for DRM content) and for the server itself to be claimed to be made by Microsoft. Legal would not allow us to pretend to be Microsoft (although there are other servers out there that do)."

This is a very interesting way to use Google Desktop: streaming media files that are stored online and on your computer. A recent YouTube blog post mentioned a list of devices that enable you to access YouTube from your living room and Google Media Server is another step in this direction.

If you manage to connect the application to one of your devices, post your feedback in the comments and use the Media Server Group to ask for help.

Google Calendar Phishing

A couple of minutes ago an interesting attempt to phish for Google account credentials made it to my inbox. It had me blink my eyes because while I suspected phishing there were some things with this one that had me check twice to see how it’s done, as things looked quite official on the surface. As you may know, phishing emails are sent out by abusers to make the recipient in some way reply with their password or click through to enter their password, but the more official looking they are, the more easily they’re believed. This particular mail, shown in the screenshot, had the following attributes:

  • It was sent by “customer care”. OK, could be a lie.
  • It got my name right... might be just luck, as my name is included in my mail address.
  • It was sent with a layout that looked very official, and it even had an actual event from my calendar listed in the information (grayed out in the screenshot in the top right). Now this one was a bit more peculiar, because who else but Google would know my private calendar events?
The subject of the mail read “[Invitation] VERIFY YOUR ACCOUNT”, and the main content included this bit:

This Email is from Gmail Customer Care and we are sending it to every Gmail Email User Accounts Owner for safety. we are having congestions due to the anonymous registration of Gmail accounts so we are shutting down some Gmail accounts and your account was among those to be deleted.We are sending you this email to so that you can verify and let us know if you still want to use this account. (...)

You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling out your Login Information below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

* Username:

* Password:>>

It’s quite obvious Google’s not likely to send out such mails for real. You might have guessed by now how this was done, though: someone apparently set up a Google account with the first name “customer” and the surname “care” (the actual email address was customerservices[some-number] They then created an event in their calendar titled “VERIFY YOUR ACCOUNT” – instead of say, “BBQ at Susan’s place” – with the event description being the text printed above! Finally, they added me as guest to that event, which caused Google to prepare and send the event invitation mail!
Looking for traces of this phishing attempt online, I can see it’s not completely new, with people asking about this mail in e.g. May this year... and even receiving an official answer from Google, though this type of phishing remains. If you too ever receive a mail like this, here’s something you can do instead of actually replying: click the blue arrow to the top right of the Gmail message and pick “Report phishing”. A dialog will pop up explaining what phishing is, and it then says: “If you believe this message is a phishing attack, you can report it to our abuse team and help us thwart this attack and others like it.” Google notes though, “Reporting this message as an attack will send the entire message to our team for review.">>

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Map it in your Spreadsheet - Google Map Gadget

The situation: My good friend Tomashi is visiting New York, and I want to map out a few places for her to visit near my work before we meet for the evening.

What do I do? I use the spreadsheets map gadget, which easily adds a Google map pinpointing all the addresses I've entered.

Here's how:

  1. I choose some places in the neighborhood that I think Tomashi would like visiting, and add their addresses along the first column of my spreadsheet.
  2. In the next column, I enter the name of each place, and a short description.
  3. I highlight all of the cells that contain information I'd like included in the map.
  4. Along the top of the toolbar, I click, "Insert Gadget." In the menu that appears I select "Maps" from the list on the left, and choose, simply, the "Map" gadget.
  5. Finally, I give the map a title, check the box next to "Last column as tooltip" and, as is my preference, choose to allow zoom using mouse wheel. When all's done, I click "Apply and close."
Here's the published map (which can be embedded in any HTML page, if you'd like):

And, here's a link to the full spreadsheet, showing the guide that I'll share with Tomashi when she visits.

Of course, this is great for a lot of other things, apart from visiting friends. These include:
  • House hunting (enter the addresses in one column, and any corresponding numbers, or information in the next)
  • Road trip planning
  • Charting restaurants, shops, or other places you'd like to visit
  • Anything else where a map could flesh out a list of addresses :)

How Massive is Google.

The blogosphere was amazed earlier this year when it realised the true size of Google. Think Google is the King Kong of search? Think a million King Kongs and you’re getting close. Google processes 20 Petabytes of a data a day. Don’t know what a Petabyte is? Check this out:

An MP3 is about 3MB. The Beatles recorded 214 singles- that’s close to just one gigabyte. 1024 gigabytes makes a Terabyte and 1024 terabytes makes a petabyte. Lost and confused? We were too.

Our poor mortal minds haven’t been so boggled by the ‘big numbers’ since a legendary wag fooled his elders out of ‘quite a lot’ of rice by using a chess board a few hundred years ago. We’ve used the same unit of measurement – grains of rice – to try to put Google’s electronic brain power into perspective.

Let’s relate a grain of rice to a byte. A byte is normally eight binary bits, eg ‘10011000’. It can also be written as a two digit hexadecimal number. In terms of data, a byte is generally used to store a letter. One byte = one letter = one grain of rice.

Bearing this new representation in mind, we can now look at a kilobyte (1024 bytes) as a small bowl of rice. It’s about half a portion, not enough to fill you up – and in data terms a kilobyte would only be a few paragraphs of text – not much to mentally stimulate you there either.

Next up is the megabyte – which is around the size of all the text on an average website, or a short novel. On the rice scale, a megabyte would be a 25kilo bag of rice; enough to feed over 420 people in one sitting, if you have enough chairs.

1024 times larger still is the gigabyte. Back in 1995, I bought a PC with a gigabyte of hard drive space, and managed to store everything I needed on there for the next few years.

To store a gigabyte of rice I’d have needed a bigger garden…. the size of two shipping containers to be more precise. And I could have treated all of those curry-loving Mancunians to a meal. The equivalent of finding a single word in a gigabyte of text is finding a few grains of rice somewhere inside those two containers.

Moving up the scale again we reach the terabyte, equivalent to 1024 gigabytes. I have a terabyte drive sitting in front of me – it’s the size of a small shoebox. But to search through all that data – even on my most powerful desktop machine – would take longer than my patience could bear.

To transport a ‘terabyte’ of rice we’d need to hire this container ship. We could use its contents to feed everybody in the EU.

Finally, we arrive at the mighty petabyte. At this stage, we’re well beyond the size of data that most individuals or small companies handle, and into the realms of some of our Enterprise clients. It’s the same as 210 of the largest container ships that have ever been built, EIGHTY bowls of rice for every person on the planet, or…

…what you’d need to cover central London in 1 metre of rice!

Remember, Google processes 20 petabytes of data every day; or if you prefer – over 4,000 gigantic ships bursting with rice, 1,600 bowls for everyone on the planet, or central London drowned in 20 metres of the stuff. This is spread over 72,000 jobs each taking an average of 7 minutes to complete. Their data processing capability is a big contributor to their position at the top of the online world, and also no doubt to their estimated £1million monthly electricity bill.

If you have a data network – whether it’s projected to carry giga-, tera-, or petabytes – then drop us a line to find out how our IT Support services can help your business. We could even treat you to a bowl of rice.

Google Reader - Feeling Lucky

Google Reader decided to simplify the way you add feeds. Previously, you had to click on "Add subscription" and either type the address of the site or enter some keywords. After entering some keywords like [Google blog] or [new scientist], Google Reader displayed a list of results mostly obtained using a standard web search. Basically, Google Reader took the list of web search results and filtered the web pages that didn't have feeds. This approach worked well in many cases, but not when the search results include pages from Wikipedia or YouTube, sites that have irrelevant feeds.

Now when you enter a navigational query in the "add subscription" box, Google Reader will directly subscribe to the top result. For example, if you type [new scientist], Google Reader will automatically subscribe you to New Scientist's feed, but that's not the case when enter a more general query like [scientist].

This works similarly to Google's Browse by Name, a feature available in Google Toolbar and Firefox that sends you directly to the top result for navigational queries. The problem is that Google Reader doesn't have a good method for ranking results and biases Google Web Search's ranking order with information about the popularity of a feed and other data. Here are some situations when Google Reader automatically subscribes to irrelevant feeds:

* search for [the economist] and Google Reader subscribes you to Wikipedia's feed
* search for [google os] and Google Reader subscribes you to Engadget
* search for [fake steve jobs] and Google Reader tries to auto-subscribe you to... Wikipedia's feed of recent changes

Until Google Reader fixes these poor results, I suggest to search for feeds from the directory page (Discover > Browse > Search for feeds). This way, you'll always get the list of search results.

Google - My Reviews

Google gathers all your comments and reviews from services like iGoogle, Google Maps, Google Base, Google 3D Warehouse and lists them at .

The list of reviews is public, but to get a permalink you need to know your user ID. Here's an example of public reviews page that mostly includes ratings for models from 3D Warehouse. One way to get a permalink for your reviews is to post a comment at Google 3D Warehouse and copy the link displayed next to your comment.

You can visit the discussion threads to read the replies, edit your comments or even delete them. Sorting the reviews by rating could reveal a list of gadgets, places, products or 3D models you found interesting at some point, assuming you took the time to provide feedback.

Google should provide more consolidated interfaces that show data gathered from different services. It would be useful to view and search all your comments from Blogger blogs, get an unified view for all the files uploaded to Google services (Gmail, Picasa Web Albums, Google Docs) or search all the starred items, whether they're bookmarks, Google Reader posts, Gmail messages or documents.

30GB of Free Online Storage - Humyo

humyo.pngWeb site Humyo offers 30GB of free online storage with a small and inconsequential catch: 25 of the 30GB must be media files, like music and videos. The remaining 5GB are reserved for non-media files and documents. Since most of our hard drive space is eaten by media, this won't likely be a problem. Once uploaded, files are organized in Humyo's user-friendly interface, which identifies filetypes and even organizes media by metadata (e.g., music can be sorted through by artist, album, etc.). Humyo offers a Windows client that maps a network drive directly to your Humyo account for drag-and-drop uploads and downloads (sort of like previously mentioned Gmail Drive), but you can use Humyo from any platform through your browser.


Google Webmaster Tools API

Google Webmaster ToolsAs announced at Google Webmaster Central, Google has released a public API to automate the usage of Google Webmaster Tools. The Webmaster Tools gives web site owners detailed statistics about their site’s “visibility on Google”. According to the announcement, the new API supports the following interactions with the Webmaster Tool:

  • Managing sites: retrieving, adding, verifying, and removing websites)
  • Working with Sitemaps: retrieving, adding, and removing sitemaps

To get started, check our new Webmaster Tools API profile and consult the Developer’s Guide - Google Webmaster Tools API.

While not all of the functionality of the Webmaster Tools are available from the APl, the current API will probably be of interest to webmasters who manage many websites and who update sitemaps by manual processes. And as Google notes, “this [version] is only the beginning”.

Best Presentations Contest

powerpoint contest

Think you make interesting presentations? Then here’s a good opportunity for you to get some recognition for your creativity.

SlideShare, that is home to tens of thousands of PowerPoint presentations, is running a contest to award some of the world’s best, you guessed it right, presentations.

Your entry need not be a corporate style presentation – you can even submit picture slide shows, your school lesson plan done in PowerPoint or even slidecasts that have audio narrations / music.

If you need some inspiration, check these excellent presentations.

The presentation that win maximum votes from SlideShare members will be passed on to a jury who will handpick the winners. The jury includes Guy Kawasaki, Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Bert Decker.

Zoho Show Updates

As you may know, there were recent updates to Zoho Sheet and Zoho Writer. Continuing on the series of updates, the below new functionalities in Zoho Show are now available.

1. Export to PPT, PPS, PDF, ODP : Zoho Show has long had the ‘Export as HTML’ option. Now we have added the much needed ppt, pps, pdf & odp file export options as well. After opening a presentation, click on the Export button. You will find the new options

2. Languages support : 9 new languages. In addition to English, the Zoho Show UI can now be set to one of these languages too : Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Europe), Spanish & Swedish

3. Personal Groups and Contacts support : Click on Share. You will see the Add Contacts, Add Groups option.

Group the email addresses of your contacts (work, family etc). Useful when repeatedly sharing presentations (need not type all the email addresses again). Also, all your Zoho contacts - the ones who you have shared documents with, from your Zoho Mail account etc - get listed while you share a presentation (auto-suggest feature which will help you in easily picking up who to share a presentation with.

4. Undo/Redo : You can now undo/redo upto 50 actions. You can see the new undo & redo buttons in the toolbar

5. Picasa Integration : Click on the Insert Image icon. You can see Picasa listed along with Flickr (which was already there). You can insert public pictures from your Picasa account

6. Remote Presentation - UI enhancements : Click on Remote -> Make Remote. Try making a remote presentation. You will see a chat tab to the right. The Notes tab is open (for the presenter alone) below the slide area. And the slide area size can be adjusted (to accomodate notes)

7. Embed Enhancements (Advanced Options) : Click on Publish -> Embed in Website/Blog. You will see the ‘Advanced Options’ link. Clicking on it opens a new window. There are options like how big you want the embedded preso to be, if you want the toolbar included etc. You can see that the embed HTML code snippet changes according to the options being chosen

8. Copy/Paste slides from one presentation to another : Open two presentations in separate browser tabs. You can copy-paste from one to another.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gmail's Limitations - Did you know that?

It's likely that a normal Gmail users didn't notice that Gmail has a lot of limitations for sending messages. Here are some of them, as mentioned in a mail from Google:

- 500 messages per day (i.e., you can hit 'Send' a maximum of 500 times)
- 500 unique recipients per message
- 2000 total emails per day (for example, you could send one message to a group of 500 people four times)

In addition to these limitations, "Google will temporarily disable your account if you send a message to more than 500 recipients or if you send a large number of undeliverable messages". According to the help center, you can only send a message to up to 100 people at a time if you use POP or IMAP.

Google explains that these restrictions were created to fight against spam and to prevent abuse. The same rules are enforced for Google Apps users, as well.

Om Malik thinks that "500 messages are nothing in this day and age, especially if you are in the information business as I am" and wonders why Google doesn't list all these restrictions.

Google Trends Map

Last week Google announced the release of a new layer to Google Trends. Google Trends for Websites is a tool that lets you see how popular your favourite websites are.

Using Google trends you can compare how popular different search terms or different websites have been over a given period. For example, here is a comparison of Google Maps and Virtual Earth.

As you can see Google Trends produces a very useful graph for each of your searches. It also produces a list of the top ten cities where search for the trend has originated from. But strangely, for Google, they haven't mapped that geographical data.

So step forward Mibazaar and their new Google Trends Map.

Mibazaar's Google Trends Map shows you a graph of the search results over time and lists the top ten cities where search has originated from but it also includes a handy Google Map so you can visualise where search is emanating from.

Which is of course hugely addictive because you can find the answer to many of your burning questions. For example, The citizens of Phoenix, AZ however are more interested in searching for 'eight legged freaks' and in Southfield, MI they seem most concerned about finding 'cheap gas'.

EarthSwoop - Share and View 3D Places

EarthSwoop Using Google Earth PluginGoogle Earth Hacks and Google Earth Blog have gotten together to create a web site to allow people to share and view 3D locations using the Google Earth plugin. We're calling the site EarthSwoop for obvious reasons. Try the tour of NFL Stadiums, or MLB Stadiums and click on the team icons to "swoop" in to each 3D model of a stadium. There are already over a dozen collections to try out. Since the plugin is limited to Windows right now, you won't be able to see the 3D sites with Mac or Linux - but, Google has promised to have a new version in August supporting more browsers/OSes.

Sign up in the EarthSwoop forums and you can easily save and create your own collections with anyone. All you have to do is position the view with the plugin you want to share and click a button to save that location. Mickey did most of the work using tools he's been developing for his site. We wanted to see if you could create ways for people to not only view places, but also create their own tours. Let us know what you think either here or in the forums at the EarthSwoop site.

Google News - Slow Growth

The New York Times says that Google News, Google’s semi-automated mainstream and blog news indexing service, is experiencing slow growth:

<<... traffic growth is sluggish. With 11.4 million users in May, Google News ranked No. 8 among news sites, far behind Yahoo News, which was No. 1 with 35.8 million visitors, according to Nielsen Online. Its growth rate of 10 percent over the last two years is far slower than those of most other large news Web sites. In the last two years, second-ranked grew by 42 percent, adding 10.4 million users. Traffic at and grew even faster.>>

If being among the top 10 news sites in the world is considered low, I suppose you’re in good shape. But I’m not sure exactly how these stats are created in any case; for instance, as the NYT article briefly mentions, Google News also appears as a “onebox” in normal Google web search results. And then there are Google News alerts, which will reach people via email. All of that is a lot of exposure, even when you don’t actively visit the Google News homepage. NYT quotes Google’s Marissa Mayer: “It directly feeds the main business.”

As far as Google News being ad-free to this day (at least when you visit the main Google News homepage and results), the NYT quotes anonymous Google employees suggesting that “concerns about antagonizing news publishers have guided some decisions at Google News, most notably the decision not to place ads”.

Google Finance shows More real-time quotes

We're excited to let you know we're adding more real-time market data to Google Finance, and other Google properties. Starting today, you'll have access to real-time, last sale prices from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), along with those from NASDAQ, which we recently launched. Here's the NYSE press release.

What this means is that you can now get the latest real-time stock quotes on Google for free. Wondering what Ford (F) is trading at today? Search for it on Google or Google Finance and keep the page up to have the quotes stream live.

If you use iGoogle, add the Google Finance portfolio gadget to your homepage, and monitor all your NYSE and NASDAQ traded stocks in real time throughout the day.

And if you're on the road with no access to a computer, real-time, up-to-the-second price quotes from these two exchanges are available from your mobile phone as well:

We hope this makes it easier for you to track your investments and make more informed and timely financial decisions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Google Map Maker

It is getting hard to keep up with the pace of developments from the Google Maps team. Today's huge development from Google Maps is the ability to edit Google Maps.

Google Map Maker is a new service that allows users to contribute and edit map information for certain regions. With Google Map Maker users can locate, draw, label and add map features, including:

  • Borders and regions (states/provinces, districts/administrative regions, cities, neighborhoods, etc.)
  • Road networks
  • Places of interest
  • Local businesses
  • And many more features like railways, waterways, events and reviews

In effect Google Map Maker is borrowing the concept of OpenStreetMap for collaborative mapping (the big difference to OpenStreetMap is that any submitted data will not become open source but will become owned by Google). As such any submitted content may be edited by other users or moderators .

Google Map Maker is separate from Google Maps and any additions you make to the map will not appear immediately on Google Maps. However it is clear that Google hope to get useful mapping data from the community and say that "at a later time, this content may be published in Google Maps for others to see and use."

Currently editing is available only in these countries:
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cyprus
  • Grenada
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Pakistan
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Vietnam
To help users with this new service Google have produced a Google Map Maker Getting Started Guide and a User Contributed Help Site.

Add Your Business to Google Maps

Google “Universal” includes results from Google Maps as well as other verticals. In addition to relevancy, Google Maps includes geographic factors in determining ranking order in search engine results pages.

Google Universal search engine results page including Google Maps results.

By creating their own business listing, business owners are helping drive traffic to their site as well as customers through their front door. Millions use Google Maps each day and business listings are free through Google Local Business Center. Local Business Center is available to business owners with locations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Japan, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the U. S.

Languages available in Google Local Business Center listings for Google Maps.

Before creating a new listing, it’s important to verify businesses aren’t already listed. One way of avoiding duplicate listings is to search for [your business name in your city, zip code] before submitting new listings. If a business is already listed, select “Claim your business” and if not continue to signup with Google Local Business Center.

Example of information required.

In addition to general contact information, Google Local Business Center allows owners to specify hours of operation and accepted forms of payment. They can also provide up to 10 photos, 5 videos, offer coupons and more. The entire process is easy. Business owners have two options for receiving their personal identification number, either phone or mail. This PIN must be entered in the account before listings are activated. After the PIN is submitted, listings usually become active within a month.

Verification options in Google Local Business Center.

So no matter how large or small your business, inclusion in Google Maps can be a nice way of helping your business grow. In fact, even if you don’t have a “shop” it’s possible to create individual Google Maps listings like the listing I created in 2005 before phone verification was offered, using my own address at the time. At minimum, a name and phone number are required, though including more information may increase visibility in search results. Google suggests registering a physical address as well as including meta data along with categories, phone numbers, pictures, video and other details. They also suggest encouraging customers to leave honest comments and ratings in the Google Maps “Review” tab for business listings.

After all that, don’t forget to also include contact information in your site.

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