An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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August 28, 2014

Google Tests New Site Search Box

For navigational searches like [amazon], [white house] or [stanford], Google displays a search box that lets you search the top search result. Google now tests a completely new site search box. The updated search box is bigger, it's placed below the top search result and Google shows a list of suggestions when you type the query.


For Amazon, Google makes an exception and uses Amazon's internal search, instead of Google Search. Let's say you start typing "smart" and click "smart power strip". Google sends you to Amazon's search results page for "smart power strip". If you don't pick a suggestion and press Enter or click the search button, Google still sends you to Amazon's search results page. The only way to get Google's results is to click "results for" in the list of suggestions.



Amazon seems to be an exception. For searches like [microsoft], [youtube], [imdb], Google shows its own results.



{ Thanks, Rubén. }

August 27, 2014

Special Characters Search Engine in Google Drive

Google's Drive desktop apps have an updated dialog for inserting special characters. If you open a document, spreadsheet or presentation, go to the Insert menu and click "Special characters", you have many ways to find a special character: use categories, search by keyword (example: arrow), enter the Unicode code point (example: 2195) or draw the character.



"We have launched a new version of the special character picker in Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings, making it easier for people to find characters and symbols — like arrows, shapes, or non-Latin characters — to insert into their content. The new picker now supports keyword search as well as free form input, so editors can draw the symbol that they have in mind and the picker will return available characters that resemble the drawing," informs Google.

Here's another example from Google Drive's Google+ page:

Hangouts Contacts Tab in Gmail

If you use Google Hangouts inside Gmail, you may have noticed a new icon at the bottom of the page. It lets you switch to the new contacts tab that shows your chat buddies starting with the ones who are online, just like in the old Gmail Chat/Google Talk. The small green circle next to the profile picture shows that your chat buddy is online. "Available contacts (those with the green circle) will show in an alpha-ordered list first, followed by a second alpha-ordered list of unavailable contacts," explains Google.


You can also mouse over a contact, click the small arrow icon and pick one of the options: pin to top, start video call, send email or hide. Pin to top moves the contact in a new section at the top of the list.


There's also the regular Hangouts tab that shows your conversations sorted by date. Gmail remembers the most recently clicked tab.

"Starting today it's easier to see which of your chat buddies are currently online, thanks to a new tab in Hangouts in Gmail. In this new tab, friends who are online are shown first, followed by those who aren't. Of course, you can still send your offline friends a message and they'll get it the next time they check Hangouts on their computer, phone or table," informs Google.

For now, Google still lets you switch between the old Gmail Chat and Google Hangouts, so you can always click "Try the new Hangouts" to switch to Google Hangouts and then "Revert to old chat" to go back to Gmail Chat if you don't like Hangouts.

Google Teapot Easter Egg

Google has a funny error page at google.com/teapot. It says: "418. I'm a teapot. The requested entity body is short and stout. Tip me over and pour me out." If you click the teapot, you'll see a nice animation.


So what's this 418 error? You may have noticed HTTP status codes like 404 (page not found) or 403 (forbidden). There are many other 4xx error codes, but 418 was only used for an Easter Egg. "This code was defined in 1998 as one of the traditional IETF April Fools' jokes, in RFC 2324, Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol, and is not expected to be implemented by actual HTTP servers." Here's the text from the document: "Any attempt to brew coffee with a teapot should result in the error code '418 I'm a teapot'. The resulting entity body MAY be short and stout."


{ via Search Engine Land }

August 26, 2014

64-Bit Chrome for Windows in the Stable Channel

Chrome 37 has been promoted to the stable channel. This means that the 64-bit Chrome for Windows is ready for primetime. You won't be upgraded to the 64-bit version even if you use 64-bit Windows 7 or Windows 8, so you have to manually install the 64-bit Chrome 37 from this page. You can also click the "Windows 64-bit" from Chrome's download page.


"64-bit Chrome offers many benefits for speed, stability and security. Our measurements have shown that the native 64-bit version of Chrome has improved speed on many of our graphics and media benchmarks. For example, the VP9 codec that’s used in High Definition YouTube videos shows a 15% improvement in decoding performance. Stability measurements from people opted into our Canary, Dev and Beta 64-bit channels confirm that 64-bit rendering engines are almost twice as stable as 32-bit engines when handling typical web content," informs Google.

So why is 64-bit Chrome opt-in? It doesn't support 32-bit NPAPI plugins. This may be an important downside for some users, but Chrome will remove NPAPI support in the coming months anyway. Until then, the 32-bit Chrome will still be the default.

Chrome's "known issues" page informs that the 64-bit plugins for Java and Silverlight work properly, while the plugins for Google Earth and Google Voice don't work because they're 32-bit plugins. You can switch between the 32-bit and 64-bit Chrome versions from Chrome's download page.

{ Thanks, Dilraj. }

Upload Google+ Videos to YouTube

YouTube now lets import your videos from Google+. Just go to the upload page and click the "import" button from the right sidebar.


You can select one or more Google+ videos and upload them simultaneously. This is a great way to upload your videos from desktop computers, Android and iOS devices if you've enabled the Auto Backup feature.


Google+ is better suited for uploading and managing photos. Even if Google+ uses YouTube's infrastructure for videos, Google doesn't provide embedding options for Google+ videos.

{ spotted by Nedas Petravičius. }

August 25, 2014

Edit Office Files in Docs, Sheets and Slides for iOS

Google released the Slides app for iOS and added native Office file editing to Docs, Sheets and Slides for iOS.

"You can truly get stuff done from any device — your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Any change you make on any of these devices is saved automatically, so you can pick up right where you left off any time, anywhere that you can sign in. The Docs, Sheets and Slides apps come with offline editing built right in. Just make the files you want to edit available offline. Any changes you make offline get automatically synced when you reconnect, just like when you make offline edits from your computer. And while converting Office files to Docs, Sheets and Slides is a cinch, the new iPhone/iPad apps also let you edit Office files directly - just like on the Android apps and the web," informs Google.



Native Office editing using the Office Compatibility Mode is a great feature and now Google's productivity apps for iOS are more powerful and can better compete with Microsoft Office.

On YouTube Music Key

Google works on a subscription service for YouTube that will allow users to watch music videos without ads, play music videos in the background when using mobile devices and temporarily download music videos. YouTube Music Key will cost $9.99 a month and it will include Google Play Music All Access, which will be renamed Google Play Music Key.

While this is a great deal for Play Music subscribers, I'm not sure if YouTube Music Key's offering is strong enough on its own. There are many free apps for Android and iOS that let you play almost any YouTube video in the background, not just music videos. They also let you download almost any video and don't show YouTube ads. There are various ways to block YouTube ads and download YouTube videos.


I think that YouTube Music Key is a way to improve Google Play Music Key and supplement it with YouTube's music videos. It's also a way to promote Google Play Music's subscription service using YouTube.

Features like playing videos in the background or offline playback should be available for free for any video. Limiting them to music videos and requiring a monthly fee seems shortsighted, considering that there are free apps that offer these features.

Google Knowledge Vault

New Scientist reports that Google works on supplementing Knowledge Graph with a new database called Knowledge Vault. While Knowledge Graph uses information from a list of trusted sources, Knowledge Vault gathers data from the entire Web.

"Google started building the Vault by using an algorithm to automatically pull in information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn the raw data into usable pieces of knowledge. Knowledge Vault has pulled in 1.6 billion facts to date. Of these, 271 million are rated as 'confident facts', to which Google's model ascribes a more than 90 per cent chance of being true. It does this by cross-referencing new facts with what it already knows. Knowledge Vault offers Google fast, automatic expansion of its knowledge – and it's only going to get bigger," informs New Scientist.

Google already provides some answers extracted from web pages, but it's not clear if this feature has anything to do with Knowledge Vault.


It's interesting to note that the Google blog post that announced Knowledge Graph mentioned that "Knowledge Graph isn't just rooted in public sources such as Freebase, Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. It's also augmented at a much larger scale — because we're focused on comprehensive breadth and depth."

Google's goal has always been to use the power of the Web to extract facts and answers. 10 years ago, Google Q&A provided answers to common questions like "what is the population of Japan?" using information from the Web. Knowledge Graph allowed Google to organize information and create connections between entities and now Knowledge Vault comes full circle.

"Knowledge Vault: A Web-Scale Approach to Probabilistic Knowledge Fusion" is authored by Xin Luna Dong, Evgeniy Gabrilovich, Geremy Heitz, Wilko Horn, Ni Lao, Kevin Murphy, Thomas Strohmann, Shaohua Sun, Wei Zhang - all of them from Google. The paper explains that "Knowledge Vault is different from previous works on automatic knowledge base construction as it combines noisy extractions from the Web together with prior knowledge, which is derived from existing knowledge bases". Google's paper uses the open source Freebase graph, but it's obvious that Freebase would be replaced with Knowledge Graph in Google Search.

{ via Search Engine Land }

Add YouTube Search Results to a Playlist

If you want to quickly add videos to a YouTube playlist, you can click YouTube's search box, enter a query, mouse over search results, click the 3-dot menu icon and pick an existing playlist or create a new one. You can add videos without having to open them, then you can edit the playlist from this page.