Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Google Desktop supports 64 bit Windows

I just unearthed yet another Google product that has been in existence since 2009, or longer, that I had never heard of before today!

Google Desktop

Google Desktop search sidebar

Google Desktop Search

As I was browsing around the National Public Radio (“NPR”) online site, looking for Windows 7 supported Google Gadgets this morning, I found a reference to a Google Gadget for 64-bit Windows. This led me to a blog post dated over a year earlier. Google was far ahead of me.

Google Desktop allows one to use Google search for one’s own desktop, and not be restricted to web browser search only. Apparently, Google Desktop support for 64 bit Windows was available as of July 2009!

I do not know if it applies to Windows XP, Visa and Windows 7 operating systems, as the blog post didn’t specify. If not, Windows 7 support is probably available by now.

It was no surprise to find that the official source for information about Google Desktop is the Inside Google Desktop blog on Blogger. Google is very consistent with its product coverage strategy and data governance policies!


I confirmed today that Google Desktop does support 64 bit Windows XP and Windows 7.

Google Desktop has expanded more than I realized. Google Desktop search is available for users of Linux and Mac OS X too.

March 21, 2011

Viral Search and Analysis on the Social Web

Twitter follower badge

Twitter badge

Google is making inroads into the field of social search. However, there are alternative providers that specialize in that field that are already well-established. One such search engine is PeopleBrowsr.

Similar to how Google has indexed the web, PeopleBrowsr has indexed Twitter:

With Twitter’s Firehose and our proprietary server technology, we have reliable access to over 3 years of data.

PeopleBrowsr recently introduced a social search engine that has the potential to carve its own niche in the space where Google’s search algorithms and simple Twitter activity trackers intersect.

The new search engine is brand named*. PeopleBrowsr has designed for “online discovery analysis and interaction”. is for consumers, brand marketers and researchers. Its goal is to

build advanced conversation technologies to assemble the collective intelligence through storing, retrieving and indexing every public human conversation. Now at this pivotal era of digital preservation in social media, we’re releasing 1,000 days of Twitter data – free of charge – for deep historical reporting and social search. differentiates itself by offering these four tracking and analysis functions:

  1. The Interest Graph– Access by topic and keyword
  2. Degrees of Separation– A relationship mapping tool to discover the relationship between any two Twitter users
  3. Community Search– drill down searching for user subsets with one or more common attributes
  4. Location-based Search– drill down search within a geographically targeted user group.

The new service’s corporate motto is “Instant Communities In Real-Time with Viral Analytics and Viral Search”.  As of now, it seems to focus exclusively on Twitter stream content.

*Yes, that is correct. operates under the auspices of the Libyan Government, as .ly is Libya’s ICANN-assigned top-level domain.

March 20, 2011

How to add a Google Gadget

Image by jblyberg via Flickr

Suite of Google Gadgets for Libraries

Google offers a service called home page gadgets which are little pieces of content and web functionality that you can put on the main Google page (as it appears to you) or your own iGoogle page.

This is useful if you visit often. If so, you can customize the page with Google Gadgets that give whatever information you find most personally relevant. Some examples are weather reports for your area, news headlines or the latest entries from your favorite blogs or websites.

I don’t have an iGoogle page

That’s OK. You don’t have to have an iGoogle page to use Gadgets. You can add Google Gadgets to the classic Google page.

How do I install a Google Gadget?

Go to the Google Gadgets catalog. To prevent any spyware or virus issues, only install gadgets actually created by Google.

If you are certain the gadget you want to install is from a trustworthy source, such as National Public Radio, consider installing it.

Before installing any gadget, remember this: The only gadgets that are guaranteed safe by Google are those that were made by Google!

March 17, 2011

Picasa raw image support

The Google Photos blog, which is in fact the Picasa Blog, explained Picasa raw image support in 2008.

Picasa is not an image editor

Alexander Kunz describes why Picasa is little more than a raw image viewer, not an editor:

Picasa does NOT support every raw file. With each new model, camera vendors slightly tweak their raw format, even if the file extension is the same… The main reason to shoot raw is to stay in control in the conversion process

  • How much contrast do you want?
  • Do you want highlights?
  • Want to keep every detail in the shadows?

But you can adjust these things in Picasa later, right?

No, not very well.

Picasa is an 8 bit program… edits work on 8 bit image data. But the main advantage of raw sensor data is that it contains 12 bit or even 14 bit depth and … more room for shadows and highlights – which you try to bring closer together when you manually convert a raw file… Picasa’s raw conversion is NOT manual. You have NO influence on the conversion. Picasa finds a raw file, it renders an 8 bit version out of that file, and that’s it. You’re not in control, and what you get is an automatic conversion of your raw data. One of the key advantages of shooting raw is lost.

Both posts mentioned above were written over two years ago.  Has anything changed since then? Has Picasa improved its raw image support?

Again, the answer is no, not really. There haven’t been many changes in terms of processing. Sharpening can better controlled. However, the most significant issues, the manual conversion process and 8-bit character of Picasa as a program, have not changed at all.

March 16, 2011

Optimal advertising placement

Advertising Heatmap

Optimal advertising placement by Google AdSense

Certain locations tend to be more successful than others. This “heat map” illustrates the ideal placing on a sample page layout.

The colors fade from dark orange (strongest performance) to light yellow (weakest performance).

All other things being equal, ads located above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold. Ads placed near rich content and navigational aids usually do well because users are focused on those areas of a page.

via Google AdSense Support

March 13, 2011


If you’ve ever looked at an open-source development project hosted by Google servers, usually on sites, Mailhide will be familiar. It is a less well-known application of the reCAPTCHA detection challenge.

reCAPTCHA now owned by Google

reCAPTCHA Turing test

Mailhide conceals part of an email address

This is how it prevents spammers from accessing email addresses using automated programs. Typically, the first few letters, or numbers, of the username part of the email is visible, followed by an ellipsis i.e. three dots, and then the domain name.

Most Google employees* use Mailhide. Mailhide is offered as an option to developers using Google Code sites.

Mailhide type functionality is also offered by Slashdot for user accounts. Slashdot is not necessarily using Google reCAPTCHA for encryption, however. There are other Turing tests besides reCAPTCHA.

reCAPTCHA is a Google product. It was not developed by Google, though. Google purchased the reCAPTCHA algorithm from Carnegie-Mellon University a few years ago, in 2008.

reCAPTCHA Mailhide API

Are you running a web application that lists users’ email addresses? Do your users a favor by shielding them from spam with reCAPTCHA Mailhide.

Google will give you an API (cryptographic) key. Use it to encrypt user email addresses. Google supplies full documentation for the Mailhide protocol. Everything is free of charge.

I am uncertain whether API restrictions on usage apply. That is a familiar restriction for applications developers relying on the Twitter API. It should not be a binding constraint in this case, as Mailhide is far less transactional that Twitter. Unless one is very, very popular!

reCAPTCHA comes in many flavors!

Libraries are available for PHP, Perl, Ruby and Python programs.

*Google employee accounts in the U.S.A., and many but not all other countries, have the format  Non-employee Google mail accounts are


March 12, 2011

How To Use Google To Search

Seems like it would be obvious, doesn’t it? Usually it is, but type of search and query syntax require a bit more knowledge. If in need, they are worth the extra effort.

So many choices! Which Google search to use?

Start with regular Google search. By “regular”, I am referring to the bread-and-butter of search engines, Google universal search. You can find search syntax here, How to use Google universal search. That Search Engine Land post describes specific Google search options, by file type and subject matter, such as Image, Video, News, Shopping, and Travel, see below.

Google universal search screen shot example

Google Universal Search

This detailed guide maintained by Google describes the meaning of each item returned on the search results pages. It is a great resource!

Try Google Blog Search and Books too. [Update: Blog Search has been discontinued.]

Google search

Special searches and more

For more subtle or granular inquiries, Google provides special searches. I wrote a detailed post on Google special search syntax a few weeks ago.

Google maintains a search resource page of documents for localization help, page removal from the index, and all sorts of specific user support FAQs.

March 12, 2011

Google Books Error Page

Google Books.

Google Books error message

Tags: ,
March 12, 2011

War on Content Farms Now in Progress

Farmer's market, Jul 2009 - 01

Content fresh from the farm

Google Declares War on Content Farms:

Google has announced a major algorithmic change to its search engine. Impact on users will be subtle while dramatically improving the quality of Google’s search results…

Google is targeting content farms.

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites — sites which copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful…. It will provide better rankings for sites with original content, such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

The change should make it easier to find high quality sites.

Google did not give details of the change, which should impact 11.8% of Google’s queries (currently only in the U.S., with plans to roll it out elsewhere over time), but it does say that it will affect the ranking of many sites on the web.

The list of related articles I have hand selected (just like I dredge through string beans in order to find the very best ones) may be of further interest to those with a sense of humor. Or without a personal stake in content farming.