March 6, 2012

Cleaning up for Honeycomb

It is year-end, December 31, 2010.

While everyone at Google enjoys the holidays, someone is still working late at night to gear up for Honeycomb.

Who could it be?

Notice the cleaning bucket that hard-working little Android is using. Yes, it is covered with those distinctive Erlenmeyer flasks that Google Labs was so fond of using.


This predated the closure of Google Labs by nearly a year.

Cleaning up for Honeycomb by Evoreto UG (haftungsbeschränkt):

Our 3D Android is based on work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.
This is no official ad and neither related nor endorsed by Google.

Music: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under CC/licenses/by/3.0/.

Tags: ,
March 2, 2012

Google Maps: Foreign affairs and social skirmishes

Google Earth and Google Maps are probably the most popular, free, online cartography reference tools for the public. Popularity is not the same as authority though[1]:

The lines that Google draws on maps have no government’s imprimatur.

Foreign affairs

Google should not be involved in geopolitical disputes. If Google Maps show borders or place names that are different from official or long-established usage, they can confuse, offend or worse, even if done unintentionally[2]:

On Nov. 3, 2010, a Nicaraguan official justified his country’s incursion into neighboring Costa Rica’s territory by claiming that, contrary to the customary borderline, he wasn’t trespassing. For proof, he [cited] Google Maps.

Google Map art

Map markers away! Fighting the cartographic unknown

Google DOES try to offer meaningful, accurate maps. Continue reading

February 24, 2012

Orkut is the ORIGINAL Google social network

TechCrunch seems perturbed by Google’s decision to maintain Orkut as a distinct entity from Google Plus. I think that Google is correct to do so.

Orkut is Google’s most successful social network. It would be fair to say that Orkut is the most successful global online community, EVER. It has been in existence for nearly a decade. That is no minor achievement, in a web time frame of reference! Orkut actually grew its user base in Brazil during 2011.

Google Orkut users in 2011 by country chart - Brazil 50%

Orkut users by country 2011

Orkut remains the second most popular social network in India. I recall reading an official Google blog post last year, tallying over 65 million ACTIVE Orkut users, primarily in Brazil, India, Pakistan and Portugal. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to merge Orkut into Google Plus.

Orkut status April 2014

The future of Orkut appears less certain now, nearly two years later. The Orkut developer page, 

returns a generic Google HTTP error 404 page not found.

Equally ominous: The Orkut advertising inquiries page also returns an error. Advertising is the number one priority!

Continue reading

December 19, 2011

A Special Kind Of Proxy

GoogleSharing is a special proxy service that doesn’t hide what you are searching from Google. Instead, it obscures where the requests are coming from. GoogleSharing is not a full proxy service designed to anonymize traffic. It is exclusively intended for certain aspects of your communication with Google. So there are no “alternative” websites to visit. Your use of the web need not change at all.


How does it work?

How does it work?
The GoogleSharing system is a custom proxy with a Firefox Add-on.

The proxy

The proxy generates a pool of GoogleSharing “identities,” each containing a cookie issued by Google and an arbitrary User-Agent for one of several browsers.

The add-on

The Firefox add-on watches for requests to Google services from your browser… and will transparently redirect them to a GoogleSharing proxy. There your request is stripped of identifying information and replaced with a GoogleSharing identity. Then this request is forwarded to Google, and the response is proxied back to you.

If your next search is given a different identity, Continue reading

December 16, 2011

Google Cloud Print one year later

A few days ago, Google Cloud Print was rolled out to more users, with new features. One of the more interesting is the ability to embed a cloud print button on one’s website. Read on to learn the reason this cloud print button is important.

Reverse colors in 2011

Google Cloud Print's new logo

The Google Cloud Print landing page now offers complete instructions for registering a printer that is not connected to a PC or other computer. There is also a detailed user tutorial, which wasn’t available a year ago.

The full list of operating systems, device types and browsers from which one can access Cloud Print is extensive.  This seems to be the easiest way to decide whether Cloud Print will work with a user’s current “configuration”:

On any web page, if you see a “Print” button with the Google Cloud Print logo, you can print without leaving your browser.

As I wrote this article, I found a few user tips. Profiles and Cloud Print for Any Page has good instructions for embedding the Cloud Print button, and for using it with multiple Google profiles in Chrome 16.

Variety of services

Google Cloud Print offers versatility

Implementation and strategy thoughts

The level of detail required to specify device (mobile/ tablet/ PC/ Mac/ Chromebook), operating system (Android/ iOS/ Windows/ Mac/ Chrome OS) and print app makes one think about the project management complexity. I can only imagine the hardware and data integration challenges!

It is worth noting that Google chose to expend this effort on printing, which is one of the least interesting computing services, for marketing and developers alike. This is a reality, despite the importance of print functionality to those who need it.

In Beta

A certain problem URL, described in my  Cloud Print post last year, still returns the same 400 error. I don’t fault Google for that. Google Cloud Print remains is in beta. It is more prudent to keep the beta designation until a product is ready. Avoid the sort of headaches Google recently had with the still-buggy Gmail for Apple iPhone mess a few weeks ago.

December 9, 2011

Emotional response to Google search

Humorous representation of user perception of Google search engine results

Charting emotional response to results returned by Google search

Via UberHumor, When searching on Google.

A second source of fun came to my attention courtesy of web designer, developer, and past Google employee Ji Lee 이지별 and his rather agreeable website-portfolio, Please Enjoy. It is Goollery (not affiliated with Google):

Via Goollery not affiliated with Google
Google Map Points

a collection of awesome Google-related projects from people around the world

Typical features are entertaining anecdotes and items like this life-sized Google map marker photo and story.

It is worth mentioning that neither Mr. Ji Lee’s website, nor Goollery are thinly disguised marketing-fodder. Both sites are sharp-witted in tone at times. They do not hesitate to mention less-than-favorable Google corporate strategies and policies. Similarly, they acknowledge instances when competitors excelled, or customers were not well-served. Yet neither site is mean-spirited.

Today’s post includes one more item of Google fun. The following video is now featured on Goollery in the “Most Recent” section, EPIC Google Docs.

It is a delightful animation, about 1:30 mins duration.

This demo shows how you can make a Flash-like animated presentation by only using Google Docs, without using any animation software. The presentation consists of 450 pages and was created by 3 persons from 3 different locations in 3 days.

There may be some adult, or at least “over age 13” type content in one or both sites. That is a standard for most sites though. Even The Federal Reserve Bank of New York website has that provision in the terms of service:

Eligibility …not intended for users under the age of 13. By using the Services, you warrant that you are at least 13 years of age.

* All content on the Fed’s site is 100% free for re-use, however. Well, mostly, as long as it doesn’t come from third parties. And isn’t re-posted for commercial purposes. Probably best to view the Fed’s TOS page just to be certain.

November 23, 2011

Google Sidewiki is closing

Google Sidewiki will close effective 5 December 2011 and all content will be deleted. Sidewiki was a web annotation experiment of sorts, allowing anyone with access to the internet to comment on any web page, in an ad hoc sort of way.

Google Sidewiki to be seen no more

Sidewiki icon

Demise of another Google Labs project

Google Sidewiki seemed to have a relatively small cadre of regular users. It was initially received with anticipation, and from some surprising sources. According to pharma industry analyst Dominic Tyer, in his coverage of the closure:

Sidewiki was briefly a big deal for pharma…it caused at least one over enthusiastic pharma commentator to declare it a “game changer” at launch two years ago.

Google Sidewiki was plagued by spam and extraneous content from the beginning. Google itself did not seem to stand behind the project as much as with other Labs, as the Google Sidewiki Twitter account and Google Buzz feed were not updated after July 2010, despite remaining online. Google+ is much more closely aligned with the direction Google seems to be taking for social and collaborative web interaction lately.

How to export your Sidewiki contributions

You can do this as follows:

  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. Go to All my entries to see all Sidewiki content that you have created
  3. Save the page to your computer. It will be in a *.zip file format.
  4. Check that the saved page is readable

Final days for Sidewiki

There is also a Google Toolbar Help Center article about removing Sidewiki for those who don’t use Chrome browser, but it hasn’t been updated since September 2011.

Chrome Extension for Sidewiki

If you use the Sidewiki Chrome extension, see these Help Center instructions  which are up-to-date, about how to remove it.

In order to keep your Sidewiki contributions you must export them before 5 December 2011.

October 20, 2011

Google for investors with 3Q 2011 update

This post will focus on Google the corporate entity, and not a product review or news (or humor with pictures and video) that is my usual subject here In the GooglePlex.

Google for investors

Google, Inc. is listed as GOOG on the NASDAQ. The corporate website for Google Investor Relations is

Have a look at (and consider bookmarking) the Events and Webcast page of the Investor Relations website. I find that to be the most convenient way to check on the status of any Google corporate news or document releases.

Current status of Google as a going concern

Google released third quarter financial information last week, for the three months ending September 30, 2011. Revenue is up 33% over 3Q 2010, and profits have increased 26%.

Android logo pillow

Google Android close-up

Some analysts expressed concern over the recent acquisition of Motorola as well as the Google mobile phone product, Android. Patent-related troubles are the primary reason for that. The full length version of the official press release is always available to the public, straight from the source: Google Announces 3Q 2011 Financial Results.

The slide presentation* accompanying every quarterly financial announcement is posted on the Google Investor Relations site, which is probably the quickest way to get access to it. The 3Q 2011 slides [PDF] are there already, although XBRL data, which is of less general interest to the public, hasn’t been posted yet.

XBRL is an abbreviation for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. I don’t recall how quickly the Google 2Q 2011 XBRL files were posted. XBRL files are in ZIP format. They are part of recent financial reforms related to the Dodd-Frank bill. Publicly traded (exchange listed) companies are required to use XBRL for better standardization of financial reporting for regulatory compliance purposes. This is required of all companies, and does not reflect negatively on Google, who has a good record with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In fact, one of the most upbeat, unequivocally positive posts to emerge from that Dark Horse, Zero Hedge (some of whose dire predictions are coming true, reflecting present conditions rather well) is about Google. Yes, it would be fair to say that Zero Hedge is actually bullish on Google: Our Growth Projection For Google Is Intact and Performing Well.

Opinion from a corner of a foreign field that wishes it were in the GooglePlex

I’ll share some ad hoc thoughts of my own, not to be taken as investment advice in any way, shape or form. I am not licensed to recommend, act as adviser nor broker in any financial instruments. I own no shares of Google stock. Keep in mind that this is my Google hobby blog, so I am obviously biased in favor of the company. I love the green Android, he is so sweet and cute.

Google has spread itself thin. There is a rather dour but sober post over at Read Write Web by Jon Mitchell that alludes to such. But steps are being taken to address that. Many, myself included, mourn the September 2011 closure of Google Labs, and the wonderful projects it offered. Yet this is an example of how Google is taking action to focus on products that are most likely to generate revenue. And also most likely to help mainstream users.

One must remember that Google is not a public utility, nor a government agency. Google provides a great many services that have zero profit potential, such as free Google Code Hosting for open source projects, server space to house the Usenet bulletin boards of the past etc.

Customer service

Google is not perfect. Advertising remains a primary revenue source. To-date, Google AdSense and AdWords revenue was primarily from e-commerce customers who don’t require much in the way of user support. Google needs to improve its customer support, particularly as an enterprise provider of custom search solutions such as the Google Search Appliance, and most visibly, Google Apps.


I am not too concerned about Google Plus and its competitive positioning versus Facebook. Google+ is new, has glitches, and may be of interest to a smaller subset of the population than Facebook. That’s okay though. Facebook is 100% about social (note that the Facebook Places project was discontinued). Facebook doesn’t try, nor need to be a search engine too. Similarly, it is great that Google offers social features, a nice “extra”. However, Google’s core business is search and information retrieval. Advertising revenue finances that, and social features facilitate advertising.

* Google quarterly earnings slide presentations all have a similar format and character. As an example, you can glance at the slide presentation that accompanied the 2Q 2011 Google announcement. I found it on Scribd, before I knew about the Google Investor Relations website. This is for the quarter ending June 30, 2011 (whereas the link in the paragraph above was for the most current 3Q data):

September 27, 2011

Google Tashkeel for diacritics in Arabic to be discontinued

The name Tashkeel – تشكيل means to “give shape or form”. The process of diacritizing is also called Tashkeel.

Google Tashkeel adds missing diacritics to Arabic text:

Diacritic symbols are crucial to identify how words are pronounced and to disambiguate their meanings. Arabic uses diacritic symbols to specify short vowels.

Google Tashkeel Translation product

Google Tashkeel for Arabic diacritic annotation

The symbols are usually omitted by native speakers when writing, as the word meaning can be inferred by context. However, including diacritics is necessary as a pre-processing step for many text processing applications. Diacritics are used in a similar context in many other languages. The two that I am most familiar with are Chinese and Hebrew.

Google is shutting down Tashkeel

Tashkeel will go offline by September 30, 2011. The URL is

Arabic language by geography

which explains why Tashkeel is shutting down: It is yet another product closing as part of the Google corporate decision to shutter Google Labs.

Tashkeel will be missed by many users. As of September 16, 2011, the product page had over 200 five-star reviews.