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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tools to improve your Reader experience

As an engineer, one of the things that warms my heart is when users of my product become invested enough in it to want to extend it. I was very happy to see that Reader has begun to attract all sorts of hacks and add-ons that tweak the application to better suit the usage patterns of particular people. It's hard to make an interface that is everything to everyone, and add-ons like these are our best hope of making Reader the ideal feed aggregator for the largest number of people.

Here are a few add-ons that we've discovered recently:

Google Reader Notifier (Mac): This open-source application adds a menu-bar icon which keeps track of new items within your entire reading list or just for a particular tag (the latter is useful for people like me that are subscribed to a lot of feeds and want to know only when the important ones are updated). Troels Bay, the author, has been revving the application on a regular basis, and it's getting better and better.

Gordita: Reader has one-click starring and sharing of items, but you may want to do the same to pages outside of Reader. Gordita lets you create a bookmarklet that allows you to copy Reader items that interest you to, along with all the other items you've bookmarked over the Web.

Google Reader Optimized: This set of user styles maximizes the reading area. When you want to sit down and power through hundreds of items, you may find this compact, stripped-down interface preferable.

Controlling Google Reader with a Cell Phone : This add-on may be a bit out there, but in a nutshell it allows you to control Reader with your Bluetooth cellphone. Perhaps if used in combination with the full-screen style above, you can build your own Reader 10-foot user interface.


Google Sponsors the LinuxBIOS project

Post by Stefan Reinauer, LinuxBIOS project

The LinuxBIOS project aims to take down the last barrier in Open Source systems by providing a free firmware (BIOS) implementation. LinuxBIOS celebrates its Sixth anniversary this year, and has an installed base of over 1 million LinuxBIOS systems. With the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, that number is expected to exceed 10 million users in 2007. LinuxBIOS supports 65 mainboards from 31 vendors in v1 and another 56 mainboards from 27 vendors in v2.

There's always been one main obstacle for our project though: unlike other free software, LinuxBIOS can easily m ake your hardware a paperweight if you encounter a bug (unless you happen to have a spare flash chip...). Thanks to Google's sponsorship, we've been able to significantly improve the project's Quality Assurance process by creating a completely automated and distributed testing environment. Every single commit results in BIOS images being built for all mainboards, and tested on real hardware located all over the world. So whenever you want to download a LinuxBIOS image, you can now know that it works on a reference machine before flashing it to your system.

A per-revision overview is available, as are test results for specific revisions, and you can even get detailed reports that include extensive logs for each motherboard. Developers can also use the build and test system without checking their code into the LinuxBIOS repository. The automatic build client has an option to submit BIOS images to the test system manually; you can see an overview of manually triggered builds here. Anyone with a spare board supported by LinuxBIOS is welcome to put it into the automated test system, thus helping the LinuxBIOS project increase their quality on your hardware. [more]

Las Vegas Pubcon 2006

r> 2006-11-13T14:31:00-08:00 2006-11-14T03:31:07Z 2006-11-13T22:55:14Z, Las Vegas Pubcon 2006 As if working at Google isn't already a party, today I'm traveling to Las Vegas for WebmasterWorld PubCon 2006! But instead of talking bets and odds, I'll be talking about how Google can help webmasters improve their sites. I love chatting with webmasters about all the work that goes into creating a great website. Several other Googlers will be there too, so if you have a burning question or just false

Learn more about Googlebot's crawl of your site and more!

author> 2006-10-17T15:14:00-07:00 2006-10-17T22:21:21Z 2006-10-17T01:39:13Z, Learn more about Googlebot's crawl of your site and more! We've added a few new features to webmaster tools and invite you to check them out.Googlebot activity reports Check out these cool charts! We show you the number of pages Googlebot's crawled from your site per day, the number of kilobytes of data Googlebot's downloaded per day, and the average time it took Googlebot to download pages. Webmaster tools show each of these for the last 90 days. Stay false[more]

Careful where you step! We're moving the furniture in Google Reader.

We just made some improvements to managing your stuff in Google Reader to better enable doing lots of things at once. If Reader were a house, I guess we just knocked down a wall -- so you can finally get to the bathroom from the bedroom. (And we added a new patio while we were at it.)

A new settings page.
There's now a link in the top right that says "Settings". Clicking on that link opens up a new screen that lists all of your subscriptions and labels, and allows you to make edits to more than one item at a time. We've also added a bunch of new filtering and selection controls. And there's a new feature as well: you can rename any of your subscriptions.

We've replaced the drawer on the front page with menus for subscriptions and labels. They're faster to load, especially if you have a lot of subscriptions. What's best, the menus allow you to select things without having to shove most of the application out of view.

You are probably already thinking of a number of cool things these changes could allow. You can probably imagine being able to sort subscriptions, or see what things have new stuff in them. Yep. We can too, and we'll be working on that stuff actively.

Tech Tip: There's a new operator in town – inmeta

There was talk in the Google Search Appliance group this week about the new inmeta query operator; I thought it's time to introduce this new feature to a wider audience.

In a recent release of the Google Search Appliance we added the inmeta query operator allowing search-users to easily create more advanced queries based on meta tag values. The appliance has had this capability for a long time using the requiredfields and partialfields parameters as part of the search API protocol. The inmeta operator allows search users to issue partialfields and requiredfields type searches directly from the search box (in the q= parameter).

The syntax is pretty simple:

The first query syntax shows how to issue a requiredfields search, which will restrict the results to any containing the meta tag specified. The second will execute a partialfields search with a value, matching any results that have that meta tag with a value matching some or all of the value specified in the query. The third is how to issue a requiredfields search matching the exact value specified in {meta_tag_value}.

For example, if you had content source with all documents having meta tag author and each document having a different value for author meta tag such as john, rajesh, mike, etc. A search-user may be interested in the documents that provide information about "Q3 Revenue" but restrict to only those documents that were authored by John, as John the CFO of the organization. To express such a query she would simply enter a query like:

Q3 revenue inmeta:author=john

Now, if you didn't know that the data was well formatted, and some might have John's full name (John Smith), and some might have his email address ( then you would want to use the following syntax:

Q3 revenue inmeta:author~john

As you see from the above examples, it is very easy to express your queries and perform advanced, sophisticated searches across structured, semi-structured, and unstructured information. We welcome the new inmeta operator to the search town!


Isn't it cool when....

As a developer who has been working on (commercial and open source) APIs and frameworks for the last several years, I can honestly say that one of the most rewarding and cool things is when another developer takes something you've done and builds on top of it in ways that you'd never imagined. That's why the folks working on the Google data APIs were excited to see this post by Charlie Wood, that includes a video clip from his presentation at Dreamforce 06, the user and developer conference.

On the video clip starting around the 17:25 minute mark, Charlie talks about how he's used the Google Calendar data API to synchronize the scheduling functions of the Saleforce AppExchange API with Google Calendar, seamlessly integrating the functionality of two completely different services on the Web. The ultra-cool part of this is that Charlie doesn't wo rk for either Google or, but the fact that both expose APIs made it possible for him to independently do this integration.

Some quotes from the video that make an API developer's heart beat a little faster:

"You can create something really incredibly powerful with a
really modest investment of time and energy, and even time and energy
spent learning. So if you can look at your app and see how it might
be extended by integrating with the Google apps, I'd encourage you to
do it, and I think you'll find it straightforward and pretty
rewardin g." (39:20)

"The integration between Salesforce and Google Calendar has

proven to be really, really popular and really interesting to a lot of
people, so I think we'll definitely be doing integration with other
Google apps." (43:35)

Charlie, thanks for sharing what you've been up to and for working with us to help to improve the APIs.

Anyone else out there working on a cool application or service using the Google Calendar data API, the Google Base data API, the Blogger data API, or the Codesearch data API?

We want to hear about it!

Kyle Marvin
Software Engineer, Google data APIs


Start your day off right

How do people in your company, school or organization start their day after their morning cup of coffee? It would be pretty great if they could fire up their browser and go to a page where they have everything they need to get their day going -- a summary of their inbox and calendar, company or school news, important links, plus a Google search box. It'd be even better if this page was highly customizable -- by your organization and by your people -- and didn't cost buckets of money to build and maintain.

I've thought a lot about this challenge, and I'm excited to finally tell everyone about what I've been working on: a brand new feature of Google Apps for Your Domain called the "start page." With this, organizations can provide a dynamic and unique-to-you central access point for essential information. Setting it up is quick and easy -- much like setting up a Google Personalized Homepage -- but with custom logos, colors and your organization's own content, in addition to modules from our gadget library. Then each of your users can take your organization's default page and change it up so it's just right for them.

To create a start page for your organization for free, sign up for Google Apps for Your Domain or log in to your existing account. If you think this would be useful but don't make these kinds of decisions for your school, business or organization, point your IT administrators to .

Know where you are

Welcome to Geography Awareness Week 2006.

National Geographic has been exploring and inspiring people to care about the planet for more than a century. But today -- with new geo-technologies such as Google Earth, Google Maps and the National Geographic-ESRI MapMachine — anyone hooked into the web can explore any place on Earth at the click of a mouse. Caring begins with seeing, and there’s no better way to see a place than to be there. So we know these new geographic tools mean better stewardship of our world’s extraordinary places, animals, and cultures.

This year we’re celebrating Africa. My Wonderful World — the National Geographic-led campaign for geographic literacy — has teamed up with Google to create a new Geography Awareness Quiz on Google Earth that lets you test your global IQ as you tour the continent.

All week, we’ll also highlight innovative projects that bring Africa to the rest of the world, such as Michael Fay’s Megaflyover, National Geographic magazine’s coverage of Africa on Google Earth, and the Koobi Fora Research Project -- on our My Wonderful World blog. We hope you’ll join us!

"More books, please!"

Since 1919, parents, teachers, librarians, and booksellers have celebrated Children's Book Week during the week before Thanksgiving. The Children's Book Council website offers some fun ideas to help celebrate:
This week, enjoy a childhood classic, read a favorite story to a child, or discover a new book together. Whether it's overcoming separation anxiety through the lyrical hide-and-seek of The Runaway Bunny, reveling in the sideways world of the kids at Wayside School, or reading a first "chapter book" with Frog and Toad are Friends, children can discover new worlds through books. And through Google Book Search readers of all ages can discover great books to read. [more]

All the news that's fit to research

We get lots of positive feedback about the potential for Google Book Search to affect research, but the word “research” might call to mind long hours of intensive reading for academic study. Google Book Search assists scholars, but it also helps us “everyday" researchers dig a bit deeper.

Let's say you've just read an article in The Boston Globe. The Globe’s job is to keep you updated on current events, but what about context? Well-written pieces usually include background information -- but in most cases, it's just enough to introduce the topic at hand. This isn’t to say that newspaper articles aren't useful -- they just don’t have the space to stretch out and fully explain themselves. Books excel at this! And Google Book Search is great way to find relevant books.

Imagine you’ve read that legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach just passed away. Do a quick search for “Red Auerbach,” and you’ll find his autobiography, which should be an excellent complement to articles you can read from other sources. Or maybe you’ve read about the recent political unrest in Fiji. Why not search for “Fiji history” and read a historical analysis of the country? You can even read up on military chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama from a variety of sources.

This is just a simple way to apply the power that having a database of fully searchable books gives you. Given that we’re always adding more books to our database (and as our recent posts to this blog demonstrate, in more and more languages), your "everyday" research results will become more and more comprehensive, whether you're investigating 17th-century philosophy or just curious about the common cold. [more]

Tips on seeking AdWords technical help

From time to time our technical support team receives reports of issues with the AdWords system. While they work hard to try to resolve these technical issues as quickly as possible, they're sometimes slowed down because they haven't received enough information to diagnose the problem immediately. Today, Stephen H. from the technical support team offers some advice on the most important information to include when reporting a technical problem:

1. The complete address of the web page where the issue occurred.

2. What you were doing when the problem occurred. We like as much detail as possible, so you might make a list of the steps you took. For example, 'First, I logged into my AdWords account. Second, I clicked on the link for Campaign #2. Third, I got an error message.'

3. The complete text of any error messages. It is very helpful for us to kno w the exact error message you saw.

4. Information about your computer's operating system. Knowing whether you use Windows PC or a Mac can help us better identify the problem.

5. Information about your web browser. Is it Firefox, Internet Explorer, or another browser? What version? In most browsers, you can usually find the version number by selecting 'About' under the Help menu.

Including the above information in your technical help request will help the support team identify and resolve your issue more quickly. So, if you find yourself scratching your head over a technical problem, heed Stephen's expert advice so that he and the rest of his team can provide you with a thorough and quick fix.


What we're reading

There are some pretty fantastic resources on the web for people who use Google Analytics, and those interested in learning more. We want to mention a few blogs on web analytics generally and on Google Analytics that we've been reading. We highly recommend these to all of you who use data to back up your online decisions.

ROI Revolution Blog
ROI Revolution is a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant (GAAC). This frequently updated blog contains interviews with web analytics experts, as well as Google Analytics tips and in-depth explanations of reports with screenshots. Great reading. Take a look at these two recent posts:
Start at the Beginning: Making Sense of the Google Analytics Toolbox by Meredith Smith
Understanding Google Analytics' Data Over Time Report by Michael Harrison

GA Experts Blog
A European GAAC affiliated with Omega Digital Media and a very informative Google Analytics-focused blog addressing practical questions and offering some pretty ingenious solutions. Learn about a new filter called "Override Bid Term Filter" that will show you the actual search keywords that brought a visitor to your site, not just the keyword that you bid on in your PPC account, in the recent post How to Get Detailed PPC Keyword Data from Google Analytics

This Just In
Written by Justin Cutroni who works at EpikOne, a one-stop, do-it-all GAAC on the east coast, which has its own informative blog. Justin posts helpful, troubleshooting articles that help clarify Google Analytics and make it even more understandable, useful, and accessible. Check out Justin's recent posts:
Google Analytics: How to Tell When Something is Wrong
Google Analytics Configuration Mistake #3: Third Party Domains

Occam's Razor
Written by Avinash Kaushik, head of web research and analytics at Intuit, and a vocal and visible analytics practitioner, advocate, and thought leader. Every web analyst, marketer, webmaster, IT specialist, and executive should read his recent post: Seven Steps to Creating a Data Driven Decision Making Culture


What's up, Docs & Spreadsheets?

Have you ever struggled to keep track of different versions of your documents or site layouts while collaborating with other webmasters? If so, you'll find Google Docs & Spreadsheets the best pain reliever ever -- it's our new web-based word processing and spreadsheet program to help manage your site's content and easily share it with others.

With Google Docs & Spreadsheets, you can edit and save in HTML to cre ate mock-ups of your webpages. You're also able to access your files from any computer via a web browser, and easily send them to collaborators to review and edit. Even more exciting, you can view all past revisions to your file, so if you change your mind about that bright purple highlighting after you've put it into your document, simply revert back to a previous version.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets also provides an easy way to distribute content. Your users won't need to download anything from your site; just create your content in Docs & Spreadsheets or upload an existing file, publish it, and then link directly to the file from your website.

Aside from all the web publishing benefits Google Docs & Spreadsheets offers, it's also a great tool for managing a small business. You can collaborate and share information about your online ad activities, draft proposals and budgets, and keep track of your Google Analytics tags all in one place. Many of the en tries on this blog wouldn't have turned out quite so well without team collaboration on the content using Docs & Spreadsheets.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets is free, secure and easy to try out. Get started by uploading your desktop files. Check out the product tour for an overview of how the product works, or just sign up here.



The disagreement between Microsoft and Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates, is important. A few weeks ago, Gold released research that raised red flags about using Windows Mobile 5.0 for e-mail. The problem, Gold said, is that Microsoft doesn’t provide encryption for data on mobile devices. Use of third-party encryption, he said, interferes with the [more]


Future House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., seemed to say recently that a Democrat-controlled Congress wouldn’t be in a hurry to move on Sarbanes-Oxley reform because the Securities and Exchange Commission has it under control.  That’s not the impression that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gives. The International Herald Tribune says the future House Speaker has identified reforming the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as one of [more]


The months of waiting and wondering are over. Sun Microsystems has released Java Standard Edition, Java Micro Edition under GPL v2. Java Enterprise Edition is now available under GPL v2 and under Sun’s own Common Development and Distribution License. We’ve heard rumblings of an open source Java for at least a year and a half, and developers [more]


A personal note: I just upgraded from Office 97 over Windows 98 to Office 2003 over Windows XP. As a result, my anxiety about crashes has diminished, and a few things work a little better. All in all, however, I’m not even 1 percent more productive. Multiply me by 30 or 40 million knowledge workers and you [more]


Projects like One Laptop Per Child get lots of press because they combine worthy causes with open source or other hip tech. There’s really something for everyone there. (Some of the press focuses on problems, such as security vulnerabilities, that will be created by the project’s large network, but that seems to bring out more [more]


Microsoft’s Jim Allchin turned to his own blog to clarify what he says is a misunderstanding and to note that, in fact, most Windows Vista users will need to run anti-virus software. Makes sense to us, since most of the flack surrounding the Vista launch centers on Microsoft’s entry into the anti-virus business. Not that most [more]

Cobol: The New Latin

Lou Washington says the so-called dead language must still be embraced and taught if we are to understand how our enterprises actually work. [more]