Google Reader has added a feature to the sidebar that recommends RSS feeds you might be interested in subscribing to based on your current subscription. They list three feeds, but click a link and you’ll get a page with 20 pretty good recommendation.
Reader recommended for me Dave Naylor, Michael Gray, Ross Mayfield, Dave Sifry, the Google News Blog, the AdWords API blog, the Google Checkout Blog, the Vista Team blog, Microsoft’s JobsBlog, Channel 10, Jeff Sandquist, Tim Sneath, Matt Haughey, Eileen Brown and Dosh Dosh, among others, pretty much good recommendations all around.
By contrast, Bloglines has a similar feature which hasn’t been updated in a while (possibly not since its launch three years ago) that is biased towards more popular blogs you may already read in another form, or don’t subscribe to for a reason. They include Slashdot (already subscribe), CNET (I don’t subscribe to all of CNET, just specific areas), kuro5hin (they’re still around?), MacRumors, Gizmodo (already subscribe), Dilbert, all of Wired, Fast Company, 43 Folders (already subscribe), Kottke, Think Secret and Extremetech. Reader’s ahead already on day one.
Reader also added the ability to re-arrange feeds via drag-and-drop. This was a long one coming, given that Bloglines had it in the previous version since February 2006, and a necessary one. Google still doesn’t provide a means for renaming folders, but at least you can improve things by moving them around.
Ionut Alex details a new iGoogle Gadget that allows you more control over personalized homepage themes than ever before. With this Gadget, you can set rules for theme switching, using a different theme based on which computer you’re using, the time of day, the weather outside, the day of the week, and choose from 70 user-created themes while doing so. The possibilities for theme combinations are endless, and you can do a different theme per iGoogle tab, giving you more options than you know what to do with.
Google Desktop’s Gadgets are now cross-platform compatible with Apple’s Mac OS X Dashboard. That means you can run Gadgets alongside Widgets in the Dasboard, on Google’s Sidebar, and on the iGoogle personalized homepage, making them amazingly versatile, and letting Google’s platform pick up the slack when Dashboard is missing something important. If Google does the same for Windows Vista, and helps Gadgets run on Vista’s Sidebar, that would be amazing.
GearsMonkey is a project on Google Code that uses the Greasemonkey scripting plugin to add Google Gears support to any website. The current code will let you take Wikipedia offline, letting you read the web encyclopedia offline, but with some coding skills you can modify the code to take practically any website offline.
Google seems content to continue leaving the job of adapting sites for Gears to others, which makes sense given the incredible amount of work it would take to do everything itself. Still, the strategy isn’t working, with very few sites supporting Gears, so maybe Google needs to get a little more aggressive.
KFC, a popular fast food chicken joint, decided to do a giant version of their iconic Colonel Sanders logo, built exactly where they knew Google Earth’s satellites would be going overhead. As you can see in the video above, they assembled the 325-foot tall banner in the Nevada desert last year, and you can view it now with this KMZ link in Google Earth.
Google Earth added a new layer, which shows you live weather conditions over the globe. You get to see cloud cover (which makes the virtual globe a lot more realistic) plus radar and conditions and forecasts layers, all available now under the Weather folder in your Layers control. There’s also an animated layer of the last 24 hours of cloud data and last 6 hours of radar data that you can get by plugging in the KML files I just linked to.
One cool thing: When you are on the ground, or at least zoomed below the cloud layer, when you look up you’ll see the clouds above you, not straight out into space. That’s really realistic, and I love it. You should just turn on the cloud layer all the time for a better Google Earth experience.
They’ve also re-organized the layers control to make it easier to navigate. Now, most everything is organizaed into folders and sub-folders, so you can activate everything in a category or drill down to get most specific.
Two years ago next month, Google bought five percent of AOL for a billion dollars. Yeah, you might have forgotten that, but it was a really big deal at the time. While Google’s main motivation was to keep being the search technology for fifth-place AOL Search, there was a lot of talk on both sides about the two companies working together. The big get, mentioned right in the press release: Google Talk and AOL Instant Messenger integration.
What the hell happened? It’s been two years, and the two products have made less effort to work together than the U.S. Congress. Granted, development on Google Talk has gone dark, with a second version of the product either not in development or massively delayed, and AOL’s rising star software division suffered massive multiple layoffs that have decimated their ability to ship good products and hold talented engineers, but interaction between the protocols could have been done quickly if someone had made it a priority.
As we do every once in a while, we’re hearing more leaks about supposed GTalk/AIM integration, this time in the form of leaked screenshots of a future Gmail build. If Gmail Chat gets AIM integration, that would be great news, but if it gets it and Google Talk doesn’t, it might be time to declare development of Talk a dead project. All the new Google Talk features seem to be happening in other projects, while the desktop client lies fallow.
Take a look at this video, where Google explains Project Spectrum, an effort by Google to help those with autism take advantage of their gifts for working and expressing themselves visually using Google SketchUp, its free 3D modeling software:
It’s really great of Google to be working on this, and I really enjoyed seeing the various models the children had come up with. And really, who doesn’t think a semi truck with teeth is an improvement?
On a seperate note, Aidan Chopra has written one of those “For Dummies” reference books on how to use SketchUp. He’s also got over 60 videos on YouTube, which you can use to teach yourself how to be a better SketchUpper, especially if you’re too cheap to buy the book. If you aren’t use this referral link to buy the book at Amazon, currently available for $13-16.
(via Boing Boing)
Google Reader got two new additions, courtesy of some Googlers and their 20% time. In their spare time, Steve Lacey and Dolapo Falola seperately created a blogroll you can share on your blog, showing your readers your feed subscriptions; and some enhancements for Reader Mobile. For Mobile, they added seeing Trends data for feeds viewed on Mobile, configuring the number of items displayed per page, and disabling re-formatting of linked pages. There are also iPhone-specific user interface tweaks.
Google Gears, Google’s platform for running online applications while not connected to the internet, has been a ton of potential that wasn’t being realized, since Google launched it with Google Reader and then did nothing for five months. For Gears to be successful, it has to be more useful than a one-app pony, and Google wasn’t using it for anything.
The other service which is getting actual Gears integration is Google Calendar, as spotted by Andy Beal. Some slueths at Blogoscoped discovered you will be able to view and edit the next three months of your calendar after a Gears-enabled browser logs onto Calendar and syncs up. Presumably, you’ll be able to view a decent number of past appointments as well. No idea when this functionality goes live, but its promising.
I’m going to go speculating and say that it appears Google has decided to leave the job of integrating Gears with the various Google services to the actual product teams, which could be why its taking so long. Most Google teams have a lot of work on their plates, and might not have time to do this. I can’t imagine the Google Docs guys having a lot of time, with the high visibility and pressure of their products, which is a shame since Docs (and Gmail) are the most anticipated products to get Gears eventually.
Did not know this, but Amit Agarwal writes about some benefits your Gmail account gets when you use Google Apps. Besides getting 25 gigabytes of email storage (eight times what a regular account has), uptime guarantees and hiding advertisements, you get certain benefits from Postini, which has recently been added to Apps.
What do you get?
The ability to create a list of approved senders and approved email domains. Any email from those addresses or those domains will go straight to your inbox, no worries about them getting stuck in the junk mail filter. You also can make a list of blocked email addresses and blocked email domains, and you’ll never see emails from them.
Postini backs up your deleted email, so if you delete something, you can still recover it for up to 90 days. Search Postini’s archive and you can get them back.
Google Apps is $50 a year, so if deleted email recovery is worth that to you, go for it.
Ionut Alex reports that Google Maps has added profile pages for users who create content for the service. The profile services are built on the same nameless platform Google Shared Stuff profiles are built on, and show reviews you’ve written and personalized MyMaps you’ve created. Check out his post for screenshots, or this video which explains it all:
Other new features I’ve neglected to cover:
Google Desktop 5.5 was released in beta, and it brings an improved Quick Search box, support for running multiple copies of a Gadget at once, and improved Outlook searching. It also brings a new ability: Google Desktop Gadgets can now run on iGoogle homepages. That means that the desktop Gadgets, with advanced functionality and the ability to access files on your computer (like playing music files) can run in a webpage and take advantage of iGoogle’s tabs.
If a regular iGoogle user tries to use a Desktop Gadget, they’ll be prompted to install Google Desktop in order to be able to use it. The version of Desktop they install will be a special, streamlined version that has only the Gadget functionality enabled, but none of the desktop search stuff. The advantage for Google is that all the rest of Desktop is right there and ready, should users decide to check it out.
Ionut Alex shows what a Google Online Desktop could look like, with a full desktop and windows showing your Gmail, Google Calendar, and other Google services.
Google Transit, a Labs service that showed public transportation on Google Maps, has been folded into Maps itself. Now, if you are in one of the five cities for which transit data is available (SF, Seattle, Portland, Dallas and Japan), you’ll get bus and train directions if you want.
And get this: YouTube videos are now available as a layer in Google Earth. Geotagged videos will appear as placemarks in Google Earth, and you can click them to watch them right there in the interface.
A few weeks ago, Google started publicly reporting feed subscriber counts for all Google RSS services (including Google Reader, iGoogle, Orkut and such), and they are now tweaking the way the numbers are tabulated so as to make them as accurate as possible. If you want to fidn out the number of subscribers a feed has, Ionut Alex has instructions for you.
Finally, Google Reader has started putting together “feed bundles”, combining multiple RSS feeds by category (like News, Celebrities, even “Google-related”), so new users can add a category with a click when they don’t know which blogs they specifically are looking for. Just click Browse in the Reader sidebar to start looking at them.
Google has launched a mobile site for Google Docs. It isn’t a mobile version of the office suite, so you can’t create and edit text documents or spreadsheets, but you can use it to view or download documents from your Docs account, making it a useful way to access your free Google Docs storage. You can download all your documents, but you can only view text and spreadsheets as HTML in the mobile interface (though iPhone users can view Presentations on their phone as well).
Philipp has screenshots, including showing the strange view spreadsheets have within the interface, showing only a single column or a single row (displayed vertically) at a time. You can see that presentations exist, but you can’t download them to view in PowerPoint mobile on a Windows Mobile phone, presumably because Presentations shipped without a PowerPoint export function.
Google is going to announce today a partnership with Multiverse Network, maker of virtual world platforms (like Second Life), that will let anyone create a virtual 3D environment using Google Earth terrain and Google SketchUp 3D models. Using the technology, you could grab an area from Google Earth, like the Grand Canyon, and populate it with your favorite landmarks, tossing in the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Wrigley Field, creating a unique 3D world quickly and more easily than ever before.
The article also discusses SceneCaster, a new feature that allows the creation of 3D “scenes” in SketchUp that can be uploaded to the 3D Warehouse and embedded in blogs, Facebook pages or shared to Flickr. The article is not clear of the exact implementation of the Multiverse 3D virtual world product, or even if it will be free (though it appears it will), but it does say that each virtual world can have up to 1,000 users running around, which should make it fun to use as soon as we get our hands on it.
(via Ogle Earth)
The Navy is embarking on a $600,000 alteration of meaningless barracks facility near San Diego, changing the look of the 40-year old building so it no longer resembles a swastika. Because of the availability and popularity of Google Maps, Google Earth, and other satelite maps services, people noticed the shape of the building, which matches the logo of the Nazi party, causing a mini and constly uproar that otherwise would never have happened.
The Navy said officials noted the buildings’ shape after the groundbreaking in 1967 but decided against changing it at the time because it wasn’t obvious from the ground. Aerial photos made available on such services as Windows Live and Google Earth in recent years have since revealed the buildings’ shape to a wide audience.
On the one hand, the building’s shape is unusual but efficient, and not that big a deal, and they could have just ignored it. On the other hand, if we can get the swastika building changed, perhaps we can start cleaning up all the buildings left behind by the Freemasons before their strange architecture begins confusing our Thetan masters.
Nathan Weinberg at Inside Google sure can write a dramatic blog entry.
That’s gotta be the nicest thing anyone said to me all week. I like.
Elinor’s also got a quote from a Google rep on the story:
A Google representative provided this statement when asked for comment: “We take our users’ privacy and security very seriously. We acted quickly when we discovered this bug and delivered a fix: e-mail addresses are no longer archived during presentation chat sessions.”