Werc is working 2011/03/18

This blog is finally in werc! I wrote a script to convert my wordpress archives to markdown, and output by date. I did have to do some manual cleanup on some images and links, but mostly just finally getting the rest of the site in order enough to publish.

I also made some customizations to the blagh app and hoping to make more improvements down the road, but so far so good, clean and fast.

I’m also staring to maintain my personal projects in git and host them publicly with gitosis and gitweb. My repositories will be available at git.jeremdow.com. I’m happy with the custom header and stylesheet for gitweb, actually ties this all together pretty well.

Doing some upgrades 2010/12/18

Doing some upgrades, finally upgraded to PHP 5.3 - so now running Nginx again with PHP-FPM - very fast! (and hopefully stable now)

Back to Wordpress 2010/07/07

There was a lot I liked about werc, but just not enough time to build out properly, so it’s back to Wordpress at least for this blog (for now).

Back to Lighttpd 2010/04/22

This site has been down a lot lately, and about to be down a bit longer.

Why? Well, nginx hasn’t been working out so well - or more specifically spawn-fcgi - it just keeps crashing. Nginx by itself is great - the memory footprint really is smaller and the config file is simple. If you only need to serve static files (like for an image server), you probably can’t beat it - but until there is something stabler for cgi support (for fcgi running PHP 5.3 there is / will be soon) - if I really want to run werc, I need to switch back to lighttpd for now.

And if lighttpd is “suckless” enough for Anselm, it ought to be good enough for me.

Back up with nginx 2010/03/19

Back up with nginx - learning my way around werc - might as well keep this up in the meantime.

Switching to nginx 2010/03/17

Switching from lighttpd/wordpress to nginx/werc – blog will be down for a little while.

All your friend/feed are belong to Facebook 2009/08/10

friendfeed_logo And FriendFeed goes to Facebook.

Robert Scoble was probably the world’s foremost FriendFeed evangelist - worth reading some of the discussion here.

Bittersweet news if you loved FriendFeed. It reminds me a bit of my initial reaction to Yahoo acquiring Flickr - nice to see a beloved service make it big, and the simultaneous fear that everything that made it great is suddenly in jeopardy. Yahoo was relatively hands-off and Flickr fared well (sadly to no avail of it’s parent company). Like it or not, it seems unlikely FriendFeed will share this fate, and perhaps rightly so, it’s Facebook enthusiasts who stand to benefit here.

My only hope is that Facebook is able to assimilate more from this than real time status updates and 75 thousand potentially disgruntled users. Whatever FriendFeed team members they can retain belong in key roles both in UI design and overall strategy.

Facebook doesn’t have to be as simple as Twitter, if it could just become half as open and simple as FriendFeed, I would gladly spend more time there.

Twittergate 2009/07/17

twitter_logo_header The eventual summary on Techcrunch of the hacked Twitter documents released earlier this week is an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the fastest growing company on the web.

Interestingly, while potential Google and Microsoft relationships are discussed in detail, and granted the protracted Facebook acquisition talks are now behind them, I generally got the sense that the team is side-lining their most immediate opportunity: to outright own the public (search-able) social networking space that Facebook is still lacking.

We know Facebook is working to fill this (now obvious) void as fast as they can, but it will be slow and difficult to implement. Despite this, at least from the available evidence, there’s not much to indicate that the Twitter team is equally focused on building out their own social graph fully enough to really compete in this space. Twitter is a unique service, granted, and Google and much of the media may be right to separate the “micro-blogging” space from traditional social networking, but it’s clear from these documents that all this is still very much up in the air.

Arrington lists “Identity Crisis” among his subheadings, and there’s definitely a strong element of that, perhaps understandably, since none of this information was ever intended for public release.

But I will say this: Twitter is not in any position to compete with Google directly, Google indexes information, Twitter indexes tweets. Any strategy along those lines is deluded. While clearly (in their own vernacular) “trending” right now, they will eventually need to be fully indexed by Google to stand any change of reaching their user and traffic targets. They need to just accept that.

But in terms of Facebook, and even more so, Microsoft - they’re right to be wary of any partnerships and default to full-on competition mode.

As a side note, it will be interesting to see what this rouses out of Google in terms of password recovery and other security issues related to Google Apps and accounts.

Edit Chrome Most Visited Blacklist 2009/07/14

The latest Google Chrome build in the Ubuntu repos seems more buggy than the previous versions - but good to see the frequent updates at least.

Anyway, I accidentally removed a most visited link/thumbnail from the homepage and then realized, that since the interface update is incomplete, there’s no way to restore it through the GUI (you have one chance with the undo link, but that’s it).

If this happens to you, you can directly edit the preferences file in your home folder:


Find this this entry - and edit as needed:

"most_visited_blacklist": {

If you have any “blacklisted” links - there will be lines in here you can delete to restore them to the most visited list on the new tab page.

You’ll also see this at the bottom of the file:

"session": {
    "restore_on_startup": 4,
    "urls_to_restore_on_startup": [ "about:linux-splash" ]

But edit or not, unlike the last build, this one seems to be hard-coded to display the dev warning on startup.

One more Chrome OS post 2009/07/11

Now I’m not a great blogger, granted, but I am a long time follower and fan of a preeminent Google watch blog, Google Operating System.

But really, if the name of your blog is Google Operating System - and your stated mission:

An unofficial blog that watches Google’s attempts to move your operating system online.

And then, after more than five years of dutiful reporting, after all the speculation, it’s not April 1st, and Google announces that they are, in fact, actually releasing an operating system…

…and this is the post?

This is level-headed, well-researched, and downright understated - it’s journalism - he even points out, and quite right, that Good OS has been gearing up to release an almost identical product called Cloud (there was some buzz about this quite a while ago, though it seems to have been aptly named, still vaporware for now).

But really, all l I can say is good work, Alex, it’s just srange to watch the rest of the tech media go crazy while someone familiar with Google’s history can so calmly explain the new product.

Am I excited? Of course. I’d bet you are too.

But, is this the end all, come all, end of Microsoft, end of the desktop as we know it?

Not really (or not yet at least).

Google Chrome OS is a bootable browser, the web is the OS 2009/07/10


I hadn’t weighed in on this at all, and not that this will make any difference, but at least I can put some links out.

There seems to be a lot of confusion circulating about Chrome OS being developed as some new Google-polished linux distro - see Wired: No one wants Linux netbooks as one example.

The title of my post basically says what needs saying - but just to clarify: Google Chrome OS is NOT going to be like any other desktop operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux that you might be familiar with.

There will only be one conventional application installed, the browser. In short, the web is the OS.

How does that work? Well, for a complete answer, it might be a good idea to watch this year’s Google I/O keynote - Arrington did, and he’s on board - and reporting on this better than anyone.

Basically, Google’s long term strategy (as it always has been) is to continue to push the limits of the web as a platform, driving adoption of HTML5 and other open standards, until eventually no other (local/proprietary) platform is required for any of the activities you might associate with desktop computing, including games.

If you watched that, now you’re getting the idea - new elements in the HTML5 specification like canvas, video and web workers will give developers the tools to create web applications with pixel level control and resource allocation previously locked up in plugins, or constrained to the desktop.

So what will Chrome OS actually be? Well, at the very least, it could essentially just be a bootable version of the Chrome browser (the kernel boots, the browser launches, and you’re online - that would be it). Now, just for this, Google would have to do a ton of work behind the scenes with hardware makers and the linux community to get enough driver and device support for this to be ready for the mass market.

At most, it could offer some suite of file management, search and other native applications that will run Google-style in the browser ala Google Desktop. The “GDrive”, of course, is expected to make it’s long awaited debut.

The interface for all that is going to be some kind of search. If I had to guess, some new variant of the iGoogle home page - or if we’re lucky, it might be some kind of new search interface that we’ve never seen before.

So can you really completely manage your digital life, work (and hard drive!) with search alone (and maybe some labels)?

Well, we shall see. Having followed all the crazy Google OS rumors over the years, it’s nice to know I’ll finally get the chance to find out.

Simple MySQL Backup Script 2009/06/30

I was looking for a VERY simple script for a quick on-demand backup, like you might want to take before an upgrade or to copy the data to another server.

All of the ones I found were either overly complex (for my purposes) or they just didn’t do exactly what I wanted.

So I wrote this one: Simple MySQL Backup Script

All this does is build one command to do a mysqldump of all of the databases on localhost, and pipe it to a gzip archive. This is all you need to grab a full backup when you need it - but you could schedule it as a cron job just as well (you woudn’t have any archive rotation or anything like that).

If you don’t want to bother with the script, you could just grab this command and replace the $variables with our own:

mysqldump --all-databases -v -u$user -p$password \
| gzip > $dest/$archive_file

I’d like to improve this with an option to do a seperate dump for each database, and then create a tar.gz of those - so if I do, I’ll post it here.

Oracle/Sun Analysis 2009/04/20

I’m mostly concerned about MySQL, disappointed the IBM deal fell through, and sorry I didn’t own any JAVA stock this morning.

Nonetheless, Om’s analysis is the one I found the most thoughtful/informative, although not all that reassuring.

Windows 7: I’m impressed 2009/02/19

Jeremy Zawodny says Windows 7 is “snappy” on his T61 - but I wanted to go him one better.

I’m writing this post on a painfully dated IBM T42 (right, that means a pre-Lenovo Thinpad, circa 2004) and Windows 7 actually outperforms Ubuntu 8.10.

Repeat: Windows 7 is faster than Ubuntu 8.10 on 512MB of ram - that’s Vista - with Aero turned on - and it’s faster.

(No, I don’t have any benchmarks on this, but seriously) The boot time is actually obnoxiously faster - but Jaunty should take care of that.

Oddly (or appropriately?), I still tend to prefer a simple gnome desktop - Chrome on Windows 7 is tough to resist though.

Windows 7 Beta Tommorrow 2009/01/08

From the Windows blog -

On January 9th, the Windows 7 Beta will be available for Windows enthusiasts to download via the Windows 7 page on Windows.com. The Windows 7 Beta is going to be available download-only (we’re not sending out physical media) and available for a limited time to the first 2.5 million people who download the beta.

First 2.5 million - and no actual time I can find yet - so keep an eye out and get a jump on it, I guess.

I’m holding out some hope for this Windows - actually quite looking forward to trying it tomorrow.

Google SearchWiki - Finally 2008/11/21

This has been a long time coming, but I login today, and low and behold, SearchWiki.

I was following some testing they were doing on this years ago, but honestly this came as a total suprise to me today - and woke up my urge to blog.

More when I read up.

Google (still) > Cuil 2008/08/04

Just catching up - with even the Boston Globe taking a retrospective shot at the Cuil launch today, I thought I’d get in mine. If you remember much of the positive press on Cuil focused on their boasts that their new index is far larger than any of the competition:

Cuil is claiming to have the largest index of the web, 120 billion pages indexed (with a total of 186 billion seen by its crawler; spam and duplicate content are among things excluded from what gets indexed). In talking with them, Cuil estimated they were three times the size of Google.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Well, I missed this too, but apparently these bold claims were enough to rattle an indirect response out of the Googleplex later in the week, releasing the size of their index for a first time in a long time:

Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days – when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

No disrespect to Cuil, they could still give Google a run for it’s money - they’ve definitely got the arrogance part down, apparently just not so well-endowed in the index department as they thought they were.

Google vs. google: Stop the insanity! 2006/08/15

Finally, some sense in the madness of all these google as a verb legality stories - thank you Scoble!

Here’s the deal - despite what you may have read “google” as a verb didn’t just show up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary - and neither did all those write-ups in the press about it becoming ubiquitous.

Google’s PR department engineered this - on purpose - and, yes, it’s good for the brand - of course it is.

Also, contrary to most of the stories on this - Kleenex, Jacuzzi, Coke - they all actively worked on the same thing - in fact, as a brand marketer, one of the very best things you can do is to get your brand name to become synonymous with the product you’re selling. That’s one of the basics!

If you’ve been reading the mainstream media’s take on this story, you’ve probably been hearing the opposite of this - but the fact is that all of the companies they cite benefit from super-brand recognition - and all continue to thrive basically for that reason. Whatever market share they may have lost over the years was just plain, fair competition. It’s tough out there, even for super-brands.

Now that we’ve got that straight, why the letters?

Well, Scoble’s right, lawyers have a different set of rules to contend with than do brand marketers and the rest of us.

If Google can’t show that they’ve actively protected their trademarks, there’s a chance they could lose the right to prevent people from actually stealing their name and slapping it on competitive products or crappy unlicensed merchandise - like my Google Spice Rack.

This applies to all intellectual property - the basic idea is to place the responsibility of protection in the hands of the trademark or patent holder, rather than with the government or law enforcement. The laws are also designed to prevent frivolous or gold-digging lawsuits against established companies, or overly selective damage claims.

This sort of thing actually comes up all the time in software - when smaller companies will attempt (often successfully) to sue Microsoft or Apple for infringement damages, long after the product in question has been on the market. As the plaintiff, the longer you can wait, the higher the damages will be, since they will be based on the total revenue from infringing product sold. To curb this kind of extortion, the law insists that you make proper warnings in a timely fashion, and not allow companies to unknowingly infringe without contest. If you fail to do this, your case can be thrown out.

But remember, it was Google PR that stirred up this “google as a verb” thing in the first place - they want to keep that going. So, like Scoble says, in this case, Google just needs the appearance of active protection - the letters are just letters…

So, by all means, continue to google - go ahead and google google in the dictionary right now - google it from Yahoo! if you want.

Google Video Bumps Froogle 2006/08/09

Wow - Google finally re-worked the main search page to highlight Video!

I guess the MTV deal must have put it over the edge…

But, what about poor Froogle, who lost their link?

Not to worry - they also equipped the more link with a slick little in-line ajax window linking to Froogle, Groups, and the all new (law suits pending) Book Search!

Way to go, Google! Now pimp that Google Talk so that I have someone else to chat with…

It’s been a while… 2006/08/05

Wow, June 6th… That was a while back… (2 months, exactly) Man… Google Spreadsheets turned out to be a big disappointment too… (although I still use it - very useful for storing important info online - sort of a GDrive Lite if you will…) Anyhoo, if you have missed my posts as of late, I do apologize, I tentatively plan to get back on schedule next week. -Oh yeah, and if anyone actually DID miss Jere’s Blog (besides me) leave me some comments - I could use the encouragement.

Google Spreadsheets - Surprise! 2006/06/06

That’s right, while we were all waiting to see what Google would do with Writely, it turns out they whipped up their own spreadsheet app first.

Google will begin extending invitations for the beta tomorrow - sign up here - and of course if I am fortunate enough to gain one, I’ll be sure to pass along my impressions.

As with past launches, Spreadsheets will likely cause quite a stir in Redmond - and so in a muted attempt to soften the blow (or just add insult to injury) - in providing a link to the old Labs FAQ, Google makes sure to remind us all that taking on the world’s largest software company is just another way some engineers choose to while away their Friday afternoons.

Richard MacManus predicts Microsoft will react quickly - as if they couldn’t have seen this coming already…

And, as for “quickly” - I’ll believe that when I see it.

I’ve been using the beta of Office 2007 along with Office Live since they opened it to the public, and from what I can see Microsoft is either completely blind to this threat, or has given up on the average consumer entirely - in favor of deeper pockets in the business segment.

Of course, it’s equally possible they know something we don’t, or have something else up their sleeves entirely… only time will tell.

Speaking of time, the Writley blog says the plan is to open the service back up to the public in July - so I would say it’s safe to assume Google’s Web Office will quasi-launch sometime over the summer - well ahead of Vista and Office Live in January.

And don’t forget Yahoo’s new page design officially debuting this summer as well - with MSN Live Search hot on its heels…

With all that pressure mounting, is it any wonder Google finally seems to be rolling up their sleeves and pulling out the big guns - whether or not they admit to it?

Advideo? 2006/05/26

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Google will soon be offering contextually relevant video ad placement on its Adsense network presenting a new opportunity for advertisers and complementing the text-only Adwords service on which the company was built.

Offering greater flexibility with it’s well known auction-based pricing and introducing TV advertisers to the web’s unprecedented level of targeting, the new service certainly shows strong potential.

In other news - it seems Google’s Video Search has fallen to fifth (read: last) place behind YouTube, MySpace, Yahoo, and MSN.

Hmmm… there’s something else… it’s… thinly veiled…

…Wait! - I see it now:

What if there was a way to blanket the web with links to Google Video search - maybe cool “Powered by Google Video” links - using some kind of massive advertising network?

Wow - that would really pump some life into GV - what could be better than that???

Getting other people to pay you for doing it.

Ah, Google…

Google Envy? You Bet. 2006/05/19

Phill Wainewright’s post on ZDNet about Microsoft going after Google’s ad business definately makes some interesting points.

I just happen to disagree with all of them.

According to Wainewright, while Microsoft seems to be chasing Google in the ad space, both companies have been ignoring better opportunities to go up against Amazon and Ebay which operate in much larger trading markets. He goes on to cite many sources predicting that the estimated 500 billion dollar online advertising market may begin to shrink as it matures - some putting it as low as 150 billion.

Well, let’s examine that first - so as internet traffic increases, ads become more targeted, and therefore ROI on these ads increases - the total market is going to decrease? Why?

That’s completely backwards thinking - if a corporation sees a larger ROI on its ad budget - they’ll be willing to spend more on advertising, not less - show me the evidence to refute that.

He’s also completely ignoring new markets like mobile, location-driven ads, TV on the web (and internet enabled TV) and those implications. These aren’t part of a 1:1 transfer from old media - these are totally new markets. Not to mention that the only explanation for the size of Google’s revenues without an equal decline in old media advertising is the the long tail - and it’s long enough to make the online ad space far larger than old media ever was.

That said, his other basic notion is sound, I guess - the online trading/retail market is huge. Sure, (corporate identity, focus, and strategy aside) there’s no reason Microsoft couldn’t launch a service to rival Ebay - anybody could. Google even flirted with the idea of taking on Amazon with Book Search for awhile (and wisely decided against it), but all of that is missing the point.

The reason MS is chasing Google like crazy in search and advertising, is because they have to. They realize that software-as-a-product is out and ad-supported software-as-a-service is in. They need to build an ad network to rival Google’s, before Google builds a free browser, office suite, and maybe even an OS to rival Windows.

Still think they’re wasting their time?

Google faces lawsuits over Book Search 2006/05/18

Old news really - but the fact that Google is forging ahead with it’s full text scans at several major university libraries despite the suits filed against it - has added fuel to the fire on both sides.

Read more about this in the Washington Post.

Basically, no one can really deny, even publishers, that making the full text of ink and paper books available and searchable online would benefit readers - what is in debate is how publishers, authors, and online providers such a Google, Amazon, and others should share in the profits and what this eventually spells for the future of the entire publishing industry.

The answer, at least at first glance, seems obvious: As predicted ever since the dawn of the net - tree huggers everywhere will rejoice, and books will finally come to inherit their pre-destined home on the world wide web. (Drinks all around, amen to that.)

What could prevent this (and certainly stall it for awhile) is another example of the often mind-boggling behavior of established industries when they feel their core business is somehow being threatened on the web.

While I feel like I sort of understand it - it still doesn’t totally add up for me. How can McGraw-Hill and Simon & Schuster (a long time software publisher, no less!) balk at the potential to sell “e-books” online and share in Google’s ad revenues when their contents are searched? Why aren’t they shipping forests of volumes to the Googleplex right now for scanning and hassling Google to get this out of beta and start the money flowing faster?

Well, why did the music industry spend millions to shut down Napster, and then a year later gladly distribute their records online over similar services - even resurrecting Napster itself?!

What was it about TV networks that made it take so long for their executives to figure out that making shows available on the web is just another form of broadcasting? I mean, seriously, since the 1950’s they broadcast - For Free - INTO THE AIR - and they were afraid of the internet???

Well, surprise, I blame Google - and every other web company.

You don’t just start scanning other peoples books - and figure out the profit sharing later. You can’t violate every copywrite law in the world and start giving Metalica’s songs away without so much as a phone call - and you can’t expect NBC to just turn over the keys to the kingdom just because you started up a video search.

Many of these traditional media executives really are scared - some of them justifiably so. The future really is uncertain - and they don’t see opportunity - they see upheaval, even disaster - this puts them on the phone with their lawyers.

It’s up to Yahoo, Google, Amazon and others - companies that live and breathe the web and understand it’s full potential - to explain, educate, and forge partnerships with their old media allies.

Online distribution will benefit all media companies - if anything the market can only grow, boosting revenues and bringing even more players to the table - not ousting established giants.

Media and the web were made for each other - it’s a win-win - but before audiences can benefit, online companies need to learn to play by the rules.

Gates and Ortellini Defend the PC 2006/05/16

Monday’s WSJ featured an editorial by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Intel CEO Paul Ortellini laying out their case against some recent predictions (specifically in WSJ marketplace articles) that the dominance of the PC may be declining. As WSJ columnists (and others) have observed, there’s a lot to support the notion that the PC (as we know it), and component business model that has driven its success all these years, may yet succumb to the top down model (championed by Apple) as consumers turn to more advanced portable devices to accomplish routine tasks, previously reserved for the PC. Read more about their comments from CNN.com.

The editorial itself was nonsense - words like “Peripheral Devices” besides sounding more dated than ever, ring almost like racial slurs when applied to the iPod and BlackBerry - and the notion of the PC as the digital hub for all these gadgets making our lives better, the same line Microsoft has been spouting for ten years now, seemed more hollow than ever. By asking where people turn when they want to download music to their iPod or upload pictures from their digital camera to Flickr (to their PC of course!) - Gates and Ortellini completely missed the point.

What about when the next generation of these devices are WiFi enabled - iPod can talk to iTunes directly - your digital camera comes pre-loaded with Flickr software eliminating the need for bulky storage and allowing you to browse your photo album on your TV? How about when you use your Nokia 770 to access not only Google Talk but GMail and the entire Google Office Suite - the only thing missing from that picture right now is a spread sheet companion for Writely.

But remember this - Bill Gates didn’t become the world’s richest man by falling off a log - this is the man who predicted SAS and almost every other aspect of the two revolutions we’re talking about years ago - the only problem is he underestimated two things: the pace of the shifts - and the importance of search in building an advertising platform. Office Live will be free - but only after MS builds the ad network to support it. And when you find yourself in second or third place - not a position Gates has found himself in very often - stalling can actually become a pretty sound strategy element.

As for Intel, the business of taking Moore’s Law to the bank - a model that, true or not, never took demand into account, could become increasingly difficult. In the old days, doubling your processor speed often meant doubling your productivity, as even the most basic applications could be painfully slow. These days, probably the number one motivation to upgrade comes from the need to keep up with demanding 3D games. As gamers migrate to consoles, and office applications slim down and move on to the web and portable devices - demand for the latest Pentium powered desktop PC could degenerate pretty rapidly. The Apple deal, X-Box, and other contracts, however, are good indications of Intel’s resolve to weather the shift.

In the meantime, can you blame either man for wanting to keep their empire building engine running - just a little bit longer?

SkypeOut - Free calls to phones until 2007 2006/05/15

The popular VOIP software Skype plans to offer free calling to phones, a feature normally reserved for its paid subscribers, anywhere in North America until the end of this year. This is certainly going to be a huge draw for users, as it is generally regarded as Skype’s most attractive feature (notably lacking in competitive products, such as Google Talk) and as ZDNet’s Russell Shaw jokes - What’s next? - Paying callers to use it? As competition heats up in the VOIP field, Google seems to be lagging behind. Despite securing a high profile contract with Nokia on its new 770 Internet Tablet, it has yet to announce plans to offer either calling to phones, or video conferencing - both long standing Skype features - to its VOIP offering. And honestly, what good is the Nokia 770 going to be if it can only call other Googlers?

MS vs. Google - Get Your Ticktets Now! 2006/05/14

The Observer has a brilliant piece today on how the two giants stack up against one another.

There will be no surprises for readers of this blog, or various other online sources - but it’s an exciting shift to see this battle move into the mainstream media.

Google Press Day, Brin and then Balmer’s comments, and the upcoming release of Vista are likely explanations for the added attention.

Google Music? 2006/05/14

I’ve been slacking on the posts lately - and amid a flurry of Google activity - expect to see this remedied very soon.

Before I delve into press day, all of the other speculation, and my general disappointment (yeah, you heard me) with Google as of late - I just wanted to throw this up for discussion purposes.

So, Google Music? Garrett Rogers' mysterious Muze (an anonymous source) says yes.

Actually, if it’s true (and whether or not Muze is a Google employee, I’d say the iTunes dominated music market is pretty hard to ignore - even for Google) this would be the first example of an actually exciting offering from the Googleplex in quite a while.

“Me-Too” or not, some “information” that nearly everyone seems to want to organize and access is their favorite songs, music videos, and TV shows (growing even faster than expected) - Google Video and Music (or Tunes or whatever it is) better sign some more deals and beef up their content (Brady Bunch and ST:Voyager for $1.99?) - maybe even buy an ad or two (wouldn’t that be something?) - or risk being churned up in Apple’s wake.

If I was Google, I’d even consider teaming up with the now struggling Napster - when I think Google, “Geeks” comes to mind long before “Tunes” - Google could benefit from whatever street cred the Napster brand still carries.

As for Napster, the only thing that might be even more ubiquitous than the iPod is the Google search page - if Napster can’t sell songs there, well…

Correction… 2006/05/07

Well, it seems my last post was mostly inaccurate - the results GoogleOS had discovered are actually a part of the upcoming Google Health as ZDNet.com and others are now reporting (although any links to preview the service seem now to be non-functional).

Disappointing - in two ways, actually. Most were hoping Google Health would be a little more robust - and personally I still think Google needs to offer some query refinement options in the general web search. Much is already in place - from maps to word definitions, simple math, and now health - but a broader “Semantic Web” is still very much in need.

Google Semantic Web 2006/05/06

Google Operating System (a Google watch-blog) is reporting on Google’s recent testing of some word categories and other methods of prompting users to refine their search terms as part of their effort to build something called Google Semantic Web.

Try it out here.

This is something I’ve been looking for out of Google for quite a while now, so I’m glad to see they’re beginning to experiment with it more publicly.

If you ask an average Google search user, their biggest complaint isn’t that they can’t find what they’re looking for on Google - it’s that in order to do so, they often have to rephrase their query several times before the results they were looking for make their way to the top of the list -

In other words, the traditional “search problem” has been reversed.

It is no longer Google’s ability to index the web that is limiting the relevance of the search results - it’s the inherent quality (or lack thereof) of the user’s query.

The problem for Google (and any other search company) is that even if their AI is the best in the world - if Google’s search box was just as intuitive as another human being - even then, could it ever return exactly what the user had in mind with only vague, one word queries to go on?

I’d say not. Google’s search box could benefit from improved semantics, certainly, but only in order to interpret complete queries more like a human might. Despite what GoogleOS hints at, no amount of complex algorithms are actually going to enable Google to flat out read your mind.

Some gentle prompting for the user to refine their query is a fairly elegant solution, in my opinion.

It’s not as good as a Star Trek style conversational voice interface might be someday down the line, but certainly a step in the right direction, eh?

Google’s New Look? 2006/05/06

A California Beginning has a screenshot of a new format for the main Google search page that apparently randomly presents itself to certain users to generate some sort of feedback.

While obviously, they will eventually need to do something in order to accomodate the growing number of features available - personally, I would miss the simplicity of the old look.

I think a much better idea than a side bar - would be to just pre-empt the default web search option with a “Google” (as in the verb) option that would display a mix of results from all of the available options - sort of a query summary, that would also go a long way toward educating users about the other search options available to them - later it could include results from Google Blog Search results as well.

Riya - Face Recognition for Photo Search 2006/04/15

Another TechCruch tipoff - Check out Riya which launched March 21. It’s like Flickr - so you can upload, organize, and share your photos - but it has state of the art face recognition software that allows you to search your photos by who’s in them. It also scans for any readable text in the photos to add additional meta data. It will be interesting to see who ends up acquiring this startup - besides the obvious benefit for online photo albums - this could revolutionize image search for one of the players. So if you did a Google image search for oh, let’s say: “Britney Spears” - it could actually return all photos with the pop star in them - regardless of whether or not they had traditionally search engine baffling names like: “image_07.jpg”, “brit at the beach.jpg”, or “my-future-wife.gif”.

Orion + Voice = Star Trek? 2006/04/14

John Battelle at least jokes that it might be.

Google received a patent on April 12 for a voice interface for search. They even have an offline version of a demo available here.

That alone would be good enough for maps and other information over your mobile phone and pretty much make “411” obsolete.

But, they have also acquired and begun work on improving Ori Allon’s Orion technology.

Hmm… so you query Google verbally, Google scours the web for all relevant information, Orion compiles that information into a single document, a computer reads that document to you…

Call Majel Barrett - this sucker’s ready to go online!

(well, maybe almost)

What is CL2? 2006/04/11

According to TechCrunch it’s the top secret GMail companion calendar app, and he’s posted the screenshots to prove it.

Google Calendar

Supposedly the beta is still limited to about 200 Googlers, and although “a long way from release” they can only begin to expand the beta from here on out.

If I was Google, I wouldn’t “officially” launch GMail without it.

Here’s hoping.

Orion goes to Google 2006/04/11

Google out bids rivals Yahoo and MSN and steps up its search technology with Orion, a patented algorithm for displaying search results directly in the search window rather than requiring the user to “click through” to the actual page.

And as a bonus, the software’s creator, 26-year-old PhD student, Ori Allon, has put down stakes at the Googleplex to optimize his code for the big time.

This is a huge loss for Bill Gates who, after personally praising the software and it’s creator on multiple occasions, now ends up losing the bid.

Google and EarthLink Land San Francisco Wi-Fi Contract 2006/04/10

The San Francisco Times was the first to report the city’s decision last Thursday, and so far it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as when Google first announced the bid last September.

Basically, Google will offer free 300kbs wireless internet access to anyone who lives in the city, and EarthLink will complement this with a to-be-determined faster broadband service for about $20 a month.

This all happened as a result of Mayor Galvin Newsom’s promise to address the “digital divide” by offering affordable (and now free) internet access to all citizens.

(A virtually unreported side of this are the implications of the city awarding a public contract that basically gives ISP monopoly status to Google and Earthlink… But that’s for another blog altogether, let’s get to the good stuff!)

So what’s in it for Google?

Ah, now here we are at last - there are a range of answers depending upon who you talk to - but by far the overwhelming favorite (which Google politely denies, of course) is a long term plan to blanket the nation in wi-fi coverage allowing for both context and location sensitive advertising via Google mobile-esque services. Free VOIP cell phone service is seen as a likely followup.

Okay, great, where do I sign up?

But why Google, why now? - Again, what’s in it for them?

And I don’t mean the simple answer -

“The more people who have access to the internet, the more people who use Google search, and that means clicking on Google ads!” - or even the slightly better “All along Google’s mission has been to organize the world’s information… And make it universally accessible! Brilliant!” Free email is one thing, and okay, nearly 3 gig of it is impressively generous, but free nationwide wi-fi is going to have serious operating expenses and Google must have more than adsense up it’s sleave if they think they can glean a profitable business model out of this.

Well they do. (this time it’s my quote, and granted, my speculation)

It’s called RFID, and it’s coming to a store near you. It’s going to change the way you think about shopping… and search…

Put 2 and 2 together with universal wi-fi and think about that for a moment, if you will.

XP on an Intel Mac? 2006/04/09

Personally, I’d prefer the option to run OSX on my PC - but Boot Camp does make a pretty enticing offer. Check out CNet’s article on the viability of an Intel based Mac gaming platform. I’m probably one of the few people who actually use a PC at home and a Mac for work - but there are many times that I find myself wondering why I stick with Windows at all. The answer of course is software support - going well beyond just gaming - so the potential for a dual boot G5 (is it still a G5 with Intel inside?) with an Apple cinema display for gaming sounded almost too good to be true. …then I remembered the price tag.

IGN - A Credit Card Leaching Honey Trap of Death 2006/04/08

This is just a buyer beware -

IGN is a credit card leaching honey trap of death. Once you sign up for an account you join a vast network of “free” services - and I mean a lot of services - honestly you could have just bought into the largest network of age verification porn keys - it’s crazy.

Then they store your credit card information and send it to all of these guys - and if you want to cancel your account or even just delete your credit card information - you can’t! You have to contact customer service directly between 9 and 5 Pacific Time!

Although, in the fine print of the service agreement they do finally admit that some users may feel uncomfortable with their personal information being stored on IGN servers and may want to remove it more immediately, for whatever reason, and so “although not generally recommended”, editing all of your account information to false information, would be an alternative way to effectively cancel you account- which is totally lame, but it was what I had to do.

So for a good time on the fraudulent Amex card I made up, head over to any IGN affiliated site and log in as ignsucks@ignsucks.com, password: ignsucks.

Anyway, all this because I couldn’t find ES IV Oblivion anywhere in Hong Kong today (I live in Hong Kong), so I thought Direct2Drive might be a good way to go - it wasn’t - they wouldn’t verify my US visa card because I’m in Hong Kong - I get that a lot - so then I thought “oh well, better delete the account” or at least my credit card information - found out that was impossible - and here we are.

Bottom line: stay away from IGN - their days as a useful game service run by friendly Nintendo fanboys are far behind them (sorry Peer, but you know it’s true) , so steer clear and head on over to NextGen or 1up.com - free content that’s better than IGN or GameSpy on their best day - and no more endless premium subscriptions, bonus offers, irritating pop-ups or other annoying porn-like scams.

Windows Live - Beta 2006/04/06

Everyone who hasn’t checked this out, should. It’s “beta” in the conventional sense - not the Google sense where it’s kickass but will stay in beta for three years anyway - or the traditional microsoft sense where your mouse explodes or something. I signed up for the mail - but it looks like there’s at least a month wait - if they decide you’re eligible at all - on who knows what basis…

Nintendo Posting Profits 2006/04/06

If you were worried about Nintendo in this Sony/Microsoft dominated market, well you can relax… for awhile anyway, thanks to that gimmicky wonder that is Nintendo DS.

Slashdot | DS Design = Nintendo Profits

Personally, I don’t really care for the DS, but luckily for Nintendo, I’m in the minority it seems.

Next Generation - Analysis: The Rise and Fall of Franchises 2006/04/06

Slashdot also has a link to this, but I wanted to say a little more about Next Gen’s analysis:

They spend more time on their general theory of the evolution of games than they do on the death of any franchises. On the franchise predictions: sure movie franchises will sink once the movie’s have been on DVD for a year or so, and yes GTA and Tony Hawk are getting stale, this is obvious stuff…

On their general theory - I disagree with both of their premises - firstly that the evolution of gaming is a march towards realism - it has been since the “next generation” consoles - but wasn’t to start with (pac man and space invaders had nothing to do with realism) - and won’t be forever -

Graphics will progress to photo realism, surely, but then what? The market may snap up cinematic games with photo-realistic graphics just like they scarf blockbuster movies all summer - but surely developers can do more with this medium than choose-your-own-adventure movies.

On the progression to online - not all games are good online games. That doesn’t make them bad games. Gaming isn’t a sport (or shouldn’t only be) - it’s also an artform - and like a good novel, some forms of it will always be best enjoyed individually, or at least non-competitively.

Google Romance 2006/04/04

I’m sure everyone’s seen it by now… (I’m a little behind on my posting, and this is a Google story too!) But here’s the link if you haven’t. They really had me going with this for a second…

Ah, man… that’s funny…


And it will stay funny right up untill Google actually launches a dating search service next year.

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion 2006/04/01

As the most ambitious PC RPG in years - the fourth entry in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion has an uphill battle ahead of it according to 1up.com.

Their feature on the game is actually a pretty in depth analysis of Western vs. Eastern RPG styles, that also explores the limitations of both the MMO and (single player) RPG models and the potential for the former supplanting the latter.

Could MMO’s replace RPG’s?

Well, for me they already have (Eldred on Warsong…) - but that’s not to say they go unmissed.

Something about a world where you have to wait in line behind exhalted heroes with god-like powers at the bank, sort of makes being one a little less exciting than it used to be in Dragon Warrior. (The fact that I was 8 years old then might be part of the reason, but I don’t think that’s all of it.

For this reason, while they might be early frontrunners, I think ulitmately, Sword’s and Sorcercy won’t prove the best traffic for the massively multi-player stage - Spore may be a lot closer to what the genre really calls for.

Google Updates the "10 Things" Philosophy 2006/03/29

The list of “Ten things Google has found to be true” has been under the corporate information section of the site for forever (well 4 years) - but was updated for the first time just this week - likely in response to post about Google Finance on John Battelles Searchblog.

In the post he jokes about how out of date it had become, as the company has offered more and more services they promised were outside the scope of Google’s search driven mission.

(Of course, as Google now points out in a disclaimer at the bottom of the site, their actual mission is so broad - “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” - it can certainly be held to include a financial site or mail service here and there if it helps improve their market share.)

But, there is also no doubting, the company’s philosophy really has changed since Larry and Brin first found those 10 things to be true. Even at the time, boasting to never offer horoscopes or financial advice was more than just a thinly veiled (very thinly) jab at Yahoo - it really did set Google apart as a technology company devoted - obsessed even - with search.

So the question becomes: Is Google really a technology company, a “search” company - “the search company” - or is it a portal, a mass media company - can it be both?

I can think of another company that manages to pull that off in stride.

Internet Explorer 7.0 - disappointing so far… 2006/03/25

I just downloaded and installed “Internet Explorer 7.0 for Windows XP SP2 Beta 2 Preview” - and I have to say I’m more than a little disappointed. PC magazine agrees with me, you can read their full review here. While offering some long overdue improvements over IE6, most notably the smaller footprint, the newest version of Microsoft’s browser is hardly innovative, me-too features like tabbed browsing and live bookmarks abound. Maybe once Vista is (finally) released, it will get better - but I’d definitely steer clear of this beta and stick with Firefox for now. But, if you really want to try it, you can download it here.

Wired News: Airport Security Fails Tests… Again 2006/03/23

According to Wired News, even 30% of guns got past the screeners! The magazine purports that automated screening computers might be the answer (it’s Wired, afterall!) I’ll take whatever makes getting through the line faster - although just taking your laptop out of it’s case is a lot better than when you used to have to boot it up before they’d let you through.

Writely on Moving to the Googleplex 2006/03/23

So how does the Writley team feel about the aquistion?

Check out their blog and find out.

You can also try the web word processor here - but it seems that with all the hype, now you have to join a waiting list…

Google turns up the heat on Microsoft 2006/03/09

More direct competition seems to be looming as Google announces plans for another addition to its web application offerings - edging closer and closer to the software giant’s toes.

As of yesterday, Google added the web word processor Writely to its arsenal. Read more below…

Google Acquires Writely

If ad-supported web applications and online storage really are the future of the consumer software market, Microsoft is going to have some serious restructuring to do.