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Google Chrome Released September 3, 2008

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I recently downloaded and checked out Google Chrome , the open source browser developed by Google , and i must say that its a pretty innovative browser design . However the browser is still in its early stage in tune with Googles philosophy of “Launch early and iterate” , so i wont be shifting to Chrome from Firefox just as yet ๐Ÿ˜‰ . The first thing we notice in Chrome is its minimalist design much like the Google homepage . Google says it doesnt want the browser to get in the way of the users browsing experience, but rather help them get to the content they want as easily and efficiently as possible.

The Windows version has been released and they are going to soon come up with the Linux and Mac flavors too. Now, why another browser when there are already established ones in the market like Microsoft IE , Apple Safari , and Mozilla Firefox (this ones my personal favorite ๐Ÿ™‚ ) ?

Well, according to Google, the current browsers were made considering the Web as it used to be , not how it is now . Nowadays , the Web (a.k.a Web 2.0) is more about applications than just websites , and hence keeping this in mind they have designed a browser from scratch considering the Web as it is now and where it is heading.

In current browsers, all tabs are loaded into a single process, so if something goes wrong in one tab the entire browser crashes . Also, if we open and close many tabs then things like Memory fragmentation happen which slows down the entire browser .

Google says it has solved this problem by making use of a technique found in many modern day operating systems . Chrome makes use of a multi-process architecture where each tab is a separate process, so things like fragmentation and problems in one tab bringing down the whole browser dont happen . Chrome also makes use of a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.

Also, another first in Google Chrome is the Task Manager, which is similar to the Task Manager in operating systems . The Chrome Task Manager shows you exactly how much memory is being used by each website you have open .ย  So, if you find some resource hogging webpage then you can kill it without affecting the other pages you have opened . Now this ones really clever, isnt it ?.

Another interesting feature is the ‘Incognito Mode‘ . Webpages that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito won’t be logged in your browsing and download histories; all new cookies are deleted after you close the incognito window .ย  Now this should delight all those naughty people out there who more often than not have forgotten to cover their tracks by clearing their browsing history and saved cookies…lolย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you want to check out all the major engineering decisions that went behind developing Google Chrome then check out their comic-book .

Google Chrome is completely open source , it makes use of components from various open source projects like Apples WebKit and Mozilla Firefox , and hence wants others to be able to make use of its technology and improve it further . Chromium is the open source project behind Google Chrome . If you are interested in hacking chromium check out http://code.google.com/chromium/ .

Now having talked about whats there in Chromeย  , i would now like to suggest a few things i found missing and would love to see in future versions :

1. Support for extensions . This is one of the place where Firefox really rocks and i think if Chrome is to have the cult like following enjoyed by Firefox then this one is a must have .

2. Smart location bar , something like the ‘Awesome Bar’ of Firefox .

3. Bookmark Tagging . This would allow tags as shortcuts in the address bar .

Alright, so heres wishing the Chrome project all the very best ๐Ÿ™‚ .

PageRank Vs. BrowseRank . The algorithm wars August 12, 2008

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I talked about Yahoo! revamping its search service in my previous post.Now can Microsoft be far behind ?. Well, according to Microsoft, the formula behind Googles success in the search area is their “PageRank” algorithm . The PageRank algorithm rates the relevance of a page based on the number of pages that link to it, and how many pages link to those pages so on and so forth….

Microsoft says it has come up with a better algorithm which it calls “BrowseRank” . Now instead of relying on the number of links between pages , this algorithm determines a page relevance by the actual number of hits it receives by users . So, the more visits of the page made by the users and the longer time periods spent by the users on the page, the more likely the page is important. So BrowseRank brings a human touch to the assessment of a pages relevance.

Now, whether Google or Microsoft or Yahoo! will have the final word in search technology only time will tell, but so far Google no doubt leads with Yahoo! at number two and Microsoft at number three ๐Ÿ˜›

You can read more about this algo war here

RSS Feeds for GMail ! August 4, 2008

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I recently discovered another thing which separates GMail from the rest of the webmail service providers out there . It provides an rss feed for your mails , which you can access using any rss aggregator/feed reader ! . All you need to do is visit https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom , and enter your credentials to subscribe.

However, a point to be noted is that not all aggregators support GMail . For an aggregator to access GMail rss, it must support Atom 0.3 and SSL/HTTPS . Google provides a list of aggregators supporting GMail on Windows , Mac and Linux platform.As for rss aggregators available as firefox extensions ive seen that “Brief” does not support GMail but “Sage” does .

The GMail help center article for this feature is located here . However,ย  make sure that you double check the privacy settings for your aggregator before using GMail with it, as you might accidentally end up making your contents public !.

If you want to be really safe , but at the same time also get alerts for your mail in gmail , including the ones you have labelled , check out “GMail Manager” , a super cool extension for firefox which allows you to display your account details including unread messages, saved drafts, spam messages, labels with new mail, space used, and new mail snippets ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Better than Google ? July 29, 2008

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When it comes to search engines , Google is definitely the de-facto choice of people all over the world . And it would be really very difficult if not impossible for any other search service provider to match wits with Google. But still attempts exist in this regard and one of them is a search engine built by ex-Google employees, called Cuil (pronounced “Cool”, but its Irish for “Knowledge”). The makers of this search engine claim that it searches 3 times more pages than Google does.

Also,as you can see from the screenshot below it also includes pictures along with the search results.

So is Cuil really better than google search ? . Give it a test drive and decide for yourself .

Access the Web offline with Google Gears July 10, 2008

Posted by razasayed in Hacks.
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“Offline web access”- does this term sound paradoxical ?.ย  Well, it should not if you have heard of a technology called Google Gears . Google Gears is actually an open source browser extension/add-in , available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer, which makes web applications available offline.

Google Gears

The way it works is that a gear enabled website allows you to download some portion of the website that you commonly work with onto your local hard drive. A case in point is Google Docs . I can for example have a copy of my google docs on my local machine . Now, even when im not connected to the Internet, i can continue to work with my google docs offline , and the next time I go online , my changes are automatically synced with the online copy…pretty neat, huh ? ๐Ÿ™‚

Not every website though on the web is currently gears enabled , however there many popular ones like Google Docs, Google Reader, Zoho etc…which support offline access via gears. And the list continues to grow. WordPress, recently joined the bandwagon of gears enabled websites.

To get started with using Google Gears, simply download the extension from http://gears.google.com/?hl=en

Google Docs

Then , to access your Google Docs offline just click on the Offline option available on the top right hand corner when you login to Google Docs. However, currently Google Docs supports viewing and editing documents offline , but spreadsheets can only be viewed offline . I would love to see support for offline spreadsheet editing too in the near future.

To use Google Gears with WordPress just click on the Turbo option at the top right hand corner when you are logged into wordpress. When this is done the images, javascript, and CSS used inside the WordPress dashboard would be copied to your local hard drive , so in case of a slow connectionย  this downloaded data would act as a local cache to speed up your dashboard . The posts are not copied , so offline viewing/editing of posts is currently not possible .

And just in case you are wondering where exactly on your local hard drive this data gets stored then below is a list of these locations.

  • Windows Vista – Internet Explorer
    C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\LocalLow\Google\Google Gears for Internet Explorer
  • Windows Vista – Firefox. Database files are stored in the user profile directory.
    C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\{PROFILE}.default\Google Gears for Firefox
  • Windows XP – Internet Explorer.
    C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Gears for Internet Explorer
  • Windows XP – Firefox. Database files are stored in the user profile directory.
    C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\{PROFILE}.default\Google Gears for Firefox
  • Mac OS/X – Firefox. Database files are stored in the user profile directory.
    Users/%USERNAME%/Library/Caches/Firefox/Profiles/{PROFILE}.default/Google Gears for Firefox
  • Linux – Firefox. Database files are stored in the user home directory.
    ~%USERNAME%/.mozilla/firefox/{PROFILE}.default/Google Gears for Firefox

So, the next time you are on that cool web 2.0 website, do look out for offline access by google gears..have fun ๐Ÿ™‚

Command Line Google ! June 6, 2008

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This is something really uber cool. A person called Stefan Grothkopp has created a command line interface (CLI) for using Google ! . Its called Goosh (Google Shell) . Goosh is a command-line interface of the many functions Google provides, allowing you to do all sorts of cool things , like searching , translating etc..

While a graphical user interface (GUI) is the way to go for most people, the nerds amongst us would surely appreciate a CLI . Go check it out ! ๐Ÿ™‚


The Web goes Social…. May 17, 2008

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The Web has come a long way from being centered around websites and content , to being centered around people. And the trend continues to grow by leaps and bounds . Earlier the Web was more like a dynamic storehouse of information where people interacted with the content but were completely oblivious to each others presence , so the online life of individuals was far removed from their day to day life where they could meet their friends , form new one’s, share stuff with each other etc.. Not that these things were not possible but people had to fit their way of life to the Web rather than the Web adjusting itself to people’s lives.

But now its becoming more of like a big party where people join in , make new friends , connect with old one’s , engage in discussions , form communities and share things. So, the online life of individuals now much resembles their life in the real world . This trend has caught on by the introduction of various social networking websites like Orkut , Facebook , hi5 , Plaxo etc..

Social Networking has added a new dimension to the Web experience and has given it the much needed element of human-touch which has made it even more useful and exciting than ever before.
However social networking is something that is currently limited only to a handful of sites like Orkut, Facebook , hi5 etc. so people still have to visit these websites to socialize . So, if someone has a great website it would be great if that person can bring his/her social data to their own websites and thus form an instant online community on their websites itself.

Google is one of the companies whose taking the concept of social networking the way it is now a step further by allowing anyone who wants to add social data to their websites to do so easily without any programming on their part whatsoever . The product is known as Google Friend Connect which will allow anyone with a great website to add social data from various social networks like Orkut, Facebook , hi5 etc, and invite their friends, friends of friends to their website . The updates that happen on a persons website can be automatically posted to their friends in the social networks. Users can do many more cool things with the social data on their website by adding various OpenSocial gadgets .

So Social Networking now instead of being a concept limited to a few social networking websites , would now become an integral part of the basic fabric of the Web , by allowing site owners to tap into the social data out there on various social networks and form instant online communities on their websites . So heres looking forward to a more social web ๐Ÿ™‚

Google may use Balloon Technology for their wireless networks. May 13, 2008

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When we think of wireless technology what comes to mind is huge towers and other really esoteric technologies at work . But a company called Space Data has come up with a simple yet brilliant idea of using plain old balloons for implementing wireless infrastructure ! .
The technology involves sending up balloons to extend a long-range cell network, or a wide-area (broadband) Internet network.

The way the technology works is by fitting transceivers inside the balloons and this helps in extending the reach of the wireless networks.
The technology is very cheap and can also help bring wireless service to individuals in rural areas.Space Data believes it can cover the whole country with a WiMax broadband network with just 370 balloons. Compare that with the 22,000 or so towers that would be necessary using traditional methods .

There are a few glitches however , for example the balloons can remain in the atmosphere only for 24 hours and if these problems are taken care of Google could build wireless networks using a 700 Mhz spectrum in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of traditional cell towers.
Now isn’t this a really cool idea ? ๐Ÿ™‚