Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fleet Week and another visit to the Apple Store

So some friends and I went to see the visiting navy ships at Pier 88 during Fleetweek yesterday (Memorial Day). There are some comments in the captions to the pictures but some things that weren't captured:
  • The long line starting at 42nd street until 46th that proceeded rather quickly.
  • The geography and number simon games we played
  • Frantic finishing of food before the security checks.
  • A nice submarine (orange) hanging off the back end of the HMS Scott.
  • Pulling the trigger of an M16. Tip: Lean forward when shooting as assault rifle.
We also took the trek over the Apple store, a walk that spanned 7 avenues and 13 streets. When we left, I tried to press the button for the glass elevator that the spiral staircase winds around, but it didn't respond and didn't seem on. Well, here are the people that got stuck in it when it broke. I don't know if it'll be reserved for special needs people in the future, but maybe there should be a person limit enforced.

SOURCE: Trying not to offend via UNEASYsilence via TUAW

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Subscribe to online calendars from MS Office 2007

Since I have my calendar online and published via Google Calendar, I'd like to see it in Outlook. Outlook will default you to a Office online website where you can learn more and subscribe to public calendars, but here's a more direct way:
  1. Go to your calendars box in the left column, click the arrow next to whichever one you'd like to get the web address for and from the pop-up menu, click 'Calendar Settings'.
  2. To get all the appointments, right/ctrl-click the orange-colord button that says ICS and copy the address/shortcut/URL.
  3. Paste the address back into your browser's address bar and replace the protocol prefix from 'http://' to 'webcal://'.
  4. Press enter or GO and choose to open the location with Outlook (or whatever calendar application you prefer).
I think this is more straightforward in iCal and SunBird.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Maybe it's a British/Canadian thing

When I refer to a company or a sports team or a collective group, I (and it seems most people) do it in the singular. The rationale is that Google is an entity, much more than the CEO, his board, and their employees. For example, if Google undergoes a merger with Sun Microsystems (not likely), Google undergoes one. Some people will say "Google undergo merger". That is one of my pet peeves. Now, today I read an article on Cricket in BBC where the West Indies team is mentioned as follows:
West Indies do not have any matches scheduled for the Queen's Park Oval at next year's World Cup.
However, when they refer to Google, they do it in the singular. What do you think? The most frequent annoyance appears in the form of "Microsoft are...".

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The bigger they are the harder they fall

Yeah, you can just ignore this... it's about click fraud.

Before Google can actually become the next Microsoft, it has already become the first choice in criticism in any arena in which it’s ‘big’. As the popular saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. From the perspective of a Google investor, criticisms deserve attention. Obviously, Yahoo, Microsoft, and maybe Ask.com are viable competitors in the online search/advertising space. How well Google performs has everything to do with expanding advertising opportunities for publishers as well keeping people coming back to Google.com, advertising on which nets Google the majority of its revenue. A potentially bigger obstacle (but not one that is unique to Google) comes from the prospect that the recent click fraud settlement of 90 million dollars may not actually settle much. I don’t know who the original plaintiffs were, but companies like web hosting provider AIT are unsatisfied and are withdrawing themselves from the class, hoping to get a larger settlement or a ruling against Google.

FuckedGoogle.com, perhaps the most strident anti-Google blog, apparently has heard from inebriated Silicon Valley sources that the majority of Google's revenue growth is derived from such clicks. While Google takes steps to ban publishers who benefit from click fraud, the suits allege that Google has not been doing enough to stop fraudulent clicking. The blogger there goes as far as to claim that the majority of Google’s revenue growth comes from click fraud, implemented, for example, by bots that spread like viruses or malware. These bots would browse to sites and click on ads shown on the malware beneficiaries’ sites, earning them commission.

Even if Google was good at catching fraud, it’d be difficult if not impossible to detect sparse and distributed fraudulent clicks from bots on ads for expensive keywords like ‘asbestos’ (my friend says law firms buy such ads for as high as $50 a click) or let’s say ‘web hosting’. Since Google prices keywords on an auction system, highly contested ads will naturally be very expensive in order to be given top spots (and get clicks).

Surely, click fraud is nothing new and if anything, online advertising has come a long way in meeting the needs of advertisers. We’ve come a long way to Google’s brand of context relevant ads from the dot-com days of paid advertisement viewing (I got checks in the mail for keeping an ad bar open). I’m not trying to say that Google is blameless (although zombie computer owners surely share a large part of it with the bot writers and beneficiary publishers), but it is a pity that with the great progress we’ve made, Google is coming under fire for small segments of the market (albeit highly profitable).

Currently, advertisers are free to contest clicks and apply for refunds from Google. There is a market for fraud detection tools as well as alternative advertising options such as impression-based ads as opposed to click-based ads. In the end, I think it comes down to a matter of whether or not people believe advertising on Google helps companies achieve their goals and whether advertising in another medium or with another provider like MSN or Yahoo’s Overture is more efficient.

Office Word 2007 beta 2

I’m writing this on the beta version of Office Word 2007 and so far, I’m impressed with the new user interface. They’ve added a feature that I appreciate from OpenOffice that saves space where they show toolbars contextually. For example, if I create a chart, buttons relevant to charting are displayed as long as a chart has focus. They’ve also increased the relevance of the buttons as well as their accessibility with tabbed button panels grouped by function. The context-sensitive options appear as new tabs that have focus.

Microsoft office's table tools

As far as not being able to find features, the most trouble I've had is with finding the file menu, but that has been prominently replaced by the circular office logo in the top left. Also, if you’re wondering where all the menus went, they don’t exist anymore, replaced by tool tray tabs that appear and disappear contextually.

Coolest feature asides from the UI? I’ve spent many hours playing with formatting in Office. First, they added font previews in the font list. Now, they’ve added live previews when you hover over formatting options.

A big annoyance is a strange conflict with Vongo, so if you use Starz's movie download service, you might have to rename the MSOXMLMF.dll file in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OFFICE12 just to be able to run it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Free lunches

Posted this a while ago, but decided that it was somewhat weak. I'll post it anyway and see what happens: will people design their own UI elements or will they just use Google's?

In recent history, a number of companies have released free services or products. Google (nothing new) released a free and commercially usable AJAX framework that allows you to code your web-UI in Java (with or without eclipse) and convert it into mutiple browser compatible javascript and html files. Skype made calls to US and CA land and mobile lines free. Napster made its music service free. Each of these acts of generosity was motivated (or at least justified) by a not so obvious strategic decision.
  1. Skype doesn't only charge its users to call out, it offers phone numbers where you can receive calls and accept voicemail. Allowing people to depend on the Skype service will lead to a lot more paying customers for long distance calls and incoming calls.
  2. Google's release of the GWT or the Google Web Toolkit lets people take advantage of many Google web UI widgets. These are just like the kind Google uses and the more widely adopted they are, the easier and more intuitive Google's services (calendar, mail, etc.) that use the GWT become.
  3. The idea for Napster is actually obvious, it's free for the first 6 listens to any song.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Apple Store Under Construction

The cost of these pictures was not being able to take any others on the trip. But, what will hopefully be finished on Friday, May 19th 2006:

I'm hoping to be able to see the products(?) to be announced on Thursday at the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in NYC (in front of FAO Schwartz). It is a dramatically compact structure relative to its magnificent surroundings, but it might have been a requirement of the FAO people that they keep the store small. Reasonable, but imagine the lines on opening day to get the free t-shirt.

UPDATE 1:05 PM EST 5/16/06: So now we know! The MacBooks were announced today (I realized this 4 hours too late.)

UPDATE 10:31 PM EST 5/18/06: Pictures of the finished and unveiled product found at TUAW. And they're giving away a MacBook an hour? Oh, and via that last link also, only the first 2500 get the t-shirt.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Search box wars

According to Forbes, Google has raised a red flag over the addition of a search box in Microsoft's new IE7 browser, warning government investigators of Vista to against the possibility of Microsoft using MSN as the default and the difficulty in switching to a different engine. As far as I know, IE7 leaves the decision of which search engine is actually used through the search box to the OEM (like Dell, HP or Lenovo). In the case of retail versions of Vista, customers who upgrade their own operating systems should be able to figure out how to customize their search engine.

On top of that, Google.com makes switching so easy for visitors of its home page by allowing you to automatically set Google as the default search engine. It's perfectly plausible for Google to pre-empt Microsoft, but I think Microsoft has covered their asses fairly well and have ensured that the box remains a field of search engine competition. I uninstalled it because of its bugginess, but if I'm not mistaken, Google was the default search engine in the beta version of Windows Internet Explorer. I'll reinstall and check again.

SOURCE: Forbes [via Google Finance]

UPDATE 10:36 PM EST: I was mistaken. The search engine choices were a relic from my previous installation, and by default, only MSN is offered. It is also harder to switch because there are no alternatives offered locally, but they are only two clicks away (one for the down arrow and two for Find More Providers...)