Google IME: Typing Indian languages made super easy

Typewriter KeysHere comes Google’s latest baby – Google Transliteration IME (Input Method Editor) – a freeware tool that allows you to attain mastery of typing 14 different languages including Indian scripts such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.

What makes the job easier is the phoenetic transliteration feature that allows one to type in any of these languages using a roman keyboard.

Users can type a word the way it sounds using Latin characters and Google Transliteration IME will convert the word to its native script.

This is very different from translation – which is conversion of a word or sentence  from one language to another while keeping the meaning intact. With transliteration one converts the sound of words from one alphabet to another.

Earlier on, I had reviewed two very useful transliteration tools – Avro Keyboard and QuillPad. While both these  tools are superb at their respective tasks, they suffer certain limitations. Avro Keyboard – a desktop application, was designed to type only Bengali. QuillPad supports multiple languages – but one has to be online to be able to use their editor.

Google IME is an offline application that transcends these boundaries by providing support for a multitude of languages without being dependent on internet connectivity. The application sports extremely useful features like dictionary support for completion for common and rare words, personalized correction memory, typographic customizations, quick web search etc. A full list of features is available on the Google IME page.

Google IME: Status WindowOnce installed the IME can be fired up via the Language bar or through shortcut keys. It manifests itself in the form of a small floating band (status window) at the bottom right corner of your screen. The leftmost icon denotes the application itself and doubles up as a dragging handle. The second icon represents the input language and can be used to switch back and forth between it and English. The third one is used to launch a virtual keyboard while the last one brings up the application menu.

Google IME: Suggestions

Once you start typing in your favourite editor, a small suggestions window pops-up displaying completion lists based a customizable dictionary which allows addition of new words in case none of the suggestions match with what you want. The correction memory keeps a note of this and next time you start typing in the same sequence of letters, your preferred word will be shown at the top of the list.

The virtual keyboard is mighty useful too and comes to your aid when you just can’t dig up the correct sequence of keystrokes required – specially in the case of complex joint characters –  for a successful transliteration.

Google IME - Virtual Keyboard

As of now Google IME only supports 32-bit Windows 7/Vista/XP. For other platforms, there’s always the online Google Indic transliteration tool. One drawback is that the supported languages are not bundled in together and need to be downloaded individually – as per your requirement. This helps keep the baggage at a bare minimum, though!

So… how about you grab a copy of Google IME and run down your experience by me.

[via The Official Google India Blog]

Free eBook on best performing Ad placements for Chitika and AdSense untis

Get Chitika PremiumChitika, the search targeted advertisement network is offering a free guide (eBook) for making the most out of Chitika Premium and AdSense.

The book analyzes various medium to large websites and provides valuable suggestions for optimal  & harmonious placement of Chitika and AdSense advertisement blocks on your website leading to greater revenues.

Also provided are tips for customizing the Chitika ads (color palettes, fonts etc.) through code as well as heatmaps of high CTR (Click-Through-Rate) locations.

You can download this free eBook from here.

For those who haven’t tried out Chitika yet, Chitika Premium ads are displayed only to visitors coming to your site from search engine results pages. In contrast with the contextual AdSense ads that depend upon your site’s content, these ads are relevant only to the searched keywords. For example, if you searched for “technology” on any of the major search engines and landed on a post in this site, here’s what you’ll see…

selfmademinds-chitika

On this site, Chitika Premium ads are displayed immediately following a post’s content. However, the target segment is visitors from the US. Hence to see these ads in action, you’ll have to visit this live demonstration link. Alternatively, they can also be viewed by appending a #chitikatest=keyword(s) at the end of any post’s URL.

Get Chitika PremiumIf you’re interested in serving Chitika Premium ads on your website, you can do so by signing up as a publisher with them.

Google Reader now lets you monitor static websites that do not offer RSS feeds

html-2-rssA new feature in Google Reader now allows you to monitor (and get updates) from static websites that do not offer feeds.

Using this feature is as easy as subscribing to a normal RSS feed – simply enter the URL of the site in the Add Subscription box and hit enter. For a feed-less site, Google Reader will automatically show you a dialog box with an option to Create a Feed.

GReader will setup a monitoring service for the page and intimate you of any changes when they occur.

Earlier on, the only options for monitoring a site for changes were third-party services like Page2RSS, Feed43 etc. – which acted as an intermediary layer between your feed reader and the site and provided you with RSS feeds from the target site’s content. To view the feeds, you were required to subscribe to the URL provided by these services using your feed reader.

With Google Reader, you’re essentially able to bypass this middle layer altogether – as both the conversion of a static site to RSS and the reading of RSS feeds will be handled by GReader itself.

If normal feeds are anything to go by, this service may very well double up as an archiving system for a particular web-page by keeping a detailed record of changes of time.

A smarter Google to provide factual answers to your questions

Pyxle_OTH-01 (1)A smarter Google is out to capture the Next Generation Web with a pledge to provide a better understanding of the web.

Google Squared” – which, so far,  was an experimental effort to automatically identify and extract structured data from the web has been rolled out into the public today. With these algorithmic modifications in their search engine, comes the ability to highlight answers in the search results.

Answer highlighting helps you get to information more quickly by seeking out and bolding the likely answer to your question right in search results. The feature is meant for searches with factual answers… If the pages returned for these queries contain a simple answer, the search snippet will more often include the relevant text and bold it for easy reference.

For example, if earlier on someone was searching for the height of the Empire State Building using the keywords “empire state height”, the most probable results would be…

before-empire-state-height

Not so anymore. With Google Squared working behind the scenes, the same query will now fetch…

after-empire-state-height

As you can see, instead of providing links to articles containing the query keywords, Google now highlights portions of those articles containing to the point answers to the query. The idea is very similar to the quantified results that Wolfram Alpha provides although the presentation still remains in the same old Google format.

This is  definitely a huge step towards the next generation Web as envisioned by Tim Burners Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) and will make it much easier  and quicker for end-users to get to the  answers they are seeking. However, ReadWriteWeb expressed concerns over this new feature, stating that this may, in reality, prove to be a deterrent factor in terms of website traffic – as users won’t be required to visit the website anymore to dig through the article for the correct answer. Speculations aside, for webmasters it’s going to be more of a breathless wait-and-watch now.

On a similar note, the algorithmic changes introduced by Google Caffeine have started lapping up results from Twitter and related social media & networking sites.

What are you think about G-Squared?

The collaborative Google Translator Toolkit now sports GTalk chat

Worldwide translationGoogle Translator Toolkit, which is an excellent collaborative translation aid now sports an all new GTalk based chat of the same kind that you have in Gmail.

For those aren’t aware of this nifty add-on to Google Translate, the Translator Toolkit is collaborative workspace where can translate documents (along with your teammates) through a split pane display. Translation jobs can be saved and resumed on demand.

The translation source can be an uploaded document (in a Google Docs supported format), a link to a web-page, a Wikipedia article or a Knol link. Once the document has been processed a rough translation of the same appears beside it in language of your choice. This is the point where all similarities with the mother application (Google Translate) stops and the Toolkit with all it’s collaboration features takes over.

Translator Toolkit split pane display

Active translation jobs can be shared by inviting others the same way it’s done in Google Docs. Apart from that one can also refer to translated blocks saved earlier on or take help of a glossary (that builds up over time) & a dictionary (that suggests alternative translations). Moreover, whenever you enter a more accurate translation in place of a machine based sentence, word or phrase, the same is stored in blocks named Translation Memory or TM. Future jobs draw information from the TMs to provide you dead-accurate translations for repetitive phrases.

For example, if you’re translating the word cancer into Chinese, you will find alternate translations for cancer as a disease and cancer as a quickly-spreading danger so you can find just the right word for your translation:

Translation Alternatives

The addition of the chat feature makes all contacts who can help with with the task available to your in real time – thus expediting the process of translation immensely.

At my workplace, we’ve in the process of translating our entire website into several different languages – and I can foresee what an invaluable aid this will prove to be.

Have you tried the Translator Toolkit yet? What is your opinion?

Via: Official Google Blog

Determine the fastest DNS resolvers for your link with namebench

A couple of weeks back I had discussed the web-browsing enhancements you may gain by using the Google Public DNS Servers. Here I am with a new tool that can further boost your browsing speeds – in some cases even up to the order of 700% !

Namebench is an open source DNS benchmarking utility which can determine the fastest DNS servers for your internet link just by running a couple of short tests (average duration: 4-5 minutes).

…namebench runs a fair and thorough benchmark using your web browser history, tcpdump output, or standardized datasets in order to provide an individualized recommendation.

The tool is available for all major OS-es i.e. Windows, Linux and Mac and is hosted at Google Code.

Namebench User Interface

I ran the tool both at my home and office and the DNS recommendations vastly improved my browsing speed. What’s cool about this approach is that the speed difference is apparent to the naked eye.

Recommendations of Namebench for my office connection

Namebench doesn’t modify your system settings in any way – that part is left entirely to you. So in case you don’t want to fire up your Network Settings panel and tweak the DNS settings manually, you can always fall back on a  graphical DNS switching tool like DNS Jumper. In this context, please note that the recommendations for one particular link (say your office) may not work for another link (your home), unless both connections utilize similar links from the same ISP. So make sure to perform the benchmark separately for every connection that you wish to optimize.

If you’ve got 5 minutes to spare and / or are seeking significantly enhanced browsing experience, namebench is definitely the tool for you. And if you find it really useful, be sure to leave a comment on your experience.

Feedburner: When you face a – Your Ping resulted in an Error “Ping is throttled. Please try again in a minute or so.”

Content TheftYesterday I came upon a couple of splogs ripping off my feeds and publishing the content as their own – lock, stock and barrel (if I may), including the ugly SHA1 hash that I was using as a digital fingerprint to detect content theft.

Digital fingerprints (a unique combination of random characters) happen to be a very good way of nabbing content rippers. 99.99% chances are that these people use automated programs (bots) that scrape content off third-party blogs  (primarily from feeds) and post as their own, which are then used in conjunction with various monetization programs (e.g. AdSense) to generate revenue for the splogger. The scraper bots make verbatim copies of your content and are unable to distinguish between actual content and the fingerprint – hence that too gets published in the splog. Catching such rip-offs can be as simple as doing a Google search for your fingerprint.

Problem lies with that fact that an ugly string of random characters is appended to each of your feed item, which gets displayed to your valid subscribers too. It short, it “destroys” the presentation, creating a nasty impression about your blog. Sploggers on the other hand aren’t bothered by this as all they care about is posting content and making money from it.

While the fingerprint helps you detect content theft, there isn’t much that you can do about it except for going through a lengthy process of serving a notice to the splogger and then informing the web-host (citing the DMCA) in case of non-action. Hence, I decided to get rid of the fingerprint and append a custom copyright message to my feed footers instead – with links back to my post and blog. At least this way it earns me some form of attribution – without making the feed look ugly.  Incidentally, the most suitable plugin I found for this job is Better Feed.

What’s all this got to do with FeedBurner?

Coming to that in a moment. That was a rant that I absolutely HAD TO get out of my system.

Once I was done with my new feed footer,  I tried using the FeedBurner Ping service to update my feed.  That’s when this error message got shoved into my face…

Your Ping resulted in an Error “Ping is throttled. Please try again in a minute or so.”

Googling for it didn’t fetch me any solution – just pages upon pages of complaints to the same effect. Most likely, it’s a problem that’s taken roots in recent times. Whatever, the cause was, it kept me at bay for hours! It simply wouldn’t let me see my updated feed (my blog feed is set to auto-redirect to FeedBurner).

The Solution

Feedburner "Resync now" buttonUse the Resync Now button that’s situated towards lower part of the Troubleshootize page of FeedBurner. When all else fails, hit the big red button 😀

The resync button…

  • Clears our cached version and refreshes its content from your Original Feed
  • Creates podcast enclosures for items that did not previously have them and contain links to podcast content
  • Reports any feed formatting problems encountered during the resync

… Voila! My updated feed appeared rightaway. So, if you’re facing a similar error message, my recommendation is to try the Resync button. It works.

Update: Finally came up with some information on the ping is throttled error message. Indeed, it is an issue that cropped up recently – but, at least now we have an explanation.

Speed up your browsing experience using Google Public DNS

Came across this cool new introduction from Google named Google Public DNS – a set of DNS Servers that are meant to replace the DNS servers that you normally use (most likely handed out automatically by your ISP) and considerably speed-up your browsing experience.

This service leverages on Google’s existing search database and thus accounts for speedy (pre-cached) DNS resolution using their load-balanced servers all around the world – a service that no single ISP can provide. In my experience, the ISP based DNS in Thailand tend to be moderate to horribly slow. Switching to the Google DNS visibly improved page loading time for me. Even in the case of non-existent domains, the browser spent far less time in informing me – rather than waiting around and trying to resolve for a good while. See Performance Benefits for detailed information.

According to the documentation, Google has taken adequate measures to prevent security issues – DNS poisoning, Denial-of-Service attacks to name a few – that arise with such open DNS servers.

Using the Google Public DNS Servers is as easy as opening your TCP/IP Settings panel and keying in the new DNS addresses – which on their own are really short and sweet (and easily memorized). They are:

  • 8.8.8.8
  • 8.8.4.4

A few years back I had reviewed a similar service named OpenDNS. This service generates it’s revenue by displaying relevant advertisement on an interstitial page when a domain cannot be resolved. Surprisingly, Google’s DNS (so far) is an entirely ad-free venture.

For the weak-hearted, i.e. those of you who do not wish to mess around with your DNS settings, there’s this handy little tool named Google DNS Helper (requires .NET Framework 2.0 and above) that performs one-click switch between Google’s DNS and your own ISP’s DNS settings.

In this context, another noteworthy tool is DNS Jumper, which allows you to switch between 16 different DNS servers (configurable). The software comes pre-configured with addresses for a multitude of open DNS servers, e.g. Google DNS, OpenDNS, Comodo DNS etc. This tool will allow for quick switching and benchmarking of the various open DNS services.

So far, I had been supplementing my ISP’s DNS with those of OpenDNS and on many occasions they’ve been able to resolve domains that my ISP’s DNS couldn’t. However, the speed of resolution was at best average. Hence, I never got around to using them as my primary resolvers. With Google – maybe because of the brand name itself – I switched over immediately and voila! Amazing results.

Update (2010-07-12): A new version of DNS Jumper (v1.04) is out.

goosh: The Shell Lover’s Google

UNIX ShellThis one’s for all the Unix geeks and shell lovers out there… Goosh is a cool new service that lets you access a large selection of the Google applications through a command-line interface. The hardcore techies will definitely love the look and feel (and functions) of Goosh. The author, Stefen Grothkopp made it pretty clear that it’s not an “Official Google Product” – but is there just for fun.

When you first get to the site, there’s not much to meet the eyes except for some barebones instructions and a shell prompt. But then again – that’s how the real shells are. To get going you’ve to call-up the help page and get a list of available commands. The author had the foresight to implement bash-like aliases – thus cutting down on a lot of typing. The alias for help is h and here’s a screen-shot…

Goosh Screenshot

To perform a simple Google Search, you key in search {searchterms}. For example, if you’re searching for pages on AdSense, you’ll have to key in search AdSense. The actual command to perform a Google Search is “web“, “search” being an alias for it. Apart from normal Google Search, you can also fire away shell commands that call-up the I’m Feeling Lucky function, Google Image Search, Google News + Blog + Feed + Video + Map Search and even Google Translate! That pretty much covers the most utilised Google apps. As an added perk, you can perform Wikipedia searches too. Good job Stefan.

And yup, there are localization commands too – allowing you to change the default language of the interface. Also supported are command history and tab completion.

Goosh is based on Google’s Ajax Search API and is one of the best implementations of it I’ve come across so far.

Found via: My SysAd Blog

Gmail Labs! Google rolls out another surprise…

So Google’s at it again! Last night this all new link titled Gmail Labs materialised out of thin air in my Gmail interface. It turned up in one of my accounts only – which means Google’s rolling it out gradually – just as they’ve done with their earlier surprises. So expect it to turn up in your inbox sooner or later. Till then, keep a watch out for a bold, red link that says New! Gmail Labs right beside the Settings link.

And what’s cooking in the Gmail Labs?

From what I figured, the Gmail Labs will act as the stage for the introduction of a bunch of useful as well as fun plug-ins coded by Google’s staff and/or independent developers. These plug-ins will add extra functionality to various aspects of the Gmail interface. Provided along with each plug-in are feedback links. Those which receive the highest votes will probably be integrated into Gmail in future, while the poor performers will be taken off-air immediately.

Examples

Gmail Labs Settings Screen

Quick Links: This will provide a bookmarking container for your most frequently accessed links and fit in smugly in the leftmost column of the Gmail interface. You can use it for saving frequent searches, important individual messages, and more.

Superstars: Tired of the STAR icon that helps you mark important messages? Superstars will add in a bunch of multi-coloured icons (exclamation marks, check marks etc.) with which you can clearly demarcate mails of varying degree of importance.

Pictures in chat: This will help is displaying your and your friends’ Gmail profile pic. in the embedded GTalk window while you chat.

Others include Fixed-Width Font, Custom Keyboard Shortcuts, Mouse Gestures, Random Signatures etc. The whole list can be found in the Gmail Labs Settings page – which appears as a separate tab under the Settings link.

What if the plug-ins mess-up my Gmail interface?

Google’s kept an escape hatch ready for you in case any of these plug-ins behave abnormally. Simply follow this link to temporarily disable the Gmail Labs feature » http://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0

I found the first two in the list particularly useful. How about you?