Google gets a new favicon

Google's Old and New FaviconsWoke up this morning to upload the theme and noticed a strange new icon in some of the tabs. Didn’t spare a second glance at them till much later.. when I decided to see what lay behind those strange new tabs. To my surprise, they were Google Search results …branded with a new logo. It’s quite a far departure from the earlier blockish icon they had – and it’s going to take some time to get into that familiarity mode with it. This definitely was one of the “lesser” surprise changes on part of Google.

The differences

As you’ll notice from the picture I’ve compiled, while the earlier one had distinctly defined edges with a solid white background, the new one has a hint of gradient in the background with no hard-edges. The icon is also transparent and looks pretty cool on a backdrop of any given colour (except a close shade of blue or course – where it’s rendered almost invisible). This shouldn’t be of any major concern to Google as the icon is supposed to appear only in the browsers address bar, which in 90% of cases sports a white background. Google’s new fancy seems to be rounded-corners and this icon is no exception. The upper-cased “G” has fallen out of favour for it’s lower-cased counterpart – “g”.

Shortly after this I was hunting for any other news articles when I came across one from Google Blogoscoped in my feed reader. They’re wondering if Google is undergoing a large-scale re-branding while sticking to their self-proclaimed core value of Thinking and Acting like an underdog.

Getting back to blogging…

Getting back to bloggingFinally… decided to shake off that writer’s block and squeeze some time out of the demands of fatherhood and get back to serious blogging.

Oh Yes ! For those who didn’t know, I was blessed with this beautiful little bundle on the 10th of February, 2008. Life has never been and never will be the same 😀 The bundle is a “he” – i.e. a son and has been nick-named Adi (which roughly translates to Ancient or The Very First. He’s an absolute delight to be with, though more than a handful, when he realises he’s home alone with me. More on that later…

Other than that Google decided to strip me off my pagerank, which stood last at 5 as I was involved in paid-blogging – a policy that sent up such an uproar all over the blogosphere. Seems like Google decided to take it all out on the smaller sites (mine dropped to ZERO) while just marginally denting the bigger ones. Zero is where it stood for several months – till a couple of weeks back I saw it jumping up to 2. My site’s crawling back into the PR space I guess. Luckily, it didn’t affect my traffic anyhow and although I had stopped blogging altogether, the older content was enough to keep up a steady flow.

In the professional front, my work-load has trippled. Learnt many new tricks (I had long wanted to) – such as developing a complete WordPress theme right from scratch. I picked a template out from the free ones provided by TemplateWorld and got going. The result after 1 week of messing around with the WordPress Codex can be seen here. I’m kinda proud of it and I must say, not bad at all for a weeks work starting from level zero.

Updated a few of my WordPress plug-ins too, namely curreX and LiveSig – making them way cooler and better. Also shifted the plug-in base to the SVN hosted by WordPress.

More later… in the upcoming posts. I’m teeming with ideas and the next few weeks will see plenty of them pouring forth.

Cheers!

Show-off your Google, Yahoo, Technorati & Alexa ranks on your site with Rank Widget

Rank Widget Google PR 4There are plenty of services on the net which offer shiny ranking badges for your site. Rank Widget brings the more popular ones among these (Google PageRank, Alexa Traffic Rank, Technorati Blog Rank & Yahoo Search InLinks) under one roof and presents them in a plethora of colours and designs that’ll suit every conceivable taste.

Rank Widget Alexa Traffic RankThe service is free and really simple to use. Just visit Rank Widget, enter your own site’s URL and select the type of ranking badge (among the above mentioned four) you want. Once you’ve hit the Get Rank button, the selected ranking appears on a multitude of badges (both static and animated) along with the code needed to embed each in your site.

If you’re one who likes to proudly show off your site’s ranking, this service is a must try for you.

Google Presently goes live… finally !

Finally the wait is over. Google’s managed to round-up it’s online office suite by launching Google Presentation – the online equivalent of Microsoft’s PowerPoint. However, long standing speculations regarding the name of this application has been proven wrong in the sense that this app. isn’t called Presently – rather this app. doesn’t have a name at all. It’s being referred to as simply Presentation or Google Presentation.

Google Presentations from File Manager The application can be launched from the Google Docs file manager. Click on New and you’ll notice a new addition to the drop-down menu, titled Presentation.

It’s a pretty basic application and the features offered as on now will leave you wanting. You can import PowerPoint files lesser than 10MB in size and work on them directly. It doesn’t offer much in the way of exporting your presentations – except for HTML files with images. Themes and layouts are supported but there aren’t too many available options and no way of importing your own themes either. Short documents can be used to fetch the starting material for the first slide of a presentation. External objects cannot be embedded and transitions are missing altogether.

As it is with other Google Apps – you can share / collaborate the presentations and work on them as a group. To facilitate group-work, there’s an inline group-chat system based on GTalk that lets you communicate with active collaborators and viewers.

Google Presentation Screenshot

All in all it offers far less than the contemporary online presentation creators like Zoho Show and Preezo.

Google will continue to roll out enhancements over the next few months and hopefully soon we’ll have at hand a pretty strong competitor of PowerPoint.

Incidentally, the Google suite of apps. have undergone a minor name change. Instead of Docs & Spreadsheets, it’s now called Google Docs.

Found via: Google Operating System, Google Presentations Finally Launched

Cricket Scores: When all else fails, Google prevails

Cricket ImplementsThis one is for all the Cricket aficionados out there who’re on the move and desperately need to catch up with the scores of an extreme match. Can’t exactly recall that live score reporting service? Fear not, for Google is there to save the day for you. Simply type in the words “cricket” along with the names of the participating countries. The first returned result will tell you the real-time updated scores.

Can’t recall both the playing sides? No problem. As long as you can type in the name of one of the playing countries, you job’s done.

Repeating the same search brings up different scorecards – that is, for other matches played recently by these countries – but the most recent one is usually displayed first.

And if you type cricket without any accompanying country name, what you get is a random pick from the most recent matches being played worldwide. Along with the miniature score-sheet, you’re provided quick-links to a couple of sites like CricBuzz, CricInfo and Willow. Click on them and you get to the detailed live scorecards – a very handy service.

Here are a couple of screen-shots…

Google Cricket Scores Screen-shot #1

Google Cricket Scores Screen-shot #2

Have fun…

Bored at home? Take your F16 for a spin with Google Sky

F16The all new Google Sky comes with it’s own share of Easter Eggs. A little known fact is that there’s a fully functional flight-simulator integrated into this galactic browser. According to reports, this feature unlocks and appears as a distinct item in your Tools Menu after you’ve played around for a bit with the latest version of Google Sky. The simulator can be fired up by pressing Ctrl + Alt + A too.

Now don’t go off expecting it to be anything like the Microsoft Flight Simulator – but it’s definitely looks very promising. To start with there are two available aircrafts – the F16 and the SR22. Aileron, Elevator, Rudder, Flaps etc. – all the basic controls up and running. Once up in the air, the cruising can be done through both your keyboard and mouse. Here’s a complete list of keyboard shortcuts. If you’d rather prefer to use your joystick – there’s support for that too.

As of now, there are a list of prefixed fly-by zones (about 27) from which you’ve have to determine your flight-plan. By default, it’s set to Kathmandu Airport (Nepal) and you can get rocking and rolling all over the Himalayas in no time. Here’s a snapshot while banking right outside the airport.

Google Sky Flight Simulator Screenshot

If you need a quick coffee-break, just hit Space to get frozen mid-air.

Our favourite earth-browser just keeps getting funner and funner. Grab yourself a copy and get flying right-away.

Found via: Google Operating System, Google Earth Easter Egg: Flight Simulator

The supercharged Google AdSense Referrals 2.0 ! More choices, more revenue

Just today morning, as I logged into my AdSense account a tiny message flashed below the block that displays your income overview reports.

Google AdSense Referrals 2.0 added to account

Exhilarated at the prospect of something new, I clicked on the link and let out a gasp the moment the Referrals screen finished loading. Last I’d seen of the Referrals was those measly 4 or 5 products that were being offered (for which I wrote the Google AdSense Referral Rotator widget for WordPress sidebars). It’s entirely changed now with a massive list of available referrals that can be chosen either on a worldwide or per country basis.

Banned from AdSenseThis came as a very big surprise to me, since I’d been away from AdSense for a good while. The same day that I was getting married I somehow managed to get myself banned from AdSense. The reason was invalid clicks. Quite naturally I filed an appeal and reasoned with them that it couldn’t have been me who was producing those clicks. I added that I could furnish additional travel documents if required. That seemed to do the trick. My account got reinstated a couple of days back along with the whole prior balance. Sweet !

Anyway, back to the topic. Google Referrals now come with a horde of choices. They’re divided into categories like Google Products, Automotive, Business, Computer & Electronics etc. The coolest part is that you don’t have to hand-pick and generate the referral code for each individual product anymore. Get more revenueYou’ve got this Ad Shopping Cart, where you can place your selected products (15 at the most) or add entire categories (10 at a time). In case you add the categories, the best performing ads are automatically displayed.

The code that is generated from your selections keeps rotating the referrals on its own – making my WordPress plug-in sort of redundant. But an overjoyed at the fact that this auto-rotating feature has been integrated into AdSense – it was long overdue. In effect, the random picks of best performing ads maximises the chances of clicks and referral sign-ups by tenfolds thus earning you a whole lot more revenue than earlier on. The referrals are now available in most of the standard Ad Unit formats of AdSense.

AdSense Referrals 2.0 Setup Screen-shot

From what I figured the new Referrals 2.0 feature is being gradually rolled out to all AdSense publishers. Has it managed to find it’s way into your account yet? And in case you don’t own an AdSense account yet, you can always use the following link to sign-up for one. It’s fast and easy to use, it’s free and it earns you a whole bunch of $$.

Cooliris: Get a full-page preview of links with this cool Firefox extension

Cooliris LogoThere are plenty of preview tools sprawled around the vastness of web – Snap Shots, GooglePreview etc. to name a few. Each come with its own set of features and modus operandi. For example, Snap Shots provides small thumbnail previews of a site when you hover your mouse over the link on the site. GooglePreview, which is an extension for Firefox provides automated snap shots of each site listed in a Search Results Page. But such tools have a big limitation. The previews offered are really tiny and are meant to give you a glimpse of the overall look/layout of the site. They don’t provide any real “previews” as such.

You may tend to think that Cooliris is just another preview tool – but that’s where you’ll go wrong. Cooliris has been designed ground up to overcome the limitations found in all such preview tools. Installation is as easy as any other Firefox extension and operation is seamless. Whenever you encounter a link on a page, hover your mouse on it and a small preview icon appears beside the link. Pointing your mouse on the preview icon pops open a small embedded window in the same page with a full-sized preview of the site.

Cooliris Preview Window Screen-shot

Here are some of the noteworthy features:

  • Preview web links, images, and videos without even clicking.

  • The ability to “Stack” previewed items into temporary bookmarks to review.

    Now this is one cool feature. Supposing you’re searching for details on a vacation trip to Hawaii. A standard search result would return you 1000s of pages on this topic. You can easily preview the sites without ever leaving the Search Results page, weed out the seedy looking ones and bookmark all of those which looked good. You can always come back to the bookmarked pile later on and review them.

  • In case you like a site, you’ve the ability to instantly send the link to friends and family with just a single mouse-click.

  • Perform sub-searches in Google, Wikipedia etc. by right-clicking on any selected phrase.

Best of all is that apart from Firefox, Cooliris supports many of the common browsers, e.g. IE, Safari and Flock. This is one tool that really complements your search results and makes you a far more efficient web-surfer.

To sum it all, Cooliris “gives you the power to browse and share the web faster than ever.

Get Cooliris today…

Take a space trip with Google Sky

Sun, Earth & SapceYou don’t need to be a billionaire to take a trip through space anymore. With Google Sky (Google Earth v4.2), you can do just that. You’ll be amazed to know that exploration of star constellations, viewing planetary motions or supernova explosions is just a mouse-click away with this new release of Google Earth.

This new feature in Google Sky has been dubbed the “virtual telescope” and can be accessed via View > Switch to Sky in the top menu. This has been made possible through images that were …

stitched together from more than one million photographs from scientific and academic sources, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Palomar Observatory at the California Institute of Technology and the NASA-financed Hubble.

Another new introduction (though pretty limited in scope as of now) is the ultra-high resolution imagery of select places accessible through Primary Database > Featured Content > Gigapxl Photos.

Source: Google Blogoscoped, Google Sky Released

A whacking Google Indic Transliteration tool at the Google Labs, India page

Google Labs has launched a new page for it’s Indian counterpart where two tools have been listed for trial by the sub-continental users. Incidentally, Google Labs is the place where most of the experimental projects are posted by their engineers.

The hot new tools are…

  1. Indic On-Screen Keyboard (iGoogle Gadget) that allows one to perform searches in any of the (available) Indian languages.

  2. Google Indic Transliteration tool that converts any written text in English into Hindi (Devanāgarī characters), the moment you hit space. For example, if you type Google it gets auto-converted to गूगल.

Google Indic Transliteration Tool ScreenshotIf you’ve used Avro Keyboard earlier on for transliterating Bengali, you’ll know what I’m talking about – except that this works for Hindi. In case you don’t get your desired spelling, you can always click on a word to get a drop-down list of suggestions. In the word you’re seeking doesn’t exist in that list, you can always go ahead and edit it using a pop-up on-screen Indic keyboard. From what I saw this is going to serve as an excellent means for typing in DevanāgarÄ« script for those who don’t want to go through the painstaking process of learning the Indic keyboard layout.

There are a couple of issue with font rendering though. The help page for iGoogle Gadgets, says..

Oriya font rendering seems to be broken under IE. Firefox does not seem to support Oriya at all. Bengali (and Assamese) fonts are often too tiny and seem to be placed a few pixels lower than required. Many browsers do not render some of the Malayalam chillus and conjuncts correctly.

Google seems to be finally catching up on offering truly localised services outside of the U.S.

Found via: Google Blogoscoped