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August 18, 2014

More Directions in Google Search for Mobile

When searching for [directions from A to B] or [distance from A to B] from your mobile device, Google now shows an updated card with multiple tabs for driving directions, public transit, biking directions and walking directions. Until now, Google only displayed driving directions.

This isn't Google Maps for Android or the mobile Google Maps site, it's just a Google Search card.

August 7, 2014

Google Knowledge Graph Winners

If you search for [oscar winners], Google shows a long list of winners in the Knowledge Graph sidebar. You can scroll down to see all of them, switch to a different year or click a category and see all the nominees. Search for [oscar 1995] to find the winners from 1995, for example.

You can also try [Grammy], [Emmy], [Cesar winners], [Goya Awards], [Tony awards], [Golden Globes], [Brit Awards], [Pulitzer], [Nobel awards] and many other queries. It works for more specific queries like [nobel peace prize] or [nobel prize physics].

Google Query Tricks

This isn't some new Google Search feature, but I thought it's worth sharing. Google has some smart algorithms that process your queries and can determine what you intended to type even if it's not properly formatted.

1. You can separate all the characters of your query by space. For example: [h o t e l c a l i f o r n i a l y r i c s].

2. You can separate all the characters of your query using dots. For example: [h o t e l c a l i f o r n i a l y r i c s].

3. You can type your query without using space to separate words. For example: [hotelcalifornialyrics].

4. You can separate the words from your query using various characters like "+", "*", "&", "^" and more. Here's an example: [hotel^california^lyrics].

Moon and Mars in Google Maps

Google Maps for desktop added 3D imagery for Moon and Mars. Just switch to the Earth view in the new Google Maps and zoom out until you see Moon and Mars at the bottom of the page or use these URLs: Moon and Mars.

"Spin Mars and watch the atmosphere change around the red planet; tilt the Moon and imagine yourself gliding along its peaks and craters; and to brush up on your astronomy, click on one of the thousands of labeled topographic features," informs Google.

Google still has the old standalone pages for Google Moon and Google Mars launched in 2009 and you can still use Google Earth to explore Moon and Mars.

Here's a video about the new features:

HTML Tags Supported in Gmail

Google doesn't provide a list of HTML tags supported in Gmail, but the ex-Googler Mihai Parparita came up with an unofficial list. "This list was determined by sending an HTML email with all HTML elements and seeing which came through," explains Mihai.

The list of supported tags is pretty long, so it's probably more interesting to know the tags that are not supported by Gmail. Here are some of them: <embed>, <audio>, <video>, <iframe>, <object>, <script>, <canvas>, <html>, <head>, <body>.

You can also find some sites that show what CSS features are available in Gmail, as well as in other mail services like Yahoo Mail, and mail software like Outlook, Apple Mail and Gmail app for Android.

Unsubscribe Link in Gmail

Gmail continues to make it easier to unsubscribe from newsletters, social updates and other similar messages. After adding an unsubscribe option when marking messages as spam, Gmail now includes an unsubscribe link next to the sender's email address.

"Now when a sender includes an Unsubscribe link in a Promotions, Social or Forums message, Gmail will surface it to the top, right next to the sender address. If you're interested in the message;s content, it won't get in the way, and if not, it'll make it easier to keep your inbox clutter-free. Making the unsubscribe option easy to find is a win for everyone. For email senders, their mail is less likely to be marked as spam and for you, you can now say goodbye to sifting through an entire message for that one pesky link," informs Google.

The unsubscribe link has already been used for Google+ messages. When you click it, Google shows this message: "Google+ provides a page at where you can manage your email subscriptions." Google links to a page that lets you unsubscribe from certain Google+ email notifications, like the ones sent when someone shares or comments on your content.

{ Thanks, Herin. }

August 5, 2014

64-Bit Chrome for Mac

Chrome 37 brings 64-bit support for Windows and now Chrome 38 brings 64-bit support for Mac OS. Chrome 37 is currently in beta and requires reinstalling the software in Windows, while Chrome 38 is available in the Dev and Canary channels, but it doesn't require reinstalling the browser in Mac OS. The Canary build runs alongside stable/beta/dev Chrome and it's updated daily.

In addition to better performance and fewer crashes, 64-bit Chrome for Mac also lets you use 64-bit plugins like Java. Until now, you had to use a different browser to load Java content. "Chrome does not support Java 7 on Mac OS X. Java 7 runs only on 64-bit browsers and Chrome is a 32-bit browser," informs Oracle's site.

Don't get too excited. Chrome will soon remove support for NPAPI plugins, so you'll still have to use Safari or Firefox to open pages that include Java applets.

Google Domains Screenshot Generator

Google Domains has a cool feature that generates a small screenshot for your site (379x283 px) when you use the web forwarding feature. The nice thing is that Google doesn't use signatures or complicated parameters, so you can change the URL.

Here's an example: Unfortunately, the URL only works if you are logged in to a Google account and Google Domains is enabled. There are many other services that generate site screenshots: ShrinkTheWeb, PagePeeker and more.

Google Domains is still in beta and requires an invitation. It's a service that allows you to register domains and manage them.

Gmail Policy Changes

With all the news about Google giving child pornography evidence to police and helping arrest a Gmail user, I decided to check Gmail's terms of use. Apparently, a few months ago Google changed Gmail's program policies page from this to the currently available version.

There are many changes:

* this text was added: "Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery. If we become aware of such content, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and may take disciplinary action, including termination, against the Google Accounts of those involved."

* this text was added: "You can report abuse by using this form. Google may disable accounts that are found to be in violation of these policies. If your account is disabled, and you believe it was a mistake, please follow the instructions on this page."

* this text was removed: "Google may terminate your account in accordance with the terms of service if you fail to login to your account for a period of nine months."

* this text was removed: "You must promptly notify Google of any breach of security related to the Services, including but not limited to unauthorized use of your password or account. To help ensure the security of your password or account, please sign out from your account at the end of each session."

* the list of prohibited actions no longer includes: "conduct or forward pyramid schemes and the like", "transmit content that may be harmful to minors", "impersonate another person", "use Gmail to violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others", "create multiple user accounts in connection with any violation of the Agreement or create user accounts by automated means or under false or fraudulent pretenses", "sell, trade, resell or otherwise exploit for any unauthorized commercial purpose or transfer any Gmail account", "modify, adapt, translate, or reverse engineer any portion of the Gmail Service", "remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notices contained in or on the Gmail Service", "reformat or frame any portion of the web pages that are part of the Gmail Service", "use the Gmail Service in connection with illegal peer-to-peer file sharing".

The policies about child sexual abuse imagery have already been added to Picasa Web Albums back in 2008 and Google actually used them last year. "The FBI says the investigation began in March when Google's hashing technology found two child porn pictures in his Picasa library. Picasa is a cloud-sharing platform for images owned by Google."

"Since 2008, we've used 'hashing' technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing us to identify duplicate images which may exist elsewhere. Each offending image in effect gets a unique ID that our computers can recognize without humans having to view them again," informs a Google blog post from 2013.

So it seems like an existing Picasa Web Albums policy was added to Gmail and other Google services: Play Store, Build with Chrome, Blogger, Google Drive and probably other services. Google has also "fine-tuned Google Search to prevent links to child sexual abuse material from appearing in search results."

Mobile Internet Explorer's New User Agent

I've bought a Nokia Lumia 520 a few months ago to try Windows Phone and it turned out to be a pretty good phone. Windows Phone shines on low-end hardware and Nokia's hardware is great for a phone that costs about $100. There are many issues with Windows Phone and some of them have to do with its late release (2010) and low market share (about 3%). Many companies, including Google, continue to ignore Windows Phone, many sites aren't optimized for Mobile IE.

If you use Google services and products like Gmail, Google Maps, Google+, Google Drive, Chrome, it's hard to switch to Windows Phone. There are some third-party apps for Google services, but they're far from Google's apps for Android and iOS. Google doesn't want to make Windows Phone more popular, so it doesn't release apps for Windows Phone. Google also serves inferior versions of its mobile apps in Internet Explorer Mobile. Gmail's mobile site for Windows Phone has a lot in common with Gmail's site for feature phones.

The entire thing reminds me of Opera's early days. Opera struggled with its low market share and had to spoof its user agent to identify itself as Internet Explorer. The sites that required Internet Explorer worked in Opera, but developers continued to ignore Opera.

The latest Windows Phone 8.1 update changed mobile IE's user agent to mimic mobile Safari. Microsoft added "like iPhone OS 7_0_3 Mac OS X AppleWebKit/537 (KHTML. like Gecko) Mobile Safari/537", but also "Android 4.0". The sites that check the user agent for strings like "iPhone", "Android" or "Mobile Safari" are supposed to work well in the latest Internet Explorer for Mobile. While the browser still has the same Trident rendering engine, Microsoft used some workarounds that improve WebKit compatibility.

WebKit is the most used rendering engine for mobile browsers. Apple used it in Safari for iPhone and iPad, Google used it in the mobile browser for Android and later in Chrome for Android. Google forked WebKit and now uses Blink. Since WebKit dominates the mobile space, many developers optimize their sites for WebKit and use non-standard WebKit features. Firefox and Internet Explorer don't have a lot of mobile users, so developers don't bother optimizing their sites for these browsers.

"Unlike the mostly standards-based desktop web, many modern mobile web pages were designed and built for iOS and the iPhone. This results in users of other devices often receiving a degraded experience. Many sites use features via a legacy vendor specific prefix without supporting the un-prefixed standard version or only support vendor prefixes for certain devices. Other sites use non-standard proprietary APIs that only work with Safari or Chrome. Of course there were also bugs or missing features in IE that became particularly apparent on mobile sites designed specifically for our competitors' browsers," informs the IE blog.

It's ironic to see Microsoft complaining that sites use non-standard features and aren't compatible with Internet Explorer. I still remember the sites that required Internet Explorer 6 and didn't work well in other browsers.

The good news is that many sites now works properly in Windows Phone's browsers. Microsoft "tested more than 500 of the top mobile web sites and found that the IE11 update improves the experience on more than 40% of them." Here's a screenshots for Gmail in the new IE version:

... and a Gmail screenshot in UC Browser, which still uses the old IE user agent:

User agents are a mess and developers should use feature detection instead of relying on a meaningless string. Chrome's user agent includes "Mozilla", "Gecko", "AppleWebKit" and "Safari" for backward compatibility. Now mobile IE's user agent includes "Android", "iPhone", "AppleWebKit", "Mobile Safari", "Gecko".