14 August 2015

Google Photos Card Shows More Results

In 2013 Google added a cool feature that allowed you to find your photos directly from Google Search. You could search for [my photos], [my photos of beaches], [my photos from New York], [my photos from 2011] and many other similar queries.

At that time, Google displayed small thumbnails for some of the search results. It looks like Google has updated the photos card and now shows a lot more photos, bigger thumbnails and it also includes some information about the photos (date, location). For some of my queries, Google displayed more than 100 results.

Google shows the search results from Google+ Photos and individual links send you to the Google+ Photos pages, but the link below the search results is for Google Photos. For some searches, Google Photos returns fewer results, since it doesn't include images from Blogger and photo spheres.

Google's Sign In Card

If you're signed in, but you search Google for information from other Google products, you'll now see a special card that suggests to sign in. For example, if you search for [my packages], Google shows this message: "Looking for your orders? Sign in to see your package orders from Gmail."

When you search for [my photos], you'll get a similar message: "Looking for your photos? Sign in to see photos from your account."

Other queries that trigger the "sign in" card: [my events], [my agenda], [my mail], [my files], [my drive], [my documents], [my spreadsheet], [my presentations], [my bills], [my reservations], [my hotel reservations], [my restaurant reservations], [track my package], [my flights].

The Best Tools for Saving Web Pages, Forever

Web pages change or may even disappear with time. Thus if you would like to preserve a web page forever, you should either need to download that page to your computer (and put it on Dropbox) or you could use a web archiving service that will safely store a copy of that page on their own servers, permanently.

There are quite a few ways to save web pages permanently and your choice of the tool will depend on the kind of web content that you are trying to archive.

Archive Web Pages

Archive Web Pages, Permanently

If you are essentially interested in the saving text-only content, like news articles, Pocket and Instapaper are recommended choices. You can save pages via email, browser extensions, bookmarklets or through apps. These services extract the text content from a public web page and make it available on all your devices. However, there’s no option to download the saved articles, you can only read them on Pocket website or their mobile apps.

Evernote and OneNote are impressing tools for archiving web content in your own private notebooks. They provide web clippers (or extensions) that make it easy for you to save complete web pages – from tutorials to recipes to your online transactions receipts – with a click. The clipped web pages can be accessed from any device, the original layout is retained (mostly) and everything is searchable – these services can even perform OCR to find the text inside photographs. Evernote also lets your export these saved pages as HTML files that you can upload elsewhere.

If you prefer something quick and simple that works everywhere but doesn’t require extensions, you can consider saving web pages as PDF files. Google Chrome has a built-in PDF writer or you can use Google Cloud Print. It add a new “Save to Google Drive” virtual printer and the next time you print a page on our desktop or mobile through Cloud Print, it will save a PDF copy of the page directly in your Drive. This is however not the best choice for saving pages with complex formatting.

When the layout is important, your best bet is to use a screen capture tool. You’re obviously spoilt for choices here but I’d recommend the official Chrome add-on from Google – it will not only capture full-length screenshots of web page but it will also upload the image to your Google Drive in the same step. The add-on can also save web pages in the web archive (MHT) format that is natively supported in both IE and Firefox.

The Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive is a perfect place for finding previous versions of web pages but the same tool can be used to save any web page on-demand as well. Go to archive.org/web and enter the URL of any public web pages in the input box. The archiver will download a full copy of the page, including all the images and assets, on their server. It will make a permanent archive of the page that looks exactly like the original and will stay even if the original page goes offline.

Internet Archive doesn’t offer an option to download saved pages but Archive.Is can be a good alternative. It is very similar to archive.org in the sense that you enter the page URL and it will make an exact snapshot of the web page on their server. The page will be stored online forever but here you also have the option to download the saved page as a ZIP file. It too provides date based archives so you can have multiple snapshots of the same page for different days.

All popular web browsers provide an option to download a complete web page to your computer. It will download the HTML web page as well as the associated images, CSS and JavaScript to your computer so you can read it offline. You’ll however have to put effort in organizing these archives as the saved content may not be searchable through your desktop search programs.

eReader owners can use dotEPUB to download any web page as an ePUB or MOBI ebook, formats that are compatible with most readers. Amazon offers a Kindle add-on to help you save any web page in your Kindle device but, as with Pocket, these tools are primarily for archiving text based web content.

Most of the tools discussed above allow you to download a single page but if you wish to save a set of URLs in bulk, wget may be your savior. We also have a Google Script for downloading web pages to Drive automatically (like a cron job) but it will get the HTML content and nothing else.

The story, The Best Tools for Saving Web Pages, Forever, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 14/08/2015 under Internet.

When Android Updates Are Faster

While Google and Android OEMs still have issues with releasing timely updates that fix bugs and add new features, there's something they got right: adding built-in apps to the Play Store and updating them independently, without requiring OS updates.

Apple has released iOS 8.4 back in June and the main changes were a redesigned Music app with Apple Music support and some new iBooks features. Google would have simply updated Play Music and Play Books and all Android users would have gotten the new features without manually installing a new Android version.

The only way for Apple to add new features to Safari, Apple Maps, App Store, the music app, the calendar app, the mail app, iBooks and all the other built-in apps is to update the operating system. That's an outdated model and it's pretty inefficient.

Everytime you hear about a new release for Google's Android apps (Chrome, Play Store, Play Music, Play Books, Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube and more), that could be a new Android version. Some Android OEMs like Motorola, Sony and HTC moved core apps to the Play Store to update them faster.

It's worth pointing out that iOS updates include many security updates and other bug fixes. Right now, these updates can't be installed without an operating system update in Android, but that may change in the future. Google promised to release monthly security patches for Nexus devices, while Samsung and LG will also update their devices monthly.

Android's OEMs update their devices faster then a few years ago, but the process is still slow because of the carriers, custom user interfaces like TouchWiz and the number of devices released every year.

Niantic Becomes an Independent Company

Niantic Labs was a startup inside Google that developed the popular game Ingress and the Field Trip app. Niantic announced that it will become an independent company and Google will transfer Ingress user data to Niantic Inc.

"We'll be taking our unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers. Niantic will be building on the success of Ingress, which has been downloaded more than 12M times, has attracted more than 250,000 people to live events around the world, and has inspired users to collectively walk the distance from the earth to the sun while playing, exploring and discovering," mentions Niantic.

Ingress data will be automatically transferred to the new company starting from September 11. You can opt out using this link, but only until September 10.

Yet Another Experimental YouTube Search Box

YouTube tests a new search UI for the desktop. The experimental search box uses a small magnifying glass icon and adds this text: "search YouTube", so that users know it's an actual search box.

The new search box is gray and has a special "Enter" icon, just in case you don't like the keyboard key.

Back in April, YouTube tested a plain white search box.

{ Thanks, Giorgio Marinelli. }

Google Knowledge Graph Adds Movie Reviews

Last week, Google's movie cards added snippets from critic reviews. You can find quotes from sites like Variety, Rolling Stone, New York Times and click the links to read the full reviews.

This new Knowledge Graph feature uses schema.org structured markup from websites. "With the recent launch of critic reviews in the Knowledge Graph, we've leveraged this technology to once again provide publishers with an opportunity to increase the discoverability and consumption of their reviews using markup. This feature, available across mobile, tablet, and desktop, organizes publishers’ reviews into a prominent card at the top of the page," informs Google. Here's the help center article for webmasters.

You can search Google for [minions reviews], [reviews for ex machina] or ask Google: "did Fantastic Four get bad reviews?" and you'll see a list of reviews. Critic reviews are also displayed in the regular cards for movies and Google plans to expand this feature to books and TV shows.

13 August 2015

Google Card for Software Downloads

Sometimes you're trying to download a desktop software and you're searching Google for things like [chrome download], [latest java], [install itunes], [get skype]. The top result is usually the official download page, but there are various other download sites. Some of them might offer outdated versions, others might install their own software and even download adware or malware.

Google now shows a special card for software downloads. There's a big logo, the name of the organization that develops the application, the download URL and a link: "go to download".

The new card might seem redundant, but some users will find it reassuring. It also works for operating systems.

11 August 2015

Alphabet, Google's Umbrella Holding

Larry Page announced a Google reorganization: Alphabet Inc is born and Google becomes a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, just like Nest, Calico, Life Sciences and other Google companies. Larry Page is the CEO of the new company, Sergey Brin is Alphabet's President, while Sundar Pichai is Google's new CEO.

"Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. (...) Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well," mentions Larry Page.

Alphabet's URL is https://abc.xyz and the site includes a hidden reference to http://www.hooli.xyz, a fictional site created for HBO's Silicon Valley TV series. Hooli [XYZ] is Hooli's experimental division that is "focused on using breakthrough technology to achieve radical solutions using breakthrough technology." It's "the dream kitchen, the moonshot factory, the laboratory of possibility, the midwife of magic, the womb of wonders."

Alphabet is about taking risks, long-term bets, investing at scale. "We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for," explains Larry Page.

The most interesting consequence is that Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and Alphabet's earnings report will show separate data for each company owned by the umbrella holding.

Update: abc.wtf redirects to Bing.

{ Thanks, Lucas and Jonah. }

10 August 2015

Use Quick Look on Mac to Preview Live Websites

Mac OS X has a handy preview feature known as Quick Look that helps you view the content of any file without having to launch the associated application. Select a file inside Finder (or on the desktop), press Space Bar and Quick Look would be activated. You can preview files of most common formats including images, videos, zip archives, Office documents, PDFs and more.

Place a web shortcut on your desktop

Place a web shortcut on your desktop

Quick Look however isn’t just an option for previewing local files, it can also display live websites without you having to open the web browser. All you have to do is create a shortcut for any website on your desktop from the browser and then preview that shortcut in Quick Preview.

This can be useful in several ways. For instance, if you routinely check your favorite news website for the top headlines, you can place a shortcut to that website on the desktop and use Quick Look to instantly check the site for any new content. Or you can create a shortcut to a YouTube playlist and watch the videos inside Quick Look outside the browser.

While you are inside Safari or Chrome or any other browser on the Mac, drag the website link to the desktop (see how-to). It will create a .webloc file. You can select the file and press the space bar to preview the source website inside Quick Look.

Quick Look - web pages

Quick Looks previews the webpage inside a fresh browser session and uses none of the existing cookies or cache so the website will treat you as a new visitor. Also, it disables scripts on the page but loads all the CSS and images.

What’s inside a .WEBLOC file

When you place a shortcut to a web pages on the desktop, it create a .webloc file which is actually a simple text (XML) file. You can replace the string value to make that shortcut to point to any other webpage. For instance, here’s the a sample .webloc file pointing to this website.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<plist version="1.0">

Also see: Essential Mac Apps & Utilities

The story, Use Quick Look on Mac to Preview Live Websites, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 10/08/2015 under Apple Mac, Software.

Google Indexes Images From PDF Files

I'm not sure if this is a new feature, but I noticed that Google indexes images from PDF files. Google adds "[PDF]" next to the title of the page and offers a single option: "view PDF", since it can't link to an image from a PDF file.

Back in 2008, Google started to use OCR to index the full text of scanned PDF files. Now Google extracts images from PDF files and makes them searchable.

Here's an example of query that returns many images from PDFs: [google pdf site:static.googleusercontent.com].