25 November 2015

Travel Guide Snippets in Knowledge Graph Cards


Google's Knowledge Graph cards include a lot of information from Wikipedia. Google usually shows a snippet from a Wikipedia article and links to the article. I was surprised to notice that cards for countries and big cities from all over the world no longer quote Wikipedia and now include detailed information from travel guides.

Here's an example for [France]: "France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval and port cities, tranquil villages, mountains and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is known worldwide for its couture fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its sophisticated cuisine and its wines. Lascaux's ancient cave drawings, Lyon's Roman theater and the immense Palace of Versailles are testaments to its long history."


The snippet from the corresponding Wikipedia article is less poetic: "France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European part of France, called Metropolitan France, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France spans 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a total population of 67 million. It is a unitary semi-presidential republic with the capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre."

Show Zoom Slider in Google Maps


Are you missing the zoom controls from the old Google Maps interface for the desktop? Mouse over the "-" or "+" button at the bottom of the Google Maps page and click "show slider". You'll get the old zoom slider which allows you to quickly control the zoom level of the map.



If you want to go back to the default interface, mouse over the "-" or "+" button and click "hide slider". The nice thing is that Google remembers your preference.

Big Offline Google Maps


I don't know about you, but my Google Maps for Android has just enabled the new offline features. Even if you have the latest version of the app, you still need to wait until these features are enabled because they're gradually rolled out.

My first disappointment is that the new features are still limited. The biggest size for an offline area you can download is 120,000 square kilometers and there are many countries that are bigger than that. I downloaded London's map and checked the size of the map: 332 MB. It also expires in 29 days (maps need to be updated at least every 30 days).



It looks like Google's maps include too much information, they take up too much space and there's no way to download some simplified maps.

Let's try one of the smallest countries in Europe: Liechtenstein, which has an area of only 160 square kilometers. The offline map has 62MB. New York? 409 MB.



Forget about downloading the map for an entire country. Google Maps still can't replace the Here app or paid navigation apps.

24 November 2015

A Wireless USB Stick that Expands your Phone’s Storage (And a Giveaway)


What do you do when your mobile phone has limited storage and there’s no option to add an external SD card? How do you carry all your videos and documents where there’s not an iota of space left on the device? Yes, you do have cloud-based services like Dropbox or Google Drive that add virtually unlimited storage to your phone but you’ve to be connected to the Internet to access your files.

This week I’ve been testing a wireless USB stick from Sandisk that adds storage to your phones and tablets much like a regular USB drive. To get started, you plug the USB device into your laptop or desktop computer and let it charge for about an hour or two. You can also transfer the files to the stick from the computer through Windows Explorer or Finder on Mac.

Once the device is charged, you tap the little power button on the stick to turn it on. Now install the Sandisk Connect app on your mobile phone, go to WiFi settings on your phone and connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot created by the USB stick. That’s it.

Wireless USB Stick
The content of the USB drive can now be accessed from your mobile phone. You can stream audio and video files stored on the stick, you can browse photos, open PDF files and other documents in associated mobile apps and you can easily transfer files between the phone and the wireless drive. It is much like plugging a USB stick into your mobile phone but without the wires.

The Wi-Fi network has no security by default but you do have an option to add a password to prevent other nearby devices from connecting to the USB stick.

Unlike using cloud storage, Sandisk’s Connect USB stick requires no Internet connection (it will create a hotspot that your mobile device will connect to) and multiple devices can connect to the same USB drive over Wi-Fi. So if you are carrying an iPad and an Android phone, not only can the two devices connect to the stick simultaneously but it can be used as a temporary medium to transfer files between the iOS and Android device.

The USB stick itself is solidly built with a transparent protective casing though it is obviously heavier and looks bigger than regular USB sticks. The Sandisk mobile app does have some issues but none of them are a deal breaker. In my testing, the iPad app frequently crashed especially when reading big PDF files. The Android app would not allow me to browse the web using cellular connection while the phone was connected to USB drive over Wifi.

Sandisk Connect (Amazon, Flipkart) is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and is available in various capacities from 16GB to 128GB. If you are running out of storage space on your mobile phone and upgrading is not an option, the Connect stick is probably the easiest way to expand your phone’s existing storage.

SanDisk Connect Giveway

SanDisk India is giving away 5 units of the SanDisk Connect Wireless USB stick to @labnol readers in India. All you have to do is fill this short form to participate in the giveaway. SanDisk will announce the winners on November 30 (Monday). Good luck!


The story, A Wireless USB Stick that Expands your Phone’s Storage (And a Giveaway), was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 24/11/2015 under Android, IPhone, Usb, Gadgets.

Google Star Wars Experience


Google has a new site for Star Wars fans. You can join the dark side or the light side and transform your Google experience across Gmail, Google Maps, Waze, Google Translate, and other Google services.


"We reached out to our friends at Lucasfilm and Disney, and since then we've been working together on building google.com/starwars. It's a place for fans, by fans, and starting today you can choose the light or the dark side, and then watch your favorite Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome and many more transform to reflect your path. And that's just the beginning. We've got more coming between now and opening night — the Millennium Falcon in all its (virtual reality) glory included, so stay tuned. And we've hidden a few easter eggs, too. So awaken the Force within, and be on the lookout for things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," mentions Google's blog.

Google's Deals Alerts


Google's mobile search site shows some ads that promote a new notification service. Google's own ads feature a "subscribe" button that lets you "stay up to date on the latest deals, promotions, and updates from popular retailers". Basically, you'll get deals via text messages, just in time for Black Friday.


Tap the "subscribe" button and then you can text "join" to Google's SMS number: +1-646-665-2745. There are multiple alerts for phones, computers, TVs and more.


How to Link to a Specific Part of a Web Page


You are reading a web page, say a longform article published in The New York Times, and would like to share it with your friend. The article is lengthy and therefore there’s a possibility that your ‘busy’ friend may skip the parts that you really want him to read. How do you thus focus his attention to the most interesting stuff on the page?

Genius and TLDRify are useful web apps that that let you annotate web pages much like the yellow highlighter pens that you would use on the printed page. The services let you highlight any paragraph or specific sentence on a web page and create direct deep links to the highlighted text. When people click the shared link, they see the original page but with the annotated text.

Deep Linking

How to Annotate and Deep Link Web Pages

Genius is a music lyrics website but they also provide a web annotator to help you add context and commentary on any web page. The best part about Genius is that you don’t need to install any bookmarklets or browser extensions to use the annotator. Go to the browser’s address bar and add genius.it/ before the page URL.

Next sign-in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google Account and you’ll be able to add annotations to the current page. To get started, highlight a sentence on the page and click the Genius button that pops-up to add your own comment. Genius will then provide you with a unique hyperlink that will directly open the page with the annotation highlighted.

The next useful app in the category is TLDRify. Here you need a bookmarklet or a browser extension but there’s no need to sign-up for an account to annotate web pages. Also, unlike Genius which may show annotations left by other users on the same page, TLDRify links will only show your own highlights.

While you are on a web page page, select any sentence or paragraph, click the TLDRify bookmarklet and it will create a deep link to the highlighted text. When people click the link, the browser will automatically scroll to the annotated text.

Internally, these services create an exact copy of the web pages on their own servers so even if the original page goes down or has changed, your old citations may still work.

Also see: How to Archive Web Pages Forever


The story, How to Link to a Specific Part of a Web Page, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 23/11/2015 under Bookmarklets, Internet.

23 November 2015

How to Opt-Out of Interest-Based Advertising and Stop the Ads from Following You


You are probably aware of contextual advertising where ads are served based on the content of the current web page. For instance, if you are on the ESPN website, the ads on the page could be for sports related products. If you are reading a review of a mobile phone, you may see ads for mobile accessories or other brands of phones.

The buzz is however around interest-based or behavioral advertising where ads are displayed according to your past online activity and interests. To give you an example, if you search for ‘hotels in singapore’ on a travel website, you’ll see that almost every website you visit later will have ads arounds Singapore hotels. Whether you are reading news on CNN, checking out cooking videos on YouTube or reading your Facebook newsfeed, the ads are likely to be around the same them – Singapore hotels.

Interest Based Advertising
In other words, the ads follow you on the Internet even after you have switched to a different website. Online advertisers, with the help of browser cookies, are able to track you across the web and serve relevant advertising. The following video explains behavioral or interest-based advertising in slightly more detail.

How to Opt-Out of Interest-Based Advertising

If you would not like web companies to use your past online behavior to target ads on your computer, you do have an option to easily opt-out. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon and other web advertising networks offer simple ways to help you opt-out of targeted advertising.

1. Google – Go to http://ift.tt/zixXyp and ensure that the “Ads based on your interests” setting is turned off.

2. Microsoft – Go to choice.microsoft.com and turn off the “Personalized ads in this browser” setting to only allow generic ads. Windows users can click the “Start” button, click Settings – Privacy and then turn off “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps” to disable personalized ads that appear inside apps.

3. Amazon – Like Google, Amazon too delivers interest-based ads on its own websites as well as external websites. Go to http://ift.tt/1IafMMy and enable the setting that says “Do Not Personalize Ads from Amazon for this Internet Browser.” This is a cookies based setting, not linked to your Amazon account, and thus if you clear the cookies, your setting will be erased too.

4. Yahoo – Yahoo offers an Ad Interest Manager (AIM) allowing you to opt-out of interest-based ads with one click. Go to http://ift.tt/1Nn18cA and click the blue ‘Opt Out’ button to register your preference.

5. iOS – On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising and turn on Limit Ad Track to opt-out of interest based ads from iAd, Apple’s advertising network.

6. Android – Open the Google Settings app on your Android phone, tap Ads and enable Opt out of interest based ads.

7. Twitter – Go to Twitter Settings on the web and uncheck “Tailor ads based on information shared by ad partners” to disable interest based ads. Similarly, on the Twitter app, go to Settings > Select Privacy > Select Advertising > Enable the “Limit Ad Tracking” setting.

8. Facebook – Go to Facebook Settings, click Edit against the setting ‘Ads based on my use of websites and apps’ and select ‘Off’ for Show online interest-based ads.

How to Stop Interest-based Ads Altogether

What we have here are links to disable online interest-based ads from the most popular advertising networks on the Internet. If you would like to completely stop interest-based ads from all companies on any website or device, you should use web-based tools like aboutads.info and networkadvertising.org. These offer a single window to help you opt-out of Interest-based advertising from all member networks.

These tools also use cookies and therefore you need to use them on every browser and device where you wish to opt-out. The downside is that you preferences will be lost if you clear your browser cache.


The story, How to Opt-Out of Interest-Based Advertising and Stop the Ads from Following You, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 23/11/2015 under Advertising, Privacy, Internet.