Saturday, February 26, 2011

Google Cloud Connect: The limits of a Microsoft makeover

Google's new Microsoft Office plugin is meant to woo existing Microsoft users onto Google Apps, Mountain View's suite of (completely) web-based business applications. But the bridge it lays between the two platforms goes only so far.
Though the free plugin synchronizes Microsoft Office files with Google Apps, letting colleagues collaborate on documents and spreadsheets via the interwebs, it doesn't allow for collaboration across both Office and Google Apps. Either you collaborate via Office or you collaborate via Google Apps. You can't use both suites to edit the same file.
If you're collaborating on a file via Microsoft Office, you can view it in a browser via Google Apps, but in browser, the file is read-only. The service doesn't provide collaboration across both platforms because achieving such synchronicity is an epic task Google has yet to crack. "It's a really, really hard engineering problem," Google Apps Product Manager Shan Sinha tells The Register.
"If you look at Microsoft – they're in the best position to be able to deliver something like this – they don't even fully deliver a complete experience when it comes to being able to edit a document in the browser while you're editing a document through the desktop app. They don't support those scenarios either."
Part of the problem, he says, is that the two platforms offer different sets of tools. A desktop application is capable of things a browser app isn't – and vice versa. "What do you do about features that depend on one form or the other?" he says. "What if a web version [of your spreadsheet] doesn't support full-fledged macros and the desktop version does? What happens to all those macros?"
Sinha says that Google makes it clear in its marketing materials that you can't edit files across both the browser and Microsoft Office. But this isn't explained in the Google blog post that introduced the plugin or accompanying video showing the thing in action. "You can sync your Microsoft Office files to Google cloud," the video says. "Once synced, files are continuously backed up [and] given a unique web address so that others you share with can access your file from anywhere, even mobile devices."
One Reg reader took issue with the plugin's inability to provide cross-platform collaboration, arguing that Google isn't giving users what they expect from the service. "After using [Google Cloud Connect] for a while, I see Microsoft has nothing to worry about," he said. "Classic bait and switch!"
Known as Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, the plugin was officially launched on Thursday. Previously, it was available only as a beta. It's based on technology Google acquired when it purchased DocVerse, a San Francisco startup cofounded by Sinha. Google is pitching the plugin as a cheaper alternative to Redmond's online collaboration solution, Microsoft Sharepoint. Cloud Connect plugs in to existing copies Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and 2010 on Windows PCs, and it doesn't require the use of local SharePoint servers or Microsoft's Sharepoint online service.
But Google also sees it as a way of pushing Office users onto Google Apps. "Google Cloud Connect makes it easier to take advantage of Google Apps," says the video promoting the tool. "All you need is a free plugin and a Google Account."
The plugin is indeed free. And you can use it with the free incarnation of Google Apps. You can even use if you've merely signed up for a consumer Google Account, Sinha says. The full-fledged enterprise incarnation of Google Apps – which includes service and support and customized email addresses – is $50 per user per year, and Google argues that this too is cheaper than moving to a SharePoint setup, particularly if you're on Office 2003 or 2007. SharePoint requires an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010.
You could say – as our reader does – that Cloud Connect isn't exactly a smooth ride to the proverbial cloud. But Sinha still sees it as a significant advance. "We're making it easier for people to discover Google Apps. We let people make baby steps without making a complete leap from what the already know," he says.
According to Google, over the first 24 hours of its release, someone installed the plugin every four seconds. Which is hardly surprising. It's free. And it's useful – if not quite as useful as you might expect. ®

Search change affects sites of 'low quality'

Google, with the world's leading search engine, has announced a major change to its algorithm designed to lower the rankings of sites that copy content from elsewhere or are otherwise not particularly useful.
The overhaul is designed to lower the rankings of what Google deems "low-quality" sites. Though Google didn't use the term in its blog post, it was widely perceived as another attempt to foil what have come to be called "content farms."
A number of businesses, like Demand Media, specialize in throwing up quick stories, videos or how to instructions on popular topics, often relying heavily on original material from other publications.
Though the quality is often low, the material frequently ranks highly in search results thanks to the use of headlines and popular keywords that catch the attention of search algorithms. Consumers and technology critics have increasingly complained that the material clutters up search results, and undermines the value of Google.
The change announced late Thursday has already been implemented in the United States and will roll out overseas eventually. It noticeably affects 11.8 percent of queries, dropping the rankings of low-quality sites and boosting those with original content, research and analysis, the company said.
Google is wading into tricky territory by acting as the arbiter of what's legitimate content and what isn't. It essentially requires training its algorithm to distinguish good writing from bad, original content from repurposed and valid analysis from bunk.
Demand Media said it doesn't consider itself a "content farm."
"Most of the changes that we make, and we make lots of them, are nowhere close to this level of impact," said Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who is in charge of Google's search algorithm.
It's too soon to know whether the change will be enough to silence critics, some of whom said before the change was announced that Google has not fought hard enough against these sites because it shares in the advertising revenue they generate.

Verizon's new Xoom ad: Testosterone beats Apple?

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If you happened to be watching the Super Bowl, you might recall that the Motorola Xoom was the next coming of flower power. It was the epitome of a humanity that would overcome the Big Brother nature of that identikit behemoth that is Apple.
It may well be that no one at Verizon got--or, perhaps, bought--the message.
For Verizon's view of the Xoom seems entirely in keeping with its strategy when it launched Droid.
This thing's for boys. It's for boys who get excited about GigaHertz. It's for boys who love them some "Vendetta."

If you are the sort of person who gets excited about a 3D graphics engine and a gyroscope, you will be rushing to your Verizon store to zoom off with your Xoom.
But if you're one of the homemakers, senior citizens, Hell's Angels, or project managers who simply loves your iPad and cannot wait for the iPad 2, you might pause to consider whether the Xoom might be, well, a little too high tech for you.
My accountant tells me he bought a Droid and had to take it back to the Verizon store because he simply couldn't work out how it, well, worked.
So it will be fascinating to see what will attract buyers to the Xoom. Will it be the sense that you're in a rocket ship? Or will it be something more considered, more graceful, and more, well, sensitive?
Some might wonder whether the tagline "Grab it and it Grabs you" offers the right kind of sensitivity.

Apple's new laptops grab Thunderbolt with impressive speed

New laptop models introduced this week from Apple include the fastest peripheral standard ever shipped in mass-market computers, providing a connection to both monitors and storage devices through a single port.
Thunderbolt, a technology Intel developed with close Apple involvement, has a data-transfer rate of 10 gigabits per second to and from a computer. Moreover, the version Apple built into these laptops has two Thunderbolt channels in a single port, for a combined raw rate of 20 Gbps in each direction.
This rate is 40 times faster than USB 2.0, four times zippier than the new USB 3.0, and 20 times speedier than gigabit Ethernet, the fastest widely available local networking standard.
Thunderbolt combines the graphics information to drive a monitor or HDTV set and the features necessary to move data at high rates between external hard drives and other peripherals. The standard also allows eight-channel audio found in high-end home-entertainment systems. (Technically, the graphic standard is known as DisplayPort and the data standard as PCI Express.)
Apple has no lock on the technology, which Intel intends to push heavily. Intel has had tepid interest so far for USB 3.0, clearly because of its development of Thunderbolt. USB 3.0 doesn't include support for video displays.
Thunderbolt can handle two displays per port, but in the laptop version, one of those is the integral screen, which cannot be disabled in favor of an external monitor. A future Mac mini or Mac Pro, desktop machines without built-in monitors, would take full advantage of this. The Mac Pro likely will include multiple Thunderbolt ports as well.
A total six devices may be chained one to the next from the single port found on the new MacBook Pro laptops. Hubs and splitters are possible, too, although Apple has nothing to offer at present.
Forrester Research Vice President Frank Gillett said Thunderbolt has the potential to turn USB into a necessary second standard for less-expensive devices, while Thunderbolt could take the lead. The combination of fast data transfer and graphics makes it appealingly simple.
"This is what makes multiple displays easy to deal with, because you can daisy chain them," Gillett said. While USB will persist, "what this knocks off is FireWire 800 and eSATA," separate, far slower transfer standards.
La Cie and Promise Technology already have announced hard-drive products using Thunderbolt. (The new laptops continue to retain a FireWire 800 port.)
Thunderbolt is backward compatible with DisplayPort, letting users with existing monitors continue to use them. The standard also functions with DisplayPort adapters for analog (VGA) and digital (DVI) monitors, as well as HDTV sets.
The new professional laptops Apple introduced, in 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch display sizes as before, also include an updated video camera, now called FaceTime HD. The camera allows video chat at up to 720p using Apple's FaceTime system to another new MacBook Pro user.
FaceTime first appeared on the iPhone 4 and later on the fourth-generation iPod touch. A beta version of FaceTime for Mac OS X was released in late 2010; the official release of the software came this week as well. FaceTime 1.0 is bundled with new laptops, and is 99 cents through the Mac App Store.
The laptops also have been goosed with much-faster processors and improved graphics systems.
Apple provided a more extensive description of its next update of Mac OS X, dubbed Lion. Lion incorporates many optional features brought over from the iPad, such as a screen of application icons that can be organized into folders, more extensive multifinger gesture support (through a trackpad), and automatic resumption of programs from the precise point at which you left off after they are quit or the system has restarted.
A full-screen program mode will emulate the feel of having an iPad turn into a single app at a time, too.
Users who dislike these features may disable or ignore them, but all Mac owners will appreciate the addition of automatic document saving and retention of older versions. (Software developers will need to update programs to take advantage of some features.)
The new release also will let Mac users exchange files using a wireless connection without both parties being hooked up to the same Wi-Fi network or any Wi-Fi network. The feature, AirDrop, relies on newer hardware that allows a computer to have a Wi-Fi connection for Internet and local access while simultaneously talking peer-to-peer to other nearby devices.
Apple has erased the difference between its regular and server versions of Mac OS X. Lion includes the features of both at the same not-yet-disclosed price. Users can add server features later — a new installation is not required — although Apple declined to provide details at this point.
Mac OS X Server once was either $499 or $999, depending on the number of simultaneous users desired, then reduced to $499 for unlimited users with Mac OS X's current release. Now, it's free.
The new MacBook Pro laptops are available for order immediately. Lion is expected this summer, although Apple has provided no details on price, system requirements or shipping date.

Apple MacBook Pro Winter 2011 (2.2GHz Core i7, 15 in)

Pros: Really nice 2.2Ghz Core i7 Processor
I got the high end 15" model with the Radeon HD 6750M and 1 GB of GDDR5
8GB of 1333Mhz DDR3 Memory
750 GB HDD - while its a slower hard drive (at 5400 RPM) space is a must for me
I got the high res glossy display
Cons: While I have no real complaints to make about this mac, I will say that the price is a lot to pay. I also feel like thier AppleCare should come standard with each and every mac. (not for an extra $250 After the education discount).
Summary: This Macbook Pro is a great machine, and is my first macboook, but my third mac. I really really love it. One thing that really sold me was Time Machine. Time machine comes standard on any mac, and all you have to do is plug in an external hard drive and click "Use drive with Time Machine" Once you do that, the mac will do an initial backup, completely hassle free. After this, If you make any changes to the system, the files you changed are backed up, along with any older versions. Time Machine has its own interface that lets you view your computer as it was on a certain date so if you need a particular verison of a file, or if you want to work with an older copy, it lets you do so quite effectively. The best part is that you can back things up at your own liesure. If you're working on something extremely important, you can leave your drive plugged in, and the mac performs backups on a 1 hour interval. At the same time, you can remove the drive and plug it in later and it will do the backup of that moment. One last thing to note is that you can set up time machine for multiple drives, letting you maintain onsite and offsite backups with ease.
Another thing about the Mac OS is its significantly easy to use management of everything. almost anything is 1-2 clicks away. Even files buried in the deepest folders ever can be accessed through spotlight. The dock makes launching applications easier, and always stays there, so you can launch applications without ever having to leave what you were doing. This simplifies workflow.

On the hardware side, I cannot wait to see where Thunderbolt will go. Intel announced that the fiber optic version of thunderbolt would run on the current macs because the laser emitters will soon be included in the cables. This ensures that I will not have to worry about issues down the line when Thunderbolt goes totally Optical.

What I do on my Mac:
I edit HD video. Lots of it.
I play some casual games in windows through bootcamp
I have many many apps running at once, including CS4, Photoshop, and Final Cut.
I do a little graphics design, some CAD as a hobby... etc.
Web browsing and working with documents, spreadsheets and keynote presentations.
I also store all my photos on this mac - iPhoto is great for organizing those, and is a very flexible program.

Finally, I highly recommend this notebook to anyone who considers themselves a power user. If you're on the fence about switching to the mac, now is a great time to dive right in. It took me about a week to get totally used to the Mac OS (not very long, to be honest).

Once you go mac, you never go back :)


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top 10 National Geographic Discoveries of 2009

10. Ultra-Rare Megamouth Shark Found, Eaten
megamouth shark eaten Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
In March, the 41st megamouth shark ever found went from swimming in Philippine waters to simmering in coconut milk.
9. Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of
Early Dentists
jeweled teeth picture big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
The glittering “grills” of some hip-hop stars aren’t exactly unprecedented. Sophisticated dentistry allowed Native Americans to add bling to their teeth as far back as 2,500 years ago, a May study said.
8. Alien Giant Snakes Threaten to Invade Up to
1/3 of U.S.
giant snakes invasion us Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
Nine giant snakes could be on the verge of causing ecological catastrophe if they establish themselves in the U.S. wild—at least two have already set up shop in Florida—according to an October report.
7. Biggest Snake Discovered; Was Longer Than a Bus
giant snake pictures big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
The 60-million-year-old reptile was also heavier than a car, scientists said in February, adding that the fossil could shed light on climate change.
6. Gold Rush-Era “Ghost Ship” Wreck Found
gold rush shipwreck big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
With boots thrown hastily on deck and cooking utensils scattered, the last moments of the crew aboard the gold rush-era paddleboat A.J. Goddard are preserved in the ship’s recently found wreck, archaeologists announced in November.
5. Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found
oldest human skeleton ardi missing link chimps ardipithecus ramidus big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
There was never a chimp-like missing link between humans and today’s apes, according to an October fossil-skeleton study that could rewrite human evolutionary history. Said one scientist, “It changes everything.”
4. “Extinct” Bird Seen, Eaten
extinct bird photo big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
Long believed to be extinct, a rare quail from the Philippines was photographed for the first time ever—then sold at a poultry market, experts said in February.
3. New Cloud Type Discovered?
new type cloud sunset big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
Nicknamed “Jacques Cousteau” clouds, these “turbulent” seas in the sky could be examples of the first official new cloud type since 1951, experts said in June.
2. Fish With Transparent Head Seen Alive for First Time
fish transparent head barreleye pictures big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
Perhaps the most bizarre nature discovery of the year—though Stephen Colbert put it a bit less delicately—a Pacific barreleye fish shows off its transparent head and barrel-like eyes in pictures released on February of the first specimen ever found alive.
1. “Missing Link” Found: Fossil Connects Humans, Lemurs?
missing link found big Top 10 Nat Geo Discoveries of 2009
The 47-million-year-old, exceptionally preserved primate fossil “Ida,” unveiled on May 20, was hailed by some as a major discovery in human evolution.
The publicity frenzy made National Geographic News’s brief coverage our most viewed page of the year—and inspired a backlash as some experts, including one here at Nat Geo HQ, suggested Ida was more media event than milestone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homes Of The Billionaires Of The World

Bill Gates 
Bill Gates
Net Worth: $54 billion
Occupation: Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
Bill Gates home is situated on a 66,000-square-foot compound and is estimated at $140 million.
George Lucas
Net worth: $3 billion
Occupation: Film director, Producer, Screen writer
The Starwars filmmaker lives and works on his 5,156-acre property known as Skywalker Ranch.
James Packer house 
James Packer
Net Worth: $3.6 billion
Occupation: Media, Casino’s
James Packer, the media heir, lives on the 3 acre packer family compound his grandfather bought in 1935.
Lakshmi Mittal House 
Lakshmi Mittal
Net Worth: $28.7 billion
Occupation: CEO, ArcelorMittal
Lakshmi Mittal bought his home in 2004 for $114.89 million. The sale held Guinness Book of World Record for a while as the most expensive house in the world.
Larry Ellison House 
Larry Ellison
Net Worth: $27 billion
Occupation: Co-Founder and CEO, Oracle Corporation
Set on 23 acres, Larry Ellison’s home is reminiscent of a Japanese palace.
Lev Leviev House 
Lev Leviev
Net Worth: $1.5 billion
Occupation: Business Man: Diamonds, Real Estate, Chemicals
The $35 million dollar house, in the heart of London, is home to Lev Leviev, his wife Olga and their 9 children.
Michael Dell House 
Michael Dell
Net Worth: $14 billion
Occupation: Founder and CEO, Dell Corporation
The Dell’s 33,000 square-foot home sits on 20 acres and is known as the “The Caste” due to it’s high walls and tight security.
Mukesh Ambani Skyscraper 
Mukesh Ambani
Net Worth: $29 billion
Occupation: Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited
The 27 story skyscraper is the private home of Mukesh AmbaniAntilla, as the home is called, sets the record as the most expensive home in history valued over $1 billion.
Warren Buffet House 
Warren Buffet
Net Worth: $45 billion
Occupation: Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Warren Buffet is the world’s 3rd richest man. Buffet bought his house in 1958 for $31,500 and lives there ever since.
Is Buffet the most extreme of all billionaires or the least???

Sunday, February 13, 2011