Thursday, May 24, 2007

Google Calendar for Mobiles

Google Calendar now supports a mobile phone web interface!

Just point your calendar to and you'll see your agenda as well as the ability to add new events quickly and easily.

This is an excellent companion to the GMail app, and solves my 'which is my primary calendar' dilemma. Plus if you set up your calendar to send reminders via SMS alerts to your mobile you'll have a fully mobile calendar that's always in synch with your Google Calendar.

Who's Watching You?

Earlier in the week British police announced the trial of a new CCTV heli-drone that would patrol over the heads of the residents of Merseyside. This is in addition to the existing fixed CCTV cameras that flood Britain, at a rate of 1 for every 14 people. As recently as last week the British government announced plans to add microphones and speakers to existing CCTV cameras.

At the same time more than 3 million people have their DNA stored in a national DNA database. Early this month is was revealed that almost half a million of them are children, and almost 100,000 are under 16. About a third of all samples belong to people with no criminal record. Should their DNA ever be found at a crime scene they will be expected to explain why.

Also yesterday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke to some journalists in London. He describes the future goal of Google -- that the algorithms be smart enough, and their databases thorough enough, that should I ask Google 'What job should I go for?' or 'What should I do tomorrow' it will be able to give me a sensible, personalised answer based on its knowledge of what jobs or events are out there, and which ones I'm likely to enjoy. This system does not yet exist.

Google's database is, like all things Google, entirely opt-in. I can choose if I wish Google to remember my Search History, or if I want to search entirely anonymously. The British governments DNA database and CCTV network is *not* voluntary. The CCTV networks and DNA databases do exist.

Today The Independent, ever mindful of my privacy rights, and rightfully concerned with the spectre of a 'Big Brother' society, ran an article on their front page with the headline, "Google is Watching YOU". Apparently the Forth Estate sees this opt-in system, that may exist some time in the future, written by non-government corporation, as a bigger Orwellian threat to my privacy than the existing, non-voluntary, government run programs whose powers are being constantly expanded.

I can search the web, using Google, and choose not to have my searches remembered. The same option does not exist for 'walking around in London' without being photographed 1,000 times. I suppose I could keep my head covered at all times by wearing a 'hoodie', but that's unlikely to end well.

So, which is more Orwellian, a nation with speaking, listening CCTV cameras every 20feet, where the government keeps my DNA on file, and which is in a never-ending war on 'terror' -- or a search engine that remembers the things I've searched for in the past to generate suggestions for the future?

Any company that compiles a database of my personal behaviour deserves scrutiny. Google is no exception, and I'm glad to hear the European data protection watchdogs are asking Google questions about its data retention policies. But a front page scare article on a major UK broadsheet? I can't help but think they're looking the wrong direction...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

GoogleTalk VOIP to Phone Coming Soon?

A new Google Apps Training presentation includes this intriguing screen shot of the Google Talk application that strongly suggests that calls to regular phones and / or SIP support might soon be available in the Windows client.

Google Talk has supported gTalk-to-gTalk VOIP calls for a while, but not calls outside the Google Talk network. The new interface suggests you'll be able to type a number in to the client, or use a 'dialpad' to get a more familiar phone pad interface.

Obviously these new features are still in internal testing, but the use of this screen grab in a Google presentation suggests it might not be too far away.

If Google do start offering calls to the standard phone network or SIP clients via Google Talk the big question will be if they offer it as a paid, free, or audio add-supported service.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Picasaweb Slideshows

Picasaweb have just added a new feature that lets you create Flash slideshows for your web albums. You can embed them in webpages, blogs, MySpace, etc.

Here's what it looks like:

It looks like the same technology that the 'View Presentation' option for Powerpoint slides in GMail is based on, which is more than likely the same technology that Presently (the Google Powerpoint) will be using.

Here's the anouncement from Google.

Update: In related news the Google AJAX Search API blog has also announced a fancy new tool that lets you add a similar slideshow based on any media RSS feed. So now you can embed slideshows for PhotoBucket, Flickr, or any other RSS photo feed right in your blog or site. Nice!

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Absolute Cricket Calendar

If the train-wreck that was the 2007 Cricket World Cup hasn't terminally deadened your enthusiasm for the clash of leather on willow, you're probably ready for a return to some real cricket.

And because too much cricket is barely enough, prepare to thrill at
The Cricketing Yak's Ultimate Cricket Calendar. A Google Calendar with every game above junior level for at least the next 4 weeks -- domestic and international -- from all over the cricketing world. If that's more than you can handle, there's the International Cricket Calendar with just the matches involving international sides.

Both calendars are conveniently available on the newly redesigned Cricketing Yak, or you can add them straight to your own Google Calendar [Absolute Cricket or Internationals Only].

Of course with all this cricket being played around the world, you'll need to be reminded of where it's happening, so check out the Live Cricket Map while you're at it, or add it to your iGoogle homepage.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


If you've stopped by the Google Personalised Homepage today, you've probably noticed it's been rebranded and is now called 'iGoogle' (which is what the '/ig' stood for).

Philipp's Blogoscoped has the skinny, and you can read the official Google blog post here.

The take-aways are:
  • You can create simple, "no programming required", homepage gadgets using their gadget wizard.
  • Localised support for multiple languages and locales (22 around the world in fact) -- so will give you your iGoogle on the UK Google domain.
  • iGoogle has been Google's biggest growing service.