Over this past weekend, I decided to play around with Google’s new app called Auto Draw. It’s a vector based app that responds to your tablet or phone sketch and then creates an icon based on recognition of shapes. For instance, let’s say you need a flower icon for a button on your site or an app you’re developing. Simply draw a flower on your tablet/phone and voila, you got a clean vector icon of a flower that can be easily manipulated and edited with a few clicks on the interface. At least, that’s what the video presented and which was what got me very interested.
The Google Auto Draw app is currently in a beta testing mode where it’s been integrated into the site itself. I found it not as easy to use as the video suggested and tried it on both my iPhone and my iPad. There didn’t seem to be, that I recognized, any ease of use from either device.
My 5-year-old son is a whiz on his iPad so I let him try it out and see if maybe I was a bit too hasty in my critique. He played with it for about 2 minutes and was not in the least bit interested. The shape recognition seems to be lacking in a few areas, but for the most part, it’s very cognitive of what it is you might be trying to draw. The stroke of the lines, curves, and angles are spotless and reminiscent of the Bell System logo from the 80’s. I like that, and it’s a clean and simple rendering that just about anyone can do. In my professional opinion, I think it’s perfect for a less experienced marketing executive looking for fast and inexpensive vector art for a PowerPoint presentation.
I also see Auto Draw being of use to seasoned designers that need instant vector art on the fly. A lot of times I spend valuable minutes looking thru files and folders trying to locate something from a year ago. After testing the Auto Draw app on tablet surfaces, I decided to try it out on my MacMini with a 24” monitor, and it worked so much better. I attest that to the speed if of the processor, video card, and Mighty Mouse. The shape recognition is faster and intuitively accurate, to say the least. It was here where I found the link to download the app itself, and I’ve been using it all week.
It’s a powerful tool in the ever-expanding world of vector based graphics which can be used in print, web building, and multimedia. You can create flow charts to keep your projects organized or for creating visual presentations for clients. However, with the interface being so easy to use, I can’t help but wonder if Google will introduce more apps in the near future putting designers out of work. Honestly, I don’t see that happening but this is definitely a powerful and free vector based app that may sway software developers to follow suit.
Since I enabled Gmail Smart Labels my inbox now has 50% less email and tied with the priority inbox I only see the most important emails.
The labs addon most useful feature is for bulk email - anything Gmail categorises as a newsletter is given the bulk label and skips your inbox allowing you to browse these emails at your own convenience.
"Automatically categorises incoming Bulk, Notification or Forum messages. Filters are created to label mail with these categories and Bulk is filtered out of the Inbox by default. Use Settings -> Filters to modify these defaults or create new filters. Report miscategorised email from the 'Reply' drop-down menu."
You can enable Smart Labels from the Google labs tab of the Gmail settings page.
The Google Chrome beta for OS X is out and I've been using it for a few hours - here are some of my thoughts:
1. Dislike: Not being able to see the full page title is annoying
In all other browsers the page title is shown on the top bar of the window, this isn't such a problem for sites such as ImAFish where the title doesn't change but for Google Mail for instance the title changes when you have new mail.
2. Like: The speed is awesome
The whole experience in Chrome feels fast, pages load quickly and the interface is snappy. Compared to Firefox this is a huge improvement (scrollbar lag has been driving me crazy recently in FIrefox), the speed seems to be on par with Safari.
3. Dislike: No status bar is annoying
When you mouse over links in other browsers you can see almost the full address of where the link is going in the status bar. However in Chrome you just get a little box appear at the bottom which shows you a truncated version of the link. Again I don't see what Google hope to gain by not showing the whole link.
Above: When putting your mouse over the title of the article only part of the URL is shown.
4. Dislike: Tab Mess
Often at work I will have at least 15 tabs open with various projects on the go - Google Chrome makes it very hard to distinguish between them when you have a lot open.
Adding in lots of tabs doesn't scroll them or add them onto another line - you just get lots of little tabs.
5. Like: Maximum Real Estate for Web Page
By removing titles, the status bar and other parts of the browser it does mean you have the maximum amount of space to see the actual web page, though as I've pointed out this does have its downsides.
Google Pack is a collection of free software packaged together with one simple installer distributed by Google. The pack includes a mixture of software including some of Googles own products such as Picasa and Google Desktop, and other programs such as Adobe reader and Norton Antivirus 2005 SE. The pack revolves around the updater that acts a package manager for downloading programs and updates.
A full list of the programs available: Google Earth Google Desktop Picasa Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer Google Pack Screensaver Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbad Ad-Ware SE Personal Norton Antivirus 2005 Special Edition Adobe Reader 7 Google Talk Google Video Player RealPlayer GalleryPlayer HD Images When first launching Google Pack it will start downloading and installing software, you can however choose which programs you want. For instance I cancelled Google Desktop as it’s a bit intrusive on my desktop and start bar.
The Google website makes it easy to install programs as they are added to the pack.
Within the installed programs list it is easy to remove programs you don’t need.
Google Pack is a good collection of free software, it does a nice job of keeping them up to date and can integrate with your Google account. I found it especially useful when first installing a new PC as the software included with the pack is often what I find myself installing anyway.
The pack has plenty of room to expand in the future and I would like to see an audio manager, video player and maybe even an office suite such as Open Office. Currently Google Pack is Windows XP only.
Digital photography has become so easy and cheap that if you’re like me I have hundreds if not thousands of photos on my computer. While Windows offers some basic photo viewing and editing options it doesn’t really allow you to touch up your photos to make them even better. One option is Google’s free photo editing program – Picasa 2 (
). When first installed it scans either your documents folder or hard drive for pictures. This can be annoying if you have graphics in your documents folder as you then have to remove them from Picasa. Unfortunately as many pictures and photos share the same file types it is very hard to distinguish them. Picasa allows you to do all the basic photo editing fixes such as removing red eye, straightening the photo, cropping and altering the colour/contrast.
As well as these there are more advanced options for tuning the light, highlights, shadows and temperatures as well as a range of effects including sepia, black & white and tint. Editing photos is simple in Picasa, I usually use Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks but these can be complicated especially with the range of options available for advanced users. While Photoshop gives you more control over the photo Picasa is easier for the average user.
Apart from the editing functions in Picasa, it makes a good photo viewer allowing you to zoom in and out of photos as well as setting up slideshows and timelines. Picasa is similar to iPhoto on OS X while I prefer the interface in iPhoto, Picasa is more responsive when moving through a large library. Picasa provides easy ways to share your photos as well as print them. There are also options for setting pictures as desktop and screensaver.
I found the batch operations to be very useful. With my cheap Kodak camera being able to correct the colour and contrast makes such a difference to the quality of my photos. If you don’t like any of the changes made by Picasa you can revert back to the original. Picasa will work with the majority of digital cameras and is available for Windows 2000/XP and now Linux. Overall Picasa is a feature rich program that is free and will cover all the basic needs for managing photos.
One way to make money on your website is through adverts, Google’s adverts are used across the web and provide a good revenue source whether you’re a blogger or small business. These short tips will introduce you to Google’s Adsense program and help maximize potential revenue for your site.
1. Know how Google ads work. Google’s adverts bring much better results than normal advertising because each advert is targeted to the content of that page. For instance you might have a webpage about food, Google would index your page then target adverts based on that content. Adverts may range from catering services to supermarkets; some may be more relevant than others, the key is to get adverts that your visitors are interested in.
2. Are Google ads right for you? If your site already sells a product or service you most likely don’t want adverts, as they will attract possible customers attention away from your site. If you’re a Blogger there are other ways to make money from affiliate programs, sponsorship, donations and merchandising. You might want to consider a couple of these revenue ideas in order to make money from your site. Cafepress is one company that allows you to create your own products with customized logos and writing.
3. Sign up for Adsense In order to qualify for Google’s Adsense program you need to make sure you site conforms to their program policy, you shouldn’t have a problem unless your site contains hardcore pornography, illicit drugs, hate crimes or other illegal activity. If you do have any problems applying either check the content of your site or contact Google.
Adsense also offers the ability to add Google search to your site, sometimes adverts simply don’t work and with Adsense for search you get paid when someone clicks on a sponsored advert when they search for something. At the top of the ImAFish forum I have put a Google search box, I have then been advertising this and trying to get my users into the habit of using it to search Google rather than their normal means.
5. Placing ad’s on content rich pages. Putting adverts on pages full of navigation links won’t normally give good-targeted adverts. A good example of this is the front page of the ImAFish forum as it is simply links to other forums on more specific categories. When Google can’t find an advert to place on a page it will display a public service advert that you will not get paid for. The same could be said if you had an empty page with just adverts on, as Google can’t find anything to display, public service ads will be shown. You may have problems with adverts on image rich pages, I had some adverts on my gallery at one time and found I had a lot of public service adverts as Google can’t analyze the contents of an image unless it has meta data associated with it. Try to avoid placing adverts in frames, as the ad may not correspond to the content in the other frame.
6. Attracting people to your site. The more people you have visiting your site the more people that are likely to click an advert! That’s why good careful marketing of your site and its content is important. There are a lot of simple free ways to get people on your site, adding your site address to your email signature a simple one or as I like to do put new features or content from my site on my MSN name. Be careful not to spam people, as it won’t give your site a good name. You can add your site to various directory websites for instance the open directory project dmoz.org has many categories you can add your site too. For Bloggers sites such as blogdex.net/ and technorati.com are good directories while notification services such as pingoat.com are useful for pinging other directories to get your Blog noticed.
7. Good Site Content The best way to attract people to your site and to get relevant adverts is your sites content. Good site content though will not guarantee relevant adverts. On the forum we had a problem of just getting adverts for Blog services rather than the content in our forum posts, this was mainly because of the word Blog in the navigation, unfortunately the only way round this was to remove the word from the navigation. If there are certain URL’s you think are competing with you’re content rather than being useful then you can block them in the “Competitive Ad Filter” in your Adsense account.
8. How much will I get from Google Ads? This depends on a number of things, the position of the ads on your page, number of visitors you get, relevancy of ads and how well paid each advert is. With Adsense each advert is not worth the same, you could have one advert that would give you 10cents then another may give you $1 per click. It depends on the demand for that type of advert, for instance if a number of companies are competing for advertising space on loans the company offering the most per click will get their adverts displayed first.
Unfortunately Google does not let you see how much an Advert is worth so it is hard to produce content aimed at those sorts of adverts. Adsense has the ability to put your earnings straight into your bank account so there is no messing about with cheques in the post.
9. Managing your Adsense account. Keeping track of your Adsense account is important, some people like to check their Adsense account daily (a bit like counting your money) others check it less frequently. I like to check a few times a week but if I’m running a feature on the site such as this article I will check more often. It may be obvious but make sure your details are up-to-date and Google are always bringing out new ways for you to make money so keep checking the Adsense site.
10. Keep monitoring your adverts. If you have certain adverts doing well keep a close eye on them as they may not keep doing well, a change in your navigation could change the content of the adverts so keep an eye on the adverts across your site. On Blogs and Forums where the content is constantly changing from user posts and comments you might even get some adverts you weren’t expecting. Channels are a good way of checking certain pages and advert layouts (are certain adverts on a page doing better than other ads?). Adsense also has an affiliate program so if you do want to give it a try you can with the banner below. Hopefully this article has given you an insight into how Adsense works and whether it will be useful for your site.
The Chinese government have blocked the popular search engine Google it appears in their continued struggle to keep control over what their people view on the net. Google is one of the most popular search engines in the world and was very popular with the Chinese because of its ease of use and its ability to run searches in the Chinese language.
China keeps extreme control over what its people can view online and the government employs over 30,000 people to keep an eye on what people view online, chat rooms and their private emails. China has also blocked certain news sites but has never blocked a major search engine before. The country has also recently shut down over 150,000 unlicensed internet cafes in the last few months, and the ones which still exist have to abide by strict rules and install special software blocking certain sites.
Internet use in China is as popular as ever with over 45.8 million people online in the country, the government is worried that these people will get to know anti communism news thus causing trouble for the government in this politically sensitive time.
Though Google was blocked the web portal Yahoo was still accessible which uses Google for its searches which shows the Chinese government still need to do their homework. Luckily the popular news and comedy site ImAFish.com is still unaffected and will not stop bringing controversial content to its site to please the Chinese government.