2009年3月31日 星期二

Google Phone GPS Misses by a Mile

March 30, 2009, 6:27 pm

Google Phone GPS Misses by a Mile

It’s a bit of a left-handed compliment, but I am shocked when Google fails at anything – after all, it has come out with one remarkable bit of software after another.

So I am especially surprised when it fails in fields it is most known for. I’ve already railed about the unbelievably lackluster search engine on the Android Marketplace. C’mon guys, you OWN search.


But equally baffling is how poor the GPS is on the G1 Google Phone running Android. It can get relatively close to my position when outdoors in an open space, but in city canyons or indoors it is off by a literal mile. Let’s hope no one is relying on the phone to direct emergency services.

It gets even more quizzical when you consider that many Android apps using the G1’s GPS are highly accurate. What gives?

It helps to understand how smartphone GPS works. Most phones use a combination of data to pinpoint your location. Proper GPS works best in open areas, say out in the country, where there is unimpeded view of the sky. But in cities it’s tougher to get a clear shot at the satellites, and indoors it’s impossible. So the phones also look for nearby Wi-Fi sites and cell towers.

They don’t triangulate by reading the strength of the Wi-Fi and cell tower signals, as is commonly thought. Companies, such as Skyhook, hire people to drive around with computer rigs that detect Wi-Fi signals and then automatically mark the location (the same way Google collects and compiles its Street View shots, by the way). That information becomes part of a database. When you make a call, it looks at which Wi-Fi sites and towers you are near, then looks in the database for where those are located, and then approximates where you are.

Many app developers use Skyhook’s database, which includes 100 million Wi-Fi sites and 400,000 cell towers in 32 countries. It’s even one of the sources Apple uses for its generally accurate GPS services.

It seems that there are only two possibilities for Google’s inaccuracy. Either Google’s Wi-Fi and tower data is inferior, or its ability to crunch the data is. Google declined to comment, but either problem should be easily fixed – hey, other developers have found solutions. Maybe Google should to partner up or buy someone out?

Google to Announce Venture Fund

Google to Announce Venture Fund

Published: March 31, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Google, which has invested in many startups over the years, will announce on Tuesday that it is creating a venture capital arm whose main objective will be to turn a profit.

The group, called Google Ventures, is expected to invest up to $100 million over the next 12 months. It will be overseen by David Drummond, who will continue in his role as senior vice president of corporate developing and chief legal officer at Google. Investments will be vetted by William Maris, who joined Google about a year ago, and Rich Miner, a co-founder of Android, a mobile software startup that Google acquired in 2005.

Mr. Maris said in an interview that Google will tap the connections of its employees and its ties to the venture capital world to find promising startups in areas like the Internet, clean technology and life sciences.

Many other companies have set up venture capital units. But those groups typically have dual missions of profiting from investments and advancing their parent company’s strategic goals, and their track record has been mixed.

The venture unit comes as Google is rethinking the mission of Google.org, its corporate philanthropy, which has invested in areas like clean energy. Some of those investments will now be made by the venture unit.

“A lot of the things we have done in the energy area the kinds of things you might see from Google Ventures,” Mr. Drummond said. He said that Google’s corporate development arm will continue to make other investments.

Google Ventures has already made two investments: Silver Spring Networks, a company that makes technology to help manage electric grids, and Pixazza, which links online images with related products that can be purchased. Google declined to say how much it invested in those companies.

2009年3月16日 星期一

Fox In Google's Henhouse

2009年 03月 09日 15:03
Fox In Google's Henhouse

It's no secret that Mozilla's Firefox Web browser is emerging as a potent competitor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. What may not be fully appreciated is the impact that Firefox could have on Web browsing habits -- and the number of searches people perform.

The most recent version of Firefox, released last June, makes it much easier for Web surfers to return to a site they've previously visited. They won't need to know the site's address -- the browser's address bar offers what's essentially an automated bookmarks list.

This is likely to reduce the number of search queries per person over time. People frequently use search engines as a de facto address bar to find a site they visit repeatedly but haven't bookmarked.

The feature is likely to become standard. Microsoft is adding something similar in its upcoming version of Internet Explorer. IE had 67.4% of the browser market in February, according to Net Applications. Firefox's market share was nearly 22%, up from 19% last June.

Google isn't sitting still. Three months after the new Firefox version was released, Google came out with its Chrome browser, which also has a similar feature. Chrome's share of the browser market was 1.15% last month.

Search will remain a vibrant market. Firefox's new feature won't help someone searching for the first time. And the importance to ad-revenues of people getting to sites they already know is unclear.

That said, the likely change in search habits could reduce search's growth. For Google, the dominant player, that can't be good.

Martin Peers

ozilla的網絡瀏覽器Firefox正在成為微軟公司(Microsoft)網絡瀏覽器Internet Explorer的強大競爭對手﹐這已不是什麼秘密。人們可能沒有充分認識到的是﹐Firefox對用戶的互聯網瀏覽習慣與網上搜索次數將會產生的影響。



這 個功能可能會成為基準。微軟也在即將推出的Internet Explorer新版中添加了類似功能。據互聯網研究企業Net Applications的數據﹐2月份IE在瀏覽器市場的佔有率為67.4%。Firefox的市場佔有率接近22%﹐較去年6月的19%有所上升。




Martin Peers

2009年3月13日 星期五

Google Voice


The new Google Voice service juggles several telephone tricks, picking up where Google-acquired GrandCentral left off. Google Voice routes incoming calls to several phones simultaneously, dials numbers from the PC interface, includes web-accessible voicemail, and more. The biggest new feature transcribes voice messages so you can read them as SMS or email. All together, it's a great option for businesses with mobile needs, letting clients reach you wherever you are by dialing a single number.

While initially available only to current GrandCentral users, I'm relieved that Google is finally releasing an update. I've used the free GrandCentral for the mobility features, but especially for call recording options; the service has languished for two years, making me begin plans to move to another tool. (PhoneFusion looks like a close competitor, giving more routing options for multiple employees while coming with a $10-30 monthly fee.)

For my ideal business use, I've been waiting for two phone features: number porting and call transcription. The latter should be added soon, since it's just a longer version of voicemail transcription; Google Voice can already record full calls. And I hope that as Google Voice allows more users to sign up soon, the service will allow incoming and outgoing number ports. Most people reach me directly at one number already, and if I'm going to make the full jump, I'd like to just move that number to Google.

Google hasn't commented on new pricing, my final concern for business use. I'd actually rather pay a monthly fee than dabble with a not-ready-for-prime-time "beta" service. I'd also hope that cost would turn off any content-specific ads based on my voicemail. (The company hasn't commented on ads either, but those contextual ads seem likely since they appear everywhere else on Google.)

Google Voice seems close to matching my business needs. It even taps into an established Gmail contact list. But if it still can't deliver, PhoneFusion and other competitors are waiting.

Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco who will tell you if he's recording a call.
Google新科技 將語音留言轉寫成文字


 Google Voice可自動將語音留言轉寫成電子郵件或是SMS簡訊,並將文字檔寄到使用者電腦或手機的收信匣。

 Google在公司部落格的教學錄影帶中表示:「當你收到語音留言,Google Voice將自動把它轉寫成文字檔,讓你閱讀語音留言的內容。」


 這項服務目前只提供給Goolge經營的電話業務公司GrandCentral現有用戶。總部位在加州山景市(Mountain View)的Google,於2007年7月收購GrandCentral。

 但Google表示,將在接下來數週提供新用戶免費使用Google Voice。(譯者:蔡佳敏)

2009年3月5日 星期四

A Google Search of a Distinctly Retro Kind

A Google Search of a Distinctly Retro Kind

Published: March 3, 2009

Last month an e-mail message washed up at the offices of The Cook Islands News in the South Pacific. It was a request to place a half-page advertisement in the newspaper, which has a circulation of 2,500. The cost was $370.

Skip to next paragraph

To comply with a class-action suit by copyright holders affected by Google’s plan to offer all of literature online, old-fashioned legal notices in 70 languages are being placed in newspapers worldwide.


Times Topics: Google Book Search

“We were amazed — it came from out of nowhere,” the newspaper’s editor, John Woods, said in a telephone interview. “We are very skeptical of ads like that.”

Even more surprising was who was paying for it: Google.

Google, the online giant, had been sued in federal court by a large group of authors and publishers who claimed that its plan to scan all the books in the world violated their copyrights.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found.

Since the copyright holders can be anywhere and not necessarily online — given how many books are old or out of print — it became obvious that what was needed was a huge push in that relic of the pre-Internet age: print.

So while there is a large direct-mail effort, a dedicated Web site about the settlement in 36 languages (googlebooksettlement.com/r/home) and an online strategy of the kind you would expect from Google, the bulk of the legal notice spending — about $7 million of a total of $8 million — is going to newspapers, magazines, even poetry journals, with at least one ad in each country. These efforts make this among the largest print legal-notice campaigns in history.

That Google is in the position of paying for so many print ads “is hilarious — it is the ultimate irony,” said Robert Klonoff, dean of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and the author of a recent law review article titled “Making Class Actions Work: The Untapped Potential of the Internet.”

So far, more than 200 advertisements have run in more than 70 languages: in highbrow periodicals like The New York Review of Books and The Poetry Review in Britain; in general-interest publications like Parade and USA Today; in obscure foreign trade journals like China Copyright and Svensk Bokhandel; and in newspapers in places like Fiji, Greenland, the Falkland Islands, and the Micronesian island of Niue (the name is roughly translated as Behold the Coconut!), which has one newspaper.

The almost comically sweeping attempt to reach the world’s entire literate population is a reflection of the ambitions of the Google Book Search project, in which the company hopes to digitize every book — famous or not, in any language, published anywhere on earth — found in the world’s libraries.

Under the proposed settlement, reached on Oct. 28 and still subject to court approval, there must be an effort the court finds “reasonable and practicable” to find authors and publishers — especially copyright holders of so-called orphan books, which are still in copyright but long out of print. So the task means placing at least one advertisement in every country in the world.

One reason courts have required such heroic efforts to reach the people covered by a settlement is that unless parties opt out of the settlement, they are automatically opting in. The least that must be done, the argument goes, is let those affected know about it.

But as it turns out, authors and publishers are hard to track down. More than members of most settlement classes, said Kathy Kinsella of Kinsella Media in Washington, which is directing the ad campaign, these are a particularly diffuse group.

“We looked at how many books were published in various areas,” she said, “and we knew from the plaintiffs and Google that 30 percent were published in the U.S., 30 percent in industrialized countries. The rest of the world is the rest.”

“We had some choices,” she added. “We thought it made sense that in order to meet the due-process standard that we were as broad-based as possible.”

So, using United Nations data, her company created a list of countries and territories. Some nations, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, were excluded because they do not agree to international copyright terms. In others, like Cuba, North Korea and Myanmar, her company is prohibited from buying ads because of United States trade embargos, Ms. Kinsella said.

Kinsella Media also hired a company to run the telephone line that takes calls, which, Ms. Kinsella said, raised its own questions: “How do you handle calls in 80-some languages around the world? How do you staff that? Is it worth having someone in French all the time?”

Michael Boni, a lawyer representing the Authors Guild, one of the parties that sued Google, acknowledged there was an aspect of “belts and suspenders” in using print and the Internet to spread the word about the settlement, but he added that “the Internet is not used to the same extent outside the U.S.”

“I have been doing class-actions for over 20 years, and I don’t think there is a notice program as comprehensive as this notice program,” he said.

For centuries, legal notices have been a reliable source of income for newspapers and, more recently, trade publications and television. Class-action notifications constitute a significant chunk of this revenue, with an estimated $50 million to $75 million spent a year, the bulk going to print advertising, according to Todd B. Hilsee, a communications expert in Philadelphia who advises courts on the issue.

Fran Biggs, the office manager at the weekly Penguin News in the Falkland Islands, said she was surprised by the Google settlement ad in her paper: “I suppose it did seem a bit odd, but if people are paying for it, why not?” She added that the advertising climate there is not as dire as it is in the rest of the world. “We never have any problems filling up pages,” she said. “We have a bunch of big stores.”

At The Cook Islands News, the advertisement led to a follow-up article the next week that quoted a prominent resident author, Ron Crocombe, who praised the convenience of the currently available Google Book Search (books.google.com), which publishes excerpts and tables of contents. He said it was useful “especially for us in small places like Rarotonga, where there are no big libraries or big bookshops.”

It turns out, however, that in the Google matter, the advertising side of the newspaper bent its rule of insisting on payment in advance. That led to a few nervous moments when the paper had not received its money. By the week’s end, however, the editor, Mr. Woods, reported that he had received a credit card authorization.