Tag Archives: google

A Chrome Extension that makes New Tabs Pretty Software & Sites 08 APR 2015

Google Chrome has kind of wormed itself into being my de facto web browser, and as such I spend a lot of time with it. In other words, I see that blank, expressionless white new tab screen a lot. A hell of a lot.

Which is exactly why I am so particularly enamored with Google’s recently released Chrome Extension entitled Google Art Project.

Developed by the Google Cultural Institute, the Google Art Project extension essentially puts fine art on every new tab that you open. This artwork is sourced from the collections of museums and galleries around the world, and apart just being given something pretty to look at, you might even be culturally uplifted in the process! ;)

google art project chrome extension

Needless to say, I find myself unable to stop clicking the new tab button at the moment!

(Not that this is the first such extension which Google has released before mind you. They also did something pretty similar – also worth checking out – using satellite images grabbed from the Google Maps service, called Earth View.)

Related Link: Google Art Project (Chrome Web Store)

Check if Google Considers Your Website to be Mobile-Friendly with this Tool Software & Sites 07 APR 2015

Google has made it pretty clear that soon (April 21st, 2015 to be exact) they are going to be ranking sites a little differently when searching from mobile devices, in essence ranking mobile-friendly sites higher than non-mobile formatted sites in the returned search results.

Now if your primary audience discovers your website via the desktop then this is all fine and dandy, but as we all know, most traffic sources these days are originating from mobile, given the current pervasiveness of mobile data – meaning that it is probably a good idea to ensure that your site is indeed mobile-friendly, lest you lose any Google brownie points!

To assist you in not losing any points unnecessarily, Google has released a helpful web-based tool to check whether or not your site is indeed mobile-friendly, helpfully named “Mobile-Friendly Test“.

In other words, if you are at all interested in things like this, then it is probably best you quickly nip off and run your sites against the tool.

Case in point:

google mobile friendly test

Related Link: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Boston Dynamic’s Spot: A Robot that You can’t Kick Over Hardware | Tech News 14 FEB 2015

Boston Dynamics (whom I’ve highlighted before) is an engineering and robotics design company that is best known for the development of BigDog, a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and DI-Guy, software for realistic human simulation.

Early in the company’s history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations featuring DI-Guy characters.

National Academy of Engineering member Marc Raibert is the company’s president and project manager. He spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, in order to continue their work in developing robots that run and maneuver like animals.

On 13 December 2013, the company was acquired by Google.

google boston dynamics spot running robot

Well now Google and Boston Dynamics have a new metal friend in the mix.

On the 9th of February they unveiled Spot, a four-legged robot designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered (in other words can operate in both inside and outside conditions), hydraulically actuated, and has a sensor head (Lidar by the look of it) that helps it navigate and negotiate rough terrain. It also weighs about 72 kg, more than 30 kg lighter than BigDog. (In other words, it is smaller, more agile and faster than its big brother).

The robot, can walk, trot and climb across all types of terrain, and can even survive attempts to destabilize it by unfeeling humans eager with their kicks. (Which is a bad thing because we probably shouldn’t be antagonizing these things!)

Right. So here’s Spot’s unveiling video:

SkyNet will be well pleased with this latest addition…

Related Link: http://www.bostondynamics.com/

Pay on Google Play with PayPal – but not in South Africa Tech News 06 NOV 2014

Halfway through this year the news broke of an unusual move that saw Google open up payments on its Google Play platform to Google Wallet direct competitor, PayPal. Which makes perfect sense when you remember that PayPal is a lot more mature and widely used than Google Wallet, hence it has the potential to bring in a whole lot more sales onto the notoriously difficult to get users to part with their money platform that is Android.

From around the web at the time:

“To start with, the feature is being rolled out in 12 countries including the US, Germany, and Canada. When you make a purchase on Google Play in these countries, you’ll find PayPal as an option in your Google Wallet. Tap on it, enter your PayPal account login and you’ll theoretically be able to make purchases pretty easily. Google says its goal is to ‘provide users with a frictionless payment experience, and this new integration is another example of how we work with partners from across the payments industry to deliver this to the user’.

While, the news will be pretty welcome to PayPal loyalists, it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to buy physical goods on the Play store using the online payment service, only apps and other digital content.”

Of course this is awesome if like me you have a PayPal account that probably sits pretty unused for 90% of the time. However, six months down the line and if you are like me a good old South African, then sadly, like me, you’ll realize that the damn option to pay on Google Play with PayPal is STILL not available to us living here at the bottom of Africa.


Which makes sense when you read the original list of territories this PayPal integration is available in, i.e. USA, Germany, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, but damn it, it is pretty damn frustrating.

Especially when this is the first time you ever Googled “Pay on Google Play with PayPal” and just learned about this wonderful news today.


(And to think I only found out about this annoying limitation after going the whole hog and learning how to do it!)

How to Preview a Shortened Google URL (goo.gl) Tips, Tricks and Tutorials 06 AUG 2014

sexy-hot-google-girlActually, there is a pretty nifty trick if you want to dereference (preview) a shortened goog.gl link (that was created using the Google URL shortener) in order to make sure that it isn’t linking to something dodge like 9gag.com.

To see where a shortened goo.gl link points to, paste the shortened link with a plus at the end into your browser and hit go. (So if link is http://goo.gl/KDQsVr enter http://goo.gl/KDQsVr+ into your browser.)

Google will then bring up an analytics page showing you the link, how many times it has been clicked on, where it points to, as well as the associated QR code. It even has stats on referrers, browsers, countries and platforms.

Very useful indeed, and apparently this trick works for bit.ly shortened links as well.

Outside of that, there are also a number of websites out there that perform the same function, longurl.org for example being one of them.

Related Link: https://goo.gl/

Google Chrome: Keyboard Shortcut to Duplicate a Tab Software & Sites | Tips, Tricks and Tutorials 09 AUG 2013

google chrome internet browserHere is a nifty little keyboard shortcut to duplicate a tab when using Google’s Chrome browser.

Assuming that you are currently in the tab which you wish to clone, first press Alt+D to highlight the address bar, and the Alt+Enter to duplicate the tab.

What’s particularly nice is of course the fact you can chain these together by simply holding down the Alt key and then pressing the D key followed by the Enter key.

Useful if you don’t feel like going to the effort of moving your mouse cursor over a tab and selecting the ‘Duplicate’ option from the context menu that pops if should you right-click.

PHP: How to Shorten an URL using the Google URL Shortener API Programming 22 FEB 2013

The shortening of URLs has become quite popular as the advancement of mobile phones picked up speed, and for the most part the science of generating a short URL given a long URL is pretty elementary stuff.

Today’s PHP function looks at how one can quickly generate a short URL from a long URL by making use of Google’s excellent URL Shortener API.

Now of course, requests to the Google URL Shortener API for public data must be accompanied by an identifier, which can be an API key or an auth token. 99% of the time an API key will suffice for your purposes, so to acquire an API key, visit the APIs Console and in the Services pane, activate the Google URL Shortener API. Next, go to the API Access pane. The API key is near the bottom of that pane, in the section titled “Simple API Access.”

After you have an API key, your application can append the query parameter key=yourAPIKey to all request URLs. Note that the API key is safe for embedding in URLs – it doesn’t need any encoding.

Now that we have our API key, let’s take a look at the function which is going to generate our Short URLs for us:

//generate a short URL using Google URL Shortening API
function googleGenerateShortURL($longurl) {
    //result object to be returned at the end of the function
    $result = array('status' => '0', 'short-url' => '', 'long-url' => '', 'message' => 'Failed to shorten URL.');

    if (strlen($longurl) > 0) {

        //build up the options array to be fed into the stream_context object
        $opts = array('http' =>
                'method' => 'POST',
                'header' => "Content-type: application/json\r\nX-Requested-With: XMLHttpRequest\r\n",
                'content' => json_encode(array('longUrl' => $longurl, 'key' => '#YOUR-GOOGLE-API-KEY#'))

        //attempt to hit the Google API url using a file_get_contents call using our crafted stream context
        try {
            //create stream context using our special options
            $context = stream_context_create($opts);
            $queryreturn = file_get_contents("https://www.googleapis.com/urlshortener/v1/url", false, $context);
            //decode the returned JSON object
            $jsondata = json_decode($queryreturn, true);

            if ((key_exists('id', $jsondata)) && (strlen($jsondata['id']) > 0)) {
                $result = array('status' => '1', 'short-url' => $jsondata['id'], 'long-url' => $jsondata['longUrl'], 'message' => 'Succesfully generated short URL.');
        } catch (Exception $e) {
            $result['message'] = 'Failed to shorten URL. Unable to connect to Google\'s API service.';
            $result['exception'] = $e->getMessage();
    } else {
        $result['message'] = 'Failed to shorten URL. No long URL provided.';
    return $result;

If successful, the function will contain a ‘status’ set to 1, as well as the shortened URL stuffed into the ‘short-url’ key of the function return object.

So not exactly rocket science then, but definitely something rather nifty and even better, time saving!

Google Calendar: SMS Reminder Notifications CodeUnit 30 DEC 2010

Google Calendars is an extremely useful, versatile and powerful calendar application which is available almost anywhere where you can find some sort of data connection – and most importantly of all, it is completely FREE to use. One of the nifty features of this calendar app is it notification functionality, which basically allows you to receive reminder notifications for events in your calendar as they become current.

The even better news is that you can also get these notifications via SMS straight to your cellphone (or mobile phone if you prefer that term :P).

So how do you achieve this then?

Well to enable SMS reminders is pretty simple actually. First, log into Google Calendar and hit the Settings menu at the top right of the page. There, under Calendar Settings, navigate to the tab named Mobile Setup. Once in this screen, enter all your details and begin the mobile number verification process as prompted by the page.

Basically what will happen is that after you have entered your cellphone number with the correct country code in place, you will receive a verification code via SMS. Enter this code into the settings window and you’re done.

Next, return back to the main calendar settings tab and click on the notifications link next to any of the available calendars.

This new area will allow you to specify the notification delivery method as well reminder interval, meaning that after you have saved your new settings, pretty soon your SMS inbox will be flooded by a whole lot of loving Google reminder notifications.

Useful for remembering things just in case you happen to be out on the road!