All posts by Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

Google’s Les Paul Guitar Doodle Is Awesome, And Here Is How You Can Play A Song On It

google-guitar-doodleTodays Google Doodle is without doubt the best Google doodle ever.

Go to Google.com and you have a working electric guitar, waiting to be strummed using your computer’s keyboard and mouse. Google is celebrating the 96th birthday of Les Paul the legendary American Jazz guitarist and the person to whom the famous Epiphone Lespaul electric guitar is credited.

les-paul-google-doodle

Playing music on todays Google logo is pure fun. Hover your mouse over the strings and slide it down to strum the Guitar. Make sure your computer’s audio system is properly connected, otherwise you might miss the sound produced by the doodle.

The Guitar doodle also works with your computer’s keyboard, just hit the keyboard button once and press any alphabet (A-Z) or number to hear a unique tone. You can play Do Re- Mi in the sequence: QWERTYUI. Some sources have reported that the doodle also houses a small record button, which can be used to record your notes and you can simply copy the URL of the resulting page and share the piece music with anyone.

As for me, I was not lucky enough to find the record button and record the sequence of notes of a song. However, here is a keyboard sequence of a song which you can play on todays Google Doodle and surprise your friends

Play Titanic’s Title Track on The Les Paul Google doodle

I went crazy enough and recorded half a dozen songs, here is the notation for one of them:

The prelude:

Q W E   WQ WT RTY TREW
YUI UYT RTY TREW

Here are first two lines of the Song:

K KK K JK k JK L ; L
K KK K JK k JK KL G

Sweet, isn’t it?

Playing Chords is also simple enough. If you know the grammar behind creating music, recall the base notes of a chord and you can play any chord by pressing the desired notes all at once.

For example: If you want to strum the C MAJOR chord, you have to hit the musical C E G notes which can be done by pressing the A D and G key on your keyboard. For the A MINOR chord, you have to play the musical A C and E notes which is achieved by hitting the A D and H keys simultaneously. There are two catches though. The doodle does not support multiple octaves, so you won’t be able to play a tune which has notes from multiple octaves. And neither any Sharp notesare supported so you can only play the C MAJOR scale which has all the base notes and no sharp notes in it’s scale e.g C#, D #, F#, G# and A #.

The following video shows how notes and chords work in the Les Paul Google doodle:

You have only 24 hours to check out this fascinating piece so don’t be late.

Twitter’s Own Photo Sharing Feature Rolls Out For Selected Users: It’s Pic.Twitter.com And Not Twimg.com

The earlier week we reported that Twitter will soon launch it’s own photo sharing service. Looking at the recent tweets of a suspicious demo Twitter account, it appeared that Twimg.com (which is owned by Twitter) might be the website where all the photos will be stored.

If you have missed the earlier article, here is an example Tweet where the URL of a photo uploaded on Twimg.com is clearly visible:

Fact of the matter is – I was partially wrong and partially right. You will soon know why.

It’s not Twimg.com but pic.twitter.com which is supposed to be the URL of Twitter’s upcoming photo sharing service. Twitter has partnered with Photobucket for storing all the photos, but users won’t necessarily require a Photobucket account to upload photos from Twitter’s web interface, once it’s live.

Twitter has started rolling out it’s photo sharing feature among a small subset of users, including Twitter employees who can currently use Twitter’s web interface to upload photos. Alexia Tsotsis of Techcrunch tweeted a few minutes ago that she is one of the few lucky users who has access to this feature.

twitter-photo-sharing

From the above screenshot, it appears that the image is stored at pic.twitter.com/picture-ID but the link redirects to a subdirectory of the user’s Twitter profile URL. In this case, clicking the link takes you to http://twitter.com/#!/user/status/XXXXXXXXXXXX/photo/Photo-ID, while the actual photo link is shortened using Twitter’s own URL shortener t.co.

Copying the image URL reveals that the photo is stored over a subdomain of Twimg.com see example (publicly viewable).

Actually, it’s quite logical to give Twitter photos a new URL, so that your followers instantly know that it’s a photo and not an external link. The image is stored at Twimg.com but the shortened URL of the image is masked under pic.twitter.com.

Here is how Twitter’s web interface will look, once it’s activated globally for all users.

twitter-photo-sharing-service1

Photos uploaded from Twitter’s web interface won’t be public and can’t be viewed by anyone who does not follow the user. But the image URL is publicly viewable, of course. So if one of your followers copies the Image URL (not the link) and shares it, anyone can view it.

Honestly, I am not very happy with Twitter’s new photo sharing service. They never experimented with new features for three years but encouraged developers to build apps and services around Twitter’s API. Suddenly, they produce their own version of these apps, completely copying their features and user behavior. URL shortener, desktop client, Tweet button, photo sharing, location…and I am sure many more will be added to the list in the coming days.

It’s like encouraging power users to be creative, develop the ecosystem and once it’s a hit, hammer it down with your own copy. Why not promote these wonderful apps by incorporating itself on Twitter.com? Or sign a deal or something so that the result does not hurt each others business, branding and the legal aspects. Instead, Twitter wants to kill all the apps which helped it grow in the first place.

To the Twitpics, Yfrog’s and other photo sharing apps:   you should have learned your lesson when Twitter launched it’s Tweet button and killed Tweetmeme.

Google Docs Introduces Document Statistics And A Better Discussion Pane For Comments

google-docs-logoNot many people are aware of a very useful feature in Google Docs the ability to comment on a document and start a discussion thread revolving around the document.

Let’s say you have created a simple word document on your Google Docs account and have shared it with your team members. When your team members have the access privilege to edit the document, they can pull down the Insertmenu and add a comment to any section of the shared document. The comment can be added to particular section of the document and other users can reply to the comment or start a new discussion on another section of the document, which is nice and useful for novice people who have little HTML skills for operating a private Wiki e.g Mediawiki.

Here is an example discussion which shows how Google Docs discussion threads actually look like:

discussions1

As you can see, multiple people are engaging in a discussion and the owner of the document can delete particular comments or request the commentators to edit their previous comments (if required). This is a really handy feature which is ideal for developers, web workers and designers who need a central place to plan their projects, while keeping everything private and archived for future reference.

But what about statistics and analytics of your Google docs documents? There is no way to find out whether people are actually opening a shared or public document stored on your Google Docs account, how many hits it receives during the week and what is the activity of your document on weekends?

Thankfully, it’s now possible.

Google has just rolled out support for statistics and document insights in Google Docs which means   you can now see the last 7 day activity of Google docs documents. All you have to do is hit the Discussionsbutton and click the Document statslink, you would then be able to find out whether your document is receiving a good number of hits or lying stale without eyeballs.

Here is a brief preview of how the document statistics pane looks:

google-docs-document-stats

From the above screenshot, the features included are pretty basic as of now. The document stats pane shows the number of pageviews your document has received and the number of discussions on a particular day of the week. Just below the document stats pane, there is the comment box where all the shared users can post a new comment or reply to an existing comment that has been already posted.

Additionally, Google docs has revamped how email notifications of new comments are delivered. Instead of sending the entire discussion in reverse chronological order, Google Docs now sends you the selected text and most recent comment, with the full thread in chronological order.

4discussionsemail

So you won’t receive the entire discussion thread on your inbox, whenever someone posts a new comment. Instead, only the most recent comment will be emailed to you and all other shared members of the document. Replying to the comment works fine as earlier hit the Replybutton, type your comment and hit Send. The reply will be posted directly on your Google Docs document.

More updates are on their way as Google plans to make sure their online office suite stands out from it’s close rival Microsoft Office 365.

Now Comment On Any WordPress.com Blog Using Your Facebook And Twitter Account

wordpress_logoStarting today, you can comment on any WordPress.com blog using your Facebook and Twitter account, apart from using your email address or choosing your WordPress.com account to comment on a blog post. WordPress.com has recently introduced a new feature which lets anyone post a comment on any WordPress.com blog using their email address, WordPress.com, Facebook or Twitter account. This advanced commenting feature has been introduced to give users the ability to choose which identity they want to show on the concerned blog e.g their Twitter or Facebook account’s instead of using their email address.

Here is how the modified comment form of a WordPress.com blog looks like:

wordpress-comments-facebook-twitter

 

This enhanced commenting feature adds a layer of real human identityto the comments section of your WordPress.com blog since most real users would opt in for a quicker way to post comments. Unlike spammers and robots, real people want to post a comment with as less steps as possible, so it is most likely that users will quickly switch to the Twitteror Facebooktab, hit the button, grant all the permissions and post their comment. No more typing in your name and email address, makes life easy!

Users are in control of their identity and if you don’t want to reveal your WordPress.com username or don’t want to give your real email address to the blog in question, you have two more options to comment.

Please note that if you choose your Facebook account to comment on any WordPress.com blog, the comment activity won’t be pushed back to your Facebook account. This new feature is used only for authentication purpose and not exactly the same as Facebook comments social plugin, however WordPress is planning to integrate better social integration in coming days.

For blogs using the self hosted WordPress package, this feature is likely be released in a future version of the Jetpack plugin (read our review of Jetpack). And there is no way to turn off comments via social profiles, in case you hate it and want to fall back to the older comment form of WordPress.com.

Early Hints On Twitter’s Own Photo Sharing Service, And What It Means To The Devs

For the past couple of days, we have been hearing rumors that Twitter just might launch their own photo sharing service. The earlier week, Twitter acquired TweetDeck and now comes a direct assault on the second flank of Twitpic’s and Yfrog’s.

While Twitter is yet to reveal the whereabouts of it’s own photo sharing service, we have an early hint. Here is how the URL of photo uploads might look like:

twitter-photo-sharing-url

Interesting, you say? And that’s a pretty long URL, we were expecting something short like the one used in the Tweet button.

The above Twitter account has only 8 tweets till now and all of them have the URL of a photo uploaded on a subdomain of Twimg.com. The main domain returns a timeout error while the subdomains itself return Access denied. One Twitter user spotted the above suspicious test account and the test photo uploadsa few hours ago.

Who owns Twimg.com? Of course, it’s Twitter and the domain was registered on 23rd September,2009. Here is the Whoisdata for Twimg.com, if you are curious.

twimg-whois

A reverse IP check shows a couple of websites hosted on the same web server where Twitter.com is (including twttr.com). In this case, Twimg.com is not shown but another site called uniquephoto.com is, which is unlikely to be twitter’s new photo sharing service.

reverse-ip-domain-check

Coming back to business, Twitter launching it’s own photo sharing service makes perfect sense. Third party sites like Twitpic generate a lot of revenue from Google Adsense and banner advertisements and Twitter wants to go the commercial way. Months ago, Twitter told developers to stop building apps and clients and take extra care that your app is not violating privacy policy or providing an inconsistent user experience.

What This Means To Developers

Twitter has a lot of gaps and holes. And this is where the third party devs created a healthy ecosystem.

Twitter never had any built in support for photos, videos, media and long conversations. Twitter’s own short URL came after ages when there were already dozens of URL shortening services fully operational and firmly grounded. No desktop client for three years !

Just think, if they kill or ban every other third party app out there, how frustrating the entire Twitter experience can get. You can’t shorten link, share photos or videos and have to manually tweet your location, post your blog articles…the list is endless.

Thank god that we have third party services like TweetDeck, Bit.ly, TwitPic users found new ways to engage with the system. And suddenly, you’re replacing them with your own stopgap army.

Well, these are the apps which contributed to Twitter’s popularity to some level. As far as I can remember, it was Tweetmeme who revolutionized the concept of Retweet button. What Twitter did is just take that idea, build it’s own copy and hijacked the web with it’s own Tweet button.

Next major expansion was the desktop client TweetDeck. This time, they realized that it would be better to just acquire them instead of building a copy. So they did.

Just because you see that this new kid is getting popular and well accepted, either you kill it or acquire it. You’re passing a message to the devs Hey, if you’re creative and build something cool, either you will be killed or acquired.

To the developers: Don’t build a business around someone else’s, it could mean disaster.

Nonetheless, the following image seems to be the first photo which was uploaded on Twitter’s own photo sharing service.

twitter-photo-sharing-first-photo

And it’s damn funny!

Google Testing Yet Another Design Change Of Search Result Pages

Few weeks ago we reported that Google is preparing a redesign of search result pages by trying new colors and fonts over a slightly different layout. The said changes haven’t been implemented yet but Google is indeed testing yet another minor tweak on how links appear on search result pages.

google-changing-design

From the above screenshot, you can easily spot the differences in current and upcoming design of Google search results. Here are some noteworthy points:

  • The URL has moved up and is placed between the Title and the description snippet. Moreover, the URL appears slightly more bold than what we are used to see on search results. Not to forget that Adsense team have been experimenting with the position of URL’s on Adsense ads off late.
  • The underline has been removed from the Title of links. The underline is also not shown when you hover over a link which might mean that Google is planning to drop underlines from all organic and sponsored links on SERP’s.
  • The Cachedand similarlinks are not visible for any result, which is of course a big change. The Cachedlink shows the last cachedversion of the page, when Googlebot crawled it and fetched the page on their severs. The Similarlink shows webpages which contain content similar to the target page.I don’t know whether the final design will have them but I tried one keyword after another and the cachedand similarlinks were not shown anyway.

If Google alters the position of description snippet and the URL, I guess websites who have keyword in their domain name might get slightly better CTR. Again, nothing is final yet and I am sure they will test more iterations one after another, before rolling out the final version.

 

Twitter Acquires TweetDeck for $40 Million

TweetDeckIt makes perfect sense.

The most popular and widely growing micro-blogging site acquiring the most popular desktop client for Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, LinkedIn and MySpace. The deal was closed at $40 Million which is somewhat lesser than the expected amount of $50 Million as reported earlier. Though Twitter has denied to comment whether they have actually acquired TweetDeck, multiple sources confirm the acquisition.

Back in February, there were some rumors that UberMedia might acquire TweetDeck. The rumors fell like a deck of cards when Twitter blocked UberMedia’s application fearing that UberMedia might rival Twitter in the long run by creating their own social micro blogging site. It turns out that UberMedia’s deal was cut out during mid April which opened doors for TweetDeck to respond to the offer made by Twitter.

With the rising popularity of TweetDeck across multiple platforms, it was long coming.

You build a startup, it takes a different turn than what it was intended for. Fair enough, then you allow third party developers to build apps around your service so that more users can engage from a variety of sources e.g Android, desktop, iOS and so on.

Then comes the real boom.

Suddenly, you have the feeling that these third party apps are getting more popular than your actual product and less people are actually knocking your door and converting to business.

When it comes to monetization, Twitter has been a slow learner. In fact, this is the only widespread Internet company which has not implemented bold monetization methods so far. There are promoted tweets, promoted users which is the only way for Twitter to earn revenue, but they are not obtrusive. Twitter wants to play clean and maintain a good user experience, but here is a small catch.

If you want your real shop to be the center of attraction, you have to limit the outlets. Sure outlets spread your branding, get the word about your business and brings more goodwill but if their own roots become parallel to yours, you have to do something about it. Which may be one of the reason why Twitter changed their API Tos and limited the ever expanding growth of third party Twitter Apps.

Now talking of apps, the dark horse might be the TweetDeck app for Chrome. Acer and Samsung are launching Chromebooks from June 15th, remember?

access-credentials-changed

Though Twitter has denied to comment on the  rumors of acquiring TweetDeck  but someone did revoked my access token for TweetDeck this morning.

WordPress.com Bids Goodbye to Internet Explorer 6

internet_explorer6_logoWordPress.com has finally joined the Kill Internet Explorerbandwagon.

I don’t remember when was the last time I used Internet Explorer 6, which is surely the most ugly browser built till date. If you read blogs, keep an eye on emerging technologies and trends, chances are that you hate Internet Explorer 6 as much as we do. On the flip side, if you’re reading this page from a never to upgradecomputer running Windows 98 or Windows XP, there is a high chance that you’re using Internet Explorer 6.

In recent months, a lot of sites (e.g YouTube) have been dropping support for Internet Explorer 6. The fact of the matter is that IE6’s rendering engine is half blind and it’s such a pain for developers and designers to fix browser compatibility of their websites, just because a portion of their users are still on IE6 and god knows whether they will upgrade to Windows 7 or use a different browser anytime soon.

WordPress.com has recently announced that they are ending support for Internet Explorer 6 with their slight redesign and performance improvements implemented on WordPress.com’s dashboard. The blogging platform says that it has required increasingly complex code trickery to make WordPress.com’s backend work in Internet Explorer 6, which does not support current web standards.

If you try to login to your blog’s administration area using Internet explorer 6, WordPress.com will let you in. It’s just that the features will appear broken and all the links won’t work the way they used to work before. Oh and you will also see a big red alert box, begging you to upgrade Internet Explorer 6 to it’s latest version.

wordpress-internet-explorer6

Additionally, WordPress.com has introduced some new features as well as dropping older ones. The new dashboard loads faster and feels better, distracting icons are gone while a new distraction free write post panel being introduced.

According to the data from Microsoft’s own IE6 countdown website, 11.4% of web users are still using Internet Explorer 6, the highest user density being recorded near China, South Korea and Japan. The following chart shows a brief usage graph of IE6 from around the world:

ie6-usage-graph

 

It’s good to see more and more websites joining hands to drop support for Internet Explorer 6.   This helps everyone if you consider the bigger picture users can enjoy all the rich features of a modern browser while the devs can sleep well and avoid coding nightmares.

Google Maps For Mobile Updates With More Features

Google maps is undoubtedly a real hit among smartphone users.

Everyday, thousands of people use Google maps from their mobile device to get driving directions, search for local businesses, find places of interest, share locations and so on. Although Google provides a standalone Google maps application for both Android and ios devices, the experience and environment is not entirely the same; when compared with the experience of using Google maps from a desktop browser.

Not anymore, since Google has recently rolled out a couple of updates to Google maps mobile web app which now works much like the desktop version of Google maps. If this is the first time, you’re using Google maps from your mobile browser, you have to turn on location sharing from you Phone’s preferences panel.

Activate location tracking

Once you have shared your current location with Google maps, you will be able to use many of the same Google Maps features you have earlier used from a desktop browser. Just point your mobile’s browser to maps.google.com, select the checkbox Remember preferenceand hit Share location

share-location

Google maps mobile web app will automatically detect your current location and you can start enjoying some of the recently added features e.g finding local businesses, search for what’s nearby with suggest, auto complete and so on.

As an example, I used the driving directions feature of Google maps to find the shortest route between two cities and I was shown the following result:

google-maps-driving-directions

Clear, concise and it feels as if I am on the desktop browser. Moreover, I can find nearby places, restaurants and businesses who have a listing on Google maps and then click the Directionsbutton to find the quickest way to reach that destination.

Another good use of Google maps mobile web app is to read user reviews and ratings of business and see some photos to decide whether you want to avail their service. A simple search for Chinese restaurantsshows a lot of businesses around my location, I can read user reviews, view photos and then use the phone number from the Maps page and place my order. Sweet !

search-businesses

If you’re signed into your Google account, you will be able to access My Mapsand starred locations directly from your Google account. This is handy, because you can skip the search box and quickly navigate through favorite locations, which you have earlier bookmarked from the desktop browser

view-my-maps

Overall, this is a significant improvement to Google maps mobile web app and the best part is that it works out of the box. Unlike Google Maps app for Android or iPhone, there is no need to update your app and check whether new features are available or not. Regardless of the host device you’re using, you will be able to access all the good features of Google maps from any device, any browser.

New Indian Cyber Laws Can Be A Threat To Web Content Providers

The IT scene in India is about to take a steep turn in the coming days.

The new Cyber laws issued by the Information technology department of Indian Government (PDF) imposes a lot of restrictions on citizens and content providers which includes companies, institutions, cyber café owners and anyone who is servingobjectionable content to Indian people in one form or the other.

For example: One of the acts states that no organization or an intermediary can servecontent that is harmful, obscene, pornographic, hateful, defamatory, encourages money laundering or gambling, not suitable for minors or otherwise unlawful in any manner. [Ref: sec 3(b) III ]

And as before, Google and other tech companies are not very happy regarding the new IT rules of India.

indian-cyber-cafe

This is because the new rules require websites to remove objectionable content which might be harmful to minors. Content includes text, images as well as videos and the websites who act as an intermediary between the website and the content also fall under the same umbrella.

So if a site has a pornographic image and an Indian citizen is viewing it on Google Images, both the source website and Google Images are to be blamed. Internet service providers or website owners have to bring some bars on the type of objectionable content via a terms of service act with their users.

If barring the content is not possible (consider the huge collection of blogs, YouTube videos and images), the source websites have to remove the objectionable content within 36 hours when the corresponding authorities notify the company administration.

The option of content barringis a huge task for social networking sites and search engines like Google, Yahoo etc. This is because search engines do not generate the content themselves and they have no control over the type of content that is shared via blogs, social sites, YouTube etc. Almost anyone can post an objectionable image on free blogging platforms and post a link of the image on social sites like Facebook, Twitter etc.

The government officials are already in action. As an example, here is a list of websites that are blocked by order of the Indian Government. The data was received from the department of Information technology in response to the RTI (right to information) act. One of the offending websites is a Facebook fan page about B.R Ambedkar, which we reported a few months back.

India is already one of the booming market for Internet companies. There are already more than 700 million cellphone users in India (and counting) so the number of web savvy users is on the rise. Google among other tech companies are worried whether the new Indian I.T rules will go narrow in coming months or whether there would be strict guidelines on the natureof content which is considered safe for Indian audience as reported at WSJ.