Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Google: wanna spell chequer?

You'd think the mighty Google could afford a spell checker (yep I deliberately put "chequer" in the title, joke!).

But I noticed this a month or so ago, and they've still not fixed it. Do you see what I see?

I mean, it's clever (and nice for Google's revenues) that whenever you search on Google for 2 cities' names they give you ads for flights between those cities at the top of the search results, but - "United Kingdon"? (And there are indeed some cheapish flights from Dallas to London. Who sez I'm hinting??)

I wonder how long it'll take for Google to spot that typo. Though I'm not sure I have the energy to try a daily search at the moment...

UPDATE: as Ian said, they've still not fixed it, one and a half years later! Try this search on Google...

Monday, 25 September 2006

Blogger: Google Map, Video etc search via hyperlinks in your posts

If you've not seen it yet, Mark Lucovsky has come up with a neat way to have, in your blog's sidebar, search forms for places via Google Maps and videos on Google Video (plus a Google search which shows the results in the main column of your blog (like Kirk spotted you can get with Blogger Beta).

Not only that, but with his code, you can create hyperlinks in your blog posts which, when clicked, will display the results of a Google Maps or Google Video search in the sidebar (or Google search results in your blog's main column, at the top, with tabs). You have to sign up for a free Google Ajax Search API key which will be unique to your blog URL and tweak and republish your template. Once you've customised your blog template, you just create the links by, instead of inserting the usual a href="http://something" for links, using a href="javascript:doMapSearch('search-term') (or change doMapSearch to doCoreSearch for a Google search whose results appear in your main blog column, or doVideoSearch for a video search).

He's provided examples, with the source for the templates, for both Blogger and Typepad: Blogger example; Typepad example. Here's a screenshot of part of the sidebar from his Blogger example:

Try clicking the example links in his post and doing some searches in the Blogger example to see what it does. You'll see he's only given the template code for old-style Blogger blogs, though I'm sure someone will soon hack it for new Beta blogs. It involves putting Javascript in the head section of your template (plus some styling stuff), and also code in the sidebar section. The clickable links in the sidebar under the Maps and Video search forms again have been added via code in the template.

I haven't had a chance to incorporate any of those searches into my blog yet and I'm not sure I will, well maybe the Google search, as I don't often refer to videos or locations. But it's very neat.

I've also not had time to do a step by step on how to incorporate all this into your blog, if someone else doesn't do it first I may get round to it at some point!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Mobile World SIM: voicemail activation

Here's a tip on how to activate voicemail on Mobile World.

I recently got a MobileWorld SIM card for only about £10 which includes that much worth of calls. It boasts cheap international calls in particular, and I got it from Carphone Warehouse with whom I guess Mobile World must be connected (judging by the Mobile World contact email address which is @cpwplc.com).

There's a fair manual in the pack, but it doesn't tell you what you need to know to get the voicemail service to work in the first place - only how to use voicemail!

To activate voicemail on a Mobile World SIM, you have to dial 222 from the phone. Then you'll get a text message, which you have to delete, turn the phone off, turn it on again. Only now will your voicemail be working.

You must also check your phone settings to ensure that it will divert to voicemail on no answer etc - I thought it was, certainly before I bought the MobileWorld SIM card, but it must have reset itself when I swapped SIMs, so I had to fix that setting too.

Hope that helps someone. Yes, you could get that info by calling their customer services on an 0800 freephone number, but if you are calling with a Mobile World SIM they charge you even for a freefone call, and it can be a long wait.

More info about Mobile World, pretty the same as what's in the manual, is on the Carphone Warehouse site (but not the 222 info I just gave).

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Search results: navigation keyboard shortcuts

Following my post on the beauty of keyboard shortcuts, Luis Velez asked whether there was a hotkey for moving to the Next page of Google search results.

Yes, there can be. If you use the fab free browser Firefox (please download it via the sidebar link if you want to support this blog!), you can download a free extension for Fox which lets you use the keyboard to navigate search results pages on popular Net search engines like Google, Yahoo, even social bookmarking site Delicious.

That extension' s called Search Keys (here's how to install a Firefox extension). After installing it, a Google search results page will look like this:

See the extra number in a green box after the heading of each search result in the list? Type a number on your keyboard e.g. 1 to go straight to that result (which for the search "LG Chocolate help" happens to be my post on connecting the LG KG800 Chocolate mobile phone to your PC, not as easy as it should be). Typing 3 takes you to the CNET forums, etc.

To move to the Previous or Next page of the search results, on Google at least, you can use the comma (,) or period (.) respectively - see them added in brackets? Just type the comma etc without any brackets:

(Note, if the previous/next keys stop working you may need to uninstall and reinstall that extension, I've had that issue myself anyway.)

This extension works on other search sites too. But you can't yet move to the previous/next page of the search results with other search engines like Yahoo, although that's on the developer's todo list for the future (see under "Possible features"). Well done and thanks to Jesse Ruderman for a very useful extension.

(By the way, while on keyboard shortcuts, I've updated my paean to hotkeys to link to a blog dedicated to keyboard shortcuts, Mousethreat, no not solely because he linked to my post but because I love hotkeys and like the idea of a blog dedicated to them. Yep call me a geek, though I'd prefer "power user"...)

Personal data: one law for government, another for citizens?

It now seems that "personal data" means one (narrow) thing when you're trying to get information which a government agency has about you, but quite another (broader) thing if you're being prosecuted for breaching data protetion laws. Surprise surprise...

Yes, this is oldish news (which I first read on Out-law), but I want to do my bit to publicise the discrepancy.

The Out-law article summarises the position, but basically when Michael Durant tried to use the Data Protection Act to get info held by the UK Financial Services Authority about him, the court said he had no right to it because merely mentioning a person in a document does not amount to “personal data” under the Data Protection Act, so they didn't have to give him the information (see this other article).

Yet when Jacqueline Rooney was prosecuted under the Data Protection Act for giving her sister information she had found using police computers about a police officer (who'd had a relationship with her sister), the court said that she had unlawfully disclosed personal data and she was convicted. She'd only told her sister that he'd moved, but not where he had moved to (according to this more detailed article).

Now I don't condone what she did and I think the result of that prosecution was the right one - people just shouldn't be able to use personal information held in government databases for their own private purposes. But I do think that Mr Durant should have been given access to the info about him held by the FSA - the court there should have had a wider view of personal data, as wide as the one in the Rooney prosecution, in fact. But, the court said what it did and the House of Lords refused to hear his appeal, so that's that (unless he's still appealing to Europe?).

The Out-law article points out:
"When it was someone looking for information from the FSA it was a narrow definition: the court said 'no, that is not personal information'," said Cullen. "But when it is a criminal case involving misuse of personal data the court used a very wide definition of personal data, which is interesting."

So, it seems there's one law for government and other organisations from whom we seek information about ourselves, and quite another for us mere citizens!

Free BBC audio and video clips no more after 26 September 2006

The BBC's Creative Archive trial, offering free downloads and personal re-mixing of audio and video clips or full programmes from the BBC's archive
under their special Creative Archive copyright licence, is going to end on 26 September 2006, according to a news release of 18 September on the Creative Archive info site.

The BBC's Governors are going to consider if the Creative Archive meets a "public value" test. Let's hope they conclude it provides enough public value!

So download the clips you want from the archive while you still can (including historic clips from the early days of television). (Sorry only UK residents can access the archive, that's the BBC rule.)

The good news at least is that other participants in the Creative Archive initiative will still be releasing their content, e.g. ITN Source is going to be sharing some of its content under this licence.

Google, news and copyright: threat to search engines?

Reports abound of the recent Belgian court ruling, in an action brought by Copiepress (the copyright association representing certain Belgian newspapers), that Google News breached Belgian copyright and database law, in particular by its "activities" and the use of the Google cache. Google had to remove all content sourced from the Belgian French or German press from their site, and links to that content, or face a big daily fine. They wanted Google to get their permission (and of course pay a cut of Google's income from ads on its search pages) to index their content; they felt they were losing money because people weren't visiting their home pages which carried the highest paying ads (see e.g. the Euractive report).

Now Google indexes the full content but only for searching purposes, and it displays only headlines and a brief snippet from the news article in question. I'm with Google here - I personally believe what they do is fair use, and being indexed and searchable on Google brings many people to your site (and to your ads) who wouldn't otherwise go there at all. Sure, Google makes money from ads, but it's not running ads on the Google News pages (see this helpful analysis of how Google's ads and keywords and caching work, in this specific context). And rather than forcing visitors to go to their front page (what's to guarantee they'd click on ads on those pages anyway?), why don't newspapers and other sites run ads on deeper pages which are directly relevant to the content of the page concerned and so would generate more clicks?

I'm very glad Google is appealing the ruling (which apparently was made without Google being told about it, never mind being given a chance to put their own case to the judge). I think this sort of thing could strike at the very heart of the Internet. Search engines are Net users' bread and butter. They have to be able to index content so we can search for it, they have to be able to link to it (yes including deep linking) so we can find what we want. Don't sites want the traffic? Rather than complaining and suing, can't they instead try to make more money by adapting their advertising models to take account of how the Net has evolved, as Google itself has done so successfully - search engines, deep linking, the greater interest visitors have in content-related ads?

Blogger Beta: commenting on Blogger blogs and vice versa fixed

As you may have seen from Blogger Buzz yesterday, the annoying bug whereby Blogger Beta users couldn't comment easily on old style Blogger blogs, and vice versa, has now been fixed. Hooray!

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Blogger Beta: new "known issues" blog

For anyone who's not yet spotted it in Blogger Buzz, good ol' Blogger have just launched a useful new blog called "Known Issues for Blogger in Beta" to cover "bugs and missing features in the new version of Blogger (currently in beta) that affect a significant number of users." Well worth keeping an eye on. There's 19 items listed so far, and they've been posting away there since yesterday.

All posts in that blog have been duly tagged with labels, and the blog even has a "search by label" tag cloud at the start. I wonder if that's automatically generated...