Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Google's Voice Search

Google's voice recognition app finally arrived for the iPhone. You can download it from the Apple itunes store here, iTunes

Google’s search-by-voice application allows users to speak into their iPhone to submit queries to Google’s search engine. This will appeal to users who find it difficult to type using the iPhone keypad, especially when we are so used to using a qwerty keyboard.

Google's voice-recognition technology will be first available for the iPhone, even before devices, such as the G1, running its own Android mobile platform. Google will soon offer the technology for other devices, including the T-Mobile G1, which uses Android. Google also has a voice-search client for the BlackBerry, which, at the moment, is limited to maps.

But Google is playing catch-up. Yahoo and Microsoft already offer a voice-recognition option for mobile phones. Microsoft's Tellme and Yahoo's oneSearch both offer voice services.

I suppose the voice search will be most useful when a you might need to call directory assistance or do a simple search, but you can not do it safely, or legally, on a keyboard while driving. Especially here in South Africa where there can be hefty fines given for talking-and-driving. Another benefit might be the ability to search for potentially long queries that would be difficult to type.

But accuracy will still be a factor. What with all the different languages around. 11 official languages here in South Africa. What about all the different accents and word pronunciations. Apparently it works best with ‘North American’ accents. No surprises.

Google's voice recognition is far from perfect. Getting most searches right, but still inconsistent. The biggest let down, and perhaps not fully shown in the video released by Google, is the fact that you cannot search your contacts via voice. You still have to do a manual type search. But you can use a separate app available for the iPhone, "SayWho", which will dial your selected contact for you, using voice recognition.

Could voice recognition be the next killer app for mobile? The voice recognition market is growing at galloping pace. In 2006 voice recognition technology sales where in the region of $1 billion. That number is expected to swell to $2.6 billion by 2009.

What are your thoughts? Have you downloaded it yet? Have you used it? Has it worked?
Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Google goes for video and voice chat

On Tuesday Google Inc launched a free Web-based service that competes with the likes of eBay's Skype. Google recently added a voice and video chat feature to its Gmail email service.

If you are a Gmail and Google App subscriber, you can now choose to speak with friends on a video screen and at the same time IM them in a Google Chat box.

The video screen can be popped out of the chat box and moved around your computer screen. You can also change the size of the video pop-out screen and even make it full size.

"The idea was to make it quicker and easier to communicate with other people by whatever means is best convenient," said Google spokesperson Jason Freidenfelds.

"It's a nice alternative for businesses looking for another way for people to connect," he said.

This new addition to Google apps is available for both PC and Mac users.

A webcam and small web browser plug-in is all that you need to use the video chat. if you do not have a webcam, don't fret, you will still be able to chat with friends by voice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Which is better Google Pagerank or Alexa traffic rank?

Having just started my new business and website, about three months ago. I also started a blog called the brave programmer at

I find that I am obsessed with statistics. I check my Google stats at least three times a day. I check my blog stats at least as much. In fact I have three blogs and I am obsessed with them just as much.

I am always trying to find ways and means to increase Pagerank. Trying to find good quality back links, writing articles and blogs. Joining Social Networks. Trying to optimise every page.

Some of this has paid off. But I still think there is a lot to be done. My Pagerank has gone up, not by a huge margin. But then you're only working with a range of 10, not much play there.

My Alexa ranking has gone from 14 000 000 to 800 000. Not bad I think.

But which is better to have? Which is more sort after? Which shows the true worth of your site? Alexa traffic rank or Google page rank?

In my mind I would go for the Alexa ranking. Simply because your website is about visitors to your site, not how Google ranks your site. Yes these are related. But what good is it to have a million links to your site, and a page rank of 10. But you do not get any traffic, your Alexa rank is 9 000 000.

While I do realise that this probably will not happening. I mean if you have a million inbound links and a traffic rank of 10, then surely your traffic is very very high.

But humour me for a second. If this were so, surely the one to push for would be traffic rank. So some have a high Google rank, because of site age, and inbound links. But their site gets no traffic. Traffic means sales, and sales means money.

What are your thoughts. Let me know what you think. Pagerank or Alexa rank? Feel free to leave me a comment.

Google's G1 phone hacked

It was only a matter of time wasn't it? Some bored teenager hacked the iPhone a while back. But that's not all. No sooner had the G1 been released when someone decided to hack Google's latest pride and joy.

Although not as impressive as the iPhone hack. The G1 hack is none the less significant. The hack has the potential to turn the G1 into a brick. As reported here:

The hackers have managed to jailbreak the G1 by taking advantage of a massive loophole in Android.

Android is the open source operating system supplied by Google.

Apparently some Linux geeks hacked the G1 and gained root access in about one minute. They used a widely available PTerminal application to telnet to the device`s IP address.

The hack gives the hacker complete system, or root,access. This means that they will complete administrator rights which comes with full read-and-write functionality of the Operating System. Basically they could do what they liked.

Makes you think doesn't it. If you are one of the big boys, and you make a statement or launch a product. There is always some hacker waiting to throw some pie in your face.

A Google spokesman said the company plans to distribute a patch that will close the loophole.

Testing your web page in over 60 browsers.

So you have developed this mind blowing, gob smacking, beautiful website. It rocks! But the first day you put it up, you get an e-mail along the lines of, "your website sucks, the size is all wrong, things are not positioned correctly, its all outa whack".

What in the world is going on here? Your site rocks, who is this idiot? What is he ranting and raving about?

You soon find out that the unfortunate user viewed your site in a different browser to what you have. The site does not display well in browser xxx.

What do you do? Well you could install all the browsers onto your machine and test them all individually. But that's a scary thought and not advised.

Most would only try and get their site to display well in the three major browsers, Firefox, IE and I suppose Safari.

But as most of you know these three do not agree with each other as to the standards that should be kept. Even the different browser versions display sites differently within the same browser family. I am not going to debate which browser is the best or which is the most compliant when it comes to web standards.

What I am going to do is let you into a little secret. I came across a site that will take a snap shot of how your site looks in over 60 browsers. Now you do not have to test all 60, but you can choose which browsers you want to target.

It navigates to your site, and loads it into each of the browsers that you selected. Takes a snap shot of what your website looks like.

The best thing about this is that it is a free service. 121 computers run by volunteers are used to submit sites to different browsers. They even have some rudimentary stats. Where you can see against which browsers people are testing.

No surprises that it seems that IE is winning the testing race, followed by Firefox, the I think Safari. Opera makes a good showing as well. But there are browsers being tested that I have not even heard of.

The site in question is browsershots, and it can be found at this address
Check it out. If you are into building and testing websites and you believe that you might be having some peculiar display issues. Submit your site to browsershots and see how your site is rendered in the browsers of your choice.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Robbers Hit Northgate - While I was there.

Two people were shot and wounded in armed robberies at the Northgate shopping mall today, Friday. Now this might not seem alarming to many, as we are so used to crime now days. But the thing is, I was there in the mall with my family, wife, 2 year old daughter, 11 year old son. It could have been me that was shot, or my wife, or God forbid, my kids.

A man was shot in the chest and was in a critical condition. Four robbers fled the scene in a white Opel Astra. No arrests were made but police were investigating a case of armed robbery and attempted murder.

Last week we were at a steers drive through, when just in the next shopping centre, about 200m away, robbers hit the shopping centre. The same gang might have even hit the petrol station the day before in the same shopping centre as the steers drive through.

A week before that, a high jacking occurred not 200m away from where we stay, a person was shot.

A few months before that we were rocked awake in the early hours of the morning by a loud bang. The ATM at the shopping centre up the road from us was bombed.

These criminals are more and more brazen as they start to attack, rob, high jack, and murder during the day and even at the most populated places.

I am proud South African. The government says that the crime rate is falling. Problem is, I do not experience that. I have been in the vicinity of more dangerous life threatening crime in the past six months than in the last two years.

I married a beautiful British girl. Their parents were forced to move back to Britain because they were robbed while they slept, and held up at gun point in the middle of the day. Two separate incidents weeks apart.

I fear for my life and the life of my family. My wife is always nagging me to move overseas, to England. Where its safe.

With the current crime rate, statistics say, its just a matter of time before something like this happens to me. I do not want to take that chance. With all these crimes going on around me, those stats do not seem so far off.

Yes there is crime all over the world. But the blatant disregard for life in this country is beyond explanation. In England, yes they might rob you, but they won't sommer just shoot you and kill you for nothing.

I am a programmer, I develop websites. My site is Integralwebsolutions. I work from home, and my servers and sites are hosted in the states. I don't need to actually live in this country to carry on working.

But I love this country. I love the weather, I love the sport, I love the law abiding people. But it seems like this country does not love me any more.

Just this week, an armed robbery and high jacking took place in Kempton Park. The black police inspector from Tembisa said, "It's time you whites packed your bags and f***d off." Calling the victims dogs and vowing that he would see to it that the white police woman would be shot in a robbery. Cocking his R5 rifle he told the white victim to pack his bags and F*** off as he refused to arrest the criminal or open up a police case of the robbery and high jacking.

With the current brain drain in the country, the lack of skills, the high unemployment rate, and the high crime rate, it is only going to get worse. With criminals running our country, I mean literally, criminals in the government. One might not be surprised at the way this police officer behaved.

If they want me to leave, if they do not want any web developers and programmers in the country, I might just leave. Over time, I would probably get better respect in England, the state hospitals are better, there is better social support, the crime is not as violent. It sure does seem a tempting proposal.

The question is, What would you do? Should we leave or should we take our chances?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is Google's G1 Better Than The iPhone?

Internet giant Google has launched its much-awaited mobile phone. Many claim a direct challenge to the supremacy of the iPhone.

The G1 was unveiled in New York last month and was put on sale in the UK early November. The G1 has been released exclusively by T-Mobile.

It is stipulated that it will go head to head with other mobile products such as Apple's iPhone, the Blackberry and other smartphones from makers such as Nokia, Samsung.

The G1 uses Google's open source mobile software, Android. Many have stated that it is a phone with the capability of a hand held computer. Is it a phone or is it a palmtop, with telephony as one of its functions?

The G1 is a touch-screen mobile phone and includes a QWERTY keyboard when you slide the phone open. Included are applications such as Google Maps with StreetView, Gmail, YouTube and GoogleTalk. mmm Lots of Google stuff. Not surprising.

Is it then a phone or a dedicated smart fancy electronic wireless browser? Is it a way for Google not only to challenge iPhone, but in the same breath to capture and increase their Internet user market. Maybe not only are they trying to stick it to Apple, but Yahoo as well. What is Google doing in the mobile market. I thought it was an Internet giant, a search engine. But then again I have been wrong a few times before.

Not only does it have a keyboard, but the G1 also has a trackball for more precise, one-handed navigation. That's not all, it also sports a 3-mega pixel camera.

But despite the popularity of the Google brand, the G1 isn't 'cool'. It does not strike me as a 'Geek' phone. The same coolness and Geekness that the iPhone 3G had which was a massive success for Apple.

One thing though which might sway the masses towards the G1, is cost. The G1 will in fact be cheaper. Over a two year contract the G1 will be in the region of $380 cheaper. Included will be unlimited mobile internet browsing. Some plans will not only include unlimited data but unlimited texting or SMS.

However the iPhone comes to its own when we talk capacity. Sporting a massive 8GB-16GB as opposed to 2GB-8GB for the G1. This will win over the huge music fans, because if you do the math, you can fit more mp3's, more video and more pics onto the iPhone as opposed to the G1. Seems that the iPhone is more geared towards multimedia, despite the 3 mega pixel camera for the G1 as opposed to the 2 mega pixel for the iPhone.

One thing is for certain, the G1 was designed to bring new possibilities to the art of online communication. The problem now is, can you ever say, "I never got that e-mail".

What ever the case might be. Whether you are a iFan or a Gman, the Gadget wars have just begun.

CNN's Hologram. Real or Fake?

CNN made huge waves on Tuesday night by incorporating, what they claim to be, a three-dimensional hologram into its coverage of the U.S. election. The question I first asked when I saw this was, "was it really a hologram"?

I'm sure that whatever it was, it was very sophisticated. But no hologram. The technology is so complex and computing power is so powerful, that we are not there yet.

At about 7 p.m. EST USA, reporter Jessica Yellin, who was in Chicago, spoke with New York based anchor Wolf Blitzer live "via hologram," CNN said.

She seemed to appear a bit fuzzy as her image was apparently projected a few feet in front of Blitzer. The image appeared to glow around the edges as well. "You're a terrific hologram," Blitzer said to her. Making good use of the power of suggestion.

"It's like I follow the tradition of Princess Leia," she said, making reference to the Star Wars character and obviously some reference to the holograms in the movies. Which also seemed to glow around the edges and appear a bit fuzzy. Kind of coincidental, don't you think?

Was CNN playing on our minds and our infatuation with sci-fi and the likes of Star Wars?

Apparently her image was being filmed in Chicago by 35 high-definition cameras. These cameras were set in a ring inside a special tent. The images were then processed and synchronized by 20 computers to the cameras in the New York studio.

Sources tell me that the CNN anchors were not really speaking to three-dimensional projected images, but rather empty space. The images were simply added to what viewers saw on their screens at home, in much the same way computer-generated special effects, like the hologram of Leia, are added to movies, like Star Wars, as suggested in the interview.

These images were tomograms. Tomograms are images that are captured from all sides. Then reconstructed by computers. Finally displayed on screen. Much like what happened in the movie "The matrix".

Holograms, on the other hand, are projected into space.
Sources tell me that holographic images are generally captured and projected using coherent light such as lasers. A laser would need to be more than six feet in diameter to capture a person's image, which I believe is impossible. Probably because such a huge light source would be blinding.

I also believe that our current hologram technology requires some sort of floor pad or plate, which is absent from the CNN footage.

CNN reporting that this is a hologram, was this then a lie or the truth? Where then does the line stand between truth and lies? Should journalists and news companies be able to lie about news and technology, in order to gain viewers or readership? Should they twist the truth to increase their rankings in the viewers poll. Should they be sensationalists with no regard to accuracy and facts.

Why would CNN lie about this being a hologram? Is its cheesy reporting, aimed to capture your attention no matter what the truth might be?

The real question is. Do you really care? Are you actually concerned that this type of deception is going on, or are you captivated by the entertainment?

What do you think about this? Did you believe that it was a real hologram? Were you amazed?

Let me and others know. Leave your comment. what did you think?

BTW, CNN could not be reached for comment.