The Big Google-Related News Roundup
Article by George Norman
On 19 Jun 2009
As the week draws to a close, we put together all the Google-related news that we did not have the time to cover independently: new Chrome release on the dev channel, new iGoogle themes, Google Apps Sync problems, enhanced Gmail functionality, enhanced Google security, new features added to Google Books, Blogger prepares for its 10th anniversary, and Google Flipper. These are all topics we’ve mashed up together as they all fall under the big Google umbrella.

Before we start with the topics presented above, there are some Google-related topics that we did have time to cover independently, topics that you might be interested in. Like for example the fact that Google Translate provides language support for Persian (details here) and that the Google owned video sharing site YouTube has rolled out quite a few changes lately (details here).


Dev Channel Release: Chrome
Chrome for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux was released by the Mountain View search engine giant earlier this week; the software comes with a version change, mainly V8 v. 1.2.8 and the following highlights:
- Numerous crash fixes and code stabilization.
- All unsigned extensions are disallowed.
- All extensions require signing.
- A session history bug that prevented backward and forward operation to properly function for certain sites has been fixed.

The release notes for Chrome are available here.
If you would like to get on the developer Chrome channel, details on how to do so are available here.

New iGoogle Themes
For those of you that use iGoogle and not the classic Google homepage, new nature-inspired themes have been made available. Google worked with famous photographers and organizations like the National Geographic Society, BBC and Ansel Adams Gallery when creating these nature-oriented themes. You can check out the new themes here.

Google Apps Sync Glitch
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, is a free utility that you can use to sync your email, calendar and contacts between Google Apps Premier or Google Apps Education edition and Microsoft Outlook (detailed article presenting Google Apps Sync available here). Microsoft has discovered that there is a glitch in Google Apps Sync:

“The installation of the Google Apps Sync plugin disables Outlook’s ability to search any and all of your Outlook data. When a Google Apps user installs the sync plugin for Outlook, the plugin modifies a registry key which disables Windows Desktop Search from indexing and providing search functionality for all Outlook data, not just the Outlook data being synchronized from GMail. The Outlook team has been made aware of a second issue that affects users of the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector which syncs Windows Live Hotmail with Outlook. When a user has the Outlook Connector installed, then installs the Google Apps Sync plugin, the next time Outlook is started an error message comes up stating that some functionality will be disabled,” explained Outlook Product Manager, Dev Balasubramanian.

Google has acknowledged the glitch saying that some plug-ins do not work with Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (the most common ones are Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Acrobat PDF Maker Toolbar, Outlook Change Notifier) for the time being, but the Mountain View-based company is collaborating with Microsoft to address issue.

“We're working with Microsoft and other partners to help fix these issues and support additional Outlook features like multiple calendars,” commented Senior Product Manager with Google Apps, Chris Vander Mey.

Gmail with New Contact Fields
Google’s email client, the aptly named Gmail has enhanced its contact manager earlier this week by increasing the number of contact fields. The problem was that when you tried to import contacts from Outlook or the OS X Address Book, Gmail could not recognize some of the contact fields, like for example the contact’s birthday. This is no longer an issue because Gmail now features support for more contact fields.

Google Security
Privacy and security researchers have asked Google this to consider enabling the HTTPS encryption for Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendars by default. Google, through the voice of Software Engineer with the Security and Privacy Team, Alma Whitten, said it will give the proposal some thought.

“We know HTTPS is a good experience for many power users who've already turned it on as their default setting. And in this case, the additional cost of offering HTTPS isn't holding us back. But we want to more completely understand the impact on people's experience, analyze the data, and make sure there are no negative effects. Ideally we'd like this to be on by default for all connections, and we're investigating the trade-offs, since there are some downsides to HTTPS — in some cases it makes certain actions slower. We're planning a trial in which we'll move small samples of different types of Gmail users to HTTPS to see what their experience is, and whether it affects the performance of their email. Unless there are negative effects on the user experience or it's otherwise impractical, we intend to turn on HTTPS by default more broadly, hopefully for all Gmail users, ” commented Alma Whitten.

Google Books New Features
On the 18th of June, while everybody was still playing with the iPhone OS 3.0, Google release a host of new features for Google Books:
- New toolbar option to embed (a preview of a full view or partner book on your site or blog) and link (send an URL link to your friends via email or IM).
- Enhanced search within books.
- Thumbnail view.
- Contents drop-down menu so that you can seamlessly jump from one chapter to another, or from one magazine article to another.
- Plain text mode.
- Page turn button at the bottom of the screen lets you turn pages with a simple mouse click. And to make sure you will not lose your way (as in lose track of your location in the text), there is also an animated line that moves with the page turn.
- Better Book Overview page.

Blogger 10th anniversary
Blogger, the blog publishing system that Google bought from Pyra Labs in 2003, will turn 10 years old this August. Coincidently, Windows Live Messenger is also preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary; coincidently as well, on this joyous occasion Google does not care about trivial facts like “270,000 words are written on Blogger every minute of every day,” it cares more about how Blogger had a positive impact on your life.

Blogger Product Manager, Rick Klau, explains: “While we're really excited about this milestone, we want the focus to be on you and the remarkable stories that you and millions of people around the world document on Blogger. After all, blogs are one of the true building blocks of the web, constantly updated not only with news and personal stories, but any kind of information you can imagine. What's your story? Did your blog help you find a job? Learn a language? Interact with your fans? Master a new skill? Battle an illness? Turn a hobby into a career? We read as many blog posts as we can, and what we do read is often brilliant. But we want to know more — we want to hear from you about what Blogger has meant to you over the past decade.”

Rumor Mill: Google Flipper
Rumor on the web has it that Google is currently testing a new service called Google Flipper. The service will reportedly be made publicly available in Google Labs and intro a new way to view news data. Reports are scarce, but a screenshot has been obtained by TechCrunch.

Tags: Google, Chrome, Dev Channel, iGoogle theme, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, Google Books, Gmail, Security, HTTPS, Blogger, Google Flipper
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
You can follow him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter

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