Archive for the 'Products/Services' Category

Digg’s spell checker needs an update

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Despite thousands of stories on about Google, Digg’s spell checker highlights “Google” as a misspelled word. Although other systems may also not recognize Google, it is somewhat ironic to see this on a system that prides itself on being cutting edge and providing up-to-the-minute techie news.

Google not recognized by Digg spell checker

Then again, it doesn’t seem to recognize itself either:

Digg doesn't recognize

Cheapest print photos

Monday, September 5th, 2005

There are numerous photo printing services available online these days. Their prices can vary considerably. The cheapest I have found recently is York Photo. It looks like this may be temporary, but for now as per their summer sale, 4×6 prints are just 10c each. I used them a few weeks ago and just put in another order. They processed my orders very quickly. In fact, even this Labor Day Weekend, the order I put in yesterday is already ready for shipment today. (Of course, due to the holiday, it will only be shipping tomorrow.)

IMPORTANT UPDATE (9/17/05): I no longer recommend York Photo. It took this shipment ten days to get to me AND they cropped by photos even though that was not identified in the order and this means that they got rid of important parts of my pictures. I do not plan on using them again.

This compares well with very similar services such as Snapfish – the service I usually use -, which charges 12c/print. What used to be Ofoto, but is now Kodak Easy Share Gallery charges 19-25c although if you sign up for a pro account on their service you do get 10c/print for 4×6. There are lots of others that charge 20-25c/print, I see no point in linking to them.

I did check and York Photo’s mailing fees do not seem to be higher – in fact, if anything, they seem lower – than those of Snapfish so it’s not as though they are making up for costs there.

Perhaps I should note that I am not affiliated with any of these services. However, if you think you may sign up for one of them and send in an order, do let me know. If I send you a referral and you do put in an order, I get a few free prints. Why not?:) This intro offer is available on both York Photo and Snapfish.

Lifehacker goodies

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

[Also posted on CT.]

I’ve been very busy over at Lifehacker. A friend of mine says it’s like “quirky academic meets Martha Stewart”. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s a reasonable description of what I’ve been up to. Here are some posts I put up in the past couple of days. I will have a roundup of all the free downloads later in the week. If you can’t wait, feel free to check out the site directly.

General tips

GMail/Flickr tips

Got any lifehacks?

Monday, August 29th, 2005

I am guest-blogging over at Lifehacker this week while regular editor Gina Trapani takes a breather. Lifehacker is part of Nick Denton‘s Gawker Media empire that has managed to make money out of blogging. (We’re not all in it for the $s, but it’s nice to know that some people who don’t necessarily have other main sources of income are able to pull it off.) CT readers are probably most familiar with Gawker’s Wonkette, but there are about a dozen Gawker sites at this point addressing all sorts of topics.

Lifehacker focuses on ways to make your life more productive. Many of the posts feature downloads (e.g. Firefox, Flickr), shortcuts and pointers to helpful Web sites. There is a whole category of advice pieces as well ranging from how to deal with various situations at work to ideas for getting things done more effectively.

If you have any lifehacking tips, please send them along to me this week by writing to

Nifty GMail “Send Mail As” feature

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

After considerable time away from home I’m finally catching up on all sorts of nifty things. GMail recently introduced a great new feature allowing users to specify the outgoing and reply-to addresses of all messages. The feature is under Settings > Accounts. See it here. (If you can’t see this in your account then just be patient. When I first checked yesterday I didn’t have the option yet, but today I do. Since GMail is still in Beta, not all features are introduced to all users at the same time.)

The feature is done well. You can only specify email addresses to which you have access so you can’t just start impersonating others.

This should help in the fight against spam. It is now possible to send a note to a mailing list using a different address from what you may use otherwise. This is helpful so your address is not exposed to numerous people and even worse: bots. Very helpful, neat.

Google Talk

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

For those who did not feel like reading my last long post, I thought I would put up a separate entry noting the arrival of Google’s chat and online phone service: Google Talk. I just tried the phone feature with my Mom and it works great. The instant messaging feature works well, too.

Google Talk is linked to one’s GMail account, which may make it much too obvious for spam. Luckily, it looks like GTalk will only allow incoming messages from people whom you have designated as contacts. This should cut down on unwanted messages.

Google World

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

[Also posted on Crooked Timber.]

I am back from a five-stop two-week trip and am finally catching up on various things Web. I missed the discussion John started at Crooked Timber a few days ago about Google. Instead of adding to that thread, I’ll add a whole post. To think of Google as just a company focusing on search is outdated, in my opinion. Google is becoming much more than that. Since the beginning they have been an expert at using network analysis to their advantage. With the various services they are rolling out, they can use that ability not only to in the realm of search, but in the realm of building profiles of their users.

The title of this post does not refer to a new Google program. Rather, it’s what I suspect the company is aiming at overall. That is, they are introducing (whether through internal development or buyouts) new services constantly, many of which suggest that they have their eyes on doing much more than providing search. Today, they launched Google Talk so now they are in the instant messaging market. For Google Talk, you need a Google Account, which is the same as your GMail account if you already have one. If you don’t, you may consider getting one since now they offer over 2.5 gigabytes of storage. Of course, you may never need that amount of space for email (although I learned a long time ago never to say never when it comes to storage space) in which case you may just want to use it as a backup for files.

One of the great features about GMail is that it checks for new email regularly (several times a minute) so as long as you stay logged on, you can get regular email updates. Of course, as long as you stay logged on, Google can track all of your online activities connected to its services, which include searches run on its search engine. Not only do they have information about all of your emails, they also know what searches you run and what results you choose.

Being able to scan your email (as they do for the purposes of displaying Google Ads) doesn’t only give them information about what topics you discuss, they also know with whom. They can develop very nice maps of people’s networks. Now that they have launched Google Talk they will also know which of your email contacts are strong enough that you also tend to contact them through chat (assuming you are using Google Talk for IMing). They will have more data on which to draw for a network map of your connections. And since the use of Google Talk requires a Google Account from both users, they can construct network maps of those people as well. So your network map is not just at one degree.

Of course, Google is not the only player in town. This is a good thing since at some point all of this tracking can get potentially disconcerting from a privacy point of view. Yahoo!, MSN and AOL remain major players. Yahoo! has been rolling out new products constantly as well and they have been buying up all sorts of popular services (e.g. Flickr, which has already been merged with people’s Yahoo accounts). Many many people continue to use the various services of these other companies. In fact, during my trip in the past few weeks, I saw and heard numerous people use and refer to all sorts of non-Google products (e.g. the continued prevalence of Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Mapquest, AIM, etc.). Of course, my observations are based on anecdotal evidence, but that helps at times just so you don’t think everyone else’s actions mirror your own.

Much of Google’s financial success is attributed to its ad program. However, this has started to encounter problems recently due to click fraud. You will also notice that Web site owners’ desperate attempts at getting people to click on Google ads is leading to some very opaque placement of ads. That is, it is not at all clear that you are clicking on an ad. One example is this site where the user may think that the links below the four pictures on the top of the page have something to do with the images, but that’s a wrong assumption. This may lead to more initial clicks, but long term users may get weary and although they may continue to click through to a list of results, they won’t take the extra step to click on anything on the list of results.

In the meantime, Yahoo’s ad program is gaining prominence. Not only have several big sites switched to it (e.g. CNN, The Washington Post), but they are now also targeting smaller content providers. Who is to say AOL Time Warner won’t come out with its own such service as well? And Microsoft has already announced that it will be moving into this space soon.

Given all these recent developments, it makes sense for Google to focus on more than just search. Or even if search remains its main source of revenue, it makes sense for it to develop super detailed profiles of its users. It helps advertisers to have as much information about the audience as possible and the profiles generated through the use of Google’s web of services will offer immense details about many of its users.

It would be very naive to think that new players can enter this market easily at this point. However, there are some old ones that remain viable alternatives. Of course, from the user’s perspective this is a very healthy thing. Whether MSN or Google, we wouldn’t want one company holding a monopoly on all of our online doings.

As for my part, I continue to use a variety of services from various companies partly so my profile at any one of them doesn’t become too detailed.

RSS via email

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

This is a test post to see how/whether RMail works with my blog. If it does then I should receive an email about this entry being posted.

Perhaps I’ll say a few additional words about what’s going on here given that not many people seem to know what RSS means. According to Wikipedia: “RSS provides short descriptions of web content together with links to the full versions of the content. This information is delivered as an XML file called RSS feed, webfeed, RSS stream, or RSS channel. In addition to facilitating syndication, RSS allows a website’s frequent readers to track updates on the site using a news aggregator.”

People can track updates to selected Web sites by getting feeds from them. This allows tracking content without actually having to visit each Web site of interest separately. Rather, RSS readers (e.g. Bloglines) aggregate the feeds and present them in one location. However, not many people seem to use such services. I have set up a few (I have an account on Bloglines and I have also set up some feeds using the Live Bookmarks feature of Firefox, which can add feeds to the Bookmarks menu of the browser), but I don’t tend to use them much. Instead, I’ve always thought receiving email notification of new posts would be ideal. RMail is supposed to do just that. I’ll see if it works. (I’m also curious to know how it handles updates to a post that’s already been published. If it sends out a separate email each time an entry is updated then I’ll want to be careful about tweaking a post after putting it up on the blog.)

UPDATE: It works! I did get notification of the post, although not immediately. I have since been able to test it on the post that follows this one as well. That notification arrived about half an hour after the entry had been posted to the blog. That sounds good to me. I don’t have to hear immediately. So I have now added some more feeds to RMail and will see how it works. I wish there was an easier URL though. I always think to look for, but then realize the URL starts with k. Is a possibility Randy?

Create a Web page full of post-it notes

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

This is somewhat random and I don’t know if I’ll end up using it much, but it’s interesting enough to pass along: customized stickies on a Web page. (That link points to one I just set up for my Web-Use Project. You can see the service’s main homepage here.)

Some first impressions regarding features:
1. The user should be able to change the graphic in the upper left-hand corner of the page. That’s the location where one expects to see the title of a page and it’s confusing to have the company’s general logo there. In the least, the user should be able to specify “User’s Protopage” to taylor it to the specific page a bit.
2. It’s a bit annoying to have all the links opening up in new tabs (or new windows). Why not the current one?

As I said, I’m not sure if there will be much use for this, but it’s nifty enough to try out.

Firefox/GMail problem

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

Continuing the discussion about browser/program nuisances, I just noticed something else that’s not right. I use GMail for most of my emailing. (For some emails I’m still a Pine user.:-)

I prefer to compose messages in plain text. Previously, when I pressed Reply (or simply clicked in the text area), Plain Text would come up as the default option. Now Rich Formatting appears. Moreover, my cursor is not automatically inserted in the text area, I have to click in it. This didn’t used to happen either. This latter component is especially annoying as it requires a mouse movement whereas I prefer to be able to do things relying solely on the keyboard. (And note that even if I use the keyboard shortcut for Reply “r”, the cursor is still not placed in the text area.)

It all seems to work just fine in IE.

So is there a compatibility problem between Firefox 1.0.6 and GMail?

Is there a way I can force the compose window to default to Plain Text view?

All this is making me wonder whether I should have started out the title of the last post with Firefox as well since that seems to be the culprit here. Otherwise, it would be quite a coincidence that just when I upgrade Firefox things start to get weird.

Geography of E-Blog visitors

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

This map shows the geographical location of E-Blog visitors, courtesy of This one is the map for

UPDATE: I just realized the maps only show the geo location of the last twenty visitors, fyi.

Bottom-up creativity and its new challengers

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

A propos the spread of social bookmarking and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week that file-sharing programs can be held responsible for copyright infringement, this article in today’s NYTimes does a nice job of summarizing some of the ways in which various new online services are leading to more and more bottom-up creativity and content whose sharing does not necessarily constitute copyright infringement.

But bottom-up creativity may depend on more traditional avenues at times and the article doesn’t address this other side of the issue at all. For an example, take note that some photo labs (e.g. Walmart, like they really needed to come up with more reasons to alienate people) have decided not to print people’s photos if they look too professional. The burden seems to be on the amateur photographer to prove that the picture was really taken in her own back yard. ARGH.

Google Earth!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

If you thought Google Maps and the corresponding satellite images were cool then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a word to describe the experience of using Google Earth. Before you get too excited, do check to see if your computer meets the current requirements.

I don’t think you have to be a geography geek like me (I did take four years of high school geography after all) to appreciate this service. It’s amazing. You can zoom in more than on GMaps, you can tilt the image, you can get driving directions superimposed on the satellite images, you can get road names added, dining options included and much more.

In line with this article in today’s NYTimes, neither the directions nor some of the locations of things are always correct, but they’re close. Go play.


Can you prove that you were on a flight?

Monday, June 27th, 2005

The other day I found myself in the curious position of having to prove that I had been on a flight in order to be allowed to return home. The only explanation I could come up with for the airline having no record of my presence on the flight there is that the gate agent had failed to scan in my boarding pass. As far as I can tell I had done everything “by the book”. In this day and age of being tracked in so many situations and so many ways, I found it an interesting twist that I could think of no way of proving (no way that the ticketing agent seemed to find satisfactory) that I had, indeed, been on the plane and should be allowed to return home on my originally scheduled flight. Details follow.

Read the rest of this entry »

NYTimes promotes BugMeNot.. again

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

I found it curious that in March of this year The New York Times mentioned the Web site in an article to which I included a link in the May 16, 2005 issue of E-LIST. Curiously, a new NYTimes article published this weekend repeats this recommendation.

For those not in the know, BugMeNot helps you find a username and password for sites that require registration. This means that you can proceed to viewing articles on, say, sites like without having to create an account for yourself on such sites.

Firefox users may be interested in this helpful extension that allows use of BugMeNot through the click of a button.

SATC complete DVD set

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Amazon is having a big DVD sale event and they have the complete Sex And The City set on sale for 43% off. (I don’t know if this is a unique sale price or if this is how much it is always. I just saw it and thought I’d mention it.) It’s not cheap, it still costs about $145, but that’s considerably cheaper than what I paid for the individual parts (I’d rather not reflect on the specifics of that actually) although thanks to some friends some parts came as gifts. So yes, this sale is not particularly relevant to me as I already own the whole set, but I did want to alert any other SATC enthusiasts out there to this item. Or if you have been wondering about SATC, this may be your time to take the plunge. This is the kind of series that is worth owning, because its entertainment value lasts through multiple viewings.

Helpful search tool

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Thanks to browsing people’s bookmarks I came across the following helpful online service: YubNub. As its creator Jon Aquino explains, it is “a command-line for the web”. Impressively, it was his submission for a 24-hour programming contest.

What does it do? It helps you access search results on various sites directly. That is, say you want to search for a book on Amazon. As long as a command has already been created for searching on Amazon, you can simply enter the following in YubNub:
amazon booktitle
and you will be redirected to Amazon’s search results for “booktitle”. Or let’s say you want to search for an address on Google Maps, you can just enter:
gmaps address
and YubNub redirects you to the Google Maps result.

What is additionally great about YubNub is that if a command does not yet exist for your preferred search, you can add it.

To try it out, I created a command for searching the archives of Crooked Timber. If you go to YubNub and start your search query by typing in ct and then proceeding with whatever terms are of interest then you will be redirected to the results of your search here on CT.

So now you may be thinking: Well, that’s nice, but why would I bother going to to run the query instead of just going directly to the site where I want to run my search? Because you don’t have to go to Several people have written Firefox search plugins for YubNub. So assuming you use Firefox and have a search toolbar in your Firefox browser, you can just add this as an additional engine.[1] MOREOVER, because YubNub defaults to Google when you do not enter a specific command, you can just leave YubNub as the default engine in your toolbar and still use Google (assuming that’s of interest) for generic searches without commands.

The service is evolving. Its creator has some suggestions and it sounds like he continues to work on it. Unfortunately, there is no way to make corrections to typos in submitted command lines so for now that has to be handled through emails. It is also easy to see how some people may create numerous commands that are not very interesting to most people. But overall, it’s a great service, I recommend trying it out!

For those savvy Firefox users who are wondering how this adds to already existing features in Firefox I should mention Jon Aquino’s inspiration for creating this service: not having to replicate the same keywords on different machines. For those of us who use more than one machine this is very helpful. Thanks to YubNub, it’s enough to add it to the toolbar and you’re ready to go.

1. Far be it from me to assume that you do use Firefox. But this would be a good time to start.

Massage cushion

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Recently I tried the HoMedics TherapistSelect Shiatsu Massaging Cushion at a friend’s house. These massage gadgets never did anything for me, but this particular item really does make a difference. In fact, a few days later, we had a party at my friend’s and people took turns sitting in the chair with this cushion.

Yesterday, I was browsing Amazon’s Web site for gift ideas. I came upon this product on their Web site. But of course I didn’t simply go ahead and purchase it. I first looked around to see if I could find it for a better price somewhere else. And I did. has it on sale for $79.99 including free shipping. I just put in my order.

If the sale is over by the time you read this, you may want to check out PriceGrabber’s comparison chart for the best deal.

Monday, June 6th, 2005

I have finally started a page. I don’t know why it took me so long. Social bookmarking is a neat idea. It is helpful to browse the bookmarks of others. It is especially interesting to see who else has linked to the pages you choose as worthy of marking for future reference. Let me know if you’re an E-BLOG reader and have one of your own, I’d be curious to see the interests of those reading this blog.

My G!

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Google arrives at Yahoo! 1999.

MyYahoo! in 2000

[Image extracted from the Web Archive.]

For something that’s been around for so long (personalized portal pages) My Google isn’t offering much at this point. But how interesting that they have picked sites like Slashdot as one of only a dozen options to feature for now. I would like to see the behind-the-scenes of what led to these twelve particular items being featured. Some are quite obvious (e.g. redirection to Google movie searches or Google Maps), but others probably have to do with deals. Gosh, all this reminds me of my article in 2000 on the role of portals in channeling user attention online. I discuss the implications of the underlying commercial decisions in this piece.