Remember Geordi La Forge, the blind Star Trek engineer who wore a kind of weird prosthetic glasses that enabled him to see? Well, we may not yet have come that far, but, if Google has their way, someday we will be able to wear glasses that augment our reality.
A few week’s ago, the folks at Mozilla came out with a new version of their Firefox web browser – Firefox 5. They declared that Firefox 4, which I was using, had security holes and recommended that everyone upgrade to version 5 immediately.So I upgraded to Firefox 5.
A problem was immediatly apparent. There were no updates for several of the add-ons that I was using. The most important one to me was the Google Toolbar which I used to access my Google Bookmarks.
I could still access my Google Bookmarks by going to the Google Bookmarks webpage, but it simply wasn’t as convenient as having an icon right on my toolbar for my bookmarks. I tried putting my bookmark page in the Firefox favorite bar, but again, it wasn’t as convenient as having an icon that would drop down a list of my bookmarks.
The solution was to install an add-on called the Compatibility Reporter. This allowed me to install and use the Google Toolbar without a problem.
I was pretty happy until I realized that Google did not seem to be as punctual as usual with an update for the Google Toolbar for Firefox 5. A little research gave me the answer. Google was not going to do an update. There would be no Google Toolbar for Firefox 5. Google claims that the “new browsers’ are capable enough on their own and don’t need an add-on like the Google toolbar.” But I was a Google Toolbar and Google Bookmark user from Day 1. I love the Google Toolbar. It not only lets me search quickly, but it gives me quick links to my Google websites. It highlights chosen words. It translates. It auto-fills forms. It lets me share info with others quickly. I also love Firefox and have accumulated a bunch of wonderful add-ons that I use everyday. Although my work-around withe the Compatibility Reporter is currently working, as new Firefox versions appear, this may not work anymore.
I am both angry and disappointed. What would make Google do this? Unless I am missing something, Google must be trying to get users away from Firefox in hopes of having them change to Chrome, Google’s browser. If the reson that Google gave for discontinuing Google Toolbar, “that new browsers are capable enough without their toolbar”, then they will discontinue the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer as well.
If this means an end to Google Toolbar, it is a sad day for all those who have come to rely on the convience that the Google Toolbar offers.
Today’s Google Doodle honoring Les Paul is one of the most enjoyable Doodle’s that I’ve seen — and it’s interactive.
In celebration of Les Paul’s 96th birthday, Google’s home page exhibits an interactive guitar that of course, spells out “Google”. If you go to Google’s home page today, you can actually play on the guitar. You can even record your masterpiece. For those of you who miss this, check out my recording. You won’t be impressed by my musical ability, but the interactive guitar is fantastic.
Also, here is a YouTube video from someone who took the time to create a song on the interactive guitar.
Last month Google started a new Gmail feature called “Call Phones”. While you could previously use Google Chat to chat with online friends while using Gmail, this new feature allows Gmail users to call phones right from their email account. What a great idea! Not everyone is always online. So when you are checking your email and you want to discuss something in further detail, you can now reach your friends whether they are online or not.
You simply click on the “Call Phone” link that appears on the left side of the screen and Google will immediately place the call. Calls to anyone in the United States and Canada are currently free. This includes calls to landlines and cell phones. Calls to other countries are cheap, as little as 2 cents a minute for many. Check the Google Voice website (https://www.google.com/voice/rates) for rates. The new service even includes computer-to-computer video calls.
Gmail users took to this new feature by the droves. In the first week, they made more than 10 million calls using the new Call Phones Gmail feature. I was among the new users. I couldn’t wait to try out this new free service. Every landline, cell phone call, and International call that I made was crisp and clear. Like Skype, there was a slight delay on International video calls. I made some calls with Skype and immediately followed them up by making the same call with Gmail. I would have to do a larger sampling from various Internet connections to give call this a real test, but in my limited testing, the Gmail calls were equal to or slightly better than the Skype calls.
With Skype you get free computer-to-computer calling but have to pay a fee for calling land lines or cell phones. With Gmail even these calls are free. However, Google has only promised free calls for the rest of this year. After that, they may be charging for some or all of the calls.
If you already have a Gmail account, you can try out this new service right from your Gmail screen. If you don’t yet have a Gmail account, sign up for one at www.google.com/gmail. Once you install and open Gmail, you just click on the “Call Phone” link. You will be prompted to download the Google voice and video plug-in. Then a window with a dialer keypad will appear. Place the call by typing the names of a contact in your Google contact list or by entering a number clicking “Call”.
Of course, you must have a microphone on your computer to take advantage of this free calling. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one for just a few dollars or you can invest a little more and get a web cam that will sit on top of your monitor and act as both a camera and a microphone.
The Gmail calling feature works just as it is. But it can be augmented by another Google free service called Google Voice. If you have a free Google Voice account, you can also get incoming calls through Gmail. Once you set up Google Voice, you can have calls to your Google number, which they give you at no added cost, forwarded to your cell phone or other lines as well. To use Google Voice with Gmail you will have to click on the Settings in Google Voice and put a check mark in the box next to Google Chat in the list of forwarding phones.
Using Google Voice in conjunction with Gmail will also give you access to even more features such as call screening. With this you can send a caller to voicemail and listen while they leave you a message. You can click “Join” at any time to pick up the call.
With Google Voice, you can also get several other perks. Your voice mails can be turned into text and sent to you as email. You can record incoming calls. You can switch from a call that you took or placed while in Gmail to any phone that you have listed as a forwarding number in Google Voice. So you can start a conversation on your computer, but finish it on your cell phone. If you use the Google Chrome web browser, you can click on any telephone number you find online and have Google dial it for you. Google is constantly adding new features, so you can expect Gmail Calling and Google Voice to just keep getting better and better.
I only found two caveats when using Gmail to make phone calls. The first one is that the calling window comes up in the extreme lower right of the screen and may be obscured by other windows. The other is that your microphone may not be automatically recognized by Gmail. If that is the case, click on Settings, choose the Chat tab, and then choose the proper microphone.
Google’s free calling may not be around forever, so if you want to try it out, do it now. In today’s economy, any way we can cut costs is more than welcome.
When three companies like Google, Verizon, and HTC (an impressive hardware company) get together, the results have got to be good. At first I thought that they were being a little arrogant when they named this phone “Incredible.” After testing, however, I’ve decided that the name is justly given. This phone really is pretty incredible!
I spent the first few days of testing trying to pry the Incredible out of my husband’s hands. Now you have to understand that he is not at all a geek. In fact, he usually looks at the phones I review, presses a few buttons and hand them over to me. However, the Incredible really got his attention. He thought it was remarkably easy to use. Before I knew it he was checking his email and making phone calls on the Incredible. In fact, he liked it so much that he wants me to look into changing to Verizon so he can get an Incredible.
That said, I also liked the Incredible. The hardware is very good. It is probably not as spectacular as I expect the upcoming iPhone 4 to be, but it was the Incredible’s operating system and interface that impressed me. The Google Android 2.1 operating system is much better than previous versions and Verizon has already announced that the Incredible will get Android 2.2 soon. Add to that the fact that Android is supplemented with the HTC Sense interface and you have a real winner.
Not only can you do voice search on this phone, but it’s voice recognition is good enough to be able to speak your email message and have the phone type it for you. The Sense interface allows you to have 7 home pages and to access each by clicking on a thumbnail rather than scrolling through each one. On top of that, I found the HTC on-screen touch keypad easier to use than the touch keypads on either the iPhone or the regular Droid.
Browsing on this phone is quite pleasurable as screens appear quickly. Also, when you pinch-to-zoom, the text redraws itself automatically so there is a lot less scrolling. The speed of the processor shows up in other tasks as well. I never had to wait for the Incredible to perform a task. This phone also has a good camera with an excellent interface. I could only find one major flaw in the phone. It is difficult to see in bright sunlight. All-in-all though, this is a phone that will appeal to all levels of users.
Check out my detailed review with pictures at HardwareSecrets.com.