Tag Archives: Google

Trivial Google annoyance

Google have changed their page so that the order of search shortcuts is now Web, Images, Video, News, Maps – and then a “more” item which pops up a box with further search types.

My default behaviour is that if I can’t find the answer to my query on a Web search, I immediately go for Groups. That used to be one extra click, now it is two. It’s trivial, but annoying. I suppose I should write myself a Greasemonkey script to put things back the way I want them… actually somebody has probably already written one… [goes off to check]

Google competes with Flickr

Not content with firing yet more shots across Microsoft’s bows with their Spreadsheets, and with an assault on PayPal rumoured, Google today announced a test version of Picasa Web Albums.

My usage of Flickr has dropped off recently since I’ve not been out with my camera so much… I’m not a huge Picasa fan, so I’m not sure how much I’ll use this new feature. I expect I’ll stick with Flickr. You, however, might want to take a look.

Google Earth for Linux

I’ve tried to run Google Earth under Wine on Linux once or twice, but I’ve always had problems with fonts and screen redrawing.

Now, the latest version of Google Earth is available with a Linux version. For all platforms, it looks like the UI has had a bit of a revamp, buildings can be textured, and it should work faster. Can’t wait to give it a try later.

Google does Spreadsheets

I received my invitation to trial Google Spreadsheets today (previously mentioned by Anton)

I immediately logged on, and was presented with a nice-looking blank sheet. I can’t be bothered to fill in a whole load of cells manually, so I thought I’d start out by importing an Excel file from my local disk – I suspect a fair number of first-time users will go down this route.

google-sheet2

Once uploaded, it displayed without any obvious problems.

google-sheet1

Scrolling through the sheet, it turned out that a few Excel features are not supported:

  • vertical text was replaced with horizontal text
  • drop down lists don’t appear
  • images were not imported
  • hyperlinks between cells and to other files are converted to plain text, and no longer work

I guess these are not going to be widely used by a basic user, and it is certainly no big deal for me – I’m just a curious techie 😉

One of the Excel features I do miss is that creation of a series by dragging down on the bottom right-hand corner of a cell doesn’t seem to work, and I can’t see any obvious way of achieving this.

Interesting that the OpenOffice.org spreadsheet format is not supported as an import option, although of course you could export from OO.o as .xls or .csv and import from one of those.

In general, the user interface is consistent with other Google offerings like GMail, and works well – and it is reasonably fast.

Of course, I’ve failed to mention the key features:

  • Google will store your data for you. This could be dangerous for corporate users – I’m certainly not going to be importing any of my work-related spreadsheets.
  • Data sharing. I can invite others to view or edit my spreadsheet, based on their email addresses. This is cool, but again, I’m nervous about what data I could reasonably share over the Internet.

So, there’s a brief review. It seems like this is a handy (if basic) tool, if you don’t already have OpenOffice, Excel, or some other desktop spreadsheet program.

Google Maps no good for navigation

I’d like to make the observation that Google Maps absolutely sucks as a route planner.

I’m not sure how popular this suggestion will be, but let me tell you why I think that way…

This weekend I needed to drive from Farnborough to Walthamstow, and after that on to East Croydon. I confidently expected to get to Walthamstow by driving clockwise around the M25 and heading into London on the A10 towards Enfield. Google Maps wanted to send me into London on the A40, and across on the North Circular.

  1. There’s no way of selecting particular types of road as a preference over others.
  2. There’s no way of telling Google Maps to route around / avoid areas.
  3. There’s no way of selecting average speeds, fuel costs, etc. (although this is arguably not necessary)
  4. The printouts are awful. Truly, truly terrible. It doesn’t even print out the line along which you will be travelling clearly. There’s so little control, it makes me want to weep.

Microsoft AutoRoute (I’m still on AR 2001, haven’t upgraded to MapPoint or anything newer) not only chose my expected route on the way there, but got the costs, timing, etc. virtually perfect, and also let me print out clear maps at a variety of levels of detail. I hate being indebted to Microsoft software, but in this case, it is clearly better.

Of course, if my TomTom satnav had arrived last week, as Expansys told me 3 times that it should (!!!), then I wouldn’t have been in so much agony in the first place…

Oh, I also discovered that the cross-city route from north to south London via the Blackwall Tunnel is a terrible way to spend a Sunday afternoon in May. 2 hours to travel 10 miles. Should have gone back out to the M25 and followed it round clockwise, but I decided to go with the Autoroute option…