Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

November

16

by Kaj Kandler

In the recent months I noticed hat I had rather slow ping times to www.google.com or mail.google.com. The latency to Google’s servers was in the 200 – 300 ms. In addition I noticed that when my workstation was on the Corporate VPN, I had *.google.com pings of < 40ms. As Google these days is the network contacted by so many websites for analytics or as CDN for JavaScript, etc. , it is of vital importance to have a fast connection to Google. Some quick analysis revealed, that a typical traceroute to www.google.com from my home went through 12 hops of Internet and then another 17 hops in Google's network and the latency jumped by 100ms four hops into Google's network. I found that rather odd. However, when I'm on the corporate VPN, the number of hops inside the Google network shrinks to 6-8 and their latency is much smaller. I also noticed that www.google.com had a different IP address if I used the corporate network. Measuring the latency to the IP address that I got when on the VPN showed similar latency and traceroute results. So my configured DNS servers were to blame. Back when Verizon started to break the DNS protocol in their servers I had configured some public DNS server from Level 3, namely 4.2.2.2 and 4.2.2.5 as they had the best latency at the time. I had to reconsider that decision. Armed with a free open source tool named namebench I found the fastest DNS server’s available for my connection. But it turned out that their IPs for *.google.com were as bad as the previous one’s. So I tested the two name servers that Verizon configures automatically and they provide IP addresses with 20 – 40 ms ping times and much shorter traceroutes. I guess with multi homing the Internet’s architecture has fundamentally changed. That said, Verizon still uses an intentionally broken implementation of DNS, which does not return a failure if a request can’t be resolved, instead it returns it’s own web server. I almost considered to leave it at that, as better performance seemed more important then a broken DNS. However, the usability of this “helpful” Verizon server is horrible, as it redirects to its own URL, so if I make a typo I have to essentially retype my address or edit the original request in my URL bar to correct it.

As a last resort, I tested Google’s public DNS servers 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. While Google’s DNS servers do not answer as fast as my local verizon servers, they are only marginally slower and can deliver the proper IP addresses for the Google network without breaking the DNS protocol in the process.

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I recently decided to replace the lucene based search engine on Plan-B for OpenOffice.org with a Google Custom Search engine. At first glance this seems to be an easy task. Remove the old code and replace it with some Google Java scripts. However this is not how it turned out to be.
I targeted a layout, where the search box is part of the general navigation menu bar and results appear on their own page. However the HTML/CSS code generated by Google is rather inflexible. The two page template came the closest as it generates two separate code snippets, one for the search box and button and one for the search results.
So I had to add some CSS to make the divs and its generated child elements inline elements

div#cse-search-form {
display: inline-block;
zoom: 1;
...
}
div#cse-search-form * {
display: inline;
...
}

Another inconvenience is that the JavaScript includes an absolute URL for the results page. But it also works when I omit the protocol and hostname part

options.enableSearchboxOnly("/search/index");

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I have replaced the Plan-B for OpenOffice / LibreOffice search engine with Google Custom Search.

The local search engine based on lucene was heavy on resource consumption and did require a lot of effort to keep up the indices with new or changing content. So I decided to switch to a Google Custom Search Engine.

I hope this change makes the site an even better resource or OpenOffice and LibreOffice users. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve search on the site.

November

08

by Kaj Kandler

While Everex started selling its low cost PC for <$200 at WalMart, it now offers the motherboard, CPU and OS bundled for $60. Add some memory and a hard drive ($40) and salvage an old computer case, power supply, keyboard and mouse ($0) and your are up and running for $100 and a little sweat equity. LinuxDevices.com has an in depth report about Everex’s plans for its Linux and Google applications based $200 PC. LinuxDevices reports that Everex hopes to sell 50,000 to 60,000 PC’s through WalMart. The main concern for profitability are the support costs, which Everex hopes to keep under $30 per sale.

The developer board comes with the CPU and a DVD containing the ready to install gOS Operating System. According to the article, gOS is an Ubuntu based Linux distribution with the Enlightenment Window manager for the low cost PC is called gOS like in Google OS for its inclusion of all Google online tools available and pre installed. The vision is to use online Google tools for Search, E-Mail, Calendar, Bookmarks, Text Documents, Spreadsheets, and more. If needed local applications, such as the office suite OpenOffice.org are included as well. gOS is also open source and available for download, but it appears the version delivered with the board or the PC is pre configured to the hardware and adds programs for multimedia (playing mp3, DVD, etc.). You can’t expect an abundance of performance from the Via C7 processor, however, it does a good job with web browsing and running basic applications and multi media playback.

September

13

by Kaj Kandler

I don’t know how you visualize ecosystems, for me they resemble a picture of a jungle with lots of nurishing water, beautiful plants, colorful birds and some dangerous snakes lurking on trees.

The newest take on the multitude of products derived from OpenOffice.org is to call it an ecosystem. While Sun Microsystem thinks the multiple distributions of OpenOffice.org are an ecosystem, I often feel lost in the Jungle that is. Lets list the well known distributions:

  • OpenOffice.org – the “Original”
  • StarOffice – the commercial version from Sun Micosystems
  • StarSuite – a sun distribution targeted at the Asian market
  • StarOffice from Google – a free commercial (?) distribution
  • OpenOffice.org Novell Edition – free version with new developments by Novell and in the pipeline for integration into the “Original”
  • NeoOffice – a distribution with integration into Mac OS X Aqua UI, also contains some Novell additions
  • Retro Office – a distribution from the NeoOffice project, adding some of the Novell derived integration but not the Aqua UI integration
  • … various commercial distributions that sell the office suite with minor alterations and support plans

The jungle becomes more dense if you consider that Open Office calls its development steps “release”, while Sun counts Star Office in “version.” I find it also confusing that Sun Microsystems does offer support with its commercial Star Office but also offers support plans for Open Office.

I do welcome various distributions of the same core open source base. However, what confuses me is the product strategy of Sun. Wouldn’t it be much easier if they offered a commercial OpenOffice.org Plus packages with the add ons that can’t be licensed under open source licenses? This would simplify the value for the buyer and unify the support plan offering. It would also put the power of Sun’s advertising behind the whole project and put more mindshare into Open Office, while still retaining Sun’s ability to make money from its work.

August

15

by Kaj Kandler

Google pack has added StarOffice 8 to its line of essential applications. StarOffice is the commercial version of OpenOffice.org produced by Sun Microsystems, adding non free elements such as fonts and spell check library. You can buy StarOffice for $70 for a single license from Sun Microsystems, while Google gives it away.

This addition of Sun products to the Google pack stems from the Multi Year Strategic Agreement between Sun Microsystems and Google, reached in October 2005. The installer includes also a Java runtime environment, used by some components of StarOffice and on the list of software components Sun likes to distribute.

July

19

by Kaj Kandler

I currently happen to be with my Laptop in Barcelona, Spain. However, my PC is set up en_US with US time zone, etc. Now for Google I seem to have become a Spaniard now. When I type in www.google.com I get redirected to www.google.es, when I search something in the Firefox searchbar I get results from www.google.es. When I go to websites that serve Google AdSense, I get served Spanish advertisements.

This is nuts, because I do not speak Spanish and I can’t read it and my browser is set to the languages en, en_US, ge and pt. So no Spanish. And the site I visit, the business network LinkedIn is only available in English. So why is Google serving me like I’m a native, just because my IP address is currently in Spain?

Can anybody tell me how this is useful for me (do NO evil) or for the advertisers (do NO evil)?

In my book this is evil. It breaks the HTTP protocol, because that says the browser does determine what languages it prefers to accept and not Google or its misguided idea of localization. If they want to show me advertisement that are local to my location, fine. But please in a language that I do understand. Otherwise Google is waisting its ad space.

June

22

by Kaj Kandler

Dell Computers is further responding to its customer’s public request. After offering some of their PCs pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux, they now offer an increasing number of PCs with only a minimal set of pre-installed software packages. Gone are the AOL installers, the music players, the DVD player programs, if the customer wishes and specifies so at the time of order.

However three programs remain:

  • Google Tools – for correcting misspelled URL’s
  • PDF Reader – To read documentation delivered in this format
  • Anti Virus Software (trial versions) – “Because customers expect their computers to be protected at first boot”

To me only the Acrobat Reader makes sense, as not being able to read the documentation is not very helpful. Although one could offer the documentation either in MS Help format or in HTML, both being universally accessible with the plain operating system. Although HTML could be debatable, once IE is stripped. but in most cases some kind of browser would be installed.

The utility of Google Tools just for mis typed URL’s strikes me as odd. I don’t like this kind of technology, because it tries to guess what I want and the guesses are more often than not correct.

Last, but not least, trial version of Anti Virus Software, because customers expect it to be installed? You must be kidding me! Doesn’t the current versions of MS already include such protective software? So why need another trial version installed? I don’t like and use any of these resource killers. But this argument does not hold water for me.

So I guess Dell simply has long running contracts with these vendors and it can’t easily bail out of them. With Dell’s responses to its customers wishes, I’m hopeful, sooner or later these things will be gone as well.

It will be interesting to see how this will change the landscape. Removing such programs from PC’s will certainly be not too good for Dell’s bottom line in the short run, as the vendors of these pay a hardware manufacturer to install them. It also should have impact on the companies that use these methods to market their products. One option we might see, is that Microsoft, the still predominant player in this market either needs to lower its prices to make up for the lost revenue or it will integrate these into the OS upfront and make up for its shrinking share of business. However, Microsoft is expanding the OS functionality into anything that has successfully be developed by others. MS included web-browser, anti virus, firewall, multi media player, video creation, and much more and bundled it as part of the OS. We all know what followed.

I’m still waiting for OpenOffice.org as optional install.

June

21

by Kaj Kandler

Most user of Plan-B for OpenOffice.org don’t notice, but we do deploy Google Analytics to track visitors and a myriad of other data.

However, I’m a bit disappointed about Google Analytics last update. While the added features are much appreciated, I have to notice that a lot of buttons and links getting to this functionality are broken. I can’t set my own date range for the analysis anymore and I can’t click on the link for the new (re-appearing) hourly view.

I guess I’m getting what I’m paying for. After all this service is free.

June

13

by Kaj Kandler

If you are a Writer, using OpenOffice.org as you main tool, Dimitri Popov’sWriter for Writers and Advanced Users” might be the book for you to read. And Dimitri does know his OpenOffice, as he also publishes the “WriterTools” extension. WriterTools in version 0.7.1 includes features such as:

  • Lookup Tool – select text and lookup it up in several online references, including Cambridge Dictionaries, WordNet, and Google Define.
  • Google Translate – select text and translate it to different languages using the Google Translate service.
  • Email Backup – Backup your currently open document per E-Mail.
  • Multi-format Backup macro – saves the currently open text document Writer) as Word, RTF, and TXT formats in one command.
  • Open FTP Document – open a document stored on an FTP server and work on it locally.
  • Convert to DokuWiki converts the current document into DokuWiki format.
  • Start/Stop Timer – keep track how long you work on which document and save the data in the accompanying WriterDB database. Use it as you please, such as for billing etc.

This set of tools utilizes the new OpenOffice.org extension infrastructure. Which seems to gain momentum in general.

I find the DokuWiki macro real nifty. I bet, if it would be MediaWiki as output, a lot of Wikipedia authors would become OOo converts.