Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Google Hindu Calendar with Timezones!

Starting from 2010, the Google Hindu Calendar is being published in different versions for seven different timezones. You can click on the links below to open the calendars for the timezones you are interested in. At the bottom right-hand corner of each calendar, you will find a button which will let you add the calendar to your Google account.

Google Hindu Calendar Timezones:

The above calendars display dates of Hindu festivals, New Moon days, Full Moon days, ekAdashi (11th day of the fortnight), Hindu months and years.

Thanks to Pandit Mahesh Shastriji, of the My Panchang fame, for all his hard work in calculating the data for these calendars and providing the data to me in a format that could be easily imported into Google Calendar.

If there are any questions, please ask them in the comments to this post. I will answer as soon as I can.

Edited on 1/17/2010: Added Hindu Calendars for Australia and New Zealand timezones.

Edited on 1/27/2017: Added Hindu Calendars for Dubai and Singapore timezones.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

THE gPhone could be imminent

About 18 months ago, I called for Google to make a super phone it could call its own. Looks like that could become a reality soon.

The blogosphere has been abuzz in the past few weeks with rumors of THE Google Phone coming to the market early next year. The Google Mobile blog lent a lot credence to that rumor when it admitted:
We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

Sounds like there may be some really innovative features/services on this device. Google wouldn't be announcing companywide dogfooding, while keeping the specific details of the device a secret, if this was merely an incremental improvement to existing Android phones. There could indeed be some truth to the "iPhone on steroids" quote.

The next few days are going to be exciting. You cannot distribute something to thousands of people across the world and expect everything to be in the dark for long. You also wouldn't get only a small batch of several thousand units of an expensive phone manufactured for just a company gift. So, we will see this phone on the market sooner rather than later.

Update on 12/13/2009:
That didn't take long! By now, it's confirmed that the phone Google gave out to its employees is the previously leaked HTC Passion, now being called Nexus One. Pictures on Engadget.

Hardware-wise, there doesn't seem to be any revolutionary features in this phone so far. We'll have to wait for details about the software and service to see if there's anything of interest there. I wouldn't be surprised if my theory from yesterday that this might be a major step forward in the Android stable of phones is proved wrong. This might be nothing more than a small incremental improvement on existing Android phones.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update your Facebook privacy settings ASAP!

If you are a Facebook user, you should review and update your privacy settings ASAP.

Today, Facebook has changed most of your settings to be public by default. Public not just to everyone on Facebook, but to everyone on the Internet! As if that douche move was not enough, they are busy making deals with Internet search engines and assorted other marketers to sell your dirt. What that means is that, someone like say a prospective employer, could search for your name online and find your not-so-professional Facebook status messages!

Facebook claims on their blog that for "sensitive information, like photos and videos in which you've been tagged and your phone number, we'll be recommending a more restrictive setting".

I don't know what they mean by "recommending", but on my Facebook profile, I found that they had selected photos to be shared with everyone (on the Internet!) by default. This was true of almost every other setting, except for my email address.

Once your data is published to others, deleting it from Facebook won't delete it from other places. Facebook makes this clear in its privacy policy, which 99.99% of Facebook users don't bother reading:
If you delete “everyone” content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bangalore and San Francisco now Sister Cities

Bangalore and San Francisco are now sister cities. Bangalore and San Francisco today signed seven Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) declaring the "sister cities" arrangement. The MoUs were signed in the presence of Chief Minister B S Yedddyurappa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Considering that Bangalore has long been called the Silicon Valley of India (although it's actually a plateau, geographically speaking) and the San Francisco Bay Area has been a cradle of America's technology start-ups in recent decades, one wonders what took so long for the two cities to partner up.

According to news reports and what seems to be the initiative's official website, the two cities will be partnering in the following areas:
  • Infrastructure and Better Government
  • Education and Healthcare
  • Women's and Children's Issues
  • Arts and Performances
  • Business and Trade Facilitation
  • Leadership 2020

Anybody notice something conspicuously missing in the above list? Where is technology? I would have expected that to be the top item!

Bangalore is touted as the Silicon Valley of India. It has been the birth place of such IT stalwarts as Infosys, the most popular example of India's garage/home start-ups, Wipro Technology, the IT services company that is Wipro Corporation's best known division, and a host of other software services companies. But the city appears nowhere in the map of the world's hotspots for start-up companies. This sister city partnership could be an avenue to encourage the start-up companies in the Bay Area's Silicon Valley to partner with young companies in Bangalore for their technology development needs.

No doubt, start-up companies in the US don't usually have a well-structured process that is so essential for offshore partnerships to work effectively. And the IT companies in India prefer to work with stable, established companies in the US which provide steady and big-dollar contracts. But small IT companies in Bangalore led by the right kind of efficient and ambitious leaders could provide real value to America's start-ups.

Bangalore lacks the venture capital that flows into the American Silicon Valley in abundance. But Bangalore has an abundance of manpower it could provide at much lower costs to the American start-ups. In exchange, Bangalore's small companies could get paid in a combination of hourly dollars and stock options. If a start-up becomes a hit, the rewards could be much higher than the average hourly rate American companies pay to offshore techies from Bangalore. It is a niche-play, but there is potential.

Hopefully someone in one of the sister city sub-committees will see this potential and do something to encourage it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Notes from the Future - Introducing Google Lifeline

The following post was published on the The Official Google Blog on October 15th, 2015.

Introducing Google Lifeline

Posted by A S, Innovation Evangelist

Today I am pleased to present a whole new way of organizing - and searching, of course - all your life's information: Google Lifeline.

Lifeline is a chronological view of every bit of information you have collected in your Google account. Think of it as a really detailed, really accurate and totally searchable personal history.

Lifeline gathers all your personal data and presents it in a well-integrated, intuitive timeline interface. Just click on any point of the timeline and you will be able to read, listen or watch all the data you have collected during that timeframe. You can bring up every email, document, bill, photo, video, purchase, prescription, phonecall from that time period. You can zoom in to narrow down the timeframe to a particular second in time or you can zoom out all the way to include your entire Google lifetime. Your Google lifetime begins when you sign up for a Google account to use any of Google's popular services.

Here are some of the interesting uses that our employees have found for Google Lifeline during our internal tests:

1. Susan, a user since the days of its beta opening and long before it was acquired by Google, was able to do a quick search to find out how much she has spent at coffee shops per year, in the last five years. Although she knew that she is a coffee addict, the answer still shocked her.

2. Rob, who uses his Google Checkout-enabled phone to make purchases in grocery stores and restaurants, is able to analyze his entire grocery shopping and eating-out history for the past 5 years for "heart-stoppingly good" items he has purchased and compare it side-by-side to his medical history from Google Health, to discover how his dietary habits affect his health.

3. Melissa was curious to see what her highest electricity consumption in a 24-hour period was and when that happened. Melissa has a Google Powermeter installed in her house and the data of her electricity usage has been integrated into Lifeline. It showed a clear spike in her power consumption on a day in late 2009. Curious to know more about why her power consumption was so high, Melissa zoomed in to the one week period before and after the high-power day and browsed her purchases in Lifeline. It showed that she had bought a brand new big-screen TV, party supplies and the DVD version of the latest Star Trek movie. That reminded Melissa, an avid Trekkie, about the Star Trek party she had hosted for fellow-Trekkies with a marathon showing of every Star Trek episode and movie on her new big-screen TV. Melissa was able to view the photos and videos from that party on the Lifeline - photos and videos that she had uploaded to Picasa, as well as the ones uploaded and shared by all her friends.

4. Ashwini has an unusual hobby - she collects "heartstones", stones which are shaped like hearts. She has picked them up from her hikes and travels all over the world, from undersea dives to tops of mountains to cheap jewellery stores in middle Eastern flea markets. Every time she picks up a new stone, she takes a picture of the stone and uploads it to her online album. Ashwini was browsing her heartstone pictures on Lifeline and she came across her very first stone, which had been a gift from her husband when they had barely known each other for a week! Using Lifeline, she was quickly able to bring up all the emails and text messages she had exchanged with him around that time and re-live the heady days of their budding romance. She was even able to listen to the songs her husband sang to her on her Google Voice voicemail during the days of their courtship. She was able to do all this without leaving the Lifeline page even once.

5. The most romantic Lifeline story is perhaps my own. You are already aware that if you use a GPS-enabled phone, you can record every step you take on a trip to form your personal 'trails' on Google Maps. The feature of viewing photos from a trip as a time-compressed virtual trip on Google Maps or Google Earth is much appreciated and used by our users. Now this information is also available on Google Lifeline. I was analyzing the shared trip data of all the Google employees on Lifeline, when I noticed that one person's trails seemed to intersect my own trails quite often. It appeared that over the years, this person had visited many places either shortly before or after I had been there. There were occasions when we had been in the same place on the same day, perhaps missing each other by mere minutes or by a distance of a few hundred feet! Given Google's significant employee count, I had never come across this person's name before. And given that we worked on opposite coasts, there was little chance of us running into each other in the office hallways or cafeteria. Yet, our travel trails had been intersecting in places far and wide, across the globe, quite often and regularly in the preceding 5 years. The number of intersecting points - in time and space - were high enough to be statistically significant. I shot off an email to this person to share the strange serendipity in our travel trails. I am extremely happy to say that for the past year, our travel trails have not been intersecting, they have been coinciding, in both time and space. And, we hope it will be so forever in the future. I won't claim that I would not have met my fiance, if not for Google Lifeline. The way our trails were intersecting, we were destined to run into each other sooner or later. But Lifeline did help make it sooner rather than later, by helping me see the intersections of our trails in both space and time.

Today I am really excited to open up Lifeline to everybody, to help organize your life's information and access it easily. I can't wait to hear stories of the innovative uses that you will no doubt find for this awesome tool.

PS: You might also be interested in the first 'Notes from the Future' feature on this blog - My Buddy. This one was published long before anybody had heard about Apple's iPhone. Interestingly, I had originally named it "Google Buddy" until friends advised me to get rid of the Google name.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Unlimited Free Calls With Google Voice

Does your cellphone service have a myFaves or My Circle type of feature? Then you can use Google Voice to make unlimited phone calls. Before I show how, do you know what Google Voice is? Read on...

As an existing Grand Central user, I was invited a couple of days ago to switch to the newest service from Google called Voice. Google bought Grand Central in July 2007, and it took so long for them to release it as their own service. I must say the new Gmail-like interface of Google Voice is extremely elegant and intuitive to use, compared to the old Grand Central interface. In fact, I LOVE the new interface.

Google Voice is essentially a call forwarding service. When you sign-up for the service (it is still not open to the general public - apparently, I'm no longer 'general public' ;-)), you will choose a phone number to be assigned to your account. When people call this number, you can set it up so that it will forward the call to any of your numerous phones simultaneously. You can answer the call from any phone that is close to you. So, you can give out this one number as your permanent phone number to people, and never have to miss a call. When you change your office, home or cell phone number, there is no longer a need to update everyone because your Google Voice number will still be the same and it can be setup to forward calls to your new number. That is the core service.

In addition to the core service, there are a number of other features which make this a very useful thing to sign up for - you can choose to send an incoming call directly to the voice mail and listen-in on the voice mail while it is being recorded, you can cut in on a voice mail while it is being recorded, you can record a personal greeting for every contact in your address book (the service is integrated with your Gmail's Contacts), you can host free conference calls, send free text messages, receive text messages, make very cheap international calls and make free calls to anywhere in the US.

And, you could rig your Google Voice service to make unlimited free calls from your cell phone. Here's how:

1. You need a myFaves or My Circle type of service which lets you make unlimited phone calls from your cell phone to specific phone numbers, which you can designate as your unlimited calls circle.

2. Add your Google Voice number to your myFaves or My Circle unlimited calls circle.

3. Go to your Google Voice page and initiate a call from there, choosing your cell phone as the "Phone to ring". Google Voice will dial out the number you wish to call and it will simultaneously ring your cell phone to connect you to the call. The caller-ID on your cell phone will appear as if the call is coming from your Google Voice number. And since this number is part of your unlimited calls circle, you can talk as long as you want on this call, without using up any of your cell phone minutes. That is how you can make unlimited outgoing calls from your cell phone using the Google Voice interface.

4. You can also use the Google Voice number to receive unlimited incoming calls on your cell phone. To do this, you should add your Google Voice number to your unlimited calls circle. Then, configure your Google Voice service to display your Google Voice number as the caller-ID whenever people call that number, instead of displaying the caller's phone number. Now, every time people call your Google Voice number, your cell phone will only see your Google Voice number as the caller-ID. Since your Google Voice number is part of your unlimited calls circle, the received call will be totally free as well regardless of how long you talk. Only draw back about receiving call this way is that, you lose the ability see the caller's true phone number on your cell phone screen.

Even if you don't use Google Voice to extend your free cell phone minutes, it is still a great service in its own right. If Google can integrate this service with Google Talk and release Google Voice apps for smartphones, that'll be sweet.

Keep an eye out for this service so that you can sign up as soon as they open up to the public. If you are already a Google Voice user and you know of any other cool tricks to extend its utility, leave a comment.

Update on 3/22/2009: If you are too impatient to wait until Google opens up this service to the general public, you can try earning an invite by leaving a funny voice message to the Google Voice team on (408) 72-VOICE. If the Google team likes your message, they will send you an invite. Check out Google Voice on Twitter for more updates.