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Google Mind Melds With Trekkies

Resistance is futile. You will be compiled.

As part of the 40th anniversary of the legendary science fiction series Star Trek, Google has set up shop in Las Vegas at the 5th Annual Official Star Trek Convention for Trekkies looking to sharpen their programming knowledge.

The Google booth, which has a starship bridge motif, features Google programmers, engineers and product managers who can discuss a variety of APIs, including Google Earth KML, the Google AJAX Search API, Google Calendar's data API and the Google Gadgets API.

Microsoft Extends a Hand To Mozilla

It may be August, but they're having a snowball fight in Hell right about now.

The head of Microsoft's open source lab extended a very public offer to the Mozilla community to work to insure Mozilla software will run properly on Windows Vista.

Firefox 2.0: Mozilla's Tabs Overfloweth

For many Windows users, tabbed browsing is a key attraction for the Mozilla family of browsers. The ability to add multiple 'tabbed' views within one browser window is a feature that some users like to push to extremes.

Microsoft's current stable production version of Internet Explorer does not include tabs, though its next generation version 7 (currently at Beta 3) does.
So how many tabs can you fit in one window? No matter how many you can fit into Firefox 1.5.x, the next release of Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 will give you more.
Using a default configuration in Firefox 1.5.x, at a screen resolution of 1024x768, in tests performed by 34 tabs can be squeezed in before they start to get lost.
A user can add more than 34 tabs but in a default Firefox 1.5.x installation, those tabs will fall off the end of the tab bar and will not be very usable. Even at 34 tabs, the default tab width makes it difficult to figure out which tab is which.



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Online Chef Shares Turkey Soup Recipe

For the past week you probably have read an article or seen something on TV about how to cook and carve a turkey. What you probably have not seen is what to do with all the leftover turkey.


Celebrity chef Cat Cora of MSN® and Kraft Kitchen's online cooking show "Chef to the Rescue" has a favorite recipe to help with all that leftover turkey. On her online webisode she shares with viewers how to make turkey and potato cream soup.

Cora says that putting turkey into a soup mix after Thanksgiving prevents the turkey from becoming dry like it often does left in the refrigerator.

RECIPE (makes 8 servings)
• 4 slices Oscar Mayer Bacon
• 3 cups sliced leeks, white and tender green parts (alternatives are scallions or green onions)
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
• Salt and white pepper
• 1 1/2 cups cooked turkey meat, chopped
• 1/2 cup Breakstone's or Knudsen Sour Cream
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives or flat-leaf parsley
• Triscuit Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers, for serving
Place a soup pot over medium heat. When it's hot, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Add the leeks and garlic to the rendered bacon fat. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about three minutes. Add the chicken broth and potatoes. Cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. With a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the heat and fold in the turkey meat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and top each serving with a dollop of sour cream, crumbled bacon and sprinkling of fresh chives or parsley. Serve immediately with crackers.

Enjoy and have a happy Thanksgiving!

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Majority of Vacationers Plan Trips Online

A report published by eMarketer shows that 58% of vacation planners are planning their trips online. Conversely, only 23% of respondents made use of travel agents in their holiday plans.


The survey, conducted by morefocus, highlights the fact that more people talk to their family or friends about vacation planning rather than consulting traditional avenues such as travel agencies.

Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline are examples of sites that have seen exponential growth in recent years by providing comprehensive travel services to their customers.

"As in a number of other industries, people are using the Internet to take control of things they used to have to rely on other people for," said Dr. Regan Carey, research director at morefocus.

"Now, you can book your own hotel, plane ticket, rental car - all without leaving your home, and you probably save money, too."

He concluded, "It's a trend that will only continue to grow."

The survey also offered some additional figures:

A majority of those surveyed, 55%, said they prefer to fly on vacation. Surprisingly, almost as many, 52%, said longer check-in lines at airports due to heightened security do not bother them. They view the additional wait as merely a nuisance, an unfortunate fact of life in today's world.
I wonder if the same 52% of people have ever been frisked by a disgruntled airport security officer, perhaps then they would be a little bothered by all the new heightened security practices that airport are enforcing these days.

Or perhaps they don't mind the long lines and pat downs because they are saving money on airfare by purchasing their tickets online.

Lower airfare is the bread and butter of online travel agencies.

Advertising, however, leaves something to be desired. Anyone remember William Shatner touting Priceline with his vocal rendition of "Two Tickets to Paradise"?

If you don't, consider yourself fortunate.

Tags: Travel

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Don't Get Scrooged This Holiday Season

If you despise cold weather, crowded shopping malls and parking lots, or if you simply want to shop in your underwear, doing your holiday shopping online will be your savior. That is, if you know how to shop online without being scrooged.


Retail Forward reported to MSN that it expects online retail sales to surpass $33 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006, compared with $27 billion last holiday season; marking a 23% year-over-year increase.

Holiday online retail sales have skyrocketed over the past year due in large part to a decrease in unemployment rates, general income growth, and lowered gasoline prices. Combine that with the fact that online shopping sites are convenient, saving consumers time and money, and you have a recipe for increased sales.

Despite the many conveniences of doing holiday shopping online, there are the inevitable online Grinches and Scrooges that can turn your act of gift giving and generosity into a terrible ordeal.

The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to put a damper on the holidays of those who would commit online fraud with the recently launched OnGuardOnline.

According to the FTC, OnGuardOnline is a campaign to help consumers integrate online safety into their daily online routines. If tips from the FTC site are followed, consumers can minimize the chance of an online shopping disaster.

Among some of the tips from OnGuardOnline are:

• Make sure the company is legitimate. Confirm an online seller's address and phone number in case you need to get in touch with them. If an email or pop-up message is sent from the seller while you're shopping asking for financial information, don't reply.

• Read between the lines. Read the description of the product closely, including the fine print. Look for keywords like "vintage" or "refurbished", which may tell you that the product is not in the best condition.

• Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any email you exchange with the seller. Check credit card statements to make sure there are no fraudulent charges.

• Pay by credit or charge card. NEVER SEND CASH. If you pay by credit or charge card online, the Fair Credit Billing Act will protect your transaction. Under this law, you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and payment is temporarily withheld while the creditor is investigating. Generally when fraudulent charges are made on a credit card, the carrier is only responsible for paying $50.

• Check refund policies. The law requires retailers to disclose a return policy, so find out when the deadline for return is and if the receipt is needed.

• Calculate the costs. Use a website that allows you to compare like products to get the best deal, then factor in the cost of shipping and fees to find what is right for you.

• Never send financial information via email. Email is not a secure method of transmitting your financial or personal information, such as credit card or check number, socially security number, or even your home address.

So recline in your chair, crank up the heat, and follow the guidelines of the FTC to insure that your online holiday shopping experience is a merry one.

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Microsoft Casts Net to Catch Phishers

Microsoft is taking a play from the playbook of "Dirty Harry" by telling phishers around the globe to," go a head punk and make their day". They are working with law enforcement in Europe and the Middle East to catch gangs of phishers.


Phishing is a form of fraud used to gain access to personal financial information. Usually it is executed through e-mail or instant messaging. Currently Microsoft is involved with 129 lawsuits directed at phishers.

One case in Turkey has landed a phisher a 2 and a half-year prison sentence. Microsoft started the Global Phishing Enforcement Initiative in March of this year. Nancy Anderson deputy general counsel at the company said ""Sometimes we initiate our own legal action, but more importantly we work with law enforcement agencies", she told Reuters.

The frequency of phishing attacks has increased rising to 157,000 in the first half of 2006 according to security software firm Symantec. Research group Gartner projects that the financial loss due to phishing in 2006 could reach as much as $2.8 billion.

Microsoft can pursue lawsuits even if it is not the victim of fraud because laws in many countries allow for anyone who has been harmed by phishing to receive restitution.

The company uses Web-crawling software and complaints from customers to investigate the crime. Then old school Rockford Files dective work is used to reveal the identity of the culprits.

Bad phishers! Bad phishers! What ya gonna do? When Microsoft comes for you?

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Google Releases New Book Search Features

Google has released a major update to its Book Search in an effort to provide a more organic reading experience to the user as well as scholarly resources for readers wishing to delve deeper into the academic community's take on a particular book.


I have to admit, I've been a longtime skeptic of the Google Book Search project. My qualms are not wrapped up in issues such a copyright and fair use, but instead lie in a much more elemental consequence of digitizing book content.

For me, part of the satisfaction that comes from reading a good novel is the tangible experience of actually holding the book in my hands. The look, feel, and even smell of the paper all elicit different perceptions, which augment and enhance the endeavor - elevating it from merely processing words on a page to creating a full sensory experience to be enjoyed.

Google has come to find that this perspective is not uncommon among avid readers, and as a result, has worked to develop its book search to offer that type of tangible reading experience to users. In the official Google blog, the company outlines its recently implemented updates geared in this direction:
• Zoom in on text and images. Here's a cool full-page sketch of a ship from an 1898 book on steam navigation. Looking for something less dated? Perhaps this colorful page of a room from a book on interior design. Want a better look? You can now zoom in and out - just click on the zoom in and zoom out buttons. Play with it until you find a size you like.
• One book, one web page. No more reloads! In one-page mode (just click the one page button), pages appear one below the other, like a scroll of paper. For full-view books, there's also a two-page mode (two page button) in which pages appear side by side, just like in a physical book (perfect for two-page images). In both modes, you'll be able to use previous page button and next page button to turn pages.
• Scroll, scroll, scroll your book… using the scrollbar or your mouse wheel, or by dragging (in most browsers, you'll see a hand). You can also use the keyboard (try the spacebar, page up, page down, and the arrow keys). Or you can click on a link in the table of contents or your search results to jump right to that page (like this photo from the 1906 book Geronimo's Story of His Life).
• This page was made for reading. We've tried to tidy up the clutter to leave as much room as possible for what's important - the book. We've put all the information about the book in a scrollable side menu. Still not enough room? You can put the screen in fullscreen mode with the fullscreen button, so you can use the whole window for browsing. Try it with a nice illustrated book of Celtic fairy tales or, for some lighter reading, electromagnetic wave theory.
• More on this (and other) books. Find other books that interest you. Just click on "About this book" to find more books related to the book you're reading. If the book How to Draw Comic Book Heroes and Villains interests you, you'll probably like Comic Book Artist Collection, Vol. 1. We also revised our "About this book" page to provide better information for in-copyright books, from which you can just see short snippets or a limited preview.
• Explore citations and references. You can also find other books that refer to your book of interest. If scholarly works from Google Scholar have references to the book, you'll see them too. As an example, see what other works have referred to Aristotle's works or the 1922 book All About Coffee.
With all these changes in mind, I decided to revisit one of my favorite novels and test the new features for myself. I pulled up Great Expectations by Charles Dickens under the full view search and began to play with the new tools.

Two page viewing and full screen mode are the major features that work together in harmony to create a powerful illusion of tangibility in the online reading experience.

Actually having the interface mimic the layout of a physical book, along with the ability to "turn the page" instead of scrolling down, really does it for me. As much as a website can, it really makes me feel like the book could be right there in front of me. That's the kind of reading experience that is going to generate a positive response from Google Book Search users.

So while you chew on that, I'm going to get back to the exploits of Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham.

Tags: Google, Google Book Search

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Making The Most Of Social Networks

Search Engine Marketing is now the standard online, a beeline to a measurable ROI. But as marketers try to wrap their heads around social networking, and invent ways to utilize it to their advantage, it's becoming clear that the branding opportunities are quite appealing, nearly boundless, limited not by money, but by imagination.


In this new century, creativity is the only boundary. What was once controlled by the haves, as the critical theorist would have mournfully explained, is no longer exclusive - though we have to assume or pretend that Net Neutrality will, eventually, be upheld.

Social networking, where the free marketplace of ideas has thus far thrived, is the latest equalizer (at once democratic and Bolshevik), placing local events on global stages and, more importantly, out of reach from those who would shallow the deep waters by making their pockets fuller.

In this instance, I'm talking about the record labels, which have historically chosen music for the masses and have borne the responsibility for inflictions such as The Spice Girls and O-Town.

In San Francisco, where independent music has enjoyed an eager local audience, that stage is expanding to online venues, existing not only in now smoke-free bars and clubs but also in virtual clubs. What MySpace began, and perhaps abandoned to an extent once News Corp. got hold of it, lives on in Second Life.

Corey Denis, Promonet Community Manager for IODA Digital Marketing, an indie music promoter, says the next trend is the integration of offline events with online events.

On November 30, at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, musicians the greater world has never heard of, headlined by the band Halou, will perform for fans, bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters, who can present their own real-time versions through their own media, remixes welcome. But also, the event has a stage in Second Life, where fans can view a simultaneous live webcast.

Denis calls Reload, "an exploration of the new model for live music and digital content." We call it a great idea providing insight into the limitless possibilities this new virtual world presents us. IODA teamed up with Slackstreet Entertainment,, and HipCast to bring the show to Second Life.

To illustrate how real-sounding this event is, I asked Corey how to access the virtual show. She gave me directions:

"You would find the show in the Slackstreet area, near the Regina Spektor Listening Station."

Is that before or after I get to White Castle?

Lee Odden, president and founder of TopRank Online Marketing, isn't sure if this is the beginning of a greater marketing trend, as more practical, and at this point, established, methods of online promotion should keep the focus.

"Marketers and advertisers will go wherever the eyeballs, or in this case, the ears are," he said. "I am not so sure it's a mass-market trend, but certainly one for the audience that enjoys Second Life.

"I bet there are a certain number of agencies and their CPG (consumer packaged goods) clients wondering whether it's time to 'jump to the next curb' and start selling virtual soup and diapers when they should really focus on their search marketing."

Point taken, but eventually we might imagine an online world much like the television and radio world, where branding presence is essential. SEM leads to more direct sales, in which the seller is most interested, but we also learn from brands like Coca-Cola with, perhaps, one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Coca-Cola has not ceased in the last 90 years or so, to put its product out there in every viewable place. The indirect value of that is measureless.

But the problem, for the smaller outfits, has always been: there's not enough money for that type of exposure. SEM and SEO will, for the foreseeable future, be essential for being found, and essential for measuring ROI.

But as the new media evolves, search will only be half of the equation. The other half, now more attainable, is the focus on branding - visibility in previously invisible places - and awareness of products and services. Branding online is a directive to search, pulling your brand to the front of it, rather than the back of it.

Tag: Social Networks, Branding, SEM

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Turkey And Black Friday With Search

AOL and Ask each have made an effort to draw attention to their search engines with very topical categories for this week: what to eat and where to shop.


Our secret agent at AOL, who we know as "The Query," took a cyber-second out of the day to forward a list of what people have searched for at AOL Search.

"The turducken fad is so 2005 - diners this year are sticking to turkeys," our femme fatale cooed into our inbox. "In fact, the popular meal choice from last year didn't even break the top 15 for all meal options this Thanksgiving."

We're of the opinion that "turducken" is an unfortunate name for this delectable treat. Maybe they should call it "Chicaduckey" instead, unless that's a bad word in a foreign language.

After 'turkey' as a search term, the searching audience showed its sweet tooth. The next popular searches on AOL were pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and sweet potatoes rounding out the top five.

After the indulgences of food and football have rendered you unable to do anything more strenuous than move a wireless computer mouse, head over to's Blog & Feed Search to find the latest Black Friday sale news.

"Looking for the latest--and earliest--Black Friday sales? The blogosphere's lousy with 'em. Sites are leaking, blogging, and re-blogging them like crazy," the Ask team said on their home blog.

So eat, drink, and enjoy your shopping sprees. Unless you really shouldn't be consuming or spending that much, in which case we suggest staying in and enjoying the company of others. Happy holidays.

Tags: Black Friday, Turkey

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When A Spam Site Isn't Spammy

Blogger Niall Kennedy delved into the murkiness surrounding a site that hit the front page of Digg and several other social media websites, and found a hugely intertwined mix of link-baiting and keyword-targeting in place that profits from the viral nature of stories that grab attention.


Geeks with weight problems need to pay better attention to their health, and as it is an ongoing concern for many people, any suggestion of a way to better accomplish that will usually draw attention. Online, the attention for a story on steps to weight loss dubbed a "spam node" by Kennedy gained some significant traffic which it likely capitalized on via its affiliate membership.

Kennedy walked through the example posting that used sites like Digg and Delicious to increase in awareness while garnering traffic and affiliate revenue. The tips are hosted on a blog that appears to be dedicated to dental information, but is mostly a conduit to an affiliate program.

"Scanning the sidebar links and adjacent content it was obvious this content was out of place on a page optimized for dental insurance," wrote Kennedy. "

The webmaster of had inserted some Digg bait, seeded a few social bookmarking services, and waited for links and page views to roll in, creating a new node in a spam farm fueled by high-paying affiliate programs and identity collection for resale."

Kennedy also traced the path of the site, from its genesis as a domain managed "by eBizzSol, a company with fake domain registration information including the address block of a Christian church in Fullerton, California." The site is registered to an address in the capital of Bangladesh.

The site makes its money from referrals to a seller of dental plans. Each referral brings in $40 or more, according to Kennedy. By using a number of significant keyphrases in its article categories, the site rose in its organic rankings.

To further help traffic, they purchased links in directories at Yahoo, Microsoft,, and others. Then they moved to the social networking sites. On Digg, 920 users gave the story a vote, which seems to indicate the common belief that people Digg stories based on their front page presence and not their content may have some credence.

Now here is the issue. The article in question, though somewhat general in content and not related to dental work, isn't necessarily spammy.

After opening the site in Opera and Firefox, I fed the URL to poor defenseless Internet Explorer, where I fully expected it to explode with popups, banners, and contextual advertising. But except for two image links and several text links to the dental plan affiliate, and a text link to a content writing website, there were no other elements besides the weight loss tips.

One will see more ads on A-list blogs than they will on this dental site. While it's hard to not see the site as a blatant grab for profitable pass-through traffic to the affiliate, it's far less offensive than the sorts of spyware that researchers like Ben Edelman and write about often.

The scary part about the dental site is how it benignly occupies middle ground when its comes to revenue links. The nigh-ubiquitous AdSense and other contextual ad links are absent, as are the more intrusive ad elements.

It may be dodgy if its affiliate does not offer a valid product, but if those dental plans are legitimate, the site may be a decent example of gaming search optimization and social media without being the spam node Kennedy and other bloggers have called it.

Tag: Spam

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Microsoft Writes Off Google

Microsoft's co-head of the Office software team says the company is not intimidated by Google's web-based word processing and spreadsheet applications, claiming they will not appeal to corporate customers.


Co-leader of Microsoft Office group Antoine Leblond says that Google is just another application that will not be able to de-throne the reigning king of office software.

"Free software has an appealing ring to it, but free software has been around for a while now and it turns out free doesn't trump the software doing what people need it to do," Antoine LeBlond said in an interview with Reuters.

LeBlond and Kurt DelBene took over the Office group in June, after predecessor Steve Sinofsky left to lead the Windows group.

Programs of Office include Word Processor, Power Point, Excel, and Outlook email, which LeBlond oversees, while DelBene is in charge of the new SharePoint Web collaboration software.

Next week Microsoft will be releasing the much anticipated Office upgrade to business customers, as well as Windows Vista operating system; both of which Microsoft hopes will result in the growth of the software company.

Google is also looking to expand its reach with the release of applications that rival several Office programs including scheduling, spread sheets, employee web sites, and word processing.

According to the Google Docs & Spreadsheets site, the applications ism, "a free web-based word processing and spreadsheet program that keeps documents current and lets the people you choose update files from their own computers."

With Google being the Microsoft of the search engine world, it is the most popular search engine, it would seem that Microsoft should consider them to be competition. As of yesterday, in fact, shares of Google's stock jumped up to $500 per share.

Eric Schmidt, Google's Chief Executive, claims that the company is not attempting to compete with Microsoft Office stating rather that they are, "focused on simple applications with an emphasis on sharing that are aimed at consumers and small business users", according to Reuters.

Schmidt says that Google's comparable applications are not aimed at mega-corporations, the way Microsoft is, but rather toward individual consumers and smaller businesses.

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Flickr Livens Up With New Features

The photo sharing site owned by Yahoo unveiled a trio of new features just in time for the holidays so people can take advantage of them when receiving new cameras as gifts.


Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield posted news of a triple treat of features debuting on the site.

One feature permits much easier sharing of private photos with non-Flickr users. Butterfied wrote that a Flickr user can share a set of photos with up to fifty email recipients by providing them with a "guest pass" to access the images.

The Flickr user has control of the secret link provided by the guest pass invitation, so if he or she wishes to expire it, they can do so whenever they like. "We're especially happy about this one since it's the second most requested feature of all time (and work has already begun on the number one most requsted feature - we'll eventually get 'em all)," he said.

Flickr has resurrected its "long-dormant and seemingly left-for-dead mobile site" at Those who wish to use it will need a Yahoo ID, however, since the revamped features depend on access to some Yahoo services with a valid login.

The change from Flickr to Yahoo logins was a point of contention after Yahoo acquired the site and decided to make people set up a Yahoo ID. However, Butterfield claimed the vast majority of Flickr users now have Yahoo IDs, so making that a requirement for Flickr Mobile did not seem like a stretch.

People who want to get an idea of how a particular camera performs in the hands of skilled photographers can search Flickr by camera make and model. Looking up a camera like the one I have shows how many photos uploaded in the past day were identified as coming from that model.

They also note a price range for the model as found in Yahoo Shopping, along with reviews for the camera. Flickr also provides a graph of usage of the camera model, and a selection of Interesting Photos shot with that model by Flickr users.

Tag: Flickr

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