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One of the things I like most about Google is the ability to create useful tools for our users that leverage current products. There's no shortage of ideas, for instance, on how to use Google Maps; here's one we're ready to show you.

If you're like me, you use a mix of recommendations from friends, the phone book, or standing on the corner with your hand in the air (and hoping it isn't raining) when you need to find a taxi, limousine or shuttle service. With Google Ride Finder, you can tell us where you want to find a ride and we'll show you the actual positions of participating vehicles in that area, along with a phone number you can use to contact the fleet operator (e.g., Chicago).

We're just getting started, so forgive us if we don't have your city or ride provider yet; we'll be adding more as they become available. If you're a fleet owner/operator, get in touch with us; we'd love to include your vehicle.

Now I've got to run to catch my ride to the airport.

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Now Google's faster than ever on Firefox and Mozilla browsers. When you do a search on these browsers, we instruct them to download your top search result in advance, so if you click on it, you'll get to that page even more quickly.

You can learn more about this cool feature here. If you're a webmaster, we have FAQs for you too. Or you can just download Firefox and check it out for yourself.

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Wei-Hwa Huang, Software Engineer

Google Logo in Pixelblocks As a little bonus for my fellow employees who were around during the winter, I held a little on-campus contest. I took 130 photographs of things around the buildings and challenged people to identify them and go to the location, where they'd then have to find a little hidden sticker with a letter on it. They'd email the letter to me to confirm that they found the location. I thought our blog readers might find it interesting to identify what's in these photographs, which were some of the more challenging pictures.


Cvaonyy znpuvar (Onyyl "Fcrpgehz"). Neebj sebz n "Bar
Jnl" fgerrg fvta
.
Jngre obggyrf (FznegJngre
Fcbeg
).
Cbby gnoyr cbpxrg, nf ivrjrq sebz orybj.Fgevatf vafvqr n onol tenaq
cvnab
.
Hfrq pbagnvaref
sbe Vyyl Rfcerffb
.
Fgneg ohggba sbe ivqrb tnzr znpuvar.Lryybj (nzore) fgerrg
yvtug
.
"Ivfvgbe Ybool" fvta nf ivrjrq sebz vafvqr.

The answers are in an old computer-geek code called ROT-13. Or you can click on the links to see some of our search results for the item. Have fun!

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on behalf of a hardworking and shy team of finance enthusiasts)

As a Google user, it always bugged me to have to go to other websites to get stock quotes. Now we get a direct feed of market data, so all you have to do is type in a ticker symbol like INDU or SUNW and the search results will include the latest exchange and real-time ECN quote, intraday chart, volume and market cap. And if you're on the go, these quotes are also available on Google SMS. Just send a text message to 46645 ('GOOGL') with the ticker and you'll quickly see the latest market data.

There's a lot of stock info we don't provide, which is why we link to financial sites like Yahoo Finance and Motley Fool. We know people have firm opinions about stock information, so tell us what you think of it -- and how it could be better.

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Another major earthquake has struck the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the quake at 8.7 magnitude. Tsunami warnings have been issued for Thailand, Japan and Sri Lanka. For more information, try Google News, the International Tsunami Information Center, or the USGS site. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those in the affected countries.

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Krishna Bharat + Lalitesh Katragadda, Bangalore team

Inside every Google engineer is a kid who loves solving problems. Wanting to celebrate that fervor, we just held our first India Code Jam to attract the best software coders in India and South Asia. The competition started in February with some 14,000 contestants in the first round. Several elimination rounds later, 50 finalists were flown to our R&D Center in Bangalore.

Will code for rupees

This hardy lot competed on their ability to think creatively, design expertly, and code correctly and efficiently - traits that dovetail with creating Google's search algorithms, products and infrastructure. On Saturday morning expectations were high. Brains went on overdrive. Two and a half hours later the dust settled. The top winner: Ardian K Poernomo, a computer science student from Singapore, who won Rs. 3,00,000 (US $7000). We don't know whether Ardian will want to join Google, but we do know a lot of coders had good geeky fun. If you missed the Jam but are Bangalore-bound, consider joining us.


Google Bangalore

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Google is already available in 104 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu, but we had no Romansh. It's an old tongue that's still spoken in valleys in the Swiss Alps. Only about one percent of Swiss people can speak it, but even so it's one of the country's four official languages. Romansh is in the same family as Spanish or Italian, but looks more daunting because of the long sequences of consonants. For example, "image search" becomes "tschertga da maletgs."

So we threw a party in Zurich and asked people fluent in Romansh to translate text like "I'm feeling lucky." (They found this particularly hard to translate, and settled on "A bun gartetg," which is more or less "on good luck"). And now there is Google in Romansh. Why do we bother? Call us obsessive, but we like it when everyone can use Google in their native language.

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Get lots of mail? So do I. The problem is that only some of it is worth getting — or at least getting quickly. That's why I use the auto-forwarding feature in Gmail to filter and forward only messages that match certain criteria. For instance, I want to know immediately when I get email from my closest friends, so I've set up a filter that looks for Heather OR Joel in the from: field, and forwards those messages to my cell phone. To create a search-based filter of your own, click the "Create a filter" link beside the search box on Gmail and follow the steps from there. The Gmail Help Center also has how-tos on auto-forwarding and forwarding to your cell phone.

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Google Hyderabad

Who says things never leave beta at Google? Our Hyderabad office is formally opening today after a mere nine months. This is where we help AdWords clients run their campaigns. We also have a QA team to ensure Google product quality, and run all of the support functions for our operations throughout India. Like any other Google office, lava lamps and colored balls abound; unlike other offices, we have Indian food for lunch every day. Perhaps most important, we have launched the first chapter of the International Google Cricket Club, where the preferred delivery is, naturally, a googly. If you're in the area, we're always looking for more smart Googlers.

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When she was going about her daily routine, this Googler wasn't expecting company.

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We're very happy to be launching code.google.com today. To begin, we're releasing some developer-oriented libraries and tools. A number of engineers have used their 20% time to ready these tools for release, and will also help build the communities we hope will form around them.

We're also featuring links to all current Google APIs. Come check them out and if you'd like more information, please join our group, subscribe to our feeds, or if you're shy, email us directly. And happy coding!

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Seven weeks ago we launched the AdWords API, and since then had the chance to reflect on what we learned creating a new web service. I just gave a talk at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies conference about it, and here are the slides. Some of the (admittedly geeky) highlights: the value of document/literal style SOAP, a description of the real-world problems in building interoperable web services, and my opinion on when to use SOAP vs ReST. Despite the geek factor, perhaps it's useful for people building web services and developers using Google's own services.

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Today is an amazing day: A small idea - a fun late-night coding jaunt to help me learn Javascript & DHTML - has just launched on Google Labs. I never expected it to make it as far as it has when I wrote it a month ago, especially since my "real" job is working on Keyhole, where I'm having the time of my life taking our cool 3D mapping application and putting the power of Google behind it. It's fulfilling to have the opportunity to reach the audience we always dreamed of when we started Keyhole five years ago, and that by itself is absolute coolness.

And now there's Google X, which came about because I wanted a quick fun way to access all of Google's services. I gave it to a few friends in the company, who gave it to their friends, some posted it on their blogs, others sent it around on mailing lists, and it eventually made its way to Marissa Mayer, who liked it enough to say, when do you want to put it up on Labs? So after some spit and polish from some enthusiastic Googlers and the keen eye of the UI team, Google X is here. I hope all of you enjoy it - especially Mac users, who I'm sure will appreciate its lineage.

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Starting today, you're going to see a new AdSense ad format (we're keeping the "old" ones too) for content ads on websites, called AdSense Ad Links. These smaller-than-usual formats use a bit of shorthand to link to several categories of ads, rather than display the ads themselves.

adlinks.jpg

Ad Links are automatically matched to web page contents using AdSense technology. Our thinking is that Ad Links are useful for web publishers (who get a more flexible way to incorporate more advertising into their sites); advertisers (who get more inventory); and users (who get more relevant ads to choose from). All told, there's a greater chance you'll find precisely what you're most interested in.

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Since Google Local launched, we've received a lot of requests from business owners who would like to add, update, or remove their business listings from our index. So now there's the Local Business Center, a free tool for doing any of those things and more. If you're too busy running a business to build or maintain your website, this makes it easy for customers to find you online.

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We just pushed an updated version of Blogger's Atom API live, and wanted to post about it here to spread the word. Aside from using standard widely-supported technologies like HTTP and XML, we've added a few new things:
  • Basic HTTP authentication over SSL for added security
  • Strong internationalization support
  • Documentation!

In addition, we've re-launched the Blogger Developers Network (feed), as well as the moderated, companion BloggerDev discussion list. Blogger's Atom API is fully supported on both BloggerDev and email - please keep us posted on your development progress.

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Google's broad corporate goals are well documented, and as Googlers, we work hard to uphold these values. But sometimes one also needs individual and short-term objectives to motivate and inspire. My personal challenge? Drink one of each beverage offered on the Google campus. Every Google building has several mini-kitchens stocked with a variety of familiar, and unfamiliar, libations. Why do you climb a mountain? Because it's there.

In no particular order, I will imbibe every cola, juice, energy drink, caffeinated liquid and enhanced water. Scoff if you must, but cast no stone until you've taken on the entire line of Snapple beverages and lived to recount the experience. Because Google's great operations team is forever adding new choices to our refrigerators, my project is somewhat of a moving target, but here's what I've concluded thus far:
  • The magical properties of VitaminWater are impressive, but their benefit-focused names ("Endurance," "Balance") remind me a bit too much of the Successories motivational posters.
  • 50% of Extreme Energy drinks are flammable.
  • Boylan's Bottleworks makes the best Ginger Ale. 'Nuff said.
What weird beverage am I missing? Send a link and our network of refreshment procurement experts will get on it.

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We've been steadily adding more editions of Google News (Korea, anyone? Chile?) so that everyone can find up-to-the-minute coverage of the news they want to read. But maybe you've got your own idea of what's newsworthy -- more world news and less Michael Jackson, or possibly vice versa. Sports, sports, and more sports? Canadian news in both English and French? You choose the topics and we'll find the stories. So go on - customize your Google News page with *your* Google News.

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We seem to be famous (or infamous) for never taking our products out of beta -- the software equivalent of commitment issues, perhaps. But in one case, at least, we're taking the plunge: Google Desktop Search has been kicked out of the Google Labs nest, and is officially 1.0.

We've been listening to your suggestions, and this release is crammed with our responses. You can now search your computer for PDFs and media files like MP3s, JPGs and GIFs, video files and so on (Desktop Search even indexes your media files' meta-info, so you can search for artist and file names, song titles, etc). And version 1.0 supports the Thunderbird and Mozilla email clients, Firefox browser -- and Chinese and Korean languages. There's a new floating deskbar you can place anywhere on your desktop, too. To better protect your personal info, Desktop Search won't search password-protected Office files. And serious geeks can now search cool new filetypes and create customized apps with the Google Desktop Search API.

If you already have the earlier Desktop Search, you'll automatically get all these upgrades. If you haven't, maybe it's time to take the plunge yourself.

Nikhil Bhatla
Product Manager

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As a kid, I would stare for hours at repetitious weather reports on TV. Boring, you say? Not to me - I love weather. And since I've worked here, I've wondered why Google doesn't do weather. It seemed like a perfect 20% project for me, so now I'm pleased to report that you can get current conditions and a forecast by typing [weather Chicago], or whatever your U.S. location is (zipcodes are also fair game). If you prefer, use Google SMS to send a text message to the U.S. five digit shortcode 46645 (GOOGL on most mobile phones) followed by your meteorological query.

Ben Sigelman
Software Engineer

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Is Gary Danko in San Francisco really as good as you've heard? Google Local just got better at helping you find the answers to questions like this. We've scoured the Web to find local business info like store hours, restaurant menus, prices and wifi availability; added a separate section with color-coded editorial and user reviews; and thrown interactive Google Maps into the mix (for both the U.S. and Canada) to help you get to the places you've found.

Thai Tran and Bret Taylor
Product Managers