from Hong Kong to Hawaii, my new headphones arrived today! with changeable colour plates, a retractable cord that winds itself back up, and soft leather details, i am very satisfied with this 50$ purchase. they're probably the most well made headphones i ever had.


Unicode nearing 50% of the web

About 18 months ago, we published a graph showing that Unicode on the web had just exceeded all other encodings of text on the web. The growth since then has been even more dramatic.

Web pages can use a variety of different character encodings, like ASCII, Latin-1, or Windows 1252 or Unicode. Most encodings can only represent a few languages, but Unicode can represent thousands: from Arabic to Chinese to Zulu. We have long used Unicode as the internal format for all the text we search: any other encoding is first converted to Unicode for processing.

This graph is from Google internal data, based on our indexing of web pages, and thus may vary somewhat from what other search engines find. However, the trends are pretty clear, and the continued rise in use of Unicode makes it even easier to do the processing for the many languages that we cover.

Searching for "nancials"?
Unicode is growing both in usage and in character coverage. We recently upgraded to the latest version of Unicode, version 5.2 (via ICU and CLDR). This adds over 6,600 new characters: some of mostly academic interest, such as Egyptian Hieroglyphs, but many others for living languages.

We're constantly improving our handling of existing characters. For example, the characters "fi" can either be represented as two characters ("f" and "i"), or a special display form "fi". A Google search for [financials] or [office] used to not see these as equivalent — to the software they would just look like *nancials and of*ce. There are thousands of characters like this, and they occur in surprisingly many pages on the web, especially generated PDF documents.

But no longer — after extensive testing, we just recently turned on support for these and thousands of other characters; your searches will now also find these documents. Further steps in our mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

And we're angling for a party when Unicode hits 50%!


Supporting students from under-represented backgrounds in the pursuit of a technical education

We know firsthand how vital a good science or math education is to building products that change the world and enrich peoples' lives. We're committed to supporting students in their pursuit of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields — particularly those from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.

Over time, we've dedicated time, people, and financial resources to organizations, events and schools to help advance this mission — and we're excited to share that we rounded out 2009 with a donation of $8 million to a variety of organizations who share our dedication to this cause. Our efforts were focused in four key areas:

Starting in high school
STEM education at an elementary and high school level builds technical skills early and encourages interest in technology. To support the ongoing education of these subjects, we identified more than 600 high schools with significant populations of students from under-represented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are providing laptops to their computer science and math departments. We are also offering laptops to some of the most promising students in these schools. In a time when many of these schools are experiencing decreased funding, we wanted to support their continued commitment to learning and teaching these subjects, and recognize the exceptional work done by teachers in these communities. If you're interested in learning more about our efforts in this field, check out Google Code University (CS tutorials for students and teachers) as well as our tools, tips and lesson plans for K-12 educators.

Growing promising talent
We've worked with over 200 outstanding students as part of our FUSE, CSSI, BOLD and BOLD Practicum summer programs. To help the alumni of our 2009 summer programs pursue their studies, we awarded former program participants with school-based scholarships. We hope that this support for tuition will lessen the financial burden on these students and their families, reduce work-study commitments and free them up to explore other educational opportunities, like studying abroad.

Advancing technical knowledge through universities
We have close relationships with universities around the world — not only do we employ their alumni, but they are also a source of groundbreaking research and innovation. We awarded grants ranging in size from $20k to $100k to 50 U.S.-based universities with whom we already have relationships and directed these funds toward departments that are closely aligned with promoting under-represented minorities in technology. We hope to expand this effort both to more U.S.-based universities and to universities around the world in the future.

Partnerships with the organizations that make it happen
Our commitment to promote women and under-represented minorities in technology is shared by dozens of local and national organizations around the country. We awarded grants to 22 partner organizations, almost all of which we have worked with in the past. These organizations are on the front lines, making sure that under-represented groups have the support, resources and contacts they need. You'll find a list of these organizations with a quick overview of the work they focus on here.

This was a terrific way to close out 2009 and we look forward to attracting and encouraging more students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.


Extensions, bookmark sync and more for Google Chrome

Today we're excited to introduce a new stable release of Google Chrome for Windows, which includes two of the browser's most frequently requested features: extensions and bookmark sync.

Extensions let you add new features and functions to your browser. Some provide one-click access to some of your favorite web applications like eBay and digg, or news and information sources such as NPR and Time.com. Others are useful tweaks for performing common online tasks such as browsing photos, getting directions or shopping.

We previously launched extensions on the beta channel, and many new extensions have since been contributed by developers from all over the world. Now you can browse over 1,500 in our extensions gallery and install them on the stable version of Google Chrome.

Bookmark sync is a handy feature for those of you who use several computers — say, a laptop at work and a desktop at home. You can enable bookmark sync to synchronize your bookmarks on all of your computers so that when you create a bookmark on one computer, it's automatically added across all your computers. This means that you won't need to manually recreate the bookmark each time you switch computers.

You can read more about today's stable release — including performance improvements — on the Google Chrome Blog. Or if you want a look under the hood at what this update means for web developers (including new HTML and Javascript APIs), check out the Chromium blog.

To those using Google Chrome on Linux, extensions are enabled on the beta channel. And for those using Google Chrome for Mac, hang tight — we're working on bringing extensions, bookmark sync and more to the beta soon. Those currently using the stable version for Windows will be automatically updated within the next week (or you can check for updates manually).

If you're on a PC and haven't tried Google Chrome yet, you can download Google Chrome and give all these new features a whirl.

ordered these headphones, waiting for them to come in. thanks Sun for helping me pick them out :-)

No comment needed...

From the annals of censorship gone awry, this from today's Inside Higher Ed:

Board Confuses Authors of 'Brown Bear,' 'Ethical Marxism'

The Texas Board of Education, worried that a scholar's book about Marxism might infiltrate a portion of the state's third grade curriculum, accidentally has banned work by the author of the popular children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Dallas Morning News reported. The intended target of the ban was Bill Martin, a professor of philosophy at DePaul University, who offended some Texas board members with his book Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation. But the board accidentally banned work by Bill Martin Jr., author of Brown Bear.


This week in search 1/22/10

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

The Google that you used today is actually better than the Google that you used yesterday. On a daily basis, we make a number of algorithmic enhancements and release other search features that ultimately make finding what you're looking for quick, easy and enjoyable. Here are a few of the exciting feature releases this week:

Hours and menu information in universal search
Want to know when your favorite museum is open? Interested in ordering in and need to quickly check the menu for that restaurant around the corner? This week we were excited to launch hours and menu information in local results for universal Google search. Now you can add the words "hours" or "menu" to your search to get back the information you want in a snap.

Example searches: [computer history museum mountain view hours], [sushi sakae burlingame menu]

Rich Snippets for events
What are Rich Snippets? They show brief annotations that webmasters make to summarize what's on the page so you can see it at a glance on your search results page. So far we've launched improved snippets for two formats: reviews and people. Today, we unveiled a new Rich Snippets format for events. The next time you're searching for events, you'll see how the new format lists them as search result snippets, along with dates, locations and links directly to pages about those specific events. And, as webmasters implement the new markup on their webpages, you'll begin to see these event results more frequently.

Example search: [concerts in san jose]

Answer highlighting
Earlier today, we were excited to release the answer highlighting feature, which helps you get to information more quickly by delivering the likely answer to your question in boldface type right in search results. If the pages returned for these searches contain a simple answer to a factual-based search, the snippet will more often include the relevant text in boldface for easy reference. Read more about answer highlighting here.

Example searches: [who is the author of 1984], [p.s. i love you release date], [terminator salvation director]

We hope that you enjoy the features we launched this week — and that they make your search experience even better than yesterday.

Write better knols with object embedding and PicApp

During the past couple months, the Knol team has been steadily adding improved tools to help you create better knols. Most notably, we've greatly expanded the number of embeddable objects to help you make your knols more graphical and interactive. We've been excited by the many uses we're seeing, and today we have one more to add to the list: PicApp.

We think it's important for a publishing platform like knol to provide people with the best possible tools for expression, so we've quietly added a large number of new embeddable objects for maps, docs, spreadsheets, forms, slideshows, presentations, videos, gadgets and more. Embeddable objects help you make better knols. For example, our equation object helps you add richly formatted mathematical expressions right in your knols. We really liked the cleanly embedded equations in this knol from the Public Library of Science. Similarly, our calendar object enables you to easily share details about upcoming dates, like swing dance lessons in Oregon.

Even with all these embeddable objects, there's still more to do. For example, one frequent complaint is that it is still difficult today to find appropriately licensed, high-quality imagery to include in your articles. To help solve this problem, we've worked with PicApp to add 10 million high quality stock images via our improved picture picker. The new picker enables you to search for creative and editorial images from PicApp's comprehensive, high-quality stock imagery repositories such as Getty Images. The service and use of the images is free.

Below is a snapshot of a sample search using the PicApp search API.

The feature just launched last month, and several authors have already made use of this new capability to strengthen their writings. For example, this knol about Gary McKinnon uses images found via PicApp, along with embedded videos, and even a feedback form to get input from the audience.

We hope you enjoy the image picker and other new embeddable objects. As always, you can read our release notes for a full list of new features.


Bringing Project CARE to veterans in Washington, D.C.

It's sometimes easy to take the little things in life for granted: a haircut, a shower, shoes or even a phone number. Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we planned, and those little luxuries become much harder to come by.

Project CARE is a program to provide free Google Voice phone numbers and voicemail accounts to homeless individuals. The Google Voice team has been offering this program in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than two years, and we're excited to bring Project CARE to a new city.

On Saturday, Google Voice will join dozens of other Washington, D.C. organizations at the Winterhaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center to try and make life a little easier for hundreds of veterans in the Washington, D.C. area. We will be handing out Project CARE cards and helping attendees set up unique phone numbers and voicemail accounts, which they can use when applying for jobs or filling out medical forms, or share with family.

In today's connected world, many of us don't think twice about picking up the phone to place or receive a call. However, for a homeless individual, a phone number can be an important lifeline, connecting you with prospective employers, health care providers, family and friends. We hope these Project CARE phone numbers provide homeless veterans with a way to reconnect with those they've lost touch with over the years.