Google rolling out spiced up search ‘Knowledge Graph’

Google rolling out Knowledge Graph in India

Google will be rolling out a search that really understands what you are searching for. Users in India will get the richer search experience — called Knowledge Graph — in the next few days.

What exactly is Knowledge Graph? If you are searching for ‘Indians’ what do you expect? People in India may expect results about ‘people residing in India’ or NRIs or PIOs. But the query may have a different meaning in the US. It could mean the indigenous community there, or even the Cleveland Indians team.

Talking about Knowledge Graph, Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and SVP, Engineering, says the new search tries to understand what you really want to search.

Read more here

Enter Blogosphere

My article published in The Hindu

Blogs were a craze till a few years ago. Do blogs still exist? If they exist, why are they not visible? Personal blogs do exist, but are on the decline. Most of the users prefer to interact through Twitter and Facebook than through blogs. Does this mean that it is the end of the road for blogs? The answer is a strong ‘no’.

With blog CMS becoming more powerful, many of those who would have gone for proper web sites are now switching to hosted blogs. Moreover, detailed posts are not possible in Twitter. Yes, Facebook has Notes, but it’s totally different.

There are blog services such as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous and Livejournal. Most of them are free, and all you have to do is to open an account. You don’t have to know any coding or technical knowledge. Every thing, including design, is taken care of by the blog providers. You can choose a design and start updating your blog. If you have a WordPress account, your blog will have an URL like ‘<your_name>.wordpress.com. The <your_name> is only an example. It can be anything. If you want to write on cooking, it can even be cooking.wordpress.com. Of course, the name you choose should be available.

Hosted blogs

Hosted blogs are different. How? The difference is like staying in your own house or in a hotel. You can do whatever you want in your house. You can name it, modify it, paint it or cook whatever you want. You can’t do this in a hotel. You can’t rename the hotel or repaint it because you don’t like the colour. The same is the case of hosted blogs. In a hosted blog, you can have your own domain name, design and also tweak it whenever or wherever you want.

If you are in a wordpress.com blog, you will not be able to install your plug-ins or put advertisements. WordPress will have the right to put advertisements and make money. But in a hosted blog, you will have the right to do anything, including monetizing it, and adding whatever plug-ins you want.

How to go about having a hosted blog? It’s easy. . Does it require technical knowledge? Yes, but a little bit is enough. Installing a WordPress hosted blog is easy.

For a hosted blog, the first thing you will need is a domain name. You can get a domain name from any domain name sellers (for details see http://www.thehindu.com/business/article3412446. ece). Next, you will have to host the blog. Most domain name companies also do hosting. You can check out the hosting plans, and choose the one you want, but ensure that the hosting platform supports MySQL.

Database creation

Once you buy your domain and select your hosting plan, you will be given a login ID and password to create a database. Note that the username and password for the database may be different from the one for the hosting account.

After the database is created, you head over to wordpress.org . Download WordPress (The link is right there on the homepage). Unzip the downloaded file. You will then find a file called wp-config-sample.php. Rename it to wp-config.php.

Now you have to open the wp-config.php file with Notepad or any text editor. Go to the section that says MySQL settings and enter the database information such as user name and password (the ones you created in your hosting provider’s system).

Now upload all the files using a good FTP like Filezilla. In the FTP, enter the host name, your user name and password, and start uploading the file.

Once the files are uploaded, open the browser and go to www.example.com/wp-admin/install.php. Replace the www.example.com with your site’s URL.

You will be taken to the wordpress.org’s interface where you will have to follow the easy instructions to complete your installation.

You now have your own blog. You can select the theme you want, install whatever plug-ins you want, and even monetize it with advertisements.

Indian mobile payments

(This is the unedited version of my column Come Again that appeared in The Hindu Business Line)

When Google announced its mobile payment services Google Wallet, it created ripples all over the world. And when there was news about Google releasing an update for Android with Google Wallet, I was one of those eagerly awaiting it. Then II realised the update was not for India.

The only consolation I had was that I was already using mobile payments right here in India. I had the NG Pay and Atom apps installed in my Nexus S. I could pay utility services, buy products, recharge my mobile or DTH connections or get train or movie tickets through the two apps. I had also used mChek occasionally, but only for paying Airtel bills. These services used my bank or credit card account for payment.

Another good service was Paymate. Unlike the services mentioned above, I had to ‘load’ the money to my Paymate account or ‘buy’ vouchers and then use my mobile to make payments. I could also gift money to other mobile users. Though the service was slightly confusing at first — I had to log in at the sister site Giftmate to load or gift the money — I got used to it. It was working well, till I changed my mobile number. Though the customer care kept assuring me that the money in the old account would be transferred to the new number, nothing happened. Giftmate (or is it Paymate) still has my money — though not much– but I can’t use it.

Then came Airtel Money. Like Paymate, you have to load money into your Airtel Money account and use it to pay bills and buy movie tickets apart from recharging prepaid mobiles and DTH connections. The additional advantage with Airtel Money is that you can also make payments in shops that have tied up with Airtel Money.

But the surprise package here is our humble Post Office! The postal department, often derided for sloppy service, has a service called Beam that is similar to Airtel Money.

Once you register in Beam, you can load money into your Beam account through post offices or online (beam.co.in) and use it to book train tickets, recharge mobile and DTH accounts, and make utility bill payments. The service has just been launched and will soon include payments for online shopping or at physical stores.

I was sceptical while registering for the service, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the registration process was so easy. I loaded a token amount and found that my account was credited within seconds. Now my respect for the humble post office has gone up several notches!

So, as Google takes it’s own sweet time to bring Google Wallet to India, I am glad that I have my desi wallet services to fall back upon.

Nexus and Android updates

The good thing about owning a Nexus (One or S, and soon Prime), is that you get update almost immediately after it is released by Google.

This is because the Nexus range runs Google’s Android software. The difference between the Android OS found in other phones and the one in the Nexus range is that the latter has ‘pure’ Android — without any bells and whistles, while other Android phones have customisations by the companies.

This means that because of the extras packed in by other mobile companies in their Android versions, the updates released by Google for Android will have to be modified suitably so that they don’t affect the customisations. Because Nexus phones have no extra bloatware or customisations, any update released by Google can straightaway be installed.

Even for Nexus phones, the updates may take a week or two to be rolled out for all phones. But whenever it is available, you can just download and install them. You get a notification that a ‘system update is available’. All you have to do is to install it.

The same update can take even months to hit other Android phones. And some phones may just not get the update.

 

 

 

 

Pick your favorite inbox style in Gmail

(As in Gmail’s blog)

Ever felt like there should be a better way to manage your inbox? There are already lots of different ways: some people read everything, some mark messages they need to take action on with stars, and others like to have their important email separated from the rest automatically — something Gmail started offering last year with Priority Inbox

Over the coming weeks, we’re rolling out several new inbox styles to help you manage your mail in the way that works best for you. Once it’s turned on for your account, you can easily choose a style from the tabs at the top of your inbox: 

  • Classic – This is the default inbox style most people are used to. In the Classic inbox, messages are ordered chronologically, with your most recent email at the top.
  • Priority Inbox – Important and unread messages appear at the top of your inbox, then starred messages, then everything else. Each section can be customized further, so you can create your own inbox style.
  • Important first – This style puts important mail at the top of the page (both read and unread messages). Everything else is in its own section at the bottom of your inbox. You may have noticed that we turned on importance arrows for everyone a few weeks ago; this inbox style separates messages with these arrows from those without.
  • Unread first – Simple: unread mail at the top; everything else at the bottom.
  • Starred first – Starred messages at the top; everything else at the bottom.

After you’ve settled on a style you like and used it for about a week, these tabs will go away, You can always change your inbox style from the drop down menu next to the Inbox label or from theSettings page.

So try on a new inbox style and see what fits you best!

 

Traffic Angels

If you are under the impression that nothing can be done about the chaotic Indian traffic and inefficient traffic department, think again.

There are several organisations and individuals who are doing their mite in this area.

1. Malcolm Wolfe

If you think Wolfe is a firangi blasting about Indian traffic conditions, you are wrong. He is a Hyderabadi. A former IAF pilot, he is now with Metropolitan Police, London. This is an excerpt about him from his excellent book Streetwise — a must in every home.

“His travels all over the world have gained for him invaluable experience in dealing with people and traffic matters…He has deep concern for the traffic situation in India and has a desire to make Indian roads safer to use.

“Over the past few years, he has worked with the traffic consultants and the Police of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad to improve the situation.”

You can find details about the book in his Web site http://www.streetwise.co.in

2. Save Pune Traffic Movement

This is an organisation run by citizens of Pune. Though the Web site  http://www.savepunetraffic.org/home concerns Pune, there is a lot of useful information like traffic rules, that are applicable to the entire country. The mission and vision, according to the site, is

Vision To achieve an orderly, chaos free and sustainable traffic system for Pune, which will be a model for the rest of India.
Mission To drive the transformation of traffic system through a united force of responsible citizens.

Pudumai Balakrishnan 

 Mr Pudumai Balakrishnan is the Chief Traffic Warden of Pondicherry. This is the description about himself and his activities in his Web site http://roadtraffic.bravehost.com/ :

Pudumai Balakrishnan or  K.Balakrishnan, has been serving Pondicherry Police from March 1991. He was awarded IGP Medal,4 Cash Awards,3 Good Service entries &21 Commendation Certficates by the Pondicherry Police depertment for his work. He is also a recipient of the National Award on Raod Safety from the Indian Government.

He was appointed as Chief Traffic Warden in  December 1997. (Traffic Wardens manageTraffic during festivals and They assist traffic police during peak hours.)

Mr Adhiraj Joglekar

 Again, this looks like a lone crusader for sensible driving. His site http://driving-india.blogspot.com/ has videos that tell us how to drive correctly. Almost all the videos have been taken abroad. Watching the discipline there, we should feel ashamed the way we drive.