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Microsoft OfficeMicrosoft has made available today a website where users can take Office 2007 beta out for a test drive, without having to download a thing.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  While you aren’t required to download the hefty beta ISO, you are required to install a browser plugin from Citrix, and if you don’t already have one you’ll need to sign up for a Microsoft Live or Passport account as well.

Applications included in the Web-based test version of Office 2007 are: Microsoft Office Access 2007, Excel 2007, InfoPath 2007, OneNote 2007, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, Outlook Web Access, PowerPoint 2007, Project Professional 2007, Publisher 2007, SharePoint Designer 2007, Visio 2007, Word 2007, SharePoint Services, Project Server 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007.

This could be a sign that Microsoft is concerned about competition from Google’s online word processing and spreadsheet applications, or they could simply be looking at others avenues of growth for their Office products.  Regardless of their motives, I decided to give the Office Beta Test Drive a little test of its own.  Positive of the expected outcome, I loaded up Firefox 1.5.0.4 and tried accessing the test site.  Microsoft didn’t let me down, and spurned my attempts to use a browser other than IE.  So I dusted off IE 6.0, fired up the test site, and was greeted by the confidence inspiring message you see below.

Office Test Drive

Undaunted by this sign of either extreme popularity or poor planning on the part of the test site, I forge ahead.  With the browser check complete, the next task up is the installation of the Citrix plugin.  All goes well at this stage, albeit extremely slowly.  So slow at times that I think the test site has given up and gone home for the day.  The plugin does install though and I move on to the network check, and this is where things come to a complete, dead stop.  Plenty of bandwidth is available on my end of things, so the hold up is definitely on the test site’s end.

And that’s where this story ends, for now.  I’ll update this later today once the test site has decided to wake up from it’s nap, or once it finally succumbs and gives up the ghost.

*UPDATE* After a few tries throughout the day, the test site did eventually speed up and I was able to progress to the point of entering the waiting queue.  With the prospect of a 173 minute wait in front of me, I finally threw in the towel and sent my IE window back to the depths from which it came.  If anyone has the patience to wait it out, and is successful in trying the online beta, please let us know your thoughts.

Read More | Microsoft via Computerworld


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Google“Mass personalization” is name of the game according to Google, and it could change the way you watch TV.  The brainiacs at Google have come up with a process whereby your computer listens to the television program being viewed, and then searches out related information.  Imagine watching a movie, and having Google pull up relevant data from the IMDB or the Wikipedia, without having to lift a finger.  If nothing else, it will help solve the eternal question of “what else have I seen that actor/actress in?”  The downside, if there is one, is that the technology could also be used for the purposes of evil

to display advertising that ties in with the program being watched.

Google’s technology is not the first of its kind. The Shazam music service allows users to submit a snippet of a song by holding their mobile phone near the source for 30 seconds, minutes later receiving a text message with the artist’s name and title of the song. But according to Covell and Baluja, the Google technology requires only five seconds of sound to identify a TV show. Once the program has been identified, the technology scours the Internet for relevant data and media content. “All of this would be done without users ever having to type or to even know the name of the program or channel being viewed,” they wrote. “We could collect snippets from the Web describing the actors appearing in a movie or present maps of locales within the movie as it takes place, no matter if users are watching it as a live broadcast or as a recorded broadcast,” the researchers wrote. The researchers said the technology poses no threat to user privacy because it does not allow reverse mapping from audio to summary statistics. They also said the technology will not be able to understand nearby conversations.

So when can you expect to have this technology in your hands?  Possibly never as Andrew Frank, a Gartner research analyst, points out that “This falls into the speculative category and I think it is important to take this technology for what it is, which is an interesting, speculative experiment to determine what might be possible in some hypothetical scenario,” Frank said. “I think the chances of this becoming a product are pretty slim.”

Read More | Top Tech News

GoogleGoogle continues to draw users with its suite of applications that can be accessed from practically anywhere you can access the Internet.  One such application, Google Calendar, is especially nice as it helps answer the eternal question that friends and family members inevitably ask - “when are you free?”.  With a shared version of the Google Calendar they can answer their own question, but its lack of offline use and portability leaves a little something to be desired.

It turns out that there’s a solution to the problem for those of us who use Microsoft Outlook as our personal information manager.  RemoteCalendars is an open source plugin that allows you to import iCalendar-based files into Outlook, and with the latest release of version 5.61, allows you to perform two-way synchronization as well.  RemoteCalendars is still a work in progress, but if you follow the instructions implicitly, there’s a fair chance it will work as well for you as it did for me.


Read More | RemoteCalendars


It looks like Windows Live is continuing it’s quest to be your one-stop destination on the web for all your needs. Today, Windows Live Products launched over at http://products.live.com. Basically, if you have seen Google’s Froogle, you have seen Live Products. It is a price comparison engine that allows you to search for items you are looking to purchase, with the goal of finding you the best deal. After trying it out ourselves, it seems to be just as much of a mess as Froogle is. Oh, and the best part:

Windows Live Product Search crawls the web and automatically extracts products available for purchase online. As this is done algorithmically, the name, image, description or price of the products is not guaranteed to be accurate.

Here’s to hoping for a much improved shopping search experience.


Read More | Windows Live Products


SketchUp White House

Last month Google acquired @Last Software, makers of a neat piece of software called SketchUp.  SketchUp is a 3D modeling tool that is simple enough for just about anyone to use, yet offers powerful tools for professionals as well.  Speculation about SketchUp’s future pricing began the moment news of the acquisition was released, and true to Google’s track record, there’s now a free version of the software.  The free version, entitled Google SketchUp, is licensed only for non-commercial use and is missing a few features compared to the standard version, which is now called SketchUp Pro and provides the full feature set and naturally the full price tag of $495 USD. 

Sure, there are differences between the free and Pro versions, but for someone just looking to dabble with 3D modeling, or thinking about creating some buildings for Google Earth, the free version will do nicely.  The differences are summed up as:
• Pro users are able to print and export raster images at higher-than-screen resolution.

• Pro users have access to the following 3D export formats: DWG, DXF, 3DS, OBJ, XSI, VRML and FBX.

• Pro users are able to export animations and walkthroughs as MOV (Mac) or AVI (Windows) files.

• Pro users get the Sandbox Tools (for organic modeling of terrain, etc) and the Film & Stage Tools (for pre-viz work).

• Pro users have access to free email tech support for two years after they buy SketchUp Pro.

• Finally, only SketchUp Pro is approved for commercial use; the Free version is licensed for personal use only.

Currently available only for Windows-based machines, a Mac version is in the works.


Read More | Google SketchUp via Ars Technica


Google Calendar

Google Calendar has gone beta to the public. 

Simplify. Organize. (And relax.) Organizing your schedule shouldn’t be a burden. That’s why we’ve created Google Calendar – our free online shareable calendar service. With Google Calendar, it’s easy to keep track of all your life’s important events – birthdays, reunions, little league games, doctor’s appointments – all in one place.

The feature set on this free service is quite impressive:

  • XML/ICAL feeds for public and private calendars.
  • Share your calendar
  • Auto-add invitations.
  • Notifications via email, SMS and Pop-up (No GTalk notification?).
  • Import iCal or CSV (MS Outlook).
  • Gmail Integration
  • Mobile access
  • Event publishing (share your organization’s events with the world).

It was only a matter of time before Google added a calendar feature to their impressive list of services.  The fact that you can share a RSS feed of your calendar with the public seems to have a lot of potential.
 

Read More | Google Calendar


Maxim Eva LongoriaUsers of Google Earth have yet another sweet Easter egg to scout out. In celebration of their 100th issue, Maxim has reproduced one of their magazine covers to the measure of 75 feet by 100 feet, featuring a scantily-clad Eva Longoria. The headline reads “The only magazine big enough to be seen from space—and only in Vegas!” This is one, um, big publicity stunt.


Read More | CNET


Google is preparing to launch a music download service, according to research firm Caris & Company.  It is rumored that Google has been meeting with leading music executives for “networking opportunities.”  The new site is expected to gain support from the music industry, as iTunes does not offer flexible pricing or a subscription service.  Rumors were also confirmed at a recent analyst meeting where Google highlighted plans to expand into downloadable media.


Read More | Forbes


Google Romance“Pin All Your Romantic Hopes on Google” - That’s right ladies and gents, Google wants to help you find that special someone (or at least, that regular someone) all for free. Finding your soul mate can be hard work, but everyone knows that Google can find anything you look for, so why not your soul mate? Best of all, searching is a very simple process:

What is Soulmate Search?
Here on the Google Romance team, we follow the philosophy “Don’t be medieval,” so we brought only the latest psychographic and search algorithms to bear on the problem of hooking up our users. First you fill out an extensive personal profile carefully designed by a team of both married and single Google engineers for the express purpose of gathering and analyzing romantic information. Then you fill out an equally obscure and elaborate profile describing various attributes of the person with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life and click ‘Search Romance.’ It’s that simple.

What are you waiting for? Take the tour now! Remember to read the FAQs before committing to any life changing decisions.


Read More | Google Romance


Google FinanceGoogle has introduced a new feature, Google Finance, which promises to provide up-to-the-minute quotes, financial news, charts, data, and groups.  Once again Google, goes head to head with rival Yahoo!, and while Yahoo!’s finance portal offers a few things that Google Finance does not, the product is still in beta.  Google Finance still lacks the polished look we have come to expect of Google’s pages, but the information supplied there is formatted in a pleasant manner.  Google does not plan on coming up with its own information about financial matters, rather opting to rely on sources such as Reuters, Hoovers, and Morningstar, to provide charts and data.


Read More | Google Finance


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