My Google Development Community Piece was referenced at ZDNet

2 days ago I wrote a post about the lack of Google Israel’s involvement in the development community.

It seems that in most of the places (I’m sure in the US, I’m not sure if the rest of the development centers in South American and Europe have the same involvement) where Google has development centers they are a little more involved with the development community in the form of lecture, places to meet and chat, sponsoring events, etc.

I got referenced on ZDNet by Donna Bogatin (Thanks Donna! :-) ) in a post Donna wrote about a victory that Microsoft had over Google in Israel for an enterprise search engine.

There are a couple of things I wanted to comment about Donna’s post.

People need to realize that Microsoft had a presence in Israel for quite some time starting from the 1990 or so (if I’m not mistaken) and the first development center outside of the USA that Microsoft had was the one in Haifa, Israel.

There is a big and fat contract for the Israeli government as well as the Israeli education system with Microsoft, so there is no real wonder why Microsoft one this contract. Of course I might be off on this one since I lack all of the details, but its reasonable to assume that one less contractor and some other promises from Microsoft and the contact was sealed.

One anecdote is that the Israeli government helped to finance the Hebrew translation and major Hebrew support in OpenOffice (just go to openoffice.org.il – Hebrew Link – and see that the effort was sponsored by the Israeli ministry of finance). One of the reasons for this project was to enable every citizen and school to have an advanced word processor, spreadsheet editor, and other solutions in Hebrew and for free as part of the government of Israel’s online government project (which is quite advance in global terms as well).

This means that every school in Israel, the Israeli education system and all of the government offices could have migrated to a pure Hebrew OpenOffice and save a lot of money (and there are better uses for this money in Israel. Trust me) instead of getting a contract from Microsoft to supply it’s Office suite.

Of course, even though the government paid for the translation and migration of OpenOffice to Hebrew, Microsoft still won the contract (probably because the government didn’t want to move to another operating system and retrain the staff) and Israel got a “real deal” so that it paid quite a few bucks for that.

There are rumors Steve Ballmer’s visit a few years back was the one that made the deal very lucrative for the Israeli government and closed the deal.

Now I know it sounds like I’m yet another Microsoft basher and it might be partially true. I am, however, proficient and trained enough in Microsoft technologies. I even have an Advanced .NET Debugging blog and I have worked (and still working) with Microsoft technologies for a good part of my professional life.

I do, however, feel comfortable in Linux and non MS technologies (both Web and non web).

On the other hand I’m not an MS zealot as well as not an open source zealot. I believe that the right tools should be used for the right cause and circumstances and I do believe in open and good competition which is a bit lacking in Israel at the moment, at least from the development community side.

As I’ve said in the previous post, the open source community in Israel is quite alive and kicking and they do have conferences and group meetings, but its mainly based on the good will of good people to organize and make sure things like a Linux Installfest and the Israeli Open Source developers conference still happens, usually with a very small participation and/or funding of the “big companies”.

I just hope that one of the Googlers here or in the US read about it and decide to act upon it :-)

Google Israel – Where Art Thou in the Development Community?

I know that Google‘s original Googleplex at Mountain View is very active for non googlers. There are frequent open lectures there and they host a bunch of other things like Summer of Code (well, not always host, but sponsor and make sure people know about it) and Google Developer Day (which is happening at 10 different locations worldwide, but NOT in Israel).

I know there are suppose to be two development centers in Israel, one in Haifa (which I know is located in MATAM cause you can see it from road #2 leading from Tel Aviv to Haifa near Intel and Microsoft Haifa) but I have no idea where the other development center in Israel is located, other than the fact that its suppose to be in the Tel Aviv area.

I don’t know how active Google is in the development community in other countries besides the US but I think that Google Israel (and the rest of Google) as well as the rest of the development community in Israel will benefit if they’ll open up a bit and become a major player in the development community.

Microsoft Israel figured this out a long time ago and there are quite a few communities (warning: Hebrew link) that meet once a month. There is also at least one full time Microsoft employee (at least that I know of) that is logistically leading this effort and making sure everyone stay happy and use MS products. I don’t even talk about the big events Microsoft Israel holds at least once a year to show off new things and to educate people about the new technology.

I guess this effort paid off since most of the companies developing in Israel today (and quite a few startups, even in the web 2.0 arena) are using Microsoft technologies and not Open Source products and technologies.

If Google Israel (hopefully the R&D part) will open up a bit and start hosting lectures and events in Israel, the same way the original Googleplex (and possibly other Google centers around the world, I don’t really know) does, the Israeli development community may gain a valuable player that can educate people about the usage of Open Source development environment, products and solutions.

It can become a driving force that can change how the Israeli development community looks and acts.

I’m not saying there is no open source community and activity in Israel. There is quite a few. Heck, even PHP (from v3 I think) is in part Israeli and Zend (the company behind PHP which supports its development) is in Israel. There are more than a few Linux kernel hackers that I know of that contribute on a daily basis to the Linux kernel and other sub systems and more than a few companies that base their products on open source products and give back to the community in the form of patches, fixes and features.

What I am saying is that having a major player that can concentrate the efforts and help cultivate and educate the development community in Israel on things other than Microsoft and Microsoft Technologies can have a major effect on the Israeli development community and there is no better time than now.

If one of you Israeli Googlers are reading this, you are more than welcome to comment or even comment privately directly to me.

Of course, I might be imaging all of this but some quick Google searches didn’t put anything up in an obvious way.

Speaking of development and the development community, since MS already has a development center in Israel (and is creating additional ones besides the one in Haifa) and Google has 2 development centers in Israel, where is Yahoo? I guess that’s something for another post :-)

Google Apps for Your Domain and Gmail Mail Applet for Nokia phones

I own a Nokia E61 cell phone. A nice phone all in all (aside from the backup problems my wife encountered).

Gmail has this cool little applet that lets me access my Gmail account in a nicer (and better cached) way from my cell phone. It’s a really nice program and I use it quite often.

It has one problem though. If you host your own domain through Google Apps for Your Domain to get the Gmail like interface for your Emails you cannot use this program.

Technically (as far as I could see) the interface is rather the same, the only different should be the user name and password. But there is a restriction in the user name in the mail applet that forces you to put an Email address with a suffix of @gmail.com only. It will not accept anything other than a @gmail.com user name.

Google Apps for your Domain has, however, a program for Blackberries. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I would really like to have the current nice mail applet working with my hosted Google Gmail application.

I want the normal Gmail applet to work with my custom domain and Google Apps for your domain, otherwise I’m forced to use the not so nice Cell phone browser web mail access which is far less usable than the applet.

Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so, considering that it seems there shouldn’t be any problem supporting it technically (it’s the same backend). If any of you Google Apps for your Domains Googlers are reading this and there is a bigger issue/problem with forcing the mail applet to support Google Apps for Your Domain, I would love to know why (you can even ping me privately through my contact page).

Google Docs & Spreadsheets integration with Gmail

Google Gmail recently got a new feature allowing one to open Word documents using Google Docs and we can safely assume that PDF and Excel (for use with Google Spreadsheets) documents are on their way as well.

Sometimes a Word document can be quite big with lots of added stuff like images, drawings and so on.

If Google can handle the on-the-fly (or at least on-mail-receive) Word documents conversions I do think that they can (and hopefully will) handle Movie files conversions like I suggest in my previous post about integrating YouTube/Google Video with Gmail.

Since copyright issues are the same for Word documents, having the movie converted and show only to the mail recipient shouldn’t be much of a problem.

I wonder if the Gmail team subscribed to RSS alerts on their product the same way as the Google Reader team :-)

Google openning a second research center in Israel

According to this, Google is opening an R&D center in Israel in the Tel Aviv area.
This is the second center, the first one opened in Haifa.

Microsoft has a research center in Haifa from 1991 and it was published in the Israeli press (sorry, I couldn’t find an English reference for this) that they are planning to open another research center in the Tel Aviv area.

The only company now from the big GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) that doesn’t have an R&D presence here in Israel is Yahoo.

What are they waiting for? Perhaps they don’t view Israel as an important part of their R&D strategy (unlike Microsoft and Google).

Google Ctemplate

I just saw that Google released the Google Ctemplate library.

While they do need to get some kudos for their efforts of releasing various code bits out as open source, I do have a problem with the Ctemplate library itself.

I don’t know when they wrote this library, but what I do know is that its yet another templating language to use. Why couldn’t they have used a standard language such as JavaScript (more exactly, ECMAScript) instead of inventing their own syntax? There are so many templating engines out there, why invent yet another one instead of trying to use an official syntax know by many?

Oh well, another templating engine bites the dust ;-)

Google will open up an R&D Center in Israel

According to this link in Globes, the Israeli Business newspaper, Google is going to open up an R&D center in Israel in the second quarter. The center will be led by Dr. Yoelle Maarek, a long time (17 years) veteran of IBM’s research labs and will be located in the northern city of Haifa (near the Technion, surprise surprise)

The only company out of the big 3, a.k.a, GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), that has an R&D center in Israel is Microsoft. Yahoo had something in the first bubble and after the explosion of the first bubble it was quickly closed.

This comes a little bit after Google opened an office for marketing purposes in Israel and is now hiring.

Its going to be very interesting from a few points of view:

  1. Microsoft’s R&D center in Israel is located in Haifa as well.
  2. IBM’s Research Labs are also located in Haifa
  3. The Technion, Israel’s leading technical university is also located in Haifa, meaning, plenty of Software Engineers from the top of the line of the academy in Israel.

Microsoft’s R&D center mainly focuses on security and, if I’m not mistaken, was the place of birth for COM+ and some other interesting technologies. While no one knows for sure what Google will develop in Israel, I wonder how Microsoft is going to react to that.

It’s also going to be very interesting as to what Yahoo will do with this and if they are willing to take another shot at Israel.

The arena in Israel is heating up, that’s for sure.

I got a refund! Woohooo!

A long long time ago on July 6th 2005 I’ve posted a rant post about how I’m so pissed at Google after I had to pay $37.25 to get a “Free” Google T-Shirt I won because I wrote the Google Search API .NET Wrapper.

Well, now after 8 months I finally got a refund.

It started as a strange Email I got from the GoogleStore saying something about my request being handled. I didn’t figure what this was and the Email didn’t have any special links in it.

I looked online in my credit card’s bill and I saw a refund of $37.25 from Google.

Although it’s a bit late I still would like to thank Google for hearing me out. Way to go! Keep up the good work!

Now I won’t be embarrassed (I was embarrassed before because I had to pay almost $40 for a geek T-Shirt) to roam the street of Tel Aviv with my very own Google Desktop Geek T-Shirt!

Thanks Google! (really)

Tags or Labels? Which one do you prefer?

I read a this post on Niall Kennedy’s blog about the new features in the Google Toolbar which includes the ability to store and tag label bookmarks that can also later be retrieved when logging into a different machine.

While the concept is nice (and is similar in a number of ways to the del.icio.us extension for FireFox the thing that caught my eye was the fact that Google decided to call the tags labels.

While they (Google) are very consistent with the naming issue (you also have labels in Gmail) why is the term “labels” was chosen over “tags”?
Do they think that the term “labels” is easier to understand and explain to the common John Dow instead of “tags”?
Did they do it just to set themselves apart from the whole “tagging” frenzy going on, or did they simply chose this term before the “tags” term went very public?

Anyhow, I personally prefer “tags” over “labels”. When I say “labels” I always have a connotation of sticky notes on boxes.

Which one do you prefer, Tags or Labels?

Connect Google Talk with MSN, Yahoo and AIM

Just saw this on Digg and since I’m already on a Jabber frenzy due to my previous posts, I thought I should share.

Looks quite cool, though I haven’t tried it yet.

I’m using GAIM so I got everything all up in one client. I’m just waiting to get a build of GAIM that works with libjingle so I would be able to chat with my friends using Google Talk’s voice features.

If I only had a bit more free time to actually code on GAIM that would be even better… oh well… back to the salt mines.

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