Category Archives: Science & Tech

I wish I was a techie. I’m not. I’m a wannabe. These are the tech topics that fascinate me.

Apple fangirl trying to go Android

By: Magda Walczak

My sister had an Android. Every time I saw her use her swype keyboard I got green with envy. So I decided to put aside my pretty iPhone and give an Android phone a fair go. I was able to get my hands on the newest Nexus phone so that it was a fair battle – iPhone 5s vs the Nexus that was most recommended by people who I trust. Here’s my experience setting up the phone and using it for a couple weeks.

(experiment took place in the fall of 2013)

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Googleifying your life

By: Magda Walczak

I love Google. I only worked there for a year but I’m a Google girl now and forever. During this past week I fell in love with Chrome and I’m already taking it for granted. But that’s the beauty of Google’s tools – they’re so intuitive, easy and useful that we take them for granted. So here’s my “thank you Google” blog for the tools I can’t live without and you should use too.

Gmail – the perfect email

gmaillogoThere is such a clear distinction for life before Gmail and after Gmail, that I don’t know how I ever communicated online without it. Checking email was always a chore – sifting through spam and deleting emails with attachments was a daily task. With Gmail’s unlimited storage and superb spam filters, email became a natural and easy part of my day. All my conversations are logically organized, they’re fully (and quickly!) searchable, I NEVER have to delete anything and I don’t even remember when I had spam in my inbox. There’s seriously no reason why you should be using anything other than Gmail.

Google Chrome – the reliable browser

google-chromeAs I’m a Mac user I’ve only had the pleasure of using Google Chrome for a short time, but already I love it. Just check my Twitter. I went from “I want to kill Firefox” to “Oh my god how fast is Chrome?!?!?!?” It’s truly amazing. Pages load super quickly. New tabs open instantly. The screen is optimized to display content, not toolbars. It installs in about a minute and takes about that long to import your bookmarks, settings, etc., from your other browser. There’s no need for a search box because you type everything in to your address bar. When you click on a link, it opens in the tab adjacent to the one you’re in, not as the end of the window. These are all simple things we should expect from a browser, aren’t they? Until now, they were things I hoped for but knew I wouldn’t get from IE, Safari or Firefox. Chrome delivered big time. But the coolest feature is the ability to drag a tab into a new window, and vice versa. You literally drag and drop. So cool.

Oh, and I’ve had the same browser open for nearly a week now. I haven’t had a single problem with load speed, freezing, nothing! I’ve had to force-restart Firefox several times on a daily basis before. Finally, a reliable browser.

Google Docs – your mobile office

google_docs_logoLike Gmail or Chrome, Google Docs is just another no-brainer way to do something you’re used to, but better, faster and easier. Docs lets you create documents within your browser or, if you prefer, import existing documents from your computer or email. You can easily collaborate on documents or open them up as read only to anyone with an email address. If the styles on Docs aren’t enough for you, you can always open the doc on your computer and update the Docs file when you’re done. It’s all so easy it’s ridiculous. What’s best is that it’s all linked to your Google account and online so you can access your document library without even owning a computer.

Google Analytics – data even the marketing department can read

I’ve been using Analytics for years and I obviously think it’s great, but it’s not until I see another analytics tool that I appreciate the Google Analytics interface. All your data is at your fingertips. It’s easy to manipulate, it displays beautifully and exports easily. It’s so easy to read that you can show a screen to someone who’s not web savvy at all, and they’ll know exactly what they’re looking at. It makes data understandable no matter what your role you’re in. Last month Google launched a huge update to Analytics which now includes a broad spectrum of actions you can measure as well as very useful customized alerts (like, when your bounce rate goes above a certain level). There are entire blogs on Analytics alone (check out the best Analytics blog of all) so there’s no point for me to expand more. To make a long story short, Analytics empowers you really understand what’s happening on your site without spending thousands on software or staff.

Adwords Editor – SEM made easy

adwords-logoIf you run a business, chances are you’re running an SEM campaign on Google. The Adwords web interface is super easy to use, but when it comes to bulk edits, I still prefer Adwords Editor. It’s a piece of software that you install on your computer which lets you update your CPC campaigns quickly and easily. It uses all the same keyboard shortcuts that you’re used to in other programs, which makes bulk editing a breeze. Since it’s on your computer, you can use it offline and upload your changes later.

I can’t wait to see what Google thinks of next. I think Wave has tremendous potential for changing how we communicate, but it hasn’t reached full Google-ness yet. That is, it’s not as slick and intuitive as Gmail, for example. Google’s phone should be quite phenomenal as well. Thanks for keeping our digital lives interesting Google!

Thank you Hubble

By: Magda Walczak

In honour of the recent Jupiter bruise and total solar eclipse, I thought I’d post some of my favourite images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over the years. Check out the full Hubble gallery when you have a chance. You can download most photos for your desktop. Beautiful!

Solar system – Jupiter’s surface. Fascinating colours of ancient storms.

Ultraviolet Image of Multiple Comet Impacts on Jupiter
Source: Hubblesite.org

Stars – Light echoes from a supergiant (ie, bigger than Jupiter). Kinda looks like a jelly doughnut with a jewel inside it.

Light Echoes From Red Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis – May 2002
Source: Hubblesite.org

Nebulae – Cat’s Eye nebula. You couldn’t paint it better than this…

Planetary Nebula NGC 6543: Gaseous Cocoon Around a Dying Star
Source: Hubblesite.org

Galaxies – The Whirlpool Galaxy slowly eating up a smaller companion galaxy. Hard to believe this is a real picture and not an artist’s rendition for a Star Trek episode.

Whirlpool Galaxy
Source: Hubblesite.org

Thank you Hubble for showing us all the beauty in the universe! Now find us some aliens already! :)

Google Voice out now

By: Magda Walczak

Google’s next attempt at taking over a chunk of our lives is now available to the public. Google Voice is a service which lets you link all your phone activity to one number. For example, if someone calls you, your land line, work phone and personal phone would ring. This could be very useful to a small business, for example, to route calls to several people so potential customers never have to deal with an answering machine. Should no one answer, however, Google Voice offers a cetralised voice mail system as well. All in all, quite good for the right people.

The reason I use the phrase “taking over a chunk of our lives” is because undoubtedly Google Voice will become just one more platform for Google to serve their advertising on. Not that I mind. Everyone knows I’m Google fan #1. It’s just amazing to me how integrated with Google we become every day. Just ten years ago it didn’t even exist and today for many of us it’s an integral part of our lives. I couldn’t do my job without Google’s tools. Heck, my job wouldn’t even exist without Google! With the recent government Twitter intervention during the Iran elections, the barriers of the online world got even more blurry. Who’s to predict how dependent we’ll be on online services from Google in 5-10 years time and what power they will have? They already have a few of their own Googlers in the White House… It will be an interesting decade, that’s for sure.

As of yesterday, Google Voice was opened up to new users so chances are if you requested an invite in the past few months, you’ll be getting access soon. To get access, you can still request invitations here.