Google’s Santa Tracker can help you keep track of the Big Man on his deliveries on Christmas Eve, and don’t forget to use Google’s cool Santa Call service, too.
Google Maps’ Santa Tracker is ready to be used by Santa Claus fans around the world as they track his Christmas Eve trip that has him delivering toys and gifts to good children and to well-behaved techies.
And that’s not all. For the first time, Google Chrome users can install a special Chrome extension in their browsers so they can watch all of Santa’s travels live while they simultaneously surf for other information without having to open another Chrome tab.
Both features were announced this week by Eric Bidelman, a Chrome developer elf, in a post on the Google Chrome Blog.
“On Christmas Eve, as Santa makes his way across the world, you can follow his progress and keep tabs on how many presents he’s delivered with the Google Maps’ Santa Tracker,” wrote Bidelman. “And this year Santa’s developer elves went a bit further. They created a Chrome extension that enables you to simultaneously browse the Web on your Chrome Browser and follow Santa along his route.”
The Santa Tracker Chrome extension can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.
That extension has a long list of other fun activities to explore, wrote Bidelman. “Before Santa takes off on Christmas Eve, you can also use the extension to follow the countdown to his departure, play around with his blimp, elf bus, and write messages on a frosty browser window.”
Santa fans can also use Google’s Santa Call feature to ask Santa to make a personal phone call to someone special this Christmas. The animated free service is interactive and asks the user to give some basic information about the recipient so that Santa can make a fun, personalized call to a phone or email address.
Google Maps engineers were the ones who were hard at work building the wizardry that delivers Santa’s magic on computer screens and mobile devices around the world.
“While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve,” according to a post by Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Google Earth, on the Google Lat-Long Blog. “On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2 a.m. PST Christmas Eve” using the Santa tracker.
Visitors can also check out Santa’s Village to watch the countdown clock to Christmas Eve and to observe the elves and reindeer in their preparations.
In past years, Google also powered the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD’s) annual Christmas Eve Santa Tracking site, but this year NORAD moved those responsibilities to Microsoft, where they’ve also deployed an official Windows 8 Santa tracking app, according to an article by SearchEngineLand.
NORAD had been tracking Santa using Google every year since 2007, using Google Maps and Google Earth, according to the story.
NORAD’s Santa tracking service will still use Google’s YouTube channel to offer videos of his package-delivering exploits.
Google earlier this week released version 19 of its popular Chrome browser, patching a total of 20 vulnerabilities. Google has been releasing a new “stable” version of Chrome for the public every six-to-eight weeks, steadily resolving security weaknesses and adding new features in each new update.
In terms of new capabilities, Chrome 19 brings the ability to automatically share open tabs across devices, which requires that users be first signed in to Chrome and opt to sync their open tabs under “Advanced sync settings” in their browser settings. Once configured, other devices signed in with the same user account will be able to load open tabs by selecting them from an “Other devices” menu.
Describing the new feature in a blog, Raz Mathias, a Chrome software engineer, wrote, “The back and forward buttons will even work, so you can pick up browsing right where you left off.” Tab sync will not be enabled for all users immediately, says Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), but will be gradually rolled out over a number of weeks. In comparison, Mozilla has had tab sync since Firefox 4, which shipped in 2011.
Chrome 19 can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux here. As usual, existing users should have been updated automatically. If you’re still on an earlier version of Chrome, a quick restart by shutting down all browser windows and relaunching Chrome should initiate a transition to the latest version.
Google has released the latest beta version of its Chrome web browser, which brings support for multiple account syncing.
Chrome 16 was released, in beta, on Thursday and will make it easier for multiple users to share a computer but retain their own personal search, bookmark and app settings when they use the browser.
“Signing in to Chrome enables sync and brings your Chrome bookmarks and other personalized settings to all of your computers. Anything you update on one device instantly updates everywhere else,” Miranda Callahan, a Chrome software engineer, said in a blog post on the official Google Chrome Blog.
“In today’s beta release, we’ve added a new feature that lets people who use a shared computer each have their own personalised Chrome, and lets them each sign in to Chrome to sync their stuff,” she added.
To test it out, users need to click the spanner in the top right hand corner, navigate to options — preferences on a mac — then ‘personal stuff’ and then select ‘add a new user’.
A new instance of the browser will then open, ready for another user to log in and sync their apps, history, and bookmarks. A badge in the top of the browser shows which users are logged in at any given time.
However, Callahan warns that the feature does not provide security from other users of the computer, and that people would be better off using separate user accounts built into the operating system for that purpose.
“This feature isn’t intended to secure your data against other people using your computer, since all it takes is a couple of clicks to switch between users,” Callahan said. “We want to provide this functionality as a quick and simple user interface convenience for people who are already sharing Chrome on the same computer today.”
Google updates stable Chrome builds every six weeks, but makes updates to its beta channel builds every two-to-three weeks.
Picture credit: Google
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