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.
After an ease in export restrictions, Google is making Google Earth, Picasa, and Chrome available for download in Syria — a country that been faced with international pressure and US sanctions over concerns of human rights abuses. Google released the same programs in Iran earlier this year after a similar export ban was lifted, and the company says that “free expression is a fundamental human right and a core value.” Back in February in his Mobile World Congress keynote, Google’s Eric Schmidt referenced “Assad’s brutality” and said that while governments will try to control networks, efforts to block Google services will fail.
Google’s decision to introduce Earth, Picasa, and Chrome in Syria also line up with the US government’s hopes for private influence in the Middle East. Back in March, at the same time Google released the same three services in Iran, the Obama administration announced efforts to subvert Iran’s alleged internet censorship efforts by allowing the export of free software like Google Talk, Skype, Dropbox, Chrome, Firefox, and other programs. While Google is announcing its new offerings for Syria today, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control authorized export of free instant messaging, social networking, media sharing, browsing, and blogging services on August 18th, 2011.
Google updated its Chrome Beta Android app yesterday with some handy new features. Though it’s only compatible with smartphones and tablets running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the new update offers the ability to view the desktop version of any website instantly. Users can also add bookmarks to their Android home screens and select which apps should open links in Chrome instead of the default system browser. The app is available in 31 different languages now, thus extending its reach further.
The team behind Google Earth also announced some interesting news which we expect to see integrated into its Android app eventually. Google Earth is now inviting users to contribute to its aerial view technology with images shot from balloons and kites. The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science is a grassroots organization that offers a balloon-mapping toolkit for around $100. Expect some unique looks at the world from above via public contributions soon.
The Google vs. Oracle trial has finally reached the courtroom. Both Google co-founder/CEO, Larry Page, and Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, took the stand yesterday. The case is all about copyright infringement, with Oracle accusing Google of using Java code in its Android operating system without permission. According to The Verge, Page said that he knew there were some disputes about some files, noting that Ellison had informed him about the allegations over a dinner meeting. But the Google chief claims examples were never sent, “I’m assuming because there wasn’t very strong evidence.” The trial continues.
Meanwhile, could the seemingly eternal cat-and-mouse courtroom games over patents between Samsung and Apple finally be coming to an end? According to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, and Samsung CEO, Gee-Sung Choi, along with their chief legal teams are expected to meet in San Francisco for settlement talks, moderated by U.S. Magistrate Judge, Joseph C. Spero. Though Mueller is skeptical that anything will come of this (after all, Google and Oracle tried the same thing but now find themselves in court), even the fact that the two CEOs will gather and discuss their litigation could be a positive sign.
Find great Android games to download here
To see the hidden feature just head to Google.com and search for the phrase “do a barrel roll.” Provided your browser is up to the task — the latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Firefox should all work — the search results page will do a barrel roll.
It’s worth a chuckle at least, but gaming nerds will be even more impressed to learn that the search phrase “Z or R twice” does the same barrel roll.
Google is well known for its Easter Eggs and has even gone so far as to embed an entire flight simulator in Google Earth. These latest two were found by Jason Cross, senior editor at PCWorld. In the Google+ thread below Cross’ post users point out a few more Google search Easter Eggs, including “tilt“, “ascii art” (check out the Google logo) and our personal favorite, the quite subtle “recursion.”