Archive for the ‘Web Apps’ Category

Android Market Now Rents Movies

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Google’s annual IO conference began today, and Android was a highlight of the keynote. Among the more notable new features, Google is now offering movie rentals through the Android Market. Movies range from $1.99 to $3.99, and have similar terms and expiration policies as other services. I am still looking for the $1.99 selection. There is a good mix of newer and older titles available, from “The King’s Speech” to Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”.

Browsing through the movie selection, there are a number of features available. You can watch a preview with YouTube, get critic reviews or user reviews, tweet about the movie, read a synopsis, and find out general information about the movie. Movie ratings, length, and contract terms are available as well. Once purchased, the rental is valid for 30 days if the movie is not watched. Once playback begins, the timeline drops to 24 hours. This is comparable to the PlayStation Network and Dish Network’s pay per view options.

I think this service is poised to give both Netflix and Amazon a run for their money. The layout is clean, easy to follow, and conveniently connected to your Google account. This means you can watch on your Android phone or your computer, no matter where you are. There’s even a feature to watch the movie offline if you don’t have a consistent connection. This is done with a “pin” feature, and can take a good chunk of time on a tablet such as the Xoom. Google posts download times as 45-90 minutes for HD and 30-60 minutes for SD. Streaming is instant, so you might want to do that if your data plan isn’t unlimited.

The service is currently available only in the United States. Google suggests you download the movie before leaving the country if you want to use the service elsewhere. An Android app is available on the Xoom, and requires Flash. The app should be available for Froyo and above soon, but you can browse for movies at

I think this feature will be getting a lot of action in my household. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with it. This weekend’s road trip should provide ample opportunity to play, so I’ll post my experiences next week.

Google and NORAD Team Up to Track Santa

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Google and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have teamed up again this year to track Santa as he makes his famous run on Christmas Eve. NORAD has been doing this since 1955, being joined by Google in 2007. This year there are kid games on the tracking web site as well as the usual countdown.

Santa tracking officially begins at 2:00 am EST on December 24. You have a couple of options in the method of tracking. Google Earth and Google Maps are available on your desktop. Google Maps will also track Santa on your phone. Just search for “Santa” whichever method you choose.

Here is the video from last year’s Santa tracking:

From your computer, go to to start tracking. From your mobile browser, you can go to The site’s content changes daily to keep your kids entertained as they wait for the big day. My kids are pretty excited from all the contact they’ve received from Santa, so tracking him will really make their day. Hopefully your kids will have as much fun as mine waiting for Santa this year – at least until they have to go to bed.

Google Adds Contact Restoration Feature

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Google announced a very welcome feature this morning. Google Contacts now has a restoration feature to undo any mistakes or deletions within the last 30 days. Using a pretty simple form, you can restore anywhere from 10 minutes ago to the full 30 days.

This feature would have been really useful recently when I made the classic error of forgetting Google tags things and doesn’t use folders. I managed to delete a lot of “duplicate” entries only to discover I had erased all of my family and friends. A few imports later and some time spent re-organizing my Google Contacts and I was back up to speed. Had this feature existed I could have rolled back to 10 minutes prior and saved myself a lot of work.

The restoration feature is not as smart as one might hope at this point though. If you’ve added new contacts since the date you are restoring you will lose them. This feature sets your account to the exact state it was in on that date. This brings back the deleted contacts, but deletes new ones too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to set it up this way, but it would be nice to see this feature get tweaked a little. Google allows you to undo a restoration too if you need to get back one of the newer contacts deleted by the restoration. This will ease any fears of permanently deleting your current address book as well.

The feature is already live, so you can go about your day knowing you won’t wipe your contacts clean by accident and find yourself without recourse. Hopefully we won’t ever have need of this, but it is nice to know it is there. I for one am glad Google added this restoration capability, as I’m sure all of Google’s other customers are.