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Googlers tend to be disturbingly serious about Halloween. Here are a few of our favorite costumes spotted yesterday around the Googleplex.

Google Blog Team

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Here at Google we like puzzles. A lot. We do them to relax, we use them in recruiting campaigns, and we're even a sponsor of the World Puzzle Championship. So, as Google's official in-house puzzle geek, I'm pleased to report that recently, after a two-year dry spell, Team USA finally recaptured the World Puzzle Championship title, our eighth victory in the 13-year history of the championship.

In fact, "13" was a common theme for this year's contest, which was held in Opatija, Croatia, a small town on the Adriatic Coast; all the individual rounds had 13 puzzles, and all the time limits were multiples of 13 minutes. Some of the more interesting events included a "relay" round where the solution to each puzzle was needed to solve the next puzzle, and two rounds where information from the 12 initial puzzles were needed to solve the final 13th puzzle. Here's an example of one particularly nasty brain-teaser from that round:



(For those readers who haven't solved it already, shade in nine regions such that no two shaded regions touch (even at a corner) and that eight of them "point" in different directions. The numbers outside the grid tell you how many shaded regions there should be in that row or column.)

I wound up placing 5th in the individual rankings; first place went to Niels Roest from The Netherlands in a very impressive comeback victory in the playoffs. But the most enjoyable aspect of the trip may have been the travel itself, which took us from Munich, Germany to Trieste, Italy, through Slovenia and across the Istrian peninsula to the Hotel Ambasador (yes, only one S), where I enjoyed a stunning 180-degree view of the Mediterranean from my room (when I wasn't solving puzzles, of course).

I can't wait to try out for next year's competition in Hungary!

Wei-Hwa Huang
Software Engineer

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As you might have heard, there's an election coming up. If you're as obsessed as we are (okay, if you're half as obsessed as we are), we'd like to suggest a few ways that Google can help enable your political jones.

Google News, of course, is constantly packed with a crazy amount of stories, from wire service reports to partisan pundits, global opinion to intrepid bloggers. Setting up a few Google Alerts will keep your in-box up-to-the-minute with every last late-breaking poll result, local ballot initiative, Electoral College analysis and, alas, hanging-chad-related court filing. And stay tuned to Google Zeitgeist for our ongoing analysis of the most recent web search trends.

But most important - get out and vote!

Michael Krantz
Google Blog Team

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We've always loved Powers of 10, the classic 1977 film by Charles and Ray Eames that takes you on a visual ride from inside an atom to the edge of space in under 10 minutes. It turns out Keyhole brings a similarly astonishing perspective to its visual mapping software, and it's an incredibly powerful information tool besides. That's why we've acquired the company. We like the way the Keyhole folks think, and can't wait to get under the hood to see how this service might assist Google users around the world in finding the information they need.

-- Jonathan Rosenberg
VP, Product Management

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If you've been following Google closely, you'll know that we don't do a lot of marketing type activities. We prefer to let our products speak for themselves. That's worked pretty well so far, but as we've introduced an increasing array of services, from Orkut to Gmail, there have a been a lot of Google voices competing for your attention. So, to get a feel for exactly what people are hearing from us, we recently took part in our first live event, DigitalLife, in New York's Javits Convention Center. Our ears are still ringing.

DigitalLife

Many of those who stopped by our Lego™-flavored booth were pretty confident they knew all there was to know about Google. And they often did know a lot. But when we showed them how to find digital cameras in a given price range using Froogle, or how to sort all their photos instantly with Picasa, or how to use Google to convert the speed of light into furlongs per month, they walked away shaking their heads as if they might asplode. "I didn't know you could do that," was the mantra du jour.

If you'd like to up your own Google experience points, check out our helpful help pages and our advanced search tips or download our easily concealed cheat sheet. It's not that all you know about Google is wrong; it's just that, most likely, all you know isn't all there is to know.

Doug Edwards
Google Blog Team

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Those of us who are lucky enough to make our living thinking about challenging problems know that real breakthroughs are rarely as discontinuous as they might appear. Sometimes it's a matter of timing. Sometimes it's a matter of two failed approaches coming together with a twist that makes them right. So when we win recognition for what Google has become, we like to remind ourselves that many others have contributed to our success. As Newton said, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

Recently, for example, Larry was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. His class of 87 joins more than 2200 engineers who the NAE says have "made important contributions to engineering theory and practice." And both Sergey and Larry have been named the 2004 Marconi Fellows, joining such notables as Bob Metcalfe and Tim Berners-Lee.

The honors are truly and deeply appreciated. But Larry and Sergey have always been quick to acknowledge that their early work was made possible by the support of the faculty and staff of Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Maryland. Since Google left academia, many fine engineers have contributed to its development. And then there are the thousands of users who help us improve our products through beta testing, feedback and ideas, and simply by using Google day in and day out. Unfortunately that's too many names to put on a plaque. So to all those who have contributed to Google's success, our thanks.

Urs Hoelzle
Google Fellow

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When I shook Mikhail Gorbachev's hand, my heart was pounding. We get a fair number of prominent visitors at Google, but none have thrilled me more than my former President, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to free the Soviet bloc. Gorbachev has been my hero and inspiration for most of my life. A lot of Russians have mixed feelings about his presidency, but I always felt he was the only Russian leader who wasn't seeking power for its own sake, but because he wanted to make the world a better place for everyone.



He still does. Speaking to a hall full of rapt Googlers, Gorbachev, now a spry 73, talked about how since 1992 he has been President of Green Cross International (its American affiliate is Global Green USA) which advocates for an environmentally sustainable global community. "We cannot go on with our business-as-usual attitude" toward the environment, he warned. "Young people should be watchful. Don't forget this is your world, and you have to search for solutions."

What struck me most is the way, after all he's seen and experienced, Gorbachev insists on maintaining the sort of focused positive thinking that, say, a young tech company could learn from. Green Cross's quarterly magazine, for instance, is called The Optimist. And its slogan? "Looking beyond the horizon."

Lydia Shtarkman
Corporate Development
(Former USSR citizen)

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Much of scholarly research is learning what others have discovered and building on it. As the famous Isaac Newton quote goes, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Today we are launching the beta version of a service which we hope will help this process. Google Scholar is a free service that helps users search scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports.

Just as with Google Web Search, Google Scholar orders your search results by how relevant they are to your query, so the most useful references should appear at the top of the page. This relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature. Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to aren't online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications.

We at Google have benefited much from academic research. This is one of the ways in which we are giving back to the research community. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of giants.

Anurag Acharya
Principal engineer

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For those adept in C++, Java, C# or VB.NET, the rewards aren't always apparent. They toil over eye-straining command structures and obscure data bits about which most people are happily unaware. Yet those arcane bits are the very things that can deliver the right search results, not to mention lead to sleek interfaces and elegant functionality in computer systems for everything from ATMs to GPS.

We just concluded the Google CodeJam, our annual celebration of computer programming chops. It began September 1 with 7,500 contestants around the world. It ended today with Sergio Sancho of Buenos Aires, Argentina winning the top prize of $10,000. We flew the 50 finalists to the Googleplex for a championship round and cash prizes.



For two hours, their brains simmered and fingers flew as they focused sharply on complex computing problems. As usual, the nerds won, and we're glad they did.

Alan Eustace
Director of Engineering

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Considering how important the information on your own computer is, it's always been a bit strange that you could find what you were looking for more easily if it were hidden on a website in Irkutsk than in a corner of the hard drive sitting right in front of you. Today, Google offers a first step toward fixing that anomaly with the beta introduction of Google Desktop Search, a free downloadable application for your PC.

Google Desktop Search will retrieve your email in Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express; files in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and text; your website history in Internet Explorer; and your instant message chats in AOL Instant Messenger. In other words, if you've seen it on your computer screen, Google Desktop Search can likely help you find it. Simply put, it's like a photographic memory for your computer.

Google Desktop Search is also fast, and it integrates with your online Google web searches. While Google.com searches the web for you, the Google Desktop Search client software retrieves your relevant local information, and adds it to your search results page. And it lets you view web pages you've seen, even if you're not online anymore. You can read all the details or just download and try it yourself. We do advise you to read the privacy policy, as Google Desktop Search is different from other search products, and you should understand exactly how it protects your personal information.

All in all, we believe this is a non-trivial advance in making information accessible. But you tell us. We'd love to hear your reactions, comments and suggestions.

-- Marissa Mayer
Director, Consumer Web Products

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Just in time to find a decent pair of wellies for the winter, we've launched Froogle UK. More Britons than ever are shopping online, so we wanted to offer the broadest possible shopping selection with merchants large and small who sell throughout the U.K. With unbiased price comparisons and free listings for all participating merchants, now Froogle can assist with retail therapy on both sides of the pond.

-- Karen Padham
Froogle Product Manager

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SMS stands for Short Message Service, and Europe and Asia have thoroughly embraced this text messaging technology. Using your phone to send and receive text messages is a newer phenomenon in the U.S. Now we're getting into the fray with Google SMS. It's a way to access Google for precise information from your mobile phone or handheld device (like a BlackBerry).

Google SMS is a handy way to, say, get a listing for a nearby restaurant, find the definition of a word, or look up the price of a product, an area code or Zip code. You can even use Google SMS to calculate a tip. If your phone is enabled for text messages, just send your query to this 5-digit US shortcode: 46645 (GOOGL on most phones). Your query results are sent as text messages, not links. Learn more about using Google SMS on our help page or by sending a text message with the word 'help' to 46645.

-- Benjamin Ling
Product Manager, Google SMS

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A year ago, Dublin became the first location for Google's regional operations outside the U.S. We designed it to serve Google customers across multiple time zones and languages spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa. There were just five of us in 2003. Today we've built a team of 150, and their passion, energy, and tech savvy enliven our new Barrow Street HQ. It's about as polyglot as we could hope for, too: this lot of Googlers come from 35 countries and speak 17 languages.

TGIF in Dublin

To mark the opening of the Dublin office, we were honored to have a visit by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who joined Mary Harney, An Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) to formally open the office. As Ms. Harney's appearance demonstrates, we've had incredible support from the Irish government.

We're in the heart of Dublin in a state of the art facility. If you're fluent in European languages, if you're motivated, focused and ready for a fast ride, come join us!

Angus Kelsall
Head of Dublin office

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We talk a lot about our mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," and we think we've made a reasonable start on corraling the information that's roaming around the web. Unfortunately a lot of very useful information is not online, and books, journals and other forms of printed communication stubbornly refuse to spontaneously digitize themselves to make it easier for you to find them. So we've decided to help.

Google Print is an ongoing initiative to scan printed material and put it online where it can show up in Google search results. We've expanded the program, and we're now inviting publishers to send us books that we'll scan and put online for free. There are many, many books out there, and the process of scanning takes time, but depending on your areas of interest, it's likely you'll soon be seeing more Google Print results when you use Google.

-- Adam M. Smith
Google Print product manager

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You've probably wondered why there's never been a Google domain in Norway. As it turns out, our name means "sunglasses" in Norwegian, and, well, even the non-lawyers can see where this sort of problem leads.

But now the Great Norwegian Sunglasses Crisis is history, and this week we were able to launch Norway and Kenya, our 102nd and 103rd domains, respectively. Check them all out-- and hey, anyone got an up-to-date atlas we can borrow?

-- Sean Knapp
Software engineer