Google+ face-lift triggers jibes over extra white space


Yesterday’s revamp of Google+ leaves a hefty amount of white space on certain pages, a design change that’s brought out the comedian in many users.

(Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET)

What would you do with the extra white space now gracing the pages of Google+?

That’s a question many users of the social network have been answering with the usual sarcastic spin we always love to see on the Internet.

Launching yesterday, the latest face-lift for Google+ added a slew of changes, including a new left-side navigation bar and new ways to interact with the people in your circles.

But the one change that’s put people into full mocking mode is the new and extra-sized white space. Click on any virtually any Google+ page, and a good 40 percent is nothing but blank space.

The white-space flap has led to its own trending topic on Google+, where an array of users have chimed in with suggestions on how to use that space most effectively.

One user found the extra white space in front of his monitor a good spot to place his beer. Another put his cat in front of it. And a third angled his monitor into portrait mode to get rid of the white space entirely.

Personally, I’m a fan of white space. I think most Web pages are way too cluttered, so a little breathing room isn’t so bad. But in this case, the search giant may have gone a bit overboard. The extra space kind of makes the pages seem off-balance, like they’re going to tip over.

The obvious questions are why Google designed the pages this way and whether the company plans to use that extra real estate for other content down the road. Google didn’t immediately answer CNET’s request for comment.

A Google rep told CNET that some of the changes were indeed created for future needs.

“So while it may look clutter-free now, the idea is to give us space that will allow us to quickly grow,” the rep said. “With today’s foundational changes we can move even faster–toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.

I have hunch, though, that the company may have planned the whole “extra white space” conspiracy. It quickly turned into a trending topic and has generated lots of buzz. What better publicity could you ask for?

by Lance Whitney wears a few different technology hats–journalist, Web developer, and software trainer. He’s a contributing editor for Microsoft TechNetMagazine and writes for other computer publications and Web sites. Lance is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and he is not an employee of CNET.

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North Korea Satellite & Rocket Launch Failed


DPRK confirms satellite failed to enter orbit

Pyongyang, April 13 (Xinhua) — An earth observation satellite launched by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) earlier Friday morning has failed to enter orbit, and scientists and technicians are now looking into the cause of the failure, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite was launched at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38 a.m. on Friday (2238 GMT Thursday), said the report.

“The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure,” it said.

The DPRK’s failed launch has aroused international concerns, with the United States, Japan and South Korea all condemning the move, which they viewed had breached relevant UN resolutions.

The DPRK has said that its launch is for peaceful purposes and would not harm the region and neighboring countries.

This still from an Analytical Graphics, Inc., video animation depicts North Korea‘s Unha-3 rocket and Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite in the last leg of a potential orbital launch in April 2012.
CREDIT: Analytical Graphics, Inc.View full size image

North Korea has launched its long-range rocket but the US, Japan and South Korea say it failed shortly after take-off and fell into the sea. There has been no word yet from Pyongyang on the launch.

North Korea says the aim of the rocket is to launch a satellite but critics say the launch constituted a disguised test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

As the world watches and waits to see if North Korea will continue in its bid to launch a long-range rocket despite international warnings, a new video animation reveals just how the space test could occur.

The new video, released late Wednesday (April 11) by the analytical firm Analytical Graphics Inc., covers North Korea’s planned Unha-3 rocket launch, showing the flight trajectory from a point just after liftoff through the separation of its satellite payload.

“AGI has used its software to produce a video demonstrating the launch and its possible path, tracking assets and landing zones,” AGI officials wrote in a media alert.

North Korean space officials have said the Unha-3 rocket will launch a new Earth-observing satellite sometime between April 12 and April 16 to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. Critics of the launch, which include the United States, Japan and South Korea, claim the launch is a cover for a missile test that violates United Nations Security Council resolutions. [Images: North Korea’s Rocket and Missile Program]

According to AGI’s video animation of the Unha-3 rocket launch, the three-stage booster will blast off from the new North Korean launch site near the northwest village of Tongchang-ri, which corresponds with official statements from North Korea and Western observers. The rocket will then head in a southerly direction and drop its first stage in the Yellow Sea well to the west of South Korea, where officials have said they would shoot down any parts of the Unha-3 territory that threatened to fall on South Korean territory.

The next stage of the Unha-3 rocket would likely fall just to the east of the Philippines after the booster’s third stage and payload — the Earth-monitoring satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 — separates and heads towards orbit, the AGI animation shows.

Is North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket launch really a space mission or a missile test?

Satellite! North Korea should be welcomed into the group of space powers.
Missile Test!

The Unha-3 rocket mission is a thinly veiled effort to test weapons.

Undecided: North Korea’s trademark secrecy makes it too unclear to call.
View Results Share This

If the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite reaches its intended polar orbit, its trajectory would carry it over a major stretch of Australia after the spacecraft separates from the Unha-3 rocket, according to the AGI depiction.

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket appears to be a liquid-fueled rocket that stands about 100 feet (30 meters) tall. The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, meanwhile, is a boxy, solar-powered spacecraft, according to videos and images in media reports, as well as the AGI video.

Exactly which day of the current window North Korea will launch the Unha-3 rocket is not yet certain, though the country’s space organization did begin fueling the rocket for liftoff on Wednesday, suggesting a potential launch attempt in upcoming days, according to press reports.

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Shaken and stirred, Asean ways!


When regional leaders meet, they have a peculiar way of joining hands. The question is why.

THEY stand in a line, cross their arms over the chest and hold the hand of the person on either side of them.

Then, it’s “say cheese” for the photographer.

This is the pose Asean government leaders assume when they take their group shots at the start and end of their conferences.

The Asean way: Asean leaders (from left) Philippine president Benigno Aquino III, Lee, Yingluck, Vietnam’s prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen doing the Asean handshake for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 20th Asean Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. — AP

It’s a thing that is peculiar to the leaders and senior officials in our region.

As someone observed: “In every Asean group photograph, why must all participants cross their arms in front of their chest in order to hold hands with the adjacent person?

“I think it looks uncomfortable … as if they are trying to change a light bulb by holding it and turning around.

“Why don’t they do it the easy way, letting their arms hang down naturally while holding hands?”

Good question.

A close look at the faces in those shots will often reveal at least one or two with decidedly uncomfortable expressions. Especially among the women.

Men have longer arms, and they don’t have breasts that can get in the way of such contortions.

So, often, the women leaders, who tend to be shorter, too, will have a kind of tight-lipped smile that is similar to the grimace they have when taking a mammogram.

There is a particular photo taken in November 2009 of Asean leaders meeting with US President Barack Obama that is most telling.

Former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo Macapagal, who is really petite, is next to Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong.

She only comes up to his shoulder and she looks like she is holding her breath even though her arms are not really stretched out.

She must be a veteran of such hand-holding because she makes the guys on either side do the stretching.

So it is PM Lee, on her left, who has to extend his hand to hold hers as well as Obama’s on the other side.

As a result, Lee’s arms are so tightly crossed, his tie is almost swallowed up by his jacket.

This tangle of appendages has a name. It’s called the “Asean handshake” although “the grip-and-grin” seems more accurate.

I am unable to determine when this “traditional” handshake started, and by whom, but really, it’s time to put an end to it.

Photos taken at the 20th Asean summit in Phnom Penh last week are again telling.

The taller leaders manage the handshakes better, including Yingluck Shinawatra, who is quite well built. She looks unruffled and elegant.

I wonder if she and other new Asean leaders get coaching on how to do the Asean handshake by their minders.

If not, it can catch a leader by surprise, like what happened to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a 2010 meeting.

There is a YouTube video on how he looked momentarily confused and unsure of how to place his arms when faced with the Asean handshake.

The honest truth: This de rigueur pose for a group shot is not at all flattering.

Inevitably, their suits get squashed, their shoulders are hunched up and, made to stand in a line, these world leaders do not look so worldly nor leader-like.

Rather, they look like school kids forced by their teacher to hold hands to keep them out of mischief.

Now, I am not criticising the act of shaking hands, just this odd form.

The handshake is, after all, a gesture of friendship and goodwill. It didn’t start that way though.

There are many versions of its origins.

A widely accepted one is medieval: When wary strangers met, they patted each other down for hidden weapons.

This evolved to grasping the right hand and shaking it to dislodge a dagger up the sleeve.

Centuries down the line, the handshake is universally used as a friendly gesture. No more checking for sharp objects, but it’s become a gauge of sorts of a person’s character.

Is the handshake firm, limp or bone-crushing?

This greeting was originally a male thing because women usually didn’t carry arms.

It’s a pity that it has since crossed genders as hand contact with men is not really recommended.

My suspicions were confirmed when a male colleague pressed the floor button in the office lift using a piece of tissue.

He admitted this was due to his fear of what male digits can leave on the buttons and other frequently touched surfaces because he knows what men do and don’t do in the loo.

Maybe that’s why Asean women leaders doing the grip-and-grin look so grim. Two hands at one go trapped in male paws. Euuww!

There’s also the risk of catching germs.

According to experts, 80% of all infectious diseases are transmitted by contact like kissing and … hand shaking.

That’s why the British Olympic Asso­ciation chief medical officer Dr Ian McCurdie suggested banning handshaking in the Games Village in the upcoming London Olympics!

The handshake is on shaky ground in sports for other reasons, too.

Shaking hands before and after a match in several sports – football, tennis and American football – is a cherished ritual to denote good sportsmanship.

Now it has become contentious because the gesture seemed to have regressed to its hostile origins.

The way two sportsmen clasp hands (or refuse to) can be taken as a sign of contempt, disrespect and even aggression, and has led to brawls.

There is an on-going debate on whether to abolish it.

That may take a while to settle. In the meantime, perhaps Asean politicians can take the lead and disband their chest-constricting clasp.

If they want to denote unity and cooperation, how about just linking arms at the elbow?

They will look like a strong chain and look, ma, no hands!

SO AUNTY,SO WHAT BY JUNE H.L.WONG > The writer prefers hugs, nicely described by someone as handshakes from the heart.

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Asean needs to rise to its own loftier level

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Whither our pursuit of happiness?


Malaysia can do a lot better in the World Happiness ranking as the country is free from disasters, rich in resources, besides being blessed with a multi-racial, multi-religious society.

AMONG the earliest songs that I learned as a boy scout in school was this: “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”

It was indeed a happy song at an age when happiness was so much easier to define.

With age, comes the realisation that happiness is hard to find. It is such a subjective thing and seeking out its sources isn’t easy.

Perhaps the saying was created to make the poor feel good but for ages, philosophers, religious leaders and cultural icons have offered this answer: Money can’t buy happiness.

It may be so. The United Nations’ first ever World Happiness Report released last week attests that it is not just all about the cha-ching cha-ching and ba-bling ba-bling, as Jessie J puts it in her Price Tag.

It found that generally, richer countries tended to be happier but wealth was not the sole defining factor for happiness.

The 158-page report, commissioned for the UN Conference on Happiness, was based on responses from a worldwide survey from 2005 to the middle of 2011 to determine the happiness level of countries.

The rankings take into account several factors, including health, family, job security as well as political freedom and government corruption.

Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important than income in explaining well-being differences,” the report stated.

Disneyland may be touted as the “Happiest place in the world” but when it comes to countries, it’s Denmark.

The Danes are blissfully above Finland, Norway, Holland, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland in the rankings.

The United States is 11th while the Britain notched 18th – below the United Arab Emirates and just above Venezuela.

The common thread in the countries ranked at the top was good governance and confidence in public institutions.

The world’s poorest countries are at the bottom of the scale. Togo (home of rich EPL football star Emmanuel Adebayor) is the unhappiest place in the world, followed by Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Comoros, Haiti, Tanzania, Congo (Brazzaville) and Georgia.

Malaysia is two-thirds above the rest. We are supposedly the world’s 51st happiest country, a spot over Thailand but way below Singapore’s position of 33rd.

For comparison, Indonesia was judged at 83rd, below Myanmar which ranked 74th.

The report states that a country’s GDP is crucial but it is not all that is important.

So what’s the big deal about the report? It is significant because of the increasing number of economists, political scientists and psychologists involved in exploring the measure of happiness.

Happiness, or rather “Happynomics”, has become the hottest topic in contemporary social science.

Politicians around the world have started to pay more attention and many countries, including Australia, China, France, Germany and Britain have included happiness and national well-being into policy formulation frameworks.

“Happynomics” is coming to the fore at a time when developed countries, including the US, are being seen as sliding socially, economically and geopolitically.

In the report’s introduction, economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s The Earth Institute, said the world had come to a stage where “the lifestyles of the rich imperil the survival of the poor”.

He said the US is a key example of this “age of stark contradictions”, describing it as a place where affluence has been accompanied by widening social and economic inequalities, high levels of uncertainties and anxieties, declining social trust and low levels of confidence in government.

He cited obesity, adult-onset diabetes, tobacco-related illnesses, eating disorders, addictions to shopping and TV, as examples of disorders of development.

We are still a long way from being a developed country but all of the above sound familiar, don’t they?

But as Asli Centre for Public Policy studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam has noted, it is a pity that we rank only number 51 out of 156 countries in the report.

Most Malaysians would agree with him that we can do a lot better as the country is free from natural disasters, rich in natural resources and land for habitation and cultivation, besides being blessed with a multi-racial, multi-religious society.

To go back to the happiest nation in the world, the 5.5 million Danes have one probable grumble: high taxes.

They pay probably the highest taxes in the world – between 50% and 70% of their incomes but they don’t complain because the government covers healthcare and education and spends more on children and the elderly than any other country.

The high taxes have another upshot. With a banker taking home as much money as an artist, people don’t choose careers based on income or status.

A garbage collector can live in a middle-class neighborhood and still hold his head high.

ALONG THE WATCHTOWER BY M.VEERA PANDIYANAssociate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this observation by humourist Spike Mulligan: Money can’t buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.
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