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As we said a few weeks ago when we launched a completely rebuilt, streamlined authoring and editing experience, we’re in the process of bringing you a much improved and modernized Blogger. The next phase of these updates starts today with seven new ways to display your blog, called Dynamic Views.

Built with the latest in web technology (AJAX, HTML5 and CSS3), Dynamic Views is a unique browsing experience that will inspire your readers to explore your blog in new ways. The interactive layouts make it easier for readers to enjoy and discover your posts, loading 40 percent faster than traditional templates and bringing older entries to the surface so they seem fresh again.


Dynamic Views is much more than just new templates. With just a couple clicks, you’ll get infinite scrolling (say goodbye to the “Older posts” link), images that load as you browse, integrated search, sorting by date, label and author, lightbox-style posts for easy viewing, keyboard shortcuts for quickly flipping through posts, and one-click sharing to Google+ and other social sites on every post.


No two blogs are the same, so you can choose from seven different views that display text and photos differently. For example, if you have lots of photos on your blog, you may prefer Flipcard or Snapshot. If your blog is more text-heavy, then Classic, Sidebar (what you’re seeing now on Blogger Buzz) or Timeslide may be preferable. Here’s a quick description of each of the new views, along with links to some of our favorite blogs where you can check each of them out in action.
  • Classic (Gmail): A modern twist on a traditional template, with infinite scrolling and images that load as you go
  • Flipcard (M loves M) - Your photos are tiled across the page and flip to reveal the post title
  • Magazine (Advanced Style) - A clean, elegant editorial style layout 
  • Mosaic (Crosby’s Kitchen) - A mosaic mix of different sized images and text
  • Sidebar (Blogger Buzz Blog) - An email inbox-like view with a reading page for quick scrolling and browsing
  • Snapshot (Canelle et Vanille) - An interactive pinboard of your posts 
  • Timeslide (The Bleary-Eyed Father) - A horizontal view of your posts by time period
Enter the name of your favorite Blogger blog below and click Preview to check it out with Dynamic Views.
.blogspot.com

Adding a Dynamic View to your blog is as easy as changing your template. Log in to Blogger, click on the Template tab on your dashboard, and select whichever view you want to set as your default. Note that readers can still choose to navigate your blog in a different view by selecting from the pulldown in the upper left of the screen.

If you want to add your own touch to any of these new views, you can upload a header image and customize the background colors. We’ll be adding more ways to customize Dynamic Views in the coming weeks.

We hope you enjoy the latest update to Blogger, and that, as always, you tell us what you think by completing this short survey.

Note: In addition to Blogger Buzz, several other official Google blogs will be featuring Dynamic Views through the weeks and months ahead, including the Gmail Blog, LatLong Blog and Docs Blog. We’re excited to bring Dynamic Views into the fold and we'll be looking at how to incorporate this new technology across Google’s blog network in the long term.

(Cross-posted from Blogger Buzz)

Update 7:31pm: We've added back a working link to submit your feedback.
Update 6:00pm: Earlier today, this post included a link to a feedback form. We do value your feedback and want to know what you think of this update; we'll have a feedback link up again soon.

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(Cross-posted from the Green Blog)

This morning, at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF-West) in San Francisco, I announced a new $75 million investment to create an initial fund with Clean Power Finance that will help up to 3,000 homeowners go solar. This is our second investment in residential solar, and we’ve now invested more than $850 million overall to develop and deploy clean energy.

As we said when we made our first residential solar investment, we think it makes a lot of sense to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology—rooftop solar panels—to generate electricity right where you need it at home. It greens our energy mix by using existing roof space while avoiding transmission constraints, and it can be cheaper than drawing electricity from the traditional grid.

Purchasing a solar system is a major home improvement, but the upfront cost has historically been one of the biggest barriers for homeowners. Solar installers across the country don’t always have the resources to find financing for customers, or the capital to provide it themselves. And for investors like Google, banks and others, it can be difficult to enter a fragmented solar market with many companies, and get connected to individual homeowners.

That’s where Clean Power Finance comes in. They’ve developed an open platform that connects installers with investors like Google to provide financing to homeowners. Solar installers sign up with Clean Power Finance to get access to the company’s comprehensive sales solutions, including consumer financing from investors, like the Google fund. This enables installers to sell more systems and grow their business. The installer builds the system, the investor (in this case, Google) owns it, and homeowners pay a monthly payment for the system, at a price that’s often less than paying for energy from the grid. Maintenance and performance are taken care of by Clean Power Finance and its network of installers.


Owned by Google, operated by Clean Power Finance and installed by American Vision Solar, the Colin family of Santa Clarita, Calif. has a 4.14 kW solar system

This innovative and scalable model makes business sense for Google, Clean Power Finance, solar installers and homeowners too. We’re excited to be one of the first investors to partner with Clean Power Finance and enable the company to continue forging strong relationships with solar installers (like the ones they announced last week with SunLogic, California Solar Systems, American Vision Solar—learn more on Clean Power Finance’s website). By making financing more readily available, the Clean Power Finance platform has the potential to lower costs and accelerate adoption of solar energy.

We’ve already installed a 1.6MW rooftop solar installation at the Googleplex back in 2007. Now, through Clean Power Finance and our previous investment this year, we’re hoping to have an even larger impact. We look forward to watching our funding help more than 10,000 homeowners generate clean electricity from the sun.

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(Cross-posted on the YouTube Blog)

Tomorrow, September 28, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will deliver his annual State of the Union Address. In these turbulent times, we wanted to give people a chance to make their voices heard and ask their questions about the EU. So we teamed up with broadcaster Euronews and invited President Barroso to answer your questions in a special, live YouTube World View interview that will take place on Thursday, October 6 at 10:00am Central European Time.

Starting today, we invite you to submit your questions for President Barroso via youtube.com/worldview. Questions can be on any topic, from the Euro crisis and austerity measures to growth and jobs, from foreign policy and immigration to ethnic minority issues, human rights and the environment. You can ask written or video questions—and view and vote on other people’s questions—in any of the European Union’s languages, thanks to Google Translate.

During the interview on October 6, hosted by Euronews anchor Alex Taylor, the President will answer a selection of the most popular questions, as determined by your votes. The interview will be streamed and broadcast in multiple languages on both YouTube and Euronews.



President Barroso’s interview will be the first multi-lingual livecast in the World View series, which gives anyone with an Internet connection the ability to pose questions, vote on what’s most important to them and get answers directly from senior politicians and world leaders. President Barroso’s interview follows interviews with U.S. President Obama, President Kagame of Rwanda, U.K. Prime Minister Cameron, Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Whatever your question, President Barroso wants to hear from you. Be sure to submit your question via the World View channel before midnight CET on Wednesday October 5.

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(Cross-posted on the Nonprofits Blog, the Google.org Blog and the European Public Policy Blog)

It’s taken 24 centuries, the work of archaeologists, scholars and historians, and the advent of the Internet to make the Dead Sea Scrolls accessible to anyone in the world. Today, as the new year approaches on the Hebrew calendar, we’re celebrating the launch of the Dead Sea Scrolls online; a project of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem powered by Google technology.



Written between the third and first centuries BCE, the Dead Sea Scrolls include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. In 68 BCE, they were hidden in 11 caves in the Judean desert on the shores of the Dead Sea to protect them from the approaching Roman armies. They weren’t discovered again until 1947, when a Bedouin shepherd threw a rock in a cave and realized something was inside. Since 1965, the scrolls have been on exhibit at the Shrine of the Book at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Among other topics, the scrolls offer critical insights into life and religion in ancient Jerusalem, including the birth of Christianity.

Now, anyone around the world can view, read and interact with five digitized Dead Sea Scrolls. The high resolution photographs, taken by Ardon Bar-Hama, are up to 1,200 megapixels, almost 200 times more than the average consumer camera, so viewers can see even the most minute details in the parchment. For example, zoom in on the Temple Scroll to get a feel for the animal skin it's written on—only one-tenth of a millimeter thick.


You can browse the Great Isaiah Scroll, the most well known scroll and the one that can be found in most home bibles, by chapter and verse. You can also click directly on the Hebrew text and get an English translation. While you’re there, leave a comment for others to see.


The scroll text is also discoverable via web search. If you search for phrases from the scrolls, a link to that text within the scroll viewers on the Dead Sea Scrolls collections site may surface in your search results. For example, search for [Dead Sea Scrolls "In the day of thy planting thou didst make it to grow"], and you may see a link to Chapter 17:Verse 11 within the Great Isaiah Scroll.

This partnership with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem is part of our larger effort to bring important cultural and historical collections online. We are thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, helping design the web experience and making it searchable and accessible to the world. We’ve been involved in similar projects in the past, including the Google Art Project, Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection and the Prado Museum in Madrid. We encourage organizations interested in partnering with us in our effort to archive historical collections to enter their information in this form. We hope you enjoy visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls collection online, or any of these other projects, and interacting with history at your fingertips.

Update 9/26/11: An earlier version of this post erroneously excluded our work on the Google Art Project. We've also amended the description of the partnership form to better define the types of partners who might want to submit their information to be considered in our archiving work.

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We’re thrilled to share this guest post by Brian Henson about his father—puppeteer, director and producer Jim Henson, best known as the creator of the Muppets. For the next 36 hours, we’re honoring Jim’s birthday on our homepage with a special doodle created in tandem with The Jim Henson Company. -Ed.

When we were kids, my brother and sisters and I were always allowed to stay up late to watch our father’s appearances on The Tonight Show or The Ed Sullivan Show. No matter how late it was or how young we were, my mother would wake us up and trundle us down to the living room television. We’d be giddy—like Christmas. When he came home, he’d head down to the garage where he had a workshop, and repair everything that we broke while he was away—or build a dollhouse for one of my sisters. Jim never stopped making things.

He also loved games—card games, board games, all kinds of games. He was one of those rare parents who was always ready to play again. He loved dogs, particularly goofy ones. And he lived for those moments when everyone laughed so hard they couldn’t talk. I often walked onto the Muppet set to find everyone just laughing hysterically.

Although he loved family, his work was almost never about “traditional” families. The Muppets were a family—a very diverse one. One of his life philosophies was that we should love people not for their similarities, but for their differences.

Jim often had a little lesson about the important things in life: How to be a good person. How to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. And above all, how to forgive. If anything was stolen from one of us—like when the car was broken into—he would always say, “Oh well, they probably needed that stuff more than we did.”

He loved gadgets and technology. Following his lead, The Jim Henson Company continues to develop cutting-edge technology for animatronics and digital animation, like this cool Google doodle celebrating Jim’s 75th birthday. But I think even he would have found it hilarious the way today some people feel that when they’ve got their smartphone, they no longer need their brain.

Jim was clearly a great visionary. But he also wanted everyone around him fully committed creatively. If you asked him how a movie would turn out, he’d say, “It’ll be what this group can make, and if you changed any one of them, it would be a different movie.” Every day for him was joyously filled with the surprises of other people’s ideas. I often think that if we all lived like that, not only would life be more interesting, we’d all be a lot happier.

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This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

It’s back-to-school season, and we’ve made Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar and Sites easier to use and more powerful for students and non-students alike—including some important accessibility improvements to help blind users be productive in our apps.

Multiple sign-in and other new preferences in Gmail for mobile
On Wednesday, we added some helpful new features for people who use Gmail on a mobile browser. You can now sign in to more than one Gmail account at a time, and toggle between them easily from the account switcher menu at the bottom of the mobile inbox. This can be a good time saver if you have multiple accounts or share a mobile device with family members. Gmail for mobile also now enables you to set up mobile-specific email signatures and create vacation responders right from your phone to let people know when you won't be available by email.


Calling credit auto-recharge
Now you can automatically add international calling credits for phone calls in Gmail when your balance gets low. Just visit the "Billing" area of the Google Voice settings page and click "Add credit" to put your account on cruise control.


Allow people to comment but not edit in documents
Sometimes, you might find yourself in situations when you’d like to share a document for feedback, but don’t want to make the document's content fully editable. The comment-only level of access launched last week is a nice option for these scenarios. You can let others discuss and add their thoughts to your document—without allowing them to change your work. You can allow document comments from specific individuals or groups, from anyone belonging your organization or from the general public.


Format painter, Fusion Tables, drag & drop images and vertical cell merge
Comment-only access isn't all that we've added to Google Docs over the last few weeks. Other notable improvements include a text format painter in documents, which is a fast way to copy and paste font, size, color and other text styling. Spreadsheets now support vertically merged cells (in addition to horizontal merges). In drawings, you can drag images from your desktop to the drawing canvas, then continue editing your graphic. We also added Fusion Tables as a new document type in the documents list. Fusion Tables are a powerful way to gather, visualize and collaborate on large data sets that might be unwieldy in a typical spreadsheet.

Fusion Table data visualized on an interactive map

Accessibility improvements in Google Calendar, Docs and Sites
We think technology can do a better job getting out of people’s way and helping you be more productive with less complexity and fewer frustrations. In this spirit, we’ve recently made a series of improvements to make our applications more accessible to blind users. We have more work to do, but Google Calendar, Docs and Sites now offer better support for screen readers and improved keyboard shortcuts. We hope these changes make our applications more useful to all users.

Who’s gone Google?
Organizations are moving to Google Apps for a diverse set of reasons—including cost savings, streamlined teamwork and better mobile access. We’ve even started hearing from schools and businesses who have made the switch to reduce their impact on the environment. No two organizations choose Google Apps for the exact same reasons, but in total, the momentum of Google Apps keeps growing.

We recently shared the news that 61 of the top 100 universities ranked by U.S. News and World Report have gone Google. On the business side, there are now more than 4 million companies using Google Apps, and businesses are joining at a rate of over 5,000 per day. In all, there are more than 40 million users that regularly use Google Apps in their organizations.

I hope these product updates and customer stories help you and your organization get even more from Google Apps. For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog.

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Since we announced the Fox News/Google Debate on September 1, people across the country have submitted more than 18,000 questions to the Fox News YouTube channel on topics ranging from immigration reform, to health care, to foreign aid to social security. Tonight, the Republican presidential candidates will answer those questions in the Fox News/Google Debate, which will be live-streamed on YouTube and broadcast on Fox News Channel starting at 9pm ET. We’ll also have an online pre-debate show starting at 8:30pm ET, featuring Fox News’s Shannon Bream and Chris Stirewalt, and Steve Grove, YouTube’s Head of News and Politics.

Even if you’re watching on TV, you can visit youtube.com/foxnews during the debate to vote on real-time polling questions and submit live commentary. Throughout the evening, we’ll share Google politics-related search trend information and public data that will provide context to the issues discussed. Fox News moderators will ask specific questions that were submitted by citizens through YouTube, and we’ll be looking at overall trends that emerge from the questions in aggregate. To give you an idea, here’s a look at the most popular words people used in their submissions (the bigger the word, the more often it was used).


Flex your democratic muscle and tune in to youtube.com/foxnews tonight at 8:30pm ET for a political debate that puts you in the driver’s seat of the discussion.

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(Cross-posted on the Inside Google Books blog)

From time to time, we invite guests to post about items of interest. We're pleased to have James Keeffe, III, author of the award-winning Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POWtell us an amazing story about how Google Books helped reunite a Holocaust survivor and a World War II veteran. -Ed.

Last year, my distributor Epicenter Press uploaded my book, Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW, to Google Books. The book is a memoir of the WWII experiences of my father, James H. Keeffe, Jr., as told to me. He was an American B-24 bomber pilot who, on his fourth mission during the war, was shot down over Southern Holland and taken in by the Dutch Underground. He spent the next five months evading capture by staying in several safe houses in Rotterdam. In one of the homes, owned by a Dr. Jappe-Alberts, a Jewish family—father, mother and eight-year-old daughter—hid up in the attic.

About six months ago, I received an email that sent shivers up my spine. It was from the same Jewish family's daughter, now called Helen Cohen-Berman:

Dear Sir,

I've found this book a few day ago at the internet. I am the little girl from the Cohen family who was hidden together with Jim at the Jappe-Alberts family. I was 8 years old. I've read a part of the book already on the net and my son in the USA ordered it. It's unbelievable to find all this after so many years... We are now living in Israel since 1978. I would like to leave a note with these information for the writer and his father as a sign of life. Can you give me an email-address? Forwarding is another possibility!

With regards,
Helen Cohen-Berman
Imagine my surprise! All my dad knew about the Cohens at this point was that they had eventually been captured by the Nazis, who also shot Dr. Jappe-Alberts and sent his family to prison.

Left: Photo of 19-year-old James from October 1942, Right: Photo of 9-year-old Helen from 1945

Helen, my father and I began emailing each other quite often. Helen, now 76 years old, told us that after all these decades, it had been time for her to come to grips with her memories of the war. Her daughter suggested that she search for the name "Jappe-Alberts” and the place "Rotterdam" on Google. Two results of import came up. The first was a memorial to 10 men shot by the Nazis on a country road south of Rotterdam, including Dr. Jappe-Alberts. The second was the portion of my book on Google Books that had the name Jappe-Alberts in it. Helen began to read that part of the book and, lo and behold, realized she was reading about herself as a young girl and her family.

She told us that, though her family had been sent to Westerbork, a transit/concentration camp in North Holland, after being captured, they survived the war. The rail system in the Netherlands by that time was so damaged that the Nazis could not move any more people from transit camps like Westerbork to the death camps of Germany and Poland. Westerbork—along with the Cohens—was eventually liberated by the Canadians.

Six months after Helen's email to me, after much planning, Helen flew to Seattle and was reunited with my father on September 13, 2011. Sixty-seven years had passed since last they saw each other. It was a very moving experience—all possible because of Google Books.

After 67 years, Helen and James were reunited in James' Seattle home

I was greatly honored to have been able to bring my father and Helen together again. Helen said the reunion was a "closing of a circle" and a healing time for her as she was finally able to talk about some of the events she had endured. For my father, the reunion was a joyful occasion. Meeting Helen allowed him to fill in some gaps, and find out the details of her family's capture and imprisonment. He was very happy to see Helen and quite sad when it was time to say goodbye.

At their reunion, I kept looking at them both, now in their later years, trying unsuccessfully to imagine what it must have been like when they were young and living under the fist of the Nazi occupation. Always the threat of instant and often cruel death weighed heavily on them, yet they both survived—and 67 years later were standing side by side, telling each other, and us, their stories.

Photo taken at the VFW Hall in Redmond, Washington, where James attends POW meetings. Credit: Book It Northwest

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For our international readers, this post is also available in Chinese, French, German, Italian, JapanesePortuguese, Russian and Spanish (Latin America, Spain). - Ed.

The Google+ project has been in field trial for just under 90 days, and in that time we’ve made 91 different improvements (many of which are posted here). Google+ is still in its infancy, of course, but we’re more excited than ever to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. Today we’re releasing nine more features that get us that much closer.

+Hangouts: more places, more people, more to do

Hangouts uses live video to bring people together, face-to-face-to-face. And from day one, the community has shaped and stretched the feature in amazing ways—from cooking classes to game shows to music concerts. We're determined to keep this momentum going, and to keep providing new ways to communicate in-person, so we hope you enjoy this week’s round of Hangouts improvements.

92. Hangouts on your phone
In life we connect with others in all sorts of places, at all different times. And the connections you make unexpectedly are often the ones you remember the most. We think Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real-world, so today we’re launching it on the one device that's always by your side: your mobile phone. To get started, simply find an active hangout in the Stream, and tap “Join”:

Hangouts on your phone: Stream View (left), Green Room (center), Portrait Mode (right)

Hangouts currently supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras (and iOS support is coming soon). The new mobile app is rolling out to Android Market today, so you can start hanging out at any time, from just about anywhere.

93. Hangouts On Air
Google+ users already use Hangouts to create intimate onscreen experiences—with family members, prayer groups, even people with certain medical conditions. But sometimes you want to speak to a large audience, or alternatively, view as a spectator. In these cases a public broadcast is what’s needed, so today we’re introducing Hangouts On Air.

The setup is simple enough: just start a normal hangout, and you’ll have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you’re “On Air,” up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast:


Hangouts On Air: Stream View (left), Full-screen Mode (right)

We’re starting with a limited number of broadcasters, but any member of the Google+ community can tune in. In fact: we’ll be hosting our very first On Air hangout with will.i.am on Wednesday night, September 21. For more information visit will.i.am’s or my profile on Google+.

94, 95, 96, 97. Hangouts with extras
Spending time together goes hand in hand with actually doing things together. Dinner with family can easily turn into movie night at the local theater, for instance. And running into old friends can inspire anything from photo sharing to vacation planning. Hangouts has always included a basic set of in-room actions (like group chat and co-viewing of YouTube videos), but we want to make it easier to do a lot more. That’s why we’re previewing some extras, including:
  • Screensharing: for when you want to show off your vacation photos, your high score, your lesson plan or whatever else is on your screen
  • Sketchpad: for when you want to draw, doodle, or just scribble together
  • Google Docs: for when you want to write, plan or present something with others
  • Named Hangouts: for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic (like fashion or music or sports...) 
Hangouts with extras: Screensharing (left), Sketchpad (right)

Hangouts with extras: Docs (left), Named Hangouts (right)

The extras are still under construction, but we wanted to preview these features and get your feedback sooner versus later. So start a hangout, click “Try Hangouts with extras” in the green room, and let us know what you think.

98. Hangouts APIs
If field trial has taught us anything about Hangouts, it’s that the community is overflowing with creative individuals. So in the wake of last week’s Google+ API launch, we’re also releasing a basic set of Hangouts APIs. If you're a developer who wants to build new kinds of apps and games (and who-knows-what-else), then you can find more details on the Google+ platform blog.

+Search: find the people and posts you care about

99. Search in Google+
You’ve been asking for it, and we’ve been busy building it, so today we’re bringing Google’s search expertise to Google+. Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.

If you’re into photography, for example, then you’ll see other enthusiasts and lots of great pictures. If you care more about cooking, then you’ll see other chefs and food from around the globe. In all cases, Google+ search results include items that only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as international news.

Search in Google+: photography (left), cooking (right)

With more than 1 billion items shared and received every day, we’re excited to see how search will connect people through their posts on Google+.

+Everyone

100. Anyone can sign up for Google+—no invitation required.
For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.

Over the next day we'll be rolling out all of these features globally. In the meantime, you can check out what's next in Google+.

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In May we announced Google Wallet—an app that makes your phone your wallet—with Citi, MasterCard, Sprint and First Data. With Google Wallet, you can tap, pay and save using your phone and near field communication (NFC).

We’ve been testing it extensively, and today we’re releasing the first version of the app to Sprint. That means we’re beginning to roll out Google Wallet to all Sprint Nexus S 4G phones through an over-the-air update—just look for the “Wallet” app. Here’s a demo of Google Wallet in action:



Google Wallet enables you to pay with your Citi MasterCard credit card and the Google Prepaid Card, which can be funded with any of your existing plastic credit cards. As a thanks to early adopters, we’re adding a $10 free bonus to the Google Prepaid Card if you set it up in Google Wallet before the end of the year.

When we announced Google Wallet, we pledged a commitment to an open commerce ecosystem. We appreciate Citi and MasterCard for being our launch partners. And today, Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.

Our goal is to make it possible for you to add all of your payment cards to Google Wallet, so you can say goodbye to even the biggest traditional wallets. In fact, we’ve got a video of our first customer, someone who is ready to replace his famously over-stuffed wallet. We hope Google Wallet gives him “serenity now.”

This is still just the beginning, and while we’re excited about this first step, we look forward to bringing Google Wallet to more phones in the future. You can learn more about Google Wallet at google.com/wallet.

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Google’s Site Reliability team is responsible for keeping Google’s services and data centers up and running 24/7. In this post, you’ll hear about a project our Site Reliability Engineers took on to make sure that the fluctuations of time don’t adversely affect Google’s products and services. If you like this (detailed) glimpse at the tech behind the scenes, come back for more about this team’s work in the future. -Ed.

Have you ever had a watch that ran slow or fast, and that you’d correct every morning off your bedside clock? Computers have that same problem. Many computers, including some desktop and laptop computers, use a service called the “Network Time Protocol” (NTP), which does something very similar—it periodically checks the computers’ time against a more accurate server, which may be connected to an external source of time, such as an atomic clock. NTP also takes into account variable factors like how long the NTP server takes to reply, or the speed of the network between you and the server when setting a to-the-second or better time on the computer you’re using.

Soon after the advent of ticking clocks, scientists observed that the time told by them (and now, much more accurate clocks), and the time told by the Earth's position were rarely exactly the same. It turns out that being on a revolving imperfect sphere floating in space, being reshaped by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and being dragged around by gravitational forces makes your rotation somewhat irregular. Who knew?

These fluctuations in Earth’s rotational speed mean that even very accurate clocks, like the atomic clocks used by global timekeeping services, occasionally have to be adjusted slightly to bring them in line with “solar time.” There have been 24 such adjustments, called “leap seconds,” since they were introduced in 1972. Their effect on technology has become more and more profound as people come to rely on fast, accurate and reliable technology.

Why time matters at Google
Having accurate time is critical to everything we do at Google. Keeping replicas of data up to date, correctly reporting the order of searches and clicks, and determining which data-affecting operation came last are all examples of why accurate time is crucial to our products and to our ability to keep your data safe.

Very large-scale distributed systems, like ours, demand that time be well-synchronized and expect that time always moves forwards. Computers traditionally accommodate leap seconds by setting their clock backwards by one second at the very end of the day. But this “repeated” second can be a problem. For example, what happens to write operations that happen during that second? Does email that comes in during that second get stored correctly? What about all the unforeseen problems that may come up with the massive number of systems and servers that we run? Our systems are engineered for data integrity, and some will refuse to work if their time is sufficiently “wrong.” We saw some of our clustered systems stop accepting work on a small scale during the leap second in 2005, and while it didn’t affect the site or any of our data, we wanted to fix such issues once and for all.

This was the problem that a group of our engineers identified during 2008, with a leap second scheduled for December 31. Given our observations in 2005, we wanted to be ready this time, and in the future. How could we make sure everything at Google stays running as if nothing happened, when all our server clocks suddenly see the same second happening twice? Also, how could we make this solution scale? Would we need to audit every line of code that cares about the time? (That’s a lot of code!)

The solution we came up with came to be known as the “leap smear.” We modified our internal NTP servers to gradually add a couple of milliseconds to every update, varying over a time window before the moment when the leap second actually happens. This meant that when it became time to add an extra second at midnight, our clocks had already taken this into account, by skewing the time over the course of the day. All of our servers were then able to continue as normal with the new year, blissfully unaware that a leap second had just occurred. We plan to use this “leap smear” technique again in the future, when new leap seconds are announced by the IERS.

Here’s the science bit
Usually when a leap second is almost due, the NTP protocol says a server must indicate this to its clients by setting the “Leap Indicator” (LI) field in its response. This indicates that the last minute of that day will have 61 seconds, or 59 seconds. (Leap seconds can, in theory, be used to shorten a day too, although that hasn’t happened to date.) Rather than doing this, we applied a patch to the NTP server software on our internal Stratum 2 NTP servers to not set LI, and tell a small “lie” about the time, modulating this “lie” over a time window w before midnight:
lie(t) = (1.0 - cos(pi * t / w)) / 2.0
What this did was make sure that the “lie” we were telling our servers about the time wouldn’t trigger any undesirable behavior in the NTP clients, such as causing them to suspect the time servers to be wrong and applying local corrections themselves. It also made sure the updates were sufficiently small so that any software running on the servers that were doing synchronization actions or had Chubby locks wouldn't lose those locks or abandon any operations. It also meant this software didn’t necessarily have to be aware of or resilient to the leap second.

In an experiment, we performed two smears—one negative then one positive—and tested this setup using about 10,000 servers. We'd previously added monitoring to plot the skew between atomic time, our Stratum 2 servers and all those NTP clients, allowing us to constantly evaluate the performance of our time infrastructure. We were excited to see monitoring showing plots of those servers’ clocks tracking our model's predictions, and that we were continuing to serve users’ requests without errors.

Following the successful test, we reconfigured all our production Stratum 2 NTP servers with details of the actual leap second, ready for New Year's Eve, when they would automatically activate the smear for all production machines, without any further human intervention required. We had a “big red button” opt-out that allowed us to stop the smear in case anything went wrong.

What we learned
The leap smear is talked about internally in the Site Reliability Engineering group as one of our coolest workarounds, that took a lot of experimentation and verification, but paid off by ultimately saving us massive amounts of time and energy in inspecting and refactoring code. It meant that we didn’t have to sweep our entire (large) codebase, and Google engineers developing code don’t have to worry about leap seconds. The team involved in solving this issue was a handful of people, distributed around the world, who were able to work together without restriction in order to solve this problem.

The solution to this challenge drove a lot of thinking to develop better ways to implement locking and consistency, and synchronizing units of work between servers across the world. It also meant we thought more about the precision of our time systems, which have a knock-on effect on our ability to minimize resource wastage and run greener data centers by reducing the amount of time we must spend waiting for responses and rarely doing excess work.

By anticipating potential problems and developing solutions like these, the Site Reliability Engineering group informs and inspires the development of new technology for distributed systems—the systems that you use every day in Google’s products.

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“Oh, you’re BlueQuoll!”

You heard a lot of enthusiastic cries of recognition at the Global Top Contributor Summit, as Googlers and members of our Top Contributor program got to leave their laptops behind and meet one another face to face. This two-day event held in and around our headquarters in Mountain View brought together some of our most prolific and knowledgeable users from the Google product forums for the first time.

Top Contributors are the folks you may know by “bkc56” in the Gmail forum, “Noisette” in the Google Earth forum and “theylmdl” in the German Webmaster forum—Google users who volunteer their time to help others with questions and troubleshooting issues. We began the program in 2005 to support this important group, and today there are more than 350 Top Contributors who are active in our forums. They also give Google teams important feedback to help shape the development of our products. In short, they’re some of Google’s most passionate users, and we wanted to take the time to share our appreciation.

TCs from the AdSense, Gmail and Webmaster forums hang out with Googlers (in red)

At the summit, more than 250 Top Contributors joined us from around the world, representing 40+ product forums in 20+ languages. To see just how global this amazing bunch is, check out the map we set up to showcase their hometowns:


At the event, our Top Contributors met with Google engineers who demo’ed upcoming features, giving them the unique opportunity to give feedback and ask questions. This was also an opportunity for our Top Contributors to meet each other, and make a new friend or two.

Bottom right: TC treebles, as he’s known in the Maps and Places for business forums, talks with the custom maps team

We hope this summit gave our Top Contributors more insight into how Google works and expressed just how much we appreciate their help and dedication. In fact, they’re such a dedicated bunch that some of the Top Contributors were even spotted during the summit answering forum questions. To see them in action, head on over to the Google product forums.

Find out about how you can become a Top Contributor in our Help Forum guide.

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(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog and the Retail Blog)

Time to sharpen those pencils: now that the back-to-school season is winding down and students are back at their desks, we thought we’d take a look at some popular searches from the last few weeks. Students across the U.S. are hitting the books—although, as we found, not all their back-to-school searches are academically inclined.

Overall, search interest in [back to school] is up about 10 percent from last year.


After a three-month hiatus, everyone wants to make a great impression on the first day of school. Searches related to starting fresh—like [kids shoes], [kids haircuts] and [healthy school lunches]—jump during the back-to-school season. People are also eager to sport just the right look—searches for [first day of school outfit] have increased 20 percent since the 2010 season.

A well-stocked locker is also top of mind for many at the start of the school year. Search interest for back-to-school staples like pencils, notebooks and backpacks routinely peaks during the season, as kids compare colors, styles and designs online. But tech-savvy students are seeking new essentials for the classroom. Searches for [tablet] exceeded searches for [backpack] for the first time in a July-September period. And with [etextbook] searches up 50 percent from September 2010, look for ereaders to slip into more backpacks in the future.



Crossing items off the back-to-school list is rewarding, but it’s a lot more satisfying when there’s a bargain involved. This year is no exception with shoppers scanning for deals before heading to stores. Searches for [back to school coupons] and [back to school sales] increased 10 and 25 percent, and searches for [printable coupons] jumped 45 percent from last year’s season.


College-bound freshmen seem to be looking for ways to take charge of their finances. Searches for [bank account] and [open bank account] peak in August, and were up about 20 percent from last year’s back-to-school season. Searches for [student credit card] are also highest during this time of year, along with searches for the means to pay a credit card bill: [campus jobs]. In recent years, securing a steady source of income has trumped on-the-spot spending. While searches for [student credit card] have decreased 30 percent since 2004, searches for [campus jobs] have steadily increased, up 50 percent in the same period.


Finally, we’ll leave you with a few back-to-school essentials that might not have made your list. To avoid using the modern version of the old “my dog ate my homework” excuse, protect your computer with a [laptop lock]—searches regularly spike in in August. If you’ve been thinking about picking up an instrument, now’s the time to jump on the bandwagon (pun intended), as searches for [flute], [cello], [violin] and [clarinet] jump every September. And for your mother’s sake (and your roommate’s), find a good [laundry service] on campus. Search interest peaks in September, though the clothes-washing learning curve lasts the entire year.


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What do a celebrity blog, a video interview on a newspaper site and a cable channel’s smartphone app have in common? They’re all supported by advertising...and they’re all examples of how the lines between media formats are blurring.

These increasingly blurry lines are not only resulting in highly engaging forms of content for users, but many new revenue opportunities for publishers. A wave of innovation and investment over the past several years has also created better performing ads, a larger pool of online advertisers, and new technologies to sell and manage ad space. Together, these trends are helping to spur increased investment in online advertising. We’ve seen this in our own Google Display Network: our publisher partners have seen spending across the Google Display Network from our largest 1,000 advertisers more than double in the last 12 months.

With all these new opportunities in mind, we’re introducing new tools for our publisher partners—in our ad serving technology (DoubleClick for Publishers) and in our ad exchange (DoubleClick Ad Exchange).

Video and mobile in DoubleClick for Publishers
Given the changes in the media landscape, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen incredible growth for both mobile and video ad formats over the past year: the number of video ads on the Google Display Network has increased 350 percent in the past 12 months, while AdMob, our mobile network, has grown by more than 200 percent.

Before now, it’s been difficult for publishers to manage all their video and mobile ad space from a single ad server—the platform publishers use to schedule, measure and run the ads they’ve sold on their sites. To solve this challenge, we’re rolling out new tools in our latest version of DoubleClick for Publishers that enable publishers to better manage video and mobile inventory. Publishers will be able to manage all of the ads they’re running—across all of their webpages, videos and mobile devices—from a single dashboard, and see which formats and channels are performing best for them.

A handful of publishers have already begun using the video feature and it appears to be performing well for them: we’ve seen 55 percent month-over-month growth in video ad volume in the last quarter. In other words, publishers are now able not only to produce more video content, but to make more money from it as well.

Direct Deals on the DoubleClick Ad Exchange
Another way publishers make money is to sell their advertising via online exchanges, like the DoubleClick Ad Exchange, where they can offer their ad space to a wide pool of competing ad buyers. This has already proven to generate substantially more revenue for publishers, and as a result we’ve seen significant growth in the number of trades on our exchange (158 percent year over year).

However, publishers have told us that they’d also like the option of making some of their ad space available only to certain buyers at a certain price—similar to how an art dealer might want to offer a painting first to certain clients before giving it to an auction house to sell. So we’re introducing Direct Deals on the Doubleclick Ad Exchange, which gives publishers the ability to make these “first look” offers. For example, using Direct Deals, a news publisher could set aside all of the ad space on their sports page and offer it first to a select group of buyers at a specific price, and then if those buyers pass on the offer, automatically place that inventory into the Ad Exchange’s auction.

Looking back at that blog, news site and app, we’d like them to have one more thing in common—being able to advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses even further. These new tools, together with the other solutions we’re continuing to develop, are designed to help businesses like them—and all our publisher partners—do just that, and get the most out of today’s advertising landscape.

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This fall, as classrooms fill with the hustle and bustle of a new semester, more students than ever will use Google Apps to take quizzes, write essays and talk to classmates. Yet blind students (like blind people of all ages) face a unique set of challenges on the web. Members of the blind community rely on screen readers to tell them verbally what appears on the screen. They also use keyboard shortcuts to do things that would otherwise be accomplished with a mouse, such as opening a file or highlighting text.

Over the past few months, we’ve worked closely with advocacy organizations for the blind to improve our products with more accessibility enhancements. While our work isn’t done, we’ve now significantly improved keyboard shortcuts and support for screen readers in several Google applications, including Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. Business, government and education customers can also learn more about these updates on the Enterprise blog.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to improve our products for blind users. We believe that people who depend on assistive technologies deserve as rich and as productive an experience on the web as sighted users, and we’re working to help that become a reality.

For more information on these accessibility changes, using Google products with screen readers, how to send us feedback and how to track our progress, visit google.com/accessibility.

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We recently launched +snippets for users and publishers, making it easy to visit a webpage and then share it on Google+. We want to make sharing across Google just as easy, so today we're bringing +snippets to Google Maps.

Suppose you’re planning a weekend trip to Napa. Your packing list probably includes driving directions, hotel information and a list of nearby wineries. Many of you visit Google Maps for this kind of information already. But with +snippets, Google+ users can easily share directions or places (for example) with fellow travelers. Just click “Share...” in the Google+ bar at the top of the screen, and whatever you see on Maps is what you’ll see in the sharebox—ready to share with your circles:

+Snippets on Google Maps: Directions, Places, search results

With today’s launch, Google Maps joins other Google products like Books, Offers and Product Search in having +snippets. And like Maps, what you see onscreen is what you share—just click on “Share...” in the Google+ bar to reveal the +snippet:

+Snippets on Google Books, Offers and Product Search

We’ll be rolling out +snippets to many more Google products in the future, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we can’t wait to see how other publishers customize their own +snippets, all across the web.

(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

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Pop quiz: What’s significant about the number 61?
(a) Number of points required to win a standard game of Cribbage
(b) The country code to call Australia
(c) Number of Top 100 universities that use Google Apps for Education
As all Aussie Cribbage enthusiasts attending college in the U.S. may suspect, this is actually a trick question—all three answers are correct!

Today, U.S. News and World Report released their 28th annual ranking of the top higher-education institutions across the nation. While this list of schools represents traditions of academic excellence that span centuries, these institutions also clearly recognize the importance (and value) of modern technology in academia. We’re thrilled that 61 of this year’s top 100 universities have chosen Google Apps for Education to help improve communication and collaboration on campus.

We’re proud to see such historic institutions moving to the world of 100% web. Here are just a few of the schools from this year’s “Top 100” that have gone Google:
  • Yale University
  • Northwestern University
  • Brown University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Southern California
  • Wake Forest University
  • William and Mary
  • Brandeis University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • University of Maryland
  • Boston University
  • Rutgers University
  • Clemson University
  • University of Minnesota
To show our appreciation to these great schools, and to help students better explore and evaluate their college options, we’re providing a year’s worth of free access to the U.S. News complete rankings for anyone who registers before Friday, September 16. Just sign up and you’re all set.

Finally, it’s not just about who is using Google Apps. We’re also interested in how students and staff are using Google tools to do amazing things inside and outside the classroom. Since 61 is the magic number, we’ve compiled 61 stories directly from students, faculty and staff at these universities: www.google.com/apps/top100schools.


These 61 schools represent just a small portion of the 14 million students, faculty and staff now using Google Apps for Education. All over the world, Google Apps is helping schools offer their communities a better way of working together, and we’re honored to be a part of this new tradition.

(Cross-posted on the Enterprise Blog)

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The events of September 11, 2001 changed the lives of so many people around the world. In the years since that day, thoughtful online efforts have provided an outlet for grief, for learning and a means for healing. Virtual spaces have helped us to remember the victims and honor the courage of those who risked their lives to save others.

On this 10th anniversary, we wanted to note a few of these virtual places:

9/11 Memorial
  • On Monday September 12, the 9/11 Memorial will open to the public within the original footprint of the twin towers. Our relationship with the 9/11 Memorial team dates back to 2009, when we collaborated to build their Make History site. This web archive lets people place and share their photos and videos in geographical context, collectively piecing together the history that was witnessed, one photo or video at a time.
  • The 9/11 Memorial has also produced a commemorative album called Ten Years On, a musical tribute featuring well-known musicians and performers. The album has inspired a video archive project on YouTube of the same name which encourages people to submit video tributes to those affected by the events of 9/11.
The New York Times
  • YouTube also worked with The New York Times on a YouTube Channel featuring archived news broadcasts and personal stories and reflections from the public.
Mountain Lakes (NJ) Volunteer Fire Department
  • John Reilly, a software executive and Deputy Chief of the Mountain Lakes (NJ) Volunteer Fire Department, built First-Responder to help community organizations like fire departments and EMS corps increase their emergency preparedness and respond more effectively to crises. This open source application uses freely available web tools to map critical resources and contingency plans, dispatch and track first responders, and interoperate with mutual aid organizations during emergencies.
It’s been an honor to see these tools being built using our platforms and products—and humbling to see them come to life.

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Fall means lots of things in the United States: leaves changing colors, apple picking, back to school and...football. This weekend, the National Football League (NFL) starts its season with a bang, with 15 games on Sunday and Monday. College and high school football are already underway and fans all across the country are tuning in, getting excited and rooting for their teams—in person, on television and online. As a Notre Dame alum (class of ‘87), the ups (and the recent downs) of Fighting Irish football are always a big part of my fall weekends. Regardless of your alma mater or hometown team, one thing is certain: American football is a big deal across the United States. Ahead of most of this week’s kickoffs, we thought it would be fun to take a peek at some of the football search trends from around the country.

There’s some debate as to what is more popular: professional (NFL) football or college football. Search queries make it clear that in spite of the [nfl lockout], the pro game and [nfl] is consistently more popular for U.S. searchers than all of [college football].


That doesn’t mean that the college game isn’t extraordinarily popular. Right now, we’re seeing the highest level of search queries for [college football] since 2004. In certain regions, college football appears to be king over even the NFL. The states with the most searches for [college football] are mostly in the southern part of the country, with the notable exception of the rabid fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That’s no wonder—on Saturdays, when the Huskers are playing at home, their Memorial Stadium becomes the third largest “city” in the state.


We can also conduct a little popularity contest among players in college football. The Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the top college player, is usually correlated to spikes in search query volume. This year, the early favorites for the Heisman are beginning to take shape. Stanford’s quarterback [andrew luck], who opted to play his senior year in college instead of heading to the pros, is out front in terms of searches, but fans should also watch out for Robert Griffin III from the Baylor Bears program. [rg3], as he’s known, had the game of his career in week one and might be the national breakout star of the first few weeks of the season.


Over on the NFL side, it appears that winning the big game has little relation to how often people search for their favorite player. In the past month, the most searched for player in the NFL is [peyton manning] of the Indianapolis Colts, who last won the Super Bowl in 2007. He’s currently sidelined with a neck injury, so his status is likely driving much of the current search queries. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks from the past two Super Bowl winners, [drew brees] from the New Orleans Saints and [aaron rodgers] of the Green Bay Packers, come in behind a player who isn’t even his team’s starter: Denver Broncos QB and former Florida Gators star [tim tebow].


The old saying goes, “on any given Sunday,” meaning that every team has a chance to win each time they hit the field. The adage manifests itself in typically balanced standings that last throughout the season and into the playoffs. But when it comes to search, we’re not quite so fair and balanced. In fact, there’s a clear favorite, and by this measure they really are “America’s Team”: the [dallas cowboys]. In the U.S., the Cowboys lead all other teams in search query volume, followed by the [chicago bears] and the [green bay packers].


No examination of football search trends would be complete without mentioning Fantasy Football. Millions of fans participate in their own drafts and watch their league’s waiver wires as they serve as coach and general manager for their own fantasy team. The enthusiasm is so fevered that, in the U.S. right now, more people are interested in [fantasy football] than President [obama].


Finally, for spectators, football isn’t just about teams and players. It’s also about the game day food. [Tailgating] searches peak every fall as folks turn to the web to discover new recipes and ideas for pre-game parking lot cookouts. The Super Bowl in February really drives gameday recipe searches, but tailgating staples like [guacamole], [wings] and [brats] all rank high in terms of search quantity every fall, with the king of all tailgating recipe-related searches being [dip].


Whether you’re an NFL fan, an NCAA nut or just someone who likes hot wings, here’s to a great season. And go Irish!

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We’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of energy our services use. In fact, to provide you with Google products for a month—not just search, but Google+, Gmail, YouTube and everything else we have to offer—our servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours. And, because we’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero.

We’ve learned a lot in the process of reducing our environmental impact, so we’ve added a new section called “The Big Picture” to our Google Green site with numbers on our annual energy use and carbon footprint.


We started the process of getting to zero by making sure our operations use as little energy as possible. For the last decade, energy use has been an obsession. We’ve designed and built some of the most efficient servers and data centers in the world—using half the electricity of a typical data center. Our newest facility in Hamina, Finland, opening this weekend, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity.

Whenever possible, we use renewable energy. We have a large solar panel installation at our Mountain View campus, and we’ve purchased the output of two wind farms to power our data centers. For the greenhouse gas emissions we can’t eliminate, we purchase high-quality carbon offsets.

But we’re not stopping there. By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects and companies, we’re helping to create 1.7 GW of renewable power. That’s the same amount of energy used to power over 350,000 homes, and far more than what our operations consume.

Finally, our products can help people reduce their own carbon footprints. The study (PDF) we released yesterday on Gmail is just one example of how cloud-based services can be much more energy efficient than locally hosted services helping businesses cut their electricity bills.

Visit our Google Green site to find out more.