Blog Archive

27 July 2006

What's in Google's Sandbox?

It’s been a while since I’ve done any digging around Google’s servers to try and find some new services, so I thought I’d have a quick go tonight.

I started by looking at one of the subdomains I found when I first ran my Google subdomains sniffing script last year:

Since Google Checkout was released earlier this year, that subdomain has been serving up what appears to be the Google Checkout pages. However, anyone who has tried to login would’ve noticed that they wouldn’t have been able to sign in using their usual Google Account. Furthermore, if anyone creates a new account from within these pages, it’s not a ‘real’ Google Account – it’s actually some kind of test account.

(Just try to sign in to the ‘sandbox’ pages using your normal account and it won’t work. Similarly, try signing in to the real Google Accounts pages with your ‘sandbox’ login and that won’t work either.)

It appears that the ‘sandbox’ subdomain and associated Google Accounts are used for the development and testing of new or experimental Google services. So, using the same methods I used to find new service code names before – e.g. Weaver / M Scrapbook, Google RS2, SSD, Mobile Download Console and Google LH2 – I managed to find and add the following services to my ‘sandbox’ Google Account – all of which aren’t currently available to add to your ‘real’ Google Account (even though you’ll have heard about some of them before):

Service NameCode Name
Google Eventsev
Google Guessguess
Google Online Assessmentgoa
Google Real Estate Searchre
Google RS2rs2
Google Writelywritely
Local (AKA Local Business Center)lbc
Mobile Marketplacemmp
New Service (AKA Workplace)wf
New Servicegmt

Note: The links used above are the same as those linked to each service name in the ‘My Accounts’ page, of which you can also view the screenshot.

Update: 28 July 2006 (13:42)
Also now available, screenshots of the sandbox ‘My Account’ page in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh!

In addition to those services, the following were recognized as being valid services – i.e. the usual login screens were available – but it wasn’t possible to add them to my account:

Service NameCode Name
New Servicecf

Old news?

So what’s new?

So, after all that, do we think these are new Google services waiting to be unleashed on the Google-loving masses? Or are they just some experimental services that some Googlers at the Googleplex have been playing with for their 20% projects?


Update: 29 July 2006 (12:49)

Just a quick update...

I can confirm that Google have now deactivated all of the new services that I mentioned above. Creating a sandbox account and trying to add these now won’t work. Furthermore, Google have deactivated my sandbox account! When I tried to login earlier today, I got the following error:

Sorry, your account has been disabled. For more information about Google Accounts, please consult our Help Center at

I guess that’s fair enough.

Also, thanks to Digg user merreborn for pointing out that the sandbox is actually intended for the testing of Google Checkout, and is mentioned in the Google Checkout API documentation. I guess Google just didn’t expect people to start trying to register new services on there too...

Update: 3 August 2006 (13:39)

See also: Matt Cutts: No comment on secret Google services


24 July 2006

Five fun things to do on a rainy weekend

  1. Pick your mate up from the train station. Park your car whilst you grab some lunch at the Common Room on Devonshire Street. Forget about buying a parking ticket. Get a £30 parking fine. Pay your parking fine within 14 days to avoid having to pay £60 instead.

  2. Cover your barbecue with a piece of wood. Give a couple of good friends a golfing umbrella and get them to stand in the rain, keeping it alight until the sun comes out:

    Tony's Birthday BBQ (2 of 24)
  3. Using the Guinness Surger that The Rileys gave you for your birthday, experiment with open vessels containing different liquids just to see what will happen. Here’s a good example of what happens when you ‘surge’ a bottle of Stella Artois:

    (Warning: Don’t try this at home without a chemistry doctorate being present.)

  4. Put your head down for a well deserved nap whilst the cleaning fairies come and tidy up after your party:

    Tony's Birthday BBQ (24 of 24)
  5. Wake up the next morning around 06:00 wondering where everyone’s gone and take a look at the photos to try and remind yourself what else you got up to...

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Slightly rippled with a flat underside

Here we go again. Last time it was Walkers that got on my wick. This time it’s Cadbury. Why? Firstly because their Cadbury Boost bars are substandard and secondly because they didn’t even bother to read my complaint properly. Here’s what I sent them via their website last Wednesday:

Dear Cadbury,

Every single time I purchase one of your delicious Cadbury Boost bars, I carefully tear open the wrapper to discover that it’s stuck to my Boost because all the caramel goodness has leaked out of the base of the bar! I then have to spend a good few minutes trying to scrape the caramel off the wrapper with my teeth so that I don’t waste any. This always happens regardless of where I’ve purchased my Boost.

Is there something inherently wrong with the design of the Boost bar that makes it impossible for the bar to contain its caramel filling? Is this a known issue? Have you got anybody in your company working on a more sturdy Boost design?

I look forward to your comments.

Kind regards,

Tony Ruscoe

On Friday morning, I received my reply by post:

Dear Mr Ruscoe,

I am very concerned that you had cause to contact us about Cadbury Boost, but would thank you for taking the time and trouble to bring this matter to our attention.

Great care is taken during the manufacturing and packing of Cadbury confectionery to ensure that our products leave us in perfect condition. It is quite clear that on this occasion you have purchased a product that is below the high quality you would associate with Cadbury.

We would like you always to enjoy Cadbury confectionery at its best. I hope you will use the attached refund for £1.50.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to contact us. If I can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me on our freephone careline 0800 818181.

Your sincerely


Consumer Relations Department

It would appear that they’re not that concerned about the Boost design being flawed then. Despite me saying that it happens “every single time ... regardless of where I’ve purchased my Boost” they still seem to think that “this occasion” is a one-off! (Still, at least they could be bothered to send me compensation, which is more than Gary Lineker did last time.)

Has anyone else experienced this problem with Cadbury Boost bars or is it just me?

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13 July 2006

Visualizing Google Search Results

Philipp Lenssen’s post on Visualizing Coordinates With Google presents some interesting and unusual ways to help visualize how many results are returned when searching Google for certain keyword combinations. He’s plotted the number of results returned for various coordinates onto a grid and also the number of times a chess position was returned onto a chess board, including some variations based on chess pieces. He asks, “Which other structured numbers or words can be visualized with Google for interesting results?”

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Visualizing Google Search Results: Keys on a Computer Keyboard

This image represents the number of results returned when searching Google for words and phrases corresponding to the letters, numbers or names of keys on a standard (UK English) computer keyboard; the brighter the key, the more search results were returned. I normalized the results so that the key with the most results returned has an opacity of 100% whilst the keys with the least results have an opacity of 10% (just so you can see them).

I guess the aim was to show which keys may be the most used, but there are obviously some whose results have been skewed because they share their name with another popular letter or word, particularly the “Home” and “@” keys. Nevertheless, I think it’s still a quite accurate and interesting representation.

Some notes:


12 July 2006

Bad Language

Attn: Everyone

Please read and digest this list of Common Errors in English compiled by Paul Brians, Professor of English at Washington State University.

Paul’s managed to include just about all the incorrect usages of words and phrases that really get on my nerves. (I disagree with him in some cases, but I'll forgive him for those since he’s done such a good job with the rest!)

In particular, please pay attention to the following errors:

Another peeve of mine, similar to the “logon” example, is when those ridiculous T.V. adverts for insurance or loans tell me to “click on” their website. They say things like, for example, “Just click on www dot we can help you get into debt dot com for more information!” Why do I need to “click on” your website? Why can’t I just “visit” it like I do other websites?

And finally, taken from the Common Errors in English website (the emphasis being mine):

But isn’t one person’s mistake another’s standard usage?

Often enough, but if your standard usage causes other people to consider you stupid or ignorant, you may want to consider changing it.

Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more!

[Via Google Operating System Blog]

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11 July 2006


Can any of you guess what we found in our garden on Sunday night? No, it wasn’t another new Google service (although they do seem to be popping up all over the place recently) – it was a hedgehog!

By coincidence, I’d seen a hedgehog house in B&Q over the weekend and suggested to Suzy that we should buy one in case we ever got a hedgehog in the garden. However, since we’ve never even seen one anywhere near our house we didn’t bother, only to find this little fella wondering around our back garden when we got home:

View more photos on Flickr

We were a little concerned for its well-being as hedgehogs usually only come out when it’s dark and it was still daylight. We already knew we shouldn’t feed it bread and milk, but didn’t know what else we could do to help it. After searching the Internet for a local rescue centre, we found the Voluntary Rescue Centre for Birds and Wildlife website and phoned them for some advice.

Although this hedgehog was quite small (4 to 5 inches long) it could still have been old enough to have offspring, for which it could have been foraging for food. As a result, Midge (who voluntarily runs the Rescue Centre with his wife) suggested that it would be a bad idea to rescue it in case it was going to find its own way back to its family. So, we bought some cat food (no fish varieties allowed for some reason) and put it outside on an ice-cream container lid along with some water.

The hedgehog quickly discovered the food and then ran pretty quickly around our fence into next door’s garden, then right across the middle of their garden into the corner next to their shed. We assumed it was going back to tell its family that it had finally found some food!

After waiting for a family of hedgehogs to return and chasing off a couple of cats, I decided to build a little hedgehog house out of a cardboard box and weigh it down with some bricks so that the cats couldn’t get to the food overnight...

When Monday morning came, the ice-cream container lid had moved towards one of the doorways I’d made and half the food had gone. We assumed some clever cat (or other animal) had managed to carefully put its paw inside the box and dragged the food nearer to the door so it could eat it. Our poor, hungry hedgehogs!

After setting it up again last night, it looks like our hedgehog might have been back, as this time the lid was licked clean!

And everyone lived happily ever after. The end.

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