Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google Alerts

January 5, 2010

Google AlertsAdd Google Alerts to the list of free Google services I’m using. Alerts are a way to find out if something you’re interested in shows up in a Google internet search.

I set up two alerts:

  • BKKPhotographer
  • My real name, in inverted commas.

So far I have not found anything interesting. My Flickr photostream uses my real name and there are thousands of pictures there so I get an alert if anybody links to one of them.

I share my name with an American soccer player so I get alerts about him too. It would be very strange to meet somebody with exactly the same name.

You can ask Google Alerts to send you email or to create a new item in Google Reader. I selected the latter. I still spend a lot of time using Google Reader.

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I’m a Google Wave Previewer

December 19, 2009

I used be the first kid on the block (as the Americans like to say) to try new software. My PCs were full of Alpha-this, Beta-that along with utilities I’d forgotten I had. But since I’ve moved to Bangkok I’ve adopted a simpler life. I’ve minimised the software on my one Windows laptop to the tools I really need. I uninstall software I don’t like or use. My Compaq CQ40 is over six months old and it’s still humming along. I view that as an achievement – I am a firm believer in “software rot“.

However I made an exception for Google Wave. I wasn’t on Google’s invite list so I requested an invitation. I wrote the Wave team a humourous (for deadpan me) message telling them they needed testers from Thailand where the internet is slower than they are used to.

A couple of days later they sent me an invitation. I doubt a human read my request – Google is famous for automating everything.

Google Wave Preview

Google Wave Preview. Don't try to use the URL to get your own preview. It's a one time code and I've used it.

I’m interested in Google Wave because it is just the kind of software we talked about at HP (Hewlett-Packard) back in the 1980s and 1990s – easy collaboration on projects over a network. It’s surprising how long it has taken to realise our “vision” (a word we used far too much). Maybe Google consciously referred to our “HP New Wave” name from 1988-9. (I doubt it – I bet half the engineers on the team weren’t born when HP New Wave came out).

I don’t have anyone to collaborate with and I need to view the video that explains the Google Wave approach. That could be challenging in Bangkok. Even though my internet access is faster than it was because of Google Public DNS and the Asia-America Gateway (AAG) it is still creaky, especially at night.

I note how much Google is drawing me into their software ecosystem. Currently I am using:

  • Google.com as my default search engine. I have not seen a good reason to use Microsoft Bing. It’s one annoyance is that Google persists in showing its user interface in Thai. I’ve told Google via my account settings that I want my language to be English but it forgets.
  • Gmail as a secondary email account. My primary email is a Yahoo Mail account I’ve had for over ten years.
  • I have a Google Site but I don’t use it much.
  • Chrome as my secondary browser. I use Firefox most of the time.
  • Google Earth and Google Maps. I use Google Earth a lot for geocoding my pictures in Lightroom via Jeff Friedl’s plugin.
  • Picasa and Picasa Web Albums. I downloaded the former mainly to try its face recognition software. I use Picasa Web Albums as an alternative to Flickr. Picasa will never replace Adobe Lightroom as my Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution nor Adobe Photoshop for heavy picture editing.
  • Google Reader. It gives me too much to read – I have culled many sources I used to follow or I’ll waste too much time on topics of marginal interest. Reader shows many more ads than when I started but they are not intrusive. I note that I am still following seven Google blogs.
  • Google Docs as a repository for certain information. I have not used it much for document creation yet: I don’t trust my Internet connection enough. Potentially I could replace my use of Microsoft Office for routine documents and spreadsheets.
  • I have used Google Translate to translate this blog to Thai. Thai people tell me it does an acceptable job. It works in 149 other languages too. I used it to get a translation of some Thai comments somebody put on two of my Flickr pictures.
  • Google Public DNS. It’s working well for me since I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.
  • I’ve used Google Webmaster Tools and Google Browser Size to optimise this blog as much as WordPress permits it. I wrote about the latter here. I have not changed this blog as a result of overlaying their contour map on this page however.
  • I have Google Gears enabled for a few sites like WordPress – although I cannot see any benefits. It looks like HTML5 will supplant Gears eventually.

I don’t use Google’s Blogger to host this blog. I consciously sought out a smaller competitor with a good reputation: WordPress. Unlike with ACDSee Pro I have not regretted it.

I am amazed how much I’ve been drawn into Google’s world. But the Bangkok Frugal Photographer hasn’t paid them one satang for the privilege. Amazing.

Google Public DNS

December 4, 2009

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/introducing-google-public-dns.html

I just saw this article from Google and tried updating my DNS Servers from the ones provided by my Thai ISP to the Google Public DNS Servers: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. They said they want users from all over the world.

I was amazed. My internet seems two or three faster! (I did not do any measurements – I am not that patient – but my perception is reality.)

I have noticed in the past how much time my computer spends looking up IP addresses “Resolving host …” and grumbled at how many servers it needs to do something like access e-mail. Also it used DNS for what seemed like every request. Does the Flickr server move so often that the Time to Live (TTL) for DNS records cached on my computer needs to be measured in minutes?

Of course, I am suspicious. I wonder if Google can connect my identity to my DNS requests and thus gather a guaranteed complete record of everything I touch on the Internet to increase their knowledge about me for marketing purposes.

Despite that worry Google Public DNS seems like a great service. I may be one of the first million users so perhaps it will get slower as more people find out about it. I expect my ISP’s DNS servers are used by most of the Internet users in Thailand.

Kudos to Microsoft that they allow me to specify my preferred DNS servers separately from the IP address and gateway which I get using DHCP.

Google Street View

November 14, 2009

GoogleI absolutely love Google Street View. I use it frequently to check locations where pictures were taken and also to travel vicariously. I am eager for Google to add Bangkok to their itinerary.

Recently I located a former colleague and found he’s a Professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. I was able to go right to the campus and see the Department of Computer Science Building. Amazing!

Still I understand people’s concerns about privacy. It’s one thing to allow tourists freedom to take pictures and even publish them online. But it seems so different when Google have their specially equipped cars (and trikes) with a camera mast that can look over walls and fences.

Now I see Switzerland is the latest country to raise legal challenges. See here.

I wonder if Google could have gone about it in a different way? My perception is they tend to start massive projects and then act all innocent when people object. Much the same with their book scanning. I am sure many people thus perceive them as arrogant. That’s a bad place to argue from.

But if Google asked permission from every authority who’d conceivably have something to say on the matter then they’d never get started. As an old boss used to say “It’s easier to apologise than to ask permission.”

Maybe if the Street View camera was lower so it photographed no more than the average pedestrian then some concerns would lessen. I don’t know if their setup is consistent worldwide.

All the Street View pictures I have seen have had vehicle license plates and people blurred for privacy. I have never seen a problem with that but it can make the pictures a bit annoying.

The thing I like least about the interface is the transition between pictures. I would have thought there would be a smooth transition, but instead it is a jarring change. Considering the lamentable internet speed I have here in Bangkok it is remarkable it works at all.

I don’t have any Street Views of Bangkok so here’s a picture of Santa Clara Caltrain Station in California. I used to travel to San Francisco regularly from here.

 

Google Street View Santa Clara Caltrain Station

Google Street View Santa Clara Caltrain Station

Very good for nostalgia.

 

Google Chrome Annoyance

October 11, 2009

It’s only a small thing but it annoys me. If you close the only tab in the Google Chrome browser (Windows) the application quits without warning.

Chrome About Blank

Firefox is more intelligent. It removes the close button from the last tab so you cannot close it. To quit you have to click the “close” box at the top right like any other Windows application.

If you have more than one tab open then all of them have little close buttons. But when you get to one the close button disappears.

Firefox About Blank

Clearly the Firefox designers anticipated this condition.

I hope somebody will tell me that there’s an option somewhere in Chrome to change this behaviour.

Top Searches

September 19, 2009

ALL my top searches this week are related to the rumoured Nikon Coolpix P7000.

That shows what happens when somehow you get ranked highly by Google. I am #2 on the Google list. Interestingly this blog is not listed when I type the same search term into Yahoo or the new Bing from Microsoft.

I have not seen any new rumours about the camera since August.

I Don’t Understand Google

September 11, 2009

Does anybody?

What I mean is that many of the web searches that come to this blog are for the Nikon Coolpix P7000. I know nothing about this camera. All I did was link to the page on nikonrumors.com and hardly added any information.

Yet my post comes ABOVE nikonrumors.com in the Google listing. The top choice is link farm in the Philippines. Second is another Nikon related site. I am third!

I think this shows the limitations of Google’s automated system. A human would detect the link farm and the fact that my blog merely reports facts posted elsewhere.

Google isn’t intelligent. Not even close.

If I look tomorrow it will probably have changed.

While I am thinking of Google I forgot to mention that whatever I alter in my Google account my Google searches always go to google.co.th in the Thai language rather than Google.com in English. It’s trying to be clever and failing. I want English!

For that reason I have set my default search engine to yahoo.co.uk. Yahoo does not try to second-guess me.

Keeping Google Out of Libraries

September 3, 2009

BBC NEWS | Technology | Keeping Google out of libraries.

There are some good comments here about Google’s proposed settlement that will enable them to scan many books and make them available.

Despite their “don’t be evil” moniker, people are rightly suspicious of a major American corporation. Ideally libraries and publishers would scan books and make indexes, abstracts and/or the entire works available online. No one would have a monopoly and Google could act as an aggregator rather than “the world’s librarian”.

Certainly it would not be as seamless as one organization performing the work. I am sure Google has quality and technical standards and procedures that ensure high quality consistent scanning. Even major libraries and publishers cannot match their deep pockets and technology.

Of course I am suspicious when the opposition to the settlement is led by companies like Microsoft and Yahoo. Especially the former. It’s hard to see Microsoft as anything more than a sore loser – they wanted the world’s librarian role but ceded it to Google in a moment of corporate cool feet and now want it back. Even though the anti-trust case is a long time back many cannot forget their arrogant approach. Google is far more sophisticated but just as calculating.

Google Lookup Limit?

August 10, 2009

I didn’t notice this comment in Jeff Friedl’s Lightroom Geocoding plugin before.

He says Google sets a limit on the number of reverse geocode queries a user can send in a day. I didn’t know that. I did not even know I need to sign in to use it.

Lightroom Bulk Reverse Geocode

It’s understandable to have a limit. I can envisage people abusing the service, maybe for commercial use. Google has an incredibly powerful infrastructure but they don’t make a satang off users doing things like this. There’s no way they can show me ads. Maybe they collect data on the places I am interested in and find value in that.

The limit must be generous. I sent thousands of requests to Google from Lightroom yesterday when I was trying to reproduce the glitch. I suppose Jeff’s code catches that error.

Google’s Android Jumps to the Living Room – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com

August 7, 2009

Google’s Android Jumps to the Living Room – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com.

I’d like Android to jump to digital cameras. I wonder if it will ever happen?

I will explain my reasons in another post.