Is Google trying to take over the World?

Google is ubiquitous. Its name has become a verb and, for some, a destination. Starting out as a search engine, Google has conquered much more Internet territory in the years since it launched. Need an email address, Gmail has you covered; need help scheduling yourself, others or the universe, just check out Google Calendar; don’t want to shell out money for a word processing program, just head over to Google docs and everything you could need is there including online storage if you are so inclined.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make. I love Google. I use Google as my search engine, my email provider, my calendar and my RSS feed. I lusted after a Google Wave invitation and I was sad when it ultimately failed.  I have been a Google evangelist – spreading the word to the uninformed about the beauty have having all your mail in one place. I was one of those people who every time someone complained about their email, I told them Gmail’s fix for whatever was vexing them at the time. After years of my mother complaining about not having all of her email on each of her computers in different geographical locations, I finally got her to switch to Gmail. She loves it.

Certainly many people, some might say conspiracy theorists, have argued that Google has nefarious intentions. Until this last week, I actually just thought they were a great company offering a lot of great products for free. In hindsight, I suspect I was naïve. Now I think Google was keeping its plans to take over the world under wraps. That is until NOW!

Google has once again taken a foray into social networking. This is not something Google has succeeded at in the past. Does Google ‘Buzz’ ring a bell anyone? Almost every one I know turned off Buzz as soon as Google gave us the option. I am surprised that Buzz survived after they breached so many people’s privacy.

Now Google has made a huge foray into the social networking field again. Except this time they don’t just have Facebook in their sites but Twitter too.[1] Launching Google+ with the ability to both keep posts private or within certain ‘circles’ and the ability to broadcast publicly. But it does not end there.

Yesterday a post went out from the Gmail blog[2] about convincing people you know to switch to Gmail. The poster relays a story about how just one friend was not on Gmail and how he wore him down over time to get him to switch. I going to resist the urge to talk about how the inherent creepiness in this kind of behaviour because it gets worse! Yes, not only are we all supposed to track down all of our friends who do not worship at the altar of Google, we are supposed to stage interventions for our recalcitrant friends.

It is starting to look like Google wants inroads into every aspect of our lives. I am not really concerned about the data they have as it is simply too much to be of any use to them.  What does concern me is the cutthroat behaviour Google is using to convince more people to drink at the Fountain of Google.

I am not really sure what all this means. I think if Google continues its proselytizing[3] they will alienate people – even people who love Google may begin to question their use of Google’s services. I really don’t want to think that Google is plotting how it is going to take over the world but their behaviour is certainly indicating that indeed that is their plan.


[1] Thanks to Veronique for the observation about Twitter in a Google+ post.

[2] Which of course I follow on Google Reader

[3] They are behaving as though they are a religion and they need more soldiers to spread the word.

Google+

I use both Twitter and Facebook and now I am thinking about adding Google+. The problem is that I don’t think I can keep up with 3 social networks. The case for using Google+ over Facebook is definitely there but very few of my friends are earl adopters which means I am hanging out in Google+ with only a few people.

Today’s Lifehacker article discussed how you could easily migrate your FB friends over to Google+ by exploiting Yahoo mail. I already had a really old Yahoo mail account so I did what they suggested and it worked very well. But I am still left with the problem that most of the people I interact with on social networking sites are all on FB and many of them are not really the early adopter type.

I like some of the features of Google+. Being able to create your own circles is a great idea and easy to do. Adding people to circles is simple as well and is a really great way to manage your privacy better. You select which circles you want to share a post with before you hit the button.

I love Google products. I even love Google products that no one else liked – think Google Wave. I love Gmail and Google reader. Google is my search engine of choice. Google+ is well integrated into Gmail, which makes using it very easy. I hope that over time more people will gravitate over to Google+ but for now I guess I will just have to keep up with as much as I can!


My first thoughts about Lion

Lion
  • The first thing I noticed about Lion is that they have reversed the way trackpads scroll. Now, you scroll the way you want the content to move – if you want it to move up, you scroll up etc. It is reversed side-to-side as well. I could not cope with this last night and turned it off on my laptop. Today I have coped with it better. It really is a much more intuitive way to scroll so I think I will get used to it.
  • I love mission control! It shows you every program you have open and the windows associated with it. It will quickly become the way I navigate through windows. You can access it very quickly by swiping up on the magic trackpad with 3 fingers. There was expose in Snow Leopard (SL) but I never found it particularly useful. I also found it would load at the most in opportune moments. Mission control will be much better and infinitely more usable.
  • Apple Mail – again the upgrades here for Lion are stellar. I love the new conversation view and it seems much less clunky. I tried mail out in SL but I did not really like the interface. It is much nicer now.
  • There have also been changes to the Finder. I find it much more responsive and easier to use. You can resize columns from anywhere i.e. you don’t have to go to the top or the bottom in order to do it anymore.
  • Airdrop is going to be fabulous once everyone here is upgraded to Lion. Basically it allows you to just drop a file on someone’s icon and it will transfer. I have not tried this out yet.
  • I don’t particularly like the Launchpad feature. If you are familiar with an iPhone or iPad it is the same interface you use to launch programs. I tend to launch most things from the dock or with Launchbar. Your mileage may vary.

I am sure I am only scratching the surface. There were over 250 changes so I am sure I will find more changes as I use Lion over the next couple of weeks.

My Need for Speed

Front and side of a Mac Pro. It looks very industrial.

I love computers. I spend several hours in front of a computer every day and if the computer is slow I pretty much want to pull my hair out. In fact, it was my need for speed that caused me to switch from Windows-based machines to a Mac. I got an iMac initially and I was very happy with the Mac side of the computer. However, I still have a need for programs that run only in a Windows environment. The problem with the iMac was that it was not fast enough nor did it have enough RAM to run Parallels and Windows.

I knew the answer was a Mac Pro. However, they are hideously expensive when put up beside an iMac. The price of the Mac Pro does not include the monitor. Every once in a while, I would go to the Apple website and build my dream Mac Pro. I was so happy when Deb said she wanted to buy my Mac Pro!!!

I got a 2.8 ghz Quad-core Intel Xeon “Nehalem” processor Mac Pro with 12 GB of RAM and 5 TB of hard drive space. The RAM and processor speed means that I can run Parallels and Windows without the computer grinding to a halt. Just starting the Windows profile would take several minutes. Moving back and forth meant a 45 second minimum wait. Shutting down took longer than starting it up. It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out!

The 5TB hard drive will allow me to house my ever-growing movie and tv show collection. It was getting tedious having to move stuff off the main computer and on to an external hard drive all the time. Now that we have Netflix, hopefully I will have to buy less and be able to watch more for free.

My laptop was also not as fast as it could be. So, while I was on my ‘need for speed,’ Deb took my laptop and had the RAM doubled from 4GB to 8GB. I haven’t tried to boot up Windows on it yet but I am sure it will behave well.

I get so excited by technology. I love all the new things that are coming out. I especially love it all in an ‘Apple’ world. A lot of people don’t like the proprietary tendencies of Apple but I don’t care. I find the products superior and cutting edge. I am so excited about the release date for Lion, the next iteration in Apple’s OS X.

In case there was any doubt

I am weird. I got up early[1] this morning because I was looking forward to doing some work on my new computer. I was excited to get work done all because of my new, very, very, fast Mac Pro. The report I am doing requires that I use Microsoft Access. For some reason, Microsoft has never developed Access for the Mac. We can have Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even Outlook but we can’t have Access.

So, if you use a Mac because you can no longer stand to use Windows everyday but you still need to run Access you need a fast computer. There are a couple of ways you can do this: you can use Apple Bootcamp and set up a separate partition. Windows will run quite well there but you then have to log out of Mac OS. There is a better solution. There is software that allows you to run Windows within Mac OS X. I use Parallels.

On my iMac, loading Parallels and starting Windows would take about 7-10 minutes to completely load. While Windows was loading, my computer literally ground to a halt – I couldn’t do anything. Once it was up and Access was open, I could get the data I needed but it was very slow. If I switched back and forth between Mac OS and Windows it would take a very long time. Sometimes my computer would completely freeze and I would have to shut down in order to get it back.

With the Mac Pro, it is completely different. Running Windows in Parallels is just like running any other program. Windows launches quickly and there is no difficulty going between each OS. This makes my life so much easier as there are many times I need to get into Windows.

 


[1] Now I realize that early is relative. Early for me was 10:15 am.

Apple TV – Review

We have a first generation Apple TV and we have been thrilled with it. I liked the fact that it had a hard drive and you could actually store media on it. You could also use it to sync stuff directly from your computer. We always found lots of content to purchase from the iTunes store. Overall, I have been happy with the Apple TV although it has many bugs.

Setting up the original Apple TV was a little tricky. It had to be paired with a computer iTunes account. If the host computer was turned off then you could only watch what had actually been transferred to the unit. Renting movies was the worst part of the first generation Apple TV. In order to rent a movie you have to download it, then transfer it to the Apple TV. Downloading and transferring could take anywhere from 40 minutes to a couple of hours. While movies were transferring, you could not use the Apple TV. If there was a blip in the wireless, then it would stop and you would have to start all over again.

I set up my mother’s new Apple TV and was immediately surprised at how seamlessly everything went. After it found the network and the computer it was pretty much up and ready to go. You can rent movies from iTunes on the computer where it will stream directly to the Apple TV. The computer has to remain on with iTunes open. What was even better though was renting a movie directly from the Apple TV. It seemed like the movie downloaded very quickly and was ready to play.

The new Apple TV also opens up other avenues for obtaining content. What really made me happy was to see that Netflix was available through it. We may look into getting a subscription to Netflix in the next little bit.

A review of the new Apple TV would not be complete if I didn’t talk about its size. It is so freaking tiny! It is smaller than a slice of bread and about an inch thick.

Seeing as how we bought my mother two Apple TVs, one for each of her houses, and we now know the other TV is way too old we are going to keep the new one and use both. Now, if I can just get it programmed into my Logitech Harmony Remote…

*Pic of Apple TV from Wikipedia

Rewarded

I have a confession to make. I am a back up freak. If you saw my desk you would see 3, 1tb drives and 1, 2tb drive. I need all of these because of my huge and growing digital library. I have, in essence, become a digital hoarder.

The main hard drive on my iMac is only 500gb. When I bought it, I could not imagine filling that space. Then I got an Apple TV for Christmas a couple of years ago. I was then faced with the fact that my digital collection was starting to grow. I already 5,000-song library and now I have added oodles of TV seasons, movies and documentaries to my collection.

The other day Deb wanted to see a documentary that I knew I had downloaded but moved to another drive because I can’t hold them all on my internal hard drive. I went searching through all my backup drives and I couldn’t find it. It turned out that my 2tb drive had died. It wouldn’t spin up or show any kind of connection to the computer. I changed the USB cable, I tried a Firewire cable and nothing worked. I also checked Apple’s Time Machine but those back ups only go back to March.

About 10 months ago or so, I signed up with Mozy, which is an online backup system. It backs up your entire computer. I didn’t realize it right away but I had also backed up all my back up drives. So today, when I had a little time, I checked what was available on Mozy and sure enough, there was the documentary I was looking for. I have now downloaded it again. When I replace that backup drive, I will just be able to completely restore everything that was on it.

Backing things up does not have to be difficult or onerous. I rotate my iTunes back ups amongst 3 drives. This means I always have at least two iterations of my iTunes library at any time. I had to pay for Mozy but it did its thing in the background and when my computer was idle. I didn’t even notice it for the most part. I think it took a couple of months before every thing was finally backed up. Retrieving it was super easy as well. All of my documents are stored in Dropbox and on 3 computers. They are also backed up on Mozy.

I am pleased how easy it was to restore a file. I am not at all concerned now about something happening as I know it will be easy to restore files. It may take a very long time but that is better than never getting them back in the case of a catastrophic failure. Most experts recommend backing everything up twice. One backup stays on site and the other is somewhere else. While you can do this with multiple hard drives, I think Mozy is less expensive and easier.

Conversations with my Mother

As I can’t blog about what I really want to blog about (I am working on a fix for that), I decided instead to bring you the conversation I had with mother tonight. She and my sister, apparently, have decided that my mother should join Match.com. She needs to upload a picture, which my sister sent to her already. This picture is a picture of another picture. Which is very bizarre as both of them own scanners and my sister has a kick-ass one. I guess she has not yet figured out how to use it. Here goes the conversation:

Mom: I need to get the picture of a picture of a picture that Kathy sent me. It is on my iPad.

Me: You need to do it from your computer.

Mom: But it is all on my iPad not on my computer.

Me: Mom, just because you used your iPad to set it up doesn’t mean it is only on your iPad. Match.com is on the Internet. Go to your computer and open up the email. (I will save you the play by play of this activity)

Mom: Ok.

Me: Download the picture to your desktop so you know where it is.

Mom: How do I do that?

Me: Open the picture

Mom: (lots of fumbling and muttering) I have it open. It is called DSC … Bmp.

Me: (I start to open up Parallels and Windows as I fear I will have to remote in). What is the name of the program that opened the picture? Maybe MS Paint?

Mom: Google Chrome?

Me: Let’s connect the computers ok? Open up MS Live Messenger.

Mom: Is that in the control panel?

Me: No. You need to press the start button and go to all programs. Scroll down until you see the Windows Live folder and open Windows live messenger.

Mom: Ok, I see it. Should I open it?

Me: Yes, open it and sign in.

Mom: It’s wrong?

Me: What’s wrong?

Mom: It has my Cecelia2@redacted.com

Me: That is just the address you used to set it up. It is now like your user name.

Mom: Ok, I have it opened.

Me: Hang on. I am trying to get into windows. It is very slow.

Mom: Are you in yet?

Me: Yes, I have sent a message. Do you see it flashing at the bottom of your screen?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Good. Now, look at the top right-hand corner for the drop down arrow that lets you select Actions and then Request Remote Assistance.

Mom: Do you want me to hit the X?

Me: No! Look underneath for the drop down arrow under the X. We just did this on the weekend.

Mom: It’s not there. Let me open it again. I need to sign in again.

Me: No you don’t. You are already signed in.

Mom: No I’m not.

Me: I can see you. I just sent you another message. Can you see it?

Mom: It says ‘I can see you.’

Me: Right. Now go to the upper right hand corner and hit the drop-down arrow.

Mom: It’s not there…

We went through this loop several more times with no success.

Me: Send me the picture and your login and password for match.com

Mom: I can’t it is on my iPad …

Me: *head*desk*head*desk*head*desk

I think computer companies should reward adult children of seniors for assisting their senior parents adopt technology! Being tech support for my 75-year old mother is getting to be very, very, very trying! She does love her iPad though!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘we are in a sync loop’ edition

When I got a Mac I decided pretty quickly that I did not like iCal – the calendaring program that comes with OS X. Its interface is not very user-friendly and it lacks the ability to handle repeating to-dos. I came across BusyCal and I was hooked. The problem I had though was trying to get everything to sync across 3 Macs, an iPad and iPhone.

Busycal works best when all of the computers and devices are on the same LAN. Unfortunately, that is not the case with me. I also need to sync some information from a Google Calendar. Mobile Me can also be used to sync the calendars however, you have to be careful that you don’t end up with a sync loop. Apparently, I managed to do this by subscribing to the same Google calendar. I have to say that BusyCal has amazing technical support. Generally, they respond to questions within an hour. Plus they are very patient. I now have everything working properly.

My mother has been raving about this great Cuisinart coffee pot she bought that has a chamber for hot water. Basically, you keep it filled and turn it on when you want water. In less than 5 minutes, the water had boiled. Then you can just draw the water into the cup. It will accommodate any size of cup. I am very excited to have hot water on demand!

Now for some dog updates:

  • Sawyer seriously likes to play ‘silly bugger.’[1] Take this morning – he was barking like a maniac to go out. So I get out of bed and take him downstairs to let him out. He races and immediately goes to the wrong door. I go and get him and he runs to the back door. I follow, I open the door and he goes back up the stairs. Can you say ‘little bastard?’
  • Still on the little man, he seems to think that eating is akin to having his claws pulled out one by one. He seems to want to eat with an audience. Which is a complete and utter pain in the ass in a multi-dog house. We have to keep everyone else away while he tries to eat his food. What makes it worse is when he is in his place to eat he barks, cries and howls. He makes it sound like we are torturing him.
  • Everyone else is doing really well. Zoe was back sleeping with us for a bit. We can’t let her up in the bed at night because she tries to bite anyone who moves in her general direction. She slept in the laundry basket. Too cute! I promise to post new pics soon! We have such a great crew of dogs.

[1] Silly Bugger is a game in which you try to get a dog to do something like, oh, let’s say, out to pee. Instead of cooperating and going out the door, he runs away. When you try to get him, he stays just out of reach. Silly bugger is, hands down, the most annoying thing dogs do!

Evernote

I have been trying to find a program that I can use easily across all of my devices to capture information that I want to keep or look at later. I find things in twitter and blogs that I find interesting and I want to keep. I also don’t want to spend a lot of time getting the information in to the program. I also needed something that would sync seamlessly across all of my computers and my iDevices.

I looked at Circus Ponies Notebook but I couldn’t really figure it out. I tried Yojimbo but there was no way to sync easily. I would have had to put a save file into Dropbox and always remember to close it on each computer. I could not figure out a way to sync the iPad version with the information on my computers. So Yojimbo was out. I tried using the notebook feature in MS Word but I had the same syncing issues. Plus there was no real easy way to get information into the file from the iPad.

Enter Evernote. I was skeptical at first. However, very quickly I could see the value of the program. It is easy to start a new note. You simply click, add the information you want and it syncs with the cloud. On the iPad, which is where I need a program like this the most, it is so easy. I am able to copy a link, use fast-switching, tap to create a new note, paste what I want to save, click save and I am done. The other day I think I saved about 10 things in under 15 minutes. I was later able to go in and organize the notes when I have time.

I also use Evernote to capture ideas for future blog postings, things I need to do for work and personal things. Although I have not done it yet, you can use Evernote to store receipts, user manuals and other images. You can set up separate notebooks for different purposes. Tagging notes and other things in Evernote is also very easy.

What makes Evernote even better is the fact that it is free. There is a premium, paid version that drops the ads and gives you some other features. The cost is minimal but I have no real intention of getting the premium edition at this point. I really like Evernote and it is definitely meeting my needs!