Posts Tagged ‘Google’


Where I Learned To Not Be Good At Sports

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

electchester playground

The photo (above) shows the playground where the Electchester Athletic Association had its games when I was a kid. I played softball there… poorly

I caught in a softball league that had no stealing! The Witness Protection Program couldn’t have found a better place to hide me.

It’s tough to see the field’s surface from Google Streetview, but there’s no grass. The surface is probably forgiving today, but when I played there on busy 164th Street the field was paved!

Yeah, we played on concrete.

No sliding in our league either!

Not that it would have presented a problem for me. I don’t think I ever hit the ball out of the infield.

Most folks are surprised to learn baseball can be played on the same surface used to land airplanes or park trucks. Oh yes it can. And, if I’m any indication, it can be played poorly.

electchester sledding hill

As long as I was looking, I slid Google Earth a little farther down 164th to the hill where we went sledding. After a snowstorm this little topographical bump would be crawling with kids.

No!!! Who did this? I am incensed. There are now fences and hedges to prevent sledding.

Sure, we used to slide out into traffic from time-to-time, but this was our place. For a kid in an apartment this was the great outdoors.

Is nothing sacred?

Computers Make Life Easier And Scarier

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

google-now-screenI’m very confused. Computers looking over my shoulder have made life easier and scarier. This isn’t a new subject from me, but it hit home last week as we prepared to leave for the weekend.

My phone and tablet both run the Android operating system. That means they both have Google Now, which claims:

“Just the right information at the right time.”

I opened Google Now and saw my flight times listed. I didn’t tell Google I was flying. It figured that out from reading my email.

It figures a lot out from what I do.

There are currently offers to track packages heading my way and links to articles about Comet Ison. It knows about the packages from my email and the comet from my browsing history.

Google Location historyMy weather is there too. While in Milwaukee, Google Now posted the local forecast plus a link to the weather at home.

It knows where home is.

Because I often use my cellphone’s GPS there are maps tracking my every move! Actually, I’m tracked when I’m not using the GPS too. The readings just aren’t taken as often.

Google Location history 2I assume Google can figure out who my doctor is and where we shop for groceries. It knew I was at Fenway Park June 24th. It can tell when I’ve spent the day at home.

Remember, it’s not just my location they know. Google also knows what’s at those locations.

I can turn most of this off. I don’t. There are two main reasons.

First, if I turn it off I’m the only one deprived of the info. Google and their pals will still know.

Second, it’s valuable to me.

Having my flight information, or weather in a strange city, or sports scores from just the teams I follow are more valuable when easily found.

Having Google Now is like having my own personal assistant. Does it know any less than a flesh and blood personal assistant would?

The downside is this information will be used in ways we can hardly imagine. And it will be used without your knowledge even when it’s wrong!

While we were in Milwaukee my GPS readout briefly shows me at my parents old condo in Florida. Who do I see to correct that glitch?

When the government pushes back against fears of surveillance it’s often stated the information is anonymized. Red herring. My actual name is the least important part of this equation.

I’m truly conflicted about all this. So much power to do good. So much potential to be evil.

Our Taxing Problems

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Tim Cook from Apple testified to Congress yesterday. To summarize, Apple moves money around the world to reduce/eliminate taxes as the law proscribes.

Our tax laws make this possible! This is a face palm moment, right?

Before we let Apple off the hook, let’s remember tax policy is greatly influenced by lobbying which is paid for by people/corporations whose ox is about to be gored.

During the last election Mitt Romney said he paid all the tax he owed and not a penny more. Left out was these were tax rules Bain Capital had rallied for.

What I’m getting at is, when someone says they’re just following the law, take that with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, what’s going on here with Apple has been going on in England with Google.

From Google’s boss has told UK politicians to “sort out” the tax system, after criticisms of the internet search giant by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Miliband told a meeting of the firm’s staff that he was “disappointed” it had paid just £6m in corporation tax on UK sales worth £3.2bn in 2011.

But executive chairman Eric Schmidt said Google followed “the tax laws of the countries we operate in”.

I’m sure they have, but I close my eyes and see accountants playing Twister on the books!

There was a time when big business and the American dream were closely aligned. We could afford to give corporations a little slack, because in the end we knew they’d employ people and drive prosperity. Those days are over. We shouldn’t favor corporations with gifts for acts they no longer perform.

We can’t afford big corporations being financial takers. We just can’t.

Huffington Post: Citizens for Tax Justice, which advocates steeper corporate taxes, said it surveyed major U.S. companies and found that 26 on average paid no net federal income taxes between 2008 and 2011, among them General Electric and Duke Energy .

“This isn’t fair to the rest of us,” said Bob McIntyre, director of the left-leaning tax research group.

No joke. It isn’t.

This doesn’t just go on with money moving to Ireland or the Cayman Islands. There is a state-to-state competition as well.

Take a look at your phone bill (if AT&T is your home or cell carrier). Look down near the bottom for a copyright notice.

Since 2008 all of the current and past AT&T trademarks and previous regional Bell names are now owned by various Nevada Limited Partnerships based at 645 East Plumb Lane Reno, Nevada. This office location is currently an AT&T main office-formerly occupied by SBC/Nevada Bell.

That means when your Connecticut phone bill comes, a rights fee is paid to AT&T Intellectual Property for displaying logos, etc. That lowers AT&T’s taxes here by shifting the income to Nevada where there’s no corporate income tax! Any time you see an AT&T logo, money is being moved to Nevada.

The problem with fixing the tax code is those who want the code fixed (you and me) will be outspent and outmaneuvered by those who want to avoid paying taxes. I wish I had the solution.

Back in the Eisenhower administration, Charles Wilson was nominated for Secretary of Defense. He had been president of General Motors so there was concern he’d make any decision that affected GM in the company’s favor. He said he would not…

“because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. – Wikipedia

Those days are gone.

Google’s Real Weakness

Monday, February 11th, 2013

It’s tough to remember the Internet before Google. Page and Brin’s Stanford project only started going as “Google” in 1997. It’s used by so many people, it drives the web! As of Friday Google’s worth was $258.1 billion.

In the late 90s and even the early part of the aughts the Internet was young. Everything was new. There was little ten year old material online, because ten years earlier the web hadn’t existed.

Of course there’s more new stuff coming online every day right now than there was at the turn of the century. Unfortunately the old stuff is still here too.

Tonight I searched for ways to make money through youtube. Many of you have suggested I start a video podcast or some other online series.

I entered what I thought was a good search.

The first result (which looks kind of skeevy) had the title, “How To Make Money On You Tube (Tutorial) Not MLM – YouTube.”

It’s from 2008.

A 2008 tutorial for making money with youtube can’t be valid in 2013! The Internet has moved too far. How we personally use the net has changed as well. Certainly, youtube has changed.

I get this kind of response all the time, especially for tech problems. If I’ve got a hardware or software problem I need an answer that’s current.

Yes, you can go back and specify a date range, but that’s not what Google’s supposed to do. The whole idea of this search engine is to bring you the right answer the first time.

Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, finding an answer on the web is our problem, not yours. We try to anticipate needs not yet articulated by our global audience, and meet them with products and services that set new standards. – Google-”What We Believe”

This problem is steadily getting worse and will continue that downward slide until Google takes action.

I’m assuming they’ve taken no action, because if they have, they’ve failed terribly.

The Power And The Fear Of The Power

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Part of the power of the Internet is the ability of companies to put tiny pieces of your life together in order to serve you more meaningful ads content.

It’s also one of the scariest powers of the Internet!

What if some pre-crime program makes a mistake with you? “We know you haven’t done anything wrong yet, Mr Fox.”

Nothing is infallible!

Here’s the perfect example. Google’s Play Store recommends apps to me based on my history with them. Uh huh.

Look what they think I want!

I Thought By Now I’d Be Skyping More

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I saw Judah this afternoon. Judah is my not quite three year old nephew¹ from Milwaukee. We met up via Skype with the help of his parents Jessie and Evan. Baby sister Gabby looked on.

The conversation started with Judah burrowing his head into Jessie’s neck. Cute, but not a confidence builder there’d be much substance to the chat. He says he’s looking forward to Helaine and my upcoming trip to Milwaukee to see the hapless Brewers play the hapless Phillies.

Just establishing the chat tonight was like pulling teeth. Jessie favors iChat. I’m using a Samsung phone. Oops. We settled on Skype.

It took at least a half dozen attempts before we were able to connect. A few times Jessie’s face appeared briefly before the whole thing shut down. My hopping between 4G and WiFi here at work is probably the culprit. Maybe the Skype app isn’t resilient enough to follow along?

I have my tablet. I have my smartphone. I use a laptop with a camera built into the bezel. I expected to be using Skype or Oovoo, or Google’s video chat service a lot more than I do… which is nearly nil.

Maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe the ease of connection needed still isn’t there?

I don’t Skype with my folks. I don’t Skype with my daughter. Friends? Nah.

It was fun when I used to video chat with my friend in Kabul (he’ll soon move just north of the equator in West Africa). It really was like being there, which was good for both of us during his isolation. The only problems were his horrendous Internet service and undependable electric supply. We’ll see how Africa compares.

I’ve been a big believer video chat would be the favored method of person-to-person comms going forward. Not anymore. Keyboard-to-keyboard continues to grow strongly while even cellphone voice minutes fall off.

Facebook, Google and others promote their video services, but I never hear about them being used.

Video is still too difficult. Communications are best when easiest.

Video is best saved for special occasions like talking to Judah.

¹- I’m not very good with this, but Judah is my sister’s daughter’s son. Nephew? Maybe great nephew? I’m always confused.

The Big Deal In Kansas City

Monday, July 30th, 2012

My tech story on FoxCT today is about Google’s plunge into the cable TV/Internet provider market¹. They are about to wire Kansas City with fiber to-the-home. That’s the holy grail for online speed addicts! It’s very exciting to geeks like me.

For non-geeks it means Comcast Google is bringing competition to cable, an industry that mostly operates in monopolistic fiefdoms.

Google has made the loudest noise talking about the Internet aspect of the deal. That says a lot about the future of television and broadcasting, doesn’t it. Scary for me.

For $120/month subscribers will get hundreds of channels of HD programming (Google has not yet made deals with all the cable channels including many big names like ESPN, so exact lineup is still fuzzy) plus 1 gigabit bidirectional Internet service with no caps or restrictions. I checked today. My download speed is 1/50th of Google’s! My upload speed is slower still.

Because fiber has much more available bandwidth the quality of video, even from broadcasters like my station, should be far superior. Right now cable and satellite heavily compress broadcasters signals. They’re trying to squeeze as much into their coax as will fit. You can see the difference.

For $70 Google will offer a 1 gigabit Internet only package. This is a nod to the growing (but still small) community of cable cutters.

Beyond that, for a $300 installation charge (waived on the other plans) Google will provide 5 megabit Internet access guaranteed free for seven years! Somehow Google has figured out how to install fiber for under $300. When Verizon was still rolling out FIOS their cost was north of $600.

On paper (and without knowing the full TV Channel lineup) Google’s offering is looks superior to traditional cable.

With some minor exceptions cable’s never really been in a competitive situation. You’ve got to figure they’ll offer something better or cheaper than today’s packages.

As bad as cable’s reputation for customer service is, Google’s is worse! Try reaching a human should your Gmail fail or Google removes your website from its search engine! Will they fix that? Is Google even capable of meaningful human-to-human contact?

Lots of people will be watching what goes on in Kansas City. Most likely blood will be spilled. Both Google and the cable operators have lots of cash to throw around and a vested interest in protecting their turf.

Who knows, the public may even benefit! How often does that happen?

¹ – Disclosure: I own a small position in Comcast within my 401-K. Comcast owns WVIT, one of our competitors at FoxCT.

Google’s Worthless Recommendations

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

I just did a Google search. It’s one of the hundreds I do everyday. The answer is not satisfying, a big problem in Mountain View.

I was looking to see if there are any free, open source video editors that work in Windows. The image at the top of this entry is a screen grab of what I got.

Two of the highest rated results are so old they’re worthless! Google shouldn’t prioritize a software recommendation from 2005 or 2007.

This is their problem. It’s a big problem.

Meanwhile, as Google worries more-and-more about friend based recommendations on Facebook and Twitter they had better see this as the weakness it is.

The Day Everything Got Tied Together

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

I like the analogy about my new tablet I used a few days ago. It’s like owning a house in a development that isn’t quite finished yet. The tablet’s ready, but in many cases the infrastructure isn’t. New software is coming out nearly every day, but much of what I use still seems covered with dropcloths and scaffolding.

Today Google made its Chrome browser available for my Android tablet. No one knows why Google built this tablet’s operating system without its premier web browsing tool. The point is now moot.

I installed the browser without reading much of the detail surrounding it. Who does? I didn’t think twice when it loaded the first time and Google asked me to sign in.

Signing in. That is the secret sauce!

As soon as Google knew it was me they linked the browser on my tablet to the browsers on my desktop computers. All my bookmarks are shared. I can even pick up the tablet and find the tabs I have open on the browser on my other computers. I haven’t checked, but it seems likely cookies are shared too.

By connecting all my computers browsing becomes a seamless experience. Work, home, tablet, phone, it’s all the same.

Of course the downside to all this is Google has its tentacles into me even more than before. There is little of my life online it doesn’t have access to. It’s got my email. It’s got my web browsing. It knows what apps I’ve downloaded from its Android Market.

To Google my life’s an open book.

That part’s a little creepy, isn’t it?

2011 So Far

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Last night while scanning Google+ I noticed a posting from Ann Nyberg. She had taken advantage of a Google/YouTube feature I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It’s called Search Stories, it’s pretty cool and you can do it too!

By filling out a simple form you allow YouTube to capture Google search results. You tell your story and let the kids in Mountain View whip something up.

Here’s a look back at my 2011 so far!