Tag Archives: google

Why I don’t rely on Google

Recently several otherwise tech-savvy friends have been perplexed that I don’t just use Google for everything. They explain that I could use Google Voice for my U.S. phone number, use Google Checkout for The Mathematician’s Dice, sync my contacts and calendars through GMail, and log in to many things on the web using their OpenID service. And they wonder why I suffer a bit of spam instead of using GMail for my primary email account.

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China pisses off Google

From the official Google blog:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The not so subtle subtext of the post is this: why should Google play nice for the Chinese government and operate a special, censored version of Google, while Google’s infrastructure is under attack from what are probably Chinese government agencies?

Google Wave is not for you

Sounds like Google Wave might actually be pretty useful for:

  1. non-technical people in corporate environments who are
  2. sloppy with email and
  3. use email for lots of collaboration but
  4. aren’t familiar with all the tools and process that tech companies are accustomed to using (wikis, bug-trackers, IRC, version control, archived mailing lists, etc.).

In other words, non-technical, corporate environments.

Goodbye to Google Groups

John Resig, creator of jQuery, rips Google Groups a new one. Not using Gmail’s awesome anti-spam technology in Google Groups only creates problems for Google Groups users who aren’t also Gmail users. Google has become so enmeshed in (and is profiting so much from) their own monoculture that they no longer need to care about how their products interface with the rest of the world.

Some impossible objects before breakfast

Lately I’ve been playing with rapid prototyping, also known as three-dimensional printing. It’s a (relatively) new fabrication method that allows creation of shapes that would be impossible to create by moulding. It allows for creation of things like interlinked rings, objects trapped inside other objects, or complex voids.

Shapeways, a Netherlands-based website, offers high-quality, relatively cheap rapid prototyping, and a place to host your own selection of models. As a website, Shapeways is no RedBubble — the interface and marketplace tools leave much to be desired. The ratings and sorting can be gamed, it’s trivial to figure out the markup on another user’s model from its price, there’s no way to replace a published model with an improved one, and the site has encoding and markup issues. But what’s a few flaws when you own the category?

The free version of Google SketchUp has been satisfactory for rendering thus far, and its user interface is leaps and bounds ahead of the bizarre interface of Blender. I’m sure Blender has a superior feature set, but what good is power when you can’t figure out how to use it? Meshlab and AccuTrans3d have both come in handy for checking surfaces and converting between formats.

On to the models! Click on the pictures to see more views of each.

Trapped Outside

Trapped Outside is a model of Boy’s Surface with a sphere trapped in the space cut out by the one-sided surface. Boy’s Surface an immersion of the projective plane, which means it is a Möbius strip with a disk glued to its edge. It is a non-orientable surface with no edges and no pinch points.

Trapped Outside

Trapped Outside was fairly easy to create using Google SketchUp. It’s just a few circles extruded along each other here and there.

Hollow Knotted Gear

The Hollow Knotted Gear, inspired by Oskar van Deventer‘s Knotted Gear, consists of two interlinked knots; a trefoil knot (in green) and its dual, a 3,2 torus knot. The green trefoil forms a rectangular cross section and a triangular hole. The blue knot forms a triangular cross section and a rectangular hole. The two knots gear perfectly together, and can move around each other, but only if they are both moved simultaneously.

Hollow Knotted Gear

After many failed attempts at getting various applications to render this complex extrusion properly, I wrote a small Python program to calculate the surface for me and output VRML. Then, after much more trial and error, I used AccuTrans3d via Wine to convert the VRML surface to a DAE file for uploading to Shapeways, and to a 3DS file for examining in Google Sketchup (and to take screenshots).

There are a few more of my designs on Shapeways right now, and even more rattling around in my head just waiting to be prototyped.

Officer Google, the frothy-mouthed robot trademark cop

I just sent this to Google AdWords tech support. It’s self-explanatory. I’ll post the response from Officer Darth Google (if there is any).

Yesterday, I edited and changed only the URL in Google ads I was running for a t-shirt I made on RedBubble. The text of my ad remained unchanged. Yet suddenly Google has decided that my ads, whose text has not changed, are now in violation of a supposed trademark on the word “angels.” I fail to see how changing the URL in my ads suddenly makes the ad content infringing.

An “angel” is a Judeo-Christian mythological creature that predates U.S. trademark law, and in fact the entire nation, by at least two thousand years. It appears in a book called The Bible which you may have heard of.

The only corporation that I can think of which might have a trademark on anything having to do with angels is the Anaheim Angels baseball franchise. My ads are for t-shirts which say “The angels have the phone box” and are wholly and completely unrelated to Anaheim Angels, baseball, or in fact the entire continent of North America. If you follow the link and look at the shirts, you will see there is nothing related to the team or the sport on the t-shirts. Heck, they’re not even related to the great sport of cricket.

The phrase on my t-shirts is from, and targeted at, the fan community around a British television show called Doctor Who. I fail to see how the word “angel” could be infringing on anyone’s trademark.

I wonder, does Robbie Williams’ song “Angels,” or the book and movie “Angels in America” by Tony Kuchner infringe on this same supposed trademark? What about the lyric “I see angels in the architecture” from the song “You can call me Al” by Paul Simon? What about the street named “Angel Kanchev” in downtown Sofia, the capital of the great nation of Bulgaria?

I’m no expert in trademark law, but I’m reasonably sure that it would be my neck or other body part on the line, not Google’s, if the supposed holder of this trademark on “angel” (possibly it is The Vatican?) decided to sue. Thanks for looking out for me, Google, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I wonder if they also have a trademark on the word “phone,” “box,” or maybe on “have” or “the.”

I’m not changing the text of my ad. That would be like requiring a toilet paper company to remove the word “paper” from their ad because Paper, Inc. held a trademark. And my t-shirts are a lot cooler than toilet paper anyway. So you can either re-approve my perfectly reasonable ad, or I just won’t run Google ads for my t-shirt, and you won’t get any money from me. Your call. I suppose you’re not really hurting for money over there at Google anyway. Let me know what you decide, and thanks for listening.

Eat your heart out, Google Browser Sync

I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend Glyphobet Browser Sync as an alternative to Google Browser Sync. Here it is:

rsync -av --delete user@remote.host:~/.mozilla/ .mozilla/

Some of the great advantages to Glyphobet Browser Sync include the fact that all your browser settings are transmitted securely over SSH, are password protected by UNiX file ownership and permissions,1 and do not require the presence of a large corporation with a dubious privacy & security track record. Plus Glyphobet Browser Sync takes advantage of industry standard technologies, just like MacOS X.

  1. Not all features available under MS Windows. []