How did my use of technology change during 2015? The short answer is that it increased. For example, I just deposited a check using my phone, and that’s something I never did in previous years.

That phone is a Droid Maxx, made by Motorola for Verizon. My iPhone turned in to a brick earlier this year. From among the phones available from or for Verizon Wireless, the Maxx seemed to me the best deal. This may be due to the particular wireless plan I was already in. The iPhones were by comparison overpriced.

I was happy with my new phone until, after a few months, it went into spiral of frantic uselessness, in which it would do nothing but restart until it ran out of power. Staff at the Verizon store agreed that it should be replaced, and replaced it was.

My second Maxx is behaving well so far. I like multiple things about it, especially the size of the screen. I’m not missing my iPhone. But I haven’t abandoned Apple: the two iPads in the house are in frequent use by the kids and by me. Read the rest of this entry »

Back To Firefox From Chrome

December 9, 2014

After my daughter’s school started using Chrome, it seemed that the browser wasn’t big enough for the both of us. So I switched back to Firefox.

In a way, my switch away from Chrome was prompted by the success of Google for Education, and of Chromebooks. At school, my daughter Maddie uses one of the over 50,000 Chromebooks purchased by Montgomery County, Maryland, for use in K-12 schools.

Maddie has to sign in to her school Chrome account to do some of her homework. She does so on the office computer, otherwise known as dad’s laptop. When she started doing this, strange things happened to my browser, to the extent that Chrome no longer seemed like home to me. At first I thought about coexisting in Chrome, and set up a Chrome account for myself.

Then I considered switching to a different browser, and came up with multiple reasons for switching back to Firefox. It would be simpler to use a different browser from the one Maddie uses. I’m still a little annoyed at Google for discontinuing Google Reader. I was curious about what had happened in Firefox while I was away. Some recent browser comparisons favor Firefox over Chrome and other browsers.

Firefox this time round? So far, not bad.

Google Music launched to a rather lukewarm reception. Don’t Be Too Disappointed By Google Music’s Lackluster Debut was the advice from TechCrunch. Here’s How Google Music Plans to Compete So Late in the Game was the slightly-perkier reaction from RWW. GigaOm was rather more upbeat:

The service mirrors smilar offerings from Apple and Amazon, with a unique social twist: Users will be able to share their purchases on Google+, giving their friends and followers a chance to listen (one-time only) to singles and complete albums for free.

So essentially it’s a music locker linked to an MP3 store (i.e. Android Market). We can browse, sample, and purchase. The browsing works fine. The sampling, not so much, when I tried it on iPad: the browser-based player seemed to think it was playing, but there was no sound. Playing is fine on the Windows/Chrome setup I’m currently using. The Google Music/Android Market apps won’t work on my Android phone, but then, not many recent apps work on a G1…

I tried music purchasing in two ways. First, I compared Android Market MP3 prices with Amazon. Amazon was usually less expensive; for example, Laura Veirs’ Tumble Bee is $9.49 in the DroidMart, rather than $7.99 at Amazon.

But I did already make one purchase from Android Market: Los Campesinos!’ Hello Sadness for $5.99. I’ll get round to making a Google+ playlist including tracks from this, and other music I own, soon. Right now, I’m uploading a lot of music from disc, while barely making a dent in the 20,000-track Google Music allowance.

I feel rather overwhelmed, in a good way, by the options open to the web-based music listener. I’m not blown away by Google’s offering right now, but will keep on comparing it with Amazon’s – and with Apple’s, and Spotify’s, and with other – and plan to post as I compare. I’m interested in your comparisons also, so feel free to post them as comments here.

Google+ Now Plus Me

July 9, 2011

I’m now on Google+, the thing that’s like Facebook, but is not Facebook. See you in the circles?

So, Facebook “hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy.” I am rather late to the party in using that quote from Dan Lyons at the Daily Beast.

But I can’t resist jumping on this rather lovely insight into how low Facebook will stoop. And I can’t resist adding further quotes, this time from Michael Arrington’s account of the story:

  • “it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is.” They are Facebook. I hope that they are not changing the world’s notion of privacy. But they are certainly demonstrating how much of it people are willing to trade for being part of a large online herd.
  • “secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb.” Yes, and that’s the feel-good aspect of the story: the stupidity of Facebook.
  • “Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content… But many people argue… that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook.” Yes it should. But Facebook users should by now understand that they are the product, not the customer.
  • “Does anyone not see the irony of having to sign in via Facebook to leave a comment on this Techcrunch article?” That’s the first comment on Michael’s article (as of right now), and several other comments make a similar point. If TechCrunch knows Facebook to be dishonest, cowardly, and dumb, why is it inflicting Facebook’s comment system on the TC community?

Three weeks into 2011, the most interesting series of stories about the business to consumer web is local offers. They are all over the place, in the (new and old) media as well as on the map.

Since an excellent summary and opinion piece by Ben Parr at Mashable is just a few hours old, I’ll build off that. Google attempted to acquire Groupon. Groupon decided it could command even more billions by IPO than by being acquired. Google decided to launch its own service, Google Offers.

Ben op-eds that “Google will be an instant player in this market,” but that it “has yet to prove that it can build a successful social product.” For its part, “Groupon is prepared for (and not scared of) Google’s entry in its market.”

The first point I’d like to add is that Google faces at least one more well-prepared local offers service, besides Groupon. LivingSocial was also prepared for this announcement, and made sure it was also in the news this week with its offer of a $20 Amazon certificate for $10. That deal, which turned out to be wildly popular, put LivingSocial in the news during “Google Offers in the offing” week.

That’s good for Amazon as an investor in LivingSocial. It’s probably not bad for Amazon as a retailer, since orders will tend to be for more than the $20 on the certificate.

The second point is that the prominence of the local offers services seems to undermine, yet again, arguments that the web leads to “the death of distance” and makes meatspace irrelevant. On the other hand, the three services I’ve mentioned are (or will be) national or international in scope, and the offer that got LivingSocial in the news this week features an international retailer/partner/investor.

Finally, this seems good for consumers, with Google providing an additional source of local offers. For local business, however, it may further increase the pressure to offer deals that are too good for consumers to miss, and too cheap for the business to come close to covering its costs.

Alternatives to Lala are much sought-after at the moment, if the search traffic arriving at my post with that title is any guide. One things I didn’t mention in that post, or in the follow-up about music lockers, is that I was disappointed when Lala was acquired by Apple, rather than by Google.

One of the many interesting pieces of news coming out of Google I/O is that Google did make a music-related acquisition recently: Simplify Media. According to MG at TechCrunch, Google will use the acquired technology to give your Android devices access to your music – including music you’ll soon be able to buy in the Android marketplace.

Farhad at Slate provides more detail and enthusiasm.

As [Google’s Vic] Gundotra explained, you’ll do this by installing a small app on your desktop that will send your music… to the Internet… Once the files are online, your phone will have access to your entire music library whenever you’ve got an Internet connection… Even though the music doesn’t live on your phone, it behaves exactly as if it does.

Count me interested, although not inclined to get as carried away as Farhad. Here’s where he goes further than I’m willing to.

In the future, not only will you not get a CD when you buy an album, you won’t even get a digital file. All you’ll have is an access flag tied to your account in a database in a server farm in some far-off land.

I know that land: it’s Lala land, which got taken over, and is about to shut down. That model counts has too many breakable components to be feasible in the forseeable future.