Category Archives: Google

TeleRead Links: Amazon sales increase, update moves nVidia Shield features, phones that please their owners, and more

Amazon Reports 20% Increase in Net Sales (GalleyCat)

amzonsmileNet sales at Amazon increased 20 percent to $23.18 billion during the company’s financial the second quarter, as compared to $19.34 billion in Q2 2014.

The TeleRead Take: More Amazon financials. It’s noteworthy that they don’t break out e-books vs. regular books or other products; they just talk about total sales. And even if (as GalleyCat points out in its third paragraph) Amazon introduced a new Kindle e-ink reader and expanded its kids’ tablet to the UK, that doesn’t necessarily explain the increase. Perhaps there’s more going on here than Michael Perry suggests.


The Android L Update For Nvidia Shield Portable Removes Features (Slashdot)

An anonymous reader writes:For those of us who still remember the Hobson’s choice with the 3.21 update of the PS3 firmware, the most recent update to the Nvidia Shield Portable is eerily similar. The update, which is necessary to run recent games and apps that require Android 5.0 APIs, removes some features from the device, and removes the games that were bundled with the device, Sonic 4 Episode II and The Expendables: ReArmed. Nvidia has stressed that it is an optional update, but how many users have been told for months that the update was coming, some of whom may have bought the device after the update was announced, only to find out now they won’t receive all the functionality they paid for? How is it still legal for these companies to advertise and sell a whole product but only deliver part of it?

The TeleRead Take: This is one of those cases where it’s instructive to remember that Slashdot runs on hyperbole and reader aggravation. I have a good friend who owns a Shield, and his take is that the update just removes games he never played anyway (and not because nVidia’s being evil—the games themselves aren’t compatible with the new version of Android, and whose fault is that?) and features (such as Miracast or the original Android browser) that he never used. Which is pretty much the same as it ever is when anything changes in mobile. My friend also noted that most of the sentiment on the nVidia Shield forums ran the same way. Looks like someone is just looking for a reason to get people aggravated to drive more traffic.


If phones were designed to please their owners, rather than corporations (Boing Boing)

Your smartphone was designed to deliver as much value as possible to its manufacturer, carrier and OS vendor, leaving behind the smallest amount of value possible while still making it a product that you’d be willing to pay for and use.

But in south China, the absence of patent and copyright enforcement, combined with enormous manufacturing and design capacity, means that phones for the domestic market are wildly innovative — more than just endless variations on glass-distraction-rectangles. They’re specialized and optimized for many different niches, and designed to beat the telcos at their own game, with as many as four SIM cages to allow you to take advantage of one carrier’s unlimited loss-leader texting; another’s loss-leader data plan, and so on.

The TeleRead Take: This Vimeo video is an interesting look at the amazing variety of different cell phones in use in China. When you see all the different shapes and sizes, even if most of them probably wouldn’t appeal to American users it still shows just how much variety we could have if the companies making them didn’t get in the way. And at least some of them would still be useful for e-reading.


Smoking Gun: MPAA Emails Reveal Plan To Run Anti-Google Smear Campaign Via Today Show And WSJ (Techdirt)

However, in a filing on Thursday, Google revealed one of the few emails that they have been able to get access to so far, and it’s stunning. It’s an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood’s top lawyers in the Mississippi AG’s office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google. Beyond influencing other Attorneys General (using misleading fake "setups" of searches for "bad" material) and paying for fake anti-Google research, the lawyers from Hood’s office flat out admit that they’re expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories.

The TeleRead Take: Granted that this story doesn’t have a lot to do with e-books on the face of it, and granted also that Techdirt has been known for gleefully engaging in hyperbole over journalistic integrity in pursuit of its stories. Nonetheless, if the quote the story cites in the next paragraph is true, that would perhaps shed some light on why the Wall Street Journal so gleefully attacked Judge Cote and anti-trust monitor Bromwich in its editorials during the Apple anti-trust affair. (And perhaps why Apple’s lawyers didn’t bring it up themselves during the trial? They knew there was no actual substance behind it?)


That time the Internet sent a SWAT team to my mom’s house (Boing Boing)

I want to have the ability to be funny and serious, but most of all, to be myself online. I should not have to give that up just to be safe. The solution is for social media sites and the police to take threats or jokes about swatting, doxxing, and organized crime seriously. Tweeting about buying a gun and shooting up a school would be taken seriously, and so should the threat of raping, doxxing, swatting or killing someone.

Privacy issues and online harassment are directly linked, and online harassment isn’t going anywhere. My fear is that, in reaction to online harassment, laws will be passed that will break down our civil freedoms and rights online, and that more surveillance will be sold to users under the guise of safety. More surveillance, however, would not have helped me or my mother. A platform that takes harassment and threats seriously instead of treating them like jokes would have.

The TeleRead Take: While it’s pretty long, this piece is one of the better explanations of how the whole Gamergate fiasco operates that I’ve seen in a while. The author’s public disapproval of the movement, and her security research on filters to help harassment victims manage their online experience, unfortunately brought her—and her mother—to the trolls’ attention, and this was the result. This is the world that our new digitally-connected lifestyle has wrought.

That said, I’m not sure how Twitter “[taking] harassment and threats seriously” would have prevented someone on Twitter from calling the police to go to her mother’s house. Twitter doesn’t control the police, after all, nor can it prevent one of its users from calling them on someone they don’t like even if it could have prevented them from saying one word on Twitter itself.

TeleRead Links: Amazon profits, disburses more anti-trust credit, helps publishers; bookstore turns hostel in Tokyo; and more

Amazon shares soar on surprise profit, market value above Wal Mart’s (Reuters)

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) shares surged more than 17 percent on Thursday as the online retailer posted an unexpected quarterly profit, pushing its market value above that of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), the world’s largest retailer.

Amazon also forecast third-quarter revenue above estimates, and reported strong sales in North America, and unprecedented growth in its popular Prime two-day unlimited shipping service.

The TeleRead Take: Amazon’s logo has a pretty good reason for smiling today. Amazon’s alleged inability to turn a profit and the alleged unprofitability of its Prime service have been two major refrains of critics over the years. But here goes Amazon significantly beating its revenue estimate and turning a $92 million, 19 cents per share profit, and saying it was “fueled in large part by Prime growth”. And they expect to do the same thing for next quarter, too. I guess miracles never cease.


Amazon Customers Now Getting a Little Extra From the eBook Antitrust Settlement (The Digital Reader)

According to the discussion on Amazon’s help forums, the credit is for books which had been reclassified from mid list to best seller. Customers who had bought the affected books are getting an additional $2.44 per title.

If you haven’t gotten the email, you probably won’t be getting one. But if you did get an email then the credit then you should know that the credit is provided on a use it or lose it basis. It will expire in a year. You can find more info at Amazon.

The TeleRead Take: Nate originally thought the new credits had to do with Apple’s payout for the anti-trust settlement, since it lost its appeal, but it instead turned out to be adjustments for a book classification error affecting a limited number of customers. Not too surprised; I hadn’t expected Apple’s own payout to start until and unless it struck out at the Supreme Court, which wouldn’t happen for a while yet. Though I could still be wrong.


Another wake-up call from Amazon as they serve author interests better than publishers have (The Shatzkin Files)

This has not stopped. The most recent example was announced yesterday. Amazon is now enabling readers to sign up on their favorite authors’ pages for notification of forthcoming books. This once again demonstrates Amazon’s willingness to innovate. And by doing this they also will deliver benefits to the publishers — an increase in out-of-the-box sales of new books to the authors’ sign-up lists. But the chances are that authors will be more appreciative than publishers will. That aspect of this initiative then feeds into the meme that “Amazon is taking over!”

The TeleRead Take: It’s interesting to see even a member of publishing’s old guard admit that Amazon has actually been good for publishers in a lot of ways, even as it’s been refashioning the industry in its own image in other ways. Shatzkin notes this is largely what he’s been saying about Amazon all along, however. Meanwhile, I find other things to argue with him about in the comments…


Sleep in a Book Store in Tokyo (GalleyCat)

In September 2015, the book store/hostel will open its doors with beds set up right next to the store’s bookshelves. Shoppers can visit during the day and guests can get a cheap night’s sleep in the bunks over night. Not a bad setting in a country where budget accommodations include capsules and love hotels.

The TeleRead Take: Well, that’s one way to overcome the declining profits in running a bookstore, I guess. And it certainly ought to appeal to book lovers. Maybe some US bookstores should consider doing something similar. (Well, I’m already in the same city as one bookstore that is also a brewpub…)


Annoyed By Mobile Sites That “Ask” You To Download Their App? You’re Not Alone (TechCrunch)

Sixty-nine percent of people saw a link somewhere, cared enough to tap it, saw the interstitial and said “hell no.” I’m pretty sure that Google+ isn’t the only property seeing this on the web. I like using really well built mobile sites. They feel lighter than a native app and sometimes I just want to follow a link and get out of there.

Sorry, site owners, maybe we just don’t want your app. Google+ dropped theirs once they saw the above data. Being “mobile” doesn’t just mean having a native app and driving people to it.

The TeleRead Take: Google found that, of people who visited Google+ from their mobile browser and got a pop-up inviting them to download the G+ mobile app, only 9% tapped the button while 69% just closed the browser altogether, neither tapping the button nor continuing on to the original link. It turned out that the “helpful” suggestion to download their app was turning off over 2/3 of the people who came to the site.

It just goes to show you that mobile design can be counterintuitive, and the thing you think will “help” someone to experience your content better could instead drive them away. This is something that any interface designer should keep in mind—including e-book designers.


Google’s immersive storytelling app launches on iOS (Engadget)

Google is getting serious about 360-degree video content. And it’s not only about supporting it through YouTube or, by extension, Cardboard. The search giant’s also behind an app called Spotlight Stories, which it created with Motorola in 2013 and has been on Android since. As of today, that application is also available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad — as long as those devices are running a version of iOS 8.

The TeleRead Take: We’ve previously covered this mobile movie player for TeleRead, when I unexpectedly had one of the movies pop up on my Moto X phone. I hadn’t heard that Google had made the player available to Android overall (though I notice it’s still only phone compatible; neither of my tablets could install it). And now it’s expanding to iOS, too. Duet is definitely worth a watch, whatever your OS.

Orphan works copyright law controversy: Don’t panic!

It seemed important to lead with those two words, in large, friendly headline letters, based on the breathless “everybody panic!” takes that have been spreading around this matter lately. I’ve seen them popping up in my Facebook friends lists, and otherwise sensible people have been taken in—to the point where one of them ended up having to post a retraction after they read a more balanced take on the legislation involved. So let’s look at what’s going on.

In June, the Registrar of Copyrights issued a 234-page report (PDF) on the problem of orphan works. Here’s a shorter article about it (Joanna mentioned it here), linking to a 5-page brief and a Knowledge Economy International report on the matter.

Effectively, orphan works—that is, works whose copyright holder is no longer known or locatable—are increasingly becoming a problem as more works fall into that category and more people want to make use of them. Copyright jurisprudence (such as the HathiTrust/Google Books cases) have been moving toward permitting more use of such works, but allowing “fair use” isn’t a solution because (as with HathiTrust/Google) you can’t tell if something is fair use without expensive litigation.

The Copyright Office proposes legislation that would protect people attempting to make use of orphan works as long as they first make a “good faith diligent search” to try to locate their owner and post a “Notice of Use” with the copyright office. If the owner should suddenly pop up and object to the new use, it would limit compensation to a reasonable amount, rather than allowing for huge punitive damages that could discourage people from making such uses. Certain classes of use, such as not-for-financial-gain or educational/religious/charitable, would be exempt from having to pay compensation as long as they ceased using the work immediately as soon as the owner objected.

The Copyright Alliance has also posted a summary of proposed legislation and request for comments. Apart from the orphan works matter mentioned above, the legislation also contains a proposal concerning mass digitization, after the fashion of HathiTrust and Google Books. The problem at hand is that, when you’re digitizing en masse, there are so many works involved that requesting permission for all of them is effectively impossible.

As a result, the Office recommends Congress create a five year pilot program of extended collective licensing (ECL) – “a scheme that is somewhere between voluntary licensing and compulsory licensing.” In an ECL, “the government authorizes a collective organization to negotiate licenses for a particular class of works … for a particular class of uses … with prospective users.” This would be an opt out system for the relevant class of copyright owners.

The Copyright Office has requested comments be submitted with a deadline of August 10th.

Not everyone is thrilled about this proposed legislation. The authors of the 5-page brief linked above feel that the “Notice of Use” requirement—which caused similar legislation to fail in 2008—is too onerous to be realistic, and that it should be possible to predict generally when works would be protected by fair use.

And some folks, like Brad Holland, seem to regard the proposal as the top of a slippery slope that ends in everyone’s copyrights being declared invalid altogether. They express concern that any work that might be rendered unidentifiable, such as by being reposted with the creator’s information removed, could fall under this category. These are the panic-stricken posts that are going around on Facebook right now. “Everything you know about copyright is about to change,” they ominously proclaim.

It’s easy to see why people who make their living from copyright could be concerned—especially if they catch a whiff of the PANIC! PANIC! articles some folks are writing. To some folks, anything that weakens copyright at all is cause for alarm. (These are the same sorts of people who would be happiest if copyright was eternal.)

Nonetheless, the huge opportunities new media bring for reuse of old and the ever-lengthening copyright period locking out more and more old works mean that more and more people want to use works whose copyright provenance is unknown. Their inability to do so has grown from an annoyance to something that actively prevents the creation of new culture.

We need to reach some kind of balance between respecting the rights of people who created the old stuff and respecting the rights of people who want to make something new with it. This proposed legislation represents one possible way to do that.

TeleRead Links: Lower book sales, lost-phone retrieval, smartwatch success, and more

Book Sales Down 6.5% in Q1: AAP (GalleyCat)

Though sales in Trade Books for the quarter were $1.53 billion, down only 2.2 percent from the same quarter in 2014. Adult book sales helped the category, with book sales up 12 percent in March, and 3.4 percent for the first quarter. Children’s & Young Adults and Religious presses, on the other hand, both saw sales decline during the quarter, down by 15.9 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.

The TeleRead Take: Overall sales were $2.22 billion, as opposed to $2.38 billion for the same period in 2014. It’s hard to know what to make of a load of statistics this dry. The GalleyCat piece doesn’t make any effort to try to explain or put the change in context; it just tells that it happened. Though an earlier piece in Publishing Technology links a strong 1Q2014 sale of e-books to “a one-off spike in sales of religious non-fiction,” and that is one of the categories of books overall that fell this year. Maybe it’s just a fluctuation?


Make sure your phone is never lost again with Wear Aware (Android Central)

Wear Aware is here to save those of us who constantly are losing our phones. Whether it’s putting down your phone and walking away, leaving it in the car and heading into the house, or forgetting you put it down in public, nobody likes the feeling of not being able to find their phone. That’s where Wear Aware comes in, it’s here to make sure you never walk away from your phone — and it doesn’t walk away from you.

The TeleRead Take: It does make sense to have a smartwatch app that alerts you if your phone and watch should start getting further apart. Even my Pebble has some rudimentary features in that direction. This one seems to have some more nuanced alarm options, though I don’t think my Pebble would support those.


Missing all the signs: Desperately seeking a Watch flop (Macworld)

The Macalope has been amused lately at the bar that’s been set for Apple. Everything they sell must “become a cultural phenomenon” or it’s a “flop.”

These are not reasonable expectations. These are impossible goals designed solely to create faux controversy when Apple fails to meet them.

The TeleRead Take: This rather barbed editorial opines that everyone who declaims the Apple Watch to be a flop is doing so largely because it hasn’t set the world on fire, whereas by the standards of success Apple is judging by, it seems to be going pretty well. The Macalope compares the Watch to real flops like the Kindle Fire Phone, and finds sales seem to be chugging along just fine. The company can’t release an iPhone every time—yet it’s gotten to the point where people actually seem to expect it to. Which is kind of interesting when you consider how far onto the ropes Apple had gotten before it came up with the original iPod.


Kickasstorrents disappears from Google after penalty (Torrentfreak)

Following what appears to be a severe penalty, popular torrent site KickassTorrents has become pretty much unfindable in Google. Meanwhile, the top search result in many locations points to a scam site that’s serving malware to its visitors. For now, only DuckDuckGo presents the real site as a main result.

The TeleRead Take: From one perspective, it’s hard to get too upset about this. Although BitTorrent does have legitimate uses, they tend to be far outweighed by illicit piracy on sites such as KAT. But from another perspective, it’s a bit disturbing how readily major search engines can make content disappear if they want to. Small wonder activist organizations are constantly after them to do just that.


How to Install the Kindle Bookerly Font on your Kobo (GoodEreader)

A few months ago Amazon released a new font called Bookerly and it is a big step towards better typography. It is the first typeface designed for the Kindle for scratch and solves a longstanding problems with text justification, kerning, drop caps, image positioning, and more. The big problem though, its only on limited devices, such as the Kindle Paperwhite. So how do you get the font file and install it on your Kobo?

The TeleRead Take: My Kobo no longer functions, so I can’t really say whether this works or not. But it’s nice for people who do still use them that there’s apparently a way to put this new font on them.

‘Google and the World Brain’

 

“The story of the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet. In 2002 Google began to scan millions of books in an effort to create a giant global library, containing every book in existence. They had an even greater purpose—to create a higher form of intelligence, something that HG Wells had predicted in his 1937 essay ‘World Brain.’ But over half the books Google scanned were in copyright, and authors across the world launched a campaign to stop Google, which climaxed in a New York courtroom in 2011. A film about the dreams, dilemmas and dangers of the Internet.” – Google and the World Brain site.

The TeleRead take: What if librarians, not corporate executives, had helped organize the dominant information-related infrastructure on the Net or at least the American parts?

For years, librarians and hackers talked of online libraries, inspired by the one and only Project Gutenberg. On July 6, 1992, I myself published a proposal in Computerworld (much evolved since).

The TeleRead plan called not just for a national digital library system but also also a major campaign to deal with digital divide issues and spread around the necessary hardware and technical expertise.

It is not too late for an updated version of the original TeleRead proposal in the U.S. and other countries. And, no, I don’t expect Google to fade away. Plenty of room exists for different business models, my strong preference. Furthermore, Google could be among the contractors to build full-strength national digital library systems here and elsewhere. But Google or any other contractors need close watching, as illustrated by my recent post Why can’t Google code? My Chrome browser still sucks. So does Gmail in major ways. If other companies can do the job better than Google, then fine—use them instead. Google’s current technical and business challenges show it is hardly godlike in all respects.

Related: National digital library endowment proposal makes Education Week and an analysis of the Google Books Settlement.

Why can’t Google code? My Chrome browser still sucks. So does Gmail in major ways

New Orleans Carnival: Krewe du Vieux float satizing George W. Bush.  GNU Free Documentation License. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KdVWrongStuffDunceRocket.jpgLarry and Sergey, you can brag all you want about Moonshots—your driverless cars, your WiFi for developing countries, your other marvels; and sure, I’m also happy to hear about the new Literata font for e-books.

But overall, compared to the past, you just don’t care as much about the people who made you billionaires. Us. Customers. End users. Pick the term.

I’m running the latest nonbeta Chrome on my HP Pavilion and using the tips I shared earlier with TeleRead community members. And you know what? Chrome is still crashing far too often. While I realize you want to add new capabilities to your browser, how about the basics?

Another don’t-give-a-damn example is the Gmail mess. Why the devil aren’t you offering us the option of paid telephone support for, say, $50 a year. You could turn that into a fat cash-cow. Instead, just to get decent support, I had to “migrate” over to Google for Work. With 30 gigs of email, the process required weeks and had to happen not just at Google’s end but also through the finicky GAMME program on my PC. Along the way, GAMME drained away RAM and other resources badly needed for my ever-hungry Chrome. In the end I’m still sticking with my old Gmail account because, for now, I lack time to switch over various Google services tied to my old Gmail. I won’t even be able to take my Google+ account with me.

Your tech support people have been heroic, especially Laura down in Central or South America. It isn’t their fault that so much of your infrastructure stinks, or that I had to sign up for Google for Work Apps to enjoy telephone support.

Why couldn’t I have filled out a simple form, okayed payment and stuck to plain old Gmail? Were you trying to herd people toward Google for Work? Or does Google have too much invested in its substandard Gmail infrastructure to fix the problem? If nothing else, think about the Gmail interruptions that caused me to want to phone support. What’s more, I could also mention the less-than-optimal interface. I want composition in Gmail to be as easy as in Word, and I’m willing to pay for it.

I could also mention all those Nexus 7s bricked when their owners installed your OS updates. And outside #fails at the customer level, more than a few content providers not happy with the performance of Google ads, if the scuttlebutt I’m hearing is representative. Notice? Every ad on the TeleRead site is from Amazon. There is a reason for that. Perhaps TeleRead will be getting in Google ads. But for now, Amazon reigns supreme.

Although you’re in business to make money, not keep the world happy, I’d hope that the two goals would in many ways overlap. Keep in mind I’m very, very grateful for past innovations, including Gmail itself and other goodies such as Google Analytics. And I even pro-Moonshot. This post is not Google-hate; it’s simply tough love. But priorities, please, Larry and Sergey. You’re falling behind on the basics at the very moment rivals like Microsoft are working their rear ends off to reinvent themselves and improve The Customer Experience. Chrome is tormenting me just as Microsoft is revving up an improved browser. Perhaps I’ll switch both my e-mail and browser. The [email protected] account is all ready to take over if need be from [email protected]

So if you want to stay competitive, then fix all the broken things at Google. Now. We customers have entrusted so much of our lives to you by way of Gmail and other products. Stop being evil. Care. It just could be good for your bottom line and maybe even create a little goodwill that you could use in your current antitrust battles in Europe.

Related: As antitrust case looms, ‘Peak Google’ debated. This is from a French news service. Still, ignore it at your peril. Take care to read the anti-Google rants in the comments.

The latest, 2:12 a.m. Washington, D.C. time: I just checked the About section of Chrome to make sure I still had the latest update. I didn’t. When I tried to upgrade to Version 43.0.2357.65 m, the message was “Update failed.” If I wait, I suppose Chrome on its own will eventually get it right, and I’ll also concede that some failures are inevitable, given all the complexities. But these days Google is disappointing  me all too often.

Google debuts a bunch of reasons why your future is Chrome

Google and its hardware partners have been announcing and rolling out a series of new spins on its Chrome OS that make it even more persuasive as a multi-format dirt cheap platform. Not only is the original stable of Chromebooks considerably expanded, and now even cheaper – there also are other form factor options that could make it even more pervasive.

For a start, there’s the new Chromebooks – some of them ridiculously cheap. “You shouldn’t have to choose between a computer that performs well and one that you can afford,” says the Google announcement. “Today we’re introducing two new devices that meet both criteria: the Haier Chromebook 11 (available at Amazon) and the Hisense Chromebook (available at Walmart). These new Chromebooks are fast, lightweight, have long-life batteries and are available for pre-order today for $149.” The options also include the “ASUS Chromebook Flip. A premium, all-metal convertible … available later this spring for $249.”

More novel, though, is “a new type of Chrome device: the Chromebit. Smaller than a candy bar, the Chromebit is a full computer that will be available for less than $100. By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer.” Yes, it’s the Chrome spin on the now-common PC-on-a-stick, which ironically has mostly gained popularity by using Android as its OS. And the Chromebit is likely to extend the Chrome OS’s popularity in education even further.

“Finally, there’s the option to run Android apps in the Chrome browser through Google’s Android App Runtime for Chrome (ARC), and the ARC Welder extension for Chrome. This is not as yet that compelling, as many of the more basic apps are already available as Chrome apps in the browser’s own Web Store, and for now, ARC Welder can only work with apk files downloaded separately. So the time when users can run every single game and app in the Google Play Store in their Chrome browser is not yet. But more apps are coming, and that is a hell of a prospect.

All in all, then, Chrome is now looking like a very well tricked-out platform. Perhaps a few more tablet options would be good, but doubtless we’ll get those too. And with every type of ereader format, including Google Play Books, available for Chrome, that’s a whole range of reader choices.

What Happened to Google?

google logoWhenever anybody talks about Amazon ‘winning’ or something, I always chuckle and think about how many tech ‘winners’ I have seen fall by the wayside. I remember when everybody bought books from Fictionwise! And, more recently for me, I remember when everything I did was via a Google app.

And now? I am moving away from Google, as much as I can. Why?

1) The apps have become slow and clunky. I had everything on Google Docs not too long ago. When it started pausing and thinking for upwards of one or two minutes every time I opened something, I thought it was because my computer was so old. But we have brand new machines, both at work and at home, and it’s still doing it. It’s still doing it on my brand-new iPad Air. So slow! I have been moving much of my stuff over to iCloud and Dropbox. The only important stuff I still keep on Google is my budget spreadsheet—and that’s because I share it with the non-Apple Beloved, so he needs to access it too.

2) Other Cloud-based options are better now. Pages, and its spreadsheet companion, came pre-installed on my new iPad and my new laptop. They seamlessly sync between themselves. When I am actively working on something, I have been finding it dead-easy to do it there. Most of my work stuff, I do AT work, and I keep it on Dropbox. I can easily access it at home (or on the go, via the iPad app) if I need it.

3) Google’s ever-deeper claws alarm me sometimes. Gmail replaced Yahoo as my go-to email service some time ago, but they seem to be doing their darndest to embed themselves ever deeper into my machine. At work, the only Google site I ever log into is the email, and I always log out when I am done because these are shared machines. Several times lately, I have been finding that it isn’t logging me out as completely as I expected it to. A few times, I have opened up gmail to find my name already filled in, and I had to go to some extra steps to remove myself as a ‘user’ so that wouldn’t happen again. Yesterday, I happened to be in the lab when a student was in Google Chrome, and they excitedly called me over to tell me that the computer had my name on it. Sure enough, there was a button with my name on it at the top of the screen. When I clicked on it, it took me to a Gmail log-in screen. My info was not pre-filled out though, so clearly I had not forgotten to log out…so what gives? Why does logging out not actually log me out anymore? Deep claws. Worrisome! A lot of us still use shared computers…

So another must-use becomes a has-been for me. I guess it just goes to show that one should never get complacent and rest on their laurels. Even the mighty Amazon is at risk, if someone better comes along! I never thought I would leave Google, but here I am considering other options.

Android app development might have just got a whole lot smoother with Android Studio 1.0

Google might have taken a critical step towards closing the proverbial time and cost gap between app development for its platform and for the Apple App Store, with the release of Android Studio 1.0, a stable Integrated Development Environment (IDE) available for free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. One of the attractions for the developer community is supposed to be that this IDE is built on the IntelliJ IDEA, and “in a report by Infoworld in 2010, IntelliJ received the highest test center score out of the 4 Top Java Programming Tools.” In any case, Android developers now have a tool set based on well-proven and familiar technology that can speed creation of new apps and solutions for the platform.

Android Studio 1.0 also seems well fitted to support both Android’s new range of standardized features and the platform’s proliferation of devices. As well as “code templates to help you build common app features,” the IDE also has “expanded template and form factor support” and “supports new templates for Google Services and expands the availabe device types. Plus, “for easy cross-platform development, the Project Wizard provides new templates for creating your apps for Android Wear and TV.” The Module Type wizard presents a series of form factor choices from phone and tablet through Android Wear and Android TV to even Google Glass.

Android users confronted with the current proliferation of apps on the Google Play Store may have a hard time believing that developers are disadvantaged when building for Android, not least when AppBrain currently reports 1,427,091 apps available for Android, versus the 1.2 million that Apple trumpeted at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June. Still, this new offering might still the residual pro-Apple sentiment that TechRepublic reported in September – and to make sure that Android Wear and Google’s other new Android offerings are plentifully flush with apps.

Groupon offers 16 GB 2013 Nexus 7 for $150

If you were disappointed when Google stopped selling the Nexus 7, this deal on Groupon might make you feel a little better. Groupon is offering a new, not-refurbished 16 GB 2013 Nexus 7 for $149.99. That’s $50 less than Amazon’s price.

That’s the generation 2 model, with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2 gigs of RAM, and a full 1080P display, capable of running Android 5.0 Lollipop without breaking a sweat. Made by Asus, branded by Google. The high-resolution, 323 pixels-per-inch display is one of the best you can get for e-reading short of an e-ink display.

In 2013, this tablet was the gold standard by which all other 7” Android tablets were judged, and it’s still one of the best you can get even now—especially at that price. Frankly, I’d rather have a 7” tablet than a 9”; those bigger tablets are just too unwieldy to use one-handed, but the 7” version is just right.

The offer is good for a little more than six more days, or until supplies run out. Groupon reports that over 5,000 have been sold.

(Source: Gadgetell.)

Break up Google?

European Union flagHeadlines got duly grabbed by the non-binding vote in the European Parliament calling on the European Commission, currently still in a long-running anti-trust investigation against Google, to demand the separation of the search giant’s commercial businesses from its web search engines. The proposal was formulated by two MEPs, Andreas Schwab, from Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats, and Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, of Spain’s Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, and passed by 384 votes to 174, but immediately ran into opposition from Guenther Oettinger, the EU’s digital economy commissioner, who declared that there would be “no breaking up of Google.”

Special interests behind the parliamentarians’ initiative weren’t hard to find. German commentator Roland Tichy pointed out that Schwab, co-initiator of the proposal, is of counsel to German law firm CMS Hasche Sigle, which acts on behalf of German publishing interests in supporting anti-Google and pro-publishing initiatives. Tremosa, meanwhile, protested that: “European enterprises are losing revenues and people are getting fired.” Now, Tremosa may be right to speak out on behalf of his constituents – albeit while keeping silent on the others who are finding work or business opportunities through Google – but this seems like anything but a neutral and impartial argument over monopoly powers. Tichy says: “Ultimately, it’s about protectionism, the hope of eliminating pesky competition.”

U.S. diplomatic and business entities are not exactly taking this lying down. And they have found allies within Europe. The liberal-centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament (ALDE), which voted against the resolution, issued an official release on the subject. “Parliament should not be engaging in anti-Google resolutions, inspired by a heavy lobby of Google competitors or by anti-free market ideology, but ensure fair competition and consumer choice,” it stated. “We are not supporters of monopolies or fans of excessive market power, but we want an integral approach to healthy competition on the internet.” And there’s little reason to doubt ALDE’s interpretation of the motives behind the vote.

The EU may have some legitimate concerns over competition in the search space, but European regulatory wheezes elsewhere hardly give much comfort that any further EU move against Google would benefit the online community as a whole. In the case of the controversial “right to be forgotten,” EU regulators appear eager to rival the U.S. in extraterritorial aggrandizement, seeking to extend pedophile politicians‘ rights to cover up their misdeeds and authors’ rights to nix bad reviews worldwide. And you do wonder whether the whole right-to-be-forgotten issue would have ever been raised if it had been a European search giant in the regulatory crosshairs.

Tichy’s conclusion? “The European Parliament has not yet grasped that Google is more important for the people than Europe.” Sounds like a message they should digest very soon, before they can cause any more trouble.

Vsenn can stand against Project Ara as a modular platform?

A new modular smartphone project – albeit one based on vanilla Android – has emerged with the advent of Finnish startup Vsenn, whose mission statement is “to give everyone the power to create their perfect smartphone by using modular and upgradable hardware.” How far this stands a chance against Google’s own homegrown Project Ara, or even how far it is differentiated from it, remains to be seen, though it does also claim to be “co-founded by a former Nokia Android X program manager.”

“We use only the best and fastest hardware in our modules,” states the Vsenn introductory material. “There are three modules that you can upgrade and replace: Camera, Battery and Processor/RAM.” And as for looks: “With back covers that can be changed easily and fast. You may choose from a variety of offers that look and feel just perfect.”

On the OS front, Vsenn states “we offer pure Vanilla Android with guaranteed updates for the next 4 years.” What doesn’t seem to be on offer from Vsenn so far is the selection of form factors from smallish smartphone that Project Ara purports to offer, as well as other components like wifi modules. Other reports indicate that Vsenn will retail for under EUR 590 in Europe, and under $590 in the U.S., but that hardly suggests a very flexible form factor or price point. However, Vsenn may still bear watching as more details emerge.