Archives For Google

Social platforms. What are they good for?

I’ve been chased out of Facebook twice over Facebook’s privacy flaps. I’ve left Twitter once, and then gone back. I’m about ready to leave again over advertising in my time stream. I tried Instragram, staying nearly a year, before deleting my account the end of May. Why? Changes in how the stream presents itself, ads, and the fact it’s just another property of Facebook. My Flickr account has gone dead because of the chaos at Yahoo, and how everything changed on Flickr as well. Even LinkedIn, the social network for finding work, has reached a point where I want to pull the plug on it, primarily over its sloppy security (see “How LinkedIn’s password sloppiness hurts us all“).

That leaves me with Smugmug, VSCO (barely), my WordPress blog, and my presence on Google+. I came so close, so many times, to just junking Google+. But it looks like, as a process of elimination, that I may just wind up on Plus because that’s about all that’s left, and it’s not like everything else I mentioned that I’ve dropped. Who would have thought I’d turn to Google+ in the end? Certainly not I. And there’ll be more to come…

The Verge has published an article with the damning fact that only 7.5% of active Android devices are using Android Marshmallow (6.0.1). This on he cusp of the next Android software release in two weeks, version 7 or ‘N’. Android 6 is the version I have running on my aging 2013 Nexus 7s, and it is those two Nexus 7s that are the only Android devices I actively use. All other devices, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S4s my wife and I replaced with the iPhone 6S+ are sitting in a drawer, totally discharged by now. And stuck on some version of Lollipop (5.x). Which, according to the Verge article, has nearly 36% of those Android capable devices.

It only goes downhill from there. Android Gingerbread (2.3) still has 2% and change of all of those devices. The last time I used a Gingerbread handset was my HTC myTouch on T-Mobile, and I switched to AT&T and the Samsungs because T-Mobile at that time would not update the HTC handsets and did not have the latest and greatest Android handsets for sale at that time. When AT&T came calling with their more comprehensive plans and handsets it was a no brainier to switch.

Unfortunately two-plus years with Samsung on AT&T, with it’s oddball software updates and the would-they-or-wouldn’t-they-update-at-all eternal question finally pushed me into the Apple camp. I have repeatedly commented on how Apple keeps its iOS software up-to-date on a regular basis across all devices. It might not be perfect, and there are those who say that Android, especially Android 6, is far better than iOS 9. But I’m not in the mood to buy one new expensive handset after another just to get the latest Android release. Google itself made an promise that starting with Android 5 (Lollipoop) major new releases would run without impact across all devices if they are least could run Android 5 to start. I’ve seen that promise delivered on my 2013 Nexus 7s that uypgraded OTA from Android 4.4 to Android 6.0.1. Unfortunately Samsung with AT&T stopped at Android 5 on the Galaxy S4. I was certainly no fan of the S5, and didn’t care all that much for the S6’s features either. When the S6 came out looking like a clone of the iPhone 6, I figured I might as well go buy the real thing. Especially when it was revealed that the Apple iPhone 6 was less expensive than the Samsung Galaxh S6.

I don’t care how good Android is compared to iOS. You can’t get the latest releases with fixes and new features unless you commit to a purchasing a new Android flagship phone (or one close to it) every 6 to 12 months. With  Apple I have the knowledge that my iDevices will all be automatically updated to the most current release.For example my iPad Air 2, purchased November 2014, has upgraded automatically from iOS 8 to iOS 9.x, all when it was supposed to. It runs as well now, if not better, than it first did with iOS 8. In the short time I’ve had my iPhone 6S+ it’s also upgraded, on the same day as my iPad, to the same version. Timely upgrades and having the latest to run on my iDevices is a key feature I won’t trade away it purchasing another Android device. I don’t ever see Google fixing this problem.

april schadenfreude

April 3, 2016

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I couldn’t help but revel in Google’s Mic Drop fiasco these past few days. The company that wants to bring you the best of artificial intelligence like AlphaGo seems to have left all its organic intelligence at the door when it conceived the Mic Drop April Fools’ joke. How else could you explain the Minion Mic Drop gag that went so far as to replace a key Google Mail feature (Send and Archive) with the “Send + Mic Drop” gag button (Google says it was “too close”, but whatever), triggering all sorts of unintended, negative consequences.

Google’s problem is their arrogant cultural attitude that they can do no wrong, when history is so full of examples that they can (Buzz, Wave, Glass, Plus, etc). Even their successes have caveats; self-driving cars work only with carefully mapped streets and can’t deal very well with dynamic environments; while Android has around 80% of the world mobile market it’s so fragmented across all its handset partners it can’t get important bug fixes out in a timely fashion; their AI’s are very focused on one very specific problem (Go, for example); or the fact then even when they have a truly successful application like Mail, that they can’t leave well enough alone, making questionable enhancements that at times are enough to drive a mad-man crazy. If I didn’t have correspondence and a presence with Google Mail that goes back to 2005 I’d have left it years ago…

Google makes oodles of money, primarily via advertising. So they can have these little experiments and jokes so long as they don’t impact the primary money maker, advertising. And as long as these questionable decisions, such as this year’s April Fool’s joke don’t impact that cash flow, Google really won’t learn anything important and we’ll continue to suffer with them all.

Why not leave Google? Because, in general, there’s no-one else out there that’s better enough to reward the time and effort to switch. I’m still with Google because, as in politics and wireless service providers, I’ve chosen what I consider the least of all evils. At least I can be thankful that Google isn’t like Yahoo…

What the world might come to – Elysium, Los Angeles 2054, 2013 TriStar Pictures

Google’s AlphaGo has won its second game against Go master Lee Sedol, winning the first two out of a five game series. Under normal circumstances I’d shrug my shoulders and move on, because to me Go is a complicated, remote game that makes chess look exciting. But I’m paying attention because of all the stories being generated by all the technology outlets (Wired is in the lead on this) about the significance of this achievement. And I’m paying attention because it’s something Google built, and a part of the Google internal infrastructure. Like search.

I don’t believe the robot overlords are massed at the gates of our society, just ready to come crashing in to obliterate us. We have too many sociopathic politicians and leaders who are doing that already. I’m concerned because Google has created the world’s most sophisticated and powerful machine-based idiot savant. A machine that still requires human-in-the-loop to direct its capabilities to whatever end the human masters have in mind.

After watching how Google (and recently Facebook) have taken foundational computer science and turned it into a world straddling system for monitoring us for advertising purposes (and leaked it over to the NSA for a world straddling system for surveillance) I’m concerned how such systems would be used by the US as well as other countries. And don’t kid yourself. China in particular has been a top tier member of the supercomputer fraternity for decades. Other countries, such as Russia, Iran, India, and Great Britain, can purchase hardware powerful enough to run the equivalent of AlphaGo for their own secret uses. And once they do they’ll begin to use such systems to determine a strategy to run the world that will not be to 99% of the world’s benefit. Unless, of course, you’re rich and in charge already.

Whether it’s war or societal logistics, those with the best strategists and planners will, in the end, come out on top of every other group they compete with. I see AlphaGo and its descendents as the self-correcting part of any planning system, capable of refining its techniques over a very short time. Look at how AlphaGo has beaten Lee Sedol in the first two matches, and a cold chill begins to settle over you. A chilly feeling that here’s a system you might never be able to outsmart, because it not only knows what you know, but it has the ability to execute winning strategies you would have never even considered. Imagine what society might come to if such a system were used to control any protests, any dissent, and know in advance who to spy on and how to keep protests from forming by automatically identifying key leaders in any movement and controlling what kind of critical information is disseminated amongst all parties. We now have all the keys for the ultimate totalitarian state. All it takes is the right person with no conscious to come along and put them together in the right way.

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Just like all their competitors, including Apple, Samsung released the next iteration in their Galaxy series, the S7 and S7 Edge. There’s so much hype surrounding this release I’ll let you use Google to read all about it, if you haven’t been overwhelmed at whatever news source you frequent already. Although I switched to an Apple iPhone 6S Plus back in November, the Galaxy is still interesting enough to pay attention to. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.

  • The S7/S7 Edge have micro SDHC card capability again. My Galaxy S4 had it and I used it as well as Android 4.4 and Android 5 would allow, which wasn’t much. Google really screwed over users when they restricted external SDHC card usage as much as they did. That negative change was the first big push away from Android and Samsung and towards Apple. Fortunately for those who’ve stuck it out, Android 6 is supposed to make external storage devices like micro SDHC cards look like part of the overall storage pool. I have no details how that works as the only Android 6 devices I still own and use are a pair of 2013 Nexus 7 tablets. Of course, with the 128GB of device storage on my iPhone 6S Plus, the need for a piddly external micro SDHC device is pretty much eliminated. I’ve yet to read of an S7 being offered with 128GB.
  • The S7/S7 Edge are dust and water proof – again. The S5 (or at least the S5 Active) was dust and water proof, but the S6 wasn’t. No explanation about why that critical feature was dropped when the S6/S6 Edge were released, except perhaps Samsung spent so much time on making the S6 pretty they must have run out of time making it physically robust. The iPhone 6s Plus is reasonably water resistant (as reported here by Wired), so that was a big fat positive feature for me. Another reason to move to Apple.
  • The S7/S7 Edge are coming out of the chute with the latest version of Android, 6.0.1. That’s nice, considering that past Galaxies have been first released with older Android releases, and it took Samsung a very long time to release more up-to-date versions of their cooked version of Android. I have no idea how quickly Samsung will now follow Google when Google releases newer versions of Android going forward. Ideally Samsung’s release would be the same day as an Android update is announced, much as what Apple does when it announces a new release of iOS. I got tired of waiting not for major feature releases of Android on my Galaxy S4, but critical bug fixes that Google would announce. Part of the problem of timely updates is Samsung itself, part of the problem is AT&T. When I finally bought my iPhone, I did so knowing full well that even though AT&T is my provider, they don’t get in the way of Apple pushing out iOS updates.

The S7/S7 Edge look very pretty to be sure. And with the latest processor and support for even faster graphics, the S7 appears poised to make some spectacular mobile gaming possible. They even have a tie-in with virtual reality via Oculus; that’s one reason why pre-orders will get free VR headgear.

All exciting to be sure. But there’s one feature that nobody is mentioning that has my attention at the moment, and that’s on-device encryption. Apple is in a brutal battle with the DoJ, where the D0J wants Apple to create a backdoor into iOS in order to get the contents of a specific iPhone 5C used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. I believe in what Apple has done so far with iOS encryption on all its mobile devices, especially fighting incredible government overreach, enough to put my hard-earned money into buying Apple hardware. And it will stay that way, regardless of how pretty the latest Samsung phones are (or any other Android phone for that matter). Hopefully I won’t have to eat these words later, but I trust Apple to do the right thing on this important issue. That same level of trust is totally lacking with all Android handset providers, especially where AT&T is directly involved.

I made my switch to Apple back in November. I have no intentions of switching away.