Posts Tagged google

Ubuntu One shutting down

I saw this coming, I was hopeful it wouldn’t but I knew it would just be a matter of time. How could Ubuntu compete with the likes of Google, Dropbox, Box, etc? There were a ton of other’s in the cloud sync space offering more for less. Granted Ubuntu One had tight integration with Ubuntu desktop tops, but so did Dropbox.

Ubuntu’s attempt at a music store faltered from the get-go as well. I was fully willing to pay a little extra to support them and use their streaming service. However, the service was near impossible to use and finding music was even harder. I purchased a couple songs to try it out and was thoroughly unimpressed. File sync was slow, and streaming music was accomplished via browser plugin that didn’t support playlists or organizing your music. If you wanted to organize your music you had to sync your collection to your local machine and organize it through Rhythmbox. You could tell it where to sync your music to so it all go dropped into a hidden folder in your home directory.

Give that I basically live my life out of Google these days I’ve been dying for a way to get GDrive on my desktop. Why, when Google seems so pro-linux would they hold off on a Linux client? it really makes no sense to me. So given that there is no official client I am all but certain I am going to drop the $15 to buy the insync plus client. I have 15 GB of storage and most of my stuff is there anyway. My entire music collection is there already and I can stream it via the Nuvola player. I can use Google’s music downloader/uploader to keep my music synchronized. If I run out of room for some ungodly reason I can just purchase a ton more for about $24 a year.

–Edit
Ok, so I tied insync and I am sold. Tried the 15 day demo and bought a license for insync plus an hour later. This is really good software. Get yours

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YahooTube?

I was intrigued when Google’s Marissa Mayer went to Yahoo. I thought that it would be cool to see what she did with the company. A new direction and increased vigor would be good for competition and the intar-webs as a whole. She definitely shook things up initially by making everyone work from an office or quit. That move made sense to me, most full-time offsite workers are less productive (please note the MOST, I didn’t say ALL) and she wanted to make a statement that people should start delivering or GTFO.

Ok cool, so we have a positive trend going here. Yahoo mail is usable again, the calendar app has even been revamped and… hmm, looks a bit like Gmail with it’s minimalist design. But you know, good design is good design and shouldn’t require a lot of bells and whistles. Then Yahoo maps got an upgrade.. wow, didn’t even realize they were still around, but ok.

Now I read this. I am not always the most observant netizen, but this is starting to smack of Yahoo trying to copy Google stride for stride. Not to call out the obvious here, but I think Yahoo is going to lose in a foot race against Google. This could end up like the Samsung/Apple smartphone race. Samsung has made a nifty business for itself by just copying whatever Apple puts out. Lately Apple hasn’t been doing much innovating and surprisingly…neither has Samsung. I am going to venture a guess that it’s only a matter of time before Mayer starts running out of Google products to copy.

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OBi100 setup part 2

In my previous post I got the OBi installed and set up with my temporary Google Voice number. Porting my number from Tracfone to Google Voice was really quick and painless, in total it took about 2 days for it to complete. My landline was now associated with my Google Voice and I discarded the old temporary number I was provisioned from GV when I began the process. I powered on the OBi and dialed my old home number, and it worked! I was now able to receive calls at our home number through Google Voice. With that I quickly cancelled the phone service I had bundles through the cable company where I have cable and internet. Oddly, for the service being a ‘free’ add on to my account, I saved $12 a month in taxes and fee and an additional $10 because I dropped the service..like I said, odd.

One last thing I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it or not. I know that Google Voice does not support 911 service. However, the first thing I do when someone tells me you can’t do something is look around and see if that is really the case. Turns out Google Voice REALLY doesn’t support 911, however, it can be configured on the OBi. First off you have to create an account with another SIP provider that does do e911 (stands for enhanced 911, which basically means more information is pushed to the dispatcher when you call). There are a number of providers, but I decided to sign up with Anveo.com. I read some forums that most people had a fairly positive experience with them, so I signed up with them. The account was free, but e911 costed $0.8 per month or $9.2 per year, reasonable for peace of mind IMO.

First thing to do was create my free account with Anveo. I could have signed up with them rather than Google Voice at that point, they do the same thing, but everything that is free at GV costs money at Anveo. Next I had to put some money in my account so I could sign up for the e911 service, they accept Paypal. Once the funds cleared I was able to enter my home address information. Next I had to set up the Anveo account on my Obi on SP2, thankfully the Obitalk site come ready to connect to Anveo right away, I just had to choose them as a SIP provider and fill out the required information.

The final step was to make an actual test 911 call. I found my locale’s 911 call center through this site. Once I found the call center servicing my area, I called the 911 operations manager and requested a test 911 call. I read a number of horror stories about how people would just call 911 without scheduling the test and having the police show up at their front door. I got a hold of the operations manager, who surprisingly knew exactly what I was talking about when I requested the test, and scheduled the test. I have to admit I was a little nervous calling 911, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or exactly what was going to happen. I dialed 911 and waited…and waited some more.. and continued to wait, the call finally went through after about 40 seconds of dead silence from the phone. The 911 operator picked up and I identified myself and that this was a test. The operator didn’t have address information for me, and the number showing in their system was some odd number I had never heard of before. I collected as much information as I could from the dispatcher the hung up.

I contacted Anveo support and it turns out the number the 911 dispatcher saw was in fact a callback number that they assigned me, though it wasn’t my home number. I test dialed the number and sure enough it rang my home phone. As for the long wait to connect and my information not being available to the dispatcher, I am still looking into what might have happened. One suspicion is the proxy location for Anveo was set to Dallas and I changed it to Montreal since it is much closer. I haven’t tested again to see if this makes a difference.

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Using the OBi100 for my home phone

So the plan went like this. I wanted to save a couple dollars a month by switching my house phone to use Google Voice (GV). I didn’t pay much for the house phone and I considered getting rid of it entirely, but a lot of people have that number and I didn’t want to lose it.

I weighed the pros and cons of doing this
PROs:
– Free
– Manage voice mail online
– Obion software that integrates with the OBi100 is pretty cool
CONs
– Can’t use 911 from the house phone
– If the internet/power goes out, so does the house phone

I decided since we basically rely on our cellphones for most of our calling anyway the cons weren’t that bad. I couldn’t directly port my home number to GV since Google will only port mobile numbers. So there are a couple steps in this process.

First off I created a GMail account for the family. I already had a GMail account but I use GV for voicemail, so that wasn’t going to work. Then I created a GV account and let it provision me some random number. I purchased the OBi100 from Amazon. After receiving it, I hooked it up to the internet and a basic corded phone. I went through the setup on the Obitalk.com website. I pulled out the trusty Droid RAZR and dialed the GV number. IT WORKED!

Second was porting my home number to GV. I looked at a couple different providers for the absolute cheapest plan and phone combos. I was able to find an old Tracfone and 30 minute plan for $20. I got it setup and working then initiated the number port through the Tracfone website. 4 days later my old house number was ringing on my Tracfone. The second I was informed the port was complete I went to the family GV account and initiated a number port there. One little hiccup was that Google detected my Tracfone number as being an AT&T number and wanted an account number, which I didn’t have since Tracfone doesn’t work like that. I entered the MEID number of the phone, paid my $20 for the port request and crossed my fingers.

That’s where I am currently at. Waiting for Google to complete the port from Tracfone to GV. I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple days.

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Is this some huge secret?

I work with the Cub scouts. I created them a Gmail address. I tried to create a Picasa web album to hold all the pictures from the various events. I couldn’t do this until I had an active profile in Google+. So I created a G+ account under the name ‘Scout Pack 349’. Ooops. Little did I know, Google suspends accounts that do not use real names. My bad. Now let change my name and I will be on my merry way. Well, low and behold I can’t just change it, my account is suspended. The G+ page says my account is suspended and I need to go to my profile page and change my name. While the profile page says my account is suspended and I can’t access this page. WTF!? So I start scouring the web for some means to appeal my suspension, buried deep in a Google group post I finally find an name appeal form. Wow.. thanks for making it easy Google, and by easy I mean a total PITA.

If your account is suspended go to this URL and appeal the validity of your name:

https://support.google.com/plus/bin/request.py?&contact_type=name_appeal

I am not sure why this isn’t just linked to on the suspension page, that would make sense.

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Google+ for me

So I received an invite from a friend to join Google+ this week and I spared no time getting logged in and setup.

The first thing we tried as a hangout, basically a netmeeting, only with the ugly MS requirement. After installing the plugin (they actually have a Linux plugin!!) and a little snafu with my mic (which was totally my own fault) we were video chatting with each other and sharing YouTube videos. You can chat with a bunch of people all at once so I see this being a contender to all the WebEx and DimDim clones out there. [ BTW, if you miss DimDim, try BuddyMeeting, it is a fork of the open source DimDim code ] Actually on second thought, I am not sure if it will compete with those sort of products, its contingent on everyone having a Google+ account, so that right there is a big strike against its viability as a WebEx contender. But still, all in all, very cool.Google+ screenshot

Next are circles, or groups, for friends. A novel idea on groups, but nothing terrible new here. The act of adding friends to circles is sort of fun with the animation, but other than that I haven’t seen a lot of difference there. There is one thing worth pointing out about about how Google+ uses these circles however. When you post to your stream, or your microblog of sorts, you can choose which circles get to see the post. This is huge for me. One of the things that really turned me off to Facebook was the fact that when ever I posted anything, ALL my friends would see it. So all those stupid YouTube videos or slight NSFW links that I wanted to share with my friends, yeah, my parents could see them too. The only alternative would be to unfriend my parents, not really an options when I want to share pics and videos of the kids with the extended family.

Other than that there aren’t a ton of differences from Facebook. You can share your videos and photos, nothing new there, and having an android phone makes it even easier. Its intriguing enough to bring be back from a self-imposed exile on social media, but if it will keep me remains to be seen.

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Google CSE article

I just finished the Google CSE article I started a couple of weeks back. It was an interesting project, mostly due to the fact that I have never worked with the Google search API before and it was enjoyable to learn something new.

Hopefully you find it useful. When I was putting the code together, I found there to be a distinct lack of articles or documentation on the Custom Search Engines. Hopefully this helps someone. Then again, Google will probably EOL the JS CSE API in the next few months and I will have written the article for my own benefit. Ah well..

Check it out here

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Do you ever get the feeling?

I have been working to implement a Google custom search engine into a clients website. I have had to pour through the documentation to fully understand how it works and I am both impressed and revolted simultaneously. I keep getting the feeling that this stuff was originally developed by people that are obscenely smarter than I am. Its obviously brilliant, but like any brilliance, its usually offset by some other glaring omission.

First off, the search API from Google. Why is the primary search API deprecated and the recommended replacement not even out of labs yet? So let me get this straight, I can either use the API that will EOL’d at some unknown time by Google without warning, or I can use the unstable labs API that could and most likely will change in the future. Sounds like a call from the client complaining that their site is broken just waiting to happen.

Second, the API is written in a way that leaves massive holes of undocumented functionality. Usually when you document an API you include ALL the functionality so people can fully utilize all the features. So I am continually finding blogs and other bastions of literary excellence revealing ‘hidden’ features of the Google search API. I have implemented a fair amount of the code I have found on these sites and I am still flabbergasted as to why Google would just leave this stuff out of their documentation.

I am going to be writing up an article on implementing a Google custom search engine over the next few days, one, so I can remember if I have to do it again in the future, good documentation is sparse on this subject, and two so others can refer to it and hopefully avoid some of the frustration I have gone through to get this to work.

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