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Technology

Google antitrust suit… does it matter?

I use DuckDuckGo for search most of the time, Dropbox for my cloud storage, and I’ve recently moved to Microsoft Edge for my web browser. There are choices out there if you’re willing to look and switch.

I also use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Photos, Google Maps, and an Android phone. But I use them because I prefer them to Apple’s offering. As much as possible I maintain my personal data in such a way that would facilitate my moving platforms should something more desirable pop up.

But, two major players in technology seems to be the equilibrium. AT&T or Verizon in cell service. Windows or Mac for computers. Android or iOS for phones and portable devices. It would be great if there was a third player in the phone market because Android just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Apple is a non-starter because of the enormous lock-in when you start to use their devices.

Google search started sucking years ago. When they started incorporating your Google account and your location into the searches they stopped giving more generalized results. The idea was to push you towards results in which company’s purchased ads. Once I noticed the results were not as relevant to my search I started using Bing. But, Bing was terrible for a general web search. It was good for photo and video search however and I do use Bing for that over any other search engine.

DuckDuckGo has been my go to search engine now for at least the last few years. They don’t use anything from me personally to give me search results so there is no filter bubble effect. I just get the raw search and I can more easily find what I’m looking for.

The Chrome browser has been a dog for a long time now. It’s become what it originally replaced, Microsoft Internet Explorer. Chrome is now a bloated heavy browser that isn’t fast and takes up huge amounts of resources. I moved to the Brave browser for a time and then to Firefox but found them both to be unpolished. When Microsoft rejiggered their browser and built one off Chromium (the same engine Chrome is based on) I gave it a try and found it to be very pleasant and fast. It’s missing a couple of minor things but by and large it is a great lightweight web browser.

People can get off of Google if they want. You just have to be open to new things. You should always think of data as your own and use services that prioritize that. You should also use the belt and suspenders approach to your personal media. Photos, videos, and music are no good to you locked into one service or company. Not only is it difficult to stop using those services but it is difficult to get your data out when you have terabytes sitting on some cloud server somewhere.

Hard disks are cheap. Get a desktop computer and keep a copy of all your stuff there. That way when you want to move you are free to do what you want. You don’t need the government using their heavy hand when you can take actions on your own.

Categories
Technology

Apple just eviscerated the competition

I predict there will be no Pixel 6. What is the point? Google obviously is bored with being in the phone hardware business and has chosen to not compete.

Just a few years ago Google and the Pixel line of phones were superior in photography and did so at a reasonable price. Now, they’ve pushed out the Pixel 5, a ho-hum attempt at best, which really doesn’t improve upon anything previous in the line of phones. The improvements are so minor that they should have just stopped at the Pixel 4.

Apple, in the meantime, just announced the iPhone 12 line with a knock it out of the park still photography and video camera system. If it lives up to what they described yesterday it will rival most of the entry level mirrorless dedicated cameras. There’s no need for me to go into all the details. Just watch their announcement video.

And if there was any doubt, no, I will not be buying an iPhone. The cost of getting stuck in their ecosystem is not worth my conversion to their platform. But, if I was a professional videographer or photographer there is not question it would be my phone of choice.

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Technology

Pixel phones have jumped the shark

Google has released a phone that seems to increasingly be designed by committee in some misguided effort to hit some sweet spot of a middle of the road consumer. The new phone uses an old chip that is a non-starter and the camera is no longer top of the heap. I skipped the Pixel 4 because it was over priced and the design was a bit of a disaster.

I have a Pixel 3 and while it still works it is getting a little long in the tooth. It was the last decent Phone that Google released. Even though the Pixel 3 was over priced the specs and the quality of the device still competed with other flagship devices.

I would like to get a new phone because I upgraded to Android 11 and performance on the Pixel 3 is beginning to suffer. It crashes a little more than before, apps freeze a little more than before, and from time to time there is a noticeable lag when using apps.

Why do I bother upgrading the OS? Mainly to stay up to date with security. There haven’t been any new features in Android over the past several iterations that have changed the way I use the phone or improved the experience. In fact, they’ve removed some features that I used all the time. The one that sticks out the most is burst mode in the camera app. I used it all the time but Google removed it in a camera update to Android 10 because it is trying to copy the iPhone’s Live Photos. If I wanted that feature I would have bought an iPhone.

Where do I go from here? Samsung? They’re flagship is over priced and if I move to a mid-range device the camera is not as good as what I have now. Apple? God no. I refuse to get trapped in their ecosystem. It’s like quicksand that once you get in you can’t get out. Do I stay with my Pixel 3? Probably for as long as it works but I’m not sure how useable it’s going to be in the coming months as software updates continue to cause the phone to lag.

Here’s what I want. And, it’s what I believe most Pixel users want.

  • A great camera
    • High resolution front facing camera
    • Wide angle lens in addition to the main lens on the back
    • Good video
    • Option to use external microphones
  • A fast processor
    • Apps run better
    • Can be used more as a portable computer
    • Future proofs for at least 2 years
  • A finger print reader on the back or under the glass
    • You can unlock your phone without looking at it
    • Faster and less annoying than face unlock
  • A modern design (small bezels and a hole punch rather than chins to support cameras and speakers

That’s it. The rest is gravy. The phone and messaging functions are secondary.

Categories
Technology

YouTube Music Review

Google is at it once again. For some unknown reason, later this year, they are deprecating Google Play Music (GPM) for YouTube Music (YM). What the hell is wrong with this company? They always feel the need to fix things that aren’t broken or to kill off products. I’ve been using GPM since it was first available and it was by far the easiest way to listen to my music library. Today I received the link to transfer my library and playlists from one to the other. So far I am not impressed whatsoever with YM.

YM is too graphic heavy. It’s pushing video all the time. There are three tabs on the bottom. Home, Explore, and Library. On the home screen I’m greeted with junk. Today is Juneteenth (which is a dumb name and should be changed to Emancipation Day or something else more appropriate because Juneteenth is not a word and doesn’t mean anything) and front and center are things relating to Juneteenth. I don’t care! I just want to get to my music and not be pushed to engage in stuff that doesn’t matter to me.

Next I hop on over to the Library tab. I’m greeted with what YM thinks is my most recent activity. It is not correct. The recent activity also included the Billboard Top 50 Christian Songs Playlist. I have never listened to this playlist… EVER. There is no way to get rid of that selection either.

Frequently I go to either a playlist I set up or I go directly to the artist I want to hear. In YM I tap on the Artists tab and the next screen has two tabs at the top. YT Music and Uploads. But let’s start with the list of Recently Added things. Who the fuck is Chris August? I’ve never heard of him and never listened to him. I don’t want to click on it either to find out in fear that Google’s algorithm will somehow think it’s something I want. Forgetting about Mr. August for a moment. The list is not what I recently added. It’s not the same as the recent activity on the last screen either. Shouldn’t the two things be related?

Let’s say I want to listen to Lianne La Havas. I tap on her name in the recently added list and I’m presented with a giant picture of her links to shuffle play, radio, an icon for her latest release, and the beginnings of her top songs. In GPM you would see the artists top songs right away and more than just one would be present. But scrolling down isn’t much better. After a few more of her tops songs the next thing you see is simply Albums and after that simply Singles. Are these all her albums and singles? Are they part of my library? What are they? After that you get the categories of Videos, Featured On, and Fans might also like.

You know what I want when I get to the artists page? I want to know if they have released anything new (which is fine here) and I want to get to the tracks in my library. After all that’s why I’m in the Library section of the app. But nowhere can I tell what is supposed to be in my library. In GPM there is a section on the artists page that shows exactly what’s in your library. I don’t have to guess or remember what is mine and what is other stuff in their catalog.

The next tab on the artists page is Uploads. This is a totally useless tab. It lists everything I’ve uploaded by artist alphabetically. But it’s not smart at all. In the pic above take a look at the bottom two uploads. They are separate tracks from the same album and YM lists them as if they are from different artists even though they are from the same artist and album. The metadata on the song lists the artist as being different on these two tracks because Alicia Keys gives credit to other artists that are on each track. This is stupid. It does that for several artists and albums. Any time an artist is featuring another artist and it’s in the metadata it will list it as if it is a different artist. This makes this tab unusable.

All I can say is thank you to Google. They are going to save me $9.99 per month because I will be cancelling my Play Music subscription as soon as the GPM app disappears. I’m not paying for YM and it’s pain in the ass music app.

I’ve already started to migrate over to using my own cloud media server from Subsonic. This is simple software that you install on your computer, tell it where your media files are located, install an app on your phone, and access your own music library anywhere in the world. It’s not as elegant as GPM and not as user friendly but the premium version only costs $1/month.

For other music that I want to sample I’ll use Amazon Music. I already pay for Prime. If I want new music I’ll buy it, download it to my PC, and stream it using my own personal cloud.

I’m so sick of Google doing this to their apps and services. I already stopped using Chrome and mostly stopped using Google.com for search. Next I have to figure out how to extricate myself from Gmail. If it wasn’t for their superior spam filtering I would have stopped using that long ago.

Back to wrapping up my opinion on YM. Don’t use it. It sucks balls.

Categories
Technology Thoughts

Google continues down the path to shitty search

I stopped using Google for my everyday search a long time ago. As the years rolled on I started to find that their search engine was trying to be too smart. I use Gmail and an Android phone and increasingly my search results were either what Google’s algorithm thought I wanted versus what I was actually looking for.

I’m not the type of person that seeks out only what I already believe. I like to find opinions that are not my own in order to broaden my knowledge of a topic. But, Google has been fine tuning their search to feed me information that I don’t want or that I already have.

I’ve been looking more and more into the science behind the low-carb ketogenic diet. I’ve been living my life this way for quite some time and I was interested in finding out why I am the way I am. As such there are a bunch of people I follow in Twitter and Instagram that provide information on the topic.

Today I ran across a tweet that purported to show that a simple search on Google for “humans are omnivores” provided misinformation by PETA. So, naturally, the first thing I did was head over to google.com and typed in the search. Sure enough the information box at the top contained the misinformation by PETA. Many people don’t look beyond that box for their answers and if you’re querying the Google Assistant this is also the answer you’ll receive. This search result is not anywhere near relevant to the query. The actual PETA link is #4 down the list. It’s not even the top actual search result. How did it become the de facto answer to this query?

Here is the identical search on Duck Duck Go. A stupid name for a search engine but it seems to give me far superior results. Note that the PETA link is nowhere to be found. It’s not even on the first page of the search results.

This result lead me down the rabbit hole and I ran into this article on fee.org that highlights how Google has changed it’s search results to bury alternate medical opinion sites. Why would they do this? Google purports to not be a publisher. But yet they are indeed acting like one by editing search results by what they think is relevant. This cannot be a result of “machine learning” or of the algorithm automatically bubbling up more popular results. If this were the case the sites getting buried would not have had the traffic they had to begin with.

Google search is broken. It’s been broken for a long time. Google itself seems to be broken. I’ve moved off of as many Google services as is convenient. Duck Duck Go is my search engine of choice and I switched to Firefox for my web browser (Chrome is still necessary for a few things. Not many but some). Gmail is still superior to other e-mail clients at filtering spam. My Pixel 3 is still a superior phone (for me at least) to other phones out there. I know there are alternatives but none of them work for me.

All the services you use that are “free” need to be looked at with a critical eye. You can’t automatically trust the information they’re feeding you. Thinking for yourself and being skeptical is more important today than ever before.