Tag Archives: Google

Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling

2016-12-28

A few years ago, when I started traveling for work, a strange thing happened with some of the web services I had been using. These cloud services, such as email, photo sharing and calendar refused to let me in to my account. I really needed to access them because my work processes relied on those services. Instead, the services insisted I was a hacker who had managed to discover my user id and password. The cloud services refused me from accessing my own account.

That’s when I quit Yahoo. Now, I am in the process of quitting all my Google services as well.
an office for a digital nomad in Bordeaux, France
In 2012 and 2013 I was on a long journey that took me to several countries in Europe. I was using Yahoo Mail and Flickr quite a lot when things started to go wrong. Every time I moved to a new place, Yahoo wanted verification after verification to prove that I was really me. When I had done it a few times, and had been locked out from my accounts once, and had very frustrating moments with Yahoo support, I was fed up. I decided to quit all my Yahoo services.

With the information that we have today (in December 2016), it is easy to realize that Yahoo may have been fighting with serious hacking problems just then, in 2013. Their solution was to make life hard for their customers without telling what had happened.

I decided to migrate my cloud services to Google. That decision I have bitterly regretted recently. I have been traveling in Europe during 2016, staying one night in one place, a week in another and a month somewhere else. Every time I have tried to access my Gmail, Google Photos, Google Plus, Analytics, or any other Google service, I have been treated as a criminal. Even after I have correctly entered my login id, password, and the required verification information, Google haven’t let me access my account. Instead, Google took the effort to send me an email message:
Google: someone has your password

“Someone has your password
Hi,
Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your Google Account [name]@[address].com.
Details: Saturday, [month], 2016 12:43 PM (Central European Standard Time)
[country]*
Google stopped this sign-in attempt, but you should review your recently used devices:”

The first time Google locked me out of my account, I spent quite a lot precious time trying to explain the situation to Google Support. Nothing happened. That was it. I had enough of Google. For my work that requires traveling, it is a waste of time to try and follow Google’s verification instructions – only to be locked out.

So, I am moving my work, business, and life away from Google.

I understand and really hope that services like Yahoo and Google have security measures in place to prevent hijacking of accounts. If I login to my account in Edinburgh today, and in Dublin tomorrow, it is perfectly all right to ask verification for proving that I am really me. What I don’t understand is why both Yahoo and Google fail to recognize the credentials I am entering. For instance, Google’s verification process can send a message to a backup email address stored on the account. Going through this process doesn’t help. I am still a criminal to Google.

I understand that Google has other ways for verifying customer’s identity, but whatever they are, I can not trust Google anymore. Google does whatever it wants with my data. I don’t have any hope to have any control over the data I have stored on Google’s servers. The risk with dealing with services like Yahoo and Google is simply too high. The critical moment when I need information stored on my account, or access communication services I have relied on my work, the services fail. They have been designed that way, and nothing I say or do will change it.

Since I will be traveling (and writing about it), I have started a long process of creating a whole new cloud working environment for me and for people I work with. It takes time and effort, because some choices prove to be wrong and as painful it is, switching to another tool is better than limping ahead with an unreliable or unsecure tool.

What can a traveling remote worker, or digital nomad, who doesn’t have tools provided by corporate IT department do without Google or Yahoo? Here are some suggestions. I may update them as my migration process progresses:

– An email account from a reliable ISP (hosting company). Many ISPs give a large inbox (up to 1 GB) for the price of a domain name. Annual cost around 10-15 USD/Euros.
– Flickr is an excellent photo service – if you can login to your account. I am still looking for a replacement for it (won’t be Google Photos).
– Some hosted email services come with a calendar, some ISPs charge extra for it. I have been trying out Sunrise and Moxtra that are free.
– Google Plus social media service can be important for some people, but it wasn’t critical for me. Goodbye Google+. Other social media services, like Twitter or Instagram have co-operated smoothly with me on the road.
– In addition to backing up data to an external drive, find a cloud backup service. Forget Google Drive, and pay a few euros/dollars per month to a company that really knows what they are doing. I am traveling in Europe, so Hubic servers in France are never far away from places I am staying.
– Google Analytics can be difficult to replace as the web site analytics tool, but we are trying out Piwik and Open Web Analytics at the moment.

Why am I discontent with Google and Yahoo services alone? Surely, I must be using social media services as well? Yes, I am. It is just that, for instance, Twitter, Dropbox, Skype, or Instagram have made life easy for customers who are traveling. They know someone is accessing your account from a new place, tell you about it, ask if everything is all right, and act accordingly. The difference with Google and Yahoo is that these services just work.

Online security is not easy. Customers want to be assured that their accounts are in safe hands. For a service provider, it means balancing between ease of use and requiring customers to take a few extra steps. Yet, even tight security can be implemented so that customers who prove their identity are not locked out from the services they rely on their work.


Subscribe to our newsletter on ebooks, writing and photography:

Google won the US Supreme Court case for making book extracts available for searching and viewing online

2016-04-20

On April 18th, 2016 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Google in its long legal fight against the Authors Guild organization. The April 18 ruling means that the Supreme Court will not review the case that originally was filed in 2005 against Google by the Authors Guild.

The Authors Guild initiated the court case 11 years ago because the association believed (and still believes) that Google was violating copyright laws.

In 2004, Google started scanning books stored on the shelves of libraries, archives, universities and other places that had large book collections. The objective was nothing more or nothing less than to scan all the books of the world and make them searchable online. For Google, it was a mission of making all written information the humankind had created available to everyone. On the side, it could serve ads to visitors who were browsing the indexed books and make a profit.

Google started the project without asking for permissions from anyone. Google’s savvy engineers simply built clever and fast scanning machines for the job. Company’s huge data centers were ready to index and store everything that could be recovered from old (and new) books.

In the early days of the project, the U.S. based Authors Guild organization that looks after the interest of writers tried to negotiate with Google. The Guild wanted Google to stop scanning books or start paying royalties for authors whose books were not in public domain. Google declined, stating it only makes extracts available, but since then, the company has been in court in the US and in some other countries.

It has been estimated that Google had scanned 30 million books in 2012, and the work continues.

Now, however, Google has won the case, and that should be the end of it in the U.S.

google books herders boots

From the book The Herder’s Boots. http://klaava.com/the-herders-boots/

You can take a look at how Google Books works by visiting the Google search page and choosing Books. When you search, the results will be extracted from books only. This means not only old pritn books but also new ebooks. When, for instance, Klaava Media makes a new ebook available at Google Play online bookstore, it also automatically becomes searchable in Google Books. You can read random pages of a copyrighted work, but not the whole book in Google Books.

In Europe, EU kicked off the Europeana program in 2005 to preserve the cultural heritage of European countries. Europeana stores digitally works that have entered the public domain. It has archived more than 52 million books, artworks and other items so far. If you are interested in history, cultures or art, it is a highly recommended destination.

Europeana is run by the European Commission and hasn’t been in court because of suspected copyright violations.
europeana homepage

What does the Google vs. Authors Guild court ruling mean for authors? Not much. Perhaps some out-of-print books will be made available as ebooks because there is enough interest among audiences to read them. It should not be harmful for authors that brief extracts are available for searching and viewing. It helps book discovery and probably silences the urge to demand a share of revenue that Google makes from ads it may some day display with the book extracts.

Instant translation of foreign signs is exactly what millions of travelers need

2016-03-09

Often, travelers who speak one of the major languages of the world like Chinese, Spanish or English think that everyone in every travel destination should speak their language. It only feels natural that if hundreds of millions of people speak your language, it must be familiar to people across the world. Everyone who has ever traveled, for instance, in Europe has faced the reality: travel a few hundred miles and sure enough, you enter a country where they speak yet another language that sounds like gibberish.

Fortunately, mobile applications for smartphones and tablets can help travelers to understand something about a language that you don’t know. An application called Word Lens was developed by a startup company for translating foreign signs and any printed words. Google acquired the company and incorporated it into the Google Translate application.

In practice, if you have the Google Translate Word Lens application on your smartphone, you can point your camera to a foreign sign, and the app will instantly translate it.

Business Insider filmed a brief video that introduces the features of the Word Lens app:

This is how to get the free translation app onto your phone or tablet:

1. Search for “Google Translate” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
2. Install the app. It includes the Word Lens.
3. Start the app and push the camera sign on the screen to activate the text recognition feature.
4. If you point the camera to sign with a couple of words and no other elements, like graphics or colors, the app can instantly show you the translation. If there is something else in the frame besides words, push the camera button once more, swipe your finger over the words you want to translate, and there you are.

Google Word Lens Translator, a Swedish map translated to Spanish

Google Word Lens Translator, a Swedish map translated to Spanish

Here is a video where the inventor of the Word Lens application tells how and why he created it:

Google Pixel C can be a fantastic tablet, but for serious typing, try out the keyboard yourself

2015-09-30

Google Pixel C is not the first tablet the company has introduced, but it is the first one that comes with a keyboard. The tablet display is 10.2 inches in size. It is a high density, high resolution (2560×1700) display. The keyboard and tablet are not mechanically connected, but the Pixel C becomes a laptop-like computer when the display is attached to a specific place on the keyboard. Strong magnets hold the units together. A 10-inch tablet with a keyboard: is it a good idea readers and writers?
google pixel c, laptop mode
The Google Pixel C comes in two configurations: 32GB model is priced at $499 and 64GB $599. The keyboard costs $149 extra.

Reading ebooks on a high-resolution, high-quality tablet that has large screen is an experience we love. If we can get a tablet like that for $499, it is worth serious consideration.

Typing long texts on a 10-inch tablet that has a keyboard of the same size isn’t a tempting idea. Although many function keys have been removed from the Pixel C keyboard, it is still very small. And the price: $149. Come on, it is only a keyboard, even if it comes with magnets.

We have successfully used a configuration where we have a battery-powered almost full-size keyboard ($30 at an electronics store) connected via Bluetooth to a 10-inch tablet. It works fine.
googlepixelc-stand
The Google Pixel C is powered by Android 6.0 operating system software. Version 6 of the world’s most popular operating system provides incremental improvements over version 5 – no earth-shaking new features.

Apple iPad Pro is significantly larger (and pricier) than the Pixel C, and has a special keyboard available as well. Read an analysis of the iPad Pro here.

View a hands-on video of the Google Pixel C tablet by Digital Trends:

Google Pixel C key features and technical specifications

– Android 6.0 operating system software.
– 10.2 inch touch screen display with 3:2 aspect ratio.
– Resolution 2560 x 1700 pixels, at 239 PPI
– 400 nit brightness, 178° viewing angle.
– Intel HD Graphics 5500 (Integrated)
– 4K video output over DisplayPort or HDMI with optional Type-C video adapter cable
– Intel Core i5 processor, 2.2GHz, 8GB memory or Intel Core i7 processor, 2.4GHz, 16GB memory.
– 2 USB Type-C connectors.
– 2 USB 3.0 Standard A connectors.
– microSD memory card slot.
– 720P wide angle video camera with blue glass
– 32GB or 64GB of flash storage, depending on model.
– Wi-Fi 802.11ac (supports a/b/g/n/ac), 2.4 and 5GHz, 2×2 spatial streams
– Bluetooth 4.0
– Stereo speakers
– Built-in microphone, and headphone/microphone combo
– USB Type-C Charger, 60W
– Up to 12 hours of battery life.
– Dimensions 11.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches (297.7mm x 224.55mm x 15.3mm)
– Weight 3.3lbs (1.5Kg)

Google Field Trip App Guides You to Sights and European Cultural Treasures

2015-03-29

Your smartphone knows where you are, because its GPS receiver can calculate your location. Now that your phone knows exactly in which street corner you are standing, it could tell you something about nearby places and sights as well. That’s exactly what Google Field Trip application does.

google field trip application

The Field Trip is available for iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android (for instance, Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola) and Google Glass devices. The app is free, but you will have to give all your personal information from your phone and location information to Google (you won’t notice it, but the app asks for permission for it and then does it in the background).

There are two ways to use the Field Trip app:
1. Let the app determine your location and provide you with information cards about nearby places and sights. Obviously, this is a handy feature when you are standing in a street corner of a strange city and have no idea what to do next.
2. Search a specific place, and let Field Trip tell you what type of sights exists there. A useful feature if you are pondering if, for instance, Grasse in Southern France is a town worth visiting (it definitely is).

The Field Trip app has been around for a while already, but recently an interesting development was announced. Europeana, the digital archive of Europe’s cultural heritage, provides information on Europe’s cultural destinations directly to the Field Trip application. The first step was to add cultural information from Sweden (view a travel guide here), Poland and Estonia to the app.

google field trip europeana

Europeana writes: “Three Europeana partners – the Swedish National Heritage Board, the National Heritage Board of Estonia and the National Heritage Board of Poland – joined the pilot to share their curated and enriched collections. Their datasets are now available in the app history feed and guide tourists to beautiful and prominent historical buildings and monuments in Estonia, Poland and Sweden. Europeana is seeking co-operation with other European cultural institutions. More information here.