Google Drive…to get your stuff.

I’ve always had the attitude that any company that has to remind it’s staff to ‘Do No Evil’ is either employing the wrong sort of people or is trying hard to hide the fact that they might not be paragons of virtue.

This week my increasingly hardcore anti-Google attitude was turned up another notch by the Terms and Conditions on their new ‘Google Drive’ product. Google Drive is Google’s answer to products like ‘Dropbox’ – look at it as an online hard disc that you can use for storing copies of your files, swapping files with other people, etc.  In teh Terms and Conditions, Google rightly state that they respect your intellectual property rights, and that the rights to the data you upload stay with you.  So far, so good.  They also then say:

 “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

Whoa, dude!  From this it would appear that by uploading your stuff to the Googleplex, you’re providing them with source material for anything they wish to derive from the stuff you commit.  Sort of like Facebook, but without poking…  And Microsoft have a simnilar clause in their equivalent online Cloud storage service T&Cs.

The difference is that Microsoft and Facebook get ‘pulled’ fairly regularly for abuse of privacy, attitudes towards standard, Intellectual Property and Patent enforcement, what have you.  But Google still seem to be the Teflon boys of the modern IT landscape.  I have to say that I now regard Google as a bigger threat to my privacy and to the general health of the information landscape than Facebook or Microsoft.  Why?

Google own increasingly large amounts of the search landscape; like ‘Hoover’ they are a brand that has become a verb.  People tend to Google rather than Search the Internet; businesses have been known to fail when Google modify their search algorithms. The data that we pass through Google – even when we’re not logged in – can still be logged against our IP address and passed on to the US Government (as well as being used within Google itself for various purposes). Despite this I still use Google – because there is not yet an equivalent that is as good.  Microsoft Bing is getting there, but has a way to go, and I guess that that is how many people who are uncomfortable about Google but still use them feel.

There’s an old saying saying along the lines of ‘If you’re not paying for the service, you’re being sold.’  Maybe it’s time for the unthinkable – a paid for search provider. I’d be very tempted to pay for a good search service that was curated enough to remove the crap, whilst not threatening my privacy or intellectual property.  A new frontier for entrepreneurs?


Variations on a Spotify theme…..

I found out tonight that there are over 70 versions of the Bob Dylan song ‘All along the watchtower’ on the online music service Spotify.  I sort of worry that there might soon be a ‘Watchtower radio’ channel online somewhere that plays nothing but versions of the song –  and, of course, there are songs on there with just as many if not more cover versions.

I should add that I’m quite a Spotify fan – heck, I even have a paid subscription to it – and I can’t remember the last time I popped a CD on when working – I just go to Spotify and play my choons from there.  Every now and again I search out a particular favourite of mine and see what other versions are around – there are usually a few that I’ve not heard before – and after you prune away the Karaoke versions it can be quite an interesting musical experience to listen to a few in succession.

I find it a good way of finding new artists that I might like. By listening to cover versions of music that I like in the original, it removes a variable from the complicated equation of ‘do I like this band / artist?’  If I already like the song, it comes down to what they’ve done with it. A good example of this was when I came across a cover version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ done by the Dave Matthew’s Band – I liked what I heard and became a fan of the latter based on what they did to the Neil Young classic.

What was I looking for when I was searching through covers of ‘All Along the Watchtower’?  Well, fans of the TV series Battlestar Galactica will recollect that a very ‘arabesque’ influenced version of this tune had a very significant role in the series, and apart from that it was a bloody good version.  We’re getting there – a recent addition to the lists was a cover by Dominik Hauser and Tim Russ and that was pretty damn close!

And should you ever want a version of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ as played by a string quartet, I point you here… 


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-22

  • Whoops! Need to watch which WordPress buttons I press!! #
  • Last year, Osbourne said that UK would give no more money to IMF. £10 bn later….can we all say 'Bunch of lying cuntservatives?' #
  • My later 'Joe's Jotting' – what makes for a competent human being? #
  • Hmph….Worldpay refuse to activate one of our websites because of a bug. A bug in THEIR code. Way to go, Worldpay…. #

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Johnny Cash and me.

An early memory of mine is listening to my Uncle Idris play Johnny Cash songs on his guitar.  Particularly he did a great rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’, though without the Mexican trumpets, Mexican trumpeters being singularly rare in the town of Warsop in the 1960s. Back then, Cash was a big name, although I’m not sure that he was ‘cool’ – more mainstream.  And he became more known for his novelty songs like ‘A Boy named Sue’ and ‘One Piece at a Time’, and his TV show, than his more straight forward country / rockabilly songs.

Figuratively speaking, Johnny Cash wandered in and out of my life over the years; he showed up as a murderous singer in Columbo; I’d see his name on the credits of various TV shows and films and also became aware of his conversion to Christianity and his near constant battles with drug addiction.  I admired the guy; in attitude he reminded me of people like Neil Young – ‘not bothered what you think of me, I’m just going to do my music’ – in appearance he vaguely reminded me of some North American Indian version of my own father and uncles.

I loved his appearance in ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘The mysterious voyage of Homer’, where, under the influence of “The Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango! Grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum” Homer undergoes a spiritually rich hallucination in which Cash play’s his spirit guide, a coyote. By now I’d grabbed a few CDs of his music, and also read his biography, particularly intrigued by his conversion to Christianity and his claim that he was still one of the biggest sinners he knew.

With the ‘American’ recordings, he became something of a cool icon – the black dress, the  sparse musical performances – especially with the cover he did of the NiN song ‘Hurt’.  Even now, it’s a song that reduces me to tears.

This was around the time that I started taking a more serious interest in my own spirituality, a process that eventually led to my being confirmed in to the Church of England a few years later.  I started looking at Cash’s back catalogue – his spiritual songs, gospel music – and also finding out more about his life.  He was definitely no angel – but he was a man who was honest with himself and others – what you saw was indeed what you got, warts and all.  ‘Hurt’ is indeed his epitaph, but I often think that the lyrics to the U2 song ‘The Wanderer’ – which Cash sang for the band – sum his journey up:

I went out there
In search of experience
To taste and to touch
And to feel as much
As a man can
Before he repents

And as he put it in his own song ‘Man in Black’:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

Shortly after my own confirmation, I was asked to think about my own journey to Christ, and who influenced me on the way.  Three names popped up – my Aunty Harriet, CS Lewis, and Johnny Cash.


The Competent Person….

The ‘Competent Man’ (or woman) is a character in literature who has a vast range of skills and abilities that make them appear to be capable of doing anything.  Classic male examples are Jeeves or Angus MacGyver.  Now, I’m pretty sure that I’m not one of these mythical men, but I was reminded of this creature when I came across a quote from Robert Heinlein, attributed to a character in one of his novels, Lazarus Long:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Well, this quote was written about 50 odd years ago by someone who was a great believer in self-reliance, but I can manage 15 or 16 of those.  To save you trying to work out what I haven’t yet managed – I get my meat from a butcher, have invaded nowhere (unless you cound the battles I’ve played out when wargaming), fight like a girl and haven’t yet died, let alone died gallantly.

But what might we consider to be skills for a competent person today?

The thing that struck me is that we have tended to become more specialised, and often specialised in the minutiae or trivia of life.  I’d be interested to see what people think we might add to the above as ‘skills for the competent human being’ today.  Not ‘skills for the corporate drone’!  Here are my initial thoughts:

have an understanding of national politics, take part in civilised debate and research for the same, entertain small children, be a good listener, manage one’s personal privacy, plan and execute a protest, put up a blog or web site, find and hold down a job, run a household, be comfortable around the aged and dieing, host a meal, organise a funeral, apply basic maintenance to car and home, practice an artistic pursuit, understand some basic science and technology.

I guess that years ago anyone who could do this many different types of activity competently would have been regarded as a very well rounded personality but not necessarily that uncommon (obviously, replace blog or web site with something appropriate for the historical period) – today, I think that they’d be a rarity.

Which is a shame.




We are the Zuckerborg….

As I mentioned in a previous post about Facebook’s purchase of the Instagram mobile photo-mangling application, there is a long and proud tradition in software and Internet industries of companies buying technology and customers.  This is done for the following reasons:

  1. The purchasing company can’t be arsed to write or isn’t capable of writing the software being purchased.
  2. The purchasing company hasn’t time to wait to write the software or acquire the customers – it may have a pressing deadline…oh, like an IPO?
  3. The purchasing company just wants to knock a possible competitor out of the game – exemplified by ‘Bill Gates’ in an episode of The Simpsons where Bill tells his henchmen to ‘buy Homer out’ by kicking his desk over…

In this particular case, Facebook score all three scales – they have an upcoming IPO which will go better if they’re seen to have a big handle on the mobile social media market, they’ll get 35 million new customers and they knock out a potential competitor, all for a billion dollars, which probably looks like a cheap price to the Facebook management right now.

While I was writing that last post, it struck me that the approach taken by Facebook is rather like the Borg in Star Trek; “We are the Borg. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”  Whilst Facebook and similar companies aren’t currently replacing bits of our bodies with technology and absorbing our individuality in to some sort of mindless collective, their effect on the high tech industrial sector is awfully similar.

Where’s Species 8472 when you need them?

Woohoo! A new boom…?

I’d been expecting – or should that be suspecting – it for some time but we finally do appear to be in the grip of an Internet Boom to match the real world bust.  When Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars – it was back to the good old days of 12 or 15 years ago when money flowed like water and barely a day passed without some new high point in purchases, sales and IPO prices.

So, here we go again.  On a professional level, this purchase doesn’t make much of a difference to the IT world that I inhabit these days.  Much of my work is IT ‘gruntsmanship’ where I’m more worried about referential integrity in a database than I am about making my picture of my cat look ‘interesting’.  Of course, Facebook’s real intention in buying Instagram is probably two-fold – get a chunk of technology that can help them leverage their way in to a more viable mobile presence, and get a potential (albeit relatively small at the moment) competitor out of the picture.  There’s nothing new with this approach – Microosft and Google have both adopted similar approaches at different times in their history.  It’s very much part of the tech playbook.  The sheer size of the deal seems a little crazy and what makes me think ‘bubble’ – a billion dollars in one form or another for a glorified set of Photoshop filters?  Come on….

I’m afraid that I just don’t ‘get’ Instagram – it reminds me too much of the very early days or Desktop Publishing, when everyone went crazy with fonts and created documents that didn’t educate, entertain or inform but simply screamed ‘The bod who wrote me has a new Desktop Publishing Package.’  Lots of photos, all looking the same…so much for creativity.

So, we’ll see what happens next.  The Facebook IPO will be the ‘market maker’ for this new boom, and will also probably flag the high water mark.  On a personal note, I’d like to make soem money out of this boom having missed out on the previous two – I’m a cheap date, have good ideas and am known to work for peanuts – anyone wanting to give me money, I also have some old rope in the garage…



Good Lord…it’s Easter!

Or, as a Christian, I should really say “Good, Lord…it’s Easter!”

I have to say that I didn’t expect to find myself writing a blog post today – it happened by accident after I’d approved a few comments on this blog and thrown out some spam.  For the last 2 months I’ve been on something of an Internet diet.  I’ve used the Net for work, kept an eye on Facebook and Twitter for personal messages and for photographs of my lovely Godchildren, but that’s been it.  I’ve made the odd post, but have tried to stay away.  Along with avoiding the demon drink, my Social Media retreat was part of my Lent Observance.

So, did I miss anything?

Well, actually….er…  Without going too much in to details, I’m debating whether to keep the diet going for a while longer, and put the time that I would have spent on facebook and Twitter in to my Blog and the ignoble art of making money. I’ve actually been less stressed and worried and irritable than usual, and I do believe that at least part of it is because I’m ignoring all those folks on Facebook and Twitter that don’t just wash their dirty laundry in public but also dry it, iron it and then point out how they’re carefully putting it all in the drawers for future use, complete with lavender scented sachets.

It brought me up sharp when I realised how much this bugs me; to be honest, if some folks I knew carried on in real life in the way they do on Social Media I would have dropped them from my Christmas Card list years ago!  Which is the real them?  Which leads me on to the next question – which is the real me? Social Media Joe, Blogger Joe or day to day real world Joe?

I hope that they’re all the same – or at least similar enough to not cause too much dismay to people around me.

I want to be…WYSIWYG!