Tag Archives: Google

Evernote thoughts

What’s happening in the world of Evernote?

Came across an interesting article in Business Insider about the ups and now downs of Evernote that highlighting their recent laying-off of staff, and I’m afraid I do agree with the overall conclusion that Evernote, unless it gives itself a big kick up the backside, has had its day.

I first started using Evernote a bit over 4 years ago and found it a really useful cloud storage cross platform note taking application with a versatile screen clipping function. However as time’s gone by Evernote seems to have stood relatively still whereas other providers have either tweaked their existing services or brought on-board newer more comprehensive applications. Google Docs has vastly improved since its conception, Microsoft has developed OneNote and its other OneDrive services, Dropbox (as well as others) can seamlessly cloud store your documents as you work on them. It was only when I read this Evernote article that I realised how little I’d been using it recently. Not any conscious decision to avoid it, but just finding other services so much nicer to use such that Evernote’s usage just naturally fell away. One problem with it is that it’s yet another application that I need to be logged in to. I use various services from both Google and Microsoft (even when I’m using my Apple products) so I have to be logged into them. It’s a bit of a pain but I accept that it’s now part of my computer related life. As they provide overlapping / greater functionality to that of Evernote I really don’t want to be logging into another application to do something I can already do.

I suspect in reality it’s been Microsoft’s recent expansion away from concentrating its services just on Windows to encompassing Apple and Android that’s changed me. That cross-platform expansion then got me looking at Google’s services in greater detail. As much as I like my MacBook and iPad I find the Apple world too restricting considering I also use Windows both at home and at work, so at the moment I am writing this (in Starbucks tethering via my phone) using Google Docs on my MacBook, which incidentally is running Windows 10.

I do hope Evernote can develop itself and compete with the other players in the field. Competition (and choice) is good, but at the moment my choice is not to use Evernote.

Which Cloud System

Which cloud system for my day to day use?

I’ve been running Windows 10 since they first released their developers preview versions and have generally liked it. Microsoft also has its Onedrive, desktop and web-based Office stuff, all that sort of thing… so I thought I’d give the integrated Microsoft cloud world a try. So services like Dropbox (and Evernote) for backups, and linking / synchronising my desktop Outlook, documents, and all the other associated services I use together through my Microsoft account.

Like it or not, it did work quite well. Whether Word on the desktop or Word through a browser, Excel, or Calendar in Outlook, everything did seem to integrate in a sensible fashion.

However my love affair with Windows 10 now seems to be wearing a bit thin. It’s one thing for Google, as a service, to be monitoring your activity, but having the whole operating system reporting back to its controller everything you are doing, programs you have installed, even what you say… then there are other irritations like the way Onedrive now works its selective sync, or even a small change in your computer hardware and Windows 10 deactivates itself as it thinks it’s a new machine – and reactivating it can be a real pain. (I’ll be curious to see what happens when Microsoft brings out their Enterprise version of Win 10, I don’t think much of commerce and industry will want an outside organisation to be monitoring what their employees are doing!)

So on my Win 10 installs I worked my way through as many of the (numerous) privacy settings that I can find and sorted them out, and for the time being have switched back to the Big Brother of Google for my calendar, word processing and other cloud based activities.

I will give Google one thing – I do find their cloud services more integrated compared to Microsoft, even though I think Word is a far better word processor than Google’s document editor (likewise for Excel), however Google’s various different services seem to flow together in a far smoother way.

I have no particular loyalty to any one system, I use Apple products, Microsoft ones, Android, a Blackberry Z10 is my main mobile to laptop tethering / hotspot device. In the past I’ve played with Linux and BSD. They are all just devices and services there to do a job. So maybe I’ll stay with Windows 10, perhaps move back to an earlier version, or return to Apple; a little uncertain at the moment. Just have to see how things develop, especially looking to Microsoft’s new Surface Pro and / or Apple’s next Mac Mini update. After all both of these will be able to ‘cloud out’ for services and storage to whoever I choose. Though I think at the moment, regardless of operating system, Google is winning my cloud war.

Google+ and Windows Phone 8 surprise

Google forcing Google+ onto YouTubers has had an unexpected result for me.

I do use (and now rely on doing things through) the cloud. Whether e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet work or general video or photo storage, it’s all done remotely and for some time now I’ve been happy enough using Google. However the way they’ve handled this forcing of YouTube commenters to use Google+ has irritated me in the extreme. The result of this was to go and look around at alternative cloud sources including Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Up till now I had rather ignored it but was pleasantly surprised to see how they had integrated Office functionality into it. This in turn got me thinking about mobile cloud access.

For years I’ve had two phones on me. One working through an on-going contract, the other (an elderly iPhone 3GS) working off a PAYG SIM (and on a different network). This means that if my contract network is out of service or the phone battery flat I still have internet / cloud access through the PAYG device. (It also provides me with an alternative mobile number for when I don’t want to give out my personal one.)

Having found this SkyDrive was unexpectedly good I thought I’d give a try with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 as a back-up mobile system (my current main phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, so therefore Android). So went out and got a Nokia Lumia 520 as a PAYG upgrade which was the cheapest Windows Phone 8 that I could find.

I was absolutely amazed by it. Despite being a low specification / bottom of the range model the screen was nice and clear, apps and programs opened quickly and ran smoothly, there was no hesitation in scrolling, and from an initial charge it gave me three days use (and even then was still at 25% battery level). I really had not expected such a positive experience both from the phone itself and from the operating system. Where the icons and tiles on a desk-top Windows 8 machine annoy me (and I always switch across to the standard old style desktop) here they suit the environment really well.

The Windows Phone App store is nothing like as well populated as its Android or Apple counterpart, however almost everything I want is there. As for anything that I’m not happy with I can always access it from its web page anyway, so that’s not a great problem. The one irritation with the phone is that the screen does seem like a magnet for finger prints and smudges. I must see if I can get a screen protector for it which may improve this, but it’s not really a big issue, after all this is as smart phones go about the cheapest one on the market. I can quite see why I’ve seen reports that in parts of the world it is the best-selling smartphone!

So from being almost a Google fan-boy – Chrome, Gmail, Google documents / Drive, relying on Google Calendar,  Android user –  from their poorly executed action of forcing Google+ upon its YouTube users (me) I’ve ‘discovered’ a whole new alternative cloud structure which I’m slowly moving across to.

Thank’s Google.

My YouTube thoughts on this and the Nokia 520

Google Reader

So Google is shutting down Reader.

In one way I’m not too concerned, I never seriously used Google Reader so I won’t miss it. However it makes me wonder how much I can rely on Google’s current services. They do seem to be developing a habit of just as people are getting used to something or getting to rely on it they’ll either close it down or ‘integrate’ it into something else. For some things it really doesn’t matter, but where you’ve spent time and money developing your own system around it or you use it in some financial way then things may be different.

I hadn’t realised how many services they had killed off till I did a Wiki search on the subject, and that threw up a list of over 70 of them. Okay, sometimes something can quite simply be a failure and is just a drain on resources so needs to go. Other times technology (or life) has moved on so the service needs to be re-developed, but when something like Reader is killed off at virtually no notice I’ve got to be thinking what’s next on the chopping block – perhaps something I do regularly use and rely on.

This has got me thinking that perhaps I should be duplicating more of my Google based services across onto Yahoo or see what Microsoft are doing regarding ‘the cloud’. I can’t say that I’m that keen on Yahoo and don’t particularly like Microsoft, it will mean that even more of ‘big brother’ will be watching me, but then they’re watching me anyway!

One thing it will be and that is a bit of a pain keeping things synchronised when copied across to different service providers,  however this has been a wake-up call / reminder of the importance of having alternative back-ups!

 

Internet Privacy

 So what about internet privacy and being anonymous.

My main browser is Google Chrome, and on machines I regularly use I have it set up so things like my bookmarks automatically come up. I also use YouTube, Google calendar and various other Google services, so I know (and accept) that Google is ‘watching me’. I’m happy enough (realistic enough) to accept that my level of internet privacy is rather limited.

I also use Firefox, occasionally Opera, and very occasionally Internet Explorer – usually just for those sites that insist on only working with IE (almost always work related ones that I can’t avoid).
When it comes to searching, then it’s usually Google. Occasionally I’ll try Bing or Yahoo, not for any special reason other than as something different for a change. They do actually throw up quite different results – try searching for your own name and see the different number of hits they show.

Early Saturday afternoon and it’s time to head into the city. A couple of places I wanted to go to so a quick internet search to remind me of their locations. However rather than search through Google I thought I’d try using ixquick (which claims to be the world’s most private search engine). I’d heard of it and was curious to see how it performed, which was exactly as expected. It threw up a page of sensible responses, and even from the couple of lines displayed against each of the results I could see enough of an address to remind me where these places were.

What surprised me was that ten minutes later when I picked up my (Android) phone was to see a message from Google giving me directions to one of the places I’d searched for through this ‘private’ search engine.

What I suspect had happened was that browsers often automatically start to download any links that are on the page being looking at, so if you then click on the link that new page will appear so much more quickly. On my search page one of those links will have been a Google Maps page, Google will have recognised the machine this request came from and promptly, being extra-clever (!!!), sent to my Android / Google powered phone instructions on how to get there.

There’s more to keeping yourself private on the internet than people realise!

https://www.ixquick.com/

Voice recognition, Siri and Google Now.

It must have been well over 10 years ago when I first played with voice recognition and dictation software on my home PCs. I experimented with it as a lazy way of getting my essays done for a degree course I was doing. It were quite fun and did work, however they required a lot of effort, were not that reliable, and overall I thought not worth the effort, so in the end I was back to fingers on keyboard.

I’m not sure when voice activation for initiating calls and texts on mobile phones arrived, but it’s been around for a few years, however I’ve never yet met anyone who has actually seriously used them.

Siri was first brought to my attention when Apple included it as part of the iPhone 4S. Here we had an ‘intelligent personal assistant’ that should be able to recognise most commands and instructions which are given in the user’s natural language style, and then to respond accordingly. The trick with Siri compared to earlier systems was to transfer the language interpretation demand (and processing requirement) from the local device to Apple’s various data processing servers. My Apple hardware (3GS and iPad 2) could not run Siri, but again those people I know with appropriate hardware played with it to begin with, but once the novelty wore off now rarely use it.

This brings us to ‘today’ and owning a device with both Google’s Now and Samsung’s S Voice. Both of these have worked far better than expected. Both when given a phone action command will carry out that action. The only real difference between them is when you give them a general question, Now usually gives its responses as Google web page links and only occasionally speaking the answer, where as S Voice tends to speak the answer and only if it gets stuck directs you to relevant web page search results.

I think here is something I could actually start using, especially for web searches. It’s still far from perfect, but has reached a stage where I’m starting to get results more quickly by asking it rather than by using the keyboard to enter in my request.

I wonder how long it will be before it is constantly monitoring your speech as a background task, so that if you are discussing arranging a meeting with a colleague it will automatically put an entry into your calendar, and if that meeting then involves you talking about ordering up some spare parts it will already be scanning local suppliers for availability and prices. Or if you’re discussing something the government doesn’t like…. soon Big Brother may be closer to you than you realise!

What next for the iPhone size. Big, small, or indifferent?

At the time of writing this Google has just announced the Nexus 7, and this has got me thinking about the iPhone and its future size.

Over the last few years there’s been a vast range of smartphones around the 3 to 4 inch screen size. Currently HTC have their Desire phones including 3.7” and 4.3” models. Motorola, Nokia, Sony, all have devices around the 4.3” size. The Samsung Galaxys go from 4” to 4.8” and their Note comes in at 5.3”.
Moving up the scale to the tablets, there’s the Kindle Fire at 7” and the Galaxy Tabs going from 7” to 10.1”. There’s the Motorola Xoom also 10.1” Within the last 6 months Acer, Asus and Toshiba have all brought out 10.1” devices, and now we have this new Google Nexus 7 at 7”.

But what about Apple. We have various iPhones at 3.5” and the iPad at 9.7”, both running an operating system which was amazing when it first came out, but now (even with updates) is looking a bit dated.

Time for something new from Apple? An updated iPhone (iPhone 5) at 4.3” plus a totally new device to catch the mid-size market. Maybe target the mid-size with a 5” iPhone leaving the 4S for those wanting to stay small. Perhaps ignore this mid-range and just do the new iPhone at 4”.

I currently use a Samsung Galaxy S2 (4.3”) and an iPhone 3GS (3.5”). I’ve had a play with Galaxy S3 at 4.8” and am quite happy with that size. I’ve also played (if only briefly) with the Note at 5.3” but find that just too big. So I’d be really happy if the new iPhone came out at 4.5” to 4.8”.  (Anything less than 4.5” and they’ll have to do something quite amazing with iOS to get my attention.)

Apple being Apple, they’ll do their own thing their own way and in their own time. Plus what ever they bring out the dedicated Apple fanboys will buy. I personally have no particular loyalty to any one system, so if the next Apple device appeals to me then I’ll probably give it a spin. If not, then I’m not too worried. Also there is the unknown factor of Microsoft and how will Windows 8 be received – will their desktop system efficiently scale across to portable devices.

Interesting times ahead for the summer.

What do I want from a mobile phone?

Well, what do I want from a mobile phone?! The least important thing is it as a speech communication device, the most important thing is it as a data communication device.

I do have an iPhone 3GS and I’m happy enough with it, however it does have its limitations. (One thing that has started to happen recently is that its battery life has fallen off. I don’t know if it’s because it’s now nearly 2 years old, or because of Apple updates, or both, but it is irritating.) Something I would find useful would be to have a device that could be used as a Wi-Fi hot spot, and I was actually on my way down to the shops to get a stand-alone MiFi dongle when by chance I bumped into a friend and mentioned this to him. He showed me his HTC Desire and said that the newer Android phones had that Wi-Fi service built in.

Being reasonably happy with my 3GS I’d not kept track of what had been coming out new onto the mobile phone market recently, so was quite surprised at how nice his Android phone was. (My only real experience of this family of phones had been with an early Google phone, and that had NOT impressed me!) This chance meeting got me into doing a bit of research into what else was around, and was impressed with what I saw. Although I have various Apple products I am not an Apple FanBoy, but I had assumed that my next phone would probably be whatever comes out to replace the iPhone 4. However it may well be time to switch across to Android.

So what do I want.

A 4.3 inch screen – big enough to be useful but still keeping the device pocket-size.
Dual core processor – I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something like a single core machine that’s just about to become ‘old generation technology’.
Front and rear cameras – I do like to make the occasional YouTube vlog using my phone, and a front facing camera would make that sooo much easier.
Wi-Fi hot spot facilities – the easiest way for me to have mobile internet for my lap tops and other devices.

So at the moment I’m just waiting for the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II phones to hit the phone companies, and then we’ll see how things go.

A long overdue update.

Time for a long overdue update.

I have discovered and learnt all sorts of things since coming across the YouTube community. (Within this ‘YouTube community’, I include Twitter, BlogTV and all those other inter-related communication networks.) I’ve met amazing people through them and been to places that I’d never have gone to. I’ve made friends of all ages and now communicate with people from all over the world. In other blogs I’ve talked about this friendship side before.

Nevertheless there is an alternative side to it.

For the first time ever, I’ve learnt to really dislike people. Up till now I’ve had my few good friends, a larger circle of general friend, those others I’d class as acquaintances, and finally those who just had no meaning to me. Within this last group would be those who I did not like. There would be no real feeling of ‘dislike’ just a more negative indifference feeling. Of ignoring, or kind of allowing for their presence but not letting them get to me. A case of accepting that there will be good and bad in life, so best you just get on with life.

However since seeing and experiencing the hostility and bickering that has gone on over the last couple of years (some – but thankfully only a small amount – directed at myself); the antagonism, jealousies, bitterness; some so petty, but so much quite aggressive and destructive, I find myself now actually learning to truly dislike others. Not just indifference, but proper dislike, of feeling ofl distaste at their presence should they be near to me. This is something that has never happened before, and is starting to reflect through to my every day life. Where before I was happy enough to work with those who I previously had little time for, now, well, as this involves work (who pay my wages and as such allow me to live life) I shall refrain from putting my thoughts in writing.

It’s a shame that this has happened, and it’s certainly making me think as to how or what I want to do with YouTube. One thing I can’t do and that’s undo the past, so I guess I’ll have to live with it, the positives of YouTube still outweigh the negatives. A matter of reminding myself that there are still some amazingly good people out there.

(Perhaps having got this overdue update out of the way I’ll post more regularly.)