Google, take a break!

Google is Busy!

To suggest that Google is busy would be an understatement.

You might even suggest that if they have their fingers in a lot of different things, that they are some multi-armed, thousand-fingered monster, trying to take over and control the entire web…

But I’m sure that’s not the case…

Happy Browsing!


Chrome Web Store… Evil?

Google’s got something new planned… it’s the Chrome Web Store! There’s a nice description at Mashable with a well-produced video. (Google seems to be working hard at creating well-produced videos, filled with people you really want to trust… are they actors? Real Google employees? Real Actors Google has hired as employees?)


So this new Chrome Web Store, or “App Store” as it were, seems to be a way for people to “sell” applications to Chrome users. To be fair, you can also make your app available for free. As for the paid part, well gosh, they aren’t that evil because they take a smaller cut than Apple does with their app store. Make no mistake, Apple’s App Store is evil, so even if you’re less evil than the guy who is more evil… you’re still evil!

Apple’s App Store is evil. I won’t deny that… Steve basically says that if you don’t like it, you can build your app as a web site, and use Mobile Safari to access it on your iPhone. That idea may be less evil than the Chrome Web Store, because while Apple suggests you do this, it doesn’t do anything to get into the revenue stream of it, and leave that’s totally up to you to figure out. I also don’t think they suggest you make it work only in Mobile Safari…

So here are some questions about the Chrome Web Store…

  • Is it based on open standards?
  • Will it work in all browsers, not just Google Chrome?
  • Can anyone run a competitor to the Chrome Web Store?
  • Does it help keep the web free?
  • Does it help keep the web open?

There is a battle going on… it’s for control of the web. I’m on the side of keeping the web free and open. I can see this fracturing the web, and I don’t like it.

It looks like the Chrome Web Store will also allow for the selling of browser extensions for Chrome. An interesting idea. While Mozilla popularized the idea of Browser extensions, Google wants to come along an monetize it. But don’t worry, they’ll only take a small cut…

Ultimately this makes sense for Google and their Chrome OS, which means to take over everything, because all you’ll need is The (Google) Cloud™ and the Chrome Web Store so you can buy your Google Approved Apps to run in your Google Chrome Browser and OS. But it’s OK, because Google doesn’t believe in lock-in.

This is just one more reason I really don’t care for the Google Chrome web browser… I prefer to stick with a browser created by a non-profit organization that has a similar mission to mine, to promote openness on the web.

P.S. I think Google is a great search engine. They also do other things quite well, but that doesn’t mean I want them to do everything, and I definitely don’t want them to control everything.


Firefox 4 is Fast

I’ve been running the Firefox 4 betas, and I’ve been trying to keep an eye on speed, as that seems to be one of the main reasons cited for switching to Google Chrome by Firefox users I talked to.


Now, don’t get me wrong, Chrome is fast, that much is true, but I think what a lot of people forget about is the cruft. For many users, it could be a few years since they’ve done a fresh install of Firefox. I mean fresh as in “starting with a new profile” so that all your old preferences, add-ons, plug-ins, bookmarks, and other bits weren’t there.

Right now if you download Google Chrome for the first time, and launch it, there is no cruft. It launches fast. If you’ve been upgrading Firefox over the years and not starting fresh with a new profile… well, there’s cruft.

Here’s what I did, and you can try it at home. Create a new user account (if you’re running Mac OS X, just log into the “Guest Account” that wipes itself after every logout) and launch the Firefox 4 beta. For fun launch Google Chome as well. Both will be cruft-free as they won’t have any previous preferences/profile to worry about, and will be starting fresh.

In my tests, Firefox 4 launched pretty damn fast. If Chrome launches faster, it’s probably by such a small amount that most people could never tell.

Now jump back and forth between Firefox and Chrome and load various pages. Again, don’t use any magical timers, just experience it, and see if you think they are pretty close. They look pretty close to me.

As I’ve mentioned, speed isn’t everything, but it’s nice to see the Mozilla folks stepping up their game and realizing that speed is important to a lot of people. I’ve also read some comments about finding ways to “cleanse” old profile data, to help the folks who have been using the same Firefox profile for years and years, hoping for a bit better performance.

Disclaimer: This is not scientific! I did not run any benchmarks, I didn’t test Javascript engines, or anything too crazy or stressful, I just compared the experience of launching/browsing using completely fresh installs of (the latest beta of) Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. I’d love to hear some comments from a Chrome convert willing to do the same tests.


Google Account Password Recovery


I got the following screen when logging in to Google (to use a third-party service) and I was glad to see it. I can’t remember the last time I saw this, but I think it’s something Google should show more often.

If you want to deal with this information right now, you can log into Google, go to My Account, and then Personal Settings, and then click on Change password recovery options. Make sure you’ve got at least one recovery email listed there (more would be better) and if you trust Google with your phone number, provide that as well, for SMS recovery.

While you’re in there, why not look at the data Google is storing with your account, as well as any websites you’ve authorized to access your information. These are probably things people don’t check very often, but should. Also, take a look at your dashboard now to get an idea of how much of your data Google has…

See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Gmail Account Recovery for Password and Security Issues and Account recovery via SMS.


Google Reader Subscription List backup shell script

If you’re interested in exporting (or backing up) your Google Reader Subscription List you can log into Google Reader, go to Manage Subscriptions, and then Import/Export and then export your subscription as an OPML file (which is basically an XML file.)

Google Reader - Export Subscription List OPML

If you want to automate this process, there are a few steps involved… I used curl, which is easy, but other tools can also work.

The first thing you need to do is get an Auth code:

curl -daccountType=GOOGLE -d Email=[USERNAME] -d Passwd=[PASSWORD] -d service=reader 

Substitute your own Google username for [USERNAME].

Substitute your own Google password[PASSWORD].

Once you do this, you’ll get 3 lines returned, that look something like this:


Note: I’ve shortened these (and made them up) but it’s but it’s basically 3 keys SID, LSID, and Auth and their associated values. You’ll need the value for the one labeled Auth.

Now, use curl to request the following:

curl -H "Authorization:GoogleLogin auth=HFDY49j7ljlkfh03fdkjgldkhfl945840598djglkjhjgh6640hi5h..." 

Again, I’ve shortened the Auth code (it’s really long!) You’re basically passing the authorization in the header of the request. It should go without saying that the SID, LSID, and Auth should be kept private. (Which is why I just made up a random string in the example above.)

OK, if it all worked, curl returned your subscription list as OPML. Hooray! Also, you just used OAuth, so Double Hooray!

And here’s our shell script, which will download/backup your subscription list as OPML file. (It’s similar to our mysql backup schell script.)


DT=`date +"%Y%m%d"`

curl -s -o /home/backups/SubscriptionList-$DT.opml -H "Authorization:GoogleLogin auth=HFDY49j7ljlkfh03fdkjgldkhfl945840598djglkjhjgh6640hi5h..." 

Each time you run it, it will get the date with the year, month, and day and use it in the name. So %Y%m%d would produce something like 20100816. This should work fine if you run just one backup per day. (And of course you can store it somewhere besides /home/backups/ if you like. cron is your friend here.)

I know that most people believe that Google will not lose their data, or if the day comes they want to export this data, they’ll just go to the site and export it, but this lets you prepare for the day you can’t get to the site and export your data… or the day Google loses it, or deletes it, or whatever.

By the way… I found most of this information in the Google Reader API wiki. It’s nice that Google is providing an API for things, I just wish some of the info was easier to find… as of this post, that’s the only damn page in that entire wiki!

This is all part of my renewed interest in putting my own data into my own hands, and I may be bugging Jason (@plural) a bit more in the future. ;)

Update: Jason reminded us of, which I’ll discuss in another post. :)

And just for fun: This gem from 2007: Data Loss At Google Reader.