Giving up for now on Google Two Factor Auth

I love the idea of two factor auth, and I think Google has generally done a good job on it, they have certainly tried to make it easy to use .

But the collision of iOS/OSX and Google TFA is just killing me. The problem probably lies in the Apple products — when you configure a machine to do imap email PLUS smtp send PLUS calendar sync PLUS address book sync, it is just broken. The application specific password provided by google has to get squirreled away by all these apps and it doesn’t appear to work, I consistently have problems keeping SMTP send working. I’ve tried recreating the application specific password multiple times and I always end up broken somehow.

Google is not without fault tho. I have two google-hosted accounts I use regularly — a account and my account. When I try to configure the security settings, the Google web pages get super confused about which account I am in. I’ll try to set the security settings for the account and I get the page for the gmail account.

So for now I am giving up.

If I was Google, I would have done a Windows machine

pixelSo the new “Chromebook Pixel”: is out, and it is an interesting move. Nice hardware, but expensive, and of course limited to whatever software runs on Chrome.

Being the “proud” owner of a Surface RT — another nice piece of hardware limited by its software — I’m not betting that this is going to be a big seller.

If I was Google, I would have built a Windows machine with great Google service integration and a Google/Chrome alternative to the new Win8 interface

* PC OEMs are not doing an amazing job on building machines, the field seems wide open
* One less thing to explain to users — it is a Windows machine, it runs all Windows software if you want to, no need to explain Chrome
* Probably easier to get wide distribution — it is just a great Windows machine
* Users have to deal with a new interface on Win8 anyway — the time is ripe to offer something that is different than Metro (and maybe supports the classic Windows look better)
* It would befuddle Microsoft. They can’t hate or attack a Windows machine.

I’ll never buy a Chromebook. I’d think about a great Windows PC with great Google integration.

Why FB is worth just a fraction of GOOG

“Privacy Fix”: is instructive. Who knows how accurate it is, but I bet it is directionally correct. And it says that FB makes about 5 cents a year off ads delivered to me, whereas GOOG makes about $32. I have most of my privacy settings cranked up (on both GOOG and FB), so maybe FB does a lot better with other people, but that is a factor of a 1000.

And when you consider that GOOG has other emergent revenue streams (mobile, enterprise), well I am surprised the gap in valuation isn’t even greater.

I’d love to see more features from Privacy Fix. Who exactly is paying GOOG $32? When I visit a particular page, say SI.COM, who is paying for my eyeballs there? WHat exactly does GOOG know about me and are they telling people about me?

Mayer to Yahoo

“Big move for yahoo”: I’d make job 1 cozying up to Apple and help supplant all the Google services on Apple devices. If Yahoo could become the most relevant internet content brand on the iPad and iPhone, that would be a good step forward. The weather, stock apps would be fine places to start, along with the maps app but that horse may have left the barn.

Business Models and Evil

Some interesting commentary on “Google’s business model by Gruber”: — a total Apple fan, doesn’t view ads as inherently evil, but says you need to be very respectful of your users. And referring to “an original article by Aaron Swartz”: who says you can’t make things worse for users just to make money.

I don’t know what evil is when applied to technology business models. I do know that I feel very comfortable with my Apple transactions — they ask me for a lot of money, in return they give me a product that is mine to own completely. They give me the option of signing up for services for more money, services where they keep data about me, but it is up to me. It feels like a transparent and respectful model. Similarly, I feel good about my Microsoft transactions — they ask me for money, in return I get a software or hardware product that is mine to do what I want with (excluding Bing which I rarely use, and excluding some of their new online service offerings).

I feel somewhat less good about my Google relationship. I do like and use their products. But the fact that they are “free” is bothering, I know that Google is making money off me somehow, but there is very little transparency around it. Who is looking at my data, what are they paying for it, are there certain things I do that are very high value, are there people using info about me that I would rather not, ?

I don’t know any of this and it makes me kind of queasy. Enough to abandon products that are actually useful? Well not yet — and for search,it is not like there are alternatives that are more respectful of me. But I can’t imagine ever having the kind of respect for and attachment to Google products that I have to products from companies with more straightforward business models.

OMG Google TV!

OK I am sure I will buy one of these when I can because, well, I am a classic early adopter and will get sucked in. But as mentioned at All Things D, why will GoogleTV be any different than any of the other failed tv/internet merged products?

I can already watch tons of movies today or lots of crappy web content on my Comcast box, my Tivo box, my AppleTV box. But none of these let me break free of the Comcast/media chokehold and let me watch the really critical content — HD sports (particularly college football), HD first-run top-100 popular drama/comedy series from ABC/CBS/NBC/FOX/UPN/TNT/etc. Google announcements with Logitech and Sony are meaningless — “Logitech will make pretty much anything”: and “Sony hasn’t been relevant since about 1979”: Now if this box came with an announcement of content availability from ESPN and from 4-5 major networks then it might be exciting. But I can’t see why these networks and Comcast would let that happen without being forced.

But I am sure I will buy one anyway…

Three failures — Kindle, MacBook, Google Docs

Yesterday was a brutal technology day. First, I wedged my Kindle between my rear and a chair and heard a nasty “crack”. My Kindle display has a nice shattery image on it permanently now. Sad. I had to open a paper book last night. New Kindle arrived today (thanks to Amazon Fresh trucks), and because the content is all stored at Amazon, I had my full library back working in less than a day. It sucks that e-readers are fragile (well I do weigh >200 lbs so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the Kindle’s failure, it is not sold as a stadium chair), but back and running fast.

Second, the battery failed on one of our Macbooks which is about 3 years old. But of course Apple replaced for free at the Genius bar. Because they replaced the motherboard a year ago under some dubious warranty claim after we dropped the machine, again for no charge. Really, why would a regular human buy a machine anywhere else?

Third — every week, I update a task list document on Google Docs for a mission-critical subcontractor we use, print/save as PDF, and email to the sub. It is not a complex doc but it does need to be right. Last night Google Docs kept failing during the PDF save process (which is also how to print from Google Docs, so this is a pretty important function). After many tries it worked and I forwarded the downloaded PDF to my sub without examining it. Disaster — the PDF was for the version of the task list from January 24! The sub got all the wrong materials and did the wrong things totally, I had to scramble today to patch things back up.

I use the intrinsic functions in google docs to datestamp my doc, and the delivered PDF had the january 24 datestamp in it, and the content in the pdf is completely different than what is in my current doc on google docs, and i assume is a faithful representation of the state of the doc on january 24. how did google deliver me this pdf? My best guess is that some part of the PDF rendering process failed badly in the Google server farm, and they restored from some earlier version, and the restore picked up old queued files. I really have no idea how they could have delivered a two month old PDF rendering of my doc.

Corruption of data and inability to faithfully print documents are pretty damning problems for an office suite. I really can’t imagine continue to using Google docs with this class of problem. I haven’t bothered to file a bug with google yet because, well, delivering a product with this level of data corruption for basic scenarios is pretty much a deal breaker for me.

Commendations to Apple and Amazon for creating systems and businesses that are incredibly customer-focused, even when products fail. The Google Docs failure may be an isolated incident, but I do wonder if Google has this same level of customer focus.

Signs of strain at Google?

OK the missteps that Google has made with Buzz this week are well chronicled. They jammed a product out without really thinking it through.

That doesn’t hit me that much as a user. But today using the iphone map app I am getting continuous errors — here is the map of “drugstores near my current location”: Not unique to me, I’ve heard of this from many folks today.

And I’m looking at the ESPN boxscore page for “Purdue/OSU right now”: and first the google toolbar tells me it is in Portuguese, and now in Catalan, and asks if I want a translation.

One wonders if Google is spreading itself a little thin.

Recent app trials

* Scanaroo. The idea of something to manage all my cards is cool — one place to see account numbers, 1800 customer service numbers, etc etc etc. But this isn’t it. The shortcoming is the dependency on the iphone camera. If it worked more like snaptell (use the photo to ID the card in a dbase and get all the detailed info and image from a dbase) it would be better.
* Statplot. Interesting idea, charts for sports junkies. Not a lot of community around my teams yet but will be fun to watch
* Microsites. If 140 chars is good enough for a message, why should a website need much more? I guess. Ultimately I don’t know what I’d use this for.
* TuneWiki. Rich loves it, I am not sure I get it yet.
* Linear Programming using Google Spreadsheets. Is this really what is keeping people tied to Excel?
* Notepad++ and plugins. Not sure I will stick with, the app is busy
* SuperUser. This could turn out to be super helpful

Deleting Office from all my machines

Office 2007 for Windows has some really cool features. I love the table formatting in XL, a totally obvious and good feature. And the fact that it is only in the Windows version and not in the Mac version has driven me batty, and has pissed me off so much, that I have finally converted all my XLs into Google Docs spreadsheets and dumped them into the cloud. Yes I lost some cool features. But I never have to install office software again, I don’t need to worry if the latest version is installed on the machine that I happen to be using today, I don’t have to worry about the fact that the last version of that spreadsheet is in my home office machine and not here at work, etc. I am immediately happier. I will miss table formatting, but not that much.

First couple days with the iPhone2.0 software

After activation woes, the experience has been pretty good. The things I like:

* The Exchange support. Wasn’t completely obvious how to enable. You have to delete your old imap/webdav email account info, and create a new Exchange account type, and turn on the cal and contact synching. It will wipe all your on-device cal and contact info so sync up first! Getting the entourage/ical sync disaster out of my config is a very good thing.
* The App store. nice selection, a lot of good choices, and seems to work well. Apps I like so far:
** Urbanspoon. The interface is just cool
** GuitarToolkit. Chord reference and tuner, very nice
** Todo. Integrates nicely with RememberTheMilk for a complete app and website experience. Jott is great too with the nice voice interface but Todo wins for the rememberthemilk integration
** SmugShot. Replaces the iPhone camera and photo apps, and is integrated with SmugMug

Things that aren’t doing it for me:

* What is the new Contacts app for? Seems like a subset of the phone app
* The Google app. Not really clear what value this adds beyond the existing search in Safari
* Games. They look nice but the interface limitations of the device really hurt. I won’t get rid of my DS.
* Still no cut and paste?? Am I missing this somewhere?