Google reader is to die…..

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This is not good news from my point of view – RSS feeds may be a bit ‘old school’ but I find it a great way to scan the news and any websites that I am interested in. And Google Reader served me well over the last few years as a way of aggregating all this data – that is until this coming July when Google are killing it.

20130314-213827.jpgRSS readers take raw feeds of data—headline, text, timestamp, etc.—and display that information in a stripped-down interface along with many other feeds, which is what makes them so efficient.

Now this is all very sad for people like me who like to keep an eye on things in an easy to scan manner, but the real problem is the effect it will have on countries that censor the Internet. Sadly Google are going to be cutting links to the outside world for many parts of the world.

Less obvious is how many RSS readers, including Google’s, serve as anti-censorship tools for people living under oppressive regimes. That’s because it’s actually Google’s servers, located in the US or another country with uncensored internet, that accesses each feed. So a web user in say, Iran just needs access to in order to read websites that would otherwise be blocked.

Not a good move Google…..

Most searched terms – 2012

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search_engine_optimisation_peterboroughWe all use search engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing – it is almost impossible to use the web without recourse to them. They keep lots of information about the searches we make (and the people who make them), and then use it to their benefit. Every year however a selection of ‘top searches’ gets released by the companies (I think they see it as a bit of fun) – and here are the first batch!

These are the most searched terms on Yahoo in 2012 – no doubt people will read all sorts into this, and there may be some trends, but to me it looks pretty similar to other years.

My only question on the ten was who is Frank Foster? (and yes I don’t get out much!) – apparently he is (was) a character in Coronation Street (what ever that is?)

  1. How to make money
  2. Who unfollowed me?
  3. How to lose weight
  4. When do the clocks go back?
  5. How to write a CV
  6. When is Easter?
  7. Who killed Frank Foster?
  8. What is my IP address?
  9. What is a pleb?
  10. How to claim PPI yourself

No doubt Google’s top 10 will be out shortly…….

Perhaps Apple are right after all?

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The ‘anti apple brigade’ always make a big issue about how Apple maintain a closed and very controlled environment for their products. This extends to the Apps that are available for the iPhone, iPad etc. generally this means that if you download one of the apps from the app store it will work and not do anything ‘nasty’ to your machine – and more importantly won’t try and steal your details.

20120805-090221.jpgThis is wrong and too restrictive according to the users and developers of Android – until now;

Google is now attempting to crack down on rogue mobile apps on its Android platform with stricter guidelines for its developers. The measures include a ban on using icons that are “confusingly similar” to that of existing products. The search giant has also issued rules on how advertising should appear in apps.

The reason for this? Since its launch, the Google Play store has featured a significant number of malicious apps, or counterfeit versions of popular games such as Angry Birds. The new guidelines announced in an email to developers have 30 days to make sure their apps comply. Developers who do not comply with the measures could see their products removed from the store.

All sounds rather ‘Apple’ to me – although I am sure lots of people will disagree (until the next level of control is added by Google)

The end of an era

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A comforting sight in a library...

The ‘virtual book’ is taking over – we are all aware of that. You now see so many people reading on Kindles or similar devices (my wife who loves books has now gone over to a Kindle and loves it) so it is only a matter of time before hard copies of books go the way of the vinyl record – they will still be available but only as a luxury for people who refuse to move with the times.

So it is sad to see the demise of something that was always a part of my childhood – the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print after 244 years. When its current stock runs out, it will no longer be available in book form.

This was always the ‘holy grail’ of information when I was at school, we didn’t have a copy of the volumes at home, (it cost a fortune) but the local library did, and the information available was simply amazing to a small boy! Obviously now our kids just log onto the internet and do a Wikipedia search or just ‘Google’ it. They probably get much more information far quicker and with the addition of colour pictures and videos. But they don’t have the pleasure of leafing through a large volume (that often had a ‘special’ smell).

It is competition from the internet that has caused the withdrawal of hard copy version – the encyclopaedia’s publisher is focusing instead on its digital editions. I don’t suppose we should be surprised, but it is another nail in the coffin for traditional reference books.

Another Google ‘duffer’?

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As I have commented before I really like my social media and things – I keep up with the news via a combination of Twitter, RSS feeds and various news apps. But, in the main its the RSS feeds and Twitter that I find most effective, they provide a short headline that I can either ‘ignore’ or dig deeper on. All part of the ‘sound bite’ generation I suppose.

just not 'nice'

So as I blogged about earlier this week I was keen to give Flipboard a go when it came available for the iPhone and it did not disappoint. I am very impressed with it and find it as an iPhone app should be – very intuitive to use and smooth and ‘nice’ to use and look at.

I have been keen to look at Google’s effort in this sector of the market, it’s called Currents and was released a week or so ago – but only in the USA. I have no idea why Google always seem to do this. They are a global brand so you would think it would be possible to release things world-wide at the same time – but apparently not!

Anyway, I remembered that I have a US login for iTunes that I have used previously to access things like this via the US iTunes store. So after a quick reactivation today I downloaded Currents to have a play.

My initial reaction was that it is quite a good attempt at bringing a magazine style experience to this type of feed – and if Flipboard had not been there it might have been quite impressive! But it just does have the same feel as Flipboard. It is not as easy to use or as pleasing to the eye. More importantly it doesn’t work as smoothly and consequently isn’t as ‘special’ an experience.

Particular annoyances?

  • You have to swipe sideways to read more in an article rather than the iPhone ‘norm’ of scrolling down.
  • It doesn’t show feeds with new stories differently from ones without
  • It is like Google+ – not obvious to use

So will I keep trying it out? Possibly for a week or so, but unless I have an ‘epiphany’ I don’t expect it to remain on my iPhone long-term. Is it me or do Google lack a certain something when it comes to design these days?

Zeitgeist 2011: Year In Review

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I am not a huge fan of Google – any company that has such a significant hold over us all can’t be healthy. However as a company with so much data and access to it they are able to put together a fairly impressive review of the year.

This is a typically ‘flashy’ multimedia tour of the year and is well worth a view.

The review can be seen here – enjoy.

Yellow Pages – why?

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Had their day?

Today I opened my front door to find a plastic wrapped copy of the latest yellow pages slung against the front step. Now if I am honest I haven’t used Yellow pages for a least a couple of years if not longer, when did you last use this when you can use the internet to find a number or trader?

I accept that there will be some people who still need a service like this  – the old and non ‘techy’ who do not have access to the internet at home or when mobile. But why do we still get a blanket distribution of these publications? And who still advertises in them?

I have done some research and according to the Local Government Association, unwanted phone books create 75,000 tons of waste paper a year! Disposing of the books costs taxpayers £7.5million a year in England alone – enough to pay for 491 teaching assistants or to fill in approximately 108,700 potholes.

There is an answer though – you can opt out;

All UK directory publishers maintain an opt-out scheme that enables consumers to choose not to receive a printed directory, however the number choosing this option is currently tiny.

Directories can be cancelled in one go at

Google retail – really necessary?

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Now I will be the first to admit that I am always drawn to Apple stores, if there is one in the city I am visiting I have to go – there are two reasons;

Google retailing - exciting? err no!

Firstly (and I am not embarrassed to admit this), I covet all items made by Apple and just love playing with them in store! It is a great ‘hands on experience’. And that brings me to the second reason.

All Apple stores are special places to visit. Even the ‘basic’ ones will have a glass staircase, and the more ‘exotic’ ones are always a feast for the eyes. Have a look at the Covent Garden store next time you are in London, it’s amazing!

Apple have managed to make visiting their retail outlets a ‘feel good’ event – pretty handy really as they are a premium priced product as well!

So I suppose when Microsoft started opening retail outlets it was only to be expected, (although as a software company it still seems rather weird to me). But, as part of the great PC / Mac battle I suppose it was inevitable. Although I can’t see myself making a beeline to the Microsoft store over the Apple store anytime soon.

This week has however seen the next big retail offering from the world of software – or more accurately search engines. Google has quietly opened its first “Google store” in London. The store, which at this point only sells Chromebooks and accessories, is actually a 285 square foot store within a store, as it’s situated inside of the Tottenham Court Road PC World. Now, 285 sq ft is kiosk territory, so it is a very small start, but no doubt as with all things Google it is the start of something big – although rather pointless in my opinion.

Quite why Google and Microsoft feel they must have retail outlets beats me (especially as Apple are moving towards download only software) – no doubt they will be a feature of our High Streets in years to come – but I for one won’t be visiting.