Technological News Chum: Google, Google Reader, Cal Bears, Veronica Mars, and Big Bang Theory

userpic=compusaurToday’s lunchtime reading and link clearing brings together a bunch of stories all related to technology in one way or the other:

  • It’s Complicated, Man. Have you ever really thought about what happens when you visit a website such as Google. This fellow did, and he summarized it quite nicely. In short, almost anything you do on a computer is insanely complicated, from pressing a key and having it appear on your screen, to having a website with all the fancy bells and whistles. It’s amazing that anything works at all… and even more amazing that we have any confidence in security mechanisms.
  • Google Reader Update. An update on the search to find a replacement for Google Reader. For the last week or so, I’ve been trying out Netvibes. Mostly I was happy, but there were a number of things I didn’t like: (1) it was slow to update feeds; (2) marking articles as read didn’t always stick; (3) the buttons to mark articles as read and to open an article in a new window were tiny and hard to click. Problem (2) was particularly annoying — I would have to click “Mark All As Read” multiple times to get it to mark everything as read. So having heard good things about Newsblur, I upgraded my free account to a premium account last night. I have more confidence in the paid service not disappearing; further,  this (supposedly) would make it so I could read all my subscribed feeds (as opposed to just 12), and get up to 10x more frequent feed updating. However, so far, I’m not fully impressed. Here, the problems are as follows: (1) Feed updating is still slow (very slow, in fact); (2) their “Mark All as Read” doesn’t always update the screen to indicate everything was marked; (3) there doesn’t seem a good way to force it to refresh and update the “All Articles” view; and (4) the Newsblur site keeps bouncing up and down. Some of these problems may be addressed in their upcoming redesign. [ETA 3/23: Since the maintenance upgrade and the switch to using the redesign, I’m much much happier with Newsblur. In fact, problems remaining appear to be slow updates of some feeds (that may get better over time), and (2) above.] I have yet to find a reader that matches what Google provided in terms of frequency of feed update (Reader seemed to update all feeds every couple of minutes) and ease of use. I’ll keep experimenting with both Netvibes and Newsblur, with the goal of seeing how much of this is just growing pains.
  • Go Bears. Cal not only whooped UNLV’s ass, they also whipped T-Mobile. Specifically, some UC Berkeley grad students found and fixed a vulnerability in T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling. I think this is great, and it shows the strength of Cal’s Cybersecurity program. Disclaimer: My daughter attends UC Berkeley, studying not cybersecurity but history.
  • Impacts of Technology. The Producers Perspective has an interesting insight on the recent Veronica Mars Kickstarter. This kickstarter has raised almost $3.8 million. The problem: none of these Kickstarter participants are profit participants. They get their DVDs or shirts and go home. The real creatives get to keep any profit. Is this a reasonable or fair model to fund something? This isn’t just a problem for movies: for almost any business idea funded by Kickstarter, the folks providing the seed funding get bubkis overall if their risk pays off.
  • Doing the Time Warp. Lastly, tangentially related to technology, I must post this really cool article and picture about the Big Bang Theory principles dressed up in their Rocky Horror finest to perform the Time Warp at a benefit for Brian Glazier.

Music: The Smile Sessions (The Beach Boys): “Heroes and Villains [Stereo Mix]”


Google, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

userpic=socialmediaIf you ever wonder how I find all my news chum, I’ll tell you: there are three primary sources. First, I skim online news sites as a palate cleanser when switching tasks or when my brain needs a little clearing. Second, I have a large collection of RSS feeds that I monitor. Lastly, some of the people and sites I read (such as Andrew Ducker and Mental Floss) often posts lists of interesting links.

For years, to monitor the RSS Feeds, I’ve been using Google Reader. I moved to reader after Bloglines changed ownership; I moved more RSS feeds over as Livejournal declined (I used the syndication feature in LJ). Alas, yesterday, Google announced their intention to abandon me and leave me out in the cold, as they are closing Google Reader on July 1, 2013. They blame declining readership; however, the general concensus is that (a) they want to push Google+, and (b) they couldn’t sell ads on Google Reader. The closure is big news and is affecting a lot of people — it’s even made the LA Times! There are even some who believe this is Google’s attempt to kill off RSS.

So I’m looking into alternatives (see also this article). Although I guess I could move back to Bloglines, I don’t recall liking their new interface enough to do so.* Currently, I’ve switched over to netvibes, because they were responsive enough last night to move stuff over. They were a bit of a pain: they liked to create an initial dashboard with loads of stuff in it I had to delete; I also needed to go through the Google Reader Takeout process to get a zip of your feed info, extract the subscriptions.xml from the resulting zip, and import that into Netvibes. I looked into Newsblur, but their site was so hammered last night I couldn’t import anything. I’ll try them again if I end up not liking netvibes. Other sites mentioned that I haven’t tried are Feedly, and The Old Reader. There are also local clients, but I wanted a reader where I could see the same reading list from multiple machines; additionally, many of the local readers coordinate with Google Reader.
[* ETA: It turns out Bloglines still exists… but is using Netvibes under the hood, with the same login and a different dashboard.]

Still, Google, this Spring Cleaning has gotten ridiculous. You keep abandoning things people use, just because you cannot monetize them. This makes people distrust cloud applications. What’s next? Google Calendar? I used to think Google was a force for good, but their behavior of late is making me realize that they are just like other companies.

Music: Girl Crazy (1990 Studio Cast): “Overture”