Google Zeitgeist 2006

Google Zeitgeist 2006 is out. Along with an explanation on how the data is compiled on the Google Blog:

…we looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 — the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over….

It always proves to be an interesting bit of year-end data to look at. Yahoo on the other hand keeps things a little more up to date with the Buzz Index, also a very good read. For example the impact of President Ford’s death in searches. Very cool data. Hopefully one day Google will do something similar. I’d love to see how their audiences compare on current events as they happen.

Intel Centrino Suckage

I noticed this a few months ago, but never gave it much thought until recently. My Laptop has a Intel 2915 A/B/G Wireless Card, more commonly known as the wireless portion of the Centrino package. It’s pretty decent in regards to power consumption, and performance is typically not to bad. But I’m growing rather tired of it’s antics (took me a little bit to ID this one).

I can wirelessly download a file from my local file server on my LAN at approximately 19Mbps. Yet I can’t seem to break 10Mbps WAN even though Comcast supports “PowerBoost” (traffic shaping) in my area to burst downloads. My Mac Mini G4 with it’s built Airport Extreme, which is really some Broadcom chipset (not sure which exactly since no specs seem to be available) does get as much as 20Mbps bursting on WAN traffic. This leads me to believe the issue is somehow related to the Intel 2915 card.

The access point itself uses the TNETW1130GVF chipset, which is actually used to certify 802.11g devices.

I could always witch to Lenovo/IBM’s 11a/b/g Wireless LAN Mini-PCI Adapter II, which is based on the Atheros AR5BMB-44 (apparently in the AR5004 family). The only downside is the lack of EAP support. Not that I employ EAP, but you never know what you run across or end up needing in the future.

Downside is having to open up the laptop and remove the keyboard/palmrest to reach the wireless card, not to mention the $70 for the card itself. This isn’t really something that seems really worthwhile at the moment.

The question of the day is why does Intel still can’t get it right. The web is littered with reports of connection problems. Thankfully I don’t get disconnects. I just don’t seem to get the performance I should. For having “Excellent” signal quality rating in the Connection Status Window, I’d expect more performance.

Why Use Google Checkout?

I just recently made a purchase using Google Checkout. As a disclosure this was my first and only one so far. I base my observations on that purchase and that purchase alone. I did it with Buy.com, and got $20 off my purchase. After all, how can you pass that up? I also qualified for free shipping. The process was extremely simple and strait forward as Google services typically are. However I did notice a few minor quirks:

  • Confirmation emails from both Google and Buy.com, which is really unnecessary and should be avoidable.
  • Two different order numbers is confusing when you check your status. Go to Buy.com and you now have to select which order type: Buy.com, Google Checkout, or PayPal to view the status. That’s an extra step that really shouldn’t happen. You can also check the status from within Google Checkout, but no tracking number.

The real advantage to Google Checkout was the discount ($20 off my purchase with no questions, rebates, coupon codes). Other than that, it’s just a way to keep all your online purchases in 1 easy to read place. I wonder how many really need such functionality? I almost never have more than 2 or 3 things (and even that is very rare) on order. Even in those cases I get emails when they ship, and can check the status easily. I never feel that it’s disorganized or I could loose track of things. Even when everything is from different places.

So what’s the incentive to use Google Checkout? There are some for merchants, but really no clear advantage for consumers when purchasing with larger retailers. The only real place where it would be helpful is with smaller sites where you may not want to give the merchant your credit card and feel better with Google mediating. Ebay would be another place, though not allowed. Most mainstream merchants will likely still process payments themselves, I don’t see the Amazon.com’s, Buy.com’s, Overstock.com’s, etc. using Google Checkout exclusively. So why not just use the billing system they provide?

So what’s the incentive to use the service now that the savings are done (the promotion ended on December 26th)? Does anyone see a real advantage of the service when using popular merchants? I personally don’t. I wouldn’t have bothered to use it if it wasn’t giving me a discount. Google claims:

Stop creating multiple accounts and passwords.
With Google Checkout™ you can quickly and easily buy from stores across the web and track all your orders and shipping in one place.

How many people regularly shop from more than a handful of retailers? Is this really such an issue? I’d guess most people tend to use the same username/password on multiple sites anyway (or a variation, or a password manager), or use SafePasswd.com to help them generate passwords they can remember (hint, hint). Browsers also remember login credentials for users. Amazon goes as far as keeping users logged in and offers “1-Click” purchasing.

Shop with confidence.
Our fraud protection policy covers you against unauthorized purchases made through Google Checkout, and we don’t share your purchase history or full credit card number with sellers.

Most credit card companies offer the same fraud protection. Purchase history? So they will ship my package and not record what went where? How is that audited? My guess is merchants know who bought what. I do believe they keep your credit number away from sellers, but do you often buy from someone you don’t really trust (besides Ebay, which doesn’t allow Google Checkout)?

Control commercial spam.
You can keep your email address confidential, and easily turn off unwanted emails from stores where you use Google Checkout.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but the sellers I buy from don’t spam me. I just choose not to receive promotions from the ones I don’t want.

Perhaps I’m a stubborn person for not purchasing from just anyone with a website (since I know they aren’t that difficult to make). I tend to buy only from reputable merchants with a proven track record. I know offers too good to be true, typically are. I wouldn’t walk into a shady store with 0 customers in a bad neighborhood either. Maybe that’s just me.

So what’s the killer feature of Google Checkout? What does it offer?

A Festivus For The Rest Of Us!

Festivus PoleHappy Festivus!

Just in case anyone was wondering, I made the Festivus Pole in this post using Inkscape, which did a pretty good job at making it easy enough for even me to do silly little work, and I’m far from an artist. It even lets me output svg, though I uploaded a png since not all browsers support svg at this point. Thankfully I didn’t have to draw any tinsel, but as we all know, that’s not allowed, since it’s distracting.

For those who are interested in the real thing, there is a video about a company who makes Festivus Poles.

As usual the web has quite a few things out there about this amazing holiday. Just search Google News this time of year, or check Wikipedia’s Festivus article.

There is even a new book on the holiday: Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us.

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.
Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?
Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!
Cosmo Kramer: That must’ve been some kind of doll.
Frank Costanza: She was.

Wii Browsing

Now that the Wii Browser is available, I’m really thinking I should check it out. It’s based on Opera. In my mind they needed to have a few things in order for this to not suck:

  • Fairly good HTML/XHTML support – Opera has that
  • Good support for CSS – Opera has that as well, but available for all small-screen versions
  • JavaScript Enabled – Opera has pretty good JS support, but not always available for small devices.
  • Support for Macromedia Flash – Especially with the popularity of YouTube, it’s needed

Apparently it meets these requirements. I really need to check this out. As a web developer, seeing something like this after years of crummy non-PC based browsers could be impressive. Screenshots so far have not disappointed.

Small Changes

Over the past few days I’ve made about a dozen small changes to this blog, including code cleanup, slight layout tweaks, optimization, etc. I also managed to cut page size and requests down a little bit, which is always welcome.

Every once in a while it’s necessary to stop developing and just cleanup after yourself. Overall, while most of the changes should be pretty transparent it resolves some of the rough edges that have been around for way too long.

Thunderbird 2.0 Beta 1

Thunderbird 2.0b1 is out, I updated a few days ago. I really love the new tagging functionality. Being able to create your own tags makes organizing mail about 100X easier. The presets of 1.5 just weren’t enough. As far as the UI goes, I was initially not to fond of the earth tone coloring, but I think the new icons are starting to grow on me. There is also a new phishing detection (similar to Firefox). To test it, I looked in my spam folder for a few phishing emails to test the new filter against. So far so good.

The only downsides thus far is bayes spam filtering is not performing as good as it did on 1.5. I reset things, hopefully after a few days of learning it will resolve itself. Or perhaps it’s a lingering regression in 2.0. It is after all still in beta. The other is the new mail notification doesn’t seem to open mail if you click on it. I was hoping it would open email when clicked. Perhaps it’s just not obvious where to click. The appearance and effect seems to be much better now.

It’s hard to write even a mini-review of beta software, since it is just beta and things are incomplete or subject to change. I plan to write more on it closer to the 2.0 release. Despite it’s lower profile development (compared to Firefox), and more subtle changes) it’s really evolving. The changes made really do make it a much better experience.

Blog Marketing

I do have a business degree, so occasionally I like to discuss how tech and business collide (yes it does happen). This time it’s about blogging and business.

Most corporate blogging is pretty poor. For the most part it’s slightly reworded press releases put on a blog-styled webpage. A few companies on the other hand break this model such as Lenovo, Sunbelt Software, Sun, and Google’s various blogs (though the official Google blog is rather lame, the product blogs are pretty good as are some prominent Google employees such as Matt Cutts). Even Microsoft has blogs. Apple so far has not been blogging with the exception of WebKit. There are others, but these are my favorite of the tech sites.

Then you have some who have used blogging for grassroots marketing, most notably the Firefox marketing effort. There is also blogging among the people behind it that give anyone interested a good detailed look at what’s coming. In my personal opinion that has been extremely successful in a marketing sense, and as a form of sharing information.

Some companies apparently try to get into blogging through a concept called Pay Per Post. Pretty much as it’s name implies bloggers are paid to link and discuss products/services. In my opinion it’s a rather dishonest technique to boost page rank and convince people that bloggers like their product/service. Of course search engines are effectively helpless in this technique since it would be somewhat hard to tell the difference since they are disguised to look legitimate and done in coordination with the site owner, rather than the linkbombing comment spam does. Search engines don’t seem to mind, though note if the links aren’t relevant it may be the exception to the rule. Though that all could (and likely would) change if it starts to degrade the quality of search indexes. It wouldn’t be the first time a problem was initially underestimated (think spam).

Then there is the ethical side of things. Do they all require you disclose that you were paid for the post? Until now, they haven’t had to, though that’s changing. The FTC obviously has an opinion on what they think of marketing without disclosure. Toni Schneider doesn’t think it will catch on, and he’s one of the guys behind WordPress.com. I hope he’s right.

The ever insightful Matt Mullenweg (also behind WordPress.com) notes that blog posts matter and marketing needs to adjust to the new online world. The question I pose is how? So far the only answer I see is the model Lenovo, Sun, Google use that involves good open honest community building and information. People seem to appreciate the inside look they provide. I know I do. I read several of them on a routine basis. But will they all go this route?

It’s important to note it’s not just blogs that are drifting into commercialization with everyone wondering just how to go about it. Digg is another example with a Pay Per Digg scheme threatening it. YouTube also got fooled by pro’s pretending to be someone they aren’t.

I do believe that 2007 will prove to be an important year for blogging in general. This is one of the ongoing struggles that will likely be realized in the upcoming months. How will this effect credibility of those who choose blogging as a medium to communicate? Dunno. Looking at the success of organizations that do use the medium, I’m pretty sure it will be worth keeping around for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see how things play out. One thing is for certain: these are very interesting times on the net.

David Pogue’s Windows Vista Review

David Pogue’s Vista Review has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but this has to be one of the funniest things he’s ever done. Being a Mac fan of course I really understood the joke, though Windows people would too if they were honest with themselves. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Apparently he upset a few people who didn’t quite get it.