Hi. I'm John.

Sometimes I make games. Sometimes I make websites. This is my blog.

Tag Archives: google


Google Drive is one of the worst products I have ever used

I just want to back up my Minecraft world files. All told, it’s about 70 GiB in size. It shouldn’t be this hard.

First, let’s talk about the Windows client. I had the files on my removable hard drive and the Windows Google Drive client on my first laptop. I wanted to install the client on my second laptop and sync the same set of files no matter which laptop the hard drive was plugged into.

1. The Google Drive Windows client refuses to install to a folder with files in it.

This means that, even though I had the whole thing, up-to-date, and sitting on my drive, I was not allowed to continue syncing from there. Instead, I had to create a brand new folder and re-download all of my files.

Talk about amateur hour… Unfortunately, there’s more. And it gets worse.

2. Duplicating every single file instead of syncing.

As soon as the Google Drive client was done installing into the new folder, I moved all the files back into my proper Google Drive folder and began the syncing process. After letting it go over night, I woke up to it duplicating all of my files. It went ahead on its own and instead of comparing the files that were already there, it downloaded all the files again and appended (1) to the file name.

This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.

3. No way to download your files through the web interface.

I want to download all my files from my Google Drive. This seems like it would be a straight-forward process. Unfortunately, it is not allowed. A Google Drive customer cannot download more than 2GB at one time without installing the Google Drive Windows client. And, even if they were able to, the files would convert automatically to some crazy old-school MS Office formats. It’s either that, or skip the download.

One simply cannot download all their files at once after putting them in Google Drive.

4. No way to overwrite files on a folder merge.

This is basic stuff, guys… We figured this out before I was born in 1983. Unfortunately, the most basic use-cases are beyond Google Drive. One folder, copied into another, should over-write whichever file-names are already there. Unfortunately, Google Drive does not do this and simply duplicates the files in the new folder. A user cannot ever merge two folders together.

It just can’t be done.

5. No bandwidth controls.

With the Windows Google Drive client, there is no way to set a speed limit on uploads or downloads. That means that whenever a file uploads, it’ll saturate your connection with no ability to override (save pausing syncing entirely), bringing your Internet to a complete halt.

Any reasonable cloud drive provider has this figured out pretty early. Google Drive is years old.

6. No SFTP access.

The Google Drive web interface looks nice but it’s really slow and doesn’t provide the basic use-case coverage that Windows Explorer does (or Dolphin, or Konqueror, or Midnight Commander, etc.) such as cut/paste, etc. If I’ve got 70 GiB of files that I need to upload online, SFTP is a proven and stable means. No need to reinvent the wheel.

This method would also work great in place of having to install the Google Drive Windows client to download folders over 2GB in size.

Can’t do it with Google Drive.

What’s Next?

There is much more to tell. This is just the start.

Instead, I’m going to take a look at some other backup-and-share solutions. Any suggestions?

Google+

YouTube Google+ Integration

Fuck off with this.

With the news today that the leading force behind Google+ has left the company, TechCrunch ran an article claiming that Google+ is a zombie — something already dead, it just hasn’t realized it yet.

I actually like Google+. I should use it more.

The one reason I don’t is because of the bullshit link-up between it and YouTube, where they try to change your channel name to match your Google+ profile. I love my YouTube and don’t want things fucking with it, thanks.

If they can fix that, I’m in.

More ads = better?

Google Ads

The stuff I actually want starts below 50% down the page.

I understand ads are the main source of revenue for most Internet services. I’m not trying to say ads on a website are bad. It’s just… damn, that’s a lot of ads.

Google+ YouTube: I’m good, thanks

YouTube Google+ Integration

Google Drive Is Pretty

Google Drive Is Pretty

On being secure

With all the recent news about the US government collecting and analyzing everything we do online and in our daily lives, we’ve all been looking for ways to increase our privacy.

Today, an article was posted on Hacker News about Google Analytics not being served over https. After reading this, I remembered that I use it and questioned whether or not I should keep it on this blog. Google Analytics has been installed on this blog for years, but today I found it hard to answer exactly why. It provides no real value to me other than satisfying my curiosity.

In the end, I decided to remove it. Not only because it is not served over https, but because the only real parties it benefits are Google and the NSA. My site is not large or popular, but it’s just one less site on the network being tracked through that channel.

I believe, in life, we should lead by example. I believe the web should be secure by default. I believe web servers should only function when using encryption (Supporting http was a design flaw, https should have been the only option. Even a self-signed certificate is safer than plaintext http.)

To that end, I’ve come up with a short list of simple things us website owners can do in order to hinder attacks or snooping by third parties. I’ll compare my own site against this post and update as I move toward compliance (red means failure):

  1. Serve content only when encrypted by perfect forward secrecy.
  2. Serve content entirely from web hosts and CDNs under your control.
  3. Encourage others to do the same.

It’s amazing how quickly my view on this has changed. If you would have asked me a year ago whether or not it was important to self-host images and scripts used on your site (or whether you should even be hosting your blog yourself versus using a third-party service like Tumblr), I would have answered an emphatic no and provided many reasons why letting a bigger, better player handle that is much better.  As a site operator, I want my site to be as fast as possible. As a web user, I want to be as secure as possible. Which is more important?

With the way things are now, it’s worth being a second or two slower to serve knowing that your stuff is your own.

Google PageSpeed >_>

enable-compression

fffffff

Neat Gmail Feature: Custom Theme

I just learned about the custom theme feature in Gmail. For a long time I’ve wanted to use my own background in Gmail and now I finally can.

If you’re a fan of Minecraft and you’re looking for a good background to use in Gmail, I put one together. Feel free to click the image below and use it. I recommend the Dark theme option when using this image, but the choice is yours. Enjoy!

From Game Blaster 64

How to disable mailto links in your browser

Outside of accidentally opening Internet Explorer the biggest annoyance on the web is mailto links. These are usually masqueraded as a ‘Contact Us’ link which you’d expect to forward to a web form. What ends up happening is either your operating system attempts to open a mail program (who still uses those, seriously?) or it forwards you to Gmail (less annoying but still annoying as hell).

Here’s how to disable mailto links in Firefox and Chrome.

Liveblogging Guelph Game Jam 4

NetHack - Plane of Fire

NetHack – Plane of Fire (Photo credit: ludios)

Guelph Game Jam #4 just started. I’ll be liveblogging here, tracking our progress on our Rogue-like. It’s Michael Hoyle and Me, along with a touch of art asset assistance from Amy.

The theme of this game jam is Growth.

We’re still trying to figure out how that will be implemented in our idea for a Rogue-like, but our first few ideas are pretty promising.

It’s going to be a tight schedule because we’re breaking my first rule of game jams: don’t build your own engine. Hoyle and I have been building a small Javascript Rogue-like engine for the past week in preparation but there are still a few things left to do. I’ve come up with the idea of taking the first two hours of the jam to complete the features of the engine that we need today then taking the remaining 6 hours to make the game.

If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to be ruthless and pull the plug after those two hours and switch to the game. If we let it slip and say “we’ll do one extra hour on the engine” we’ve lost.

Wish us luck!

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YouTube’s New UI

If there was one website that needed a new UI it was Youtube.com. The site’s design hadn’t changed significantly since it’s introduction in 2005 and it was slow, heavy, and out-of-date.

Since the purchase of Youtube by Google, a few new features have shown up from time to time including the ability to sign in with your Google Account. Unfortunately, the site still felt like a third-party product and not part of the Google package.

In line with the across-the-board design upgrade to all of Google’s offerings, Youtube has just upgraded its design to match its Google siblings, Gmail and Docs. It’s a huge boost in terms of design and functionality, but it’s not all peachy. First, the bits that work well.

  • The Account Switching feature that’s found on Google Docs and Gmail is a very welcome addition, especially for people that make Youtube videos but also have a personal account with separate preferences and subscriptions.
  • The site is much faster. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to actually watch videos on the site now. Before, the site would stop loading randomly, usually just as we sat down to eat after clicking Play or when showing someone a video you’ve raved about.
  • Buttons are in the right spots and don’t move while the site is loading. I’ve griped about this sort of UI mistake before on other websites, especially twitter.com. The problem is something will move as soon as I go to click on it because another part of the website has loaded. I end up clicking on something else (usually an ad) that I didn’t want at all. It’s terribly frustrating and (thankfully) has been much improved in the UI upgrade.

And now for the not so good. Don’t worry, there isn’t much.

Is this Yahoo or Google?

There is way too much stuff on the front page. When Google first launched their search engine, designers lauded the simplicity of their design. It was common to compare yahoo.com up against google.com. Unfortunately, the front page of Youtube seems to be going in the wrong direction: more and more things just keep getting piled on the front page until it becomes a cluttered mess and I’m unsure exactly what I’m supposed to be looking at.

What’s your take?

Get Google Analytics to E-Mail You Scheduled Reports

This may not be new to many folks, but I just discovered a neat feature in Google Analytics that lets you set up scheduled, regular reports in several common formats.

This came in handy with a Powerhouse Web Solutions client who wanted to know who was hitting their website, when, and where from, but is not technically savvy enough to navigate the myriad of options found on the full Google Analytics website.

E-Mail Reports Button in Google Analytics

Setting it up is simple.

To get started, simply log into your Google Analytics account and view the stats for the site you’d like to have reports for.

Then, click the E-Mail button as seen in the above screenshot and set your options. I like the idea of the Analytics Overview page being E-Mailed but if you want one of the drilled down reports E-Mailed, simply click the E-Mail button while browsing that particular page.

Image of Google Analytics schedule E-Mail form

Tons of options.

You can E-Mail yourself (and CC to other E-Mails) reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and they can be generated in the PDF, XML, TSV, and CSV formats.

Normally, I configure Google Analytics to have a separate client user for each website so that they can log in and see their full stats directly. But, this works really well in circumstances where the client may not have the time or technical know-how or where you’ve got to send a report to a higher-up.

What other neat tricks are hidden in Google Analytics? Share them in the comments!

 

Learning PHP Using Google Wave

Tonight at Guelph Coffee and Code I walked the group through the first steps of learning PHP. Because our projector was unavailable, I substituted its functionality with Google Wave. Even though I’ve had access to Google Wave since the summer, this was the first time I had truly used the service.

When I first heard about Google Wave, the idea seemed intriguing enough. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it could be used for. I’m a huge fan of Gmail and other Google communication tools including Google Apps, so I had faith they’d pull something cool off. However, my first few attempts at trying it were met with less than stellar results.

Truth be told: I couldn’t quite see how it could help me communicate with my friends and colleagues any better than Gmail. So, a few days after receiving notification of my acceptance into the world of Wave, I abandoned it and went back to my life with E-Mail.

What We Did

Using Google Wave, the group followed along with my presentation of syntax and functions and contributed their own code snippets and links. I was able to quickly type example PHP code into the wave and have it appear on their screens as I was typing it instead of all at once when sending the message. The removal of the wait-message-wait-message barrier is critical to its success in groups. It’s just as easy as talking.

This sort of instant chat has been done before, however, most notably with ICQ chat back in the 1990s. But, back then we weren’t quite the society were are today. Have to give credit where credit is due, though.

I knew it was going to go well when after pasting my first code block into the wave, the others in the group started to modify the code without me prompting them. After returning from the fridge, there were already 3 or 4 new lines of code directly beneath mine were with perfect syntax. It was fun!

Is It E-Mail 2.0?

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I love Gmail and it will take a lot to move me away from it. Perhaps its a case of uncertainty with respect to how it will interact, if at all, with Gmail in the future.

Even after tonight’s experience, I still have a hard time defining Google Wave or identifying its place in my communication paths. But there are two things I know for sure: It’s great in groups and makes an excellent discussion platform when your projector is down.

Google Chrome for Linux Now Available

The world’s fastest web browser, Google Chrome, has recently been released on the Linux platform. This is big news since it will greatly improve the web browsing performance of many of the world’s netbooks.

I’ve been a huge fan of Google Chrome since it appeared in the summer of last year, but haven’t used it heavily simply because of the lack of Linux support. It is installed on my Windows 7 virtualization, however.

Word on the street is that Google Chrome is also available for Macs, so if that’s your platform, take a look!

One thing that I think is important to note that I haven’t seen anyone pick up on is this line on the Official Google Blog post about Chrome being available for Linux and Mac:

“At Google, most engineers use Linux machines …”

Hmm.. No wonder they’re winning! ;)

Go for it -> Download Google Chrome for Linux

How to Network in a Web 2.0 World – Part 1

TwitterFox - Firefox Twitter Plugin

TwitterFox – Firefox Twitter Plugin

As a web developer my job is more than just programming code. I’m required to cut up graphics, keep up-to-date with web standards (CSS, XHTML, et al.), and build a reputation for myself in a way that many other workers in many other jobs simply aren’t required to do.

There has always been a need for every worker in every industry to maintain a good level of professionalism and efficiency in order to gain a good referral when looking for future employment, but with web developers this is amplified.

Why?

Everything about the web is social; we chat online, send E-Mails, play online games, receive world news instantly, and have public profiles on any number of social networking services – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Orkut, and more.  There is competiton everywhere. Everyone is fighting each other for attention and recognition.

Who’s out there?

Computerworld suggests that 1 in 5 employers looks at prospective employees on social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, and others) to determine if that person would be a good fit for their company. With numbers like that, you cannot afford to be reckless with regards to your online persona.

What can you do?

This first part of this article is designed to get you up to speed on a few techniques and sites that will help you build an online persona that future employers, when searching for you, will find.

I got my first programming gig because my employer found me on Google. The same could happen to you. Let’s make sure what they see shows you in the most positive light possible.

The Basics

The most important things you can do when creating an online profile is ensuring that your data is always accurate, timely, and professional. Always imagine that your boss can see everything you put online — because he/she can! Never let data grow stale. Always be adding, updating, and building.

To start, there are three websites you will need to create an account on. Those three are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We’ll go through each briefly, but I always recommend that some time is spent with each one to get used to the features it offers.

Facebook

Website: http://www.facebook.com/

Who hasn’t heard of Facebook? Unless you’ve been living under a technological rock for the past few years, you’ve at least heard of this service. Facebook is a website where over 90 million people have created profiles that allow them to share photos and contact details, network, and meet friends.  Put simply: If you’re not on Facebook, who are you?

LinkedIn

Website: http://www.linkedin.com/

LinkedIn is Facebook’s older, more experienced cousin. This site’s specific purpose is to build an online resume and accomplishments list that other people in your industry can use to search and find you. While Facebook is geared to a more personal audience, LinkedIn is strictly for professionals. Over 35 million people have built online profiles already and there are more joining each day. Chances are someone you know or work with is on this site.

As you build your profile, consider it an online resume.  This will help to give you an idea of what it should look like to someone reading it.

A neat feature that LinkedIn has is the ability to search your E-Mail contacts for people on LinkedIn that you might know. This saves you the hassle of trying to build an initial network. From there, you can be introduced to people that they know and so on, building your network even larger.

Twitter

Website: http://www.twitter.com/

Ah, Twitter. You’ll either love it or hate it. I personally dislike this service, but I find myself using it every day. It is a uniquely simple but completely addicting service. The idea is called ‘micro-blogging‘, meaning that you send brief (140 letters or less) updates of what you’re doing or thinking and people can respond.  The photo at the top-right of this article shows a typical Twitter experience.

As you continue to update the world to your thoughts and work, people will begin to ‘follow’ you and they will get your tweets (the term for each update you put out). In turn, you can ‘follow’ their tweets.

The biggest draw of Twitter is that you can find and communicate with very high-profile people you may never normally have access to. Some top CEOs and other big-wigs are on here. If you communicate often enough and start to gather a following, you can find yourself in a conversation with people you never thought possible!

This ends part one of “How to Network in a Web 2.0 World.” Continue onto Part 2.0.

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Helping The World = The Power of Ideas + Resources

Google has launched a new initiative asking people for ideas on how to help as many people around the world as possible. The project is called “Project 10 to the 100th”. Users submit ideas, which are then reviewed by a small panel of experts. The ones that have the potential to help the most amount of people will have financial resources committed to them by Google.

Google is spending $10 million to help these projects get off the ground.  If you have a great idea that you think may help people lead better lives around the world, you’re encouraged to send it in! While you won’t be receiving a financial reward if your idea is picked, you will sleep well knowing your idea is being made for real and will help those in need.

There are 10 categories to choose from. From the official website:

  • Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
  • Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
  • Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
  • Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
  • Health: How can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
  • Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
  • Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
  • Everything else: Sometimes the best ideas don’t fit into any category at all.

Submissions to the project are due October 20th, 2008. For more information, watch this video:

Links:
Project 10 to the 100
How It Works
Submit Your Idea
Submission Categories
Frequently Asked Questions

Make Firefox 3 look like Google Chrome

One of the best parts of Google Chrome is the theme. It’s simple and attractive. Now you can have that same theme (minus the top-window tab placement) in Firefox 3, thanks to falconer.

Download Chromifox, the Google Chrome theme for Firefox 3.

Google’s Chrome EULA Fixed (thank heavens!)

Whew, that was a close one! I was worried that everything I’d ever created while using the Google Chrome browser was open for Google to use anywhere they or their partners wanted!

I mean, I love Google. But not that much :)

Regardless, here is the updated section 11 from their EULA:

“11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

That’s it. Yay! The changes in this updated EULA are retroactive, so everyone can rest easy.

Read about the original End-User License Agreement here.

Ways to Make Google Chrome Even Better

If you’re on top of technology news, you’ve no doubt heard of Google Chrome. Recently released by Google to the happiness of geeks and internet surfers everywhere, this browser has the attributes of a real winner. Chrome is fast, intuitive, efficient, and unintrusive. I love it.

That being said, there are a number of things that could be done to improve the product and user experience, especially for Web Developers. These are in no particular order.

#1. “Open image in new tab” is not as good as the “View Image” function in Firefox.

About 5 to 10 times a day I right-click on an image and select “View Image” in Firefox. It’s a handy feature that seems to have been superseded by the “Open image in new tab” function in Chrome. If this functionality is to become the mainstay then I request that when you open an image in a new tab that the focus shifts to that new tab automatically. That way I can just close it when I’m done.

#2. (and for some this is a deal-breaker) The EULA.

Update: As of 09-04-2008 this has been remedied.

Who in their right mind wrote this thing? Because I used Google Chrome to write this very blog post does that now mean that this post can be used by Google or any of its corporate friends anywhere they want? Rubbish!

From the End User License Agreement:

“11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

How do you all feel about that?

For those that are interested, the full EULA is available here: http://www.google.com/chrome/eula.html

#3. What’s my Pagerank?

After installing SearchStatus in Firefox I’ve become addicted to knowing what my Pagerank is for each page on my site. It’s really, really handy. Since this product is directly from Google, I figured it would include an option to show you the PageRank of every site you visit. But it doesn’t.

#4. Inspect Element on Hover

If you right-click anywhere on a webpage you are able to inspect the element located under your cursor. This is handy and works well, but after using Firebug and the Web Developer Extension for Firefox, I’ve become accustomed to this information being available dynamically on whatever element I hover my mouse over. As you hover your mouse over any element on a page with these extensions enabled, the information updates in real-time. It’d be nice to see that as well in this browser.

These are just first impressions, I’m interested in hearing how the rest of you feel about this shiny new browser from Google. Are there any features that you wish were included?

Google PageRank and SEO Tools

If you’ve got a website and you want more traffic you need to read this: http://pr.efactory.de/e-pagerank-algorithm.shtml

The premise is simple: Google’s search results are based off of a ranking system known as PageRank. The score for your website will be between 0 and 10, with 10 being the highest you can achieve. The higher your PageRank, the higher the chances of being at the top of search results when customers look for you.

In order to achieve a high PageRank, it is important to have, among other things, as many high-profile (or high ranking) sites link to yours as you can. When high ranking sites link to yours, a bit of their PageRank gets rubbed off onto your site. It’s similar to a high ranking official recommending you for a job.

Conversely, you can also achieve a high PageRank through the number of sites that are linked to yours. I used to run a free forum hosting company called NetBoardz. On the footer of every post, on every page, there was a link to NetBoardz. Over time, my PageRank grew for that page to 3/10 with no high profile pages linking to it at all. It was the sheer volume of pages with a link to my main site that did it.

A handy tool you can use to check your PageRank is the SearchStatus Firefox extension located here. At the bottom right of your Firefox or Mozilla window it will show you the PageRank of every site you visit. For an example, view the image below:

SearchStatus PageRank Image

There are many ways to track and improve your ranking in the search engines, many of which will be dealt with at a later time. Hopefully this gives you some insight as to how Google search results work and leads you in the right direction for improving your PageRank!