Google’s Gathering Storm

Silver lining… thunderstorm… *zap*

Googlers everywhere were overjoyed with news of a Google WiFi offering. As you probably know, I’m increasingly sceptical of Google’s motives — throwing new things into the wild without much foresight. Today, I’m happy to say that I’m wrong about the lack of foresight. It is, in fact, much worse than that.

As part of using Google’s WiFi service, you also can download their VPN client — a secure connection between your computer and Google so that other people can’t see your traffic while you use your wireless connection. But PLEASE read Google’s privacy policy more carefully:

Google may log some information from your web page requests as may the websites that you visit. We do this to understand how Google Secure Access is being used and to improve our services (ed: note the words "our services" can refer to anything Google makes, not just Google Secure Access). Google Secure Access does not log cookies and strips potentially sensitive query data from the end of requests to help better protect your privacy.

Google also logs a small set of non-personally identifiable information — such as routing information, session durations and operating system and Google Secure Access client version numbers — in order to create your Google Secure Access connection, understand how people are using Google Secure Access and help us maintain the Google Secure Access client.

I was thinking about Google’s plans in relation to their web accelerator product before their Wifi plans were announced. The Wifi announcement is what solidified their plans for me. In all honesty, I thought Google was going to push their search engine and web acceleration to WiFi access points, making for the fastest damn Internet you’ve ever experienced. In return, they would then record all your traffic and do something with it that I’ll talk about in a moment. Instead, Google will encourage you to use their VPN software (or web acceleration software, or whatever their next invention is), but still not tell you up front that they’re recording you’re usage.

But about my lack of foresight… Google has a plan, same one they’ve always had: to be the source of all information everywhere, especially the Internet. Their new means to accomplish this is to capture your Internet traffic and analyze the hell out of it. They’ll use that data to keep track of how people use the services of their competition and generate new services based on emerging ‘net uses — all that and they won’t even have to leave their cushy offices in Mountain View to do it. They already track how you use their search results without your permission, have access to your emails and email use habits, social networking, and instant messaging too. Why not take the next step and record everything you do on the net?

Fuck Google.

I take that back. Fuck all those search engines because they’re all probably doing the same thing. Isn’t there an open source, fully anonymized search engine yet? Now is the ideal time for that and other marketing-free or blatant-marketing-disclosure services to emerge…

Catching up again

Boy am I lazy…

Here are some stories you probably missed. They’re from over the last several months, if that’s any indication (once again) of how far behind I am on my postings. Remember — shiny new administration system means faster turnaround time to you.

iPod Video: You know, for kids!

The iPod Video, mentioned in many places by now, has been the talk of the town. Ok, maybe not the town, but at least the music industry is drooling over. Apple is in a unique position right now. They rule the high end MP3 player market, and they have no intent of giving it up. The only problem is they’re running out of market, and the low-end MP3 players are getting better and cheaper.

Apple, however, is not changing course. They need rich people to buy iPods and iTunes and eventually trade up to iMacs and PowerBooks to make up for the lack of profitability on iPods and iTunes. And poor people can’t afford iPods, much less a computer to hook it up to, an Internet connection, iTunes songs, or even a bus ticket out of New Orleans. Hence, there’s only one viable market left.


Kids watch MTV, music videos, listen to music, talk about music… They’re a music marketer’s dream. Kids also have time to watch these videos — riding on buses, getting driven around town by their parents, at recess, and so on. And the first iPod video sales will certainly include music videos. Hence, Apple will now start marketing the hell out of the iPod video to youngsters, hoping to make it the next cool thing for them to have. Even though kids can’t afford iPod Videos, their parents can, and Apple will bank on that for the success of their new gadget.

Remember two things about this. First, Apple will need one hell of a pricing strategy to make this work. Bundle the video, a few songs, and maybe extra stuff together (interviews, exclusive music, etc) to encourage kids to buy those videos. Second, convert the kids to Apple so when they get a computer for college or can afford a computer of their own, they buy Apple. Yes, Apple is about to start brainwashing a generation of our youth to buy Apple. And you thought they were a good company… (I say our youth because the iPod has only been a hit in the US, UK, and Japan. Everywhere else in the world, they’re struggling against (better) cheap Korean and Chinese players.)

Since iPods are an audio medium, they don’t take up much attention while walking around. Watching videos, however, absorbs much more of your attention. This attention-grabbing doesn’t prevent people from walking and texting at the same time, but it will be interesting to watch how peoples’ behavior changes when using an iPod Video given the norms of activities that can be done while walking. What I mean is that we’ve already got handheld game systems, portable TVs, PDAs, and other devices that presumably can be used while walking around but people don’t use them whether because of social norms of walking, fear of having it stolen, or fear of tripping and breaking the incredibly expensive device when you step off the curb that you weren’t watching because you were paying attention to Eminem’s latest release on your iPod Video. Can the iPod Video buck that trend?

MS and IBM settled

In a story that didn’t get near enough attention, Microsoft and IBM settled their lawsuit regarding MS’s antitrust violations harming IBM’s OS/2 sales. Included in this is $775 million in damages a $75 million credit of MS software for IBM, which I can only hope they use to turn Windows CDs into frisbees.

Now why would they settle? Easy. They both have some dirt to hide about the breakup. Remember when IBM and MS were in cahoots with each other? They were going to develop compatible next-generation operating systems and everyone was going to be happy, right? Nope, they parted ways and IBM was left to eat MS dust. I’m certain there’s something in those moments that neither company wants to have aired in court, and so we’ll never find out what really happened that caused the breakup of these giants. Keep in mind that in two years IBM can sue MS for damages done to IBM hardware sales, which will result in another settlement from which we will learn nothing about their short lived marriage.

Baptists mend their differences… with Disney?

In the surprise story of the year, the Southern Baptist Convention called off its boycott of Disney. Said one Disney executive, "Someone was boycotting us? For eight years? I didn’t even notice." From one of the chairmen of the Southern Baptist Convention, "We fought a good fight, and we know our boycott was responsible for Disney’s lackluster performance in their releases of Mulan, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and Home on the Range. And Test Track at Epcot. But not Lilo and Stitch. That was a good movie." One seven year old Baptist boy said, "Now I can see all those cartoons and learn why those Disney Satanists are going to hell." Kid, for that you only need to look as far as the censored lines from Alladin.

Repair and disrepair

Good things come when I get around to it…

The good news is that the site is now running on a shiny, new, entirely written by me PHP and MySQL backend. You probably won’t notice it, but I will because it makes life much easier for me to manage the site, which translates to more posts and irreverence from yours truly. The bad news is that some things are likely to be broken, such as the comments which are now disabled. Since there aren’t many comments to begin with, you probably won’t notice that either. After some sleep and consulting with my Perl manuals, hopefully the comments will be working shortly along with everything else on the site.

Update: Things appear to be working fine again. And now back to our regularly scheduled web site…