Category Archives: Google

Google, the app killer

Meebo, Picasa, Wave, Google Plus . . . All of these useful apps were killed by Google. Google has a fickle reputation. More often than not, they quickly kill struggling projects, rather than refine them.

Compare this to Microsoft. Excel, Word, Access, Internet Explorer, Windows Server, Windows itself — all were weak also-ran competitors to much stronger market leaders. Yet in each case Microsoft worked hard for years at improving its initially weak product until finally it kicked the king off its perch.

Google doesn’t seem to have Microsoft’s tenacity. Why? Maybe success came too quickly to Google. Pagerank and AdWords were instant succeses.

Which model will succeed? Don’t assume that Google will always be the search leader. Microsoft continues to refine Bing, and there’s a long trail of onetime market leaders — Novell, WordPerfect, Lotus, Netscape — lying dead in Microsoft’s wake. 

Google reviews MUST include text

I tell my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) clients that “Five-star Google reviews are like gold”. One client listened and encouraged customers to write reviews . . . which his customers did. Unfortunately, while they scored my client as a five-star vendor, their reviews included no text. None.

These five-star reviews with no text are, as far as I can tell, worthless. Google places them at the end of review lists, and seems to give them no value. They seem to provide no SEO benefit.

Moral: To receive SEO benefit, ensure that your customers include some text when they create a review of your business. A review of three or four sentences is fine.

T-mobile updated my SGH-T399 phone

(Originally published December 9, 2015) Last week,  without warning,  my Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone from T-mobile began to download and update its system software to version T399UVUAOH2. Stagefright Detector now reports that my phone is no longer vulnerable to the Stagefright virus.

My phone’s About screen reports that its Android operating system remains at version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), but its kernel is now dated August 25, 2015 (Korean standard time).

t-mobile stagefright 480w

  • Tip: If your Android phone is vulnerable to the Stagefright virus, you can reduce (but not eliminate) its vulnerability by, within the Messaging app, turning off the Auto retrieve setting. The Stagefright virus arrives within an SMS (short message service) multimedia message, so if your phone is vulnerable, you do not want to download these messages.

Update, February 27, 2016: T-Mobile again updated my T-399 phone. It still reports Android version 4.2.2, but now reports baseband version T399UVUAPA1 and is dated January 4th, 2016, 20:32, Korean Standard Time. According to T-Mobile’s note that accompanied the update, it improves voice over LTE (VoLTE) and unspecified security features.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

 

 

Listen to articles on your Android phone

When you want to read an article but don’t have time to sit down and read every word, have your phone’s @Voice Aloud Reader text-to-voice app read the article aloud to you.

@Voice app iconFirst, display the article on your phone (probably in a web browser). Press the Share button or icon, and choose the @Voice Aloud Reader. Allow a few seconds for the @Voice Aloud Reader app to start, load the article’s text, and begin reading.

On my Android 4.2.2 phone, the female voice is remarkably clear. It tends toward a monotone, and occasionally messes up (especially abbreviations), but is quite listenable. Within the @Voice Aloud Reader app, you can pause, rewind, etc., the reader.

Just plug in your earbuds, start up the @Voice Aloud Reader, and go!

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google’s mobile-friendliness

website-mobile-friendly 480w

April 21 was the date that Google set for roll-out of their algorithm that was to deprecate websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. So far, I haven’t noticed any change in search results.

I’ve been busy. I’ve rebuilt three clients’ sites, and am finishing a fourth client’s site. Then I’ll rebuild my own website.

As usual, I’ve found that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I built two of the smaller sites using Squarespace. For these last two, larger sites, I’m using self-served WordPress platforms.

I’ve gotta get back to work.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

It’s time to update websites

Until recently, I’ve regarded websites that are mobile responsive as desirable, but not essential. Around last November, Google began adding the phrase “mobile-friendly” to search results for websites that are mobile responsive.

is your website mobile friendly 200wLast month Google announced that on April 21, they’ll update their search algorithm. It’s expected to reward mobile responsive websites with  higher search result rankings.

I’ve been busy updating clients’ websites to make them mobile responsive. This has meant moving them to new platforms. I’ve moved small websites to Squarespace without too much pain, but I’ve learned that Squarespace doesn’t allow navigation menu nesting deeper than two levels, which disqualifies it for websites of more than a couple dozen pages. I’m working with a few mobile responsive themes on WordPress; it’s probably the route I’ll follow for my own website.

As usual, I’ve learned (again) that there is no single perfect answer. We just have to work around flaws and hide the blemishes.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A few words about eBay

loudspeaker imageI listened to an informative 22-minute audio clip titled Going Going Gone by James Surowiecki and published by Wired magazine in 2011. Mr. Surowiecki discusses the rise and fall of auctions on eBay and claims that consumer behavior and expectations have radically changed as a result of the web, eBay, Google, and Amazon. eBay auctions grew like mad through about 2007, then began to lose steam. Auctions comprised only 30 percent of eBay sales in 2010.

eBay logo in crosshairsI think that one flaw in the eBay auction model is that the time that an auction ends is preset. A real world auction ends only when bidding stops. The eBay auction model encourages “sniping” — waiting until the last second before placing a bid. (I use eSnipe. It works well. Why put your cards on the table early?) Sniping discourages new eBay bidders.

The growth of Amazon Marketplace has hurt eBay. So has Google: shoppers use Google to easily find even rare items across the web.

Like Craigslist, eBay’s failure to police its neighborhood has resulted in a chaotic marketplace. On the other hand, Amazon’s tight control of its sellers has created a relatively safe, stable marketplace.

If you’ve ever bought or sold on eBay, this is a worthwhile listen.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

MBAs are lousy CEOs

Fortune magazine, in its December 1st edition, has published an intriguing article titled Google’s Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe.  It quotes a Google manager who’s worked with both Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page:

Fadell, who before founding Nest led the development of the iPod and iPhone at Apple, says Page and Jobs approached innovation in radically different ways. “Steve was a marketer who really loved product and got the user-experience details right,” Fadell says.  “Larry is a serious technologist and someone who is really steeped in science and in theory, and he has a real love of product.”

Larry Page and Jeff Bezos
Larry Page and Jeff Bezos
Non-MBAs

I relate to Page’s approach, but Jobs’ obsession with user interface certainly also led to revolutionary products. Note that neither leader was an MBA or lawyer.  Jeff Bezos, an ace programmer (not an MBA), is taking Amazon where no retailer has gone before.

Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson
Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson
MBAs

In contrast, Microsoft was led into near irrelevance by Steve Ballmer, a sales manager with an MBA.  The entity that calls itself AT&T is busy making enemies of its customers everyone under the leadership of MBA Randall Stephenson.  (This genius caused his employer to lose six billion dollars, yet took home 21 million dollars that year.) General Motors’ CEO Roger Smith (MBA) drove GM to produce millions of lemons which nobody wanted, leading to their chapter 11 bankruptcy.

For the moment, Google is in good hands. The jury’s still out (see Apple’s Software Quality Problems) on Apple’s Tim Cook (MBA). Even Microsoft may be headed in the right direction, now that Satya Nadella is CEO. True, he has an MBA degree, but he’s reputed to be a product guy — not a numbers guy.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Samsung SGH-T679 not charging

Occasionally, for no apparent reason, my Android phone refuses to accept a battery charge. (originally published 15 February 2014)

Samsung Exhibit II SGH-T679 phoneHere’s the only way I’ve found to fix this problem on my Samsung Insight II SGH-T679 with Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread phone:

  1. Remove charger
  2. Turn off phone
  3. Remove battery
  4. Remove SIM card
  5. Remove SD card
  6. Wait at least 3 minutes. (I’ve had to wait as long as 60 minutes.)
  7. Replace SD card
  8. Replace SIM card
  9. Replace battery
  10. Turn on phone
  11. Plug in charger

This reset procedure works for me. It may or may not work for you. (8 Oct 2014) It also works for my new SGH-T399 phone.


Update

7 August 2014Samsung charger This may or may not be a coincidence, but I’ve found that since abandoning third-party battery chargers and returning to a Samsung manufactured charger, my phone’s battery behaves better, without loss of charging function.

I’ve also stopped buying third-party batteries. They’ve been short-lived. I found what seems to be a genuine Samsung battery on Amazon. The combination of genuine Samsung battery and Samsung battery charger seems to provide both longer battery discharge times and better charging behavior.

I’ve not needed to resort to the charging system reset procedure since installing the genuine Samsung battery and using the genuine Samsung charger.

Extra credit article: How to prolong lithium based batteries

Also see: Repair and prevent battery charging problems on GSM phones.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

YouTube Android app bloat

Over the past year or so, the YouTube app on my Android (Gingerbread) phone has been hogging ever more resources as its reliability degrades with each update. Last week I uninstalled Google Play Services, which freed almost 100 MB (megabytes)! Google Play Services apparently provides user ID services to Android apps Gmail, Google+, and YouTube.

image
YouTube 2.3.4 for Android
After I uninstalled Google Play Services, the YouTube app refused to run, claiming that it needed Google Play Services. I uninstalled the YouTube app updates, which left YouTube app version 2.3.4 installed. It runs fine, and the system drive now has almost 100 MB more free space.

Older version outperforms newer versions

A bonus is that the older 2.3.4 version of the YouTube app is more stable and more responsive than the newer versions. This is another chapter in the long story of programs that improve as they mature, and then degrade as their publishers stuff them full of unnecessary features.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Which service providers encrypt your data?

The EFF has moved its “Who has your back?” report. It’s now at https://www.eff.org/encrypt-the-web-report. The report explains,

We’ve asked the companies in our Who Has Your Back Program what they are doing to bolster encryption in light of the NSA’s unlawful surveillance of your communications. As of now, eight companies—Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, Twitter,and Yahoo—are implementing five out of five of our best practices for encryption.

image
Graphic by Electronic Frontier Foundation

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Math and The Simpsons

Last December, mathematician Simon Singh spoke to Google employees about the role of math in The Simpsons.

simpsons-higgsThe math references in The Simpsons episodes are only a few seconds long but contain timeless questions. Mr. Singh tells about them as well as math references in Matt Groening’s Futurama in this entertaining YouTube video, which was recorded at a recent Google gathering.


Mr. Singh discusses Math and Futurama in his office.

Manage your Android device’s files

Until recently I used ASTRO File Manager on my Android phone to copy, move, delete, etc files and folders. It did most of what I needed, but could be unbearably slow and resource hungry.

ES File Explorer screenshot imageI now use ES File Explorer. What a terrific program! It’s much quicker than ASTRO and its refined user interface reflects a product that’s been polished by many hours of work. I can quickly tag groups of files and move them to a new folder, even one that doesn’t yet exist. (To access the Move command, first press the Select button and select one or more files which you wish to move from the current folder to a destination folder. Next press the More button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Next choose Move and define the destination folder for the files you’ve selected.)

Versatile

imageES File Explorer includes other useful tricks. It can provide lists of folders sorted by size of folder content. (Within ES File Explorer, click on the globe/phone icon in the upper left corner. A menu should appear. Under Tools, choose SD Card Analyst.)

It can turn your phone into a wi-fi hotspot.

You can find ES File Explorer in the Google Play Store.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google Maps for bicycles needs work

Last Thanksgiving, I again cycled 19 miles to a friend’s house. Again, Google Maps on my Android phone helped, but revealed flaws in its bicycle routes. It tried to route me about four miles out of my way.

While on Stirling Road, rather than routing me directly westbound on Stirling Road, Google Maps wanted me to head a couple miles north to Griffin Road, head west to Flamingo Road, then head south for about two miles to Stirling Road.

google maps bike route

This route would make sense only if Stirling Road were impassable. In fact, Stirling Road is friendlier to bicycles than Griffin Road. (Google Maps correctly suggested that cars use Stirling Road.)

Afterward, I used Google Maps’ user feedback facility to inform Google of this bug. With luck, Google will correct it before next Thanksgiving.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website www.ip-rockstar.com, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695