The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts with tag 'google'

    The Death of Google Reader

    After the infamous announcement that Google was shutting down Google Reader, there was a lot of debates around the use of online services, especially free ones, and whether we can trust a company to keep such services up indefinitely. Of course, nothing can last “indefinitely”, and probably nothing will last until you die. You have to expect that Gmail, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon Kindle and any other service you’re currently using won’t last for more than, say, 20 years (and that’s being generous).

    Adding sync to Minimalist-Gmail

    So the cat’s out of the bag, now. I needed an excuse to learn some more Javascript, along with looking at how Google Chrome extensions look like, so I decided to add a sync feature to the excellent Minimalist for Gmail extension. It’s all in my own GitHub fork of Ansel’s repository. It will be integrated into the shipping branch soon, but I’ll probably keep experimenting for a while.

    Poor man’s search engines sync for Google Chrome (version 2)

    After receiving some feedback, I’ve updated my scripts for syncing the search engine settings in Google Chrome. You can grab the new ZIP file here. Here are the changes: I’ve written some native CMD.EXE scripts for Windows, which are easier to run than the Powershell ones for non dev people (or devs that never used Powershell). The scripts have been renamed to “export” and “import” since most people don’t get the “push” and “pull”.

    Poor man’s search engines sync for Google Chrome

    Update: since Lifehacker featured this post on their home page, I released some simpler updated version of the scripts here. The wonderful thing about open-source software is that whenever something’s missing, anybody can go ahead and fix it… that is, unless nobody cares enough about it. And that’s precisely what’s happening with the “search engines sync” feature in Google Chrome, which has been in Chromium’s bug database for more than a year and a half.

    Using Twitter as a feed reader

    Robert Scoble famously posted about ditching Google Reader for Twitter a bit more than a year ago, and ever since I’ve been baffled at people moving to Twitter or Facebook to read their news. Business Insider even said a few months ago that Twitter has killed RSS readers. I’ve always been wondering how Twitter would be any better than RSS… that is, until I’ve actually tried it. Now I’m just thinking those people are crazy out of their minds.

    The harpsichord and the clavichord!

    Google recently released Google Scribe, an experiment on auto-completing words for the user in advance, instead of spell and grammar checking what he’s already written. Go try it for yourself. I myself had some fun letting Google write stuff for me. Just start with an arbitrary word, and keep accepting whatever the first suggestion is. The UI slows down quite a lot after a dozen or so auto-completions, so sometimes you need to delete the last space and type it again to get some performance back.

    Some more contacts love

    There’s been a lot of improvement in communications in the past few years, from better services to brand new ones, but I still feel like contact management is lagging behind. I mean, isn’t it important to be able to find how to contact somebody in the first place?

    Here are a few things I think could be better.


    Migrating to Google Apps

    Migrating from a regular public Google account (GMail, etc.) to a Google Apps account seems to be a hot topic among geeks. Lots of people did it and posted their experience on their blog, which is often helpful for the next ones to try it. Since I recently migrated my account too, I thought I’d share this here. The important difference is that most people only post how they migrate their email. I tried to post about a lot more than that, including how to migrate contacts and groups and filters and quick links and documents and all that. I also wrote a complete “pros & cons” section up front so you can check whether Google Apps is for you.

    Pros and Cons


    • You can administer your domain using Google's control panel. All the users in your group (probably your family, or some kind of circle of friends) have a common ground to communicate on (chat integrated in mail, calendars, documents sharing, etc.). Scott Hanselman has a few pros & cons on that subject in his article about migrating his whole family to Google Apps, and the follow-up article . Note that these articles are outdated in a few places (some things have been fixed, some methods of backup/transfer don't work anymore, some pros/cons are not valid anymore).
    • Your integrated GMail chat will now make you appear online as "" instead of "". This is way better if you want maximum portability of your identity, but want to keep the practicality of GMail's integrated chat.
    • If you ever need to, you can upgrade some accounts to paid "Premier" accounts to get more space, reliability and support.


    • Not all Google services are available in Google Apps. For example, Google Reader or Picasa or Google Maps are not included in Google Apps, and you would end up having to login using your public GMail account. This means that whatever links you see at the top ("Mail", "Calendar", "Documents", etc.) will take you to the wrong application (the public one instead of your Google Apps one). Also, your beloved iGoogle homepage will only work in the "public Google" space, so you won't be able to make it work with your Google Apps things. Instead, in Google Apps, you'll have the lame and ugly "Partner Homepage".
    • As mentioned in the previous point, Google still hasn't fixed the whole Google Accounts debacle. Namely, your regular public account will still be needed to log into non-Apps places like Google Reader, Picasa, Google Maps, etc. You can't use your Google Apps account for this, which results in a slightly schizophrenic user experience. The cookies seem to use different tokens, though, so you can transparently be logged in to Google Apps and public Google services using the same browser.
    • Your chat history won't be migrated, nor will be your chat buddies (for this you’ll have to re-invite people to chat with you at your new “” address).

    The Procedure

    If you've decided that Google Apps is still for you, then this is how you can migrate your regular Google account (GMail, GCal, etc.) to Google Apps.


    Labels and quick links work together

    I just realized that the 2 GMail Labs experiments “Go to label” and “Quick links” work together, which makes quick links all the more useful. So say you have 2 labels named “Newsletters” and “Notifications”, and one quick link named “ALT.NET” (which finds all the posts from the ALT.NET mailing list). If you summon the “go to label” popup and start typing “n”, it will show all three: Now, you ask, when should you use a label, and when should you use a quick link?

    Sync multiple Google Calendars with your iPhone

    If you have an iPhone, or any other smartphone for that matter, you will probably by now have set up Google Sync with it so you can synchronize your contacts and calendar. However, if you’re a bit hasty and follow the simple tutorial that Google provides, you will end up synchronizing  only your main calendar with your phone. It’s easy to miss the fact you can actually synchronize up to 5 (at the time of this writing) calendars.