Thursday, April 26, 2007

Google Domination One Piece of Land at a Time

I saw a snippet on Digg earlier today and then took a break for a moment read and the full post at Search Engine Land. Google buying up chunks of land in out-of-the-way places in order to continue building its vast network of server farms is nothing new. What seems to be new, however, is the mention of these purchases, or even rumors of these purchases, in the media.

There is another story about Council Bluffs, IA, providing tax breaks to Google in order to entice it to build a server farm there.

Does this acquiring of land sound familiar to any other big corporation who also receives ridiculous tax breaks in order to build and provide jobs? Hmm...and how there is always a debate if the corporation really does provide jobs and an influx of dollars at the expense of local business?

Is Google becoming the next Wal-Mart?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

eBay Account Compromised. Surprise. Surprise.

I got this email today from eBay:
In an effort to protect your eBay account security, we have suspended your account until such time that it can be safely restored to you. We have taken this action because your password may have been compromised. Sometimes this happens when members respond to an email asking for personal information. Although those emails appear to come from eBay, they are really sent by people attempting to gain access to your account. Although we cannot disclose our investigative procedures that led to this conclusion, please know that we took this action in order to maintain the safety of your account.

Please change the password that you use on the EMAIL account that you have registered to your eBay account. Make sure that it is also different from the password that you use on your eBay account. By doing this we can ensure that you are the only one that can access any further communication we may have with you.

Once you have taken steps to secure your email, please contact our Live Help team for assistance restoring access to your account. You can reach the Account Theft Live Help team by viewing the page below:

Programs that block pop-up windows may prevent you from accessing Live Help. If this is the case, you may be able to temporarily disable the program or configure the program to allow pop-ups on the eBay site in order to use Live Help. Additionally, Live Help may not work with some web browsers. If you continue to experience difficulties, you may be able to use Live Help by updating your browser to the most recent version or by using a different program to access the eBay site.

If you are unable to contact eBay through Live Help after taking these steps, respond directly to this message to request assistance. We will contact you by email after we have received your response.

Please be aware that there may be a delay in responses sent by email. In order to handle your concern as quickly and efficiently as possible, we encourage you to contact us through Live Help if you are able to do so.


eBay Trust & Safety

I haven't used my eBay account in a long time, and I constantly get SPAM email that tries to be eBay in a Gmail account. I know, too, that it is SPAM, because no Gmail account is connected to my eBay account.

So I went to try and sign in. Couldn't remember my password so I tried to retrieve it but the answers I put in for security questions turned out to be incorrect. How that's possible, well, I didn't know at the time.

Turns out, when eBay suspends your account for whatever reason, the answers to your "security" questions become invalid. There is no way to retrieve your password and log back in without going through their LiveHelp. And if you haven't updated your account information, you're screwed.

And, if you've already tried to retrieve your password a few times, and you follow the instructions on the email eBay sends you, you can't. You're locked out.

Talk about a very annoying, tedious process. And I'm supposed to believe this is all for my safety and well being. Except eBay doesn't discuss anything related to the "breach" of security, so there is no way of knowing what happened, how it happened and what they're doing to prevent it from happening again.

You know, I'm starting to think Google is more trustworthy than eBay. Google, oddly enough, is more transparent about its efforts to combat SPAM, unauthorized access, etc. Not a whole transparent, but enough so that the perception that they are pro actively doing something is real.

So when is Google going to further step into the eBay pool?

Googling Boyfriend and Finding America's Most Wanted

I found this story on Digg this morning about a woman who Googled her boyfriend and discovered he was on the list for America's Most Wanted.

Law enforcement has turned to the Internet and to search engines from time to time in an effort to find information on fugitives, suspected criminals, spammers and every day citizens. It's a treasure trove at your finger tips and can yield useful information.

But now we can all be a little bit more aware of online selves, and perform those vanity searches from time to time. Corporations have started doing it to monitor online reputation, and with information gathered about you every time you log on, it isn't a bad idea to do it yourself every once in awhile. It's right up there with monitoring your credit score. Better to be proactive then to wait until something happens and fight the uphill battle of proving that you are, in fact, you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Video Conferencing for Googlers First, the Rest of the World Later?

With Adobe Acrobat Connect (formerly Macromedia and then Adobe Breeze) and WebEx (recently acquired by Cisco), it is really of little surprise that Google is putting its muscle into the online conferencing and collaboration arena.

They have announced the acquisition of Marratech, "which will enable from-the-desktop participation for Googlers in videoconference meetings wherever there's an Internet connection."

The interesting world here is "Googlers." That implies that only Google employees, commonly referred to as Googlers, will be using videoconferencing features from Marratech. That strikes me as a little out of the ordinary for a company bent on making the world's information accessible and free, not to mention its drive towards knocking Microsoft off of its Office pedestal. You can even argue that this particular post strengthens the case that the Google Blog isn't a blog as we've come to know, but rather a public corporate bulletin board.

Still, you have to wonder if Google is going to use its employees as test subjects to see how well this videoconferencing software works before opening it up to the public. You can bet that businesses everywhere will want to use this service, and that Google will offer it for free like its Docs & Spreadsheets and its forthcoming presentation capability that takes square aim, again, at Microsoft.

The day is fast approaching when the desktop Operating System as we know it will be obsolete. It won't come as a surprise is Google replaces Microsoft as the "Big Brother" everyone loves to hate. The next "evil corporation."

That identity, however, could very well depend on how Google dances around rising concerns of consumer/user privacy and data collection. Ever notice how there are always posts on hacks and bugs and other issues with Microsoft products, people demonstrating how to breach security and infiltrate the latest Microsoft OS? Yet there doesn't seem to be much on how to hack Google and get ahold of its treasure trove of data. Is it that no one has tried, or is it that many have tried and failed? Or has it happened but Google being Google, the information control freak, has managed to prevent an information leak?

All that data in one place has to make you ask yourself: what happens when all my data stored by Google is compromised?

Remember, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. So an information breach at Google, or any other company that stores vast amounts of data, is not completely out of the question.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

DoubleClick Acquistion All About Revenue

Surprise. Surprise. Google has acquired yet another Internet company: DoubleClick.

Ignoring the clear punctuation error at the end of the answer, this question and answer from Google's Q&A sums it up:
Q. How should this acquisition be viewed given Google's recent attention to alternate revenue streams? Is Google once again concentrating on its core advertising business?
A. The sale of advertising displayed on Google and on other sites across the web has always been the fundamental model for our business. This partnership is an obvious opportunity to expand our ads business and have a positive impact on our search users in the process?

Translation: a way for Google to make more money! There are no immediate plans to change the business model of DoubleClick, meaning there are no immediate plans to get rid of DoubleClick's profitability and turn it into another free product offering from Google.

Naturally, both Yahoo! and Microsoft are crying foul, and requesting the Federal Trade Commission look closely at this acquisition for possible anti-trust violations. And there is that ever-pressing issue of privacy.

Google and DoubleClick might very well corner the market, as it were, on user information. Of course, it is all under the guise of providing the best and most relevant ads to Web content publishers and advertisers. The Web has allowed advertisers to track audiences like no other medium, getting the goods on people that TV, radio and print could only dream about acquiring.

We all know Google flat out refuses to share information with the United States government, and fights the US government on everything. But Google also has been known to bend to the whim of foreign nations, and there is no guarantee that this growing treasure trove of information will remain secure.

Big Brother, it seems, is now a worldwide phenomenon. And has very deep pockets of information as well as money.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Where on the Web Is Matt Lauer, and the Benefits of TV Shows on the Web

I found this article in the New York Times today about Matt Lauer and his travels. NBC has developed an interactive Flash website devoted to following Matt around on the world on his travels.

The whole website is sponsored by Hyundai, and is pretty cool. There is even a game with is reminiscent of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?"

I must admit that I have turned more and more to the Web to watch TV shows. I am not home much during the week when TV shows I watch, like "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI," and "The Office" are on. I used to tape them and spend my Saturday afternoon catching up, but taping become a cumbersome task I stopped doing and fell behind. There was benefit in NetFlix, but by the time I catch up on one season, I'm behind two!

Then I saw a rerun of "Grey's" on a Friday night when I was one, and there was a blurb saying that you can watch the show online. I've been doing that ever since, and found that other networks also had shows on the Web. So now I don't have to worry about setting the VCR, I don't have to wait the length of a season to catch up on a season and I don't miss out on my favorite shows.

I simply turn to the Web, and all is well. And sometimes, I watch shows out of curiosity that I would normally skip to watch something else on TV.

Technology can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 2, 2007

To Infinity, and Beyond

BBspot is, indeed, a tech humor website. I came across this article, "Google Response to Yahoo by Increasing Gmail Storage to Infinity Plus One," on Digg. And though it is amusing, it doesn't seem that far from reality. It sounds outrageous enough, actually, to be Google, that to hear of it in the future wouldn't be so shocking.

Don't know if it's quite on the level of humor as posts from T.V. Raman, the Research Scientist at Google who is blind. He seems to have a very good grasp of visuals for someone not able to see, and takes very good pictures too, better than some pictures of people I know who can see.

Don't get the wrong idea. Nothing against the man, no offense meant. He is very insightful, but his posts often make me think he has help, more help than he lets on. He does good work. No one can argue that.

Ah. Check that out. John Hanke's post was fixed. It had just showed his name, which was odd since all the other Google posts show the author's name and his or her position at Google. You could pretty much guess that he worked with Google Maps, but was he just an engineer, a software developer, or did he hold a higher position within Google Maps? Turns out the man is the Director of Google Maps/Local/Earth.

That's a curious title. Director of Google Maps/Local/Earth. Is there a Director of Google Maps/Local/Neptune? Or Google Maps/Local/Venus? Or any of the other planets? Stars? Galaxies? Hmm...could there be somewhere in the cosmos that is still untouched by Google?