On Google

Last month I ranked Google fourth in my dropping tech giants list. My love/hate relationship boils down to: for all the cool tech they make, they're an advertising company first and foremost.

As a long time reader of Google News I've grown more frustrated with their AMP lock in of late. You click a link, but you're not taken to the actual website, you're still in the Google ecosystem. An open web that is not. So now I'm a Bing News user. The first time I've consciously chosen a Microsoft product in more years than I can remember.

Former Google employee Tim Bray wrote a blog post this morning that sums it all up rather well.

I’m still broad­ly in sym­pa­thy with Google’s ef­forts on the In­ter­net, which have most­ly made it bet­ter. And they’re so easy to un­der­stand: They want ev­ery­one to be on­line all the time to see ad­s, ide­al­ly on a Google prop­er­ty where they don’t have to divvy the take.

Au­tonomous ve­hi­cles? On­line while driv­ing. Google Glass? On­line while walk­ing. Blogspot? Gmail? Map­s? YouTube? What­ev­er you’re do­ing, do it here please.

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On Dropping Tech Giants

John Gruber links to an interesting thought experiment from the New York Times, which tech giant would you drop?

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Here's my list, from first dropped to last.

1. Facebook. Easy one. I don't, and won't, use Facebook. Nor do I use Instagram. So no tears to be shed if they suddenly disappeared off the planet tomorrow.

2. Microsoft. Almost the same as above. I don't use any Microsoft products these days, so this one is also easy. Well to be fair once a week we have a work conference Skype call. But calls in Slack are great (and actually better quality) so if Skype went away everything would still be ok.

3. Amazon. Unlike almost 100% of the planet, I don't really use Amazon for anything on a regular basis. I'm really an instant gratification person. If I want something, I'll drive an hour to get it so I don't have to wait. Even paying for next day delivery is too much for my got to have it now mind. Although I'd have to say that it is super handy for buying presents for my family in the UK, so I do use it about 3 times a year at most. Work wise, we do have some things on AWS that would be a pain to migrate. But not impossible.

4. Google. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Goog. They make some good tech, but are still an advertising company first. It's complicated. You'll hear me say I'm not overly keen on tracking and having my data mined. And yet in the next breath I'll say I still use a couple of their tools. The hypocrisy is strong with this one. I don't use Chrome – Firefox on desktop and Safari on mobile. I don't use Search – I switched to duckduckgo a few years ago and haven't looked back. I don't use Android – I can't really see me migrating away from an iPhone any time soon. (And here comes the but) But we do use Google Docs at work quite heavily and it's actually not terrible. And I'm a huge Gmail user. I pay Google to host my kevinspencer.org mail as I haven't got the time nor patience these days to maintain my own mail server. There's something to be said about having something "just work". Gmail has always ticked all the boxes for me – I've used it since it was invite only (remember that?) and can't imagine using anything else now. And YouTube. Who doesn't love a little watch that concert from that band from the 80s nostalgia?

Which leaves…

5. Apple. No real surprise. We're a Mac shop at work, and since 2008 Mac at home too. There's something to be said for Unix with a pretty face. My wife and I have owned iPhones for as long as I can remember. The cameras are so good these days that I don't use my DSLR anymore. My brain is just wired for iOS and I really don't fancy learning anything new. Oddly I find that I don't use any of Apple's other software or services. I don't use iCloud for anything, don't use their Doc suite, don't use their photos app, and the Kevin Spencer of 2010 will be shocked to hear that I rarely use iTunes much these days. But Apple's hardware and operating systems are just second to none and it would be super painful to switch to anything else now.

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300,000

I love music and and I love statistics. So when I first stumbled across last.fm it was a like a little slice of heaven. I tell it what songs I listen to and then over time I get a pretty good picture of my listening habits. That was 8 years ago now and I've been scrobbling ever since.

The other day was a milestone of sorts as I've now reached 300,000 plays from 4,421 artists. The track in question? Well, it just happened to be Closedown by The Cure.

So a brief summary then of 8 years of listening. Anyone who knows my taste in music should remain unsurprised at my most listened to artists.

1) Depeche Mode (11,271 plays)
2) The Cure (8,643 plays)
3) Skinny Puppy (5,492 plays)
4) Nine Inch Nails (5,316 plays)
5) Hocico (4,823 plays)
6) Project Pitchfork (4,095 plays)
7) Killing Joke (4,036 plays)
8) Rammstein (3,538 plays)
9) :Wumpscut: (3,524 plays)
10) The Birthday Massacre (3,515 plays)

Or my most listened to songs.

1) Hocico – Death As A Gift (282 plays)
2) Hocico – Tales From The Third World (253 plays)
3) The Birthday Massacre – Horror Show (224 plays)
4) The Glove – Mouth To Mouth (216 plays)
5) Seabound – Scorch The Ground (215 plays)
6) Hot Chip – And I Was A Boy From School (199 plays)
7) Depeche Mode – Peace (193 plays)
8) Japan – Quiet Life (189 plays)
9) Depeche Mode – Precious (185 plays)
10) Fad Gadget – Salt Lake City Sunday (183 plays)

So here's to the next 300,000 tracks. Played loud of course.

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Backups

For many years I've been backing up my various computers to external USB drives. Since becoming a Mac convert I've switched from rsync to Time Machine and never looked back.

jwz's most excellent backups article is what really gave me a kick in the pants to back up all the time. And having a backup has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

The only thing missing from this equation was my "house burned down" backup.

That third drive? Do a backup onto it the same way, then take that to your office and lock it in a desk. Every few months, bring it home, do a backup, and immediately take it away again. This is your "my house burned down" backup.

Yeah that. That I have never had. So I've decided to fix it.

Now I backup everything online to Backblaze. For $5 a month, it's a no brainer really. So far it's never gotten in my way, has backed up everything and restored what I needed it to in testing.

Even though everything is encrypted, I did have a brief moment of "oh noes, all my stuffs are on teh internets". So I added my own encryption key into the mix as well.

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WordPress So Far

I've been using WordPress for a little less than a week and I really like it so far. Super easy to install and configure. Really nice looking dashboard with everything organized well. Adding plugins a breeze and changing themes simple. And the fact that there's a living breathing active community of developers and theme authors out there is really a breath of fresh air.

What Plugins I'm Running

Akismet – because who likes blog spam really?

wpuntexturize – because WordPress unhelpfully turns single and double quotes into some unicode nonsense. Stop that. This plugin stops that.

WPtouch Mobile Plugin – to make your site look relatively sane on mobile devices.

Limit Login Attempts – does what it says on the tin, helps to prevent brute force login attempts.

I also had the Movable Type importer installed for a bit but obviously that's a use once and delete kind of plugin.

What's Not Running WordPress

For aggregating online activity, I've yet to find anything as nice as MT's Action Streams plugin. So much so that it's still running in cron driving my stream page. So I can't quite say that I've completely replaced Movable Type yet.

What's Not To Like

There's something to be said for the speed of serving up static HTML. Out of the box WordPress dynamically serves up your pages each time a page is visited, so it's a little slower than the old Movable Type site. I suspect I'll get used to that in time.

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End Of An Era

It is with a teeny measure of sadness that I've made the decision to move from Movable Type to WordPress. This is probably the last post I'll make from my old stalwart system.

So why move now? Well, two reasons really.

Firstly my hosting provider Pair, while excellent in every way, don't like mt-comments.cgi at all. Their system reaper process will kill anything using up system resources on the machine. So adding comments to any of my posts was always a bit hit & miss, sometimes it would work, sometimes you'd get the lovely internal server error. All a bit frustrating really.

Secondly, my version of Movable Type went end of life a while ago. No more security updates will be produced and you're basically on your own and good luck with that. Further, there's no upgrade path even if I wanted to continue with MT. The free single user license is no more. Sure you can get Movable Type 6.0 but I'm not shelling out $595. I'm funny like that.

So, it seems the choice is obvious as there is really only one game in town these days. I installed WordPress the other day and have been tinkering and tweaking and it's almost at the point where I'm ready for it.

So, you WordPress users out there, what plugins would you recommend I install?

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