Somewhat De-Googled

My ongoing evaluation of my relationship to technology, corporations, and technology corporations has led me to look at the biggest of the wigs: Google.

First thing in the morning, I check my Gmail to read any important emails between the dozen or so offers from Virgin America, Equinox, Fab & Gilt, or any of the numerous other companies to whom I have given my Gmail address. Afterward, I generally check the news via Google News. Once in the office I will definitely access my files stored in Google Drive and probably collaborate on a Spreadsheet a colleague has created in Google Docs. All of this is happening in a Chrome browser, by the way. On the way home form work I need to stop by Chado Tea Room to buy some breakfast tea, so I get directions on Google Maps. Once in bed, I read my RSS feeds on Flipboard which are—you guessed it—imported from Google Reader.

Oh yeah, I also perform plenty of searches on google.com. And for the sake of being a completist, all of my business email accounts are using Google's mailservers.

Before I begin my critique, I want to be clear that if Google was the worst corporation in America, we would be a lucky society. But with the privacy issues and questionably curated search results of late, Google is definitely moving more toward the "Evil" than the "Don't be" part of their company motto.

Additionally, there is a big-boxiness that I despise. Google is becoming the Wal-Mart of the internet. I am all for specialization. Do one (or a few) things, and do it (them) well. Don't try to do everything. Model/singer/actor/tv star/producer/dancers annoy the fuck out of me.

So here is what I've done:

Google Drive: I'll start here because really this is what sparked all this. I downgraded to a free Dropbox account (even though I was a perfectly happy customer) because Gmail was substantially less expensive. Google, over a month ago, claimed their iOS app was 98% complete, which I took as a sign that it would be released in a week or two. It's still not been released and without being able to access files on my iPad, cloud storage is basically useless to me. But the biggest irritation has been that on all three of my computers, Drive has "experienced an error" that required me to disconnect my account. If all that was necessary to remedy this error was to log back in, this would just be irritating. However, Drive requires you to re-up and download all of your files. In my case this is 150GB on three computers (and 3 times on my desktop machine). Aside from the time wasted, I feel very insecure about the safety of my files. I'm back to Dropbox, paying twice as much, and I couldn't be happier.

Gmail: I thought quitting Gmail would be terrifying. And a terrifyingly large task. It took me all of 45 minutes to get rid of Gmail. I just made sure that all of my email (from 2004-) was stored locally on my machine. It was. I deleted all the email from the web and forwarded new messages to my .me account, deleting once forwarded. I realize that going from Google to Apple might be choosing the lesser of two (don't be) evils but I plan on using my .jasonfking self-hosted email from now on.

Search: I'm using a combination of DuckDuckGo, Blekko, Wolfram Alpha and Google. Google search is the best, period. It's what they do. It's impossible for me to say I am not going to search via Google anymore. I just plan to use different engines for different search requirements.

Google Docs: I have so many shared documents with colleagues that it is totally impossible for me not to use Docs. Also, I haven't really found a viable alternative. It's good, it's free. I'll continue using it.

RSS: As with Docs, I don't think there is a viable competitor. It is super easy for me to add a feed and it seamlessly syncs to Flipboard (my favorite iPad app). The thing that pisses me off is that Google has taken away the ability to share a specific folder's feed. It used to be a simple click, now it is gone. I am suspicious that it's gone for dubious reasons, and has nothing to do with making the user experience better.

Chrome: I have a Windows desktop, a MacBook Pro with both Windows and OS, another Windows desktop, an iPad and an iPhone. I use Safari on all the Apple devices. The syncing is simple and great. I have tried to use Safari on the Windows machines, but I don't love it. This one is still in flux, but I have a feeling it will be Safari on the Macs and Chrome on the PCs.

So, that's that. Just don't fucking be evil.

Spotify Cancellation

This is what I wrote in the box marked 'other' for why I was cancelling my spotify account.

I love the Spotify desktop application and the iPhone app works just fine for listening to music. However, as a busy professional, the only time I have to search for new music and/or make playlists is while I am on buses, trains or planes; at which time I have my iPad not my PC.

I got excited toward the end of last year when you said an iPad app is coming soon. I decided to wait it out and thought that finally yesterday you would have listened to your customers and release an iPad app. You can imagine my disappointment when you announced a partnership with a unhealthy sugary drink company that I don't even like. I have yet to figure out why I should possibly care about this.

I'm not delusional enough to tell you how to do business, but I will be taking mine elsewhere.

[Update: Spotify released an iPad app. It's good. Rdio got crashy. I'm back to Spotify.]

The New iPad

I'm in Texas spending time with my mother as she recovers from back surgery. I am kicked out of the room during shift change and I usually pass the time by walking to the gigantic mall across the street to feed my burgeoning sock buying obsession. Yesterday I went in to the Apple Store to check out the new iPad. First observation was "holy shit they are pushing this thing hard." The store was about 75% iPads, and it was a gigantic (everything's bigger in Te...) store.

I am on a pretty strict "every other iOS device" rotation which so far has worked out just fine, so I had no plans to buy the new one. I suppose I could break my buying pattern if I was knocked off of my feet by a new device.

So, I looked at one.

The retina display is nice, no doubt. But I have never felt the display on my iPad 2 is what is lacking. Im typing this right now on my iPad 2, and the text is rendered beautifully. I think the retina display is a fantastic upgrade, but in no way warrants trading in my current iPad.

What would warrant that for me?

Easy, better input for drawing. I use Sketchbook Pro, Penultimate and a few other apps that are really good, but it doesn't change the fact that the iPad just isn't that great for drawing. Though I love books, there are a million ways that reading on my iPad is better than reading a traditional book. However, drawing on the iPad is like using an oversize crayon to do a technical drawing. I've tried a fancy stylus, I've tried my finger; it's decent (at best) for sketching out an idea. I assume Apple is working on this, but I would definitely have preferred upgrades on the creation side over the consumption. The iPad is already the best device for consumption that has ever existed.

It's getting better as a design tool, but still has a long way to go.

Rdio

I have been hearing good things about Rdio all week. Evidently something happened at SXSW. I am mostly happy with Spotify, with the exception of one thing that is relatively major to me -- the lack of an iPad app. The only time I really have time to organize my playlists and search for new music is when I am traveling, especially on an airplane. 

I love the social aspect of Spotify, I discover a lot of new music from people who have taste that I respect. I just signed up for a Rdio account and saw that only 2 of my 700-ish FB friends are on Rdio. I'm going to give the free trial a shot and report back.

The two major things that are influencing my potential migration from Spotify to Rdio: 

1. iPad app
2. iPad app

Get on it, Spotify. 

*Update: The trial version doesn't allow me to test the new interface. The current desktop app feels dated and clunky. I also don't like not being able to add entire albums to a playlist. The iPad app is pretty nice, but I'm not sure if that outweighs the clunky interface for me. I think I'll wait until the new Rdio is released to all.

In15 minutes I was unable to find a song that one service had and the other did not, though there are still several that I was unable to find on either.