Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Announcing Google Drive - Now with even MORE Evil!

The last few weeks have been filled with speculation about a possible new cloud storage offering from Google called Google Drive. Earlier this week, the rumors were settled as the company introduced Google Drive, a competitor to services like Dropbox and Microsoft Skydrive and offering 5GB of file storage.

The catch: Google can do anything it wants with your files.

According to this article on Techcrunch and personally confirmed after reading the Terms of Service for Google Drive, uploading files to the service gives Google the right to use the file in anyway it wants, though the ToS does not transfer ownership of the file to Google as some on the net speculated earlier.  Even without a transfer of ownership, this clause is still pretty horrendous and, I think, shows Google's absolute desire not just to contribute to the Internet and make money off of it, but to control it completely.

What scares me even more is how easily intelligent people have fallen for a catchy tagline. Google loves to trot out the 'don't be evil' line but, in reality, their various services are evil and show a fundamental lack of respect for the user. The fact that any service would tell you that you had to agree to allow them to do anything they want with your data or else you can't use the service is insane and should be rejected out of hand. Using someone's service, even though it's only provided free because they're using you to sell advertising, should never mean you sign away your basic rights to privacy and security.

Google is not the good netizen that we've been led to believe it is.  I believe that, under Google's altruistic facade, lies the heart of a monster. There are too many questions about Google and not enough answers and we shouldn't be comfortable with that. We should demand that Google respect our privacy and treat us with dignity and respect.

The only thing that Google Drive is doing with their current ToS is driving me away from Google as fast as I can move.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Best Part of Linux: The Community

When I first started using Linux in 2002, hardware support was abysmal.  If you were running a server, you were golden. If you wanted to use the OS on the desktop, things could get a little troublesome.  Linux users didn't enjoy the same 'walk up to a shelf and buy anything' hardware support that our Windows and Mac brothers did and, even on hardware that was technically supported, it could be quite a chore getting things to run stably.

My, how things have changed in a decade!  These days, it's getting harder and harder to find hardware that doesn't work with Linux. Webcams, mics, drives, printers, and various internal cards, enjoy wide support under Linux not so much because hardware vendors are coming around (though many are) but because of the hard work of the community.

The amazingly open community surrounding Linux is one of the strongest points of the OS.  It's something that we Linux users enjoy that I think it unparalleled on any other platform. Sure, Windows and Mac have their rabidly passionate communities. But because the platforms are so locked down, there's little those communities can do to actually make their favorite systems better. Linux is different. Linux is paticapatory.  If something doesn't work right, you can make it work by putting in the work yourself. You don't have to wait for your vendor to fix it in the next release. And then you can take your work and contribute it back to the community to make things work right for other people too.  It's a great community that I consider myself blessed to be part of.

That's not to say everything is perfect in Linux-land. We still have a long way to go before we enjoy the near ubiquitous acceptance and support that Windows does. The 'year of the Linux desktop' might not ever arrive. But we're making strong progress and most of that progress is happening because of and within the community. People are out there advocating, teaching, writing software, fixing bugs, making things better, and that's making Linux stronger and stronger. Without the community, Linux would not be where it is today; it wouldn't even be close.  The community pushes the vendors to be better and, if they refuse to come along, it takes matters into its own hands.

In the end, I don't know if we're ever going to see the 'year of the Linux desktop'. But I do know that this has been the 'decade of the Linux community' and that community is one of the best things Linux has going for it.

Viva la community!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Power of Moving

Let's face it: there are times in all of our lives when we wish we could start over. Perhaps life has dealt you a crappy hand and everything and everyone around you seems to be dragging you deeper and deeper into the mud. Maybe you're stuck in a place where you don't quite "fit in" and, no matter how hard you try, you can't quite crack whatever puzzle is the key to letting you in to that inner social, interpersonal, or political, circle. We've all experienced those feelings. We've all wondered what it would be like to simply have a 'do-over' button that we could press and start things completely fresh.

What most of us don't realize is that we do have such an option.  While it's not quite as easy and painless as pushing a button, we all have the opportunity to start over and reinvent ourselves as many times as we like. When we realize the truth that we are not bound by geography or situation, we're presented with the unique and thrilling power to take any risks we want!  Why? Because we can get a do-over!

If you've ever felt boxed in, out of place, or like you've hit a ceiling in your life that you just can't get through, consider doing something simple yet radical at the same time: move.  No, I don't mean in the metaphorical sense of 'create action in your life' but I mean literally move to another place.  In a new place, nobody knows who you are, nobody knows your past failures, nobody knows your self-doubts.  

Relocating gives you a chance to reinvent yourself. Sure, you might have been the dorky girl at prom who couldn't look a boy in the eyes and blushed when you were asked to dance. That's not you here! Here, you are the confident woman of the world, ready for any challenge, sure of herself, flirty, fun, fabulous. Maybe you weren't the captain of the football team in high school and, instead, found solace in being the captain of the math club. Who cares! Here you can be a dynamic man about town. Strong, confident, powerful. That's the new you in the new place.  Because nobody knows your history, nobody judges you by it and that can be a revolutionary and powerful vehicle for self-reinvention. You can literally transform yourself into who you want to be almost overnight. You can reach for the stars because nobody's expecting you to fail based on past experiences.

So next time you're feeling boxed in, unsure of your self, or like a failure. Consider packing your bags, picking an exciting new place and just going there!  The power of reinvention is right within your grasp. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.

Who do you want to be tomorrow?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Little Document Manager: A Document Manager for the rest of us

Little Document Manager running on Microsoft Windows
I've been working on a fun little project for the last few weeks that I hope others will find useful. For those of us who create a lot of documents, finding one of them quickly can sometimes be a bit of a pain.  If you're a Windows user and you use Microsoft Office, you can sometimes perform a search within office documents to pinpoint the document you want, but if you use other file formats that might not be recognized by the operating system's searching software, it can become nearly impossible to find the right document in the sea of others.

For example,  I have a collection of over 35,000 documents, all created in either OpenOffice or LibreOffice and none searchable on Microsoft Windows using the built in search program.  The other day, I wanted to find a single document and nearly drove myself mad trying to remember file names or creation dates. Wouldn't it just be easier if I could just tag my documents and have a convenient way to find them, regardless of file type or operating system?

So I started looking at document management software options and, I have to admit, I don't particularly like any of them. Many of the popular ones are web based and I don't relish the idea of putting my documents on a non-local computer nor do I really want to go through the pain of setting up a local webserver just to run a single web app to help me track documents. Besides, I've always found the whole web app for a single user thing a bit of a waste anyway.  So I decided to create my own management system and, thus, "The Little Document Manager" was born.

Right now, the software (pictured above) is pretty simple. You have to manually tag documents after you create them and you have to update the documents location if you move it from its original place on the filesystem to a new one. But once a document is tagged, it's quick and easy to find by just typing words you remember. Those words could be a phrase within the document, a tag associated with it, the document title, or just about any other attribute you can think of. LDM will quickly pull up a list of documents meeting your search criteria and allow you to open them or share them with a few clicks.

LDM doesn't just work for office documents either. You can really tag any type of file from images to sounds and movies to web page entries. If you can enter data about it into the system, LDM can catalog it. I'm trying to make it as versatile and useful as possible while not completely recreating what's already out there (or, at least, improving on what I recreate).

LDM is completely written in C# using a SQLite backend.  That means it should be cross platform to any platform .NET programs run on which now includes Linux, BSD, Windows, and Mac. Compiling it in either Visual Studio or Mono is a snap and takes only a few seconds on almost any computer.

Overall, LDM was written for fun. I've avoided C# for a while now thinking of it as a "Microsoft Program" that could be dangerous to develop software for other platforms in. But, after seeing projects like Mono, I'm gaining confidence in the language and am wanting to work with it more. LDM is a step in that direction.

Of course, the source for LDM will be available on GitHub and it will be completely open source. More details to come when it's closer to being finished.