Tag Archive: google

How to keep Google from watching your searches… The Joy of Tech

via geekculture.com

Nexus Prime Teaser

Looking forward to this announcement on October 11th, and hoping that it is really coming to Verizon.

Tech Companies Org Charts

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via Bonkers World

Placing Google Voice Calls From any Phone

I have been using Google Voice since way back in 2007 before the Google acquisition when it was known as GrandCentral.  One of the many things I like about Android is it’s complete integration with Google Voice, I simply click on my contacts or use the phones dialer normally, and the calls route through Google Voice.

You can also initiate Google Voice calls from your PC using Chat in Gmail, or simply using the Google Voice web interface to initiate a call, telling it which phone to call you on, and after connecting you it dials your call for you.

Most of the time these methods work well to place phone calls, but once in a while I find myself using a plain old cell phone (yes they still exist) or regular phone and might not have access to initiate the call from a browser.  Here are the steps to initiate a Google Voice call from any phone

  1. Dial your Google Voice number
  2. Enter your Pin (see below for instructions to skip pin)
  3. Press * followed by 2
  4. Enter the Phone Number to dial followed by #

If you want to automate this process you can store a phone number like this, referencing the list above to explain each section.  The “P” represents a 2 second pause something most phones support.

(000)000-0000 P 0000 P * P 2 P (000)000-0000#

If you are using a phone registered with Google Voice you can optionally skip entering a pin when you call your number from that phone.  While you trade off a little security, you also avoid the need to store your pin as part of a phone number.

Will you Enable Two Step Verification on your Google Account?

I tweeted a little about this over the weekend, Google has now enabled Two Step authentication for all accounts (if it has not hit your account yet it will soon).

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What is Two Step authentication? Simple in addition to your password, you need a 6 digit random code, which you can obtain via an app on Android, Blackberry and iOS, or via SMS or Phone.  The code is randomly generated, unique to you, and time based changing every 30 seconds or so.  What this does is make it so that a hacker just getting your password alone does not allow them to hijack your account.

I have had a PayPal Security key for my PayPal account for a couple of years now, and am very happy to see Google add this option, I would like to see my banks, credit card providers, and others add this option as well.

When you enable Two Step Authentication you are given 10 codes to use in emergency in case you don’t have access to your phone to retrieve a verification code.  You do need to decide how to securely save them where you will have access to them if you need them (hint: don’t store them somewhere protected by your google account).

On a PC after initially logging in with a verification code, you have the option to only require a verification code every 30 days. 

Mobile devices and other Google Apps that don’t yet support Two Step Authentication no longer use your google account password, but use a password you generate for your account, so your actual google password is no longer stored on your mobile device or in other applications, you can also revoke the application password at any time from your google account page.  In this example I named this password ‘Android’ as it is the one I created to use on my phone.

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You can create multiple application specific passwords, after you clear the password off the screen there is no way to retrieve that password again, if you need it again you simply create another one (and preferably revoke the ones no longer in use).

So Two Factor Authentication adds a little overhead to your account, requiring you to retrieve and enter the code on logon, and manage application specific passwords.  To me the few seconds it will cost me here and there is completely worth it for the security it adds.  I have seen far to many people have their accounts hacked recently, and even though I use secure passwords, and change them (somewhat) regularly, I really feel better about my account security with Two Step Authentication enabled.

Will you turn it on for your account? It is available for Gmail accounts, and Google Apps for Domains accounts, though in the latter the option has to be enabled by the domain administrator.

The Official Google Blog: Advanced sign in security for your Google account

Why the CR-48 is not making the trip to Lotusphere

You might recall back in December I was the lucky recipient of a Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook.  I have been using it quite a bit and it has some really good points among them:

  • Instant on
  • Great battery life (8-10 hours of use per charge easy)
  • Full Keyboard ( not the biggest deal in the world, but nice)
  • Built in WiFi, and 3G (100 MB free and pay as you go plans)
  • Light

Based on all this at one point I thought it was almost the perfect Lotusphere machine.  Where it is lacking is in two areas.

1. The CR-48 has very limited USB device support, it can not read my camera, or any of the card readers that I own, so there is no way to upload photos.

2. No local storage – again this is really about photos, I take a bunch of them at Lotusphere and I really don’t like to trust them for an entire week on an SD Card.  With the CR-48 there is no way to back them up locally or mass upload them to Dropbox or something similar.

So while I have other devices coming with me, my Lenovo S10 Netbook will be making the trip again this year, it is about the same weight as the CR-48, a drop heavier, and decent battery life, but adds a lot in functionality that I need.

All that said, I am sure the USB device support situation will improve over time and as Chrome netbooks hit the market, not sure what if anything they would do about small amounts of local storage.  I also believe that unless they bring them to market cheap (I mean less than $100.00 cheap) they won’t even make a dent in the surging tablet market.

I also think a year from now this would not even be a discussion, and tablets will have (even) more apps, and I would not even be looking for a full laptop of any sort for additional functionality.

Images of the Swan and Dolphin in Google Earth

I am a bit addicted to Google Earth, actually it is helpful at times especially the street views when you are headed somewhere for the first time, or sometimes just to get a different perspective on different places you have been.  Google Earth also has historical imagery allowing you to see not only the current published image, but previous ones as well.

A while ago I was playing with historical imagery and captured these images of the Swan and Dolphin taken between February 1994, and May 2010.  You can also see how Google Earth imagery has improved over time.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157625748961365″]

Click on each photo for a larger view or visit the entire set on Flickr.

First Impression of Chrome OS and the CR-48

Yesterday I showed you the unboxing of my new toy courtesy of google, now that I have had a chance to play with it a little, I though I would share some impressions.

The Hardware

To some extent digging too far in to the pros and cons of the CR-48 hardware is a pointless exercise, the CR-48 is a prototype, is is not available for sale, the only way to get it is to apply and be accepted by Google as a tester. When Google does generally release Chrome OS it is expected that partners like Lenovo, Acer and others would develop hardware for it.   All that said a little about the hardware, Google describes it like this:

It’s ready when you are, booting in about 10 seconds and resuming from sleep instantly. There’s built-in Wi-Fi and 3G, so you can stay connected everywhere, and a webcam for video chat. The vibrant 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and oversized touchpad let you enjoy the web comfortably. And at just 3.8 pounds with over eight hours of active usage and a week of standby time, it’s easy to take along for the ride.

What did we leave out? Spinning disks, caps-lock key, function keys, and lap burns.

I am seeing boot up times of about 15 seconds, the lack of a caps lock key is really of no concern to me (it just means I won’t enable it accidentally as I tend to do on my PC) and the search button that replaces it is actually pretty useful.

The trackpad is well interesting, last year around this time when I got a Lenovo Netbook, the biggest challenge for me was that it’s only (built in) mouse option was a trackpad.  The CR-48 is the same with a trackpad only (it does have a USB port if I get desperate and need a mouse though that is not a practical option on the go).   The trackpad on the CR-48 has some quirks.  First to click (there are no mouse buttons), you actually have to push the trackpad down, not tap it (the best comparison is it is the difference between using a touch screen device like and iPhone, and the Blackberry Storm where you actually have to push the screen to click).  The other quirk is to scroll with in a page you need to use 2 fingers, overall I find that easier then the Lenovo where you drag a specific spot on the trackpad, but I have to train myself to do the 2 finger drag which is taking some time.  I had to search the help to find out that to right click, you click the mouse with two fingers instead of one.  Overall not the most intuitive mouse gestures in the world for me.

The battery life seems to be as advertised or better, while I have not had the chance to really abuse it yet, it showed 13 hours of life when fully charged, and after a few hours of use still shows 8 hours remaining, I am sure under heavier usage it will be a little less.

There is not much else to the hardware as you can see it is a pretty bare bones machine, with a built in webcam and microphone, the only two connectors available are a single USB port, and a VGA port.

Chrome OS

If you have used the Chrome Browser, for the most part you are familiar with Chrome OS. When you first turn on the machine, after accepting the license agreement you are simply prompted to log in with a google account, both gmail, and Google Apps for Domains accounts are supported.  Since I am already using Chrome on my PC, and I Sync my settings, bookmarks, extensions, apps, etc. When I logged in to Chrome OS with that account, the browser had all of my settings.  This meant I was really able to pick up and do anything I could do in the browser on my PC in seconds.  There is also a guest account options (Chrome incognito mode) which allows you to let someone else you your machine, without gaining access to any of your data.

The trick is, you have to get over the inexplicable urge to minimize the browser, since it can’t be done (remember the Browser is the OS), so anything you want to do must be done in the browser.  This sent me off to the Chrome Web Store to see what was available.

Tweetdeck for Chrome gives me for the most part the twitter experience I am used to on my desktop, I found a decent VNC Client.  I use LogMeIn for remote access to a couple of machines, which works fine in Chrome, and since I moved my blog to WordPress I can blog through the web interface, or use a plugin like ScribeFire. I am still testing IM solutions mainly looking for a good Skype client, I found one that worked fine for chat, but not for audio or video calls.  I am sure as I continue to use the machine I will get a better handle for what other apps, and plugins are available for things I normally do with an installed app on my PC.

I have only used the wifi so far, I have to test the Verizon 3G service and see how it works out, I also am interested to see if they give you a decent way to track your usage to your 100MB monthly free allotment, and the options to pay as you go.

I am not a Chrome OS fan yet, I have not written it off yet either, I am not sure I have concrete thoughts yet on if it is a better tablet, a complement to a tablet, simply another option, or a passing fad.  I don’t really know if I can reach that conclusion as the Android tablet market is first really starting to take shape, and will not really take off until Honeycomb is available.  The iPad which is dominating the tablet space will get a new version next year as well, surely to include cameras, and who knows what else.  We are also yet to see what hardware and price point Chrome OS will enter the market at.  In the mean time here are a some other perspectives on Chrome OS.

Gmail Creator Paul Buchheit: Chrome OS Will Perish Or “Merge” With Android

In Defense Of Chrome OS

Why Chrome OS Will Succeed