That Google-flavored Kook-Aid
Occasionally, I mention that I have drunk the Google-flavored kook-aid, and contemplate the extent of my perfidy.
Despite the occasional, and usually monumental, blunder, Google is the well when it comes to technical wizardry. The fact that the company’s blunders are ginormous is a testament to how much risk-taking the company indulges.
This moment of musing is brought on by this morning’s “Google Doodle,” which is a celebration of Duke Kahanamoku, the “father of surfing.”
Consider the imagination with which the Google team selects its candidates for a Doodle feature. The Doodle is not your run-of-the-mill “today in history” blurb. It usually pops up someone or something interesting and which has probably dropped off the collective radar, or never was on it.
The Doodle often features some kind of interactive “Easter egg,”1 2which you can waste some time figuring out and playing with. These animations range from simple things like making a balloon float up, up, and away; to games in which you can move a character through a series of obstacles and opponents, to win through to a prize.
These interactive animations are all written in HTML 5, meaning you do not need a special plugin like Java or Flash to use them. The Google Doodle was the first place I came across this aspect of HTML 5, a couple of years ago. All done with plain old markup — brilliant.
It Just Works
Gmail, Google Apps, Google Drive, Google Play, Google Music. As a music lover, Google Music is the bomb for me. Whenever I get a tip on some music I haven’t heard, I can almost always find it on GM. If I like it that much, I can buy it. Google Books. Plenty of places to buy ebooks, these days. With Google, I not only buy them (usually, at a discount), I download them and import them into a reader of my choice. I am not stuck with Google Books as a reader, and I am not stuck with reading them only on one (proprietary) device.
The Google Web Toolkit, AngularJS, Dart. BigQuery. Web Developer. The “sync” feature in Chrome browser.3
“It’s Your Money, Use it When You Want to”
Google Wallet! Isn’t this the final step toward World Domination? Not only can you pay from your phone (not completely unique), but you can send money directly from one Wallet to another. Last week, I went through a hellish fracas, trying to send the spouse some emergency funds while she was away, travelling. MoneyGram had some kind of problem, and wouldn’t send the money; and with Western Union, the pay station at which my wife tried to pick up the money had some kind of operator error, as a result of which she had to wait until the next day to get it. The MG would have cost me $25, and the WU did cost me $20.
With Google Wallet, I could have sent her the money, no charge, from my Wallet to hers, in about 60 seconds. Really. I’ve done it, with other accounts. 4
The Google Wallet card has two other features I like. One, the moment a purchase is made on the card, I get a notification of the location and amount of the purchase. Sometimes, when I’m taking the little gal to school in the morning, she pesters me to stop at the convenience mart, so that she can get something for breakfast. I give her my Wallet card. Before she’s back out to the car, my phone dings, and I have a notification from Wallet. I know how much she has spent.
Secondly, the card will allow you to zero out its balance. With my bank ATM card, I can either be declined for NSF, or go over and pay the penalty. The Wallet will not allow me to spend more than I have. It will, however, allow me to spend exactly as much as I have. If my order at the Dunkin window comes to $10, and the Wallet card has only $6.50 on it, the card will disburse the $6.50 and the clerk will tell me I need to come up with an additional $3.50.
Oh, dear, I don’t have any cash — what to do? Well, I open up the Wallet app on my phone, and punch the “Add $20” button. And a few seconds later, I have the additional money to pay up.
I will criticize one Google service that I have used, and which just really blows chunks; and that is Blogger. I just could not make that tool work for me. I was constantly fiddling with stuff, trying to get the most basic tasks done, like properly formatting the page, or inserting a picture. I finally gave it up, and have gone over to the dark side, with WordPress. I’m sorry to say it, but WP just works right out of the box, in the way that I want it to work.
Folks, it is all in the details. I sometimes have that moment of creeping guilt, at allowing myself to quaff another cup of the delicious beverage. But, Google provides me with tools to do what I want to do, and with a minimal interference. Really — don’t Yahoo users get tired of that screaming advertising cacophony called the Yahoo home page?
- An Easter egg in a software application is a hidden feature that can be activated by some (often mysterious) keystroke, or set of keystrokes, or by a mouse click. ↩
- Microsoft Word 97 Easter Egg Instructions for unlocking and playing a pinball game, an elaborately hidden Easter egg in Word 97. ↩
- Chrome browser itself is unique in that each tab in the browser is a separate process, as a result of which, if a web site crashes one tab, the whole browser doesn’t go down. You just close the errant tab. ↩
- Now, I’ve set up herself an account, too. ↩