Aug 11, 2015

Alphabet - Google changing everything and nothing

Alphabet? Really? I looked at the calendar. No April. Google is always good for a surprise. But this is huge! One deep breath... So what is Alphabet?
Screenshot from Website above © by Alphabet  Inc. All rights reserved.
A holding that will include subsidiaries and making Google Inc. one of those, is a brilliant move to tackle some of the biggest problem that Google now has.
The company is constantly under attack in Europe for having too much power. Google Search has over 90% market share in Europe at the time. YouTube is a huge success, and Android has more than 70% worldwide market share. With that numbers it is frightening how successful Google is. A good move to split things, before regulators will force them to do so under their conditions and ruining everything.

It's a bold move though. Alphabet (I'll guess they'll have a hard time trademarking this name) takes over Google. +Larry Page and +Sergey Brin are heads of Alphabet, leaving +Sundar Pichai as head of Google Inc. Other parts of Google Inc. will be come together under the new hood as separate companies. Google is then owned by Alphabet:
"Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet."
This came completely surprising. Maybe the media were too busy talking about the upcoming death of Google+ and miss the big picture. It wasn't Google+ alone that faces and will face changes, Google itself will be "slightly slimmed down" and live under the new brand.

The shareholders are pleased by that move. No wonder here, as they were always nervous with the many side-projects. Now they can act independently, bought, sold or shut down much more easily and with less risk for the shareholders.

Here is what Larry Page had to say about this:
"We are excited about…
Getting more ambitious things done. 
Taking the long-term view. 
Empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish. 
Investing at the scale of the opportunities and resources we see. 
Improving the transparency and oversight of what we’re doing. 
Making Google even better through greater focus. 
And hopefully...as a result of all this, improving the lives of as many people as we can."
There you have it. Google keeps being fresh and agile moving before they must and keeps the momentum. Now we can only hope that this will continue under the new company Alphabet.

I know all the whining about when Google shuts down a service. But that is what you need to do if you want to survive for the future, in a business that can change overnight. We had a lot of examples in the last decades when "old" companies lost all their drive, ending up in ruins from a leading position, because they miss the change.
Maybe that makes people and media so nervous: Google can't be predicted. You'll never know what is in 5 years. That makes Alphabet a genius move, trying to keep up with the changes, but give the value of the company a little more security. If it works...

[via Official Google Blog]

Jul 1, 2015

Gmail With New Themes & Emoji Pointing to Changes in Hangouts

A lot of new Themes and design options has been added to Gmail recently. you can now even attach "Blur" to any selected background picture, as well as a Vignette. In the new dialog box you can not only choose background photos, or your own photos, but complete themes as well.


Another little, but important thing, are the changes to the Emojis.
It can be a loss, because many old smilies has been gone now. The good thing is they are now equivalent to the emojis in Hangouts and therefore the same as on mobile. That is of course very important as everything goes mobile and it#s quite irritating seeing these emojis differently on different platforms.

The thing that raised my eyebrows though, were the little changes if you compare to the current hangouts emojis. Some are quite different with their expression or slightly new designed. That could point out to a change in the Hangouts emojis in version 4.0, too. Interesting.
I'll have to get used of it since I used this a lot. Now it looks like this:
I feel there is a different expression. I'll have to tell my chat buddies :).

Jun 3, 2015

Google Photos - The Good and the Bad

The long awaited Google Photos launched at the Google I/O 2015.
First I was shocked, then thought it was great, now undecided. What can this be, that me, yes me, is torn by this "new" Google service? Maybe because the whole thing feels torn between Google+, old Picasa and something totally different.

The Good
Now you can use Google Photos without an Google+ account. That's okay. The app and the web interface is very nice and keeps up to the Material Design standards. It's simple, intuitive (for the features, not for everything, but later on that) and easy if you are a normal users that just want to have your photos sorted and improved without any work to do. Just upload, or even use Auto Upload from your phone or Windows and Mac computer, and there are your photos.
It's perfect if you don't want to invest time to organize. it will all do for you. You can however make an album manually to mark a trip or something. The new method to select photos is a breeze on mobile, and you ask yourself why this wasn't like this before.
The sharing options are now (on web) offering Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Most important the "Get shareable link" feature to post it everywhere.
The best of all, you can now upload unlimited photos for free with up to 16MP resolution. Before that you can only upload photos up to 2048px for free. This is a huge improvement even though the photos are compressed to reduce space. I was stunned. As a photo compression enthusiast, I thought the results would be clearly different from the original. I made some testing and comparison. See (or not) for yourself.

Original-Photo (5.0MB) 

Google Photos Compression (2.1MB)

Don't mind these thumbnails here and click to get the full resolution. Now compare in different browser tabs. There is virtually no difference to see on normal equipment. I made a difference layer, so you can see that there are some differences, but it's more then good enough for users even if they want to print out these pictures.


So what is it now that I'm not totally enthusiastic about Google Photos?

The Bad
If you're using this coming from Google+ Photos it quickly turns out to be a mess in your photos. First the editor is nothing that even earned that name. The quite useful Google+ photo editor is gone in the Google Photos app and web interface. Auto Enhancing seems to be disabled. Unbelievable. Once the killer feature, you now have to manually load the editor and click on Auto. I hope this is only a mistake. I need that. 
The sharing feature is good for taking your photos out. It's horrible to share it on Google+. Your photos will reoccur and double in your library. It's a mess. And unbelievable, the mobile app does something I can't understand. It reuploads your photos when sharing to Google+. That means, if you have photos in your Google Photos library and want to share them on Google+, it will download(!) those photos and upload it back again for Google+. Doubling, and very bad for your precious data traffic. Insane! If you keep on sharing stuff with Google Photos you'll end up in a complete disastrous library with duplicates and folders you can't see on this app, while visible for Google+ albums.

Then memory mobile there is a also a little thing that bugs me. The Google+ app has the old photo app integrated (for those that don't want Google Photos). If you download the new app (50.8MB) it disables the feature on Google+ (69.4MB). But the memory stays the same. And if you want the editor features back from Google+ Photos, you'll want to install Snapseed (27.9MB), too. Plus a lot of data storage that these apps use (several hundred MB together in no time), and like Google seems to love it, all in the app storage, which is not the overall internal storage in many devices, but very limited. So you'll end up with 148.1 MB instead of only 69.4 MB. Plus 200MB+ data storage for the new apps. Thanks, Google. 
Face recognition is only available in the US. Come on, Google, there is no law against such a feature for your own library to search in. Please show some more braveness. And where are my blogger albums? Right... not visible in the new app.

So, I really want to use Google Photos. But at this stages is very hard with losing all this functionality. I'm careful when using it to share not to mess up my photo library. And you need to stop having Google+ Photos and Google Photos as separate entities. And Google Photos need to cover ALL pictures in your library. At the moment it leaves all many albums like the ones from blogger. 
For me that means I have to deal with 2 different kind of libraries, and one of them is only accessible via the web. It's a very nice app, but I'm still thinking about to just delete Google Photos and use Google+ photos again, and cry for missing the new, good things about the app.

May 13, 2015

New Content For Battlefield 4 Will Be Free

Interesting move. After Battlefield 4 is slightly being abandoned, new downloadable content will be free.
This can include new maps or extensions. The question is how many content will be published in the future.

After Battlefield: Hardline is out, you can clearly see that BF4 is on the decline. Battlefield Commander on mobile will be abandoned soon and removed from the store. Some other features in the Battlelog on the web will also disappear. That's now big deal.
Star Wars: Battlefront is also up on the line, and Dice is working hard on Battlefront.
Now there is a Map Community Project in the works, but other than that, it's questionable how much new content will emerge. Even the announcement that this free content will be available for both premium and non-premium accounts can not hide the fact that BF4 is dying a bit early imho.
That's not only the fault of Dice as it seems. The number of servers are quickly dropping, and sometimes you have to look around to find a populated server. So possibly the "problem" wil be solved by itself as many people stop playing BF4 abruptly.

I'll personally keep playing BF4 as long as I can find public servers with enough players on it. But when Star Wars: Battlefront is out, I'm out of here. I still have hope that the new game have less bugs than the 4th sequel of the mighty Battlefield or Hardline.

via [Load The Game]

May 11, 2015

Short Afterthoughts: Timeful acquisition by Google

Many jumped on to say the acquisition of Timeful is great.
It would be nice if GMail and Calendar would be improved that way, especially in the Android apps. But there is something that came to my mind in a comment on +Mike Elgan 's post on Google+:
Well the thing which such an acquisition is, these devs never had an Timeful Android app, right?
So now, while it is nice to see they now have to work on the good side :) (couldn't resist), will they put so much love in the product as they put into the iOS stuff? I mean, they did not make an Android app for a reason, right?
And money may motivate some, but not ideologists. Now let's see what devs they are. And then the questions is, if money can lure them away from the iOS love, it may not make them Android lovers. You can't buy love with money? Okay that sounds wrong, but you know what I mean ;)
and as a response to an reply from another user
I didn't say they are [ideologist]. But: http://imgur.com/eve0tg8
Completely ignoring the most selling OS on this planet can be understood as a message :)
Now, what will be left from the spirit, from the product, if they have to develop for the "enemy" now? Because before that buyout, there was no love for Android or Google.
And if they "love" Android and Google now, it freaks me out that money can do that. But the problem is that there is always a different if you work with your heart or for the money. You can "feel" it in many products. Will the devs stay at Google, ousted by the Apple-Fans and banned from Apple? Yes this company that does not invite you to press conferences if you don't report as they pleased (enough witnesses worldwide - Google it :p ).

I don't know if it was a good idea to acquire someone that does not have any relation to your ecosystem before. Oh and btw. if Google works on different iOS and Android apps, hell will break lose!

Screenshot from Timeful/Google. All rights reserved.

Apr 21, 2015

Vegan Meal: Southern Summer

I had some time at hand today, and so I decided to get all experimenting with my vegan meal today. And here it is: Southern Summer with ingredients common in southern Germany and Italy

These are the ingredients:

  • Enough olive oil to roast the vegetables
  • 250 gr. long noodles like Swabian Spaetzle (without eggs)
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Carrot
  • 50g Leek
  • 2 Onions
  • 200 gr. Smoked Tofu
  • Soy Sauce
  • Soy Cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper
It's quite easy. First boil the noodles. While they cook, chop the onions to very fine(!) pieces. Roast it in olive oil softly with a good portion of salt, do not overheat. Chop the carrot and the leek to small pieces, together with some pepper, and add it to the onions and roast them, too. Take them away after 3-4 minutes, or if you use a wok, put them on the side, so they don't cook but kept warm. Cut the tofu in, not too small, cubes. Put more olive oil in the pan and roast the smoked tofu softly until it's light brown. Again put away the tofu cubes from the heat and chop the zucchini in slices and roast them until they are light brown.
Now take the roasted carrots with the onions and the leek and put them together with the tofu in the pan, quickly add soy cream, the 2 tablespoon soy sauce and only 4 tablespoon water and a bit salt. Let it cook for a minute with good heat.
The noodles should be ready now. Put the noodles on the plate and make a ring around the nest with the vegetables, then put the zucchini slices on top of the noodles.
Bon app├ętit!