Web and domain move complete

This is mostly a test post to check things like file uploads, image linking and mod_rewrite are functioning correctly. After a bit of research and discussion I’m using a place called Gandi.net to host my domain and have configured Apache on my own server to handle this site.

Setting up my domain was straight forward. It took about an hour for the domain to be transferred and me to recreate the host names. DNS then slowly propagated the changes over the next few hours.

Configuring Apache was also reasonably straight forward once I’d worked out how to do wildcard domains properly – the order Apache reads the virtual host configurations is important. What caused me a few hours confusion was that no images on my sites would load, but the http rewrite was working. This turned out to be a file permission problem within WordPress, and as soon as the webserver user was granted access the site sprang to life.

The next thing I am trying is SSL. I have a free SSL certificate for 1 year (after that it’s €24 a year) and once that has been generated I can create a private SSL site for a few services I want to use.

Make Google Translate go a bit mad

Google Translate is quite good, especially since it has a speech function that’ll read out most translations for you.

You can make it go a bit odd too. What I did was translate a simple English word or phrase into Chinese (Simplified), then copied the Chinese characters and pasted them into the input box. Now, leave the ‘From’ language as English and choose another language to translate to – like German or Afrikaans, it doesn’t matter so long as the ‘Listen’ option appears.

So you’re translating English to some other language, but instead of writing English in the input box, you paste some Chinese.

Wait for it to translate (it won’t) and then hit ‘Listen’ and listen to the gibberish that comes out. It reminds me of the speech from the old Amiga and Atari game Captain Blood.

New Google is not Good Google

Google have been messing around updating their design again…

No Google, this is not a good layout.

Not only has the handy horizontal bar gone that clearly separates the search box from the results, but they’ve now added a sidebar with options on. I think I’d rather just press the “Advanced search” button if it’s all the same to you. The sidebar is annoying, I read from the left to the right which means I look at the sidebar before seeing the search results. Google have already done studies that show people hate waiting, even for milliseconds.

And please, never ever try to override the host OS’s GUI controls, it just looks horrible. If you must, at least make them match your own web browser’s style…

Cloud Computing Fail!

Google Docs failing to save a document
Google Docs failing to save a document

There I was, working away on a Google Docs file, enjoying the whole “cloud computing” idea. I type data into my browser, magic happens and it gets stored somewhere. Using any other PC I can edit the data.

And it’s great until it breaks, then you can lose data and there’s nothing that can be done. For reasons unknown to me the login cookie expired while editing a document on Google Docs. I didn’t notice this until pressing ‘Save’ gave me the error you see in the image.

If you see this error, you’re pretty much screwed since there is no way to save your data locally if the network goes down, your browser has a fit, or something else breaks the delicate link between your PC and the almighty Google. You just sort of have to keep the browser open and hope things fix themselves.

Which is kind of crap if you want to switch your PC off for the night.

Fortunately I tried to load Docs up in a second tab and it asked me to log in again, solving the problem.

They do need some sort of “emergency” backup option though for when the network really does go down. I’ve not lost data due to my PC locking up for years because pressing Ctrl-S is usually guaranteed to work. Google won’t be scaring Microsoft if basic things like printing and saving don’t work properly…

The new Glen Coe mountain route

You take the high road, and I'll take the low road

I’ve found other Google Maps mistakes before, but this one is quite fun. Now, while I’m aware Scotland contains many steep mountain passes, that are only just passable in a car I don’t quite think this is one of them.

According to this image, the A82 splits in two – you can either take the normal route through the valley, or strike off purposefully onto the Aonach Eagach ridge… in your car.

Maybe not.

Google Mail, five years on…

I’ve installed Google Desktop for some useful and fun gadgets to fill my second monitor with. Currently the GMail gadget is indexing five years worth of email which is going to take ages. I had a look through my mail and found my first GMail ever, it was the welcome message, look

First off, welcome. And thanks for agreeing to help us test Gmail. By now you probably know the key ways in which Gmail differs from traditional webmail services. Searching instead of filing. A free gigabyte of storage. Messages displayed in context as conversations.

A whole gigabyte of space for email! crazy! 😉 You know what? Five years and eighteen thousand emails later, I’ve only used 700MB. I now have seven gig of space, it’s going to take a long long time to fill that.

I’ve got one of those Google Wave accounts too, but it’s not that useful. I seem to recall mention of it having the ability to work in businesses, on their own servers. I like cloud computing, but I don’t trust other people with my data. I’d much prefer if I could run my own cloud on my machine here. Some sort of Google Docs server would be great, I’d use that all the time. Something where my server is the main store, but then Google’s system is a mirror, with edits and changes magically propagating throughout the whole system. Local data with remote access and off-site backup, all in one system without any extra steps required. That’d be a killer system.

Google Communication

I’ve got a Google Voice invite…

You are invited to open a free Google Voice account. To accept this invitation and create your account, visit https://www.google.com/voice/

If you haven’t already heard about it, Google Voice is a service that makes using your current phones much better!

Here’s what it offers:

  • A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call
  • All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email
  • Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS
  • Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenInTM on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more
  • Which is great, except…

    Google Voice is US only at the moment
    Google Voice is US only at the moment

    So I suppose I have to wait until they make it work in the UK. It sounds like a great idea, having one number for everything that you can divert to any phone you like. I just wonder how reliable and ‘permanent’ it will turn out to be; what if I become reliant on it and then Google decide to discontinue it. I quite liked Google Notebook and Google Browser Sync was a great piece of software, but they’re now discontinued.

    Anyway, I’m more interested in what Google Wave will be like. Over the past few days I’ve been arranging a trip to the US with my cousin, we’ve been using Google Talk’s IM feature to arrange things, and then continuing the conversation via email, using GMail’s ability to archive chat logs in the ‘Sent’ items box. I’ve also been able to sit at a friend’s house chatting on my G1 and reading the same emails. My cousin, as it happens, is in Sweden at the moment using someone’s laptop.

    It’s really good that I can communicate with people in these mixed ways, without having to install a specific client on my own personal computer. All I need is an Internet connection and a web browser, or a signal on my mobile phone.

    I hope someone creates a real standard for this sort of seamless communication and then gets it turned into an official RFC or something. It needs to be ‘The Way’, rather than something Google’s invented, or something Microsoft has copied off Google and then ‘added value’ to by making it incompatible. That way we’re protected against companies going bankrupt, or deciding to discontinue services.

    It irritates me that I cannot talk to my MSN friends through my Google Talk account. Why should I have several different logins just to talk to people? This isn’t the 1980s American telephone system, with lots of little companies fighting against each other. The users of these systems don’t care, they just want to chat to their friends. Why can’t I take a FaceBook chat session and continue it via my Google Talk client on my mobile phone, or through Skype?

    Why? It’s because everyone tries to create their own little walled garden, separate from everyone else, with their own particular ‘added value’ to make their generic service appear more interesting. It all seems very short sighted since these services are free, so customers have no real loyalty to particular brands. “What, you’re on ICQ? I don’t have an ICQ… oh my multi-protocol chat client can log in though, I’ll just make an account with them”. Not that multi-protocol chat clients are the solution, they’re just a temporary fix, covering over the underlying problem…

    The underlying protocols of the Internet should be standard, with everyone agreeing to use them, and everyone agreeing not to tweak their HTML implementation so that only their browsers render pages served from their webservers correctly. There should be a standard chat protocol, and a standard website authentication system so that users can be individuals on the Internet, rather than a collection of hundreds of logins for different sites. I like to buy things from places that understand Google Checkout, and I like to use my LiveJournal openID to log into sites that allow it. Not because I am particularly attached to those companies, it’s just it works, and it’s less hassle.

    Your ISP should be an OpenID provider, and your ISP’s login details should be the only ones you need to log into anything.

    GMail thinks I am German…

    Weird German GMail error
    Weird German GMail error

    The error message says

    Lieber Nutzer,

    in Deutschland heißt unser E-Mail-Service Google Mail, nicht Gmail.

    Sie können Ihre E-Mails in Deutschland direkt unter http://mail.google.com abrufen.

    Ihr Google-Team

    Der E-Mail-Service von Google ist in Deutschland nicht mehr über die von Ihnen eingegebene URL abrufbar.

    Allgemeine Informationen zu Google finden Sie in Deutschland wie gewohnt unter www.google.de oder www.google.com.

    Which translated using Babelfish comes out as

    Dear user, in Germany is called our email service google mail, not Gmail. They can call up your emails in Germany directly under http://mail.google.com. Their googleteam The email service of does not google is in Germany any more over the URL entered by you callably. General information too google find you in Germany as used under www.google.de or www.google.com.
    Kind of confused why I’m seeing this given I’m sat in the UK…