Posted in Legal Troubles

Former Google engineer: “After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again”

Emi Nietfeld has taken to the New York Times op-ed page to document how things fell apart for them while working for the Monster of Mountain View. What they thought was a paradise turned out to be anything but after they became the victim of harassment from their technical lead.

As soon as my complaint with H.R. was filed, Google went from being a great workplace to being any other company: It would protect itself first.

I’d structured my life around my job — exactly what they wanted me to do — but that only made the fallout worse when I learned that the workplace that I cherished considered me just an employee, one of many and disposable.

The process stretched out for nearly three months. In the meantime I had to have one-on-one meetings with my harasser and sit next to him. Every time I asked for an update on the timeline and expressed my discomfort at having to continue to work in proximity to my harasser, the investigators said that I could seek counseling, work from home or go on leave. I later learned that Google had similar responses to other employees who reported racism or sexism.

Emi eventually left Google and is now writing a book about their experiences there.

Posted in Undependable Support

Another big Google outage leaves a lot of people irritated

It’s a bad day in Mountain View:

In all, it looks like a huge range of Google services were down for about an hour today. That hour crossed into business operation times in multiple markets, leading to a slight drop in pre-market trading for parent company Alphabet.

It’s also an alarming reminder of just how far Google reaches, and how many of our services — productivity, entertainment and home/utility — are tied up with a single, proprietary provider. Coincidentally, Microsoft’s Outlook is also experiencing some problems, too.

Emphasis is ours.

A good reminder, indeed, and hopefully one that spurs people and companies to leave Google behind or at least diversify who they do business with.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

Software developer: “Chrome is bad”

Protecting your privacy isn’t the only reason not to install Google Chrome:

Short story: Google Chrome installs something called Keystone on your computer, which nefariously hides itself from Activity Monitor[1] and makes your whole computer slow even when Chrome isn’t running. Deleting Chrome and Keystone makes your computer way, way faster, all the time. Click here for instructions.

Long story: I noticed my brand new 16″ MacBook Pro started acting sluggishly doing even trivial things like scrolling. Activity Monitor showed *nothing* from Google using the CPU, but WindowServer was taking ~80%, which is abnormally high (it should use <10% normally).

Big, big props to Loren Brichter for making this website and thoroughly documenting this issue. 

Loren is a former Apple employee who created Tweetie and Letterpress earlier this century. There is a Wikipedia entry with more information about him, written from somewhat of a fan perspective.

Posted in Undependable Support

Google kills off Poly, its 3D model sharing service

We love that first line, Engadget!

Google is showing again that you rely on its products at your peril. The search giant announced that it’s shutting down Poly, its 3D object library and platform that arrived in 2017 aimed primarily and VR and AR creators. The service will end on June 30, 2021, so you’ll need to go here to download any models before then. All uploads will cease on April 30, 2021.

Emphasis is ours.

Once again, the moral of the story: don’t use Google products. Either your privacy will suffer, because the taking of your data is the business model, or the product will not continue to be supported because it does not feed the needs of the beast.

Posted in Undependable Support

Devin Coldeway eulogizes Google Music and ponders moving further away from Google dependence

Google is killing off Google Music, which has prompted one of TechCrunch’s writers to further reconsider their relationship with the company.

The idea of divorcing myself entirely from Google’s ecosystem isn’t a realistic one for me, though I do it where I can (though having moved to iOS, the cure sometimes seems worse than the disease). One of the tattered bindings holding me to Google was the music thing. And while I do plan to take up a hundred gigabytes on one of their databases somewhere for as long as I possibly can, I’m glad the company admitted that what they were giving me didn’t make sense for them any more. It means one less reason that what Google has to give makes sense for me.

Every service from Google now, especially with those new, bad logos, feels less like it’s offering a solution to a problem and more like it’s just another form of leverage for the company. We were spoiled by the old, weird Google that did things like Books because they could, throwing it in the teeth of the publishers, or Wave, an experiment in interactivity that in many ways is still ahead of its time. They did things because they hadn’t been done, and now they do things because they can’t let you leave.

So, RIP Google Music. You were good while you lasted, but ultimately what you did best was show me that we deserved better, and we weren’t going to get it by waiting around for Google to return to its roots.

The best way to manage a music collection is with a tool like Nextcloud, which allows documents, music and other data to be remotely synchronized between devices with no dependency on Big Tech.

Posted in Undependable Support

YouTube goes down, Google scrambles to get it back online

Oops:

YouTube has recovered from a seemingly worldwide outage that prevented videos from loading for roughly an hour. During the outage, many Verge staffers were unable to watch videos, and YouTube confirmed at 7:23PM ET that something was going on:

If you’re having trouble watching videos on YouTube right now, you’re not alone – our team is aware of the issue and working on a fix. We’ll follow up here with any updates.

The issue appeared to affect other services that use the YouTube infrastructure too, including YouTube TV and the movies and TV shows you’d purchase through Google TV (formerly known as Google Play Movies & TV). We couldn’t load them.

Early in the outage, the YouTube website itself seemed to load just fine, but videos themselves would continuously show the loading wheel.

Nothing works all the time, but it’s not a good look for the Big G to have its premier social media platform borked for any length of time.

Posted in Undependable Support

Google doing away with free “unlimited” storage for high quality photos

A reminder that there’s no such thing as “unlimited”.

What Google giveth, Google can taketh away.

In a blog post, Google has announced that it is halting unlimited storage for High Quality photos starting June 1, 2021. Any High Quality photos uploaded after that will be subject to the free 15 GB of storage that comes with every Google account, with additional storage coming at a fee.

Uploading full-resolution images have always counted against personal storage on Google, but any images that were uploaded and subjected to Google’s compression were able to be stored without limit. From now until June of next year, that will remain the case. But after June 1, any new photos and videos uploaded will count toward the free 15 GB of storage that comes with every Google Account or the additional storage purchased as a Google One member. Google Account storage is shared across Drive, Gmail, and Photos.

If you’re looking for inexpensive photo storage (again, there’s no such thing as unlimited free storage, so don’t trust your photos to any outfit promising that), you can check out SmugMug, Flickr Pro, and Wasabi, none of which are Google-owned.

Posted in Legal Troubles, Menacing Monopoly

It’s happening, at long last: U.S. sues Google for antitrust violations!

Will there be accountability? Will there be justice? Will there be reform?

Let’s hope so.

The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising, in the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.

In a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the agency accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using several exclusive business contracts and agreements to lock out competition.

Such contracts include Google’s payment of billions of dollars to Apple to place the Google search engine as the default for iPhones. By using contracts to maintain its monopoly, the suit says, competition and innovation has suffered.

For years, the Monster of Mountain View has grown its power, unchecked, except by the European Union. Now, the United States federal government has belatedly shown up with its own challenge.

Google’s response was to call the suit “flawed” and to claim “it wouldn’t help consumers”.

Americans aren’t consumers, Google. We’re people.

And we deserve markets that are fair, not rigged.

There is no disputing that Google is a near-monopoly in the search and advertising space. That makes this lawsuit and its claims necessary and valid.

There is nothing “flawed” about this action except that Attorney General William Barr may have overridden career attorneys who wanted more time to bring their case. But it was already long overdue, so it’s understandable that Barr wanted it filed before he stepped down.

The next administration could terminate the case. But they shouldn’t.

It is a fact that Google pays off pretty much everybody to keep its search engine as the default in rival browsers and operating systems.

Google pays Apple to have its search engine be the default in Safari and Mobile Safari. It pays Mozilla to have Google be the default in Firefox. Google is also the default search engine in Opera and a host of other browsers. (Naturally, Google Search is also the default in Google’s own Chrome browser).

In fact, the only major browser that uses a different default nowadays is Microsoft’s Edge, which ironically is built on top of Google’s Chromium platform, but uses Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) as its default, instead of Google.

Imagine if iOS’ default search engine was Bing or DuckDuckGo.

Defaults matter. Google knows this. It’s why they shell out big bucks to maintain their dominant position. That’s anticompetitive behavior. For too long, Google has just gotten away with this.

But hopefully, it won’t after this case has run its course.

Google has gotten too big. The company should be disciplined and broken up to ensure it doesn’t become even more monopolistic and abusive.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Server crash gives Google another reliability black eye

Outages galore!

If you’ve been experiencing issues trying to access Google or YouTube, you’re not alone. Around 9 p.m. ET on Thursday evening, tons of users worldwide reported problems with Google and the many services under the tech giant’s umbrella, including Google Drive, Gmail, Stadia, the Play Store, and even Nest.

Some, such as Gmail, were taking significantly more time to load while other services like Google’s Play Store and Calendar seemed to be on an endless boot-up loop and wouldn’t load at all. DownDetector currently shows outages for just about all of Google’s services in areas all over the world. According to the site, the bulk of reports are coming from Australia, the U.S., and east Asia, with users primarily having issues logging in.

Remember, you can minimize the impact of a big technology company’s stability problems by not relying on a single firm for email, cloud storage, online collaboration, search, and so on.

Posted in Menacing Monopoly

Justice Department preparing antitrust lawsuit against Google, but will it be a strong case?

Will the United States Department of Justice blow its opportunity to hold the Monster of Mountain View accountable for its domineering, monopolistic business practices? That’s a concern that many people both inside and outside of the DoJ have, as this New York Times story documents.

The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.

Justice Department officials told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, to wrap up their work by the end of September, according to three of the people. Most of the 40-odd lawyers who had been working on the investigation opposed the deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several of them left the case this summer.

Trump and Barr’s inappropriate politicization of the Department of Justice and their desire to use it as a vehicle to drive positive coverage for Trump’s reelection campaign could significantly hurt the case’s chances of success. State attorneys general are also interested in holding Google accountable, but many fear the DoJ is on the verge of sabotaging its own chance at a major antitrust legal victory, and thus may not be inclined to join in the action, whenever it ends up being filed.