Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Google bricks its customers’ own devices with typo-plagued update

Mega oops:

Google says it has fixed a major Chrome OS bug that locked users out of their devices. Google’s bulletin says that Chrome OS version 91.0.4472.165, which was briefly available this week, renders users unable to log in to their devices, essentially bricking them.

Chrome OS automatically downloads updates and switches to the new version after a reboot, so users who reboot their devices are suddenly locked out them. The go-to advice while this broken update is out there is to not reboot.

“ChromeOS is open source, so we can get a bit more detail about the fix thanks to Android Police hunting down a Reddit comment from user elitist_ferret. The problem apparently boils down to a single-character typo,” the article goes on to say.

 There’s really no excuse for this kind of slipup considering that “Chrome OS” is software that obeys Google rather than the end user. It is specifically programmed to auto-update, as mentioned above. That means updates needs to not contain typos. Preventing all bugs is not possible in any software, but checking for typos is part of basic quality assurance.

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 Poor Quality Assurance, Shoddy Security

Google Play: Paradise for malware

Disappointing, but certainly not surprising:

Google Play, the company’s official repository for Android apps, has once again been caught hosting fraudulent and potentially malicious apps, with the discovery of more than 56 apps—many of them for children—that were installed on almost 1.7 million devices.

Tekya is a family of malware that generates fraudulent clicks on ads and banners delivered by agencies including Google’s AdMob, AppLovin’, Facebook, and Unity. To give the clicks the air of authenticity, the well-obfuscated code causes infected devices to use Android’s “MotionEvent” mechanism to imitate legitimate user actions. At the time that researchers from security firm Check Point discovered them, the apps went undetected by VirusTotal and Google Play Protect. Twenty-four of the apps that contained Tekya were marketed to children. Google removed all 56 of the apps after Check Point reported them.

Just inexcusable.

Google execs claim they care about security, but they cannot keep their app store free of malware. This nonsense has been going on for years now, and there seems to be no end in sight.

And if that wasn’t bad enough:

More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three-dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.


Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Google Calendar crashes and burns, leaving many feeling adrift and angry

Ruh roh

Users around the world can no longer access Google Calendar, with people reporting an error message when they try to access the app and some sharing an overwhelming feeling that they should go home for the day.

“Google Calendar is currently experiencing a service disruption,” said Google’s G Suite Twitter account, instructing users to follow updates through a service Web page. Google directed The Washington Post to the same page, which states: “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Calendar. We will provide more information shortly. The affected users are unable to access Google Calendar.”

The outage has become an event on social media. Twitter created an event page with funny GIFs symbolizing the distress many people are experiencing.

If they didn’t store so much of their private data with one company, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Gmail, Google Drive hit with global outage

Ruh roh:

Gmail has been hit by an outage affecting users around the world, with outage reports spiking and Gmail users flooding social media to complain about problems sending emails.

Some users are also reporting issues with Google Drive, including spotty performance and certain file types not opening.

According to a message posted on Google’s GSuite Status Dashboard at 1:53 p.m. ET, both Gmail and Google Drive are experiencing what it describes as a “service disruption.”

People who have trusted Google with their data are naturally not happy that it’s inaccessible. There’s quite a bit of griping on Twitter, which is typical of a service outage.

The moral of the story? Don’t trust Google with your data. Keep a local copy that’s always accessible and choose providers that care about your privacy (unlike Google).

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Oops: Google Fiber goes out in Kansas City as World Series starts

Turns out Google is no better at being an ISP than traditional ISPs:

Alphabet’s Internet and TV service Google Fiber went out in Kansas City as the opening game of baseball’s championship series got going.

“Tonight, some Google Fiber customers in Kansas City experienced a service outage,” a Google spokesperson said via e- mail. “We’re working hard to make sure our customers can enjoy the rest of the World Series, and we’ll provide more details as soon as we can. We apologize for this interruption on an important night.”

Ah, the dreaded service outage. Comcast knows a thing or two about those. Are you sure you want to be in the business of providing Internet to firms and households, Google? Sure, that might make it easier to spy on them. But there are tradeoffs. You’ve got to keep the bits flowing… or people get cranky.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Proprietor of leading technology news site: “I No Longer Have Any Trust In The Nest Protect”

Michael Larabel, who runs the well-known free software news and reviews hub Phoronix, has a post up about an awful experience he recently had with Google-owned Nest’s Protect, a souped-up, Internet-connected smoke detector. Larabel writes:

Earlier this year I wrote about protecting our Linux test farm with the Nest Protect. While I own ten of these “high tech smoke detectors” and initially recommended, I no longer trust them after a long night.

In the middle of the night I was alerted to “smoke in the bedroom” by all ten Nest Protects going off with the alert and siren, plus alerts going into mine and Fataima’s phone. Quickly investigating, there was no smoke to be found in the bedroom or any other room… Nor anything resembling smoke or any other causes for concern. The fire alarms tied to the security system also hadn’t sensed any smoke.

The unit continued to malfunction:

At first pushing the Nest button I thought the silencing worked, but nope, it came back to broadcasting across all of the Nest devices that there was smoke — when there was not. I disconnected that particular Nest Protect from the AC power, took it to another room, still reported smoke. Putting the Nest Protect in a kitchen pot with lid still claimed of smoke and produced warnings… This particular Nest unit was bought just earlier this year and was going insane in the middle of the night.

In the end, Larabel says he had to resort to a sledgehammer (literally) to shut the Nest Protect up. He still doesn’t know what caused the Google-made device to go crazy, and is going to let Nest know what happened.  He would be wise to stay away from Nest gizmos in the future.

Larabel is not the only person to have encountered this problem. There is a video on Google-owned YouTube, posted by a Google employee, documenting a malfunctioning Nest Protect. Video creator Brad Fitzpatrick says, “Do not buy a Nest Protect. You will regret it. You can stop or mute this video if it’s annoying, but you cannot stop a Nest.”

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

CNBC asks: Has Google lost control of its anti-spam algorithm?

Good question:

Google’s search engine is displaying Frankenstein-esque characteristics. Like the fictional scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a monster more powerful than its master, Google’s algorithm designed to rid the Internet of spammy links is proving difficult, if not impossible, to control.

In June, reported on a Google algorithm called Panda that crawls the Web to periodically push what the search provider considers lower-quality sites down in the rankings while elevating better pages. The result is that some small Web businesses that rely on Google for traffic can be decimated overnight.

The whole article is worth a read.

Many people consider Google to be synonymous with “search” because it’s all they know. It’s their default. In reality, there are superior search engines out there. Bing, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo all offer a superior experience and better results than Google does. DuckDuckGo in particular has grown in popularity because of its explicit promise not to track its users. There’s no good reason to use Google for search when there are alternatives that do the job better and don’t snoop on you.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Google fan discovers that Google is not reliable

TechCrunch’s Jon Evans:

Dear Google: What’s wrong?

I ask because last weekend, while in San Francisco, I asked Google Maps for “hot chocolate mission” – and was promptly directed to an ARCO station in Fremont, 40 miles away. Similarly, last month I searched for “coffee” while in the Embarcadero Center, one of the denser coffee hotspots in America, and was sent to a Starbucks more than two miles away. And it hasn’t escaped my notice that you keep highlighting faraway places with Zagat listings over much closer places without.

Now, sure, if you’re thinking “hey, you’re just abusing your position as a highfalutin tech columnist to make anecdotal complaints here!” – well, you’re not entirely wrong. Perk of the position. What can I say? But Google Docs won’t save documents, the new Gmail interface still feels like a big step backwards, Gmail Offline keeps crashing on me, Google Hangouts hangs whenever we try to combine text chat and video…and for what it’s worth, it’s not just me who’s wondering what’s gone wrong:

Pop quiz: name a Google product that existed at this time last year that has improved in the last 12 months.—
Laurie Voss (@seldo) October 15, 2013

What’s wrong is that Google is a company focused on mining user data, not bettering people’s lives. Google is not a nonprofit or a charity. It’s not a force for good in the world. It’s a privacy-destroying, profit-making enterprise.

Evans ought to try out alternative search engines, email providers, and smartphone platforms. He might be surprised to discover there’s a wider world beyond the GoogleNet.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Google suffers another major outage

Gmail and and many other Google offerings are down, and that’s got people upset:

Google’s Gmail experienced an outage this morning, with some users reporting that the problem extended to the search giant’s Chrome browser as well.

“We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Mail. We will provide more information shortly,” Google wrote in a 12:30 p.m. Eastern note on its Google Apps status dashboard.

Google categorized the problem as a “service disruption” rather than a “service outage.”

Gmail started experiencing problems around noon Eastern. At PCMag, Gmail failed to load, and then produced a 502 error page. “The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request,” the error noted. “Please try again in 30 seconds. That’s all we know.”

This is a disruption *and* an outage. Google can try to sugercoat the downtime all it wants; it’s still downtime.

People who don’t know better and use Google’s Chrome browser have also reported a spike in browser crashes this morning. That actually doesn’t seem strange, because Chrome is tied to Google’s centralized offerings. If Google servers go down and can’t synchronize or communicate with the Chrome client (Chrome could be more accurately called a client than a browser, considering how Google’s aim has been to turn it into a gateway to its offerings) that could cause Chrome to malfunction or quit working.

This outage is a good reminder that there are better alternatives out there. Cut ties with the Monster of Mountain View and switch away if you care about your privacy and the security of your data.