Posted in Undependable Support

Google shutting down Google Code

Woe to those who chose Google Code as the host of their open source projects. From the Monster’s mouth:

When we started the Google Code project hosting service in 2006, the world of project hosting was limited. We were worried about reliability and stagnation, so we took action by giving the open source community another option to choose from. Since then, we’ve seen a wide variety of better project hosting services such as GitHub and Bitbucket bloom. Many projects moved away from Google Code to those other systems. To meet developers where they are, we ourselves migrated nearly a thousand of our own open source projects from Google Code to GitHub.

As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse. Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management. After profiling non-abusive activity on Google Code, it has become clear to us that the service simply isn’t needed anymore.

Beginning today, we have disabled new project creation on Google Code. We will be shutting down the service about 10 months from now on January 25th, 2016. Below, we provide links to migration tools designed to help you move your projects off of Google Code. We will also make ourselves available over the next three months to those projects that need help migrating from Google Code to other hosts.

TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas notes:

In comments on Google’s blog post, some Google Code users express disappointment the company is not intending to continue hosting those projects that aren’t migrated — maybe because their maintainer has gone AWOL or passed away — in a read-only format, given that they will otherwise be entirely lost come final shutdown.

“Wouldn’t it be more responsible for Google to just host the projects that don’t move over indefinitely in a read only mode? I can’t imagine that it’s resource intensive and it’d instill more faith in Google products. It’s like watching GeoCities go away,” writes one.

“A complete copy of all projects should be handed over to so that we don’t lose history and important projects that are no longer maintained,” adds another.

Google’s plans in regard to Google Code demonstrate that Google doesn’t archive for the sake of history, it archives for profit. That’s why it will spend large sums of money maintaining vast quantities of user data in its data centers, but won’t keep open to the public read-only archives of a nearly ten year old project hosting service it has decided it’s no longer interested in.

Posted in Shoddy Security, Undependable Support

Google leaves users on older versions of Android insecure by ending support

Responsibility: it’s not Google’s policy.

Millions of Android users could be at risk as Google cuts back on security updates for older versions of its smartphone operating system.

The risk arises because Google has stopped producing security updates for parts of those older versions.

About 60% of all Android users, those on Android 4.3 or older, will be affected by the change.

The researchers who uncovered the policy change said it was “great news for criminals”.

How ironic: The company that made “do no evil” its motto is now increasingly a friend to evildoers as well as the National Security Agency.

Tod Beardsley and Joe Vennix from security firm Rapid7 and independent vulnerability finder Rafay Baloch contacted Google to let it know about the loophole. They expected to hear about the work Google was doing to patch the bug but instead were told that it was now only fixing bugs found in the two most recent versions of Android known as Kitkat (4.4) and Lollipop (5.0).

In a blogpost, Mr Beardsley said Google’s Android security team told him it would “welcome” a patch from the researchers if they produced one but would not be making one itself. It added that it would tell its Android partners about the bug even though no fix would be forthcoming.

Mr Beardsley said the response was so “bizarre” that he contacted Google for clarification and was told again that many components of Android in earlier versions of the OS would not be getting fixes.

Tod Beardsley is to be commended for exposing Google as an irresponsible software developer. It is truly appropriate that two of the news categories here on Leave Google Behind are Shoddy Security and Undependable Support. That’s exactly what you get when you buy a product running Google software, especially mass-produced Android smartphones. Google will gladly keep on tracking you even while they leave the holes in the operating system they made for your phone unpatched.

A word to the wise: Leave Google Behind. Stay far, far, far away from Android. Get a phone running BlackBerry, Windows Phone, or Firefox OS instead.

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 Undependable Support

Must-read piece on Google’s undependable support

James Fallows:

Here’s the problem: Google now has a clear enough track record of trying out, and then canceling, “interesting” new software that I have no idea how long Keep will be around. When Google launched its Google Health service five years ago, it had an allure like Keep’s: here was the one place you could store your prescription info, test results, immunization records, and so on and know that you could get at them as time went on. That’s how I used it — until Google cancelled this “experiment” last year. Same with Google Reader, and all the other products in the Google Graveyard that Slate produced last week.

Fallows naively says he still “trusts” Google for search, because search and advertising is Google’s bread and butter. He would be wise to switch to other search engines.

Blekko is a good spam-free alternative, Twitter and Topsy are good real-time alternatives, and Bing is an acceptable all-around alternative. DuckDuckGo is good too – it makes use of Google, Bing, and Blekko results while protecting the privacy of searchers.

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.

Posted in Undependable Support

Google Talk goes down in massive outage

It’s unwise to rely on Google as a mission-critical means of communication. A lot of people are finding that out today:

Google Talk went down hard this morning, but is getting back up and running.

“The problem with Google Talk should be resolved,” Google wrote on its App Status dashboard at 8:25 a.m. PT. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.”

A top priority… sure. That explains why the outage is affecting more than fifty percent of Google Talk’s users.

There are better alternatives available. Skype is well-known, but there’s also open-source software like Ekiga that is more dependable.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Gmail goes down, again

Whole lotta people inconvenienced this morning:

Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, is being reported as offline for many people this morning.

The extent and cause of the outage isn’t known at the moment. It is not a complete outage, but Twitter is abuzz with reports from users unable to access the Web service.

Users seem to be reporting mostly outages in accounts. Users of Google business e-mail accounts (Google Apps) are also reporting issues. Google’s Apps status dashboard reports, “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Mail. We will provide more information shortly.”

Other services, such as Google Docs and Google+, also appear unusable for those who are unable to access Gmail.

Google has tried to encourage the belief that its offerings have rock-solid reliability, but the truth is, they don’t. This isn’t the first Gmail outage, and it won’t be the last. There’s no good reason for anyone to trust the Monster of Mountain View with their email.

Posted in Undependable Support

Google kills off Wave, announces that existing conversations will be deleted if they aren’t exported

In a few short weeks, Google Wave will be history… and the data contained within Wave conversations will become inaccessible (though Google will probably retain copies):

As we announced in August 2010, we are not continuing active development of Google Wave as a stand-alone product. Google Wave will be shut down in April 2012. This page details the implication of the turn down process for Google Wave.

Stage 1: Google Wave is read-only — January 31, 2012

In this stage, you will no longer be able to create or edit waves. Marking a wave as read will also not be saved.

Robots that try to write to a wave will stop functioning.

During this time, you will continue to be able to export your waves using the existing PDF export feature. You’ll still be able to read existing waves and access the Google Wave client.

If you want to continue using Wave, there is an open source project called Walkaround that includes an experimental feature to import all your waves from Google.

Stage 2: Google Wave shut down — April 30, 2012

In this stage, all the Google Wave servers will be shut down and you will no longer be able to get to your waves. Make sure to export any waves you want to save before that time.

Once upon a time, Google Wave had the tech press enthralled. But that was in 2009. Now it’s 2012, and Google, having made the decision that Wave is expendable, is shutting down the service – though the underlying software has been open sourced and will live on, maintained by the Apache Foundation, the proprietary software industry’s favorite receptacle for orphaned and abandoned projects.

(The Foundation assumed control of the Wave codebase late last year; it also received control of from Oracle. Consequently, Google Wave is now Apache Wave, short for Wave-in-a-box).

Posted in Undependable Support

Google’s support for Android sucks

Blogger Michael DeGusta has published an illuminating chart which shows just how bad Google is at pushing out updates to phones running its spyware-laden Android operating system. He writes:

I went back and found every Android phone shipped in the United States1 up through the middle of last year. I then tracked down every update that was released for each device – be it a major OS upgrade or a minor support patch – as well as prices and release & discontinuation dates. I compared these dates & versions to the currently shipping version of Android at the time. The resulting picture isn’t pretty.

From the chart, he extrapolated some devastating numbers:

  • 7 of the 18 Android phones never ran a current version of the OS.
  • 12 of 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less.
  • 10 of 18 were at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period.
  • 11 of 18 stopped getting any support updates less than a year after release.
  • 13 of 18 stopped getting any support updates before they even stopped selling the device or very shortly thereafter.
  • 15 of 18 don’t run Gingerbread, which shipped in December 2010.
  • In a few weeks, when Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, every device on here will be another major version behind.
  • At least 16 of 18 will almost certainly never get Ice Cream Sandwich.

DeGusta goes on to discuss why Google is unable to match Apple in terms of support for users of older hardware. His piece is definitely worth reading.

Posted in Undependable Support, War on Privacy

Google kills off Buzz, several other products

Goodbye, Google Buzz. You won’t be missed:

According to a new post by Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz, on the official company blog, Google is delivering the death blow to several more products and services, including its code search engine, Buzz, Jaiku, iGoogle features and the University Research Program for Google Search, the latter which provides API access to Google Search results for a small number of academic institutions.

This is hardly the first time Google has killed off products. It previously axed Google Wave and Blogger’s FTP publishing, for instance.

Of course, in the case of Buzz, Buzz is no longer necessary now that Google has its bigger and better Facebook clone, Google+.

The Monster of Mountain View’s latest moves are just more proof that it doesn’t pay to be a Google early adopter. Google has bought a great many promising startups, only to shut them down and assign the talent to work somewhere else in the Googleplex.

The lesson for startups? If Google comes knocking, slam the door in their face and tell them to go away. Yelp and Groupon both spurned Google takeover offers, and they were wise to do so.