Google Keep shadowed by Google Reader and Notebook

Google notebook

Google released Keep, a note-taking application that allows you to save your todo lists, notes, web clips, audios, photos, etc. and it stores everything in your Google Drive account. With the recent notice of Google Reader being shut down, this new application release has been badly received by users that are questioning Google’s trust on keeping a service alive for long, even when it has a lot of usage.

The funny thing about Keep is that this is the second incarnation of the service. The previous attempt was called Google Notebook and also got killed in July 2012. Will Keep stay for long?

Om Malik, on Gigaom, advices that it is wiser to trust a small company whose core business is the service you need. Companies like Evernote and Dropbox only have one core product, and they concentrate on improving it and keeping it useful since it is their core business. Google has a lot of products and services and it’s not a big deal to kill any of them at any given time.

The problem on depending on web services is not new and I’ve been talking about it several times. Companies come and go and people are trusting their services with their information. This is why it is important to create and use free network services. Owncloud is an alternative to cloud backup services like Dropbox. For note taking I’m not aware of any FAIF web service but applications like Tomboy (Gnome) or BasKet (KDE) are good desktop options. I personally use Emacs Org-mode and sync it with MobileOrg.

Will you use Google Keep or stay with Evernote or other similar service providers? Do you know any free web alternative to these? Let me know in the comments!

GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

My Mediagoblin instance with better image quality & EXIF data

GNU Mediagoblin logo

In my continuous attempts to free myself from proprietary webservices and run my own Free Network Services, I’ve finally set up my own GNU Mediagoblin instance. This is a multimedia gallery project to host, show and share several kinds of media files, like images, videos, ascii art, SVGs and even 3D models. From the Mediagoblin site it describes the project as:

MediaGoblin is a free software media publishing platform that anyone can run. You can think of it as a decentralized alternative to Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.

One thing I noticed was that the quality of the images was not good. I enhanced the quality of the image resizes done by default and the improvement was noticeable. It’s still not as sharp as Flickr’s quality yet (I don’t know how they do it) but it is cleaner and with no artifacts.

Mediagoblin thumbnail quality before
Thumbnail quality before

Mediagoblin thumbnail quality after
Thumbnail quality after

Mediagoblin Full image before
Full image before. You can notice lack of sharpness and some artifacts around the guy’s hat
Mediagoblin Full image after
Full image after, much cleaner and sharper image

Also I’ve enhanced the way the EXIF info is presented. I added a camera settings section that shows key relevant info most photographers are interested in looking at: what camera was used, when the photo was taken, exposure, aperture, ISO and focal length. By clicking the “Additional Information” button you can now see all the EXIF information on the file that was previously being omitted.

Mediagoblin camera info panel
Mediagoblin camera info panel on the right

I hope my patches get accepted upstream and I plan to continue working on the project as I find it very useful. The planned features for future releases I’m eagerly waiting for are the API and the multiple file upload. That way I can post more of my content easily and maybe write a script to import all photos from Flickr. That would be nice.

Digital rights Law & Freedom GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Depending on web services

What would happen if your access to most of your online services were to be disabled? What would you loose?

I’ve been in situations where we have to decide either to run certain applications on our server, like E-mail, scheduling, project management, etc. Or use the ubiquitous, given-for-granted web services from huge companies with huge servers, like Google.

Most of the time, the decision is in favor of thrid party providers for such services, since the comodity of being just a few clicks away is huge. Also, it gives a good sensation of reliability. Except for Twitter, most web services are available 99.999% of the time.

Mako Hill and others at the Free Software Foundation have been warning about the posibility of depending so much on 3rd party services (information at that you can be left out without data if the provider ceased to exist, killed the service or kick you out. They even have a wiki with a list of free software alternatives you can set up on your own machines to replace such services.

Well, the idea of finding Gmail or any other 3rd party software service unavailable is pretty much inconcievable. But what about your account being disabled without notice or reason?

That exact thing happened to me this past Friday.

I was using my Gmail as usual in the morning, I went for lunch, came back and tried to log in. I got a message saying: Sorry, your account has been disabled. I filled out the contact form for support and only got an auto reply message and no help at all. The whole weekend passed and the situation was the same.

My account being disabled, meant that I had no longer access to my emails, my calendars, my rss feeds, my news, my homepage with its widgets and tools, my documents, notes, videos, website traffic statistics and finally my adsense account.

All these things I used to rely on Google, for the reasons stated at the begginning of this post. Bad idea.

What saved me

Fortunately for me, I had backups. I was recently testing a desktop rss feed reader aKgregator, and exported all my rss feeds from google reader to my computer. Since I’ve always hated web interfaces to interact with my email, I always checked my emails through Thunderbird via POP3.

I only lost access to my calendar appointments, my startup page widgets and some unimportant documents at Google apps, since I always use OpenOffice for all my documents. My videos that were uploaded are on my backup files and I don’t use Picasa for my photo album,though I do use Flickr, but all my pictures are perfectly safe on my backup files too.

Getting it back

So the whole weekend passed without any notice from Google support team. On monday, I started writing this post and looking for somone else that had a similar experience.

I came across this post with the story of Nick Saber. Same situation where his google account was disabled without any notice, warning or reason. On the comments I found that Google did replied to his emails and sent him this link. I followed the link and filled in the form with the questions. Minutes later I had an email saying that my account was enabled again. No explanations, nothing.

So if I never came across this blog post and this link, I would’ve never gotten my google services account back.

Lessons learned

Even though I have my account back, my relationship with Google will never be the same. Gmail will never be my primary email address ever again. I’ll always check it though POP3 as it turned out to be great for me. I’ll only use the rest of the google services a a nice to have online access, but not as my primary source of these services.

I’ll be running my own services using free software on a machine I own from now on as much as its possible. I can never again rely on someone else’s computer services. Its not going to be as nice and comfortable, but it will be reliable and completely mine.

You should consider being in a situation like mine and not be left out in the cold when you get kicked out of a service without notice or reason, and without your data.

Not like the others… photo is creative commons by greenapplegrenade