Category Archives: Google


Much ado has been made over the Google+ “real names policy” (as it is commonly referred to outside of Google), which does not, in fact, state anything about needing to use your “real” or legal name. The Names Policy (as Google calls it) states quite clearly that “it’s important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you”. This is what I did. The majority of the people I know and wish to connect with online know me simply as Wolfger. In fact, many people do not know my legal name at all, or would have to do some severe memory exercise to recall it.

Yesterday, Google determined in some way that I was in violation of the Names Policy. This clearly isn’t true, and I don’t know what method they used to determine this, but there it is. I immediately (prior to suspension) created a post asking people on G+ who had met me in real life to inform Google of my name. All the same, my account was suspended between the time I went to bed and the time I woke up.

What does suspension mean exactly? At first I just thought it meant I lost G+. No biggie. I’m not as active on social networks as I once was. Then I encountered problems on Buzz, where I could not “like” or comment on anything. I thought it was the workplace firewall catching up with the times, but when I got home the problem persisted. No message pops up to tell me why I can’t do these things, the action just fails and looks every bit like a bug. Google FAIL. Later I tried to change my status on Google Talk after I noticed my last custom status went away. The status appeared to be applied, but disappeared a second later. Two more attempts, same thing. So I’m not allowed to have a Google Talk status if Google doesn’t like my name? Come on. That’s just ridiculous. Who know what’s next… I’m afraid for my phone, which uses the Google Android operating system. If that stops working, I think I will have to see if there’s a lawyer willing to do some pro-bono work. Could be lucrative. (Update 1: Google has also removed my profile picture from chat. Apparently when they decide your name isn’t suitable, you’re no longer allowed to show your face, either.)

I’m in the appeals process, and hopefully some human with half a brain looks at my case and realizes that somebody or some script made a mistake, but in the mean time I’m looking for a replacement for all the Google things in my life. Recommendations (especially where e-mail is concerned) are welcome. Gmail will be the hardest thing to do without.

Note: I am not complaining about the Names Policy, nor am I refusing to comply with it. Facebook has an actual (and completely unenforced) real names policy, and I comply with that.  If Google determines, incorrectly, that Wolfger isn’t my common name, I’ll switch to my legal name, and immediately start eliminating Google from my life. I’ve worked hard for my name. I’m going to keep it.




Prismatic Web

No, it’s not a new AD&D spell. It’s the concept of having application-specific browser windows. It’s funny that I should read a Linux Journal article about Prism today, because I just installed Prism on my computer last night. I tried it once before, when it first came out (or was that when it first got included into Ubuntu?), and was not impressed. I couldn’t figure out why I would want to run multiple Prism apps instead of one multi-tabbed browser. Then I decided that I tend to have so many open tabs, that trying to find my Gmail tab or my Google Reader tab was a bit of a pain.

Of course, it’s still not perfect. The Prism apps are very lean, tailored to just what you need for a particular site. Or what they think you’ll need. I have some RSS feeds of webcomics and pictures in my Google Reader. Occasionally I find a comic or picture I want to save to my hard drive. No way to do that in Prism. Still it seems like a worthwhile, if incomplete, idea. I haven’t benchmarked the memory usage, but it does feel zippier versus loading tabs in Firefox.

I’m using prism-google-mail, prism-google-reader, and prism-google-talk. Ubuntu also has a handful of others like Twitter, Facebook, and some other Google stuff.

Anybody else using it? Thoughts? Hints?

I has a backup plan

If the economy really turns to shit (like, if my entire household becomes unemployed, runs out of unemployment insurance, and still can’t find a job), I know where to go to rob some wealthy houses. Broughton, England. I know they are worth robbing, because they ran the Google “street view” car out of town on fear that photographs of their homes would lure burglars. So obviously, site unseen, that’s the neighborhood to rob. I’d like to thank the paranoid residents of Broughton, England (just North of London) for alerting me to their existence and their wealth by making a big fuss about it all. And thanks to CNN for carrying the story.


Checking my stats page today, I notice the top search leading to my blog yesterday was “worship me or i’ll torture you forever”. So I just had to go see… I copied and pasted that into Google and I’ve got the top two results on the query. Awesome.
What’s even more amusing is that the post in which those words appear, I linked to the site I got it from, and the site he got it from… but I beat them both out in Google.

So… you know… worship me, or I’ll torture you forever. 🙂

Stick a fish in your ear.

Those who aren’t Douglas Adams fans may not get the reference, but Google announced today the closest thing the world has yet to a “universal translator”. Now when you use Google Talk, you can invite translation bots to the chat. Have a pal in Germany? Want to discuss a bug with a developer in Japan? These bots can help bridge the language barrier. Or, of course, make a complete mess of things. It’s just out today, so there is definitely room for improvement, and automated translations often leave something to be desired, but it’s a good (and important) first step. Especially in the world of Free Software, where people of many different nations collaborate on projects on a regular basis.

Penguicon 6.0, the Ubuntu Penguicon?

This week, we went from zero to two “tech” Guests of Honor. They are Jono Bacon, and Benjamin Mako Hill. We also confirmed Chris DiBona will be coming back as a “Nifty” guest, Jorge Castro , and Kyle Rankin as well. On the off chance you don’t know who any of these people are, here’s the official write-up. I am so looking forward to this. I’ve been plugging Jono as a good choice for GoH since the first season of LUG Radio, and his credentials have only gotten more impressive since then. Looks like I’ll be attending a lot more Linux stuff this year at con than the past couple years. Of course, I also need to make time for the perennial favorite, Tom Smith, and one of my favorite cartoonists who barely even draws: Randall Munroe (who, I understand, is also an Ubuntu geek).

A tale of two spams

I went to bed last night (this morning) after midnight, and woke up around 6 AM. One of the last things I did before bed was check my inbox and either read or archive all the new messages. So I was rather surprised this morning when I had 16 unread messages in my inbox. I’m a firm believer in filters and labels: all my mailing lists have their own label and never touch the inbox, so 16 e-mails is pretty significant. I scan the “from” names and they’re all unfamiliar. About half of them have attachments. The top subject line is “DPOD entry: torus-trooper”. Great. Gmail’s spam filter must be out of commision. But wait… the second subject contains the words “GNU” and “wget”. This may be legit. So going down to the bottom, I see “Welcome to project-debaday”. Woot! Not only is it not spam, but I’ve been accepted as a debaday editor!

Then I see a pop-up note under my contacts list. Gmail says some dude wants to chat with me. Somebody from debaday? So I allow it, and under his name is a URL. Hmm. I say hello, and wait a good long time. He’s online but not responding. Great. Google Chat spam. Like the world needs that.

To the moon, Alice!

Google is sponsoring the “Google Lunar X Prize“. Any team that can put a rover on the moon, and achieve specific mission goals, by the end of 2012 can net themselves a cool $20,000,000. That’s just 5 years. A pretty ambitious undertaking, but I think it’s doable. Hopefully somebody proves me right.

Why DRM is evil, in one easy lesson

A lot of people don’t understand what DRM is, or why geeks like me are so deadset against it. For starters, DRM is a software “anti-piracy” tool… at least, that’s how the people who use it try to spin it. In reality, it’s a software used to give the people who sell you things control over the product, even after you buy it. Not upset about it yet? You must not be a Google Video customer.
Google Video was nice enough to volunteer to teach people a valuable (and costly) lesson about DRM. Unfortunately, that means I can no longer defend Google from its detractors as I have in recent months, because this is irrefutable evidence that Google does indeed do evil from time to time.
What did Google Video do? Well, imagine you go down to Wal-Mart to buy a DVD. Or a dozen DVDs. And a month later, the manager of Wal-Mart shows up at your house and says “I’m sorry, but we’re discontinuing our video selling program. We’re going to have to take back all the DVDs you bought. We’ll give you a Wal-Mart gift card in exchange, but it expires in 60 days”. That is what Google did, and can do easily, because of DRM.


Penguicon just picked up Google as a sponsor for next year. Google’s paying for the entire Saturday night consuite (come drink caffeine and/or beer, courtesy of our new overlords!), and there will be a bag’o’swag for everybody at check-in. I can’t wait. Get the details from the Penguicon LJ page.