Ditching Delicious, Converting to Evernote

Delicious is one of those sites I heard about long before I started using it, much like Twitter. I had tried syncing bookmarks between Firefox installations using plugins, and I kept a bookmarks file on my jump drive for ease of reference, until I just got fed up with the process. Storing them online made sense, so I created an account and quickly converted all my regular bookmarks to Delicious.

Delicious has some frustrating design points though. Even if I ask it to keep me logged in, when I go to Delicious, it shows me other people’s bookmarks, not mine. So I set my home page to http://delicious.com/dmmagic, so it goes to my bookmarks… but the search box is still for all of Delicious. And here’s where it gets worse: I remember content better than title, so when I go to search, I rarely find what I’m looking for. I’ve bookmarked a page based on the content, but when I search, nothing comes up because the title doesn’t always reflect the content exactly.

Since I switched to Delicious, though, the oddest thing has happened: I’ve pretty much stopped using bookmarks. I don’t know why, but I just don’t often need to recall web sites late enough after finding them that I’ve forgotten where they are. And the sites I visit regularly, I don’t bother to seek the bookmark for: I just type it in. When I do need to recall something, a bookmark is insufficient.

Since I’ve used both Delicious and Evernote for a while, my information has been split between the two. Now that I’ve switched to Chrome, though, clipping to Evernote works even better than it did in Firefox. In addition, I can easily highlight the content I want to recall and send that to Evernote, or send the entire page with a click of a check box. And searching in Evernote is easier than searching in Delicious. I don’t need to recall individual sites, but I do need to save research.

I’ll need to improve my organization in Evernote a bit more, but in general I think it’s going to be a better tool for me than relying on bookmarks.

Google Patches Silently, Gets Uninstalled

Most people who follow technology news are familiar with the media’s conception of Microsoft as the Big Bad Corporation while portraying Google as the heroic underdog that has come to save the day. Google’s motto of “Do No Evil” has garnered a lot of good press for them, but over the years (and billions of dollars later), they are seeming more and more like the other big players in tech software. Despite their increasingly underhanded actions, though, they continue to get good press.

I was a bit shocked at the article I read on ZDNet this morning about a study that said silent patching is more secure and Google was awesome for doing it. Recognizing that I often rip on ZDNet for their writing, I want to state up front that this article is almost everything that is right about journalism. It stayed fairly neutral, presenting the facts and letting the reader reach their own conclusion. However, even the minimal back-patting I perceived towards Google set me on edge. What’s more, the study the author is using to defend the premise that silent patching (which Google apparently did recently with their web browser, Google Chrome) was co-authored by Google.

It’s amazing how positive your company’s security practices can look when you write your own security papers that state that what you are doing is The Right Thing™.

A couple of years ago, Microsoft performed a similar stealth update that caused many to pull ye olde pitchfork out of the hay pile and begin gleefully brandishing it at the sky, railing at their over-confident god. Torches were lit and the ground shook under the tramp of the marching masses, though in reality nothing much came of it. People complained and posted online and that was that. Linux perhaps won a few more converts (I had already left Microsoft completely by that time, but it certainly boosted my self-satisfaction).

There are certain things I agree to when using free software, and I recognize that I grant the company providing that software some liberties in exchange for services. I expect and accept that Google mines my email so they can better sell me advertisements–if I really cared about my email being private, I’d run my own encrypted server and that would be that. But I like GMail and I’m willing to part with certain liberties for its use. When I install a piece of software on my personal computer though (rather than just running it through a web browser), I come away with a set of expectations. Even though I downloaded the software, it still asked me if I wanted it to be installed. When my word processor or music applications release updates, they ask if I want to upgrade. Similarly, when my web browser needs an update, I expect it to prompt me.

What’s more, software updates can and do break things. This is why we turn Automatic Updates off for all of our servers. Yeah, updates are important and need to be installed, but you don’t just put that stuff on willy-nilly. If an update breaks an existing service, that needs to be sorted before you roll it out. IE 8 is now a critical update for Windows XP, but if it didn’t work with our software, there’s no way we would install it. Just the same, we need to test all updates before installing them, and that ability is taken away when the company pushes a stealth update. Silent patches risk the integrity of our work and the services we provide, and should simply never happen.

In the end, this is my computer, not yours. You don’t just install stuff on it without asking me. That’s not what we agreed to, and if you think it is, then I’ll just have to walk away. You can be sure, Google Chrome won’t be installed on another computer by me in the future.

Updated – Why Chrome Concerns Me

Google has recently announced their web browser, Google Chrome, and while a variety of bloggers and news sites have begun reporting on and hypothesizing about Google’s motivation and the browser’s functionality, nobody seems to have any negative concerns regarding Chrome other than its competition with Mozilla Firefox. Some have shared their concern that this will kill Firefox as well as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which is a fine concern to have, but one I think isn’t major. People who care more about privacy will look at Google’s continuous data mining and give Chrome a miss. Firefox will still be used, and it’s Open Source, so it’ll continue being developed (unless Google buys it…). But again, not my main issue.

My concern is where Google states that Chrome is more than a web browser. Rather, it’s “a modern platform for web pages and applications,” with the word application mentioned 5 times in three paragraphs there. While Mozilla Firefox uses Gecko as its application engine, Chrome will use Webkit (along with Safari and Konquerer), just as Google’s mobile operating system (Android) will use Webkit.

Application compatibility and development could certainly put a dent in Mozilla Firefox’s usage statistics, but more importantly, it sends up a red flag to me. I fear we’ll return to the lack of standardization that was a hallmark of the browser wars in the early to mid 90s. As webapps become more prevalent, I fear web developers will have to begin writing apps to be compatible with Gecko, Webkit, and Microsoft, and that’s simply ludicrous. We are finally achieving standardization when it comes to HTML, and with Javascript, PHP, and ASP we’ve got languages that are understood equally by all browsers.

With Google entering the browser wars and choosing Webkit, it appears that we are establishing a lack of standardization for the future, which bothers me. Moreover, as Google moves more towards web development, with their own web browser in place I fear that they will build something akin to Microsoft’s ActiveX, where their web applications will be even more advanced and powerful, but will require their web browser to achieve that full functionality. I am concerned that Chrome will encourage Google to create proprietary web applications.

Of course, they may stick to their creed of “Do No Evil,” and my concerns may be completely unfounded. But as Google gains more power and popularity, I wonder how far they can push the definition of “Good” before losing the favour of their users. Regardless, I’ll check out Chrome so I can support it, but I doubt I’ll be switching to it full time. I already give Google my email and contacts, but adding my browsing into that… I like to pretend to have at least a little bit of privacy.

Addendum:: Google Chrome is Open Source, as is Webkit, so it’s not like THE END OF THE WORLD if they develop stuff that’s Webkit-only. It would just make me a little sad, and be a step in the wrong direction, I would think. Unless Webkit became a standard (and I’m sure someone will make the argument that Mozilla could always switch from Gecko to Webkit), and no news or rumours have arisen yet that such a move is likely in the web development community… though with both Android and the iPhone using Webkit, it certainly wouldn’t be absurd for Webkit to become so prevalent it became a standard…

Regarding Privacy:: Another update, since I mentioned this earlier. Since I’m in meetings all day, I haven’t downloaded, installed, and tried Chrome yet, but CNet takes a closer look at the Terms of Service attached to Chrome. Of particular concern to me is:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services.

Since my own content is copylefted under Creative Commons, I don’t particularly like the idea of Google serving up my content in any sort of advertisement and potentially making money from it.