Tech corner

RIP iGoogle.

iGoogle is, it says here, a ‘customizable Ajax-based startpage or personal web portal’. As well as Google search, it contains all my bookmarks, the highly addictive Flood-It game, a huge ‘sticky note’ mostly listing YouTube URLs for future reference, Google Translate, my Gmail, a Wikipedia search box, the time and weather, plus Google News feeds for the subjects I find interesting. In any civilized place in the world, I can log into it and instantly be at home. That’s why it’s called a home page, and it’s why users of iGoogle are angry that the service is being scrapped in a few hours’ time, because this is like being evicted with nowhere to go.

Google thinks it’s outdated and old-fashioned and no-one needs it any more in this exciting world of apps. All the features will still exist, but it seems on PCs they will be best (or only) accessed through Chrome and you will need to go through Google Now. This is essentially iGoogle’s replacement, and it is primarily designed for the 2010s world of teenagers clutching little plastic slabs everywhere they go, rather than the 2000s era of grown-ups sitting at desks with PCs.

Google Now, so far as I can tell, is not just configured for smartphones and tablets. Its features are heavily biased towards the hyperactive attention-deficit disorder types who take pleasure in constantly being in others’ faces, and in constantly having others in their face. It is a hellish world of constant updates and messages and general jabbering, where no-one reads or looks at things – they just share them, incessantly. As it happens, several entrepreneurs have launched replacements for I-Google, which will either serve the purpose well, or at least help to wean people like me off our trusty old home page onto… something else.

This is progress – the constant fixing and upgrading and replacement of things that work perfectly. It’s like the time Vitasoy withdrew their mint-chocolate flavour. You just think… why?

By coincidence, I am moving gingerly, and for intellectually respectable and adult reasons, into mild gizmo-clutching. Many moons ago I was compelled to start using an iPhone. I never did manage to repeat the absurd business of copying MP3s onto the thing – forget about putting videos on it. Nor did I ever have the patience to register with Steve Jobs’ cyber-gestapo to download apps (I gave up when they demanded my mother’s maiden name). So it sits there as my work phone. In fact, it doesn’t even do that, having a SmartTone account that fails to provide a signal, curiously, in a single Malaysian or Singapore restaurant in town, nor in a wide variety of other locations, including my own apartment (which, I must say, I rather like).

Good camera, though.

And I am now proud owner of this beast, a Samsung Galaxy 8 LTE (or something), seen here displaying a picture of itself, taken and displayed by the iPhone, with an everyday household item alongside for scale… 

You can of course put music on it without a titanic struggle with Apple’s wretchedly awful iTunes. Also, unlike the Apple garbage, you’re allowed to put videos on it, so I have On The Beach downloaded from YouTube waiting for when I have a few spare hours. I’ve downloaded free e-books from Amazon’s Kindle, like the Dore-illustrated version of Poe’s The Raven, and, of all things, Foxe’s Martyrs. They also have an intriguing range of pulp Amish romances (I’m thinking ‘trapped in a malfunctioning escalator between floors with James Tien’, and I’d be glad to have a few ‘bonnet-rippers’ to pass the time before the rescue guys get us out). And I’ve downloaded Flood-It. And Google Sky Map, which shows the stars you can’t see at night (and day – who needs clean air and a clampdown on light pollution?) You can input Chinese with your finger, if you like, and you can type on the keypad without taking your fingers off if you remember where all the letters are fast enough to swype it this way and that, which I can’t quite. The device also comes with a sort of pen that you use for doodling or writing, which is probably also a gimmick, but is powered wirelessly by the device thus also amazing.  And the battery seems to last for days.

I still haven’t ‘migrated’ to Google Now on the thing; I might see if you can disable all the tiresome ‘keeping-in-touch-with-everyone’ stuff, or not bother. And I declare the weekend open with the warning that I might get into Twitter.

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23 Responses to Tech corner

  1. Neandertax Payer says:

    I personally still use a stone age neolithic Nokia (otherwise known as a Neokia) with zero functions. Cost HK$200 second hand. But at least I can navigate between english and pin-yin in a couple of easily-remembered strokes, and it doesn’t need a Chinese girl’s little finger to spell out messages. Neanderthal size thumbs work with abc / def / etc ( it took me 10 times as long to write out our home address on my wife’s iPhone as a could have done with with my Neokia.

    ‘On The Beach’ – now that brings back memories : one of the most terrifying films I ever watched (terrifying in the real sense considering it was produced in the middle of the cold war).

    PS: If ever Hemmers starts using twitter then the world has really come to an end. Time for us all to emigrate to Australia and like the people the in On The Beach all take suicide pills. Steve Jobs not only changed the world, he fucked it up.

  2. Sid says:

    You konw you’re getting older when you yearn for features available in long-gone Windows and Word versions, when you prefer printouts, keyboards or mice at a pinch, when you find yourself saying “still”, when your favourite music is stuck on obsolete media or when you’re called sir or madam in shops.

  3. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    How the world has changed. Who is old enough to remember going to the Cable & Wiseless office in Middle Road to book an oversees phone call to the UK; person to person or station to station. The operator would connect you, then interrupt as your time ran out on a crackling line. Tell the kids that today … they don’t believe you.

  4. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    And another thing … I was given my first mobile phone by the corporation in 1981. It was the size of shoe box, had a long aerial and probably put out more radiation that RAF Fylingdales.

    That’s enough for today from me. Time for my medication.

  5. Mary Hinge says:

    ” ‘trapped in a malfunctioning escalator between floors with James Tien’, and I’d be glad to have a few ‘bonnet-rippers’ to pass the time …”

    That’s wrong on so many levels.

  6. mjrelje says:

    I remember the international ‘phone booths at Kai Tak. You could smoke inside them and they stank. I also used to love using the office Telex machine before fax came along and dialling internationally with a rotary phone which took bloody ages. Time for my medication too 🙁

  7. Grog says:

    On my phone I have figured out how to do what no one else is doing: Make phone calls.

    On the subject of Steve Jobs, comedian Bill Burr has an entertaining opinion of him and his legacy. Check it out:

  8. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    I decided to get with the times and converted from paper notebooks to a Samsung with the pen thing. I’m a big fan. After trying out a few different apps as paper notebook replacements, I recommed the LectureNotes app. That plus the RealCalc app as a calculator make me think I’m somehow a productive man of the digital age.

    You can also pick up little Bluetooth keyboards that fold up to more or less wallet size at most computer centres, if you’re a big believer in using a tablet as a word processor or similar device. I’m not quite at that stage yet, but do use the keyboard on some occasions. Most of the keyboard on offer are un-user friendly soft keys, but you can find some hard key versions.

  9. maugrim says:

    Whatsapp is great, I use my iPhone to play my sonos system at home, even gave diferent music at different levels in different rooms. However, even Facebook is considered ‘boring’ by the next generation, everything has a spell check and people seldom send a paper card or letter, not that they are ‘faster’, but can have a meaning way beyond a message in electronic format.

  10. gweiloeye says:

    How to disable the crap on your new Samsung toy:
    Setting–>Application Manager–>scroll across to “All”
    Find the offending application e.g. ChatOn, tap it, then “Force Stop”, “Clear data”
    It will have a button “Disable” tap and done!

    If it has “Uninstall Updates” instead – just do this and then the “Disable” button will appear!

    Sent from: my crappy old work laptop.

  11. Stephen says:

    O f*ck no, not another tech blog !

    Youngster in the office commented on my desk diary that I use and called it a hard copy!

    Time to go to the bathroom again …

  12. Chopped Onions says:

    not Twit ter please.

  13. I use a camera for taking photos; a CD player for playing music; an old Nokia phone for making phone calls; and I don’t have time to play games. I guess that makes me a dinosaur, but at least one with better quality pictures and sound than the everything-on-one-device crowd. In any case, my eyesight is too poor to use today’s tiny screens – I have a 27 inch monitor on my home PC. And I still remember how to use Lotus 1-2-3 without a mouse.

    Do you really eat bananas every day?

  14. Gumshoe says:

    The one thing to keep in mind about Twitter is that the only people who are good at it are the ones who realize it is terrible.

  15. Quality of Life says:

    Before you know it every Hemlock post is ending with “This message sent from my whatever-the-fuck”.

  16. Neandertax Payer says:

    BTW : what the fuck IS this twitter thing ?

    An updated version of the stone-age ax or a new way to write on cave walls ?

    Never used it, certainly never tried to access it . Don’t even know the ur -L

    But it seems life goes on regardless without it , so do I need twitter ?

    Fuck NO !

  17. The Regulator says:

    The difference between a 3,000 year old Sumerian clay tablet and a 25 year floppy disc is that we can decipher the former as a receipt, for instance, for a goat for a wedding feast; and as to the latter, no idea.

  18. David Webb says:

    I cannot help but notice that the first half of your blog knocks Google, and the second half praises your new tablet, which runs an operating system from Google called Android. Go on, admit it, you love them – you just don’t know it. But they know everything about you and, consequentially, so does the NSA.

  19. Sid says:

    I use a normal phone to navigate the “hotline” menus and put the rininging tone on the loudspeaker while I get on with my life; I use the mobile when people drive into me.

    The PCs are for watching downloaded 5.1 1080p films and playing music in stereo or 5.1 .flac format: you can delete the tracks you don’t like and make it play automatically for months on end. But the quality’s only about as good as the cheapest CD player, especially given the rather harrumphing bass parts.

  20. Andanotherthing says:

    Recently went to a reunion of my graduating class of 1970. Not a mobile phone in sight throughout our evening together – no texting and no interrupted conversations. All photos taken with cameras. No ‘selfies’. What bliss!

  21. phonus balonus says:

    @ Neandertax Payer
    Facebook is only used by over-30 year olds to make arrangements, and Twitter is used by teenies to follow Rhianna etc. That’s all you need to know.

  22. Saikungbob says:

    Gawd, I hate it when you write about something technological. Both your attitude and the views expressed by most of your faithful readers make me worry about the fact that, on most other topics, I completely agree with you. On most other topics you seem insightful and intelligent, but when you range on to topics technical, you just seem like an old fogey.

    By the way, I suspect that I’m probably 20 years your senior. There are stupid things in technology, of course, but in general I’m more productive with the tools now available, plus they turn into toys after hours.

  23. @Neandertaxpayer – Facebook is used by over-30-year-olds as the only way to keep in touch with what their younger relatives (sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grand-whatevers) are up to, because the younger generation have no idea that older forms of communication exist (what’s a letter?) Twitter is for people whose attention span is too short for Facebook.

    @Saikungbob – I was using PCs for work long before they became indispensable. yes technology can be productive and enjoyable, but it would be nice if the younger generation experienced the world through their own eyes instead of via a three-inch screen. Have you taken a teenager on a trip lately?

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