Daily Mail on Google and Adele

Today, the Daily Mail published the most hysterical pile of anti-internet crap that I think I’ve ever seen. And that takes some doing as Daily Mail articles usually combine a complete lack of understanding of the internet together with the deep distrust and fear that Mail writers have for most of the modern world.

In this article, writer Alex Brummer turns his attention to Google and the damage that they are doing to the UK’s digital industry. It’s the usual concoction of nonsense and half-truths and it contains a typical Mail conspiracy theory claiming that David Cameron is promoting Google as a good example of a digital success story because his strategy advisor Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google’s head of communications. It doesn’t seem to occur to Brummer at all that Cameron is promoting Google as a good example of a digital success story because… well because it’s a bloody good example of a digital success story.

The article then goes seriously off the rails as Brummer explains how Google’s business plan is plunder the copyright of hard-working British artists like Adele and to share their work with everyone for free. It reaches a peak of insanity as he says this:

One only has to switch on the computer, call up the Google search engine and type in the name of a star like Adele to understand why the digital channel is such a threat to the UK’s performers, and for that matter our whole creative industry.

Nine out of the first ten websites which pop up on Google’s search engine are run by pirates who have downloaded Adele’s output and offer it online far more cheaply than official copyrighted sites and High Street retailers.

Claims like this aren’t new, of course and presumably Brummer assumes that everyone who reads those paragraphs will nod in agreement whilst thinking to themselves, “Of course that’s what happens – wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turns up a few pages of porn too”. Brummer relies on his readership being people who have be told so many horror stories about Google search results that they are now scared to even visit the site.

So what happens if you actually bother to try Brummer’s suggestion. Here’s what I got:

  • Three links to videos on YouTube. Two of them are from her record label and the other one seems to be from Adele’s own channel.
  • Two links to Adele’s official web site.
  • Three links to news stories about Adele (including Brummer’s own story).
  • A link to Adele’s MySpace page.
  • Five images.
  • A link to a page about Adele on
  • A link to a page of Adele lyrics (this doesn’t look official).
  • A link to Adele’s Facebook page.
  • A link to an Amazon page promoting Adele.
  • A link to Adele’s record company’s page about her.

All of which rather seems to disprove Brummer’s theory. From this sample it seems that Google seems very adept at putting Adele’s fans in touch with official sources of information about her. Only the lyrics page seems unofficial or unapproved – and do lyrics really count as piracy?

There’s another option to consider here though. For a couple of years now Google have been providing customised search results. Whenever you search on Google, they take into account the links that you have clicked on from previous search results. I’m not surprised that I get a page of official links as those are the kinds of sites that I usually show most interest in. If Mr Brummer gets a page of pirate links then perhaps he should investigate who has been using his computer.


Thunderbird and Exchange

This morning a friend was complaining on Twitter about using Evolution on Linux to talk to his company’s Exchange server. Evolution is the default answer to the question “how do I talk to Exchange from Linux”, but my past experience has been much like my friend’s – it’s really not a very good answer.

I suggested Thunderbird to him. In my opinion, Thunderbird is the best email program out there. It’s been my email program of choice for several years. It will happily work with Exchange to receive and send email. Googling for “thunderbird exchange” will bring back lots of useful results.

But Exchange isn’t just about email. There’s a whole calendaring system there too. Evolution supports that, but (by default) Thunderbird doesn’t. There is, however, a way to get your Exchange calendar into Thunderbird using a rather circuitous route. Here’s how I do it.

Firstly, you need the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird. Lightning adds calendar features to Thunderbird. You can create events and get alerts when they are about to happen. You can even subscribe to external calendars as long as they are in a standard format. Unfortunately, Exchange calendars aren’t in standard formats. So we need some kind of intermediary.

The intermediary I use is Google Calendar. In fact I use Google Calendar as my definitive calendar. Every other calendar application I use reads from or writes to my Google Calendar. And Thunderbird (or, rather, Lightning) is one of the applications that interacts with it. Google Calendar writes calendars in the correct standard format, so Lightning will read a Google Calendar out of the box. But we can get cleverer than that using another Thunderbird add-on called Provider. Once Provider is installed, communication between Lightning and Google Calendar becomes two-way. I can add events either in Lightning or in Google Calendar and they will turn up in both.

There’s one final step. We need to synchronise our Exchange calendar with Google Calendar. And Google have a product that does just that. It’s called Google Calendar Sync. With this installed, your Exchange calendar is automatically synchronised with Google Calendar regularly. So now we can edit our calendar anywhere and the new or updated events will show up in all of our calendars. I’ve even noticed that invitations to events from other Exchange users show up in Lightning – but I haven’t tried replying from there yet.

There are two things I don’t like about Google Calendar Sync. Firstly, it has to be running on a PC running Windows which is connected to your Exchange Server. So it’s not a solution that will work whilst you’re (for example) out of the office with your office PC switched off. Secondly, it will only sync with your main Google Calendar. I would have liked to have a separate calendar for work events (and it’s only work events that come from my Exchange calendar), but that doesn’t seem to be supported yet.

And there are a couple of caveats with Lightning and Provider. If you’re using a Beta test version of Thunderbird 3 then the standard Lightning and Provider downloads don’t work with it. There are nightly builds of them both available, and the version of Lightning that I tried worked fine but Provider still didn’t seem to work. I expect that situation to change quickly over the next few weeks as the Thunderbird 3 launch gets closer.

A year ago I was really disorganised. I never knew what I was supposed to be doing. Settling on Google Calendar as a definitive place to plan my life was a really good idea. At least now, I know which meetings I’m missing.


Combining Google Accounts

Somehow over the last few years I have acquired two Google accounts. One of them is associated with my Gmail email address and the other is associated with my address. Recently I heard that the G1 phone ties itself to a single Google account when you activate it, so if I’n going to get a G1[1] then I need to combine them as far as I can.

This has proved to be a bit of a battle. And as it gives an interesting insight to how Google’s tools aren’t quite as integrated as they would like you to think they are, I thought I’d write up my experiences so far.

My first approach was to find some way to just merge  the two accounts. That would have been great – just take the data from both accounts and combine it. But there wasn’t an option to do that. I could add other email addresses to my account, but they explicitly stop you from adding Gmail accounts. So I was left with trying to combine things a product at a time. I decided that I wanted to move everything over to the Gmail account.

Google Calendar
I’ve been using Google Calendar a lot recently. But it was on the account. So I wanted to move control of that calendar to my Gmail account. That proved to be impossible. I could give the Gmail account complete access rights to the calendar, but I couldn’t give it ownership. In the end I exported the calendar to a .ics file and imported it into the other account.

Google Docs
I have a number of documents in Google Docs. As with Calendar, it’s easy enough to give another account complete rights to access and update you documents. And, even better, there’s a new feature to transfer ownership of documents to another account. There’s a rather scary-looking warning that you can only transfer ownership to another account from the same domain, but that didn’t seem to be a problem as I was able to transfer documents from my account to my Gmail account. Well, I could transfer some of my documents. For some reason, thsi feature isn’t currently supported for spreadsheets. So I hav a bout a dozen spreadsheets that are still owned by the wrong account. I suppose I can download them as OpenOffice files and then recreate then in the other account. But it seems rather a roundabout approach.

Google Analytics
This worked well. I could add another account as an adminstrator of my Google Analytics account. And then that account could remove access from the original account. If only all the transfers were as simple as this one.

Google Adwords
I have a couple of small ad campaigns running through Google Adwords. This transfer was supposed to be simple. You can replace the owning Google account with another Google account. Except, apparently, my Gmail account was already the owner of another Adwords account. This might be to do with the connection between Adwords and Analytics. Anyway, I just closed down the old account and opened a new one.

Google Adsense
This is the one that it’s most important to get right. I don’t want to lose any money from my Adsense account. And I’d really like to hold on to all of the historical data from the existing account. I can’t see any way to transfer control to another account, so currently I’m thinking that I might have to keep the old account open. If anyone has any advice, I’d love to hear it.

Google Maps
Trivial but annoying. I’ve got a map stored in Google Maps (it’s the one on my Livery Companies site). As with Calendar, I can share it with the other account but I can’t actually transfer ownership (as far as I can see). It would only tak an hour or so ot recreate it, but it’s annoying to have to take that time.

Google Groups
Another slightly annoying one. I can obviously unsubscribe from all of my groups and resubscribe from Gmail (there are only eleven of them). But then I’d get the mail in Gmail and I’d really rather that it continued going to I suppose what I’d like to do is to make another email address the main address on the old account, then move the address into the Gmail account. I haven’t looked to see if you can do that yet. Something to try this evening. [Update: I’ve just looked. It seems you can’t remove the primary email address on an account]

Having so many linked services run by one company is supposed to make life easier. But having battled with this over the last couple of weeks, it’s clear that these services aren’t as closely linked as you think they are.

I wonder what proportion of Google’s customers have multiple accounts, and how many of them have tried to correct that. I bet most of them just give up.

If anyone has any stories about this (or, even better, inside information) I’d love to hear them.

[1] Actually, having had experiences similar to Nik’s it’s becoming less and less likely that I’ll get a G1. But I still think this is a useful exercise.


Daily Mail on Chrome

It’s very unlikely that you haven’t heard of Chrome, the browser that Google launched last week. If you’re running Windows then you may have even tried it out.

Those of you (and I assume it’s most of you) who follow tech news will also know that there was some confusion over Chrome’s licence agreement during the week. On Wednesday it was noticed that the agreement (which everyone is bound by when using the software) claimed that Google had full rights to do whatever it wanted with any data that you submitted through the browser. Uproar ensued for a few hours until Google realised its mistake, apologised and removed the offending clause. By Thursday lunchtime everything was fine again.

But not in the world of the Daily Mail. For some reason they decided to run the story about Chrome’s licence today. Why they didn’t run it on Thursday or Friday when the story was still fresh, I don’t know, but it’s there on their web site today. Of course as the confusion over the licence has all been resolved, they mention that in the fourth and fifth paragraphs.

Google’s ‘End User License Agreement’ (EULA) attracted so many complaints in a 24-hour period that it was forced to edit the offending clause.

It now states that users ‘retain copyright and any other rights’ that they hold on material posted or submitted online.

But it seems that isn’t clear enough for Mail readers, some of whom have left comments on the story demonstrating that they obviously haven’t managed to get that far into the story. Maybe they only read the headline before becoming so insensed that they had to post a comment. Here are some examples:

Sounds like an excellent reason to steer well clear of it – Fred James, Worcester, UK

Thank you Daily Mail.You have just stopped me from downloading this new Browser. – william

I’m uninstalling… – Phillie L Hall, Abu Dhabi

All in all it seems that these particular Mail readers fail at basic comprehension.

Update: I’ve just noticed that at the top of their story, the Mail describe this problematic clause as a “hidden” clause. In what way was it hidden? It was just part of the licence agreement. It was only hidden in the same way that all clauses of all licences are hidden – because no-one ever reads them.


Livery Halls

Long time readers (and followers of my Flickr stream) might remember that a couple of years ago I developed an obsession with taking photos of the City of London Livery Halls. The obsession waned when I stop working in the City but over the last couple of weeks I’ve been wandering around the city a bit and have noticed some maps pointing to halls that aren’t in my collection yet. So at some point soon I’ll start trying to get photos of those (I think I’m missing half dozen or so).

But then I started thinking about maybe organising a walk round the City one weekend to see as many of the halls as possible. And, of course, in order to do that you need a map showing where they all are. And the easiest way to plot random points on a map is to use the “My Maps” feature in Google Maps.

So, after a couple of hours work – here is a map showing the London Livery Halls. Actually, currently it only shows the ones I’ve photographed. I’ll add the missing ones soon. I’ll also add more information to each pin – the address, a link to their web site and perhaps a photo. But I think it’s interesting and useful as it stands, so I thought it was working mentioning it even though it’s still a work in progress.


Google Calendar Spam

Is anyone else getting Google Calendar spam? About half a dozen times in the last month I’ve got an SMS message telling me that I’ve received an invitation to an event on my Google Calendar and when I check the calendar it’s actually some kind of 419 spam.

I suppose that it was inevitable that the spammers would eventually find this new way of annoying people, but I’m not happy that it’s apparently so easy for them. Is this going to go the way of email and blog comments, with people becoming reluctant to accept event invitations from random people? Will you need to join some kind of whitelist before you can invite me to an event. I really hope it doesn’t come to that.

I’ve been just deleting the invitations, but it’s times like these that I wish there was some way to transmit a poke in the eye over HTTP. Is there something else that I can be doing? Should I report them to Google in some way? Would that help at all? I assume the invitations are being sent from disposable accounts.

I’ve only been using Google Calendar for a month or two. It would be a shame to see it become unusable. I’d love to hear any suggestions you have (as, I’m sure, would Google).


Translating from Russian

A few day ago, I noticed this Russian blog entry which used one of my photos of Montserrat. When adding the link to Delicious I commented that it would be good if could read Russian so that I understood what was being said.

(Another) Dave reminded me that Google has a translation service which claims to do Russian to English translations. So I tried it, and the results were really pretty good.

City after volcanic eruption

In summer 1995, in one of the islands in the Caribbean eruption occurred. As a result, Plymouth city was almost completely filled ash. A layer of ash in a half meters.

In the town of 4000 people lived, and was the capital of the island. Clear solidified lava flows and ash was too expensive. The capital is moved to another city. A Plymouth declared a zone of exclusion.

The single comment just says “terrible”. Of course the translation isn’t perfect. But it’s a lot better than I expected it to be.


Google Sees All

An interesting story in today’s Telegraph. Apparently the photo that proved that John and Anne Darwin were together in Panama was found by someone searching for “John Anne Panama” in Google.

I’ve just tried it and it still works. Searching for “John Anne Panama” in Google image search brings back a picture of them from the “Our Customers” page on

The picture has been removed from the page now and even the direct link no longer works. But it will stay in Google’s cache for a while.

Here’s a handy tip. If you want to pretend you’ve died so that your wife can claim your life insurance and you can both start a new life in Central America, then it’s a really bad idea to allow a picture of you both to be put on a web site. The world wide web is international, you know. The clue is in the name


Book Review: Google Analytics

I’ve written a review of Google Analytics by Mary E. Tyler & Jerri L. Ledford.

Executive summary – it really wasn’t what I was looking for.


Google Maps Error

I spent an hour or so this weekend working out my exact latitude and longitude so that I could see the Google Maps photo of my house. Now it seems I may have wasted my time as there is a margin of error in Google’s co-ordinate system.

Lloyd pointed me at the Register story. Here’s a map showing the error. If I remember correctly, the meridian follows the thick grey line down the centre of the brown roof in the middle of the main observatory building.