Gmail vs. Hotmail – The Art of Seduction
Sometimes I notice things. Yeah, I’m clever that way. Compare and contrast. How are these things different? Sesame Street has got nothing on me.
I’ve been using Google’s Gmail web-based email for some time. (Even though I plan to dump it when I get off my ass for privacy reasons.) To support my anonymous blogging habit, though, I started using Microsoft’s Hotmail web-based email, too. I like keeping my real and fake worlds separate.
It wasn’t too long until I noticed a few subtle differences.
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Let them eat Spam!
The other day I did something I don’t often do. I logged into my Gmail and checked the spam folder.
The fact is, I trust Google quite a bit to filter spam out of my email properly. There is occasionally a “false positive” that I have to manually retrieve (usually after someone whines a lot) but generally it does a very good job.
It’s nice not to worry about getting junk in my Inbox. I usually just leave it on autopilot and never think about it.
The other day, though, on a whim, I was curious. I clicked into the folder and got this bit of good news:
Hooray, no spam here!
That’s nice to hear.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a little plain bit of text above the toolbar on my screen:
Spam Veggie Pita Pockets – Serves 8!
–From the spam folder in Gmail
“Ahhhhh,” I said. “This must be the much vaunted context-sensitive advertising that Google brags about. Sure, that makes sense. This is a spam folder. So why not advertise Spam brandname ‘canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation?”
I have to admit, that does sound good. The thought of Spam can sure make your mouth water. It must be Pavlovian.
I’m a practicing flexitarian, so I certainly could say, “Bring it on!” Unfortunately for Google, I can’t quite flex as far as Spam.
See, this is what concerns me about computers taking over the whole world. Even Google can’t tell the difference between unwanted email and unwanted precooked meat product. Sure, in your spam folder that’s no big deal. But what if it is your new “smart” car that automatically brakes your vehicle without you asking it to? The computer making the wrong could literally result in spam in a can – homo sapiens variety. That sounds good! Hell, why wouldn’t you want to trust your life to a computer? I can’t think of a single damn reason.
I refreshed my Google spam folder a few times and it was always the same thing. Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam.
In fact, I saved them up so I could share them with you:
- Spam Hashbrown Bake – Serves 8
- Spam Breakfast Burritos – Bake 5-10 minutes, serve with salsa
- Vineyard Spam Salad – Combine grapes, spam, peapods and onions in large bowl
- Spicy Spam Kabobs – Serve with hot cooked rice
- Spam Fajitas – Serves 8, add extra salsa if desired
- Spam Primavera – Toss with linguini, serve immediately
- Spam Confetti Pasta – Preparation time 30 minutes
- Spam Vegetable Strudel – Bake 20 minutes or until golden, serve with soy sauce
- Spam Imperial Tortilla Sandwiches – To serve, cut each roll in half
- French Fry Spam Casserole – Bake 30-40 minutes
- Creamy Spam Broccoli Casserole – Makes 8 servings
- Spam Veggie Pita Pockets – Serves 8
- Ginger Spam Salad – Serves 1, refrigerate overnight
- Spam Quiche – Makes 4 servings
- Spam Swiss Pie – Bake 45-55 minutes or until eggs are set
- Savory Spam Crescents – Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown
One thing’s for sure. When I’m checking my email for spam, Google sure knows exactly what I want. Spam and lots of it!
You’ve got blockage
A year ago today I blogged about Google pulling out of China. Google had redirected google.cn to google.com.hk. I just verified that still holds true as of this morning.
Also being reported is that China has closed 130,000 internet cafes during the last six years in an attempt to control information available to its people.
China, prominently showcased as the site of the 2008 Olympics, initially stated that Internet access would not be censored at the Olympic Village press center. However, journalists that arrived at the press center found that sites containing politically sensitive matter were inaccessible and learned that the IOC had quietly agreed to “some of the limitations.”
According to Wikipedia, China’s internet censorship does not extend to Hong Kong:
The controls come about a year after Google removed its Chinese language Internet search engine from China and relocated it to Hong Kong, where Beijing has few controls.
Now Google and China are at it again. Yesterday Google accused China of “disrupting” Gmail service saying it was due to a “government blockage.”
Beijing has long had some of the world’s strictest Internet controls. But after pro-democracy demonstrations broke out in the Middle East in January, the Chinese government seems to have intensified effort to censor Web content and disrupt Web searches related to calls for similar protests in China.
China currently blocks other social media sites so prominently featured in pro-democracy demonstrations in other countries recently like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Both quotes are from The New York Times.
Meanwhile, China has intensified condemnation of Libyan air strikes and Libya’s top oil official in Tripoli said that oil contracts could be offered directly to China. Along with Russia, China abstained from a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya. India has also criticized the attacks on Libya.
As if that wasn’t enough, China recently was targeted in the crosshairs of none other than Sarah Palin:
I personally have huge military concerns about what is going on in China. What’s with the buildup? You don’t see a tangible outside threat . . . to that country. Is that just for a defensive posture? How can that be? Stockpiling ballistic missiles, submarines, new-age ultramodern fighter aircrafts. It certainly means America needs to be vigilant looking at what China is doing.
–Sarah Palin, speaking in India, March 19, 2011 (Source.)
The destinies of the United States and China seem to be converging in a variety of ways. The question is, how will that all play out? Will we ever so pro-democracy demonstrations in China like we’ve seen in Egypt and other countries? It sure seems unlikely but 2011 has been a strange year so far. Who knows?
give up (power or territory)
Here’s your first clue about what you need to know about the so-called Cloud. They want it, they want you using it, they want you relying on it, and they want you paying for it. And they want it bad.
That’s pretty much all you need to know.
If you need more, consider this. Potentially tens of thousands of Gmail users were affected earlier this week when they lost their emails stored in The Cloud. Google said the outage was caused be a “faulty software update.”
Restoration of lost emails took a bit of extra time because Google had to use an old-fashioned tape backup. It seems that even though several electronic copies of emails are made, they were also wiped out by the glitch. Luckily there were also tape backups that were unaffected by the glitch since they were stored offline.
From the Wall Street Journal:
This is a black eye for companies like Google, which is actively trying to convince businesses and governments to switch their on-premise email systems to online services, which it promotes as less expensive and more reliable. In a blog post a year ago, Google boasted about how its Google Apps customers don’t need to worry about protecting their data. “They get best-in-class disaster recovery for free, no matter their size.”
So what is this so-called “cloud?” Basically it mans your applications and/or data are stored on remote servers on the internet. As opposed to your applications and/or data being stored physically on your own computer.
As with most things in computing (and life) there are pros and cons to the scheme.
The pros include things like accessibility and data security. On the cloud you can access your stuff from most any computer in the world. Want to check your email while at the airport? No problem. Listen to your music library while out of the home? That’s possible, too. And the services that perform these functions usually do things like automatically backup your data, too. They maintain all equipment and perform sofware updates, too.
The cons are not that trivial, despite what they want you to believe. What if your internet connection goes sideways? As long as it’s out you have no access to anything. It is extremely frustrating when I try to access something on the cloud and it doesn’t work. It is a very helpless feeling. Is the problem my computer? The operating system? The browser? The ISP? The internet routing? The application server? Good luck figuring that out. Meanwhile you just sits.
Another con is privacy. Sure, we can trust companies like Google with our emails, but the point is, they have the access. They can literally do what they want. Companies in the cloud have buried in their terms clauses that give them the right to share your data to trusted third parties and “partners.” And every once in a while there are stories in the news about renegade employees with access to data who did something they shouldn’t. Or companies may change policies and do things with our data that we don’t want. Or hackers can get in and steal our information. The larger the database the more attractive the target to hackers.
Recently I’ve been noticing another element of the cloud that has been causing me frustration. This is the distributed nature of most everything on the internet.
When you load a typical web page, what do you see? It might look like a page hosted on your favorite service, like WordPress, but in reality pieces of that page may be served from other locations. Big web sites distribute load to other servers. They might have one server for web pages, another for images, another for applications, and another for databases. The architecture is such that each server may be protected by its own physical firewall. (Depending on the size of the web site.)
It’s also common for cookies and other little applications, like advertising, to be originate from servers that are remote to the page you are viewing.
I actually experienced this yesterday. WordPress pages were working but there was some stange and undefinable problem on the internet that prevented Gravatar images from loading. Some of those distributed remote pieces weren’t working for me.
So when the internet gets goofy, you may only partially be able to surf, and all of the distributed pieces might not work and everything will look wonky.
If I remember correctly, Microsoft was a visionary when it came to the cloud, although I don’t think they called it that back then. What Microsoft wanted was your applications, like Word and Excel, hosted on the internet. No longer would you have to buy and install these applications on your own computer. Instead you’d sign up and use the applications as a service. With a monthly fee, of course. In the end, Microsoft would stand to make a lot more money than by merely having customers pay for a one-time purchase of software.
“Microsoft applications” would then become just another item in your monthly budget. Gas, phone, electric, water, and oh yeah, Microsoft. “Honey? Did we pay the Microsoft Word bill this month, yet?”
Here I am already hip deep in the cloud. In addition to Gmail there is also Google Docs, Dropbox, Toggl and more.
Gmail is a free service. Which begs the question: Who is the “customer?” I bet it’s not you, the humble user. Nope, the true customer of Gmail is the advertisers. They pay the bills. In fact, does Google make any guarantees or warranties at all about the service to the end user? I just read their terms and I couldn’t find anything about. I did notice, however, these little tidbits:
YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE.”
IN PARTICULAR, GOOGLE, ITS SUBSIDIARIES AND AFFILIATES, AND ITS LICENSORS DO NOT REPRESENT OR WARRANT TO YOU THAT DEFECTS IN THE OPERATION OR FUNCTIONALITY OF ANY SOFTWARE PROVIDED TO YOU AS PART OF THE SERVICES WILL BE CORRECTED.
Source: Google Terms of Service (linked from this page)
Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy about trusting the cloud with years of your email data? In other words, Google is saying, “We don’t have to fix anything if we don’t want to.” Sure, this time they will fix the Gmail outage in the name of good public relations. Especially because they want you to buy into the cloud more and more. But what if it was something they couldn’t fix? Google would then say, “Too bad, so sad. What? Didn’t you have a backup? You have gots to have a backup!”
Look now who’s running a TV campaign promoting the cloud? Yep. Microsoft. To bring this back full circle, just remember two things: Who wants this and how bad do they want it?
Isn’t that really all you need to know about how good the cloud will really be for you?
To the cloud!