Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Google knows

This week I got a new tool and a new toy.
My HTC Desire S unfortunately died last week – I will not go into details except to say that it couldn’t swim…
So, after a few days of getting by with a Nokia 6303i I found in a drawer, I received a new smart phone – this time a HTC One X.IMG_8017

Now, as some of you will already know, HTC uses the Android operating system, which is actually Google’s mobile platform. So, what does this mean? I’ll get to that in a moment, but I’ll start by saying that this thing seriously has the potential of being a highly effective little work tool which can really make my everyday easier by gathering information I already have available to me from various sources, cross-checking and combining it and presenting it to me in new formats that are compact, fast and easy to use. Also, the fact that it all fits on such a small device allows me to very easily bring it all with me wherever I go. image

That said, now let’s talk about Google. Like I said, Android is Google’s mobile platform. And yes, that means they packed it full of Google’s own stuff and applications. Basically, I can run the whole thing from my Google account. Most services and applications can interact with each other as well as with my Google account (once I have allowed them to) – and yes, Google has taken it upon themselves to store all this data for me in a cloud somewhere, under terms that I agreed to when I first set up my account and/or subsequently added or linked more services to it.

Also, as most people who have been online for more than 5 minutes already know, Google likes to keep track of what you use, what you click, what you like and what you search for and use this info to determine which ads to show you and which services to recommend and so on. I have seen ads for Microsoft SQL Server Database Administration (my profession) tools and utilities show up on the side when looking up printable coloring pages online with my kids. I have seen ads for EVRY (my current employer) suddenly show up when I visited an astronomy page. Actually, this kind of thing happens to me on a pretty regular basis, so yeah, I guess Google must think they know me pretty well. And yes, of course, being able to also get into my smart phone and follow me around with GPS tracking and all gives Google even more possibilities to gather data about me. 

When I got my new phone, I turned it on, signed it into my Google account and gave it a set of permissions to gather and use various data – and it didn’t take too long before the thing had my full contact list and personal dictionary exactly as they’d been on the HTC Desire S that couldn’t swim. It knew how to spell my kids’ names. It knew what songs I played on my Desire the week before last. All this was just magically pulled out of the cloud in a matter of seconds. And no, I really didn’t mind much. It was quite convenient for me at the time and although I did pause to think about it one more time, it really wasn’t news to me.

The net is a public place and stuff you don’t want other people to see shouldn’t be out there in the first place. It’s basically about as simple as that. I have thought these things through before and I’m actually quite picky about not doing or storing stuff online that I wouldn't like people finding out about me. So, no, I’m really not too troubled by what Google knows.

Some people think Google is really creepy. But let’s face it: If the KGB or the CIA or the Mossad or the Mafia decide they want to know something about Vegard Hagen, they won’t need me to have a Google account or carry a smart phone.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Of trolls and men

A couple of months ago, I read the blog post "Meeting a troll" by Leo Traynor and was appalled by what had happened to the man, but also impressed by the sheer power and beauty of the way he handled it. ScreenHunter_13 Nov. 23 01.47

Barrack Obama once said that "We can define our lives not by what happens to us, but by how we respond."

Well, this was the response of a great man if I’ve ever seen one.
A great man doesn’t need to stomp on anyone to prove how great he is. A great man will sit down with you and talk things through over a cup of tea, then he will stand and shake your hand and you will never want to cross him again.

Not because you know he has the power to destroy you, but because you know you’ve just experienced first hand one of the little miracles that make you believe there is still hope for this world after all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Keep trying…

A few days ago, I became aware of the song “Try” from P!nk’s latest album “The truth about love”.
What immediately struck me is that this is not just the truth about love, but actually it’s a truth about life itself and basically pretty much everything in it: image

Where there is desire, there’s gonna be a flame 
Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned 
But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die 
You’ve got to get up and try and try and try

That's life for you. Very often, there will be no simple solutions, no quick fixes available and the only way to keep living is to keep trying. You don't always have to do it alone though. Talking to someone can be nice whether you're up or down, and if you have a big challenge to overcome or a problem that needs fixing, it's OK to get help. You can handle it any way you need to, but you do need to handle it. And if you've fallen and you're down, get up and keep trying.

The very act of doing so will itself help you feel better.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The unconquered spirit

“There is no shame in defeat
- as long as the spirit remains unconquered.”

These words, as I once heard them many years ago, were spoken by the fictional character Fenix in the computer game Starcraft, and they’ve stayed with me ever since. Truly, great quotes can come from the strangest places.

Having said that, I suppose I should also say something about why I think this is such a great quote. Well, basically because we all suffer defeat from time to time – and that’s OK as long as we learn from it and don’t give up, because it’s only if we give up that we’ve truly lost. The other way we’ve just lived and learned, and although some lessons can be quite costly to us, I generally also believe in the saying that what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

52972438SG024_leppardOne unconquered spirit that I’d like to talk about today is Rick Allen, best known as the drummer of Def Leppard, which also happens to be my favorite rock band of all time. What’s special about Rick Allen? Well, not only is he a really a great drummer. He is a really great drummer with only one arm.

In 1984, he had a nasty accident and was thrown clear of his car in a crash at high speed. He lost his left arm and the surgeons of the time couldn’t fix it. So, what did he do? Give up? Nope, not this guy. He decided he’d rather go and learn how to drum with the one good arm he had left, and guess what, that’s what he did!

I once heard a radio host talk about how Rick Allen, the drummer of Def Leppard has only one arm and “that says it all about all other drummers in the world!”.

No, Mr. Radio Man, it says precisely nothing about any other drummer in the world.

The only drummer it says anything about is Rick Allen.

But yes, it also speaks volumes about what is really possible for someone who just won’t quit.

Or, in the words of another great artist of our time – Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem:

“You can do anything you set your mind to, man.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

Please watch your angle

I like America. I love Americans. And once again, like in the days and weeks after September 11 2001, I am 100% behind Americans as they struggle in the face of disaster.

But I do have to say this: Please, please, please watch your angle here.

Once again, I am seeing comments like “We Americans are the most resilient and the most loving.”

I do love Americans. But I do, I do, I do resent the notion that we – the rest of the world – are somehow less genuine, less loving, less human...

It is one thing to love your country and your people,
to cherish and to be proud
and to find strength in unity in a time of crisis.

It is something totally different to elevate them “Über alles in der Welt”. 

Please don’t go there again.


Hurricane Sandy meets Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk.
Image credits: Dann Cuellar / AP