Thursday, 31 January 2008

iGoogle, Yes iDo!

I've been wanting to write about my google mania for a while. Ever since the year 2000, when I was (kinda pretending to be) studying Biochemistry in Edinburgh Uni and was plugged the search engine there by teachers, other staff and students alike, I've been using it and its services more and more. And more.

I now use everything from Google Documents to Picasa to quickly check (and sometimes share) my documents, awesome services like Google Maps to Google Calendar to get along my otherwise hectic life, gMail and Google Reader I dutifully check every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed, and both YouTube and Blogger, those major late-'00s-social-crazes which I'm obviously party to, belong to them too. Google Product Search (formerly known as Froogle) and Google Scholar I rarely use, but I really respect as well for what they are and for what they offer.

This gives rise to all sorts of debates, which I'm sure most of you often get caught up in, involving the fact that, hey, those guys own most of our daily lives and the personal information that goes with it, and most of us not only give them free reign over it, but we frackin' thank them for it. So, if they were actually 'evil', they would have us all by the short-and-curlies, at this point. All they would have to do is use the information they have, and they would pretty much take over the world, in an oh-so-subversive fashion!

So, then, why is it that I don't care? Why is it that, although I do recognize their power and all, I still don't mind handing it over to them in every occasion when they offer something that makes my life easier or more organized? This article kind of gave me an answer for that, which I read as an equivalent to it being OK for Microsoft to have an OS monopoly [until linux manages to bring out a totally user-friendly distro, that even Adobe products and games will come out for, and Larry Lessig doen't need to bring out all those lectures any more, and we all live in a pretty little world where ice cream flows free in rivers].

You see, I really don't think Google's off to take over the world: why would they want to? It would be too much of a hassle anyway! It's just, I find, that some weird survival thang tells us to be afraid of anything that has too much power gathered around it, and automatically fear it and assume it's bad and that its intentions are to hurt us in some way. A conspiracy with good intentions, you say? What's that? (Hitleriffic!)

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sony: So, they're good guys?

or, "Justifying Our Respect For Overpriced 'Style-Gadgets'".

Thanks to David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard in The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution - this book I'm now reading, which Alex (my friend next door, who's doing his MA in Music Business) lent me - I realised something which is kind of evident if you think about it for a second: the digitization of music all started with the invention of the CD! How insightful, eh...

So, was it pretty much Sony's insight that kick-started the 'future of the entertainment business'? I want that to be true, because Sony is my man. Yes, following my theory (shared by Than, to give credit where credit's due) that all major gadget companies have a 'gendered' persona attached to them, Canon is a woman (oh, how I love the XL1's curves), Motorola is a lipstick-wearing Cosmo-girl, LG is the grrl that hangs out with guys, Nokia is your typical 'nice guy' that's nice to men and women alike, Nintendo is a teenage whiz kid, et cetera et cetera, with Sony, oh yes, being a hunky 'man's man'. It would explain Sony's business model as well, for me, if it was something they actually did 'on purpose'.

You see, I've always viewed Sony as a company that brought out innovative, cool stuff - a label that even the failed experiment of the MiniDisc falls under. I have also always viewed it as a company that over-prices things you desperately want anyway, for some weird, unexplained reason (as with the Sony Vaio range... Come on, they're just laptops! Check each one's specs-for-price relationship). I must admit to having respected Sony since the invention of the CD, what was the first in a long line of tech-crushes [yes, I've been an mp3-supporter since the previous millenium, but I was just a kid when CDs came out].

Explaining mu respect for them is really something that will set my mind at ease, on some level. Does Sony actually overprice things because it sees the industry's days as being numbered? And do they also fund research in tech-coolness not merely for them to invent cool tech that they can charge too much for, but to guarantee themselves a seat in the (digital) concert of posterity? So they're not evil tempting sons of Satan?

Maybe this is something which most of you here have figured out so many times in the past that it's pretty much evident to you, but it's late at night here now (early in the morning, actually) and I woke up for some weird reason and then wasn't able to fall back to sleep, so I was reading and it hit me and I thought I'd share, if only to get me tired enough to fall back to sleep. I'm done now.