Google Fiber TV: time to opt-out from TV history?

Posted by & filed under Technology.

Google Fiber TVLooks like Google Fiber TV is about to trample all over TV ads industry. And add a bit of a headache for TV viewers too. If you’re one of the lucky few who has it in your neighborhood, you might get extra extra custom ads soon.

Fiber TV in Kansas City will soon be testing more customizable ads that will complement local TV ads in live and DVR-ed shows. It’s already done by regular local TV stations, except now advertisers will have a chance to target not just particular geography an shows, but also your watching history. So if you, say, ever watched some automotive racing shows you might get custom ad for local high-end racing car dealership. Oh, and bonus — dealership will actually know if you saw the ad. Kinda like internet advertising.

Good things:
– ads might actually be less stupid and annoying
– advertisers will really see how many people actually watched the ad versus going with “audience estimation” (so particular fluffed-up TV shows might experience slight… reduction in ad rates because people don’t really watch them)
– local business will only pay if ad has been seen, and not throw their budget into the airwaves hoping it works

Bad things:
– online “relevant” ads didn’t really became relevant (or at least I was unlucky) so this “better targeting” might not make ad experience more enjoyable
– random marketoids will be able to target you based on what you watched
– there’ll be a list of everything your household ever watched

Important thing:
If you don’t trust marketing promises, you can opt-out from the viewing history collection in Fiber TV Settings.

Also see AdWeek article.

How to really unsubscribe from Google Birthdays Calendar

Posted by & filed under Technology.

So our beloved Google Overlords have pooped on us graced us with a new useless feature that you can’t turn off. Because, really, who doesn’t want to have a new calendar that shows thousands of birthdays on it. You know, if you actually happened to have a lot of people in your Google Plus circles.
calendar

You can hide the calendar, but you’re still subscribed to it. Why? I don’t know. Someone in UX department had a brain-dead idea. And they want you, silly user, to use it. Previous workaround, where the new calendar showed up in “Interesting Calendars” thus inadvertently allowing you to (gasp!) unsubscribe, was quickly fixed. But I’ve found another workaround.

Brace yourself, it involves JavaScript!

Specifically, follow these steps:

1. Open the settings page of the calendar (https://www.google.com/calendar/render?pli=1#i)
2. Open JavaScript console (in Chrome click View->Developer->JavaScript console)
3. Paste the following code into the console:

LNa(('I2NvbnRhY3RzQGdyb3VwLnYuY2FsZW5kYXIuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbQ'))

4. Press [Enter]
5. You will get a confirmation on the setting page, asking if you really want to unsubscribe from the Birthdays calendar. Click Unsubscribe.

unsubscribe

The End. You will be unsubscribed. “Birthdays” will no longer show up in “My Calendar” section, etc etc.
So far everything seems to be fine and zombie calendar didn’t return :) (until they “fix” it on server side anyway)

Basically LNa is the function that is normally called when you click “Unsubscribe” link — you can see it if you have any other calendars. The ID of birthdays calendar is that I…bQ string. So this “fakes” case as if there was actual “Unsubscribe” link. And instead of messing with HTML elements, you just call this function directly from JS console.

p.s. if for some reason this didn’t work, try JNa instead of LNa. Or look at the unsubscribe links that you have:
Right-click, inspect element on unsubscribe link, use the same function:

html inspect



Hope this helps!

Update only two months later (from January 9th when I wrote this to March 4th), and looks like Google actually adding an official way to hide mega-birthday-avalanche:

Google News and Spain: control of the freedom of press?

Posted by & filed under Politics, Technology.

spainSo, Spain now has a new law that requires news publications to charge aggregators, such as Google News, for showing even small snippets. Because, like, copyright and blah-blah-blah, they’re stealing our content!!!!! type of thing. Never mind that inclusion in the news was voluntary and websites could opt-out.

No, because greed covered their eyes and made them think that Google will just pay out of its own pocket for the right to show news snippets on the site that earns no money. So Google News closes in Spain.

But I think there might be a different subtext here. Perhaps the government simply doesn’t want users to have an easy access to individual small publishers. Law doesn’t distinguish between big and small outlets, right? They all now have to be paid for use of their content, a new organization will be created to manage that wonderful money stream etc.
Therefore there will now be less options for users to discover smaller media outlets, because the big ones succeeded at nuking aggregators from the orbit. Yes, technically you can still access press on the newspapers’ websites. No, your choices are going to be reduced. And even if Spain-based newspaper wanted to be included for free, they won’t be able to do it any more.

I wonder if “rights holders” will ever change their mind. As in, how stubborn they are, and will they rather suffer drop in traffic than admit that they do indeed benefit from the free service that includes tiny pieces of their content on one page.

I’m not hopeful. At least because there’s probably going to be Yahoo News that shows ads and is more likely to pay. We’ll see.

Constantine TV series: Supernatural too?

Posted by & filed under Reviews.

ConstantineI really liked Constantine the movie, even though it turned out to be not quite “accurate” (blah-blah-blah, British accent missing, blah), so I was quite interested to see the “TV” version on NBC. This Constantine is different. Way more scruffy, way more typically British and way more… formulaic. I mean I haven’t actually read any of the comic books but the very first episode seemed to be basically way too predictable, especially if you watched anything else — Supernatural, or the Dresden Files (despite the fact that it was severely castrated compared to actual books).

Constantine miscalculated and managed to get little girl dragged into hell, so now he’s suffering because of it and is damned. Demons now about it, so does a pushy angel, and the only question is “can he redeem his soul before death”. First episode is traditional “victim hunted by demon without knowing of her super-power” cliche story plot. With a bit of exposition.

Nothing especially clever, not much humor, unfortunately. I’ll see second episode before making final decision but for now it’s all too much of a “meh”

Google Nexus 6: cool phone, crazy price and size

Posted by & filed under Misc, Technology.

nexus 6Sooo, we now officially have Google Nexus 6 from Motorola. And Android Lollipop too. Which is nice. But the price…

Up until now all Nexus devices were examples, shiny beacons of how you could have an awesome almost-flagman android device at super-affordable price. Your choice was to get “pure” Google experience and manually smooth over rough edges of some questionable UX decisions, or pay twice that and get something from HTC or one of the other OEMs and also sometimes deal with questionable UX decisions.

Now this “super-affordable” price aspect no longer applies. It’s twice the price of older Nexus 5. $650 for 32Gb version. Um… not sure it’s worth it any more.

Because you can get a new Moto X 32Gb for $100 less. Or a new LG G3 for $50 less. While rapid charging is an awesome feature, all the sweetness of Android 5.0 Lollipop will be available on both of other phones (rapid charging should also be available on new Droid series device from Moto/Lenovo). Heck, LG G3 has a better screen and smaller size. I use LG G3 now and the phone is already slightly too big for me, going even larger with 6″ form factors is basically no-go for me.

Yes, people can compare Nexus 6 to Galaxy Note 4 series, but I don’t want a Note or mega-Phablet and do think that Note prices are batshit crazy. Phone will suffice, thank you very much.

I guess Google has finally made good on promise to not compete aggressively with OEM manufacturers. If you want an awesome flagman at an awesome price, go with Motorola X 2nd gen. If you want better screen and a bit less of a bulk — there’s LG. For overpriced cases and die-hard “only Google Experience” fans, there’s now Nexus 6 :)

Fans will now commence a traditional Apple-fanboy-like song-and-dance telling you of how much more value you get, and thus price is “totally reasonable” but… while “reasonable”, it’s unremarkable and certainly isn’t awesome price any more. Aside from “pure” Google experience and faster processor (which shouldn’t be that important given that Lollipop promised better graphics optimization) and lack of SD card (oh wait, that’s not a feature), is it worth its higher price over Moto X? I can’t say “of course it does”.