System Searcher My First Potentially Useful Tool

My latest contribution to the Google Chrome Store I think is the most broadly useful tool I’ve developed. It allows you to execute searches on multiple websites at the same time. This can be useful if you frequently search sites like Amazon, Walmart and Target for the same thing such as “Tables”.  With this extension you just punch in what you want, and it launches searches on the websites you setup.

You can download from Google store at: http://bit.ly/systemsearcher

Downgrading Utility Of Limitless Chrome New Tab

For about 5 months I have been using a Chrome extension called Limitless as my default “new tab”. During installation, Limitless requested my GMAIL credentials, which I I declined to provide. It works fine without them. However, in light of the recent Equifax data breach, I was curious to see what exactly Limitless was asking for.

As I suspected, the extension wants the ability to have total control of your email. Specifically:

View, manage, and permanently delete your mail in Gmail

At this point, alarm bells should be ringing loudly in people’s heads if they are entering in an active gmail address. Limitless’s privacy policy can loosely be interpreted as, “Even though the NSA, Equifax and Ashley Madison can’t keep their data secure, you can trust us and every employee that works for us now, or in the future, because your privacy is important to us! 🙂 ”

They do state that data is stored locally, and looking at their code, this appears accurate. However, they also state they may change this policy at some point in the future…

Sure, you could use a dummy gmail login, or none at all. However in principle, I’m tired of extensions asking to be trusted with information they simply cannot guarantee to remain secure. So I changed my feedback to negative 2 (out of 5) on chrome store and am going to drop the extension completely.

To be fair, Limitless is just one of MANY extension offenders wanting total access to your email. The point of this post is just to encourage people to drop these extensions, even if you don’t provide or even if they are semi-useful. If Limitless adjusts their policy I’ll change my Chrome extension feedback and followup with this post saying so.

As a side note, I feel like the “new tab” extension market is kind of weak. I may tinker with making my own. Maybe I’ll call it “LIMITED” as in the amount of data I’ll seek to collect from users!

Don’t Want to Talk On Phone? SLYDIAL!

Slydial is a pretty slick app that everyone should secretly have. Essentially, it’s designed to deceive people into thinking that the user actually called them. The app somehow connects straight to the target’s voicemail, never giving the target the option to pickup Additionally, assuming the targeted caller had service, the target’s phone shows a missed call from the user.

The use case scenarios for this range from convenient to unethical. Mostly I used it when I’m too lazy to text a message and I suspect the other person doesn’t want to talk to me either. I’ve actually never told people close to me about this app, so if they read this post the may have closure on the peculiar times they were sitting right by their phone and all of a sudden they got an alert of a voice mail message from me. Guilty as charged.

There are two versions of the service. The free one which, as one would expect, has advertisements in it which are tolerable, but definitely would be nice to avoid. The paid version skips the adds, costing 10 cents a call or 3 bucks a month (both reasonable but I don’t pay).

According to their adds, there’s even a tool in the paid version where, “you can send the same voice message to multiple people, appearing from any number you prefer.” That last part is interesting. In theory you could leave a voice mail message appearing as someone else? This could definitely lead to unethical activities! I’m thinking I may use this when my daughter is a sophomore in high school and some Senior boy starts calling her. Such boy may receive a message as follows. “This is Sargent Slaughter From the Local Police Department (number matches!). We understand you’ve been talking to a certain young lady. I will personally put my life on hold and kick your ass if you ever call her again! Have a great day!”

One could have less amusing examples involving”The STD clinic”, “A Bail Bondsman,” or “A Senior Auditor from the IRS.”

I suspect political campaigns have used this feature as I received a couple calls that went to voicemail with obscurely personal messages. “Hey it’s the mayor… I … dang… I’m sorry I missed you… I thought this would be a good time to reach you. Well anyway…  blah blah vote for me blah blah”). No mayor would ever call me. Predictably, the message never said my voice, so without the personalized Proof Of Work, I’m pretty sure tens of thousands of other registered voters received the same message.

Anyway, this is indeed a sly little app to have in your arsenal. It’s so easy to use it doesn’t warrant a tutorial.

 

New Uber App — Still Missing A Key Feature It Desperately Needs

I tinkered around with the new Uber App. Overall it seems pretty similar to its predecessor. I personally don’t like the fact that it tries to guess where you’re going on the initial screen. To me, I’m always initially interested in how soon someone can get to me, which I now have to hunt for. I do like having people as a destination. That eliminates the constant texting of “where are you?”

However, my biggest complaint is what is NOT in the app. I’ve complained directly to Uber and Lyft on this particular subject before. They need to have a deposit commitment available for passengers. This is for the benefit of the driver and the passenger.

Example is if I’m 30 miles out in the desert, if a driver gets alerted that I need a ride, he may pass me up for a closer option. This is a rational decision on their part because there’s no guarantee that the ride I will need isn’t going to be a pathetic 2 mile drive, costing the driver time and money.

Easy way to make this better. Give passengers the option to post a guarantee of how much their ride will be. Stranded in the desert, I have no way to communicate to a driver that, “I need a ride all the way back to the other end of the city! It’s 50 miles for sure! It will be a $50 trip, guaranteed!”

Alternatively, if I’m really in a desperate situation, I might be eager to commit to a high amount to get me out of a dire situation. Maybe I do only need to go three miles, but the heat is unbearable, I am out of water, and would be happy to offer “$50 guarantee to pick me up!!”

This method ensures that I get a ride that I need, and the driver doesn’t get shortchanged on compensation.

So far there’s been no sign of this becoming a feature, but maybe in the next release they’ll have the PG CodeRider Passenger Rate Guarantee Feature! Or maybe not. But I’ve traveled well over 3,000 miles as a ride sharing passenger, and on many occasions I’ve felt this was a feature they desperately needed.

Selecting A Music Program for Your Family

I felt it was time to synchronize my house with one music app so I did some research on what made the most sense for us. My objective was to find solid music app I could listen to regularly, as well as use with the kids. Seems easy enough. I decided to sample the big three options for a week at a time, and here’s my observations:watch full film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 online

Apple Music:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Some radio stations.
  • Saving locally seemed inconsistent.
  • Works nicely with iTunes, but not everyone in my family has that.
  • Interface was a little difficult.
  • Supposedly lower audio quality (256kbps), but I couldn’t tell the difference between the higher 320 KBPS.

Spotify

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Definitely the best interface. Clean and intuitive.
  • Great job of making playlists I thought were pretty awesome.
  • Improved sound quality of 320KBPS.
  • It had a weekly 30 recommended songs that was always a success.
  • Never had any playing problems. Google and Apple would occasionally stall (but not frequently).
  • It’s the only option for Linux, not that you care.

Google Play:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month. A BIG limitation on the family plan is that the signup account must be a DROID phone user. It didn’t work for me when I tried a Nexus.
  • 50 million songs.  Don’t be deceived by this figure as a lot of the songs are performed by unknown artists “inspired by” the real artists. An example was Memories By David Guetta that is performed by someone else. This essentially just clogs up my search trying to find the real song.
  • Easy to save locally to your Google Play app, but can’t copy like a regular Mp3.
  • Reasonably good interface and easy to make playlists, but not as good as Spotify.
  • They do allow you to upload 50,000 of your own MP3 songs which will probably be mixes you’ve stolen off of youtube (up to 90 minutes in length). However Google is one step ahead of you because they have intelligently brought YouTube into the equation, see next point.
  • YouTube Red is included (not to be confused with RedTube…). This gives a user:
    • Ad-Free Youtube. Let me tell you that this may not seem like much, but once you have it, it’s painful to return to the land of waiting five seconds, then click “skip” every time you want to watch a video.
    • Ability to listen to youtube on your phone, with the Youtube App minimized. Again, this may not seem like much, but once you get used to it, it’s tough to forget.
    • Download videos locally to your phone. This is quite useful for me as a traveler, if I want to scramble to find 4 hours worth of content to watch on a flight, it’s easy to catch up on my “watch later” playlist..
    • Original YouTube content that’s trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I haven’t seen any of these, but they look professional.

Between the big three, the Google Family Plan proved the most optimal choice and I had to beg my Droid-using brother to sign us all up under his account. Spotify was the clear victor based exclusively on Music, but the Youtube element was too enticing.

I really would have preferred to go with Apple this year as they stood up the US government on Privacy contrasted to Google’s Eric Schmidt infamous dismissal of privacy . But I can’t say I’ve regretted my choice.  I don’t get cable, as my kids fulfill all their “TV viewing” on YouTube, so the removal of adds, sometimes ones that were not okay for kids to see, is a big win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon, Netflix or Hulu purchased Spotify just to form a package that can compete. As it now stands, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for Google Play and I would predict others reach the same conclusion as me.

While doing research, I did consider a couple less well known music options. My comments on them:

Rdio.com:

Tidal:

  • $20 for Lossless compression (wave files). I doubt that makes a difference, but again some people who live and breathe music may think so.
  • 35 million songs.

Pandora:

  • $5 a month or free with ads. Actually most of the above ad-supported free versions. I couldn’t stand them though.
  • Can’t pick your own songs, only rate them, so it’s effectively like the radio.
  • Low quality sound of 192 KBPS.
  • Amazingly only 2 million songs… ouch.

Code Saving/Editing Option For Google Drive

For better or worse, I have been entangled with Google Drive since its inception. It’s not perfect, but the ability to access it through most customers’ networks or while using their mandated laptops has proven extremely useful. My most common usage is accessing notes or solutions I’ve compiled from previous projects. I realize lots of offer ways to do this, some probably better. But Drive was one of the first I found, so I have a lot in there which makes the concept of switching to GitHub, OneNote or something else seem not worth the effort.

One problem I did encounter was saving text in the Google Doc format. When storing saved code for VBA or Swift, Docs occasionally applies little adjustments in the formatting or attempt to spell check which was undesirable. What I really wanted was a text editor like Notepad.  Google drive does let you save Text files, but they weren’t very easy to edit from the normal interface.

I found a great solution with an app called Drive Notepad available in the Chrome Webstore. This does almost everything I want with some helpful features. Most notably, you can adjust what language your code is displayed in, which is extremely useful for its readability. Initially I was just looking for a text editor (which there are plenty of), but this works even better. See screenshots below.movie Rings trailer

Other positive features:

  • Free. Thank You DM!
  • Open source.
  • Can share with usual google share options, though not in real time like doc or sheets.
  • Searchable as a regular google drive. I use excessive comments in my archived solutions specifically to facilitate the searching based on what I will likely remember.

Small drawbacks:

  • Have to manually save. Unlike google drive document that saves literally in real time, Drive NotePad requires you to manually hit save or CTL S. This has never been a problem for me as it delivers a warning when you navigate away after changes, but it would be nice to have. I’m sure the creator has been bombarded by this request.
  • It inconsistently checks code for errors. I wouldn’t expect it to check any code, but it does for some languages like JavaScript, but not for  others like VBA. Basically people shouldn’t consider this a substitute for XCode or an actual development platform. Again, this is just a great way to save/share your finalized work for future usage.
  • Files count against your storage space on google drive. Nobody should care about this, I just am listing it in case anyone was curious. Source text takes up an infinitesimal amount of space that this will never be an issue. I always got some quirky satisfaction of knowing that Google Docs and Sheets never counted against my storage limit (which I’m not near close to hitting). If you’re rolling your eyes that I listed this as a small drawback, I don’t blame you.