Just Cloud is simply Just Shit

If you are one of the millions of people who apparently “earned” a “free” Just Cloud 1GB by having an account somewhere else (Dotster, for example), you know what I am talking about: the dozens of emails flooding your inbox, despite unsubscribes and in flagrant disregard of, you know, the idea that opt-in is the way to go.

2014-08-27 11_44_45-You Have Free Cloud Storage - jluster@gmail.com - Gmail

Jamie Heathorn, my “personal account manager”, is apparently very concerned for my well being, sending me near-daily emails reminding me that I am just one step away from adding a free Gigabyte to my collection of cloud accounts. Sure, I have a few TB on Google Drive. Sure, I have earned (but never used, for a multitude of reasons) quite a bit of Box, DropBox, and other storage quotas. And, yes, I am running an OwnCloud server on a Digital Ocean droplet, but that Gigabyte REALLY makes a difference.

2014-08-27 11_48_44-Cloud Storage Reminder - jluster@gmail.com - Gmail

When Jamie Heathorn didn’t stop emailing me despite unsubscribe requests and a very polite email asking them to kindly disembowel themselves and feed their entrails to the pigs I did a little research. Just Cloud is, of course, just another upsell business. Get a “free” Gig, get nagged to upgrade, get nagged to back up your whole system in which case you’ll get nagged to upgrade again. That stuff.

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Frequent mentions of JustCloud charging up to $210 from unsuspecting subscribers who had their credit card on file and missed the “automatically increase my quota unless I state I don’t want this via email or fax” provision in the TOS. Scare-emails using words such as “flagged for being over quota” and evoking the crash monster to drive people to purchase expensive and rather limited cloud storage.

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Cloud Storage is hot. That means it pays off to pay off comparison sites, sell a 14 day trial (which automatically becomes the most expensive option) as “free 1GB,” and to offer lucrative referral schemes to places like Hostgator, Doster, and others.

2014-08-27 11_50_44-Cloud Storage Activation - jluster@gmail.com - Gmail


Martine Reicharts is Wrong about The Right To Be Forgotten

On GigaOm:

“Search engines such as Google and other affected companies complain loudly. But they should remember this: handling citizens’ personal data brings huge economic benefits to them. [...] Those who try to use distorted notions of the right to be forgotten to discredit the reform proposals are playing false. We must not fall for this,” said Reicharts in her speech.

… I am somewhat speechless.

censorshipThe thing is, I don’t believe Google (or Bing/Microsoft, Yahoo!, whomever) is distorting this debate as much as tiptoeing around the truth. Much as I believe Michael Doepfner (Axel Springer) to be a whiny loser in his “Open Letter” to Google (the one where he accuses Google of trying to become a fascist Supercountry in which transparent citizen are forced to labor in the mines of ad dollars for Mountain View right before he admits that he’s just sore about not being the one who does it), he drives an important point home: being visible on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other search engines and content indices is the only way forward for journalists today.

The right to be forgotten isn’t a search engine problem. It’s a censorship problem. One in which the old video camera debate in Europe finds its revival online. To refresh the collective memory: in 2011 a court in France ruled that a video shot by a Greek journalist in Paris during a protest was inadmissible in court and could not be shown publicly. The clip showed a man shoving, punching, and sexually assaulting a woman slightly off view but still very much in the public eye. The video was shot as part of a documentation of the demonstration and sideline violence, not specifically to target the man. The accused’s right to privacy, even for acts committed in the public eye, the court ruled, trumped the right of the public to know and the right of the victim to be made whole. As a result the man (whose name is edited everywhere to simply be “P.”) was given a six month suspended sentence for one punch he admitted – a shorter term than the recovery of his victim.

censorshipIn a sense the Right to Be Forgotten is simply the same. Our right to “edit” the truth and stifle journalistic reporting via the Google version of a gag order or super injunction trumps the right of journalists to inform and the right of the public to know. Supporters of the ruling point out that newspapers can still print, websites can still display. They conveniently ignore the truth Doepfner points out in his otherwise flawed Open Letter – without being on Google, Bing, and Yahoo and without being linked from Facebook and Twitter (who are rarely mentioned but essentially also searchable indexes and therefore theoretically affected) you might as well not have written it.

The least Google can do (and does) is inform me as the journalist and the public at large that I am being censored by an individual with a specific interest in doing so. Be it a “mindless hooligan” who stole and assaulted people, a child molester, or a disgraced Merrill Lynch executive.

Reicharts’ idea of the Internet as a personal playground for advertisers and sellers of wares but not a carrier of news and information reflects poorly and accurately on the vibe in Europe.

How to not get creeped out by Google Location History

2014-08-16 08_59_52-Google Location history

So some semblance of a writer, artificially enhanced by click bait headlines, writes about this “creepy” feature in Google Maps called Location History that shows you where you’ve been. Which, because it’s just the kind of news that create massive share and click storms and a nice accumulation of fear and screaming, is being reshared and rewritten and click bait headlined about sixteen dozen times in the following week.

Here’s a selection:

Some of us are freaked out by the fact that Google has website that allows our movements to be tracked.


I had location history enabled for Google Maps and didn’t know it.

The latter comes from Matt Elliott, “a technology writer for more than a decade.”

So if even a “technology writer for more than a decade” doesn’t know about this feature it must be REALLY well hidden, yes? No, not so much. The antidote against being creeped out by Google Location History is reading - a little known concept and tool used by us lesser beings (the non-technology writers) on a daily basis but apparently a little alien to some.

1. Read something other than click bait headlines

Once upon a time Location History was called Latitude. Latitude was retired in August 2013 in favor of Location History. Little else has changed, except for its move from Google Maps to Google+ on mobiles and the end of an amazing API. Around that time a lot of writing (often critical of the move from the beloved Latitude) was written. None of it was read, apparently. I wrote how to use the Google Location data to reverse geotag photos in June this year, TechCrunch wrote about it in December 2013, there’s a 2010 article on the Google Maps Blog, and more. Seriously, spend a few minutes on Google searching for Google Location History and you’ll discover almost seven years of blog and news coverage (once you clicked through those first four pages with very current “I am so creeped out” comments).

2. Read the Modal Dialog

Screenshot_2014-08-16-08-34-07Location History is an opt-in service. When enabled (Maps has to be installed on your iPhone or a opt in request has to be clicked on Android) it does report. But more than that, this dialog has a link to the Google Help page explaining Location Reporting and History. Those two are, by the way, independent from each other. One can have reporting without history.

3. Read your email

Seriously, do it. You will get one every month one from Google if you use just one Google property. Which, if you have Location History enabled, you do. This is an amazing email that explains all this once every month. And more than that, it gives everyone a lot of shortcuts to tools. Don’t believe me? Let’s check it out:

The email. Comes once every month.
The email. Comes once every month.

In it is a link to the Google Dashboard explaining that’s where you can find anything Google knows about you and tools to enable, disable, export, and delete this information. That’s a good start. Let’s look at it, shall we?

2014-08-16 08_44_25-Dashboard - Account Settings A line or five for every Google property I am using. As promised. In my inbox. Once a month. And there it is, Location History.

Click on it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. See, another page. One that shows in very simple, very colorful, ways what Google collects. And right there a link to delete, stop, start, and export any of those.

2014-08-16 08_48_16-Account History - Account SettingsTo reiterate:

If you’re “creeped out” by this you didn’t read anything but “what marine mammal are you” stuff on Facebook, you didn’t read the things you clicked “Yes” on when enabling them, and you didn’t read your email. Not actively searching for information about a feature is forgivable. Not reading dialogues isn’t. And combined with a monthly email, styled so simply my aging neighbor can read and understand it, there is simply no excuse to be surprised by this. Sure, it’s fun to find something new to be “creeped out” by, but this has reached a state of willful ignorance that borders on pre-homo sapien nature worship. I am far from a libertarian poster child, but a little personal responsibility in the use of anything, from lawn mowers to butane torches and online services should be the status quo, not a precious little special event. It creeps me out that people don’t read a big flashing dialogue before clicking yes and seem to wholly uninterested in what their technology tools do until the very second someone writes a click bait headline about it.



In the Churn of Time we’re Just the Chaff

It’s great how the world keeps turning and things change.

No ten years ago online publications rallied against traditional media and fought to become relevant. Today traditional media rallies against online publishing and fights to stay relevant.

Twelve years ago Axel Springer got its new CEO Michael Doepfner (former Editor in Chief of Die Welt) who proclaimed that digital was a crapshoot, the Internet irrelevant, and print was here to stay. Today the company is “completing its remarketing into a Digital Agency” after having bought a dozen or so failing online media, affiliate marketing, and SEO companies. Doepfner pens an open letter in which he proclaims he’s scared of the Neofascists at Google who want to establish a Supercountry in which transparent citizen are milked for ad cash.

Nine years ago Amazon acquired a few eBook and digital content companies. European publishers like Hachette laughed about the upstart investing into a doomed model because everyone loves books, printers and typesetters and book stores won’t ever go away, and besides eBooks are hard to read. Today Hachette finds itself in a war of the middlemen with Amazon, hurting both consumers and creators (coin and content) in the process because they can’t agree who gets to keep the main share of their filched goods.

Those things aren’t revolutions. They’re evolutions. Uncontested and monopolizing former kings of the jungle like Springer or Hachette are embroiled in a struggle against the new predator, equally savage, equally unconcerned, but evolved.

Saving your current Doc as PDF on Drive from Google Docs

docsapp4Whenever I write obsessively into the night I follow a simple ritual before shutting off my computer and heading to bed: the tedious last step of downloading whatever current work is done to PDF, re-uploading it into a folder, setting permissions for viewing, and inviting the right people to see it.

Because I am never averse to spending a day and a half learning something to shave off ten minutes in total from a task I figured I could do better and have it automated. And here is how the saving directly to PDF on Drive worked for me:

1. Add a new Script to your Document on Drive
Update: If you’re in the US you could also use Google Cloud Print. I prefer this approach because it also allows me to add further conversions down the road but the GCP way is clearly easier and more native.

In your document go to Tools -> Script Editor and name your new script something nice. I call mine Martha because that’s a nice name. You could call yours Henry or Snuffles or “Converter Script” or so.

Paste this into the script body (when you add a new script it’ll ask you what kind, just choose “Blank” or delete whatever is already in the text area):

Save that.

2. Try it out

docsapp2Close the original document and reopen it. I am aware of a bug with Google Apps Script that will throw a non-recoverable error on first open. Simply prevent JavaScript from opening more dialogues, close the document, and re-open it. On second (and subsequent, even if you edit the code above again) open this bug won’t trigger anymore. It will ask you for permission to manage your documents, that’s so we can actually save something.

docsapp3You should now have a new menu entry called Publish. Clicking on it will bring up an “are you sure” dialogue which you could remove if you want to save two clicks.

The folder is hardcoded as “Converted to PDF” inside the macro, change that or simply throw in a requester. You could also get the doc’s current folder and use that, I went with the “one folder to rule them all” method. Since Google Drive goes by ID and not file name you can easily save the same named file multiple times, which means the date I am appending is more for my own edification and to find a specific version than to prevent overwriting.

3. There is no Step 3

That’s it. Head into your Converted to PDF folder, share and notify. Saves one upload, a grand total of ten seconds, but who would let a little fact like that get into the way of our exploration of new tools?

Thanks for stopping by!
I know you have a choice and longform and blogs are becoming less relevant as carriers of information. The more a reason to thank you for being here and reading my ramblings.