Daily Archives: 03/21/2003

Analemma

Here’s a tasty little photo in celebration of the spring equinox. It serves as a good reminder that all the troubles of the world are small and insignificant against the backdrop of the universe.

I think these time delay type of pictures are really cool. Plus that word analemma, that’s pretty cool too. Try tossing that one out at your next party.

On the Google Toolbar

I recently uninstalled the Google Toolbar on my browser at work. I have used the toolbar for over a year now, and it was an invaluable aid. I quickly searched through hundreds – no thousands of web sites and I was grateful. At first I used only the basic search functions, but I quickly found myself enabling the advanced features and searching Google’s archive of UseNet postings. Before I knew it, I checked the PageRank of every site I visited and used their rankings as an assessment of the relative worth of any given page. Funny how quickly I adopted Google’s value system. I became a willing slave to the toolbar, it’s very usefulness made it indispensable.

So why did I remove it? Last week I noticed that the toolbar was different. A new button had appeared on the toolbar which took me straight to the Google News page. I thought this was pretty cool and started leaving a browser window open on Google News during the day, again a useful tool that was especially pertinent with these troubled times. Another bit of mindshare swinging in Google’s favor.

Last Monday I started noticing problems with my browser stalling during page loads, and strange network activity when I wasn’t accessing any network shares or email. In fact, this problem had cropped up during the previous week, but it became increasingly annoying as I tried to keep up with the escalation in war rhetoric. What was going on? A little investigation revealed suggested to me that the toolbar was doing something behind the scenes. I guess I should have thought about it before; when advanced features are enabled it cheerfully reports back to Google what I am doing and where I am going. It states it in the privacy policy: “Google may collect information about web pages that you are viewing when the advanced functionality is enabled. However, this advanced functionality is optional, and can be easily disabled and re-enabled at any time (by selecting “Privacy Information…” in the Toolbar’s “Google” menu.)” I enabled this functionality ages ago and experienced no problems. But the latest version of the toolbar was making my life difficult.

On further reflection, I started thinking about the unheralded arrival of the “news” button on my toolbar last week and the whole automatic upgrade policy. No notice that an upgrade was available, instead Google just updated my toolbar without asking me. To add insult to injury, Google didn’t feel it important to send me an email announcing this upgrade, or any other notification ipso facto. I checked FAQ and privacy policy, and indeed, there it was: “Periodically, the Google Toolbar contacts our servers to see if you are running the most current version. If necessary, we will automatically provide you with the latest update to the Google Toolbar.” To be fair, Google probably does this with all good intentions but I was quite happy with the toolbar before this happened. If I had my druthers, I would have kept the old toolbar and continued surfing along happily.

So I uninstalled Google’s toolbar and the problem with pages stalling disappeared. That was enough evidence for me. I enjoyed using the toolbar, but I don’t need buggy, unrequested ‘improvements’ to my browser. Maybe I’ll try it again in a few months, but I doubt it. I decided to give another search engine a whirl, and I downloaded Teoma’s toolbar. It works well enough, though I do find myself jonesing for that PageRank indicator. But it’s probably a good thing to break away from that particular Google Meme and make my own decisions regarding a page’s relative worth.


Postscript: Since doing away with Google’s toolbar, I’ve suddenly become a junky for toolbars. First was Teoma, which works quite nicely for searching. But I remembered Yahoo offering a toolbar ages ago – did that still exist? Yes it does. Since I have an account at Yahoo, I decided to install that toolbar as well. I wanted to define a word and went to dictionary.com, thinking as I typed the URL that this would be a good function to have on a toolbar – lo and behold, they offer a toolbar too! Hell even eBay has a toolbar available, too bad I don’t buy enough stuff on eBay to warrant using that particular tool. But the coolest toolbar I’ve encountered so far is from Alexa.com, an Amazon subsidiary. The Alexa toolbar offers a Google powered web search, WHOIS lookup, related links, and a button to the Internet Archive WayBack Machine. Very cool!

This whole process has been a useful experience, and I located some additional Internet Explorer toolbars.