The blog has been quiet for a few weeks, but don’t think I’ve forgotten about my little Life after Google project. It’s now been exactly one month without Google and the nausea and vomiting have mostly subsided, though I still wake up in a cold-sweat at times.
If you’ll recall, the parameters of the experiment require that I avoid Google and Google-related products to the best of my ability, with exceptions for (1) minimal use of GMail, (2) using Google to illustrate a point, and (3) when it would interfere with my abilities as a reference librarian. So far, I’m pleased to say that I have barely entered the world of Google at all. Here are three permanent changes I’ve made; three alternatives to Google that I’ll be sticking with.
Getting rid of Chrome
I thought that not using Chrome would be the most difficult thing. I mean, it’s such a fast browser. Hell, it just overtook Firefox in worldwide usage. Thankfully, there are a lot of good alternatives out there. I’ve been having a lot of fun with Opera, it is incredibly fast, though it is incredibly resource-intensive, so I can only really use it on my work computer. At home, with only 2Gb of RAM it can start to crawl. I’ve always kept Firefox on standby, but even it can feel a bit bloated at times.
Anyway, I love the Google Chrome browsing experience so much that I decided to see what other Webkit-based browsers are out there. Thankfully, there are a ton. Comodo Dragon looks almost exactly like Chrome, though with better security and no Google tracking. Maxthon is incredibly popular in Asia and it offers the added bonuses of customizable skins, a built-in feed-reader, built-in notepad, mouse gestures, and more. It even runs a Trident engine in the background for when you run into those old Microsoft web-pages that only work in Internet Explorer. Finally, I just downloaded SRWare Iron, another Chrome lookalike that gets rid of all that pesky tracking. I figure I’ll go back and forth between Comodo Dragon, Maxthon, and Opera before settling on one. Chrome has officially been uninstalled from my computer.
So long Reader
I had come to rely on Reader as my de facto homepage; probably 75% of my time online was spent in Reader. Thankfully, Netvibes offers a great alternative. And it really is great. Netvibes works almost exactly the same as Reader, right down to the same keyboard shortcuts (I need my J and K keys to work). What’s more, Netvibes offers a fairly substantial array of viewing options, including a mosaic view, a widget view, and more, customizable to the folder level. Right now I’ve got my news-oriented folders set to a standard Reader-style view, and my photography and art folders set to a mosaic view…very nice. Of course, there are a few downsides. It’s a bit slower than Reader, both in terms of time to load the page and time between refreshing feeds. This isn’t a problem on a laptop or desktop, but the mobile version takes forever to load. Hopefully they’ll work on that.
I was invited to speak in New York this past weekend, and I was sure that it would be a pain finding good backgrounds for my slides without the help of Google Images . But, surprise, surprise, Google Image Search is worse than useless compared to Yahoo’s Image search, and for one simple reason: Flickr. Yahoo owns Flickr and image searches tend to come out of Flickr first and foremost. What’s more, you can filter by license and search solely Creative Commons works. Google used to allow that, but not any more (as far as I can tell). Basically, Yahoo Image Search is the best way to search Flickr, and whether I’m designing slides for a presentation, digital displays for the library, or other marketing “stuff”, Flickr is the place to go.
As to the rest, there are some hits and misses. It’s hard not using Google Maps and I admit that I used Maps on my phone once or twice. There are a few lingering committee projects I have going in Google Docs. As photos go, I may go back to Picasa, because the Windows media gallery is simply awful. There are other hangups, to be sure, and I’ll blog about them later, if I make it another month.