As a Debian user, you may choose to adopt the distro-managed rebuild of the world’s greatest web browser.  But, by doing so, you may not be able to use G+.  Don’t worry, the answer is at hand.

Visit the Firefox add-on page for User Agent Switcher:

Install the add-on and restart your browser.

Now, go to Tools > User Agent Switcher > User Agent Switcher > Options…

Add a new User Agent, call it Firefox 11.

Add the following text in the fields:

  • Description: Firefox 11
  • User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:11.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/11.0
  • App Code Name: Mozilla
  • App Name: Netscape
  • App Version: 5.0 (X11
  • Platform: Linux i686

If you’re running an amd64 build, plonk that in the Platform field instead (it’ll probably already be populated).

Make sure there is no reference to Iceweasel in the User Agent field.

Make sure this user agent is active, and then browse to Google+.

Have fun! 🙂

Google is undoubtedly suffering from some adverse PR in respect of its new privacy policy.  While it may have considered itself on to a PR “winner” with its “privacy made simple” approach, there has been considerable backlash in opinion and re-consideration of the use of its services.

So, what could Google do to demonstrate that it still takes on-line security seriously?

How about setting up its own Certificate Authority, and issuing free SSL certificates?

Google has the infrastructure, manpower and, I’d argue, interest in doing such a thing.  In fact, in many ways, it already offers the flesh around this missing skeleton.

Perhaps it could support the CACert effort with funding and enough energy to get it through the audits required to have their root certificate included in Mozilla’s Firefox, as-shipped?  And, while Google are at it (restoring their image of benevolence, that is), they could include that root certificate in Chrome too.

Just saying…

Strong headline maybe, but if you’re not on Google+ then you might consider your stance after reading this.

Jeri Ryan, best known as borg escapee “Seven of Nine” in Star Trek:Voyager, hosted a Hangout today on Google+, in celebration of having over 1 million fans subscribing to her feed.

Someone lucky enough to participate
in Jeri Ryan’s hangout!

There was a lot of buzz around it, with hundreds of comments flying around under the Hangout post, updating in real time.  It was pretty hard to get a video stream from Google, such were the number of simultaneous subscriptions.

In many ways, this reminded me of the excitement of the early internet, where we learned about things such as bandwidth… The kids today, they have everything!

Still, the excitement wasn’t only in the new broadcast/interaction (intercast?!) method through G+ hangouts, it was the realisation that, should they choose, celebs can now use a nice, safe way of engaging with their fan base.  Directly.  Over time, this may disarm broadcast controllers and empower people, be they celebrities or fans, into collaboration through constructive, enriching dialogue.

Wil Wheaton, self-confessed geek and well-known actor likewise, was notably impressed with hangouts.  It was refreshing to see people observing great netiquette while chatting with Jeri.  How much more enjoyable, this, than suffering typically mundane updates as you might in another social networking system.

As Google measures and expands upon functionality in G+, I hope they’ll see fit to bring more interactive tools to the table.  I get the feeling that hangouts are just the start of the next revolution.  As Android gathers increasing momentum and Google+ apps appear on both major mobile platforms, we could see real-time social networking emerge as the number one communication method.

People, known and unknown to each other, will communicate, partly in mimicry, utilising all tools at their disposal.  And, with open source platforms gathering adoption, they will inevitably add both their biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. 

Resistance, my friends, is futile.

UPDATE – here’s the recording:

Well, thank the heavens. It finally happened. Google saved the web.

The Register reports that Google has released the VP8 video codec which it gained last year through its $124M acquisition of web video business, On2.

On2 have been producing video codecs for years. It open sourced VP3 around 2003, if memory serves, which then became the basis for the Theora codec; the preferred choice of the open source community. Theora is a royalty- and patent-free codec that many open source advocates – myself included – have promoted the use of due to its free nature (free as in freedom… but that’s another issue).

However, as Steve Jobs recently hinted that a patent pools was being established to destroy Theora (and ultimately line his pockets further), Google have done just what Microsoft and Apple probably feared. Pulled the rug out.

So, all YouTube video will be re-encoded to use VP8 rather than H.264 (the proprietary codec supported by Apple and Microsoft), and browser builders Mozilla and Opera have already come out in support of it. As has Adobe. And, of course, Chrome will support it too.

And VP8, being open source and royalty-free, can also be supported by Microsoft and Apple. All source code and documentation is available on line, so there really is no excuse not to support it.

News abounds today of Google’s statement, relating to its operations in China. The statement indicated that Google would consider exiting China completely if it could not operate, with government approval, in an unrestricted manner. The post is here: business, to turn away just under 20% of your potential revenue to comply with your own principles must be a hard call to make. But Google is global, and perhaps 4.8 billion people in the rest of the world is a sufficient number to target with AdWords campaigns…

But what is really happening here? It’s difficult to believe that Google would invest so much time and effort, installing services in 2006, and then expect that within 4 years Beijing would accede to Google’s “wisdom” and suddenly allow freedom of speech. Within 4 years? After thousands of years of communist, dynastic and, occasionally, even tyrannical rule? No, somehow this seems unlikely.

It’s a surprising move by Google; one that could incite anything from a murmur of disquiet amongst the ranks of young Chinese teens, avidly seeking knowledge and understanding, to full-blown protests, perhaps even riots. It’s something of a political move, too: reading between the lines, it would appear that Google suspects Beijing of orchestrating the cyber-attacks on it and the twenty or so other organisations, as mentioned in their blog. By saying “play fair or don’t play at all”, Google may be vocalising the sentiments of the underclasses, still struggling to be heard from within the provinces.

Something that has not been mentioned (to my knowledge) so far in the press is the opportunity to expose Hong Kong. Under Chinese rule, but with special provisions (such as more liberal allowances on internet services), Hong Kong would present a potential new base for Google’s Chinese operation. But perhaps that’s a step too far?

The question remains whether it’s a viable exercise, and for viability, read “bottom-line”. Implementing the required censorship and publishing restrictions as required by the Chinese government will likely have been more technical trouble than they’re worth for Google, who elsewhere in the world have hands-down probably the most advanced information and revenue infrastructure to be found.

But information and revenue go hand in hand in Google’s business model. The less information, the less dynamism on-site, then the less interest there will likely be and the less uptake, over time. Google works in the west because there are virtually no limits, within the law, on trading ideas and services. In the far east, Google may have just observed a synergy that works to the detriment of its model. It may also be outgunned by larger powers at work; Beijing’s insurance.

We shall see if Google’s gambit, encouraging closer but more open ties with Beijing, will pay off.