Google study finds consumers think web browser is Google

People have been sending around this silly video which supposedly proves that Average Folk think the web browser is Google. This is wrong, and a dangerously misleading conclusion.

Firstly, the video itself is an unabashed advertisement for Google. This should be a giant red flag. This is not a “study” or a “survey” or any sort of “research.” It’s a PR stunt. There’s a hipster with big glasses and a fun soundtrack in the background. You don’t see what happened before the questions were asked or how the interviewees were prepped. Based on people’s responses, specifically the guy that says “google” and laughs, the people seem to know the interviewer is from Google.

Secondly, the hipster, who identifies himself as being from Google, is asking people “What is a browser?” Quick, where in Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari does the word “Browser” appear? I’ll give you a few minutes to look. Ubuntu identifies Firefox as “Firefox Web Browser” but I think we can all agree that Linux doesn’t count. On Windows, Firefox is called a browser in a tooltip. Internet Explorer is just “Internet Explorer.”

So imagine you’re an “average” person on the street, and there’s a guy, who may or may not have told you he’s from Google, asking you what a “browser” is. You’ve never seen the word “browser” on your computer before. But you don’t want to just say “I don’t know,” so you think about what the word means. Hm, it must be a thing where you “browse” — that means looking through many options — like browsing the produce aisle. Where do I regularly see options on the internet that I need to look through? Google!

If we wanted to gather real information on what people think about the internet and computers, there are other ways of asking the question. “What program do you use to read the internet?”1 “What is Internet Explorer?”2. An actual researcher could do a much better job judging actual user beliefs.

The question is leading, and the name of the interviewer’s employer is going to skew the results even more. So no matter how ticklishly funny people’s ignorance is, it is worthless to draw any conclusions from the video. Or, to put it another way, any conclusion you may draw from the video, even if it seems to confirm what you already know, is suspect. Thanks to this PR video, Google has given us something new to believe — users are stupid, but they know what Google is. Who’s the fool now? Developers are already linking to the video like some sort of proof of what they already know, and every decision made that’s informed by this new meme is poisoned toward Google’s benefit.

  1. this assumes people know what programs are []
  2. Leading, but you’ll get a sense of what people think it is []
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How to Install Final Cut Studio 3

  1. July, 2009: Find out through twitter that Apple released a new version of Final Cut Studio with the softest launch ever, a tiny box in the lower left of the homepage.
  2. Read over the “What’s New” page, and see that, actually, there are lots of decent bugfixes and even some new features!
  3. Wait until some other sucker gets a copy.
  4. Keep waiting as they discover new bugs, problems, and technical headaches introduced by Apple’s “What, me worry?” backwards- and standards-compatibility policy.
  5. Pour over Stu’s inevitable updated post on Final Cut / Quicktime gamma issues. Understand nothing.
  6. Read over John’s inevitable post on the new version of Color, and how it’s still worse for color correction than using a highlighting marker on the monitor.
  7. Read Avid editor bloggers dissing FCP, feel better about not using it yet.
  8. December, 2009: A point release is made that actually works. Purchase it and install on cloned version of hard drive you call “FCS3(?) QUARANTINE”.
  9. Gingerly boot cloned drive and launch FCP.
  10. Oooh new splash screen.
  11. Spend a few minutes reconnecting all your media. Ah well, you’d be suspicious if nothing was offline.
  12. What’d’ya know, not so bad.
  13. Announce to your clients that you support the new version of Final Cut.
  14. Tell them no, not version 6, there’s a new one after that. … It’s been out for, like, 6 months now. … I know you’ve been editing for 2 years, I don’t upgrade in the middle of a project either … No, I can’t online your cut made on version 5 on Panther!
  15. Wait for projects cut on the new version to work through their edit schedule.
  16. Finally switch over to the cloned “Quarantine” drive as your new default boot drive.
  17. July, 2010: do your first online in Final Cut 7 — discover some stupid missing feature or bug.
  18. Sign inevitable petitions to Apple. Geez, when is the new Final Cut coming out??
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DJing on the cheap

One thing I’d always wanted to try was DJing, because hey, doesn’t everyone? It’s like being a musician but without all that hard work, skill, and practice. I’d never really pursued the interest, though, because being a DJ, even as a hobbiest, had always been an extremely expensive proposition. Good turntables cost 600$ each, a mixer is another $100 or more, and there’s all the vinyl I’d need to buy. I know myself well enough that I didn’t want to risk dropping close to a grand on a hobby that, in all probability, I’d lose interest in after a month.

In recent years, laptop DJing has gotten more popular, but I still didn’t want to spend 500$ on the software and more on the mp3 music. I could have acquired these by bittorrent or whatever, but I don’t like stealing software and also hate rebooting into windows. Ideally I wanted an open source program that would run on linux, but most of the options I found sucked. My dream of being a superstar DJ appeared forever out of reach.

Then one lazy day of clicking around the internet I discovered Mixxx, an open-source DJing application. Amazingly, it doesn’t suck. After some experimentation, it became clear Mixxx not only didn’t suck, but was actually pretty good. Around the same time, I’d also discovered the wide world of netlabel music. There are artists all over the world who are more than happy to share their tracks for free on the internet. Because I’m not stealing the music, it’s easy to preview tracks and download the ones I like. I quickly built up a catalog of a few hundred decent tracks. I was very close to actually being able to mix music! Visions of neon-haired techno girls danced in my head.

So I have software, I have music, and I haven’t spent any money yet! The Mixxx developers recommend the Hercules DJ MP3 as a good cheap controller, so I snagged one off ebay for 70$. I also have a small older version of this M-Audio MIDI keyboard which I got used for 60$ or so1. Lastly, I have an M-Audio Sonica Theater for simultaneous main mix output and headphone preview output2.

With all of that, my setup was complete:

Laptop, sonica multichannel sound card, midi keyboard (for effects), and Hercules DJ MP3
Laptop, sonica multichannel sound card, midi keyboard (for effects), and Hercules DJ MP3

Total cost: ~$150

I got some practice spinning tunes, and quickly discovered all sorts of annoying problems with Mixxx and my setup. The default mixxx theme, for instance, is ugly and doesn’t use screen-space well. I downloaded a cool-looking theme called “Trancer”, but then I wasn’t happy with that so I did what any linux user would do — hacked it and made my own version:

My custom Mixxx theme, which fits nicely on my 1280x800 screen
My custom Mixxx theme, which fits nicely on my 1280x800 screen

I also wanted to have more control over filters and effects, so I set up a JACK pipeline so I could use my MIDI keyboard to select and tweak effects outside of Mixxx itself. I use the jack-rack program to handle the effects, although I had to hack that too. So when I’m mixing, this is what my desktop looks like:

Mixxx on the right, a couple jack-racks on the left, and a little midi notifier at the top left
Mixxx on the right, a couple jack-racks on the left, and a little midi notifier at the top left

And while I was playing some music, I discovered some aspects of the Mixxx music library that I didn’t like. Like, I needed some way of knowing which tracks I’d already played so I wouldn’t accidentally play them again. Also, the search bar also didn’t allow for multiple search terms. So I hacked away at the mixxx source code. Now the search box works right and I know if I’ve played a track as well as how many times I’ve ever played it.

But what type of open-source advocate would I be if I kept this all to myself? So, I present:
Mixxx Trancer theme (DJO remix)
Mixxx 1.7 (DJO remix diff)
jack-rack 1.4.7 (DJO remix diff)

The most important patch is the one for mixxx itself. The library is really hobbled without it.

After all this hacking, I finally have a setup that works well. I’m sure a European jet-set lifestyle is not far behind, but although I’ve been mixing for like, close to two months now, I’m still not a superstar DJ. But I did record one session that I consider post-worthy. I call it, “Mixxx session 090710.” Future mix postings will have a full tracklist, but due to a mistake, this one doesn’t. Enjoy!

Mixxx Session 090710 on archive.org (88 Meg, 1 hour)

  1. I got this when I was playing around with freewheeling, until I realized I don’t play the keyboard []
  2. I also got this from ebay, used. There’s a lot of decent hardware out there that doesn’t really go bad []
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