Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The strange smell of Google Sites

As I walked through Tin Hau tonight, the air carried a smell that combined electrical charge with motor oil, precisely the same as you'd get if you sniffed a Hornby 00 model train.

The MTR itself had been fragrant free this evening, whereas recently it's stunk of farts, or unwashed people, or groaning disappointment. Perhaps because my nostrils weren't saturated, I could notice this new aroma. Or this old aroma. I never had a train set of my own; railways were more my brother's thing. I liked small plastic dolls, Star Wars or Action Force (the rather pathetic Anglicised version of American GI Joe dolls), until one strange day when my brother and I took a pair of pliers and cut off the heads and feet of all my dolls. Which was rather traumatic, and caused me to take refuge in Transformers for a decade, as they were made of stouter plastic and therefore more resistant to assault via minor metalwork tools.

Thus when I scented model railways, I didn't have any Proustian reminiscences triggered off. I suppose if I had, I could then spout several thousand words of meaningfulness about the way that smell affects memory. Ah well.

Today was rather uneventful, as I spent none of it vomitting or lying on my bed groaning as my head seemed to swell to twice its normal size. Thus Tuesday was better than Monday, at least insofar as it didn't involve gross physical pain. However, yesterday we had the cheery task of stuffing wedding invitations into envelopes, which made me feel rather productive, and very cheerful, whereas this evening I found myself slumped in front of the computer, trying to edit a document and not feeling very inspired. Still, a journey of a thousand steps starts with ... trying to persuade somebody to drive you instead.

I also avoided trying to use Google Sites today. As an experiment, I'm building the website for the wedding using Google Sites. I started doing it yesterday, and I've learned that a wedding is not really a suitable subject for 'experimentation' unless your bride-to-be likes exploding cakes, undercooked guests and a fight between uncles because they're not drunk. No, those are not things that a wedding should include. It's fine for the whole thing to explode into a fight after drunken uncles fall through the cake, but that's something quite different.

Google Sites is also something quite different. In that it's utterly different on my Mac to on my little Ubuntu laptop. Which is a bit rubbish. You'd think that Google, desperate to move everything onto the web, would at least ensure that people had the same experience on the web, whether they were accessing it from one type of computer or another. In both cases, I'm using Google Chrome (partly because Google Sites gave me a snotty message saying Opera wasn't good enough to edit the site) but on the Mac, I can't change the background colour of the website. Not at all. The menu option just doesn't exist. I thought I was going mad, until I checked several times against the same menu on my laptop, where it was quite obvious how to change it.

And it's not as if they've stuck the word 'beta' anywhere, like they did with GMail for half a decade. And GMail didn't act really screwy for me during that time.

Ah well. It feels a bit odd to criticise Google for this, particularly when I'm using another of their products, Blogger, to push this out onto the net, but when you've spent half an hour trying to change the location for your wedding so that the map on the site doesn't show Sacramento, and the map decides it won't let you change it and you'll have to delete it and create a new map, you do begin to feel that perhaps they've pushed a product out before they've finished it. Or there's the way that the automatic site map seems to generate junk all down the page - like three different versions of the same page, two with nothing on them so that you start panicking and think Google decided your prose was not good enough to keep. And it's lucky I'm endowed with a hefty ego, or I might start worrying that because Larry and Sergey are so much smarter than I am, that perhaps Google was right, and I shouldn't have written what I did about my fiancee, and the wedding would be a disaster, and I should pack it all in and go and live out my life in a monastery, brewing strong ale and keeping bees and forsaking any further contact with women.

Yeah, that's right. Google Sites is an evil plan to make soon-to-be-happily-married-men into paranoid, bitter monks. And you thought that Mark Zuckerburg was bad.

If I have time tomorrow, I might start harping on about how Google Docs is a bit of a nightmare too, and how the promise of web-based spreadsheets has failed to deliver. And how Excel is always going to be more glamourous. And then you'll begin to wonder if I've totally cracked, and somewhere along the way in life I decided that Microsoft Excel was glamourous. Of course it wasn't. When my father brought home an amber-screened laptop that weighed half a ton and ran Lotus 123 back in the 1990s, that was glamourous. That was the Future. So now where are we? Perhaps he should have made me persevere with the trainset, or at least hide the pliers.1

1 Please don't make the mistake of inferring my father thought a laptop running a spreadsheet was a replacement for toys. He might have been one of the foremost British authors on taxation for many years, but he wasn't never a man without soul.


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