I was going to be nice to Google today. Really, I was – I started out thinking “Wow, for the first time ever, I will have to write a weblog entry and be 100% nice about Google” – As the 5 people who read my weblog will know, this isn’t normal. I don’t like Google, I make no secret of it generally but sometimes, there is the rare good thing.

So let’s pretend for a moment that Google isn’t a great encompassing blob of an alien life form and it is in fact different organisations some of which I can be nice about and let’s ponder Picasa.

I have been using Picasa from the start – I don’t know why, it’s not very popular to use Picasa, especially for somebody who doesn’t like Google. I should probably be using Flickr or Deviantart like all the cool kids do but I like Picasa desktop and I like the way it talks to Picasa Web Albums and I like the way Picasa Web Albums are nice and easy to use. But there is more.

Firstly, my Picasa crashed a few weeks ago. I was not happy, I use my Picasa a lot on my laptop for trying to keep tabs on what photos I have on here that I haven’t moved to the Desktop and the huge photo archive I have. Every time I loaded it, it crashed and told me to send a crash report – As long as I didn’t hit “OK” it would carry on working so that was good but I submitted a crash report anyway.  I wasn’t expecting anything, I submit Microsoft crash reports on a weekly basis and have never had any feedback at all but apparently the Picasa team actually read theirs. and a nice chap called Fernando Corrado asked me to test a new version which promptly crashed too. Eventually after 2 days of trying new versions and tweaking things the Picasa people discovered I had a screwed up installation of Quicktime that was causing some previews to die and created a fix. My Picasa now works properly again and it is nice to see such a quick response for what is really, free software.

Anyway, armed with a working Picasa and being generally impressed so far with the new face recognition, I decided to let Picasa run riot over my desktop.  I started it about 48 hours ago now and it claims to be 14% of the way through recognising faces (which is odd because 4 hours ago I restarted it and it claimed to be 21% of the way through).

It is sloooowly indexing 3 terabytes of disk on a 3.5ghz Pentium and has found just under 5,100 folders full of photos. It has found over 1,500 photos of me now ranging over 25 years, some of which have me wearing glasses, funny hats and in one, a Pippi Longstocking wig and a diamond fairy tiara (Hey I get bored in Wal*Mart sometimes). Every time I look at it, it has dug up more and more obscure photos of people with terrifying accuracy and it is still going strong. It also seems quite good at sharing the facial information (via my Gmail account I assume) between my laptop and the Desktop. I am deliberately avoiding asking what Google will do with the huge amount of data I am giving it but I am pretty sure now Google could track me pretty well with its hidden spy cameras since it even recognised me in my tinfoil helmet. Damn.

We are no longer safe!
(Why wouldn’t Picasa let me link that from my Picasa album? Weird)

I can’t find much wrong with it – There are some pretty useless filters in it (why would I want to find all purple photos, or all orange photos?) and some seemingly useful filters missing. One really useful thing would be for it to be able to detect naked photos  (ok, let’s call it a porn filter). There are very few good tools for detecting porn by flesh percentage and *ah hem* “body features” on Windows – Hyperdyne’s Snitch and Media Detective are the only two I can think of and they cost more than I paid for my copy of Vista. It is a feature many people need and want so go on Google, add it please?I suspect all the tools are in there, although please… It will freak me out if you start being able to identify people without faces, that is going a little too far ok?

And now for the downside. Don’t worry Picasa, this isn’t about you, I have nothing but praise for you today and this weblog entry would have stopped here if I hadn’t needed to register a Gizmo5 account for Jess today.

I merrily browsed to http://gizmo5.com only to be redirected to http://www.google.com/gizmo5/ and told:

Gizmo5 Has Been Acquired by Google
New user signup has been suspended and will return when we re-launch.
To receive information about the re-launch please enter your email address.

This is not useful… I needed a Gizmo5 account today and now Google own it I assume that the useful “Forward to Skype” feature will end up broken since Skype are in the business of selling Skypein numbers and won’t want Google Voice numbers supplying this for free. I assume it will also create a mess because Google Voice is only available in the US and Gizmo was available everywhere. Plus of course, it’s a pain since I wanted an account today dammit! Grrrrr.

On the plus side, this means I didn’t have to write a Weblog entry that was full of praise for The Evil Empire.  Got to take some good out of everything I guess.

(I also wonder why WordPress wouldn’t allow me to have that last line in a paragraph by itself… This thing has a mind of its own I swear)