Schemer was launched two years ago as an invite-only service for sharing goals and discussing them with other people. "A scheme is 'a secret or devious plan' (American Heritage Dictionary) and a schemer is a person who is involved in making these secret plans, so Google uses a mustache logo, a mesmerizing animated homepage, the Hitchcock font and catchy messages like 'You're looking diabolical!' or 'Invite your partners in crime'," I wrote at the time.
Since then, Schemer launched mobile apps for Android and iOS, while no longer requiring invitations, but the service failed to catch on. The Android app has somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 downloads. It was last updated in October 2012.
According to an internal version of the site, Schemer will be discontinued. "Schemer is being shut down soon. Sign in to get your data before it's gone," mentions the site. "We had launched over a year ago to help people to do more awesome stuff, and it has been quite an adventure for us as well! However, we have come to the difficult decision to shut down Schemer." It's not clear when it will be discontinued.
Here's a promotional video: "The beginning of everything worth doing."
If you've tried the Auto Backup tool and you want to delete your photos, it won't be easy. You can go to the Auto Backup section of Google+ Photos, mouse over a photo, click the "tick" icon, select photos one by one and click "Delete". You can also select photos by dragging a "lasso", just like in your favorite file manager. You can also select a photo and Shift+click the last photo you want to select or Ctrl-click photos for non-contiguous selection.
That's great if you only have a few photos, but not if you have thousands of photos. Fortunately, there's a better way:
3. click "Select" below "Photos from Auto Backup". After a few seconds, Google will select the last 2000 photos uploaded to Auto Backup. If you have less than 2000 photos, all of them will be selected.
4. click "Delete" at the top of the page. This only moves the photos to Trash, so they're not permanently deleted. If you change your mind, click "undo" after they're moved to Trash.
5. you may need to manually refresh the page (press F5) to see the remaining photos. You'll have to go back to step 3 and select the next 2000 photos and then go to the step 4.
6. to permanently delete your photos, go to the Trash, click "Empty trash now" and confirm this action.
Google+ Photos has a sophisticated search feature, but some of the features aren't easy to find. For example, you can search photos by camera. Use queries like #canon, #nikon, #sony, #apple, #panasonic, #samsung, #nokia to find photos taken using a phone or camera from one of these companies. You can also use the name of the phone or camera, but not all of them work. These worked for me: #iphone4s, #iphone5s, #canonpowershots95, #canoneos, #dsc-w150, #k800i.
The latest version of Picasa for Windows and Mac installs a separate utility called Google+ Auto Backup. It's a simple tool that lets you select the folders that you want to backup automatically and even has support for SD cards. Google+ Auto Backup works in the background, much like Google Music Manager and Google Drive for desktop.
The application uses the new Google Photos icon and, even though it's installed by Picasa, it doesn't have anything to do with Picasa, which has its own syncing feature.
Here's the installer file GPAutoBackup.msi in the Picasa folder:
The application has its own uninstall entry:
When you visit Google+, you'll see this message, which informs you that you can use the search box to find photos and videos from Auto Backup.
By default, Google uploads the original photos and they use your Google Drive storage space. You can enable photo resizing (standard size), so that the uploaded photos don't count against your Google Drive storage quota. Photos are resized so that the longest edge is 2048px or less.
"All photos uploaded through Google+ Auto Backup will default to private in Google+, so you can decide what actions to take once they are backed up to Google+. Once your photos have been uploaded, they will appear along with other Auto Backup photos. We'll arrange them by date in the Highlights section of Google+ Photos, and you can search #desktop in Photos Search to easily find all of the photos that you've backed up through your desktop." (from GooglePlus Helper)
To get Auto Backup for Desktop, you need to install Picasa. If you already have Picasa, make sure you've updated to the latest version (137.69). Go to the Help menu and "check for updates". The release notes include some other changes: new file size limits for uploads: 50 MB or 100 MP, "Edit in Creative Kit" function has been removed, updates to RAW support to include newer cameras.
Google+ Photos has some filters you can use to refine your search results. Just click the search box or the small arrow icon and you can choose the source of the photos (Auto Backup, Hangouts, Google Drive, posts) or the type of results (Auto Awesome, photos of you, photospheres, videos). For some reason, Google uses hashtags and they don't work well all the time: the #Videos hashtag returns not only videos, but also photos that match "videos".
Here are the hashtags: #AutoBackup, #Hangouts, #GoogleDrive, #Posts, #AutoAwesome, #PhotosOfYou, #PhotoSphere, #Videos. You can add them to your query and filter the results. Google first shows your photos and then the photos from your circles. If you choose the source of photos, Google will only show your photos.
Some cool searches you can try:
- #AutoAwesome (all your Auto Awesome photos and videos and the ones from your circles - if they're public or shared with you)
Auto Awesome brings more and more reasons to upload your photos to Google+. There's a new Auto Awesome gift: a video that highlights some of the best photos and videos you've taken in 2013. It's the year in review, a short video with nice music and cool transitions. You'll receive a notification in the Google bar when your video is ready.
"This time of year we reconnect with loved ones, and we reflect on the moments that really matter. Photos and videos help preserve these moments, and when you save them to Google+, #AutoAwesome can bring your story to life in meaningful, magical ways," says Google's Anil Sabharwal.
You can check the "year in review" videos shared by other Google+ users by searching for #year2013.
"I am a little disturbed by how awesomely accurate this automatically created summary of 2013 video Google somehow made from my photos/videos of this year. Pretty awesome if a bit creepy," says Rob Fisher, a Google+ user. "This motivates me to take more photos/videos next year for another great end of year video," says Stefan Fritz.
I've been reading Fred Vogelstein's book "Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution" (Amazon, Google Play) and realized that Android wasn't that important for Google until 2009-2010, when Motorola Droid and Nexus One were launched. It was an operating system designed to compete with Microsoft's Windows Mobile that ended up competing with Apple's iOS. Back in 2007 and 2008, Google's partnership with Apple was more important than Android, a project that was understaffed. Android only became important when Google realized that Apple's dominance in the mobile space could spell trouble for Google.
Here are some quotes:
1. "Gundotra was putting the Android team on the spot. “I said, 'Convince me that this [Android] is something we [Google] should believe in,' and I know they had never had anyone ask those questions, and it was tough for them. 'Who are you to ask these questions again?' they wondered.” A former senior member of the Android team echoed this feeling: “In the early days, Google Mobile [the team working with Apple on the iPhone] hated us. I mean, they thought we were the biggest pain in the ass in the world. I know Vic Gundotra [who now runs Google's competitor to Facebook, Google Plus] has come around and been a great advocate of Android, but he really hated it at first. He thought [Android] would be a distraction that would upset his relationship with Steve Jobs. There was a lot of butting of heads and arguments internally about strategy and things like that."
2. "The Jobs meeting was particularly difficult for Rubin, friends say. He was indeed as furious as Jobs described, and he almost quit Google over it. He understood what his bosses were saying intellectually. But Jobs had bullied him in front of his bosses, and they hadn't backed him up. For a while thereafter he had a sign on his office whiteboard that read STEVE JOBS STOLE MY LUNCH MONEY."
3. "Schmidt says today that not only had he and Jobs talked about Android, he'd made it clear to Jobs that in terms of Google priorities, iPhone came first. 'I think maybe Andy [Rubin] understood the importance of Android back then, but certainly the rest of Google did not. We were busy doing other things,' Schmidt said to me in 2011."
4. Eric Schmidt in 2011: "Larry and Sergey and I understood the strategic value of Android, but none of us I think foresaw how strategic it would become. Every once in a while a perfect storm occurs. Your competitors make some mistakes. You end up with the right product at the right time. There are really no other good choices of products. It all sort of happens in a moment. That's what happened with Android."
If you don't cast music, videos or photos, Google's Chromecast starts to display a slideshow with some beautiful photos. It's a screensaver you can't customize, but the photos are constantly updated by Google.
The Chromecast screensaver is actually a web page you can access from any device, just in case you want to see some great photos or to save them. It's interesting that Google doesn't use Media RSS feeds and the image URLs are hardcoded.
To find the URL of the image that's displayed, right click the page and select "inspect element". Find the code that starts with <div id="container" picture-url= and double click the URL that follows, so you can copy it. I only tested this in Chrome and Firefox.
To upload audio files to Google Play Music, you need to use Music Manager. It's only available as a native app for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, so you can't use it if you have a Chromebook or a mobile device.
What if you need to upload a few songs and you don't want to wait until Music Manager syncs your files? What if you're using someone else's computer and you can't install Music Manager?
Google Play Music's source code includes a message which suggests that you'll be able to upload songs from your browser: "Drag songs or folders here to add music to your library. Or, if you prefer, select from your computer."
Google's Sound Search widget for Android has a history page which shows all the songs that have been recognized by the application. You can also find this list inside Google Play Music if you go to this playlist. This is especially useful if you subscribe to the All Access feature and you can play all the songs.
"Hear a song you like while you're out and about? Touch the microphone on the home screen of your Android phone or tablet. Google Play identifies the song and adds it to the Song Match playlist. You can also use the Sound Search for Google Play app," mentions the page.
The first feature doesn't work for me, but maybe it will be added in the future.
Google's Zeitgeist site redirects to Google Trends, which shows the year in review lists and some clever visualizations. "This year marks our most global Zeitgeist to date - with 1,000+ top 10 lists across categories like Trending People, Most-Searched Events and Top Trending Searches from 72 countries," mentions Google.
The search topics with the largest increase in search volume are: Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker, iPhone 5S, Cory Monteith, Harlem Shake, Boston Marathon, Royal Baby, Samsung Galaxy S4, PlayStation 4 and North Korea. Other popular gadgets: Xbox One, Nexus 5, HTC One, iPad Air, Blackberry 10 phones, Galaxy Note 3 and Nokia Lumia 1020. The most popular movie is Man of Steel and the most popular TV show is Under the Dome.
You can select different countries and find the trending topics from other places. For example, the hottest technology topic in South Africa was BBM for Android, the hottest search in Spain was Outlook and the second most popular phone in India was Nokia Lumia 520.
There's also a globe that "visualizes the hottest daily Google searches in 2013 in over 150 cities. Explore what mattered to people by turning the globe, selecting a city, and sliding the date slider to any day of the year."
This video highlights some of the most important events from 2013 (some Google features too):
Update: The site is no longer available, but I'm sure it will be back.
Google Zeitgeist Quiz [update: the link doesn't work] is a site that tests how well you know the most important events that happened in 2013, the most popular news topics and the top Google searches. You'll answers questions about Prince George of Cambridge, Pope Benedict, Paul Higgs, Malala Yousafzai, Harlem Shake, Serge the Llama, the synthetic burger and more. After answering a question, Google shows a funny animated GIF.
Google has a new Easter Egg for Christmas, but this time it's only for mobile devices. Search for [let's go caroling] using an Android or iOS device or use voice search and say "let's go caroling" and you'll see a list of 5 carols you can play: "Jingle Bells", "Up on the House Top", "Deck the Halls", "O Christmas Tree" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Tap one of the carols and Google will start playing the karaoke version of the carol, while also displaying the lyrics.