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3:37pm on Saturday, 21st February, 2009:

Life Without Google


Google stopped working in the Bartle household yesterday. None of the Google sites (.com, .co.uk), and none of the sites Google owns (youtube, blogspot) were available.

So, for those of you whose memories don't stretch back that far, what's life like in a world without Google?

Well, it's mildly irritating, but not cataclysmic. I had to use AltaVista to do my searches, which meant I had to search through what the search produced to find what I wanted (as opposed to adverts for things I didn't want, with no connections to the search terms). I used AltaVista pre-Google, and held out for a while because it allowed wildcards in the search terms; it doesn't seem to do this any more, though, which means it now has no redeeming features other than it's there when Google is unavailable.

Not having access to blogspot meant I couldn't look up links that I knew were on people's blogs, which I found I wanted to do surprisingly often. I guess this means Google's privileging of links that come out of blogs is a good thing. When I accessed blogs that were elsewhere (eg. wordpress), there were big holes in several of them where they had youtube panels that weren't showing. Again, you don't necessarily notice how many youtube videos are linked to in blogs until you can't see them.

The most annoying consequence of Google's non-availability was when regular sites included Google ads — the whole site would fail to load as it waited on the ads. This meant I couldn't access otherwise independent sites, which was bothersome.

Eventually, I figured out that the problem wasn't with Google at all. I could ping the sites, but couldn't load them into a browser, so ... something was blocking access artificially? That would be the firewall, then. Sure enough, when I switched off AVG's firewall, Google worked just fine. We were having the problem both on my PC and my younger daughter's, but we both run the same firewall software so both suffered from the same issue.

I'm now sitting behind the crumbling shakiness that is Microsoft's firewall, although in theory the router should protect me from external attacks. It won't protect me from the rampant viruses that fester on my daughter's PC, though, so I'm keeping it up, just in case. When AVG finally figure out what's gone wrong, I'll turn it back on.

(Hmm, or maybe not: my daughter can now print over the LAN again, which she stopped being able to do last month. AVG's firewall may be just a tad too unforgiving...).

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).