Gmail’s Cloud Storage Problem

Google needs to re-separate its main and drive storage again. This isn’t a problem that affects me, not directly. I imagine it affects a lot of other people though, whether they realize it or not. I also worry that it’s entirely intentional on Google’s part, in order to sell more cloud space to users. I should add, I don’t have a problem with Google selling cloud storage. I don’t have a problem with people using Google as their chosen cloud whatever. Personally, I use Google as little as possible, they are essentially a spyware/adware company as far as I am concerned.

I do take issue with what they have done to their Cloud Storage. Back in 2020, Google ended it’s unlimited photo storage option. Anything you had up there previously could stay, but essentially, starting from the end, anything up to I want to say 15GB, was limited, unless you paid for more. Like I said, I don’t really care about Google wanting to make money on its photo storage, they kind of need some alternative income streams to hoovering up everyone’s private data and selling it to advertisers (no wait, I mean selling their monopolistic ad service to advertisers, they just keep the data in a way that’s easily split down to a micro granular level).

My problem is, that they still share this total limit across drive and Gmail. My problem is, that by default, Android phones push all your photos and videos up to Google Photos, and even if you turn this off, they constantly nag you to turn it back on unless you use an alternative Photos app. If you are someone who takes a lot of random photos and videos, like half the people in the world these days, this limited storage fills up quick.

This means they can, of course, nag you some more, to pay for an upgrade.

This also means, your Gmail, stops working.

I’m actually going to use my own kids for this example, and why this is so broken for “normal-ass non-technical people”. And no matter how often I advise them otherwise, they never seem to get it, like “normal-ass non-technical people.” (FWIW, my kids are all young adults over 20)

Partly my daughter’s solution was to just, make a second Gmail account. Which sort of works. But like recently, I wanted to set her up on a shared to-do list, primarily for groceries we need in the house. I sent an invite link to the email on her Microsoft account, which is her old Gmail address. But she never got it. Her Google account is full. It can’t receive any more emails, it’s been like this, probably for years now.

They see “your Gmail is full” and the first thought is, “I need to delete some emails.” This might work, briefly, assuming your phone doesn’t have a queue of photos and videos backed up waiting for space on the Cloud. The reality is, for like 99% of people, you could delete all your emails, and it still won’t clear up as much space as deleting one video off of Photos.

This is partly my point here, for anyone having this issue, at the bare minimum, get your videos off of Google Photos. Download them if you need to, but store them somewhere else. If you want to use Google for backups, feel free to pay for it, but if not, don’t start on the emails, or even the photos, start on the videos. Here’s a comparison from something recent to me, I went to that Alanis Morissette concert, and I took roughly 50 photos and 3 videos. Those three videos, take up the same amount of space as those 50 photos. around 200Mb for each set, photos, and videos. For comparison, the average email is kilobytes in size. Let’s be REALLY FUCKING GENEROUS and say each email is 100Kb in size, though it’s going to be closer to 10Kb or 1Kb. In 200Mb, you could fit 2,000 emails at 100Kb each.

The real solution is that Google needs to re-split the storage for emails. It used to be separated, which was fine when you could store unlimited photos. It’s a huge problem now that it’s not. too many people rely on email for important things, reminders, bills, keeping in touch with people, and accepting ToDo List invites.

It’s too important to get cut off because people don’t understand size relationships across file types, or how to use alternative storage solutions for large files. It’s essentially holding your email for ransom at the end of the day.

Leaving Google, Part 2

I discussed briefly last post, about what’s come up with my GSuite Legacy account. I wanted to mention a few other things that came up, and some additional steps I made. A lot of the other issues were pretty easy to correct. One extremely useful tool in all of this I found, was the Google Dashboard. This lists all of the services used with some generic metrics of how much might be there to look into.

For example, I found I had a few “Saved locations” in Google maps. They ended up being some inconsequential hotels from a trip years ago, but it was good to know so if they were something meaningful, I could resave them to my regular old Google Account.

There is also some useless and even slightly misleading information here. For example Google Cloud Print no longer exists, but it’s still listed. There doesn’t seem to be a way to purge out that data. Youtube lists “112 Purchases”, which isn’t true either, it’s “112 titles synced through my connected Vudu/Ultraviolet/MoviesAnywhere” access.” It’s not something I need to care about.

One, I had forgotten about was Contacts. I could have done a straight import/export, but I opted to take the long road and manually transfer everything to Outlook. This way I could also clean things up. This also meant I had to do some settings changes and shuffling on my phone, so it would use my Outlook Contacts instead of my Google contacts. I was, thankfully, already using Outlook as my email client anyway.

I also remembered that I used my domain account for my Google Analytics and Search Console credentials (Why aren’t these just one service?). Fortunately, these were fairly easily transferred to my standard Google Account. I found 4 services where I was able to do this, so I’ll roughly cover them all together.

Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Blogger, and Youtube, could all be directly transferred to a standard Gmail/Google account. The process is similar but slightly different on each.

Search Console allows you to delegate access to a secondary account. This account can then be made the primary owner, though to do this they need to be re-verified using DNS records.

Google Analytics is similar to Search Console, without the need to re-verify. I simply added my Gmail account as a user, promoted it to Admin, then deleted my domain account’s access.

Blogger worked the same way. I don’t really use Blogger, but I did have an empty blog with a name I’d like to hold on to, so I transferred it over.

Youtube is a bit more complex. Channels have to first be converted to “Brand Accounts”. Then you can delegate secondary users. Also, there is a waiting period of 7 days before a delegated user can be elevated to be the “Primary Owner”. After that period, I made my Gmail log in the Primary, and deleted access from my domain account. I had initially started simply consolidated playlists between accounts, but this was a pain in the ass. Going with the Brand account method, I was able to transfer everything. I BELEIVE, but am not positive, that there may be a way to convert the channels back to personal accounts, but I’m not positive on that one.

I’m am nearly ready to see what steps I need to take to cancel out the Gsuite part of the domain account, which HOPEFULLY will convert it to a Web ID. The only thing left is my Google Play apps. It’s not cleat at all what will happen here. If it converts to a Web ID, the Play Purchases should just continue to be used and licensed to that account. I have documented everything I’ve every bought, free or not, in case I need to “re-purchase” anything I use or care about (free or not) on my Gmail Account. I still plan to use the Gmail account going forward. I do also need to figure out how to transfer my Pokemon Home subscription to my Gmail account.

The whole process has gone surprisingly smoothly, it’s just been time consuming. It helped a lot that frankly, I wasn’t really using many Google Services anymore to start with. The reality is, that consolidating all my email to one (Microsoft) account has been great, because I can better use Rules to manage it before it’s shuffled off to the archive ball on my NAS.

Leaving Google

I’m not going to go into a ton of detail, because I am sure I have rambled about it before, but I have had a pretty downward relationship with Google. There was a time when I was an enormous Google fanboy, and that slowly started to decline as they started just, removing services and features, and the core turn happened when they dumped Google Reader. Over the last ten years or so I’ve slowly migrated things away from Google, though I never quite outright left Google. In fact, technically i still and not quite “leaving” Google.

This is the problem with a company like Google, you can never quite “leave”. Most of what I use though wasn’t super due to choice. I use YouTube, because there isn’t really an alternative, for example. I also continues to use Gmail and Calendar, because I had a free Legacy G-suite account, that allowed me to use my domain for my email. I do also have a Legacy Gmail account, from when things were Invite Only as well. I don’t really use Docs or drive, except for a few annoying services that don’t offer alternatives. I sort of used Photos, but more as a backup to my backup to my backup, never as a primary, and I stopped when they discontinued the Unlimited Storage.

I have a variety of reasons I dislike Google, but I’m not going to get into all of that here and now.

However, it recently came to my attention that Google is discontinuing it’s free tier Legacy G-suite accounts. Previously these accounts were grandfathered, but now they are going away. This is an enormous problem for a lot of people who use this as their Primary account, central to their work flow. Thankfully, in my case, I have mostly stopped using Google for my workflow, but this is definitely giving people a bad time. The only option is essentially to pay to upgrade to a regular account, at $6/month on the lowest tier.

Part of my annoyance stems from having to hear about this from a Podcast, talking about Microsoft offering a discount to people who switch. I didn’t get the email, as the email went to my admin account, that I never check and forgot existed. Granted that is on me, but I wonder how many others are going to get screwed by this.

My only worry at the moment is what will happen to my Play Store purchases. It appears that my account will be able to downgrade to an Identity Account, which will allow me to keep my Play Store purchases. It also seems to keep YoutTube data as well. but to be safe I’m shuffling that around as well (more in a bit).

So what do I, personally, need to do about this?

The main issue is email. I use my domain email on Google a lot. It’s one of two Primary Email addresses, and it’s the top one of those two. Fortunately, I already run an email server for some secondary domains. I was planning to get rid of that email server, but it could wait for a bit while I wind down my Primary Email as well.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to go this route. I pay for Microsoft 365. I suppose it’s worth mentioning, my problem with what is happening with Google, isn’t the paying. The $6/month tier at Google is just not worth it for me. I dislike Google as a privacy nightmare for starters. The search results have been shot for years, they push a lot of weird lock ins. Docs/Sheets sucks next to MS Office as well, and you get a LOT more space with One Drive than Google Drive. The lowest tier of Google’s offerings is $72/year, and I pay $99/year for Microsoft 365, for SIX accounts, which I use across my family.

Anyway, Microsoft 365 offers the ability to use a custom domain email. The set up is designed to be simple, and uses GoDaddy, which I don’t use, but there is an easy work around to use any domain registrar. It’s all just DNS records. If you are capable enough to set up DNS records, you are capable of following this helpful guide on Reddit. You may need to massage things a bit, for some reason the guide has a 0 leading the @ entry which I didn’t need. Though I did need to set the Priority to “0” (Zero) before it took, over on Cloudflare’s DNS. I followed the guide, and around 24 hours later (probably would have been sooner but I had Priority 5), the email was coming in to my Outlook account instead of my Gmail account.

The biggest hurdle was out of the way.

It’s worth mentioning, that Gmail will still contain the older emails. It may be EASIEST, to clean out those emails BEFORE transferring the domain. You can probably still connect the old account to something like Outlook or Thunderbird, but to be sure, either make sure you already set up the Gmail account in a client, before the transfer, if you go this route. This suggestion is honestly, for any 3rd part email provider. You can do a Take Out request, but it’s much easier to just use a client, then drag and drop emails.

In my case, I already had MOST of my emails cleaned out. I keep a local email server on my Synology NAS, with a sorted archive of all my emails. If you really want to be thorough, once you have copied the emails off, go back to the Gmail web interface, select “All Mail”, then use the “Select all” button at the top of the list to delete everything.

Next step was calendars. This was fairly simple. I opened Outlook’s calendar and Google Calendar in tabs side by side. I copied the URL for any web calendars I was subscribed to (use the ical URL) over to Outlook. I then took a moment to sort out the events on my remaining user created Google Calendars, before exporting and importing them to Outlook. Lastly, Google Calendar lets you create tasks and reminders, I manually copied those all into Microsoft ToDo, (which I also, already used). The remaining task, my wife has a Google Calendar from her Gmail account that we share. I’ll transfer my half of that from my Gsuite account to my Gmail account and be done there. I’d convince her to convert it to Microsoft but frankly convincing her to do the shared calendar int he first place was enough of a hassle.

After the Calendar we have Docs, well, Drive, and mostly Sheets. I honestly could never quite get Google’s naming for it’s office suite. I don’t keep much in my Google Drive, some PDFs I had clipped and a few shared docs I had saved off. I simply downloaded everything and sorted the files out to other places in my archive structure.

Photos is tedious, but not hard either. I already have better back up systems in place for my photos, using some USB drives in a safe and One Drive in the cloud through my NAS. I did have thousands of photos uploaded to Google Photos however, from around 2005 through 2019. Mostly I am just going through periodically and deleting them all out, downloading a few here and there just to make sure that I have them saved locally, which I probably do. These “here are there” things are more like, scanned photos, some random work photos, some screen shots from my phone. Things that may have been direct uploads basically, instead of pushed up by the old Photo Uploader from my archive.

The last real potential issue is YouTube. I have several channels on YouTube, though I don’t use them a lot for posting, I do use them for different things. 3 of the 4 channels are “Brand Accounts”. I had previously converted them to Brand Accounts to consolidate ownership under this Gsuite account. This also makes it easier to shuffle ownership back to my Gmail account. I have a 4th channel that is just a regular YouTube account, that I will likely convert to a Brand account and shuffle over to the Gmail account as well. I may also just copy it’s playlists over and call it good.

The last worry, I mentioned before, is my Play Store purchases, mostly Apps, I don’t care about books and movies or music as everything I have gotten there is free. I suspect I will continue to be able to use this account as an ID account, connected to those app licenses. Ideally, I would love to transfer ownership of everything to my Gmail account, but I don’t think that’s going to be offered as an option.

Google’s Nexus 7

So, I’ve mentioned in passing here and all over everywhere else that I have been using my new Nexus 7 tablet.  It’s been one of my standard "long build up choices".  I’ve known for a while I wanted a tablet and planned to get one for some time.  Things finally culminated in the Nexus 7.

I actually went back and forth a bit between the Nexus and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD for a bit.  The Nook HD has superior hardware as well as a potentially useful HDMI port.  It lacks a camera of any kind and comes with a locked down B&N version of Android.  It would have to be rooted.  I figured the Nexus was the way to go ultimately.  The HDMI port would be less useful than it sounds and quite frankly, as much as I want to support B&N as an underdog, it’s getting really hard to continue to support them.  I am sure that content deals are part of the hold up but they really seem to treat their digital customers as second class persons.  At some point though a company needs to just tell these distributors to take it or leave it.

That’s a complaint I’ve made before elsewhere.  I’m here to discuss the Nexus.

It’s a pretty spectacular product, and I’ve certainly been getting my money’s worth from it.  I’m actually using it for more or less what I expected to use it for, consuming information of various types.  It’s great for Facebook and Google+, it’s great for ebooks and digital comics, it’s great for reading news.

I’ve been working on decking it out a bit to make it more of a production device though.  I ordered a case with included keyboard, though unfortunately it needed an adaptor I didn’t have and since the adaptor is shipping from China I’m waiting for a slow boat to send it my way… eventually.  I also have a MOGA controller that I’ve been using some to play games on the device.

What’s most surprising, and something I had been hoping for, I actually use my phone less now that I have the tablet.  It’s a good size for most activities and has much more storage for storing apps and such on it than my phone.  Which leads me to a side note, the larger version really seems like the way to go space wise.  I have already installed several of the more advanced games I have and each takes up like 2-3 GB each.  It actually kind of blows my mind that a mobile game would be so huge but the graphics and performance result is pretty amazing. 

I actually have one complaint so far, and it’s kind of a minor one.  It lacks a rear facing camera.  Yeah yeah, I will tell you how stupid it is to hold up a tablet and use it as a camera pretty much anywhere, but I have gotten into a habit of snapping quick photos with my phone and uploading them to Twitter or Google+.  I managed to figure out how to activate the front camera for photos but it’s a pain target and snap without being able to actually see the interface.

Like I said, minor issue.

Anyway, I am sure I’ll discus this device some more in the future, but for now, the verdict is, it’s great.