Friday, June 27, 2008

Google Captcha Gotcha!

So we are setting up some new buisness processes at work using Google Video and I had the lovely task of creating new Google Accounts for various groups in my business. Actually, the form is quite simple and easy except for the captchas. I think google uses some of the most difficult captchas today (they range from simple to impossible). I guess that is something they need to do.

However, it seems to me that they could make it more difficult for bots without making it so hard for humans to understand.By surprise, I came across what seems to be a bug in their system today. A few years ago, Google added an Audio Captcha to improve its accessibility.I was totally stumped with this captcha:

I really could not tell if that was gnttyled or grityled or I decided to click the wheelchair icon to hear the audio. This however, is what I heard:

It would be easier to decipher a drunk Bob Dylan arguing with Tom Petty, in Japanese, than to figure out this audio captcha.

Now Google does admit that they audio will be challenging:

To keep the audio captcha as challenging as the visual captcha when confronted by automated agents, we add some distortion to the spoken digits, and we're still experimenting with different distortion techniques to ease the burden on the genuine human user while locking out automated agents.

However, that is just ridiculous! Try it for yourself and you can send them feedback.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Looks like I picked the wrong month to start blogging!

As the days have passed this month, I really started to feel like Lloyd Bridges in the movie Airplane!.

As the events keep piling on top of one another, he says to himself that it was the wrong week to quit (blank) like smoking, drinking, speed, and sniffing glue.

OK, I don't do any of that, but I did find myself saying...Looks like I picked the wrong month to start blogging.

After my first posts, I noticed a decent bump in traffic due to my script for integrating Google Analytics with Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I got really excited and starting working on my next two scripts: Integrate Google Trends with Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Adding PR to my referring traffic reports in Google Analytics. After getting decent progress on the two scripts (the Trends script is about 50% done & the pageRanker script is closer to 85% done) I was hit with a triple whammy of time consuming events:
  1. At work, I am overseeing a full redesign of our 12+ sites and we just finished development and started QA in a compressed schedule
  2. At home, I had family visit from the USA. Absolutely excellent, but there goes lots of time...
  3. And finally, I have the fortunate distinction of being the parent responsible for making the end of year DVDs for the two public daycare centers in town. This project has given me such an appreciation for film editors and the time it takes to make quality shows.
The bad news is that all of these big-time to dos have cut into sleep and my feeble efforts at my nascent blog. The good news is that I see light at the end of the tunnel - not the bright light near-death experience kind of tunnel - but more like when you get stuck on a regional train and it finally starts moving again.

I hope to post back soon with some code updates and also my take on why I think the USA in the world today mirrors the recent experience of the USA Olympic basketball team.

If anyone out there has any suggestions for a good video editing tool that is flexible, feature-rich and does not require a monster of a machine to run, please leave a comment. Thanks

Monday, June 2, 2008

Integrate Google Analytics with Google Docs using Greasemonkey

UPDATED 07/31/09: Not sure if the problem was upgrading to firefox 3.5 or if the GDocs API folks changed how they handle uploads, but the script started returning 415 errors from GDocs.  I worked with Google and now we have the problem fixed.  Should work for all again.

Any suggestions? Please add them in the comments.

UPDATED 05/04/09: All fixed now. However, I am starting to notice some odd 404 errors coming from the Google Docs API. The file uploads nonetheless, but every once in a while the confirmation message comes back as a 404. Any suggestions? Please add them in the comments.

UPDATED 04/30/09: Google just made another change to their code which broke the script. I will work on fixing it starting next week. When it is fixed, I'll make another post. Thanks for your patience.

UPDATED: I updated the script with many improvements to reliability and functionality.

UPDATED: I updated the script to handle security changes made by Google to Google Analytics

Recently I was inspired to start tinkering with Google Analytics using Greasemonkey after listening to a presentation by Avinash Kaushik.

One problem that we have at work is that our version of Excel for some reason does not like the CSV files that GA exports. Our copies of Excel XP (I know its 6+ years old, but we just moved to it last year) only see the graphing data, but they do not recognize the tabular data further down in the CSV files.

After seeing the Juice Analytics integration for seeing new reports in GA, I realized that I probably could solve my export problem too using Greasemonkey. I decided to integrate GA with Google Docs, so I can do a one-click export to create a Google spreadsheet for analyzing the GA data.

Now, on any report that offers a CSV download, the user sees a new option for Google Docs:

Clicking the link will log the user into the Google Docs service and upload the report. Currently I have the # of records limited to 10000 rows of data, but I may make that a configurable option. After the report is successfully uploaded, the user received a confirmation message with a choice to open up Google Docs in a new tab or just to remain in GA:

Greasemonkey handles your data securely and only limits access to values stored by the user script to the user script itself. There is an additional measure of security I added that fully encrypts user passwords. Finally, the export service can only upload to Google Docs using the exact same account that you are currently using in GA. If you want to share, I suggest you share the spreadsheet after it has been created.

Installation Instructions
  • You need Greasemonkey & Firefox 2+ installed
  • If you have Greasemonkey working you will see a little monkey icon in your status bar:
  • Now, download and install the user script (click OK/Accept on any message boxes. The file used to be called exporttogoogledocs.user.js, but apparently renamed the file!)
  • After opening choosing to open up Google Docs, the pop-up blocker may stop the new tab from launching...if so, you will need to allow pop-ups from the domain because of the way Google handles the redirect.

Happy Analysis!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Welcome to my new but sparsely populated blog. It seems like I have been dragging my feet too long to get this started, but I guess it is about time to begin.

OK, you might be wondering what the heck is a Spanish Gringo?
Well, that is me. I moved to Spain from Los Angeles back in 2006 and still I am in the continuous process of figuring out how to live in another country.

Why are you here?
My plans are to use this site to offer commentary, tips and other random thoughts on a broad range of subjects --- mostly in the areas of
  • Technology - from coding to websites to devices to companies
  • Politics - mostly US politics with a view from abroad
  • Business - talk about "big stuff" like company strategy but also day to day corporate culture
  • Surfing - my is a bit hard to keep it up in the Mediterranean, but I manage somehow
  • Other - sometimes something just hits me.
OK, that is the first post. Let's hope that this keeps on chugging along...Bye