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Originally published April 1, 2012 at 3:30 PM | Page modified April 2, 2012 at 6:24 AM

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Rave for self-driving car; rant for ill-fated app | Brier Dudley

It's time for another rant-and-rave column to say thanks — or thanks for nothing — to tech companies. Rave: To Google for giving...

Seattle Times staff columnist

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It's time for another rant-and-rave column to say thanks — or thanks for nothing — to tech companies.

Rave: To Google for giving a blind man a spin in its self-driving car. As part of its experimentation with robotic cars, the company let Steve Mahan use the car to run errands around Silicon Valley, including a trip through a drive-through to pick up a taco.

Posting a YouTube video of the drive last week was a publicity move. But it was still inspiring, and showed how the research could benefit all kinds of people.

It also makes you wonder if Google is simultaneously exploring ways to be sure it can reach absolutely everyone with its targeted, location-aware mobile advertising.

Rant: To Microsoft for over-promising with last week's launch of the HBO Go app on Xbox Live.

Microsoft has been talking up the app since last June. It was in a suite of TV apps that were supposed to arrive in December.

Finally, with trumpets blaring, Microsoft announced on Tuesday that the HBO app was available, along with MLB and Comcast apps.

But it turns out the HBO app is blocked by the two largest cable companies, Comcast and Time Warner, because of licensing issues, so it's still not available to most people.

A Comcast spokesman said Friday that discussions were under way to make the app available, but still. I don't subscribe to HBO and I'm still ranting.

Rave: To the hot startup Pinterest for changing its terms of service recently. It no longer claims perpetual rights to photos and other material that users copy from other websites and paste into their Pinterest "collections."

Rant: To Pinterest for building a business that blithely encourages people to copy content from other companies' websites and post it at Pinterest. Haven't we been through this already with music and video?

Rave: To the Federal Trade Commission for suggesting a "Do Not Track" program for websites, similar to the "Do Not Call" program to block telemarketers. Privacy policies and account controls at sites like Facebook and Google get more confusing by the day. People are desperate for a simple and reliable way to prevent digital snooping.

Double raves if Do Not Track also works on the government's creepy new security policies, which let it store and snoop through the private information of any American for up to five years.

Rave: To Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam for floating the concept of a la carte access to cable channels last week. He told The Wall Street Journal that Verizon is interested in that approach for a mobile video service it's planning to offer to cable and wireless customers.

Others already offer mobile video services — such as AT&T's U-verse, and a new TV app that T-Mobile USA announced last week.

But a la carte cable is something people have wanted ever since they began paying for cable-TV bundles. McAdam is adding a big voice to the chorus.

Rant: To wireless companies for luring customers with appealing new video services just as they're phasing out unlimited data plans. The per-minute cost of wireless video can be huge. How hard would it be to display the estimated data cost when you're about to stream a large file, similar to the way e-commerce sites display shipping costs before you make a purchase?

Rant: To Oracle for the annoying and kludgy Java updates it sends to Windows PCs. Did Oracle buy Sun Microsystems and the Java platform to harass customers of its old nemesis, Microsoft?

Rave: To Seattle's startup community. After my last rant-and-rave column, reader (and startup founder) Roy Leban suggested a big rave to entrepreneurs who put so much effort into helping others start and build new companies around here.

Any other suggestions?

Brier Dudley's column appears Mondays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

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