Google is a great tool to be sure. If you’re looking for a restaurant, you can find out all about it. Want to know about the latest widget for cleaning tile grout? it’s probably there. But, as a programmer, for most of the things I need, it’s a huge disappointment.
One of the reasons I started this blog is that I tend to encounter very specific errors that usually have simple fixes but that can prevent me from progressing for days. Even more annoying, they’re the sort of problems that people encounter and fix every day. So I decided to document all the little annoying bugs I encounter along with their solutions so that others can find them using their search engine of choice. It works. I get hits all the time. My most popular post was one describing how to get Ubuntu running on a VIA micro-ATX server. I’m not the only one who sees these issues.
So here’s my issue with Google. When I encounter an error message, the first thing I tend to do is a search on the message itself. Now Google tries to interpret this with context, which is good, but sometimes I just want an exact match of the string. So I go to the advanced options and specify that I want an exact match. Google does one of two things:
- It ignores me. It returns a whole raft of results that can in no possible way contain the string I’m looking for.
- It returns a list of items that it says contain the string, but don’t. Often, as in case 1, they never could have. Sometimes the synopsis contains the string, but the link is totally unrelated. “Fine”, says I. “The page has probably just been updated.” So I check the cache. Nope. Never matched and never will.
This is not an isolated thing for me. I’ve experienced this many times over the last several months. It’s at a point where it’s less productive to use Google than to figure it out myself.
The problem is that I still have these brick walls with simple solutions that keep me from doing my real work until I get them fixed.