Sunday, September 21, 2014

Google Tools: Dumber and Dumber

Annoyance of the day: New and Updated Google Maps: My Places.

It used to be an awesome tool. Then, in July 2013, they broke it without a warning (incidentally, that happened the day I departed for a month long trip, right after I spent about two months planning the trip to a minute detail. I found myself on the road with no access to trip plans and maps whatsoever - soured it quite a bit).

They promised to bring it back.

More than a year later, they keep trying to reintroduce the "new and improved" My Maps, but it is still multitude of order times slower on the desktop, is missing critical features, and, unlike the previous implementation, is *not* integrated with Maps.

This is not the only case - other Google tools keep losing features as time goes (not to mention products that are just killed, sometimes despite vehement protests from their users, with the only notable exception that won't die despite general contempt).

While I was advocating using Google tools when they were in their prime, I have to admit now that I can't and won't do that anymore. The only reasons to keep using them now is "they suck less than alternatives", and the moment a viable replacement shows up - I'll be the first to jump off this bandwagon.

And, once again, this is a stark warning that nobody escapes the fate. Just as people, companies are born, grow up, mature, then outgrow themselves, wither, and die. Google is no exception.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Today, my venerable Dell U2410 decided that it's time to go south, flickered the backlight a few times, and shut it off for good. As miracles happen, a friend of mine loaned me an LG 27EA83R-D. New and shiny, out of the box, installed, connected, turned on, the image is sharp and nice, everything's peachy.

...until just a *little* bit later.


What a PITA.

Thing is, there were features in that Dell that I took for granted, not even realizing they're there, that make a night and day difference in day to day work.

First of all, there must be a special circle in hell for industrial designers that put sensor switches out of sight, with markings that are barely visible in bright daylight, forget home office at night. An attempt to change settings is an exercise in futility.

Second - imagine my surprise when after waking up from DPMS sleep, I found all the windows, carefully placed on the screen, hurled at random at the other screen. Reason? 27EA83R-D simply drops off the face of Earth when it goes to DPMS sleep. And tells Windows about it. Windows is ever happy to rearrange your windows for you.

Third, the corollary of the second - it's a good thing my always-on, critical-hardware-controlling devices were plugged into my *other* (also Dell) monitor that understands that it is impolite to shut off USB power just when the monitor goes to sleep (and that, by the way, used to happen after just one minute of inactivity). Because LG doesn't, and thinks it's just fine to shut *everything* off.

Oh well.

Understand me right, I'm not bashing LG - they made their design decisions, and I didn't vote with my dollars this time, so I can't really complain. It is just to remind you that the devil is in the details, and looking at the pretty picture on Internet and a better price is not necessarily going to get you the result you hoped for.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dead Chromecast Chronicles


I don't know if I will ever buy anything "made by Google".


If you bought something from Google and it failed during an open refund window, *refund it*. Do not try to replace it. If they lag with the refund, file a chargeback.

Short Version

Google's customer service sucks. A $35 device that died 9 days after arrival, it was confirmed as irreversibly dead during the first conversation, it took 2 months to *not* address the issue, chargeback had to be initiated.


  • Don't waste your time trying to get anything out of support personnel, they don't care, nor they are empowered to do anything.
  • Trying to escalate things doesn't help, you hit the "second level" rep who is as careless and helpless as the first.
  • Generally, you will *not* get any kind of response sooner than 48 hours.
  • Generally, the response will inform you that "your information will be sent to the appropriate specialist". Nothing will happen till you kick'em next time.
  • This is *not* a fluke, this is the way the system is designed.


Stuff below is probably of no interest to you, unless you really want to know all the gory details (or maybe you're googling for chromecast pink light).

August 10, 2013

Ordered one.

August 28


September 3

Arrived. Connected.

September 12

Died (pink-white light, not visible on the network, no HDMI output).

Called Google, reported symptoms, got the failure acknowledged. Received an email followup, surprisingly, not with RMA, but the statement "As promised, I've forwarded your case to a specialist to begin processing your replacement as soon as possible". Strange, I though it was an open and shut case.

September 17

Google sends a request for the TV and the router brand and model numbers.

September 27

No further response from Google. Having patiently waited 10 days (just for the hell of it), calling customer service. Notifying the service rep that 15 days passed since the first conversation and it's a good time to actually do something about it. Hearings attempts to channel the request "to the right specialist", just like two previous times. 7 minutes into the call, the rep eventually gives up to my [pretty straightforward] requests to escalate the issue. The second level rep adamantly refuses to send the replacement, citing the need "to route the request to the right specialist". Telling him that I'm willing to wait on hold till the right specialist gets to the request, hearing that it may happen within 24 to 48 hours. Having no other option than to agree to wait till "request is routed to the right specialist". At the end of the call, pressing "dissatisfied" buttons during the customer service quality survey, and leaving this message:
It already took 15 days and almost an hour of my time to do absolutely nothing about a defunct $35 dollars device. It is embarrassing for Google to allow this to happen.

September 29

I've decided that I've spent enough time on the issue, and got the general feeling of how Google customer support works, and called in to return the device (no, you can *not* do it over Internet, you have to talk to a person). Unsurprisingly, I did not get a straight answer, but was told that "it will be resolved as soon as possible".

September 30

Google sends me a message with instructions how to order a new device via Google Play (which I could've done myself eighteen days ago) and send the defective one back. I don't know what crack did the previous conversation fall into, but this message clearly indicated miscommunication inside of Google support service. In order to avoid further miscommunication, I informed Google orally that I will not take any action until they confirm that the RMA is to *refund* the device, not return for replacement.

October 1

Google refuses refund, citing the fact that it's now been over 15 days since the device has been delivered, which is a cutoff time according to Return Policy. I inform them again, in writing this time, that it is none of my fault that they've been dragging their feet for over 21 days now and that should the RMA not be forthcoming, I'll just call my credit card company and exercise a chargeback - for the whole affair obviously hasn't been in good faith from Google's side.

October 3

Getting a mail with "I've re-consulted the case with a RMA specialist who will get back with you as soon as possible with instructions on obtaining your refund".

October 6

Got an RMA. Sent the Chromecast back.

October 10

Chromecast received by Google.

October 11

Getting a positive charged mail from the rep, "just making sure". Telling them that the device's been received, but no refund was issued. 

October 13

The rep responds, "it may take a few business days for this to reflect on your financial account". Patiently waiting.

November 12

It's been a month, to the day, since last communication. Calling Google again, and again, getting the same runaround - "an email will be sent to the corresponding specialist". Tell them that they have until 18:00 my time next day to give me back my money, or I am executing a chargeback.

November 14

No response. Initiated a dispute.

November 16

Google rep notifies me that they've received a refund request, but that, alas, there's nothing they can do since chargeback was filed. He also notes that, quote, "It was a pleasure assisting you".

November 18

Google sends me an automated request for feedback.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Google Hangouts: "History is Off" != "Off the Record"

Do a little experiment:

  1. Turn the history off for a conversation (say, on a Windows box);
  2. Type a phrase;
  3. Reboot into Linux (or maybe just reboot);
  4. Start a browser, go to GMail;
  5. Open the conversation with the same person;
  6. Oops... the phrase is still there.
In other words, what had at least a pretense of implementing the Off the Record protocol, now doesn't even make an attempt to pretend.

So, folks, just like the XX century saying goes, "Don't ever say in IM something you don't want to see on CNN".

Goodbye, Hangouts.