Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nexus S: Unabridged Review

Back in 2002, when I was investigating E39, I found this interesting comment:
Cupholders suck. The rest of the car is fine.
It turned out to be a pretty accurate description (seven years down the road and counting). So let me plagiarize it a bit and say:
The only major annoyance is lack of notification LEDs, even for charging - the phone is just laying there like a brick.

The rest of the phone is fine.

iPhone vs. Android: Survival of the Fittest

Forget the price - no matter how cheap Android phones get, there will always be the emo audience for iPhone.

Forget the feature set of the platform - they're roughly identical by now.

It is all a matter of evolutionary pressure now.

Android devices are created, pushed to market, accepted or rejected by it, and die or flourish at extremely fast pace, even when there is a risk of cannibalization of different products from the same manufacturer (does Nexus S kill Galaxy S? absolutely). The competition is fierce, the elimination is ruthless.

Apple devices, on the other hand, are lovingly created by the mind of The Great Chairman, and accepted unambiguously (simply because there is no other choice) by the gang of loyal followers and wannabes living within the reality distortion field.

I don't think that's enough feedback to improve.

The ever brandished threat of fragmentation is not the hand of doom, but the blessing in disguise, along with lack or presence of LED indicators, or physical keyboard, or sensor buttons, or touch buttons, or front camera, or flash, or dedicated camera shutter button, or whatever else comes to your mind. It is you that is the deciding factor in the outcome.

My prediction at this time is that Apple will be forced to retreat into a niche of being just one of dozens smartphone and tablet manufacturers. Unless -
And so the only way for the iPhone to “beat” Android would be for Apple to either open iOS up in the same way that Android is, or to create a huge variety of iPhones spread across the spectrum in terms of features and price. Neither of those things is going to happen. -- MG Siegler
And on the other hand, just like he says, there will be a huge variety of Android phones spread across the spectrum of features, quality and price. Is this good? I'd say it is a double edged sword. Whereas Apple's quality is well known, in Android market you have to take calculated risk - it is, by definition, an early adopter market, any smartphone older than a couple of months is already obsolete. But at least you're voting with your dollars to move the whole population into the direction you want.

Let the fittest survive.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

There's No Limit To Perfection

Now that cell phone manufacturers agreed upon Micro USB B being the standard jack for the charger, there's just one step left - to agree which way up to position it...

They Talk Behind Our Backs

Bought a set of scotch glasses from Crate & Barrel yesterday - lo and behold, within 12 hours Amazon sends me further ads for Riedel glassware...

UPDATE: It gets better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

iPad through the eyes of Android user, part 1

TL;DR version:
Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone

-- Dorothy Parker

More to follow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

T-Mobile GPS: The Plot Thickens

As if Vibrant's GPS problems weren't enough...

Last night, I'm driving home following GPS directions. At midnight, GPS goes Boom! and loses the signal.

On both our G1 phones.

GPS Test shows 0 satellites of 1 available on both phones (vs. average 8 of 9 to good of 12 of 13).

Comes morning, it's the same.

Check with a friend of mine who also has G1, same thing.

Call T-Mobile, they sound surprised, but the Android rep I was transferred to did confirm that indeed, GPS seems to be dead, moreover, it's not just Android that is affected, quote "three of my Blackberries also have dead GPS".

Of course, no ETA on the fix, given the scale.

I wonder if instead of fixing Vibrant they decided to break GPS? </sarcasm>

But realistically, given the timing, the wild bet would rather be on expired security certificates that someone was supposed to renew, but forgot (or got laid off and the expiration date got lost in translation - you know how it goes).

Wonder when this is going to splash out into the big Internet, and wonder how come it hasn't 15 hours after inception - must be the Sunday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S: Even More Sour Plus

[Part one]

Like I was planning to, I returned the phone to Costco where I bought it. And found myself in a trap: the way relations between Costco and T-Mobile are set up is such that even though I returned the phone before the end of 14 days grace period, I would not be eligible to buy a subsidized phone sold at Costco for next two years.
UPDATE (2010/12/16): Nor at any T-Mobile third party reseller.
"That's the way the system works", Costco rep told me. "Nothing I can do about it - T-Mobile reps look at account notes and can override things, but for us the computer simply won't let me do it".

I guess my days of early adoptions are over. And Samsung is much less likely to get my dollars next time, even though the screen on that phone is truly grand.

UPDATE: Samsung reports that the fix is on the way.

Well, good for them. However, I've already returned the phone, and it's their problem to deal with it now, not mine. Two days too late. Should've spoken earlier.

Vote with your dollars, folks. It works.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S: Even More Sour

[This is a followup to earlier message]

All right, a week into the game.

GPS is still broken

Not only it is broken, the Internet is full of copy & paste of a bogus advice on how to improve it (bottomline: MS Based GPS, which, let's be honest, is not quite that GPS).

Worst of all, Samsung is mum on the issue. Had they said or did something along the lines of what Motorola did when the screen issue with Droid X was discovered, I'd calmly wait until they either issue a firmware fix or replace the phone. However, nothing happened, and, as a result, both phones will most probably be returned before the end of 14 days grace period. Maybe people returning phones will teach Samsung what the value of listening to the customer is.
Historical note: back at the beginning G1's GPS performance was as bad if not worse. It did get fixed, though, and today it is a very usable and reliable GPS source. Too bad if Vibrant's GPS problems are of software nature.

Car charger does not produce enough power to keep the battery up when Navigation is active

Yes, you've read that right. The battery charge goes down, even though the phone reports itself as "charging". A deal breaker for heavy Navigation users.

The phone reboots the UI when GPS activity is present

MyTracks is particularly vulnerable to this problem. Start recording a track, walk around, you're very likely to have the phone partially rebooted in a few minutes. Those Linux enabled will realize that it's the UI layer that is getting restarted.

GPS activity causes the phone to lock up

Again, start MyTracks and watch the phone freeze, sometimes for tens of seconds at a time.

Multiple SD Card Issues

At least under Windows XP (hasn't tried Linux yet, but that's kinda irrelevant), connecting the phone to the computer produces two drives, both of which report "Please insert disk into Drive NN" when you try to click on them.
After every other reboot, or an attempt to mount drives to a computer, the Media Scanner runs and in a short while reports either "Blank External SD Card" or "External SD Card Damaged". Of course it isn't - a reboot or plugging/unplugging the USB cable fixes the issue. Half of the time.

The Verdict

No go. Both phones go back to the store before the end of grace period. Real shame, it's a beautiful phone, with nice build quality, very good otherwise, with a screen that has no rivals.

Deal Breaker

Let me emphasize again that the reason for making a decision to return phones is lack of reaction from Samsung. For this much money, ($100 for the phone + $30/month for 24 months = $820, multiply by two = $1640) they better be listening. If they don't, I'd rather take my money somewhere else - HTC Ace, maybe?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S' Sour Notes

Good

As usual, if you want to read positive reviews, use Google. If your heart works normally, there's no reason for you to notice it.

Bad

I'm afraid most of these things are caused by the Android UI "adaptation" by Samsung known as Touchwiz. We'll see what Froyo brings.
  • The phone is making an obnoxious noise when it boots up;
  • The phone is making an obnoxious noise when it shuts down (did they ever think that most often the phone needs to be shut down in an inconspicuous way?);
  • There is no way to put a shortcut to Navigation directly onto the home screen (my venerable G1 can do that with no problem) (Maps update took care of that);
  • Contacts & Dialer are like Siamese twins separated at birth and trying to get together again;
  • There are "Groups" in both Contacts and Dialer, but I wasn't able to add a contact into a group yet, having spent quite some time;
  • The meaning of "link the contact" escapes me, need to RTFM TFM doesn't have an answer;
  • There is no indicator light when the phone is connected to the charger. If your charger is accidentally unplugged, you're screwed;
  • When you press the on/off button, the phone feels like it's about to slip out of your hand;
  • Did I mention the phone is extremely slippery? I'd much rather have a plain non-slip surface like my G1 has than a shiny accident-prone one if an ambiguous aesthetic value. Good thing there is a spare cover in the box, I might want to experiment with painting it;
  • There is a "TV Out" feature, but no TV connector came in the box, TFM has no mention of it, either;
  • Given the power socket/USB placement (top left), it is clear that connecting the phone to a car mount would be cumbersome and the cord is going to stick right up into your field of vision if placed vertically (that's the way I prefer it). The only cure against that that I can think about is a dedicated cord with an angle connector;
  • The user manual sucks - none of questions asked above have an answer there.

Ugly

  • No notification lights - a real turnoff;
  • I wasn't able to find a way to assign a custom ringtone to a caller - basic functionality. Not a show stopper, but definitely very annoying;
  • The phone makes a sound when connected to a charger. Very inconvenient for many people, for they plug the phone into the charger when their SO is already asleep a meter away;
  • The "USB Connected" notification stays on after the USB is disconnected, there's no way to evict it other than a reboot;
  • Windows XP is able to see mounts offered by the phone, but is unable to read them ("Please insert disk into drive X:"?);
  • Worst of them all: GPS is broken and unusable for navigation (takes forever to acquire GPS signal, loses it on a whim, the location is often off by a block or more). Apparently, a quick fix exists (yet to try it and see if it helps), but it doesn't work - it's a crutch and not a real fix, at least for my phone. 2 (most of the time) to 4 (sometimes) satellites out of 11 are locked on Vibrant, vs. 6 to 10 on G1 within a meter.

Fugly

Samsung Vibrant GPS Performance

The picture above represents the travel path of a "fixed" (see above) phone left running MyTracks for half an hour while laying immovable on a table.

Samsung Galaxy S vs HTC G1
The picture above shows the Vibrant's GPS readings against G1's. Click on the picture and read the notes.

Back to Good

Having said all that, it is a very good phone overall (hardware is above criticism, and software has a chance to get fixed). Worth noticing:
  • Ability to create a shortcut for a navigation destination. Very convenient;
  • Slide right to call and slide left to message on a contact in the contact list is nice;
  • Ability to send back an SMS when responding to a call is commendable (though "I'm driving" response looks kinda silly there);
  • Fast feature switching (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Silent) from the notification bar is absolutely cool (though an ability to configure this would be even better, for example, GPS and Bluetooth are never switched off on our phones, but we need more fine grained control over notifications).

The Verdict

Bought two phones, no regrets so far from neither end user (one of them former Blackberry, the other former G1 user) UPDATE: probably going back to the store. Hasn't been fourteen days yet, though. And it remains to be seen if Samsung can fix the GPS issue OTA, or it is a hardware problem.

P.S.: The best feature? The phone fits perfectly into the pouch that came with G1.

UPDATE: Added a note about broken GPS.
UPDATE: And another note about broken GPS.
UPDATE: Added a picture of the GPS deviation.
UPDATE: And one more, comparing Vibrant GPS against G1.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh, Google learns so fast

Breaking news: Slashdot reports that Google finally caught up to the phenomenon I mentioned back in February.

I get that warm and cozy feel now.

PS: 'twas sarcasm, in case you didn't notice. Maybe, their hiring practices favoring ability over experience has something to do to with it?

PPS: More about the same. And some more, for those enabled or willing to use an automated translator.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MyTouch Slide As Heard From The Other End

My friend and I are talking - the venerable G1 on my side, fresh new MyTouch Slide on his. I'm stationary, he's walking.

The best way to describe the experience would be to invite the reader to listen to The Run at the Swedish Radio Multichannel Sound 5.1 Sound Archive.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quote Of The Day: Communications

People (especially those coming out of cultures where a long chain of <censored> that is coming ouf of a mouth of the one higher positioned must be tolerated) often accuse me of interrupting them. Attempts to explain that what they have said so far clearly indicates that they're already going in a wrong direction don't help, either.

Well, at least I've found a joke that gives the situation a different light:
I'm not interrupting you, I'm putting our conversation in full-duplex mode.

-- Antone Roundy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Microsoft Fail

If Microsoft resorts to spam, its times must be really tough. Look at what I've received today (clickable):

Microsoft Fail

Quite a few things are strange.

First of all, during most of my professional career I've consciously stayed away from Microsoft products - would that be OS/2, Unix or Java.

Second, I've never contacted Microsoft, or was contacted by its representatives.

Third, none of my public reflection gives any hints that I am in any way interested in anything related to Microsoft.

And a final nice touch - being addressed as [VADIM ] is somewhere between hilarious and insulting, especially coming from such an entity as Microsoft.

Not even speaking of the content - pompously starting with "There's no avoiding the obvious. Times are tough."

Times are tough for Microsoft indeed.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ubuntu 10.4 LTS: Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Recipe for disaster:
  1. Start installing Ubuntu 10.4 off the CD image next to already existing OS installation;
  2. Encounter a CD or hard drive read/write error;
  3. Watch installation process bail out unceremoniously;
  4. End up with an unbootable system.

CAUSE

Ubuntu 10.4 LTS installer, for reasons unfathomable, installs a fresh boot loader (which it, of course, can't yet initialize) before the end of the installation.

FIX

Either spend time fiddling with GRUB and/or Super Grub Disk, or boot from Windows XP installation disk (if that's what you had there before), get into Recovery Console and execute FIXMBR - this will render the system bootable again.

Caveat: the Recovery Console will ask you for the administrator password. It is possible that you'd be staring at that in disbelief, for you never had to specify it (apparently, this is the case with really old pre-SP2 installation disks) - just tap Enter.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Corporate Ineptitude: The Way We Do Business

Today's glutton for punishment:
  • Create an account at one of two major US shipping providers (name withheld to protect the guilty);
  • Ship a package or a few;
  • Bang your head against the wall trying to get a list of packages you've just shipped, without providing a tracking number.
It's not that I don't want to provide the tracking number, it's just the monstrous stupidity of the whole design that makes me speechless. Obviously, people who dictated the user interface design don't ship packages often.

PS: The other one is not much better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear APS: You Suck

So, APS gets a sniff of this new great thing called Internets and creates this magnificent site aps.com which allows me to... gasp... pay my bill online. There was also a great marketing campaign with flyers sent to all customers, all flashy and looking good.

All right, think I, let me try to save some trees and manual work and give you my precious account information so you can take it whenever you feel like it. Hmm... Wire transfer only... Kinda unusual and dangerous (there are no consumer protections on bank accounts similar to what every credit card provides), but understandable. Fine, twist my arm.

Cool, says APS and sends me a notification of a successful payment via email, like all normal institutions do.

Only...

Three weeks later, I find a snail mail letter from APS saying that
  • My payment was declined because my bank was "unable to locate the account";
  • I will now have to get off my ass and make the payment in person, cash, money order or cashier's check only;
  • There is an extra $15 charge on the next bill (read: slap on the credit history);
  • Quote, "when two or more dishonored checks are received in a twelve month period, we will require payment in cash, money order or cashier's check for the next twelve months".
First thing I do is try to see whether there is a problem with the account information that I provided... only to find out that I can't find it on the site within five minutes of stumbling through the endless maze of links on APS site.

Damn.

Next I call APS and this nice lady says that yes, indeed, there is an extra digit in the account number (though it is unfathomable how could I put an extra digit into my account number twice - they have this silly "verify account number" entry field). No, she can't correct it. No, she can't waive the $15 because this is what my bank slapped on them. Yes, I will have to get off my ass and make a payment in person.

No, there is no bleeping way to verify that I provided a correct account number, which means that if I, God forbid, make a mistake again, I will be (see above) put on cash-only status for the next year (and what she either doesn't know or simply isn't telling is that I'll also get a huge stain on my credit history).

Dear APS: you suck.

First of all, there is this nice thing called bank account verification. Google it up, everyone knows about it.

Second, if you're sending me an email about me successfully giving you money, be a nice buddy and also send me a message about the fact that there was a screwup, also via email. Even better, don't send me a false positive "payment accepted" notification unless you have a positive confirmation about the payment actually making it through.

Third, if you threaten to make my life difficult for the next twelve months, not acting to the best of due diligence not only makes you look bad, it also takes away your customers' trust in you and will cost you real dollars.

In my particular case, it'll cost me time spent on writing checks and cents spent on stamps, but you'll spend much more time and dollars processing all these envelopes, taking out checks, reading them, amortizing the hardware that does it, paying salaries to people maintaining it, and so on and so forth. I think I'm better off.

Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to get back to writing my checks.

Oh, and almost forgot. Stop treating me like a villain. Not everyone is a deadbeat.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Logitech Customer Service: I'm Impressed

A power supply for my four year old Squeezebox Classic has died. Yes, it's a trivial piece and I probably even have a couple lying around in the workshop, but for some reason I decided to check if Logitech sells these. Didn't find it on the site, called in and... they sent it to me for free.

Now, *that* is what I call customer service.

UPDATE: ...and yet another reminder of a rule: Sometimes, all you have to do is ask nicely.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote Of The Day: Effectiveness

The picture:



The comment:
I'm definitely red, because if voting changed anything, it would be illegal.

-- CL


(Image Credit: Club Troppo, hotlinked without permission as Fair Use)

Friday, April 16, 2010

java.util.logging Memory Leak

Under some circumstances java.util.logging.Logger.kids array may grow to contain tens, if not hundreds of thousands of WeakReference objects.

JDK versions under suspicion: 1.6.0_15, 1.6.0_18 to 1.6.0_20.

This may happen even if your application never explicitly uses the java.util.logging framework at all - third party libraries that you are using might.

UPDATE: This has been observed before.

UPDATE: Doesn't seem to be present in JDK 1.6.0_17.

<to be continued>

PS: It is appalling to see Java core code not using generics two versions after they have been introduced.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Android Navigation + Bluetooth = Cognitive Disability

Take one good thing: Google Maps Navigation. Take another good thing: Bluetooth headset. Mix them together and get a binary explosive.

Start driving using Navigation. It works remarkably good, speaking directions through the phone speaker, whether you have the Bluetooth headset turned on or not.

Then, God forbid, make or receive a phone call. I'm not even talking about EDGE, where you simply have the data channel disabled and lose the navigation altogether. I'm talking about bona fide 3G. What happens is...
you lose both the navigation and the phone call.
The navigation, inexplicably, switches from the phone speaker to the Bluetooth, and just keeps speaking over the voice of the person you're talking to. Normal consequence is you can't make out anything of either.

Wonder if it is a bug or a feature, and whether it is specific to HTC G1, or common to all Android hardware.

Monday, April 12, 2010

HTC G1 Battery Life...

... is exactly sixteen months.

At least this is true for two phones that we have - they've been bought a month apart (October and November 2008, respectively) - and the battery life has dropped sharply from being able to normally use the phone all day (from eight in the morning to midnight) to being dead at teatime, within a few days.

Prediction: we're about to see a rapid increase in battery life complaints, sharp rise in G1 battery demand, and, as a consequence, sharp rise in the price.

Go get yours before it's too late.

UPDATE: Don't be stupid and try to buy the battery from T-Mobile for $49.99 plus tax. FIYF, I'd say I'll be comfortable with anything above $5.

UPDATE: Got the replacement battery (identical to the original). When I opened the cover to install the replacement, I found the original battery swelled to about 120% of its initial thickness. Makes me wonder how far I was from a battery fire - I remember the phone getting unusually hot when recharging lately.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mysteries of Modern Software Engineering

How can a person claiming 10+ years of software engineering experience not know what RTFM is?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Android Quirks

Today I noticed that an attempt to start the Barcode Scanner always results in Android Market being started instead.

This happens regardless whether it is being started from the pullup menu, or either of three Android 1.6 desktop panel icons. No amount of installation, uninstallation and shuffling around seems to help.

The only way to start this application now is to go to the Android Market, find the Barcode Scanner, and click "Open".

Alas, had to use an alternative, for that is very inconvenient.

Anyone seen this?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Experience Fail

Been interviewing people lately, and noticed an interesting pattern: it is somehow extremely difficult for people to answer a very simple question:
What have you learned in last ten years?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

AndroidBoss - lazy leechers?

Been lazily looking at access stats, found a visit from AndroidBoss, came to look, and found this: http://androidboss.com/android-squeezebox-revisited/.

Hmm... Looks to me that they ripped off my post, didn't give me any credit, and didn't even bother to clean multiple references to other posts at my blog...

I've submitted a comment, it is awaiting moderation. Wonder what the fate of it will be.

Wonder who their other posts belong to.

Their whois record looks interesting, too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Awful Anti-Pirate System That Will Probably... What?

The Slashdot article mentions the Assassin's Creed 2 ever-present DRM that will, allegedly, succeed, because, quote, "This vital and complex bit of code has been written from the ground up to require having the saved games live on a machine far away, with said machine being programmed to accept, save, and return the game data. This is a far more difficult problem for a hacker to circumvent".

What?

A publicly available server (by the virtue of it exposed 24/7) is a more secure location than a (granted, virus a malware ridden, but nevertheless) private box, usually behind the firewall provided by a router or cable modem?
You've gotta be kidding me.

I'm accepting bets on how long this system will stay up before being compromised, with extra bonus on the exact figure of a drop in a stock price of parties involved when the news hit the fan (and something tells me the echoes are going to be pretty loud).

Oh, and guess what? I'm not buying Assassin's Creed 2, despite eagerly looking forward to it (and having paid my hard earned money for the first one). I am not a thief, and will not tolerate being treated as such.

PS: Free idea:
  1. protocol sniffer (tcpdump(8) will do just fine);
  2. proxy pretending to be Ubisoft's DRM server;
  3. profit.
Bleeping amateurs, Ubisoft is.

UPDATE (thanks to DP for the link): bleeping amateurs, just like I said.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

If you unexpectedly receive a replacement credit card in the mail...

...it means that your bank had been breached, and your account information may have been leaked.

It is much cheaper for your bank to incur the expenses related to issuing you (and anywhere from few hundred to few hundred thousand others) a new card (and/or new account number) - it is a bulk, fire-and-forget process - than to expose themselves to further liability trying to cover things up.

Don't forget to update your recurrent payments, and keep praying that it's just your card or account number have been compromised, and more substantial pieces of data such as your mother's maiden name or last four of your SSN. Good luck.

UPDATE: If they're nice, they let you know they've been breached. In California, they are required to be nice by law.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Android + Squeezebox, revisited

(this is a followup to earlier posts)

Now that there are quite a few decent Squeezebox remotes on Android Market (pick one yourself), it is clear that this option is not quite what it cracked up to be.

Primary reason: latency.

A remote must be immediately available. None of those applications are, and the failure is not theirs. Here goes the breakdown.

WiFi connection establishment

I bet that most people keep the WiFi connection off to extend battery life (the fact that UMA is non-existing on Android devices is not helping). This takes awfully long time, sometimes up to a minute and beyond. Sometimes this step fails completely - even if I am within a line of sight to the WiFi access point. I know that this is the fault of either Android or G1 implementation, but it's not helping.

Time to start the application

Unlock the screen, tap the shortcut, wait for the application to start, wait for the application to connect to the server. Good thirty seconds.

Oops

By this time, the need to pause the track (if that was the case) is long gone. Most useful application today is to look up the track name, provided you can get it from the playlist if you're too lazy getting up and walking, 'cause by the time you get to it, it's most probably over.

Oh noes! I'ts gone black!

And yes, the screen lock timeout kicks in annoyingly fast. Either that, or the battery goes dead pretty soon. The only viable option (if you really want to use the application, for example, to control the Softsqueeze running on HTPC) is to plug it in, but then, what's the point...

Buttons, where's my buttons?

There is one more serious pet peeve: application developers' minds are stuck in terms of classical UI design. Big pictures, small buttons impossible to touch, unusable scroll.

People, give me a break, I don't even need to look at the remote in order to control it. My fingers know where the buttons are, and if they don't, they can feel the layout to find them. Sure it is not available for touchscreen, but did you forget about gestures? What can be simpler than slide left or right to flip the item displayed, up or down to skip back or forth, tap the screen to pause and hold it and slide it to navigate within the current track? Be creative, for Pete's sake.
And for those shouting "Oh yeah? You smart? Go ahead and make your own better than mine!" - sorry dude, I have my own sandbox to play in, can't spare time. You're welcome to jump in, though.
Having said all that, I would like to extend my gratitude to the authors of freely available Android Squeezebox control applications. Yes, Android users are not the most grateful bunch, and they're hopeless as the revenue source (compare download stats on free and paid applications), but still, they came forward - and it seems that the quality of their products is still better than the quality of paid. Cheers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blogspam, Foresight, and Smart vs. Wise

So here's this Chinese speaking character leaving fat, juicy spambait comments all over my blogs. And there's nothing I can do with it today other than simply delete the comments (which I will keep doing, have no doubts).

But the question is, why the hell Google doesn't provide a "report spam" button next to "delete comment" button, so their robots can nail the bastard?

And even a better question is, when do they, in addition to hiring all Young Bright Minds, get someone with foresight and ability to think on a bigger scale, so they stop stepping on the same rakes over and over again?

Unfortunately, the answer to the last question would be "not soon", because (as I was already writing here (automated translation)), they seem to favor bright people over wise. Well, maybe that's good for whatever they plan to do (words "world domination" briefly flash in my mind), but this is definitely not a consolation to all those that have been burned by their gaffes. Especially preventable ones.

So, like it let's mark the clock and see how much time it gets them to add the "report spam" button on Blogspot blogs. I can even promise not to sue them for the idea, not that there will be any credit given just like a dozen others that have been published right ere on this blog well before they've been implemented by Google. Yeah, I know, it's not the idea, it's the execution that matters. Sure, dear.

UPDATE: The "report spam" button was first spotted on Friday, August 13th 2010 - half a year later. Good work. Kinda.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friendship Just Got Cheaper

So this morning I wake up and find "4 new sharing requests" in Google Reader. And a note: "You have to add these people to Friends or Family to allow them to follow you in Reader".

Hmm. I do know those people. Neither of them is my friend, technically - I've never met neither of them in person, haven't even talked to some of them - but I don't mind them following me, for I have some idea of who they are and why they want to follow.

But Friends? Family? That's a bit too much.

I guess it's time to redefine "Friends".

Oh, and the best part? Google by default adds people you allow sharing requests of to "Family". Might be very embarrassing.

And the last question - why the hell can't I simply allow someone to follow me in whatever there is without adding them to any group at all?

UPDATE: My bad, default "Family" and "Friends" group names are deceiving. If you go to Google Reader's sharing settings page, you will see that you can arbitrarily add and remove groups and individuals, as far as Reader is concerned.

Buzz access, however, doesn't fall under the same rules - it uses a homegrown access control page. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to wait till they grow wiser...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Orthogonality

Engineer: Build a system that even a fool can use, and only a fool will want to use it!

Marketologist: Don't worry, that's 90% of our target audience.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bioshock 2: I've Just Been Had

My kid convinced me to buy the Limited Edition Bioshock 2, for the sake of the book with artwork, the CD with the music, and the posters.

Fine, I pay almost a hundred dollars and a few days later get it in the mail. Then install. And run.

And find out that I CANNOT SAVE A BLEEPING GAME WITHOUT A WINDOWS LIVE ACCOUNT.

Let me get this straight, I just purchased a product I cannot use without further compromising my privacy? And nobody told me about that BEFORE I purchased it in big, bold, red letters?

I call it blackmail. I think I will press the "publish" button, get the phone and call Newegg to decide what will have to be done about this.

PS: And don't tell me scary tales about piracy killing developers. It's not about piracy, it's about establishing a revenue stream with me being at the spending end (and yes, bleeding my privacy along the way). I didn't subscribe to that.

PPS: Oh yeah, and of course, killing the resell market.

UPDATE

Turns out, there *is* a way.

So, let me see.

A bright white rectangle of a message worded so you think there is no other option other than to create an online account, and a very pale scroll bar next to the dark green background, so pale that people that do this crap for living don't notice it, and there is not a single hint on within the message tat the message is not complete?

Oh, come on. Don't tell me that there hasn't been a long meeting with Windows Live reps present (at least in spirit), and a bunch of suits making a decision to make it just so, so the vast majority of [unsophisticated] sheeple user base just shrugs their shoulders and creates an account, and others either see the scroll bar and create a local account (if their vision is good enough), or freak out and start ranting (if their eyes were burdened by decades of wading through crap just like this).

PS: No, it's not a conspiracy. It's a business model.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hardware: Microsoft FA6-00010 Wired Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 R.I.P.



Purchased on December 26 2007 from Newegg (still sold there, same price, higher shipping).

"H" key started not responding a couple of months ago, almost unusable today - which makes the life span of roughly two years. Oh well, not bad for fifty bucks, though other keyboards served me way, way longer (as a matter of fact, I don't have any other keyboard in the house that failed - all of them have become obsolete (connectors) or otherwise fell out of use (new keyboards as gifts), this is the first one that actually failed).

Mouse is complete junk, though - but it was kinda silly to pay just about the same money for the retail package which did not include the mouse. At least got a spare.

Oh well, lemme go get another.

And yes, I do

- What do you do for living?
- I ask unpleasant questions.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Google doesn't get about All This Buzz...

...is a simple fact that people are many personas in one.

The Me fixing my cars has nothing to do and wants nothing to do with The Me working for That Big Company, nor The Me obsessed with climate control, nor The Me talking strange tongues, nor The Me playing the sax or doing whatever else.

What's worse, they conflict.

Their areas of interest and social circles are barely, if at all, connected, and quite often information leaking from one circle to another would cause major embarrassment, if not more severe consequences.

Not even talking about the simple fact that a friend of my friend is not necessarily a friend of mine.

It's not even the "nothing to hide" argument, its a simple fact that multiple personas of me are standing in each other's way, and treading on each other's feet, and are annoying each other when they are trying to do something.

Give me multiple personas I can control (without resorting to having multiple accounts, which is a major inconvenience).

Give me privacy controls so I can prevent bleeding of facts from one sphere of interest to another.

Give me a way to separate them.

Then I'll be happy.

I don't see that hapening anytiume soon, though., so for now I'll just buckle up and see if am willing to subject myself to all these voices talking in my headmail all at once.

UPDATE: They did it again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Counterpoint: Individual Responsibility

There is no "I" in "TEAM".

-- An enterprise employee


Accountability is key. If there is no accountability, there is total freedom to screw up, and screw up royally, without any thought of possible personal consequences.

-- Why Counter-Terrorism Is in Shambles

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Genie Is In The Detail

Suppose your garage door opener is suddenly gone (most common reason is that the teflon worm gear is now shredded into fine dust by its bronze counterpart).

Suppose you've done some homework and came to the same conclusion a lot of other people did - that Genie makes openers that are tangibly better than others (your arguments may differ from others, but they usually come to user feedback, screw drive, direct drive and the fact that there are fewer moving parts inside).

Suppose you have narrowed down your choice to Genie and now need to select the model.

Suppose you're meticulous, intelligent and patient enough to ignore the screaming SO and try to compare features offered by different models and see that you buy something that you really need.

You may not realize it yet, but you're screwed.

There's a conspiracy intended to trick you to buy a cheaper model. Nowhere (not on merchant sites, not on Genie product pages, not in product manuals) there is any information about the difference between products.

Not convinced? I dare you to find a difference between any two products other than sales talk, or even better, find a difference between product lines - say, DirectLift sold at Lowe's and PowerLift sold at Home Depot.

But enough acid, let's get to the point. Which is, if you care about quiet operation and your family's sleep, you should go for the most expensive model - the Excelerator. This is based on my personal experience and experience of one other person that, despite being one of the most intelligent, meticulous and patient people I know, nevertheless was unlucky enough to be so burnt out by sales talk that he took feature descriptions for upsell pitch and, having installed the PowerLift Plus under his master bedroom, ended up taking it off and installing Excelerator instead.

What they say and what it means

Here's some phrases from product descriptions and what they actually mean.

PowerLift Plus

  • direct drive motor system - remember those 30 year old A/C motors and how they bang your brains out on turning on and off, and drone louder than the rest of the world? Yep, that's it, for this particular model.
  • the screw drive is machined from one-piece of solid-steel - and it turns inside of aluminum rail without any insulation. Imagine the racket it makes.

Excelerator

  • super-duty DC motor easily opens large sized doors - they forgot to tell you (which I can't fathom why, for it is a major selling point) that DC motors are significantly quieter than AC motors used in other models
  • ideal for use near living areas and bedrooms - that's what that other person now swears by, having compared Excelerator to PowerLift Plus first hand.
  • screw drive available featuring a tough polymer rail liner which eliminates metal to metal contact - this is exactly the feature that makes it so quiet, in addition to using a DC motor. No racket.

What else they forgot to tell you about Excelerator

  • It employs soft start and soft stop. No more door banging against the floor or ceiling.
  • It opens at double speed. Somewhat mind-blowing, though, having lived with it and then without it, I can say that this feature is a bit overrated. As a matter of fact, it backfired for that other person because he frowned down upon it (it is mentioned on the box) and called it "marketing bullshit" (which it probably is, to some extent), and decided against buying something that he didn't need.

When can you safely ignore this advice?

If you have a detached garage, you probably won't care about all these nice things. Though, considering the price difference (about $40) and the fact that for this much you're getting a product that is a major step up - I'd go with it even then. The very sense of satisfaction of watching a well engineered product war is worth that much to me.

Mandatory Acid Drop

What pisses me off in this story is marketing and advertising folks at Genie that aren't doing their job good enough so us mere mortals can spend more money on their products. I wish they lose their bonus at least once for all that grief that they caused by not explaining product features properly.

This is not a shill

I have not been paid for writing this article, and the only motivation is the sense of commiseration with all those drowning in excess of sales pitches and at the same time dying of thirs for relevant information. In fact, to make it up, let me mention that the "vacation" button on the wall remote used to suck completely (was gone in a year for me back in 2000) but seems to be better now, and that Genie's customer service used to suck back then (spent hours on hold trying to get a warranty replacement for the above remote, never got a live person) but is hopefully better now.

Enjoy. And honk (comments button) if you found this useful.