Crippling IT revolutions

Long time ago computers were slow, UI was primitive (say Windows) and there was a lot to learn. Now all is about the end of PC era, tablets and absolute disregard for the voice of users. And still you have to learn a lot as a user. What I miss quite a lot in technology is evolutionary design, something getting just better and better. Refined. I’m not a Mac user, maybe the situation there is different… I don’t know. Maybe it’s market pressure.

It’s not all bad. I’m personally done with HTC Android phones (because of revolutionary bugs), but my wife’s Samsung (cheaper than both HTCs) seems OK. And Nexus tablet isn’t bad either. But then there are simple things I believe should work and they don’t.

Online too many times at once

For instance, you log in to your Google account on the tablet, then your wife uses it with her account and week later a friend of yours asks you why you never answer him on Skype even though you are green all the time. Skype? Online all the time?! No way… and then you get it. Skype installed on Android tablet where you are not actually active for a week. Where are any reasonable defaults? Where are all the years of experience with these communication programs, chats and all?

You may argue I should set it all properly – but… It’s extremely complicated to manage various communication accounts. Their settings and policies change all the time, UI even more so. Something is in the cloud, something in your local settings. Different on each computer. And something is somehow combined. Products come and go. Some communication options are out of your control – on my HTC Wildfire I cannot disable Google Talk when I want to use Google account (there are actually way too many things that can’t be disabled for such a slow phone). But I never want to chat on a phone!

Remember me… really!

Talking about Google – I’m logged in all the time, yet it forgets my prefered language every couple of weeks, or days even (forces me to use my native Slovak, while I prefer English for professional reasons). Every time I set it properly in their settings and after a while it’s gone. How can we set things properly with products like this? Every second day (or more often) they ask me about Cookies. I’m OK with Cookies on trusted services (well… trusted… I just feel unimportant enough not to care about NSA’s knowledge about me :-)). Why I have to confirm this more than once in a… week? Month would be OK, a year ideal.

Keyboard innovations?

And then there are new notebook trends, so let’s skip to HW for a while. I bought Lenovo G500 for my wife. It seemed OK. But then you learn things you’d never expect – like that F1-12 keys must be pressed with Fn key, because their default functions are inverted (Fn actions instead of F1-12) without any option to flip this stupid idea off! The same happened even on ThinkPad S531, but there you have an option to lock Fn key (press Fn+Esc). So you can use ThinkPad professionally, but G500 is just a silly toy really! Try to use IntelliJ IDEA or any IDE for that matter. Try to press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F7… and add Fn to it. Not impossible, but really silly. Luckily external keyboard works just fine.

Let’s talk about ThinkPad S531 a bit more. It could have been great computer actually. I don’t like Fn in the corner, but hey – it’s ThinkPad, IBM started it, get used to it. But why I have to get used to the new touchpad without physical buttons? Maybe it would work with Mac, but on PC where you need even three buttons sometimes…? Most of the time I indeed use external mouse, but when I’m on the move, I still want to have reasonably good experience using the notebook as is. Here it is very limited. I’m more often than not unable to press right “button” without accidentally moving the cursor. This is no revolution or evolution – it’s plain step backwards.

Ergonomy of other keys could also be questioned. Actually I was extremely pleased with layout of PgUp/Dn, End, Home and the rest on HP ProBooks. And I’m far from HP lover. But having Page Up/Down in the upper right corner was easy to find and very easy to use. Lenovo put quite useless Explorer key there and Home/End are buried in the upper row. Talking about these keys… most of them can be redefined, but Lenovo put Screen Lock key just above numpad as well. Just in case you are dumb or what… what is wrong with Win+L? This can’t be redefined, because – so it seems – it is hardwired to Win+L! Bravo…

Rather delete me as you can’t really disable me

And then there is Windows 8. Point one actually. Screw Metro, we’ve all heard tons about it already. But then there are those small things. Try Narrator for instance! Just press Win+Enter out of curiosity. I felt like disabled (no offence) immediately – because I was not able to turn it off. I had to Google it. Mute shortcut came handy in the meantime. Many people obviously want to disable these accessibility features – but there is no easy way. No single switch. Microsoft! Hear us! (Maybe they need Narrator for our complaints too.) Solutions? Delete narrator.exe for instance. Or disable its executable in Registry. (All provided by StackOverflow, Microsoft offers no definitive solution.) You gotta be kidding me, right?

Get dumb with me

Everything seems to be dumbed-down lately – but in the most wrong way. More features that are hardly understood by my mum anyway – and too few options for professionals. Not talking only about programmers here, this must annoy most of power users of any kind. And then there are other Google searches I went through during my first two days with Windows 8. And many of them were very close at the top of the suggested list before I even started writing last words! Like “windows 8 touch keyboard” finished with “keeps coming back”, or “windows 8 wifi” with “forgets password” (suggested on 6th place). Why do we have to keep solving annoying stuff instead of doing our job?

Sure, some things may be caused by Lenovo drivers… so what?

Any positives compared to Windows 7? Maybe under cover (which is expected), but UI goes in the wrong way. Ugly, thick window borders that can’t be easily customized. And when you get happy that you can easily set the background for the welcome screen, you find out that there is also this uber-ugly login screen with the most ugly metro violet ever (Sun’s enterprise violet was so nice compared to this. :-))

Well, rant over, next time I’ll try to solve something with Docker and Wildfly – and that seems to be much more promising direction of evolution.


Not so Christmas technology whining

First of all – Merry Christmas (and eventually Happy New Year considering my last blogging pause) to you all. I’m sitting in my living room, son is ill and sleeping sooner than expected (mid-day) and wife is cooking something for the evening. And I decided to report about just a few technology problems I met recently – and I think it’s shame that I had to. Often I just ask “how this can happen in 21st century?” But it probably will again in 22nd too – in a way.

I’m just listening to Christmas songs and I realized I started to like them recently – not sure if because I’m getting old or what – or because I sing them occasionally at a music school. Probably both. So let’s see my little stupid technical issues in random order:

Amazon restrictions (not only, and maybe Amazon is not to be blamed)

And we’re getting to the first problem I encountered lately – today actually. Amazon wrote me previously that I have some free credit to download some songs for my previous shopping. Nice, I grinned. Today I really wanted something – The Priests and their Little Drummer Boy. But Amazon said “sorry, but it’s not available in your country”. Yeah, no wonder, who would sell music here – to Slovakia where we still live on trees or what. Whatever. Of course I will listen to that song today. There are alternatives.

Skype is so annoying (no news here)

I wanted to download Skype client for my mom and was lead through Czech page (which was OK), but needed do log in on web before I could get the client itself. Never happened to me before, it’s annoying and stupid. I want direct download link! Is it really your mission to annoy your users recently? (Automagic ebay related toolbars and stuff, window open after start in Windows 7… what’s wrong with you guys?) Of course: “Just don’t use it!” The trouble is my family does.

I reported part of it via some Skype support form and after submitting I saw: “Thanks so much. We’ll learn a lot from that comment.” Well, I hope so. 🙂

Google Calendar sends notifications, Google Mail puts them into Spam

Title says it all! For this I missed my last football game with friends this Wednesday. It was different day than others Wednesdays and our son got fever too and in all that mess I forgot and there was nothing to remind me. My new HTC Wildfire wasn’t set with alarm yet… but back to the problem. Isn’t it ironic? Google sending emails from their service just to end up in Spam of Google mail? So you rather want to white-list notification address.

HTC Wildfire difficulties with answering calls

I carry my phones in pockets – actually as most people around me. Otherwise you have to have it in some bag or on your belt (I don’t wear belts). Soon I noticed that my new HTC Wildfire has real problems with answering calls very often. Googling revealed many other people have the same problem – and many others don’t believe them. 🙂 (“When I don’t have the problem, you can’t have it either… you’re stupid and don’t know how to use your phone.” Or similar.) In one thread there was that idea that it somehow relates to carrying the phone in one’s pocket. And indeed – it always happened when I pulled it from my jeans. It was easy to demonstrate it. Now I’m in talks with HTC support. I’m curious how will it end. (And for those curious – it’s vanilla HTC Wildfire, no branding, Andorid 2.2.)

I could go on with many other issues related to Android or this phone, but funny enough – I just like it enough to adjourn these for some other post. But as you probably agree answering calls is kinda essential feature. And “don’t carry it in your pocket” is not the right answer.

Another wannabe spammer – Kongregate

After 9 Dragons also Kongregate network showed how NOT to it. It’s funny that big corporations (where my subscriptions is much more important and often related to my profession) can live with direct unsubscribe links and obscure sites (I sometimes register to for whatever reason) starts sending their newsletters often after some longer time, I have no idea what the hell the site is about and I have to log in to fix the situation. But I think it’s fair to let them know. So I wrote them on their support form:

Please include Unsubscribe link from email that works without login. I had to renew my password after you started to send me emails after a few months. I can’t understand why some can’t do it properly. So often notifications start to pour from service I hadn’t hear about for months (often years) and when I need to stop them, I have to spend more time than I wished to to do so. Please, for the sake of other random users of your service, do it better.

And some positives?

There are many, we just don’t notice them so easily – because they don’t angry us, right? Not sure since when, but YouTube now allows for unlisted videos. Exactly what I wanted to share videos with my family. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to instruct mommy how to register and become my friend on YouTube. This made my day.

And as we started we will end: Merry Christmas however you like it. 🙂

I don’t understand Google Help

This is the problem I have for a long time. In normal software (I don’t wanna say that Google is bad, just…) I use some bugzilla or Jira (I love products using Jira!). I can watch how my issue progresses – or is ignored for that matter. 😉 Google is different. Sometimes it’s good – and that’s also the reason why I like their products. But I don’t understand their help. And this lasts for more than two years now. I wanted to report something in Gmail… I didn’t find how. Sometimes I was lucky and hit the form where I might write what I wanted – great idea for example. But that’s all. There are dozillions users of various Google services and I understand they can’t answer all. Even when I think some of my ideas were great. Not like revolutionary great, but normal great… like “All mails” without Chats in Gmail because look how it looks if you save talks and talk often. That was just for example.

Today I edited caption of one photo directly on Picasa web. I used quote signs in it. Normally if you do this in desktop Picasa it is changed to different quotes when the photo is uploaded. Not here. It looks fine after you enter it – it even looks fine when you go to different photo and back. But after reload ugly HTML entities appear (“). So I wanted to check out if someone else has the same problem (I bet someone does). I’ve googled for “picasa caption quote problem” and I’ve found something from summer of 2006. Ok, either it’s the same manifestation of a different bug or… doesn’t matter, I decided to file the problem. And so I clicked on “Help” in the upper right corner. It brought me here. Tell me what to do here when I have the problem? I decided to check if there were other unlucky users with the same problem – Known issues brought me here. Ok, nothing with captions in Web Albums section. I resorted to the sentence down there: If you’ve found a problem that’s not listed on this page, let us know. Link brought me here.

This time I was lucky on the forums searching for “captions” – on the second page I’ve found “quot” substring on the page and here it goes. But what IF I don’t wanna “fast answer” and I want to report bug? Other links are very limited to only a few topics in various areas and at the end… either go to Forum or to Help Center (where you started :-)). On Forums you can ask. That’s all. It’s not the same like reporting the bug in my eyes.

The whole problem is that I generally become more and more ignorant to various bugs. I haven’t even tried to report the problem with side bar in Google Docs. Was it intention? Was it something revolutionary? I always doubt if it is bug or some great Google idea. And I’m afraid to submerge into their Help Center and cycle there without ever reaching reasonable suggestion/bug form. Maybe they have too much of feedback – I don’t know. But what if they don’t have enough feedback? Even too much can be not enough if I hit more and more glitches in their services. It’s never anything critical (luckily) but I’m afraid it’s inevitable that it will be worse and worse. I hope I’m wrong because I generally like Google services and I’d like to stick with them.

Picasa 3 with stupid Other Stuff

I’m angry. This time about Google again (last time it was missing side bar in Google Docs – still missing BTW, no drag&drop to move the document to some directory anymore). Picasa offered me an update and I agreed – why not to update? Well – after I started my brand new updated Picasa 3 I’ve found out that I miss some directories in the Folder list. Well – it’s so called collection with the name Folders. Incredible. There is another collection called Other Stuff. Any directory I uploaded some picture from was put here. 95 victims in my case. First problem was to find them, second to get rid of the Other Stuff collection. You can’t – because it’s a “default collection and cannot be removed”. When something is impossible it’s not a problem anymore – it’s simply the fact. Very stupid fact in this case. I thought I can select first directory, shift-select last and move them all to Folders. No way – you can’t select more directories. Imagine you have 1000 directories there. Imagine that you have to browse your photos from yesterday there and photos from today and the day before yesterday in the Folders collection. That’s the power of Picasa 3. No questions during update – bang!

Who’s stupid idea was this? I don’t know. I don’t care “default collections” – but please, don’t get in my way. Google was many times about surprises, but they were mostly nice surprises. “Yeah, how could I live without this idea before?” That sort of surprises. This is not the same kind. I’m sad.

Few minutes after my last sentence I switched Picasa from “flat folder view” to “tree view” which doesn’t divide my directories into Folders and Other Stuff. I’ll use that as it also better reflects disk placement. Still doesn’t change anything on my view of this “default collection”.

Google Docs enhanced?

I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not, but I miss sidebar in Google Docs application containing folders and some other stuff. You can see it on the picture on this page. Now the trouble is, that I miss that list of folders for a few days already. This is how it looks in Chrome:

In Firefox there is even no space on the left side left. I hope this is only temporary problem and not enhancement. 🙂

Blogging for two years!

Yeah, it’s true! I would probably not celebrate it if I had ended my blogger’s career in a typical way (you guessed it… I meant simply to stop writing). It was actually pretty close to that but I somehow revived my taste to write again. The taste I have since my early years as I always liked to write various short stories. The biggest of them is my Slovak mini-novel called Cesta (The Way or maybe The Journey, doesn’t really matter) and as it is the biggest thing I really pulled off to the end it’s no surprise I decided to revive and revise it as well.

But originally this blog was created because of Utopia. I’d had my utopia in my head for some time before but I simply did not write that time. I generally still write much less than I used to. I used to write songs as well, now it’s more than four years since my last one. Satisfied comfy life might be the creativity killer. But I did other things! I made some maps for UT2004, I started the promising page about UT3 level editing (still has many visits every day mostly thanks to static mesh catalogue) and if there had not been some troubles with UT3 and/or my online connectivity problems I would have continued in these areas. And I still may in the future as the desire to do some map returns to me here and there.

But back to the blog itself. I expected Gavin to meet his Susan in just a few installments of the Utopia, but discussions were longer than I expected and I didn’t want to have posts too long. We’re obviously far from any end with Utopia – I don’t have any in my head actually because it’s the Utopia exploration in the first place. 🙂 Cesta is my sure shot – I can release any part anytime if I find just a little time to reread and correct it. But aside from these things I knew from the start that I want to write about current things around me as well. It wasn’t any accident that I started to write about Google, now I use Google Docs to write and “backup” my posts, I originally started on Blogspot until I found out that there were serious problem with printing from that page and that these problems were unsolved for a few years (I don’t care about current situation).

As said in “About me and this Blog” this site is not really topical, but while I agree that it’s nice to have a topical blogs, I think it’s not the problem to do otherwise as well. There are many post aggregators that feed various topical lists with appropriately tagged posts. So Java people have their posts from my site and people interested in music or movies have their too. There are search engines after all. While my post about Seam haven’t attracted any attention, other two Java posts related to some very specific problems with specific products and setups have been read and I’m sure they will be. Doesn’t matter that they are maybe the most off-topic if there is any topic on this blog. 😉

After some initial enthusiasm (13 posts in last 80 days of 2006) I had obvious crisis during the whole year of 2007 (only 7 posts!). Notice the big gap between May and November – ended with Travian Intermezzo – yup, Travian is killing the rest of your life. 🙂 Year 2008 started much better. I have moved here to WordPress, I helped my wife to establish her blog about cooking (in Slovak, but with a lot of pictures :-P), I started to write about games and other stuff (music, movies, although I have to extend this part ;-)) and I started to be active blogger again!

After those two years I’m happy to be here although my blog is more loose than I expected. I don’t care. I have some visitors (although my wife’s cooking blog is beating me even without using world language!), I have something to look back to – and I believe I have also a lot of to look forward to. And I want to thank you for bearing with me. 🙂

Moving In

This is actually copy of post from Blogspot after I migrated all posts here. Only the title there is “Moving Out”. 🙂

When my wife wanted to create blog with recipes I suggested Blogspot because I liked it and it was Google corporate. I like Google products. But Blogspot is first case when I decided to move out. Continuation of this blog can be found here:

Now – of course – it’s time to explain why. Well, the reason is very silly. 😉 It’s impossible to print properly blog posts from here without some effort. I don’t care about my blog – but recipes are likely to be printed out. In Firefox you get first page nearly empty (only title) and second contains your post – but only what fits there. Anything else is not printed at all. Not to mention that sidebar is standing in the way narrowing print area. IE works a bit better but there are reported problems with it as well.

You can probably solve this with some custom styles, but whatever I tried it didn’t work for me. HTML template consists of various blogger tags and I can’t limit default style to be media=screen only which makes my media=print style to be effectively ignored. This makes a lot of advices (to be found in various Blogspot posts) from 2005 invalid because they worked with more plain HTML template.

Long story short: There is no easy solution to print and I decided not to continue on blog site that works in this status for at least three years now.

I work with many SW products and normally I just address authors and tell them. However Blogger is for free and I can’t expect fix very soon when it’s like this for many years. To contact Google (I mean normal written text) is not that easy because all those forms lead you in circles to various helps – which obviously can’t help me now. And Blogger Google Group? You can find the same problem there – unsolved. I tried different layouts – that’s also why I don’t have my previous style anymore (and I don’t plan to change it back because it’s pointless now).

I’m staying with Google – but I’m leaving Blogspot. I’ll leave this blog here and maybe sometimes I post here just a summary pointing out to my new blog. But I’m blogging elsewhere now. So does my wife with her recipes (Slovak language). 🙂

Final note: Of course here I have to pay $15 per year for custom CSS, but even without that it:
* works in the first place (whole post is printed);
* side bar is printed after the article, so you can just set last page(s) not to be printed.