Category Archives: bitching

Will Wright is … lazy?

Let’s get this straight: if we judge him solely by output (games), then he is not a genius – he’s lazy. Everyone knows the 1% inspiration/99% perspiration quote, and – looking at the last shipped title – IMHO it’s inexcusable to ship crap and pretend it’s OK. You can’t just abrogate responsibility once you stick your name on Spore…

(disclaimer: when I say “lazy” I don’t mean universally; I mean that in at least one crucial aspect, he failed to apply simple due diligence to his own named project; arguably, it’s a kind of laziness in itself not to have checked this stuff, or a kind of cowardice not to have insisted it be done “correctly”; but this post is really about the overall impact of the game, and the way that an individual, if they were to stamp their persona on a project – and expect us to read their persona from interacting with the product – comes across. I have no idea what Will Wright is like as an individual; this is a post about Will Wright as the PR entity…)
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Apple: still don’t know how to use “The InterNet … thingy”

I’m trying to download the 3.0 OS update for iPhone…and being denied by Apple’s own software – that cannot even download a single file from a website (!)

It’s a 1GB download that you “must” download via iTunes, because … well … because … um … Apple hates web browsers? I don’t know. Hard to see why it is downloaded via iT at all, really. It is rather strange.

(EDIT: it has now dropped to being a 230 MB download; I have no idea why – it was only a hundred meg or so into the alleged 1 GB download when it crashed, and when I retried it became 230 MB. Odd…)

And yes – it really *is* downloading a website file (that’s all it’s doing):

GET /content.info.apple.com/iPhone/stuff.stuff/iPhone1,2_3.0_7A341_Restore.ipsw HTTP/1.1
Host: appldnld.apple.com.edgesuite.net
User-Agent: iTunes/8.2 (Macintosh; N; Intel)
Connection: close

That’s missing a key line. The line that resumes the download from where it left off. Apple apparently decided to write a “crap” web-browser, and embed it inside iTunes. Why? Why, when they have one of the world’s best web-browsers, do they insist on writing an extra one – and missing out fundamental basic features (like resumable downloads)?

There are occasional latency spikes on my net connection. iTunes is such a terrible “web browser” that when this happens, it arbitrarily (note: no other web browser would do this!) decides to cancel the download. There is no “resume” option and no “retry” option.

Congratulations, Apple! Having 2 copies of the same “core” software, one which works and one which doesn’t, and not allowing the user to use the “good” one when they need to? You’re well on your way to becoming Microsoft :).

Indie developers and gaming sites: stop breaking the web

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at a lot of independent developers’ websites. It’s quite surprising how many of them go out of their way to make their site unusable – clearly thinking that they’re achieving the opposite. But also, today, Wikipedia started actively doing a very minor (but no less irritating) content-block on mobile users. And last week, I found one of the main games-news sites is also actively *hard*-blocking mobile users.

This was annoying (and stupid!) 5 years ago, when sites added the “smartphones” to their content-blocking, even though smartphones could (and happily would) render full-fat webpages perfectly (tabbed browsing worked fine in Opera on Windows Mobile back in 2005 – I used it a lot).

Now, with the iPhone added to the list of clients that these sites are blocking, it’s a bit worse: Apple won’t allow you to purchase any web browser other than their version of Safari, and Safari won’t allow you to lie to the website and tell it you’re not using a cell phone (this was the standard workaround on windows mobile/opera for stupid web design teams: tell Opera to claim your cell phone was a Windows desktop). The iPhone, with a better quality web-browser than many desktops currently run? That’s just insane…

Wikipedia: mobile users, go away

Until/unless they decide to fix it, it’s now too much hassle to read WP pages unless I do it on my laptop. Since I’ve probably just followed a link from google, that would mean emailing myself the link from my iPhone, and going to WP via my desktop. More wasted time. I’ll just stop using wikipedia, thanks.

So far this morning I haven’t been able to access WP short of manually changing the URL to go to a country-specific Wikipedia mirror, switching to a “slow” (non-broadband) internet connection, reloading the page, and hitting the stop button before they redirect me to a “cut down” version, and no link to escape from it. There’s a link for you to “comment” on the new “feature”; my commentary would have been unprintable, so I declined.

Gamespot: we don’t want money, money is for wimps

The other week I noticed that Gamespot – one of the big ad-driven news + reviews/cheats/etc websites for games – is still locking-out all mobile users. That’s probably a fairly substantial load of ad revenue they are literally throwing away every day.

The web, HTTP, and HTML…

Why do people do this? I don’t know. But here’s a few points you should bear in mind:

  • No website should ever block content based on the user’s device
  • No website should ever have a flash-only front page
  • Since the very first versions of HTTP and HTML in the mid-1990’s, the web has been designed to avoid these problems; this shouldn’t be happening

Content Blocking

Gamespot checks your web browser when you fetch any article, review, etc. If it finds you’re coming from an iPhone, then it refuses to let you view the content. Instead, it serves up a custom “news page” that is identical no matter which link you came in on. There is no way for you to see the actual content you tried to view – literally: they do an auto-redirect that wipes it from the URL.

I can see no reason for this other than the bizarre assumption that an iPhone was launched 10 years ago with a tiny black-and-white screen and an inability to scroll and render web pages. I would love to ask the Gamespot web design team: have you ever seen an iPhone? You do realise it has a better web browser than most desktop PCs, yes? So … why are you manually blocking them from your website?

Amazon has for a long time done a similar thing with any mobile device (again, sadly, the stupid bit is that they apply it to devices where it’s completely unnecessary) – except that Amazon has three essential features which Gamespot lacks.

Firstly, they do actually show you some of the content you were trying to view (not all of it. ARGH!)

Secondly, there’s always a link on the page to view the real version of the page. If you click that, it gives you a warning something like: “YOUR MOBILE PHONE MAY NOT RENDER THIS PAGE … ARE YOU SURE!!!!????!”. Of course, this is somewhat inappropritate when applied to most smartphones, especially iPhones. But hey – at least the option is there.

Finally, they have a link something along the lines of: “Do you want to permanently stop seeing the broken, cut-down version of pages on amazon.com? You can re-enable them whenever you want”.

Irritating, patronising, and foolish (the default should be “view the website normally”, not “don’t view the website”) – but at least you only have to fix it once, and you never again get problems. Gamespot et al offer no such option – they just block you, dead.

Flash-only front pages

About 50% of indie studios have decided to put a massive flash on their front page, most of them with *no* link to “skip intro” or “go to website” or any kind of navbar. About 50% of them (in my sampling over the past few weeks) have made that flash NON clickable: you cannot (you are “not allowed to” ?) view the “real” website until the flash has loaded, you have seen the self-promoting advert for the studio embedded in it, and clicked some internal link at the end. This was foolish, unnecessarily slow, and contrary to the spirit and standards that drive the web even 10 years ago when it first started happening.

Games industry companies please take note:

The 1990’s phoned – they want their web-designers back.

(real web companies don’t do this kind of thing any more)

But now, with the iphone, it’s particularly dumb: it is de-facto content blocking – because the iPhone cannot / will not run Flash. If the Flash is clickable, you can at least (if you know what the studio did – which many people won’t guess) access the site anyway. I’m amazed how many sites don’t even give you that small fillip.

If this post persuades JUST ONE web designer, somewhere, to wake up and smell the roses, and spares us yet another self-blocked website, then I shall be happy.

Of course, maybe I should be grateful that we’re even this far “ahead” … I heard from someone the other day that he still has to explain to web design teams that websites don’t need to be hardcoded for rendering at 800×600 any more (i.e. that – OMGWTFBBQ! – everyone has rather larger desktop screen resolutions than that these days; or else so much smaller that hardcoding to 800×600 isn’t going to help at all).

Why am I ignoring you? (Sorry, I didn’t know you’d called)

I just discovered something rather annoying: people have been leaving voicemail on my cell phone. Please don’t. I can almost guarantee that I’ll never receive the message.

Normally, this doesn’t happen: I have a recorded message explaining:

  • don’t leave a message – I won’t receive it. No, really. Don’t leave one “just in case”: you’re being self-delusional. I WILL NOT receive it. (It’s amazing how many people struggle with this concept :)).
  • if you need to contact me, you should already have my email address; if you don’t even have my email, then you shouldn’t have my phone number in the first place
  • if it’s urgent, you can try sending an SMS, but if I wasn’t answering the phone, it’s probably switched off or out of cell reception, so I might not see the SMS for a while either (but at least I’ll see the SMS as soon as I’m back in range / switched on)

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Thunderbird on OS X: I give up. This is untested crap

The title says it all really; for whatever reason, the Thunderbird developers appear not to have tested TB on OS X. So much of the basic functionality doesn’t work in the latest beta – this isn’t even alpha-quality code (on OS X). I’m sure it works fine on Windows (or else you’d have thousands of people complaining long and loudly).

I had this suspicion with Shredder 2 (the last alpha), where basic features – like sending emails, and viewing messages in a folder – would regularly crash the OS X build. Even for an alpha that should have been unacceptable, or fixed very rapidly. Where’s the regression testing?

But I hoped I was just being cynical, and so I moved on, and forgot about all that. My experiences over the past couple of months with the beta have recreated that suspicion, and cemented it. For instance, I lost a couple of hours of work today because TB on OS X has major bugs in its synch code. I watched as it silently deleted all the changes from the activity manager. No errors. Nothing. Just … gone. Even without ever having read TB source code, I can think of two or three obvious coding errors that would cause such behaviour, and none are things I’d exepect to get into a project as popular and well-known as TB.

So … what gives? What’s wrong with the OS X builds of TB? Why are they so very, very bad? Why do they have so many dataloss bugs?

Sigh. At least I can fairly rapidly re-do all the work I lost. Time to start looking for a new email application. Maybe I can find a version of Mozilla Mail that still runs on OS X? (FYI: Mozilla mail was the thing that Thunderbird was based on / supposed to replace. Unlike TB, it actually worked. It was faster, had more features, but looked a lot uglier. I’ll happily sacrifice “good looks” if it gets me “supports basic email features from 10 years ago”)

Unity: First impressions

I had to do some iPhone prototyping recently, and we had a trial copy of Unity to hand. I thought this was a great excuse to try using it. First impressions of the editor/IDE/environment – at least on OS X – are not good.

NB: In general, in terms of what can be done with it etc, I’m a fan of Unity. But I’ve never developed with it directly myself, and I’m now finding it surprisingly painful / steep learning curve.

Need to know basis

None of the built-in tutorials work, flat out, because the startup code has apparently changed substantially since they were written. The tutorials keep talking about things like “create a new project; by default it will X and Y and Z” but Unity no longer does any of those by default. Sadly, the tutorials don’t tell you how to get any of those manually – because, you know, they’re done for you by default, why would you ever need to know how to do them by hand?

File Association Theft

I was also *extremely* unhappy to discover a short while later that Unity has stolen the file association for PHP files. Under OS X (thanks, Apple) managing file associations is a surprisingly irritating business, as bad as with Microsoft Windows (Apple deems users too stupid to be allowed to simply edit associations – but applications are allowed to overwrite each other with absolute trust from Apple, and no user intervention allowed), so this is a pain to fix. In particular, I have an entire *suite* of applications and IDE’s for doing web editing, including a specialized high quality PHP IDE. Not any more; Unity has clobbered that with a crappy text editor that does nothing more than basic syntax hilighting. This is pretty offensive: firstly, don’t steal my files without asking, and secondly – give me back my IDE!

NB: I have no idea how it has done this, but Unity appears to have overridden OS X’s systems for file association management – following the standard procedure (e.g. here) has no effect, and Unity keeps stealing control of the files immediately that you confirm you want to give the assocation to some other app.

At this rate, if I can’t find out what it’s done to my OS and undo it, I’ll be uninstalling and deleting Unity with extreme prejudice in the very near future. Sure, this is partly Apple’s fault for assuming all apps are perfect and all users are not, but at a simpler level I just cannot afford to have a non-functioning development computer just because of one badly behaved application.

IGDA Chair responds to Quality of Life debacle

We finally have a mainstream response (as opposed to responses sitting quietly in obscurity in the IGDA.org forums) to the issue of IGDA Board Members pissing all over IGDA’s main tenets:

http://www.igda.org/newsroom/memo_032209.php
(from the IGDA monthly newsletter that just went out to all 15,000+ members)

Instances of the following words in that response:

sorry – 0
mistake – 0
fault – 0
acceptable – 0
unacceptable – 0

I guess that says it all, really. If that was meant to be an apology, or a recognition that the board and the org did *anything* wrong here at all, then it’s a clear FAIL.

If not … well, what was the point?

The fact that the org refuses even now to accept that it did anything wrong, refuses to apologize, or to commit to acting differently next time, that there is no action item offered to rectify it taking 4+ months for the organization to respond (having only acted *at all* after it was pushed into the news, DESPITE the board being present at the damn event), well…

All that seems to me to say:

“it’s business as usual, folks; EA, Epic, and all the other abusive studios – don’t worry, IGDA has your back! Our members come second”

I didn’t used to believe that – I know many key people in IGDA personally and knew they would never ever espouse that – but I’m now staring the reality in the face and seeing that “the organization as run by the board” != “the diligent and wonderful individuals I know who contribute so much”.

PS: quick shout to Tom Buscaglia (one of the board members who’s so far apparently done nothing about all this) – if, after reading this post, you’re going to accuse *me* of being “a whiney little bitch who would rather quit after a loss than jump in deeper” again, then I suggest this time that you link to the post URL rather than the blog domain. That way people reading this will get an automatic trackback link to your site, and get to see your response this time around :).

Need help – anyone in SF next week with an iPhone hardware unlock?

(seriously – otherwise I’ll be phoneless thoughout GDC :( )

I’ve had no interest in cracking my iPhone, so I haven’t.

Until I discovered the other day that my incompetent network (O2) won’t allow me to make calls in the USA on the agreement I have with them, so I need to use a local USA SIM while I’m there. Unsurprisingly, all O2’s own staff openly advised this as the only sane course of action. They were apologetic that this was necessary. O2 loses nothing if I unlock the phone.

And then I discover that Apple’s undocumented 2.2.1 update which I was bounced into installing has disabled all known unlock processes except for the hardware ones. If I had bothered to do the unlock a few months ago, it would have worked perfectly. Now, with less than a day until I leave the country, there’s nothing I can do.

Help? Anyone?

(NB: I’m not on a contract. I’m not even registered with the network. I’m sure the EU commission will sue Apple’s ass over this sooner or later and force them to stop retailing locked phones in the UK. That is of no help to me *today*)

(NB2: Apple’s lack of respect for their consumer continues to impress me every year. I know *why* they did it (network operators forced them to), but that doesn’t excuse screwing the consumer without warning them what you’re about to do to them. Undocumented updates are vicious)

Web 0.1: Feedburner + Google say “F*** YOU”

Today, I attempted to login to Feedburner.

I had to go through not 1, not 2, but three different adverts for “here’s why we’re forcing you to create a new Google/Gmail account, you really want to do it, it will be good for you”.

The third one has a link “ignore this and login to feedburner anyway”.

That link redirects back to the adverts. It didn’t last time I logged in, a mere week ago – back then, it did what it claimed to do: logged me in to Feedburner.

This time, I clicked a dozen times, with waits in between, just in case it was a momentary glitch.

Nope – Google/Feedburner is engaging in some kind of sadistic schadenfreude designed to make Feedburner users collapse psychologically, and give-in and create Google accounts. Or, if like me they already have a Google account, to delete their Feedburner identities and throw away privacy, personal data, and any semblance of control of their online personas to instead merge their account IDs.

(in some kind of surrealist nightmare, the final ad opens with the words “Moving to a Google Account is easy” (no, actually, it’s enforced), and finishes with the line “You don’t have to move today, but we’ll remind you each time you visit feedburner.com” (um, no – you’ve placed an auto-redirect that does, in fact, force me to “move today”. Bastards)).

So. Feedburner? Google? You say: “F*** YOU”? Well, then, I say: “F*** you too; harder”.

phpMyFAQ: don’t use it, part 2

Disappointing

No spam filter (there is one, allegedly, but it’s invisible, non-configurable (!), and missing obvious spam words)

(there are comments on the official forums from 3 years ago saying “we need some basic anti-spam tools” and the author replying with “we’re working on it”)

Annoying

No spam controls for reactive processing (banning users, marking comments as spam, etc).

Unforgivable

Each comment can ONLY be deleted one, by one, by one, requiring 6 mouse clicks per deletion!

The concept of a list of comments, and a checkbox next to each, and a “delete selected comments” is now well over 10 years old – and it only takes a few minutes to implement with PHP + SQL. If you ever find yourself making a web app for general usage, please don’t forget this core feature :).

(I’ve been too busy for the past month making actual iPhone apps to finish my free PHP FAQ platform, but watch this space, shouldn’t be too long now…)

Web 0.1: Apple: please hire some web developers

I can no longer develop iPhone Apps. I am on my eighth attempt to download the 1.75Gb 2.2.1 SDK – without which, XCode refuses to even talk to my iPhone any more, because I allowed the iPhone to upgrade.

EDIT: I have it! I HAVE IT! YES! NO MORE PRAYING TO THE GODS OF ****ING APPLE’S CRAPPY WEB SERVER! (it’s probably a corrupted download)

The problem?

Sheer mind-numbing incompetence by Apple’s web team, it would seem (NB: I may be wrong; I haven’t tried packet-sniffing the HTTP traffic to prove this beyond all doubt, but my experiments with different browsers and different ISP’s strongly indicate it is the case). They’ve (mis)configured the webserver over at developer.apple.com to kill partial downloads of this monstrous file.

If you cannot download the whole thing before Apple automatically logs you out of their website (which they do every half an hour or so if you don’t actively surf the site), then your download is cancelled, server-side. You cannot resume from where you left off (their web server refuses to honour the HTTP command that tells it to resume a partial download).

What did they do wrong?

It’s a session-management problem – you CAN pause and resume a minute or two later. Just not half an hour later.

The other major bugs in the Apple websites (including that force logout!) suggest that some novice web programmer made a half-assed Session-management system that, well, sucks. (am I sounding angry? Hell yes; Apple’s website is behaving like some naive bricks-and-mortar company from 1999, not 2009). Or maybe they picked up a 3rd party one … that sucked. Whatever. It seems the session-manager is overriding Apache’s built-in support for this core element of HTTP, and saying “no”. For no reason other than bad web coding.

In passing, I noticed that they are *still* (allegedly – it’s easy to fake) running the same version of the Apache webserver that they’ve been shipping by default with OS X Server for some years now – a version that is more than 4 years old, 8 versions behind the current “maintenance” release, and 1 major version behind the “mainstream” release. Personally, I wouldn’t run Apache 1.x if you paid me, not with 2.x out there and running a “proper” webserver arch (apache 1.x is not a real webserver, it’s a hack using forks that makes it unnecessarily slow under heavy load).

</rant>

Apple & a study in frustration

Half way through the insane 1.75 gigabyte download of iPhone SDK 2.2.1 (which, lets be honest, has precisely 200 megabytes of content, and 1,500 megabytes of STUFF I ALREADY HAVE; Apple’s engineers apparently have never heard of the 30-year-old concept of a “patch file”), Apple refuses the download.

I “no longer have read permssions to that URL” according to Safari. This is despite being logged-in to Apple’s developer.apple.com website. The same website that FORCE logs out everyone *at least* once an hour (because Apple’s web developer team have miserable lives, and want to share their pain with everyone else).

The same website that has given me “error: this page requires you to be logged in”-type errors trying to load … the login page (I’m not kidding, it’s 100% reproducible in Safari and in Firefox, quite easy to trigger. Seriously weak web-server code going on there).

So, let’s start that 1.75Gb download *again*. Apple: I detest you. Especially because you know the problems you cause, and build it into your marketing campaigns; it’s not cool, it’s not funny, it’s pathetic. Why can’t you employ some competent web developers? Why, when you like to call yourselves paragons of UI design, do you make the iPhone App Store have a GUI that would look “weak”, “poor”, “stupid” and “ugly” in 1999, let alone 2009? What happened?

Sigh.

Open Letter to Recruitment Agencies (video games industry)

Hi!

My name is “Adam” (first name) “Martin” (surname); you might need to check the spelling. You might want to check which is the first name, which the surname – funny how many recruiters get it wrong!

You’ve probably cold-emailed me because you got my email address somewhere – maybe as much as 10 years ago – and yet, bizarrely, I haven’t been coming to you looking for jobs. You’re probably really hoping I’ll write back with a CV/Resume that you can send out.

Instead, I suggest you save us both some time: have a look at my LinkedIn profile, and see what I’ve done – http://www.linkedin.com/in/adammartin – it’s shorter and clearer than a CV/Resume, too.

Hey, if you’ve got a few minutes, why not have a look right now? Take your time – I’ll wait! You can learn a bit about me, find out what I might be interested in (hint: it’s there, in several paragraphs of text, right at the top of the page).

Now, maybe you think you’ve got a perfect job for me. But hold on, my friend! Don’t hit that “Send” button yet! There’s some things you should know before you email me a second time…

You see, each time you email me, blind, cold-calling, un-solicited … it’s not just you. All your competitors are doing it. Even some of your colleagues (it’s funny how many agencies accidentally compete with themselves). And a whole bunch of your clients, the companies you recruit for, are doing it too. And each one of those emails takes me time to read.

My time is precious, I’ve got a lot to give, and I usually go well beyond what’s asked; if it weren’t, there’d be fewer companies that wanted to hire me, and willing to pay the salaries I’ve been paid. And hence willing to give YOU that big, fat, commission you’re hoping for…

“What’s there to lose?”, you may be thinking to yourself, “if you don’t like it, we’re cool, I’m friendly, we’ve got a bit of a relationship going here – I emailed you, you emailed me, it could be the start of a great partnership, propelling your future career gradually up the corporate ladder!”

Well, here’s the thing: I’m a technology guy. I have a degree in Computer Science from one of the world’s top Universities. I’ve been trained and employed as a SysAdmin. I’ve been an entrepreneur, and built my company’s computers myself, to save money. Although I don’t program for money any more, I’m still fluent in many programming languages. And, you know what, I’m a bit of an expert at all that “mailserver stuff”.

So … if you piss me off; if you waste my time with meaningless, unsolicited drivel; if you nag me with “this is an amazing opportunity you will love” when we both know it isn’t vaguely true … I’m going to nuke your ass (figuratively speaking): I will never see an email from you again, they’ll die before they reach me.

And when I say “you”, I don’t just mean “you, at the company you currently work for”. Nope. You really piss me off, and I won’t be seeing an email from you no matter which agency you move on to. I hope you grok the seriousness of that? (this may suprise you, but those of us in the industry DO actually notice when you guys change roles, change agencies, etc)

I simply do not have time for time-wasting muppets who are too damn lazy to bother even doing a simple LinkedIn/Google/Gamasutra/etc search on their “targets” to find out who and what these people are.

Oh, and by the way – I’ve done recruitment, many times, myself. I’ve had to get creative with reaching people, trying to tempt them out of their jobs and into working for my own employers. So I know how hard the hard stuff can be. But I also know how little – how VERY little – time it takes to do the easy stuff. And when you DON’T do even that, it tells me a lot about you. It tells me a lot about the crap you’re sending to your clients. It tells me a lot about how (un)impressed they’re going to be with the drivel you send them. Above all, it tells me that if I *do*, somehow, find the role interesting, then it’s worth my time using my own contacts to get a direct invitation from the company, and bilking you out of your commission.

Actually, I could bilk you anyway, whoever it is. The industry is *that* incestuous that everyone above Junior level “knows someone” (who knows someone, who knows someone else … until you hit the Hiring Manager). So, your whole business is based on the assumption that you make it so much easier for me to work with you that I don’t bother to test my extended network. You’re living on borrowed time from the moment your email hits my inbox. Humour me.

But on the other hand, if you take a genuine interest, and make the effort to find stuff that would actually interest me, you could save me a lot of time and hassle. And then I’d love to work with you on finding and evaluating roles. And (modulo all the above) I’m a pretty forgiving guy, if you give me just a little bit of mutual respect. So you CAN send me random crap that you think might tickle my interest, and I won’t hate you for screwing up. You can even get it wrong every time – so long as it’s clear you are, in fact, *trying*.

So, you know … take the time. It’s for your own good. Really.

HAVE A NICE DAY!

Please, someone, destroy cron. Forever.

Just wanted to say: I detest “cron” more than mere words have the power to convey. I suspect there aren’t many other pieces of fundamental software implemented in so few lines of code that over so many years have caused so much harm and frustration to so many people and systems (surprisingly, cron has often been the point of error in weird failures of clusters of servers I’ve dealt with – e.g. when the backups mysteriously stop working, or an app crashes and won’t restart, etc)
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Antiquated RSS feeds (Scott Hartsman, I’m looking at you)

I found Scott’s blog the other week, and liked it.

So, I added it to my feed reader.

Now, I’m removing it, because the way he’s got his RSS setup – http://www.hartsman.com/feed – is unreadable (literally – only the first 100 words or so of each post is included, the rest is all missing).

Incidentally, this is why – after many years of using the site as a primary news source – I no longer read Gamedev.net (feed) : a site that resorts to hiding its information and news behind extra links, sacrificing usability to gain advertising money, is not one I have time for. There are plenty of people who’ll provide the info I want in an easy manner, without this jumping through hoops.

Sigh. I have a feed reader to read feeds, not to get a “free sample of your brilliance” that I then have to go to a web browser to be allowed to actually read in full…

Web 0.1 – British Airways

Travelling to Helsinki with British Airways, 24 hours before the flight I received an email telling me that “Online Checkin is now available” and providing a link to check-in online.

So, from my blackberry, I tried the link. It’s broken – it runs some buggy javascript that ends up redirecting to the britishairways homepage (probably because someone is using a 10-year-out-of-date hacky “what is your web browser” check instead of writing the page properly), and then does something I haven’t seen in years – an infinite redirect to the same page. I left the browser for about 5 minutes, and it was constantly redirecting for all that time, as fast as it could load the tiny HTML fragment, around once every 5 seconds.

Sigh. I tried again, this time from Firefox. Now things worked fine, and it picked up my flight automatically from the code embedded in the URL they’d emailed me. Great.

Only, after clicking through a series of pages – I want online checkin; yes, I want it now; yes I’m ready to checkin; yes, I’m the only passenger / have all other passengers with me – it goes to an error page saying:

This flight does not support online checkin. Please checkin when you get to the airport.

So … what was the purpose in sending me that email in the first place?

If they hadn’t bothered, then I’d never have found out that their website is broken, and I wouldn’t have wasted my time trying to do an online checkin process that they don’t allow for flights to Helsinki. Even better, I would never have found out that the email address they sent me the email from has an auto-responder saying “we never read any emails sent to this address, please use http://www.britishairways.com for any support queries”.

Of course, the original email doesn’t say this, and the address isn’t something obvious like “noreply@”, so I’d written them a proper complaint and given them the details of their broken site. All of which they proceeded to automatically delete.

Verdict: BA’s hamfisted attempt at using the internet has shown not only their incompetence, but also their contempt for customer service. It’s also created a desire in me for online checkin, shown me how easy it COULD be, if I were flying with an airline that supported it. All in all, they’ve gone out of their way to use the internet to persuade me to stop flying with them in the future – and I haven’t even got to the airport yet! Definitely a case of Web 0.1…

An example of how NOT to do software updates

I upgraded Firefox only a few days ago (I didn’t get a choice – it was set to autoupdate, and updated when I was halfway through doing an install on my new computer; it broke most of the plugins I was halfway through installing because the new version wasn’t backwards compatible) and now a new upgrade just appeared. I wondered what could necessitate such a sudden new upgrade, so I clicked on the “View more information about this update” link in the dialog box.

This took me to a page which said nothing other than:

“Stability Update:
This release corrects a problem that was found in the previous release, Firefox 2.0.0.10.”

WTF? How did that even seem to them to be a reasonable explanation? So, I sent them some feedback. Which will no doubt get filed in /dev/nul

Someone at firefox needs to reconsider the messages they’re sending out. It’s as bad as Microsoft in the bad old days of System Updates that had no reason beyond “critical”, or “this update is necessary to ensure your copy of windows continues to function correctly”.

Considering how dangerous updates are for the user (c.f. the fact that the last one nuked most of my plugins :(, and there’s no way to downgrade – for some reason, they don’t support that, and they don’t allow you to download old, working, versions, only the latest, even-if-its-broken, version), this approach to forcing them on users without explanation is both antagonistic and irresponsible.

/me is now forcing firefox to “never” upgrade, and will refuse to run any more upgrades of it.

I’m sure this is the complete opposite of what they intended, as my machines will now theoretically be vulnerable to every security flaw that comes along, but I think I’ll use MSIE 7 as my main browser, despite it’s many flaws, and stop using FF for everything except testing, rather than suffer more of this stupidity from the Mozilla Foundation. I never thought they’d manage to force me into the hands of Microsoft :).

Fixing the blurry fonts in Outlook 2007

(do you have fuzzy text in Outlook 2007? hard to read fonts? System settings for fonts broken in Office 2007? Help is at hand…).

You have to do a couple of things to fix the one bug, and I had to find all the different parts of the solution in different places, so I put them all together into one post here.



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First Complaint

WordPress still has the worst UI for editing posts I’ve seen in years. It can’t even handle adding H3 tags! (you have to add them in source code, the visual editor doesn’t support them, and it’s got bugs if you try to then edit from the visual view afterwards)