Saturday, December 29, 2012

Popular Science, July 1957



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Verizon!

A couple of months ago I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile in order to take advantage of T-Mobile's offer of a free Samsung Galaxy S3 for new contracts.

Awesome!  Right?

Well the phone is pretty nice.  And it was free.  Or so they claim.  I have yet to receive the rebate.  T-Mobile's coverage is astonishingly poor, but we can live with it.

Meanwhile...

Verizon has sent me two bills (so far), one last month and one just today.  Amount due?

Minus zero dollars.

Which is to say, that they feel I owe them negative zero.  Or is that something they owe me?  I can not log into the Verizon web site to investigate further as they have, naturally, removed my account.  I had a auto-pay set up with them using a credit card.  Will they bill the card negative zero?  Maybe!

Another embarrassing triumph of corporate technology!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Demo

Once upon a time, at the end of a week, a Thursday or Friday, I looked at my ChimpsTek Inc. email and caught the end of a long string about a problem and whose fault is was.  Well, it was actually my bug and none of the other chimps realized it.  So I put a fast stop to the email be saying it was my part of the system and I'd fix it Monday.

Monday morning, I did.  It took a couple hours.  Right away Wilbert asked me if I'd put the fix on [server] so he could test his work.  Well, I didn't respond right away because I'd never heard of [server].  My latest and greatest was always on [other  server].   And I knew there was some sort of demo coming up, although I didn't know the details.  I didn't want to be blamed if stuff I literally just compiled breaks [server].

But Wilbert wanted the change on [server] first and [other server] second if it was OK.  [other server] already has my very current work, but not this one last fix.

I waited.

Later yesterday, I asked Gus, what's [server]?  Wilbert wants this software on there, but I'm nervous about this demo I've heard about.

Gus says Vince is handling the demo and Gus thought [other server] was going to be used for the demo.   (which is weird because I don't consider [other server] stable, it is *very* current work). But Gus calls Vince and finds out, yes, it's [other server].  Gus doesn't know about [server].  What’s [server]?

So I wait some more.  Tuesday morning, I put the brand new configuration on [server], because the one it has is real old.  With that on there, putting my new stuff in place is just a matter of copying three files.  I sent out an email saying this and saying *exactly* what would need to be done if anyone wants the latest on there, really.  Copy three files.  Any chimp can do it.

Waited.

Wilbert again says he really wants the software on there.  

So I ask Paul (new chimp).  What is this [server]?  Should I be messing with it?  It's Paul's software that's being demo'ed in part.

Paul asks me on what machine is the demo is going to be?  

How should I know!?  So Paul sends out an email saying that he thought the demo was on [other server], why is Big Chimp installing the latest on [server]?  (notice he's missing my point about not wanting to risk the demo entirely)

Wilbert answers, somewhat tersely, that he wants to test my change on [server] first.  (I think Wilbert gets as annoyed at this stuff as I do, he's a Windows chimp but he's pretty smart)

I wait some more.
Ok, finally I put the new software on [server] and restart [container].
It doesn't start right.  Basically, our whole suite now exceeds some default JVM memory settings.  I had already made a change to that on my PC, and Paul had already made the same change on [other server] which has a version of my work that is 99.999% the same, running fine.

I try to change the config by editing the [container] file I know about, but it doesn't work.  It seems that running it as a service in Windows changes where it gets its parameters (I conclude).  I do not have the foggiest idea how this works.  I've never set that up.  I don't use Windows, and I don't run things as a service.

I send out an email.  Could someone whose done this before setup [server] and same as [other server]?  Or should I roll back to the real old software.

Crickets.
More crickets.
Most of the morning passes.

Crickets.

I start over hearing talk down the hall about how [server] isn't working.  Does anyone know why?  We may have to postpone the demo (the demo?)

More time passes.
I get an email saying the demo is postponed.  WTF?!  I thought the demo was on [other server]?

I catch the Head Chimp in the hall and say to him (he's been on all these emails) that it is embarrassing to hold up progress because no one can set up the Windows service, and I have said *exactly* what's needed, I just don't know where to put it, and is *anybody* working on this?  SOMEBODY set up [other server] right?  Just make them the same and it will work!

The Head Chimp asks me which machine the demo is on?  Don't they need [server] for their part of the system?

How should I know??  I've never even heard of [server]!  So he says he will check with Paul.  Paul made the change on [other server] when the problem came up there.

Wait.

Paul comes into my office.  What's wrong with [server]?
Make the settings the same as [other server], it needs more memory, I don't know where to set that in a Windows Service!  

I thought the demo was on [other server] he says.  Where's the demo?

HOW THE F* SHOULD I KNOW?!
What?  I'm in charge of the demo now??

He leaves.
I figure fine.  Great whatever.  I give up.  I get on [server] and start messing around.  I find another file with the JVM parameters in it.  Maybe that's it.  As I'm editing and restarting.  I get an email from Paul:

The demo is on [other server] go ahead and make [server] the same as [other server].

ARG!

I reply that AGAIN, I do not have the foggiest idea how to do that.

Right at this point he starts fighting me for the remote desktop session.  I keep it.  And wait until [container] starts.  The log looks better, but there's still an error, different error.

I close the session and send an email saying that I guessed and edited this other file and put [exact change] in there.  It seemed to help but there's still a problem.  If someone could just make [server] and same as [other server] it will work.

Wait.

Paul comes in and tells me he asked SysAdmin Chimp to give that VM more memory and it now seems to be working.  And he leaves.  I checked a couple things in my software, yes it seems to be working.

About an hour later, I get an email saying that the demo has been delayed until tomorrow.

Compiz is Killing Me

compiz is a piece of software included with the Ubuntu Linux distribution.  It's purpose has something to do with making dang sure you can't do want you want to do with the GUI.  This devious module will go to great lengths to interfere with your futile attempts to use your computer in the manner you like, at least through the Unity window manager; it's influence seems to stop at the borders of the windows manager.

The compiz program is determined.  It will stop at nothing.  Like The Terminator, it will just keep coming because...

That is what it does.

One of it's evil tricks is to saturate your CPU.  Want to send an email?  Ha!  No chance!  compiz is generating 400 million random longs first!  Take that!  70%, 80%, even 95% CPU is not enough for the mighty compiz!

That's right, just try to refresh that browser!

The root of this evil (and we speculate here) is that compiz is taking advantage of your past efforts to customize The Unity (did I mention that that was futile?) in older versions of the distribution.  This "problem" (the authors do not appear to think of it in these terms) seems to impact chimps that have had Unity installed for awhile, and have been through a few updates.

So we here at Computer Programmer Shirt recommend resetting compiz to its defaults.  It's easy, any chimp can do it.  First remove and make backup copies of your configuration files, in one swoop, with a move command.


mv ~/.compiz-1 ~/.compiz-1.broken
mv ~/.config/compiz-1 ~/.config/compiz-1.broken

The restart your computer.  Nice and Window-ish eh?  Well that's how you restart Unity.  It's the only way to be sure.  

The system will create fancy new versions of the compiz configuration.  If everything is OK, you can remove the backup copies.

Good luck, you will need it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pictures

Here we go, an overview of what I've found spending a couple day^H^H^Hhours testing and experimenting with picture managers and views for Android.

Firstly the moving parts...

1) I have quite a few albums and images stored in Google's Picasa web albums.
2) I've been posting a large number of photos, taken with an Android powered mobile device, to Google+ using, and attempting to use, the Instant Upload feature.
3) I also have a number of blogs, which also include images.  In some cases these are uploaded from inside the Blogger.com tool, and in some cases these are links to images stored in Web Albums.

And now some history and some, er, issues.

Google's Web Albums is a remarkably good on line tool for storing, sharing and organizing photos.  The Web Albums facility is closely tied to a native application, Picasa, with support for Windows and OS X.  There used to be a wine-based Linux download, but Google doesn't seem to go for Linux much so it got the ax and those programmers now all drive Street Views cars in rural Alaska.  The native application and the on line tool are both often referred to as Picasa, although they may be used independently.  Lately Google has been trying to bury Picasa Web Albums, but I digress.

When one creates a blog using Blogger.com, and uploads an image, it gets stored in a newly created, and aptly named, on line Picasa web album.  This is all well and good.  Fine.  Works great.

Then along comes Google+...

Like Blogger, posting images to Google+ lands them in a Picasa web album called "Photos from posts".  It does this regardless of where the images originate (uploads, camera, etc).  There's also a feature in the Google+ mobile application called "Instant Upload".  Instant Upload automatically uploads photos as they are created on the mobile device to a Picasa web album called "Instant Upload".

The Instant Upload feature seems to have been confusing to Google users.  For the record, the Instant Upload album is completely private.  All this feature is doing is automatically storing mobile images in the Google cloud, in personal space.  Think of it as a backup.  It's also providing a place to go for photos, that you do want to share or send, that is available to you from anyplace, not just the mobile device itself.

Aside: Instant Upload also uploads images transferred to your mobile device manually, by drag-drop to the DCIM folder, when the device is connected to a computer.

Instant Upload was extremely buggy in the beginning.  And perhaps it still is.  The term "instant" is a bit, shall we say, optimistic.  I have seen it take weeks (stop laughing, it's true).  I have also seen it "upload" images that I had deleted from the device months ago.  Weird.  Where'd they come from?

Also, the local content of the phone, and the Picasa album seem to have a way of getting out of sync.  Then you've got a real mess.  I have seen it create 2 or 3 copies of images, on my phone.  And I have seen it post incorrect photos from the Instant Upload album to Google+.  I have also seen the issues with Google+ cause pre-existing problems with the thumbnails on the device to surface.   Many users have seen "broken" image icons in the mobile gallery, or images that have icons, but do not actually exist and can not be viewed.

Just lately, since a Google+ mobile update a few days ago, as I write this, these problems seem to have been greatly reduced.  But we'll see.  After all it's only been over a year sine Google+ appeared, and sharing photos is such an extremely minor niche use case in any mobile strategy (he typed sarcastically).

Anyhow, now back to Google+ and the "Photos from posts" Picasa album.

The "Photos from posts" Picasa album is magical.  Or at least it does something that I previously did not know Picasa could do.  Inside this album are date-named sub-albums, each containing the photos included in that Google+ post, and named with the date of the post.  Sometimes these sub-albums have names of the form "September 22, 2012" and sometimes they are of the form "9/22/12" (I have no idea of the how and why of that, it's just another Google mystery).

I have several hundred of these sub-albums in my "Photos from posts".

In the Google+ online web application, one can browse and share a set of images from "Instant Upload".  There's also some primitive editing features and face recognition.  When images are shared, the images are copied to a new date-named sub-folder under "Photos from posts" in Picasa.  Images can be deleted at will from "Instant Upload" using the on line Picasa tool, or Google+, but deleting things from the "Photos from posts" album will leave broken links.  This is bad Google karma.  Broken links make Google cry.

And now the mobile tools...

Everybody wants to view and manage their on line photos, stored in Picasa Web Albums, on their mobile Android device, right?   This turns out to be, and remain even now at this late date, remarkably challenging.  Here's the options...

First, the first rule of Google's mobile Picasa is that there is no mobile Picasa from Google.  Don't talk about mobile Picasa.  There is no mobile Picasa application, from Google.

There are some pretty good third party applications with Picasa in their name that log into your Picasa Web Albums and do stuff.  So there's that.  You can also go to the Picasa web site from a mobile browser.  If you do this though, you will be presented with a mobile version of the Picasa web site Google provides.

I discarded Google mobile Picasa site straight off.  As I stated above, I have 100s of sub-albums in my Photos from posts album as a result of posting to Google+.  The mobile site is not fully aware of this sub-album feature.  It presents all these albums (all of them) in one giant flattened view with everything at the same level.  The date-named albums are all mixed in with other albums I have created in order to organize and share, and the blog albums.  There is no way to search, or change the order of this mess.  So the only way to find something is scrolling page after page, next, next, next, next...  And literally looking (with your eyes) for the album you want.

But wait!  That's not the only problem!  Inexplicably, this interface does not show some of my albums! The missing, and there are several, are visible when using the web site on a PC, but not in the mobile version.  The problem albums are some, but not all, of some of my oldest albums, and they are albums with all three permission levels (public, limited, and private).  There's something about them...  More on this later.  But for now, I'd just point out that this is a hard problem to Google for, because so many people can't get mobile tools to show their Picasa albums at all.  I am just missing some of my albums.

Next up, the Android Gallery application.  This application is also pretty easily ruled out.  First, as I said above, a lot of people have trouble with this application showing Picasa albums at all.  And when I read that the suggested solutions, to anything, include things like taking out the battery, I pretty much tune out.  That's not acceptable.

I have gotten it to "work", sort of.  And I have found after doing things like clearing it's data, messing with various files on the device, doing hard resets, goofing with the thumbnails, etc, that it can get into Picasa fine, but it seems to take awhile to start doing it.

But that's moot because it has both the same issues as the Picasa mobile web site.  It is unable to handle the Google+ sub-folders and shows everything in a flat view.  It is also missing some albums, same ones.  I will say that your odds of locating something with Gallery are slightly better though, because you can change the album sort order somewhat.

In Googling all this, a few popular 3rd party photo applications come up over and over.  I tried 3D Gallery, JustPictures!, Fish Bowl Photo, and QuickPic.

3D Gallery looks great.  It is by far the coolest and slickest of the choices.  However, I could not get it to access Picasa albums at all.  It's good for local pictures, stored on the phone, from the camera, in DCIM, and downloaded images.

QuickPic and Fish Bowl are the same story.  They're fast.  They're simple.  They're stable.  They only shows images stored on the device.

JustPictures! is a pretty good solution.  It does not show "Photos from posts" (at all) so it avoids the sub-album issue, whatever that issue is.  At it's top level, it separates local files from on line Picasa accounts too, so you can narrow things down.  It also has sufficient sort options to provide a chance of finding a photo, even when you have a lot of albums in Picasa.

JustPictures! also does not show all the Picasa albums.  This leads me to believe there is something server side causing these not to be visible.

This leaves Google+.  Yes, Google+ on mobile has a photo section that browses your albums.  This appears to be what Google actually wants us to use.  When this stuff first appeared, this part of Google+ was unusably slow (a year ago), but it's gotten much better.  And the photos section of the Google+ mobile application is the only mobile choice that handles the sub-albums well, or well enough.

The application had a big problem, until just a few days ago, in that it would paginate incorrectly and so you couldn't access more than the first few albums.  The just fixed this it looks like.

However, the Google+ mobile app still does not show all my Picasa albums.  Those same older ones are missing.

Round up...

There really is no good way to manage all your photos, including your Picasa on line web alums from a mobile Android device.  I'll likely use 3D Gallery for local files, it looks cool.  For web albums, from mobile, some combination of JustPictures! and and Google+ photos section are serviceable.

Up until a few days ago when the Google+ mobile app was updated, it was remarkable that given the importance of photos in the mobile-social arena, realistically, Google didn't even have a player on the field.  It's still surpricing that the Gallery application that comes stock it so easily dismissed from the running.  But there it is.

There remains the issue of selected albums not being accessible, except via the Picasa web site (again, and by the way, many of these are public albums.  The permission does not seem to be a factor).  While I have not done a thorough experiment, on two of these missing albums, I went in, using the Picasa site, and updated the date in the album properties.  The albums then appeared in the mobile app.  Just like that.  All I did was change the date and save.  This seems to "fix" "something" about these old albums.

Good luck.
It's a jungle out there.











Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Encryption

New topic area, Java Encryption, open for business...

There's just one entry so far, but I'm pretty sure there's more to say on the subject.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Broken Android Gallery

This is the gallery on my Android phone.

All these broken images used to be thumbnails for images that had been deleted long ago.  The thumbnails would show, but selecting an image would only show the broken image icon.

Finally, in desperation  I connected the phone to a computer and went and deleted the thumbnail files.  Now it looks like this.

The "images" can not be deleted.  The phone has also crashed and rebooted twice today while I was "viewing" these so-called "images".

I've cleared the application's data, rebooted, installed other gallery applications and done other things as well.  So far, it remains hosed.

I think Google+ did this.  I had all sort of "fun" with "instant" upload and Google+ in the early days.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ubuntu One!

Just another day with Ubuntu One...

Just awesome!

But to be fair it did today, nearly, sync a file.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Google Calendar

Just trying to look at Google Calendar, that is all...


In A Desperate Attempt to Get Windows to Boot in Less Than Three Minutes

"Uncloaked on Monday by Oak Ridge — a Tennessee lab run by the Department of Energy — the Titan supercomputer is a Cray machine made of nearly 19,000 processing units stitched together with 710 terabytes of memory."



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

XP

My XP computer has done this three times in the last two weeks.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Ubuntu Goof

The GUI you get with later editions of Ubuntu, Unity, has been the cause of no small controversy.  For one thing, it is almost completely non-configurable.

This is downright odd, but I'm actually OK with it.

Or would be.

If the software worked.

Here's what the left hand side of my Unity desktop should look like.


The "ribbon" down the side is the "launcher".  In a remarkable nod to the idea that I am after all actually trying to use Unity to actually do something with my personal computer, Unity generously allows me to add icons to this strip for applications I use frequently.  This feature may be an oversight on the developers' part.  Perhaps future versions will decide for me what applications to run, but I digress...

Every now and then, at intervals just great enough that I forget it happens, I look up at my screen and out of the blue, for no reason I can determine, I see this.


All the icons in the launcher are crammed up into the top, it appears.  It will not repaint.  The icons are gone, and unreachable, and the launcher is now useless.

The only way I have found to get the launcher back is to restart.  That's right, restart.  Check the calendar...  Yes it really is 2012, and I have to restart to get my computer usable again, running Linux!

Just...  Wow.

I have two computers with completely different hardware, both running Ubuntu and Unity, and they both do this.  And had for the last two major Ubuntu versions.

If you Google around, you'll find some proposed ways to fix this involving various unity reset commands, from the command line (if you have one out, because you can't launch a new terminal when in this state).  I have had mixed results from these commands.  The results range from A) piling all the windows together on one virtual desktop, in the corner, with no frames to move them.  To B) completely locking up the computer so as to require a hard power-off.

Of course since Unity is so "simple" and not configurable, there is no easy GUI reset command really, of the sort more "primitive" X-like windowing systems have.  No Ctrl-Alt-Backspace or anything.  No repaint.  Logging out, if you can doesn't even help.  Because, you know, why would you need all that?

I even figured out how to get Unity to not auto-hide the launcher.  I thought maybe it would work better if it wasn't repainting all the time.  Since Unity knows best what I want, this change is not simple and easy by the way.  Nor did it help at all.  And after an update, what I did reverted anyway.

Look Ubuntu...  It's 2012.  I just want a computer that can run a few simple programs and a web browser.  Has technology really not progressed enough in the last 30 years to provide this?  Maybe I should switch to Windows 8.  After all, I have not had to hard power-off a Windows box in awhile now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NULL Music

Google Music has a remarkably smart feature for automatically creating a nice playlist from a selected song.  It's a great feature, and it does an astonishingly good job at selecting music and works together.

This morning I went to use Google Music to create and "Instant Mix" from a certain song.

As sometimes happens, it gave the mysterious and creepy message "Can't create Instant List".  I did what I always do when this happens, reload the page.

Funny thing though...  Ha Ha...  The page that came up had the new instant mix on it, but it had called the Instant Mix, "NULL" in place of the song I had selected.

NULL Mix! 
Awesome!

(Is Google being ironic, or just post-modern?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nails It

"We don't care what smart people think.  There aren't that many of them." 
-- Scott Adams (via The Pointy-Haired Boss)

http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-10-21

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Citi

Thought I might pay a credit card bill at Citi Cards...
That's a quick task, right?

Funny stuff!


These guys are hilarious!

Update: I was finally able to make this payment this morning!  I'm not sure how long the facility was unavailable, but is was well over 24 hours.

And Another Thing About Images

Here at Computer Programmer Chimp, we weren't born yesterday, and neither should you.  We know full well that our reader likes to see a nice image of some or other interesting object or scene along with our posts and pages.  And why not?

This is the future!

There's a funny thing though; the HTML editors at Google Sites and at Google Blogger have very different ideas about how images from Google's Picasa Web Albums can be included in our Precious Webily Content.

Let's start with the Blogger editor.  With this editor, you click the image icon in the tool bar and, assuming you are in compose mode, a dialogue appears allowing several choices for the source of the image.  One of these is Picasa Web Albums!  Win!


Selecting the image to insert is a simple matter of picking the album, and the image.  Holy LOL Cats!  This works great!

Now let's try inserting an image with the editor provided for Google Sites.  This editor does not have an image icon in the tool bar.  Instead you'll find this functionality in the menus.  Click "Insert".

What you'll get is this menu jam packed and overflowing (hence the little arrow in the lower right) with cool stuff you can insert.

"Image" is right up front, so we'll click that.

Now here's where it gets interesting.  The naive chimp might expect to find something at least a bit similar to what we see to facilitate images in the Blogger editor.

Ha!  Ha!  No such luck!  The Google is not so easily pigeon-holed, silly chimp.

What you'll actually get is this dialogue offering only two options, uploading an image file, or entering the URL of an image.

To get an image from your Picasa Web Albums therefore, you will need to copy and paste the images URL from Picasa.

You go to Picasa, select the album, select the image, select a few options, and Picasa finally gives up the URL.

As an added bit of fun, it should be mentioned at this point that you will only see the link options in Picasa if the album is either public, or limited (public with link).  These choices are album properties that you'll need to set before doing any of this.

Whew!

So there you have it.  Two HTML editors, both from Google, both dedicated to content creation within two Google offerings, and both with very different means of incorporating images from Google's on line image management tool.  Awesome!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Things About Stuff

Editing with the editor to do some editing at www.blogger.com is a real adventure.  I could go on about this all day probably, but today we'll keep it simple and take a look at just one bit of fun; inserting an ad.

Let's start with a simple blog post.  We'll add a title, a little text, and some minor formatting...


The preview on this looks great!  This blog is going to be insanely popular, I can tell already!

Wait, I know...  I'll insert an ad at the bottom.  Why, with all the page views this will get, I can go home early!

Now, one way to do this is in blogger.com's options.  In there one can link up a Google adsense account, add ads to the blog's layout, and optionally opt for ads to appear between each post.  Oh sure, that's one way...  But suppose a chimp wants more control over ad usage and type?  For example, Google will render only three ad units per page.  So, if someone looks at the main blog page, they will only see three ad units, even though ads may be selected to appear between all posts.  You don't really get to pick which posts get the ads in this case. 

It's also nice to mix up the ad types, and placement manually.  And to not have ads in some posts.  In general, we know a thoughtful chimp is all about ad control on this here internet.

That said, there's nothing to stop you from getting some ad script from the adsense website and pasting it into your post.  First, switch the editor to HTML mode.  Here's what the post looks like.




Google's blogger loves the div tag!

But anyway, this is fine, no problem, it'll work.

Next you go get your adsense ad source, and copy and paste it, in HTML mode so you get the raw Java script.






Here's the result.


The ad is pasted at the end of the post body.  Can't you can just feel the revenue!  But wait...

Switch back to Compose mode and take a look.



What the chimp is that!?
Switch back to the HTML mode, quick!










Well, isn't that fun...  The editor has altered the script and changed "//-->" to "-->".  It took out the forward slashes and changed and greater-than sign, which we entered in HTML mode, manually, just moments before, to a gt literal.

Awesome!

Isn't it great when tools decide what you wanted to type when you espressly typed something else, in a specific mode, provided just for typing that sort of thing?

Clearly the script will not work and this sorry state, and you don't get an ad.  No ad, no early retirement.  Boooo!

The solution?  There isn't one.  The blogger editor will change that code everytime you switch from HTML mode to compose mode.  What you have to do here, is make sure you don't give it that chance.  Paste your ad code last, in HTML mode, and hit publish, from HTML mode.

And have a nice day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Instant Upload!

This morning when I looked at my computer I saw a notification from Google+ of a photo uploaded by Instant Upload. 

"That's amazing!" I thought, since I had not actually taken any photos lately.  So I clicked and took a look.

There it was, barely remembered, a photo (one) I took four months ago.  That's awesome!

Having been a Google+ user for well over a year, I can say with some certainty that Google doesn't really have the hang of the "instant" part of Instant Upload so far.  Which is strange because they don't have any trouble instant uploading earnings reports...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Latitude 500

Google Latitude is currently giving a 500 error!

Awesome!

Latitude

Once upon a time, a few days ago, I fired up Google's Latitude website to see how information was collecting lately.

Google Latitude has a fun feature where, if you enable it, it will save your location history, using information from your phone.  The web site can draw a map of this history and show some colorful graphs.  It can also share your location with others so you can tell when all your friends have a party and don't invite you!

Neat!

But on this occasion, wow was I disappointed.  There was no fiend information, and no map or charts.  It showed my current location, but it was wildly wrong.

Puzzling...

I reload.  Logged in again.  Still nothing.

Then I remembered something I had noticed before, long, log ago.  I went to my phone (a Droid 2) and started the Latitude application.  Settings...  Location settings...  There are two check boxes in that panel.  One selects "track my location", and the other selects "track using this device" (I assume some chimps have more than one).  On my phone both these boxes had helpfully unchecked themselves automatically for me.

Yes, I have seen it do that before.

I then went right back to my PC and reloaded the Latitude page.  Wham!  There is all was!  Graphs, history, cool map, and friends!  Just like that!

I don't know when those boxes uncheck themselves.  It's possibly during a Latitude update on the phone.  Google likes to keep us on our toes.

It is kinds funny that all the history information was there, just not shown, while the boxes where unchecked, for some unknown period of time, possibly quite lingering...  But Google's like that.  They don't know the meaning of "rm".

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Win!

It's great the how Windows, by default, goofs up my work by rebooting itself overnight!  Isn't it just awesome when our tools decide what we want to do?

As an added bonus, when it came back up, Chrome had gotten corrupted and forgotten it's default tabs.  Even more awesome!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Play TV

Google has announced today a new update that will allow its customers to be able to access content paid for on Google Play through Google TV devices.

http://googletv.blogspot.com/2012/10/google-play-movies-tv-shows-and-music.html

Wait...  What?
Let's see, Google Play is Google's platform for purchasing multimedia content including applications, music, movies books and more.  While Google TV is Google platform for...  Uh, enjoying multimedia content including applications, music, movies books and more..

Google TV was introduced in 2010.  Google Play, originally Android Market, was launched in 2008.   Only now did someone at Google have the idea that maybe content obtained through Google's online store should be usable on Google's flagship media platform?  It must have been an interesting meeting, when that idea came up.  I wonder what the counter arguments were?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Site to Sea

At Google, system redundancy is a priority.  So naturally Google has multiple facilities for doing almost everything.

For creating web pages, they used to offer two services, Google Webpages, and Google Sites.  Both of these offered a free way to create simple web pages, each complete with their own, two, separate, different HTML editors!  And by the way, if you count Blogger, then Google had three HTML editors.  Just awesome!

Awhile back, they discontinues the Webpages offering, and it's editor (leaving two HTML editors).  That old editor was actually a little better in that you could insert the code fragments other Google facilities helpfully offer as a way of tying up things like Google Web Master Tools, Analytics and adsense into the same Googlish bundle.

You can't quite so all that with Google Sites, so there's Googly things that you simply can't do, even with both feet, and hands up to your elbows, in the Google ecosystem (awesome!).

The other day, I foolishly went to try and simplify some pages I've made with Google Sites.  I wanted to pull a few images from Picasa Web Albums, instead of the server I had been using, and use a better template for the layout.

The truly great thing about WYSIWYG HTML editors, like Google Sites has, is that you really need to know a lot about HTML to use them.  And I mean a lot.  I don't mean that you have to know the simple handful of tags that any chimp-in-training could use to create a perfectly sensible web page.  To use these tools, you really need to know it all.  And you need to know all the options to every tag, no matter how obscure, because let me tell you, those tools will use all of them!  And they will insert every single available tag, and every option that tag has, into what you create, all with absolutely no code formatting.

In fact, as an added convenience, if you try to format the HTML yourself to give yourself some shred of a chance at reading it, the software will happily just mix it all up!  Take that self!  And it does not just run it all together either.  Oh no, this software is extremely sophisticated.  Look forward to line beaks at seemingly random, and blank lines added, in addition to the simple thrill of running things together.  The editor takes a special joy in creating non-breaking spaces.  Everyone loves a sprinkling of non-breaking spaces here and there.  There's nothing like that to give a paragraph that not-paginated-correctly look of extra white space at the end of some lines.

In addition, it appears the programmers that created it all got paid by the div tag, but I digress...

The whole point of this exercise in losing the will to live, was to simplify a few pages (in the name of Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM, what was I thinking?).

This seemed to go pretty well.  I created two templates, cutting and pasting some items for the existing content, and used some URLs from Picasa for images (oh, did I mean that the Sites editor can not grab images directly from Picasa like the Blogger HTML editor can?  I didn't?  Well, it can't).  I used my new templates as a way to have a consistent header and footer on the pages, with an ad block down the side.

"Any chimp would be proud of this!", I insanely thought to myself.  Little did I know...

Later in the day I happened to look at the page on my phone with the Dolphin browser (a great mobile browser, highly recommended for chimps of all sizes).  To my horror, I found several links not working, and a large scattering of "not found" broken image icons - all things I knew I had tested.  What the?!

Well this post is getting long so I'll just cut to what I learned.

1) The Firefox I was using with the Google Sites editor did not display broken image icons.
2) The Sites editor, somehow, created broken img tags as a result of my cutting and pasting (never did figure out how that happened).
c) Because Firefox did not display the broken img icon, it also failed to cut and paste in an expected manner.  As a result, each time I cutted and pasteded, I'd get an additional copy of the broken tag,  Awesome!  On some lines that had a gif of a little bullet at the front, I had one, two, even three broken images!  All invisible in the editor, in Firefox, but sore thumbs in Chrome!
4) Since the templates were wrong, all the pages I converted to the templates were wrong.
5) When you edit and save a Sites page, it does not refresh and show your edits the first time you go back to it from another page - you have to expressly refresh it.  As a result, when I my edits created errors, I did not see those errors when I went back though to test everything.  I had even followed links that ere actually invalid!

Awesome!

(Next time, how much fun it is to load images into Picasa Web Albums!  Maybe.  Or something else...)



Monday, October 1, 2012

Field Trip

Google...  A chimp could get lost in that field.

This weekend I installed Google's new Android app, Field Trip.  Field Trip is a new application from Google that has just been, very quietly, released.  I didn't go back and look, but I'm pretty sure there was nothing in the Google blogs about the app.  I first took note of it from a Wired review, here.

Field Trip appears to be (another) location aware informational application for mobile devices.  It is tied into information sources on restaurants, tourist attractions, museums and the like.  The only thing unique in this that I can see, is that Field Trip is designed to pop up notifications when a user is physically near these sites.  It is in that sense like a proactive search, for people interested in things that are near by as they explore a presumably unknown city.

The first I noticed about Field Trip is that the user interface is completely unlike anything I have ever seen from Google.  And it is quite attractive too.  Obviously they just bought this app.

The second thing I noticed in setting the app up is that it is quite limited in information sources.  It has a remarkably small handful of sources feeding it, such as Zagat.  Some of these sources are specific to a certain city, and so are of no use 99.9% of the time.

Not enough information is an unusual flaw in a Google application.

The third thing I noticed was that Field Trip didn't do anything.  At least it didn't do anything at first.  After been on my phone for a hour or two, it popped up with a short review of a Mexican restaurant nearby.

Over the following weekend I visited a touristy little town an hour or two away.  The town has a trendy  old-town shopping area featuring many restaurants, galleries, shops and historic buildings.  There were also multiple special weekend events going on in the downtown area.

I set Field Trip on it's "tell me everything" mode.  Over the course of the weekend, as I walked from one end of town to the other, it came up with...  Nothing.

I am not surprised by this, given it's limited data sources.  It's not even tied into normal Google information, or reviews.

Meanwhile...  I read this:

Places Directory was an Android app that helped people find nearby places of interest. We've removed the app from Google Play and are taking down the Places Directory site because users can find everything in Google Maps for Mobile, which offers a much better user experience.

Google is pulling the plug on Places.

"Places" started out as "Local" and was supposed to be, thought to be, said to be, smelled like it would be, tied into Google's shopper/check-in/discount/location/social strategy.  But they never did much with it.  Now that is canceled, but they added this Field Trip, which doesn't have anything to do with shopping or check-ins or social, and isn't tied to Google's reviews or any of the things Google Places acted like it was all about.  

What are we to make of this?  Is Google interested in a local business strategy?

Two things come to my mind, one is that maybe they're right and the sun is setting on all that Yelp, Foursquare, Groupon stuff.  

On the other hand maybe the plan is to pass all that through into Google+, which does have some elements of this, but not all.

And why did Google buy Zagat if they don't have a Places?

A year or two ago, Google did a major campaign with small businesses built around Google Places.  Now it's dropped?   Why was all this never tied into Google Shopper?  It is said that Google wanted to buy Groupon for a serious amount of money, now they think that type of business is dead?


In typical Google fashion, none of this makes any sense.  Maybe it's all part of a Master Plan and a whole lot of new Google+ features are about to roll out.

Or maybe Google's strategies are determined by observing a pack of distracted squirrels dodging a self-driving car.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Installing Ubutu One on Windows XP

This is what happens when I try to install Ubuntu One on Windows XP.


Excellent!

I'm doing this, or trying to because I got tired of this software over-writing newer files with older files from the one Windows laptop I use.  I had a version 2 something, and they're at version 3 something.  So I uninstalled it and downloaded it again.  Guess that doesn't work eh?

One would think that "uninstall" would mean, oh I don't know...  Uninstall?  I suppose I'm just old fashioned.  

Poking around I found that Ubuntu One still had a number of processing running, and quite a lot large number of files and directories.  Killing it all manually, and erasing everything I could find, allowed the installer to run, and the software started normally.

Too normally...

Somehow it still knew my log in.  It connected right up and went straight into a sync session.  I wonder what it will overwrite?  It's like a game!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Peeve: Cell Phones

Let's talk right.

Although not a commercial term, like Band-Aid, or Kleenex, "cell phone" has morphed into a generic term for all forms of mobile, personal, communications devices.

This is inaccurate.
So step right up chimps and get the scoop.

Actual cell phones, using analogue cellular network technology, AMPS (look it up), appeared in the late 1970s.  These are simple analogue devices using basic radio technology.  This system did little more than give walkie-talkies a phone number, and a way to work through "cells" of radio transceiver coverage, so they could move around.

The digital mobile systems we enjoy today have their roots in the late 1990s, but have been through several technical generations.  In general, they use lower power, but more numerous transceivers, and digital switching, rather than the cell technology.  These digital systems were originally referred to as PCS (look it up).

The last cellular system in North America went dark in 2008.  Seriously.

Google+ Tips

1) At the top of posts there is a date/time stamp and the word "Limited" or "Public". Click on "Limited" to see who a post has been shared with, and keep this in mind when commenting or re-sharing. The date/time is a perma-link to the post.

2) Google circles are used for two purposes; reading an posting. You can create circles to post items to specific groups, and other circles to control the streams you view.  You can put sources in multiple circles.  If someone adds you to a circle, and posts to that circle, you will not see their content unless you have also added them to a circle of your own, and you read that circle.  That is to say, you will only see item from the circle you select. 

You can not control what circles other people create and use, nor does this matter. You get total control over your own circles.  You can add a person, or not.  

A person that adds you will only see items you post to "Public", unless you add that person to a circle of your own and post to that circle.  Circle adds are not reciprocal.  If a person you do not know, and do not wish to follow, adds you to a circle, you have no reason to add them back.  If you do not add them to your our circles, they will only see your Public posts, and you will see nothing of theirs.

For some reason, and I am blaming Facebook, their is an astonishing about of confusion about circles.  But it really is not that complicated.

3) You can mention someone in a post by typing '+' followed by their name. A pop-up offers search results. There are a few other very basic editor tricks that do things like bold and strikeout.  The person will receive a notification of the mention.

4) Google+ tends to send a lot of email notification. You can turn these off under "setting" (the gear in the upper right corner). 

5) When typing a post, there is a drop down at the bottom that allows a post to be "locked" (no re-sharing), and allows comments to be disabled.

6) You can post something to an email address, any email address, and the recipient will receive the content as an email.  The address does not have to be a gmail address.  The recipient does not have to log into a Google account to see the post you share with them.

7) Google+ has been billed as an alternative to Facebook. This grossly misses the point. Google+ is not Facebook, Google+ is an identity management system that has it's fingers in all Google applications. Google+ is doing for email addresses what the contact menus on mobile phones have done to phone numbers. If you have a personal gmail account, but have not previously used Google+, you should know that Google is on a timeline to convert all Google accounts to profiles. If you do not have a personal identity on Google+, you can head to http://plus.google.com to create one if you like.

The Tale of The Chimps and The Tape Dummies

Tape dummies?

Yes, tape, dummies...

Monday, September 24, 2012

US Bank's Pay-a-Person, Follow-Up

Here is the not at all helpful response I received from notifying US Bank of the sad tail described here.   They have completely missed the fact that their business partner's website is non-function in at least one popular web browser, that US Bank's website issued a beta software worthy server-side error, probably forwarded from ZashPay, and also that the transaction itself is in limbo, so far.
 
From: usbank@usbank.com 
To: Me 
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 15:29:12 -0700 
Subject: usbank:dm: Chimp 

Dear You,

Thank you for allowing us to assist you through U.S. Bank's email services.

I am sorry to hear of the problems experienced by this issue.  Please have the recipient check their browser settings below to see if this will clear up the problem for them:

*  Clear Cookies/Temporary Internet Files by selecting the wrench icon located in the top right hand corner of the browser window.
*  Select Tools followed by Clear Browsing Data.
*  Make sure the options displayed below are checked and click Clear browsing data:
        Clear browsing history
        Clear download history
        Empty the cache
        Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data

*  Select the wrench icon located in the upper right hand corner of the browser.
*  Select Tools followed by Options.
*  On the left hand side of the window, select Under the Hood.
*  Click Content Settings.
*  Ensure that the settings allow Cookies, Images and JavaScript.

If they need immediate assistance with accessing Zashpay's services, they can also contact Zashpay's Customer Service at 877-898-5343.  They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We appreciate your business.  Thank you for choosing U.S. Bank.

Sincerely,

David Myers
Email Operations
U.S. Bank 24-Hour Banking and Financial  Sales


Update: The next morning the mystery transaction had been applied to my checking account.  This means one of two things.

1)The money was sent to an email address other that my address of record with US Bank (both are correct, but the payer used an address not known to US Bank).  But I got the money by entering the address the sender had used in to US Bank's site.  So, in order to capture a payment, you just need the transaction number. The email address does not have to match.  That's not much security given that the email address and transaction number are sent in a plain text email.  

2) Either that or someone manually fixed this specific transaction.  

Either way, I don't think this service is fully cooked, and the sloppy website at ZashPay does not fill one with confidence.