My good deed for the day

I've done my good deed for the day. Emailed several Android app developers pointing out that they do not need to keep asking for Google credentials when Android already has a system for sharing accounts with apps. Also contacted the DropBox folks pointing out they should be a provider too so that apps do not need to ask for their credentials. See my post of December 5th for what life is like without infrastructure like this. (On the desktop it looks like Gnome 3 is adding something similar - yay!)

Buying eBooks

I'd love to buy some eBooks. Authors write stuff of interest, and I'd like to pay them for their work.

The sellers do two things that make this virtually impossible. It is hard to find out if they charge California sales tax. I only buy from places that do so that I don't have to deal with use taxes on my tax return.

The other is determining if the books are DRM free. By that I mean can I read it on any device I own, now or in the future. (Note how regular books trivially fit that criteria.) Obviously the ones requiring dedicated devices or software can be immediately ruled out (Amazon, Google, Nook). But the rest of the sites really try to avoid telling you that there are very few devices you'll be able to read the book on.

  • Search
  • Download
  • Put on any device
  • Read
Good guys:
  • Search
  • Navigate lots of different sites trying to work out which one to "buy" from
  • Create yet another account with yet another username and password
  • Put book in basket
  • Enter credit card details
  • Some complicated download mechanism
  • Make lots of backups since you probably won't be able to download again
  • Put it on some subset of devices
  • Install some random crappy eBook reader
  • Read.

And if you want to read again in the future, hope you still have devices that work or you'll have to repeat all this. It really is renting for an undetermined time period, not buying but at buying prices.

What I and everyone else wants:
  • Search
  • Pay
  • Download
  • Read (now and in the future)

It is a strange business model to treat your paying customers like crap and to make their experience with your products as tedious and arbitrary as possible. Yet industry after industry keeps trying to do this and they keep getting the same result. (Definition of insanity.) Hopefully Scott Adams will come up with a new word to describe this just like when he coined "confusopoly".


To convert a CD to digital media, you use a program named iTunes. To organise your music you use a program named iTunes. To play your music you use a program named iTunes. To copy music to your iOS device you use a program named iTunes. No matter how hard you try, the app named iTunes on your iOS device will not acknowledge the existence of your music nor let you play it.

Opinionated tech talk that has it all

Some history of Solaris (not SunOS), how people not organisations are responsible for innovation, open sourcing and how licenses plus copyright assignment matter, Oracle and lawnmowers, where Oracle's Solaris is heading and where everyone else's Solaris is going. What makes for healthy open source and happy engineers.

iOS new user experience

I recently acquired an iOS device making my exposure in the last year to Android, Blackberry and iOS. There used to be an old joke screenshot going around saying "Windows has detected your mouse moved. You must reboot for this change to take effect." The contemporary equivalent seems to be "Apple has detected you want to do anything - you must re-enter your password and possibly your username to proceed."

I kept count of how many times I had to enter my credentials from getting the device, doing an iOS 5 upgrade and putting some Google apps on the device. In the end I had to enter my apple id 7 times across iTunes and the device, and my Google one 12 times. Why the heck does iTunes want to re-enter my id in multiple different places? Why on earth do I have to enter my apple id multiple times in different Apple provided programs on the device? The Google issue seems to be because they have hybrid native apps with web based components with no sharing so you keep entering the details all over the place.

I want to enter my credentials zero times. Amazon figured that out with their Kindles shipping the devices pre-authenticated. Android makes you enter your id only once and then provides platform infrastructure for it to be shared across participating apps, although not all third party ones do.

As someone following best practise (long passwords with a variety of content), having to enter them is extremely painful on devices due to keyboard modes for numbers, punctuation and capitalization, and masking of what you have already typed etc.

One Apple fan boy I talked to seemed to think this was perfectly reasonable behaviour! I can only conclude the Apple faithful have short passwords they are happy to type over and over and over again.

One "attention to detail" thing highly amused me. The icon for the weather app shows a numeric temperature. If you change your settings between C and F then the icon changes, but not immediately leaving a nonsensical number visible for quite a while. But most absurdly, why not just make the number be the current temperature rather than something that seems credible but is wrong? Or leave it out completely.

There are also massive inconsistencies between what settings live within an app versus selecting the same app from the Settings app. It almost seems random which place you have to look in.

Rant: Samsung need new shoes

Due to an over-abundance of frequent flyer miles I was able to get a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It refuses to tell you if there are any system updates unless you create yet another account with yet another password! You are not allowed to use "samsung" anywhere in the email address. So is banned, as is, and of course a combination of samsung and several expletives.

It takes quite a while to charge the device. This is significant because there will be a many hour delay from when you plug it into the charger to when it is fully charged. My phone has a small led that changes from orange to green when charged. The Galaxy Tab turns on the screen, plays a sound and displays a notification telling you to unplug the charger. Hope you weren't sleeping or otherwise engaged. You can find numerous pleas for how to stop this online.

I had a support question (their case physically fitting in their dock) and so clicked on support from the product page. Which then made me select my product again, yet the product didn't occur in any category. (Hello, I was on the page in the first place - figure it out.) I got a well written email response that correctly restated my question, and then proceeded to answer a completely different question. You cannot respond to the message via email or pointy clicky on the website. They do let you submit a new question completely from scratch using a URL they tell you not to click on but retype into the address bar. And yes it is completely from scratch - you have to reselect a product that doesn't exist in any categories on their support form.

Samsung make a multimedia dock. However this is a rather unique definition of "multi". It only has audio out. To get video you have to buy an additional dongle. Heck to get USB you also have to buy another dongle so they may as well call it a multimedia USB dock. The dock is ludicrously expensive considering it is just some molded plastic and a pass through for their port connector. What they should have done is have the audio out, HDMI, USB and sdcard all builtin to the dock. That would be compelling.

There is an adage about walking a mile in someone else's shoes. May I suggest Samsung start by walking even a few centimetres in their customers' shoes?

Monoprice don't want your money


The $300 Million Button The $300 Million Button. By Jared M. Spool. Originally published: Jan 14, 2009. [While Luke Wroblewski was writing his well-received book, Web Form Design: ... (more)

I wanted a cable and monoprice seemed a good choice. Yet they seem to be afflicted by the same issues many sites are - you are not allowed to proceed unless you create yet another account with yet another set of user details and password (and yet another privacy policy, arbitrary restrictions on email addresses and passwords etc). It is more important to them than taking your money. I've also encountered this kind of thinking with some Android apps - you cannot get a feel for what they actually do until you create yet another account. This is a monumentally stupid thing to do and easy to solve technically. The following article shows the monetary difference it makes plus some stats about just how useless these accounts are to users in the first place.