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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".

Category: gplus – Tags: rant

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.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant

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?

Category: gplus – Tags: samsung, rant

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.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant, registration



Countries not using the metric system: Liberia, Burma and the USA. If there is a complicated way of doing things then the USA does it that way!

Category: gplus – Tags: metric, rant

In the doghouse: Kineto Wireless

In the doghouse: Kineto Wireless for excessive peeing in the pool

Like many computer systems, Android applications can log information as they run. In Android's case there is a single shared log across all applications with each entry having a program/library supplied tag, a level (debug, warning, info, error etc) and the message itself. A developer can see the log by running adb logcat when you have the ADK installed - regular users will never see the log.

The folks at Kineto thought it would be wise to log signal strength information at error level every second or two, taking several messages to do so each time. You also get messages from their other components with a similar profligacy. Even if you disable their software there is still a fair amount of logging happening. (Just how much battery is wasted by all this?) And you can't uninstall it unless your phone is rooted.

This makes developing on a phone with their software very annoying since their messages drown out messages from your own code and other components you talk to. It also illustrates that their own developers don't look at how much stuff they are spewing since they would surely note it as excessive.

I did contact support who didn't answer. They did a release since then and if anything it got worse.

If you are a developer, this is one of those attention to detail things. Learn from their fail.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant, android

Ubuntu Oneiric

I've been using Ubuntu Oneiric for 48 hours now. It will be released in a few days time so I expect my experience to be representative. Verdict: Avoid for as long as possible.

I encountered a heck of a lot of bugs mostly in the shape of programs crashing. It was a bug in natty that pushed me into upgrading early and fortunately that is fixed, but oneiric comes with a lot of different new ones. Yes I reported almost all of them, with about half being known issues affecting others, some for many months. (Do any bugs ever get fixed in Ubuntu?)

There is now a sea change going through the industry for the presentation and interaction of the "user experience". Never before have we had so many different form factors from tiny little phone screens all the way through large multi-monitor setups, using one or more fingers, tablets, mice etc. Microsoft, Apple, Gnome and Canonical are all trying to figure out how to address that. You the unlucky user are the one being experimented on.

If you upgrade to oneiric then you have no choice but to be part of these experiments as the prior desktop environment is not available. I kept cycling through Unity, Gnome Shell and the Gnome Panel fallback trying to find one that works for me. (Yes I know about KDE and XFCE, no I have no intention of using them.)

Gnome Panel has far too many problems. Huge titlebars, clocks cunningly using a dark grey font on a black background so you can't read them and many other issues.

I really don't like Unity. It comes bundled with the menubar at the top of one of your screens (all justified by Fitts' Law) which is unusable if you use focus follows mouse. Lots of niggly other annoyances.

So I am resigned to using Gnome Shell as the least worst. I really wish Canonical had put their effort into it instead of their childish behaviour and NIH attitudes.

Fortunately there are various extensions you can get that make it more usable. Sadly most haven't been adapted to Gnome 3.2 yet. But I've learned that I really need a taskbar because it uses text to distinguish programs instead of little thumbnail windows or icons that all look the same.

No matter which of these environments you choose you lose the applets you used to rely on. I used to have system monitors, cpu frequency scaling, disk mounters, quick launchers, battery time remaining and numerous other frequently used tools across the top bar of my screen. Now you pretty much have nothing. The vendor experiments meant that the plumbing underneath had to be changed significantly hence all those things that used to work no longer being present.

Now I know how fruit flies feel.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant, ubuntu

Clue sticks

There are many programmers who really need to be beaten with a clue stick. Error messages are not okay. Sure in the dark ages we had trivial amounts of memory, cpu and disk and every byte mattered. What distinguished the good programmers from the bad was how efficient they were.

But now we have effectively unlimited memory, cpu and disk. Our units of measurement are in the billions. It is also virtually certain that the programmer who writes the code to generate a message knows more about the situation than the user who is going to be receiving the message. So why throw your hands up with some terse mumbo jumbo instead of doing something about it? Feel free to use those billions of units of memory, cpu and disk that are mostly unused at any moment. Good programmers now are ones whose code meets the users' goals. (Hint: approximately zero users have a goal of having to copy a message into Google and then wading through pages of results until an obscure solution appears to work.)

Here is a case study on trying to install a package:

(Reading database ... 90%dpkg: unrecoverable fatal error, aborting:
files list file for package `libc6' contains empty filename
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (2)
A package failed to install.  Trying to recover:

How many users of dpkg went out and created a package with an empty filename? Zero is a good answer. Anyone getting this message is not the cause of the problem so why are they being told. How about ignoring the empty filename? Or how about automatically running a tool that rebuilds whatever database it is, omitting the empty filename that is such a source of grief to the dpkg programmer? Heck there are many good solutions, but none of them involve what happened there.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant

Rotating images


Bug 3545 – Easier Cropping and rotating of images (more)

For some truly bizarre reason you cannot rotate images within {Libre,Open}Office Writer. You can solarize, age them, make them charcoal sketches but not rotate! The relevant ticket will be celebrating its tenth birthday soon.

Category: gplus – Tags: rant

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