Time to ditch Gmail (in a browser window)

What do you like about the new version?

It makes me want to buy an email client, which is probably good for me in the long run, as it will insulate me from unnecessary (web) application UX changes.

The New Look Gmail has also convinced me that using cloud based services is not for me. There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I can be assured of a consistent user interface in the services I might come to depend on.

What, if anything, would you change about the new version?

Please, please, please give users the option to stay with the “old” look, permanently.

Please take seriously the platitude “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.

Caveat – I understand that there are a set of problems that Google has been trying to solve with the new look.

However, I have not suffered from any of those problems.

Furthermore, Google’s attempts to address these issues has lead to a considerably worse User Experience than I have come to expect from Gmail.

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Who gets what?

After a raft of injunctions against Samsung, in a dispute over patents and the ‘look and feel’ of the new Galaxy tablet, Apple have now decided to start threatening retailers in Europe.

You have to wonder why Apple appear to be so scared of the new Samsung tablet. According to reviews the Galaxy is good but no class beater. The legal action is even stranger given that Samsung supplies important electronic components for Apple’s iPad. So why all the lawsuits and where is it going to stop? Is Apple’s next move going to be to demand that Samsung hand over details of individual Galaxy Tab customers so they can go after them? That seems to me to be an obvious next step, given Apple’s behaviour so far.

I decided a while ago, as Apple became more and more litigious, that I would never buy another Apple product. However, this does not mean that Apple will never get another penny from me in the future. Apple, like other big players in the IT market, have a huge portfolio of patents. These relate to all aspects of computing and especially to mobile devices.

Chances are that any mobile/internet/wireless device I might want to buy will have an Apple/Microsoft/Google/whoever tax built in. Unlike the taxes that our governments levy, it is well nigh impossible to know who is getting the money and equally importantly, how much each party gets.

Until consumer rights are improved to give us an irrevocable right to such information, (from the purchase price down to how much Mrs Chang gets for assembling each iPad) the only way to be sure you are not contributing to Mr Jobs’ war chest is to just stop buying consumer electronics.

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Time to ditch Firefox

After a raft of pointless UI changes and a move to a senselessly rapid development cycle, the Mozilla developers have decided in their wisdom to make it harder to find the version number in Firefox. Way to go guys, that will solve so many problems in one go.

The rot at Mozilla Central started when Mozilla released the alpha quality Thunderbird 3. It auto updated itself without first directing users to the “What’s new page” so that we could check if we really wanted to update. TB3 was buggy and slow, introduced UI changes that many didn’t like/want and broke the Lightning calendar plugin. Even worse, the Mozilla developers insisted that because we liked tabs in Firefox we’d love them in TB3. I ditched Thunderbird at that point.

It was only a matter of time before Mozilla started messing around with Firefox.

It is a remarkably refreshing revelation to find out that this style of arrogance towards your customers, typified in the past by Microsoft, has nothing to do with your software being open or closed source. It has to do with the fact that organisations forget that their user base, their market, is built on mutual respect and not on an immutuable right to exist.

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Fr*gging auto updaters

Opera have just joined the ranks of “companies unable to write auto update software”. My working install of Opera, running on a Macbook with Tiger auto updated itself yesterday. Of course, the Opera auto updater, like the Skype for Mac auto updater fails to check the OS version used before it installs the new version.

Yes, you guessed it, the version of Opera that the Opera auto updater installed was not compatible with Tiger.

So it was back off to the Opera website, where I tried to find the last good version of Opera. I thought I had been using 10.63 but once re-installed it refused to fetch webpages as did 10.62. Eventually I discovered that the last version of Opera for Tiger was 11.11 and re-installed that. Voila! My bookmarks and Speed Dial were back as they were.

So this week’s brickbat goes to Opera. It is a shame as I thought Opera were better than the rest. Nothing like a cock-up to bring you face to face with reality.

Suffice it to say that auto updating is now turned off in my copy of Opera.

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“So that’s why the Wifi has stopped working”

Here is a post for those of you out there involved in designing home routers. In particular those of you involved in the important design details of the positioning of buttons. IF you are going to put a button on the box, to toggle the Wifi on and off, put it somewhere where people can’t accidently press the button.

Here is a good example of where NOT to put such a button. This one (round button, bottom left of the picture) can be actuated accidently by placing an EeePC on top of the router. It took me a while to figure that one out. This process of discovery was not helped by the fact that the Wifi on/of indicator LED was very dim.

badly positioned button on a ZyWEL router

Another half hour of life wasted by one small, poorly thought out design detail.

Oh, for the days of mechanical toggle switches on consumer products, that show clearly, (by dint of their orientation), which state they are in.

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Nokia C3-00 and watching videos

I bought a Nokia C3-00 a while back, simlock free of course. I never got on with texting using T9 and a standard phone keyboard so if I were to buy a phone it would have to have a QWERTY keyboard. The C3-00 came along and I discovered that in addition to a QWERTY keyboard the also had Wifi built. This which means I could use my phone at home to browse the internet without using costly MBs on my data plan. All in all, I’ve been very pleased with my purchase. You can’t really compare it with a smartphone, as it only single tasks (well the FM radio aside). What it is, is a cheap candy-bar phone on steroids. Good keyboard, nice clear screen and good battery life.

Of course, there must be a downside. Well, one main grump. The C3-00 is supposed to be able to play streaming video. I tried it on YouTube and of course it just didn’t work. I searched the internet and found plenty of other people on the Nokia forums with the same problem. Basically the combination of Opera Mini and the built in Nokia media player won’t allow you to view video streams. The solution for me, and many others was to download and install the Bolt browser, fiddle with the configuration and hey presto, I can now watch videos.

There is a question that has to be asked. Given that so many people have the same problem, wouldn’t it be a better idea to fix the problem at source? How much would it cost, bearing in mind the number of C3-00s sold, to get a developer to track down the problem and fix it? Then roll it out in the next firmware release.

It would save all us Nokia C3-00 users having to trawl the internet for a solution that involves adding yet more software to our phones.

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Can a socialist be a technophile?

The thought just popped into my head after writing the previous two posts.

Given that most people confuse new ways to sell you things with new technology, can a socialist join in with the capitalistic, pseudo-monopolies of the current internet age?

An anti-capitalist protester with an iPhone? An Android-bearing card carrying communist?

Would it not be better to embrace the new, self-empowering world community of open source technologies and eschew the capitalists attempts to enslave us again?

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Oh you technophobe!

I’m a technophobe? I don’t think so. If I’m a ‘phobe’ of some sort then ‘commercephobe’ would be a better term. People confuse a phobia of restricted commercial practices with luddite-ism.

Ads everywhere, mobile devices tethered to the company that sold them to consume products sold by the same company.

That, is essentially what I am against.

After all, you wouldn’t think of buying a car from Shell, locked into a contract with Shell for fuel, locked into buying your car accessories from the ‘ShellStoreTM‘, with ads, sponsored by Shell, flashing across your speedometer as you drove, would you now?

If you next car was a BP car, you’d discover that none of the cool Shell accessories you’d installed on your Shell car would work on your BP car.

Yet people accept such things when it comes to mobile devices, like phones, e-book readers and tablets. Car manufacturers must look in envy at Apple, Google et al and wonder how they get away with it.

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The internet is dead, long live the smartphone app.

Now in this stage of the internet we are experiencing the internet equivalent of the land enclosures acts.

Everyone trying to wall off a bit of common, open internet space and push internet serfdom on the rest of us.

The internet is dead, long live the smartphone app.

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Fantastic Fantastico.

When I installed my first WordPress blog on this site, I used the Fantastico program that came with Cpanel. This seemed to go fine until I tried moving the mm blog from mistymornings.net/blogs to mistymornings.net/blogs/mm.

The move itself went fine, although editing permalinks in the database was a little tedious. The fun started once I tried to get Fantastico to remember the new path of the old install. No matter what I tried Fantastico refused to accept the new path.

A good hour later I discovered a seemingly arbitrary limitation of Fantastico: it can only install WordPress in the root directory, or one folder below root*.

The decision to stop using Fantastico to install WordPress followed immediately after discovering this fact and the ‘manual’ install of this blog, the second on mistymornings.net went very smoothly.

So, the first big thumbs down from the GOM blog goes to Fantastico for wasting more than sixty minutes of my time, because of an arbitrary design decision.

* I didn’t bother to check if this limit in Fantastico affects other program installs besides WordPress.

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