Not All Cellphone Services Are Crap (Surprisingly)

Project Fi monthly statement
From my Project Fi monthly statement.

Brand loyalty to a cell phone company is probably stupid, but I do kinda endorse Google Fi–Google’s mobile service. It charges a flat $10 per gigabyte of data and, if you don’t use all you’ve allotted for a particular month, you get a credit for the next month.

It’s not the cheapest plan I’ve had (on a per-gig basis), but it’s the most transparent. And its data plan works the same abroad as it does in the US.

The Google Fi’s biggest drawback is that it only works with a limited number of phones (sorry, no Apple devices).

 

iTunes: Still MORE Crap

As I posted on February 7, 2014, iTunes continues to earn its reputation as the crappiest software on the face of the earth.

The error message I got at boot-up refused to go away even when I uninstalled and re-installed iTunes. Twice. So I had to continue wasting my time trying to get rid of this piece of crap. I decided that I needed to rid my Windows 7 office machine of all Apple software and I found this helpful post:

Troubleshooting issues with iTunes for Windows updates

I knew that Apple had seriously crapped up my system when I reluctantly installed the detestable iTunes and the once-useful-but-not-really-any-more QuickTime, but I didn’t realize the extent of its craposity until I read that to get rid of Apple crapware I had to:

“Remove all of these items in the following order:

  • iTunes
  • Apple Software Update
  • Apple Mobile Device Support (see note 1 below)
  • iCloud (if present)
  • MobileMe (if present) (see note 2 below)
  • Bonjour
  • Apple Application Support”
Getting rid of Apple Mobile Device Support is particularly difficult. I could not get remove it through Control Panel and, so far, I haven’t thought it worth the trouble to try all the following trouble-shooting, as described by the above article:

Some users have found that Apple Mobile Device Support does not want to uninstall. Running a repair session from add/remove programs or the programs and features control panel, then trying to uninstall again may work around this issue. Some users have successfully completed the reinstallation of iTunes without removing this component. Alternatively the Microsoft Program Install and Uninstall Utility (MS Installer “Fixit”) may help. Third-party AirPrint support services may also prevent Bonjour from being removed. If so these should be uninstalled first. It may also help to temporarily disable anti-virus software and/or the Windows User Account Control feature (Turn UAC on/off) while repairing software. See also HT3960: iTunes for Windows: Background processes installed on Windows XP, Vista, and 7 for a list of processes that might need to be halted.

All this? Just to remove an app?

At this point, I’ve gotten all the Apple crapware off my computer, with the exception of the pesky Apple Mobile Device Support. My plan is to avoid re-installing any of it as long as I can. Since I don’t sync an iPad/iPod to this machine, which resides in my office, I can’t think of a reason to have iTunes on it. And I can’t remember the last time I used QuickTime to play a movie. For video playback, there’s always the far superior VLC Media Player.

Can I live a blissfully Apple-free existence on this computer? Time will tell.

 

iTunes: The Crap Just Keeps A-comin’!

Oh, iTunes! Your crappiness knows no bounds!

First, a recent attempt to update you failed. Now, EVERY time I boot my computer I get this error message about APSDaemon failing. A quick Googling reveals that MANY folks are afflicted with this error.

Image missing due to crappy behavior by Blogger, which deleted dozens of my images.

Do I bother trying to troubleshoot this, or do I just uninstall iTunes on this computer–on which I seldom use iTunes anyway because my iPad and iPod are synced to another computer and iTunes does not like us to share accounts among computers.

If computer software could be a dickhead, iTunes would be a dickhead.

Crappy iPad In-App Purchases: Frisbee® Forever Scam

First, the non-crappy part of this incident:

Apple did the right and reasonable thing and reimbursed me for a $99 scam that the iPad game Frisbee® Forever ran on my 7-year-old son.

Now, the crappy part of this scam.

A Danish company called Kiloo markets an iPad game titled Frisbee® Forever. It’s distributed for “free,” but they entrap you with in-app purchases of “star coins.” The screen where you buy these coins is very misleading, with two of the options labeled “100% FREE” and “150% FREE.”

(Image missing because of some crap Blogger pulled–deleting dozens of Crappy Software images when this blog was hosted there.)

My 7-year-old son was playing the game and he unwittingly made a purchase for $99.99! He does not know the password to my Apple account and I did not authorize this purchase. I suspect the purchase was approved because my password had been cached by my iPad and thus the purchase went right through.

I didn’t know anything about it until I glanced at an emailed invoice from Apple and I had the sticker shock of seeing this $99.99 charge! What the hell? The highest price I’d seen on an iPad game was mebbe $10. This $100 (over $100, if you count tax) charge seems waaaaaaay out of line.

The happy ending, as I noted at the start of this post, is that I contacted Apple through their email support system and they reasonably replied:

I understand that the purchase of “275.000 Star Coins” was unintentional. In five to seven business days, a credit of $108.99, plus any applicable taxes, should be posted to the credit card that appears on the receipt for that purchase. Please note that this is a one-time exception, as the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions state that all sales are final.

You can be sure I have now locked down in-app purchases so that we will not have a repeat of this situation. But I do think Apple shares some of the blame with Kiloo. In-app purchases are a relatively recent addition to iTunes and I think their implementation is crappy.

Here are two suggestion I sent to Apple that would make it less crappy:

  1. I would recommend that in-app purchase NOT be enabled by default. If the user had to specifically opt-in to in-app purchases, many of these mistakes could be avoided.
  2. If, as I’ve read, it’s true that the iPad caches one’s password for 15 minutes or more, I recommend the user be allowed to configure any password caching–perhaps turning it off entirely.
And to Kiloo, I say, Quit entrapping children with crappy, misleading in-app purchases!
Update, 6/6/2011:

A couple of friends asked about how to request that Apple review an in-app purchase. I put together a little screencast to show how, but Blogger deleted it.

As I said above, Apple has been good about canceling improper charges. The speed with which they do so leads me to think that they get a lot of such complaints. So, I must ask again: Why do they enable in-app purchases by default?

Apple: Same Old iTunes-Update Crap

I thought Apple had stopped pulling this crap when they inveigle you into updating iTunes (an, inevitably, piling on more DRM crap), but no. When I went to update iTunes/QuickTime two days ago, Apple Software Update defaulted to installing Apple software that I do not want: Safari and MobileMe Control Panel (see illustration).

Yes, if I had blithely clicked the install button without checking what crap Apple had bundled with iTunes, I would have had my computer infected with Safari and MobileMe.

‘Course, iTunes is crap to begin with, but I’ll save that rank for another time.

(Image missing due to crappy behavior by Blogger, which deleted dozens of my images when Crappy Software was hosted there.)

Not Quite Crappy, But Still Confusing

I just bought an Apple Time Capsule this week (and, boy, did Apple ship it fast! Received it three days after I ordered it!). I bought it mostly for its ability to automate back-ups to its own hard drive, but also thought it was cool that it is a router containing the next gen of wifi (“N”).

I ran into a confusing bit as I tried to set up its DHCP, however, and thought I’d include the solution here in case there are others in a similar situation. My problem is that my two printers, which happily hung on my previous network (a combination of wifi and wired connection), were nowhere to be found on the new, Time Capsule-based network.

The solution lay in the DHCP range, or, as it puts it in Airport Utility:

DHCP Beginning Address
DHCP Ending Address

For some reason I haven’t been able to figure out, Apple has the beginning address default to 10.0.1.2 and the ending address defaults to 10.0.1.200. What this means is that all IP addresses on this internal network fall in that range: 10.0.1.2 to 10.0.1.200.

My printers, however, are at static IP addresses of 192.168.0.201 and 192.168.0.202. Hence, they fall outside the range. But the thing is, I’ve installed probably three or four routers at my house and the range of each of those routers was always 192.168.*.*. So why the heck has Apple chosen such a low range? Any answers? I’d truly like to know, but Googling the issue hasn’t revealed the answer.

Once I tumbled to that off-beat DHCP range, I was able to use Airport Utility to change the beginning/ending addresses to 192.168.0.2/192.168.0.200. Now, the printers work just fine because they’re on the same subnet as the DHCP addresses. And, since they’re above *.*.*.200, there are no DHCP conflicts.

I wish Apple had been clearer about this!

Crappy, Sneaky Apple: Safari “Update”

When is an “update” not an update?

When Apple tries to install its crappy Safari browser under the guise of it just being an update of previously installed software.

First of all, I do not have Safari installed on my Windows machines. And, on my Mac machines, I use it as little as possible. Lately, however, Apple Software Update keeps firing off on my Windows machines with an annoying window:

Safari-upgrade-706245

If you read the fine print, you might realize that this is a new installation, but if you just look at the dialog box’s label (Apple Software Update) you would think that it’s merely an update. And the truly skeezy thing about this is that when Apple Software Update runs in order to actually update my QuickTime software it defaults to installing Safari.

Really, Apple, are you that desperate for Safari users? So desperate that you have to trick them into installing it?

It reminds me of the underhanded things Real used to do to fool users into installing all manner of crap with their media player. It backfired on Real, resulting in a backlash against them that’s lasted to the present day. The same could happen to Apple.

Crappy Window Management on a Mac

I’m getting used to the Mac OS X interface on my new computer. I swear I am. But there is one thing that Windows handles much better than Mac and that is window (small “w”) management — that is, how windows are displayed on screen.

My main beef is with the Mac method of “maximizing” the window in which you’re currently working. On Windows XP, if you click the maximize button, the window fills the entire screen and you can easily focus on your current project. In Mac OS X, however, the maximize button is, by design, a “zoom to a bigger window but don’t fill the entire screen” button.

Let’s say I want to do some Web design work in Dreamweaver. In OS X, my screen looks like this (click to enlarge):

Mac-Cacophony-761579
Huh? Where’s the Web page I want to work on. I guess it’s the upper-most window, but with all that clutter, who can be sure? Oh wait, I just accidentally clicked somewhere outside one of the Dreamweaver windows. Now I’m in a different application! How do I get back to Dreamweaver?

In contrast, in Windows XP I can simply click one button and have Dreamweaver fill the entire screen — allowing me to focus my attention where it should be.

I am not alone in the recognition that Mac OS X’s “maximize” is crap. See also:

http://shiflett.org/blog/2006/feb/mac-os-x-annoyances-and-resolutions
http://forevergeek.com/apple/mac_vs_windows_its_all_about_the_maximize_button.php
http://acurrie.wordpress.com/2007/01/31/windows-osx-shortcomings/

Crappy Bluetooth

I’ve got this MacBook, right? And it’s got Bluetooth built in, don’t you know? But I don’t got no Bluetooth devices.

So, while I was out in Phoenix recently, I impulsively bought a Bluetooth mouse at Fry’s: the Macally model BT53 BTmouse.

What a piece of crap.

First, it’s frustrating as hell because it puts itself to sleep at a moment’s notice and you have to remember to click a button to wake it (just moving the mouse doesn’t do it). Problem is, sometimes it takes more than one click to wake it up. You’re stuck, clicking away, hoping it might come to.

Second, it comes with rechargeable batteries and a recharging stand. But, just two weeks after I bought it, they won’t hold a charge any more.

What a piece of crap.

And I’m now 1,500 miles from where I bought it so I can’t return to Fry’s and dump it.

Grumble, grumble.

I still like the idea of a BT mouse, however, and so I bought an overpriced Apple-brand one at the Apple store in Birmingham. Works like a charm. I don’t like the scrolly ball on the top as much as a regular roller thingy, but otherwise I’m liking it.

Wish it cost about half as much as it did, however.

Are Macs Crap?

I’m certainly not the first person to ask the question, “Are Macs crap?” Many, many, many articles have been written comparing Macs to other operating systems. And compare/contrast articles proliferate each time a new version of Windows comes out–as has happened recently with Windows Vista.

So, I don’t know that I’ve got anything unique to add to the debate. However, on 19 April 2007 I bought a MacBook after being a hardcore, “power” Windows user for years. So, I have, in a limited capacity, made the “switch” (despite the annoying, cloying Mac “switch” ads, which almost caused me not to buy a Mac). I say “limited” because my two main computers remain Windows XP machines; this MacBook is more of an auxiliary machine–for portable use and traveling. And I do a lot of work on Linux servers, too.

Thus, I am not a OS chauvinist. And I have worked on Macs in the past and I bought my very first computer from Apple–the amazing little Apple 2e. What a sweet machine! Talk about no crashes? That was the last computer I used that never crashed.

Why did I buy a Mac this time?

  1. One of my computer’s hard drives just died (after only two years of use! crummy HP desktop computer!) and I was in the market for a new one and I rilly don’t want to go to Windows Vista. (Reasons not to use Vista: number 1.)
  2. I’m interested in some lightweight video editing using Final Cut Pro. I teach in a department that teaches video editing and Macs are what my colleagues use. I want to be able to draw on their expertise, although I have had good luck with Adobe Premiere and Adobe Premiere Elements.

I plan to use the Crappy Software Blog to chronicle the joys and sorrows of learning a new operating system. We’ll see how much detail I feel like writing. If an item has already been well covered elsewhere, I may just list it here–unless its craposity warrants further comment.

This post will be updated/edited as I discover more things about Mac OS (X Tiger).

Joys

  1. The display is well-defined and very bright. I suspect it’s something about the Mac gamma setting. In any event, photos and videos look great.
  2. Web pages appear to render more quickly in Firefox than in the same software on Windows. (No, I won’t be using the sucky, Mac-provided Safari. What a substandard Web browser!)
  3. When you first create an account, it uses the built-in camera to snap your picture to use as an avatar. Cute!
  4. If you put two fingers on the touch pad, you can scroll with them (instead of just moving the cursor). Handy!
  5. Adjusting monitor settings is more intelligent on OS X than Windows XP. If you’re running two monitors (e.g., my MacBook and an external monitor) and you call up the “Displays” settings, it shows a window for each directly on the individual monitor screens–unlike Windows which only shows you the settings for one or the other and makes you guess which is which.
  6. Also, the Mac seems to be smarter about handling dual monitors. I had a window open in one monitor when I unplugged it. The Mac shifted the window over to the still connected monitor. In Windows, if you try that, then the “open” window still displays on the phantom monitor and you can’t see it. It becomes very difficult, then, to move that window back onto the visible monitor space.

Sorrows

  1. The Delete key is a backspace key.
  2. Similarly, when viewing files in the Finder, you cannot delete a file with the Delete key alone. Instead, you must Move to Trash with a combination of Command-Delete.
  3. And “regular” deleting is a two-button process: fn-delete (fn = “function” key).
  4. The touchpad–like the mouse–has just one button. (Is this due to Apple stubbornness?!) But, thankfully, two-button mice work with it. (An $8 Logitech, wireless, two-button mouse works just fine with the MacBook.)
  5. Page Down/Up requires pressing two keys instead of just one: fn-down/up arrow.
  6. Maybe I’m just missing something, but selecting does not work as I expect with the and Home and End keys. That is, when holding down the shift key and End you should be able to select everything from that point to the end–in, say, a text box. But no…
  7. Adding a conventional, non-Mac keyboard results in unpredictable key assignments. E.g., which key will work as the Open-Apple key? (However, some Microsoft keyboards will let you assign keys and, by default, will match the cmd-opt-ctrl keys’ layout to their position on a Mac keyboard.)
  8. Windows can only be resized by click-dragging the lower-right corner (as opposed to click-dragging any edge of a window).
  9. A special connector is required to connect to an external monitor. Windows laptops come with this as a standard feature. Apple charges $17 for a video adapter. Ain’t that chintzy for a $1,200 computer?
  10. An update from Apple momentarily killed my built-in camera–less than a week after I bought it (so it “just works,” does it?). After dutifully going to Software Update and doing all the updates that were suggested, the camera stopped working. Went into Photo Booth and got nothing but a green screen. A Mac-using friend dug up this article, which explains, “Be sure that you shut your computer down completely (not just restart) after installing the update.” Shutting down is different that restarting? That sounds like a Windows thing! I thought Macs were smarter than that.Now I’m back in business and, using Photo Booth, I can create images such as the one below.Photo-26-708242
  11. The keyboard shortcut for closing a windows (cmd-w) is right next to the shortcut for closing an entire application (cmd-q), which makes it super-easy to shut down an entire app when you were just intending to close one window within that app. Yes, I’ve already made this mistake.
  12. Cmd-tab switches applications (just like, on Windows, alt-tab does), but it does not include app windows that are minimized to the dock.
  13. iDVD is an excellent coaster maker. Initially, it seemed like iDVD was a great little program. It certainly makes the process of building a DVD dead simple. But it’s not so great at burning several disks in succession. Three times now, it’s locked up at the burn stage and created useless DVD coasters. Each time, it was after I’d successfully burned one disk and then told it to burn another. And each time, I had to force-quit iDVD after it hanged at this screen:
    iDVDcrash-736719
    So, I’d have to say that Adobe Premiere Elements is the superior DVD authoring/burning software.

Neither a Joy Nor a Sorrow (tips/hints/tweaks I’d like to remember)

  1. The Control key often acts like the right mouse button, giving one an options menu. (Odd that the Option key does not do that.) In MacSpeak, this is the control-click.
  2. CMD-home/end take you to the start/end of a line.
  3. Option-cursor takes to to the next word (like CTRL-cursor on Windows).

Handy resources for switchers

  1. Switch 101: On Windows, I used to…

Comments may be made below, but anything vaguely smelling of an OS religious war will be deleted.