What’s Up with This Crap, Blogger?

Today, whenever I try to do anything on Blogger, I get this error message:

We’re sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.
When reporting this error to Blogger Support or on the Blogger Help Group, please:
Describe what you were doing when you got this error.
Provide the following error code.
bX-kn464r

Weird thing is, whatever I was trying to do (start a new post, publish a post) WORKS, despite the error message.

Crappy Training Software

At the end of my crappy, mandatory, 90-minute, obviously lawyer-induced, the University-covering-its-ass training course in (1) reporting child abuse (how many younger-than-18 students do I encounter?) and (2) handling hazardous materials (which I never do), there was a box for comments. So I wrote:

“Very poorly designed training course. Should NOT rely on browser pop-ups and should NOT be written in Java (a computer language with numerous security holes).”

(The training platform was so poorly implemented that the College tech support had to configure special computers in a lab for faculty and staff to use. Most folks could not get it to run on their own computers.)

Today I got a response from Skillsoft customer support that said, “Thank you for sending in feedback. We appreciate it when subscribers take the time to tell us how they are finding the service. Our courses are designed to work on as many configurations as possible.”

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Crappy WordPress Theme: DirectoryPress

What do you think of a premium (i.e., not free) WordPress theme that is buggy and that requires its tech support to fix and said tech support claims the only way they can fix it is if you give them FTP access to your server?

Sure. Emailing them the FTP password to your system. What could possible go wrong with that?

Sigh. DirectoryPress, I think it may be time that ScreenSite.org parts with you and your crappy-software ways.

When I told DirectoryPress’ tech support that our University-based server was locked down and does not permit FTP access from off-campus they said, essentially: sorry, pal, you’re on your own.

This issue arose when I discovered a security hole in their software that led to 455 injections of spam into our system. I contacted them for help and they said: oh yeah, that’s version 6; you should upgrade to version 7. And when I did try to upgrade to version 7, it borked my entire site.

Oh, and their version upgrade requires you to export all the page/post data out of WordPress, then wipe it clean, and import your data after the upgrade.

Urgh!

I’ve been disappointed with DirectoryPress in the past as it seems rather hacked-together. It’s part of a suite of WordPress themes for creating sites for classified ads, auctions, real estate, etc. I suspect that the directory theme is the poor relation in this suite, that they don’t give it as much attention as the others. And there are aspects of DirectoryPress that are unnecessary or, indeed, don’t make sense unless you’re trying to sell something through your site.

So. I’m taking suggestions for a better system for a link directory. What do you say, Hive Mind?

Crappy WiFi at the University of Alabama

From the “In Order to Serve You Better, We Are Now Going to Fuck You Over” file:

The University of Alabama’s Office of Information Technology recently informed me that

The Office of Information Technology is pleased to announce a new secure wireless network for faculty and staff. In order to connect to UA-WPA2, employees will need to install XpressConnect on their devices by visiting http://wpa2setup.ua.edu/CloudPath. As part of the installation process, users will be required to enter their myBama ID and password. UA-WPA2 provides secure wireless communications through the use of WPA2 Enterprise and will replace the pre-shared key SSID rolled out as an interim solution last year. Starting in October 2012, UA-WPA2 will replace UA Public Wireless for all faculty and staff. For instructions on installing UA-WPA2′s XpressConnect client, visit http://oit.ua.edu/oit/services/wi-fi-protected-access-wpa.

When I first read this, I thought, So, instead of letting us connect to wifi as we normally do–a process that takes, like, two minutes–we are now going to be required to install a separate app and jump through several hoops.

This is going to be a mess.

And now that mess is here. I tried to install XpressConnect and access the new wifi this afternoon–using the instructions posted online. No luck.

Sent a note to the help desk and a very pleasant woman called me immediately to assist me. After 45 minutes on the phone with her, we still hadn’t solved the problem. And she wanted me to walk across campus to the Help Desk to troubleshoot it there. I said no thank you. This (futile) process has already wasted enough of my day.

So much for an improved wifi system. I wonder if OIT will feel so “pleased” about it in January when all faculty and staff are required to convert to the new system and they run into issues like I did.

Brother.

Cox Communication: Incompetent Crap or Devious Crap?

Here’s yet another reason why the cable-TV industry is one of the most detested in America.

A month ago I made a change to my parents’ Cox service–downgrading the package they had chosen and  eliminating the worthless in-home wiring “protection.” I hand delivered their set-top box to a Cox store and thought that was the end of it.

But no. On the next bill, issued two weeks later, we were still being charged for the features I thought I removed.

So, I had to call Cox again and ask about it. “Oh, yes,” the customer service rep said, “I see you have a work order for these changes, dated a month ago. But it wasn’t finalized.” What does that mean, I asked. “Well, it’s supposed to happen automatically when you return equipment, but sometimes it doesn’t.”

How many folks get trapped by something like this as they don’t scrutinize their bill each and every month?

Is this devious or incompetent crap? I suspect the former.

 

Adobe Flash Tries to Pull Some Crap

Y’know what really burns my bacon? When a software update tries to scam you into INSTALLING some other piece of crap.

Looking at you, Adobe Flash Player, and your DEFAULT setting of installing McAfee Security Scan Plus.

And the thing is, Flash has few friends these days and is a dying, decaying platform. So why is Adobe irritating and alienating the few users Flash has left by trying to pull crap like this?

Crappy, Misleading Marketing by Pioneer Electronics: The AVIC-X940BT

I guess I should be accustomed to the marketing of electronics products being full of crap, but it’s still disappointing when you get tripped up by it when purchasing an expensive device that is virtually unreturnable. Here is my story of my latest encounter with crappy, misleading marketing:

I enjoy Pandora radio and I’d worked out a clunky system for getting it to play through my car stereo. It involved a gizmo plugged in to my car’s aux input and the manual control of Pandora on my Droid Incredible 2 phone. So, when I had a little extra cash from a textbook royalty check, I thought I’d splurge on a car receiver that handled Pandora without the extra gizmo. And then my tech fever escalated and I decided to go for a unit that also incorporated GPS and phone features.

This drew me to the Pioneer AVIC-X940BT (who names these things? former rocket scientists?), which seemed to have everything I needed and, the Mobile Electronics salesman told me, would display Pandora data and allow me to control Pandora right through the device’s interface–connecting to my phone via Bluetooth.

But I was worried about compatibility so I checked Pioneer’s Website, where it says,

Compatible with Apple iOS, as well as Android devices that support the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile (SPP). Simply download the free Pandora Radio app to your iPhone or Android device and connect to the AVIC-X940BT and take your music to the next level.

The Droid Incredible 2 does indeed support Bluetooth Serial Port Profile so I thought I was all set.

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

I poked around everywhere I could on the Pioneer Website, but nowhere could I find a specific list of compatible devices. All I found were displays like the one below that seem to confirm compatibility with Android.

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

And so I bit. I paid too much money to have the unit installed by Mobile Electronics.

Everything seemed to be fine with pairing my phone, via Bluetooth, with the AVIC-X940BT until I tried to get Pandora to work. Then I began encountering error messages about the inability to connect:

Bluetooth connection is disconnected. Press “Connect” to connect.

This message appeared while I was already connected. I scoured the PDF manual (of course they don’t give you a real paper manual anymore) for an answer.When I found the following fine print (“Compatibility with all Android devices is not guaranteed.”) buried in the 240-page manual, I suspected I was in trouble.

Then I went back to Mobile Electronics to ask about it. An installer dude checked it out and declared that it wasn’t supposed to work with Pandora. That Pandora only works via a wired connection to an iPhone.
I knew that wasn’t right, but the installer dude couldn’t be convinced otherwise. So I called Pioneer’s tech support–after Googling around turned up no solid info. There I had it confirmed: the AVIC-X940BT is not compatible with the Droid Incredible 2–an Android 2.2+ phone that’s less than a year old and supports Bluetooth SPP. In fact, the tech guy tried to replicate my situation using his own Droid phone and his model didn’t work either. He found a list that states that only 12 specific Android phones work with Pandora and this Pioneer unit.
Sigh.
I told the guy to please tell his supervisor that I am extremely disappointed about this and that the marketing of the AVIC-X940BT as compatible with Android phones supporting Bluetooth SPP is very misleading and should be corrected. The tech guy said he would “capture that feedback” and pass it along.
Sigh.
Ah well, at least this unit does, like, 70% of what I bought it for. And, who knows, maybe a firmware update will solve my problem? Or maybe my next smartphone will be one of the compatible ones.
But still it’s sad to have the crappiness of electronics marketing confirmed. Again.

Posted by Picasa

Update 3:50, Thursday:
 
Well, get this. In his NY Times column today, David Pogue is dealing with the same Pandora issues as me–although in his Toyota Prius! See “Pogue’s Posts: The Prius V and Its Entune System”, in the May 3 NY Times. Turns out that Pandora in the Prius does not work wirelessly with the iPhone, but does with Android!
But probably not the Droid Incredible 2, I’d wager.

Windows 8: It’s Just As Crappy As They Say It Is

Let me say, to start, that the Metro user interface (UI) introduced in Windows 8 was not designed for computer users like me.It’s clearly and primarily an interface for consuming digital material–Web pages, weather reports, images, videos, games, merchandise. Secondarily, it encourages short, text-message-style communication and hopes to pull consumers into its particular brand of file sharing and cloud computing. But the Metro UI is piss-poor for producing digital material–creating Web pages, writing essays, editing video/photographs, recording audio, and so on.In short, it’s a consumer’s UI and not a producer’s.I enjoy digital consuming, but my time on the computer is at least equally, if not more so, spent producing digits. This is why, I think, that I’ve been slow to warm up to tablets. Yes, I’ve got an iPad, a Kindle Fire and an Android-based smartphone, but I don’t spend that much time on the tablets. And when I do, it’s certainly not to create anything.The Metro IU calls to mind the ill-fated PointCast Network from the mid-1990s. PointCast was supposed to herald a new era of “push” technology where users would no longer need to wait milliseconds while they requested or pulled information into their computers, because those data would already be pushed to them, ready for instant access. Push technology was one of the earliest Internet memes, but PointCast was a disaster, largely because users’ bandwidth could not support it.

Nowadays, our bandwidth can support push technology, but do we need it? After a few minutes of being distracted by Metro’s constant updating of my email headers and Facebook photos, I was ready to turn them off. I’d much rather pull data toward me and endure the brief wait for it, then have data shoved at me that I don’t necessarily need.

After spending a couple of hours with Windows 8, my main hope is that its craposity does not interfere with the Windows 7 way of doing things. As it is now, in this “consumer preview”, it already does. A few examples: There’s no simple way to close Metro applications with the click of a mouse (okay, Alt-F4 still works). They are designed to just stay open (in suspended mode), like in Android/iOS. And it’s difficult to launch applications in Metro if they’re not already one of the Metro tiles (see below for specifics).

And perhaps the strangest tabletification aspect of Win8 is that it is difficult to shut down the computer. Yes, that’s right. There’s no visible “shut down” button in the Metro interface! You’re just supposed to let it suspend, like you would a Kindle Fire or iPad.Oh, for dumb!
(For the record, I’ll include shut-down instructions at the bottom of this post.)I, along with most Windows power users, will be avoiding Windows 8 and the Metro UI crap for as long as possible. I hope by the time that I have to buy a Win8 machine that someone will have figured out a way to disable Metro and allow users to boot directly into the desktop interface.Here’s what I discovered about Metro during a couple of miserable hours I spent with it this weekend.
Fullscreen capture 4292012 102605 AM
The Windows 8 start screen, out of the box. Not one but two tiles are given over to the Xbox gaming platform. Some tiles are half visible. Clunky.
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Boring weather app. You’ve got to scroll to the right to see much of anything.
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Ugly weather map display, with some maps partially visible when one map is enlarged.
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Hotmail: Will the final version look as primitive as this “app preview”? Hasn’t email progressed since 1990? This display looks worse than the simplest release of Eudora.
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People app: The hideousness continues. Why is “All What’s new Me” so large? Cuz you’re supposed to be looking at it on a TABLET, dummy.
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The ol’ familiar desktop, if you don’t mind having no Start button and thus no way to shut down. And how do you launch applications? As far as I can figure out, you can’t launch from the desktop, you have to return to Metro (see below).
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Windows Explorer now has a MS Office-style ribbon. I guess that’s a good thing? It certainly takes up more space than the old menus.
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Internet Explorer, viewed within the desktop environment.

 

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IE in Metro, with big buttons displayed. I bet even my fat fingers could use those on a tablet, but on a desktop computer…?
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What’s an operating system for? Well, to sell you more crap, of course!
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Map app thinks I live on Martin Luther King Blvd. It’s about three miles off.
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Video app: More consumerism and UI ugliness. Even iTunes is not as bad as this.
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Xbox LIVE Games app: Who/what is that creepy, faceless avatar?
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Interesting. You can pull in your Facebook photos. Too bad the UI is so clunky.
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Um. Metro UI, you might want to check the resolution before using an image as a tile.
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Solitaire looks kinda nice, but I couldn’t get it to run. Hope they fix that before the final release or there are going to be a lot of angry Windows users.
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Messaging app: Ho hum.
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Music app: Even more ways to BUY. Oh joy.
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At least Metro provides a finance app so you can figure out how you’re going to get the money to pay for all the crap Microsoft wants to sell you. Note that MSFT was down last week. In anticipation of Win8/Metro’s release?
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Here’s what I pared the Start screen down to.
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How to load an app that is not on the start screen. Right click on the start screen and see the “All Apps” icon. Click it. Then…
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Get list of all apps. Then click one to open it, but not in Metro. It opens in the conventional desktop.
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And now, the secret to shutting down… While in the desktop mode, pressing Alt-F4 will bring up a shut-down dialog box. There is no mouse-based option for shutting down.
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To shut down while in Metro mode, call up the Charms Bar by moving the cursor to the upper right corner. Then click the sprocket icon labeled “Settings.” A slider appears with a “Power” icon. Click it and finally escape from this miserable experience.

Fine-Print Crap From Farmers Insurance Group

So, Farmers Insurance Group tells me that by paying my premium I am acknowledging that I “understand and
agree to all the terms and conditions of the Subscription Agreement.”
And here’s how the Agreement, which I must acknowledge understanding, begins. This is all one sentence (I have put a line break at each comma):

For and in consideration of the benefits to be derived therefrom the subscriber covenants and agrees with Farmers Insurance Exchange and other subscribers thereto through their and each of their attorney-in-fact,
the Farmers Underwriters Association,
to exchange with all other subscribers’ policies of insurance or reinsurance containing such terms and conditions therein as may be specified by said attorney-in-fact and approved by the Board of Governors or its Executive Committee for any loss insured against,
and subscriber hereby designates,
constitutes and appoints Farmers Underwriters Association to be attorney-in-fact for subscriber,
granting to it power to substitute another in its place,
and in subscriber’s name,
place and stead to do all things which the subscriber or subscribers might or could do severally or jointly with reference to all policies issued,
including cancellation thereof,
collection and receipt of all monies due the Exchange from whatever source and disbursement of all loss and expense payments,
effect reinsurance and all other acts incidental to the management of the Exchange and the business of interinsurance;
subscriber further agrees that there shall be paid to said Association, as compensation for its becoming and acting as attorney-in-fact,
the membership fees and twenty per centum of the Premium Deposit for the insurance provided and twenty per centum of the premiums required for continuance thereof.

And insurance companies wonder why they have a reputation for obfuscation.

New Crappy Gmail Ads Right BELOW the Reply Box

Don’t get me wrong. I love Gmail. But Google has implemented a new ad format that is downright crappy. They’ve started putting ads below the message — not in the text of outgoing messages (thankfully), but underneath the Reply box when you’re viewing a message (see the pinkish ad block):

(Image missing because of some crap Blogger pulled–deleting dozens of Crappy Software images when this blog was hosted there.)
This just started today for me and it may have been related to me changing my Gmail theme, but from Googling around I gather that Google has been testing this for months. Comments about it turn up back in December 2010.
I don’t begrudge Google the need to sell ads. They offer a terrific free service and they need to make their money somehow. But the sidebar ads should be enough. They aren’t as intrusive as this crappy new ad block stuck in between the reply box and the buttons for Archive, Report Spam, etc.
I don’t want to resort to an ad blocker, but I’m very tempted now.