Google I/O 2016

An Echo knockoff and rapturous applause for variable font size in a messaging app. Not much innovation so far this year.

The horrific trend in Inbox and now Allo is machine learning auto reply so you can send something canned and inauthentic instead of actually speaking with people. Zombie Robs might approve but I'm far from convinced.

Updated 2016-05-18 14:12:

Android N looks super cool and I can't wait. The #1 productivity enhancement I'd like to see though is copy and paste icons that look like copy and paste. I do not have a clue currently.

Updated 2016-05-18 14:24:

No headset.

Updated 2016-05-18 14:40:

Android Studio is very nice. Eclipse was painful. I actually like Android Studio more than Xamarin which is saying a lot for a C# leaning person.

Chromecast won't connect to wifi - finally found the fix

Updated on Monday, April 26, 2021

Chromecast won't connect to wifi - finally found the fix

I've struggled for a while with Chromecast. The idea is great. I love using my phone rather than a remote. I like the idea of being able to cast any screen or browser tab in principle (in practice I think I've only done this once). I like the nice curated background pictures and that I could get round to using my own photos one day.

But here is how it works in practice. Fire up app. Select Chromecast icon and watch it go through the motions of connecting. Nothing streams. Reboot Chromecast, phone and router. Hard reset Chromecast and configure from scratch again. Reboot everything some more. Disconnect house from grid for ten minutes and switch off gas mains as well to be on the safe side. Finally, streaming! Repeat.

It's miserable. With both a Chromecast and a Chromecast 2 (which I really hoped might fix the problem). I've been through two different routers and I've tried a bunch of different settings but nothing seems to make the thing work. I even renamed the device to remove spaces.

For a while I considered buying an OnHub. Maybe Google's router would work with Chromecast? But it can't be bothered with Ethernet ports for some reason and so I'd need a new switch and then I'd probably need another power port and how important is John Oliver right now anyway (very)?

As much as I want Chromecast to work I've binned the wretched thing and bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Same basic principle but with apps on the device rather than your phone and a remote control.

I'd rather not have another remote, but it works instantly and without risking an aneurysm. It's also available with voice control which lets you both search for programs and trigger Alexa (my typical morning is asking Alexa for a flash briefing and then sobbing quietly when a daughter yells 'Alexa, stop... Alexa, play Gangnam Style').

My only gripe so far is that the voice search doesn't search inside non-Amazon apps (Netflix, HBO, etc).

Get ITHCWY By Email

I'm over social media - the Facebook page for this blog is a hopeless way to reach people and I removed the slow horrible sharing widgets a while ago. But I have this nagging suspicion that RSS is a super-niche activity for techno-libertarians harking back to the good old days of the Internet with open protocols and wall-free gardens and isn't entirely up to snuff either. So I'm going to experiment for a monthly email list for people who vaguely follow the blog or use Catfood Software products but don't quite manage to come back here every day to check for updates. Sign up here.

Why? Excellent question. The rules for blogs are to pick a narrow topic of interest, know your audience and do keyword research and drop SEO honeypot bombs to draw that audience in. I did that for Catfood Software but this isn't that kind of blog. It's a random collection of my hobbies and interests. So if you're not sure read through the Featured section in the side bar to get a preview.

I write a lot of code so what you'll get for sure is updates from Catfood Software and other occasional side projects. When I struggle with the process or discover something I write about that as well - these posts are more interesting to other developers and less exciting if you just want your desktop wallpaper (or Android phone) to look awesome. I love to make videos that don't have me in as well, mainly complicated time-lapses so you'll find a lot of those too. Also hikes in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Occasionally politics.

If that works for you and you're not an RSS type then please join and let me know how I'm doing.

Got It

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Got It irritating me on Facebook

When I run an app or launch a website it's generally because I've got some task to complete and a few free minutes to try and complete it.

Let's take Facebook for example. I want to quickly scan through to see which of my friends are sharing anodyne inspirational quotes superimposed over stock photography and silently judge them.

Facebook picks this moment to let me know about a new feature that will display previously unshared photos and videos to try and get me to share them. I'm instantly pissed off because of the unwelcome cognitive load and then I realize that the whole app has frozen. In fact every time I load Facebook at the moment it just hangs until I give up and do something else.

This is probably because one of my daughters has the endearing habit of shooting hour long 4K videos of the floor. The poor app is probably innocently trying to grab a couple of thumbnails and instead getting an object lesson in the halting problem. I'm sure this will eventually get fixed and it's not even the root cause of my current fury.

Got It irritating me on the Londonist

Got It

My only option is to click Got It. This chirpy little phrase is slowly infesting every corner of interaction design. It seems relatively innocuous at first but let's unpick it a little.

Generally Got It signals that something has been added to an app or site that the designer feels is important enough that they need to let me know about it.

This is almost always going to be bad news. Probably the way I complete my task has changed and I'm going to have to learn the new way. Maybe there has been a complete redesign and the use I had for the app was considered an edge case and has been removed. It could be that for legal reasons I need to be told that some new previously unpillaged corner of my privacy needs to be violated.

I'm immediately in a bad frame of mind when I see Got It.

Also there is rarely a Don't Got It or  Don't Want It link. Got It is a sign that something is being forced on you and the happy language is an implicit forced value judgement that you've both fully comprehended the change and that you wholeheartedly agree with it.

It probably feels cute to designers that come up with this. After all, a whole team has probably toiled for weeks if not months to come up with a new way to cause my phone to hang. They really want me to use it. But you're not putting yourself in my shoes. I rarely care and usually you're making my day fractionally less enjoyable and the design should be about me and not you.

Got It irritating me on YouTube

I miss OK. It's less loaded. I'm OK with dealing with whatever you're inflicting on me. It's not as good as OK / Cancel but sometimes OK is about the best you can expect.

I just don't Got It.

(Previously)

Commentary

Updated on Friday, May 14, 2021

I started with Blogger many years ago. It worked well for a while and then it didn't. I forget why but I wrote a tool to migrate from Blogger to BlogEngine.net.

BlogEngine.net was good for a while, but I never loved the commenting system. I switched to Disqus and I wrote a tool for that as well.

Then Disqus decided to monetize more aggressively than I liked, and I moved on to Facebook comments. Having used these for a while I have come to the conclusion that most people just hate Facebook comments. They're convenient but not many people use them. Also, pages just load much faster without all the Facebook JavaScript. So today I'm switching to home grown manually moderated comments. Just about every comment ever left on this blog has made it from Blogger to BlogEngine.net to Disqus and finally the new system, even the nasty ones. I'll moderate to cut out spam but never dissent. Enjoy!

Updates were installed...

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Microsoft you are literally killing me. Please tell me there is a reason.

Windows 10 has had a reorg of notifications. People in Redmond have spent quality time thinking about how and when to bother me. User experiences have been imagined, focus grouped, re-imagined, tested, pushed out to beta, revised, polished and finally shipped in a heaping turd of time wasting.

After one of the never ending reboots following some critical update or other I get a nice popup to let me know that updates were installed:

Updates were installed...

I'm not sure this is the most important news I'll read all day but fine, thank you and I click the little x to dismiss.

Windows at this point knows that it's told me about the updates, and it knows that I've seen the message because I took the time to actively dismiss it.

So why is this now in the Action Center:

Updates were installed...

I have to acknowledge my latest helping of updates all over again. It's the sort of double confirmation I'd really value before inadvertently nuking Belgium but for pretty much anything I've ever seen in Action Center it's overkill. It's causing the most anger I've had with an Operating System since I had to Google how to shut down Windows 8.

Windows 10 is on 110 million devices. Assuming a reboot a week and three seconds per device spent dismissing the extra message we're looking at a cost of $28 million a year (at US GDP). Microsoft has said it expects a billion Windows 10 devices in 2-3 years. Even at global average GDP that's $64 million down the drain.

It's not a quirky design decision, it's a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

Smart people must have spent time on this. Please tell me why?

Hope for Hulu?

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hope for Hulu?

Probably not.

I tore into Hulu last year for the miserable user experience, dreary ads and vanishing content.

Back then I estimated that Hulu could ditch the ads for another $6 a month. TechCrunch is reporting today (via the Wall Street Journal) that Hulu is considering an ad free tier for $12-$14 a month. $14 would be a $6 bump over current pricing. If they can fix the UX as well I'll be back in. And I still want my OTT TiVo.

(Previously)

Leaving Chrome

Updated on Friday, May 14, 2021

Leaving Chrome

My Chromebook was stolen over the weekend. The good news is that I didn't lose anything given the cloud only nature of the device. The bad news was that I didn't really want to get a new one.

I loved the cost and the boot speed and being able to do nearly everything I needed to with a browser-in-a-box.

But the nearly was a deal breaker. I sometimes need to VPN and the Chromebook wouldn't. It just wasn't compatible with our flavor of VPN and I didn't want to buy another Chromebook on the off chance that Google would eventually fix this. I also have to use Skype (I'd rather not) and this isn't really possible on the Chromebook either. Imo.im was good while it lasted. IM+ is horrible.

I've abandoned the Chrome dream and picked up a Surface Pro 3.

(Read the full Chromebook adventure: Part 1: Going Chrome, Part 2: Staying Chrome? and Part 3: Leaving Chrome)

LEGO Management

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

LEGO Management

Good HBR article on LEGO and girls: LEGO’s Girl Problem Starts with Management, depressing conclusion:

"Don’t hold your breath, though. Despite its first-day sold-out success, LEGO has decided not to continue the Research Institute line. It was only a “limited edition.” So girls, back to the pool. The guys in this boardroom don’t seem to want to give you any ideas… let alone seats at the table."

(previously, previously)

Skype for Android - Getting Closer

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Skype for Android - Getting Closer

Skype for Android is finally getting there. Push support means that it is now useful for more than conditioning your battery. Conversation read status is mostly synced between different client instances which is a big time saver. I'm actually starting to use it.

There is one horrible usability crime. When you open the app you get a list of unread conversations. Your set your finger in flight to the first one and then notice an ad sliding down from the top of the screen. With horror you realize it's too late to change course and you hit the ad instead of the conversation.

I'm not complaining about Skype being ad supported here, but if you were going to try and design a UI to trick people into clicking ads you really couldn't do better than this. I expect better from Microsoft.

Other than this the only real complaint is that new posts to group messages sometimes make it through to the notification bar and sometimes don't. You have to run the app periodically to see if there is something new.

(previously, previously)