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.
Hulu Plus has turned out to be a bit of a disaster.
The app (I use it on a TiVo) is ugly and clumsy. I checked last night and it took 15 clicks to watch the next episode of a series I'd watched the previous night. You'd think this would be about the most basic use case and it's something that everyone else gets right.
And then it plays a couple of ads flawlessly before complaining that there is a problem with the connection. You're then bombed out to the menu and sit through the pre-roll ads again before the show starts.
I'm not stoked about being forced to watch ads on a paid service at all. If you believe the CPM estimates on Quora Hulu could charge me another $6 per month for an ad-free service that doesn't suck. Hulu ads are particularly awful because they're not embedded in the stream. This means when it's ad time everything grinds to a halt while the app switches from program mode to ad mode and then back again. You could make a cup of tea in the time it takes Hulu to figure this out. Adding insult to injury only three companies appear to have bought ads so you're stuck watching the same ones repeatedly.
All this is if the program you added to your queue still exists. Different shows seem to have different windows of availability so when you sit down to watch something you've been saving up you might find that half the episodes have been yanked away.
There is an opportunity here for a brave entrepreneur (or at least one operating somewhere with no extradition treaty with the US). What we need is an app (or service) that is the TiVo equivalent for the brave streaming cord-cutting future. You feed in the credentials for all the services you subscribe to and the programs you want to watch. The app records everything and spits out video files you can watch (and fast forward through) at your leisure.
"But the fact that the basis behind this security measure was countered 25 years ago by employing a simple tool that’s getting into its 40s is not the silliest part of this supposed new DRM breakthrough."
This misses the point about how DRM really works.
Most people are fundamentally honest but reading a book or watching a TV show or installing one more copy of a software program doesn't feel like you're doing anything wrong. If you throw up a small roadblock then this is generally enough to gently remind people that they need to cough up.
If I can install another copy of Photoshop from the shared drive to get my job done then I will. If it asks for a license I'm going to ask my boss for one rather than hunting down a cracked copy. DRM works even if it doesn't do very much.
In fact it works best when it doesn't do much. A more sophisticated DRM is more likely to go wrong and is harder to operate. Highly effective DRM starts to hurt you with support and maintenance costs. When it fails to work or to be fair it can backfire spectacularly and cause a consumer backlash.
I spent a lot of time earlier in my career developing and selling DRM and copy protection. Deals were won on security but successful relationships were built from helping publishers balance the technical possibilities with ensuring that legitimate customers had a good experience.
"The idea that copyright owners might convince a judge, or, worse, a jury that because they found a copy of an e-book on the Pirate Bay originally sold to me they can then hold me responsible or civilly liable is almost certainly wrong, as a matter of law."
This doesn't sound right either. We've had enough experience of the record labels and movie studios suing individual copyright infringers, most of whom can't afford to risk a court case even if they have a plausible 'left my laptop unlocked' defense. This wasn't a smart move before, but it doesn't mean that book publishers can't deploy the same flawed strategy.
I've been using the Facebook Comments Box on this blog since I parted ways with Disqus. One issue with the Facebook system is that you won't get SEO credit for comments displayed in an iframe. They have an API to retrieve comments but the documentation is pretty light and so here are three critical tips to get it working.
The first thing to know is that comments can be nested. Once you've got a list of comments to enumerate through you need to check each comment to see if it has it's own list of comments and so on. This is pretty easy to handle.
Last but not least you want to include the comments in a way that can be indexed by search engines but not visible to regular site visitors. I've found that including the SEO list in the tag does the trick, i.e.
I've included the source code for an ASP.NET user control below - this is the code I'm using on the blog. You can see an example of the output on any page with Facebook comments. The code uses Json.net.
Skype just released a completely rewritten version of their Android client.
It's a nice streamlined UI and for the first time on Android it actually loads the 15,422 chats I'm required to participate in work and is usable and responsive. I've used it for a few days and really want to like it.
Even though it's faster and prettier it still destroys battery life. Imo.im ad Plus.im manage to handle multiple networks all day without putting a noticeable dent int the battery. With Skype up and running my phone is dead by the early evening. It's useless.
They also haven't fixed syncing the read state of messages which is the worst deficiency of Skype on both mobile and the desktop. Imo.im did this wonderfully until Skype cut them off at the kneecaps.
There are things I still sort of like about Skype. I use it a lot for video calls (although for work and muti-party video it's pretty much all about Google Hangouts these days). I have a Philips phone that integrates with Skype for international calls (they seem to have discontinued it, and while the calls are cheap the UI is baroque). But the IM is horrible. It can't remember which messages you've seen between devices and so you're constantly trying to figure out what you have and haven't read.
And the IM on the desktop is nothing compared to the horror of the Skype Android app. This slowly spins up and by the time it's loaded previous messages your battery is dead.
Imo.im made Skype IM tolerable on Android and possible on a Chromebook. In the last week it seems that Skype has kneecapped them and blocked their servers from signing in. I'm limping by with IM+ Pro at the moment, but it's slow and buggy and frustrating.
I sympathize with Imo.im. I've been stiffed by Skype before as an officially sanctioned partner so it's no shock that they'd take out this kind of tool.
It would be nice if they could fix mobile and web access to the network first though.