Android: Insane Contacts Storage

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

Oh no:

Low on space (Android)

My phone keeps running out of space. A little sleuthing under Manage Applications shows that Contacts Storage is using over 32MB. Can’t move it to the SD Card – I guess this makes sense, although it would be nice to cache some of the non-essential data there. I’ve no idea if this is a HTC problem or an Android problem (I have a HTC Aria), but some Googling would seem to indicate that it’s not uncommon.

In the People app choosing View from the menu allows you to pick which sources to use to display contacts. I had 5,854 contacts from Twitter, despite having configured the Twitter app to only sync with existing contacts. I also had a bunch of Facebook contacts, with the same configuration (existing contacts).

I tried deleting Twitter from Accounts & Sync. This warned that it would remove contacts (great!) but after blowing it away Contacts Storage had more than doubled to over 70MB.

Time to go nuclear. I backed up existing contacts and then deleted all data from Contacts Storage. My phone is happy again.

Contacts and sync in general is the worst part of the Android experience. HTC Sync is a contact-duplicating, pop-up-and-wave-my-arms-in-the-air-every-time-I-do-anything piece of Adobe Air uselessness. Google really needs a better answer for people who live in Outlook on the desktop. Or maybe they’ll eventually grind me down into GMail…

(Related: How to backup Google Photos to Google Drive automatically after July 2019 with Apps Script; Capture DropCam (Nest Cam) frames to Google Drive; Going Chrome)

(You might also like: Round Top loop at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve; Mariposa Loop; Pulling the plug on Facebook and Twitter, Tweet Archive)

(All Marketing Posts)

If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Bolts of Fabric

I used to work in Woodley, a small town on the outskirts of Reading in the UK. The town center has a pub, a café, a newsagent, etc. It also had something truly remarkable – two shops that combined fabric and general haberdashery with pet supplies.

I never found out exactly how this came to be. I imagine that there was a fabric shop and a pet shop. The fabric shop was struggling and decided to start selling some dog food. The pet shop responded in kind. Both businesses ended up with no real focus, chasing the competition instead of doing one thing really, really well.

Either that or there was a really messy divorce…

(Related: The Secret Diary of a Xamarin Android Developer, Aged 48 1/3; I Love Email; San Francisco November 2020 Ballot Measures)

(You might also like: Google Maps Ate My Battery; Vernal Equinox 2014; Risky)

(All Marketing Posts)

Twitter: Put some status in status updates

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Paragraph Symbol

Give me an extra character for every year that I’ve been with Twitter.

Another extra character for every tweet that gets retweeted more than a couple of hops outside my social circle.

Ten more characters if I #AskObama and he answers.

Etc.

(Related: HOWTO: Fix Twitter; The Trust Project, Fake News and a Partial Facebook Uninstall; The Perfect Twitter Client)

(You might also like: California 2012 Propositions; Autumnal Equinox 2017; News: We Need to Raise Taxes for Shareholders and Cut Them for Companies)

(All Marketing Posts)

CAPTCHA advertising

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

Norton 360 CAPTCHA ad

It’s kind of clever because not only do you have to read the ad but you also have to type part of it in so their catch phrase is more likely to stick.

It’s mostly throw up in your mouth, because it takes a while to even figure out that this is a CAPTCHA and because you know that you could be digitizing books instead.

Spotted on boxbe, although some light Googling suggests that this has been around for a few years.

(Related: Get ITHCWY By Email; Better related posts with word2vec (C#); Top 5 reasons to hate the Facebook like button)

(You might also like: Pride; Clockwise - Meeting Defragmenter; Moth)

(All Marketing Posts)

Is PAD dead?

Updated on Thursday, December 26, 2019

I’ve been a member of the Association of Software Professionals (née Shareware Professionals) for nearly ten years and I publish PAD files for most Catfood products. The idea is that PAD provides a standardized XML format for syndicating product information out to download sites. I used the ASPs PAD directory back in 2009 to analyze product information available in this format.

It used to be that download sites were a significant source of traffic and downloads, especially cnet’s Download.com. This just isn’t the case for me any more. I need to really massage Google Analytics to find any referral traffic from download sites. While I have PAD files available I no longer make any effort to promote them. Given a spare minute or two it’s far more effective to write a blog post.

Historically Download.com did a great job surfacing new products. They’ve shifted to emphasizing paid placements and the most popular so unless you’re a category killer (in a pre-defined category) it’s much harder to get traction. Lower tier download sites used to offer some SEO benefit but I really don’t see this any more as the sites have got wise to preserving their limited link juice.

Other than inbound marketing efforts my best source of traffic is creating Google Gadget versions of my products where appropriate. These provide independent value and link to the downloadable version for people who want more (a fusion of freemium and shareware).

Having got to the point of giving up on PAD I’m excited to see Ryan Smyth’s rallying cry in the introduction to a series on this topic on cynic.me:

“I’m going to once and for all shut up the many nay-sayers that are constantly poo-pooing on PAD, Robosoft, and download sites.”

Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. I hope so and I’ll be happy to learn something if this is the case.

(Related: State of the Micro-ISV-osphere; Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet; Migrating from Blogger to BlogEngine.NET)

(You might also like: Recount; Long term solar powered time lapse camera using Arduino; Summer Solstice 2021)

(All Marketing Posts)

Email marketing - don't shoot yourself in the foot

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

If you send email to customers it's important that you let them know where the email will come from and then use then use this address consistently. Using different email addresses is a recipe for getting trapped in spam filters. This is equally important for marketing and other messaging like bills and canceled flights.

I bring up flights because I'm flying to the UK later today and was planning to return on Sunday. British Airways' Cabin Crew is going on strike this weekend and my return flight has been canceled. Instead of sending a text message BA tried to notify me by email. This would have been fine if they used the address they've used for years, but instead they used a new address and a new domain. In fact in the process of canceling and re-booking I (eventually) got email from britishairways.com, my.ba.com, email.ba.com and pop3.amadeus.net.

Since I've had the same email address for twelve years now I get a fair amount of spam. I use SpamArrest to keep myself sane:

94.9% of my email is spam. Since I started using the service SpamArrest has eaten 482,494 messages for me. I'm far from alone in using white list based email filtering so if you want your message to get through transparency and consistency are the way to go.

(Related: Is it safe to open securedoc.html (Cisco Registered Envelope)?; Sending email via GMail in C#/.NET using SmtpClient; Do I need a Zumbox?)

(You might also like: Grand View of Fog; Marshall's Beach; Pitcher Plant)

(All Marketing Posts)

Licensing Fail: WinZip vs. ScanToPDF

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020
Software licensing is a tricky art - too little security and you leak revenue, too much and you leak customers. I worked on several license management systems at Ç-Dilla and Macrovision so I've spent far more time than is healthy thinking about this problem.

In general I think the best system is one that helps keep honest users honest. A speed bump that itches the conscience but doesn't get in the way of legitimate customers getting their job done.

I just migrated to a new computer and have finished several days of installing software and drivers. This is never a fun task, but I've been through it a few times and keep all my license information on a NAS drive to reduce the pain.

WinZip has a great trial model. The product is fully functional and nags you just enough that you'll eventually pay. I've been a customer for years, and as I moved to Windows 7 I emailed to ask about upgrade pricing. I got a prompt response and was up and running in no time.

I didn't need to upgrade. The old version of WinZip installed just fine using an existing license key.

ScanToPDF from O Imaging was a different story. The license is locked to a PC, and there's no way to move it automatically. You have to email them. It then gets worse - there's an "administration charge" to move a license. So as a paying customer I have to wait for the UK office to respond to email and even then I can't continue to use the product I've paid for.

I'm sure it's in the small print somewhere.

But the impact is that ScanToPDF has lost a customer, an advocate (I've suggested the product to others in the past, never again) and infuriated me enough to throw up a negative blog post. Is the administration charge really worth it?

At Catfood I use very simple license keys locked just to an email address. I'll refund any purchase with no questions asked. I'll issue new licenses as needed to keep customers happy. I have an online service to retrieve lost keys.

The products get pirated immediately, and finding a key generator doesn't take a lot of sleuthing. I don't care about this at all, because happy customers recommend products to their friends. Pain-free licensing is absolutely key to happy customers. Don't fall into the trap of putting your energy into complicated licensing and enforcing procedures. Add a new feature instead.

(Related: The Economics of Digital Rights Management; More on breaking the Internet; Migrating from Blogger to BlogEngine.NET)

(You might also like: Was there ever any doubt that I would eventually write this post?; Going Chrome; Pinnacles National Park)

(All Marketing Posts)

State of the Micro-ISV-osphere

Updated on Saturday, May 1, 2021

I was a micro-ISV (µISV) for years before I heard of the term. It was coined by Eric Sink to describe a one man software shop, and is now generally used for any small software company.

There isn't much market data available this far down the long tail so I've spent some time analyzing PAD files to see if I could answer a few questions.

PAD is the Portable Application Description specification from the Association of Shareware Professionals. It's used to describe software for submission to download sites. How useful these sites are is another question — read Scott Kane on this if you haven't already.

I spidered all the PAD files listed in the ASP directory, downloading data on 76,066 products from 39,861 µISVs (companies / people / publishers). It's not a perfect data set as there are PADs that aren't software and µISVs that don't use PAD. I've also heard that some people are developing web apps these days. But here goes…

Where are the µISVs?

Countries with the most micro-ISVs

Overwhelmingly in the US. Other countries with more than a thousand listed are the UK, Russia, China, India, Canada, Germany and Australia (in descending order). Most countries have at least one µISV but the numbers fall off pretty quickly.

How much do µISVs charge for their products?

Micro-ISV product cost distribution

$29.95.

About a third of products are free and a third fall into 9 price points (all ending in 5). I found over a thousand different US Dollar price points overall.

The most expensive product was a $150,000 Green Living site license from South Beach Software (an order of magnitude more expensive than the runner up).

How large are µISVs products?

Micro-ISV product sizes

There's not much action past 20 MB. Most downloads are between 1-2 MB. There's an interesting little spike around 14 MB. I guess this is a popular framework, possibly Java? The largest download was almost 1.5 GB.

Are µISVs still releasing downloadable software?

Most recent micro-ISV product release by month

This is a tough one to get at because PAD files just tell you about the most recent version, not the release history. The chart really shows a last update distribution for the products in the PAD catalog.

There's a large number of products last updated in mid-2008 with nothing comparable in 2009. Could this be a drop-off in PAD usage? A shift to web apps? Maybe final releases before the recession hit leading to less spare cycles for side projects (my µISV certainly pays for beers rather than mortgages).

How many products do µISVs publish?

Micro-ISV products per company

This final chart shows that most µISVs have just one product. Of course in some cases there might be a brand per product and still a single entity — it's impossible to separate this out from the PAD data. The largest number of products from a single µISV is 616.

(Related: Is PAD dead?; Android 11 Gripes; Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet)

(You might also like: Cloud; Treasure Island Perimeter; Android 11 Gripes)

(All Marketing Posts)

Business of Software 2009

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020
I'm a Joel Spolsky stalker at the moment - after Stack Overflow DevDays last month I spent three days this week at the Business of Software conference in San Francisco.

It was an incredibly high value conference, in terms of both speakers and attendees. Next year it will be back in Boston, which sucks for me, but I'll make every effort to attend.

I was really excited to see Geoffrey Moore speak. An old boss once bought a crate of Crossing the Chasm for everyone in the division to read. It's still the best business book I've ever read. At the conference Moore spoke about innovation - specifically differentiation (get out of the competitive set), neutralization (get back in to the competitive set) and optimization (productivity gains). All three are essential, but you're shooting yourself in the foot if you spend too much time on neutralization - "Best of breed is a suckers game". His thesis was to do the bare minimum needed to stay competitive and then pour resources back into differentiation.

A theme of the conference was on motivating yourself and others - how to build a great company/culture. Several speakers talked about carving out time for creativity and fun. Carsonified evidently operates on a four day week. I've spent the last couple of years on a six day week... lots of food for thought here.

I convinced myself to attend this year after watching some of the videos from the 2008 conference. These are available on the Business of Software Ning - I'd recommend joining and checking them out. Hopefully videos from this year's conference will be posted soon.

(Related: Meeting Defragmenter; StackOverflow DevDays; Updates were installed...)

(You might also like: McArthur-Burney Falls; Drones and Gun Control; Humpback Whale Feasting off Rockaway Beach in Pacifica)

(All Marketing Posts)

Do I need a Zumbox?

Updated on Saturday, July 18, 2020

Zumbox is trying to take the paper out of the postal system. It's a laudable goal, if it takes off it would stop me from feeling that I need to do this:

Junk Mail Solution

Signing up is easy. Enter your mailing address and Zumbox send you a letter with a verification code. Once verified you can start sending and receiving mail online. You can mail a few people for free, bulk mail is five cents per recipient.

Of course you'll only receive mail that has been sent to you via Zumbox. It's not a mail scanning service (like Earth Class Mail) so you end up with yet another mailbox to check.

Zumbox is trying to help businesses go paperless. This includes bills and other necessary communication. It also includes junk mail.

My experience so far is mainly junk mail. I did get a circular about recycling from Gavin Newsom but otherwise just a stream of special offers.

This is a big problem because Zumbox provides very little control over email notifications:

Zumbox Email Preferences

It's all or nothing. Either I get a daily email reminding me to go look at junk mail, or I get no notification at all (and might miss the next thrilling update from Gavin).

Most of my bills and statements are already paperless via email. This isn't as secure as Zumbox, but I'm not sure how much of an advantage this is as I really just need notification.

I really want to like Zumbox, but right now it's just another source of spam.

(Related: Is it safe to open securedoc.html (Cisco Registered Envelope)?; Email marketing - don't shoot yourself in the foot; I just want to get rid of Windows 10 Notifications with one click)

(You might also like: The Perfect Twitter Client; Train of Lights; Merced)

(All Marketing Posts)

I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison's blog.

Newsletter