I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography and time lapse.

Book reviews for August 2019

C# Machine Learning Projects: Nine real-world projects to build robust and high-performing machine learning models with C# by Yoon Hyup Hwang

C# Machine Learning Projects: Nine real-world projects to build robust and high-performing machine learning models with C# by Yoon Hyup Hwang

5/5

 

Digital Marketing in an AI World: Futureproofing Your PPC Agency by Frederick Vallaeys

Digital Marketing in an AI World: Futureproofing Your PPC Agency by Frederick Vallaeys

4/5

 

The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel by Baoshu

The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel by Baoshu

3/5

Not bad, a few moments that are a little too fan fic but overall has the tone and scope of the original.

 

The Expert System's Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Expert System's Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

3/5

 

The Lions of Lucerne (Scot Harvath, #1) by Brad Thor

The Lions of Lucerne (Scot Harvath, #1) by Brad Thor

3/5

 

The Possession (The Anomaly Files #2) by Michael Rutger

The Possession (The Anomaly Files #2) by Michael Rutger

4/5

 

Path of the Assassin (Scot Harvath, #2) by Brad Thor

Path of the Assassin (Scot Harvath, #2) by Brad Thor

3/5

 

Please fix phone spam Google!

95% of my incoming calls are now spam. Most of them are some strange pre-recorded Chinese voice with music playing in the background but I occasionally get a free hotel stay as well.

So far Google has rolled out Call Screen. This means I can waste my time watching Google Assistant talk to the spammer. It's way faster not to bother, hang up all calls and delete the voicemails later.

It seems like instead of Call Screen there could be a better way to deal with this.

Firstly, send any call not from someone in my contacts directly to voice mail. This would actually solve a lot of the problem.

Next, for extra credit, run spam detection on the voice mail before sending it to me. If it's two seconds long and blank then just bin it. If it's Chinese with music bin it. Only if it passes the smell test should it appear in my actual voice mail. Google is very good at this for Gmail.

Please!

Amazon Alexa Echo Wall Clock Review

Alexa Echo Wall Clock

It has one job and it's not great at it.

I've been itching to replace my kitchen clock. I stupidly bought a self-setting atomic clock and the instructions said (this was a few years ago so I'm paraphrasing) 'Install as high up as possible on a southern facing exterior wall - ignoring these instructions may interfere with reception of the time signal.' Of course when used in my kitchen it has no idea what the time is. Due to the fancy mechanism it's extremely painful to set the time manually - you push a tiny button and try to stay awake while the hands move round and ultimately overshoot. Repeat.

It really should be illegal to sell things that tell you the time without some self-setting mechanism that works. Would it be hard to encode this in the electricity mains supply for instance? Or acquire via wifi or bluetooth? Every time I get in my car it connects to my phone but the car clock is clearly some cheap crystal that drifts daily and has no idea about daylight savings.

So the Echo Wall Clock is appealing because it should keep the right time without effort in addition to it's main role - visualizing Alexa timers. It's a stripped down implementation of the smart Glance clock but $170 cheaper at $30. It looks like most of those savings went to finding the cheapest possible plastic body. The Echo Clock also skips a face plate, which is a risk as if you touch the hands it will die.

Pairing is easy (via bluetooth) and it does manage to keep the right time. It's a decent if unattractive clock.

The timer function has taken the easy way out. If you set a five minute timer it lights up the minute marks from 12 up and then counts down. On a clock that knows what the current time is. This means that if you want to figure out when something is ready you're going to have to think. You need to look at the lit segments to see how long is left on the timer, and then add this on to the current position of the minute hand. I don't think anyone is buying a $30 timer visualizer to do minute-math. It would be a much better device if it just added the timer onto the current location of the minute hand, which is so obvious that this is what I expected to happen the first time I used it.

Overall it's cheap, cheap looking and flawed. But still a huge improvement on my kitchen's atomic age.

I just want to get rid of Windows 10 Notifications with one click

Updated on Thursday, May 3, 2018

I just want to get rid of Windows 10 Notifications with one click

910 days ago I vented my frustration at Windows 10 notifications.

Well someone in Redmond must be listening. They 'fixed' it.

The problem was that dismissing a notification did not actually get rid of it. Clicking the little x in the corner just sent it to the Action Center where you could enjoy reading it and dismissing it again.

Like some kind of cargo cult Toyota, Microsoft asked the one why, and changed the little x to an arrow. Now it's more obvious that you're just shuffling the notification around the desktop. Ticket closed. But I still have to handle every fucking notification twice.

Which makes the announcement of the April 2018 Update especially ironic:

"With this update, available as a free download today, you get new experiences that help minimize distractions and make the most of every moment by saving you time. Our hope is that you’ll have more time to do what matters most to you whether that’s to create, play, work, or simply do what you love."

I'm guessing they're all on Macs?

I'm not afraid of Google

A Project Fi display ad on an article about Google's insane targeting prowess

At BGR Chris Smith writes about Google's prodigious data collection:

"But that doesn’t change the fact that Google collects an incredible amount of data about you, especially from that device you use most, your Android phone"

And so I was amused as a Google Fi subscriber on a Pixel XL running Google Chrome and signed into my Google Account that the ad in the middle of the article was for Project Fi. If Google can't help paying BGR under these set of circumstances then we're some way off from the adtech singularity.

Banner Chat

Chat Notifications and Chat Banner Notifications in Skype

I'm hoping that a chat banner notification is for really great chats only and not some subtle distinction between chat notification types that I can't figure out even after some moderate to heavy googling. If anyone knows seriously please tell me.

Die PDF Die

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC needs a reboot after updating

If I need to reboot to view a PDF then you must be doing something very badly wrong Adobe.

Nonfiction

Kindle New York Times Nonfiction Bestsellers including Stephen King and Margaret Atword

The Kindle nonfiction list has become a bit alarming recently.

HOWTO: Fix Twitter

Updated on Saturday, October 7, 2017

HOWTO: Fix Twitter

Wired (and everyone else) is reporting that Twitter is finally testing longer tweets. Maybe 280 characters! I had a better fix six years ago:

ITHCWY: Twitter: Put some status in status updates: Give me an extra character for every year that I’ve been with… http://goo.gl/fb/gCEpT

— Robert Ellison (@abfo) July 8, 2011

Why Microsoft is Likely Doomed Based on one Email Folder

Close up of the useless Junk folder in Microsoft Outlook

When you get a piece of spam in Outlook you move it to Junk or block the sender. And then, even if that junk mail is marked as read, the Junk folder has a BOLD MESSAGE COUNT. It's the only folder that does this. I cannot do any other work while I have a bold message count and so I have to switch to the Junk folder and delete the message to get rid of it.

Regular email: read, file, done.

Junk email: recognize as spam, click block sender, confirm that I really want to block the sender, switch to Junk folder, mark as read, delete.

Something is really wrong with this workflow. It's a lens through which you can view the ultimate demise of the company. Sure, Office isn't going away soon and Azure is growing like crazy and SQL Server runs on Linux. But somewhere in Redmond 5,000 people designed a Junk email folder that is the MOST IMPORTANT folder in Outlook. The rest were presumably too busy making Windows Update worse to stop this.

My Google experience is that I really don't get much spam. The spam that I do get is hidden from me unless I actually need to rifle through it for some reason. On the occasion I actually get legitimate junk I just flag it as such and never have to touch it or it's ilk again.