Outdated Software and Support

September 27th, 2012

I run outdated software on my home computer. I know it to be outdated (OS X 10.5). I have an old computer (going on 5 years) and though I could probably run the next two iterations of the OS, I just haven’t bothered. Yesterday, a problem came up in my browser and it got me off my duff to fix the problem.

While I was working on that though, I started browsing the support forums for the browser. I was reminded why I stopped working in support. People have a great sense of entitlement, it is one of our true American traits. I feel for the Chrome support team right now. Leopard is from 2007, but there are people on the support forums genuinely raging and accusing the Chrome team of being lazy. It brought back memories of the guy who got mad at me for not supporting Windows ME (a 2000 release) in 2007. That support call was over dial-up networking. That’s right. I got yelled at in 2007 for not helping a guy set up dial-up on his Windows ME box. Just like these Chrome users, the ME guy used the language of crowds. What did I mean I wouldn’t support this outdated software? “Millions” of people still used Windows ME and dial-up connections (despite not living in the country, which doesn’t [didn’t?] always have broadband available). Customer please. I could see from the account info he lived in a major metro area. He had no reason to expect that his software and connectivity situation would be fully supported. The same applies for OS 10.5 users. And how many of them actually use Chrome?

All of these people post on the support forums rage quitting Chrome. It’s sad really. I’d tell them on Google’s behalf what I told that customer. Software goes out of date, if you have out of date software, don’t expect it to be supported. A good rule of thumb is that 4-5 years after release of the software, the company will feel comfortable ignoring your cries for support. This is natural, most of their customer base will have moved to the new software in that time frame. The entire industry moves along and keeping everything working with setups that are 6+ years old leads to software bloat. It’s just not feasible.

Oh, and Google is a huge company while 10.5 users are a small base at this point. I don’t have solid numbers, but six months after 10.7 was released, it was estimated that 10.5 was 14% of the installed user base. We’re several months past the release of 10.8. What does that tell you. Apple’s laptop/desktop market is somewhere under 30% of the national user base. I don’t have the exact numbers, so I’ll aim low. If you’re less than 14% of 30% of the market, do the math. Even using really generous numbers, that still puts you at 4% of the total user base. (you aren’t) Don’t expect a lot of kowtowing from support. Being angry does not magically inflate the size of your software demographic, and unlike it would be with social demographics, it’s not bigotry if they run right over you.

Obviously for filing under first world problems.

I have not, until a month ago, had a smartphone. I joined the rest of the people I knew in the modern world when I bought an iPhone 4S. This is somewhat amusing, as three years spent in IT left me with Facebook and Google+ feed full of people posting reasons they won’t ever buy another Apple or MS product. Well whatever, I got a damned iPhone, and those friends can deal.

For the first two weeks, Siri actually did a fantastic job recognizing the names of my friends. I was flat out amazed. It did it right out of the box, and never seemed to miss a beat. But over the past two weeks, results have progressively declined in value. My wife’s name is Kelli. She spells it with an i, and I tease her for it. But Siri handled it just fine until a week an a half ago. Then I would ask it to call Kelli, and it would say I didn’t have any contacts named Kelly. It stuck to this, and eventually I got it to work around based on using both first and last name. Now Siri insists that it can’t call anyone named Kelly McCloud. It handled my last name just fine last week. It brings up, a list of my family members, all spelled Macleod, as an example of how it doesn’t have any McClouds, but it could call one of these other wastrels if you want. But fuck all if you want to call someone on that list, it won’t do it. You have to add the layer of telling it, no, you idiot, you pronounce it right when you read it out to me but you insist on some other spelling.

It’s really this break between the insistence on spelling while still being able to correctly pronounce the names that makes it infuriating. Two of my best friends ever are named Eric and Erik. I will continue to omit their last names, but those are different. When I ask that it call Erik 2 it says it doesn’t have an Erik, but it could call Eric 1 or Erik 2. Note that I use his full name to give it context. It pronounces both first and last back to me, saying it doesn’t have an Eric 2 but it could call x where Erik 2. So, it really gets it all right, but insists that no one would ever name their child Erik or Kelli.

I understand that when two spellings are pronounced the same way, it has to make a choice for display, but it sees that there is an alternate spelling in my contacts list, indexes that alternate spelling, suggests that alternate spelling, but insists that the only valid spelling of the pronounced names Erik and Kelli is Eric and Kelly.

The overall effect is darkly comical. Siri is the spelling police. No you crazy Americans with your alternate name spellings, Siri draws a line in the sand, a line that says Erik is wrong. Only hateful idiots would use a spelling other than the Siri approved one. Have you considered misspelling the names of your friends in Siri to get them to index correctly? Siri would like you to consider doing that.

I’ve read over this, and I think I’m having a hard time expressing how surreal it feels. I just said: “Call Kelli Macleod” and Siri replies with audio and text: “I don’t have a Kelly McCloud, but perhaps you meant one of these “Jamie Macleod or Kelli Macleod” and reads those names to me with correct pronunciation. Madness. I would have just said, “Oh well, it’s voice technology and it’s not quite there yet” if it had not worked perfectly well two weeks ago.

Sci-Fi Predicting the Future?

September 6th, 2011

The other day there was a NY Times article about novelists predicting the future. Now, on a long enough time scale, that’s going to happen with fiction. Of course the NYTimes article don’t talk about how Asimov had sentient androids with “positronic brains” wandering around the same world where people still used slide rules for calculation. That sort of missed prediction just gets swept under the carpet, despite the fact that people have long looked to Asimov for ideas on the kinds of tech they should try to invent. On some level, there is predictive power in science fiction, because if it’s possible, compelling, and grabs the mind of someone at a young enough age, they will grow up to try to invent it. The possible becomes the real. And IO9 had a nice little takedown of the article, much needed. So it was with a sense of self amusement that I notice today, while looking for oxygen bleach, that Target sells compressed scented air. Oh my God! Spaceballs predicted the future!

Proxies for Thinking

December 16th, 2010

I am often dismayed by the willingness of political writers to use the lives of individual legislators as proxies for the state of the nation, thus saving themselves from having to think too hard. Witness today’s article about Patrick Kennedy cleaning out his office, used, by several of the commentators in the article to connote the decline of liberalism in America.

Here are the two quotes I’m thinking of:

“This is a family that once had the presidency and two Senate seats, and they’re now down to the mayor of Santa Monica,” said Darrell M. West, a Brookings Institution scholar. “It’s a pretty dramatic fall, and it’s symbolic of the decline of liberalism.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, said that while Mr. Kennedy’s departure was minor in the scheme of things, that he and his father were being replaced as the only father-son team in Congress by Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, who hail from the libertarian Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, was indicative of “the kind of sea change we’re going through” on Capitol Hill.

The first one attempts to hide the absurdity of his sentiment by calling it symbolism. But even as symbolism it’s hollow. To be sure, the far left has taken a drubbing. But the presence of blood relations in Congress has nothing to do with it.

Try phrasing it like this: “The power of a political ideology can been seen in the number of blood relations that semi-dynastic families supporting that ideology manage to get elected.”

It really reveals how colossally stupid the idea is. Yet that sentiment is essentially what these two quotes try to accomplish. Sadly, the strong personalities that the Kennedys, Bushes, and Pauls of the world represent are too much for many commentators and reporters to ignore. All too often political ideologies are conceived of by the commentariat as simply the manifestations of these powerful personalities. If they’re blood relations? So much the better. You just wave your hands around and call it symbolism. I don’t think many of Rand Paul’s votes came from people who wanted to symbolically endorse Ron Paul’s viewpoints by electing his son.

As an aside, the first quote calls the lack of Kennedys in national elected positions a “dramatic fall,” but really, it’s only a fall if you think later generations not choosing to go into politics is in some way a failing of those younger generations. Maybe Joseph P. Kennedy would have thought of it that way. But I doubt Edward M. Kennedy Jr., who founded his own company and to the best of my knowledge never ran for any elected office, loses much sleep over it.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to go back to studying for my federal courts exam…

Two of my favorite comic creators, Ryan North and David Maliki have defeated Glenn Beck in Amazonian combat. Their book being number one on Amazon and not his pissed off the Paranoia Artist to the point that he attacked the book. This included the hilariously egocentric statement that his books are always #1. Man, if that guy ever falls off the map, he’s gonna fall hard. What I love about this is that it basically casts Beck in the role he usually assigns to the Dems, complaining that a media insurgent with no gravitas is spewing about stuff that has a negative impact on society. North and Maliki are in the Beck role of making money just because the bigger entity has taken the time to attack. This is not to say that I think North and Maliki are crazy like Beck, just that they’ve turned the tables on him.

Transcript of the Beck stuff from the Machine of Death website: Sound and Fury

Scheduling on Gmail

August 17th, 2010

I can’t set a time for emails to send through gmail. How the hell am I supposed to prevent review staffers from knowing I’m still up and working on stuff at two in the morning? If I leave it in the drafts folder then I’ll forget to send it entirely. Come on Gmail. What you want me to use Outlook or something? Not that I’m about to start using mail.app, but that would necessitate cron last I checked. More Google staffers should spend time catering to my whims, and bringing me grapes. Someone needs to dedicate their 20 percent time to making my life mirror Hedonism Bot’s.

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Indignant People

January 23rd, 2010

This is why we can’t have nice things. Note the people in the comments claiming they will never respect Conan after he wasted money with the sketches in the last three nights of his show, instead of sending that money to Hati. This is in the comment thread discussing his final episode, in which he notes that they did not actually spend that money. Hell, do people really think that someone would sell him an original Picaso on that short notice? This is why we can’t have nice things in our society. People are always there waiting to get indignant and angry, even when there is nothing to yell about. In three years, America’s number one export will be manufactured rage. But hey, at least the manufacturing jobs will be back… right? Right? I’m sorry CoCo, that might have been a little cynical.

Boing Boing in Decline?

January 8th, 2010

From time to time, I lament that Boing Boing no longer seems to be bringing me the amazing and absurd at quite the clip that it used to. They even seem to have dropped the “A Directory of Wonderful Things” slogan I recall them having. There is a stead stream of guest bloggers and the “wow, I never would have imagined that” moment seem farther and farther between. Meanwhile the political stuff I agree with but am annoyed by how they present continues to increase. Also, the steampunk stuff that isn’t steampunk has been on the rise. It is at this point that I remind myself that I am friends with a man I can only call the one man Boing Boing. Sadly for the world, he does not have blog, but I’m friends with him on Facebook, and that means my feed brings me weird and wonderful things.

For example, because of this man, I saw this particular video long before Boing Boing found it, and without all the weak sex jokes in the comment thread.

Anyone who doesn’t know Wizard/Casaubon is missing out. I leave him in his semi anonymous state because he always worried about getting a teaching position if his name got out. If I was on a hiring committee, I’d want to know that my life would be 100% more interesting with him around. Of course I didn’t say better… We can’t have him getting an ego.

P.S. Wizard, if you sent me an animal carcass in preservative fluid like you suggest you might send people in your January Christmas gifts note… lets just consider this whole note as a case of it being opposite day.

Well, On to a New Who

January 6th, 2010

After having viewed the second half of the end of Russel T. Davies and David Tennant’s finale I’ve been feeling a little better about it. I still wouldn’t downgrade it to merely “farty” as Colin suggested, but it is less crap when viewed as a whole. My primary complaints remain however.

There was no real payoff for the Master making everyone on earth the Master, unless you count the “Master Race” pun, which still makes me want to punch RTD in the face. So I guess I’m not counting it.

The whole thing could have been edited drastically. I know they’re saying goodbye to someone a lot of people really loved, but the end sequence where he sees

    everyone
again was a bit much, especially when it happened at the end of the last series already. And did they need the lighting bolts/junkyard confrontation in the first episode? Not in the end as it turns out. What is the point of being able to shoot lighting bolts that cause explosions when it just gives the guy you shoot at indigestion anyhow?

At any rate, it was not as bad as all that, almost pleasant in the end, and I did think that the acting was well done, when decent lines were there to make it possible. On to Smith/Moffat, which I have high hopes for, though it’s hilarious to see people complaining that Smith is not attractive. Because everyone wanted a piece of Pertwee and McCoy back in the day…

Law School and Debt

July 3rd, 2009

The NYTimes today has an article about an aspiring lawyer who amassed over four hundred thousand dollars of debt. The New York state bar denied him admission based, essentially, on the size of his debt. The story is itself sad, as reading it entails playing witness to a man who did what might not have been sensible, but was definitely determined and inspiring, in pursuit of his dream.

But it is my continuing obsession with comment threads that causes me to write. This article already has over three hundred comments on it. Now many of them are about the absurdity of his being denied, in light of the other transgressions that practicing members of the New York bar have gotten away with. Well, that seems like a pretty good point. But there are two other dominant types, the first being of the “this proves lawyers and judges are evil” variety, all too common I’m afraid. Lawyers and cops always get judged by their worst members, and both professions have a spotty record for policing their own.

The other group attack the student loan program and the cost of education. Now, I’ll be the first to say that the cost of education has gotten too high. We’re in a situation where other countries have arguably better secondary education, and the one real advantage the American educational system had was its colleges. Now we’re putting those out of reach, and the ones that remain in reach are often places where you have to get a good education in spite of those around you. I’m not saying a good education is impossible at a lower tier state school, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot harder to get it.

So people take out loans to afford it, and then many have trouble paying it back, because you have to take out the same damn loans whether you major in accounting or social work. We do want social workers, right? We don’t all want to live in some warped Ayn Rand nuthouse, do we? So we need the loans, and we should really consider how much we charge the people who will be working lower paying jobs that we really need done. (Also, anyone reading this who’s going to be doing social work or other public interest work, there is a public service loan repayment program. Check it out.) But who in the hell are these posters talking about when they refer to lawyers getting quarter million dollar loans and then expecting to pay them back? Are these K-J.D. people? Because I have no idea how it would get up that high. If this is a mix of Stafford and Plus loans, you’re looking at around 7.5% interest averaged out over all of them. That’s going to be just under $20,000 a year to hold even. Sure, you can pay it pre-tax, but it’s still a big pill to swallow.

I’m going to save some more rant for later though. First off, I want to talk a bit about undergrad. Second, for some reason every time I’ve tried to save this draft the past three times I’ve written it, I got cut off at 440 words.

Edit: And it turns out to be the connection on campus.

I don’t watch a ton of sports, nor do I tend to read much about it, the exception being hockey. I’ll read some NBA stuff from time to time, and I’ll check to make sure the Lions still suck, but hockey is what I follow. Last night was a very relaxing game for me, and while I was watching it, I found myself thinking about how people talk about stars in sports. In this aspect, hockey is one of the worst. The slow degeneration of the language caused by hockey announcers on national television is amazingly depressing.

First off, I am sorry Chicago, it’s great that you’re a reemerging marking in hockey. I’m glad the Blackhawks are good again, but you do not have two super stars right now, you don’t even have one. You have a very good team, and one that I look forward to watching many times in the future, but the announcers were wrong when they said that you had two super stars. Kane and Toews might get there one day, but they aren’t there yet. This over glorification of the athletes who are merely, and I don’t want that word to be too prejudicial, are stars, is ridiculous. This happens in other sports, but perhaps because hockey is trying to mount a comeback on the U.S. sporting scene, it is much worse with the hockey announcers.

Not every team can have two superstars. The very nature of a super star is that they stand out from the other stars. They aren’t just stars, they stand out from the rest of the stars. It’s ridiculous that I have to say this. I’m not sure I’d say Detroit has a single superstar, and they are likely to win back to back cups.

This shouldn’t surprise me though. Every time you draw a linguistic Maginot Line, the sports announcers are just going to run through the Ardennes of human speech in their quest to render the English language comical through superlatives. Do you really need to say that an athlete “owns” a hard shot? Basketball was bad on that one for a while too. I understand that the job of sports reporting is a constant struggle against repeating your cliches too quickly, but it has to be better than that. Also, ESPN should hire some more editorial assistants to check the writing. It’s amazing how many mistakes get through. You know there are plenty of people available with the way that the publishing industry is these days.

This has been another “Get Off My Lawn Moment” with Ian Macleod.

Since last paying significant attention to this blog, I had forgotten how much blog spam accumulates in the filters. I just scan them to see if there is anything that looks like it isn’t a blog of crap. However, even shorter comments get tossed if the email address looks odd. On the off chance that I’ve actually thrown out a good comment: “I’m sorry whoever you were.”

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