Oct 142013

I’m on my third Android phone now, and appar­ently there is no way to delete the pre­vi­ous phone(s) from my Google Account. The Android Device Man­ager sup­port page tells you how to find the phone and wipe it, but I wiped them before passing them on to new homes. And I don’t care about their cur­rent loc­a­tions. You can hide a device from the list, but not delete it, and I’m puzzled as to why. Do they need a list of all pre­vi­ous own­ers of any device? Why?

And, the page to revoke access to Google accounts from these old devices still looks some­thing like this:

Google account revoke access page

and doesn’t tell you which device or account is meant by ‘Android Login Ser­vice — Full Account Access’. I guess I could turn off each one in turn and see which I need to turn back on, but it should be pos­sible for Google to put some identi­fy­ing inform­a­tion there to help with the pro­cess, even if it’s only the date on which access was reques­ted.

Aug 232011

I came across this weird prob­lem recently, where my Tungle account (tungle.me/laurenwood) was only syn­chron­iz­ing some of the events on my Google cal­en­dar. I checked they were set to the right cal­en­dar (yes), marked as busy (yes), and still couldn’t find the answer. 

This is an issue that quite a few people have had. Appar­ently what’s going on is that Google cal­en­dar sup­ports three types of avail­ab­il­ity for events: free, busy, and tent­at­ive. In the UI on the browser and on the Android they only show the free (avail­able) and busy. BUT, when you cre­ate an event on the Android cal­en­dar, it’s assigned the “tent­at­ive” status. I have no idea why, since I added those events to the cal­en­dar myself, they’re not invit­a­tions that I still have to accept or decline. And the fact that there appears to be no way to change the status once the event has been cre­ated just makes it worse. I tried chan­ging the status manu­ally to “busy” in both the browser and the Android cal­en­dar app but that didn’t work. The only thing that did work was to delete the event and recre­ate on the desktop.

For­tu­nately tungle imple­men­ted a fix — you can choose to mark the sup­posedly tent­at­ive appoint­ments as “busy”. Here’s hop­ing any oth­er apps I may wish to sync with my Google cal­en­dar also imple­ment this fea­ture.

Aug 182009

I’ve often wondered why so many U.S. online com­pan­ies won’t sell to people liv­ing in Canada. It’s a smal­ler mar­ket, to be sure, but not trivi­al, in fact big­ger than most U.S. states. I’ve recently dis­covered a large part of the reas­on — Canada’s import pro­ced­ures and tax laws.

Tim’s blog costs a reas­on­able amount to keep going, so we thought it might be nice to come up with some way to defray some of that. His pho­tos are pop­ular, so we figured to do some­thing with that, prefer­ably using drop ship­ping so we don’t have to invest in an invent­ory of things that might not sell at all. The idea, after all, is to make a little money, not have invent­ory sit­ting around that nobody wants. With drop-shipping we col­lect the money, send the order to the com­pany cre­at­ing the item, and they ship it dir­ectly to the end cus­tom­er.

I try to do the right thing in terms of pay­ing taxes etc, so I star­ted phoning the rel­ev­ant agen­cies to find out the answer to one big ques­tion: how do I make sure the end cus­tom­er isn’t charged the Cana­dian sales taxes (GST for Canada, PST for BC) twice, while still allow­ing the com­pany to ship to them dir­ectly?

The answer is: you can’t. Not leg­ally, any­way. By law, if I sell some­thing to someone who lives in Canada, I have to col­lect the GST (and PST if they live in BC). When the item comes across the bor­der into Canada, if it’s shipped dir­ectly to the cus­tom­er, they have to pay it again. Leg­ally I can’t not col­lect it on the grounds that they will pay it, and leg­ally they can’t not pay it on the grounds that I already col­lec­ted it from them. I could engage a cus­toms broker to do this, but they’re far too expens­ive for me to con­tem­plate at this stage. The only leg­al way for the cus­tom­er to avoid pay­ing the taxes twice is if I have the item shipped to me, and then I ship it on to them. Which increases the cost of ship­ping, increases the deliv­ery time, and neg­ates much of the point of drop ship­ping.

Now I’m try­ing to fig­ure out the options. There’s the option of selling only to U.S. people, which seems weird since I live in Canada. There’s the option of telling Cana­dians that their deliv­ery will take a lot longer, since it has to be sent to me and then I’ll send it on (and I do have oth­er things to do with my time). There’s the option of recom­mend­ing they use some ser­vice that does this for them. And there’s the option of giv­ing up on the whole endeav­our. None of those options are par­tic­u­larly appeal­ing.

Help­ful com­ments and sug­ges­tions are wel­come!

Mar 202009

I admit to find­ing it amus­ing that Barack Obama’s gift to Gor­don Brown of 25 clas­sic Amer­ic­an movies ended up illus­trat­ing one of my hot but­tons — Mr. Brown couldn’t watch the Region 1-encoded DVDs on his Region 2 play­er. Here’s TechDirt’s take on the story (link from Volker Weber).

I have been in many dis­cus­sions with wet-behind-the-ears idi­ots in con­sumer elec­tron­ics stores who par­rot the Hol­ly­wood line that region-encoding is just fine and reas­on­able. Ask­ing them why send­ing DVDs from the US to Europe is bad and should be stopped meets with a “huh?” answer. Ask­ing them why my tod­dler should not be able to watch DVDs sent to us from friends in Aus­tralia eli­cits more of the same. 

Even­tu­ally we bought a DVD play­er that plays from oth­er regions as well, mak­ing it pos­sible for me to buy German-language DVDs suit­able for my chil­dren (not easy to find in Region 1 encod­ing). To my mind, the fact that the regions were set up to put Mex­ico in with Aus­tralia and New Zeal­and shows how non­sensic­al the whole con­cept is. I really don’t under­stand why so many DVD man­u­fac­tur­ers auto­mat­ic­ally region-encoded the DVDs rather than mak­ing them region-free, and I’m pleased to see that even though Blu-Ray repeats the whole region idiocy, many man­u­fac­tur­ers are in fact mak­ing their Blu-Ray discs region-free.

I assume at least part of that respon­se is due to the wide avail­ab­il­ity of DVD play­ers that don’t worry about regions, and the avail­ab­il­ity of instruc­tions to mod oth­er DVD play­ers. There’s an inter­est­ing write-up of the law case again­st Sony in Aus­tralia as well, which points out that “retail­ers of DVD play­ers are not bound by the terms of the CSS licence and the accom­pa­ny­ing tech­nic­al spe­cific­a­tions”.

This whole thing is one of the reas­ons I was so con­cerned about the copy­right legis­la­tion Canada’s Con­ser­vat­ive gov­ern­ment was try­ing to have passed last year. It cur­rently seems to be stalled, so I can show my kids their German-language DVDs, and DVDs from Aus­tralia, with a clear con­science a while longer.

Oct 292008

Tim has a post where he advises developers to con­trib­ute to open source pro­jects so that hir­ing man­agers will look favour­ably on them. I have some prob­lems with this, as do many of the com­menters on his post. 

First off, I agree that con­trib­ut­ing to open source pro­jects is admir­able and to be encour­aged. There are, how­ever, a num­ber of developers who work for com­pan­ies with employ­ment con­tracts that say, more or less, any­thing vaguely code-related that you come up with while employed by us is ours, not yours. Which means con­trib­ut­ing any code to any out­side pro­ject is liable to cause prob­lems, or at least a cer­tain num­ber of hurdles. There are oth­er ways of con­trib­ut­ing to any com­munity that are argu­ably just as valu­able, such as tak­ing part in organ­ising events such as loc­al con­fer­ences, volun­teer­ing at loc­al centres that teach people how to use com­puters, assist­ing users on web for­ums, or teach­ing at loc­al com­munity col­leges. Con­cen­trat­ing on writ­ing code for open source pro­jects seems restrict­ing.

The second issue is that it’s dis­crim­in­at­ory again­st those who simply don’t have the time. Work­ing single par­ents suf­fer par­tic­u­larly from this issue, but any work­ing par­ents of school-age or young­er chil­dren have the prob­lem to some extent. By the time you’ve picked the chil­dren up from school or day care, fed them and the rest of the fam­ily, cleaned up, taken them off to sports/music/whatever, helped with home­work, and done the laun­dry or whatever oth­er chores are neces­sary for that day, all you really have energy for is to unwind and relax. Espe­cially if you sus­pect that the tod­dler will sleep as badly as pre­vi­ous nights this week, wak­ing you up at mid­night, 4 am, and 6 am. When you have to be awake for the day job, as that’s the one that’s cur­rently pay­ing the bills, stay­ing awake into the wee hours isn’t an option for those who need more than just a few hours sleep a night to func­tion prop­erly. No mat­ter how pas­sion­ate they are about cod­ing.

In my case, the pro­ject I’m work­ing on for my day job is the one I think about in spare hours at night and at week­ends. If I were writ­ing code, I’d be writ­ing code for that pro­ject in pref­er­ence to an unre­lated open source pro­ject. I don’t think that atti­tude should be pen­al­ised by hir­ing man­agers either. 

May 072008

I’m not in mar­ket­ing, so I’m not going to pon­ti­fic­ate on how com­pan­ies should design the look and feel of their web­sites, nor on what they should say on their web­sites. But there are some really basic things that com­pan­ies should do to make their web­sites more usable, at least to a first degree. 

Item 1: don’t make your cus­tom­ers tell you where they live until they need to, nor what sort of ser­vices they’re inter­ested in. Case study: Rogers, a pur­vey­or of wire­less phones and oth­er tele­com ser­vices. The first screen you see at rogers.com makes you choose between res­id­en­tial and busi­ness ser­vices. If you click busi­ness, it assumes you live in Ontario. If you click res­id­en­tial, you then have to tell it which province you live in. Every time I pay my wire­less bill online, I have to go through the same rig­mar­ole. Can’t they fig­ure out some way of giv­ing people the basic inform­a­tion and then let­ting them choose which sub­set of the site they want? Telus (another tel­co) does the same thing, you have to tell them which province you live in before being allowed into the site. Bell Canada (a com­pet­it­or) does this bet­ter. Not per­fect, they have this weird dia­log box float­ing in space, but it’s bet­ter. The login for people with accounts who want to pay them quickly is right there on the first page, unlike for Telus or Rogers. May­be they should spend five minutes some time and fig­ure out who uses their sites? Or make their exec­ut­ives try to pay their own phone bills online?

Item 2: assume that some people will be lazy, and not want to type the “www.” all the time. Case study: Shop­pers Drug Mart, a Cana­dian drugstore/pharmacy. If you go to www.shoppersdrugmart.com, you get to the site. If you type shoppersdrugmart.com into your browser, you get “Unable to con­nect” as the server rejects the con­nec­tion. This strikes me as bizar­re and lazy; it’s not that hard to set up a server to accept both types of address, and user-unfriendly to not do so.

Item 3: if you run a store, set­ting up a web site, advert­ising it, and then put­ting no con­tent on it is a waste of time. If you can’t think of any­thing else to put on your web site, put your phone num­ber, your loc­a­tion, and your open­ing hours. A few words about products and/or ser­vices you provide wouldn’t hurt either. Case study: too many, and they all make me won­der why they bothered.