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.