Posts tagged ‘bug’


Search engines favour novelty over accuracy and merit

01.10.2020

I was chatting to another Tweeter recently about the Ford I-Max, and decided I’d have a hunt for its brochure online. After all, this car was in production from 2007 to 2009, the World Wide Web was around, so surely it wouldn’t be hard to find something on it?
   I found one image, at a very low resolution. The web’s not a repository of everything: stuff gets removed, sites go down, search engines are not comprehensive—in fact, search engines favour the new over the old, so older posts that are still current—such as this post about the late George Kennedy—can’t even be found. This has been happening for over a decade, so it shouldn’t surprise us—but we should be concerned that we cannot get information based on merit or specificity, but on novelty. Not everything new is right, and if we’re only being exposed to what’s “in”, then we’re no better at our knowledge than our forebears. The World Wide Web, at least the way it’s indexed, is not a giant encyclopædia which brings up the best at your fingertips, but often a reflection of our bubble or what the prevailing orthodoxy is. More’s the pity.

I can’t let this post go without one gripe about Facebook. Good news: as far as I can tell, they fixed the bug about tagging another page on your own page, so you don’t have to start a new line in order to tag another party. Bad news, or maybe it’s to do with the way we’ve set up our own pages: the minute you do, the nice preview image that Facebook extracted vanishes in favour of something smaller. I’ll check out our code, but back when I was debugging Facebook pages, it was pretty good at finding the dominant image on a web page. Lesson: don’t tag anyone. It ruins the æsthetic on your page, and it increases everyone’s time on the site, and that can never be healthy. Time to fight the programming of Professor Fogg and his children (with apologies to Roger McNamee).



Top: The post Facebook picks up from an IFTTT script. Above: What happens to a post that once had a proper image preview after editing, and tags added.

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Posted in cars, culture, interests, internet, technology | No Comments »


Google’s knowledge panels: they don’t know how to give access to a verified user

08.09.2020

After my last post, it seemed fair to give Google a chance to respond. I filed some feedback with them, and, surprisingly, I got a reply. But then I was taken around in circles, again, just like in 2009, though the respondents aren’t arseholes like ‘Chuck’ all those years ago.

I clicked to claim this knowledge panel. You send me a verification. In that verification you have ‘Review info’. It’s just a blue box. I can’t click on it or do anything with it. Then when I go to the page to publish on Google Search, you tell me my address doesn’t have permission. I can’t remember how I got there, but you also show me another window saying someone is already managing my company on Google. That can’t be so as I’m the only person logged in via the Search Console and you verified that I was the right person.

   Google’s first response (links removed):

Hello Jack,

Thank you for contacting us.
   You are currently the verified owner of the knowledge panel entity “Lucire”. If you don’t see “Suggest an edit” option at the top of your knowledge panel, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification. Also, check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
   If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, we’re hoping to bring more features to you in the future. Unfortunately, Posts on Google is not open to every entity at this time.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       It would be rude not to comply.

    Hi Jay:

    I really appreciate your reply. In the past, whenever I’ve contacted Google, I get radio silence, so I’m really happy you’re there.
       I signed in as me but there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’. I fail on the first hurdle, actually, as I believe I had turned my web activity off a while ago. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to turn it back on or to access the first link you gave me.
       I have a Gmail with a school I work with. Even though I’m logged in with [redacted], the verified address, I get prompted to log in with my school address when I hit your first link. I switch accounts, which is the logical thing to do, and log in again. Except the site prompts me to log in with my school address. It’s a never-ending loop.
       Hopefully the attached screenshots will help with troubleshooting or to find out what I’m doing wrong.
       The browser is Opera, which is Chromium-based, and it has no privacy settings or blocked cookies that might prevent me from accessing Google.

    Thank you,

    Kind regards,

    Jack


    Above: This is the knowledge panel screenshot Google keeps asking me for. I’m logged in, with the verified address, and there’s no ‘Suggest an edit’ as they claim. That’s actually why I contacted them—because I’m literate and I’ve already read their instructions, which are either wrong, or I’m encountering something unexpected on their systems.





    Above: What happens when I click on Google’s web and app activity link that their reps send me. It asks me to verify my email but it’s the wrong address (this is the school one). I click ‘Next’ and get to the second screen, where I can choose the address that Google confirmed was the verified address, and the one used for its own search console. Notice the verified address has a green circle with a J inside it, just like in the top image. I then get taken to the third screen, but note that I have not been logged in. I sign in again. And guess what? We’re back to square one.

       This is where it starts to go awry, because despite a really good start from Jay, who confirmed that my regular address was the one that was verified to edit Lucire’s knowledge panel, I next receive this.

    Hello Jack,

    If you got your Google Account through work or school, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, examples of these images are attached:

  • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.
  •    Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       I fired this off in reply to Jay.

    Hi Jay:

    Thank you. A couple of things here.
       The school account has nothing to do with this. I’m just saying that your server keeps defaulting to the school account and every time I log in with the correct verified account, it logs me straight out again. Every time I switch to the correct account, your system doesn’t like it.
       You already have the screenshots. I already sent the screenshot with the knowledge panel. I have re-attached it. This is logged in with the correct, verified account, the one that’s used for the search console, and the one that was used to claim the knowledge panel.
       As explained, your server will not let me in to get a screenshot of the web and activity page.
       I am logged into the correct account.
       As explained, you will not let me get to the web and activity page in order to get a screenshot.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       Jay wasn’t the only one on my case. Tanvi sent me something even more left-field.

    Hello Jack,

    As informed please, you might need to contact your administrator to turn on the Web & App Activity additional service for your organization.
       Also, please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.
       If this issue still persists, please send us the following so that we can investigate further, as per attached image format:

    • A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner); and
    • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Notice how they keep asking for the knowledge panel screenshot, and I keep sending it, but no one cares.
       And they keep wanting this web and app activity page, which they won’t let me access. My response to Tanvi:

    Hi Tanvi:

    I am the administrator for my organization. There is no one else.
       I am logged in to the account used for verification.
       As explained, I cannot access the web and app activity page. Every time I do, you log me off.
       I do not know what a G Suite is.
       I re-attach for the third time the knowledge panel.
       I cannot make a screenshot of my web and app activity page because you will not allow me access to it.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       They just need to check their own records to find I am the only person registered to look after Lucire, and if I’m not, then their security holes are pretty damned massive. But doing something logical like that might cut to the chase too quickly, and we know from 2009 that Google likes giving you the run-around. I don’t know who teaches them customer service but I bet it’s the English.
       They keep asking for a web activity page that their own systems won’t let me access.
       I think we can realistically chalk this one up to another failed Google service. I hope they can get it cleared up, as the knowledge panel is Wikipedia-based and, therefore, not accurate. While I don’t use Google, I know the majority of people do. I’ll continue being as nice as I can, as I want to see this fixed, but somehow I don’t think it will be remedied any time soon. The folks on the frontline won’t understand why their systems cannot accept that one person has two separate email addresses and two separate Google accounts, one linked to each. You’d think I was the first person ever to have two email addresses, just like Marty McFly telling his uncle that he has two television sets in 1955.

    PS.: It just gets nuttier. Just because you keep asking the same things doesn’t mean the answers will change.

    Hello Jack,

    Thanks for proving screenshot but please provide screenshots as per attachment only.
       Please confirm that you’re logged in to a Google account that was used for the verification and check that your Web and App activity is turned on.
       To get access to your suggest and edit, please contact your G-Suite Admin. If you are using a G Suite account, turn on the Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin. To know more about G Suite please look into G suite Help Center.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       Here you go, Tanvi. We can keep going around in circles and your firm will look more and more useless.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I have provided screenshots as attachments. I don’t know any other way to send you screenshots.
       Again: I am logged in to the correct Google account and it was the one used for verification.
       Again: I do not know if web and app activity is turned on because you will not let me access it.
       There is no G Suite. I am not using a G Suite. I am the only person authorized to deal with this. I am the admin.
       Please check your records. You will find that there is no one else authorized to deal with this matter. Mine is the only account that deals with the search console and it is the only account verified to edit the knowledge panel.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

    P.PS.: September 10. Where did we get up to? I forget, because the same thing keeps happening. It’s Groundhog Day at Google.
       Right, it’s back to Jay.

    Hello Jack,

    The screenshot that you have provided is not in the correct format, please resend the following screenshot in correct format so that we can investigate further, example of the image is attached:
    A screenshot of your knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner). Please refer to the attached screenshot.

    Regards,
    Jay
    Google Search support team

       Fair enough. Jay included a screenshot of exactly what he wanted. I send this to Jay. (It makes no difference. See below.)

    Hi Jay:

    I wasn’t sure what you meant by correct format but the screenshot helps. Please find that attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       SaiKumar is now on the case. He’s got what I sent to Jay.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for providing the screenshots.

    Could you now please try the following and let us know if anything has changed? If not, please send screenshots.

  • Incognito mode
  • Mobile device
  • Different web browser
  • A screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    SaiKumar
    Google Search support team

       This seems pretty reasonable.

    Hi SaiKumar:

    I’ve attached what I see in incognito mode. I’ve also attached the same screenshots using a fresh copy of Edge instead of Opera.
       I can’t help you on a mobile device, sorry. It’s not something I’m prepared to use.
       As discussed, Google will not let me access the web and activity page so I cannot supply a screenshot for you. What happens when I click on the link in your email is explained in my email sent on September 7 at 22.51 GMT.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       How many times to I have to tell them that they won’t let me access the web and app activity page? They keep asking, I keep telling them I can’t access it, and they ask again.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for sharing screenshot.
       We need your a screenshot of your “Web & App Activity” page for our investigation. You are only providing screenshot of knowledge panel (please make sure that your verified email/Google account name is visible at the top right-hand corner).

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

       At this point, I have my doubts if Google’s staff is even literate.

    Hi Tanvi:

    I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, Jay and Saikumar this, but I cannot give you a screenshot of the web and app activity page because your system will not let me access it. Please see my email from September 7, 22.51 GMT.
       I have already provided you with the correct screenshot from the knowledge panel page but here it is again, from two different browsers.

    Regards,

    Jack

       OK, I shouldn’t have sent Tanvi those SERP screenshots again, but what’s the bet she’ll come back and demand I send her the web and app activity page screen that they won’t let me access?

    P.P.PS.: This feels like the final email for now.

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us. We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Tanvi
    Google Search support team

    I thanked her and I think we can leave it there for the next few years.

    P.P.P.PS.: I actually got a reply (September 12, 21.56 GMT). Links removed because I can’t be bothered making them active.

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for patiently waiting while we looked into the query for you.

    We would request you to try to claim the knowledge panel using a different Google account. If you don’t have one, then create a Google account. Once you create a Google Account, use the email address to add it in the account. Please follow these steps in order to add users to your account:

  • Visit https://www.google.com/search/contributions/manage
  • Under “Add people to this account”, click Start now.
  • If you need to switch accounts, use the dropdown menu next to your profile image to select the account you want to manage.
  • Click Add new user.
  • Enter the Google email address of your new user.
  • Choose whether the user gets manager permissions. To grant manager permissions, move the toggle to the right.
  • Click Invite.
  • You can set different permission levels for users:

  • Manager: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel, and add or remove users.
  • Owner: The primary user on the account, and has the same permissions as managers.
  • Contributor: Can suggest changes to the knowledge panel.
  • You can read more about updating users here.
    Regards,
    Aghrajit
    Google Search support team

    I followed his instructions as they seemed pretty reasonable but, as it’s Google, they’re not really supposed to work.

    Hi Aghrajit:

    Thank you for your detailed instructions. I have followed them, added my other Google account [redacted], and invited myself as a manager.
       I received the Google confirmation and clicked on ‘Get started’.
       However, there is no link to allow me to claim the knowledge panel, just a link to give general feedback, as though I were a regular user. I don’t have any additional privileges.
       Please find the resulting screenshots attached.

    Kind regards,

    Jack

       I think they need to face the fact that their knowledge panels don’t work as advertised, a bit like how their blog review process didn’t work as advertised, or how their anti-malware warnings didn’t clear as advertised, or how their Ads Preferences Manager didn’t work as advertised, etc. Remember, this is the company that didn’t even know where the White House was in Google Earth—and it was version five when I discovered this!

    P.P.P.P.PS.: September 13, another Googler, who’s trying to be helpful.

    Hello Jack,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Please confirm if you are using a G-Suite account. If yes you need to follow the correct steps to turn your Web & App Activity on at an administrator level. Please contact your G suite administrator or system administrator and let him know about it. Please follow the below steps so that Web & App Activity is correctly turned on. Try this with the new email you have added and let us know if you are facing the same issue.

    Web & App Activity settings in G Suite Admin.

    Regards,
    Abdul
    Google Search support team

       At this point, it was getting ridiculous, even though Abdul was being pretty nice about it all. I replied on the 17th:

    Hi Abdul:

    Thank you. I know my main address [redacted] is not part of any G Suite. I don’t know if [my school email address] is. Is there a way you can tell me if it is?
       I doubt that I would be given more privileges than the address currently has because it’s not meant to be used for non-school purposes, and as a board member of that school, it would be inappropriate for me to ask the admin.
       I only used this address as it’s the one that Google kept insisting I log in to (see screenshots of September 7), as it refused to let me log in on any other account.
       I know your next piece of advice will be to create a new account to see if it could be added to manage my contributions, as Aghrajit suggested, but I’m unwilling to start yet another presence on Google, which has more than enough information on me. Three identities seem like overkill.
       Is there no way to simply allow me to log in with the very address [redacted] you verified? I feel we are getting further and further away from the original purpose of this thread, which was to allow me to edit a knowledge panel using an email address that Google confirmed.

    Kindest regards,

    Jack

       Sivaram replied:

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    We are looking into this. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

    Regards,
    Sivaram
    Google Search support team

    I’m not certain if I’ll update this post. I think I’ve made my point: that things at Google can be half-baked. At least this isn’t deceptive in the way the Ads’ Preferences’ Manager was so many years ago.

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    Posted in internet, publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


    More things that don’t work: Google knowledge panels, and typing in te reo Māori in Facebook

    06.09.2020

    A guide to emojis for 2020.

    At least Twitter works. Google, as usual, doesn’t.
       I had a check to see how Lucire was performing in a Google search yesterday and noticed there was a Wikipedia box to the right, and a message saying that if it was about us, I could ‘claim’ the box. I clicked on the link, and as Google knows my email address is associated with Lucire through its search console, it verified me. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been verified’, according to the Google website, and I could ‘Add or change info’, with a ‘Review info’ box that I could click on.

       Actually, it’s just a coloured rectangle. Clicking on it does nothing.
       Maybe it’s my privacy settings, so I used my fresh, unblocked, Google-can-plant-what-it-likes Chromium browser. I log in as me on Google. And here’s what I get.

       Another variant is the below:

       ‘This account doesn’t have permission to publish on Google Search.’ Um, it does. You just told me I did.
       The box remains claimed but there’s not a damned thing I can do.

    Long-time readers will remember my pointing out many years ago how the Google Dashboard isn’t accurate, especially when it comes to arithmetic. Nothing has changed.
       Google says I have one task. Well, I can’t, since I’ve never used it. Click through: I have none, and Google returns a ‘Get started’ page. Google says I have two albums. Again, impossible. Click through: I have none. It says I belong to one group. Click through: zero. I’m honestly astonished at how bad they are. If you can’t do maths, you probably shouldn’t be working with computers.




    Finally, I see Facebook has forced a lot of people to change to its new template. I actually don’t care what the UI looks like, as I’m not there sufficiently to care. And I bet that if you were Māori, you’d want to have the old template back, since you can’t type macronized vowels. The macron just winds up on the baseline on any Chromium browser.

       One friend tried to replicate this on Windows and couldn’t, so this might not be a universal issue.
       The font being called by the stylesheet is Segoe UI Historic. I have it installed, and it’s not something I’ve ever edited. I will point that that, according to Character Map, no macronized vowels are visible in the relevant Unicode range, though I haven’t opened it in Fontlab to confirm. If the browser has to substitute, that’s fine. But what font (indeed, which of the Segoe fonts) has macrons on the baseline? It appears to be Microsoft’s Segoe, so if it’s not a Facebook linked font (the code inspector suggests it isn’t), then we can point the finger at Microsoft for a buggy font on a standard Windows 10 computer. Either way, someone in a Big Tech outfit goofed.

    I had bookmarked this on my cellphone but because it’s my cellphone, it takes a long time to get it on this blog. I have to remember to grab the phone, then look up the post. But it’s your regular reminder that Facebook usually does nothing, despite saying it actively takes down hateful content. As I noted on The Panel in late August, eight copies (I believe in part) of the Christchurch massacre still exited on the platform as of March 15, 2020. The lies are laid bare once more.

       As a company, they also take their sweet time in removing bots. Here’s Instagram in a message to me on August 27 (it’s not the only 2018 report they responded to that week):

    Same old, same old.

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    Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


    Reaching the end of Facebook

    05.08.2020

    With the new season of Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei nearly upon us, I decided I’d pop into my Facebook group (I’m still an admin) to see what had been happening. I’ve been there a few times this week and I have discovered some of the site’s latest features.
       Groups: these now have three posts. That’s it. Three. It doesn’t matter how long they have been running, Facebook doesn’t want you to be bothered by history or anything so stupid. Therefore, after the third post (fourth if you’ve just posted something), you’ve reached the end. Saves heaps on the server bills, since I guess they’re not as rich as they would have us believe.
       (This bug has been around for years but now it’s the norm, so maybe they eventually figured out it was a cost-saving feature.)


    On groups: welcome to the end of Facebook. This is the last post.

       Comments: don’t be silly, you shouldn’t be able to comment. This is a great way for Facebook to cut down on dialogue, because they can then just propagate nonsense before an election. We know where Zuck’s biases are, so they want to be a broadcaster and publisher. You can select the word ‘Reply’ in the reply box, you just can’t type in it. (Again, an old bug, but it looks like it’s a feature. I’m still able to like things, although on many previous occasions over the last decade or more that feature was blocked to me.)


    Commenting: they let me have one reply, but replying to someone who has replied to you? Forget it, it’s impossible.


    In the reply box, you can highlight ‘Reply’ but you can’t type in there. That would be too much to ask.

       Notifications: these never load, had haven’t done for a long time. Remember the ad preferences’ page? They don’t load, either, so Facebook has now extended the “circle” to notifications. If you don’t see notifications, you won’t need to continue a thread—not that you could, anyway, since they don’t let you comment.


    If you knew what your notifications were, you might stay longer and post stuff that makes sense. No, Facebook is for people who want to spread falsehoods among themselves. You have no place here.

       Messages: why not roll out the same spinning circle here, too? They should never load, either, because, frankly, email is far more efficient and everyone should just give up on using Facebook’s messaging service.


    Time to go back to email: if you were ever silly enough to rely on Facebook for messaging, then you’re out of luck.

       I once thought that I encountered bugs on Facebook because I was a heavy user, but as I haven’t even touched my wall since 2017, this cannot be the reason. I also used to say their databases were ‘shot to hell’, which could be the case. And I still firmly believe I encounter errors because I’m more observant than most people. Remember, as Zuck’s friend Donald Trump says, if you do more testing, you’ll find more cases.
       I’ve even found the “end” of Instagram, at the point where nothing will show any more.


    The end of Instagram: when you can find the limit to the service.


    No one’s posting much these days. In the early 2010s, there’d be no way I’d ever get to see the end of my friends’ updates.

       Solution: don’t use Facebook. And definitely don’t entrust them with your personal data, including your photos—even if you trust them, they’ll potentially get lost. From what I can tell, the site’s increasing inability to cope suggests that its own technology might fail them before the US government even gets a chance to regulate! And—the above topics aside—it may be time to regulate Facebook and pull in the reins.

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    Posted in internet, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


    May is always quieter for blogging—and we get to 4,200 models on Autocade

    12.05.2020

    Again, proof that each 100th vehicle on Autocade isn’t planned: the 4,200th is the second-generation Mazda Premacy, or Mazda 5 in some markets, a compact MPV that débuted 15 years ago. If it were planned, something more significant would have appeared.
       I know MPVs aren’t sexy but they remain one of the most practical ways to ferry people around when it comes to the motor car. In terms of space efficiency and the percentage of the car’s length dedicated to passenger accommodation, they remain one of the best. And with the old Premacy, they handled really well, too.
       It must be the times we live in that people demand inefficient crossovers and SUVs instead, and that is a shame. Maybe with the pandemic people will re-evaluate what’s important, and signalling that you have some inadequacy with a large vehicle might fall down the pecking order. MPVs were usually cleverly designed, and the Premacy was no exception—what a shame Mazda, and so many others, are no longer in this market as buyer tastes shifted.

    Out of curiosity, why do people visit Autocade? We haven’t had a big jump in visits with COVID-19 (contrary to some other motoring sites), as I imagine encyclopædias aren’t as fun as, say, AROnline, where at least you can reminisce about the British motor industry that was, back in the day when Britain had a functioning government that seemed terrible at the time when no one could imagine how much worse it could get. Obviously we haven’t had as many new models to record, but are they the reason people pop by? Or are the old models the reason? Or the coverage of the Chinese market, which few Anglophone sites seem to do? If you are an Autocade fan reading this, please feel free to let us know why in the comments.

    One moan about Facebook. Go on.
       Sometimes when I pop in—and that remains rarely—and look at the Lucire fan page, I’ll spot an automated Tweet that has appeared courtesy of IFTTT. It’s had, say, no views, or one view. I think, ‘Since there have been no real interactions with this bot entry, maybe I should delete it and feed it in manually, because surely Facebook would give something that has been entered directly on to its platform better organic reach than something that a bot has done?’
       With that thought process, I delete it and enter the same thing in manually.
       Except now, as has happened so many times before, the page preview is corrupted—Facebook adds letters to the end of the URL, corrupting it, so that the preview results in a 404. This is an old bug that goes back years—I spotted it when I used Facebook regularly, and that was before 2017. It’s not every link but over the last few weeks there have been two. You then have to go and edit the text to ask people, ‘Please don’t click on the site preview because Facebook is incapable of providing the correct link.’ Now you’re down some views because people think you’ve linked a 404. Not everyone’s going to read your explanation about Facebook’s incompetence. (Once again, this reminds me why some people say I encounter more bugs there than others—I don’t, but not everyone is observant.)

       This series of events is entirely counterintuitive because it means that bot activity is prioritized over actual activity on Facebook. Bot activity is more accurate and links correctly. And so we come back to the old, old story I have told many times about Facebook and bots and how the platform is bot city. In 2014, I rang the alarm bells; and I was astonished that in 2019 Facebook claims it had to delete over 5,400 million bot accounts. You should have listened to me then, folks—unless, of course, bots are part of the growth strategy, and of course they are.
       So, when feeding in links, remember this. Facebook: friendly to bots, not to humans. It’s probably not a bad way to approach their site anyway.

    I’ve looked at my May blogging stats going back a decade (left sidebar, for those on the desktop skin) and it’s always quieter. I blog less. I wonder why this is. The beginning of hibernation? The fact that less interesting stuff’s happening in late autumn as the seasons change?

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    Posted in cars, design, internet, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, UK | No Comments »


    The end of the long Instagram video

    27.03.2019

    After the last 11 months, only two Instagram users—myself and an Indonesian user called TryAink—uploaded videos of over a minute (his were up to four). It looks like he and I were experimenting to see how much Instagram would really allow. I guess we were the guinea pigs before IGTV was launched, though unlike those using that service, our videos were all landscape.
       You’ve seen plenty of mine, so here’s one of his.

       It does seem that all good things come to an end, and neither TryAink nor I have access to the longer video uploads any more. I can try, but Instagram refuses to make the video live.

       Mind you, we were the first to get long Instagram videos, then the public got them. Maybe Instagram is going to phase out videos, as we’re the first to suffer an inability to upload them? (I jest for the most part—as stranger things have happened with Facebook-owned properties.)
       What is interesting is that with life being so busy, and with the massive increase in ads, Instagram has not been holding my attention. I also became very spoiled with the longer videos, so much so that 60 seconds feels bizarrely short. Then there’s the problem of Instagram videos being incompatible with Android 7, so all my videos had to be Bluetoothed to my old, damaged phone for uploading.
       The result of the above is that I have reduced my time on the platform considerably, because why am I jumping through hoops created by the incompetence of boffins when it is technology that should be serving me?
       The loss of Instagram maps all those years ago was an inconvenience, but the loss of a feature that I regarded as the norm, plus advertisements that are irrelevant—not to mention undesirable—are turning my cellphone into a cellphone, rather than a portable leisure device where I shared and enjoyed photos.

    Speaking of Facebook incompetence, I caught a few minutes (while cooking) of a documentary called Inside Facebook, airing on Aljazeera English. An undercover reporter secretly films a moderators’ training session on what Facebook’s standards are.
       Did you wonder why so many of the Christchurch terrorist attacks’ videos remained online? Turns out Facebook’s policy is that screened deaths are OK. The default position is that they’re marked with a warning, not removed. As to child abuse, none of those videos are removed as a rule.
       This is a sick company that appears to prey on the inhuman impulses some have, for the sake of monetizing them. I cannot be high and mighty about this, because I haven’t deleted my account, and keep saying that I’m on there for a few clients who ask me to look after their social media. When I think more deeply about this, it ain’t good enough. I need to find a way out, including for my clients who receive DMs for their businesses on there.

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    Posted in internet, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


    Instagram’s slow frame rate is probably down to an incompatibility with Android 7

    09.12.2018

    I thought downgrading to an earlier Instagram would have solved the frame-rate problem, but I was wrong. Here are two videos using the same file. The first was uploaded using my new phone, but running v. 43 from April 2018, given that using the latest Instagram produced very stuttered video. However, it was the same story, so we can conclude there’s something wrong with using newer phones with Instagram. I’m not alone: others reported this bug earlier this year and the one solution appears to be upgrading the OS to Android 8. The conclusion I have to draw is that there is a fault with Android 7, or how Instagram works with Android 7.
       The second was uploaded using my old phone, running probably the same version from April 2018, since that was the last time I performed an Instagram update. The frame rate is now normal.
       The first took four attempts to upload. The second took nine attempts, meaning that I have uploaded this file 13 times on two phones, only to have Instagram show two. There is a problem with Instagram making videos publicly visible, a bug I first reported here earlier this year.
       I’m going to have to pray my old phone holds up despite its damaged screen. Looks like all video uploads will have to be done using it, at least till Instagram fixes the frame-rate issue.

    New phone upload

    View this post on Instagram

    Attempt no. 4 at uploading this video: tailing a Mustang GT, March 2017. This is the full video. I’ve downgraded to a version of Instagram that was current in April 2018, but it hasn’t solved the frame-rate problem. I also haven’t solved the need to repeatedly upload until Instagram makes a video visible to followers. #fordmustang #Stangers #whanganuiatara #NZ #ponycar #benteight

    A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan) on

    Old phone upload

    View this post on Instagram

    Testing the Mustang video on the old phone. Will it be smoother? Seems the newer the tech, the buggier it is. This is the 13th attempt at uploading, since Instagram refused to show the earlier ones publicly. #fordmustang #ponycar #Stangers #benteight #musclecar #whanganuiatara #NZ

    A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan) on

    Failed uploads


    Above: Finally, the video uploaded after nine attempts on the old phone. One attempt never made it to the wall. Instagram refused to show eight of the uploads.

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    Posted in internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


    Why you shouldn’t build projects on Google Cloud (or, why are we still having these conversations?)

    01.07.2018

    This story on Medium, about Google Cloud, is all too familiar to me (hat tip to Donkey). It mirrors my experiences with Google in 2009 and 2013.
       A company monitoring solar plants and wind turbines had Google pull their account twice. The Googlebot falsely claimed there was suspicious activity, with Google threatening to delete their account in three days. If their CFO, whose credit card was linked to the account, hadn’t replied in time, that would have been millions of dollars down the gurgler.
       The company’s warning: don’t build stuff on Google Cloud. Apparently AWS is safer.
       They were very lucky, because Google’s forums are littered with people whose accounts have also been unilaterally terminated, and they were never recovered. Some have lost income streams. Most went through the “proper channels”.
       My experience in helping a friend recover his blog nearly a decade ago showed just how unreliable these channels were, with a Google forum volunteer going out of his way to be obstructive, because you dared question the big G. Most volunteers actually seem offended you questioned Google, such is their adherence to the cult.
       Mind you, I’m still waiting, three years later, for an explanation about why our Amazon Associates’ account, nearly two decades old, was unilaterally deleted. Amazon claimed six months ago that the matter had been ‘escalated’. Still waiting. Google, too, gets back to you initially, but escalation results in nought.
       When things go wrong, US Big Tech doesn’t work, does it? We’ve actively avoided Google for nearly a decade, and began posting warnings about Facebook around that time, too.
       Thank goodness for companies like Zoho: in the 2010s, Indian tech works better, and people take greater responsibility.

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    Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


    Instagram videos of between 2′50″ and 7′03″: it can be done, but some are hidden

    26.04.2018

    As you saw in the previous post’s postscripts, it is possible to upload videos of longer than one minute to Instagram, but Instagram may or may not let the public see them. If you want people to see your videos for sure, then keep them to the standard minute. But if you want to chance it, so far my experience is 50–50, and there’s no correlation with length. Like all things Facebook, there is no consistency, and you are at the whim of the technology and its questionable database integrity. Here are the ones that have worked, the first at 2′50″, the second at 4′, the third at 3′51″, and the fourth at 7′03″ (this had to be uploaded twice as Facebook hid the first attempt).

    PS., April 28, 12.37 a.m.: A few more tries and the odds of a video lasting longer than one minute being visible to other Instagram users are definitely 1:2. The latest is this, at 7′53″.
       Don’t be surprised if these record zero views on Instagram. I believe their stats only count full views, and no one’s going to sit watching a video there for that long unless it’s particularly compelling.

    P.PS., May 4: I attempted a 9′03″ video. No joy. Instagram will allow the upload but the actual process takes an incredibly long time. The progress bar goes back a few times. Eventually it says there is an error. In theory, I think it’s possible, but right now I haven’t managed to exceed 7′53″.

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    Posted in interests, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA, Wellington | 6 Comments »


    Mozy driver could have been behind 100–200 BSODs since the Windows 10 Creators fall update was installed

    17.01.2018

    A post shared by Jack Yan 甄爵恩 (@jack.yan) on

    Two very helpful people—bwv848 at Bleeping Computer and Sumit Dhiman at Microsoft—have taken me through the steps to figure out what was going on with my Windows 10 desktop computer, on which I’ve had between 100 and 200 BSODs since the Windows 10 Creators fall update arrived.
       Windows claimed that the error was a DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL in tcpip.sys, but we know that that wasn’t the cause of the crash.
       They had both got to the point where the Driver Verifier had to be run again. On the first attempt, the process had identified an Avira driver, although after removing and reinstalling the anti-virus program, the crashes continued. I had found other dodgy things in the Event Viewer, but solving them didn’t get rid of the BSODs.
       Now that I’m back from holiday—and with Windows 10 crashing one more time and costing me more work that hadn’t been backed up—I gave Driver Verifier one more go.
       I had been averse to it because of the crashes that resulted from it, and had a sense it would tell me the same thing it had in December.
       True to form, Windows wouldn’t even load and it BSODed during the boot. But this time, running Windbg on the dump file revealed something called mobk.sys (Mozy Change Monitor Filter Driver), part of a program called Mozy.
       I’ve never heard of Mozy, but it appears to be a back-up program. Checking my driver, it dates from April 2010 and was installed in 2012—around the time I bought the computer.
       It could well have been installed by me as part of a bundle, or by PB (the retailer).
       Mozy wasn’t helpful. They have a forum, but when you sign up to use it, you get to a page where they want to charge you US$109 for one of their plans. Personally, if I was making software, I’d want reports from people like me. It’s not as though the question was complex: I wanted to know if it made sense to delete the offending driver in safe mode, or maybe download a trial version of their program, then remove it, in the hope that the driver would be overwritten and deleted. It’s only been a couple of hours since I Tweeted them, so I don’t expect any replies till tomorrow.
       Rather than wait, I popped into safe mode and deleted mobk.sys from the system32\drivers folder.
       These errors are deeply frustrating and in direct contrast to the stability that my Imacs have exhibited. Even though I’ve tired of OS X, at least I wasn’t losing work because of three to six BSODs per day.
       The advice I can give to others is to create a system restore point, then run the Driver Verifier, and repeat the two processes until a culprit has been identified.
       There are a few silver linings to this: I got rid of certain software which might have been insecure, and the random resets were quite handy in “clearing” the PC sometimes when I was doing work on it remotely.
       I wonder what had changed in Windows between the spring and fall Creators updates that generated this very serious problem. I haven’t seen Windows crash this often since a dying laptop, on Vista, needed a fresh OS installation (it now runs Ubuntu). I’m still of the mind that Microsoft shipped a lemon, given that I’ve had no end of problems with this OS since it launched, from inconsistent behaviour (Windows 10 would originally be different each time it booted up, from Cortana settings to which keyboard it believed I was using), to very difficult updates (Anniversary took 11 attempts on this PC and never made it on to my laptop even after 40 attempts; it only updated to Creators because all other updates would fail).
       While I can understand that there was no way either Mozy or Microsoft could have checked on a 2010 driver for compatibility, and there are so many configurations of Windows out there, there’s still no escaping that Windows 10 could have shipped with fewer bugs. Happily, as it turned out, the troubleshooting procedures may have worked, even if things wound up taking a month.
       I’ll blog again if I’m wrong about Mozy.

    PS. (January 18): After 24-plus hours with no crashes, I got another one, with the same message. Following my own advice, I ran the driver verifier again. Windbg pointed this time to Oracle Virtualbox. I intentionally ran an older version of this because since 2015, no newer version would work due to its hardening feature. Faced with no choice but to update, it had the same error which, finally, I traced to Mactype. This was the error, for those searching:

    The virtual machine ‘Windows XP’ has terminated unexpectedly during startup with exit code -1073741819 (0xc0000005). More details may be available in ‘C:\Users\User\VirtualBox VMs\Windows XP\Logs\VBoxHardening.log’.

    Result Code:
    E_FAIL (0x80004005)
    Component:
    MachineWrap
    Interface:
    IMachine {85cd948e-a71f-4289-281e-0ca7ad48cd89}

    The key is to insert these three lines into Mactype.ini:

    [UnloadDll]
    VirtualBox.exe
    VBoxSvc.exe

       The error also picked up that there were McAfee drivers left behind from what should have been a full removal. I ran mcpr.exe, found in a thread with the ever-helpful Peter (Exbrit on the McAfee forums). Mcpr.exe did not remove the three drivers, so I took them out manually (despite this going against expert advice): mfeclnrk.sys, mfencbdc.sys and mfencrk.sys. There was also a driver from Malwarebytes, which I downloaded after expert advice in the wake of the damage done by Facebook and its forced download in 2016. Malwarebytes had to be removed with a program called mb-clean as it didn’t show up in the Windows 10 programs’ list.
       One important point: when the system restored itself after the latest crash, it appeared the old mobk.sys reinstalled itself into system32\drivers. I removed it again in safe mode. I’ve since created multiple restore points so hopefully none of the now-removed drivers resurface to cause problems again.
       I am very happy that I’m running the latest Virtualbox, too, since posting in 2015 resulted in no solid leads. It’s why I’m posting all of this stuff, in the hope others find it useful.—JY

    P.PS. (January 22): No crashes for three days, I update both the Microsoft and Bleeping Computer threads with the good news, and within nine minutes, bam! Oracle VM Virtualbox is to blame again, if the driver verifier is accurate. That was yesterday. Today, I attempted to remove the program from the Windows Control Panel. Merely removing it caused three BSODs for three attempts, literally within minutes of each other. I booted into safe mode once, tried to remove it (I couldn’t), then back to the regular mode. I was then able to remove Virtualbox. I have since reinstalled it—let’s see what happens next.—JY

    P.P.PS. (January 23): Two BSODs this afternoon, still so very disappointed software is this unreliable today. Removing a networking driver from Virtualbox has made no difference. Same error as before. I haven’t re-run driver verifier, but I have now updated MacType to the latest version and double-checked the ini file changes are still there.—JY

    P.P.P.PS. (January 24): MacType update did nothing. Bwv848 recommends removing Oracle Virtualbox altogether. I may have to do that, and reinstall it only when I need it, and see what happens. Sumit at Microsoft has given up for the time being.—JY

    P.P.P.P.PS. (January 25): After one more crash despite some tweaking of the power options last night, I removed Oracle Virtualbox this morning. There were five remaining drivers that removal did not address, two from the latest version (VBoxNetAdp6.sys and VBoxNetLwf.sys) and three from the old one (VBoxNetAdp.sys, VBoxNetFlt.sys and VBoxUSB.sys). I manually removed them. No crashes since, though I will be interested to know if reinstalling, without any of the old drivers present, will make a difference.—JY

    P.P.P.P.P.PS. (January 26): Got to its first crash by 11.45 a.m. Driver verifier now blames CLVirtualDrive.sys. Found one user on Virtualbox’s forum who had the DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL crash but the mod doesn’t like me helping out (very protective people, who don’t like their favourite software criticized). A system restore saw Oracle Virtualbox return, even though I made a restore point long after I deleted it. Let’s see what CLVirtualDrive.sys is. Four BSODs before noon. Man from Mozy got back to me—the first contact other than on Twitter—because they wound up spamming me and never responded to my original support question. Amazing how a few events—including Facebook’s forced download in 2016—have directly led to this time-wasting point in 2018.—JY

    Enough postscripts. The next episode of the saga is here.

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    Posted in technology, USA | 3 Comments »