I have never seen a program as inconsistent as Microsoft’s Cortana.
We were always taught that computers were very logical, that they all followed a certain set of code each time.
Not so Cortana, which has had more different behaviours than anything I have ever seen.
When I run into technical issues, itâs the fault of certain parties for failing to anticipate the behaviour of ordinary people or for adopting a head-in-the-sand position to bugs that are very real or crooked company policies. These have been covered many times on this blog, such as Six Apartâs old Vox site refusing to accept a log-in, or Facebook ceasing to allow likes and comments; and then thereâs the human dishonesty that drove Googleâs failures on Blogger and Ads Preferences Manager.
This still fits into those categories, as Microsoftâs engineers on its forums are peddling standard responses, none of which actually work. One even damaged my start menu and forced a system restore.
The bugs are so varied, and that to me is strange. Normally bugs will take one form and one form only. Address that, and your problem is solved.
However, Cortana has done the following.
Day 1. Refused to work, with Windows saying US English was not supported (curious, given itâs an American program). I downloaded the UK English language pack. Worked perfectly for the rest of the day. How novel.
Day 2. Refused to work, but prompted me to set up again, and then it worked.
Day 3. Cortana becomes deaf. No prompts to set up again, but I do it anyway. It works again.
Day 4. I play with the microphone settings (by âplayâ I mean clicking on a setting but not actually changing it) and Cortana would work intermittently.
Day 5. Cortana would not work except at night, and I play the movie quiz.
Day 6. Cortana claims my Notebook is inaccessible because I am offline. Clearly I wasnât offline because I was doing stuff online.
Day 7, daytime. Cortana refuses to answer and sends all queries to Bing. The Notebook screen just displays animated ellipses.
Day 7, evening. Cortana works after I plug in my headphones (which has a microphone). After I unplug it, my regular webcam microphone starts picking up my voice again. Cortana works again.
Day 8. Cortana hears me say âHey, Cortana,â but then just goes to âThinkingâ for minutes on end. It might display, âSomethingâs not right. Try again in a little bit,â after all that. Apparently Cortana still cannot retrieve my interests because I am âoffline,â which is amazing that Iâm posting to this blog right now.
The microphones work with other programs. And browsing the Windows forums, this has been going on since July. The November service pack was supposed to have fixed a lot of issues, but clearly not.
Iâll be fascinated to see what it does tomorrow. But I am tired of the BS that their techs are dishing out as âsolutionsâ. I’m being reminded why I don’t use Word or Outlook: because I have a short fuse when it comes to crap.
PS.: Day 9, same as day 8. Day 10, asked a few set-up questions (again) and it works, though âThinkingâ still came up for a few seconds on the first go. Day 11, worked without intervention (amazing!). Day 12, see day 7 (evening).âJY
Cortana gives completely the wrong address for me. I wonder if the resident of 39A Aparima Avenue is getting identified as the home of a lot of Windows 10 users.
Thereâs not an awful lot that Cortana can tell you. Most enquiries wind up on Bing, and sheâs only really good for the weather and exchange rates (as I have discovered so far). There are a few fun questions you can throw at her, asking if sheâs better than Siri, or whether if sheâs met Bill Gates, but generally, but weâre far from Knight Rider or replicant technology here. A New Zealand accent presents no problems. One thing she gets very wrong is my location, which is allegedly 39A Aparima Avenue in Miramar. Iâm not sure how she arrived at that address, as I donât live there and I donât believe I know the person who does.
Itâs not too unpleasant to look at although the mobile-specific features can get a bit annoying. The menus feel too large overall, because itâs all designed from a mobile-first standpoint, while the biggest gripe from me comes with the typography.
Microsoft has ruined ClearType here in its attempt to make something for mobile first, and most type looks very poor on screen. Fortunately, a Japanese website still hosts the MacType plug-in, which brings the font display closer to what we experience on Mac OS X. It even goes beyond what we were used to in Windows 7, which had been Microsoftâs best use of its ClearType technology to date.
After installing MacType, ITC Legacy Serif looks far more like it does in print.
You can alter the fonts through the Registry Editor, and I set about getting rid of Arial as always. Windows 10 doesnât like you removing a system font, so the trick is to replace it with something else called Arial, then remove the original from HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts.
Windows 10 removes your ability to change the icon and menu fonts, and they now have to be changed in the registry, too, at HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics, and very carefully.
After tinkering with those, the display began looking like what I was familiar with, otherwise there was a bit too much Segoe on screen.
There have so far been no program incompatibilities. As upgrades go, it hasnât been too bad, and I havenât been stuck here forever downloading updates. Apple still gets higher marks for its OS upgrade processes (when they work) but given how much data I have on my main Windows machine, and how different each PC is, Microsoft has done a good job. Iâm glad the system waited till now, and delivered me a relatively bug-free transition. Software upgrading is one area where I don’t mind not being first.
Last week was an interesting one for computer bugs. Apple took 42 attempts to install the latest Itunes update on one Mac (and that was the good one that normally presents no issues with updates), but, to its credit, once it was done there were no further problems. Windows, however, gave me a few headaches and Iâm recording the solutions here for others who might have the same, since what Iâve read online doesnât always apply.
The old laptop was freezing every time I used Firefox. God help us, I even downloaded Chrome when I was in the Philippines, since it was the only browser compatible with YouTube, to which I had to upload a few videos for work. (Internet Explorer kept producing an error, with YouTube saying I had to get the latest version, and Microsoft saying I had the latest version.) And no, I didnât accidentally turn on my search history since the dates donât even correspond, and I was using another account.
Fix: remove Avast. The bug had been plaguing that work machine for a few weeks and I had an inkling it was Avast. One of the team had accidentally allowed an Avast 30-day trial to proceed, which was the root of the problems. It was roughly at this time the issues began. I had downgraded back to the standard one, but things were so irreparably damaged that the only solution was removal altogether. That laptop is back to AVG, although Microsoft Security Essentials is recommended to me.
My main desktop computer, which is running Windows 7 (since Microsoft has been completely silent on how to upgrade to Windows 10, with the advisory box giving me no clues other than I am in the queue), began freezing me out earlier this week. Twice at night the keyboard and mouse became unresponsive, although the computer itself had not hung: things were happening in the background normally. I had to do a hard reset twice that night, and had a painless day for the subsequent day, but then the bug recurred around 10 times on Friday.
In the meantime, should this happen, putting the computer to sleep works, which, like most bugs, seems to be the opposite of the advice you get. I was still able to access the computer via VNC on Android, and control it through there. Putting the PC to sleep (discovered entirely by accident) and then awakening it worked in getting keyboard and mouse control back.
You begin suspecting certain things.
Keyboard and mouse faulty? You would hope not, since I spent NZ$160 on the former, though it is under warranty. On two occasions I heard a USB disconnect sound. However, both were checked and appear to be fine. I altered some USB sleep settings, but they made no difference (and were put back to default).
Hacked? Actually, yes. I run TightVNC, and there were repeated hacking attempts from IP addresses in the US, the Netherlands and Colombia of late. These were added to the firewall and the TightVNC program updated to the latest version. The Event Viewer had picked these up.
But the bug persisted and even became more regular.
Was it to do with the Windows Error Reporting service? I had not signed up, and it was switched off, but I still went into the Task Manager and disabled the associated tasks. No joy, nothing changed.
One person wrote that they experienced this error after downloading the Intel update driver utility, which I had done so, too, after Microsoft advised that I had Intel issues and was unable to upgrade to Windows 10. That was in August, but it was close enough to the September bugâand I had been away, after allâthat it was a possibility. I removed it, but, the bug continued.
I did the usual disk checks and verified the hard drive.
What finally worked? Removing everything by Apple with the exception of QuickTime. It turns out that not only was the Itunes update problematic on a Mac, it could freeze you out on Windows. That meant removing every updater, Itunes, any Apple utilities connecting you to portable devices, and an Apple service called Bonjour (which had generated a lot of errors in the Event Viewer). Till Apple sorts itself out with Itunes, thatâs the thing you should avoid. Although having used it for the first time in many, many years, only to be told that what I wanted to buy was not available to New Zealanders (who, incidentally, could have watched the same programme for free from the copyright ownerâs website), Iâm not entirely sure why anyone would. At this rate, I wonât be using it again in a hurry, at least not for another few years till someone asks, âCan I download Itunes on to your computer?â
Postscript: A few days after writing this post, which included a trouble-free day, the problem recurred, and this time, there was nothing in Event Viewer at all. After even more investigation, it turns out that in Windows, a faulty mouse can knock out your keyboard. Go figure. Of course, that could lead to a full post about mice.âJY
Some interesting bugs out there on Facebook that my friends are telling me about. One has been removed from all her groups, including one that I run (we never touched her account), another cannot comment any more (an increasingly common bug now), while Felicity Frockaccino, well known on the drag scene locally and in Sydney, saw her account deleted. Unlike LaQuisha St Redfern’s earlier this year, Felicity’s has been out for weeks, and it’s affected her livelihood since her bookings were in there. Facebook has done nothing so far, yet I’ve since uncovered another bot net which they have decided to leave (have a look at this hacked account and the bots that have been added; a lot of dormant accounts in Japan and Korea have suffered this fate, and Facebook has deleted most), despite its members being very obviously fake. Delete the humans, keep the bots.
Felicity didn’t ask but I decided to write to these people again, to see if it would help. There was a missing word, unfortunately, but it doesn’t change the sentiment:
Guys, last year you apologized to drag kings and queens for deleting their accounts. But this year, you have been deleting their accounts. This is the second one that I know of, and I donât know that many drag queens, which suggests to me that you [still] have it in for the drag community.
Felicity Frockaccino is an international drag performer, and youâve affected her livelihood as her bookings were all in that account. This is the second time you deleted her, despite your public apology and a private one that you sent her directly. What is going on, Facebook? You retain bots and bot nets that I report, but you go around deleting genuine human users who rely on you to make their living. Unlike LaQuisha Redfernâs account, which you restored within days, this has been weeks now.
That’s right, she even received a personal apology after her account was deleted the first time. I had hoped that Facebook would have seen sense, since Felicity has plenty of fans. The first-world lesson is the same here as it is for Blogger: do not ever rely on Facebook for anything, and know that at any moment (either due to the intentional deletion on their end or the increasing number of database-write issues), your account can vanish.
Meanwhile, my 2012 academic piece, now titled âThe impact of digital and social media on brandingâ, is in vol. 3, no. 1, the latest issue of the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing. This is available via Ingenta Connect (subscription only). JDSMM is relatively new, but all works are double-blind, peer-reviewed, and it’s from the same publisher as The Journal of Brand Management, to which I have contributed before. It was more cutting-edge in 2012 when I wrote it, and in 2013 when it was accepted for publication and JDSMM promoted its inclusion in vol. 1, no. 1, but I believe it continues to have a lot of merit for practitioners today. An unfortunate, unintentional administrative error saw to its omission, but when they were alerted to it, the publisher and editors went above and beyond to remedy things while I was in the UK and it’s out now.
Letâs see: Facebook doesnât work on Wednesdays and Fridays. Check. Thursdays are OK though.
Itâs another one of those days where the Facebook bug that began on Wednesday (though, really, itâs been going on for yearsâincluding the famous outage of 2013 where what I am experiencing happened worldwide to a large number of users) has decided to resurface and spread. Not only can I no longer like, comment, post or share without repeated attempts, I cannot delete (Facebook makes me repeat those attempts even when a post has been successful, but doesnât show me those till an hour later) or upload photos to messaging without repeated attempts.
The deletion is the hardest: while commenting will work after three to twelve repeats, deletion does not work at all. The dialogue box emerges, and you can click âDeleteâ. The button goes light for a while, then itâs back to the usual blue.
And this happens regardless of platform: Mac, Windows, Firefox, Opera, Android, inside a virtual machine, you name it. Javaâs been updated as have the browsers on my most used machines; but it seems the configurations make no difference.
I am reminded how a year ago I had even less on Facebook. Quite a number of users were blocked for days (Facebook isnât open on weekends, it seems), but eventually the message got through and things started working again.
My theory, and Iâd be interested to learn if it holds any water, is that older or more active accounts are problematic. I mean, if spammers and spambots have more rights than legitimate users, then something is wonky; and the only thing I can see that those T&C-violating accounts have over ours is novelty. Facebook hasnât got to them yet, or it tacitly endorses them.
As one of the beta users on Vox.com many years ago, I eventually found myself unable to compose a new blog post. Itâs an old story which I have told many times on this blog. Even Six Apart staff couldnât do it when using my username and password from their own HQ. But, they never fixed it. It was a âshrug your shouldersâ moment, because Vox was on its way out anyway at the company. (The domain is now owned by another firm, and is a very good news website.) Unlike Facebook, they did have theories, and tried to communicate with you to fix the issue. One woman working there wondered if I had too many keywords, and I had reached the limit. I deleted a whole lot, but nothing ever worked. It suggested that these websites did have limits.
Computer experts tell me that itâs highly unlikely Iâve reached any sort of limit on Facebook, because of how their architecture is structured, but Iâm seeing more and more of these bugs. But we are talking about a website thatâs a decade old. My account dates back to 2007. Data will have been moved about and reconstituted, because the way they were handled in 2007 is different to how they are handled now. There have been articles written about this stuff.
What if, in all these changes over the last eight years (and beyond), Facebook screwed up data transfers, corrupting certain accounts? Itâs entirely conceivable for a firm that makes plenty of mistakes and doesnât even know what time zones are. Or deletes a complainantâs account instead of the pirateâs one that she complained about. (This has been remedied, incidentally, the day after my blog post, and a strongly worded note to Facebook on behalf of my friend.)
The usual theory I hear from those in the know is that certain accounts are on certain servers, and when those are upgraded, some folks will experience difficulties. That seems fair, but I would be interested to know just what groups us together.
Last time I downloaded all my data off Facebook, and this was several years ago, I had 3 Gbyte. It wouldnât surprise me in the slightest that that was now 6 Gbyte. Thatâs a lot to handle, and when you multiply that by millions, some will result in buggy accounts. Ever had a hard drive with dodgy fragments? Or a large transfer go wrong? Facebook might have better gear than us, but itâs not perfect.
I donât believe for a second that certain people are targetedâa theory I see on forums such as Get Satisfaction, with Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicansâbut I do believe that something binds us together, and it is buried within the code. But, like Vox, it may be so specific that thereâs nothing their boffins can do about it. You simply have to accept that some days, Facebook does not let you post, comment, like, share, delete or message. The concern is that this, like random deletions, can happen to anyone, because these bugs never seem to go away. Looking at my own record on Get Satisfaction, they are increasing by the year.
After months of avoiding the latest Mozilla Firefox because it would display no text, installing, removing, and reinstalling an older version of Waterfox just so I could do some work, and experimenting over the last day with Cyberfox, which included editing fonts, looking at GFX settings, editing the registry, and doing an awful lot of research, I have now fixed the problem of having no text in these browsers.
As I discovered years ago, the trick is to do the exact opposite of what the experts suggest.
When trying to set up the office network in the mid-2000s, the only way I could get it going was to do the exact opposite of expert advice, by making sure the speed on every device did not match.
Tonight, the solution was as simple as pie. Almost every piece of advice I had received when reporting this issue was: turn off hardware acceleration. It was already turned off, so, logically, I kept looking at other things. It got to the point where I was advised by Loic, one of the helpful guys on the Mozilla forums who had hitherto walked me through possible solutions, ‘As you are able to reproduce it, could you use the tool mozregression to find a possible regression range, it will help to narrow the underlying regression.’
Software people think I am a lot smarter than I really am, and I had to admit to the writer that I am a layman and I had no idea what he was talking about.
The correct solution, if you want Firefox, Waterfox and Cyberfox to display text where there was none, is to turn on hardware acceleration.
You can imagine my feeling right now: a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am running the latest, most secure browser and that I overcame this rather serious bug, with the usual disappointment in realizing that I trusted again in expert advice that wasted time for a lot of people, including those kind developers on the Mozilla forums, and Alex, the guy behind Waterfox, who were trying to find a solution for me. I simply do not know enough about computers and software beyond what I have to do to make a living.
The concluding remark from one of the guys, Nicolas, on the Mozilla thread was, ‘This means that (at least in your case) the issue is most likely specific to the cairo drawing backend. Good to know, thanks.’
I hope documenting this bug has helped someone out there. Merry Christmas!
Since the Firefox for Windows updates in November, I’ve had a big problem with the Mozilla browser, and the Waterfox 64-bit version based on it: they won’t display text. I had to downgrade to Waterfox 32.0.3 for the last month or so, but it’s begun crashing more and more regularly (from once a day to thrice todayâI visit largely the same sites, so why does software “decay” like this?).
On the latest incarnations of Firefox and Waterfox, linked fonts work, but the majority of system fonts vanished from the browser. And, for once, I’m not alone, if Bugzilla is any indication. It is probably related to a bug I filed in 2011.
I’ve had some very helpful people attend to the bug reportâit’s great when you get into Bugzilla where the programming experts resideâbut sadly, a lot of the fixes require words. And, unfortunately, those are the things that no longer displayed in Firefox, not even in safe mode.
As many of you know, there’s no way I’d switch to Chrome (a.k.a. the ‘Aw, snap!’ browser) due to its frequent crashes on my set-up, and its memory hogging. There’s also that Google thing.
After some searching tonight, I came across Cyberfox. It’s not a Firefox alternative that comes up very often. Pale Moon is the one that a lot of people recommend, but I have become accustomed to Firefox’s Chrome-like minimalism, and wanted something that had a Firefox open-source back end to accompany it. Cyberfox, which lets you choose your UI, has the familiar Firefox Australis built in.
I made the switch. And all is well. Cyberfox forces you to make a new profile, something that Waterfox does not, but there isn’t much of an issue importing bookmarks (you have to surf to the directory where they are stored, and import the JSON file), and, of course, you have to get all your plug-ins and do all your opt-outs again. It also took me a while to program in my cookie blocks. But the important thing is: it displays text.
You’d think that was a pretty fundamental feature for a web browser.
The text rendering is different, and probably better. I’ve always preferred the way text is rendered on a Macintosh, so for Cyberfox to get a bit nearer that for some fonts is very positive. It took me by surprise, and my initial instinct was that the display was worse; on review, Firefox displayed EB Garamond, for example, in a slightly bitmapped fashion; Cyberfox’s antialiasing and subpixel rendering are better.
Firefox and Waterfox on Windows 7
Cyberfox on Windows 7
Here’s where the above text is from.
Gone is the support for the old PostScript Type 1 fonts (yes, I still have some installed) but that’s not a big deal when almost everything is TrueType and OpenType these days.
The fact Cyberfox works means one of two things: (a) Cyberfox handles typography differently; or (b) as Cyberfox forces us to have a new profile, then there is something in the old profiles that caused Firefox to display no text. That’s beyond my knowledge as a user, but, for now, my problems seem to be solvedâat least until someone breaks another feature in the future!
PS.: That lasted all of a few hours. On rebooting, Cyberfox does exactly the same thing. All my text has vanished, and the rendering of the type has changed to what Firefox and Waterfox do. No changes to the settings were made while the computer was turned off, since, well, that would be impossible. Whomever said computers were logical devices?
Of yesterday’s options, (a) is actually correctâbut how do we get these browsers behaving the way they did in that situation? In addition, the PostScript Type 1 fonts that the browser was trying to access have since been replaced.
I contacted Auckland Airport through its Facebook on Tuesday over the matter in my previous post, and got an immediate reply from someone monitoring its social media. She tells me that she will ask them to furnish me with an urgent response. I am still waiting. It’s a bit of a worry when this is an airport’s definition of urgent. If your plane is three days late, don’t worry.
Maybe I am very behind the times when it comes to Auckland. After all, this is the biggest city in the nation and its conventions must drive the rest of the place. I began seeing a lot of red-light runners there some years back, and this novel custom has made it down to Wellington now, where we are ignoring red lights with increasing frequency. Dunedin, watch out: we’ll be exporting it your way soon, as it is the new way of doing things. My Auckland friends all kid me when I observe the no-intersection-block rule from the road code: ‘Ha ha, we can tell you’re from Wellington.’ Get with the programme, Jack: the road code is optional.
Today, I was asked by one Auckland-based organization about whether I attended an event or not in May, which had a cost of NZ$30, and this was, naturally, overdue.
I donât understand why this organization fails to keep records of who attends its events. But apparently this failure is my fault.
I responded, âI don’t recall if I attended but I can tell you that I never received an invoice.â
Their response, âAs per below, I note an invoice was sent to you on the 19 June 2014.â
I never received it. And I can prove I never received it.
It is not my fault that they use MYOB and, from an earlier experience, they have trouble sending overseas, where our server is located. It is not my fault that their (and presumably, others’) DNS servers in New Zealand are woefully behind the timesâsomething else we already know. Do they seriously think I would hold back $30?
My response: âI’ve attached a screen shot of the emails that arrived around that period with attachments. This is the first Iâve seen of your invoice.
âI see your invoice is generated by MYOB. From what I understand, their server does not resolve some email addresses outside New Zealand correctly, so that will explain why it has never arrived.â
Now, folks, remember the modern custom is never to take the other party at their word, and fire back something where they can visualize you are sitting on a much higher horse.
Always believe in the superiority of your technology over the word of a human being, because computers are perfect. We know this from Google, because Google is honest and perfect.
This will ensure greater stress, because remember, stress shared is stress doubled, and we can all get on the Auckland bandwagon.
Incidentally, I have offered to pay because I support the principles of this organization. I realize they could forward invoices willy-nilly to people, but I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re nice like that in Wellington. I’m such a sucker, keeping those intersections clear and stopping at red lights. How very quaint of me.
The above was the most sarcastic blog post I have ever written, so no, I don’t believe Auckland has a monopoly on this behaviour.
Recently, however, I’ve been wondering what’s the etiquette when you receive a bit of bad news.
I had received some from Hastings recently, and my response was along the lines of, ‘I quite understand. All the best to you,’ albeit with a bit more embellishment.
I did not know of the context to this person’s change of heart, and there was no point to force the issue when a decision had been made.
I found myself on the other end recently when a very good friend asked me to help a friend of hers (in Wellington). I initially was enthusiasticâtill it dawned on me that if I took on yet another company in a mentoring role, it would be very unfair on two that I was already helping, one of which was a recent client at Business Mentors New Zealand.
That time really should go to people who are earlier in the queue, and I had to draw the line.
I wrote back, explaining the above in as polite a fashion as I could.
I haven’t heard back. This could be due to an email issue, which is always possible, or the silence is intentional. Given that prior emails were working, then I’m going to lean toward the latter, but without shutting my mind to the former.
Would you reply? I’d like to think that one’s paths could cross again within our very small nation, and you may as well keep the blood warm. Or should we not waste our time, given that that one further email really is of no practical, immediate purpose, and it’s implied, within our very casual, laid-back country, that “it’s all good”?
In the meantime, I got in a submission for the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. As it was under urgency, and I only finished reading the bill after 11 p.m., after getting back and eating dinner late, it’s not the best submission I’ve done (and probably the briefest). However, I was somewhat buoyed to discover the following day that my concerns were the same as those of former GCSB head, Sir Bruce Ferguson. Rest assured my day is not spent pondering the etiquette of modern electronic correspondence.
Mea culpa: OK, I was wrong. Facebook got things back up in about 20 minutes for some users, who are Tweeting about it. However, as of 8.37 a.m. GMT, I am still seeing Tweeters whose Facebooks remain down.
Looks like some people do work there after hours. What a surprise!
However, I reckon things aren’t all well there, with two big outages in such a short space of timeâand I stand behind my suspicions that Facebook has reached some sort of limit, given the increase in bug reports and the widespread nature of the outage tonight.
That didn’t last long, did it?
Facebook returned late morning on Tuesdayâas predicted, it would only be back once the folks at Facebook, Inc. got back to work at 9 a.m. on Monday and realized something had run amok.
Now it’s Thursday night NZST, and if Twitter’s to be believed, a lot of people globally can no longer access Facebook. This is a major outage: it seems one of every few Tweets is about Facebook being down.
Just over two days, and it’s dead again.
Looks like I wasn’t wrong when I wondered whether that I had hit a limit on Facebook. To be out for nearly three days suggests that there was something very wrong with the databasing, and the number of people affected were increasing daily.
And when you look at the bugs I had been filing at Get Satisfaction, there has been a marked increase of errors over the past few weeks, suggesting that there was some instability there.
For it to have such a major failing now, after being out for some users this weekend, doesn’t surprise me. This time, groups and Messenger have been taken out, too.
Facebook really should have taken note of the errors being reported by users.
My experience with Vox was very similar, although there the techs couldn’t get me back online. They gave up at the end of 2009. The similarities are striking: both sites had databasing issues but only with certain users; and both sites were overrun with spammers creating fake accounts. That’s one thing that did piss me off: spammers having more privileges than a legitimate user.
Well, we can probably wait till 9 a.m. PDT when they get back to work. It may say, ‘We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can,’ in the error message, but as far as I can make out from what happened to me, Facebook is a MondayâFriday, 9â5 operation, not a 24-hour, seven-day one.
At least it died on a weekday: we can count ourselves lucky.
Itâs been an interesting day with a forced Facebook sabbatical: I can no longer post, comment or like on the site, and itâs been that way since 3 a.m. GMT.
Iâd say Iâm a fairly heavy Facebook user. There havenât been that many days when I havenât posted since I was sent an invitation by Paul Heck back in 2007, and when I last downloaded all my data, some years back, it was 3 Gbyte worth. Itâd easily be double that today.
So not having access to Facebook any more makes you realize how habitual it has become.
I find that between bouts of work, Iâd look in. I still do that even though I know I canât interact on the site. I still can read othersâ statuses (and send direct messages) but it seems normal to like the odd thing, a function I no longer have. In fact, one friend who I was in touch with expressed that he thought it was odd I had not liked some of his work, because that had become normal as well. It became a way of telling someone you cared.
What I probably miss most is this: Iâd share jokes on the place. Facebook seems to be the medium in which I do that today, instead of email. As I said in a blog post a while back in the wake of Timelineâs launch, it gives instant gratification: you know when youâve got a favourable reaction. Itâs a source of entertainment, too, and much of that came from socializing with silly puns and the like. Good brain exercise as well as providing a bit of levity.
Being unable to access my own groups is a problem. Iâm not sure if I can delete dodgy threads on them presently, but this shows how much Iâve come to use those groups for hobbiesâto the point where I quite often learn about things from them. At least one is for work.
Day one sans Facebook hasnât been quite enough to alter my habits massively, since Iâve been occupied on other things. But it has made me aware of when I do go on the site and what I actually value on it. And it is to share a good laugh, in lieu of having a pint at a pub.
It makes you wonder: where is the substitute? It hasnât been on Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram, which I frequent. They have each evolved into narrow categories: Tumblr for visual stimulation, Twitter for quick comments, Instagram for sharing images and following some hobbies. Weibo has been more cathartic for me, rather than a place I interact. Google Plus is just where I post articles about Google.
A friend and I Skyped this morning, in the small hours, and concluded again, as people have many times, that the next grand site will offer something so different, and so important to us, that Facebook will be seen as old hat and quaint. It was inevitable, as I repeated my story on how no one could have seen the fall of Altavista as 1998 ticked over. But, right now, if you find yourself Facebooklessâand not by choiceâit does leave a void in your routine in 2014. Believe me, I didnât want to admit that.
One unlikely thought crossed my mind: what if it doesnât come back? What if I found the limits of Facebook? After all, the error messages have all said that the bug is momentary, and to try back in a few minutes. Itâs been 12Âœ hours so far, but Facebook time and real time are usually different things. Iâve been tracking bugs for years on Get Satisfaction, and things take at least half a year to get right at Facebook. For a start, a bug where one could not tag someone by their first name took six months to fix. The bug where New Zealanders could not see their Facebook walls on the 1st of each month took over six months to remedy since the first report (October 1, 2011; the last was April 1, 2012). It took 19 months for Lucire to secure its name on Instagram (well, it took a couple of days once it got to someone who caredâjust like Blogger). It took three years for a Facebook page map for That Car Place to be correctly positioned in Upper Hutt and not Hamilton (since Facebook seemed to confuse owner Stephen Hamilton’s surname with his location, even though they were put in to the correct fields).
This latest bug is particularly difficult because, despite finding pages where I could report it, I canât post. The bug is that I canât feed in anything, so what is the point of offering a comment box, when the message wonât âstickâ or be sent? It is the equivalent of a giant poster asking, ‘Are you illiterate? If so, please write to âŠ’
Asking a friend to post on my wall on my behalf is useless, too, since one friend attempted to in the evening and also got an error; while another friend, also wanting to help me out, couldnât see the wall at all. It plainly wouldnât load, which is what I find on a cellphone browser like Dolphin.
Trying to use Facebook to log in to an app does give a slightly different message: there is a link to an explanation on what is happening. This is absent everywhere else. Facebook claims that they are updating a database where my account is. It must be a very special database because Iâve seen fewer than half a dozen Tweets complaining of the same problem today.
However, Iâve become wary of explanations from big Bay Area websites, since few of them hold true.
It brings back memories of Vox (no relation to the current site at the same URL) in 2009. Those of you who knew me from blogging there will recall the story: the posting window would take two days to come up for me. (It should take a second.) Six Apart, the then-owners of Vox, kept getting me to look at various things, or blamed my ISP, before I got fed up with the excuses. This went on for months.
I eventually said, out of frustration: âHere is my email and here is my password. Use them at Six Apart headquarters in San Francisco. If you can get that posting window to appear instantly, I will admit it is my problem and shut up.â
The end result was they couldnât, either, but it took such a drastic action before I was believed, and I wasn’t some guy who didn’t know “how to internet properly”.
Iâve seen Google outright lieâas some of you have seen on this blogâand I just wonder about Facebook right now. Iâve probably filed the greatest number of Facebook bugs of anyone at Get Satisfactionâsince you can get blocked from Facebook and accused of abuse if you file them at the site itselfâto keep a record of just how the site is disintegrating. What it says on the tin and what it does are becoming two very separate things.