Posts tagged ‘customer service’


It took Rick Klau to sort it out, again

10.12.2013

In 2009, when my friend Vincent’s Blogger or Blogspot blog was deleted by Google, I fought on his behalf to get it back. Six months on the Google support forums, nothing.
   One day, a friend on Twitter told me that with Google’s deletion of John Hempton’s blog, as publicized by Reuter journalist Felix Salmon, Blogger product manager Rick Klau had intervened, and had it reinstated. Maybe I should approach Rick, who had a stellar reputation was being one of the good guys inside Google.
   I did, and within a day, he had sorted everything out.
   Six months using the official channels, one day getting the boss involved.
   Admittedly, I began getting suspicious of Google’s Blogger service, even though my own blogs never fell foul of the Googlebot. Google then announced that it would end FTP support of blogs anyway, so I decided it was time to pack up and leave.
   One by one, I deleted my blogs from Blogger, and I watched the number drop slowly inside Google Dashboard.
   Google Dashboard always lagged a bit, but between the start of 2010 and today there was a problem: all my Blogger blogs had been deleted, but Dashboard continue to record 1.
   And so began another saga with Google.
   Again I used the official channels—the support forums—and got no response.
   Rick had left Blogger—he would up being YouTube’s product manager for a while—so I contacted his successor, Chang Kim. Chang passed it on to Brett, one of Blogger’s staff.
   Brett told me the name of the blog I supposedly still had. The weirdest things are these: I’ve never heard of this blog, so it’s definitely not mine; but, I do know the gentleman in Canada who owns it, and he tells me that I have never had any connection to it, nor has he ever added me as an author. I responded to Brett at the time and told him this, but the conversation was dropped.
   I never knew if Brett was on the level. What if Google had not properly deleted all my data as I had asked it to? What if the 1 reflected that? Or if it was a bug, then really Google needs to fix it, so being a good netizen, I really should point out this discrepancy.
   I started a new thread this year on the Google support forums, and it was answered by our old friend Chuck—the chap who fenced with me at the end of 2009 asking irrelevant questions and ignoring specific answers. He asked yet another irrelevant question, I gave him a specific answer, but this time, he just dropped it (a typical experience, I might add, for anything that falls outside routine matters on the Google support forums). I suppose that’s better than fencing and keeping me on there for another half-year.
   So, would Google ever sort this out?
   One evening, I decided I would turn to the one person inside the company who showed some responsibility for his company’s actions: Rick Klau.
   Rick’s with Google Ventures now so he had no real reason to get involved in an enquiry concerning a branch of a company he left three years ago.
   But in classic Rick fashion, he stepped up.
   And while it wasn’t 24 hours, it was a single weekday. Rick asked me one question the day after my enquiry, I answered it, and a weekday later, he had sorted it: my Google Dashboard says I have no blogs with them.
   Three (nearly four) years using the official channels, one day getting the (former) boss involved.
   Google might do some questionable things, but it has at least one good bloke working for it. If only everyone was as professional as Rick Klau.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Business etiquette 101: don’t threaten lawsuits against a customer proposing an idea which you later adopt

30.11.2013

Interesting to spot this link. When I started Autocade in 2008, I approached Haymarket, letting them know I was a Classic and Sportscar reader since it began in the 1980s, and I was inspired by the Sedgwick guides that it ran then. Autocade was to be an online cyclopædia that would use a brief format, with original research, of course, but I would welcome the input of C&SC if it so wished.
   As I recall, the response from the boss was condescending. His staff were so busy there was no way they could ever contribute to such a venture, he told me. That was before the threat: if any part of the Sedgwick guides wound up in Autocade, there would be a lawsuit.
   All this in a single reply, to someone who told him he was a customer since 1983.
   This link illustrates that the first part of his response was complete bollocks, as the guide now exists online, and has done so for nearly three years. In fact, C&SC solicits input from the public. They have taken the Autocade approach.
   And seriously, did he think another publisher would be stupid enough to reproduce the guides online for all to see?
   No, Haymarket has not broken the law: anyone is free to do a guide with their own, original content, and they are free to solicit outside help.
   Nor do I particularly mind seeing this guide online (right down to the ‘most recently updated’ column) because it helps with research—anything is better than the inaccuracies, assumptions and rumours that pass for facts in Wikipedia. There’s only a tiny bit of overlap with Autocade in terms of the eras covered, so the two sites complement one another.
   But it smacks of gross hypocrisy.
   Not only are they doing something they said they would never do because they lacked the resources, they threatened a loyal customer when they had no basis to do so.
   In essence: Haymarket Publishing once threatened me with a lawsuit for proposing an idea, one which they have since adopted. Yes, it really is that simple.
   I lost a lot of respect for a certain Haymarket big-wig that day, someone whose work I had read and admired for decades. It’s surprising to think he hadn’t learned some basic rules in business.
   Brands are not steered by market dominance or big corporate mouths. They are, instead, steered by everyday people, who you should work with, rather than make unwarranted threats against.
   Oh, after reassuring the chap that Autocade would have only original content (after all, he may have not known that New Zealanders are generally law-abiding), I never received an apology for his unprofessional behaviour.
   Even a note of thanks now would be nice for borrowing an idea they were presented with five years ago.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK | 3 Comments »


New leadership could help Google break through its adversarial, user-hating approach

15.04.2013

There have been quite a few tech posts here of late, but there are a few points that can be drawn. The first was how deceptive some brands can be for people who would rather not peel back the top layer to see what lies beneath. Even when the media expose their wrongdoings—as the Murdoch Press did with Google’s spying through Iphones—the general consensus might remain unchanged. Google has a major cultural issue: when I tell them that something’s wrong with their system, their approaches are one of two: the first is to argue that you are wrong and they are right, no matter what the evidence is; the other is to bury their head in the sand because the “official” explanations are exhausted. If they take their head out, they realize the Emperor has no clothes. Google is where Microsoft was accused of being in the 1990s, when it almost missed the boat when it came to the World Wide Web: a firm that didn’t take in outside feedback, getting more and more out of touch with reality. When your volunteers and fans start behaving badly on the support forums, long before I ever had an issue with Google deleting my friend Vincent’s blog, and you tolerate it, then something’s wrong.
   It can be contrasted to a related discussion I’ve had at McAfee, which seems to begin with the notion that the customer is right, and they have a chance to improve their product. Granted, McAfee’s programs can be buggy, but at least they admit that there are different configurations and there’s a chance that they’re wrong. This thread that I started, querying an issue with its SiteAdvisor product, wasn’t met with cynicism. Hayton, in particular, has stayed with this issue for days, investigating and digging so that I can have a better experience with McAfee’s product. He’s identified an ad network that we used that leaves something to be desired. Now we have a chance to improve our products, too, and we’re going to phase out those particular ads once our OpenX server is cleared by Google (which could take months).
   Companies, organizations, and even cities would do well learning from the latter example. If you know the other side is a rational, decent person—and at some point in your adult life, you will have developed this instinct—then admitting that you’ve got something to learn, something to improve upon, is a useful opportunity to make things better. Paying a bit of attention and working with a customer, audience member or constituent helps both sides improve.
   It seems obvious to most of us, though it remains a distant target for the house of G. It may take new leadership to inspire and ensure a cultural change, otherwise it’s just business—or, in some cases, politics—as usual.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


In praise of Zoho Mail

31.03.2013

Now that all of our email, bar a handful of client accounts, are going through the paid version of Zoho Mail, I couldn’t be happier.
   When we shifted things over, my friend and web development expert, Nigel Dunn, suggested either Google or Zoho. He’s a big fan of Google, and I can see the good side of the company I bash regularly. But I opted for Zoho, and anyone who’s followed my ongoing privacy battles with the big G will know why.
   It turns out I had a Zoho account anyway, thanks to Gabriel Weinberg and his Duck Duck Go team. But to go from the freebie that I’ve had for four years to a paid one was quite a big step, since we hadn’t ever done this newfangled cloud email before. However, I have to say I am very impressed, because of one major thing: Zoho’s customer service.
   For starters, it exists. No more going to abusive Google forums where cocky users, in their worshipping of the cult, make it all your fault. Zoho staff actually write back to you. In fact, they put me on to their support system after a while and they’ve been dealing with my enquiries really quickly in there, too.
   The longest wait I had was a question about Eudora, because I wasn’t sure how to get the Zoho POP mail working with an older program. While most answers came in 24 hours, this one took a week—but I’ll turn a blind eye to that one, given that it’s one out of a heap of questions I fired at them and it’s not a program they knew well. (For Eudora readers who are reading this, you turn on SSL, but you choose the ‘Required, alternate port’.)
   The replies are courteous and make you think that India knows customer service considerably better than the United States, or Australia for that matter: you’re treated as you would expect, and they don’t start from the basis of “the customer is stupid”.
   Even before I became a paying customer, Zoho treated me with respect.
   Good service isn’t just the province of Indians—just yesterday I blogged about how well Tumblr handled user enquiries and reports, despite reaching 100 million users. However, you sometimes wonder if they are the exceptions in a world dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook.
   The real kicker is this: the system works wonderfully when it comes to combating spam. I get thousands of messages per week so not having spam is a good thing. Our old Rackspace box, at best, killed about 50 per cent of the spam that came in. Granted, we chose our own blacklists, so this is not Rackspace’s responsibility. However, we used the ones we were recommended by experts.
   Zoho gets rid of over 95 per cent, maybe more, of the spam. After a day, I’ve had no false positives, and only a tiny handful has crept in. My emailbox, as downloaded in Eudora, is almost as untainted as it was in the 1990s, and I am not exaggerating.
   For those of you who use Gmail and are sick of the ads, this should appeal: Zoho is ad-free. No more using your personal data and linking it to advertising across all websites where Google and Doubleclick have their banners. As we become more concerned with online privacy, I’d say this was a very good thing.

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Posted in business, India, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Vodafone sends me invoices and spam (and I’m not even a customer)

29.09.2012

I recently posted this apt quotation on my Tumblr:

It’s marketing 101—[Vodafone New Zealand] seem to breach the rules quite regularly and you’d have to hope that these significant fines are a signal to them that they can’t continue to do that.

It’s from Sue Chetwin, CEO, Consumer New Zealand, on how Vodafone is cavalier about staying within the letter of the law in the Fair Trading Act.
   I can believe it. Because Vodafone sent me an invoice for 22¢ on September 7:

   And it is the principle: because since 2006, I have not been a Vodafone customer. And since 2009, one of my companies has not been a Vodafone customer. In fact, since March 2009, I have no ties with Vodafone whatsoever, either personally or as a director of a company that uses Vodafone.
   On the same invoice is an ‘Opening balance from last statement’ for $4·21, which they debited from my credit card on February 25, 2011. But that time, I received no invoice—they just went ahead and did it.
   When I called Vodafone, I was told that the charges were made on a calling card that was still valid. Problem: I have never had a calling card with Vodafone.
   And now, today, they revealed that they took $24 in 2010.
   But as Vodafone is guilty of 21 breaches of consumer law in a July case alone—and was found guilty of misleading customers over Vodafone Live and its $1 a day services the year before—you can summarize that something is very rotten there.
   I’d swore I’d never go back—nek minnit, they’ve acquired TelstraClear. Oligopoly much?
   At Vodafone’s request via Twitter, I have emailed them the following. It does contain the usual pleasantries at the beginning and the end, omitted here for brevity. This summarizes the entire case so far.

This is further to SS’s request on Twitter that I send you these details. I will note that two customer services’ officers on the call care centre have also been investigating.
   Attached you’ll find a bill that I was sent via email on September 7. You’ll see it’s for 22¢, and that in April 2011, another $4 was debited from my credit card. A phone call to Vodafone today revealed that over $20 was taken in 2010.
   The problem with all of this is that I have not been a Vodafone customer since March 2009. If you want to split hairs, I actually haven’t been one since 2006, I believe, but one of my companies was between 2006 and 2009.
   Here’s what I recall.

• Became an Ihug customer in 1998, but left Ihug for Saturn in 2000. I kept some toll calls with Ihug but switched back to TelstraClear some time during that decade. Your records show the account was closed in 2006—although I was also told a contradictory statement that the account was not closed.
• Lucire Ltd. was a Vodafone customer on a three-year contract between March 2006 and March 2009. I am a director of that company.

   Here’s what I understand from Vodafone (gleaned from conversations on September 8, 9 [I think] and 29).

• In 2010, Vodafone debited over $20 (I believe $24) from my credit card. In 2011, it debited $4. In 2012, I get a bill for 22¢. (Note: I’ve never received a bill from you since I left except for the 22¢ charge.)
• I have been told various things. On September 8–9, I was told that the 2011 and 2012 charges were due to a calling card. (Note: I have never had a Vodafone calling card.)
• Today I was told that the charges were due to toll calls. (Note: TelstraClear has handled all my toll calls since 2006, if not before.)

   I was promised a refund of the $4 in one of the early September phone calls. My credit card statement shows no such refund. I have confirmed that the credit card details you hold are correct. Worryingly, they are also current—which they cannot be if I left you in 2009 and my credit card originally expired that year.
   I also began receiving spam from you this week for a cellphone number that was with you, but has not been with you since 2009.
   Here’s what I don’t get if I was still a customer:

• I don’t hear from you guys for three years. All of a sudden I start getting spam from you;
• I’ve never received a single invoice from you for the money you’ve taken—at least not till September 7, 2012.

   So I’m pretty sure you know that I’m not a customer of yours.
   Now, I’m willing to take my share of the blame. I should be reading every line of my credit card statement. But, I’d also like you guys to refund what you’ve charged since I ceased being a customer.

   There’s also the buggy Air New Zealand site where they shifted the blame to me for not clearing the cookies or understanding how the back end of their website works, but I’ll leave that for another day. What they didn’t figure was my taking screen shots of what I did.

PS. (October 15): Vodafone has just emailed me asking that my credit card details be updated. So much for ‘We have made sure your account is cancelled.’ But since they updated them unilaterally in 2009, I imagine they will just do it again. Air New Zealand, meanwhile, sorted out its bug and apologized, so there will be no post about that.—JY

P.PS. (October 15): I’ve been on the phone with Vodafone. Now I’m told that in June 2009, I was charged $116·30; in July 2009, $43·43; in August 2009, $63·51. All for toll calls. All while not being a Vodafone customer. The amounts appear to have been debited from my credit card each time. No invoice was ever received this end though Vodafone claims that they sent them to me via email. This is dodgy already since I have never opted for emailed invoices, and that they had always come in the post prior. Lucire Ltd. was a Vodafone cellphone customer till, I recall, March 2009, and up till then, I had invoices mailed to me. I was an Ihug customer (allegedly till 2006) and also had invoices mailed. So why the change? I still find this very, very hard to believe—it’s as though Vodafone cheekily took money knowing that I was not a customer and is using email as an excuse—just as it originally claimed that I had a ‘calling card’ and that that was the reason I received my 22¢ bill.—JY

P.P.PS. (October 15): TelstraClear says I have been with them for tolls since May 6, 2008, which is later than I thought, and also later than the 2006 date Vodafone gave in the last September phone call. It doesn’t change the core argument though, but it does give us a precise date on which to start any inquiry.—JY

P.P.P.PS. (October 16): Chris from Vodafone calls and can find charges almost every month from May 2009, a few in 2010, and one in 2011. He’s promised to get them refunded. It really sounds like I’ve paid for tolls twice. He’s as puzzled as I am why I have never been posted bills since that was how Vodafone always did it while I was a customer till March 2009. Apparently the 2011 refund was never done.—JY

P.P.P.P.PS. (October 27): No sign of any refunds on my credit card statement.—JY

P.P.P.P.P.PS. (October 27): Aimée says she has organized a refund of NZ$433·11, which appears to be the total debited from me without notice between May 2009 and April 2011. (More disturbing is that my previous credit card expired in November 2009, so how they managed to continue billing without my updating my details is beyond me.)—JY

P.P.P.P.P.P.PS. (November 3): Vodafone emails me a PDF credit note for $433·11. Is it over? I hope so!—JY

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Posted in business, culture, New Zealand | 3 Comments »


A word of thanks to Aseem Kishore at Help Desk Geek

22.08.2012

This wouldn’t have been the first time I bought a wifi adapter—the first time was back in NYC, when laptops took PCI cards—so they should be dead simple to install, right? Despite an OAP on Amazon.com saying, in his review, that he had no issue with his Level One WUA-0605, which arrived overnight from Ascent (props to them), naturally, things took four hours here (still an improvement on a day and a half) because, put simply, reading the manual does not work. In fact, it’s a useless manual, which simply rewords what one sees on screen with no attempt to explain the jargon and acronyms—about as helpful as a Macintosh help screen to a layman. Why, oh why, does one need a computer science degree just to deal with basic matters?
   This post, however, is not to complain about the lack of care in manual-writing. It is to publicize the helpfulness of two parties when things got tricky. First, Joe Ruwhiu at Ascent was very helpful in offering to forward any technical issues back to Level One. Secondly, despite a myriad of pages covering the problem of “can connect to my router but not the internet”, offering well meaning advice that was, sadly, ineffective to me (I had a reasonable idea of what I was doing, and that the majority of settings at and to the router, the TCP/IP and security were correct), only one was methodically written and gave step-by-step instructions on what to do. As it turned out, step one was successful. To Aseem Kishore, who wrote his piece in November 2008, I thank you. Now, if only people who wrote manuals did so as clearly as you write your help articles—with an understanding of the regular person.

Keyboard update: I ordered a Manhattan 177528, which appears to be a clone of the Ione Scorpius U2, from Taiwan. It’s not mechanical, but a scissor-switch keyboard, which is the next best thing. I type efficiently on my laptops, which have all had scissor-switch keys, and at US$18 (plus another US$18 for shipping), it seemed too good a price to pass up. My mechanical-keyboard quest, eventually, came up with nothing that fulfilled my requirements, and I wasn’t sure about what type of keys the one Razer that looked right had.
   To top it off, when I emailed Manhattan Products, I actually got a reply from an Emmy Wang in Taiwan, who explained to me the features of he 177528 keyboard. She also noted that if I had a concern over the keys’ noise, there was an alternative. That’s quite a step up from Intopic, to whom I also wrote after buying one of their keyboards, raving about it and suggesting they should look at retailing here in New Zealand. I never received a reply to that, and I was a satisfied customer. How would they treat a dissatisfied one?

PS.: One day later. Aseem’s fix does work—but for me it meant employing it every time that computer rebooted. The adapter would fail each time I started up and required the fix. And since the gadget was for Dad, I didn’t want to subject a man in his 70s to feeding in DOS commands every day. So, after another few hours, I came across the fix at a Microsoft page and downloaded the ‘Fix it’ app. Running that seems to have worked but considering that’s only one of about seven reboots today, the jury’s still out. I still wish these things would work the way the manufacturers claim, but my experience is that there’s always tinkering involved—something I can’t imagine the average user would be bothered doing. Joe at Ascent was willing to give a refund or replacement.—JY

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Posted in business, China, internet, media, publishing, technology | 3 Comments »


YouTube loves Tanya Roberts

25.02.2012

Here’s a quickie for tonight. Rather than rewrite it, as it has appeared on my Tumblr, here’s a brief summary.
   YouTube loves Tanya Roberts. No matter what you search for, it will often give you a result about Tanya Roberts and her husband dying. It has been giving us this result for weeks.
   But YouTube doesn’t want to hear your complaints about it loving Tanya Roberts. No matter how short your message, it says it’s too long for the complaints’ box, which has a limit of 8,192 characters. I guess the YouTube people are currently quite happy: ‘Wow, no one has been complaining about our perfect service lately!’
   Since YouTube is owned by Google, I really should have expected more bugs, and, possibly, some more privacy infringements.

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Posted in internet, USA | No Comments »


Looks like the Microsoft man was wrong about this, too

11.02.2012

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

A final postscript on my IE9 blank-window bug, again solved, as so many technological matters are here, by not following the advice of a self-proclaimed “expert”.
   Hayton at the McAfee forums—which seem to be populated with polite people—mentioned the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer earlier today. This checks for what updates are missing, etc.
   As I was told that my missing Windows 7 updates were a direct cause of my ‘injudicious’ use of System Restore by the man from Microsoft—who then proceeded to say that the only way to fix my blank-window issue was to format my hard drive—I wanted to confirm that he was wrong about everything.
   You see, he was wrong about the cause of the bug. He missed the basic fact that before my System Restore, IE9 was already not working. And I suspected he was wrong about the updates, since they should have occurred before the System Restore.
   This is what you get with some of these experts: they’re never right.
   And lo and behold, what did I discover?
   Just as I expected: Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer reported that all my updates were up to date and I wasn’t missing a thing.
   Lesson: believe polite people. Disbelieve snarky people. Especially if they tell you to format your hard drive.

Speaking of experts, Conrad Johnston found gold today for our Font Police site. In Whitby, there are some Experts in property—that’s right, with a capital E. If you’ve been to our Font Police site before, you’ve never seen anything this bad yet. One façade, countless offences—it’s the funniest one we’ve ever had.

Finally, here’s a Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 thread that’s even weirder, as one user finds that the browser is incompatible with Helvetica and Neue Helvetica. Mine works with these families, but it looks like the only way William La Martin got his IE9 going was to delete them.
   Based on recent experience, the IE developers at Microsoft really have a problem with handling fonts.

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


The revenge of Arial

03.02.2012

Go away Arial

To think, if I actually followed the advice of the Microsoft expert, I would still have a non-functioning Internet Explorer 9 that displayed blank pages. Rule no. 1: when it comes to computing, never follow the advice of a self-righteous expert. An everyday user who found out things the hard way, sure. An expert who has kept an open mind and wants to dig with you, you can probably trust. But an out-of-the-box certified expert who believes in the superiority of a product as though it were a cult, probably not. No more than you should believe members of cults.
   IE9 has never worked on the first installation of any computer I own. But, earlier this week, it worked on my Vista laptop, after blank screens since March 2011. This was curious to me, since the blank screen problem is fairly common on the ’net, just that Microsoft refuses to acknowledge its existence. If the standard replies do not work, the solution is to format your hard drive.
   That already shed doubt on the Microsoft “expert” advice I had, beyond the arguments I made in my last blog post. Obviously, for Vista, Microsoft knew there was a problem and fixed it between March 2011 and February 2012. It only took them 11 months.
   As a failing IE9 also takes out Microsoft Gadgets and McAfee Internet Security, by showing blank screens on those, too, it’s a pretty serious matter.
   Microsoft’s “expert” had told me that my use (or any use?) of System Restore was ‘injudicious’, when with hindsight it appears to have been the most sensible thing I could have done, given that IE9 also took out Firefox on first installation on this machine. This so-called standard installation had had effects far beyond the norm, and had I removed only IE9 the “proper” way, there was no guarantee that Firefox would have returned to normal.
   Yesterday, I ventured on to my laptop to see if McAfee would run. Sure enough, it displayed. But also interestingly, it displayed in Arial Narrow—a font family I know we did not have.
   Microsoft had included Arial Narrow in one of its updates and that was the one key to allowing IE9 to function.
   People who know me, and have heard my speeches, know that the first thing I do, after installing updates and anti-virus, is see to the ugly default fonts. We have numerous licences for Helvetica, and since Arial was designed to supplant a superior design, we install Helvetica. We remove the font substitute line in the Windows registry. And we delete Arial.
   This has been the practice for years, certainly since Windows XP, and we ensure every Mac we use remains Arial-free, too.
   It has never presented a problem at any level.
   Till now.
   Windows 7 doesn’t like Arial being deleted, but I programmed in the usual font substitutes, took out ‘Helvetica=Arial’ (in typographic terms, this is like saying ‘Grace Kelly=Katie Price’) and ensured the four main Arial fonts could not be found by the system on start-up.
   Of course, every program in the world works with these settings. Except IE9 and anything that uses IE9 to render its pages.
   I still doggedly refuse to have Arial on any of our computers because of its poor design. This would be like having Prince William marry Britney Spears and ensuring her future position as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britney and Northern Ireland. There are just some things that aren’t done.
   So we found a version of Helvetica, one that had been superseded that was not being used on any machine, and renamed it. We saved each of the four variants as an OTF, an OpenType, PostScript-flavoured font. And it worked.


Above: IE9 doesn’t actually need Arial. It just likes knowing it’s there. This is called “security blanket programming”.

   Here’s the great irony. IE9 is still one of the worst browsers typographically, even worse than Opera 11. Even though Windows Vista and 7 support PostScript, TrueType and OpenType fonts natively, IE9 doesn’t show anything but TTFs in its font menus (left). Short of linking your own fonts—and it messes up there as well—the only ones that will ever display are the TTFs you have installed. On the actual pages, a lot of fonts that you know are installed on your machine won’t show in IE9. If you bought licences, too bad.
   Therefore, Arial is actually not needed by IE9: it just likes knowing it’s there, as a security blanket.
   I think this illogical state of affairs shows how poor the product remains. Those who are less typographically inclined might not care, and look at things like speed (frankly, I see little difference—and if anything, it seems slower than Firefox), but since every other program on the planet works quite happily without Arial, my opinion is that Microsoft messed up. IE9 noticeably slows down Photoshop and a few other programs, which begs the question: beyond making sure your Microsoft Gadgets and McAfee work, why bother?
   Fellow computer users: don’t format your hard drive. Only a quitter would do that.

Liberation Sans
On a related note, Steve Matteson’s Liberation Sans (above) shows how it should be done. Steve was faced with the same brief—make a sans serif with the same metrics as Helvetica—and designed something quite beautiful that came as an Ubuntu 10 default. It’s very well hinted, too. You can download it here.

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Posted in design, humour, internet, technology, typography | 5 Comments »


Microsoft: if IE9 displays blank pages, it’s your own fault, so format your hard drive

30.01.2012

You’ve got to hand it to some folks for discovering words in their “word-a-day” calendars and they feel compelled to use it.
   If you go to Microsoft Answers, there are dozens of people wondering why their Internet Explorer 9s don’t display anything. So, I decided to report the bug I have had since March, and which I have found exists again in Windows 7 on a brand-new machine.
   Here’s the dialogue with Microsoft:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/ie/forum/ie9-windows_7/internet-explorer-9-only-displays-blank-pages-on/3c844c46-3b22-4530-abc4-6e22f6ed2a6f

   Injudicious isn’t the right word here. But he gets a real kick out of using it.
   There are some very basic things the chap missed. (1) Before any System Restores were done, the product didn’t work. And they don’t work on two out of two machines here, one of which has never had a Restore. (2) If those security patches were released mid-December and mid-January, they should have been among the updates done the first time, before the System Restore. (3) The essential advice here seems to be: how dare you use a feature that we supplied. You should never use it.
   Once he seized upon that and a rival product, that was it. We here at Microsoft are perfect. You should not use anyone else’s products. Bing is better than Google.
   And there’s the usual power-trip of needing to have the last word even when the customer has said he wishes to end the dialogue. I see he has discovered italics now, too.
   The strategy is to blame the customer, but, if you hunt around the web, this is a major fault with Internet Explorer 9—which explains, as usual, why the other browsers are getting larger and larger shares. Microsoft’s failure to acknowledge it means that folks will simply abandon a browser that, certainly before this latest version, is widely regarded as poor. I haven’t used it regularly since v. 5, when it had a noticeable advantage over Netscape.
   I don’t actually use IE in any case. But McAfee uses it for its HTML-based displays, and one Windows Gadget I use also employs it. The latter always will, but I can’t see the former remaining in this situation if already some people are reporting that they cannot see their McAfee anti-virus program.
   I decided to end the conversation because the issues being raised were irrelevant, he was dodging all the real questions about a faulty product, and there’s no point in telling someone where he messed up if the whole aim is to be unhelpful. Go through the Microsoft forums and there’s not one tech in any position who can go beyond the routine: it’s either deliver the stock answers, or play the blame game.
   Bit like Google, then.
   At the end of the day, it’s not even a product I use. Otherwise, as in the above link, I’d be quite prepared to fight on for half a year.

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