Posts tagged ‘technical support’


Remember when you could post, comment and like on Facebook? Those were the days

29.05.2015



Let’s see: Facebook doesn’t work on Wednesdays and Fridays. Check. Thursdays are OK though.
   It’s another one of those days where the Facebook bug that began on Wednesday (though, really, it’s been going on for years—including 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 doesn’t 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 ‘Delete’. The button goes light for a while, then it’s back to the usual blue.
   And this happens regardless of platform: Mac, Windows, Firefox, Opera, Android, inside a virtual machine, you name it. Java’s 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 isn’t open on weekends, it seems), but eventually the message got through and things started working again.
   My theory, and I’d 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 hasn’t 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. It’s an old story which I have told many times on this blog. Even Six Apart staff couldn’t do it when using my username and password from their own HQ. But, they never fixed it. It was a “shrug your shoulders” 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 it’s highly unlikely I’ve reached any sort of limit on Facebook, because of how their architecture is structured, but I’m seeing more and more of these bugs. But we are talking about a website that’s 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? It’s entirely conceivable for a firm that makes plenty of mistakes and doesn’t even know what time zones are. Or deletes a complainant’s account instead of the pirate’s 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 wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest that that was now 6 Gbyte. That’s 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 it’s not perfect.
   I don’t believe for a second that certain people are targeted—a theory I see on forums such as Get Satisfaction, with Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicans—but I do believe that something binds us together, and it is buried within the code. But, like Vox, it may be so specific that there’s 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.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 6 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 »