Archive for the ‘technology’ category


Opera GX wins over Firefox in typography; Über’s still a lemon

17.05.2022

I’ve had both Firefox and Opera GX running as replacements for Vivaldi, which still crashes when I click in form fields, though not 100 per cent of the time. It’s running at about 50 per cent, so the fix they employed to deal with this issue is only half-effective.

I see Firefox still doesn’t render type as well. This is a matter of taste, of course, but here’s one thing I really dislike, where I’m sure there’s more agreement among typophiles:
 

 

No, not the hyphenation, but the fact the f has been butchered in the process.

The majority of people won’t care about this, but it’s the sort of thing that makes me choose Opera GX over Firefox.
 
Due to a temporary lapse in good judgement, I attempted to install Über again, this time on my Xiaomi. Here are the Tweets relating to that:

Evidently no one at Über has ever considered what it would be like if someone actually read the terms and conditions and followed through with some of the instructions in the clauses.

After getting through that, this is the welcome screen:

This is all it does. There’s nothing to click on, and you never move past this screen.

This is less than what I was able to achieve on my Meizu M6 Note when I tried Über on that—at least there it was able to tell me that Über is not available in my area (Tawa—and yes, I know Über is lying).

This has nothing to do with not having Google Services as my other half has a non-Google Huawei and is able to get the program working.

For me, it’s three out of three phones over six years where this program does not work—and frankly I’m quite happy taking public transport rather than waste my time with this lemon. Maybe one day they will get it working for all Android phones, but I won’t hold my breath.

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Musings for today: back on Facebook, untracked ads, Autocade rankings

16.05.2022

It’d be unfair if I didn’t note that I managed to see a ‘Create post’ button today on Lucire’s Facebook page for the first time in weeks. I went crazy manually linking everything that was missed between April 25 and today.

Maybe I got it back as it would look even worse for Facebook, which still live-streams massacres as a matter of course in spite of its “promises” after March 15, 2019, if white supremacist murderers had more functions available to them on the site than honest business people.

The upshot still remains: get your supporters going to your website as much as possible, and wind down whatever presence you have on Facebook. You shouldn’t depend on it, because you never know when your page might disappear or when you lose access. Both are very real possibilities.
 
Bob Hoffman’s newsletter was gold this week. It usually is, especially as he touches on similar topics to me, but at a far higher level.

This week’s highlights: ‘Blogweasel calculations indicate that adtech-based targeting adds at least 100% to the cost of an online ad. In order for it to be more efficient it has to be more than twice as effective. I’m slightly skeptical.

An article in AppleInsider this week reported that, “Apple has revealed to advertisers that App Store search ads served in a non-targeted fashion are just as effective as those relying on targeting via first-party data.”’

Indeed, ads that might use the page content to inform their contents (contextual advertising) work even better. Why? The publisher might actually get paid for them.

I’ve seen so many ads not display at all, including on our own sites. Now, our firm doesn’t use trackers, but we know the ad networks we use do. And for whatever daft reason, there are ad networks that won’t show content if you block trackers. (Stuff is even worse: their home and contents’ pages don’t even display if you block certain cookies.)

If we went back to how things were before tracking got this bad, the ads would be less creepy, and I bet more of them would display—and that helps us publishers pay the bills. If you don’t like them, there are still ad blockers, but out of my own interests, I would prefer you didn’t.
 
I came across Drew Magarry’s 2021 article, ‘There’s No Middle Class of Cars Anymore’, in Road & Track’s online edition.

‘You’re either driving a really nice new car, a deeply unsatisfying new car, or a very old used car.’ Drew notes that there are nasty base models, and also fully loaded ones, and the former ‘treat you like absolute shit, and everyone on the road knows it.’

It seems what’s happening is that the middle—the “GLs” of this world, as opposed to the Ls and GLSs—is getting squeezed out.

It says something about our society and its inequality.

Interestingly, it’s not as bad here with base models, and that might reflect our society. But look at the US, as Drew does, or the European top 10, where cheap cars like the Dacia Sandero do exceptionally well.

This goes back many years, and I’ve seen plenty of base models in US rental fleets that would make a New Zealand entry-level car seem sumptuous.
 
Finally, the legacy pages are reasserting themselves on Autocade. When the latest version was installed on the server and the stats were reset, the top 20 included all the models that appeared on the home page, as Mediawiki recommenced its count. Search-engine spiders were visiting the site and hitting those the most.

Fast forward two months and the top 20 are exclusively older pages, as visits from regular people coming via search engines outnumber spiders.

Until last week, the most visited page since the March reset was the Renault Mégane II. It seems the Ford Taunus 80 has overtaken the Mégane II. Peugeot’s 206+ (207 in some markets) follows, then the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Renault Mégane III.

Before the reset, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII was the top model page, followed by the Taunus 80, then the Mégane II, Opel Astra J, and Nissan Sunny (B14).

Probably no one cares, but as it’s my blog, here’s the old, just before the switchover:
 

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

 
You can see the ranking for yourself, as the stats are public, here.

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Switch to HTTPS, lose your number one and two search-engine ranking

08.05.2022

One annoying thing about switching the majority of our sites to HTTPS is losing our positions in the search engines.

We were always told that HTTPS would lead to rises in search-engine ranking, and that being a mere HTTP would lead to Google downgrading you.

The reality, as I’ve witnessed since we completed our server migration, is the opposite.

Take a search for my name. Since the 1990s, Jack Yan & Associates will wind up being first or second, and when this website came online in the early 2000s, it tended to be first. Stands to reason: my name, followed by dot com, is most likely what a searcher is looking for. Both sites were regular HTTP.

We’ve lost first and second places. For my searches, Google puts this site at eighth, and Duck Duck Go doesn’t even have it in the top 10 (it’s 15th), info box aside. The company falls on the third page in Google and a shocking fifth in Duck Duck Go.

I was told that eventually the search engines will sort things out but it’s been two months, so you wonder just how slowly they act. If at all.

The business site has plenty of inbound links, and I imagine this site has a fair share.

I’ve fixed up some internal references to http:// after advice from some friends, but that hasn’t done the trick.

I find it pretty disheartening to find that, once again, in practice, the exact opposite to conventional wisdom happens. You would think this was a routine matter, and that search engines were programmed to accept such changes, understanding that, content-wise, the secure site is the same as the formerly insecure site. After decades of search engine development, it looks like, at least to this layman, that hasn’t happened. You have to start afresh even when you have the most relevant site to the search.

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Facebook admits we’re experiencing a bug preventing us from managing Lucire’s page

08.05.2022

Last night’s hour-waster was chatting to Facebook Business Support. No, that’s unfair. I was actually assigned an incredibly good rep who took me seriously, and concluded that Facebook did indeed have a bug which means, of all the pages I can manage, the one for Lucire is alone in not allowing me, or any of its admins, to do anything. How coincidental, after losing Instagram and Twitter for periods during 2021.

Ironically, one editor can—of course someone who is supposed to have fewer privileges can do more. Such is Facebook.

A few things I learned. There’s a Meta Business Suite, which a whole bunch of pages got shoved into, whether you wanted it or not. My public page is there, for instance. It seems if you have Facebook and Instagram accounts for the same thing, you’re going to be in there.

Despite the two-factor authentication discussed in the previous post, I actually can get into the Business Suite, via another page I administer for a friend. From there I can get to Lucire’s tools.
 

 

I don’t need two-factor authentication for any of the other pages in there, including my own, and have full access.

Trisha, or Trish as she said I could call her, walked me through the steps, and asked me to get to the Suite page. Then she asked me to click ‘Create ad’, and I get this:
 

 
She asked me to check the account quality, and of course there are no issues:
 


 

She wrote: ‘Thanks for letting me know. It’s weird because I have checked all your assets here and it looks good. But, here’s what I suggest, Jack. We’ll need to report this to our Internal team so they can investigate. You might experience a bug or glitch.’

I theorized: ‘Just so you know, this page dates back to 2007 so maybe it is so old that Facebook’s servers can’t handle it?’

It wasn’t something she responded to, as she stayed on-subject, but it’s a theory worth entertaining, as it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve witnessed this.

So, for now, the one team member who can still go on Facebook for us posted this at my request:
 
All Lucire admins, all automated gadgets sending links to this page, and all Facebook-approved reposting sites, were blocked by Facebook on April 25. Therefore, till Facebook fixes this, there will be no more regular updates to this page other than a limited amount from one of our editors.
 

I doubt they’ll ever fix it, and two years ago I did say I wouldn’t really bother if Facebook went buggy and prevented us from updating again. Clearly I am bothering, as I know we have readers who use Facebook. But I have very little faith this will ever be fixed, since I have seen other reported bugs (some covered on this blog) get ignored for years, and this isn’t a fleeting bug, from what I can make out.

The lesson, as I have probably hinted at more than once, is never rely on a Big Tech service. The sites are so unwieldy that they get to a point where no one knows how to fix them. If earlier experiences are any indication, such as what I experienced at Vox, we have arrived at the end of Facebook pages.

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May 2022 gallery

02.05.2022

Here are May 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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The end of Facebook pages?

01.05.2022

Some of the articles in Lucire are still manually designed in Dreamweaver, and those need to be added to the social networks in a similar way. There we use Zoho Social to update things.

In practice, we only do Twitter, as IFTTT then takes care of reposting our updates to Facebook. Today, I noticed that IFTTT has failed to take any of our Tweets to Facebook since April 25, for no reason I can work out.
 

 

We also cannot use Zoho Social to make Facebook page updates, so the fault does not lie with these individual services, but Facebook itself.

First Zoho Social said I needed permission from the page admin to add images, but I am the page admin; then it said I could not post at all.
 


 

I went to Facebook for the first time in goodness knows how long to discover there is no way to enter a post manually there, either!
 

 

I tried using the Meta Business Tools, but I can’t be authenticated, since they require you use an “app” (none of which I have heard of), a physical security key (strange to me as I have no idea what one looks like or where it goes), or a cellphone (yeah right, like I’m going to give Facebook that very personal detail for them to sell).
 

 

It looks like another massively stupid decision on Facebook’s part, so odds are we’ll cease to update any of our Facebook pages going forward. It will take too much effort to figure out how to fix this. Even if we could type into Facebook, we don’t want to be feeding in every headline and link manually.

I ceased to have any respect for Facebook many years ago, but kept things going there for the sake of our readers. But if they are shutting down the pages—certainly all their functionality is disappearing—then we will have no choice but to end our updates there.
 
PS.: If any of you are wondering, I am definitely the admin, but I can’t do any of the things Facebook says I can:
 

 

If I access the options under ‘Page Owner’, apparently I can report ourselves, but nothing more!
 

 

Looks I still can post to a page where I’m not the owner but a contributor, but I can’t post to one where I’m the owner and admin:
 

 

Remember how a page settings’ page usually looks?
 

 
Here’s Lucire’s:
 

 
The only options I have as admin are:
 

 

And before you ask, there are no page ‘violations’ other than one post from years ago, because US sites can’t handle artistic nudity where you can’t see anything inappropriate. Genocide and misinformation are fine, though.

I think what Facebook does is let you work on pages that aren’t yours(!)—it wouldn’t be the first time—but not your own! It really is this daft there.

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Farewell to Drivetribe—and a reminder to keep your own copies

24.04.2022


Not much of my old Drivetribe channel left now
 
Sadly, I was late to the demise of Drivetribe—though as some on Reddit point out, the brand still exists on other channels. But as for hosting the content themselves, that ended in January, and we content creators had till then to get our stuff off.

I had been checking in there less and less over 2021, which is a real shame. It had been a favourite site of mine—cars, and like-minded fanatics—but I guess it takes a lot more than a community to make a community.

Maybe it was the people I followed, but I never really got the right mix of news and entertainment. Others might beg to differ. I had little desire to follow the founders—Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman (sorry chaps, I’ve watched you all in one shape or another since the 1990s, and given Wilman’s nude appearances on Top Gear, they are not necessarily shapes I want in my head)—so it was down to other content creators and contributors.

Twitter gives me some joy because of various car accounts there—Andrew at the Car Factoids and Andy with what must be a world-leading private brochure collection—and contributing seems a breeze. Drivetribe was somewhat hampered with a less-than-easy-to-use interface and somewhere along the line, in its first year if I recall correctly, the typography changed for the worse (at least to my eyes).

And like so many social networks, it was about keeping the content there in the hope it would generate money for the core business. It did indeed have a separate programme for creators, where they expected to share in the loot, but ironically after I was approved to join, I lost interest in contributing. Maybe it was because I had my own sites that I could work on. Autocade eats up spare time with each model taking a good 15 minutes on average to illustrate, research and write.

Anything I wrote for Drivetribe exclusively, and there were a few pieces, is practically toast. There may be a few links on the Wayback Machine, but the rest is online history. It’s hardly their fault: the closure was covered in automotive media extensively, although I never received any emails about it. It’s a lesson once again to ensure that you keep copies of your own content; in my case, I might still have them in WordPerfect format on a DVD-ROM somewhere. Relevant ones appeared in Lucire and Lucire Men.
 
Speaking of hosting your own stuff, I wonder if this is what the future holds.

This comes at a time when another Tweeter I follow has lost his Instagram account for no reason he can fathom, and I shared with him that I wouldn’t mind hosting my own photos on this very site. Instagram is a once-every-few-months network for me now, at least when it comes to posting on my personal account. (I’ll look at it more for Lucire.) If John is right, we could be looking at a separation again: those who can host their own will, and those who can’t, rely on the mass services. There could be less interaction between groups of people, but then the social networks only have themselves to blame for fostering toxicity. We are only human: we found others to interact with and learn from in the early 2000s before Facebook and Twitter, and we can again. We might even find it more productive as we claw our time back from those services.

And if it’s about traffic, each post I make here gets multiples more views than most things I’ve posted to Instagram. Seven hundred is pretty normal. Is there any point, then? The negatives seem to outweigh the positives, and this becomes truer every day. You’d be a mug to want to buy one of these services in 2022.

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Letter-writing is not just a lost art

22.04.2022

I hate sounding like a cranky old fella but there is definitely a generational divide now on letter-writing. I imagine something had to give if people are using apps to message each other (not great from a business point-of-view if maintaining an official record becomes this much harder). From a thread on Reddit:
 

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Autocade reaches 28 million page views

19.04.2022


 
On March 19, 2022, Autocade had accumulated 27,647,011 page views. That was the last recorded total, and the new site went live the following day. That means over 10,000 views didn’t get added to that total, but as it’s the last I have (unless the Wayback Machine has one from the 20th ult.), then that’s what I’ll have to use as the new zero point.

The new stats’ set-up on the more modern Mediawikis does not update the numbers live; instead, that happens once a day. Some time overnight it ticked over to 351,079 on the new server.
 
27,647,011 +351,079 = 27,998,090
 

Even being very conservative, Autocade will have served its 28 millionth page view by now—though I may update this page tomorrow after I confirm it.

Sorry, for those who hated these statistical posts, the new server hasn’t seen the end of them! OCD is OCD!
 
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
 

Currently there are 4,551 models on there, with the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse the newest entry.
 
PS.: And here we are, the following day. Autocade’s new stats’ page shows 361,627.

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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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