Posts tagged ‘2020s’


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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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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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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Browser history

11.04.2022


In 2011, I was definitely on Firefox.
 
I believe I started browsing as many did, with Netscape. But not 1.0 (though I had seen copies at university). I was lucky enough to have 1.1 installed first.

I stuck with Netscape till 4.7. Its successor, v. 6, was bloated, and never worked well on my PC.

Around this time, my friend Kat introduced me to Internet Explorer 5, which was largely stable, so I made the leap to Microsoft. IE5 wasn’t new at this point and had been around for a while.

I can’t remember which year, but at some point I went to Maxthon, which used the IE engine, but had more bells and whistles.

By the end of the decade, Firefox 3 was my browser of choice. In 2014, I switched to Waterfox, a Firefox fork, since I was on a 64-bit PC and Firefox was only made for 32-bit back then. A bug with the Firefox browsers saw them stop displaying text at the end of 2014, and I must have switched to Cyberfox (another 64-bit Firefox-based browser) around this time.

I went back to Firefox when development on Cyberfox stopped, and a 64-bit Firefox became available, but by 2017, it ate memory like there was no tomorrow (as Chrome once did, hence my not adopting it). Vivaldi became my new choice.

There are old posts on this blog detailing many of the changes and my reasons for them.

I’ve always had Opera installed somewhere, but it was never my main browser. Maybe this year Opera GX will become that, with Vivaldi’s latest version being quite buggy. We shall see. I tend to be pretty loyal till I get to a point where the software ceases to work as hoped.

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Hopefully this week: farewell, Amazon Web Services

10.04.2022


 
Wow, we’re nearly there: the long journey to migrate our sites off AWS and on to a new box.

We began hosting there in 2012 but the server—which appears to have had a single major update in 2016—was getting very old. In 2018 we began searching for someone who knew about migrations.

A second instance for Lucire Rouge was fired up in September 2020, thanks to a wonderful developer in the US. A New Zealand expert moved Medinge’s website on to there subsequently.

The work hadn’t been finished but both gentlemen wound up getting very occupied in their regular gigs, and it was another year before a good friend said he knew how to do it.

From that point, it was about finding a few hours here and there that worked with both our time zones.

I am deeply grateful to him because I know just how busy he got, both professionally and privately.

The sites are now all on to a new box, and not on AWS.

We were only on there to begin with because in 2012, we chose to host with a friend’s company. AWS was familiar turf for him, but I never understood it. It’s a mess of a website, with an incomprehensible interface. No wonder people have to do courses on it. You really need a professional computing qualification to understand it.

Whomever said computers would become easier to use in the future was dead wrong, as I have never seen such a maze of technobabble offered to consumers before. It’s not even that presentable.

My hosting friend soon was head-hunted and I was left to deal with AWS.

The fact is if AWS was even remotely comprehensible I might have been able to do the migration myself. I estimate that if it were anything like normal, each of the sites would have taken me about five hours to do. It would have all been over in a month in 2018. If I had a week off to just do this, I probably could have done it—if server software was how it was in 2005.

It’s little wonder, given the convoluted confusion that AWS is, that it took three years to find someone match-fit to tackle it. And even then it took several months.

A week in 2005, three years in 2022. I don’t call that progress.

I approached half a dozen techs who had experience in web hosting and serving environments, some of them with very major organizations. A few of them were even given the keys to SSH into the server. I think three of them were never heard from again. I can only surmise that they saw a Japanese girl with long hair in front of her face crawl out of a well when they Telnetted into the box.

Once my latest friend had set up the basics, I was even able to do a few migrations myself, and handled the static sites. I even got a couple of Wordpress ones done. He did the lion’s share, beginning with the most complex (Lucire and Autocade, plus the advertising server).

Tonight, he did the last two sites from the second AWS instance.

The first instance has been stopped. The second is still running in case DNS hasn’t updated for the last two sites. The database has also been stopped.

You probably wouldn’t ever hire me or this firm to deal with AWS and, as it turns out, there are quite a few techs out there, who do this as their full-time job, who also don’t know it.

I plan to terminate the instances and the database by mid-week and close my AWS account. Amazon can figure out what to do with the S3 boxes, VPC, Cloudwatch, Cloudfront, and all the other stuff which I have no idea about.

It’s going to be a good day, provided they haven’t made account closures as contemptible a process. Because it’s not the only thing contemptible about Amazon.
 
Speaking of technology, it looks like I’ll be sticking with Opera GX going forward. The bugs in Vivaldi persist, despite another bug-fixing update last week. Five years with one browser isn’t too bad, and probably one of the longer periods I’ve stuck with a single brand.

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April 2022 gallery

02.04.2022

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

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Where democratizing technology got the better of us

13.02.2022

From the start, I’ve been a supporter of the democratization of design. Everyone has the right to access it, because fundamentally good design is something that makes the world a better place. A lot of websites are founded on this, such as Shopify, which has enough flexibility to give most of the stores we visit a unique look. Wordpress’s templates are generally good lookers that take into account the latest trends. There’s an entire industry out there making templates and skins. And, it has to be said, most social media have reasonably good looking interfaces, so people can feel a sense of pride after they’ve posted that they’ve shared text or a photo that has been presented well.
   It’s quite perplexing when you confront some other facts. People will judge the credibility of a website by how good it looks (among other criteria). People can also become addicted to social media, and they’re designed to be addictive. And as design democratizes, it’s only natural that the less educated (and I don’t necessarily mean in a formal sense), those who are not trained to discern fact from fiction, will have access to the same technology and present their work as capably and as attractively as anyone else.
   It would be wrong to deny this, just as it would be wrong to deny access to technology or good design because we disagreed with someone’s political views or their beliefs, even ones we might find distasteful. The key must be to bring social awareness and education up to a point that there’s no appeal to engage in behaviour that’s harmful to society at large. By all means, be individual, and question. We should have ways in which this can be done meaningfully—one might argue this is done in the corridors of power, as anyone in a good, functioning democracy can stand for office. But in countries with low trust in institutions, or those infected by forces that want to send nations into corporatist fascism, there has to be something that balances the wild west of the online world, one that has marched so far one way without the structures to support it. We have, in effect, let the technology get the better of us. There is no agreed forum online where tempers can be abated, and because we have encouraged such individualist expression, it is doubtful whether some egos can take it. We have fooled ourselves into thinking our own selfies on social media have the same value as a photo taken by the press for a publication. As such, fewer can lead, because no one wants to play second fiddle.
   These are confusing times, though the key must be education. It is often the answer. Keeping education up with the technology so our young people can see and understand the forces at play. Give them a sense of which corporations are wielding too much influence. Teach them how to discern a legitimate story from a fictionalized one. Teach them how the economy really works—not just the theory but how the theory has been hijacked.
   This can’t wait till university: it has to be taught as early as possible. If today’s kids are bringing their devices to school, then it’s never too early to make them aware of how some online content is questionable. Tell them just why social media are addictive and why they can’t open accounts on the big sites till they’re 13. In fact, tell them how the social media companies’ bosses actually don’t let their own kids use the services, because deep down they know they’re bad for them.
   If they know from a young age why some things are harmful—in the same way we were told that cigarettes were, or to say no to drugs—then hopefully they can steer clear of calls on social networks funded by parties who seek to divide us for their own gain.

There’ll be a delay in having a gallery on this blog this month as a dear friend is helping me migrate our sites off an old AWS instance. He doesn’t wish to be named. But I am deeply thankful to him.
   The data have already been shifted off this server. At this rate I will have to repost this on the new box once the domain is set up. Reposting a gallery might just be a bit tricky, so there mightn’t be one for February 2022, depending on when my friend can get to this domain.

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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January 2022 gallery

01.01.2022

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


 

Notes
More on the Ford Falcon (XA) in Autocade. Reposted from Twitter.
   Taupō Plimmerton summer sunset, photographed by me.
   BBC parody news item, via Twitter.
   More on the Wolseley on Autocade.
   More on the Mitsubishi Colt Galant at Autocade.
   Dodge 1500 advertisement via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   Model Alexa Breit in a bikini, via Instagram.
   More on the Renault 17 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault 20 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault Mégane IV in Autocade.
   ‘Sign not in use’ posted by John on Twitter.
   Asus ROG Strix G17 G713QE-RTX3050Ti, at Asus’s Singapore website.
   Pizza Express Woking parody still, via Twitter.

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