Posts tagged ‘software’


Keybase: one failure after another

08.12.2022

Because I locked my Twitter, Keybase was unable to find its usual proof there. It told me to link a new one from their ‘app’. I’d love to, folks, but you don’t let me see anything.
 

 

That’s Keybase. I can’t see anything in the window, and I can’t move the window. I have reinstalled the program, to no avail.

These software people are all having a good laugh at regular people. I’d rather they spent that time making things that work.

Oh, look, they’re HQed in New York. What a surprise.
 
Eventually, right-clicking the Keybase icon in the tray (when it didn’t disappear) showed a link, ‘Keybase’. I clicked on that. So now I have this window.
 

 
Ah, but you can fix the Keybase thing from the website. Great!
 

 
Let me click that link!
 

 
It’s the same story if you use their command-line method, and the bin\bash method just gives lots of errors in red.

From the days of Yahoo!, to Vox at Six Apart, to years of Big Social BS (BSBS), nothing really changes with this lot. You’d hope they’d stop failing at their jobs, but you’re reminded that many won’t.
 
PS.: The program window did load after a few hours. No idea how to add a Mastodon proof to it, so maybe it did me a favour by failing to load in a reasonable time. Their website offers zero clues on how to make this addition in the program—just that it can be done. Once again, there’s no thought given to regular people, only computer programmers.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Avira dishonours paid subscription, blames it on the customer

08.12.2022

I see Avira has downgraded me to their free version despite my being paid up. As far as I can tell, this has been the case for months, and I remember Tweeting them back when Twitter was a thing.

I can’t log in at all, and it keeps showing a ‘Get Prime’ button to force you to pay again. No thanks.

I went to their website and fed in my issue. They then take me to this page, which is pretty typical for a lot of computer companies: blame it on the customer.

I take them at their word and clicked on their link to download the allegedly missing Microsoft .Net Framework 4.6.2. Only problem is, none of the download links on the Microsoft site work. (Because Microsoft.)

I still manage to get the MSI file from Microsoft and of course there was nothing ever wrong with my set-up. I already had the Framework installed:
 

 

Your move, Avira. And that move had better include fixing the problem and extending my subscription period by at least half a year.

I guess this is what happens when a big US company buys up what was a pretty decent German one.

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Posted in technology, USA | No Comments »


Forget Duck Duck Go, Bing, and Google—I’m trying Mojeek

17.07.2022

It was disappointing to note that after switching to HTTPS, and signing on to Bing Webmaster Tools, the search engine results for those sites of ours that made the change are still severely compromised.

I’ve written about searches for my own name earlier, where my personal and company sites lost their first and second positions on all search engines that I knew of after we made the switch. Only Google has my personal site back up top, with the company site on the middle of the second page. Bing has my personal site at number two, and I’d love to tell you where the company site is, but their search engine results’ pages won’t let me advance beyond page 2 (clicking ‘next page’ lands you back on the same page; clicking ‘3’ and above still keeps you on p. 2). Duck Duck Go, which uses Bing results, has it well below that—I gave up looking. And this is after I signed up to Bing Webmaster Tools in the hope I could get the sites properly catalogued.

It’s a real shame because Duck Duck Go has been my default for 12 years this August.

However, it was the loss of search results for Lucire that really bothered me. Here’s a site that’s 25 years old, with plenty of inward links, and c. 5,000 pages. Before the switch to HTTPS, the popular search engines had thousands of pages from our site. These days, Bing and Duck Duck Go tell me they have dozens of pages from Lucire’s website. Again, only Google seems to have spidered everything.

When I check Bing Webmaster Tools, the spidering has been shockingly poor.

The received wisdom that you should have HTTPS instead of HTTP to do better in search engines is BS, and the belief that search engines will eventually catch up has also not been realized. We made the switch in March, and I’m to believe that Bing hasn’t completed the indexing of our sites.

Are they using the same computers New Zealand banks do? (Cheques used to clear overnight in the 1970s, and now banks tell us that even electronic payments can take days. When we last used cheques, they were telling us they would take five to seven days. Ergo, bank computers are slower today than in 1976.)

The real downer is that Lucire’s website search box is powered by Duck Duck Go, so our own site visitors can’t find the things they want to look for. If you believe some of the search engine marketing, over 40 per cent of site visitors use your search function.

What to do?

I began looking at having an internal search again. We used to have a WhatUSeek (later SiteLevel) internal site search, but that site’s search functions appear to be dead (the site is still live). A user on Mastodon recommended Sphinx Search, an open-source internal site search, but the instructions were too complex. I even saw real computer geeks having trouble. The only one that I could understand was called Sphider—I could follow the instructions and knew enough about PHP and MySql—but it was last updated many years ago, and successive projects also looked a bit complex.

A Google internal search was absolutely out of the question, as I have no desire to expose our readers to tracking—which is why so many other Big Tech gadgets have been removed from our site(s). Baidu and Yandex also have very limited indices for our sites.

I am very fortunate to have tried Mojeek again, a British search engine recommended to me by Matias on July 2. What I didn’t know then was Mojeek has its own spider and its own index, so it doesn’t have to license anything from Bing. And, happily, it claims to have 3,535 results from lucire.com, which might not be as good as Google’s 5,830, but it beats Bing’s 50 earlier today—in fact, at the time of writing, it showed a grand total of 10. That’s how bad it’s got. Duck Duck Go now has 48, also down from a few thousand before March.

Like Google, it seems to have coped with the switch to HTTPS without falling to pieces! And guess what? For a search of my own name, my personal site is number one, and our work site is number two. Presumably, Mojeek is the only search engine which coped and behaved exactly as the experts said!

You can imagine my next move. Mojeek has a site search, so now all Lucire searches are done through it. And readers can actually find stuff again instead of coming up nearly empty (or having very irrelevant results) as they have done for months.

Duck Duck Go’s lustre had been wearing off as there were recent allegations that its browser allowed Microsoft to track its users, something which Duck Duck Go boss Gabriel Weinberg personally denied on Reddit, saying that users were still anonymous when loading their search results.

I still have good memories of chatting to Gabriel in the early days and figuring out ways of spreading the word on Duck Duck Go. My contribution was going to hotels and changing the search defaults on business centre computers. Back then I had the impression Duck Duck Go did some of its own spidering, but these days, if Bing has a shitty index for your site, the Duck will follow suit. And with HTTPS not living up to its promise, that’s simply not good enough.

Tonight, Mojeek is very much the site of the day here, and I heartily recommend you try it out. I’ve switched the desktop to Mojeek as a default, and I’ll see how it all progresses. Right now I feel it deserves our support more than Duck Duck Go. Finally, we might truly have an alternative to Google, and it’s run from the UK’s greenest data centre. With our servers now being greener, too, running out of Finland, the technology is starting to match up to our beliefs.
 

Google, the biggest index of them all
 

Mojeek, a creditable second place
 

This is it on Bing: a 25-year-old history on the web, and it says it has 10 pages from lucire.com. Altavista, Excite and Hotbot had more in the 1990s
 

Duck Duck Go is slightly better, with 48 results—down from the thousands it once had
 
After switching to HTTPS
Number of results for lucire.com
Google: 5,830
Mojeek: 3,535 (containing the word Lucire, as term-less searches are not allowed)
Duck Duck Go: 48
Bing: 10
 
Number of results for jackyan.com
Google: 878
Mojeek: 437 (containing the term “Jack Yan”)
Duck Duck Go: 54
Bing: 24
 
Number of results for jyanet.com
Google: 635
Mojeek: 297 (containing the word jyanet)
Duck Duck Go: 46
Bing: 10
 

Presumably the only search engine that could handle a server going from HTTP to HTTPS and preserving the domains’ positions

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology, UK | 1 Comment »


Vivaldi 5.2’s bugs: time to go back to Opera GX?

08.04.2022


Above: Vivaldi appears for less than a second; each entry then disappears. One of the bugs from last night.
 
Vivaldi updated last night, and nearly instantly shut down.

Sadly, there’s a bug which shuts the program down the moment you hit a form field (filed with them, and they are working on it), and I found that ZIP archives would not download properly. Getting rid of a Spotify tab somehow got me around the first bug, but I know others have not been so lucky.

In the meantime, I discovered downgrading did not work—Vivaldi wouldn’t even start—while upgrading back to 5.2 didn’t solve that problem. I’d see Vivaldis in the task manager for a second but they’d then vanish.

Removing the sessions from the default folder helped me start the program again, but I lost my tabs; fortunately I was able to restore those, in order to duplicate each and every one on my old browser, Opera GX.

I had duplicated tabs onto other browsers reasonably regularly, and I could have retrieved a fairly recent set from my laptop, but it’s always good to have the latest.

Right now I’m deciding whether to stick with Vivaldi while its techs work on the problems, or return to a stable Opera GX, which I last used as my regular browser briefly in 2020.

The type display is still really good, without my needing to add code to get the browser working with MacType.

However, I like Vivaldi and what they stand for, which is why I stuck with it for so long. According to this blog, I’ve been using it reasonably faithfully since September 2017. And I have become very used to it over any other Chromium-based browser.
 
Some of you may have noticed that this website is finally on https, years after that became the norm. There was one line in the code that wasn’t pointing at the correct stylesheet when this blog loaded using SSL. That was finally remedied yesterday (I hard-coded the stylesheet link into the header PHP file). I’m no expert on such matters but it’s now loading a certificate I got at Let’s Encrypt, and it seems to be working.

One of the changes in the stylesheet that controls the indents and the paragraph spacing does mean some of the line spacing in earlier posts is now off. This happened on the Lucire website, too, but it was one of those things I had to do to make posts going forward look a bit better.

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Posted in design, interests, internet, technology, typography | No Comments »


Replacement for Notepad found, but what about Windows Explorer?

02.04.2022


 
Now that Microsoft won’t let us type certain characters into Notepad (anything above ASCII 127, at least on a standard US keyboard), I’ve had to look for alternatives.
   This is a daft move on Microsoft’s part as I am sure I am not the only person in the world who needs to type £ or or the word café. I accept not everyone needs to type en and em dashes.
   A number of kind souls on Twitter suggested Notepad++, which I had heard of years ago, but it was just far too complicated for me. What I really wanted was Notepad as it was before a few months ago.
   The closest: EditPad Lite 8, which is like Notepad but with a more convoluted search and replace, and tabs so you can have a bunch of files in a single instance of the program.
 

 
   Windows Explorer is the other one. It keeps rotating photos by itself, even images with no orientation code (such as screenshots). There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes it’ll rotate left. Other times to the right. Or upside down.
   Sadly, the timestamp changes, which is very problematic for, say, email attachments, which I file by date. Also linked files for magazine work—we can’t afford to have photos suddenly rotated in a file because Microsoft thinks so.
   That proved to be a lot harder to solve, as most people who make Explorer alternatives want to do multiple windows. Others have clunky interfaces. If you don’t want to pay, and even if you do, your choices seem rather limited.
   Eventually trialling more than half a dozen, I settled on One Commander, which doesn’t rotate photos without human intervention, and I had been happy with it till today—when it changed the timestamps on a whole bunch of photos during a transfer.
 

 
   I know the program would love to call these photos ‘modified’ at the time of transfer, but that’s exceedingly unhelpful for my purposes, when I need them to show the original date and modified date exactly as they were in the originating folder.
   Your suggestions are welcome. I do need to preview thumbnails, which knocks out some of the offerings. But again, you have to wonder why on earth Microsoft has introduced bugs when both these programs functioned fine under Windows 10.
 
PS.: Milos Paripović, the developer of One Commander, responded to my query about this. He says, ‘One Commander is using Explorer for file operations so it should behave the same way.’ And here’s the thing: I haven’t been able to replicate the bug described above since. So it looks like I’ll continue with One Commander, which has the best UI of them all. Altap Salamander did get a brief look-in, but it’s just not as nice to look at.

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Posted in publishing, technology, USA | No Comments »


When Here WeGo still sends you to the wrong location six years on

10.01.2022

Six years ago, I reported this error in Here Maps (a.k.a. Here WeGo), both via the official channels and to a software engineer I knew working there.
   It’s still there. There aren’t two Wharekauhau Country Estates (this is the route between them, to highlight just how wrong it is; the westerly one is correct).

   They’ve since been in touch via Twitter and I’ve re-sent them all the information, including:

Trust me, I went to this one and wound up the drive to some random farm with no one around, and had to back my car down a muddy trail with immense difficulty as there was nowhere to U-turn.

   This only came up because Here Maps tried to take me to New World Foxton recently, and I decided to look back.
   If I followed their guidance, I would have to drive through the war memorial.


   Don’t get me wrong. I really like Here Maps and the latest UI is fantastic. It’s no worse than its competitors in accuracy terms. Google has sent me to plenty of wrong places when I was still using their site for things. It’s just annoying when the official channels, reporting bugs the way they suggest, clearly don’t work. Hopefully if anyone’s planning their journeys to the above places, they’ll be able to see this post!

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Posted in design, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


What succeeds my Meizu M6 Note?

29.11.2021

My Meizu M6 Note has had to be retired, due to an expanding battery, something which I probably shouldn’t have tolerated for so long (it began happening months ago). I only made the call to stop using it last week after the volume buttons could no longer function, and I probably should have stopped earlier still* as it would have been easier to get the SIM and micro SD cards out!
   My original plan was to go slightly newer and opt for a Note 9, and I had located a vendor on Aliexpress who was prepared to send it to me with the Chinese Flyme OS installed. But my sense is that Meizu is now past its prime, and everything seems to be shutting down.
   I had been logging into the app store daily for over a year to earn points, but Meizu informed us that it would cease to record log-ins, and we had to redeem what we could by January. Its now-useless default music app I’ve already blogged about. No one answers international queries any more and from what I can tell, official Meizu reps seldom frequent the Chinese forums—while the international forums consist of frustrated users talking among themselves.
   And this is coming from a self-confessed Meizu fan. I chose the M2 Note back in 2015–16 and if it weren’t for the damaged screen, I might never have bought the M6 Note. For now, I’m back to using the M2, which is slower, and the battery doesn’t hold its charge quite as well any more, but at least everything from the M6 Note has synced to it. With my app usage lower than it was in 2012, I don’t notice any real lags in performance within the programs I do use, something that I couldn’t say even two years ago when I was still popping into Instagram daily. Only the camera gets annoying with its slowness. I have gone away from the Swype keyboard though, as Swype no longer sends verification codes to your email to sync your custom word dictionary. I’m muddling my way through Microsoft’s Swiftkey, which has proved a tolerable successor (the chief gains are the ability to access en and em dashes and ellipses from the keyboard without switching languages). It seems to forget that you’ve pressed shift in order to write a proper noun (you have to do this twice for it to stick!) but it is learning words like Lucire and Autocade as well as my email address.
   Readers may recall that after I had the M2 Note’s screen repaired, it would no longer charge, except at the store in Johnsonville (Repair Plus) that fixed it! The lads there would never tell me why they could charge it and I couldn’t and just grinned, while I told them how patently ridiculous the situation was, that even a new charging cable could not work; in fact none of my chargers did. They didn’t seem to care that this was the predicament they put me in. The issue—and I don’t know if they are to blame—is that the charging port is looser than it was, and it needs a very decent micro USB connector. That was thanks to PB Tech for telling me the truth—and a thumbs-down to Repair Plus for not even trying to sell me a better cable! Moral of the story: use people for the one thing that can do, but don’t expect much more from them, not even basic after-sales service.
   With its “fault” remedied about a year and a half ago, I had a phone to use once I put the micro SD and SIM cards back in, though Amanda isn’t able to hear me that clearly on it when I’m at the office, and I’m sure I’ve missed calls and SMSs probably due to limits with the frequencies it uses (though I had checked six years ago it would handle the Vodafone 3G and 4G frequencies).
   So a new phone is needed because the “phone” function of the M2 isn’t up to par. I don’t need the latest and greatest, and thanks to the pace of development, a phone launched in 2020 is already obsolete in China. It seems that if Meizu is on the way down that I should go to its arch-rival, Xiaomi, and get the Note 9’s competitor, which roughly has the same name: the Redmi Note 9.
   The Xiaomi names are all confusing and the Indian market has different phones with the same names, to add to the confusion already out there. I don’t profess to know where the S, T, Note, Pro, and the rest fit, but let’s just say I’ve been led to get a Redmi Note 9.
   PB had first dibs but as the sales’ rep could not tell me whether I could easily put the Chinese version of MIUI on it, in order to rid myself of the Google bloatware, then I couldn’t safely buy one. I wasted enough time on the M6 Note on that front, and my installation of its Chinese OS could well have been down to a fluke. He also refused to tell me the price difference between the sale units and the shop-soiled demo ones other than it was small, and, ‘You may as well buy a new one.’
   There’s no irony here with privacy: Chinese apps at least tell you what legislation covers their usage, unlike western apps which don’t mention US Government snooping yet Google passes on stuff anyway. In all the years I’ve used the Meizus there has been nothing dodgy in terms of the data received and sent, as far as I know, and there’s nothing questionable constantly running such as Google Services that transmits and drains your battery.
   There are some great sites, a number of which are in India, that teach you how to turn off some of Xiaomi’s bloatware’s notifications, but they seldom annoyed me on the Meizu. I’ll soon find out first-hand how good they are.
   Why the Redmi Note 9? It was one of the few on Aliexpress that I could find with the Chinese ROM installed, saving me a lot of effort. I won’t have to root it, for a start. When your choice is down to about half a dozen phones—Aliexpress and Ebay vendors are so keen to get export sales they make it a point not to sell Chinese—you’re guided on price and your daily usage. I’m a firm believer that a phone should not cost the same as a used car. Bonuses: the big battery and the fact it isn’t too bright (that’s just me); detriments: 199 g in weight and a humongous screen.
   The vendor (YouGeek) was conscientious enough to send me a message (along the lines of ‘Are you absolutely sure you want the Chinese version?’) which cost me a couple of days since I don’t always pop back to the site (and you can’t read messages on the phone browser version anyway). Now we’re on the same page, they’ve dispatched the phone. We’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks. There’s no turning back now.

* PS.: From How to Geek: ‘Once you notice the battery is swollen or compromised in any way, you should immediately stop using the device. Turn the power off, and above all else, do not charge the device. Once the battery has reached such a point of failure that the battery is swollen, you must assume that all safety mechanisms in the battery are offline. Charging a swollen battery is literally asking for it to turn into an exploding ball of noxious flammable gas right in your living room.’ I wish I was told this when I first went to PB months ago when the battery began expanding and I enquired about phones.

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Posted in business, China, India, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


A smooth upgrade to Windows 11 (so far)

01.11.2021

The Windows 11 upgrade arrived on my desktop machine before my laptop, which was a surprise. Also surprising is how uneventful the whole process was, unlike Windows 10, which led me to become a regular on the Microsoft Answers forums.
   A few tips: (a) do back everything up first; and (b) do take screenshots of the pinned items in your start menu. The former goes without saying; the latter is important since those pins won’t be preserved with the upgrade.
   The download-and-install took some time and when I restarted the PC, it actually loaded Windows 10 again! Only when I restarted from there did Windows 11 do the full upgrade process, which was relatively painless.
   First impressions: WordPerfect and Eudora appear to work, and MacType has loaded for the programs, including my Vivaldi browser. So that’s the office stuff taken care of.
   The taskbar is too darned tall and there’s no way to fix it without a registry hack, something I’m not yet willing to do. I suppose I could hide it but Windows can be flaky, and you just never know when its presence (and a right-click to the Task Manager) is going to be needed.
   Muscle memory over years (decades) means that I still want to go to the bottom left-hand corner for my icons, but I’m willing to give centred a shot as it reminds me of MacOS.
   Happily, there’s not much more to report. The icons look nicer to me and the change is positive, and the redone UI fonts have a bit more character (pun unintended). The only registry hack I intend to do is for the sake of decent typography. Hopefully there’ll be little more to report.

PS.: The removal of system fonts (viz. Arial) worked.

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Posted in technology, typography | No Comments »


InShot Music Player is also forgetful, though it’s not as bad as the last two

20.08.2021

One bug that creeps up at unpredictable intervals with InShot’s Music Player—though it is not as severe as the bug on Muzio Player—is that after a while, it forgets that it should shuffle the tracks and resorts to alphabetical order, starting from the top.
   Considering this isn’t something that has affected any other music player, I find this very surprising.
   These four screenshots were taken between July and August of the recent tracks. There’s no rhyme or reason the player would suddenly go to the top of the list, but when I begin hearing the same sequence of tracks, I know something’s not right. And it has been happening since I installed the player, though the first couple of times I didn’t realize it was a bug.
   I would tell Inshot directly but my last (highly positive) email went unanswered, so a public blog post is the next best thing, in case others have come across this bug.
   With how forgetful computer programs are all the time, including the player I had on my phone prior to this, I wonder: should I invent the ini or preference file? It seems that in this universe, these haven’t been invented yet!




   On a side note, Meizu’s native music player has also forgotten to show the list of tracks, which remain linked after my herculean effort earlier this year. Its search still fails to scan the SD card.

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Posted in design, technology | No Comments »