Apple’s iMessage: When it’s good, it’s very good; when it’s bad, it’s very very bad.

Apple’s never been good at server side software. Remember MobileMe, which was so bad that it triggered a classic Steve Jobs’ rant?

iCloud was the replacement, but initially it wasn’t much better. The current incarnation has improved, but not to the point that it can replace Dropbox. (1Password and Scrivener are just so much better with Dropbox than iCloud.)

But iMessage is still a disaster, and has turned me off the iPhone once and for all.

When I got the iPhone 4s, and initially turned on iMessage it seemed to work well enough.

But not any more.

For the last 10 odd months – yes, you read that right, months – I’ve been charged for dozens of hidden text messages sent to a mysterious UK number + 44 7786205094. I’ve been on the phone with Apple and my service provider for hours. I’ve pinged AppleSupport on Twitter, who are so grotesquely unprofessional that they’re worth a rant of their own, but on second thought, Twitter breeds that kind of unprofessionalism.

Searching Apple’s forums and elsewhere shows that this is not an uncommon problem. The fixes suggested by hapless users and even Apple are so inane, that they remind me of the old joke on Microsoft.

And this is after using iMessage on the 4s and 5s for years, suddenly it decides not to work, but also to become a massive revenue generator for my service provider.

So I guess it’s back to WhatsApp, despite the dubious connection to that privacy disaster known as Facebook. That’s how bad iMessage has become. The only thing worse that I can imagine is that OS X (sorry, macOS) driving me back to Windows. And not just Windows, but Windows 10, the Windows that common or garden malware looks up to emulate.

At least WhatsApp is cross platform, and Just Works (tm?), something that we used to say for Apple’s products. Sadly not any more.

Now onto convincing people to use Signal instead of WhatsApp and maybe things will become better.


Posted in iOS, Software | Comments Off on Apple’s iMessage: When it’s good, it’s very good; when it’s bad, it’s very very bad.

Video killed the radio star, IAP killed app prices

Back here on my yearly visit.

It’s a little funny that the second most recent post was about our IOS app, which is now quite, quite dead and unlikely to ever come back.

Not funny haha, but funny curious since I just saw this article on IAP and app prices.

From that article:

One of the most striking things you’ll notice when browsing the Top 200 Grossing apps is that they are virtually all offered as free downloads. In my survey, just three apps were paid apps upfront; Minecraft (#33, $6.99), Grindr (#95, $0.99), and Facetune (#183, $3.99). The other 197 apps were free to download.

Personally, I didn’t understand the whole “freemium” model. I also don’t understand why people pay huge amounts of money to buy an iPhone, and then have problems paying $1 to $20 for apps.

Speaking of which, I just paid $20 for Scrivener for IOS and am having a great time trying it out. I don’t know if it can spit out WordPress compatible posts, but let me see if I can figure it out.


Posted in Software, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Video killed the radio star, IAP killed app prices

In which I smash my iPhone 4s, buy an iPhone 6 and roll back to 4s

I have had an iPhone 4s since it came out. It survived multiple minor drops, spent time in my pockets in the company of car keys, and coins, with nary a scratch.

And then one day, while walking the dog, and not paying attention to the neighbour’s cat, or my dog, it flew out of my pocket and, guess what, big surprise, the screen broke. Here lies iPhone 4s, victim of the latest cat and dog brawl.

I hated the 5s when it came out, and refused to upgrade. Now the choice is the iPhone 6 (useful for serving two cups of coffee) or the iPhone 6 Plus (useful for serving breakfast as well.)

Ordered the 6 online. Man, this thing is expensive. Man, they don’t have a 32Gb version. Man, the gold one is the only one in stock.

Hmm, that’s funny. When the wife wanted the gold 5s, she had to wait for a month. Oh well, who cares. After the 4s screen fiasco, this guy’s going to go into a case. Order a case as well, yes.

And then it arrives. Something which Chandler Bing would have called from the “Armani House of Crap.” It’s gold. Not a decent subtle muted gold. It’s GOLD. With mysterious white go-faster lines on the back as well. I guess it’s a continuance of the 5s livery, but man, this thing is ugly next to the 4s, which I’m increasingly convinced will go down as the best iPhone ever made.

And the safety case? Joey would have ripped his own arm off just to hit that thing with it.

Just got the 4s replaced after paying the replacement charges. I’ll wait for a smaller iPhone  6s where the “s” stands for smaller, not Siri.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off on In which I smash my iPhone 4s, buy an iPhone 6 and roll back to 4s

Third app (kind of) in the App Store, all in the first attempt (kind of).

We just got our third app (KeepAndBeep Pro) into the app store. It’s a slightly more capable version of KeepAndBeep Lite, with 8 slots instead of 2, and a few more usability tweaks.

So far each app has been approved in the first attempt, thanks to extensive testing on simulators, various devices and keeping the UI as simple as possible. Although this last app did have a bit of churn, with the reviewer asking for a demo video which took us a couple of days to put together.

Apart from what we’ve learnt from the App Store process itself, I’ve learnt a couple of other things which are obvious in hindsight. 

The last two apps are little non intuitive for people who’ve grown up without landlines. 

The idea for KeepAndBeep came from a very simple frustration. Dialling credit card numbers accurately on a cell phone is hard. You have to keep flipping back and forth between the speaker phone and the keypad. Touch screens just make it slightly worse. 

I’ve always preferred dialling bank and other companies customer care from landlines, but even then making a single mistake can get you kicked off the line, and you have to waste more time and effort dialling again. I always wanted the ability to keep the credit card numbers in my phone and beep them out to the landline when required. So we built it.

The usage seemed obvious to me, but I found I had to explain it to younger folks who use only cellphones!

Hence the video – thanks to the anonymous App Store reviewer.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Third app (kind of) in the App Store, all in the first attempt (kind of).

Back to Windows Hell

After many many years, I just had to install Windows on a (thankfully) new machine. (Updating Windows on a working machine is a pleasure to only those who also like to shove spikes through their own cheeks.)

This is on a Toshiba C850, which comes without any OS, and you have to buy your OS separately. Of course, there are no driver disks nor any clue which drivers this particular machine will actually need. Just a piece of paper pointing you to a generic Toshiba driver website. Compared to HP, this is an improvement, which doesn’t even name their drivers, they number them.

So after figuring out which machine you’ve bought, and getting a list of all drivers for that specific model number, you, the user, now have to figure out which motherboard your kind manufacturer has actually shipped to you.

You see, it’s cheaper to label every tacky plastic case exactly the same way, instead of having a meaningful name. Yes, the reason why Windows PCs are cheaper than Macs is exactly this – the label costs more than the machine! Instead of calling an AMD based model C850A, and an Intel version C850I, they have to call them both C850 to save money. Not following me?

Turns out, your friendly neighbourhood laptop maker, might have shovelled in an Intel or AMD board in that plastic case.

On that board, they might have Realtek or Atheros networking chips. If you’re lucky, the ethernet chip and the wifi chip might be from the same manufacturer, but don’t hold your breath.

By the way, that means your brand new machine needs network drivers to make a network connection to download the network drivers which you don’t have to drive the network connection which you need to download the drivers. Okay, I’ll stop at that, or we’ll be here all week.

Get it? You see, every Windows user is expected to own a working machine on which they can research the Internet to determine which drivers they need for their new machine. Luckily I’m doing this right next to an iMac, which just works.

Several hours later, here I am, with a mostly working Windows installation. Sound works, kind of. The touch pad works. The network came up relatively quickly since Toshiba kindly prints some diagnostics and I saw Realtek scroll by at high speed. So the Atheros drivers can be deleted. Yay. That gives me back 102Mb of disk space!

Bluetooth works, since I took a chance and assumed that Toshiba machines would use Toshiba BT chips.
But I still have some 4-5 yellow items in Device Manager, which means that there are still some devices lurking about who are driverless.

All in all, I spent more time installing drivers on this one new machine than I have spent updating my operating systems on all my 10 Macs in the last 7 years.

Tiger to Leopard to Snow Leopard to Lion to Mountain Lion to Mavericks. Not one file lost and not one device failing to work.

The “Apple tax” is paid in money. The “Microsoft tax” is paid out in hours of your life. Guess which one I can always get more of?

Posted in Software | Comments Off on Back to Windows Hell

Free advice to job applicants

In no particular order:

1. Do not write stuff in your resume which you’ve “forgotten because it was a long time ago.”

2. Do not expect me to follow the format which some bozo has taught you.

For example, I will not ask you to tell me about yourself to make you comfortable as I have no interest in either you or your comfort.

3. Do not tell me that you chose EE/CS/whatever because you were “always interested in it.” I’m interested in movies, but I’m not an actor. Convince me why you chose your major or find the exit door. Some of you will need help with that as well.

4. Do not tell me about your awesome dancing skills. If and when I need something which dances, I’d rather get a bear.

5. When I ask you to write a C macro, please write a C macro. Starting with main() does not bode well for the rest of the interview.

6. If you ask me about how many months of training we provide, I will ask you what you did for four years in college.

7. I will ask you to write code, and it will be syntactically correct. No handwaving and blathering about generic pseudo code. I might have asked for pseudo code for something complicated. Pay attention.

8. Switch off your stupidphone when you get to my office. On time. And keep your stupidphone switched off.

9. If I ask you to rate yourself on something, be realistic. Claiming that you’re 9/10 or better in C++ (and 6/10 in C at the same time) is just asking for trouble.

10. When I called you on the phone, and asked you if you had any questions, do not waste that opportunity. I will not take kindly to silly questions, especially on email, which you could and should have asked at the right time.

11. Do not invite your friends to your interview. I called you for an interview, not a party.

12. You do not get to change the interview schedule just because you happen to be in the neighbourhood at a different time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Free advice to job applicants

The First Thing You Should Do If Your Boss Changes

So you’ve been in the same role for a while, have established yourself in the company and everyone loves you.

You’re a member of at least a few inner circles (don’t tell me your company doesn’t have them if you don’t want me to call you a liar), and maybe even the CEO knows who you are.

Then, for whatever reason, your boss changes. Maybe s/he retired, got laid off, or just transferred away or quit and now you have a new boss with Ingredient X! – “Washes Shinier Than The Old Boss!

Guess what guy? You just got a new job. You’re back on probation, and you have to prove yourself all over again just as if you’re a new hire at a different company. Sure, the new boss might have heard Good Things about you, but s/he’s going to need proof and confirmation.

Most people don’t get this immediately. The normal comfortable response is on the lines of “Hey, I was here first. Boss needs to prove themselves to me.

Bzzzt. Wrong. Now you’re on thin ice.

Just because you don’t have a new business card and a decent hike from moving sideways doesn’t mean you don’t have a new job. It’s to get the new guy to understand what you do well, and where you need help. I hate the cliche – “chinese word for threat and opportunity is (snore) … ” but if you don’t handle this well, it’s not going to benefit you in any way.

In some ways it’s actually worse. What if old boss got booted out for some good reason? And the perception is that you’re part of the problem too.

The new guy won’t know that you’re not. You’re guilty until believed innocent. The new guy’s in to fix things, and you’re potentially in the line to get fixed.

The best thing to do is to prepare. I don’t particularly like presentations, but whatever floats your boat. Get something ready, on the lines of:

  1. How were things before I came, good, bad and ugly.
  2. What I did to change things.
  3. Where we are now.
  4. Where I need your help.

Point 4 is the most important. The new guy wants to help and people like being asked to help. It makes them feel wanted and generally bossy. And most of the time, the new boss will have access to resources that the old boss either didn’t have, or was unwilling to release.

The other implicit message is that you’re thinking ahead, and are ready with data, to help.

But if you think you’re still in the old comfort zone, think again.

Posted in Management, Software | Tagged , | Comments Off on The First Thing You Should Do If Your Boss Changes

The Three Layers and How They’ve Changed

When I started out in the software business, it used to be called either “programming” or “computer science,” not this weird “IT” term which always makes me think of income tax.

For the middle class mind set at that time (1985), this was a strange new beast and the middle class never likes strange or new:

“The only job you’ll get is in the Department of Statistics in the Ministry of Labour,” counselled a particularly annoying uncle.

“It’s just typing on an electronic keyboard,” said another educated-beyond-his-mental-capacity  friend-of-the-dad.

Well, I didn’t listen to them, and you shouldn’t listen to me either for career advice. But I do want to point out something which I observed a few years ago. It comes from hundreds of interviews I’ve done, starting in 1996.

A very real example interview session started going like this:

Interviewer: “Why did you pick computer science in engineering?”

Candidate: “I was always interested in computer (sic) in school.”

Interviewer: “I’m interested in movies, but I’m not an actor. Why did you pick computer science as your major?”

Candidate, smiling weakly and thinking: “Oh hell, I got the crazy dude. This wasn’t what my seniors told me about!”

Turns out, thanks to what the industry calls “mass recruiters,” the industry has successfully managed to turn “IT” into a “secure job.” Which means, just like the older secure jobs, there’s a formula to get into it, and if you don’t play the formula, you’re the crazy dude.

So in 1985, what all those kindly “uncles” and “aunts” wanted us to do was layered thus:

  1. Secure job: Government Service. Preferably an I*S officer of some sort.
  2. Secure job, but more money: Public Sector. CMC (remember them?)
  3. Poor fellow: Works in private sector.

Today the layers are a trifle different, but the mind set is the same:

  1. Secure job: Mass Recruiter of choice. 
  2. Secure job: MNC of some sort. USA based, of course, otherwise you fall down in the layers a bit.
  3. Poor fellow: works in a start up.

And there you have it folks, the middle-classification of “IT.”

No wonder we can’t be the first to port Unix to Intel any more (Wipro in late 80s), or build a world class switching system (C-DOT), or a supercomputer worth its name (C-DAC). 

Posted in Software | Comments Off on The Three Layers and How They’ve Changed

Android 4.0.3 on Nexus S is the best reason to upgrade to iPhone 4S

Upgraded my Nexus S to 4.0.3, battery life sucks, switched to iPhone 4S, end of story.

Posted in Nexus S, Software | Comments Off on Android 4.0.3 on Nexus S is the best reason to upgrade to iPhone 4S

Skype on iPhone/iPod/iPad – bad/bad/bad

If you’re having trouble getting sound and/or video on a Skype call and one of you is on an iDevice of some sort, then just it’s not bandwidth which is messing you up, it’s the compute power on the iDevice.

Switch the culprit to a computer on the same network, and you’ll probably get a usable connection.

The reason is simply the way that the audio/video codecs work. They’ll drop frames if the machine/network can’t keep up.

Posted in Software | Comments Off on Skype on iPhone/iPod/iPad – bad/bad/bad