September 17, 2012
On Mon, 17 Sep 2012 15:35:53 -0700
Ali Çehreli <acehreli@yahoo.com> wrote:

> On 09/17/2012 03:08 PM, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
>  > On Mon, 17 Sep 2012 13:18:51 -0700
>  > "H. S. Teoh"<hsteoh@quickfur.ath.cx>  wrote:
> 
>  >> Any time you hear "smart" and "software" in the same sentence, be
>  >> prepared for something dumb.
>  >>
>  >
>  > Heh, I actually say pretty much the same thing myself very often.
>  > Couldn't agree more. If you were around me in person, you'd
>  > frequently hear "I hate when (devices|programs) try to be smart."
>  > Smart(.*) is a red flag for "badly designed" or "unreliable".
>  >
>  > That's actually been an even bigger thing with me lately than ever
>  > before since, because of work, I have a call phone for the first
>  > time now - two actually, an iPhone and an Android - and I
>  > absolutely *HATE* both the damn things (with the iPhone being
>  > slightly worse). *Everything* about them is just wrong, backwards,
>  > idiotic. They even managed to take something as trivial to get
>  > right as volume controls and *completely* fuck it up in every
>  > imaginable way. And of course, Android aped Apple's idiotic lead
>  > on that, as usual.
> 
> I have to jump in on this discussion: Those have been exactly my feelings since I've gotten my "smart" phone about two years ago. I cannot believe the lack of usability! :) I have an Android but of course I have played with iPhones as well. Let me tell you: the emperor has no clothes! :)
> 

Finally, someone who's with me on that! I thought I was the only one!

> They have imagined a "phone", where being able to answer the call is completely by luck if the phone has been in your pocket when the call arrived! Chances are, you will touch something on the "smart" screen and reject the call by some random reason like "I am in class." (No, I am not a student or a teacher at this time; but that exact scenario happened to me multiple times.)
> 

Oh man, I could go on for pages listing the issues I have with them.

> Imagine a device where the *entire* screen is touchable with different areas meaning different things depending on context! The users can only cradle it gently but they can't hold it firmly! Wow! I can't believe how this whole idea took off. Later generations will have a good laugh at these devices.
> 

And worse: When you *do* want to interact with it, you can't do so accurately, because it's *completely unresponsive* to anything even remotely accurate like a fingernail or stylus. Not that they even *have* any place to keep a stylus. And the idiotic claim rationalizing that is that capacitive touchscreens are supposedly "more accurate" than resistive. Which is bullshit because a finger can *never* be sanely considered even remotely as accurate as a fingernail or a non-capacitive stylus. Like you said: No clothes on this emperor.

Speaking of resistive touchscreens and stylus, that reminds me: I miss the PalmOS devices. I loved my Visor and Zire71. If they hadn't killed them off with that WebOS junk (and if the assholes at Xerox hadn't helped by killing off the *good* version of Grafitti with their goddamn software patents), then I think a modern PalmOS incarnation would have been a fantastic alternative to iOS/Android. PalmOS 6 was looking great, but never materialized due to the one thing that made it so great: It wasn't trying to ape Apple's moronic ideas.

Hell, that's why it's impossible to get a good portable
music player: They all decided they *had* to ape Apple. Shit,
if I wanted a portable music player with minimal storage, proprietary
communications, and a non-tactile poorly-designed interface, I'd
have actually *gotten* an iPod (either iTouch or pre-iTouch, they're
both junk). I *don't* want that Apple-style junk, that's *why* I went
looking for non-Apple devices! The best I could find was a Toshiba
Gigabeat F hacked up with the Rockbox firmware, but even that could have
been a lot better by toning down the Apple-envy (damn touch-sensitive
"buttons"). (Incidentally, the Zune 1 would have been *perfect* if MS's
insistence on aping Apple's "Don't let anyone access it like the USB
HDD it literally is" hadn't single-handedly rendered it useless. Well,
and if MS knew how to make non-trivial hardware that didn't break down
at the drop of a hat. Zune 2 was junk, though.)

> Thanks for letting me vent. :)
> 

Heh. One thing I've learned about myself: I love to complain :) I don't like having things *to* complain about, but when I do...


September 18, 2012
On Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 07:33:44PM -0400, Nick Sabalausky wrote:
> On Mon, 17 Sep 2012 15:35:53 -0700
> Ali Çehreli <acehreli@yahoo.com> wrote:
[...]
> > Imagine a device where the *entire* screen is touchable with different areas meaning different things depending on context! The users can only cradle it gently but they can't hold it firmly! Wow! I can't believe how this whole idea took off. Later generations will have a good laugh at these devices.
> > 
> 
> And worse: When you *do* want to interact with it, you can't do so accurately, because it's *completely unresponsive* to anything even remotely accurate like a fingernail or stylus. Not that they even *have* any place to keep a stylus. And the idiotic claim rationalizing that is that capacitive touchscreens are supposedly "more accurate" than resistive. Which is bullshit because a finger can *never* be sanely considered even remotely as accurate as a fingernail or a non-capacitive stylus. Like you said: No clothes on this emperor.

Yeah, I spent the better part of a few *weeks* just to get my finger to land in the right spots for iSilo to open a link correctly. Even now, YEARS later, sometimes I still have to stand there like an idiot tapping the same spot 50 times before it will go, because the link is 2 characters wide, and the stupid software can't figure out that since the finger landed closest to a 5x7 pixel link, the user probably meant to hit that link instead of empty space. Like you said, fingers are totally inaccurate. And a fingernail or stylus doesn't work because of the capacitative surface.


[...]
> (Incidentally, the Zune 1 would have been *perfect* if MS's insistence on aping Apple's "Don't let anyone access it like the USB HDD it literally is" hadn't single-handedly rendered it useless. [...])

Hear, hear! The one thing that irks me the most is this whole "you can't access your own files 'cos we decided that you just can't" nonsense. Like you said, it's essentially a USB HDD. Now I have a bunch of files on my iPod that I accidentally corrupted on my PC, and I can't copy them back because I can't access them from outside! Grrrrrr...

And don't get me started on the straitjacketed app store that has the full freedom to kill off Apple competition at a whim. Oh yes, lest you have any illusion that the app store's policies are for "protecting the user", let's face the fact that there is a long history of USEFUL apps that got blocked because they competed with Apple's own inferior offerings. VLC player, for one. Opera Mobile. And countless others. The official reason? They competed with Apple's own offerings. Yes, that's the *official* reason. And if you were lucky enough to install them before they got taken off, you'd quickly realize that they are far superior to what Apple has to offer. In the meantime, totally worthless apps and $0.99 scams that do *nothing* except pocket your dollar are left free to roam. Does this remind you of "DOS ain't done until Lotus won't run"?

I was looking forward to getting an Android when my current precambrian non-smart phone finally breathes its last... but it looks like it's just going to be Apple Hell, Version 2 "we just changed the props but the annoying misfeatures are exactly the same as you experienced before (tm)".  :-(


T

-- 
What do you get if you drop a piano down a mineshaft? A flat minor.
September 18, 2012
On 9/18/12, Nick Sabalausky <SeeWebsiteToContactMe@semitwist.com> wrote:
> Heh. One thing I've learned about myself: I love to complain :) I don't like having things *to* complain about, but when I do...

I love reading posts like these. Here's a recent one: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx
September 18, 2012
On 9/18/12, Andrej Mitrovic <andrej.mitrovich@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 9/18/12, Nick Sabalausky <SeeWebsiteToContactMe@semitwist.com> wrote:
>> Heh. One thing I've learned about myself: I love to complain :) I don't like having things *to* complain about, but when I do...
>
> I love reading posts like these. Here's a recent one: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx
>

Btw who on earth develops set top box software? Granted I've only used two so far (since I switched ISPs and my triple-play service recently), but the software on it is such incredible garbage. How do they manage to create software for a specific device, while knowing all of its characteristics, that lags like hell? I'd really like to see the source code for that. How many cycles could they possibly waste to blit a pre-designed bitmap on the screen (like the main menu)?
September 18, 2012
On Monday, 17 September 2012 at 22:14:51 UTC, Walter Bright wrote:
> The trouble with cute logos is like hearing the same joke over and over.

s/cute logos/TCP jokes/
September 18, 2012
On Tue, 18 Sep 2012 03:15:33 +0200
Andrej Mitrovic <andrej.mitrovich@gmail.com> wrote:

> On 9/18/12, Andrej Mitrovic <andrej.mitrovich@gmail.com> wrote:
> > On 9/18/12, Nick Sabalausky <SeeWebsiteToContactMe@semitwist.com> wrote:
> >> Heh. One thing I've learned about myself: I love to complain :) I don't like having things *to* complain about, but when I do...
> >
> > I love reading posts like these. Here's a recent one: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx
> >
> 
> Btw who on earth develops set top box software?

Former lab monkeys who survived the brain experiments.

Funny, that *one* sentence alone and already I know exactly what you're talking about...

> Granted I've only used
> two so far (since I switched ISPs and my triple-play service
> recently), but the software on it is such incredible garbage. How do
> they manage to create software for a specific device, while knowing
> all of its characteristics, that lags like hell? I'd really like to
> see the source code for that. How many cycles could they possibly
> waste to blit a pre-designed bitmap on the screen (like the main
> menu)?

Yup. A few months ago, we ended up just ditching cable TV entirely:

- Set-top firmware completely fubared, just like you described, and the
  company and tech people just shrugged it off and gave excuses that
  didn't make any sense at all.

- Video feeds that I could almost swear must have been MPEG *1*.
  Constant compression artifacts.

- A/V frequently out-of-sync.

- A/V frequently cutting out entirely (note this was *cable*, not
  satellite).

- Multiple service visits, only ever fixing a small minority of
  the issues, and only ever temporarily.

- Roughly $100/mo for nothing but reality shows and dodgy camerawork,
  all with *overlayed* advertisements.

- The *only* thing I liked was that, as a promo, we were getting NHK
  for a couple months, which was actually pretty cool, even though I
  barely know any of the langauge.

- Oh, and even before any of that even started happening, there was
  this:
  http://semitwist.com/articles/article/view/time-warner-cable-cannot-find-my-account

We replaced them (Time Warner in our case) with a $50 converter box and
$40 antenna (*one*-time fees), neither of which I ever actually use (I
just get DVDs from the library), and I couldn't be happier. And if I
ever want more, I can just get Netflix: $8/mo vs the cable company's
$100/mo (although Netflix's seeking sucks, and they never offer
subtitled non-dubbed alternatives for foreign stuff, which is
really annoying when you come across something with bad dubbing,
especially since it's internet so there's nothing actually preventing
them from offering it).

And it's not just cable-boxes, it's almost anything embedded. Like car stereos: I *never* used to have *any* complaint about any car stereo other than "The after market ones are always ugly as hell and look like damn toys". But last time my mom got a new car, a Hyndai Elantra, it came with one of those combo satnav/stereo units. So pretty cool, right? And the satnav part seems to work fine (now that it's been replaced after dying...twice). But the stereo is a barely-usable piece of shit. Aside from over-reliance on touch-screen (a *really* dumb fucking idea *in a CAR*), these are *some* of its problems:

- Extremely laggy UI.

- *Every* time you start the car, NO MATTER WHAT, it turns on the radio
  (or a CD if it was playing one before) and sets it to a default
  volume. Not "if the radio/CD was already playing when you turned the
  car off", but "EVERY time" period. She was told this was the car
  "being helpful". Yea, way to spin an obvious fuckup, people. At least
  I hope to hell it's a bug and not...<shudder>...deliberate.

- Then you turn it off, but five seconds later, it turns back on and
  starts playing again. Turn it off that *second* time, *then* it stays
  off.

- It never remembers your volume level after turning the car off and
  back on.

- There's no way to see what the volume is set at without changing it.

- You can't change the volume level without turning the car on.
  (Seriously, what the hell is up with this "war against POTs"?
  Variable resistors are the *perfect* volume control, and yet now
  they've become taboo and replaced by shit that doesn't even always
  work.)

- Satnav/stereo unit CANNOT be turned off without turning the *whole
  car* off.

- In order to use the satnav/stereo unit, you have to *read and respond
  to* a prompt that tells you (ready for this?) **NOT** to read and
  interact with it while driving! Uhh...WTF? I'm betting this one was due to some dumbshit lawyer or politician.

And there's even more. Honestly, if I were looking into getting a new car, I would consider that stereo *alone* to be a deal-breaker. It's that bad.

I miss the 80's: Devices worked and idiots didn't use computers.

September 18, 2012
On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 03:15:33AM +0200, Andrej Mitrovic wrote:
> On 9/18/12, Andrej Mitrovic <andrej.mitrovich@gmail.com> wrote:
> > On 9/18/12, Nick Sabalausky <SeeWebsiteToContactMe@semitwist.com> wrote:
> >> Heh. One thing I've learned about myself: I love to complain :) I don't like having things *to* complain about, but when I do...
> >
> > I love reading posts like these. Here's a recent one: http://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx

+1. After having worked in the industry for over a decade, I'm becoming increasingly cynical about the state of software today. And seeing it "from the inside" as it were, I realize that it *can* be done better. We have all the tools to make it better. A lot better. But it isn't.

For example, I've seen enterprise code that looks like it was written by highschool dropouts. I've seen how said code survives for YEARS in spite of the presence of a code review system, simply because nobody has the time to devote to cleaning things up, or nobody cares to because it is not rewarded. Employers want "positive" contributions -- new features, glitzy GUIs, unreasonable customer feature requests, bloat deemed necessary because the CTO coughed it up one morning after a sleepless night, etc.. Nobody cares about cleaning up what's currently there 'cos it doesn't give anything to the marketing types to sell, and it doesn't have any immediate apparent benefits. The code review process is more concerned about hot-ticket items like security fixes, blatant crashes, or other such important issues like Yahoo messenger not working on the corporate network.  Nobody cares about the thousands of little bits of horribly, horribly wrong code, the effect of which isn't obvious because it's been covered over with layer after layer of festering bandages. And even if you *do* make the extra effort to clean things up, the next person comes along and doesn't understand what was done before, and just slobbers all over it (figuratively speaking), turning it into yet another mess.

And the result? You get stupidities like strange inconsistencies in software behaviour, bugs that can no longer be fixed 'cos things have started depending on the buggy behaviour, etc.. An embedded system that has THREE database engines 'cos the teams in charge of various parts of the system don't talk to each other and/or refuse to consolidate on a single DBMS, resulting in completely needless bloat (I mean, *three* SQL engines on a single embedded system?! Really?!). Or an executable that takes 50GB of memory to link... I made the mistake of attempting to running two builds at the same time, both of which hit this executable around the same time, which caused my PC to lock up for over an hour (locked up for all practical purposes, that is; it was taking 5 *minutes* to respond to a single keystroke as the disk thrashed itself to death. Just don't ask why responding to keystrokes depends on disk I/O).  A large part of that laughably huge executable consists of largely copy-n-pasted-n-modified cout<< statements that outputs HTML and Javascript, and other such boilerplate code. It boggles the mind that a saner, lighter-weight system had not been designed for the task.  It has been like this for YEARS, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Is it any surprise that most software today is crap?  Sometimes I fear that if I introduce D to certain people, they will just proceed to rewrite the same train wreck that is their current C++ code in D, except now they have so many more ways to shoot themselves (and all of the miserable people who will come after them) in the foot, several times over.


> Btw who on earth develops set top box software? Granted I've only used two so far (since I switched ISPs and my triple-play service recently), but the software on it is such incredible garbage. How do they manage to create software for a specific device, while knowing all of its characteristics, that lags like hell? I'd really like to see the source code for that. How many cycles could they possibly waste to blit a pre-designed bitmap on the screen (like the main menu)?

They must have written the software in ActionScript or something. >:-)

Either that, or they have 3 SQL engines running on the set top box with 50GB of copy-n-pasted Javascript-outputting code (that gets piped to VM running a VB version of IE5's rendering engine). :-P


T

-- 
LINUX = Lousy Interface for Nefarious Unix Xenophobes.
September 18, 2012
On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 12:35:45AM -0400, Nick Sabalausky wrote: [...]
> - Set-top firmware completely fubared, just like you described, and
>   the company and tech people just shrugged it off and gave excuses
>   that didn't make any sense at all.

They wrote it in ActionScript. So it's a feature, not a bug! :-P


> - Video feeds that I could almost swear must have been MPEG *1*.
>   Constant compression artifacts.

Ugh. This reminds me of that nasty online plague known as WebEx. Inferior proprietary non-interoperable video encoding, in a day and age when superior open standards exist. Usable only with a badly designed proprietary player with egregious usability problems. People have complained loud and clear and the official response is, our engineering team designed this train-wreck so we're stuck with it, and we're looking to maybe perhaps someday move to a better format but that's not on our list of priorities right now.

Yet for whatever reason corporate types just love WebEx. Every meeting and cow-orker's son's birthday party is on WebEx. Ugh. Nowadays I just resort to looking over the cow-orker's shoulders when reviewing WebEx videos instead of defiling my PC with that crap.


[...]
> I miss the 80's: Devices worked and idiots didn't use computers.

LOL... I agree with the sentiment. My dad has a pair of Apple II's from the 80's, and they still work. He does his accounts on them sometimes. Compared to a 3-year-old PC of today, which is probably already dying a horrible death of HD failures, fan failures, CPU overheating, software breakages that's gotten it into a state that requires reformatting and reinstalling to fix. Apparently, this is the crowning achievement of 3 decades of software development.

Sigh.


T

-- 
In theory, software is implemented according to the design that has been carefully worked out beforehand. In practice, design documents are written after the fact to describe the sorry mess that has gone on before.
September 18, 2012
I suppose I have a more pragmatic view, due to my background in non-computer engineering.

    It's all like that.

There are a couple of good reasons for that.

1. Not every engineer is a rock star. In fact, very few of them are. I tend to snicker at companies that insist they only hire the top 1%. It seems that about 90% of the engineers out there must be in that top 1% <g>.

2. It costs too much money to do perfect engineering. You wouldn't be able to afford those products. Do you have $10,000 to spend on a tablet?


That said, our engineering tools and methodologies are improving all the time (what we're doing with D is improving programming methodology) which reduces the defect rate. Industry responds to this with heaping on more capability, which adds more (subtler) bugs back in.

If you don't think things are getting better all the time, take apart a car built in the 1960's, and compare the fit, finish, and problems with that of a modern car. Now, I love those old cars, but let's get real. Modern cars are enormously better. They're still loaded with problems, but different ones.

(For an example, my truck is over 20 years old, and has never had a tuneup. No new spark plugs, no new distributor, etc. I just turn the key, and it goes. It's quite amazing. My experience with cars from the 1960's is they require continuous work to keep running, even when they were new.)

Software is a lot better, too. It really is.
September 18, 2012
On Mon, 17 Sep 2012 22:29:10 -0700
"H. S. Teoh" <hsteoh@quickfur.ath.cx> wrote:
> 
> Yet for whatever reason corporate types just love WebEx. Every meeting and cow-orker's son's birthday party is on WebEx. Ugh. Nowadays I just resort to looking over the cow-orker's shoulders when reviewing WebEx videos instead of defiling my PC with that crap.
> 

If corporate types love it, you know it's bad:

- Flash
- Acrobat Reader
- COBOL
- PHP
- VBScript / VisualBasic (ie, "Cobol of the 90's")
- Visual SourceSafe
- Lotus Notes
- Blackboard (HUGE around colleges, or at least it was when I left)
- Oracle (Even if it's not a terrible DBMS, it's certainly overpriced)


> 
> [...]
> > I miss the 80's: Devices worked and idiots didn't use computers.
> 
> LOL... I agree with the sentiment. My dad has a pair of Apple II's from the 80's, and they still work. He does his accounts on them sometimes.

I still have a IIc. The Apple II's, IMNSHO are the *one* worthwhile product line Apple's ever had. Probably b/c it's the only one (to my knowledge) that was more Woz than Jobs. Love those machines. I regret that I never have a chance to use it anymore.

> Compared to a 3-year-old PC of today, which is probably
> already dying a horrible death of HD failures, fan failures, CPU
> overheating, software breakages that's gotten it into a state that
> requires reformatting and reinstalling to fix.

Heh, actually, my 10-year-old 32-bit single-core XP desktop is still going strong, and is in active use (though it has had some upgrades: more RAM, tons of HDD (totalling ~2.5TB), a SATA add-on card, a USB 2.0 add-on, a DVD-burner). Although as of a few months ago it's no longer my primary system since I got a super-cheap 2-core 64-bit laptop - the speed is nice on the rare occasion I deal with video, but the real killer feature is simply that it's a laptop.


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