Sunday, September 29, 2013

iPhone pictures and videos are upside-down. Just another embarrassing bug Apple refuses to fix.

We all know that the iPhone and iPad have orientation sensors.  They know which way the camera is turned when you take a picture or video.

Instead of using this information to simply encode the image right-side-up (putting the pixels that belong in the upper-left corner first in the file, and progressing from there), Apple stores the pixels in whatever haphazard orientation the phone is in and sets a metadata flag on the file to record that orientation.  It then becomes the job of every other piece of software on the planet to cater to this flag and rotate the image accordingly when displaying it.

Typical Apple solution.  Instead of simply recording the image right-side-up and thereby enabling any JPEG viewer ever written to show it without a problem, Apple implements a hokey hack and expects everybody to rewrite their applications to pander to it.

According to Apple, this is everybody else's fault.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

United Healthcare audits your passwords for swears

You'd think that setting up a user-registration page with reasonable validation rules would be pretty easy.  But as we've seen, there apparently aren't enough sensible people available to do this work.

United Healthcare takes the incompetence to a new level by judging the vulgarity level of your password.  And the best part is that they keep this policy a secret.

So not only does United Healthcare inappropriately examine confidential passwords for their semantic content, but UHC also deliberately wastes customers' time by not telling them why their passwords are rejected time after time, despite following the rules spelled out on the page.

And they know the policy is causing problems, because if you call their support line and tell them your new password is being rejected, the first question they ask is, "Does it contain curse words?"

Of course the appropriate question for you to ask in response is, "What business is it of yours?"

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Responsive design" doesn't mean what you think it means.

For some reason, somebody thought that "responsive" describes a user interface with a flexible layout that fits on screens of varying resolution and aspect ratio.  But it doesn't.  The word "layout" is missing from the phrase "responsive design."  Even "flexible" alone would be far superior to "responsive."

Responses come after events.  The simple presentation of a UI isn't an "event" that hits the UI, because the UI doesn't exist yet; its dimensions and layout have to be determined before it's presented.  THEN it's ready to respond.

A responsive design would be one that responds to user input or other events, using AJAX or some similar technique.

With so many words available to us, why would we label something with such a meaningless (or worse, incorrect) term?

Good GUI design is not skeuomorphism.

Many of us wanted Apple to reverse its embarrassing slide into amateurish, cartoonish interfaces; the much-derided "skeuomorphism."  Unfortunately Apple has also abandoned proper GUI design. Getting rid of tacky, asinine, and incorrect crap like controls disguised as the paint on a blackjack table is good. Getting rid of CONTROLS is stupid, and that is what Apple and Microsoft have done in a great many cases. Disguising controls as static text (or hiding them altogether or relying on secret "gestures") represents total ignorance of what made GUIs "revolutionary" to begin with. If you don't demarcate controls, they might as well not be there. Are users supposed to tap on every letter and glyph on the screen, looking for hidden goodies? Or swipe in every possible direction and every item on every screen? That's sheer stupidity.

"Flat" design suffers from other regressions. If a button is "flat", how do we know what state it's in? If it is rendered as something resembling a real button, it can be "up", depressed, or greyed out. One of its three possible states is clearly and instantly conveyed to the user. But if it's just a colored rectangle, what state is it in?

The question is where all of the decent designers have gone at these companies. Did they just get bored and quit altogether? The regressions at Microsoft and Apple in basic user interfaces just make you wonder how these bad ideas are percolating to the top. There are plenty of things to fix in both companies' products, without this desperate flailing to do something "different." Desperate and defective.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Capital One: We're too stupid to let you know that we didn't get your payment.

UPDATE: After years of customer complaints, Capital One has finally added a notification if your payment hasn't been received two days after its due date.  The bad news is that... it doesn't work.  You can set the notification up, but it isn't sent.  The crack team of IT professionals over there has supposedly been working on this for months, and still hasn't been able to figure out why all the notifications work except for this one.

So, STILL: If Capital One doesn't receive your monthly payment, you won't hear anything about it.  At some point in the future (it appears to be about two and a half weeks), you'll go to use your card and it'll be declined.  The repercussions can range from embarrassing and annoying to disastrous.

The baffling and inexcusable fact here is that Capital One does not (and will not) send you any notification (not even an E-mail) the day after your payment was due, saying "we didn't get it."  The sheer stupidity of this boggles the mind.  They've already applied their late fee, so they've ripped you off there.  They're already charging you interest on the outstanding balance, so they're making money off of you there.  But by simply canceling your card without telling you, they make it impossible for you to use it and make them more money.  You end up using another card (if you're lucky enough to have one on hand), and they lose the sale.

It's essentially FREE to send an E-mail.  It's automated.  They continually send marketing E-mails to customers.  But they absolutely refuse to inform customers of a critical problem with their account.  UNBELIEVABLE.  Oh, wait: Maybe this is just normal Capital One behavior.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yet another streaming lie from NBC

So this time NBC claimed to be streaming the hockey finals.  I went to their site to check it out.

There wasn't even a way to attempt to get the stream.  No viewer, no link to "watch now", nothing.  Worse yet, the NBC banner at the top indicates that you have to sign up for a free trial.  Look at this disgraceful scam:

For the "free trial" rip-off, NBC has teamed up with some lowlives called "BombGame."  Not surprisingly, your "free" trial will cost you $40 a month after five days.  But the best part is that if you attempt to cancel your membership, BombGame threatens to charge you a $1 "convenience fee" TO CANCEL.  Look at these scumbags:

NBC and BombGame: teaming up to lie and rip you off.  Why should we be surprised, after the Olympic streaming sham?