It takes a Silver Mine to make a Gold Mine.

Mexican Proverb

I’ve decided to start calling out bad software design. We’ve got to start complaining about these issues or things will never improve. Today’s example:

Registered my Colormunki with X-Rite yesterday. Their registration process insists that I connect the device, apparently so it can pull off the serial number. But the connection didn’t bother to collect the software version (I had to guess between 1.0 and 1.02–hard to see why they’d care) or my operating system. This is likely a bad spec, but it’s also a lazy programmer.

Worse was the picklist they offered for computer operating systems. It included Windows 98, Windows ME, Win XP, and Mac OS9, but didn’t include Win 8, Win 10, or any iteration of OS X since 10.6 (I have 10.12).

More: They wanted all kinds of information about my non-existent job. They also made assumptions about my job that didn’t apply to what I did for a living before I retired. Filled all required fields with the equivalent of n/a.

This for a fairly inexpensive device with no moving parts that’s unlikely ever to need maintenance. I registered it mainly to turn off a nag screen. All they really needed was my ID information and the device’s SN.

November 25, 2013

Bookworm Alley, Rant

1 comment

Some things every e-reader should be able to do. In this list I’m using the word “category” as the devices use list, category, shelf, and similar words.

  1. The device should tell me what books have not been put in any category. This is basic. My Sony Reader, my Original Nook, and Joan’s Kindle all provide this feature. My Nook Simple Touch does not, and neither does Aldiko (the reader on my tablet I use for reading PDFs). The Nook and Kindle apps on my phone and tablet don’t doesn’t categorize at all.
  2. Each book should know–and show–the categories currently associated with the book. One way to say this is that the categories should be properties of the documents, not the other way around. Every device and app (including Aldiko) I use gets this right except the Simple Touch. (And the category-less Nook Android app, of course.)
  3. Adding or removing a book from a category should not involve paging through a long list of every book you own. If you think you need to go that way, add a search function. But it’s still bad design.
  4. The categories should be be stored both on the device and on the device’s micro-SD card in a way which facilitates both replacing/upgrading the card and moving the card to a new device. This failing is the reason I’m writing this rant today.
  5. Ideally, the categorization information should be stored in the user’s account on the device vendor’s servers. This is not simple, of course. On the other hand, the newest incarnation of iTunes manages to do this for my music, metadata, and playlists. It’s the right solution, and I expect it to be standard within my lifetime.
  6. Ideally, again, that stored-on-server index would include information about side-loaded books. I’m reasonably certain this could be implemented in ways that don’t compromise anyone’s intellectual property, but those IP concerns will likely delay implementation. I don’t expect to see this soon, and will necessarily live without if necessary.
  7. The categories–and categorizations–should be automatically transferred to the brand’s reader apps on portable devices, and to any new device you purchase from the vendor. I don’t know that any vendor does this, though Apple might.
  8. It should be possible to shelve a book on (in) more than one category. One reason is that most of us have an “Unread” category. Fortunately, every device and app I use gets this right.

Until all e-readers can do this, no one should consider this a mature technology. BN and Amazon both manage to track notes, bookmarks, and “last-read” pages for individual books. This is similarly important, and one would think the technical issues are similar. They’re certainly not insurmountable.

I upgraded the micro-SD card on my Nook Simple Touch last week. Although the books survived the move, the shelves are broken. I’m paging through 424 books for every shelf I’m trying to reconstruct. This is both boring and painful. (Of course, the problem could be operator ignorance, or error. But I don’t believe that to be true. It looks a lot like bad design.) And, regardless, the rest of the critique stands. The Simple Touch didn’t implement “shelves” well. To my knowledge, no one has done this right.

Revision 1/6/14: Changed the Aldiko mention in the first bullet point.
Revision 1/29/14: Changed to reflect that Amazon has added categorization features to their Kindle app for Android.

January 18, 2012

Politickin', Rant

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I’m talking to you, Carl Levin. And you, Debbie Stabenow. Tim Walberg, too.

August 7, 2011


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Our Camper

Our popup camper, a Flagstaff by Forest River we’ve owned for about a decade, apparently has a $179.95 part, called a WFCO Converter, whose only purpose is to reduce 120 volt AC current to DC for the use of the camper’s overhead light. Everything else in the camper works on 120 volts AC.

Wish I’d known that before I authorized the repair. I’m guessing we’ll buy our next camper somewhere else.

February 2, 2011

Politickin', Rant

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Found in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, September 21, 1939 (page 4)–just as World War II was beginning:

McComb, Miss.–AP–The McComb Daily Enterprise gives confused readers a hand up by labeling each war story.

Its four symbols and their meaning
V — Verified.
OP — Official propaganda.
A — Seems authentic.
R — Rumor.

Good system. Everyone should adopt it for all political news.

Last Friday, during my lunch break, I purchased (or thought I did, anyway) a copy of Office 2007 through my employer’s link to Microsoft’s Home User Program, which seems to be run by Digital River. The routine was: Follow the link from our intranet to the HUP website, where they requested my work email address. They sent an email to the work address, with a link to another page where the actual offer was available. I filled in a short form to make the purchase. Then I waited for a confirmation at the home email address they’d requested I provide.

I took the link/email/link sequence to be a validation that I work at a place where they’ve made an HUP agreement. That may have been an optimistic assumption.

I’ve still not received that confirmation email. After some hunting on the HUP website, I found this message:

We are sorry, but we are unable to complete your request.
The following problem(s) exist:
Your order is currently in a review status

Beg pardon, folks? Whatever can you be “reviewing” that takes four days? You’re waiting for HR to confirm my existence, perhaps? (Should I call Enrique and push things along?) Or perhaps you’ve sicced the Pinkertons on me? Is this long delay common? Shouldn’t you have warned me about it? You can’t be bothered to send a courtesy email?

How about you give my money back?

Wednesday, May 5: Still waiting. They must be digging hard….

December 11, 2009



Here’s minor rant about an annoyance. Amazon regularly sends me e-mails like this one:

Hello from

We’re writing about the order you placed on December 07 2009 (Order# xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxxxx).
USPS was unable to leave the package at your delivery address as per their delivery policies. The package
will be available for pick up at your local post office. Please visit and click
“Locate a Post Office” to find contact information for your local post office or call 1 800 ASK USPS. The
items listed below are included in this shipment:

Dailey & Vincent "Brothers from Different Mothers"
Dailey & Vincent "Dailey & Vincent"

To see full details of this order, including tracking details and the shipping status of other items from
this order that may not be listed, please visit the Your Account section of our website (http:// You can also reach Your Account by clicking on the link in the top right
corner of any page on our web site.



If your shipment arrives too late, you may either refuse delivery or return it to us for a refund. For
returns instructions, please visit our Returns Center at



If you have more questions about this order, you can e-mail or phone Customer Service by clicking the
“Contact Us” button on the right side of any Help page (

Customer Service Department


Check your order and more:

Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.

That message has little to do with my reality, since it happens that my “local delivery address” is my local post office. Things are actually working exactly as I expected.

It’s like this, folks. My mail goes to a post office box. Unless I happen to be in the post office while Jacki is sorting the packages, her procedures require her to report the package as not-delivered (and she puts a yellow card in my box.) As she sees it–and as I see it–that’s a delivery, which will get completed when I make it into the office (which occurs daily). There’s no failure, here, and fairly often (including this time) I’ve picked up the package before Amazon gets around to notifying me that the package is “lost.” Folks who use post office boxes for mailing address have deliberately traded one sort of convenience for another. The package was exactly where I expected it to be, and I picked it up with the rest of my mail.

I realize this is a minor issue, and that Amazon’s trying to be helpful. But it shows a total ignorance of something you’d expect them to get right.

The book’s a chronicle of the first season of Midland, Michigan’s, minor league baseball team, the Great Lakes Loons. It was produced by the Midland Daily News.

This is a very pretty package, with some very fine photographs, but the text consists of transcribed newspaper articles, none of which are dated. The result is neither thorough nor coherent. The book really could have used some serious editing. For instance, two articles are repeated word-for-word; in both cases they’re just a few pages apart. I really expected better.

Worth purchasing as a souvenir, though it’s pretty pricey. Except for the packaging (and price), it’s really very typical of the Our Team’s First Season genre, few of which aspire to seriousness.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

October 27, 2007

Rant, Semi-Geekery

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Just wanted to go on record. If you’re upgrading your Mac this weekend, you might want to turn FileVault off before doing so.

Fortunately, I backed stuff up before the install, and won’t be much hurt except for the aggravation. Nonetheless, it’s annoying. At this point I’d say it’s unlikely that I’ll turn FV back on when I get the laptop running again. Let’s just say I like the idea better than I like the implementation.

If you explore, you’ll discover that I’ve devoted quite a bit of digital ink to tracking franchise moves. Specifically, every Cities page shows predecessor and successor franchises, and the History pages include charts which explicitly track those changes. It’s easy to take this stuff too seriously, and I occasionally consider deleting it.

On October 10, someone (identified as made several edits to the Wikipedia page devoted to the Great Lakes Loons, a minor league baseball team located in Midland, Michigan. The explanatory note–it reads "07 update"–disguises several revisions to the team history sidebar; in essence, the editor deleted all references in that column to the team’s predecessor franchises. This undid a bunch of changes user Spammeraol had made on August 20 with the explanation "The team was not founded in 2007, they moved and were renamed, the article traces there [sic] history before that." In my opinion, the recent edit is correct, though there’s certainly room for debate.

Edit 12/19/07: I see that the “history” has been restored….


From The Sporting News, September 5, 1956 (page 37–mentioned in my previous post):

Paul Friz, who owned the former Terre Haute franchise in the Three-I League, was reported interested in bidding for a berth in the Midwest League next season. Friz headed a delegation of 50 fans from Terre Haute who attended the Mattoon-Paris game, August 25.

And this from TSN of November 27, 1957 (page 51):

The Mattoon Athletic Association has notified President Clarence Hoffman of the Midwest League that it will not operate a club in 1958. Mattoon was the remaining charter member of the league, which was organized in 1947. President Rodger W. Hayes said the decision to withdraw was made with regret.

And on February 26, 1958 (page 29)

[T]he Midwest [League] ([Class] D), which had lost Mattoon, faced the possibility that Lafayette also might drop out of the circuit. President C.C. (Dutch) Hoffman said three former Three-I League (Class A [sic!]) cities–Quincy, Keokuk, and Terre Haute–were hopes to fill any vacancies in the circuit. If none qualify, the Midwest is ready to operate with six clubs, Hoffman said.

Finally, we find this on April 23 (page 33):

The Midwest granted franchises to Waterloo and Keokuk at a meeting at Peoria, Ill. Both Iowa cities formerly were in the Three-I League. Keokuk took the place of Mattoon, while Waterloo was a last-minute replacement for Lafayette. Terre Haute originally had been lined up for the berth, but was unable to follow through with its plans.

Because of the late organization, [the league] delayed their season opening…

The Midwest will play a 126-game split-season, opening on May 4….

All TSN quotes courtesy of Paper of Record.

The Midwest League’s franchise shifts often look too much like this. And we’re not just discussing the (relatively) distant past; the 1992-93 off-season was marred by very similar chaos. This isn’t continuity; it’s improvisation in the face of a crisis. Worrying unduly about franchise succession is an attempt to impose order where the objective reality is disorder.

Perhaps more important, few fans have any interest in this notion of franchise continuity. At the ballpark, the continuity documented in the yearbooks is local; Fort Wayne’s historians document the Daisies, not the Kenosha or Wisconsin Rapids Twins (and certainly not Mattoon!). And Dayton’s fans are far more interested in Jesse Haines than anything that happened in Rockford. This disinterest is reflected in all the other Wikipedia articles on Midwest League towns, none of which pay significant attention to predecessors or successors. At the Wikipedia level, only the Burlington Bees article shows prior history–and that’s a different kind of continuity, with what’s clearly the same team in other leagues.

I have some personal experience with this: I was a season ticket holder in Battle Creek. That’s given me no emotional stake in the successor franchise, Great Lakes, and I rooted against the Springfield and Madison predecessor franchises when they actually existed. I’ve now transferred my loyalties mostly to the Lugnuts, and I root against the Loons.

This is not a claim that these issues have no meaning; as I noted at the top of the page, I’ve devoted considerable effort to documenting the changes. But it’s important only at the league level. Predecessors may merit occasional mentions in team publications, particularly when the franchise is new, but absolutely no one invests any effort in preserving the continuities. Or the Whitecaps’ record book would include Madison’s best players, Kane County would claim Wausau’s won/lost record, and Dayton’s total attendance would include Rockford’s. Not gonna happen, folks.

Just to further confuse things, a note about the supposed history which was deleted from the Wikipedia Loons page: That "history" traces the Midland franchise back to the 1982 Springfield Cardinals. That 1982 team was a Midwest League expansion franchise, but it had a prior history. Springfield had a team in the American Association in 1981. While the Redbirds franchise moved to Louisville for 1982, it’s not unreasonable to count the MWL team as its continuation; it’s certainly how the Springfield fans viewed the situation. To the Loons fans, it’s not particularly important.