Thursday, 28 March 2013

The sorry state of the Android universe

Update: Corrected the code name for 4.2.2 is Jelly Bean, not Ice Cream Sandwich as I initially stated. I also described in the comments why the calendar application is also crap.

I recently bought a phone based on the Android platform (version 4.2.2 aka Jelly Bean). Before the purchase I had the wrong idea that this platform - Android - is the best thing since sliced bread. Let me tell you, that idea is so wrong, it's a shame anybody thinks or has ever thought that.

My previous phone was a Nokia E71 and with its stock set of applications and in spite of its old and rusty Symbian OS, I still have a hard time to even match the basic functionalities on the Android phone even using the most praised apps from the Play Store.

The dialer is crap, there is no decent speed dialer, the focus is on the apps instead of the phone functionality, the homescreen-type-to-search-in-contacts functionality of E71 is probably impossible due to the retarded decision to forget you're using a phone, notifications, even important ones, are hidden, to the point that the ones needing attention can be missed (e.g. entering the PIN/confirmation for Bluetooth pairing must be searched for in the notification area), when looking in the agenda there is no straight one step to edit a contact, you must jump to another application and do the edit there, treating SMS conversations as one to one instant messages works until you want to reply to multiple people at once.

Volume for ringing, SMS notification and the headset are controlled all together, so if during the last conversation you turned down the volume because it was too loud, you can miss a call because our will ring at a lower volume.

And these are only broken things in the basic functionality (for a post 2008 cell phone).

Android phones are smart phones, so more advanced features are required: playing audio and video files, GPS related applications, podcasting support, email handling and web browsing are among the features that can be expected on such a phone.

Only web related functionality and simple media playing are at a reasonable level compared with my old E71, maybe due to Google being web oriented and the new phones having better screens than the old Nokia.

But I am an avid podcast listener, so I've been searching for an application that can match Nokia's Podcasts stock application, and I've come to the conclusion Android users which love podcasts either have to wait for Nokia to develop on Android (which seems unlikely) or find one or two talented developers to create a decent application.

I don't understand how can such an application not have a playlist with the downloaded episodes, not have download all new episodes or mark all/selected as listened. I have found applications that have at least one of these issues and have an average of over 4 out of 5 stars in Google Play. Poor users!

In the light of these issues, I'm having so much difficulty coming up with an excuse for Nokia losing its position as a market leader, but our seems technical superiority is not necessary or enough to dominate the mobile phone market. Sadly, that says a lot about our species, and the words aren't nice.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Finally the XDG fixes are in appdirs

Just a few hours ago my XDG fixes landed in the master branch of ActiveState appdirs.

They will be part of version 1.3.0, but the maintainers want first to create some tests, since the test frame was just rewritten recently.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Herbalife, a detailed analysis

You might remember that a while ago I mentioned I got involved in skepticism to the point I even co-host a podcast, Skeptics in Romania (in Romanian).

Among the subjects we tackle there are claims about various miracle fruits, shady dietary advice, various nonscientific health products, and even scams. We try to inform or listeners about ways to identify themselves such dangerous/fake products and how they can inform themselves about the claims they might encounter, what questions they should ask before considering buying (into) such things.

One sensitive subject is the so called multilevel marketing, especially for people involved in such businesses.

This is a sensitive subject because many of these schemes are actually pyramidal schemes, also known as Ponzi schemes. These are illegal in many countries, since they are, in fact scams designed to lure people with supposed high profits and little work.

One such pyramidal system... well you can judge yourselves (note that the presentation contains many slides, but it's really captivating):

Monday, 4 March 2013

So, I did the responsible thing and fixed appdirs

In my previous post I expressed my frustration at the way a perfectly nice and fine idea, a portable way to get the standard configuration and data directory/files, was broken for Linux and BSD, because the authors of appdirs thought the XDG standard was "subject to some interpretation".

Although I said I decided not to use appdirs, I realised that wouldn't help anyone, so I fixed the code.

During the coding phase I discovered that the authors of appdirs broke the XDG standard even more, this time, ignoring XDG_DATA_DIRS, and talking about XDG_CONFIG_DIRS. When I found this I became convinced the *nix part of the implementation was subject to continuous irony, since the comment in this newly found breakage said "Perhaps should *use* that envvar", referring to XDG_CONFIG_DIRS, but writing later in code:


Sweet, isn't it?

If you want a fixed version, you can grab it from my repository, on the linux-fixes branch: