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[personal|tech] More on why I am done with LiveJournal

Yesterday, I got the world’s most useless LiveJournal error message.

2013-12-29 LiveJournal Error Message

I explained my views on it here.

[info]agent_mimi dug up a pretty convincing explanation, which they posted in comments, including links here and here

In response to another user’s complaint about this issue, LiveJournal’s Community Care team says:

The error you received was the correct error message for when this problem occurs. I am sorry it is not more descriptive, but that is by design in this particular case: we prefer legitimate users write in to us to receive information about the specific blocked site, rather than informing potential spammers exactly what the problem is (which also informs them how to get around it).

In other words, LiveJournal is now maintaining a secret spam blocking list, which forces a generic error message on any post that includes a link from a site on their secret list. A list which you can neither precheck nor get an informative error message on.

That means that when I post Link Salad, with a dozen, a score or more links in it, if one of them is on LiveJournal’s secret list, my only choices are to open a support ticket and eventually find out which link it is I cannot post, or go through deleting links one by one until I empirically discover the blocked link.

Meanwhile, as I learned yesterday, trying to repeatedly edit a post with a blocked link causes LiveJournal to go into some kind of time out mode, which makes the empirical method bloody useless.

Given that a quarter to a third of all my posts are link aggregations, this is an impossible problem for me. So, yeah, I’m done with LiveJournal. I have opened a support ticket to see if they have a different view of the problem since it was reported at the link above, but I’m not optimistic.

Still working on how, if there is any way possible, to find either a stable WP-LJ cross poster (every one I have ever used in the past has failed within 60 days due to LJ’s frequent unannounced and undocumented changes to APIs and server configurations) or a way to get my WordPress RSS feed into my [info]jaylake journal. But yeah, I don’t have time for this. Note there is an existing RSS feed under another handle, [info]feedjaylake, if this is useful to you.

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[personal|tech] So done with LiveJournal

Once upon a time I blogged on my Web site with hand-coded HTML, back before there were blogs. Then I was on Speculations a while. The Blogspot and JournalScape. I moved to LiveJournal about ten years ago because that’s where a lot of the rest of the online SF/F community was going.

So I’ve been on LiveJournal a long time. I was so committed to the platform that I’m a permanent member. The version of my blog there is often in the top ten list of most-read LiveJournal accounts these days. (Which is more a comment on the decline of LiveJournal than on my actual popularity, I’m pretty sure.)

LiveJournal’s chronic problems with politically-motivated DDOS attacks from within the Russian hacking and intelligence communities have been annoying as heck. I’ve groused about it on a number of occasions, because I have neither the time nor the patience to spend forty-five minutes trying to perform what should be 90 seconds of posting activity. I’ve been convinced repeatedly that to abandon LiveJournal would be to give in to authoritarian cyberbullying.

Fair enough.

But this morning, when I tried to post Link Salad over there, I got this error message:

2013-12-29 LiveJournal Error Message

That is the world’s most useless error message. It tells me absolutely nothing about what is wrong.

When I tried to edit the entry, LiveJournal then went into some kind of lockout mode where I had to close the browser tab and start over. When I reposted the code from scratch in a new entry, I got the same damned error message, followed by the lockout.

My life is too short for this. Literally and figuratively. I’ve pretty much had it with LiveJournal weirdness. I hate to walk away from a presence where I have a large reading base and a long historical presence, but I simply can’t deal with this crap any more.

I am converting my LiveJournal presence to an RSS feed of my WordPress blog as soon as I can figure out how to manage that. (If someone reading here knows how to do that for me, I will gladly hand you the keys to the blog so you can do so.)

Been nice knowing you, LJ.

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[personal|tech] No blogging today

In the fine new tradition of crisis du jour around here, my Twitter account was hacked overnight by a Russian feed of some kind. Been dealing with cleanup all morning, which has more than sucked up all my time budget for blogging, and still not done. Sorry, no blog today.

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[writing|tech] Looking for a reader with some scripting chops

Recent discussions online have gotten me interested in producing a complete lexicon of my own fiction output. I’d like to find a fan with the scripting chops to feed about four or five hundred .doc and .docx files (plus a few .pdf, .html and .txt files) through a scripting engine and pull out a list of each distinct word I have ever used in my fiction output, ideally with frequency.

There’s a second part to this, which is someone with the linguistics chops to filter that list for words which are forms of the same stem, i.e. “walk”, “walked” and “walking”.

I’m curious what my demonstrated written vocabulary is, and secondarily how many words I’ve coined, re-invented or backformed.

Anybody interested in grinding this for me?

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[tech] Password, password, what have you heard?

As you might imagine, I’ve been doing an enormous amount of work lately on various Web sites. Banking, financial services, health insurance, disability insurance, Social Security, and so forth.

One thing which has surprised me considerably (though it’s hardly news) is the number of Web sites dealing with healthcare and financial information that have weirdly simple password rules. Some have eight or twelve character limits. Many will not allow any non alphanumeric characters, so the user cannot include characters such as *, &, _, !, and so forth. Which in turns means the passwords are much more easily hacked. Some are not case sensitive.

It’s a very weird mishmash of standards which will make any coder, or anyone with even a passing understanding of security, cringe.

I really don’t get this.

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[tech|help] Recovering wire recordings?

O, mighty Internet brain….

A dear friend has discovered some wire recordings of his grandmother singing on the radio. He’d like to get those played back and converted into a currently usable format. In the rather wide community of tech enthusiasts and hobbyists that my social media footprint touches, do any of you have the capability to play and capture wire recordings? Or do you have access to facilities that do?

Let me know in comments or email, and I’ll hook you up with my friend.

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[personal|tech] Etaoin shrdlu

Here’s a photo of my MacBook Air keyboard after 13 months of use:

Keyboard Damage

You’ll note the leftmost keys in etaoin shrdlu are almost destroyed. This is the longest I’ve had a keyboard last in years.

I’m a two-fingered typist, with some thumb assist. I do about 65 words per minute (corrected) when I’m in full flow. Clearly I strike harder with my left index finger than with my right. Also, I use my left index finger point down, so the nail almost always hits the keyboard, while I use my right index finger pad down, so the nail almost never hits the keyboard. I strike more keys with my right as well, as my left finger travel usually stops at either RFV or TGB.

What does this mean? Other than a trip to the Apple Store for a replacement keyboard, heck if I know. At least the MacBook Air has a sturdier keyboard that my old white MacBook, which needed replacement two or three times a year. But then, I type somewhere between one and two millions words per year on my keyboards, depending on how sick I am and how much I write, which would seem to be near the high end of the design duty cycle, based on how quickly I kill them.

Do you kill keyboards? How often?


Photo © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[personal|tech] Customer service gets weird, then gets fixed

I had what at first seemed a mildly annoying problem with Apple Computer. I’d recently received an email reminding me that I had not purchased extended AppleCare for my MacBook Air. Though I’m a big believer in not spending money on “extended warranties” for most products, I make an exception for my Apple hardware. Over the years, I’ve definitely come out ahead on this transaction. If nothing else, I type over a million words a year, which is damned hard on a keyboard. Plus the little things that can go wrong with any piece of high tech that get slung around as much as my laptop does. Surprised that I had not purchased AppleCare at the time I had originally bought the MacBook Air (November of 2011), I dropped the $249 for the contract.

When I went to register my AppleCare to my computer’s serial number, I found I already had it. Oddly, my MacBook Air showed up twice in my Apple account. Once with AppleCare, once without.

Read the rest of this entry »

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[tech] Talking about closed computing ecosytems

To state the bleedingly obvious, one of the great divides in contemporary consumer computing and telephony technology is the question of open versus closed. Speaking loosely, this is true both at the licensing level (Linux vs most of the world) and at the operational level (Linux and Windows vs Mac). There are equivalent tugs of war in the cell phone world.

In a recent comment thread on my woes with the Pioneer Place Apple Store, [info]a_cubed said:

WRT Apple, well this is what you get for buying into a closed ecosystem. You’re at their mercy. As much as possible I use ecosystems that are as open as possible. It’s getting harder because there are costs to openness that I could go on about at length, but really it’s a case of short term versus long term benefit. You may get short term benefit from engaging in a closed ecosystem, but in the long run they’ll screw you when you have no alternative. THis is why monopolies are usually technically illegal, though these days it can be politically impossible to truly deal with a monopoly (compare the MS cases and Standard Oil cases).

My response was:

I’m well aware of the closed ecosystem issues, both as a philosophical problem and as more focused business problem. But I’m also well aware of my own time/value equations.

I’ve been a Mac user since 1985 and a Windows user since 1997, with several stints in Linux as well, and I can tell you that the total amount of time I’ve spent on software and hardware hassles (install, configuration, updates, bugs at whatever level, weird incompatibilities, etc.) in over a quarter century of being a Mac user is less than I spend on any given year using either Windows or Linux.

Despite having a deep technical background and being fairly capable when not in the throes of chemo brain, I don’t fundamentally enjoy troubleshooting and configuration, and it’s a zero value (or worse) use of my time compared to other activities like writing or hanging out with my loved ones.

A better than 1:25 ratio of my time expended on unnecessary issues that don’t advance my productivity one iota is a pretty compelling argument to me personally for holding my nose and coping with the walled garden.

I realize that the whole Mac vs PC discussion is profoundly polarized, Things which are as obvious as “this way is down” to one faction seem outright delusional to the other. For my part, the value of my time trumps the other arguments. “How can you put up with such absolute third party control of your environment” balances against “How can you put up with spending so much of your time chasing device drivers and running down incompatibilities”.

For my part, the value of a smooth, uninterrupted and well-designed computing experience trumps all the pain Windows and Linux have put me through over the years. For others, the equation is different.

Where do you fall on this?

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[tech|personal] grumbling about repairs

Just a grumble, feel free to ignore.

I’m a big fan of Apple hardware, and a moderate fan of Apple software. (And no, I don’t like their walled garden ecosystem either, but I choose to put up with it for the slick, highly convenience of the devices, the incredibly low maintenance load on me, and the intra-Apple cross-platform integration.) I’m also generally a fan of Apple’s customer service and repair policies. I’ve had a couple of questionable experiences over the years since my first Apple Macintosh 512K in 1985, both of which were eventually resolved favorably.

(The obvious exception to the above is the Google Maps/Apple Maps fiasco in iOS6, but I don’t want to rant about that here. That’s not the point of this post. But as long as I’m on the subject, hey, Apple, give us back our God damned Google Maps.)

Over the weekend, [info]the_child‘s 3+-year-old MacBook Pro had a total hard drive failure. 99%+ of her data has been recovered, due to good backup hygiene and me being able to image the failing disk before it went completely kerflooie, so this is a significant inconvenience rather than a major disaster. Team E— was kind enough to take the laptop into the Pioneer Place Apple Store here in Portland on Monday.

Diagnosis: Hard drive failure. (Yeah, I knew that.)

Repair: About $250.

I don’t have a big issue with a nearly four-year-old machine losing a hard drive. And yes, it’s out of warranty, even with extended AppleCare. What I do have an issue with is that the same hard drive was replaced less than a year ago, near the expiration of the computer’s AppleCare contract. I asked if a less than one-year-old hard drive could reasonably be expected to fail, and if the part was warranteed separately based on its installation date.

Well, no, and no. Repair parts are warranteed for ninety days from installation.

Really, Apple?

I mean, too bad for me. I’m not going to start writing complaint letters to customer service or anything. But new-in-box hardware from Apple comes with a one-year warranty. I would expect the same from OEM replacement parts installed by Apple.

It is a rare disappointment for me from a company that I’ve always equated with both admirable hard quality and excellent customer service.

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