Monday, March 26, 2012

Tip of the morning: Amazon Cloud Drive and Android

If you've tried downloading anything from Amazon Cloud Drive that isn't an MP3, onto your Android device, you've probably been pretty annoyed at the experience. On the default browser (and other shells around it like Dolphin) you can't select individual files, and the list scrolls when you attempt to click (well, touch) individual links.

Neither Opera Mini nor Opera Mobile work either - you get a bizarre page that tells you you need Flash to upload files, that doesn't let you navigate from it. And you get it even if you've enabled Flash.

So... what's the solution? Firefox. ACD seems to work fine with Firefox for Android. Just be aware that Firefox doesn't work under half the Android phones out there because it's been compiled for a specific CPU architecture, but if you have a phone or tablet capable of running Firefox, you can use that.

(If you use Firefox as your desktop browser, you'll be interested to know it syncs very nicely with the mobile version. A neat trick is that you can load a page you have on your desktop onto your tablet just by selecting the tab from your tablet. Very nice for that "Hey honey, take a look at what I saw on the web" moments.)

If you're using a Kindle Fire, you can download Firefox directly from this link.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Save Lenovo

I've been using Thinkpads since the late 1990s, and only recently, and reluctantly, switched to a different laptop maker for my main home laptop. They were solid, had beautiful designs, were well spec'd and had the perfect pointing devices.

But when I started Harritronics a couple of years ago, I found out the hard way that Lenovo isn't running as it should be. Attempting to cancel an order that Lenovo was planning to send late (and hadn't yet bothered to put in the system), it in the end took me guessing the email address of the COO of Lenovo to actually get anything solved. And a few months ago, I bought a Lenovo K1, their 10" Honeycomb tablet, and have, to be quite honest, not been impressed.

But what's bothering me isn't the tablet, which has a number of iPadisms that I could do without, but the horror stories I'm reading on Lenovo's own forums, about K1 users trying to get answers - any answers - about the previously promised upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich for that tablet, and their experiences.

Take this complaint. The customer reports calling Lenovo customer support and being transferred from department to department, until finally being told (variously) that it was the store's problem, that it was Google's problem, and, finally, that no upgrade will ever happen if the device hasn't already got the operating system.

Unfortunately, I know what the problem is from my own experiences. Lenovo's customer support is a separate organization (probably a third party), and that organization is completely dysfunctional. It is either unable, or unwilling, to actually communicate with Lenovo-proper to resolve customer problems outside of a small set of pre-scripted scenarios.

A cynic would probably argue that this is intentional, that Lenovo wants to save money by avoiding having to support its own products. This is, however, highly unlikely. All businesses that want to keep and grow their businesses are painfully aware that bad stories travel, and particularly in the computer industry, where upsetting the wrong customer might result in the loss of entire corporate contracts some time down the line, it would be astonishingly short sighted for this to be deliberate Lenovo policy. Ask many in business and they'll tell you that a good experience will win three new customers, but a bad one will lose nine.

I dearly hope Lenovo gets into gear on this. They own the part of IBM that produced (and still does, to a certain extent) the best PCs ever made. But poor customer support means that nobody in their right mind can recommend them at this point.

The example of Lenovo's customer's problems getting answers on the K1 tablet with ICS should be a wake up call because it's an obvious question, that is obviously going to be asked, and yet their customer service department is incapable of answering it. Any of the following may be true:

  • Lenovo is still experimenting with ICS on the K1, and wants to ensure it works effectively before deciding whether or not to release a supported version. (or the short version "We currently are unable to state for definite a version of ICS will be available for the K1, but will notify you as soon as we can.")
  • Lenovo has made the decision not to release ICS.
  • Lenovo intends to release ICS on 1st April.
And any of the above can be communicated to customers. That their customer support is unable to communicate the correct answer from the above demonstrates, clearly, the lack of any sane communications going on between Lenovo and its customer support organization.

I doubt anyone from Lenovo is reading this blog, let alone anyone in a position to do something about it, but I hope, somehow, that something gets done.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Horse thieves and the Copyright Posse

I don't need a horse, and wouldn't benefit from having one. And had I lived the life of a surf in the Middle Ages, I wouldn't have needed a horse then either.

But had I lived in the Wild West, I would have an entirely different attitude. I would need a horse, and I would be very angry with any entity that denied me one. To deny me a horse in 1880's rural Oregon would be to deprive me of the ability to make a living. I would be unable to farm my land, bring food to market, or bring food back home. I would be unable to escape in the event of an emergency. I would be unable to call upon a doctor.

Such was the necessity of having a horse in those times, the law recognized the taking of a horse as being a crime as severe and terrible as murder itself. Horse thieves were not merely frowned upon, they were killed.

And likewise, the law wouldn't, generally deprive someone of their horse, as a punishment or anything else, especially for a crime considered by most people as minor.

I mention this because I want to illustrate the fact that while certain items are, at certain times, luxuries, they're not always. The telephone was once a luxury item owned by the rich, few people would consider one a luxury today. And fewer still would have considered a phone a luxury ten years ago. To be deprived of telephone access would handicap the ability of the victim the ability to call for help, to look for work, to be in contact with their employer, and to access essential services they rely upon.

Today, the same thing could be said about the Internet. It is becoming harder and harder for people to be a part of our functioning society without Internet access. Those who have Internet access unquestionably have an advantage over those who don't. And if it is possible to live without it today, it will become less and less possible as time goes on, as businesses and other parts of society ignore the unconnected and focus on the efficiencies they can extract through this awesome network.

Which is why I think laws that propose disconnecting Internet users who violate copyright laws are ridiculous. It's not that I disagree with copyright law, far from it, but I think as time goes on, you're turning the content industry, and a government working for it, into modern day horse thieves. You're proposing depriving people of their ability to function within a society over such acts as making available a broadcast television show to people on the Internet.

You don't have to create an underclass of former copyright abusers to punish copyright abuse.