writing about tech

Tag: rants

Breaking news: Hulu takes shitty interface, makes it shittier

The Verge reports:

Today the company announced Watchlist, a new section that combines three existing Hulu items (Queue, Favorites, and Shows You Watch) into a single feature.

My first thought: great! Hulu is finally fixing their shitty interface. My most common complaint is that it’s difficult to order episodes by expiration date – you can only do it on the computer, and it’s incredibly slow to sort.  Unfortunately, if I haven’t watched TV in a couple of weeks, my viewing priority will be determined by what expires next, and Hulu  makes that unnecessarily difficult.

So, how do I sort by expiration date in the new system?  Let me dig into the FAQ and…

It’s important to note that your Watchlist cannot be manually ordered. We’re working on perfecting this feature so that you never need to re-order your list. If the order of your shows doesn’t seem right, we want to hear from you.

Oh for fuck’s sake, Hulu. It’s fine for you to pretend to understand my viewing habits, but at least give me the option to override your choices if those choices happen to be terrible.

The only way this works for me is if Hulu prioritizes episode that are soon-to-expire, but they don’t seem to have that in their list of considerations:

The ordering of your Watchlist is personalized to how you watch your shows and movies. For example:

Shows with newly-aired episodes or that you’re bingeing on will be toward the front
Shows you don’t watch as often tend to be further back
A show that you’ve saved for later, but aren’t actively watching will be toward the back of your list
However, once you start watching the show, it will move toward the front or your Watchlist
Shows you’ve completed will be at the end of your Watchlist
After you’ve finished watching an individual video, it will drop out of your Watchlist

What about ordering it by whether or not I have to watch it this week or not at all, because it’s gone forever? Wouldn’t that be a useful factor?

I get that the future is all about “personal assistants” that tell you what you want before you want it, but until we get that right, we need a fucking override switch.

God dammit, Hulu.

We’re not off to a good start, Amazon Music

I was excited to learn that my Amazon Echo is coming tomorrow – a week earlier than expected – so I started the process of downloading my music from Google Play Music and uploading it to Amazon. I’m not abandoning Google Play Music at all, but currently the Echo only supports Amazon Music, so I figured I’d play along and move my collection there.  I was trying to setup my playlist of “Favorites” and ran head-first into a ridiculous limitation:

Screenshot 2015-02-08 13.21.57

Wait…what? I mean sure, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal, but Amazon is the cloud service company. Other companies run their entire cloud services off of Amazon. So what is it exactly about their music service that puts an arbitrary limit of 500 songs on a playlist? It’s a rather disappointing start to my Echo experience…hopefully it’s not indicative of things to come.


My increasing frustration with Android in a single screenshot

Let’s be clear – I like Android, a lot. The freedom it provides is still unparalleled, even with iOS8’s recent strides towards being more open.

Now, with that said…the last couple of weeks have tested my patience with misbehaving technology. It started with the way Lollipop handles notifications and has been further exacerbated by an issue with Lollipop on the Moto 360 that makes notifications unreliable. Yes, you read that right: somehow Google (or Motorola, or both) managed to release a smartwatch update that broke the core functionality of a smartwatch. Nailed it, guys.

These little glitches have been adding up, especially as I look toward getting a new phone in 2015. I’m not going to lie: I’ve been tempted to run out and buy an iPhone 6 Plus on more than one occasion, and it’s not out of love for iOS, but out of frustration for the maddeningly inconsistent experience on Android. Android is great! You know, usually. Until it isn’t.

Tonight was close to being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t even anything new, but just something I’d seen happen before – an event that had its significance increased by other recent frustrations. A few hours ago, my phone’s battery randomly decided to eat itself, even though I wasn’t using it, and it was on WiFi the whole time:


The detailed usage stats are useless, as usual, only telling me that “Android OS” was responsible, without giving any further explanation as to the actual root cause.

This is simply unacceptable. Fortunately I was home and didn’t need my phone tonight, but what if I had? Why does Google think it’s okay for a rogue process or app to completely hijack my phone? Ideally the OS itself would detect and deal with this scenario, but it’s not even trying. The least it could do is warm me that hey dude your battery is draining really fucking fast you might want to do something about it.

Did a reboot fix this? Yes. Should I have to reboot my phone to fix this? No, of course I shouldn’t. That’s insane. There’s nothing I can do with a reboot that Android shouldn’t be able to do on its own. Either a third-party app is being allowed to run completely out of control, and that behavior is being reported as “Android OS” or the OS itself is doing something awful, which is even worse.

Where do we go from here? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to wait and see where Google takes Android 5.0 in the next couple of months. I love the freedom Android gives me, and I love that I can set up my phone to match my own ideal workflow.

But you know what? I’m also tired of having to micromanage my phone just for the benefits of that freedom. This process and battery management stuff is just one example of something Google should’ve worked out years ago; not something I’m still fighting as we reach the end of 2014.

Google needlessly fucked up Android Wear notifications in Lollipop

Over the weekend, I decided to flash a shiny new Android 5.0.1 ROM on my HTC One, and it’s been mostly great, except for one thing – it’s changed the way I use my Moto 360 (also running Android 5.0) and not for the better.

The details on how things have been changed has been covered in greater detail by Android Central, but the tl;dr  is my standard setup of “silence the phone only get notifications on my wrist” – something you’d think would be simple – is broken, for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that Google arbitrarily decided that I want to have the same notification setting on my watch as I do on my phone. But…why? Aren’t there completely reasonable situations where I’d want my phone muted but still get notifications on my watch, or vice-versa?  Apparently not in Google’s eyes.

The second reason is that Google also arbitrarily decided to replace “Silent” mode (a standard feature on phones for who-knows-how-long) with “Priority” mode, which is great in theory but frustrating in practice. This effectively silences all notifications except the ones I specifically allow through, which would be great if it wasn’t also putting my watch in priority mode.

The key to this seems to be the “Mute Connected Phone” feature option in the Android Wear, which unfortunately at this point seems to only work when it wants to, which, as far as I can tell, is entirely random.

Muted by Android Wear! You know, maybe. We'll see. Honesty, probably not.

Muted by Android Wear! You know, maybe. We’ll see. Honesty, probably not.















Nothing quite like seeing my phone claim it’s muted by Android Wear, only to then vibrate or make a sound. Nailed it, Google.

I realize my complaints are pretty specific, but I imagine the use-case I describe for Android Wear is actually a pretty common setup, if not the most common. Why would I ever need my phone to make a sound or vibrate if I have a connected watch?  Sure, give me the option if I really want it, but muting the connected device should be the default, not something that, as of this writing, doesn’t even work. 

Also, I’m not sure if it’s a related bug or not, but sometimes my watch decides it doesn’t want to buzz anymore, which, well, is a pretty frustrating flaw in a device whose primary purpose is to notify me of things.

I love many of the things that Google does, but find myself constantly baffled by why they feel the need to change things that aren’t broken.  You know what worked fine?  The Sound/Vibrate/Silent modes that have existed in Android for years, and separate notification settings for my watch and my phone.  Sure, add a Do Not Disturb option if you want to, but that should be an additional feature, not something that replaces what everyone has already gotten used to.

In the past week, my phone and my watch have both been “updated”, yet I feel like my personal workflow has taken a step back, not a step forward.  Get your shit together, Google.

Retailers are disabling Apple Pay and Google Wallet to push their own terrible payment system

The Verge writes:

…a significant number of merchants, including heavyweights like Walmart, Kmart, 7-Eleven, and Best Buy, are in outright competition with Apple Pay. The retailers, through a joint venture formed in 2012, are building their own mobile payment app, called CurrentC. It’s expected to launch next year. In the meantime, these retailers have no intention to support Apple Pay.

Hooray! A whole new set of mobile payment standards.  And you know what they say about standards.

Meanwhile, not a single bank backs CurrentC. That’s because the system is designed to cut out the middleman — and credit card processing fees. The app, when it launches next year, won’t replace your plastic credit card. Instead, it will withdraw directly from your checking account when you pay at the cash register with a QR code displayed on your Android or iOS device.

Okay, two things:

  1. Why the fuck would I want to give these retailers direct access to my checking account, especially after the number of stories about POS system hacking in the last year?
  2. QR codes?  Fucking QR codesAre you serious?  Was this system devised in 2006?  (answer: probably)

I don’t expect everyone to welcome Apple with open arms just because they finally jumped on the NFC mobile payments train, but can’t we at least all agree that having NFC readers that charge our credit cards is infinitely better than using QR codes to directly withdraw money from our checking accounts?  I want as many barriers between my money and these security-backwards retailers as possible; the last thing I want is the only barrier between them and my money to be a glorified bar code.

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