Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “android”

Can an android understand ubuntu?

I really wish that software and online service marketers would choose unique names for their products and services, rather than ordinary words.

Three of the worst offenders that come to mind are Ubuntu, Android and Diaspora.

The problem is that these are also ordinary words, and this causes endless problems and confusion when using search engines, and make it very hard to find what you are looking for.

There was a novel published a while ago, Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K. Dick. But since a cellphone operating system was named Android, I wonder how many people know the real meaning of the term. Perhaps that was why, when the book was made into a film, the title was changed to Blade runner.

Today I wrote a review of the book The elegance of the hedgehog and posted a review of it on my other blog here. I noted in my review that the book gives some valuable insights into the meaning of ubuntu, and announced the posting of the review on Twitter. It was almost immediately (and possibly automatically) retweeted by someone who specialises in Linux documentation. Now I have no objection to Linux fans reading my blog posts, but they might be a little disappointed when they do not find what they were looking for.

Some names are unique and OK. It is very unlikely that anyone will mistake Facebook or Pinterest for anything else. Fortran, Algol and C, C+ and C++ were OK for computer languages, but Pascal, BASIC and Ada were not. Perhaps it would help if search engines were case sensitive by default, so that they could distinguish between Android and android, Ubuntu and ubuntu. But that might not help with “diaspora”, which is often capitalised in normal use as “The Diaspora”. Actually I believe that the Diaspora social networking site has been renamed, which might solve that problem.

Android is one of the worst offenders, because not only the operating system itself, but its various versions have been named with ordinary words, which will no doubt cause confusion to people looking for recipes for making gingerbread. At least the authors of the Ubuntu distro of Linux used improbable noun-adjective combinations for their versions, though it does get me to wondering whether karmic koalas dream of electric sheep, and perhaps tell the time with a clockwork orange.

The Ubuntu disambiguation page on Wikipedia can help to sort out some of the confusion, as can the Android disambiguation page. But that doesn’t help with search engines, and one wonders about the intelligence of the people running Google, one of the most popular search engines, in choosing the name “Android” for their cellphone operating system.

An android is something that resembles an adult male human being, but isn’t. What, I wonder, is something that resembles a sheep and isn’t? Ovoid? No that means eggshaped. Agnoid?

And when it comes to Blade Runner, would Pascal take a wager on a race between electric sheep? Would he have foreseen correctly that Pistorius wouldn’t win an Oscar? And would it have made a difference to Ada’s engine if he had?

My love-hate relationship with my Android cell phone

A few months ago I started getting notices that my cell phone was due for an “upgrade”. I had “upgraded” it two years ago, found that it was in fact a downgrade (the camera on the new phone was completely useless), so I kept the old one, and gave the new one to my son, who didn’t care whether the camera worked or not.

This time I looked at what was on offer, and was after the one with the best camera specification. And the only one that fitted the bill was an HTC Cha Cha, which had, so it said, a 5 megapixel camera, which was the same as Val’s old Samsung, which I had inherited last time she upgraded. So that’s what I went home with.

I also bought a magazine-sized book on how to use an Android phone, since that’s what it was. It seems that the more complicated the phone, the less they tell you about how to use it. So i bought the extra book and began to read it.

I’ve had my new phone for about 3 months now, and, book or no book, I’m still battling to use it.

This one has a QWERTY keyboard. That looked nice. I could get an “s” by pressing once instead of four times. What was not apparent at first sight, though, was that unless I was using the phone lying flat on my back in bed, with the bedside light on, I could not see the number buttons. Presbyopia and all that. And since some numeric key pads have 789 on the top row, and others have 123, you can’t really learn to do it by feel. That was probably the most stupid design decision of the 20th century.

It has a special blue button for sending pictures to Facebook. That looked as if it could be nice, except that it only worked about one time in 5. It has a button on the screen that you press to take a photo. It works about one time in five too. I once took a photo and then pressed the Face book button to send it, and it took a photo of the floor when I pressed the Facebook button and wanted to send that.

It did send the photo I took in church last night, while waiting for the service to begin. It never did begin; our priest, Fr Athanasius, was stuck in traffic for two hours, so we had the agape meal and went home.

But still, It should be possible to get the photos off it with the cable, if it takes them in the first place, that is. And, for all that it is supposed to be a 5 megapixel camera, the quality of the pictures isn’t much better than the cheap Nokia I traded in for it.

Then this morning it rang. I pressed the green button to answer the phone and lifted it to my ear. It was still ringing. Pressed the button again, lifted it to my ear, and it was still ringing. Pressed it again, lifted it to my ear, and heard a remote phone ringing. So maybe it was a missed call, and was calling back. No, it was calling back to someone who had not called me today.

I hear the phone beep, and it tells me there is an SMS. I press the message to read it and it tells me to pull the ring to unlock the phone. I [pull the ring, but then the message disappears. But there is a little thing telling me that there is 1 message. I press it. Nothing. I press it again. Nothing. I press it again, and get a message to say that I can move the button that is telling me that I have a message that I want to read. But it won’t let me read the message that I want to read, just move the button telling me that there is a message.

And if want to send an SMS? The old Nokia Dumbphone would give me a list of contacts in alphabetical order, and I could send a message. If they were lower down in the alphabet, I could press the first letter of their surname and it would take me there. But not this one. This one gives me everything in no order, and lots ofpeople it has pulled in from Facebook and Gmail, who I don’t have phone numbers for because they live in other countries.

My daughter hears I have an Android phone and phones me and tells me of all the wonderful apps that I can download. Apps? Who needs apps? I’d be happy just to be able to make and receive phone calls, and to send and receive SMSs without being asked if I want to move buttons first. And to take decent photos.

And then, to crown it all, I get an SMS, from Vodacom, my service provider. They say that they hope I have enjoyed using the PROMDATA service, and that I can continue to use it by paying the regular rates.

Huh?

I never heard of this PROMDATA service, and have no idea what I am supposed to be enjoying.

I go to their website, and got and make a cup of coffee while it loads. I search for PROMDATA, and go and clean my teeth while waiting for the answer to load. Not found. It seems that their Website has never heard of PROMDATA either.

I search around and click on a link to email them. After getting tired of waiting for it to load, I went to the kitchen and made a couple of slices of toast. Got back to the computer, and see that the page still hasn’t loaded, so call up my e-mail program and dash off an e-mail asking about PROMDATA to help@vodacom.co.za, and cc it to support, info and a few other possibilities.

A slice of toast later the e-mail page has finished loading, so I copy the mail message I sent with my e-mail program, and paste it there. Send it. Ten minutes later it’s back with a problem. It must have a 10-digit cellphone number. I count the digits I entered. Ten. What now? Oh, perhaps it doesn’t like the dashes. Remove dashes and resend.

Ten minutes later it suggests that before sending I should look at their help pages to make sure that they don’t have the answer to my question. One must not waste the precious time of the underpaid people at their call centre, you know. I look through some of the irrelevant questions to which they have given splendidly accurate answers. None of them say what PROMDATA is, and if they did, surely their search function would have found it 40 minutes ago? Surely? Surely?

So eventually it sends that too.

It has taken me about an hour to ask the meaning of one stupid SMS that they sent me. Not to find the meaning, just to ask about it.

In the mean time, if you have tried to phone me, and I haven’t answered, then it may be because I didn’t hear the phone ring (because I forgot to switch it back from “vibrate” after church), or because I heard it ring, and pressed the answer button, but it kept on ringing, or because it was waiting for me to move some button around the screen, or trying to determine whether I was at the gasworks.

Just send me an e-mail instead.

And preferably in plain text, without all those trade mark Euro thingies in it[1].

I just love 20-year-old technology, like e-mail. It’s so much quicker and easier.

______________

Notes

[1] The trade mark Euro things are another problem, and nothing to do with cell phones. It’s just that some people send e-mails full of Trade Mark and Euro symbols, sometimes in the middle of words, which makes their messages hard to read.

Naming computer programs

Why do people have to name computer programs or web services with ordinary words?

I’m referring to things like Ubuntu and Android, and one I heard of just today, a social networking thing called Diaspora.

If you are looking for web sites related to ubuntu, or androids, the search engines spew out many totally irrelevant posts.

Computer programs or web sites with unique made-up names have less danger of ambiguity and confusion, like Linux, Facebook, Orkut and the like. Ok, “twitter” is a word, but it’s not one that people would really want to look up other than the web site.

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