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Journal: Facebook Android app is crap

Journal by edmicman

The official Facebook app for Android is crap. It recently updated - you would think that updates would bring incremental improvements, but it seems like the FB app makes minimal progress and then leaps backwards time after time. The latest change? It appears that they have gone from a native app to embedding a web view in place of the news feed - for all intents and purposes the app's newsfeed now is identical to just browsing the mobile website. My list of complaints in off-the-top-of-my-head order:

Videos
With this new version was supposedly video uploading support. However, I have yet to actually be able to play within the app videos that I'm pretty sure were posted via FB (as opposed to posting a YouTube link). Every time I've ever tried to watch a video someone else has posted I get the "incompatible format" error. Do I need Flash installed? Can we upload videos, we just can't play them?

Pure Coherent Native Experience
This was a problem before, and now it's even more jumbled. For a long time the Android FB app would kick you to the mobile site for some functions. Digging further into a person's profile for instance. Some links. It disrupted the feel of the app before, and now it's even worse. The main menu is the same old style from before. You go to the newsfeed and it's the embedded mobile site. Then you click through to someone's profile and it's the old app style. Commenting and liking something on a profile wall is different than commenting and liking the same post if you did it through the newsfeed. Same function, but it's broken between the old and new app styles. Then you click on a friend's friend's profile, and it takes you to the mobile profile page for that person.

No (or limited?) Push notifications. As far as I know I won't get notified if someone comments on something of mine.

Newsfeed that is actually embedded web view
I've already noted that I don't like it. It feels like a copout and feels laggy compared to the native listview controls in apps. I can't get "Recent News" to stick as a default - it always reverts back to "Top News". There actually doesn't seem to be a difference between the two at the moment, but that's not the case on the normal site so I would expect that to be a problem at some point, too. There's some stupid slot machine wheel functionality now to change between newsfeed views. Really? Where did that UI decision come from?

General slowness
Granted, this has been a little better since moving to the web newsfeed. Actually, before I would have timeouts refreshing the newsfeed or pulling up images on a regular basis. I'd jump over to the mobile site and it would work fine. That seems a little better now, but lots of times the waiting symbol will just keep spinning trying to load an image. Loading album thumbnails is still very slow and cumbersome, on wifi or 3G.

Weird behaviors
Many times I'll hit back and it goes back, but you're on the same page. It's like it loses where it was or something.

I'm on a stock OG Droid. Anyone else?

User Journal

Journal: How can I make my employer be more open-source friendly?

Journal by edmicman

How can I encourage my employer to be more friendly to open-source software and standards compliance?

I work as a web developer for a small company that sells a software-as-a-service product. Or, at least, I did. We were recently bought by a much larger company, and I am finding their IT department ideals to be much different from my own.

Granted, we are a Microsoft shop, with the application being in classic ASP/VBScript and ASP.NET. But I developed with Firefox primarily, and we were using Bugzilla for issue tracking. I was even started to move from SourceSafe to Subversion. I didn't necessarily strictly validate against all standards, but our web application worked in all browsers across the board.

Now our "new" website application uses vbscript for client side scripting instead of javascript. It's non-functional in Firefox. We have a homebuilt issue tracking system that has a fraction of Bugzilla's functionality. It uses some "grid control" that requires IE, so it doesn't render correctly in Firefox. I can't save searches. I can't search on the description or details screen. We have a web-based empoyee management system where we manage travel, time off, tech requests, etc. It will load in Firefox, but doesn't *work*. Links and pages break, and it uses frames for everything.

It's frustrating having used what I think are much better tools only to feel like I'm taking giant steps backwards with the new ones, just because the corporation mandates it. Is there anything I can do?

User Journal

Journal: I want a Google Mail appliance

Journal by edmicman

With 2008 kicking off, I'm looking over my list of projects I want to tackle in the next year. My company hosts our own mail server, a beige-box Linux PC running Debian, set up by an outside consultant many moons ago. We are a Microsoft shop, running a business based on VB6 and IIS software, but us in the tech department all encourage use of open source tools as much as possible. Mostly we just don't have a lot of Linux experience, although I'm picking up a lot, and have successfully set up some in-house LAMP servers for some specific purposes. The truth is, though, our mail server has been the most rock solid component of our network for a long time. The thing is, none of us really know anything about it; it's a black box!

So on my TODO list is to look into "replacing" our mail server. It's not broken....yet (although we have noticed some BIOS errors on a restart)....but I'd rather have a migration plan sooner than later. Plus, I think that if I were to look into rebuilding a mail server from scratch, I'd both understand it a lot better, plus gain a valuable experience.

There's been a push to use Exchange from a number of users, and it probably would be easy enough to set up a dedicated Exchange box that integrates into our current Active Directory setup. But that comes with a lot of costs, both hardware and software if we're looking at moving to a production system eventually. A Linux option, if I could find something that handles groupware well enough (and especially integrates with Outlook, which a number of the staff uses), I think the cost and stability are good selling points.

But what would I really want? A mail appliance by Google. They already have a search appliance for enterprises, why not mail? Advertising dollars in the emails? They already have the option to disable ads on the enterprise Google Apps, and how do they handle that with the search appliance? I think the Gmail web interface is the best out there. Labels rock. It can do IMAP and POP. I think it would just need some way for the shared calendaring to integrate into Outlook (does it use CalDEV?) and it'd be set.

Give me a box that I put in my rack with all this software. Have some built in drive space and allow it to connect to NAS or something, so my storage space can grow. Give me decent admin tools with metrics and backup tools, let Google do the spam filtering (maybe connect to their existing system for filtering?), and all the while the box with the actual emails are under my direct control.

Why not?

User Journal

Journal: Why doesn't Thunderbird integrate with Chandler?

Journal by edmicman

I've been using Thunderbird with the Lightning extension for quite awhile now. As an email client, especially with IMAP, I haven't found anything that beats Thunderbird. But as a calendaring/PIM/task list app, Thunderbird with Lightning sucks. I feel crippled with Lightning, not as productive as I could be, and actually *wishing* I used Outlook to try and organize my work life.

I've kept tabs on the Chandler Project here and there for awhile, too. When I've played with it, it seems to be developing into a very good Getting Things Done client. My biggest complaint is that my email is still a central part of my info work, and most of my generated things-to-do and meetings stem from email messages. But Chandler's email client sucks. I need integration between the two, but I don't want to have both Thunderbird and Chandler open at the same time. Email is still king for me, so Thunderbird wins, and I try and make do with Lightning.

So we have Thunderbird with it's strong email capabilities, and Chandler with it's strong PIM attributes. Why doesn't Mozilla scrap the Calendar/Lightning project and use the Chandler project, or why doesn't the Chandler project scrap rebuilding from scratch an email client and use an established *good* one? I don't foresee Tbird/Lightning ever coming close to the PIM abilities of Outlook anytime soon, nor do I see Chandler becoming a robust email client anytime soon. What am I missing? Why wouldn't this work?

User Journal

Journal: It's Time for Social Networks to Open Up 231

Journal by edmicman

Wired has an article, "Slap in the Facebook: It's Time for Social Networks to Open Up", that calls for the greater programming community to create a truly "open" social network. Specifically, the problems with today's networks, says the author, is that their content is not available to everyone.

Personally, I don't use either Facebook or MySpace, though I have friends that do. I host my own blog, and communicate with friends via email, IM, and forums. I run my own blog and pic hosting. I've just never really jumped on the social networking bandwagon. Yeah, I'm old school.

As for this article, I can see both sides. Part of the point of the Facebooks and MySpaces is so that *not just anyone* can view what you put online. Nevermind that I don't really get why you'd post something *private* online in the first place if you didn't expect the world to see it. But the private social networks foster and clique or group mentality where if you're not in the know, you don't know.

What the point of the article is, though, and which I tend to agree with, is there needs to be a better way to round up your online "identity". Why should I have to sign up for Facebook to keep in touch with some friends, and MySpace for others? Why should I have to be a member of multiple IM services to keep in touch with different people? I have multiple email addresses for different purposes. I have signed up for probably dozens of mailing lists and discussion forums, and have been an active member in more than a handful. Heck, I even signed registered on Slashdot so I can make posts and comments non-anonymously. Why should my online "identity" be fragmented so?

Of course, the flip side of that is is that due to the fragmentation of my online identity, I still maintain that air of anonymity. I think that actually may be at the root of a lot of the issues going on. By having different email addresses and aliases, I can appear to some audiences as one person, and to others as someone totally different. Even on Facebook and MySpace, would most of those users publish in a real life semi-public place the photos, musings, and thoughts that they write on those sites? Perhaps we would ideally like the convenience of having a central identity, but don't want the accountability of being tied to that central identity?

User Journal

Journal: Where are the open source counterparts to popular web apps?

Journal by edmicman

Open source has given us very competitive alternatives to some commercial powerhouses in software. Office suites (OpenOffice.org vs Microsoft Office), Image editing (GIMP vs Photoshop), web browsers (Firefox vs IE), instant messengers (Gaim/Pidgin, millions of others vs the standard clients), plus a ton of other apps, both standalone and web hosted. But where are the open source counterparts to popular commercial web apps? Specifically, I'm looking at email and image galleries.

Where is the blatant ripoff of Gmail that I can install on my own server that connects to an IMAP server? I want the Gmail interface and user experience, but with my own email server. I looked for something for the longest time that I could install on my host and use as a better webmail client than what they offered. Squirrelmail seems to be everywhere, but using it feels like the Internet circa 1997. Last time I looked, the closest thing was Roundcube, but even that felt simply like a rehash of a desktop email client in AJAX. Gmail's system works, why hasn't anyone copied it yet?

Recently I was looking to upgrade my web gallery from Gallery2 to something else. Gallery[2] and Coppermine are nice, but again, they feel really dated compared to something like Flickr. So where is the the "Flickr" that I can install on my own server? There seems to be *nothing* out there. Why not?

User Journal

Journal: Is Slashdot's submit feature broken? 2

Journal by edmicman
I've submitted a number of stories, and most have been rejected. That's fine. But I've had two submissions that are still just sitting there, pending. One on 2007-02-26, the other recently on 2007-05-26. I'm OK with them being rejected, but the most recent concerned the bill introduced to the US Senate to redefine the broadband definition used in the US. I think it's a worthy story, and am surprised that it hasn't been covered at all by Slashdot yet. But mostly, why are my submissions still 'pending'? What should the expected turnaround be? Did my submissions just fall through the cracks?

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