Daft Technology 2

Google Hangouts system seems to have a weird bug (seen on Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and HTC device). When a correspondent is writing a message, the chat screen scrolls up a little. The latest message disappears.

It’s incredibly annoying, since the reader has to scroll back down to see new messages. There is no obvious cause. Others have reported it on the bugs list; forums and elsewhere online, but it’s been running like this for at least a year – sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t.

What could cause such a fundamental UI behaviour to fail? I want to embrace these systems, but they’re making it pretty difficult to adopt.

If you create a meeting in your calendar on Android, the Google Now agent will ‘helpfully’ notify you when it’s time to leave. Great, but it’s not smart enough to know that you’ve already left.

A number of times I’ve left for a meeting (with, say, a half hour drive) and suddenly the phone notification sounds, informing me that ‘to be on time, I should leave now’.

Such a simple thing to detect, surely – the phone knows that I’m on the move – but it seems this logic was too easily overlooked.

Daft Technology

Went to Boots today, to print some photos. We stuck ten JPEGs on a USB drive – nothing fancy.

Touched screen to begin, put disk in. First thing it asks ‘what media are you using?’ – umm, the USB drive I just plugged in would be a reasonable guess.

Okay, so we press USB. ‘Please wait…’ and wait we did, for a very long time. Nothing. Eventually it returns to the starting screen, seemingly giving up.

Try again, same thing. Move to a second machine which has become free – not much better… it seems to be making progress but still incredibly slow.

While my wife is working the machines, I’m looking for a member of staff. Together, we realise the Boots machines will be cheaper, so we move across again.

This time, it works a little better. The machine reads the USB reasonably fast, and shows us the photos. Now the staff member does something quite extraordinary. She goes through each photo, and explains “the machine sometimes tries to ‘be clever’ and crops the photos – but it makes lots of mistakes.”

Sure enough, it’s quite evident the machine has indeed chopped off a few photos in inappropriate places. People are cut in half. Methodically, the employee reverts each of these ‘smart’ crops, undoing the work of the computer. We ask how this laborious task works if one has hundreds of photos? ‘It takes a while.’

Finally, the photos are ready to print. We go shopping, come back half an hour later, and they’re done. A fairly straightforward process made needlessly complicated – requiring the time and knowledge of a staff member. Sort of defeats the point of self-service really.