So, you want a website, eh?

I’ve been doing websites a long time.  First ones I ever put online were back in the summer of 1995, almost 22 years ago now.  In all that time I get asked a lot about doing websites for people.  Those who know the Internet and know how it works have a handle on what that request actually means.  But most do not.  To that, I decided to write an article I’ve been meaning to do for awhile called “So, you want a website, eh?”  It lays out the various parts of what actually having an using a website comprise.  Partially because so many I run into don’t know this, but also so I can point to this and say “I’ve already answered that.  Please read this” (saving myself from explaining it yet again).  So here goes… [Read more…]

Suspended from Twitter

UPDATE 2 JUN 23: I got reinstated.  Need to write about that, but in short, it took them 15 days to respond to my original appeal request.  Sigh.

UPDATE JUN 22: It’s now two weeks later.  Nothing’s changed since I wrote this on Jun 15th.

A week ago (Jun 8, 2015) I was suspended from Twitter.  I’m a bit miffed about that.  Let me explain why.

[Read more…]

A few thoughts on Google Inbox

I’ve spent some time with Google’s new Gmail client, Inbox.   I’ve used both the desktop variant, and the iOS version.  I have a few things I wanted to say about it.  Before I do that, watch this video.  It is the video that you are shown once you are able to log into the program.  It gives you a better idea of how it goes about things than the more “fluff” intro video anyone can see.

Me and Inbox

First off, I have long subscribed to the concept of Inbox zero, and this definitely seems like it will help in that regard.  The ability to group things together and deal with them all at once can be a help, especially in the morning check of email when all the overnight things pile up (especially subscriptions for things like Amazon Deals show up).

Second, for the last year or so I’ve been using the client “Mailbox” by Dropbox on my iOS devices.  The primary reason for that is because of their deferred mail option, something that I find a real life saver.  I’ve used it to just defer things to Monday, and I’ve used it to defer things six months down the road, where I’d have no hope of remembering what it is I do (like buying a Christmas item in September that I deferred from the previous December).  So I VERY MUCH love that concept.

So I checked out Inbox, and I very much like the interface.  In fact, it has already graduated to primary email client in the “permanent” row of icons on my phone.

Desktop Interface

The desktop version has two issues I can see interface wise.

1) There’s an enormous amount of blank space on either side of the column of messages.  You can’t expand it wide, so what is the space for?  The only thing I see is column advertisements which would be an immediate turnoff – or the use of ad blocking software.   It’s not a deal breaker, but I hate website interfaces with wasted space like that.  I don’t mean to junk it up with crap, either, but let me expand out to 100% width if I want to.

inboxclient1

2) THE HORRIBLY USELESS COMPOSE BOX.  When the current compose box on regular Gmail was first brought into being it looked like this.  This tiny little corner thing, like it is nothing more than an instant message.  That horribly useless, tiny inbox is simply impossible to use for any real email composition.  Google learned that lesson with the attempt to put this inbox in the regular Gmail, and relented.  Looks like they’re trying to force it down our throats here again.   Only in this version, there is no “full screen” option you can even choose manually.  It’s tiny compose window or nothing.

inboxclient2

The tiny email compose window is so much of a dealbreaker, it has stopped me from using the desktop client at all beyond checking to see if I have any invites for people.  I was REALLY hoping they wouldn’t be this stupid with the compose box, but apparently they intend to try this path again.  If it doesn’t change, I won’t use the desktop version.  You simply cannot have an compose box THAT SMALL and get any real work done.  When one has a job that requires them to live and operate in Email, this is where I spend an enormous amount of time.

inboxclient3

Having said all that, if there is a way to get the larger compose box, let me know, and I will rescind my foaming at the mouth.  If this is the case, someone tell me, please.

One of the things I used to do all the time in email is send emails to myself as “to do” type msgs.  They’d sit there until I did them.  Well, with the combination of reminders and snooze, you can give yourself a reminder, and then make it come back when you really want to do it.  I like that.  A LOT.  I think this is one of the few things that works better in the desktop version than the iOS/mobile version.   I’ve already made extensive use of this, it might be my favorite feature set of Inbox to this point.

iOS version

Regarding the iOS version, I’m quite happy with that.  The only real thing I wish they’d do, which i admit they’re unlikely to do is this..

Let me change the swipe behaviour so that if I swipe far enough I’m given an option to delete vs just merely “mark done” (aka archive it).  There are a lot of emails I get that I don’t need or want to save.   Yes, I know I can delete them, but it requires me to have a few extra steps to do that.  I also realize I’m describing the way that Mailbox handles archive/delete, but it works.  I know it works as I’ve been using it for over a year.   I also know Google tends to discount the concept of delete in their email programs, but it is a viable thing.  You don’t want to just archive temporary emails you send to yourself for later need.  You don’t want to keep copies of all the notifications you get from forums saying someone replied to your post, and how many times have you looked at the daily Groupon offer 9 months down the road?  There are times when you need to delete things.  I really wish Google would do this with the Inbox interface, it would make things more streamlined when you want to delete things.

Things I wish it did

A couple of these are repeats from further up, but I wanted to put them all in the same place.

  1. That it would work with both Google Apps Email (which I’ve read is coming).  I have a few domains I maintain for clients and whatnot that use GApps Email.  Can’t use it with them.
  2. Relative to #1, letting my install work with multiple accounts at the same time.  This is probably dependent on #1 happening first.   As it stands I’m using Inbox for my primary Gmail account, and still using Mailbox for everything else.
  3. Change swipe behavior so that you can do mark “done” as well as delete.  I really don’t need to save most of the “daily deals” emails from Amazon and the like.  Letting me delete would be a lot better than just saying “Done” (aka archive).
  4. Get rid of the freakin’ minuscule compose box on the desktop version.  Needs to be like it is on regular Gmail.
  5. Likewise, get rid of all the dead space on the desktop to the right of the email column.   Hate dead space, makes you want to go full screen to have more real estate.
  6. iPad specific layout.  Right now I’m using the 2x sized iPhone one there.  It’s not awful, but native iPad interfaces always look better.  Saw on Twitter where they’re already working on an iPad/Tablet version.
  7. SIGNATURES!   Added in after the fact, I just realized there’s no signatures in this.
  8. When you mark something as “done”, it would be awfully nice if it was also marked as read as well.  Right now swiping stuff as “done” leaves an awful lot of unread messages scattered through my mail archives.

Despite these wants, this is a VERY strong start for me.  I’m quite happy with the client, and hope it is improved upon for future versions.

IMG_2791

Turning off Spam Checking in Gmail

Recently in some work I did for a web client, I discovered that essential emails that were needed for work were getting sent to spam.  They didn’t know that, and I didn’t discover it until my time working with them on this particular project.  When I told them about this, they well, I’m not sure they knew what to say about it.  I knew a way out, and it’s a trick I discovered a few months back on Gmail, and that’s to turn off the Spam check.  Here’s how I did it: [Read more…]

Make Amazon.com pay you! [ UPDATED ]

Update:  I’ve been making use of the policy below for years, but I had read this past week that it was discontinued on September 1st. This is a major bummer to me, as it was a great deal which I’ve gotten much money back from. Perhaps that is the reason they stopped doing it. I wrote to Amazon Customer service earlier this morning and inquired if it was the case, and this is the disappointing email I got back:

Hello from Amazon.com.

Thanks for writing to us asking about post-order price policies for items purchased from Amazon.com.

While we don’t always beat the best available price on every product, we do offer deep discounts on many thousands of items and cannot offer discounts after your order is complete.

From time to time, prices on some items will change due to special offers from suppliers and manufacturers or our inventory and sales volumes. When we can offer a lower price for new purchases, we will.

You may have been able to take advantage of post-purchase discounts on orders you placed in the past, but that policy was discontinued on September 1, 2008.

I am sorry this may disappoint you.

Major bummer. :(

Original Post from August 24, 2006:

I’ve been an Amazon.com user for a long time now – my first order with them was placed on June 24, 1997. I could probably figure out how much I’ve spent with them over the years, but I’d be afraid to. :)

But money is why I’m writing this short article you’re reading. Being a long time member of Amazon, I was surprised to find out earlier this year that they have a 30 day price guarantee policy. I don’t know what Amazon officially refers to the policy as, because it’s not mentioned in their help anywhere (that I could find). However, if you notice that Amazon.com drops their price on something after it’s been shipped to you, you can write them and request a refund in the amount of the difference, and they’ll do it. It is internal, it’s not like they honor a lower price anywhere (say at buy.com), but it works internally. At least that’s how I understand it to work, anyway.

It doesn’t matter how small the amount is (I’ve written in for as little as 8 cents), they’ll give it to you provided it’s within the 30 days (after it ships, I believe). Anyway, what you do is go to Amazon.com help area, and select the “Refunds” option in the “Returns & Replacements” section. From there, select the “Contact Customer Service by E-Mail” option, and then “Refund Inquiry” from the dropdown. From there you are presented with an interactive list of your previous orders, you find the one with the item you want the refund on, and then you are given the option to type in a message. That’s where you actually ask for the refund. Make sure and mention the 30 day Amazon price drop policy.

It’s a little bit of a hassle with all the clicking to ask for the refund, and you have to keep an eye on your orders for 30 days after they ship, but the way I look at it, if they’re going to give me money back, I’m gonna take it – even if it is just eight cents! Make Amazon pay you! :)

I also tried this at Amazon’s UK store, and it worked there; I don’t know if it works universally at all their stores (amazon.ca, amazon.de, amazon.jp, etc), but it does at these two.

Gmail Error – I’m tired of seeing this

If you’re a Gmail (or Google Apps Mail) user, then you’ve probably seen this lately.


A few months back, Google pushed out a newer, “faster” version of Gmail, which by all accouts is faster. It appears (to this non techie programmer), that some of the things are done in javacript locally, then “pushed” (of sorts) to the server. I say this because whenever this error crops up, you can keep doing things locally, but they will never “take effect”. Anything you do post error will be ignored by Gmail until you close that browser window/tab and reopen Gmail in another tab or something.

One of the really annoying things about this error is that it never ever EVER goes away. It says to retry in “X” seconds, which it does, and then fails again. In all the times this has happend (and its happened a lot), it has never once recovered. You have to quit and restart. Annoying.  After reading their online help for this error message, I got this:

A conflict with software on your computer, browser cache that needs to be cleared, or a temporary problem on the Gmail server.

I clear my browser cache quite regularly, so it’s not that. Additionally this happens across multiple browsers, and has been happening for weeks, so I doubt it’s truly JUST a local cache issue. conflict with software? That’s nice – care to tell me WHAT software? Blaming it on other software without naming said software is a “shift the blame” tactic. It’s a cheap answer for tech support. “Not our problem, something else is interfering, but we don’t know what”. FAIL.

It’s happening on the order of two dozen times a day now, and it’s seriously annoying. I went through their help, and nothing helped. I tried right now when I made this blog post to add mail.google.com to my local browser cookie control, and set to allow. Let’s see if this makes any difference. I’m tired of dismissing this error. :(

Amazon.com, 800, and talking to a real person

As most who have looked for this info know, the 1-800 phone number for Amazon.com has been around for years and years. It’s existence is not listed in the Amazon help area, but if you googled for Amazon 800 number, you could find it.
That number is 1-800-201-7575
I’ve called that for years, I almost NEVER go through email, because if I have a problem, I want some sort of immediate resolution, I don’t want to wait for an email to maybe get responded to in a timely fashion, bounce back with a response, etc, etc.. So I called the 800 number.
Well, I had to do that this morning, got a nice guy on the line, and we spoke about Amazon, ordering, help and all that. Anyway, he told me the phone number above is being phased out, and a better number to call is this one:
1-866-216-1072
He did also tell me that they’ve added phone as an option in the help area recently. I can verify that this works, as I used it this morning to get a hold of this guy.
If you go to any help page, you will see the following button, you can click on it to get to the contact us area.

When you click that, you’ll get an area where you can make a choice as to how to contact Amazon.

Click the tab that says “phone”, and you’ll get a page that looks like this. (You’ll need to click the large image to see what it looks like).

You get to put in a phone number, and it immediately connects both you and an Amazon.com customer service agent. This has the benefit of getting you past all the recordings like “Please press 7, please press 2”. It’s a “direct line”. It actually works pretty well.
But if you want to make a call yourself, they recommend using the 866 number. I had a problem with an order I placed Friday, so I had to call them and deal with it. Found all this new stuff out this morning, which was cool to know.

Earth to Lynn

Are you lost? My RSS feed reader is getting lonely.

RSS in Plain English

I’ve been using Google Reader for some time now. It’s my preferred method of visting sites. In fact, if a site doesn’t have a feed for it’s content, I probably am not going there. I find it’s a lot easier to read information this way. It’s also beneficial in that you don’t have to wade through piles of garbage website design layouts. The content is shown in a standard format across (almost all) of the feeds you read.
Anyway, if you don’t know what RSS and feed readers are, you should. Check out this video entitled “RSS in Plain English“. It shows you the basics of what you need to do to get started with feed readers.