iCloud Mail Frustrations

Generally, I like Apple’s iCloud (formerly me.com, formerly mac.com) email service better than Gmail. Unlike Google:

  • Apple doesn’t aggressively spy on users for purposes of marketing to them,
  • iCloud doesn’t have obnoxious security that gets false positives every time I travel or do something a tiny bit out of the ordinary.

But, there is one area where Gmail outshines iCloud like a star outshines a small, rocky planet: its Web interface. iCloud’s web interface positively sucks. It’s prime design goal was apparently to value appearance over all else, and to particularly value it over functionality. It’s bloated in the extreme with fragile AJAX-using Javascript that crumbles the moment your network connection departs from rock-solid. It’s also monstrously inefficient in its use of screen space; one must stretch the browser window to comically wide proportions just to be able to read messages. It’s so painful to use that the feature might as well not be there in the first place.

Gmail, by contrast, at realizes that not the whole world wants to run bloatware in their web pages, and offers a “basic HTML” mode which is actually pretty sane.

I’m hoping to work around the problem by installing Squirrelmail and using that to access iCloud for those times where I don’t want to configure a mail client. Already ran into one roadblock with my connections from one of my servers (a shared one) being blackholed. And I really shouldn’t need to do this: Apple should offer a simple, sane, non-bloated web interface for iCloud.

Selling Tires over the Internet? Really?

This strikes me as a strange niche for an online business. They are admittedly trying to address the main problem with ordering tires online: how to install them. But how well that will end up working strikes me as uncertain.

It still compels consumers to have to deal with two businesses to get a new set of tires. Ever since selling tires for automobiles became a business proposition, retailers in that industry have bundled installation and sales. I suspect that’s probably for a good reason.

Selling tires over the Internet sounds like it might be a better proposition for a business-to-business venture to me: focus on selling tires and help marketing tires at a competitive price to garages.

It all makes me wonder if this isn’t simply a sign of yet another dot.com bubble hitting its peak.

Sites that “Forget” Passwords

It happened again: a business I deal with that regularly bills me for an ongoing service asked me to update my billing information, because the credit card number I had furnished them expires this month. Fair enough, but when I tried to log onto their site, it rejected my password. I know I was using the correct password, because I use a password manager to keep track of such things.

As I began, this is hardly the first time this has happened. It’s inevitably for a site I don’t visit very often. My guess is that there is some sort of logic bomb coded into many sites, which proclaims a password stale if it is not used regularly enough. This is the case despite there being no password expiration policy (I never got any such email, and as usual the system simply let me “reset” the password using the same old one I’ve been using).

It’s strange behavior. If a password is old enough not to trust, wouldn’t you want to simply expire it, and demand a new one? And if you’re going to expire someone’s password, wouldn’t you want to send a warning email before it expires?

Yet More Evidence Apple Sucks Now

As I wrote recently, their laptops now mostly suck. Now their smartphones are starting to suck. Make that their smartphones are starting to suck more, because smartphones have always sucked. And their iPads now suck too, now that they’re programmed to deliberately brick themselves when you travel.

There’s definitely a trend going here, and it’s not a good one.

How Long Did It Take Apple to Start Sucking after Steve Jobs Died? About Four Years

I got a fancy new top-of-the-line MacBook at my new job. It disappoints me:

  1. It is deficient in ports and connectors; there is no longer a dedicated power connector; one must use one of the USB connectors to connect a power cord, and
  2. That latter fact means that the power cord has a USB-C connector on it, not a MagSafe connector.

It is beyond me how anyone could be so big of an idiot to not realize that (2) is just about the worst idea since New Coke. MagSafe connectors were one of the best things about Apple laptops, full stop. I can’t count how many times they saved a laptop of mine from crashing to the floor. And now this advantage is gone from most of Apple’s highest end machines.

Apparently Apple started this idiocy in late 2015. Until this week, I had been blissfully unaware of it, thanks to being a cheapskate who purchases lower-end laptops (and then only when the previous one dies and spare parts are unavailable).

Were Jobs still alive, the idiot who proposed such an idea would doubtless have been the victim of one of Jobs’ famous temper tantrums. And the idiot would have deserved it.

Thankfully, there’s a company out there dedicated to giving Mac users back what Apple took away. I plan to request one of their adapters; it should be a cheap insurance policy against my laptop meeting the floor at high speed.

Working around Apple Mail’s Auto-Complete Misfeature

If you use an address book, Apple Mail can be very aggressive about auto-completion, to the point that your ability to send messages to an arbitrary address ends up being seriously compromised. There’s a simple workaround to this problem: enclose the address in angle brackets, e.g. <user@host.com>.

There’s an old discussion thread on apple.com (without any resolution) about this, but not much else, so I figured I’d put it up here just in case it gets indexed and ends up being useful to someone.

Yes, I’m using Apple Mail again… for now… and only on my new work computer. That’s because others there report it interoperates better with their mail server than Thunderbird. I have the sneaky feeling that I’ll bail on Apple Mail within a month or two, but might as well be a good sport and give it an honest chance.

Keywords: Apple, Mail, address book, autocomplete, disable.

Airbnb is a Bigot-Friendly Platform

Why? It requires people to register using their real names, and encourages them to post their photo in their profile. I doubt they intended it do be bigot-friendly, but intent matters little: it is bigot-friendly.

More than likely Airbnb’s awful design is the result of the privileged, affluent, mostly white “tech bro” culture: Airbnb’s designers weren’t even aware of the bigotry problem when they designed the platform. And to the extent they are aware, they seem to be in denial about how serious the problem is:

“The photos are on the platform for a reason,” King said. “It really does help to aid in the trust between the guest and the host . . . You want to make sure that the guest who shows up at your door is the person you’ve been communicating with.”

The problem is so common and pervasive that there’s even a phrase for it: “Airbnb while Black.”

Thankfully, there seem to be better alternatives such as Innclusive.com, a site started by a Black guy after he ran into discrimination on Airbnb.

 

I’m Back, and Fuck Apple

My iPad decided to randomly demand all sorts of security information (which I don’t have committed to memory and never will, because I have better things to memorize than random bits of data like that). Worse yet, it then decided to demand I boot one of my Macs (which of course I didn’t have with me at the time) to complete the process of allowing me to use it again.

I think this is Apple’s way of punishing me for attempting to use the Internet while in Canada, which they seem to regard as a sign of fraud and theft because (gasp!) it’s a foreign country. Well, yes it is, but Apple should take a look at the fucking map some time: it’s as big a deal for someone to travel from Seattle to Kamloops, BC as it is for someone to travel from Chicago to the Upper Peninsula.

An iPad is a smaller and lighter than a full-featured computer, which makes it significantly more portable than a full-featured computer, which in turn means it is likely to be the device someone takes with them on a trip, while leaving larger and bulkier computing devices behind at home. Therefore it is unrealistic to demand someone follow the process of booting and using another of his computers to re-enable an arbitrarily disabled iPad. This is so obvious that it feels somewhat painful to have to type it.

All of which serves to reinforce the idea that it will be a cold day in Hades before I ever get a smartphone stupidphone. Why would I want a phone that randomly decides to brick itself while I am on a trip?

Gmail Gets Suckier

It’s always sucked because Google profiles you based on your emails, but Gmail gets suckier and suckier as time passes due to their security measures. Every time I do something the least bit unusual (like connect from a new wireless network) it blocks my IMAP logins and raises a security alert.

Wednesday, Gmail locked me out because I was coming in via the UW network as a guest there. Today, I’m on the road, and Gmail is locking me out because I’m using my old iPad plus my Karma hotspot to access it instead of my laptop and the very same Karma hotspot.

I can re-establish access by logging in via the Web, but:

  1. That totally defeats the purpose of my having an email client and using IMAP in the first place. I happen to like the fact that IMAP lets me use the same email client (with the exact same user interface) for all my email accounts.
  2. IMAP also uses less Internet resources than an interactive web site, which can be a plus in marginal situations (which do routinely happen when connecting to the Internet via a cellular network).
  3. If their web site lets me in, then IMAP should logically let me in as well.
  4. None of my other email providers have fascistic security like this.

I suppose Google hates the fact that using IMAP, because it implies I’m using a dedicated email client, which lets me freely choose email providers yet have the same consistent UI for each. Google apparently wants me to use their Web UI and get used to it, so I’m locked in to their service. In my book, that’s yet another reason to dislike Google.

As it is, I’ve been slowly moving to using my Apple me.com account for most of my mail, anyhow (because I don’t like how Google profiles me). Most of what goes to my Gmail inbox is from mailing lists that I simply haven’t bothered to cut over yet.

I guess it all shows that it’s time to continue with the gradual process of moving away from Gmail.