Look up, look down: How I learned to stop worrying and love the internet

Angela Alcorn:

I wrote about Look Up and parental attitudes to Social Media here: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-reasons-ban-kids-facebook-watching-look-weekly-facebook-tips/

But now my friend has just nailed the other side of what I wanted to say.

Originally posted on Tanya Ashworth:

I met Lovely Husband near the end of the last century.  When we first moved in together, I brought my desktop computer to his analogue home, and we installed it in the far corner of an upstairs study.  If I had an essay to finish, I’d take myself up to the study; otherwise, we’d share our single ugly couch.  And I’d like to say that we spent evening after evening discussing our hopes and dreams, and of course sometimes we did.  But life is mundane, and mostly he watched TV and I read a book.

Today, the technology lives in the lounge room with us.  I have an iPad, he has a netbook, and once the children are in bed and silence prevails, it is those screens we turn to.

It’s no different.  Where once he would turn from the television in the adverts and chat, now he looks up…

View original 1,486 more words

It’s Shit Like This, Android

I have an HTC desire and I really do love it. Well, mostly. I love everything about my phone except the lack of space in phone storage. I had hoped Froyo would end my misery, by allowing me to move apps to the SD card, but it’s only helped a small amount. There’s just not enough app-makers who think it’s important to add App2SD functionality. And given the pitiful amount of memory on my phone, I am really limited to just the apps with App2SD.

I’ve known for a while that it’s really the compulsory Google, HTC and Orange apps that were really eating into my space, so I thought I’d make a spreadsheet to work out where all the space goes. Out of my supposed 120MB remaining after Android OS is installed, this is what I’ve got:

  • 17MB which has to be kept free (Otherwise nothing works – data syncs etc)
  • 17.75MB for basic data: Basic Contacts, Calendar, Settings, etc.
  • 33MB for Google Apps I can’t remove
  • 13.4MB for Orange Apps I can’t remove
  • 9.2MB for HTC Apps I can’t remove
  • 28.5MB is used very quickly if I enable any of the Social Networking features HTC are so proud of (like Facebook and Flickr contacts sync, showing a friend stream of Flickr, Twitter, Facebook contacts, enabling Twitter notifications, etc)
  • 1.5MB is left free for new apps (WTF?)

Obviously, I’ve worked out a few tricks. Uninstalling Adobe Flash updates scores you 10MB space. Disabling all the social networking features gets you nearly 30MB back. All in all, I can wrangle about 40MB for new apps that can’t be put on the SD card. But that’s a compromise – I’d really LOVE to be able to use those social networking features. That’s one of the bonuses of having a smartphone!

So, this explains why HTC Desire users bitch and moan when your app is bigger than 200kb and doesn’t have App2SD.

Anyway, after calculating which compulsory apps I used and which I just wish I could get rid of, I was left with these figures:

  • 24.25MB Compulsory apps I find useful (Or at least, would find useful If I were using the social networking features)
  • 31.35MB Compulsory apps I don’t use and can’t remove (without rooting).

In these compulsory apps, there’s gems from Orange like a Monopoly game demo using 3MB of space which won’t even let me play an entire game all the way through. Also, there’s an Orange app store and Orange Maps – as If the Google versions weren’t enough.  In fact, I don’t use any of the Orange apps. Add to this that Orange kindly got me a Froyo update 6 months after everyone else in the world, it leaves me feeling somewhat miffed at Orange for wasting my time and phone space.

From HTC and Google, there’s a 2MB Youtube app (which pre-Froyo was unnecessary since the Youtube Mobile site is so good – why do we need it now?), a 1MB flashlight, a 1MB calculator. All of these have better, smaller alternatives available, but I can’t get rid of the stock versions.

I’m constantly removing apps so I can try new ones. I search for smaller apps and apps with App2SD. I clear my caches and user data regularly. But to think that over 30MB of space is used with apps I just don’t even want is ridiculous. Plus, out of the remaining 25MB of compulsory apps I do use (even if they’re not all essential to me) – not one of them can be moved to the SD card. Why? Oh, they’re probably worried I’ll remove it. Guys, I’ll put it on the SD card if I have a choice. But if I have no choice I might find myself rooting my phone and removing it.

So, Android. A couple of requests:

  • Stop letting phone providers add bloatware which can’t be removed.
  • Make your own essential apps App2SD!

So, after that rant and a realisation that my idea fix is not likely any time soon, I’m just one step closer to rooting my phone.

Le manuel de la vie privée sur Facebook en Français!

I’m very happy to share with you a French translation of my Facebook Privacy manual (the English version I mentioned here and is available on MakeUseOf here).

The French Facebook Privacy Manual is available care of Flavien Chantrel, Anne-Laure Raffestin and Le Blog du Modérateur on Scribd.

Many thanks to Anne-Laure for co-ordinating this translation and doing such a fantastic job!

Location-Based Language Settings = Traveller Nightmare

Right, time for a rant.

Something which has slowly grown to annoy me is the number of websites which will change my language settings simply because they have managed to work out where I am sitting right now. In short, what I’d like to say to all webmasters who do this is “STOP IT!”

For me, I’ve noticed this problem because I’m primarily an English speaker who happens to be in France. Yes, I make good use of my sudden French settings and get some instant French practise, but by and large I just wish websites and mobile apps would leave language settings be.

For instance, I searched for something on Google using English keywords. I found a site in English which fit the bill. When I clicked on that link it decided I’d prefer the French version of the site. Surely, if I’d wanted the French version, I’d have searched using French keywords and found the French version of the site? I don’t even know if Google or the website is responsible for the switch. What made this even more annoying is that it was a site which I have an account with – and I was logged in! Hello, you guys KNOW my language preferences. What are you doing? I fully expect my personal settings to override your guesses while I’m logged in, thanks.

In fact, many sites I use will override my regular language settings with a location-based language setting. It’s usually the big ones, too: Google & Facebook spring to mind (although with Facebook it’s just the login screen, which is reasonable). Google language settings are seriously annoying: Just when you think the language setting is set for every single Google service (oh yes, different settings for each service – thanks Google), you accidentally click something which changes things back to wherever you are again. What’s really annoying is that these sites which automagically decide on a language for you think they’re so right in their language choice that they go and hide the language settings from you and make it difficult to change it back to what you want.

I used the IMDB movie app on my phone to check out popular movies. It had settings to be able to pick which database the info came from, yet despite my choices of imdb.com and amazon.co.uk it insisted on providing me with the French versions of the movie titles. Movie titles are obscure, you know? They’re translated to be catchy in that language. So, even if you translate them back to English, you’ll have more luck working out which movie it is by recognising the poster. Either way, after deliberately setting these database choices, the app had overridden my choices simply because of where I happened to be. Turns out that they do this on the main site too, and for any app which access the IMDB database. Annoying!

Automatically changing the language is ridiculous! Leave it be and ASK people which language they’d prefer.

I think web-developers in English-speaking countries probably don’t think about this location thing very much. Their language settings stay the same as they travel around the country. In their heads, they’re probably doing everyone in foreign countries a favour – and I can see how they might think that.

Consider the average traveller in Europe. Every day they travel around, crossing arbitrary lines which for some reason change the language of all the big sites they use every day. While they might know how to order a meal and book into a hotel in that language, you can hardly expect everyone to be proficient in all of them.

Think about people in multi-language countries. You are driving them crazy.

Now, here’s a thought: When using a phone or laptop, normally the users have already chosen the language they prefer to use. Now developers, do you think it would be possible to work with that language choice? Thanks.

Here’s another similar complaint: Paypal seem to have divided their customer service by country. So, in France I’m told I can’t access the Paypal help menu in English. Seriously. Not to mention that I only wanted to send a quick email to ask a simple question. I clicked “Contact us” and got this:

I’m not sure why an international company based in an English-speaking country wants me to try and navigate their help system in French just so I can send an email in awful French to some poor sod who will have trouble understanding my awful French and who most likely doesn’t speak English and will pass my email around the office stressing out until they find an English speaker to help answer my very simple question. This makes no sense.

My language settings are in English. Let me access a help system and a “Contact Us” web-form in English. I’ll most likely get all the information I need without bothering you. If not, an English person would be able to answer my question quickly. If it so happens that my question is specific to something in France, I’m sure my query can be forwarded internally to a bilingual helpdesk person in France. In the meantime, monolingual French-speaking customers are able to be attended by the French staff. What a thought!

Seriously web developers, quit making language settings automatic according to country. ASK.

Image Credit: RockCohen

The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual – Download Free from MakeUseOf.com!

My MakeUseOf Manual on Facebook Privacy has been released!

Download “The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual” from MakeUseOf for free.

Or if you’re a Scribd user, have a read of “The (Very) Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual” on Scribd.

“This handy guide outlines everything you could ever want to know about locking down your privacy on Facebook, and a few things you probably didn’t even know you wanted to know.” – Justin Pot of MakeUseOf.com

Internet for non-English speakers

After a little ranting about the state of the internet in France, it occurred to me that English-speakers online need to try just a little bit harder to make life easier for non-English speakers.

I came up with a short list of ideas for things we can all do to help non-English speakers online:

  • Get more non-English people to create stuff online.
  • Try to convince more people to add translations (or at least translator buttons) to their sites.
  • Teach more non-English speakers generally about Google Translate, so they can use the English pages they find.
  • Teach SEO skills to more non-English speakers so that things can be found!
  • Make websites more intuitive and less dependent on text found in pictures (which don’t get translated).
  • Ensure kids get computer training, either at school, in clubs or at home.

The website design is easy: add translation and try not to use images where text would be best. The basic computer education of kids has to fall with people locally. So, the question then becomes how to teach SEO to non-English people?

How do you teach someone who doesn’t necessarily understand the concept of SEO (let alone understand the acronym) that it’s something they should think of? At least in the basic sense of ensuring the keywords that people search for appear in the documents they want those people to find. Should we try to convince bilingual people to write basic SEO guides? Probably. And we should probably also encourage those writers to use a keyphrase of the local words for “Why doesn’t anyone find my website?” so that the right people find it.

Seriously, if you’re bilingual give it a go. It could really help non-English speakers a lot. And the more the better!

Image Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

Facebook Fan Page and @Netsavoir Twitter

Smange Facebook Fan PageI just thought I should let you all know that I’ve started writing for MakeUseOf, covering fairly similar topics to the things I write here.
To collect my writing back into one place, I’ve made a Facebook Fan Page to collect all my best professional writing, including my work at MakeUseOf, NetSavoir, writings at Vegemite Croissant and more. Please feel free to “like” the Facebook Fan Page in order to keep updated.

If Twitter is more your thing, I have a few different accounts you might like to follow:
@Netsavoir – This tells followers when there’s new posts from the NetSavoir blog, plus the occasional related link that readers of this blog might be interested in.
@AngelaAlcorn – This updates followers with links to all my professional writing.
@Smange – This is where I actually Tweet. This covers a lot of different interests and activities, but is generally interesting.

Hope there’s something useful for you in that bundle of information & you can now easily keep track of my posts whichever way suits you best.

The net you need to know


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