A problem with the Internet

A while back I ordered a pair of boots on-line.

When I filled in my details and clicked submit I got an error page.

That sort of thing makes me nervous – did my order go through or not?

I checked my email and had no order confirmation email, but decided to leave it for a day to be sure.

So, the following evening as I had no confirmation email I tried again – this time the order went through perfectly and I got my confirmation email.

All good.

Two weeks later I got an email saying my boots had shipped, again, all good.

Five minutes later (I think you can see where this is going) I got a second email saying that my boots had shipped – this one had a different order number though.

Uh-oh.

I replied to the second order and told them I had only ordered one pair of boots (I decided not to tell them about the error page as I figured it might confuse matters).

I got a swift reply:

So sorry about that, there must of been a problem with the internet at that time. Your card has been refunded for the second order.

“Problem with the internet”?

Problem with their crappy website more like!

Google Earth rawks

Google Earth + Flickr + Grease Monkey + Geotagging = the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.

As if Google Earth wasn’t mind-blowing enough, you can get it to pull geo-tagged photos down from Flickr once you “arrive” at a destination.

I geo-tagged one of my own photos, then looked at Richmond in Google Earth and there was my photo.

Q. How cool is that?

A. Very fucking cool indeed.

Dynamic bookmarks

This is some hack I put together for myself but I think it could be useful if adopted by Firefox.

I keep my bookmarks in an XML file.

The reason for using a file (as opposed to the browser’s built-in system) is because I share those bookmarks between 5 browsers spread over 4 computers. I also keep the file in CVS for syncing between the different PCs.

The reason I store them in XML format is so I can separate the presentation from the data. I generate HTML from it using XSLT (IE and Firefox do this automatically).

One of the nice things about this is that I can generate a table of contents for the categories (it’s a long file, so these link to each section).

Recently I added to this by adding a “favourite” attribute to my more commonly used bookmarks then tweaking my XSLT to pick out all the favourites and put them all at the top of the page.

So far, so good.

It then occured to me that I could generate an RSS feed (again using XSLT) from my favourites and have that as a live bookmark in Firefox.

This is great, now all the pages I access frequently are in a drop-down list in my toolbar, and all I have to do to update them is add/remove favourite attributes from my XML file (ahem, then regenerate the RSS feed – but that’s now scheduled automatically).

This works great for me – but is obviously too clunky and downright byzantine for your average Joe.

But what if Firefox could do this automatically?

It would have to allow you to flag a bookmark as a “favourite” then it could internally generate an RSS feed for it – heck, it could even track which bookmarks you access and do it from that.

This may even be do-able as a Firefox extension.

Or is it only geeks like me that think this would be useful?

Say no to “Premium Content”

And I thought it was just me who had no interest in downloading music videos over the Internet.

Seems I’m not the only one.

“Within a few hours of Peter Shorthouse leading his under-8 charges at Woking Boys Athletic to victory in the semi-final of the Surrey Primary League Lower Cup, I had sent him the video clips of key moments in the game (the winning goal being scored by one Aaron Birch!), put clips on our private family blog and emailed clips to friends and colleagues.”

The scenario described is much closer to how many people use Broadband I suspect but I guess ISPs and the like haven’t yet figured out how to make money from it.

Flickr down (for me)

I had planned to do some work on my Flickr interface last night.

Only Flickr was down. 🙁

In the morning Flickr was back up, and they had taken the time to post a full explanation “for geeks and completists”.

As both a geek and a completist I was very happy that they did this.

Seems it wasn’t down at all, they had a load balancer problem that affected certain connections, but not others, I was one of the unlucky ones.

Kudos to them for giving the explanation, wish more sites would do that.

Go Gmail!

I have recently migrated over to using Gmail as my main email client.

This decision wasn’t taken lightly.

I am very obsessive about email, I don’t delete emails (except spam).

Being able to go back to an email I sent 5 years ago is important to me (I can’t really rationalise why).

Because of this I don’t change email clients lightly.

I used Outlook and its variants when I first went online and then switched to Mutt about 5 years ago.

I still keep Outlook installed so I can easily go back through all the emails I’ve sent and received since going online (apart from that catastrophic disk failure a few years back but I don’t like to dwell on that).

So, why switch?

Mutt is pretty cool and has lots of advantages, like being able to read mail over ssh and letting me use Vim to write emails, but over the years I’ve grown more and more annoyed by its shortcomings.

It’s attachment handling is pretty crummy (especially if I need to view the attachment on a Windows box when reading email on Linux).

I store my email in maildirs and I’ve yet to find an effective way to search for email in more than one folder at a time.

Using Mutt over ssh is not so convenient when using someone else’s PC, Web-based email programs are much better for that.

Gmail is a very slick app, the labels and search stuff are way beyond anything Mutt can muster.

However, someone as obsessive as I am about email is never going to trust my email to be stored only on someone else’s server.

So all my email gets routed to both Gmail and my home PC.

This gives me a backup if anything goes wrong and also allows me to read emails when offline (which of course never happens).

I keep copies of outgoing emails by BCC’ing myself on emails sent from Gmail (automatic BCC to my home email is number one on my Gmail wish-list).

That last thing I do to ensure I keep copies of all emails is to set my Reply-To address to my home address, so replies go to home (and get copied to Gmail of course).

In summary, go Gmail!