Dietitian Appointment 2

Today I had my second appointment with a specialist dietitian, the first catch-up since Christmas. I put 3 pounds on over the holidays. Whilst this wasn’t good, I was also able to demonstrate that I have put things in place to deal with my weight. I genuinely feel like I am just about to get the hang of this. I am feeling far more determined than I have in a long time.

Trump has been inaugurated; put the kettle on

Before 2015 I avoided commenting on politics. I felt like all the commentators knew better and nobody would listen to me. Had I ignored that feeling you would have read here that the Tories would win in 2015, Britain would vote for Brexit in 2016 and Trump would become the 45th President of the USA in 2017. I called all three, but clearly not loudly enough.

Today Donald J. Trump has become POTUS, and made quite the inauguration speech! It wasn’t exactly unifying, but it was strong.  He was speaking to his support base, but he was also speaking to a wider world, and making it quite loud and clear that things are going to be done very differently.

We certainly live in interesting times. I’m not worried. Commentators are comparing Trump to a dictator and drawing all kinds of dark parallels.  Well, as a fairly ordinary working man in these times I can say I don’t feel scared.

As my wife said, as she walked into Trump speaking right now: “Oh no, not him again! Are we going to watch him all night?!”

She then went off to make a cup of tea. Her actions speak volumes about how ordinary men and women up and down the UK feel about today’s somewhat historic events: some will simply prefer a cup of tea and something else on the other side; whilst some will want a cup of tea with which to sit down and spectate all the interesting things about to happen.

Put the kettle on. Stuff just got exciting.

Turn the TV Licence into a News Passport

Online news is a tricky business. Journalists gotta eat, so do sub-editors and even the editors themselves. Yet we somehow feel as consumers that news should be free. We need to know what’s going on in the world, therefore we shouldn’t have to pay for it. We also need water, and yet we begrudgingly pay our water companies so we don’t go thirsty or unwashed.

So what choice do news organisations have today? Either they charge you directly for your consumption, or they get someone else to pay for your consumption: advertising revenue.

The problem for the news organisations is how quickly we become ‘advert blind’. We already ignore sidebar adverts, so they have to turn to ever more annoying and disruptive means to get our attention:

  • Videos that automatically play as soon as you land on the page
  • Adverts that slide the content you are trying to read out of the way
  • Pop-ups that ask for your email address before you continue
  • Wrap-arounds that go outside of the main page but follow you down the page as you scroll
  • Surveys where you have to answer a question before reading the article

… and so the list will grow.

 

But more than the above mechanisms, there’s the need to drive people to the page in the first place. That’s where clickbait and fake news comes in.  Bluntly, they’re money spinners.

What’s the answer, then?  Personally, I’d suggest we turn the TV Licence in to a general ‘News & Information Fund’ and spread what it raises to beyond just the BBC. Any news organisation should be able to apply for a slice of funding.

But also, any news organisation should offer the option to ‘pay to remove ads’. Maybe you could turn the TV Licence into a ‘News & Information Passport’ that is optional. You’d need it to be able to sign in to news websites and to use your television. All would work without signing-in, but you’ll be plastered with adverts instead.

My first time volunteering at a job club

It’s a good job I like being thrown into the deep end, because that’s what happened today when I made good on a New Year pledge to volunteer for a good cause by spending a couple of hours helping the jobless folk in my local area with their CV, covering letters, applying for jobs, and associated activities.

It was a busy session at the public library, and though everyone was as nice as they could be it was a case of needing to roll up sleeves and get stuck in – too many people needing help and too few volunteers.

My first session was with a Turkish immigrant who had been in the UK for over 12 years, quite legally and properly. They had completed studies here, worked here for some time, and eventually got to the position of running a company. It was a small shop set in older buildings. One day the mutual who owns the land and buildings decided to build a nice new shopping centre there instead. They duly invited the existing shop owners to move in when it was ready – at SEVEN times the rate they were paying before. That put the shop out of business, and so life became tough for the person sitting in front of me. They were bright, articulate, motivated and had a very good set of skills and work experience, but was just not able to get companies to call them back and through to the interview stage. I offered some layout, grammar and punctuation suggestions for their CV and suggested we talk again next week.

My second session was with someone who was looking for part-time low-skilled work to fit around childcare commitments. I searched the database for jobs and found one. But before you think this is a happy ending, sadly it wasn’t appropriate – not because the client was being fussy, it just wasn’t offering the right shift pattern. That was it. One inappropriate job in the whole database for an area stretching 10 miles. We looked for other types of work with similar skills. Nothing. It was at this point they asked me to write down in their benefits book about our activities, so I had a flick through the previous pages. It was stuffed with week upon week of job searching activity, meticulously detailing the job title, area and/or company that had been applied to. They were certainly not suffering from a lack of effort. The only silver lining for this client was another library user nearby overhead us and suggested she try a charity down the road who might be able to offer short-term work on an adhoc basis. That was very kind, and a heartwarming moment of one stranger helping another in an act of simple kindness.

My third and final session was with someone who was also after low-skilled labour, but had managed to find a vacancy and was in need of some computer assistance to complete the process. This experience really hammered home to me how some people really struggle with the IT equipment I take for granted. I mean really struggle. Then, they come up against systems that don’t work – as readers of this blog will know, that’s a pet hate of mine. It’s not so much that they’re broken because of a fault; it’s because their broken by design and implementation. Here was someone whose typing speed was around 1 letter every 5 seconds being confronted with numerous login screens, security processes, dialog boxes, inputs and controls. It’s annoying for me, but for him it was an intimidating torture for which there was no other way around.

I left the experience with mixed feelings. It felt good to help, and I enjoyed it. But it also felt so frustrating at the same time.

Eventbrite Mobile Login Screen Doesn’t Load

EventBrite Login

Use Case

Get up in the morning and make your porridge. Notice an email has come in from the boss with a question that means you need to check an exact amount for a sale on EventBrite. Observe that laptop is shut down and hope to be able to check quickly on the phone instead.

Reproduction

Access www.eventbrite.com in Safari on iPhone (iOS 10.1.1). Expand menu and hit ‘login’. Modal popup loads, but login form doesn’t appears. Persists after refresh.

Workaround

After nearly burning porridge having wasted time trying to get form to work give up on the idea of having a quick win and therefore reducing all the stuff you’ve got to do later, and have to get the data later after starting up the laptop.

Sarcasm aside, you could try clearing the browser’s cache or try accessing the page using private browsing mode. You shouldn’t have to of course.

Fix

The developers could write a check to ensure any modal dialogs have fully opened by detecting the state of various DOM features; or they could limit the amount of time the spinning circle is shown for – making the assumption that if the circle has been active for more than 35 seconds then clearly the UI has failed to load. At this point, redirect the user to a different mechanism for logging in, such as a static login page. Failing that, at least give a simple alert() dialog to tell the user about the failure and prompt them to clear their cache and try again.

Beachbody On Demand UK: A warning about customer service…

Like almost everyone else in the world at New Year I signed up to a new fitness programme – or rather I tried.

I happen to like the P90X system and would happily pay a monthly subscription to access streaming videos for it. Even better that Beachbody On Demand offered a 30-day free trial.

So I handed over my data, ready to accept future charges too – I’m in this for the long haul.

Got the confirmation email. But no login details. I noticed the bit in the email that said: “You will receive your login credentials within four hours of your order confirmation email.”

But seriously, what kind of system takes FOUR HOURS. I decided to push my luck on the online chat. My daughter was pestering me to start playing the videos, so being the dutiful father I didn’t want to disappoint her.

So I got onto the chat system. After all, it does say to do that on the login form:

Here’s what transpired:

Mike Rouse: My order confirmation email doesn’t contain any login details – how do I access the Beachbody On Demand service from the UK?
Ashish Acharya: Hi, my name is Ashish Acharya. Let me take a quick look at your question, and we’ll get started.
Ashish Acharya: Mike, I will resolve your concern.
Ashish Acharya: In this case please contact our voice support team at 0121-620-8111. Available Monday – Friday 8am to 8pm GMT (12am to 12pm PT).
Ashish Acharya: Saturday 9am to 4pm GMT (1am to 8am PT)
Mike Rouse: Seriously?
Ashish Acharya: They will assist you with further queries.
Ashish Acharya: Apart from this, is there anything else I could assist you with today?
Mike Rouse: Well, I was hoping it was a second email that would contain my username or something. I mean, it does advertise itself as an “anytime, anywhere” service, not a “after you call us” service. Is the office at that number open today as it is a public holiday here in the UK?
Mike Rouse: I mean, it even says on the bottom of the Sign In form that “UK Residents: please contact us via Live Chat”, which is what I’ve done.
Ashish Acharya: You can call after public holiday .
Mike Rouse: Wow. OK. So, not much help then, and not really fair to be misleading in your advertising. Are you OK if I post a transcript of this chat on my blog and on Twitter as a warning to other potential UK users? I mean, it seems fair to warn them that they’ll have to call an office to get their login details, right?
Ashish Acharya: You are most welcome.
Ashish Acharya: Thank you for chatting. In the future, if you have any questions, feel free to reach us through our help page. You can find answers to common questions or contact us via email or Live Chat. Please visit us at: https://faq.beachbody.com/app/home/lob/beach
Ashish Acharya has disconnected.

Yep, that’s right. You have to call a number to get your login details before you can access the service that has advertised itself as “access anytime, anywhere”.

So I did some Twitter digging to see who else has encountered this. Maybe it was just me. This conversation is enlightening:

https://twitter.com/CPLauthor/status/802941436454981632

And this tweet also demonstrates that UK users are treated less favourably than their US counterparts:

I have tweeted at the Beachbody account(s) to see what’s going on, but have had no response at the time of pressing publish.

I did indeed get my login details after waiting. It seems someone needs to have a word with the live chat guys. The correct response to me would have been:

  1. “We see you signed up x hours ago. Please wait 2 hours for your details to arrive. Sorry it takes so long, but please bear with us”
  2. “We see you signed up x hours ago. We normally ask you to wait for your details, but if you give me a second I’ll generate them manually for you right now.”

Either would have done. Not fob me off to a phone number. That’s why you’ve got this blog post.

 

Security issues when logging into EE online serviving

Why am I posting this? I’m making an effort to start recording *all* of my tech-related problems, because I seem to have a rather lot of them! It feels like every site I visit, every service I try to use. Today alone I’ve had 3 problems and this is now the 4th. I get it’s Bank Holiday and all, but y’know, the whole deal with the web was how it never took a day off.

The latest example is when I try to log in to my EE account online (which, by the way I’ve only turned to because productivity has been blocked by other failures in other systems). It looks like this all of a sudden:

Click to enlarge.

Furthermore, the address bar and dev tools throws up some interesting data:

I tweeted EE about it. They were very good to respond very quickly.

It appears to me like they’re doing some updates on what they probably think is a quiet bank holiday and a good time to be doing it. Not sure making changes in the live environment for a major provider like this is wise, but hey-ho, I guess I’ll try and do something else for my business – that is if there’s a single system out there that’s working today.

 

When using Chrome, Office 365 says “Error: The message can’t be closed for the following reason: The message can’t be saved right now. Please try again later.”

I’m writing this blog post because it’s just too much to put into a tweet, and because when the nice people at Microsoft have engaged with me over Twitter they’ve just sent me a link to a website that doesn’t seem to do anything.  So here it is, along with a work-around.

Variations of Message

  • “The message can’t be saved right now. Please try again later.”

 

Problem

Whilst using the features of Office 365 inside the Google Chrome browser (Version 55.0.2883.87 m (64-bit)) the user suddenly loses the ability to send messages, save messages, or open messages in a new window.

Areas Affected

Office 365 Browser-based Email App
Office 365 Browser-based Tasks App

Additional Factors

User is unable to use Outlook Desktop app because said app suddenly refuses to open. It hangs on the “Opening” splash screen with the message “Processing”. App will remain in this state for hours until closed manually.

Reproduction

  1. Open Google Chrome and go to https://portal.office.com/
  2. Log in with your Office 365 Organisational Credentials
  3. Click the “Mail” app
  4. Start a reply to a message
  5. Spend ages writing out your reply
  6. Hit send. Get message “Error: The message can’t be closed for the following reason: The message can’t be saved right now. Please try again later.”

Alternatively, at step 3 open the “Tasks” app instead, and then:

  1. Click into a task and hit reply-all
  2. Spend ages writing a reply
  3. Hit send. Get message “Error: The message can’t be closed for the following reason: The message can’t be saved right now. Please try again later.”

Additionally:

  1. Attempt to save a draft of the message. Get error message: “Error: The message can’t be saved right now. Please try again later.”

Failed Workarounds

  1. Attempt to open Outlook and use the Desktop app instead. Failed. App fails to open.
  2. Copy and paste the text of your reply to Notepad or another location to keep it safe. Close browser, clear cache and cookies, log out of Office 365, log back in to a fresh session, and then try to send message again. Fails. Error persists.
  3. As per 2, but disable ALL Chrome extensions. Fails. Error persists.
  4. As per 2+3, but use a Private Browsing session. Fails. Error persists.
  5. As per Cory in the comments, wiping and reinstalling the whole Chrome profile also fails to fix.

Successful Workarounds

  1. Open Microsoft Edge browser and send your message from a session within there.
  2. Open Outlook using the “outlook.exe /safe” command. This seems to cause regular nags for credentials, but can be used to send/receive messages. (Fixes for this may be found here)

Speculations/Observations

  • Everything seems OK when logging in to do something quickly. Problem only seems to arise when trying to operate a longer productivity session inside Chrome.
  • I speculate the problem can be replicated and is fixable by Microsoft.
  • When Outlook finally starts (in safe mode) it constantly nags for credentials and seems to “lose” the credentials given frequently. However, in safe mode, emails can be sent/received.
  • Suddenly, from 10 January 2017 I have been able to use Outlook with no problems – despite me not changing anything.

Conclusion

Success rate of operating Office 365 inside Google Chrome is around 50%.

Most of my clients are in a position where they have not been able to upgrade to Windows 10 and gain access to Edge. It is also not desirable to have Office 365 in one browser and other apps (which have compatibility issues inside of IE & Edge) running in Chrome. This causes confusion and consternation amongst users.

Furthermore, the web-based experience provides features and services that are not properly covered in the Desktop App – when working properly it provides a greater level of productivity.

It’s the end of 2016…

I’ve never really gone in for New Years Resolutions, but I do get reflective at the end of a year and I would like to think about what I’d like to do and where I want to be (as a person) in 2017.
2016 has been a great year. I’m sorry if you’re a big follower of celebrities, pro-EU and anti-Trump. For you things must look pretty grim. But for the rest of us things went pretty well in 2016. 
Personally, it was a good year. I got to go to Florida for the first time in my life and attended some kick-ass events, always in my favourite capacity as a helper rather than guest.  I have some great people in my life who encourage me and support me a lot.
My weight has also been stable for most of 2016 thanks to the intervention and support of some very good friends and family. I have a lot more to do in 2017, and will be writing about the adventure more on my blog. But, on the whole it was a step in the right direction. At least I’ve ended yo-yo’ing and actually that was a major goal for 2016.
2016 is probably the first year in a very long time where I actually started to look forward and see the point of life. I ended my run on anti-depressants and started counselling. I’ve come through the worst of it and can finally plan ahead for 2017. That’s why I wanted to write this post. 
For me, there’s a few things I want to see happen in 2017:
  1. I want to get more organised in my work life. Work smart, not hard. I want to focus on what I love and delegate the rest, becoming very good at fewer things rather than trying to be good at too many thing and failing miserably.  To that end, I have taken the very big step of investing in a virtual assistant to help me.  With help at the back-end of my business life I am hoping to get out more – meet more people and take up more consulting and sales work. Ultimately, I want to stop being the geek in the corner stuck on a computer at all hours of the day and night.
  2. I want to sort out my health and weight. Sorting out my working life will allow me to focus on me a bit more. Get the gym, write a diet plan for a few days ahead, track my calories and get some exercise. It has to be the year I sort myself out. 
  3. 2017 has to be the year we get on the property ladder as a family. We are fed up of this draughty horrible house and want to start pulling together a home we can call our own. 
  4. Finally, 2017 has to be a year of giving. I have signed up to volunteer my time to a group supporting the unemployed and that should start in early 2017. I also want to get involved with helping homeless people and have made enquiries about that.
I am grateful to everyone in my life who has made 2016 a good year for me. You know who you are. You mean a lot to me. 
I hope I can make 2017 an even better year, not just for me, but for all those around me too, especially my second child due in April. 

Thursday 22 December 2016

Dear Evelyn,

It was back to nursery today for you after a 2 day break. You were supposed to go to a Christmas Party there yesterday, but I had to pinch the car so I could drive to Canterbury and back for a meeting. I did suggest you and your mum take a taxi, but we won’t dwell on that. Instead, the nursery was kind enough to throw a mini party again today. You even won at ‘musical bumps’. Well done!

For me, there was less partying and plenty of working, but first I had to go to see a specialist dietician at the big hospital – the one in Worcester where your brother or sister will be born in April. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive, and then you have to allow around 30 minutes to get parked on the site. That’s because the car parking system has no idea when the car park is full or not, so it just keeps letting people in. So you drive through the barrier, and then have to just keep driving around until someone leaves and you can take their space. I hope your future sibling will be able to wait to be born whilst we mess around trying to get parked.

But I got there, that’s the main thing. The appointment went well. I was weighed and then sat down for a chat with the specialist who took me through various options and gave me a lot of paperwork to go through later. I have to fill out lots of forms and answer lots of questions to help them put together a plan to help me.

The first thing we agreed to work on is slowing down the rate at which I eat. I’ve got to work hard to notice how quickly I am eating and then slow it right down. This will help me to recognise when I am full and help me feel satisfied with less food. So if I look a bit silly whilst I’m eating over the next few weeks it’s because I’m trying hard to concentrate on what I am doing.

After the hospital I went back to my office and did my work at the computer. I had lots to do, especially as I hope to take some time off over Christmas. But because I’m self-employed it basically means I have to cram all the work I would normally be doing into fewer days.  You’ll understand what I mean if you ever become self-employed.

After doing my work I came to collect you from nursery at around 5:30pm. It felt like I didn’t see you much this evening. You were in bed by 7pm, though you kicked up a fuss about going. Just a few more sleeps and it’ll be Christmas… which reminds me, I need to get some last minute things ordered from Amazon. Thank heavens for Prime.