Google-ability and usability can be intertwined sometimes

Lately I’ve been having SMTP problems in Apple’s Mail client. My host requires authorization before SMTP use, and every so often I’ll spend more than a few minutes writing an email that will exceed my host’s timeout settings, and Mail will refuse to send the message, even after I check for new mail and attempt a resend.

So like any other problem, I go to google to solve it, but I can’t find anything useful from a basic search. About the only useful link I could find in the first couple pages was the textad along the side offering a SMTP service. Then it dawned on me: Apple’s program has terrible search engine usability due to the generic name that is shared by multiple uses and contexts. While I can see why Apple would call their email client “Mail” to promote simplicity on their desktop for new users, the name inhibits search engine use for information about the product.

Searches for Eudora or Entourage along with the same criteria return more focused results, it’s too bad Apple didn’t give it a unique name that still made it sound obviously like an email client.

Title 9

I’ve enjoyed watching every televised world cup game since the 1994 cup that came to America, and I enjoyed the Women’s World Cup too (who can forget Brandi Chastain?). It’s great to watch women play as the game seems to focus more on the fundamentals with less brutal tackles and penalty kicks deciding a match. Early this year I caught a preliminary game and noticed the previous event was four years ago, making this year another World Cup year, but I haven’t heard a peep on TV or news about it.

I dug around tonight and found out the Women’s World Cup 2003 starts in less than a month. They’ve picked a US team and announced the matches in LA, Portland, Boston, Philly, Ohio, and Washington DC. I forgot they cancelled the planned event in China because of SARS, so I’m going to take advantage of it being stateside and try and hit at least a game or two, either in Portland or LA.

I hope the games get some air time on American television, the 1999 cup was one of my favorite sporting events I’ve ever witnessed and it was a great example of why women’s sports matter.

update: thanks to TicketSatan, I just spent $400 on tickets to first round and semi-final matches, which I can’t wait to see.


The news that the BBC is opening up their archives online is some great news, but ever since I first heard the idea, I wondered why they hadn’t already, and why PBS hasn’t done the same.

I know they both have quite a cottage industry selling transcripts, DVDs, and videotapes, but it seems like a publicly funded station is under the obligation to make their content freely available for the public; that what the BBC is planning to do should be the norm not the exception it currently is.

For all the Typepad users in the hiz-ouse

I was tired of seeing great sites like TypePad Resources sporting lopsided multi-column CSS layouts (in Mozilla, in IE6/PC they are fine), where the columns are different heights and the white backgrounds don’t extend all the way down, so I wrote up a small trick I discovered when testing out Typepad, and something I used when designing the PVRblog templates (they were based on the default Typepad templates).

PeoplePC deserves death

A while back I described the hell my disabled and retired father is going through while wandering the depths of the Hinternet, and when his computer became completely inoperable my mom went down to Fry’s and picked up a decent cheap new PC. After a few days using it, he was again left with a computer rendered useless by viruses and spyware. I told him to mail the new PC to me and I’d set it up properly.

Last weekend I formatted the machine, installed WinXP Pro, made the latest Firebird the default browser, updated the OS, added a virus scanning program, setup his email accounts, setup his dialup, and added dyndns so I could terminal into his machine to fix it in the future.

He got the revamped machine on Friday and used it happily for a couple days. Today I got a call from him, saying his email was no longer working. The error messages sounded like some settings were changed and he assured me he didn’t modify anything in Outlook Express (I want to put him on Thunderbird, but he insisted on OE). After an hour on the phone troubleshooting and me using remote desktop on his machine, I could tell he installed some software and I could see he was using IE again.

It turns out he installed the PeoplePC dialer/mailer package, even though I setup dialup networking to use his existing PeoplePC dialup, and had shortcuts to OE and Firebird on his desktop. I guess a lot of users like to click on one thing that lets them dialup, shows them mail, and shows them the news.

But as far as I can tell, when he installed and ran the PeoplePC package, it rendered outlook express useless, because it changed his pop3 and smtp server settings on all accounts to, the loopback address. I can see why they did this, as my dad felt uncomfortable using dialup and OE alone, and went so far as to say he didn’t want a cable modem in the future because “he had everything he needed in PeoplePC.”

It seems that PeoplePC likes to keep people feeling that way. I explained to him that although he has been a paying customer of theirs for the past 3 years, their new software rendered his old settings useless, so he couldn’t use his other email accounts. He felt they took care of everything for him because their software made sure that his alternatives no longer functioned. He got the picture and said he would look into getting a cable modem or DSL line, and stop being a PeoplePC customer.

I really hope there is a special circle of hell setup for people that approved decisions like the ones at PeoplePC. I hear stories like this time and time again, and I can’t believe companies get away with such shenanigans. If you own a Ford truck, and you bring a new Chevy sedan home, the Chevy doesn’t automatically drain the oil from the Ford while you sleep the first night, making the other truck useless. Companies can’t get away with that kind of thing in the real world, so why do companies like that flourish on the internet?

I’ve always hoped that the increased communication that the internet provides would lead to freer markets; markets where people had more choices and could research company practices. It’s still my hope that open, honest companies will win out in the long run. I’m reminded of SixApart’s stance on such things, I know I’m happy to use Movable Type and Typepad, since the company has enabled import and export of data since day one. Let’s hope in the future companies with policies like that are the only ones left doing business online.