Dishwashing the Keyboard

This post is long overdue. No one is going to read this, so I’ll give you the short, short version.

I spilled coffee into my keyboard. The right half stopped functioning.

I read blog posts insisting that you can put a keyboard in the dishwasher.

I did.

The left side continued working correctly after the wash, to my amazement, but it did not fix the problem.

The dishwasher miraculously didn’t damage the keyboard, but it didn’t fix the coffee corrupted problem, as I read that it would.

I bought a new one.

The end.

Twitter Pictures Run Amuck

Back in the early days when Twitter created the ability to add photos to tweets, people used it in a useful and meaningful way. I, for one, use it the way it was intended to be used. I’ll take a photo of something, then tweet it and attach the photo.

Over time, news outlets and other organizations have begun abusing the feature as a way to attract attention to their news links, which are usually just click bait, but that’s a topic in and of itself. I can potentially see a little value of including a photo if it is directly related to what they are tweeting about.

For example, a tech site may write an article about a company CEO who has a big announcement coming later that day. They will likely attach a photo to the tweet of that person speaking at a previous announcement, or something along those lines.

Overall, I think it’s fairly useless. If for no other reason, they have to shorten the tweet to make room for the photo URL that Twitter adds at the end. I’ve seen abbreviated or fragmented tweets crafted in order to make room for the address space needed for the photo.

Lately, this entire practice has reached the point of absurdity.

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed today and saw the most ridiculous example that I’ve seen to date. It comes in a tweet from Business Insider.

I took a screenshot of the tweet and have posted it below. Take a look. This is exactly what I’m talking about. There is absolutely no sense in this. What a blatant waste of time and resources this is. This crap needs to stop.

Business Insider Tweet Example

Worn iPhone Home Button Fix

Over last weekend, the home button on my iPhone started to become less responsive. By Sunday night, it had nearly stopped working entirely. To get it to work, I had to mash it hard with my thumb. The amount of pressure required was surely going to wear it out even faster. Double-tapping didn’t work at all. I was worried that my phone would soon be a goner. As it turns out, things aren’t so bad.

I still have an iPhone 5. I bought it 2 1/2 years ago. It has held up remarkably well over that time. It is in nearly flawless condition. I just entered my purchase date in an online date calculator, and it turns out that I have had the phone for a whopping 907 days. I’ve taken very good care of it. Fortunately, the battery also remains in great shape, despite years of usage.

Considering how well my phone as aged, I was disappointed when my home button began to flake out over the weekend. I went online and looked up potential home remedies to get it working again. I learned some interesting tricks.

If the home button is completely unusable, you can still use the phone by enabling AssistiveTouch, which is an Accessibility feature in iOS. You can find it in Settings > General > Accessibility. Once AssistiveTouch is turned on, a small circle will appear at the bottom right of the screen that allows you to use a virtual home button in place of the physical one. Cool!

Since my button was still working to some degree, I looked for a solution to repair it. I found a terrific page listing several such solutions. You can find that page here.

Last night I tried the solution of pressing and wiping around the home button with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. I didn’t seem to make any immediate difference. However, this morning, the home button was suddenly working perfectly again. It’s as good as new! Even the gentlest tap now elicits a response, and double-tapping works again as well. Problem solved!

If you are experiencing a similar problem, visit the link above and try one (or all) of those solutions. Hopefully one will get you up and running!

Third-Party Keyboards on iOS 8

I’ve been experimenting with two third-party keyboards on iOS 8: Swiftkey and Swype. I want to share my thoughts.

If you’re an Android user, you’ve had access to third-party keyboards for years. I know this. I’m not under any illusion that alternative keyboards are a sudden revolution. I’ve wanted to try Swype for a long time, and I’m glad that Apple has finally opened up the platform to allow third-party keyboards.

Swype is a great keyboard and it works incredibly well. I have not experienced a single mistake while using it. It is actually rather astounding. I applaud the work that the developers have put into Swype. The only downside for me is that I can’t use it easily with one hand. I have to hold my phone in one hand, and swipe they keys with the other. I don’t consider that to be a limitation, but the result is that I find myself rarely using it.

Swiftkey is my favorite of the third-party keyboard offerings. The best element is the upper and lowercase display of the keyboard letters, based on what mode I am in. That alone solves one of my biggest annoyances with Apple’s keyboard. On the Apple keyboard, the letters are displayed as uppercase all the time, so I often get confused if I am typing in caps or not. Swiftkey is also highly accurate with my two-thumb style of typing. The black display is an interesting look. It would be cool if they had an option for different colors, but that isn’t important.

Both of the aforementioned keyboards are solid, and are great in their own right. However, I don’t care for the somewhat clumsy way that iOS implements them. I have to go way out of my way to access another keyboard, each time, on the fly. Apple seems to want to inconvenience you into using their keyboard.

I want to be able to set a single keyboard as the default in the operating system settings. Without being able to do that, I end up with Apple’s keyboard time and time again. The standard Apple keyboard pops up the majority of the time.

A clear example of this annoying behavior is when I write a quick reply to a text notification. In iOS 8, a reply window appears immediately in front of whatever I am doing, without having to launch the Messages app. When the keyboard appears for that reply window, it is always the Apple keyboard. At least, this has been my experience.

The OS doesn’t seem to have any logical memory retention of my last keyboard selection. Sometimes when I am texting with someone using Swiftkey, for instance, it will remember that when I return to write that person again later. However, if I begin texting someone else, it reverts back to the Apple keyboard, for seemingly no reason, despite the fact that I am using the same Messages app to compose text that I’d used with the other person.

It is my understanding that when you are entering a password, Apple forces you to use their keyboard. I don’t see that as a problem, as they are attempting to protect users from their password entry being captured by the third-party keyboard developers. Sure, that’s a little paranoid on their part, but I can understand why they designed it that way.

If you like to use Emojis in your messages, you will find the extra keyboards to be very annoying. I like to swap between text and Emojis when I message my friends. Having four keyboards on the system makes that very difficult. If I am using Swiftkey, I have to tap the keyboard globe three or four times to get to the Emojis, then tap the globe another three or four times to get back to the keyboard I was using. Even more annoying, each keyboard doesn’t have the globe key in the exact same place. All of that unnecessary tapping just to insert a smiley face in a text message gets old fast.

Having done my experiments with Swype and Swiftkey, I’ve decided to disable them for the time being and continue to use the Apple keyboard, with a side of Emojis. I don’t have problem with the Apple keyboard, beyond the uppercase letter display that I mentioned earlier. The addition of predictive text in iOS 8 is a welcomed feature that I find to be very useful.

The alternative keyboards are great, but I find it to be too much work to constantly toggle between them. If the Apple keyboard is going to appear more than 50% of the time anyway, I don’t see a compelling reason to fight against the operating system to try to use another one.

The End of My AdSense Experiment

One year ago, I added Google AdSense ads to my website. I placed an unobtrusive box on the right sidebar where the ads would be contained. Placing ads on my site was an experiment to see if I could make enough change to cover my hosting fees. I wasn’t expecting to make a lot of money from it, but what I have made isn’t worth messing with.

After one full year using AdSense, I have earned a grand total of $6.52. Nearly half of that sum came from a single click not long after I got started. Looking at my current stats, I have earned a mere 3 cents in the last 28 days.

I chose not to put ads on the mobile version of my site. I thought that would look tacky. Considering that, and the fact that my site doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it’s sensible that my earnings would be very low.

I think that the quality of the ads was pretty good overall. I don’t recall a time when I looked at my site and was unhappy with the ad content. I just find them to be a distraction.

This morning I removed the ads. There’s not a compelling reason to leave them up. The page is cleaner, and my site is classier without them.

The Annoying iOS Game Center Banner

I’d like to submit a complaint about the Game Center banner in iOS. When you load a game in iOS that works with Game Center, a banner slides down from the top of the screen that says, “Welcome back, [your username].” My argument is that it is too large and hangs around a little too long. Sure, this is a rather nit-picky thing to gripe about, but if you load games often enough, trust me, it will slowly chip away at your tolerance.

A great example of how the banner is super annoying is with one of my favorite games at the moment, called Kingdom Rush. Kingdom Rush has background game music that I prefer to turn off. (I turn off all in-game background music, actually.) The problem, particularly with Kingdom Rush is that the music is re-enabled every time I launch the game. The controls for turning it off are in the upper left corner of the launch screen. When I load the game, the music cranks up and I scramble to turn it off, except I can’t turn it off quickly because of the annoying Game Center banner that is lingering at the top of the screen.

I think that Apple should redesign the banner to take up less space in future versions of the operating system. Moreover, it would be nice to have an option to disable it entirely. I would disable it if I could.

Having said all that, I have an even greater idea for how to handle this. Perhaps they could reprogram it to only enable a (smaller) banner when the phone is silenced. When the phone is not silenced, how about a voice that simply whispers “Game Center” when you launch a game? It would be wispy and fun. Wouldn’t that be much better than the annoying banner? I think so.

iOS Game Center Banner

Instagram App Feature Requests

I have three app feature requests for the folks over at Instagram. The developers have steadily improved the app since it came out in 2010, but a few potentially convenient options are still absent. As a reference point, as of this writing, the latest version of the Instagram iOS app is 5.0.11.

  1. I want the ability toggle image filters on and off. After I snap a photo, I’m taken to the filter selection screen. I usually tap through the filters to see if any of them enhance my photo in an interesting way. After I scroll past the first few, the “Normal” picture option has moved off the screen. If I want to compare the filtered photo against the original unfiltered photo, I have to scroll the filter list back to the start and tap “Normal.” This has always annoyed me. I want to be able to tap any filter in the list to turn it on, then tap it again to turn it back off, so I can clearly see the difference. Am I the only person who has longed for this? If only one of these three suggestions are implemented, I want it to be this one. Make it so!
  2. Users should be allowed to delete individual comments posted to their photos. If there is a way to do this currently, I am not aware of it. I’ve tried, but haven’t found a way to delete comments. This should have been implemented long ago. Such a feature would be of particular use for popular users and celebrities whose photos garner thousands of comments, some of which can get rather ugly.
  3. Users should be allowed to edit their picture posts/descriptions. If I hastily post a picture and realize that I’ve made an embarrassing typo, I have to delete the picture entirely, upload a new one, and type a new description. I shouldn’t have to do all that. That is just a waste of time, effort, and resources. Facebook began allowing users to edit their status updates a while back, and considering that they own Instagram, I had expected the feature to be added to the app by now.

Netflix Should Offer Single Disc Rentals

I’ve been a Netflix customer for a long time. For the past several years, I have only subscribed to the Instant Watch streaming service. I haven’t had a need for the full-fledged DVD subscription in quite some time. Having said that, it would be nice to be able to rent a disc once in a while.

I propose that Netflix offer individual DVD titles on demand. It would be nice to get a disc from time to time without having to subscribe to the full DVD rental service.

The titles available on DVD & Blu-ray far outnumber what is available to stream over the Internet on Instant Watch. If I want to rent a movie that is only available on disc, I should be able to rent it individually.

When I search for a movie that isn’t available to stream, I’d like to be able to click a button and have them mail me the DVD for a flat fee. They could charge $2 or so and add that charge to my bill the following month. They could set a time span of one week for the customer to watch and return the movie by mail.

Something worth mentioning is that currently, if you are not enrolled in the Netflix DVD subscription, you cannot even see those movie titles listed on their website. A search for a movie unavailable to stream merely displays a message that the title is not available on Instant Watch. The user isn’t allowed to access the list of titles on DVD. I’ve never really understood that policy.

These days, if I want to rent a movie on disc, I have to stop at a Redbox, and then go back to return the disc the following day. I’m not knocking Redbox; I think they offer a great service at a very low price. The only downside to Redbox is that their movie selection is limited to new releases.

I think that Netflix could gain extra revenue and make their customers happy if they implemented a single DVD rental policy as I have described. I think this is a great idea. They should have had something like this in place already.

Netflix mailer