Johnathan.org

March 13, 2016

How Facebook Ads Find You

If there’s one thing that people will never stop complaining about, it’ll be ads on Facebook. Well, I take that back. They’ll stop complaining when Facebook is out of business.

Have you ever wondered how advertisers ended up targeting you, as a Facebook user? I did, then I discovered a small feature that I don’t think many know about.

The next time you see a Facebook ad you don’t think is relevant to you, click that downward facing arrow in the top-right of the ad and click “Why am I seeing this?” You’ll see something that looks like this:

This little prompt tells you exactly what you need to know. In my case, I’ve highlighted why I saw an advertisement about criminal record sealing. As someone without a criminal record, I needed to know their criteria. As it turns out, this advertiser thinks everyone that drinks whiskey is likely to have a record. Way to generalize.

March 12, 2016

Fitbit, You Frustrate Me

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of my Fitbit device. I like the idea of accountability. It may not motivate me to be more physically active, but that’s okay.

My problem, nay my supreme life struggle lies with getting my Fitbit to sync. It’s almost as if it was designed to not work.

Let me explain.

fitbit_sync_loop

I’ve been told that more times than I’m willing to admit.

This all started some time ago when I wanted to update an alarm I set on my Fitbit Charge HR. It should be easy enough:

  1. Open Fitbit App.
  2. Tap the device, tap Silent Alarms.
  3. Set alarm.

That sounds super easy, don’t you think? Usually, when you open the app, it’ll want to sync with the tracker and does so, successfully, in the background. Here’s where the problem lies: if the sync never completes, anything else you want to do has to wait. In this case, my alarms never got pushed to my tracker because the sync never completed before my phone went to sleep.

Fitbit says that’s not an issue and it’ll continue to sync after the screen goes dark, but my experience tells me otherwise. I re-visit the app and see the sync process has started over and my alarms are not set. So what do I do?

Sit and watch it. It’s almost like watching paint dry, at this point. The progress bar moves so incredibly slowly, the engineer in me wonders if it’s stuck on something. My suspicions seem correct after about five minutes, the progress bar jumps to the end and we’re finished within a few seconds.

Odd. Well, can I set my alarms, now? Sure I can. There’s nothing to indicate a sync never took place becuase my data is updated on Fitbit.com, my challenges, and it’s streaming data in as I walk around (indicated by the step counter increasing in real time).

What’s interesting, now, though, is All-day Sync is turned off. I swear I turned that on a while back. (flips the switch) I have to pair first? Ok, so pair… or don’t, that’s fine, too. the Fitbit app won’t re-pair and All-day sync never turns on… after we do the five minute sync dance, again.

My next thought is to check my bluetooth status. Is it on? Yes. Can it see my tracker? Yes. How do I know? It’s already paired.

As the kids say: dafuq?

So let’s un-pair it and let Fitbit re-pair. That seems to work just fine. All-day Sync is back on. I can also seem to update my alarms, now, but the sync process still takes an eternity.

Is there a next course of action? Of course there is, because this is technology… there’s always one more thing to try.

In this case: let’s nuke it from orbit. Not literally, though, just virtually. Still lost? Factory Restore is the term.

How do we do that? Good question. It’s not a well known thing and Fitbit doesn’t recommend it in pretty much any circmstance, but they document it anyway on their help site. The steps are pretty easy, but the timing they suggest is way off. Seven to nine seconds? More like 20.

Ok, I’ve wiped my tracker, lost all my unsynced data to the ether. Now I need to re-add it to my Fitbit account and app.

Oddly, this is painless. It’s almost like my tracker is brand new! /scarasm-sorta.

You’re probably wondering when I’ll get to the part about the sync message I so masterfully crafted into a GIF above. Don’t worry, this story isn’t over, yet.

——— fast forward some time ———

The remedy lasted all of a week and my sync problems arose, again. I’ve stopped caring so much at this point and am starting to shop around for new devices. Maybe mine is just screwed up? I don’t know. Fitbit won’t likely give me a new one as this was a corporate gift for a company for which I am no longer employed. Receipt? hah.

But guess what? I have a firmware update available! What does it fix?

Version 18.122

This release provides bug fixes and stability improvements.

Great. In other words:

Version 18.122

We didn’t really do anything you’ll ever notice, so whatever your major problem is, it likely still exists.

Advice: if you’re a software company, you don’t need to tell us everything, but give us something. Give us some sort of real incentive. Those “bug fixes” could be “improvements to app-tracker communication” or “making data gathering more accurate.” Own up to your mistakes. If all your fixes are on the backend, where no one sees them (not applicable here, remember, because we’re talking about a consumer-facing device), then be generic all day. As someone who is actively having trouble with their Fitbit on a regular basis, and have heard several of the same stories from others, you owe me this.

For the record, the previous version: 18.102, came out sometime in November, I believe, if not sooner. The device I had came with 102 pre-installed, so it could have been a lot earlier than that.

So let’s try to update the firmware, shall we? tap tap tap Hmm. I’ve invoked the update from the app, and it says it could take 5-10 minutes. Given how many times I’ve seen Fitbit do poor estimation math, I’ll say it’ll take an hour.

The Next Day

I left it updating when I went to bed. Did it finish? Nope. Progress? Zero. Well s–t. Now what? Update via computer? I guess we could try that. Like I said, there’s always one more thing to try.

Launches the Fitbit Connect app.

I’d like to update my firmware, but I have to sync first. (here’s where that looping GIF comes in) This might take a few minutes. Ok, I don’t mind.

This is where, if you know me at all, I would furrow my eyebrows and tilt my head as if to say “that shouldn’t happen.” And in all reality, it shouldn’t. Except for the fact that it doesn’t sync that way. It needs the little USB Bluetooth nubbin, because for some reason it can’t use the native Bluetooth present on my laptop.

Too bad I lost it a long time ago.

So now what?

It’s present day, and I’m currently struggling with this as I wrote this blog post, so let’s do this in real time, now. The last thing I can think of is to factory restore, again, and do the firmware update from the App. If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably just toss it for a new device.

After doing the ERASE dance, again, I’ve powered the device back on. It’s currently 0:00 in the morning. I’ve added my tracker back to the app and I’m immediately prompted to update it. Let’s give it a shot.

Hmm, this is a different update screen. It looks more legit, and it’s actually f*cking updating. This time, it invoked the update on the tracker and the progress bar appeared, something that never happened before. Perhaps my sync issue was the reason I couldn’t update my Fitbit before? That’s my theory.

It says it may take up to ten minutes, but so far it’s only taken about two to make it through the update. My hopes are starting to rise.

The update is done. It took about three minutes. All-day Sync is on. Alarms re-set.

But like last time, this is what I saw for about a week. Some follow up will be required.

In summary, I hate to think this is how those who have the same issue as I have to fix their problem. What baffles me is Fitbit makes no effort to let you know there’s a problem with the device when it can’t sync, nor when it can’t update the firmware. It seems like Fitbit literally gives zero f*cks. That’s a terrible user experience. That’s a terrible design process. It’s terrible everything. They’ve been in the game long enough to know better.

I’m excited in hopes that this will solve my problem, but I’m also near the end of my patience with Fitbit as a whole. This comes after they send me a shitty Aria scale that after less than a week forgot how to weigh. (Paraphrased; It lost the ability to calibrate on its own.) The replacement works great. Per their instructions, I threw it in the trash. They literally didn’t want it back. That literally tells me they literally know it’s an issue, literally know what causes it, but literally haven’t been able to prevent it from happening.

Last chance, Fitbit. Don’t let me down. I’ve been with you since September 2, 2014.

January 25, 2016

The Pulp Fiction Live Blog

Watch Pulp Fiction, they said. It’ll be riveting, they said.

I was told today that there’s no good reason for not seing Pulp Fiction if I saw Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight. Fine, I said to them. I’ll watch it tonight.

So here it is. I watch Pulp Fiction and write about it as the movie plays out. It’s 2 hours 33 minutes 59 seconds by Netflix’s watch.

Sweet. The classical diner scene. I forgot that guy was in this. What the hell is his name? That accent guy from Star Trek and that show about people’s ticks when they lie. I have no idea what he’s said. I need to turn up the volume.

“Garson, coffee!” heh. “Garson means boy.” heh heh. I think?

Restaurants don’t get robbed because there’s too many witnesses.

Yep. This is a Quentin Tarintino movie.

Let’s play Spot Spot the Director During His Cameo.

I think I remember starting to watch this movie, and gave up right about… here… the title credits.

Le Big Mac. Mayonaise fries. K.

I always enjoy a movie with Samuel L. Jackson. He’s got some greal emotion.

The foot massage logic is sound.

I Also always enjoy a movie with long single takes. This hallway shot is putting this movie on that list.

Staring at the backs of their heads makes me think they’re standing at urinals.

I keep lights in all my briefcases.

“Say what! Say what again!”

Don’t blink, Bruce!

That band-aid. Was he in The Matrix?

Sorry I checked out. Something about Bruce and Mr. Band-Aid and fancy coke. I don’t know.

I’m a half hour into this movie and have no idea what’s going on. Awesome.

So THAT’s where the lost Travolta meme came from. God he’s awkward looking.

Don’t be a rectangle composed of a dashed outline.

Slot cars. I remember those. I enjoyed those when I was a kid.

This is about where I fall asleep.

Yeah, it was that boring. Sometimes, I just can’t get into a movie. I fell asleep at this point and I guess I woke up to turn the TV off. About an hour later, I woke up again, thinking something from the movie snapped me awake but the TV was off. My PS4 running Netflix was still going and the movie was still running.

January 19, 2016

My Postmates Experience Live Blog

I was feeling a bit lazy tonight but wanted food, so instead of going somewhere, I desired for someone to bring the food to me. Are they up to the challenge of being summoned by Postmates, picking up my Gyro and traversing Silicon Valley, to my driveway, through the first controlled access roadblock, to my building, and through the second controlled access liftway? Let’s find out.

This is my pseudo-live blog on my first Postmates experience.

Stay tuned to the end to see if the food was any good!

7:10pm – I found my tasty greek food just a few miles away, and with a wait time of roughly 40ish minutes. For $24 with all extras and fees, I’m super excited to get my gyro fix, thanks to Athena Grill.

Using Apple Pay made this even simpler. I love paying with my thumb.

7:13pm – Postmates says 51 minutes, and will be picked up by someone we’ll code name Sheepdog, since I didn’t ask them if they were okay with being mentioned. Sweet! More than 40 but less than an hour, so I’m good. I’m not terribly hungry yet, so no need for alarm.

7:17pm – Postmates called. They want to know if I wanted fries with my Gyro… well… I didn’t ask for fries in my order, so no.

7:20pm – Postmates calls again. They confirmed with Athena Grill: no fries. I ask if this is a normal exchange, since this is my first time using the service. The gentleman on the phone says no and that they only asked because fries or a drink typically comes with the gyro.

I can understand the double-check, but the app should have told me this was an option. The menu in Postmates wasn’t very clear on this, in fact I didn’t know fries were a thing with the Gyro. Oh well. I didn’t really want them, anyway, so it’s no a huge deal. Some room for improvement, there.

7:24pm – I’m checking my app, again, curious to see how this exchange affected my delivery time. We’re up to 59 minutes, now. Hmm. Well, I guess I’ll let that go since there was some confusion on the order. No biggie. As I type this, the countdown timer is dropping pretty quickly. What was 59 minutes is now 51 minutes, in the span of two earth minutes. Looks like either Postmates has their own measure of time, or the Postmates universe moves faster than Earth. Noted.

7:27pm – 48 minutes. Thinking about this food is making me hungrier. Thinking about this food while writing about thinking about this food is just adding to the struggle. Time to include this for the first time in this post: Affirmation of Laziness as a Service. We’ll call it AoLaaS.

7:28pm – 40 minutes. Theory on Postmates Universe time constriction confirmed. Time to start writing my award-winning paper. Hon. Dr. Johnathan Lyman. I like the way that sounds.

7:31pm – I think I should text Sheepdog, and say thank you.

Hey Sheepdog, thanks for picking up my food, this evening! Just to confirm the entry codes: if you can’t get throug the gate, use ** … the elevator is **. Thanks!

Having a non-local number is hard for my dual-call-box system. I haven’t given up my WA area code so issuing manual access codes is required. I’m trying to be a nice guy, here.

7:33pm – Sheepdog thanks me for the info. For a minute I thought she wasn’t going to respond. This creepy guy texting her.

7:34pm – 8 minutes. She’s on her way to the food. I can see it on the map! Starting to get excited.

7:38pm – Sheepdog securing the package, code name Lamb Chop.

7:42pm – Pending confirmation of package secure. Standby.

7:46pm – Confirm package Secure. Package en route to primary LZ for extraction to my food hole.

7:48pm – Package inbound. ETA 4 minutes. Now I’m hungry.

7:51pm – It’s just like Uber, watching them get closer and closer to you. [Jaws theme slowly builds in the background]

7:53pm – Interesting. the time compression witnessed pre-pickup is reversed post-pickup. Will note time dilation in logs.

7:56pm – Package picked at LZ. Commence food-hole shoving.

Notes:

  • Fountain drink (menu) does not equal can (reality). Shame. -1 Restaurant.
  • I get to rate the driver (who did excellent), but I don’t get to rate the restaurant. Interesting.

So that about does it! Food is in my lap and this pseudo-live blog is done!

Update

After trying the food, I will say it was a bit on the cold side. Not super impressed by that. However, this type of food I ordered won’t stay hot long under any circumstance, so I can’t knock off too many points. It is something I will have to consider for the future, however.

Update 2

The food was gross. Gyro was flavorless. Barely any meat. I was deceived by how much meat it looked like it had. Definitely not worth the money. Lame. Still hungry.

January 14, 2016

Sorry, Sodastream, Coke is Still Number One

There’s something that’s utterly delicious about brand-named Coca Cola that my Sodastream just can’t replace. Sorry, but the syrup masterminds in Tel Aviv just can’t fool me.

I don’t necessarily think it’s the fact that it’s in a can. I think it has to do with the syrup.

Yeah, I know, big revelation there, for sure. Sue me.

While I write this, I’m taking the occasional swig from a can of Coke Zero, the Coke product that tastes the most like Sodastream’s Cola flavor. I think, after it’s all said and done, what it comes down to is the “natural flavors.” Whatever they are, they’re made from a natural source and turned into a chemical of some kind that makes sense for a production line.

There’s also something about the crispness that I just can’t seem to master with the Sodastream. Perhaps it’s the level of carbonation.

Whatever the differences are, I’m sure I could find answers if I searched the Internet. Since I’m writing this, I didn’t, and I don’t plan on it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a soda to finish.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography