Saturday, 12 June 2010

There's been a bit of a stink recently around whether or not Facebook's account deletion process works the way they say it does. The number of people pontificating in the tech blogger fishbowl has been rather amazing, but I have yet to see someone actually take the time to create, delete and reactivate an account, log on via a third party tool after an account was deleted, see what happens, etc.

So, I did just that in order to find out how the Facebook account deletion and reactivation process works.

In a nutshell, it appeared to work as advertised, right up until I got to the end of my testing, at which point my account was (much to my surprise) reactivated without my explicit permission. It seems the steps one takes must be the defining factor with regard to whether or not it works the way the user expects and (I expect) the way Facebook intends for it to work. In fact, I am unable to reliably recreate the situation, as I describe below. But at least one time the Facebook system reactivated my account without my request to do so.

I'll say right now there's no signs of deception or anything on the part of Facebook. If anything, it's more likely an edge-case bug of sorts, and no harm is done.

Screen clips and description of what I did to test the process follow. I set out to do this with the purpose of documenting the steps along the way.

First of all, I created a new account (I don't want to delete my old one) under the user email ID of greg.pdx@gmail.com. You can try to add me if you want, and if I get any communications as a result I will be sure to update this post.


Next I received the confirmation email for account creation and clicked the link in the email to crete the account.


And so in a few minutes I had a new Facebook account and profile:


Next I added a couple friends and Chris Pirillo, true to form, was quick to accept the request. I then went to my iPad and started up BeeJive IM, which I use to chat on Facebook and Live Messenger at the same time.

It uses Facebook Connect to log into the Facebook chat system. I provided my credentials on the iPad, set the appropriate permissions, and was quickly logged in:


I then signed out of chat and returned to the browser on my notebook, where I visited the hard-to-find Facebook account deletion page at

http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account

and started that process.


and received the notification both on-screen and in email that my account was scheduled for deletion in 14 days (which, by the way, is a very good way to go about this on Facebook's part, but we can save that for another time).


I then logged back in and received this message:


I decided to try reactivating and deleting again, which it allowed me to do. I received email notifications as well as on on-screen confirmation. Here's the email:


Now for the important part. I then went back to my iPad and logged into Facebook Chat via BeeJive, here is what I saw:


The only option available was to reconnect. If I reauthenticate via Facebook Connect, I am presented with the below screen, asking me if I want to reactivate my account. I have to specifically tell it "yes" in order for that to happen. No emails were received notifying me I was reactivated like happened before.






But wait -- I then went back to by notebook once again and opened up my web browser, and tried to log back into Facebook. I expected to see the same screen shown directly above, but instead was surprise to see my Facebook profile page! Within seconds, an email arrived from Facebook, again welcoming me back to Facebook. The only problem is, I never clicked on the Cancel Request button to tell Facebook I wanted to cancel the deletion of my account.


What's even more interesting is the fact that when I tried to recreate the situation again, Facebook is functioning as advertised. I'm now being prompted and asked if I want to cancel deletion or deactivate the account, where before I got the unexpected welcome-back email.

Well, it's certainly strange. Perhaps there's an edge-case issue/bug here that requires some specific order of operations to trigger. All I know is it happened to me, and frankly I was pretty surprised when it did. Facebook has some of the best talent in the industry and they work amazing technical miracles every day. But, bugs do happen. Maybe there's a log somewhere in the bowels of Facebook's data centers that can show what happened here, and someone can figure it out.

Before I finish, a brief comment on the 14-day deletion window. People are screaming that if they want something deleted, it should be deleted right now. Unfortunately, in the real world bad people steal passwords, drunk friends pull stupid pranks, drink account holders make stupid decisions (and I am specifically referring to account deletion, not drunk photo and video posting). There are many, many good reasons for a deletion grace period, reasons that protect users. I am glad they have it, and I think it would be negligent not to provide that to users considering the size, scope and importance of the service provided.



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Tech
Saturday, 12 June 2010 09:53:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 11 June 2010

Google Voice is a great service, grown up from the acquisition of Grand Central a couple years ago. When Google acquired Gizmo 5 last year, many of us who use Google Voice and benefit from its features got excited: Maybe they were on the cusp of bringing Google Voice to the desktop.

And the masses began to rejoice.

Well, unfortunately TechCrunch is reporting today that the Google Voice desktop app, which has apparently been confirmed as being reality and in testing internally at Google, may not see the light of day. Arrington suggests the reasons for that may be religious/philosophical in nature and that the team has been directed to look at building a web app instead.

And if that's true, well then that is a very sad thing, indeed.

So, Google - Let me be the voice of just one customer who has touted the service and used it extensively... one customer who says please - please - consider the situation for your end users here. We can benefit today from a desktop client and there are many use cases where a browser doesn't make the best sense. There are several recent examples of desktop/installed software coming out of Google, and Google Voice is one place where it just makes good sense to do a desktop app. And I should also point out that by releasing a Google Voice desktop app, there's nothing preventing Google from working hard to develop a strong and powerful HTML 5 app for the future - In fact, I would hope and bet good money you're already doing just that, as well!

We really want a Google Voice desktop app, and we really want it from Google. Please, if there's any actual debate over the right's and wrong's of delivering a desktop client, reconsider your position and make some happy customers very happy. And, when a HTML 5 app becomes workable and available we'll certainly cheer about that as well because we'll use it, too.

Thanks.



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Tech
Friday, 11 June 2010 13:15:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 07 June 2010
Last week I logged onto my AT&T Wireless account and checked out my account's upgrade eligibility there. At the time the site indicated it "Could not determine your upgrade eligibility." That was a little weird.

I logged back in today and looked again. With the bid Apple announcements expected today I figured it would be good to know if AT&T planned to make me wait until two years had passed on the calendar. When I asked in a store a few weeks back they'd told me late June.

But today the AT&T site indicates I am already eligible now. (Update: Apparently I'm not the only one)


The Apple keynote where a new 4th-generation iPhone is expected to be announced starts today at 10am. I'll be getting on a plane to go to Chicago about that time, so it looks like I will have to catch up on the news when I land.

I will probably get a new iPhone, as long as they don't cost an exorbitant amount of money. My current phone is the original 3G model, has a shattered (but still fully functional) screen, and is very, very slow with some of the resource-intensive apps I run. I've looked at Android phones, and while the OS is cool the apps I use the most are not available on that platform and likely never will be.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Monday, 07 June 2010 07:15:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 02 June 2010

I bought my iPad 3G just a month ago, and at the time I signed up for the AT&T Wireless unlimited data plan for $29.99 a month. I’m glad I did, and should point out to anyone on the 250MB plan who wants (or thinks they want) a truly unlimited plan, you have until June 6th to sign up for that plan. After that date, the unlimited data plan won’t be available anymore.

AT&T has announced they’re ending unlimited data plans pretty much across the board. The new plans will provide 250MB and 2GB of data each, with (fairly reasonable) overage charges. Current smartphone customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension.Before explaining the packages, I went to my iPad to see how much data I used during my first month with the iPad:

usage-ipad

I’m a pretty heavy user, with a chunk of my use at home, but plenty of data use on the road. So, maybe a 2GB account would work for me (at least most of the time). AT&T says only 2% of their smartphone users exceed 2GB per month. If I was working away from my home office even more, I think I’d likely hit the 2GB top end of the new account. And while I understand the logic around the per-month statistics for smartphones, the iPad really is a different type of device. So, I wonder what the iPad user monthly usage statistics are. What percentage went over 2GB in the first month the iPad with 3G was available? AT&T didn’t spell that out for us.

Luckily, I can retain my unlimited iPad data account if I want to. I just have to keep it auto-billing in order to keep it available, it sounds like. In the future if I find my usage consistently allows, I can choose to go for the 2GB capped account and save enough money for an expensive coffee.

Plan details from AT&T’s press release:

DataPro. Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video – for $25 per month.**  Should a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle.  Currently, 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.

DataPlus. Provides 200 megabytes (MB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video – for just $15 per month.**  This plan, which can save customers up to 50 percent off their wireless data charges, is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send email and use social networking apps. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle.  Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.

** Usage examples are estimates. Individual results will vary based upon customer’s Internet usage patterns.

I guess the one thing that bothers me is that AT&T and Apple launched the iPad with an unlimited plan option. I am quite glad that existing iPad users can keep the plan they signed up for, but I think about future and new phone capabilities such as the likely video conferencing and streaming on new mobile devices that are set to be available this summer. I worry about plan limits which – in the future – could consistently result in overage charges once data usage organically increases with new hardware capabilities and demand.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 06:38:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 08 May 2010

I decided yesterday to start using my Nikon D200 digital still SLR camera to do some interval shooting, and then took the series of images to make a time-lapse film. It’s something I’ve messed with before a little bit, but for some reason I decided I wanted to dive right in.

I made a couple so-so quick and dirty videos yesterday, and then shot some night clouds moving across the star-lit sky last night. The nice thing about living where I do is that there’s lots of sky and trees to help frame the shots, and the city lights are fairly far away. So clouds get a glow on a long exposure at night but the stars show up nicely, too.

Anyhow, another cool thing about this new little hobby tangent is that I can spend three to five minutes setting up a interval series shot, click a couple buttons, and then walk away for about 90 minutes while the camera takes its pictures. That works great for quickly starting a shot between work calls or what have you.

I used to be a photographer professionally – back when people still shot film. That was two careers ago, and I miss it at times. So I have a pretty solid understanding of how things work for different types of exposures, and all the weirdness that goes with long exposures. But with digital cameras things get messy when you do exposures more than a second, and the whole video noise thing is really pretty annoying.

At any rate, I came up with a few videos, so I thought I would post them here along with a few noted about how they’re made.

My initial videos were kind of messy, but you can click the links to see them if you like. Gotta start somewhere, heh.

I’ll start here with a video I made today, which took advantage of the rather spectacular clouds building in the sky over my house this afternoon. To see this video in its highest quality, view it in HD at YouTube.

The night shot at the end of the above video was filmed last night. I didn’t quite capture the stars as brightly as wanted, but it still turned out pretty nice.

So, tonight I decided I wanted to try again. I adjusted the shooting exposure (went from a 10-second exposure to a 15-second one) and the result was the quick video test below, which shows the stars much more clearly I think.

Night clouds and stars take two from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

It’s not really too hard to do these time-lapse films. I have a camera that will do interval shooting, and I also have a remote intervalometer shutter release for it. Some consumer cameras have this feature, some require an external controller like the one I have.

Once the series of photos is made, I import them into QuickTime Pro. You just choose File > Open Image Sequence and then point at the first file in the numerical sequence. As long as the files are one complete numerical list, QuickTime will import them in the right order. Then I export the files as MP4, 1920x1080 and 5,000 Kbps or higher bit rate.

After that I pulled the film segments with the soundtrack audio into Windows Live Movie Maker on Windows 7, produced the video with transitions and what have you, then exported to a new hi-def video. I also automatically published to YouTube.

That’s about it. I will try to post a more detailed tutorial sometime soon, after I do a few more time lapse sessions.



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Photography | Random Stuff | Tablet PC
Saturday, 08 May 2010 01:52:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 05 May 2010

Once again this year, I have been asked to shoot an Independence Day fireworks show for Western Display Fireworks, and this year it will be in beautiful Anacortes, Washington up on Fidalgo Island, next to the San Juan Islands. I’ve never been there before, and am looking forward to the shoot. There’s an airport up there, so I may just have to plan a weekend flight up that way to scout out the site before the show.

If you think you might be interested in being part of the volunteer fireworks crew, this is your invitation to find out more and see if it’s something you’d be interested in. It’s hard work, but that never hurt anyone. We do some heavy lifting at times, and it’s a bit of a dirty job. But once you’ve experienced it, it’s awfully hard to stay away the next time around. I first smelled the smoke and caught the commercial fireworks bug back in 2000, and soon after that I got licensed as a pyrotechnician/operator and have been shooting shows ever since.

This year we will head up to Anacortes on July 3rd, set up all day on the 4th, shoot the show and clean up after (yes, it’s quite a long day), and then return to our respective homes on the 5th. You'll handle the shells, set up and load the mortars, help wire them all up to the firing equipment, learn all about how they work, participate in a full set of safety lessons, and - most importantly - you'll be a key part of bringing an awesome July 4th celebration to the people of Anacortes and the surrounding area.

We need a crew of about 6-8 people, and at this point I have myself plus three other people confirmed and on the crew list. So, there’s room for a few more! Pretty much anyone who can handle explosives per the federal government can participate (I’ll explain those rules to people who express an interest, but suffice it to say pretty much anyone can help).

Last year I asked for volunteers here and on Twitter and we ended up with a great crew of people who had a lot of fun. So, I’m hoping for the same thing this year!

The fact is, it’s not often you get a chance to blow up thousands of dollars of someone else’s stuff, and we’re talking about the real thing here – not the little stuff you buy at your local fireworks stand. This year’s show consists of 3-inch to 6-inch diameter shells and is bigger than the show we shot last year in Des Moines, Washington (a couple of videos from last year’s show are embedded below to get your appetite going).

If you think you might be interested, drop me a line at 503-766-2258 or email me (address is in the side bar). I’m glad to answer questions!

Here are the videos from last year – The first one was shot from right in the middle of the mortar tubes at the firing location, and the other from the spectator end of the pier. Enjoy!

July 4th 2009 Fireworks - Des Moines, WA from Greg Hughes on Vimeo.

Fireworks - July 4th 2009 - Des Moines, WA from John Losey on Vimeo.



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Fireworks | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 22:16:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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