Google Ads = Descent into mind-numbing world of no answers

I had the strangest experience with Google Ads.  Interacting with this system and customer service required so much of my attention that I unfortunately had to wash my hands of the entire project and just walk away.

The problems started a few hours after creating a very simple ad for a pet calendar.  The entire ordeal went like this:

  1. The ad I created was short and to the point. I mentioned the price in the ad, included a picture of one of the pets and a brief description of the calendar along with the link to buy the calendar.
  2. The interface showed the ad had been approved after a few hours.
  3. But then the interface changed its mind a few hours later and rejected the ad so I proceeded to read the fine print for ads thinking maybe they had an unusual policy where they ban all cute kittens or bunnies.
  4. I found nothing unusual in the documentation. I also found nothing that gave me a clue as to why the ad was rejected.  So, I reworded the ad just in case the phrase “wall calendar” means something naughty in another language.   I submitted the ad again.
  5. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  6. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  7. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  8. I called customer service by phone. They assigned the ticket to someone and said they would get back to me.  They could not tell me why the ad was rejected.  The customer service employees were very nice.
  9. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  10. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  11. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  12. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  13. I contacted customer service by email informing them of the problem.
  14. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  15. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  16. Customer service emailed me back saying it was rejected because I keep changing the ad and it must go through the approval process each time it is changed (hmmm….even if this is true, this in no way answers the question as to why this simple ad is rejected repeatedly).
  17. With no patience left, I deleted the ad and have abandoned use of this system.

Life is good again.

If you feel you must try using this system, then I recommend only submitting your ad once.  If your ad is rejected, then just walk away.  If you do not walk away at this point, then you will spend a great deal of time going in circles with people and reading documentation where, in the end, may offer up no clear solution.

When faced with endless exchanges of nothingness with other humans or automated systems, there is a chance of one’s own head popping off (or at least blood pressure rising) so proceed with caution.

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Best Tech Dream Ever

Holy schnikes! I had the best tech dream ever last night:)

The horror of forgetting every single password for every single web site, mobile app, desktop app, database, server, work door code, house door code, safe, car door code finally came to fruition in a stress filled dream of too much work and too little time.

When I realize my brain no longer contained all password data for all of my things in my life requiring passwords, I was so stressed about it that I was truly unable to react in any way and then suddenly this lovely wave of calm came over me and I accepted the moment.  I decided I would not pursue recovery in any way, I would just walk away from all that was password protected and start anew.

I woke up pretty happy at the tranquility of it all but also at the sheer absurdity of me in any dimension accepting loss of data – never!

Gadget mania:)

With the number of electronic devices in the hands of our clients now it is truly a miracle they have not rioted against all of IT.  I have a sincere respect for them just based on the massive amount of patience they have for learning, caring for and using the large number of crazy devices we support for them.

If you have a full arsenal of gadgets for work and home and feel as if you are reaching your breaking point, then take a deep breath and keep the following tips noted below in mind for a happy life.

  • If you are unable to turn off all devices for quality time with other humans or for strolls in nature for a set amount of time each day, then you are probably going to self-destruct in some weird and ugly way in front of witnesses in a public place.  No one wants that.  Just turn the gadgets off and do your thing.
  • Understand how to update the gadget to keep it running well.  Check for updates weekly.
  • Understand how to turn off, turn on and hard reboot the gadget.  Avoid leaving computer-like gadgets in an on state for weeks at a time, rebooting is very important as is normally shutting down every few days to avoid all sorts of performance issues.
  • Understand how to backup data from the gadget to another gadget (like to an external hard drive) that you then store in a separate place (any detached structure from your home or office that is secure).  Backup your data on a regular schedule and never deviate from this schedule.
  • Know that if you enjoy a huge bowl of Captain Crunch while reaching over your gadget to snag a book that is sliding off of a shelf, then the Captain Crunch is going to spill all over the gadget rendering it completely unusable…probably forever.

Jenny’s Wild User Guide Tirade

CosmoHalloween

!@$#%! #42! @#$%$! &^53!!

The expletives noted above are the nicest thing I can say about the user guide I read today.  An hour of my life gone.  Why? Because the user guide was incomplete.  Oh the horror of it all!

I could have used the hour in question to eat ice cream, do volunteer work, knit badly, play my guitar even more badly, plant flowers or read a sweet book.  Instead I wasted the hour wandering aimlessly around in a user guide thinking the answer I sought was hiding in there somewhere.

It all started when the “Status” of my web application document transmission was “Not Detect Four”.  Hmmmmmm.  This status left me with only questions.  I really had no idea what this status meant, so I gravitated toward the beacon of false hope:  the pretty blue user guide link.

I was giddy with delight when the user guide actually opened.  Within it I found an entire section dedicated to “Document Status”.  A detailed list of each document status and the definition of each one was neatly aligned within a gradient table.   Five different status scenarios were listed but was the status of “Not Detect Four” listed? Of course not.  Do you know why? Because some little weirdo maniac who wrote the user guide years ago intentionally left our the status of “Not Detect Four” in a sick attempt at driving everyone in the future mad.  Success.

After all these years of writing applications, creating user documentation and using applications, I believe I have completely misunderstood the true meaning of the user guide.  I was under the impression the user guide was the end all be all of an application.  This is an incorrect assumption on my part and I have corrected my internal definition of the user guide to mean a nice fluff piece about any random event occurring in space and time within the boundaries of our universe.

Microsoft Surface Alarm Customization – oh come on! Throw me a bone! :)

I was so pleased to see I could replace the standard alarm wav files on my Microsoft Surface with custom alarm wav files of the same name (C:\Windows\Media\Alarm01.wav).  Who wouldn’t want to hear their cat meow every time a dental appointment looms on the horizon?  Or hear their cute little one shout “Chwweeerios” on birthdays?

However, I am a little puzzled as to why the capability to record simple wav files is no longer standard within the Windows environment (example:  Sound Recorder).  The only thing I can find standard on the Microsoft Surface for audio recording is the Voice Recorder and it only records in the m4a format.  So of course if I use the Voice Recorder to record my rabbit snorting like a pig I will now need to download additional software to convert the m4a file to a wav file and then place the wav file here to replace an existing alarm wav file:  C:\Windows\Media.

This entire process is fine for me but it is too time consuming and complex for our business users and even if they were willing to do it, I am not keen on introducing a third party product for something that does something so mundane as converting a m4a to a wav, it would need to do more like also bake chocolate cakes or somehow make my pale skin a pretty tan color.

Technology and the Adult Homeless Population

I recently volunteered in a short computer education program for a small group of homeless people at a local shelter.  I was to teach users various introductory computer skills.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the students.  Also, I’m a computer programmer, not a teacher, so I wasn’t sure how helpful I would be to them.  I also knew several of the users faced not only homelessness but also prior incarcerations and or mental illness.

I am posting the results of this program to not only raise awareness of the needs of the homeless but to also highlight some of the challenges I saw them struggling with in class and some of the wonderful surprises I noted during my classroom time with these men and women.

The protocol was men on one side of the room and women on the other; they ranged in ages from 30 years to 60 years of age.  There were about twelve students, two instructors and one monitor who stayed in another room close by.  The class was one hour in length once per week in a lab of computers with keyboard, mice and an overhead projector/computer for the instructor.  One instructor stayed at the projector to demonstrate various computer tasks and the other instructor moved about the room.

Initial student behavior was a heart breaker for me:  many of them would not make eye contact, they would speak softly – unsure of themselves and their words.  Normally this behavior is something I witness in children who are shy and are learning something new but to see this behavior in adults was very difficult.  Their behavior was a reminder to me of how hard things have been for them.  Thankfully this behavior improved as they learned new tasks.  By the end of the first class I was seeing smiles, excitement about learning and many questions were being asked.

Some of the topics we covered that the students showed great interest in:

  • Understanding the keyboard (how to make capital letters), the space bar functionality and the purpose of the number keypad.
  • Understanding the desktop.
  • Understanding search engines and navigating the web. Tips on identifying malicious sites and false news information.
  • The process of Opening, saving, closing, and creating new Microsoft Word documents.
  • How to password protect a Microsoft Word document. The students discussed lack of privacy openly at this point, really emphasizing a desire for privacy.
  • How to manage images (getting them from one device over to another, getting them from an application like Facebook down to a device, and emailing them to others).

Some of the problems they face in daily life regarding technology:

  • Several of the students mentioned difficulty in accessing email programs from public terminals.  They noted that not all of the libraries and public technology centers in town allow users to access the same email programs; some email programs are blocked at some locations and not blocked at other locations.  In turn they end up frustrated and are unable to access their email for long periods of time resulting in them often forgetting passwords and having to set up new email accounts and then they of course have lost their contact lists from their prior email account.
  • Lack of frequent access to devices and or computers for learning and general use.   When they do have access, they are often alone, without any technological assistance for times when they encounter issues such as not being able to access email.

Spending time with these men and women is something I will never forget, I hope I was able to help them as much as they helped me.

It doesn’t matter what electronic devices you have, you can read e-books! Well, I guess maybe a fancy toaster wouldn’t work…

I occasionally run into users who believe they must purchase a specific electronic device (ie. Kindle, Nook, etc) in order to successfully read e-books.  This posting is for them.  Below I outline what is necessary in order to read e-books from a few well-known retailers and web sites.

Project Gutenberg offers free e-books.  Here is one simple example of how you can read their e-books:

  1. From any computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet, visit this web site:  https://www.gutenberg.org/
  2. Click on any book under the “Some of Our Latest Books” section towards the top of the web page.
  3. Select the first link called “Read this book online:  HTML”.
  4. Start reading!

If you want to purchase a book that requires the Kindle, then just install the Kindle App so you can read Kindle e-books from several electronic devices, no Kindle required! Here’s how:

  1. From any computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet, visit this web site:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page and click the download button to download and subsequently install the Kindle App.
  2. Purchase any e-book from Amazon and download it, here is an example of a e-book you may purchase that is a Kindle e-book:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FIX5LGC
  3. Open the Kindle App on your device (you just installed it).  Inside the Kindle App, login using your Amazon account.
  4. Start reading!

If you want to purchase a book that requires the Nook, then do the same thing as with the Kindle:

  1. Download and subsequently install the Nook Reading App from here from your smart phone or tablet: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/h/nook/apps and be able to read Nook e-books from several electronic devices, no Nook required!
  2. Purchase a book.
  3. Open the Nook Reading App on your device (you just installed it).
  4. Start reading!

The car horn: safety feature or fog horn of madness?

The car horn is an odd invention.  Upon initial inspection one would think it is a beneficial safety feature.  However, when I witness its use in the wild I am more apt to believe it is a tool used to intentionally incite instant rage during seemingly normal circumstances instead of a tool for warning innocents of sudden and impending doom.

Take for instance this morning.  I was at a very busy intersection in Raleigh.  The vehicle in front of me was waiting to pull out into traffic.  The amount of traffic coming our way was an obvious visual clue to anyone capable of complex thought that we would be waiting for a few minutes.  However, the large truck behind me somehow did not comprehend this visual clue.  Instead of waiting, the truck driver chose to wait and repeatedly blow his or her horn.  Is this driver somehow under the impression that his or her car horn has magical powers capable of actually altering the flow of traffic from a distance of three car lengths?  If so, that is a wildly inaccurate belief.

I am being too hasty, the truck driver probably understood that we were in the path of a meteor hurtling through space and impact was inevitable within the next 47 seconds.  What an awesome person to try to save our lives like that.

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