what time is it in london? daringfireball gets its knickers in a knot over the answer

Just about everybody and their sibling(s) knows who John Gruber is, and his blog, “DaringFireball” ( https://daringfireball.net/ ). In the past, before today, I’d regularly stroll by to read everything he posted. 99% of the time I’d nod my head in agreement with his opinions and observations and then move on to something else. Except for today.

Today, Gruber wrote ‘What Time Is It in London?’ ( https://daringfireball.net/2020/05/what_time_is_it_in_london ) in which he took Apple to task because Siri, when asked the question, supposedly took too long and then answered with the time in London, Canada.

Nilay Patel asked this of Siri on his Apple Watch. After too long of a wait, he got the correct answer — for London Canada. I tried on my iPhone and got the same result. Stupid and slow is heck of a combination.

So one of Gruber’s Twitter buddies tweets his experience asking the question, and Gruber gives it a try and finds the same issue. That’s fine as it goes. Except it gets much worse. In the next paragraph Gruber writes:

You can argue that giving the time in London Ontario isn’t wrong per se, but that’s nonsense. The right answer is the common sense answer. If you had a human assistant and asked them “What’s the time in London?” and they honestly thought the best way to answer that question was to give you the time for the nearest London, which happened to be in Ontario or Kentucky, you’d fire that assistant. You wouldn’t fire them for getting that one answer wrong, you’d fire them because that one wrong answer is emblematic of a serious cognitive deficiency that permeates everything they try to do. You’d never have hired them in the first place, really, because there’s no way a person this lacking in common sense would get through a job interview. You don’t have to be particularly smart or knowledgeable to assume that “London” means “London England”, you just have to not be stupid. (emphasis mine)

The stench of arrogance and entitlement that runs through this paragraph is so strong as to be unbelievable. It’s a good thing I never worked for John Gruber, because if I had and I’d done something, anything, that he deemed to be stupid and “emblematic of a serious cognitive deficiency” I’d have turned around and left far faster than he could have fire me. I would have, in effect, fired him as a boss. Who really wants to work for such a toxic individual?

If I’d run across this type of “problem”, I would have stopped and asked why that kind of result to the question. For software systems, that means letting someone know this is an issue and helping to resolve it. If it’s a person I stop and understand why they delivered that kind of answer. Who knows why? Taking something like this completely out of context and then rage-blogging about it only shows how immature the author (in this case one John Gruber) is. When it especially comes to people, I don’t believe in disposable people. I’m retired now, but I really have tried to be a mentor to those who’ve worked for me, not some bastard boss from hell.

I read that article early this morning while in my doctor’s office (many of us old retirees have Medical Issues that need looking into from time to time). I couldn’t try this in the waiting room, since a doctor’s waiting room, even during COVID-19, should be quiet. But when I got home around noon I tried it, and I got the “correct” answer. Later in the day I tried it again, and then this evening, before I wrote this post, I tried again and grabbed screen shots off my Apple Watch and iPhone. My hardware, in case you’re interested, is a Series 3 Apple Watch and an iPhone 11 Pro Max, both running the latest software that dropped yesterday.

Thanks, John, for helping me to cut my screen time down further. I now have more time to devote to what’s really important, helping others.

Series 3 Apple Watch, watchOS 6.2.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max, iOS 13.5

when ideology ruins technology

I’ve been conducting an experiment with myself as the test subject since the first of this year. The reason for this personal experiment has been to determine if I can live without the Chrome browser and Google search.

I can’t go cold turkey on Google. I have multiple Gmail accounts to handle various tasks, having been a Gmail user since 2005 when I was invited to participate in the Gmail beta. In the past I attempted to use Google+, and I will on occasion go slumming through YouTube to look for some off-beat bit of music or old TV program. I experimented using G Suite and its individual tools in place of Microsoft Office, but I’ve since just installed and use Libre Office everywhere, not out of some misguided idealogical motivation but because it wouldn’t do all I wanted, the way I wanted.. Finally I’m a Go language user, Go having been developed by Google and for Google’s internal use before it was released as open source for the rest of the world. Google search was the first Google product I turned to, abandoning Yahoo! search completely the day I switched to Google Beta in late 1998. That’s over two decades of using Google products in some form or fashion. And I haven’t even talked about Google World and Google Maps…

Regardless, I fell under the sway of the screaming mimies that Chrome in all its forms was Evil, as was using Google Search. Ok. So on my iPhone and iPads and Mac I started using Apple’s Safari. It was pre-installed and Apple has this big deal about being privacy focused. I’ll give it a shot. For search I turned to DuckDuckGo, the current champion of the digital cognoscenti everywhere. So how did that work out for you Bill?

In the beginning it was a little rough. Search results, in particular, were a little thin, both in quality and quantity. Using Safari was OK and wasn’t all that different than using Chrome or Firefox. Until later.

Over time I found a problem with Safari on both macOS and iOS and iPadOS. It would crash and any open tabs were lost. On. All. Three. Platforms. I use my many open browser tabs to keep track of research that is ongoing at any given time. Over time, the oldest open tabs bubble to the back and are eventually closed by me. I make those decisions. But after three crashes (two on my iPad, one on macOS), I got really peeved. I’ve never had the problem with either Chrome or Firefox. They may crash, but they have tab recovery. No so Safari. The worst crash was on macOS where I had over a dozen leading tabs out of almost 100 open to areas I was actively using for my software and hardware development. That one truly hurt.

I’ve now gone back to a combination of Chrome and Firefox. I won’t even consider Microsoft Edge, so please don’t mention it. As for DuckDuckGo, when I switched browsers I switched back to Google and got what I consider much better search results. For technical questions, I consider Google’s results to be much superior.

Lesson learned? In the future, take everything that is pushing a technical ideological agenda with many grains of salt.