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GPS weirdness

I have noticed (Samsung S9/Android 8) that in situations where the GPS signals are not being received clearly (or at all yet), rather than saying "I don't know", the location service provides random locations of places you have been recently. This isn't terribly useful for maps navigation, as the other day it started with me stuck on a high speed road about 25km away, and took nearly four minutes to realise I wasn't there.
It also isn't terribly useful for geotagging photos. I went back to the lake at St. Aubin to take some more photos, but I haven't uploaded them to Google Maps because practically each one is tagged as being a different (nearby-ish) location. I'd have to fix the positioning of them all, and frankly, I have better things to do.
I would imagine that this is some rubbish pushed out in a Google Play Services update (rather like how the Google Docs home screen changed to a slicker look on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) without me having updated the application.
Please, Google, revert this crap. I know, I know, modern people who grew up with mobile phones and internet have no attention span whatsoever and it just looks so much better than Apple if an Android phone asks for a location and gets a fix in fifty billionths of a second.
The problem is, a location that is wrong is worse than no location at all. I'd rather wait for an accurate location, than have everything happily using cached, stale data.
Why not use the pull-down notifications for something useful at a time like that? Tell the user that three satellites have been detected so far, six (or whatever) are necessary for a location. Tell them how many satellites are visible (because this affects the reliability of the location). Tell them anything other than "you are here" when they aren't.


Fun with parcels - Amazon Pantry

On the 31st of July I ordered a number of things from Amazon Pantry. In the past, there used to be a price per box (box capacity 20kg) and things had a weight and filled a percentage of a box. It was clear and obvious. I think now it may be a flat rate? I don't know, I bought some special products that qualified me for "free" delivery. The first problem with the Pantry service is that it is really slow. Right up front, the estimated date of delivery was the 6th of August. An entire week. The order was filled on the 1st of August and sent out by TNT France. It was split into two boxes, so two sets of tracking and status information.
On the 2nd of August, one of the boxes was showing that it had been delivered in Marseille. Which is full of rich people, sunshine, immigrants, and incidentally is the other side of the country. To give Amazon credit, when I left a "what the hell?" message, a bloke rang me back about thirty seconds later. From London (phone number began +44 20 78). He gave me the usual platitudes, said he would be speaking to these people and those people and sending me an email to let me know what was going on. As is usual for Frenchies on the phone, it was fairly rapid-fire French so I wasn't following all of it, except to note that he really wanted me to follow the link that he had resolved the problem, which I had no intention of doing until the parcel turned up.
Tuesday 6th arrived. The parcel didn't. Instead I get a message from TNT saying that my address was incomplete or incorrect. I want to TNT's website following the link in the SMS which gave a completely erroneous and unknown tracking number. So off to Amazon to get a real tracking number, then to TNT to follow up with this.
Now, you might have heard this story before. It's one of the reasons I don't like using Chronopost. Some idiot snowflake townie is going to look at my one line address and decide it's clearly wrong because town addresses have numbers and apartments and streets and all sorts of stuff. Out in the country, I would imagine "that weirdo English bloke just south of the forest by the pig farm" would likely locate me in a thirty-odd mile radius. Or, hell, just name who owned this property in 1906. Everybody will know instantly what house it is.
I went to follow up with a report on their site and - give them credit - TNT phoned me back instantly. It wasn't like the forty-odd minutes on hold that I went through with Chronopost a while (decade or so?) back. So, yup, I confirm that it's a "lieu dit" (place called) and I tell him that the house number is 9, which is a bit stupid as it is the only house at this lieu dit. So he tells me there was confusion regarding which house, to which I reply that it's obviously a lie because I was not only here but sitting outside all morning. Had the driver actually bothered to come to the lieu dit (and not somewhere else) he would not only have seen me, but also that there is nothing else here.
He trotted out some other excuse, I forget what, it reminded me of Chronopost, to which I said that the address as given is good enough for the tax man to write on my tax return, and it's good enough for Google Maps to locate the place. I suggested that maybe their drivers ought to consult Google Maps before giving up. Again, so very reminiscent of Chronopost.
The parcels were promised the next day. And they did arrive, in a big white unmarked van that had a licence plate in the front window that said "LIVRAISON". Are TNT outsourcing? Some gig economy man-and-a-van deal? I rather expected a branded van. Anyway, the parcels arrived. I noted the driver tossing somebody else's parcel aside to get to mine, I hope it wasn't fragile!
I also noted that the parcel at the back of the van said CDiscount while the ones at the front were all Amazon.

The story isn't over yet. Everything arrived, everything was accounted for, everything was very much not intact. You see, the boxes were packed with heavy things put into the box - and the plastic outer wrappers on both of the packs of bottled water were broken - I'm not sure if that happened en-route or half-assed packing where the products were literally slung into the box in order to do it in the carefully monitored time span. Around the heavy things were all the other stuff. On top of it all was some air-pocket wrapping stuff to take up the remaining space.
Can you see what went wrong? Perhaps if I mention that in between six large bottles of water and the wall of the box was what is basically a pot noodle. One of them had the side broken, the other was completely crushed.
In the other box, the clicky security lid of my pasta sauce was blown. I actually rather suspect that this was shipped from Amazon in this manner as there was no obvious dent to the lid, no pasta sauce in the box, and no damage to the inside of the box that suggested the product took an impact hard enough to cause the lid to pop. In the past, I've had to turn the bottle upside down and smack it off the floor a few times in order to get the lid to pop so I could get it open; until I discovered that levering a side with the handle of a teaspoon does the same thing. In other words, these glass pasta sauce bottles are quite well sealed, and are nowhere near as flimsy as the pot noodle.
I contacted Amazon, who refunded my money for the damaged products. They didn't even really apologise, the message began: I am sorry to learn of the problem that you have encountered with certain articles in your Amazon Pantry command <reference>. I have demanded a reimbursement for the damaged items <listed>. This reimbursement should be finalised in 5 to 7 working days and will appear on your next bank statement.
Followed by some information where I can follow the progress of my reimbursement (seriously?) and the usual "have I resolved your problem? yes/no" links.
I did not reply, but you know what? No, my problem hasn't been resolved. Sure, I got reimbursed (€1,09 and €2,10 separately on the 8th), but I know that next time I make an order I'll get the same incompetent packing because it is much more important to Amazon to get items out in the shortest possible time than to get items packed in a way that suggests they'll survive the journey. Plus, I have my money back but I don't have the products that I wanted. Would you consider that to be a problem "resolved"?

Here are my two unboxing videos. And, yes, I made these videos because badly packed articles was utterly utterly predictable.


Given the lengthy delays, the incompetent packing, and the utterly disorganised Pantry category selection in the Amazon app, it seems as if Amazon has a long way to go before it can hope to compete with any local supermarket. Indeed, if such a supermarket decides to do a deal with a delivery company to sell their products online (with the obvious proviso no fresh no frozen) and have it home delivered instead of pick-up, then it would all but end Amazon's half-hearted foray into foods.

You might ask why I ordered at all? I'm currently here by myself so I wanted bottled water and UHT milk. Two of the essentials for making tea. Add to that some pre-pack UHT meals, you can see the objective. Thankfully I have a friend that takes me shopping, so I could get better food (real stuff, not pre-pack) quicker.

One final thing, I have amended my Amazon address to include the utterly pointless number in front. The logic of the number is that they count up from town ("town" being a crossroads with a church, and about 300 inhabitants in the total land area of the town including all the farms). But this falls apart when you realise that the number does not relate to any road - we are not "9 West Road" or anything like that, we are 9 to the name of the property. Other properties on this road carry a number, and the name of the property. But it gets better. There are other roads leading from town, and apart from actually in town (around the church) where the roads are named, the properties will carry numbers. There are going to be other properties called '9' something. It's the lieu dit that will find us, not the stupid pointless number.
Some other towns do it better and have American style numbering where the road is given a number and then the house number on that road is suffixed, so it could be 1207 or something; at least this is unique to that property in that town.
I also added the following supplementary note to my address information: It's a house after a half kilometre of access lane. The address is correct (yes, TNT, correct). Please refer to Google Maps if there is any question, and then just continue until the end of the lane. Thank you.
No, I don't "do" subtle. I just hope that all the other delivery companies that Amazon use see this and giggle.


Fun with parcels - guaranteed date of delivery

When you have Prime, a lot of things that you can order come with a guaranteed delivery date. The problem is, this date isn't always met. On the 2nd of August I ordered a five litre bottle of some sort of cat cleaning solution for a friend. She tried Amazon herself, but being English she tried English Amazon and nobody wanted to ship it to France. Anyway, absolutely guaranteed to come the very next day. I doubted that, the next day was Saturday and it's August when all the little minions are on summer holiday (seriously, getting anything done in France in August is... difficult). So Monday rolls around and no parcel. Instead Amazon's app says "Please excuse us for the delay of your parcel" and said that it was expected to be delivered today. It's an automatic thing. Which is why it didn't turn up, the next day it showed a message saying "Your parcel is maybe lost" with a link to obtain a reimbursement. I know, as I tried it once, that Amazon won't reimburse until the carrier tells them that the parcel is definitely lost.

Now the thing that gets me is that Amazon make a thing about the delivery date being GUARANTEED, and then when this guarantee isn't met, oh well, your bad. While it might be easy to blame the carrier (and indeed they are responsible for part of the delay), the initial delay was likely Amazon who apparently sent the order from their big warehouse in Saran to a parcel distribution centre in Gidy (just down the road). It arrived at Gidy at 6.15pm on Friday. And sat there until 11.10am on Sunday when it left the Amazon centre. It arrived at the local carrier's main site in Goven at 4.13am on Monday 5th, which is when they took charge of it. They did nothing with it until the morning of the 6th when it did several hops around Chartes de Bretagne before finally being delivered an hour and a half later.
So, who to blame? I don't know why nothing happened at Colis Privé for a day, I suspect "it is August" might have had something to do with it, but very clearly a parcel guaranteed to arrive the very next day is not going to if it sits in an Amazon warehouse until the day after it was supposed to turn up.
Maybe Amazon should have to reimburse people for guarantees not met? Failing that, maybe just tell something a little more truthful like "Expected date of delivery" instead of "Guaranteed date of delivery". The word guarantee, it is supposed to mean something. And if a guarantee not met isn't backed up with some sort of tangible action (and not automatic platitudes from a machine), then it's no guarantee whatsoever.

On the other hand, I have a parcel that is supposed to come today. Wednesday evening it left Crymlyn Burrows (which is obviously Welsh with a name like that). Did a short journey to Swansea before making it to Tamworth. Early yesterday morning (3.14am) it left Tamworth and took eleven hours to get to Corbeil Essonnes which is near Paris. Isn't "corbeil" a type of dustbin? Anyway, it passed the evening in sunny Paris before coming to St. Jaques, the airport of Rennes, in a thunderstorm. It is supposed to be delivered today by UPS and indeed a giant UPS truck arrived, along with a talkative driver who liked watching snooker. Not only that, but the driver phoned me a few minutes before he was due to arrive to let me know he was on the way. I wonder if they got sight of my little message? ☺
That's a lot of people involved in bringing me a sunflower umbrella, but nice that everything went as planned.

One small note, I've just gone to UPS' website and my hat off to them for having "France - English" as a region selection. But my hat back on because it says that the information was updated "09/08/2019 4:57 EST". Note the bizarre of using the correct European date format rather than that backwards American style, to then follow it up with Eastern Standard Time. What? Surely it ought to be EDT right now, and what relevance is EST in France? It's probably literally "just now" (as I write this) and it should be EDT.


Google Docs

I am using Google Docs to write something, and most of it is being done on the "freebie tablet" with a Bluetooth keyboard. There was a time, in years past, when I probably would have used OvationPro; but these days there is a benefit to having access to my files on my phone, tablet, or anything with a reasonably decent browser.

Google Docs itself, in its web incarnation, is actually pretty impressive. It's a fairly basic word processor of the type we all used to use in the '90s, only running in a browser.
The app version is simple and to the point and it behaves well on a tablet (it's a little clumsier on a phone because there is no space for the styles bar). In each case, a Bluetooth keyboard is essential, not only for giving a greater view into the document (not hiding most of it behind a big pop-up keyboard), but also there's a limit to how much a person can write by prodding a piece of glass before they want to throw the thing through another piece of glass.

The strangest thing of all is that the app, which you would expect to be customised and fully featured, the best Android experience, right? Wrong. The app is really quite simplistic compared to the website. Want to look at edit history? Use the website. Want to manage section breaks? Use the website. Want to set page margins? Headers and footers to be different on even/odd pages? Headers/footers not following on from the previous section? Etc etc? Well, the website is what you'll need. The app can't do it.
Indeed, the app understands section breaks, but copy-pasting one may cause it to crash (it seemed to crash for me when pasting a single section break, but there was no issue when pasting a seventy page document with about ten section breaks - go figure... Why are section breaks important? Because you can change the text in the headers to reflect the current chapter. You can't do that with ordinary page breaks.

But there is one thing that Google Docs gets really wrong, and that one thing is the Print layout mode. This is a mode that shows your text as it would appear on the page. Only it doesn't. When you have a more complicated document than a letter to your mother, you are going to run into the problem where the document pagination does not match what you see on the screen. Let's take the website and the app in turn. Website first. You see it gives you a representation of a page, there are rulers and such? Well, sorry to break it to you but that is utter bollocks. Such complete bollocks that you may find that a five page document (using standard defaults) may actually take most of a sixth page. The web version does have a Print Preview option in the File menu, which will show you how it will look when printed (and also saved as PDF) which makes me wonder why on earth the standard editor is supposed to look like pages.
Now to the app. The app mostly resembles the printout when put into Print layout mode. Mostly. Not completely. I had to fix three pages in my big document, three pages where a line or two spilled over onto another page in printout/PDF that wasn't like that in the editor.

However, this was the second version of the document that I created this afternoon. The first version had the page margins changed after about thirty pages (to give more space around the edges of the pages) and that just threw everything off, to the point where the print layout and the result frequently did not match. I'm not sure what exactly went wrong, but I feel that any competent word processor ought to cope sensibly with margin sizes changing.

I think the problem comes down to the fact that there are three rendering engines in use. The first is whatever the browser is doing, and it just messes everything up completely. The second is the app. And the third is the PDF renderer on Google's servers - printing the document basically means quietly getting a PDF from Google, it isn't generated locally. This means there are going to be variations, and the more complex a document is, the more likely that it will differ in small subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways.

The idea of Google Docs is good, and the collaborative aspect may win it some friends, as will the ability to use it pretty much anywhere. But it does seem quite odd that an application provided by the likes of Google (hardly a cash strapped company run by people who need to look for answers on StackOverflow) is so very deficient. Docs, in app form, especially on a tablet, could shine and show the competition how it is done. Could. Could.


Google Files

My tablet seems unable to share anything via WiFi. There is no support in Android Go for WiFi Direct. This means I have to use the built-in Files application.
Files is an oddity. It seems mostly concerned with nagging you to delete files that it considers "old" or "too big", and when you've done so it often pops up a cheesy message like "Yay! More space for videos!" ... that it'll nag you about soon enough.
Files also has a file transfer system that works by setting one device as a receiver and one as a sender. The sender looks for devices, when it appears you tap on it. The sender will then take a long time to generate a connection ID that will eventually appear on the receiver, who can then accept or reject the connection. It's cumbersome and really needs the idea of "trusted devices" where two things can connect automatically. But whatever, that part does the job.
Now here's the funny thing. For the actual transfer, the sender will create a hotspot and the receiver will connect directly to that hotspot.
It is bollocks.
In my room last night a 500MiB file claimed to want around 40 minutes to transfer. This being hotspot to device, a distance of about five centimetres. I gave up and went to bed as it was late.
Today, I repeated the action. The transfer went ahead and it took about four minutes. The difference? I'm sitting out front with line-of-sight to the router.
So would somebody care to explain why Files sets up a nice hotspot for direct transfer between two devices, the speed of which depends upon proximity to the WiFi router?

Also of interest is the fact that Files on my phone will completely refuse to work unless I let it see my location. It doesn't ask on the tablet as there is no GPS hardware. But for the phone, yup, it wants GPS on. I let it, then turn GPS off manually right afterwards. It just strikes me as a blatant and shameless data grab on the part of Google. If I have two devices next to each other that puts out some sort of message on the network so they can detect each other, it really should not matter in the slightest where in the world I am located.



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David Pilling, 18th August 2019, 19:50
I'd be interested to know the context of Amazon Pantry. In the UK the big 4 supermarkets along with some of the smaller ones have a home delivery service. Amazon sees itself as a competitor in this market. Is it the same in France and you're buying speciality items. Or is Amazon the only player?
David Pilling, 18th August 2019, 19:52
"Cat cleaning fluid" 8-) 
VinceH, 18th August 2019, 19:53
I've made a comment or three elsewhere about GPS oddities elsewhere, but hadn't bothered trying to work out what's been going wrong - you've answered it. 
It seems to be absolutely useless now for recording my route, which I do when I go for a walk. (Although to be fair, all of my recent walks have been through local woods with a mostly full canopy, so it might be that when I next go for a proper walk, in more open terrain, it might get a better signal to start with.) 
The picking of a seemingly random location from its history is bizarre, though - the most logical thing to do would be to return the most recent valid fix.
VinceH, 18th August 2019, 19:54
"... elsewhere about ... elswhere" 
Rick, 18th August 2019, 20:02
Yeah. Apparently cats get dirty. Who'd have known? Still, I can attest that cat plus baby shampoo is... Made of FAIL. 
Just don't. Dirty cat will NOT thank you. 
As to Pantry, I don't know about the cities (they sometimes get same day delivery promises to not keep!) but out in the sticks you can do your shopping online, so long as it comes to €70 or so (depends upon the shop) they'll send a girl to pick up all the stuff you want. You have to go to the shop through a sort of drive through area to collect the stuff. 
Yeah, the GPS thing is maddening.
David Pilling, 19th August 2019, 18:40
Here supermarkets deliver to the door, there is a min order, but the charges can be low, pound a delivery. For some people it is an important thing - if they're home bound. 
Cat's are self cleaning. 
GPS - you'd think they'd do inertial navigation when they lose the signal.
VinceH, 25th December 2019, 19:08
Returning to the GPS problem... I've finally been on a proper walk - although it was through woods, so I was expecting the recording of the route to be a big fat fail. As it happens, though, it was a success; a complete record of my route. \o/

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