Bad Usability Still Abounds on the Web

Trying to log into T-Mobile, it refuses to take 555-555-1234 as my phone number. At first it says nothing at all, just silently fails, but then after I angrily click on the page several times, it finally coughs up “Enter a valid email or phone number.”

T-Mobile Face-plants the usability

For whatever reason, possibly due to stressing about whether my phone has been hacked, it takes me a while to realize how boring the error is. It’s the “our programmers are so lazy, they want only numbers” error!

I finally twig and type in 5555555555 and it “helpfully” makes that look like (555) 555-1234. How hard is it to just take out the non-numerical input? It’s literally one line of code in most programming languages! Even in Java it’s only 2 lines!

Finally, I get the happy pink color, but only after typing “5555555555”. Also, I don’t want to shock you but that’s not my actual phone number. I get enough random robo callers already.

My other “favorite” issue is when I go to pay the Target card. After earning a brownie point for pre-selecting my one and only payment method, it then blows it by defaulting to a date which has passed. “We’re story, you attempted to schedule a payment in the past.” This has happened multiple times now.

No Target, I’m sorry, I am not a demented time-traveller trying to pay my bills, you set me up for failure, if it’s after midnight where you are (Minnesota, is that where Target headquarters are?) then don’t offer me an impossible option! What a concept. At least they finally stopped using blurry images for all their text.

Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

That cover is stunning! I’m not normally one to squee over covers, but this one features an actual scene from the book, give or take some artistic liberties with the fire in the sky, and still catches the eye.

The books centers around two well-drawn cultures, one Eastern and one Western, based loosely on Japan and England. In one, dragons are revered, in the other, reviled. The world has primitive guns that don’t work very well, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “flintlock” fantasy.

Magic users gain their magic from the titular orange tree. They eat it to obtain the magic, and can keep that magic if they carefully hoard it for months or even years. They also train extensively in the martial arts.

The characters are good, Sabran the Western queen, Ead the bad ass warrior monk/spy from the East, a dragon rider named Tané who actually has a saddle, unlike certain folks on TV shows with blue-eyed bad guys and a high body count. She rides one of the eastern dragons, the more serpent-style ones featured on the covers. They are the good dragons: the Western ones look more like traditional dragons and are evil, a nice touch.

Oh yes, most of the main characters are women. If you find dragons realistic but strong women who excel at fighting or leading unrealistic, you will hate this book. It’s not for you.

Similarly, if you can handle magic fruit but can’t handle characters who are attracted to folks of the same gender, you will also have a bad time. For instance, another main character is Niclays, an ethically-challenged alchemist who, before the events of the novel, lost his lover, a prominent nobleman. Clearly, Niclays never really gotten over him. Refreshingly, no one in the world has any hangups about same-gender relationships.

Speaking of which, a relationship grows naturally between Sabran and Ead, and there are few sex scenes with a sprinkling of detail. It’s clear what’s going on, but not too clear. The primary focus of the novel is a well-done version of the epic fantasy end of the world scenario, but it’s possibly a bit too much for YA readers depending on their age.

About YA: Samantha Shannon’s other work, a series, is a YA series. I could not get into it, it wasn’t bad, but was rather different in tone and not my cup of tea.

The writing is fluid and clean. Despite its length (800 pages), the story keeps a good pace. There are 4 viewpoint characters, and all of them are interesting. The book is a standalone, which is nice in this day of 17 book series. It has a trilogy’s worth of action and world-altering events.

Apparently the plot is a gender-bending retelling of St. George and the dragon. I did not realize that while reading it, so clearly knowledge of that is not needed to enjoy it. It may add a nice layer to those who enjoy retellings.

1 Weird Trick to Stop Random Bots from Britain From Hosing Your Ruby on Rails site

Add this to your apache configuration (assuming you have mod_rewrite enabled, and assuming you are not using nginx)

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} MJ12bot
    RewriteRule .* - [F]

Story: This stupid Majestic 12 bot from Britain with a User Agent string of “MJ12” that is totally not a spambot was hammering a Ruby on Rails site on this VPS, causing the system load to shoot up as high as 15.

I have used robots.txt for this kind of thing in the past, but I wanted to make sure. The request is told to go away before it even hits the Rails server. Now, the load is under 1, and the VPS is not using 95% of its swap space.

Much better.

I am also using the WP fail2ban plugin along with a bit of server configuration to stop the constant stream of bots trying to hack into this WordPress site.

Final Fantasy XV Random Note

In the boss battle against Leviathan, the part in which you are warping around from one platform to the next, I had a long period in which I was not able to hit the boss. I believe that I had to use the targeting function (R1 on the default setup for PS4) and then hit Triangle for the warp attack. So after 10 minutes of wasting potions and the like, I went out to the next stage, which was a lot more fun.