The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Do They Do This?

I am a crossword buff. I used to play them on my desktop then I discovered The "Shortyz" app for my android tablet. 6-7 puzzles each day to solve. Wonderful! I was in crossword heaven. It was one of the first apps I downloaded. But no longer. The latest update has ruined it. It was once a black background grid with the clues also using a black background. It was just fine. That's gone, replaced by a garish white background. And the keyboad, which once resembled the native keyboard (white letters on gray "keys"), now is also using that garish white background with no keys, just letters.

Still, I gave it a shot. Instead of giving you a green vertical bar on the right edge for each puzzle name when completed it (you would get a partial orange bar in the same place for an uncompleted one), it now puts a checkmarked circle on the left ... but only after you exit it completely and re-open the app. In other words, feedback is delayed. After completing six of the seven puzzles today (Monday, November 24), I started to work the final puzzle (a "New York Times Classic" from May 7th, 1998) when I ran into a glitch. As I was filling in a three letter word for zero (obviously, "NIL") where I already had the "IL", the app jumped me to a word I had already filled out correctly and placed the "N" in that word. And I found yet another glitch when I tried to fill in another word where it just jumped to an unrelated space and put the letter I was entering into that.

To sum it up, the update BROKE the app. I cannot even complain to the author of the app because I "do not have permission to comment." The website is if you wish to know and it appears that a guy named "Robert Cooper" is the author.

Do not download this app. Do not encourage the author to do anything to further ruin what was once a great app. Encourage him to FIX IT!


Steven said...

I've always liked Shortyz (named after Will Shortz), and the developer has always put it out for free, open source (so anybody can send bug fixes or improvements), and has worked with content providers to try to maintain free puzzles and give the option for publishers to sell puzzle subscriptions.

I don't play it much anymore, but opened the updated version today to check it out. He put out a 4.0 version that matches the looks of the new Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Looks pretty good.

About the keyboard: he long ago put in a custom keyboard to keep people from complaining about their manufacturer-customized keyboards that didn't work right. At the time he put it in, he matched the looks of the default android keyboard at the time (2.3 Gingerbread, I believe). The new update is the default look of the Lollipop keyboard. I have the Lollipop keyboard (Google releases it on the Play Store for devices where the manufacturer has put a bastardized keyboard on the device). My lollipop keyboard settings are set to black, so the white keyboard used by Shortyz (which is almost identical to the default settings of Lollipop keyboard) is quite garish to me. I went to settings, changed the keyboard setting to "Native," and now everything looks great. The new design of Shortyz looks great with the high percentage of all my other apps that now use Material Design (design language of Lollipop). Again, kudos on him.

I haven't used it enough to find any glitches, but with any major update they're bound to happen. He tries to make Shortyz be everything to everyone by providing a HUGE amount of customization options, some of which I know affect the placement of the cursor while filling in letters. Dealing with a bunch of options like that often leads to bugs, he should probably take the Apple approach and take most of the customization out and just say "here's how I think it should work, get used to it."

Anyway, there is a way to provide feedback, and as a maintainer of many projects myself, I know I appreciate a good bug report that states the app version, device it's running on, a clear statement of the problem, and steps to reproduce. You can open issues here.

Steven said...

Picture of Shortyz after setting Keyboard to Native

Douglas said...

Steven, you are calm, cool, and collected... and entirely too rational. I, OTOH, am prone to becoming emotional. I will investigate the options. I think, however, I made the mistake of allowing auto-updates. Though I am pretty sure I would have taken the update and been just as unhappy. Glitches are glitches and I think they should be caught before posting something for the world. On the other hand, I realize they can slip through. I looked through the reviews by users and they are uniformly unhappy with the changes. I side with them.

Steven said...

Yeah, I can't separate my usage of software from my years of software development, so I'm a lot more forgiving of bugs, at least in some cases. Mac OS X Yosemite (newest version) is still plagued with issues that infuriate me...because Apple should know better. And they're a huge company with cash to burn, and they can afford to do better QA.

But when somebody puts out an application for free, I'm generally pretty forgiving, since I've put out free/open source software in addition to my corporate jobs where my code (presumably) goes through testing by QA people. When I release something for free, I try to fix bugs and be responsive to user feedback and requests, but there's only so much time in the day to spend on something that you do for the love and not to put food on the table.

In the case of Shortyz, I think his best option would be to use the Google Play Beta mechanism to let users opt-in to trying the newest versions, and only releasing them as an auto-update after they've been vetted by the adventurous souls signed up for beta releases.

Douglas said...

Steven, Robert Cooper fixed many of the bugs but did not change the garish white background (which a number of users disliked). I looked for an option to use a "native keyboard" (not sure that would work for my old ICS anyway)but found nothing that would qualify. I guess I am stuck with the white keyboard. Recent complaints report crashing but I am not having that problem. Oddly, now the app removes the last puzzle completed from the list after you select the next puzzle (not when you complete it) but it retains one (seemingly at random) which it marks as completed with the circled checkmark. In today's case, it was the LA Times puzzle. A bit confusing.

Steven said...

Haha, I opened the app to look for the Keyboard option in settings (perhaps for your particular device or because you're on a tablet you can't choose the Native option under Settings -> Keyboard Style, I don't know), and it looks like he wrote you a message.

From the changelog when you open the app after it's upgraded to 4.0.2:

"...thanks to everyone for complaining. As you can imagine there were a number of really annoying problems..."

"I know unfrozen caveman users HATE CHANGE. I honestly expected a lot of hate, and I got about what I expected. :P ... I will look into adding the option for a dark keyboard, but that isn't something I can do in a day..."

Douglas said...

Steven, I never saw that. I do not appreciate being referred to as an "frozen caveman" but I understand the sentiment and the tendency to lash out at critics. What I saw was change that wasn't needed or requested and I truly do hate change for change's sake. I have, in the past, run into hateful responses to what I considered light criticism of software. I even wrote a program (a small game) which took over the screen, replaced the user's default colors and fonts and changed them to really ugly colors and large fonts, as a way of making a point. Few even noticed and no one complained.

hpm Bosnia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Douglas said...

Steven, I found the option for "native keyboard" and it works but not all that well. When I exit the app I have to kill the keyboard and the app does not bring it back up unless I recall the particular puzzle I want. The keyboard also covers the lower part of the puzzle; not a real problem since it auto-scrolls.