Space Flight 704, Chapter 30: Dubious Powers

He didn't like the answer.

He was hoping for a solution like "Laser-Vision" or "Cosmic Hug" to the problem of Jones' increasing power.

Instead he was advised to wait and master his own power.

"But what power do I have," he asked, "other than a difficulty staying dead, full control of my hands in a place where I can't use them, power to destroy things followed by crippling guilt, and now a painful link to someone who wants me dead and has already murdered me?"

"You must trust me," replied his companion earnestly, "you have time, and you will understand soon.

"Without my assistance, I want you to withdraw yourself to the other realm. There is someone I would like you to meet."

My Small Issue With the Windows Live Sync Beta

Had a strange problem using the new Microsoft Windows Live Sync Beta. It's working fine on one of my computers, but on the other one, it drops a letter when I set up a folder to sync.

See what I mean?

For example, if I want to sync a folder like D:\My Videos, the program accepts the folder I want as D:\y Videos and then creates this new folder for syncing. Or it might sync D:\Archives as D:\rchives. On my other computer - no issues.

Investigating a bit, I discovered it doesn't happen on my other drives (C:, F:). My D drive is different, in that I've moved the location of my My Documents folder to D. In a quick test, I discovered that moving it again to a subfolder of D removes the issue. It's not a permanent solution however, as a) I like having my documents folder in the root of my secondary drive, and b) I would have to move 220Gb of data to an external drive and back again as you can't move the location to a subfolder of the current location.

So I've sent feedback to Microsoft using the inbuilt "report a problem" menu in the beta. I did it in two parts though, so this post is my way of putting it all in one place, and on the off chance that someone is having a similar issue, they might get some comfort knowing that it's not their fault (well it is, but only ever so slightly).

Six Things Wave Needs Soon

I love the potential of Google Wave, but that doesn't mean I'm not sometimes frustrated with it. Here's my list of stuff I'd like to see sooner rather than later.

  1. A way to "subscribe" to people/searches: Lisa Miller writes Our Patch (the First Wavezine) on Google Wave ["our patch" wave search]. John Blossom write useful waves about Wave [wave search for John Blossom]. I'd like to "subscribe" to these searches and have them tell me when new items are published by these people. The presence of "archive" and "mark as read" options when you make a search suggests it should eventually tell you when the search has updated, but it's not implemented yet. Instead, users are making their own indexes (for example - Our Patch) And while we're on searches - a "quick add" option to turn a search into a shortcut.
  2. Spam and abuse management: Spam and destruction seem out of control sometimes on wave. We know the team are building spam and user management, but it's a bit slow going at the moment.
  3. Federation: At time of writing, federation (connecting one Wave server to another) is only supported in the developer sandbox and not in the public wave preview. It'd be nice to know that when Novell Pulse is released, they'll both talk from day one.
  4. Moderation tools: Creators should have the choice to lock their initial blip from editing if that is what they desire. Some blips are purely informative and don't need to be edited by all and sundry. This is perhaps antithetical to the way the creators intended Wave to be used, but users will do as they want with a tool, and it's up to developers to support them.
  5. Google Apps support for all users: I don't like using nunn.joshua@googlewave.com. I'd much rather use josh@nunnone.com as I have with email for the last 5 years.
  6. Better contact management: Currently contacts appear in Google Contacts under their Google email addresses. Why not add their names automatically, put them in a "Wave" group, and add a link to their home page pulled from their Google Profile (and don't try to tell me Google doesn't know that much about them...)

Coming Soon!

So that's my list of "missing features" that are necessary ASAP. What do you think Wave is missing right now?

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilovememphis/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

How Wave Could Tackle the Spam Problem

The Wave team have said very little about how they will address the spam problem, but from some clues and hints in the interface and what they have said, I can take a couple of guesses about how they could start to tackle it.
  1. First up, Wave will ensure messages are signed and verified from the source. Currently email can be forged and made to look like a legitimate email coming from a trusted source. The Wave Protocol specifically addresses this, making it impossible for anyone to "spoof" another address without access to that user's account.
  2. Email currently makes it very easy to send millions of messages with little to no cost involved for the sender - they send and delete and don't need to save copies of them, and the recipient is forced to deal with the accumulated data. The Wave Protocol however, requires the sender to host the wave and keep a copy for future reference. Spammers will no doubt find ways to send and then remove their waves, but if a host no longer hosts the wave, that could be a reliable indication that the sender was a spammer.
  3. Finally, the few times the developers have been asked about spam they've mentioned a possible white-list system. White-listing involves choosing who can send you messages and blocking everyone else. People worry that this will stop legitimate communication, say from long lost friends, getting through. But already built into the interface is a "Requests" link that Wave says are "Waves for users not in your contacts list". This could allow anyone to contact you, but you'd know at a glance that they weren't from people you knew and trusted, and could more easily add them to your contacts, or mark them as spam.

I believe a combination of these three factors will go some way to addressing the spam problem. By tying everyone to a Wave server it's not as economical to spam using waves. By not allowing completely anonymous communication, reported spammers can be more easily shut down, and by white-listing users we can identify potential spam at a snap. The Wave team will hopefully come up with even more solutions to implement and I'll be interested to see how it develops.

French, Postboxes and Wave

When I was in grade 8 I learnt French. I say learn, but it was a handful of disconnected words and maybe a sentence or two that I couldn't possibly remember now. The problem for me was that I knew I was going about learning it the wrong way, but relied on the teacher to teach me the "best way". See, when I wanted to say a word in French, I first had to think of the word in English, then check my mental filing system for the equivalent word in French. It's a slow and cumbersome way of recall that never really worked for me, no matter how many times we repeated the words by rote.

élégance by héctor*

I'm not bringing it up now to point out the flaws in my year 8 education, but to highlight something about the way people learn. When Wave was first announced and launched it was described by various people as "sort of like email" or "part instant messenger, part Google Docs". This is because we often find it easier to understand something new when we "pin" it on a concept we already know and understand. Likening one thing to something else is sort of like my metal filing cabinet I had in 8th grade, useful up to a point, but no way to go about using something on an advanced day-to-day basis.

Which is why I think Google or a third party need to seriously consider how the non-tech-minded are going to learn how to use Wave.

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I footnotes