Google Voice: A slow slide into disfunctionality

I’ve been a Google Voice user for over a decade. The service has been reliable, steadfast, and for the most part, works as expected.

But as with so many Google products, I feel Voice is slowly rotting on the vine, and each day I find another thing that is not working properly, or is simply unfathomable in it’s behaviour.

Lets run down the challenges facing Voice now.

Integration with chat on mobile devices
Google has a dreadful track record when it comes to chat apps / communication. Hangouts, Allo, Chat, Messages, heck even Plus – each of these lived at some point. Some died, some moved, some… we’re just not sure what’s going on. Until Google figures out their messaging strategy and actually executes it, we’re all going to be fidgeting.

The only option for message handling.

Voice originally integrated with Hangouts, but that integration has long since gone by the wayside. Now the only way to use google voice with IM is either in the Voice App on the phone, or via https://voice.google.com/.

The web app
Okay, so there’s https://voice.google.com – a relatively useful webpage for sending//receiving calls, texts, etc. But… it’s a TERRIBLE application. I feel it was written once in 2013 and basically hasn’t been improved since. Some examples:

Contacts integration is dreadful. Trying to find or update a contact in the page is an exercise in frustration.

In the text chat, image handling is completely useless. No paste, no simple “Send this file”, and even when you do send something, it may simply fail with “Not sent” – more on this in a moment. But at it’s basic level, here’s how to send a photo / pic in voice:

The least useful dialog ever
  • Find your image / pic / whatever you want to sendSave a copy of that image to your desktop
  • Open the voice app and click the little photo icon in the send boxYou’d think you could paste an image here. You’d be wrong. Click Select photos from your computer
  • Find the photo you were just editing, double-click on that. This ‘uploads’ the photo to… something. Not google photos – something specific to Voice?
  • Select the photo. Now it’s a thumbnail in your send box
  • Click send
  • It probably won’t send. You’ll get the intensely informative and useful error “Not sent”. That’s it!

For some reason, Voice does not support RCS – the Rich Communication Service. You know the one that Google actively championed.

The Voice website is apparently very unstable on Firefox, and has been for several years. No fix has happened.

Other than that Mrs Lincoln…

Seriously though, other than that, the basic function of Voice is still outstanding. One phone number that rings in multiple places. I can take a call ringing on my cell phone on any desktop machine I’m logged into via voice. That’s amazingly useful. My phone number has been the same for 15 years now – when I get a new service plan or change phones, I can just route my Voice number to it, without having to port any numbers.

I really enjoy being able to use my USB Microphone and desktop speakers for cell phone calls without having to haul my phone out if someone is calling me. The audio quality is excellent and it’s very convenient. I would really hate to lose the product, but I also wish Google would fix some of the rough edges that are just getting rougher as the Voice ages.

If I didn’t have the nagging feeling Google will abandon Voice just like they do so many other products, I’d be a much bigger fan, but the slow eroding of functionality doesn’t give me a lot of hope.

Overhead LED Light Replacement for RV Camper Trailer

When we got our 2016 Starcraft hybrid trailer, it felt like a great combination of small size, expandable living space, and conveniences. I mean, we have our own bathroom, shower, AC, heating, and kitchenette. Heaven!

One thing irked me right off the bat though. The internal lighting. The trailer came with round 12v ceiling lights that were blazingly bright. No dimmer, no adjustment, and it was direct lighting – ie, it shined directly on whatever you were illuminating, unlike, say, a table lamp, which uses a shade to diffuse the light.

I decided to replace them.

The Light

After doing some research, I settled on the BlueFire 700LM Dimmable LED dome lights. They offered a couple advantages:

  • They fit the aesthetic of the interior – flush mount, easy to attach
  • These panels are dimmable. You can use the slider to bring the intensity down to whatever you’re looking for
  • They have a ‘temperature’ setting that lets you go from ‘electric blue bright’ to ‘soft yellow’, depending on what you prefer.

Installation

Here’s what the old lights look like. They’re pretty basic, just an on/off switch. There’s about 4 in the interior (I’m not touching the ceiling lights, these are just for the sitting areas)

Uninstalling the light was pretty straightforward. Pop off the cover, unscrew the 4 mounting screws. Of course, that revealed this top notch installation job on the part of Starcraft. Looks like they just poked away at it with a small drill until they could smash a hole. Sigh.

After that, it was just a matter of wiring in the two leads, and screwing the new planel into place. I really like how it looks, and nighttimes are FAR FAR more comfortable now, as I can dim the lights down, put some quiet music on, and relax.

I really like being able to do basic changes to the trailer, upgrading bits and pieces, and slowly tweaking it to something I’m really comfortable in. One big project I’m hoping to figure out is how to make the sitting area more comfortable. Those bench seats around the table are uncomfortable as heck. A project for another time.