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.

The Sad, Avoidable Downfall of the E-Book Reader Aldiko

I’ve been a staunch user of the Aldiko ebook reader on Android for many many years. It was stable, easy to use, featureful enough to be a comfortable reading experience, and handled local libraries pretty well.

Then in 2014, Aldiko was purchased by Feedbooks. Not that big a deal, the press releases were all glowy about how much they loved Aldiko, things should continue, we all expected some new features.

Aldiko is now owned by DeMarque

In 2019 Feedbooks was aquired by DeMarque. Apparently Feedbooks was in serious trouble, and this acquisition was purely financial as part of a deal to settle up accounts with DeMarque:

What the press release doesn’t dwell on is that Feedbooks had been in receivership since June 2018 and the merger is the result of a Commercial Court settlement whereby De Marque paid 230,000 euros to acquire the assets of Feedbooks and its subsidiary Aldiko as part of a disposal plan.

Aug 29, 2019 – newpublishingstandard.com
Aldiko Next – the lobotomized version of Aldiko

Somewhere in 2021, DeMarque decided the Aldiko app needed a rewrite. Understandable. Old apps need refreshing and updates, sometimes an entire rewrite is in order.

So they published Aldiko Next – an extremely feature light, barely functional book reader (I won’t call it a ‘version of Aldiko’. It isn’t. It’s a rewrite). That’s fine, new versions are published all the time, and then the users are given time to try the new app, and iron out the bugs.

But DeMarque decided “Nope. We’re going to force the literal 20 million installs of Aldiko to the new version. Without notification. Without an Opt-out.”

Aldiko Next is absolute hot garbage. Don’t believe me? Look at the reviews on the play store. They’re universally panning the app.

DeMarque’s answer to bad reviews?

“Hello, In addition to several new features, Aldiko 4 will offer all the ones that were already available, only improved. We’ve decided to deploy them incrementally. So it is normal that some features from previous versions are not yet available. They will be available as future versions are released. Please note that 4.3.6 has just been released.”

November 9, 2021 Play review response

Note, the ‘will offer’. These features are NOT AVAILABLE. Yet they forced ALL the users to upgrade to the new version. When challenged on why this is a bad idea, Hadrian Gardeur, the founder of Feedbooks, doubled down with a basic “Ignore the reviews. We know what we’re doing”

I stopped responding after that message. There didn’t seem to be any point.

So what’s the alternative?

Moon+ Reader on Android

I encourage anyone who is frustrated with DeMarque / Feedbooks destroying a beloved app to simply… take your business elsewhere. I have switched completely to Moon+ Reader, which is an outstanding app, extremely featureful, offers a ‘free, with ads’ and a ‘pro’ version. I’ve simply moved all my books over to that, and things are running beautifully. Everything works as expected, and basic features that should always have been there… are still there, unlike Aldiko.

I understand the need for companies to make a profit, and do business. It takes money to develop, market, and support applications. But there’s also a responsibility to the userbase to not destroy the experience for them. This seems like a no brainer, but apparently, some people just don’t get it.

If you’re going to upgrade an app, then do so. Engage your users, make the migration an accepting and functional experience. Do not slam everyone into an incomplete codebase and then dismiss their complaints.

That is a textbook recipe for how to drive your users to your competitors platforms.

Well done DeMarque. Well done.

When Sites Get Stupid – Techspot Raspberry Pi Ripoff

I have a pretty comprehensive RSS collection, using Feedly as my portal into all things awesome. I’m also really enjoying playing with my Raspberry Pi teeny computer, so when I saw a posting come up saying “The Complete Raspberry Pi 2 Starter Kit – just $115 in the TechSpot Store – gives you all the tools and resources you need to start your Raspberry Pi experience right.“, I had to give it a look.

techspots shameful bundling
Shame on Techspot for an idiotic bundle.

What a scam. Shame on you Techspot. Take a look at that “Kit”. It’s the baseline Raspberry Pi, at a slightly higher, but still “in the realm of normal” price. An case / kit – well, okay, that’s helpful, though pricier than what you can find on Amazon with 5 seconds of searching… and 4 ‘courses’, at $200 each. Yes kids, they’re valuing information anyone can get with 10 seconds of googling at $200 a pop.

A new low Techspot. A new low.