Archive for December, 2013

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast is great, but his Libsyn app really sucks

December 15, 2013

I am quite a fan of Marc Maron’s podcasts.  I listen to every new one, and am slowly plowing my way through his first 400.  I recommend him.   He is a real human being who is unafraid to reveal himself, and his interviews glisten with that humanity.

Unfortunately, in order to access any podcasts older than 6 months, you need to use his “app”, and his app is the most buggy software I can ever recall using.

I downloaded the app and purchased a year’s worth of access back in August.  I corresponded with Rob Walch of Libsyn, the authors of the app, explaining all of the anomalous behavior that I was seeing.  I expected an update in a few weeks, or a month.  Here we are four months later, and no updates.  So, my problem with Libsyn is not only that they write crappy software, but that they seem to not care in the slightest that they have bugs.  I guess they are focusing on taking money from customers, rather than on delivering software that actually works.

What bugs have I found?

1) I listen to Marc with my iPhone 4S in my pocket, using ear buds.  If I need to pause the podcast, I press the button on the ear buds.  The good news is that the audio does stop.  The bad news is that if you then press the button a second time, the audio resumes from the start of the broadcast.  Even stranger, if you look at the iPhone display, the display shows the triangle that indicates that the app is not playing audio at all (even though it is).  The indicated position of replay is correct (middle of the podcast) even though the audio is from the start of the podcast. And, stranger still, if you press on that triangle, the playback jumps to the correct location.  So, they are somehow handling the signals from the ear buds differently than from the iPhone display.

2) If you try to pause the audio for a longer period of time, the playback starts from the beginning of the podcast, and there is no way to resume the podcast where you left off.  You have to poke around with the scroll bar, trying to remember where you left off.

3) if you pause even longer, the app simply unloads itself.   I have no idea why this is considered to be a feature: none of the Apple podcast apps do this.  It does not seem necessary, and it is annoying to have to re-launch the app.

4) when you start the Apple podcast app, it starts in perhaps a second.  The Libsyn app takes perhaps 10 seconds, long enough to be annoying.  I have no idea how they managed to write something that takes 10 seconds to load.  This is quite an achievement.

5) the app has the concept of “starred” items, the podcasts that you have downloaded to list to later on.  If you are playing a starred podcast and pause long enough that the app unloads, then when you restart the app, it has forgotten that you were listening to starred playback.  So, you are no longer listening to the same set of podcasts as you were originally.  If you do not have a data source, the app tries to stream, and fails.

6) the app seems to react differently depending on whether you have access to WiFi, to a mobile data stream, neither, or both.  Sometimes you have to enable Airplane mode just to get the thing to work properly.  Ridiculous.

7) sometimes when I resume, the location in the podcast is off by as much as 30 minutes!

8) if you want to report a problem with the app, you must do this via email.  Think about this.  The app acquires data from the web, and yet there is no way to just click a button and have the necessary debug information transmitted to the Libsyn web site.  Not everyone uses their iPods with email enabled.

I complained so loudly that they blocked me, so they no longer will listen to my complaints.  If you have the ear of either Marc or Libsyn, please ask them to fix their software.  The podcasts are so good!  The app is execrable.

IOS 7 is horrible

December 6, 2013

Up until a week ago, I was an Apple booster, but the arrival of IOS 7 has changed that.  Screens that were easy to read are almost impossible to read now.

Take the Podcast application.  Used to be, you could clearly see how many podcasts remained unread for each source: it was a clearly legible number.  Now, there is a small light gray on white number, something so difficult to spot that I had to show a friend where it was while I was ranting.  He could not see it at all.

Or the Clock application.  When you try to set a timer, what  you now see is almost impossible to read.  It was really easy to see before.

I have no idea why Apple decided to “fix” stuff that was working very well, and make it hardly work at all.  Are they so bored there that they change things that are not broken?

Maybe there is some way to throw a new skin on the stuff that I can no longer read. I have no idea.  And I’m not that enthusiastic about spending my time to fix Apple’s screw-up.

I’m researching Samsung Galaxy Android devices now.

Apple: you are not so far head of the others that you cannot fail.  What you just did is real crap.