Thursday, July 6, 2017

Alphabet is for Antitrust?

There's a certain amount of attention being paid to Alphabet right now, such as the huge EU outcome, and all the attention that Yelp have brought to the discussion.

And, a lot of that is, I think, quite justified.

Meanwhile, I must admit that I lost about 3 hours the other day to a bit of Alphabet frustration of a different sort.

Google Docs, when it works (and it usually does work quite well), is an amazing piece of software. Collaborative document editing in the cloud! What's not to love?

But there I was, just beating my head into a bloody pulp.

I was trying to combine 3 semi-related presentations into a single new presentation.

I started the new presentation, and wrote some introductory slides.

Then I began grabbing content from the other presentations.

I opened up several browser tabs, and picked a slide from this presentation, and copied-and-pasted it into my new presentation.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, it wasn't working.

Normally, whenever you change a Google Docs document, it automatically initiates a background save. The message "Saving..." appears, followed after 30 seconds or so by the message "All changes saved in Google Drive."

But, not this time.

After I would paste in a slide, "Saving..." would display, and display, and display.

Until, after about 2 minutes, some completely bizarre error message would show up, and Google Docs would simply throw away all the changes I'd made to my presentation since the first "paste" action.

Sometimes the message would be something about permissions.

Sometimes it would be more generic, and would say "Google has encountered an unexpected error saving your document".

I refreshed tabs, logged back out and back in, over and over.

Made that single great presentation multiple times, only to have Google throw it away on the floor.

Searching for similar problems brought nothing.

But then, while stomping around near my desk, complaining bitterly to the air, it occurred to me: I was using Mozilla Firefox.

I went back to my computer, brought up Google Chrome, and re-performed the exact same sequence of operations.


Which is a shame, because Mozilla Firefox is really the platinum standard of browsers nowadays, and it's rare that it lets me down.

Now, in all fairness, Google Docs is an extraordinarily complex piece of software, implemented as a MASSIVE amount of Javascript, running in the browser. And Javascript is notoriously non-standardized, with many disparate and varying implementations, not the least of which is Google's own proprietary V8 engine.

So it makes a lot of sense that my problem was due to a client-side Javascript portability problem, and switching browsers fixed it.

That is, what should make me think that running Google's tools should work on any browser other than Google's own browser?

Silly me.

But, I am (becoming) an old man.

And, I'm old enough to remember when a dominant computing company had their own suite of office software which worked best (or, in some cases, only worked at all) with their own internet browser.

And, I'm also old enough to remember what happened next.

Sometimes it seems like we go though the same motions, over and over.

For the time being, I unfortunately have work that I have to get done.

So, I'm sorry, Mozilla, but I'll be using Chrome for the next few days, at least until I finish this particular project.

No comments:

Post a Comment