Saturday, January 03, 2015

Much ADO about Nada

I had long resisted purchasing bus tickets on line, especially from ADO (Autobuses Del Oriente) which serves southeastern Mexico. If you want, for example, to travel from México, DF to Oaxaca, you are pretty much limited to ADO.

Another reason for reluctance for on-line purchase was that ADO was notorious (at least, on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Mexico Branch) for not accepting foreign credit cards. And I was reluctant to use my Mexican bank ATM card.

Moreover, the web site interface, as well as its partner site, Boletotal (formerly or perhaps still "TicketBus" was unusual in the world of Mexican bus line websites. The ADO and especially, Boletotal sites had a peculiar, and often nosy way of gathering info of the bus ticket supplicants.

I can't say for sure whether these particular sites qualify, but some Mexican bus websites have a timeout function. You had better complete your transaction in the meager allotted time or be forced to begin all over from the beginning.

While it's true that it's often practical to go to the appropriate bus station to buy tickets on the day of departure. Those of us who are qualified to reap the benefits of Mexico's INAPAM senior discount program usually prefer to purchase in advance to be assured a 50% off discounted seat on the departure of your choice.

After purchasing in person at Pátzcuaro bus station our tickets to Mexico City Poniente on the separate AutoVias line (easy), we learned that we couldn't buy ADO tickets from the AutoVías taquilla (But you can buy ETN tickets there.)

So I bit the bullet and entered the fray on the site. It wasn't as bad as expected. There was, eventually a place to check off INAPAM (although they didn't ask for the numbers of our credenciales. There will be a review at boarding.

At last I reached the final screen, which informed me that "page couldn't be displayed." Oh, woe.

Yet when I opened my email in-box, there was a confirmation of payment from ADO!

Of course, there was just one tiny flaw: there was the word "null" after my name. I don't think this will present any problems at our boarding time.

Space Age Travel in Mexico TAPO

Thursday, January 01, 2015

I Hate My iPad

Borrowed from the Web

Over the years I have bought more than a few nearly useless or quickly obsoleted digital devices. But my most expensive, biggest mistake was to buy an iPad Mini.
Of the millions of users of Apple's iPad tablet, I may be one of a small handful that hates it, and especially its hellish operating system.
Someone else hates their iPad. Read it and be enlightened.

Last summer, while visiting Mom and Sis in New Jersey, I toyed with the idea of buying an iPad. I was sick at the time, and my mind was not working clearly. But on a whim, I ordered an iPad Mini 32 Gb with Retina Display.

I admit that it's a handsome little tablet, and I wasted no time in setting it up.

I'd already had some experience with an iPod Touch of ancient vintage, so I thought that would give me a leg up in understanding this new toy. It did not. It's true that my brain is aging, and I am less open to learning new tricks. I dislike distraction, but the iPad is masterly at distraction.

Even with an instructional book, "iPad— the missing manual", (NOT recommended by this blogger. A silly, silly book.) I found much of the tablet interface to be baffling.

I will say at this point, that I am a long time Macintosh user, and over the years I have learned many useful shortcuts. The Mac presents a logical structure and file system. I can get around quite well on a Mac, even with the silly eye candy junk apps ("LaunchPad" "Mission Control", "App Store") Apple installed with OS X Lion and up. (What's scary is that there are ominous hints at Apple is making the newer Mac OS's more like the iOS of iPads and iPhones. If this is true, what can I do if I buy a new Mac and it operates like an iPad?)

But! An iPad is not a Mac! An iPad has no visible filing system. The user is presented with a vaporous, slippery interface. You are at the mercy of whatever the OS throws at you.  Learning how to use iCloud was an overwhelming, confusing mess. Worse, much of the configuration and syncing is done through the nightmare's nest of the dreadful iTunes.

But even at a basic level of (dys)functionality, the iPad mostly fails to serve my needs. Instead, it gives me endless frustration.

I have many complaints about its failings, but these are a few of the most aggravating.

• Text entry slippage. Start to input text into a text input box, and suddenly, the box disappears.

• Replying to email sometimes shifts the text entry to the wrong line, and it must be Undone, a real pain in the tokhus.

• There's an inconsistency in the virtual keyboards between apps. Is it too much to ask for consistency?

• Apps opening voluntarily. Why do they do that, when I didn't request it?

•Vanishing screens: less common, but the other day I was looking at the Yahoo Finance app (one of the better ones available, and free) and the article I was reading vanished, to be replaced by another.

• Surprise notifications: I'm working, for example, in a Web page, and there suddenly pops up a notification sheet totally unrelated to the subject at hand. It's distracting and annoying.

• Similarly, SIRI is kinda cute, but mostly, it's irritating and distracting. It sometimes appears, unbidden and unwanted. Then it must be dealt with.

• Windows that don't close. A few apps have a flaw in which it's hard to close a window. The close "x's" in Safari are among the worst. Google Chrome  (overall, I prefer Chrome to Safari) windows can be closed, with extreme delicate touches. If you are not careful, clumsy attempts will simply generate yet more tabs.

On of my favorite apps is Google Maps, but even that excellent app has flaws. The other day, I got trapped in Street View and no apparent way to leave. Eventually, after much investigation, I found an evanescent exit arrow that tenuously appears in the upper left corner of the screen.Google Maps is better on the Mac.

I have other complaints, but this list will suffice. To sum up, what I feel is a loss of control of my tablet device. With my Mac, I have reasonable control. I dominate it; the Pad, on  the other hand, is a distraction machine.

I welcome your comments.