GDPR so far

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a lot of my emailers sending me notices. So far, I’ve been able to get off several elists which never produced any usable links.

That’s not what I expected when this went into effect, but, you know: serendipity.

[serendipity: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for]

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Passwords to go?

(updated 2018.5.10)

ZDNet has a post on how Microsoft is working to eliminate passwords.

“For Microsoft, multi-factor authentication and biometrics is seen as a good replacement for passwords — using a physical key, and/or your face or fingerprint to log into your device instead of a string of letters and numbers.”

So, we have yet another “key” (more like a USB plug) on our key rings, to forget and leave behind someplace plugged into the computer. I work in a library – do you know how often people forget USB flash drives?  Often, despite our warnings.  Some people should just give up and buy a retractable key ring reel for their belt.

Or we have our faces, which have already been counterfeited with photos (and if your photo i.d. is stolen from online, how do you change your face?!?!).

And there’s fingerprints. Better enter all of them, because if you have a bandage on them (oops! hot object!), it’s useless. And the same problem as faces – even easier to counterfeit (does your smartphone sense real flesh? Mine can be fooled with a stylus) and your fingerprints are impossible to replace if stolen from online storage.

This might not be the answer for a while, yet.  Keep working, Microsoft.

(updated)

Oh, I see the browsers are doing this.

“That’s thanks to an emerging W3C standard called Web Authentication or WebAuthn, which is enabled by default in Firefox 60 and is coming later this month to Chrome 67, and Microsoft Edge. It’s also under consideration for Safari.

By removing passwords, the WebAuthn API will make phishing attacks a lot harder and gives users more convenient authentication choices, including hardware security key dongles such as a YubiKey device, fingerprint readers on smartphones, or facial-recognition systems like the iPhone X’s Face ID.”

I don’t have a dongle, and my staff computer has no camera or touch screen. So the Firefox 60 I just updated to wants me to start logging in to sync all the stuff I can’t use.

No, thanks, at this point.

Windows Updates gripe

Rant mode = ON.

So ZDNet has a post saying we should not disable automatic updates.

At least they admit that vendors make it problematic.

Here’s what I’m talking about: last week I had to write a check to a plumber and print it on my computer, since that is how I handle that.

What would I have done, if at that moment, Windows 10 had decided it needed a half hour or so to do updates, like it or not? It wouldn’t be the first time that I booted up and found the system was going to stall me while it did something like that. Just a few days later, it did exactly that – fortunately, I wasn’t in a rush then. But still…

The post says “Ideally – and I know I’m asking a lot here – patches shouldn’t require a reboot, or reboots should only be done when absolutely necessary. And ideally, if a reboot is required the operating system should return to the state it was prior to the reboot, complete with whatever apps and documents that were open.” That’s far too weak a requirement!

THAT’S what bugs me right now — I have no control over this when it requires a reboot. That’s obstructive as well as irritating.

Now, I am pretty good about getting updates. And the ones which don’t require a reboot install themselves. But this business of forcing a delay while working up to it is a pain in the fundament!

Until Microsoft and other vendors can find a way to avoid that, they are going to have people looking for ways to disable updates in order to avoid the interruption.

Mind you, I am okay with shutting down and THEN having the computer delay while it works on updating; I can walk away and let it do that and then shut down.

But this tactic of forcing you to wait during bootup is not just a pain, it can actually delay critical work. What if I’m trying to write a check for a service person standing there? (“Just wait a fifteen minutes for the update to complete, and I can charge you another $89 labor on top of the existing bill.”) What if I’m trying to lock the library doors with an app since it’s a snow day, or some other emergency, and the doors will pop open before the update is finished tying up my computer? Come up with your own rush matters, and it’s easy to see how this system is not functional.

Updates will be more popular when they become less obstructive.

Rant mode = OFF.

Amazon, billing, and shooting feet

(updated 2017.5.17, 2017.8.9)

For those who are boycotting Amazon for other reasons, you may skip this.

I feel I have to use a cost-effective vendor, despite other factors. Up until recently, Amazon has worked well for us. People could make up lists, share them with me, I could use those to create orders, I could use a credit card which saves me from doing as many Requisitions/Purchase Order approvals myself, and it used to be pretty straightforward. They had a huge number of items in stock and accounted for when orders would arrive, for the most part.

Then, they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet.

It’s not just me. I’m hearing (from a competitor, granted) that a number of libraries are dropping Amazon, at least as a primary vendor. (The competitor normally handles academic libraries, but now has public libraries asking them for service. The traditional wholesalers have changed and reduced a lot in the last few years.)

It seems we are going to have to join the exodus, and it’s not political or other high-minded reasons; it’s pure bookkeeping practices.

Amazon has become non-cost-effective, due to their new credit card charging methodology. This has been going on for several months, but it’s become, frankly, untenable.

Lemme ‘splain this. (tl;dr*)

Amazon has taken to combining charges from their Printable Order Summary.

amazon For example, you see multiple charges on here. The total will be $276.17.

However, despite what it says on the page, that IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

The Order Summary has three shipments listed, for $105.61, $37.16, and $133.40.

They add up to $276.17, true. But this IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

Look at the summary of charges at the bottom of the Order Summary. Not the same as the shipments.

Now combine them to get the actual charges on the credit card statement.

$14.99 plus 79.84 = 94.83, and the rest add up to 181.34. We were actually charged $94.83 and $181.34. The total is still $276.17. We haven’t been treated dishonestly as far as the amount charged; only in how it was actually stated on their (digital) paperwork.

However, the only one of those charges on the order summary for a shipment matches $37.16 for the middle shipment of three on the Order Summary. And that one was combined with others to get a charge of $181.34 on the credit card. The amounts on here do not match the shipments or the credit card charges.

$105.61 and $37.16 and $133.40 (the amounts on the shipments in the Order Summary), cannot be combined to get the two charges on the card, and yet those book titles are on this order.

Summary

To sum up: The charges listed as charged to the card on the Printable Order Summary DO NOT MATCH WHAT IS ON THE CARD CHARGES: 14.99, 79.84, 90.62, 37.16, 53.56 are NOT charged; $94.83 and $181.34 are charged for these books. Where does it say that? On the spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet? Yes, I managed to get a customer service person for corporate accounts on the phone (their people are usually fine to deal with but are stuck with this). They now have a spreadsheet that you can download (not listed, at this time, among all the services they show for accounts). I was sent a special link to it. Then I have to download it. Then I have to go searching. The spreadsheet has columns out to AE (over 30). This, apparently, is a kludge made available for all the squalling customers demanding to know what charges equal what.

First, you find the total amount (in this example, 276.17). Then you slide over (about a page and a half of columns) to see how it’s broken down to — not the charges they claim on here — the actual charges on the card (94.83 and 181.34). This is the only place where they tell me what they are actually charging to the card, so I have no regular packing slip/invoice/order summary to show my receiving person or my business office or the state auditors. How are we expected to match the shipments and charges up to what is on the credit card statement, without a research project to decipher this spreadsheet?

Aside from this spreadsheet, I have nothing to show my people here or the state auditors, who want specific amounts that match. The only comfort I can take is that this is going on all over campus, and probably all over the state and nation. So at least the state auditors cannot blame just our library.

Now, I understand that Amazon is probably having to adjust their bookkeeping so they can pay the new taxes that states have been demanding they begin to charge (and starting March 1, here in Arkansas) but we already pay that on our own. I suspect this may have something to do with how they handle bookkeeping for that, or maybe an attempt to reduce credit card fees by reducing the number of transactions. I can allow for changes.

End Result

BUT: you cannot do business this way. It takes far too much time for the customers to account for this, and it does not correspond to any acceptable accounting procedure to claim you made these charges when you actually made those charges, even if they add up the same on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, especially ones like this, are not intended to substitute for proper customer notices — spreadsheets are primarily for internal use, and cannot substitute for showing correct amounts on the (digital or print) paperwork. The additional time it takes to track all this down is just dirty icing on a very unpleasant cake (pardon the unappetizing metaphor). The fact that it is not technically dishonest in the amount being paid does not excuse the appearance of something being off, somewhere.

We’ll still use Amazon for creating want lists, but I never used those just for ordering via Amazon in the first place, if I wanted prebinding, or a complete set of a multi-volume set. Rush items can still go through, or items from associates (which are somewhat more likely, but not always, to end up on separate shipments/charges), or anything only Amazon seems to have. I may try shifting back to a personal account to see if that works better, but the customer service person thought it was all going to be the same. The bulk of the business they once got from us is going to have to move to somebody else, at least until they straighten this out.

Amazon is welcome to contact me to explain, correct, show me an easier method, or whatever, assuming anyone there ever reads blogs like this. I’ll be happy to post corrections or recommended methods (working or otherwise, from my point of view).

Update as of May 17, 2017:

The higher ed rep for Amazon has been in contact several times now, and agrees with the need to fix this. He’s been working at his end.

He called today with the discovery that the information we need does exist and if you want to burrow down some, it can be found, with some limitations. Thanks go also to his colleague – she found a way to dig this out from the screen.

On the printable Order Summary, go down to the bottom:

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the link for “To view the status of your order, return to Order Summary.” That sounds like it would just loop you around to where you came from, which is why I never used it (and the rep didn’t expect it either), but instead you get this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, now click on the Transactions link under the address.

 

 

 

 

 

AHA! The long-missing actual charge amounts that were not visible (except in the cockamamie spreadsheet).

Click on the amount you want, and get:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There, finally, is the list of titles that went on the actual charge made on the card for $94.83. Ta and da!

Of course, as I pointed out, we really need a subtotal for each shipment as well, and ALL of this needs to be out front, easy to find, preferably on the Order Summary. Instead of the charges listed as being charged, which are not actually being charged.

The main point is, the information is there and already, for the most part, extracted – they just didn’t make it easy to find and the link terminology is vague. That means, IMHO, that it should be possible to pull that out, with some reprogramming, and put it on the Order Summary so we can provide that to our people for reconciliation with the credit card statement.

The wheel that squeaketh doth receive greasing.

Oh, and BTW: the more places that complain about this, instead of just quietly changing vendors, the more push we have to get this fixed at Amazon. SPEAK UP! The phone for the corporate accounts at Amazon is 866-216-1072 (if you are on a business account). Call and gripe!

I also lost them some more business today with a potential new account (juvenile correctional facility) that wanted a source for buying books. They have to account to the state auditors as well, so I had to warn them off dealing with Amazon right now. Which I, of course, reported to the rep as additional ammo for doing something about this. Squeak, squeak!

Update 2017.8.9

Amazon has updated their view to make this a bit easier.

Click on the Order link in the email and you now get:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below the shipping address is the “Transactions” link which takes you to the actual credit card charges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare the actual Transactions to the Order amount to see what Amazon is really charging on the card.

In this example, they match. For larger orders/shipments, that may or may not be true, but this makes it more convenient to tell, at least. I will give Amazon that.

I’ve had no other information from Amazon; I just noticed this when I tried an actual order. I don’t know if they are matching Transactions to shipments or whatever.

====================================

*tl;dr means Too Long, Don’t Read unless you want to.

Welcome to our wonderful new/updated interface!

 

 

So I’m getting an update on yet another online system that has made all these wonderful improvements to their interface.

Very nice. Lots of bells and whistles.

And I’m forgetting it diligently as I listen.

Several reasons for this, and they have nothing to do with the value of the interface.

 

 

  • If you don’t have a mouse-over text to explain all the neat icons (often creatively original and therefore non-standard). then it’s useless. Fortunately, this one does — if only they all followed that practice. Plus point for that.
  • Like pretty much all of the others, this assumes people spend a lot or even most of their time on this interface, or perhaps prefer to go directly there first. Users don’t, in our experience; they want answers, not databases, and therefore go where the search leads, which is through our catalog (and often our discovery service). No point.
  • Ever go into a store and find they moved everything around? Doesn’t that tick you off?  You used to be able to duck in and find everything in 10 minutes, and now it’s going to take 30 just to relocate everything, and additional time the next few visits until you learn the new arrangement — following which, somebody will decide to rearrange things again. And you become less likely to use that store again. Sure, the new arrangement may be better in some way, but often it just makes it harder to do things quickly — and speed is the main emphasis for a lot of users. That means familiarity, not novelty. Minus point.
  • To compound the problem, since in this case, it’s using records we’ve downloaded into our catalog, they are redirecting from the old links to totally new (different numbering system) ones on their server(s). However, since we alter the original links to go through our proxy service for off-campus users, this means that the redirected links do not go through our proxy service, so none of our off-campus users can use this now. So the value of this particular service has just become practically zero for most users. All positives negated; this is now a non-viable online service.

I’m not sure if I’m happy we’re not paying directly for this (it’s part of a state library service). If we were, I would be requesting a pro-rated refund about now. As it is, I’ve notified the appropriate person and hope this will be fixed eventually, but meanwhile, I’ve removed the records from the catalog.

Somewhere along the line, this vendor should have asked how their services were used in library systems. They just lost a lot of business. It’s correctable, but they are going to have to produce a new set of records with updated links that we can alter for our proxy system.

Nice shiny new interface, though…. but was it really worth it?

Oh, good…

Backchannel.com has a post on legibility in web design – mainly, it’s getting worse, intentionally.

Oh, good. I thought it was just me.

 

Things you didn’t learn how to do in library school

There are a lot of things I didn’t learn in library school that I’ve come to use in libraries. Many librarians probably do.

I’ve never worked in a library where I didn’t need to bring in my tools to do something. In fact, I have a toolbox under my desk, and we have some tools that the library owns as well. I’ve built monitor and printer stands, rolling carts, assembled and/or modified furniture, and other things.

I know a librarian who took classes in architecture so he could help design library buildings.  He knew something about how buildings go together, and what was needed, and could use that to communicate library needs to architects.

I took business courses, and bookkeeping and accounting, as well as programming and web design, to do the behind the scenes stuff that libraries need.

I also, as part of my sordid past, spent time selling office supplies, furniture and equipment, back in the ’70s. (Yes, just after the Civil War, so clam up, kids.) So I know something about that kind of thing.

Today I assembled a sign holder, the first of two I ordered for our first floor restrooms.

We’d been having troubles with small freestanding floor signs, which we need for one end of our restrooms on the first floor. You see, the way this building was designed, the architects didn’t want somebody being chased into the restroom from our 24 Hour Zone and being trapped with no other exit, so the restrooms on the first floor are open to the library (when we’re open) and lock on the Zone side, and then are unlocked on the Zone side but have alarms if opened on the library side (when we’re closed). So the potential escapee can run into the library and set off the alarm, and the noise will alert people and campus police. So, we have to (a) do lock and unlock on opening and closing, and (b) have the signs near the library side doors to tell people why that alarm just went off (and I wish I was kidding about that).

So, we need small, easily movable signs to put out the easily visible message that if you go through the library side doors when the library is closed, an alarm will sound. (And yes, I worry about being on the road with people that pay so little attention to signs that they go through the door anyway. But some do.)

So, we had signs something like this (only in black):

old-sign

This looks pretty functional, or it did when I bought them. The problems began to appear upon extended use. The sign itself, in many of these designs, is held onto the post by one screw, and if that strips or breaks away, that’s the end of that. The telescoping post (which comes in pieces to save on shipping) gets loose and then you lift the whole thing (holding the post right under the sign, maximizing strain on the screw connection) and the post comes apart (not what I advocate, but I’m not available 24/7 to tell people what not to do). Now you have two pieces to move and put back together. It just wasn’t working out when various people took various levels of care (if any) to move them. Frankly, anything that has to be moved has to stand up to various stresses from the different handling that inevitably occurs.

The answer, as it often is around here, is quite simple: tell Dennis to find a solution.

So I think I did.

new_sign

I wanted something sturdy, lightweight but stable, and not too expensive. The one above was well under $100; I had to go above that to about $120 (price plus shipping) for the new one. It’s one piece (once the base is assembled, but the screws should hold well in this design, and when you lift, all the weight is not on those screws – just the base). It’s aluminum, so lightweight (just under 17 pounds). The design is stable and it has rubber feet. It’s small enough to not get in the way, whether set to one side facing the wall (when the library is open and the door alarm not set) and can quickly be put within view but out of the path, when the library is closed and the alarm is on.

Naturally, the sign (11 x 17″) will not be what you see but one warning that the door alarm will be set off if you go through it. It also looks very modern yet graceful, which is in keeping with our 21st century building.

This is not an endorsement of a product; I avoid doing those. But this is in the nature of an experiment – will this design work well enough to use elsewhere in the building? We shall see.