Don’t Use Amazon’s Forks of Open Source Software

This is a warning. Amazon’s forks of open source software are very poorly supported. If you switch to them, you will create problems for yourself. Here’s my three examples from personal experience.

Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora is attractive because it’s compatible with PostGreSQL and MySQL, and it is ready for sharding out-of-the-box. Don’t get sucked in though. The deploy and patching process is a poorly supported nightmare.

Recently, Amazon told us we had to have a forced upgrade patch on our Aurora instance. We don’t do downtime. Ever. But Amazon doesn’t provide a no-downtime version of the patch, and the alternative was too much of a time investment.

Amazon guaranteed us the deploy would only take 3minutes. So we decided to go forward with a little but of downtime. The first time it tried to patch it failed and took the database down for 10 minutes. Then it sat there for 15 minutes during which we could do nothing. Then it tried to patch again, taking the database down for another 10 minutes. And it failed again.

So at that point we were frantically calling Amazon support to try to stop it, but we couldn’t get through to anyone who was at all helpful. So the database went down a third time, and this time, fortunately, it worked.

All told, we had about an hour of downtime after Amazon guaranteed us only 3 minutes. The support was unhelpful, and didn’t really know how to help.

Amazon Linux

Do not use Amazon Linux. If that article isn’t enough to convince you, then here’s my story.

I like to try new technologies. I like to keep up to date with the latest thing. I use AWS in my every day job. So when Amazon started pushing their own version of Linux, I decided to try it on my personal website.

The major headache this has created for me is that the Lets Encrypt Certbot doesn’t work on Amazon Linux. So I can’t do automatic renewal of my SSL certificate. I have to step through the process manually each month.

But there are many other tools and packages that are incompatible too. Don’t use it.

Amazon’s Android

Amazon’s version of Android is awful for the same reasons. It’s extremely poorly maintained.

I loved the first Kindle device. It was perfect. It reduced waste, and allowed me to carry a library around with me. So I bought the initial devices, then carried on into the Kindle Fire and other tablets. That’s when the trouble began.

There are major bugs and performance issues on Amazon’s version of Android that have gone unaddressed for years.

The bug that caused me to switch to a Samsung tablet is one where, when I clicked on my most recent media item, it wouldn’t actually open my most recent item. So, for instance, if you are watching a show or reading a book, or switching between two things, then you are constantly opening the wrong thing. Because the performance is so poor, this is a problem that often takes minutes to resolve by clicking around and hoping it opens the correct item.

That seems like a critical bug to me. It should be one that gets fixed immediately, right? Well it existed for years.

Don’t Use Amazon’s Forks of Open Source Software

Don’t do it. That one feature they add isn’t worth it. Use the open source alternative.

Don’t Buy a Kindle. Here’s why.

I’ve been a loyal Kindle user since the beginning. I’ve owned about twelve Kindles, from the initial basic model, through the Paperwhite, to the Fire and all its incarnations.

And the Kindle is still fine for reading books. If you only want to read books, then the Paperwhite is a great experience.

This post is aimed at the tablets. If you want to use your Kindle as a general media device, for movies, email, games, shopping, as well as books, then it is an awful choice.

I haven’t decided on which tablet to buy next. All I’ve decided for sure is that it won’t be a Kindle. Here’s why.

1. Irrelevant notifications that can’t be dismissed

I do not own an Alexa device. I have never deliberately used Alexa in my life. Yet, for three months I’ve had a notification on my Kindle that says “Alexa Accessories.” This notification cannot be clicked. It cannot be dismissed. It’s just there.

2. The Amazon App Store lacks great apps

Amazon has done little to nothing to grow their app store. As such it is a graveyard of shovelware. Do you want the latest game from Nintendo? It’s not on Amazon. In fact very few great apps or games make it to the Amazon App Store. And the ones that do are buggy. The developers aren’t debugging the issues that come up exclusively for Amazon devices. They don’t care about the tiny audience.

3. The Amazon version of Android is buggy and ugly

The ultimate reason not to buy a Kindle tablet is that the operating system is garbage. It’s buggy, slow, and ugly. For months, there has been a bug where if you click a book on your device that isn’t the most recently read book, it will just open the most recently read book. For someone like me, who reads two books at once, this is incredibly frustrating. Also, if you play an audiobook, then power off the screen, the audiobook will continue playing briefly, then stop. When you log in to your device again, a totally different book will be on the screen.

Loyalty punished…

I guess part of what makes this so frustrating is that I have been a loyal customer for so long. I’ve used Amazon devices for over a decade. I’ve purchased movies, TV shows, games, and hundreds of books through Amazon devices. To have the ecosystem devolve into unusability and irrelevance is frustrating. I know I can get the Amazon media apps, and the Kindle reader app on my new devices. That is good, but I am sad to go.

Anyway, I hope this post helps to inform your shopping.

Sonifying Processing

“Sonifying Processing: The Beads Tutorial” shows students and artists how to bring sound into their Processing programs. Veteran sound artist Evan X. Merz introduces the black art of audio in Processing through the versatile and easy-to-use Beads Library. The topic of audio is largely absent from other Processing books, but “Sonifying Processing” shows that Processing is a powerful multimedia platform that rivals Max. Each section of the book explains a sound programming concept then demonstrates it in code. The examples build from simple synthesizers in the first few chapters, to more complex sound-manglers as the book progresses. Each step of the way is examined at a level that is simple enough for new learners, and comfortable for more experienced programmers.