Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tonight's Software Disasters

What an awful evening! I had simple plans; write a little review of my positive experience with Ancestry's new passport database. I found an ancestor's brother's file had signature, photograph, birth certification—even his income tax return! But I saw an advertisement for Footnote.com and thought I'd stop by my local Family History Center (FHC) to see if they had access yet.

The first machine I tried (a Windows 98 SE machine) asked me to select a certificate from an empty list. Thirty minutes. No LANDesk. Move on.

Second machine. Expired certificate. Footnote.com wanted newer Flash player. Multiple install failures. Success via 2nd window, but Footnote now gets stuck "Loading" images. Thirty minutes. Move on.

Third machine. Repeat experience of second machine. Repeat thirty wasted minutes.

Back to plan A; write review. Try to connect to Ancestry via my laptop. Can't get through FHC firewall. Thirty more minutes. This happens sometimes and if the staff cycles the power on the firewall, then my laptop gets a lower IP address that works. But why rock the boat? Certainly I could find something else useful to do.

Back to machine #3 which still has IE6 as its browser. Log on to Ancestry. Boy that new footer looks ugly with IE6. And ads were showing up too far to the right. And the "More Options" popup when editing vitals in an Ancestry Tree is partly off-screen. I hope we start testing with IE6. If I remember correctly, we still have about 35% of our users on IE6. And I hope we fix these problems.

John Pitcher arrived in New York on 7 Oct 1869 on the Manhattan. I thought I'd try and find what day he left Liverpool. Ancestry identified the Manhattan as part of the Guion ship line. I tried Googling various combinations of Guion, Manhattan, the date, etc. and gave up after half-an hour when a near miss on the New York Times archives website crashed their search engine. That was after locking up trying to view a PDF document on their site.

(Have you ever met one of those people that can't wear a watch because their body is magnetic or something? That's what I am, only for software. I can locate bugs in anything. But I digress...)

Then it hit me. Why not try searching newspapers on Ancestry? Duh!

I clicked the Search button at the top of the page. In the Browse Records sidebar... But wait. What is this odd advertisement on the far right? Just a picture of mother and daughter with no words. Why? Intrigued, I hover. Nothing. I click. Nothing. I bet that's a bug too. (I find later it is.)

Meanwhile, with time running out before the center closes, I scroll down to the Newspapers & Periodicals section of the Browse Records sidebar and click on Historical Newspaper Collection. "Guion" is a pretty unique word; I should be able to do an Exact Matches Only search for it as a keyword with the year set to 1869 and find what I'm looking for.

I get 139 matches in the New York Herald, 30 in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, and 5 in the New York Times. That's encouraging. I try Edinburgh first. I click the link for one of the dates and nothing happens. I try another and another. Still nothing. Another and another. What is it about this evening that is conspiring against me? Why was the Ancestry Search engine failing on me?

I view the source for the page and discover the bug. Gigantically long URLs are causing the browser to fail. I fiddle for another 30 minutes and give up searching. Time to do it the old fashion way.

I browsed.

Intelligently, of course. Start at Historical Newspaper Collection. At the bottom of the page, click on New York state. I notice the New York Herald has coverage for 1869, so I select it. I again scroll down to browse by date. I select 7 Oct 1869. I start browsing page by page, hoping the information, if present, isn't on page. 24. On the 2nd image, I find page number 6. Great. Another bug. This isn't the first time I've found a newspaper in Ancestry's collection that has the newspaper pages scrambled. I continue. Image 3 is page 9. Image 4 is page...

Wait! A headline that reads "Shipping News." Down a little ways, subheadings reading "Arrivals. Reported by the Herald Steam Vegies." (I might have misread the last word, but I'm getting too excited to care!) Second paragraph starts, "Steamship Manhattan..." I read, "Liverpool Sept 22..." Yahoo! My evening isn't totally wasted! I'll just attach this page to John Pitcher as the source for his Liverpool departure date...

I click on Save and...

and...

And the Save Options popup is missing the option to save to an individual in my tree!

Rats! Another bug thwarts my last attempt at productivity! I've been told this shouldn't be called a "bug" but a feature request.

Whatever. It's late and I'm going to bed.

1 comment:

  1. Let's start a club. I can break anything digital or electronic without even trying. :~)

    Richard Monk
    Wilton, CT

    ReplyDelete