Fast Apple Customer Support

Today I bought the 24 song, 2.3 hour-long Van Halen record Live: Right Here, Right Now from the iTunes store. But there was a snag: “Why Can’t This Be Love?” failed with an error -100000. I tried restarting it a couple of different ways, but each time it would download it, then restart, three or four times, until it would finally choke with error -100000. I even downloaded the album on a Windows machine and 23 songs downloaded fine, but that one track failed with the same error. This pretty much proved to me that it was a problem on Apple’s end. I then went to my account in the iTunes store and reported an error with the track.

I received an auto-response pretty quickly with some things to try, but nothing useful. An hour or so later, I got an email from a human at Apple that basically told me to try what I had already tried and to let them know if I was still having problems, as well as providing some other info like ISP, Internet connection type, etc. I emailed them back with the details they asked for, and told them what all I had tried, including trying to download to another machine. I wondered how hard it was going to be to convince them that the problem was on their end.

A couple of hours later, I received another email, this time from a different human. I immediately assumed I would have to re-explain everything. Much to my surprise, this is what the email said:

I understand that you are unable to download the song “Why Can’t This Be Love” as your [sic] getting error -1000000. I know how eager you are to have this resolved at the earliest. I will be glad to assist you today.

Joey, please accept my sincere apologies for the frustration this download has caused. I took the liberty of removing the file causing the issue from your download queue. To give Apple time to investigate the issue and make any corrections that may be necessary, please wait at least two weeks before repurchasing this title.

I have issued a replacement song credit to your account. You can use the credit to buy a song of your choice from the iTunes Store.

So, while it kind of stinks that it could be two or more weeks before I can get the track replaced, it’s nice that they refunded me the money for the track so quickly. That’s nice, fast, customer service.


New WordPress Sociable Plugin Has Unintuitive Setup

I got a notification this morning that the Sociable plugin for WordPress had a new version available, and did I want to install it. I try to keep my plugins updated, so I upgraded. Sociable now has two modes: Skyscraper and Classic. Classic is what you’re used to, with a row of icons under a post. Skyscraper is a tall and thin tower that lives in the left-hand margin of your site, scrolling along with the page. Skyscraper is the new default, but going back to Classic is what is unintuitive.

In your admin page, if you hover over the new menu “Select Sociable Plugin” you will see three options: Select Sociable Plugin, Sociable Options, and Skyscraper Options. Selecting the first one brings you to a page explaining the difference between the two modes, with ginormous buttons at the bottom to choose which version you want. Clicking the button for either mode takes you to the options for that mode, but doesn’t actually change which mode is selected.

At the bottom of each mode’s options page is a checkbox labeled, “Activate…” and the mode name. I assumed that checking the one for Classic mode was all I needed to do, but clearing my cache and viewing the page showed that not to be the case. You must also uncheck the “Activate…” checkbox on the Skyscraper options page to enable Classic mode. If you don’t uncheck it, then you will still get the Skyscraper showing up on your posts. If you decide to switch back from Classic to Skyscraper, you have to uncheck Classic, then go to the Skyscraper options page and check that one.

Since this is a binary choice, they need to have ONE place to enable one and disable the other, or at least explain to you that you have to take the extra step.

Once More, This Time With Clojure

If you happened to read my post from the other day entitled My New “Top Artists Last 7 Days” Widget, you know that I went through three iterations of getting it going. The final solution, written in Ruby worked well. Until bands like Motörhead, Mötley Crüe and Einstürzende Neubauten showed up in the list. At that point, the HTML parsing library I was using would barf, and processing would stop, leaving the list showing on the blog in an incomplete state. It wasn’t the library’s fault; apparently Ruby still has problems dealing with non-ASCII characters. I did everything I thought I needed to do to tell Ruby that it would be dealing with UTF-8 encoding, but it just kept right on barfing.

I was left with only two choices: stop listening to any band with an umlaut in the name (and God help me if any of my Scandinavian bands popped up, with the Ø or å characters), or rewrite the stupid program, again, in a language that I knew could easily deal with UTF-8.

Since I’ve been working in Clojure a lot lately, it seemed lika the logical choice. I spent about an hour working on it last night, and I ended up with a working program and a bit more Clojure experience. Here’s the program for your edification, with a description to follow:

(ns lastfmfetch.core

(require '[clj-http.client :as client])
(import '( PrintStream)
'(org.htmlcleaner HtmlCleaner))

(defn get-artist-and-playcount [cell]
(let [title (.getAttributeByName cell "title")
[match artist playcount] (re-matches #"^(.+), played ([wd]+)s*S*$" title)
playcountStr (if (= playcount "once") "1" playcount)]
[artist playcountStr]))

(defn get-url [cell]
(let [links (.getElementsByName cell "a" true)
a (first links)
href (.getAttributeByName a "href")]
(str "" href)))

(defn fetch-data [filename]
(let [response (client/get "")
cleaner (HtmlCleaner.)]
(if (= (:status response) 200)
(with-open [out (PrintStream. filename "UTF-8")]
(.println out "<html><head><meta charset="UTF-8"/></head><body><ol>")
(doto (.getProperties cleaner)
(.setOmitComments true)
(.setPruneTags "script,style"))
(when-let [node (.clean cleaner (:body response))]
(let [subjectCells (take 5 (.getElementsByAttValue node "class" "subjectCell" true true))]
(doseq [cell subjectCells]
(let [[artist playcount] (get-artist-and-playcount cell)
url (get-url cell)]
(.println out (str "<li><a href='" url "'>" artist "</a>, Plays: " playcount "</li>"))))))
(.println out "</ol></body></html>")))))

;; Main
(defn -main [& args]
(if (< (count args) 1)
(println "Usage: lastfmfetch <output_file>")
(fetch-data (first args))))

I ended up using a library called clj-http to handle the fetching of the URL. It’s a Clojure wrapper for the Apache HTTP Commons library, and was really easy to use. I’m using Leningen, by the way, so including clj-http was just a matter of including a line in the project.clj file. I also used a Java library called HTMLCleaner, that fixes broken HTML and makes it available as a DOM. Since it is also in Maven Central, it was easy to include by adding another line to the project file.

(defproject lastfmfetch "1.0.0-SNAPSHOT"
:description "Fetch chart data from"
:dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.3.0"]
[net.sourceforge.htmlcleaner/htmlcleaner "2.2"]
[ clj-http "0.2.6"]]
:main lastfmfetch.core)

The -main function begins on line 38, but all it really does is check that there is a single command-line argument, and exits with a usage message if there is not. It then calls the fetch-data function, which begins on line 20.

On line 21, we declare two locals; one that will contain the results of fetching the web page, and one that is the HTML cleaner. If the fetch of the URL was successful, the status code will be the standard HTTP 200. If we got that, we then open a PrintStream on the filename given, specifying that it should be encoded with UTF-8. (I’ve been working with Java for a very long time, and I always assumed that since Java strings are Unicode, files created with Java would default to UTF-8. That is not the case. That’s why there’s a second argument when creating the PrintStream, and why I’m not using a PrintWriter.) We then print the first part of the output HTML file, set a couple of options to HTML Cleaner that cause it to strip comments, style and script sections from the HTML, and then start doing the real work.

On line 29, we declare a local called node that will contain the output of HTML Cleaner if it successfully parsed and cleaned the HTML. That’s what when-let does; it assigns the local as long as the function returns something truthy and then executes its body. If that function doesn’t return something truthy, the rest of the code is skipped. We then take the first five elements from the HTML that have an attribute called “class” with a value of “subjectCell”. These are table cells. We then loop over them, extracting the artist and playcount value, and the URL. We do these things in two separate functions.

The function called get-artist-and-playcount, starting on line 8, takes the table cell as input. It then gets the attribute called “title” and uses a regular expression to pull out the artist and playcount values. If the playcount is the word “once,” it converts it to a 1, so all the values are numeric. It then returns the two values as a vector.

The function called get-url, starting on line 14, also takes the table cell as input. It then gets all the “a” elements from the cell (there’s only one), and then gets the “href” attribute’s value, which is the URL.

Back at line 34, we take the three values we extracted with the two support functions and concatenates them together into HTML that will be a single line in an ordered list. We then output all the necessary closing tags to make the HTML well-formed, and we’re done.

While the Clojure code is a bit more dense than the Ruby code, it’s actually four lines shorter. And it handles Unicode characters, which makes me happy.