Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

tl;dr

A Norwegian girl, living abroad, enabled "auto upload my pictures to Google+" on her phone and for some reason they end up in a Norwegian IT journalists Google+. Everything from full passport details to regular photos are uploaded. The journalist can see Geo location etc as well. Google keep stating it is not possible and the journalist are experiencing problems contacting Google.




This is exactly why I never say something is "not possible" in relation to IT anymore. Everything is "possible" some things are just more likely to occur than others.

In particular I've found race conditions and memory corruption to result in particularly fun "impossible" situations.

I try to say "I don't understand the mechanic by which that could occur, can you reproduce it?" and if they can then I have to figure out /how/ they can.


The mindset that something "isn't possible" is dangerous as a developer.

You should never deny the evidence. When you say "It's not possible", something in your understanding is obviously mistaken. Maybe your understanding of the evidence, maybe your understanding of the problem, but somewhere you're wrong. Your job now is to find out where you're wrong.

The correct response in such situations is "What am I wrong about?"

I've lost count of how many times I've seen the Can't Happen mindset delay resolution of an issue. It's a genuine problem.


The first job of the respondent is to validate the input so that the right problem gets solved.

> I've lost count of how many times I've seen the Can't Happen mindset delay resolution of an issue. It's a genuine problem.

Agreed.

> When you say "It's not possible", something in your understanding is obviously mistaken.

Not necessarily. Bear in mind that the "error" data itself can be wrong too, for many reasons -- some benign, some not so much. People can and do lie and make mistakes.

In the public sphere things are even more fraught. There are people who loathe $COMPANY and would love to see their services discredited. On the other hand, $COMPANY's legitimate success depends to some extent on people's perception of their reliability, so they have a right to defend themselves.

I think a reasonable response from $COMPANY in this case is "1) That's impossible", to reassure skittish customers, and "2) We'll work directly with the person having the problem and report back, stay tuned" to show respect and responsiveness (and potentially humility later).

If you were running your own company, paying the salaries of your employees and serving your investors, would you do otherwise?


Would I lie about my responsibilities without checking? No. Even to save myself financial loss, no.

It's loathsome that you ask.

Saying "We don't think this is possible on our end but are investigating to help wherever we can" is different than saying it is not possible.


I think that your "What am I wrong about?" approach is going too far in the opposite direction.

I usually use "That shouldn't be possible" - whether it is possible or if it's user error then often depends on the maturity of the system.

On a new system pretty much anything is possible. On a system battle-tested for years by thousands of users the possibility of encountering program bugs drops dramatically.

This is where good supporters become very valuable. They will be able to learn the solutions to common problems that users face and determine if it´s user error, other errors like OS problems or if it's something new that should be investigated by the developers.

Of course if the bug is reproducible then it's a different matter. But any developer who doesn't take a well-described and reproducible bug report seriously should probable find a different job.


Yeah, some people learn that lesson, and some don't, but usually it is when I am saying "That shouldn't be possible!" that I am running even faster than usual to put out a burning slag heap in my lap.


"The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair" – D. Adams.


D. Adams invented the iPhone battery?



My favourite is solar radiation striking a transistor in a RAM chip, delicately corrupting memory or altering programatic execution.


A great example of this is bit-squatting, where you register a domain name that matches a popular one except for one flipped bit:

http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/08/10/bh-2011-bit-squat...

It's enough to get quite a few visitors who were aiming for the popular site.


Whoa amazing!


It'd be great if it was something like a hash or uuid collision. Such things are super unlikely but not impossible.


The girl is Norwegian as is the journalist. I doubt that this is a purely random coincidence.


Hash collision between their internal IDs? I'll probably turn out to be something nutty like that.


Hash/GUID collision is exactly what I suspect. I wonder if we'll learn anything from this, or if we'll ever even see an analysis.


You do not have to `enable` it, as soon as you add an account to an android phone, photos automatically start syncing.


I have two Android phones (ICS and Jelly Bean) and this has not been my experience at all.

The first time you start the Google+ app, it will ask you if you want to enable Instant Upload (which uploads to a private album from which you can publish). Prior to that it doesn't do anything with your photos.


What kind of account? I have my Google account(s) synced up to my Android phone and have a total of 0 photos in my Google+ album.

I have them syncing with DropBox intentionally.


Same for me - but I noticed that it suddenly started syncing to Google+ too a few weeks ago (not sure why it started doing this, either there was an update or it was because I logged into Google+ using the default Android Google+ app and it enabled it then). Either way, I wasn't particularly happy about it, though I believe it uploaded them but did not make them public. I turned it off as soon as I noticed as I don't need my photos synced to two places and I already had photos synced to DropBox.


> or it was because I logged into Google+ using the default Android Google+ app and it enabled it then

It asks you if you want the uploads to take place when you first setup the app.


Unless its a small, easy-to-miss checkbox, I was only asked to log into my Google Account.


it's definitely not small or easy to miss. The whole "instant upload" part is an entire screen outlining what it is with a clear opt-out.


Both Google/Gmail account and Google Apps account.

I may not be correct about 'any' android phone though. I've only used stock and several custom ROM on Galaxy Nexus ranging from version 4.0.4 to 4.2.2. After you add a Google/gapps account you'll see this in sync setting- http://s24.postimg.org/fxbv98s05/Screenshot_2013_04_28_23_42... . I've found 'Google Photos' always checked by default. First time this feature was introduced, I didn't notice and my G+ filled up with random images from my mobile gallery. Since then I consciously turn this off everytime I flash a ROM.

Edit: so you don't necessarily need Google+ app installed for this to happen.


It's true. I was surprised when I suddenly started to get notifications that my photos had been uploaded to G+ and were ready to be shared (I don't even use G+ but have a zombie account).

I don't really mind though. Good backup.


It isn't true. By default -- including on a brand-new Nexus 4 -- it will notify you that photos are ready to be uploaded, and if you follow-through it gives you the option of automatically uploading from then forward.


No, it definitely uploaded them. They are in my G+ account. The notification says ready to be shared.


Indeed, happened to my very privacy sensitive colleague while setting up his new S3 (he had no prior G+ account, so he got a new one). This may depend on what type of account you have and what terms you have agreed to.


Then you opted to allow automatic uploads. When you first opened Google+ (which is not installed by default), you were asked whether to automatically upload photos. You chose yes.

http://support.google.com/plus/answer/1304818


"yes yes yes yes whatever, just let me use the service"

That's the same way malware/toolbars get installed...


No, I definitely did not. Believe what you want.


I can confirm this happens by default on Samsung phones (both att branded and unlocked) as soon as you create a g account


How did you confirm that? Google+ on my Galaxy S III asked me whether I wanted to allow it to upload pictures on first launch (not surprising as it runs the same G+ app as every other device). Of course most people will simply do what nnnnni stated, which is a "sure whatever" clickpast (which Google knows and takes advantage of), and forever more declare it unwanted, mysterious behavior.


   1. buy new note2 from att, register google account, skip samsung and att setup.
   2. buy new s3 from amazon unlocked, register google account, skip samsung setup.
   3. never even open G+ app on both phones
   4. take a picture
   5. wait an hour
   6. you get a notification "pictures you took are ready for sharing" i.e. they are already uploaded against your will and out of your knowledge.


Dammit everyone.

If someone complain about a bad Android default or behavior in a non nexus device, and you have a nexus device, just stay put!

Nexus are a completely different beat when it comes to user control, ok?


I used the Nexus 4 as an example of the most extensive Google integration. However my other devices are a GS 3, GS 2, Galaxy Glide, and Nexus 7s. Given that Google+ is an app (and is actually the same app on all of them), the same behavior was true on all of them.


You have to install the Google+ app, at least I had to do so. I don't have a Nexus though, does it come pre-installed?


I don't have a Nexus though, does it come pre-installed?

Not only does it come pre-installed but you also can't uninstall it.


You can very easily disable the app causing it to be no longer present in it's unextracted form, meaning it's effectively uninstalled.


Last I checked Google+ was the one spyware that you couldn't get rid of even when you rooted the phone. I.e. once you disable G+ all sorts of unrelated apps will hang/force close.

Admittedly it's been a long time since I tried, perhaps they fixed it since then.


To be fair, Google is not saying it's impossible. They're saying "these things" are most often a result of a user error and that they'll look into it.


She probably bought a phone he sold off or lost ?


They are on different continents. Also, he changed passwords afterwards and it kept happening.


Changing your password doesn't unlink applications or devices from your google account. See "connected applications and sites" at https://www.google.com/settings/security


The may be on different continents, but they have the same (rare) nationality. I suspect something similar.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: