Shouldn’t someone in charge of web applications for a major company like Comcast review error messages and customer processes? I sure thought so until today when I attempted to set up my wife as a user on our Comcast account and it wouldn’t accept my password attempts.

Here’s what happened and why Comcast failed me as a customer (though their social media support caught me). The reason why it failed will surprise you. Why should you care about something as mundane as an online password issue that happened to some guy who blogs?

Because the issue I just experienced goes beyond a simple online password process that didn’t work very well. You should care if you, like many of us are, responsible for overseeing web and mobile app creation and care about customers and their experience with your company or brand. You should care if you are a user of web or mobile applications and give a damn at all about password security. You should care if you don’t want to invest your personal time, energy and effort in dealing with password security when the web or mobile application is broken and has been that way for years.

Here is what unfolded in the space of 15 minutes:

  • Logged on to Comcast.net (their consumer site) and went to add my wife as a new user on our account
  • Completed the username info, password and security question
  • Received an error message that the password was incorrect and was informed that, Your password must be 8 – 16 characters. It must contain at least one letter, and at least one number or special characters (!”#$%&’()*+,-./:;<=>?@[\]^_`{|}~), may not contain your first name, last name, User ID, username, and cannot contain spaces.” 

No-shit-Sherlock…I do this all day, every day and know how to create and use secure passwords and usually can grasp the underlying algorithms and how they work (if they’re done correctly, that is).

  • Tried again. And again and again. 
  • Used a different browser with zero cache (cookies, etc.). Didn’t work.  Read More

Starting last night and concluding very early this morning was my main production machine upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion. Everything went smoothly — I did a ‘clean install’ so cloned my startup drive, installed, and then migrated everything over — which took HOURS but fortunately was pretty much working without my involvement.

Coming back after my lunch meeting, I was somewhat surprised to hear my hard disk whirring and crunching. Not in a bad way, but that there was a lot of disk activity going on. Since I’m someone who typically has fourteen tabs open in one window (all my ‘workspace’ stuff like Gmail, Docs, my hosting provider CPanel, etc.) but typically I’ll have a second window open with client’s work in it. 

In addition, like you probably do there are numerous other apps open and running: Photoshop, Skype, maybe Firefox or Safari (or both), Keynote and others. 

OS X’s Activity Monitor showing all the Google Chrome processes loading and running in system memory. Yikes. (click for larger view)

But Chrome was acting like a guy at a Coney Island hot dog eating contest: with all the tabs open, Google Talk running and so on, Chrome was using OVER 4GBs OF RAM! Wow.

Fortunately my MacPro has 10GBs in it and I know enough about how my machine runs that I know when something is awry and I manage it (e.g., closing that second window full of tabs!). While I love have sessions open in other tabs — and that Google Chrome was architected from the beginning to have each tab be independent so a crash in one wouldn’t crash the entire browser and all tabs — it still sucks up so much memory that I have to shut Chrome down when I’m doing any other intensive task like video editing, screen recording and the like.

So if you are experiencing machine slow downs, or if you have 2GB, 4GB or so of RAM in your machine, either run just a few tabs or quit it altogether when things get slow. Hopefully Google will find ways to optimize Chrome in new ways so this will quiet down and not shove RAM in its mouth like that contestant above!

UPDATE: Two hours after locking me out I’m reinstated. What happened? Who the buzz knows but of course, that’s the point.

While at lunch today I checked my email on my iPhone but it wasn’t working. Tried the Gmail client on my iPad and it wasn’t working. I thought, “Gmail is probably temporarily down.

It wasn’t. For some unknown reason Google locked me out of Gmail apparently for “Unusual Usage – Account Temporarily Locked Down.

The ONLY thing that could be possible is “3. Being logged into or synchronizing Gmail on many computers, clients, or mobile devices.” But isn’t that the point of a cloud-based solution Google? Especially in a day when an accelerating number of people like me have a desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone? Is it because I logged in at the office on another computer as well?

I use Google’s 2-step verification too. The main problem for me is that Gmail is my communications hub. I have 8 email accounts all managed within that hub and purchased the 25GB upgrade to my account as well. As such, I’m locked out of three email accounts I use daily for business. With dozens of emails per day I need to manage, the likelihood of me missing something important is incredibly high.

I’m not the only one. This guy had the same issue but so have hundreds of others and there is NOTHING WE CAN DO!

Gotta tell ya, if THIS is how Google treats a long time user like me — someone who uses multiple of their services (even ones like the lame G+) — then organizations considering Google Apps should seriously re-consider. My suspicion? This is a veiled attempt at scaring the beejeesus out of people in order to get them to buy in to a Google Apps account. Having one (and paying for it) is the ONLY way to have an actual human throat-to-choke when bullshit like this happens.

Don’t get me wrong….I love Apple and the stock I bought at $33 many years ago has been very, very good to me. But for a company all about great user experiences, the MobileMe one is so laughingly bad that I’m stunned they don’t apply more resources to make it great (or at least work).

I’m so infrequent with my use that when I do log on (about 4-5 times per month) I’d guess at least one of those times something is wrong: the site loads slowly; everything loads except for my account settings; or it works like today, nothing comes up including the account settings.

Hopefully spending some of their cash like they’re rumored to be doing with this $1B data center will enable them to do something other than iTunes that’s cloud-centric and do it well.

Right now I’m in the ballroom at Web 2.0 and Lou Reed is the AOL-sponsored musical guest…very cool. (plus it’s fun watching Tim O’Reilly let loose and dance!)