Tag Archives: Pottermore on dial-up

Maybe If I Yell “Alohomora” At The Computer Screen…

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I’m putting this on the blog because I’ll never, ever be able to load it on Pottermore… for several reasons…

All I can say is, it’s a damn good thing I have a sense of proportion about the inherent glitchiness of online/internet stuff, but even with that sense of proportion, the Pottermore “experience” is still falling somewhere between extremely trying and @*#%*&!!! I had been nurturing the fond hope that perhaps, after an almost two-month absence from Pottermore, a few things might at least work when I finally returned, but it seems the site as a whole is still woefully under-servered, because my load-times (8 minutes for the Gateway to load, 10 to 12 minutes for the Profile page to load) have not changed at all. Today, while waiting for my computer to choke its way through my Profile page, I peeled and cut up 5 avocados, hand-juiced some limes, and whipped up a batch of guacamole, which I then consumed about half of while waiting… waiting… waiting…

I will remind my readers that I am on a dial-up connection, but even so, I can routinely access Google, Facebook (and Facebook games), my own blog here on WordPress, Amazon, my local Public Library system, and even a graphics-heavy Moroccan website called BaboucheShop (where I purchased a pair of babouches online just last week) without experiencing anything resembling the online pain I continue to have on Pottermore. I have to ask, if a Moroccan webstore selling purses, shoes, sarouelles and jewelry with lots of pretty pictures and slideshows can make itself accessible to a dial-up user like me, why can’t Powered-by-Sony Pottermore?

So what can I still not do on Pottermore? Glad you asked!

1) I still cannot brew potions. The potion practice page still does not load fully, so although I can crush my little handfuls of Snake Fangs, dump them in my cauldron, and turn the cauldron on, the part of the page that contains the temperature control for the cauldron never loads, so there is no way to regulate the temperature. There is also no way to wave a wand should I ever get that far, because there is no wand to wave…

2) I can still practice-duel, and each practice still takes a lot of time to load. Subsequent practices with the same spell load a bit easier, but not by much. I haven’t tried dueling for real, as I’ve only been able to practice about 3 spells total.

3) I was able to load only one Moment from the latest Chamber of Secrets chapters, but after that, my computer froze twice, even after I asked for low quality on the graphics.

4) When I ask for low quality on the graphics, there is nothing to click on or collect, and I cannot access the extra backstory goodies, which is my main reason for wanting to visit Pottermore after all the non-fun it’s been. (I am also seriously grumpy about JKR apparently back-pedaling on writing the long-awaited Potter Encyclopedia, and instead putting the heretofore unpublished stuff only on Pottermore… where… I… can’t… access… it…)

5) It took me 45 minutes and five page reloads to get out of the last chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone and into Chamber of Secrets.

6) The following statement is still true– I can only really access Pottermore decently from the broadband public internet terminals at my work, and in high quality graphics mode, even the work computers choke and require page reloads after several Moments have been waded through.

7) Several of my coworkers tried using their laptops and the wifi access we have at work, and Pottermore managed to crash two out of the three laptops we tried the site with after about 10 minutes of play in each case. After all this time and supposed beta-testing and revamping, this should not be happening! (These same coworkers of mine use said laptops to play other online games with nary a stutter, hiccup or glitch, I might add…)

8) It still takes me between six and ten minutes to go from any one page on the site to any other page on the site. Pages still frequently load only partially, even with immediate browsing-history-and-cookie-dumps. I frequently have to reload the page more than once to get a fully finished download, and the potions page never fully downloads, no matter what I do, or how many times I refresh.

Now, I will repeat this again, because it bears repeating– I cannot think of another website anywhere on the internet that performs this badly for dial-up users. Even with regard to streaming video, which takes ages to load on dial-up, I can still rest assured that at the end of the download, I will actually be able to watch the video. This is because sites like YouTube have enough server-power to allow lower-speed down-loaders to get enough data to make things work. When I am on Pottermore attempting to access something, I have no such hope.

Additionally, I will note that among the thousands of kids who use our public library computers each week for a bit of game-playing fun, Pottermore is not a site they visit with any regularity, which I think says it all.

So, three Furnunculus Hexes and one Jelly-Legs Jinx to Sony for being excessively cheap when it comes to server-power for Pottermore. Combining these two spells is said to produce facial tentacles in the hexed– just deserts, I feel, for cutting corners in the name of trying force technology-upgrades and eReaders on everybody to make the corporate bottom-line look tasty. If I am forced into a (completely spurious) “choice” between having to buy yet another new computer and more expensive high-speed internet access and foregoing Pottermore, I will forego Pottermore, despite the exclusive, never-before-published content from JKR.

And if I ever do buy an eReader, it will not be a Sony.

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I Love/Hate Pottermore– or, Harefoot at Hogwarts

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After seven months of no-explanation, no-projected-start-date waiting with about half the planet, I finally have an active account on Pottermore. My main reasons for wanting a Pottermore account are that 1) I myself am a big fan of the Harry Potter series (I’ve always wondered what House I’d be sorted into if J.K. Rowling was the Sorting Hat), and 2) since I work for a public library system in a major U.S. city, I know there are going to be kids who will want to explore Pottermore on our library computers, so I need to know something about using it.

It’s a fun concept, and one of the things that looked interesting about it was that there would be additional background-notes material by JKR available on the site– stuff that didn’t make it into the books, but would be fun to know about. The art for the site also looked quite nice, and although in other circumstances I think I would have tried very hard to be a beta-tester for Pottermore, I had to let that idea go because of other demands on my time.

Because I am basically a long-time lurker on the two biggest Harry Potter fan-sites– Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron— I have been following the saga of the Pottermore beta-testing from the very beginning. It rapidly became apparent that Pottermore had major platform and lack-of-servers problems, and the server problem struck me as a particularly stupid one for the site to be having because JKR herself pointed out to Sony and the platform development folks that they would probably need a lot more server-space than was being planned for. What happened in response to her input really ticked me off– they basically “politely dismissed” her concerns, and went ahead as planned, and the poor beta-testers soon found out how poor the planning for the site had been. Pottermore had problems that should have been worked out long before it ever went into beta, and one of the main issues was… nowhere near enough server space. This became obvious when they pushed back the date that the ebooks would be available for purchase on the site– they needed the book-vending server space to keep Pottermore from turning into one big Fuchsia Screen of Death.

I felt bad for both the beta-suckers-I-mean-testers, and for Ms. Rowling, whose name and sterling reputation is all over Pottermore. Sony definitely did not do right by her, and it started with them thinking they knew more than she did about what the response would be like for Pottermore. What really bites about this is that you know if it had been, say, Donald Trump telling the planners they needed more servers, they would have all rolled over on their backs, widdled all over themselves like 6-week-old puppies and would have said, “Oh yes, Mr. Trump. We are currently in the process of relocating one quarter of the population of Atlanta so that we can turn that portion of the city into a vast server-barn just for you. It will all be done and up and running by tomorrow, Mr. Trump.” However, the person doing the suggesting in the instance of Pottermore happened to be female– never mind that she’s the most successful children’s author of all time and has about the same amount of money as God, so she could literally buy Sony and all its subsidiaries if she wanted to– which meant, bottom-line, Sony and the planners felt free to ignore her “girly, artiste” input. Are you laughing sardonically now? I know I sure am!

Anyway, it became apparent very quickly that Pottermore was in heaps of trouble, so beta-testing was first extended for two months, and then “indefinitely”, and Charlie Redmayne was induced to jump ship from Harper Collins to helm Pottermore. I hoped at this point someone would step forward and offer a simple explanation for the delay. Human beings do make mistakes, and the courteous, customer-service-savvy thing to do would have been to offer a simple “Oops, sorry, we miscalculated and will fix this as soon as possible, but it may take 4 to 6 months. In the meantime, please hang in there. We promise we will make it worth the wait.” This also never happened, and cynical little me thinks it was probably because 1) the supposed demographic of the fan-base makes it easily dismissed– i.e, it’s just kids, so let ’em wait, and 2) some dim bulb in a boardroom somewhere very likely came up with the “idea” that if people were not told when exactly the site would be back up, they’d visit Pottermore more often to check to see if things were open to the public yet.

I am sure I am not the only Harry Potter fan who was less than impressed with them hanging fan-art and House Tweets all over the Pottermore blog like it was some sort of make-do cyberspace refrigerator (not that fan-art and Tweets are bad things, mind you– they’re fun!), and I am sure that I was not the only disgruntled Harry Potter fan who just decided to skip Pottermore altogether and continue to lurk at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron, where I was sure that I would know soon enough when Pottermore was breathing again after repeated defibrillation and a stint at Saint Mungo’s with Gilderoy Lockhart as a ward-mate. I personally found out Pottermore was open from an announcement on Mugglenet this last Saturday, and I registered well before the long-promised “You Can Now Register” email got to me.

So now that I’m in, do you think my troubles are over? Heck, no!!! Apparently, Pottermore is still server-starved, and also apparently, no provision was made for people who are dial-up users. I registered Saturday afternoon and got notification my account was active Saturday evening. That evening, I was able to briefly access Chapters 1 and 2, but from Sunday on, nothing has loaded, even with graphics quality set to low, Adobe Flash disabled and my computer left running for hours unattended. Yesterday, I could not even click into the sidebar stuff, which is nothing but print, and when I’d try to reload the page, I started getting “Server Cannot Be Found” error messages. Demand is once again heavy-to-overload on too few servers, and the result is that dial-up users can’t download much of anything. This ticks me off not just because I’m a dial-up user, but also because a lot of low income kids are, as well. While kids may have computers at home, their families cannot always afford a broadband connection.

Now just so we’re clear about what’s possible, huge service providers like Google get around the dial-up vs. broadband issue by reading how much data a user is pulling and by having a 2-tier system for high-load things like image searches. As a dial-up user at home, I get Google’s Basic page when I image-search, but at work, where my connection is high-speed, I get their newer page with the searchable pop-ups. One would think the folks designing Pottermore would have taken into consideration that not all Pottermore users are affluent and have access to broadband internet service and would have offered something like a “Pottermore Basic”, and if not, they should have been up-front with the fact that there are minimum system requirements that must be met for access to Pottermore. This latter possibility– that dial-up users simply won’t be able to access Pottermore at all is frankly unacceptable, especially after seven months of waiting for things to be fixed. I pointed out on ElmBlade43’s excellent and helpful  Blog of a Pottermore Beta that as a dial-up user, I can use Google without a hitch, I can access Facebook and play all their games with only a few tiny hiccups, and I can download MP3s from Amazon, all without getting “Server Not Found” and “Virtual Memory Too Low” error messages. So, what in the name of Rowena Ravenclaw is up with Pottermore? I’ll tell you– not enough server-power.

In discussing the situation I am currently facing with ElmBlade (a very delightful Slytherin and my first Friend on Pottermore), I told her that I’d keep trying with my dial-up, but that I’d also attempt to access Pottermore from work on one of the public internet terminals, which are broadband, but which do not have the most recent software installed. The verdict so far is that my dial-up connection still cannot grab anything, but I did get on at work, although even that connection was also at times semi-slow.

Since our library computers are on one-hour timers, I quickly jumped ahead in the story so that I could at least get my wand and get sorted–and don’t I sound exactly like those poor beta-testers from last October, folks? Forget moseying around on Diagon Alley (which is really beautiful) and enjoying buying my owl and my first magic books– it was Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Sony and dump everything into my Favorites folder so that I can try to load it later at home to read it. Frankly, Pottermore is still more of a pain than a pleasure for me and my dial-up, and I think that things would be far better for everyone if they just did what JKR told them to do in the very beginning– make double-Peeves sure they can handle a lot of high volume site-traffic, because the blunt truth is that Pottermore will never be a low-use site, ever— just look at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron and multiply it by about a hundred and fifty, because parents and grandparents are going to be playing on Pottermore, too. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it does most definitely scratch that “I wanna go to Hogwarts” itch.

So, to sum up, I love JKR and I love the concept, but I really hate Sony’s half-Squib muddle of what should be a fun experience for *everybody*, even if they don’t have the latest technology. Sony needs to take a page from Helga Hufflepuff and her House at Hogwarts– she never turned anyone away, or turned up her nose at anyone who was sincere.

And just so you-all know, I Sorted into Ravenclaw with nary a Hatstall, which I certainly thought I might because I truly am the sort of person who makes Luna Lovegood look normal. My wand is 13 inches (an excellently witchy number), is made of Yew with a Dragon-Heartstring core, and is “surprisingly swishy”. My user-name, in what I consider to be a real bit of true Magick, is ThornAvis9209. Please feel free to send me a Friend request if you are also on Pottermore— adding Friends and repeatedly changing my password are about the only things I can do there at the moment…