Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

DHL international express - do not use

I have recently ordered a product from the web site in Hungary. They had a great price on the particular product I was after. The only shipping option they had for me (to Serbia) was DHL Express. I used DHL once way back in the 90s –  from USA to then Yugoslavia – and was far from happy with the service on the serbian end. Since the price of the product was twice better than anywhere else in Europe (103€), I went for it, hopping local DHL improved.

Turned out they did, but not much.

The shipping costs, as listed in MobilX site were 13€ to ship into Serbia, with 1-2 business days time frame. Since I ordered few days before Orthodox Easter, I wasn’t really expecting it in that time frame. I didn’t mind that, I was not even at home during the holiday. So, on next Tuesday, I checked the site, saw that it has arrived into Serbia, that it was delayed at customs and called DHL.

I knew that I should go through the customs import procedure where things could take a day or two, so I wanted to speed things up. I went through 3 different persons with no luck, finally the 3rd telling me that someone will call me with more info “in few minutes”. Almost 5h later someone did call me, to tell me that my package needs to go to the customs and that I need to pay 3540din for DHL service for custom declarations + any customs expenses based on the package price.

Initially I was shocked. 3450din is 3000din for their service + 18% VAT. So, VAT excluded, they were charging me additional 31€ for doing the customs procedure in my name. I did not want to pay this so I asked for information about the package and wanted to do that myself.

Like, yeah.

First, there’s immensely stupid Serbian Law that says that only regular postal packages can be declared to customs by ordinary people. Express packages must go through certified customs agent. This is utter bullshit as there is nothing different in the paperwork. This is clearly a setup for the various express courier companies (DHL, UPS, many other local ones that have sprang off the ground in Serbia, in last few years) to charge abnormal service charges on top of their regular shipping charge.

So, my only option was to try and find some other customs agent with better rates.

However, in order to actually do that, I need to buy the shipping list from DHL for mere 944din + unknown amount per day, for keeping the 300g package in their storage until the process is done. That’s 10€ + unknown amount. Adding the other agent rate, this could very well again be 30€ or even more.

Out of options here, I sent the payment to DHL with appropriate papers and was anxiously waiting to see what exactly I’m being charged for. Things did not finish there though, as this customs procedure took 2 days – I payed 31€ for that? – and then took two more days until actual delivery. You see, even though I sent two emails when can I be reached at home and left contact phone and alternative address (my office) I still missed the delivery guy for 15mins who came to my home address at about 6:25pm, did not find anyone there and left. I arrived home 10mins later. I immediatelly called their office, they told me that deliveries can be made after 10am and in about 6-8pm, even though their working hours are 8am-8pm. We huggled for some minutes on is it possible that delivery is made after 7pm when I knew I will be home and apparently it was impossible since it could be anywhere between 6-8pm and they can’t tell me precisely. Jolly.

The whole experience was abysmal and the DHL was nothing but problematic. The hidden charges are simply despicable and the shipping charge is blatant lie. (This has nothing to do with MobilX, they are probably using whatever DHL gave them as rates). I know that this is all down to local DHL office, but to me, as customer, that is irrelevant. It’s their job to get all their branches in order, because they are all called DHL. It’s one brand and the bad experience damage entire brand.

Just to clear any doubt - mentioned 31€ is pure DHL charge. Actual charges that Serbian Customs office is taking for filing the papers are 300din+600din (a bit less than 10€) and these were payed by me, clearly shown on the invoice given. Thus it’s not transparent customs charge that DHL is graciously doing for me as certificed customs agent - it’s DHL ripping people off.

And what do they do for those 31€? I fill two Word document templates they sent me, they fill half of another paper (half is done by the customs clerk on arrival) and fax all three to the customs office. I also pay the charges directly to them and customs office, they don’t process any money in my name. Like I said, this law is clearly a setup for the shipping sharks.

They basically do nothing. The airway transport from Hungary to Italy to Serbia costs 13€ and this paper shuffling costs 31€. Absolutely despicable abuse of the local laws. This is the last time I have ever used DHL and would actively dissuade anyone I know from using their services.

Contact form fixed

If you have tried to contact me through the contact form in last month or so – please accept my apologies. When .yu TLD went dead, I forgot to change the form code and emails went to the old domain.

Fixed now, things are back in order.

On CSS, tables and layout

In short span of 2–3 days, I encountered two different examples of people writing that all this CSS–for–layout thing is nonsense. Too hard. Inadequate. Buggy and inconsistent. Just plain hard.

Well, it is. Hard, I mean.

Everyone knows how to build some shelter: put some stools and cover with branches and it would mostly fit the bill. If however it should withstand the wind and rain, it requires quite a bit more skills. Everyone knows how to get heating: put some wood and start a fire. Only few knows what it takes to build proper, natural heating that’s just there.

The same is with web development. Anyone can build a web page that looks fine to them. But it might not be fine to me or some other people. It might be downright inaccessible to some. It might be pain in the ass to some other.

Every single time I encounter rants like those two linked above, it’s plainly obvious it’s made by people who just don’t get it. I mean, just look at those two rants/posts (whatever you call them) and you’ll see how not-getting-it is the core of their frustration.

Just one example:

On the screen the natural order of flow for the five major layout elements is: top, left, center, right, bottom. But the actual order in which they appear in the code has “right” and “center” reversed. Is this a mistake? To find out, let’s see what happens if we change them around so that the order in the code matches the presentation order:

Youch! That looks terrible! Apparently the order matters. The reason that the order matters is that this layout, like all multi-column CSS layouts, is achieved with floats, and the way that floats get rendered depends on the order in which they appear. So we have not managed to separate content from presentation.

Yes Ron, it does not look good because CSS rules were written to achieve the desired layout using the given HTML structure code – which could also be much improved, but that’s another topic.

To give you real-life example: do you have a bike? Do you expect to be able to drive if you sit on it faced to the rear of the bike? Hm, crap, I can’t turn the pedals properly. The bike is shit.

The other rant is even worse, the anger of not being able to code the desired layout in CSS is spilling from all corners. I can understand that frustration and have experienced it several times, when I tried to learn something and failed to do so.

I drank the Kool-Aid, and I woke up two weeks later with a broken design. I had a headache from banging my head against the CSS wall. But, it simply couldn’t be a problem with CSS itself. The problem had to be that I didn’t understand CSS well enough. The answer had to be that I was bad, lazy or I didn’t care about web standards or something. The internets had told me so.

Yes iamelgringo, you’re just not up to it. You should have admitted it to yourself and hired someone else who is, to finish the job. Or just use tables as you did and get on with your life. Posting this:

So, I don’t ever want to read how web designers who don’t use pure CSS in their layouts are lazy, stupid, don’t care about their craft, backwards or don’t bathe properly. Never again. People who post such things online are heretofore to be known as CSS Trolls and are to be banished from the internets for all time. Begone yea vile fiends!

just makes you jealous wanker.

And just to touch lightly on the argument about Google - the fact that Google is not using CSS-based design is responsible for the fact that they have two different search pages - one for desktops, another for mobile devices (when I think about it, they probably have more than two). Multiple code bases for the page that has one input field and two buttons on it. Sheeeesh…Google’s front page is prime example of crapy front-end work.

Will code HTML for food. And give you crap code for it.

Or however that joke went. There are many reasons why tables are not to be used for layout. Two important ones are:

  1. tables are fixed structure which cement the layout for good

  2. cemented structures are impossible or way too hard to adapt to displays with vastly different screen estate

For instance, take a look at my winery web site. If you look at it on desktop browser, you’ll see rich graphics, 3-column web site. But if you look at it on iPhone in portrait mode, you’ll see one-column website with some graphics removed. All it took to achieve this look is one meta element in the page head and half a screen of additional CSS rules. It would be just as simple to adapt it to other mobile browsers. Let me see you do that this quick and fast with tables.

Not to mention how impossible is to achieve noticeably different skins if you use layout tables. For the last several years I have maintained old and created new instances of company’s main web product, using the very same code base, with just a different set of CSS rules and images. 20 or so counting, each new instance was several days at worst for the complete reskin job.

Every time I need to apply some designs to pages created using ASP.NET, I cringe and resign my case or dig deep and redo almost entire contents of the .aspx files. It takes good deal of knowledge to do things properly.

Not everyone are capable of doing it, which is just fine. There’s plenty of other professions, not everyone should be web front-end developers. If you don’t know how to do it and/or are incapable of learning, just give up and find some other thing to do in life.

Don’t go around prophesying nonsense.

IE8 beta2 considered harmful

I was notified that ADxMenu does not work in IE8 beta2. Apparently, it suffers from several CSS bugs that are triggered by my menu. Nothing to actually do about it, only hope that Microsoft developers will fix these soon.

These bugs are introduced in the beta2, as the menu was working fine with beta1. New IE engine’s growing hickups, I guess.

Update: Microsoft developers fixed this in IE8. My menu is working just fine there.