29 May, 2006

It’s currently rather fashionable to bash Telecom – every industry pundit seems to have written a dozen columns on NZ’s below par broadband that’s resulted from Telecom’s monopoly of the market. And if it’s not that particular subject, then every average New Zealander has some story of incompetence and/or evil at our largest company.

But the thing is – Telecom brings it all on itself. For years it has gouged New Zealanders wanting to connect their phones ($60 in most places, $40 only where there is competition for local phone calls); attempted to step around the Kiwi Share agreement (originally set up when the asset was sold off from the government); stalled progress on internet speeds; moved backwards on internet download limits (unlimited five years ago, outrageously expensive for anything over 10GB now); and given us toll call “deals” that become more restrictive the more popular they become (capped calls for unlimited talking that eventually became [admittedly cheaper] for only 2 hours).

 Who can blame people for wanting to get in a couple of kicks in while Telecom is down? (And I’m talking metaphorically down there, not the “down” whereby tens of thousands of users on  Xtra broadband plans were unable to connect to the internet for days, and were then offered $3.25 compensation).

For instance, in my pod of 4 people at work, three of us have had nightmares courtesy of Telecom in the last few months. Mine was the least worst: I simply wanted to get on a broadband plan (with anyone except Telecom). I still had to wait for Telecom, while my new ISP waited for Telecom to get around to enabling the line or whatever switch they throw. It took about a month to get broadband, and ringing Telecom was a mess of redirections (“You need to talk to Provisioning”, “You need to talk to your ISP” and “We don’t do that here”). Similarly, my workmates QuothDaRaven and Phobious each separately moved from one flat to another. They were turned into gibbering wrecks from a seemingly endless series of fuckups by Telecom. Long hours on the phone, trying to patiently explain that no, the bill for the old place WASN’T meant to be going to the new place, and that the money they paid (under threats of legal action by Telecom) for that old place WASN’T meant to have been credited to the new place. These are 2 guys doing standard things. Telecom surely must be able to handle people moving house. You’d think.

It therefore brought me great pleasure to see that a pisstake of one of Telecom’s more vomit-inducing ads recently went up on the net. And then down again, when Telecom whinged toYouTube, the video-sharing site where it was hosted . Of course, this clever behaviour simply got reported on and mentioned at various blogs, and the video spread to more and more places, and more and more people heard about it and what jerks Telecom were being.

So, in the spirit of wishing Telecom a painful, lingering death (or failing that, a quick buyout by somebody with a clue and a Google-esque “Do no evil” policy), I too would like to show interested viewers the Telecom video, as first aired on Close Up, put on their website, and subsequently removed (at the demand of Telecom – surprise, surprise). I wouldn't be surpised if the below GoogleVideo version disappears at some stage too, although it'll just keep popping up and popping up and popping up…

Even for those on dial-up, it’s worth waiting for the download.

Crap in the Email Details. Part 1

18 May, 2006

I had a large post written up, in which I eventually got around to saying that Microsoft's software is generally crap, while Apple's and Google's and a select few others is generally good. No surprise there, you might think. However, I eventually realized over the course of my rather long and digressionary rant, that Microsoft software is actually just mostly crap when compared to those good companies. When compared to some of the other shit out there, Microsoft's offerings look, and I don't want to appear too fulsome here, almost adequate.

And what lead me to this conclusion? Using email programs at various workplaces. Outlook/Entourage have their bugs, but nothing to compares to the crap of GroupWise, or even worse: Lotus Notes. Allow me to provide examples of the latter, that I use at my current workplace, as I come across them. Here's one from the Lotus Notes "Help", to start with:

lotus how to delete.JPG

The fact I needed help to delete an email was a clue something was wrong with this program.

Note that you can't use the normal email method of:

  1. Select email to delete
  2. Click the delete button (or hit delete on keyboard)

Next, note that hitting the delete button, doesn't. Delete, that is. It just puts an X next to your email. What fucking use is that? To remove them from sight, hit the F9, and see that this has removed your emails entirely, so you can't go and retrieve them if you made a mistake. Note also, that there is also no method of selecting multiple emails other than by clicking individually to the left of each one to mark it.

So basically, you need to have all your trash emails sitting around in your way, because if you actually follow the steps, your email is gone forever. No convenient trash container here, folks. And don't try dragging them out to another folder that you've set up for trash or other emails you don't want cluttering up the place, because they still won't go from your inbox – they end up in both places! How convenient.

More to come…

Apple’s New iBook – sorry, MacBook. One Word Description: Contrasty.

18 May, 2006

Yesterday, Apple released new consumer laptops. Like a lazy description of a holiday destination, these MacBooks are a land of contrasts (just like Namibia; the Middle East; Jamaica; Kansas; Chile; Guinea; New Zealand; Mozambique; and Idaho) Let's look:

Glossy, widescreen display

  • Contrast 1: the new name: MacBook. Awkward and hard to say. On the other hand, I think we can all agree that the fad of putting "i" in front of everything is well and truly dead. Or should be.
  • Contrast 2: They're up to 5 times faster than the old iBooks. Even taking into account the lies of the marketing boys, 2 or 3 times the speed of the last iBooks is incredibly fast. It's a huge jump in speed. Those Intel Core Duo chips are snappy.
  • Contrast 3: Intel Integrated Graphics. This means that there is no dedicated graphics card, and instead, graphics are powered by normal RAM. So although 512MB of normal RAM seems adequate, you're losing a chunk to just produce a picture on screen. I have for years sneered at crappy Windows-based laptops that have had integrated graphcs, and for good reason: they have always been shit. Just because Apple's doing it now doesn't mean this will change. I've been in the market for a new iBook for a couple of years, waiting for decent speed, decent price, and decent features. I never thought that  something that wasn't on my shopping list (iBooks have shipped with decent 32MB graphics cards for ages) would come back. This one thing alone stops me and probably many others at my computer knowledge level ("partially-knowledged"?) from even considering this laptop. I'll look forward to see the first benchmarks come out and see whether I'm justified in thinking like this or not.
  • Contrast 4: Lots of cool little features: built in iSight camera, no latch needed to open and close the lid, remote control, wide-screen screen (13.3 inch), built in Airport, built in Bluetooth, the usual iLife software, Front Row software, long battery life (6 hours), scrolling trackpad (senses if you touch it with more than one finger and will scroll or other-click or lots of other things depending on what you want), Sudden Motion Sensor so that if you drop it (as you will, eventually), the hard drive parks itself quickly while in the air so you don't inconveniently lose all your data as the read head of the hard drive ploughs into the platters and does the equivalent of jamming a stick into the spokes of your brother's bike as he rides past showing how he can ride with his arms folded across his chest.
  • Contrast 5: various crappy little features: a price increase of $100 US dollars, which will no doubt turn into 3 or 4 hundred by the time the NZ rip-off effect has occurred, the battery life is only 6 hours if you have wireless turned off and are not watching DVDs – then it's only 2.5 – 3.5 hours, the modem is gone (on a consumer laptop? That's just crazy), adaptors to connect your Macbook to another monitor are no longer included.
  •  Contrast 6: they come in black. Or white. Nice. The black one has a slight increase in hard drive size, and a massive increase in price. Apple's back to pointless price increases for no benefit. I was starting to miss that. Reasonable prices and features were just so boring.
  • Contrast 6: Contrast. The MacBooks now have a "glossy" screen, which is again what those crappy PC laptops have had: they look nice and shiny and bright in the shop, especially compared to the matte finish of current iBook screens. They have great contrast and bright rich colours. However, it's also like attaching a sheet of reflective plastic to the front of your computer. In practical use, these things will be better mirrors than screen. John Siracusa over at Ars Technica has some good photos and thoughts .

I want a new laptop. But at the moment, these MacBooks don't do it for me. I'm still happy that I got that 800 Mhz G3 iBook off TradeMe for $650.

Bury Your Phone and See What Grows.

9 May, 2006

Cell phone towers don't have to be eye-sores. Hint: the pictures below are not trees…

And it'll keep the nutbar Greenies quiet too – at least until they try to hug one of these trees and pick up a phone conversation through their fillings…

We Don’t Exclude You if You’re Crippled, Black or Homosexual, But If You Use a Mac You Can Get Stuffed.

9 May, 2006

Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Awards 2006 – Conditions of Entry 

Where an entry is submitted online, it must be accompanied by one manuscript, typed in English, double-spaced and saved as a Word file (.doc) in a PC (not MAC) format.

Five tiny comment-ettes:

1.    What’s a MAC?
2.    There is no such thing as a PC or a Mac format when you are talking Word documents.
3.    Why save it as a proprietary, dangerous format instead of something easy, like say rich text format?
4.    Why not have an IT department capable of IT, and be able to accept any text document – any decent word processor (NOT Word) will open the majority of text formats.
5.    Kudos for knowing there is such a thing as Mac. Massive bad juju karma for deliberately excluding it in an illogical and barmy manner! For shame, BNZ.

We Move.

1 May, 2006

As mentioned previously, the lovely YoungMissy and myself have recently thrown our life savings into a house. However, due to rain, illness, and ANZAC day cock-ups, we weren’t able to move in on our planned day – but this weekend, we actually managed it. Four vanloads from the Safeway storage place (which I recommend highly) and one sproinged back later, we had all our furniture in the new place.Well, almost all – the base of my bed was about 6 inches too big to fit in the van, so it remains alone in storage for the moment. But sleeping on a mattress only must be very fashionable in some parts of the world – so we’ll do that.And when the washing machine and fridge  turn up tomorrow, we’ll actually be able to stay there for the first time (gotta have the milk for my morning coffee).I’ll send an email with all the address and contact details to friends, family and interested weirdos from the internet just as soon as I can…

Google Everything

1 May, 2006

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of all the services and tools that Google provides. There's a lot.