Archive - 2005
Happy Christmas and New Year. And if you're not much into Christmas, have a good time anyway.
I'll be nipping home to mumma Cat's place for a few days to get a few square meals, clothes washed, and myself fattened suitably. See you on the other side...
I caught Space Cadets for the first time last night. Johnny Vaughn explains that three 'ordinary people' are being put into space - or so they think. Actually, the whole thing is a hoax, and they're not going anywhere, except a disused base in Suffolk.
During the show, without noticing any particular reasons, I started to wonder if this actually was all a put-up, and that we, the audience were the ones being duped.
Slashdot have got in on the act (and see the comments - seemingly a lot of people think it's what it claims to be). However, there's a link to a (seemingly) well researched entry at coolsmartphone that indicates that indeed, the viewers are being duped.
If nothing else, it's cast a shadow of doubt over everything on the subject. Who's working for C4/Endemol by saying these things? Maybe we're all working for ITV to 'ruin' the show? Maybe we're all stupid, or maybe the experiment is a failure because we've sussed it. Either way, we'll find out soon enough...
Try these two scenarios:
Reception: "Can I ask what it's regarding?"
Me: "It's a sales call, actually"
Reception: "Can I ask what it's regarding?"
Me: "We sent him some information so we're just following up"
Both are factual and honest, yet one is what people actually want and one is a gentle deception aimed at getting past the "sales filter". I almost feel bad using the slight deception. Almost.
I've been a Nokia diehard for years, ever since I got rid of a crappy Alcatel phone werk foisted on me. I recently switched providers and got a new phone. The Mototrola Razr V3 came with a better deal than the Nokia I was looking at, and I have to say it's really good.
I'd say the Razr is about the best looking, nicest physically shaped phone around at the moment. It's super-slim, and whilst a bit wider than many phones, it incredibly pocket-friendly (and avoids unsightly bulges ;-)
The Razr has all the features you'd expect, half of which I'll almost never use. The camera is 'VGA', so pretty rubbish, but there's also bluetooth and an (included) USB cable. It's got pictures, tunes and video, although no removable memory card to put it on. Unlike the Nokias I've ever used, the Motorola has user-flashable software. That avoids having to go to the store to get your phone's software updated (if indeed you'd ever want to do such a thing).
In actual usage, I've always thought that Nokia have been the best. Their menuing system, and the things that are "one click" away from the normal screen are pretty much just what you want. The Motorola isn't bad at it though - the menus are sometimes a little deep, and the phone book isn't accessible by simply pressing "down", but it's perfectly usable. If I hadn't been spoiled by even the cheapest of Nokia phones, I'd say the Motorola was great.
That said, Motorola should work on their software a lot more. Take a simple operation like changing ring styles from your "normal" setting to a "silent" setting. On a Nokia, you click the power button, scroll down to the one you want (which you can do with the power button, or the navigation keys), click select and you're done.
On the Motorola, you can do the same thing with the phone opened or closed. Opened it's a bit too involved: Press up on the navigator (or press the menu key, and select settings->ring styles), press "change", scroll to the one you want, press "select" or middle of the navigator. Since you probably don't want to leave it there, press the red button to go back to the normal screen. The good news is that switching this way only makes keypress noises, and possibly vibrates the phone briefly if you select a vibrating ring.
Thankfully, with the phone closed, it's easier: Press the volume key, press the smart key to scroll through the options (which are hard to read because they're not written in full on the screen - how daft!) and then press the volume button to select your ring. The problem here is that the phone will make a loud beep if it's on a ringing profile when you start, and again if you select a ringing profile (and keypress noises between times). What's with that? If I'm in a meeting or something and want to quietly silence my phone, then I don't want to draw attention to myself while doing it!
This single example shows the problem with Motorola's software. Whilst it has most of the features you might want, it doesn't implement them very well. It's also not nearly as customisable as it ought to be either. You can't change the names of the ring profiles, you can't change what the four points of the navigator will take you to when pressed, and so on.
Update: Whoops! Sorry, I'm a fool - yes you can customise the four points of the navigator. You can also have the four respective icons shown on the home screen too. I'd like to have been able to select 'vibrate' and 'vibrate and ring' profiles this way, but all you can do is go to the ring styles menu. Hey, you can't have everything ;-)
On the plus side, Motorola's predictive text capability is a bit better than Nokia's, although it takes a bit of getting used to if you're used to Nokia's. It's actually a bit more intuitive, and doesn't require you switch modes to type in some unrecognised words or numbers.
So to sum up: In general use, I'd say the Motorola Razr V3 is really good. It's got a few rough edges which could be resolved in a software update (although probably won't be!). If you're looking for a phone then the Razr is definitely worth considering. I've also heard they're going to be releasing a V3i which will have iTunes compatability - that could be really neat, although if (like the Rokr) has a very limited song capacity will probably be surpassed by an iPod Shuffle.
Update 13/12/05: I've just received a "browser update" SMS message. The phone continuously vibrated (with an almost continuous cadence, unlike normal), made no sound, and didn't stop until I read the message. Lucky I had the phone nearby, otherwise it might have been vibrated for ever. Doesn't seem like a good design feature to me... ;-)
Whilst I hate all things criminal, I do have a certain respect for the social engineering that goes into much of it. Spam is no exception, but the vast majority of it is low-quality 'scattergun' selling. Every once in a while though, you get a good 'phish'; I've just received this one:
From: Mail Delivery Subsystem [noreply@[domain name]]
Subject: Returned mail: see transcript for details
Dear user of [domain name],
We have detected that your e-mail account has been used to send a large amount of unsolicited commercial email during this week. Probably, your computer had been compromised and now contains a hidden proxy server.
Please follow instructions in order to keep your computer safe.
[domain name] support team.
See! Clever stuff. For once it's a well written, credible email. However they chose to send it to the administrator of the domain, so of course I knew it was fake. We all know that the message.scr attachment is going to quietly install the proxy server, and is then going to send oodles of mail (although unlikely it'll appear to be from my account).
- Exceeding what is necessary or natural; superfluous.
- Needlessly wordy or repetitive in expression: a student paper filled with redundant phrases.
- Of or relating to linguistic redundancy.
- Chiefly British. Dismissed or laid off from work, as for being no longer needed.
- Electronics. Of or involving redundancy in electronic equipment.
- Of or involving redundancy in the transmission of messages.
It's all over. Thankfully. It's been like watered-down beer for ages. We've finally managed to force down the last dregs, and now it's time to go home.
I'm transferring my mobile phone from work to myself. This is an easy process: You call your existing mobile supplier and request a PAC code. You then give this to your new provider and they transfer your number over. Or so they claim...
First I went to the Vodafone shop on Cheapside, central London. After queing for 10 minutes, we went through the whole shooting match of which tariff, which phone etc etc. The chap even got the phone out of the store room and showed me it, checked the box contents etc. Then he asked me for my PAC code...
Then we waited...
Then I waited as he phoned someone to check. Then he told me that actually I don't need a PAC code, I need to call Vodafone and ask for a 'transfer of ownership' form. He sent me away, empty handed.
Clearly from a customer service point of view, this was a disasterous mistake for Vodafone. Firstly, they should do everything they can to keep you in store and on Vodafone. Secondly, why don't they have these forms? As it turns out, it's just a duplicate form, which we could have got filled out in the store (actually, my employer needs to fill in a bit, but if I've got my half of it done, I'm well on the hook and far less likely to go elsewhere).
So anway, shunned by Vodafone, I decide I'll go where phones have happier lives: The Carphone Warehouse (Clapham Junction, London). I speak to Maria, who was brilliant. She went through all the things I might need to know, showed me the upgrade of my phone, explained how it was better etc etc. When I asked her what other phones I could have, she was a bit vague, really resorting to asking me if I had my eye on anything. Anyway, we settled on a phone and a deal, with 02 I might add. She did a credit check, which curiously wasn't perfect (as it usually is), but never the less, I was ready to go.
Then we try the PAC code.
Then we wait...
Then I wait as she calls for help. She then tells me that the PAC code is invalid, perhaps because it's one code for three phone numbers. She tells me I need to call Vodafone to sort it out.
Again, I leave a phone shop empty handed. However, she's given me a sheet with all the details written on it, so in theory I can walk right back in and save a whole load of time. She's left me thinking Vodafone are crap and the Carphone Warehouse are alright.
I go home - big mistake - I should have just called Vodafone right there. Anyway, I call them, and they tell me the PAC code is valid, and has been activated to transfer my number (in about five days time).
I then call the Carphone Warehouse in Clapham Junction. No answer. I find another number for them. No answer. Pretty rubbish for a shop that does phones!
Then I call their central 'customer care' centre (on an 0870 number, so it ain't cheap), and speak to Carl. He and I go through a few things, and then he check the dreaded PAC code with me.
Then I wait...
And some more....
In fact, about 12 minutes more...
Then Carl tells me that his team are saying the PAC has been activated but definitely not by the Carphone Warehouse, so they're powerless to do anything. He explains I need to call Vodafone to sort it. He gave me his direct number though, so at least I don't have to navigate the perils of the phone system.
I call Vodafone, and speak to Philip. He clearly sensed my annoyance, and turned on the charm. I ask him to check my PAC code. Unfortunately, even though you can call Vodafone Business Support until 7pm, the PAC people go home at 5.30, so there's nothing he can do until next morning.
So anyway, in the morning I call Vodafone again, and again get bounced over to the Carphone Warehouse, who bounce me back to Vodafone, who (despite my pleading) bounce me back to the Carphone Warehouse. This time, they spend about 45 minutes investigating. I get a call back, telling me basically what I heard the first time - the PAC transaction is underway, but definitely, 100% certainly nothing to do with the Carphone Warehouse. They ask me if I've used the PAC anywhere else... Oh yes, in the Vodafone shop, when it wasn't even needed.
Anyway, as if this isn't tedious enough, a call to Vodafone sorted it out (after another 10 minutes). Vodafone, despite having told me the opposite earlier issued me with a new PAC, having cancelled the old one. Finally! Now it's finally all underway... New phone and contract should be with me next week.
Needless to say, I'm not at all happy with Vodafone. In fact, I emailed Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone with the whole sordid story. I found his email address here (along with numerous others). I'm not expecting much, especially as I've left now, but hey, at least he'll be feeling it a bit.
Update 23/11: I just got a call from a chap at Vodafone. He said "I will do anything I can to keep you on the Vodafone network". Sadly, he's too late, but he seemed really switched on and keen to make it all good. He's given me his personal number to call when my O2 contract expires.
Update 15/02/09: I've just had a world of pain with The Carphone Warehouse/O2. It turns out their Loyalty Department guard their PAC Codes, and will do almost anything to keep you if you're unhappy. Call them on 0870 111 7200 (extension x442 2100).
I've been doing some 'cold calling' to people that have recently been sent something in the post. Like most people, I don't like cold calling, because either you can't get through to the people you want, or people aren't interested. However, I'm pleased to report that I've had a modest amount of success.
I can't explain how much better I feel about everything now. It might well come to nothing, but it feels very good (especially as I've hardly started this whole process).
Apologies to all those people who tried to read this post last night between midnight and 1am. As it turns out, the combination of backups, web stats and visitors put my server into meltdown. By the time I got to it, the load average was over 60.
Anyway, I've made a few changes and have a few more up my sleeve. Hopefully it'll stand up a bit better next time!
At the supermarket, the lady at the checkout said,
"That organic's not worth the money. It goes off too quick because it hasn't got all the preservatives and pesticides in it".
Thank you, I always wondered why I was buying all that high priced stuff, now I know there's no need. She went on to cheer me up with a story about dog cruelty.
I should have known why no one else was queuing up at her checkout...