Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Monday, March 28, 2005 2:57 pm
911 call
I just came across that 911 call from the disgruntled Burger King patron. It’s hilarious. I think the person taking the call performed excellently. From the discussions online, calls like these aren’t rare.

The mp3 version is available here.
Saturday, March 26, 2005 1:24 am
Sell your products properly already!
I have been buying my Apple stuff at the Apple Australia Online Store for 3 years now. The online store hasn’t changed much over the years, which says something about Apple — get something done right the first time, do it well, and stick with it. The purchasing experience has been excellent. Desktops over here, notebooks over here. iPods here. Software and accessories over there. Click add, customise, checkout. Free shipping. Easy. The images are clear, and consistent throughout the Apple website. The customise pages are short and to the point. Links point to the Apple product page. Over there years there have been some glitches. Once, there was a notebook/iPod deal that wasn’t publicised on the education website at all until days before the promotion ended. And once (so I’m told), the G5 specs were leaked onto the Apple Store site.

Apple has it relatively easy, making a very limited set of machines compared to the likes of Dell, HP/Compaq and so on. While the PC world has to state whether they are using Celeron or Pentium X/M or AMD chips, with such and such RAM, in a tower/compact tower/ desktop configuration and bundled with such and such monitor, with XP Home/Professional ± network card etc; Apple just says “eMac 1.25/40/256” or something. Simplicity personified.

That alone cannot explain the extraordinarily terrible layout of the Dell, HP/Compaq websites and online stores though. I recently bought a Dell 1905FP 19" LCD screen to go with a PowerBook G4 15". Excellent monitor at a relatively low price (at the time). The Dell website is fantastic in some ways — having e-voucher boxes to bring the buyer directly to a “great deal + benefits” offer advertised in a brochure or magazine advertisement. That’s an excellent idea I think. However, the rest of the online store is quite mediocre.

For one thing, the first option to choose on the front page, is Home, Small Business, or Medium/Large Business. Now, why does that matter to the consumer clicking on the front page? Sure maybe it’s relevant, but one can’t help but wonder if choosing one of the other options may reveal a better deal or lower price. I suppose Dell may be selling different products to different markets. But doesn’t that really just mean a different level of support, software bundle? Why should a “Home” user not be able to see the options a “Business” user has?

Anyway, at some point after clicking on the “Home & Home Office” link, a new pop-up window appears, and every link is a javascript, so the back button is a-bye-bye. Is this really necessary? It is such a pain to have to make a purchase in an environment where Dell controls the navigation. All this is aggravated by the plethora of options that Dell allows.

Thank goodness I wasn’t getting a Dell laptop. There are craploads of options. Oh, the options! I suppose the plethora of options are Dell’s strengths though. It must be my failing as a Macintosh user, to be overwhelmed by them.

The Dell/Windows mindset is clear in the Dell store. Note that the front page brings one directly to the Dell Store; probably emphasising that Dell’s modus operandi is direct online selling. It’s all odd and chaotic in design; with underlying order. It’s messy; but the prices change daily/weekly. It offers lots and lots of options, and somehow works despite that. I only wanted a simple LCD screen, and found what I wanted at a low price. No customisation needed. I was quite confident when actually typing my credit card details in. The monitor arrived safely. A-ok.

Now, I went to, just to have a look at their LCD monitor prices. HP looks like a real schizophrenic company. I know they sell stuff quite successfully at the Harvey Norman stores; but they also want an online store. It shows that the online store is not a big priority for them. The look is staid, and serious, just like their company; or their laser printers, which I love. Right at the first page they started to stratify their stuff as “Home” products or “Office” products. Now, if I wanted to see the RRP of the HP 23" LCD monitor, um… which did I want? I eventually correctly chose “Office”, deciding that HP’s rationale was that it probably costs a bomb, and surely no one in the “Home” market could afford it. Yea right…

This “Home/Office” distinction extended to the HP printers as well. “Home” revealing nice homely photo inkjets, and “Office” revealing hunky grunty double sided laser printers.

The 23" LCD link I clicked on, showed me the specs, but asked me whether I wanted to search for the local retailers, or whether I wanted to buy online. I clicked online, to find the RRP, but once I “entered” the store, so to speak, I couldn’t actually find the link to “Monitors”.

Further down the page there were Options, and Accessories. But no monitors. I gave up at that point.

Online purchasing is incredibly convenient, and has for many years been a mature reliable way of procuring products. It’s off-putting to see poorly laid out sites like HP’s. Many years ago, I started out using when it was still called Cyberian Outpost. Since then, purchases from America have become rare, since the Australian distribution of products is so much better now. The Australian online buying experience is excellent. Dell’s presence in the LCD, printer, PDA market will hopefully keep a downward pressure on technology prices.
Thursday, March 24, 2005 5:49 pm
MTV on preventing shooting
Is it just me, or did MTV just have not much to say in this article?

While perusing it, I thought, “Gee, there’s a lot of filler in this article.” And in the end, unsurprisingly there wasn’t actually much advice in how to actually “prevent another school shooting.” The article waffled on about how childhood trauma, anti-social behaviour, and making plans (!) are warning signs. Ah OK.

The comments above would probably invite statements like, “Why don’t you try to write an article, if you can do better.”. My response: I can’t. And won’t, unless I knew what I was talking about.

My condolences to those whose lives have been affected by this tragedy.

[posted with ecto]

1:35 pm
Thank goodness the Apple blogging thing has been resolved
It must have been a slow month for Apple news otherwise. Every news outlet seems to have had it's say as to how Apple should behave towards it's Mac news community. Today however, MacCentral reports that the developer that leaked the Tiger beta has confessed. The developer made a statement, and sounds contrite.

Personally I doubt he would have revealed himself voluntarily if Apple had not brought the web sites to court. The arguments have been made elsewhere ad nauseum:

There is no damage done to Apple, via the leak. Apple's policy on information leaks is too strict anyway. Apple's fansites are run on a shoestring budget, because of love for Apple, and Apple benefits from their efforts. Apple fansites can publish these things, because the American constitution allows them to.

From my POV, a developer made a mistake. The websites should not have published confidential trade information. And if they did not know it was confidential, the websites should have realised it was, once Apple told them the information was obtained in violation of a Non-Disclosure Agreement; and painful as it may be, reveal their source.

Apple has placed itself in a unique position, preferring absolute secrecy for it's product development. I think it is clear from following Macsurfer etc for the last several years, that some leaks are inevitable. Some are even unpreventable. How do you prevent people from circulating the fact that machine X has been declared “End-Of-Life”, for example. When the Apple Bluetooth mouse and keyboard were rumoured, their existence became quite clear when their icons were easily extracted from one of Apple's system updates. Apple is in a position where they want to be in control of all the product announcements. They have that right. But it reflects on the fragility of their business model, I feel.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 2:36 pm
Ah, finally blogging again. 1 year since the last ...
Ah, finally blogging again. 1 year since the last entry. Lots have happened in that time. Today, I decided to go back to using BlogSpot as a host. I can't be stuffed maintaining a server I suppose. Why not just let Google do it, and for free too. They have been quite perceptive and capable to somehow make it worth their while to run Gmail anyway.

Yea, why not.

I love Gmail. I use it as my primary account now. I wish Gmail would license their underlying technology. I can already see the “Gmail” domain being linked to “free email services” that are routinely blocked when trying to buy stuff off the Internet.

“Free Internet email addresses not accepted”

Ironically, .mac email addresses can be obtained freely; they self expire; but the person who registered it still holds on to the username indefinitely. And, the .mac domain has positive connotations. Unlike Hotmail, Yahoo! accounts etc. Odd.

It'd be nice, if Apple just licensed the Gmail technology and used it for their underlying .mac email accounts. Gmail already does most of what the Apple email service provides. Aside from IMAP. Gmail has a much more robust spam filtering service too. Previously, my wife would check her account, to find crudloads of junk mail. The Apple theory is to filter junk mail only after it has been downloaded via Apple's on Mac OS X. That's fine, but doesn't help frequent users...

Gmail filters on the server. Because it's a web mail service first. Works well for my wife. Surprisingly, it works well for me too.

It means not having to spend $ on SpamSieve, or paid Eudora. It means, someone else does my work for me. Hey, that's fine with me. Furthermore, an online backup, but email still retrievable by POP. Thanks Google. Clever bastards.

I'm used to the Gmail interface now. It's simplicity and logic is incredible. Can't complain of the speed either. I can see why my wife just refuses to use POP mail now. As I said: Clever bastards.

Today Barnes and Noble sent me yet another of their idiotic newsletters. I suppose I say “idiotic” because it's so difficult to get rid of. There's a link at the bottom of the message saying “click here to access your account”. Which I did. Of course, the password I saved in Splash ID doesn't work. So I ask for a password reset. Instead of a straight forward reset like any other company; B&N wants the last few digits of the credit card number they have on file. Er yea.

Otherwise, I can call a USA phone number. Yup: from Australia.

I emailed them to complain. A stock reply back, confirms I need that 5 digit number, or I can call them.

So, I go to my Gmail account. Do a search for “Barnes”. And report all B&N email as spam. I seem to recall Hotmail having a “block sender” feature. However, it topped out at 200 senders or so. And when the spam revolution arrived, it was phased out to make way for a really horrible “report spam” “feature”. Anyway, sidetracked.

Hopefully Gmail will block B&N email as it should now… We'll see.
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