Archive for the ‘ Sign Off ’ Category

Sign Off : Do my eyes deceive me? A skeptic’s view of the E3 announcements

markHere we are at the conclusion of another issue of GeekDeck. It’s at this point that cbx33 can breathe a sigh of relief as this month I’m going to sign off. This time around it’s my turn to look back over the past month and find something to moan about (anyone that’s seen my other article in this issue, Me gamer, me angry! will see that it’s something I’ve been doing a lot lately!)
Continue reading

Sign-off : I HATE MY PHONE

peteSo we come to the end of another issue of GeekDeck and with it, the sign off. The place where someone gets the last word. Surprise surprise it’s me again. So what have I got to moan and whinge about this time? Mobile phones. Now don’t get me wrong. I have a mobile or cell, if you live in some parts of the world. I actually have two, if you count my work phone. However what I can’t get over is just how bad the signal can be sometimes.

It’s not even as if I’m roaming in a car from base station to base station. I could understand it then and would fully accept missed and dropped calls, lack of signal coverage and quality issues. However, when I’m in my place of work, and my wife is at home, in a fairly built up area, I do not expect to have to call her 3 times to finish a 5 minute conversation. That, my friend, is utterly ridiculous. We’ve found with our house, that upstairs is generally better than downstairs. Hence if you want to send a message in our house you compose it downstairs and then run up to the top of the stairs, waving your arms around as if you were trying out for the international semaphore Olympics.

“However, when I’m in my place of work, and my wife is at home, in a fairly built up area, I do not expect to have to call her 3 times to finish a 5 minute conversation.„

It’s ridiculous that a technology as “mature” as mobile phones should have such issues when trying to perform the task for which it was designed and manufactured. Am I in a remote area? No. Am I driving around, really really fast, in my Ferrari? I wish. Am I phoning someone in a another country, a thousand million miles away? No, I don’t have enough friends in my homeland, let alone finding some in other countries. The fact that I can’t even finish a simple conversation without hearing the cheery little jingle that my phone seems to take such pleasure in playing to me when a call finishes, isn’t just annoying, it’s purely outrageous.

Mobile phone technology was sold to the public under two pretenses that I have yet to have 100% proof that either are correct. 1) That it is completely safe, and 2) That it is reliable. The first of these really really gets my goat. Even I would have had health concerns whilst developing such a device, and would have made damn sure that adequate testing was performed so that ten years later we’re not still asking the question, “Wow this is great, but is it frying my brain?” or “Do I now have cancer?” The problem as I see it, and forgive me if I’m being naive, is that the technology was rushed to market. Probably by competing manufacturers. Once again money seems to be the root of the problem, or actually not money but greed.

The same is true for wireless technology. Though it seems to be getting a little better now, the market was initially flooded with different specifications and terminologies some of which worked well together, some of which didn’t. I understand the nature of business, but it’s a great shame when the emphasis on profitability exceeds that of customer service. After all, would you rather ship 1,000,000 units in the first quarter only for people to realise how bad your product really is, or would you rather start off slower at 10,000 units because you took the time to get it right, and reap the benefit of being triumphed as “the company that actually got it right first go.” Customer satisfaction is a big thing and though some people pay great attention to it, it is surprising how many companies out there that don’t. The worrying thing for me is that these companies are still flourishing, meaning the market is still being saturated with bad products.

“The worrying thing for me is that these companies are still flourishing, meaning the market is still being saturated with bad products.„

I digressed slightly to wireless and other technologies, however I’m hoping that I’m not alone in my root thought here about the very nature of our industry. The fact is, poor products affect many people; The consumer who is left stranded with something they have paid good money for that doesn’t work. The technicians, both working for the company and working on behalf of the consumer, who have to deal with angry end users and overall, the company itself. Though I know this sign-off article won’t change the world, maybe, just maybe, there will be a few designers/coders/project managers who may read it and think, you know what, you’ve got a point. Rushing things to market maybe good in the short term, but the longer term picture may not be so rosy. A prime example of this would be the latest offering from Microsoft. Vista was tooted to be the next big thing and although it certainly looked like it walked the walk, the fact that Microsoft have had to extend the availability of XP, allow people to downgrade from Vista to XP, and if rumours are correct, bundle an XP VM with Windows 7 to XP just proves the point that the big Vista push wasn’t all that worth it.

I’ve considered switching phone provider in an effort to achieve better call quality, but part of me thinks, I shouldn’t have to bother doing this. I’ve also considered getting rid of my cell altogether and instead using a VoIP softphone to talk to my wife. Whilst this is a great idea in theory, it’s just not as portable at the moment, at least not with the current technologies. If I wanted to do that, I’d probably have to rely on yet another piece of wireless, mobile technology and to be honest that’s something I just don’t have any trust in right now.

Sign-off : The very definition of irony

peteWalking down the road to the shops the other day I started thinking about the differences between the Open Source movement and the proprietary model.  In recent years it really has seemed to be a battle.  The tiny, yet still significant faction of the Open Source movement, against the large corporation that is Microsoft.

Funnily enough, on closer reflection it really is like a small group of mercenaries trying to take down a large organisation because of what they believe in, because of what is right.  I’m not saying that this is the right view, but no one can deny that both parties are fighting for the same thing.  Adoption.

“there are some pieces of free software that are not quite as robust…….I have seen equally as many pieces of proprietary tat„

You can’t really deny that.  No one writes a piece of software so that it won’t get used.  No, the onus is always that the piece of software brings something new, unique, better to the market.  The thing that got me thinking more than anything is the entirely ironic nature of this.  The Open Source community is fighting for adoption, yet what are they asking for from their user base.  Money?  No.  Feedback?  Sometimes.  Yet realistically, the Open Source demands nothing from the userbase.

Now lets look at the flip side.  Microsoft and other commercial entities are requiring money to use, that’s right we’re not getting access to any source code here. They are requiring money just to use their product.  The end user usually obtains no rights to any source code, including, but not limited to, duplication, modification, or anything other than just using the software.  In some cases these companies also require other ludicrous client access licenses just for interoperability with existing installations.  These really get my goat, but I’ll groan about these at another time.

My point is that you’d expect that for the right to copy, modify and distribute a piece of software you’d pay far more than simply purchasing a license to use the damn thing.  The truth however is far from this, and it is this ironic nature that made me chuckle to myself as I walked to the shops.

“they walk away, generally mumbling something about us smoking crack, or living in a fairy land„

Why then do we find it so difficult to get people to try and to accept Open Source.  We bring them a piece of software and say, “Here, have this.  It’s free.  You can copy it.  You can give it away.  You can modify it.”  Then they say, “How much does it cost?”  We say “Nothing” and they walk away, generally mumbling something about us smoking crack, or living in a fairy land.  We’ve even seen stories about people thinking that we are actually in the wrong, that it is we who are the pirates, because of course nothing can ever be given away for free, can it?

I’m expecting there are a large number of people screaming “Quality, quality, quality” At which point I would ask you to kindly step down off the soap box and let me finish. Whilst I agree that there are some pieces of free software that are not quite as robust as their proprietary counterparts, look at Firefox, OpenOffice and Blender. To counter the quality argument, I have seen equally as many pieces of proprietary tat that are being sold by both small and large companies alike as I have badly written Open Source applications.

I guess the truth is we live in such a world now where it seems that nothing is ever given away for free and people who do are seen as crazy fools who have obviously got something wrong in their heads.  Volunteer work for charity is one thing, but people actually working, coding for free?  They must have a screw loose.  I’ve faced it several times, very good friends of mine have turned round and called me stupid for spending time working on the Ubuntu project.  “Why don’t you make money from it?”  Why not?  Because for me anyway, that’s not what it’s all about, and in fact to me, that’s where the industry and society in general has gone wrong.  People are willing to do things for free, for a variety of reasons; learning, helping, even just that feel good factor.  It’s time we started taking this message to people.  “Free doesn’t mean bad necessarily, maybe it just means different.”