Captain Support to the rescue…

It’s Saturday night, South Park is on the TV and all is good. Then the phone rings…

  • Mom: I was looking up the symptoms of assorted diseases on the internet so I can panic about the possibilities of my friends, family and especially grandchildren getting them, then the laptop beeped and turned itself off. I kept trying to turn it on but the fan starts, then it immediately turns itself off.
  • Captain Support: It sounds to me like the power lead is not connected and the battery has run out of juice. Make sure it’s plugged in and turned on at the wall switch and it should be fine. If not, it means either a fuse has gone or the charger is bust. Check it now. Is the power lead connected?
  • Mom: Yes, all three leads are connected.
  • Captain Support: Describe the leads please. Are they rectangular with a prongy looking symbol on them?
  • Mom: Yes.
  • Captain Support: Those are USB cables, not power leads. It sounds like it’s disconnected from the power. Plug in the lead and you’ll be good to go.
  • Mom: I’ve only ever had these three cables in. There are no other cables.
  • Captain Support: Seriously, they are USB cables, not power leads. You must have had another lead plugged in before now.
  • Mom: There has never been another lead plugged into this laptop.
  • Captain Support: Check the back. Is there a round hole that looks like it could have a power lead plugged into it?
  • Mom: Yes. There is a round socket. Oh, I can see a cable down the back of the desk. I pulled the desk out earlier to hoover. It must have come out.
  • Captain Support: Plug it back in, then sacrifice a chicken at dawn on the altar of Captain Support and your problem will be solved.

Humans. Will they never learn?


Captain Support…

Come on you Baggies…

My nine year old nephew has just been picked for the West Bromwich Albion F.C. Development Centre. He was already playing for a local academy side and this is the next step up. It’s worked out really well because the Baggies DC training ground is not too far from where he lives. Much easier than having to drives miles to some of the other Premiership development centers.

I guess now we will have to get him out of the habit of supporting Manchester United and into the Baggies.



I’m an Android…

I wrote recently about the whole Apple vs Android thing and announced I was not in either camp. Recent family issues have meant I’m on the phone a lot more now and the “pay as you go” thing just isn’t making sense. I ventured into the murky world of phone contracts and came out with a HTC Wildfire, which is about the cheapest phone/contract you can get that in my opinion can still be called a smartphone. In fact, you can get them so cheap that they really are an entry level phone now.

The iPhone 4 was never really in the running because it is so darn expensive. I did the Pepsi challenge between the HTC Desire HD, Samsung Galaxy S and the HTC Wildfire and I picked the latter. They are all Android phones, so there was really not much difference in user experience. The Desire was the biggest, which in my opinion was its downfall. It feels like you are holding a tablet to your ear. Obviously, having such a big screen makes web stuff easier, but I’ve got my iPad for that, so it’s not really that relevant for me. The Galaxy S was a bit smaller, but still massive. The Wildfire actually felt like a phone and boy was it cheap compared to the others. That kinda swung it for me. When doing anything with the internet my preference is always, “Desktop > Laptop > iPad > Phone”, so I can’t see the phone getting much use as a smartphone, so paying through the nose for it just doesn’t seem sensible for me.

Negotiating the whole phone contract thing is a bloody nightmare. It’s like haggling with Cut -Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. Armed with lots of information from competitors websites, I ended up with the Wildfire with an unlimited data plan for less that their website was offering dumb phones with no data plans. As I said before, it really is an entry level device now.

A couple of days in and the novelty has worn off and I’m completely bored with the phone. I’m so glad I didn’t spend more money on something fancy. 🙂



Planning failures…

My sister is currently in hospital having some major surgery. The front line staff have been great, but there seems to be a total absence of planning around the user-experience of the hospital that leaves me feeling like it is all a bloody big joke. These things stand out:

  • A big new hospital has been builtrecently. Unfortunately it is not big enough to house all the departments for the two existing (old and decrepit) hospitals on the same site, or the other hospital about 2 miles away. Now we have 4 hospitals in various states of repair, some of which have the same departments split across multiple sites. This should all be one hospital, then you would know where you have to go. FAIL.
  • The new hospital is up and running, but some of the roads to it are not properly finished yet. FAIL.
  • On the site in question there are 3 distinct hospitals, but the is nowhere near enough parking to cope with them. Some of the staff told me they have trouble parking! Today I spent 30 minutes trying to find a parking space. A good 15 minutes of this time was spent in a car park with no spaces left. The top floor had been closed, reducing the capacity, but the ticket machine still let people in based on the full capacity. There was a guy letting us out for free because they knew there were no spaces, but they didn’t bother telling the queues of people still coming in they were sitting in a 15 minute queue for no possibility of parking. I was hoping to catch 30 minutes of visiting time with my sister before she went to surgery. As it is I got about 2 seconds as they were putting her in the lift, and I was so out of breath from running up 5 flights of stairs all I managed to say was have a good one. FAIL.
  • The first car park I tried was really poorly designed, such that people wanting to leave had to drive round in the same queue as people coming in. This added to the congestion and frustration. FAIL.
  • The lifts in the building are so slow and there aren’t enough of them I’ve been forced to use the stairs every time. I don’t mind so much, but it’s a bit off to expect my mom in her sixties to climb 5 very long flights of stairs, which is what we had to do yesterday. FAIL.

Hospitals are about people so they should be planned and designed to maximize the user experience. A negative user experience affects everyone. The patients are anxious because they wonder where their visitors are. The visitors are sitting in their cars going nuts. The staff have to deal with irate patients and visitors who are freaking out because to factors that are nothing to do with them. The people involved in planning the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham should be totally ashamed of themselves. If they came to me looking for a job and I knew they were involved in this project I would send them packing!



The Broadband Joke…

I received an email from my broadband supplier telling me that my line has been upgraded and I can now get up to a 24M connect. When I was first upgraded to an 8M line I actually got 8M. I checked today and I am struggling to hit 2M. I live in the center of a big city and I am *really* close to an exchange. Of course I’ve not alone. It seems 68% of US broadband connections don’t meet the recent minimum definition of broadband (read). Do they really think I’m going to pay more cash to get a 24M connection that serves content at 2M? I think not.



Android vs iPhone user base. Can I have some real comparisons please?

I’ve just seen another headline about how the Android user base has overtaken that of the iPhone in the US and it really irks me. Let me start by saying I’ve not got either, so this is not a disgruntled fan-boy post. Also, my argument is based on the situation in the UK market, so if the US market is very different I apologize.

My problem with this sort of headline is to do with the lack of clarity in these comparisons. How do the writers define smartphone? It seems where Android is concerned they just mean a phone that can actually run Android. I guess Android does allow for most of the functionality you would commonly associate with a smartphone. OK. So let’s assume this a a fight between iPhone and anything else that can run Android.

If I do a price comparison from one specific UK retailer, based on their “most popular” contracts here’s what I get:

  • iPhone 4: £139 one-off payment, plus £35.75 contract
  • Android: Free phone. £15.32 per month.

So why is there such a discrepancy? Because you can run Android on some very mediocre phones. In some cases the kit is inferior to the first generation iPhones. I would suggest the cheaper Android options, although capable of doing all the things associated with a smartphone, do them so badly (mostly due to very small screen size) that they shouldn’t really be called smartphones. They certainly shouldn’t be compared with the user experience of the iPhone 4 or the top end Android phones. Also, the basic Android contract listed above comes with no data plan, so it’s a phone with no internet connectivity. That’s right, you have bought a smart phone that is really not smart. In the UK market Android phones span the entire market from “cheap and cheerful” to expensive and bleeding edge.

So when I look at these headlines I have to question what is really being compared. If you buy an iPhone and only use it as a mobile phone you are a bit of a muppet. If you buy a bottom of the range Android phone and contract, I don’t think you should be included as a smartphone user because what you have is not usable in a manner that I consider a smartphone should be.

So what I would like to see is a comparison of people using iPhone 4 with people using “real” Android smart phones. In the UK at least, I think this would drastically alter the results.



Where’s my money gone?

Over the holiday period I got a credit card bill from Oracle Norway for £3230.12. I have no idea what this is for, and as far as I know I’ve never dealt with Oracle Norway before, so my bank are treating it as a credit card fraud case. 🙁

What’s more I have no idea how they got my card details because this isn’t a card I use for anything Oracle related, like travel etc.

I contacted Oracle Norway, who put me on to Oracle Romania, who have passed me on to a finance department, who have now passed me on to another finance department. As yet no indication of what I supposedly bought or did to warrant this charge. The initial issue was worrying, but what’s more worrying is the amount of time it’s taken to get any response. I guess the holidays have had an impact though.

In the short term I’m not that bothered because my bank have already refunded the cash, as is their way when investigating potential fraud cases, but I would certainly like to know how this happened in the first place so I can prevent it from happening again…