Studying Law

Tomorrow I start a Law degree at the University of Tasmania. I’ve wanted study Law for a long time, and originally considered enrolling when I first started University –– instead, I did a BA (in History), a BComp, and then Honours in Computing, and finally my PhD.

Now I’m enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws, a large portion of which I get credit from my preexisting degrees for, and plan to study part-time for the next few years. I’m not sure if I’ll finish the degree, or even whether I’ll stick with the same degree (there’s also a Bachelor of Legal Studies, which is for those who want to study Law but not practice it, and I’m not sure if I would want to practice).

As I’m studying part-time, this doesn’t really impact anything with Secret Lab, or our writing, but it’s a fun new adventure regardless. I’ll post some updates about this, occasionally.

The Tasmanian Entrepreneur Show

YThe Tasmanian Entrepreneur Showesterday I was interviewed for The Tasmanian Entrepreneur Show, a great new podcast run by my friend Nigel Honey. We spoke about how Secret Lab got started, what we do, and how and why we do it. You can listen to my episode over on the website, or subscribe on iTunes.

It was great fun, and the whole series is excellent! Go listen!

Reality Distortion Field has never been so strong

The following quotes from from Daring Fireball. Emphasis is mine.

It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.

You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.

Then, further on in the piece:

Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”.

Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.

It’s so simple, he needs to dedicated a 1,500 word post to explaining how simple it is, and (apparently, possibly) more than 12 hours of cumulative podcast:

I have no idea what’s going on, but I don’t like it. Especially when you compare it to past commentary.

An unnecessary product

The Apple Watch deeply confuses me. On the one hand, I love the idea of a tiny wrist-mounted computer that I can write software for. It’s the sort of thing I’ve wanted since I was a child. On the other hand, Apple’s explanatory and marketing copy for the Apple Watch are unconvincing at best (e.g. “They let you do familiar things more quickly and conveniently. As well as some things that simply weren’t possible before.“), and completely bizarre at worst (“Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology“), and the product itself is not what I expect from Apple.

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It’s complex to set up, it’s slow and unresponsive a lot of the time, and the learning curve is substantial. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a few watches. The good bits are:

  • it’s beautifully made
  • the strap (the plastic one) feels amazing
  • the digital crown is beautifully engineered and implemented in software
  • it has a nice weight (the sport model)
  • the development environment and frameworks are great and powerful; I really love WatchKit, and I think that over the next few months we’ll see some beautiful Apple Watch apps (even more once it can do native apps) – coding for it is like building something for a science-fiction gadget

Some of the bad bits are:

  • it’s ugly
  • the strap (the plastic one) is hard to put on (and gave me a rash, but I’m not sure what the deal is there – I don’t have a nickel allergy)
  • the digital crown is superfluous, and I’m using it as a button and nothing more; scrolling with the screen is easier
  • the battery life is abysmal (I got to 40% after ~5 hours of almost no usage)
  • the “wrist raise”, where it turns on the screen to show the time when you lift it does not work for me at all
  • third-party apps take forever to launch, and forever to do anything; it would be quicker to take the phone out of my pocket and use that in almost every single case
  • apps are mostly pointless and confusing
  • the UX is confusing and unintuitive

When Tim Cook announced the Apple Watch, he described it as the next chapter in Apple’s story. If this is the next chapter in Apple’s story, then it’s probably time to stop reading since the book just got clunky to use, hard to understand, and really unnecessary. I’m disappointed, because I’ve spent years telling people that Apple products are better because, well, they were better, and I’ve always been convinced that Apple users didn’t just buy things because they were trendy. The flaws in the watch product, and the outpouring of gibberish from Apple fans and commentators has done a lot to convince me that fanboys are pretty awful.

I’ll post more about the watch in a few days, once I’ve had a chance to think more. I’m looking forward to my Pebble Time arriving next month.

Into the bin, Apple Watch!

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Vodafone Australia and their lies

A few months ago I was browsing the Vodafone online store. I found a nice plan which offered complimentary international roaming for up to 90 days in a calendar year. Since I travel a lot this was a really intriguing offering.

Late last year, when the iPhone 6 came out, I’d signed up for a new 24-month contract with Vodafone and got a new iPhone 6+ (after previously being a month-to-month customer), so I was curious as to what upgrade options Vodafone would offer me (as I was only ~6 months in to a 24-month contract, with the iPhone). I clicked through, and was pleasantly surprised to find they were offering a “Loyalty bonus, to help you [me] upgrade today”, which wiped out most of the early contract change fees (leaving only $159.99) that I would have otherwise been liable for.

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Excited by this, I completed the transaction, switching to Vodafone’s $100 per-month plan, which included complimentary overseas roaming, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone (which I was interested in playing with, but not using). Everything went through, with the check-out process indicating that the loyalty bonus they offered had been applied.

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Afterwards, when I logged into my online Vodafone account, I noticed that a few things were wrong. One of the things that was wrong was that the early-upgrade fee that was meant to be nullified by “Loyalty bonus, to help you [me] upgrade today” was being charged to me. I contacted Vodafone via their social media presence, and was eventually emailing with Ash, who was quick to fix everything up for me. Things were corrected in less than 24 hours and I was very, very impressed with Vodafone.

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Everything was good. And I was so happy with the experience that I recommended my friend and business partner, Jon, sign up similarly. Jon did so, and was presented with a near-identical set of options and similar offer of a “Loyalty bonus, to help you [Jon] upgrade today”. Jon was excited and pleased by this offer, and took advantage of it, signing up for the same $100 per-month plan, with an included handset (in his case, a Sony Xperia).

Unfortunately, this is where Jon’s experience diverges from mine. Jon’s plan didn’t activate correctly (certain features, such as “Data Workout”, and a few other things didn’t appear). He was also being charged a full early-change fee, which differed from the “Loyalty bonus, to help you [Jon] upgrade today” that he was offered during the store checkout process.

Jon also contact Vodafone’s social media team, and again received totally different treatment to me.

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First they asked him to sign a statutory declaration attesting that the screenshots he’d collected from the online store during the process (taking screenshots is something myself, and most of my friends are in the habit of doing after many years of shonky online businesses – just like Vodafone) were not faked. (Wow..!) Then it got worse:

Can I ask your opinion on whether you thought it was unusual that having only completed and paid 5 months of a contract for a phone valued round $1000, that the offer didn’t appear to be priced correctly?  (That there would clearly be a significant loss to Vodafone if it were to waive the termination fees original agreed to as part of your contract).  If that does happen with any transaction with us, make sure you give us a call to clarify that info.

 

Why would he think that Vodafone offering him a loyalty bonus, especially after his friend had just received one with minimal issues, was strange? (Incredible!)

We’re now nearly two months following this, and Vodafone have so far managed to setup his $100 per-month plan incorrectly (it doesn’t have “Data Workout” on it, nor does it have complimentary overseas roaming), constantly harass him for collection of money owing (despite promising in writing to put a hold while they look into it), and demand the return of the phone he received from them (while “allowing” him to remain on the $100 per-month plan that includes the phone!)

He’s had hours and hours of phone calls with them trying to resolve this, but they steadfastly refuse to fix anything properly, and prefer wasting (literally) days with Jon on the phone. They also don’t communicate with each other, so while one representative says the roaming issue is fixed, the other calls up demanding payment of roaming fees.

The TIO got involved, but claimed they couldn’t handle it. They are now in the middle of reconsidering their position, but this takes 8 weeks.

What’s the point of this post? Well, you should never use Vodafone. It’s not worth being accused of lying, being a criminal, and wasting days of your life on the phone to them.

Use another carrier. I will be moving the moment I get the chance, and despite my initial positive experience I will not be recommending any of my family members switch over (I was initially planning to do this).

If their store lies, then nothing they offer can be trusted. Nothing. Do not use Vodafone.

And besides, why treat one customer nicely and the other like a criminal, in exactly the same situation? Vodafone has a lot of work to do if they’re to hit their objective(s).

Update – 13 April 2015: the bag finally (it was dated mid-March!?) arrived, the phone was sent back, and this morning Vodafone called Jon to offer… the same thing they did last time. Useless bastards.

Update 2 – 13 April 2015 (afternoon): Now they’re saying that Jon can keep the phone. After it’s already been sent back. But they’ve also agreed he can port out to another carrier.

If anyone has any questions about this, please contact me (info at bottom of about page). Jon gave me his permission to post this, as well as the images of his emails.

Virgin Australia IFE UX

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I do the majority of my flying on Virgin Australia. I tried out the latest iteration of their tablet-based IFE this week – Samsung tablets connected to onboard wireless that serves content.

I was impressed to find that the only way to change the brightness on this otherwise OK IFE experience (well, it’s Android, and it crashes a lot, but it mostly does the job) was to shine my iPhone’s flash at the ambient light sensor on the top of the Samsung tablet. Otherwise, the tablet defaulted to a very dim screen, and since they’d locked out all forms of brightness control, this seemed to be the only way.

A+ user experience, Virgin Australia/Lufthansa (whom I believe this product is licensed from).

How to violate privacy with Telstra

I just had a lovely (it was not lovely) experience talking with Telstra about how they knowingly violate privacy when their computers link accounts together. Here’s how you can enjoy this, too:

  1. Buy a new iPad SIM card (the $30 with 3GB of bonus data works nicely).
  2. Activate it online, providing Telstra with your name and an email address (we’ll call this Email A).
  3. Receive an “Activation in progress” email from Telstra, to Email A.
  4. A little time later, receive an “Activation Complete” email from Telstra, to Email B – Email B is an address that either belongs to someone else entirely, or an old/inactive Telstra account that belongs to you.
  5. Observe how Telstra have matched one (new) account to another (old, or belonging to someone else) account based on nothing more than your name.

I assume you could then use this new association between the accounts to then reset the password on the old/belonging to someone else account.

Telstra Saga

I’ve been having endless fun* dealing with Telstra lately. Let me summarise for you:

  • My business partner, Jon and I each have a Telstra 4G mobile broadband dongle that we use to run our business from our fancy offices.
  • I acquired mine, and a corresponding plan, in early November 2011. Jon acquired his mid-December 2011.
  • In January 2012, Telstra’s business portal online suddenly started saying both our plans had started on the same date – in December. In essence, Telstra had increased the length of my contract by one month.
  • At the same time our usage metre becomes inaccessible, so we cannot determine how much of our 8GB per month quota has been used.
  • Similarly, at the same time, our bill (and the online portal) start displaying both our plans as different. One is apparently now a voice plan, the other is a ‘$0 Data Flexi Plan’. We are both actually on a $39 TMB Member Plan.
  • To further confuse things, the online bill payment system no longer recognises our login – paying the business account now requires calling Telstra on a monthly basis, a process which entails 15+ minutes of holding.
  • In the middle of this, Telstra’s coverage in the Hobart CBD becomes so congested that you can no longer rely on having data, text or phone coverage for 90% of the time between 9AM and 8PM every day.

To cut a long story short, I filed a complain with Telstra. They promptly ignored it. I filed another complaint. They ignored that one too. I then filed a complain with the TIO – a week later I got a call from Telstra telling me that they couldn’t fix any of my issues, and that having no data metre, no bill access, no data, no phone ability and the wrong billing/contract details was all perfectly acceptable to them, and that I shouldn’t bother them again. Thanks to Kristy (ID D388017) in the complaints department for that info – very helpful. Sigh. They then helpfully closed the TIO complaint for me.

So, now I’m waiting for the TIO to follow up with me. Let’s see what happens. In the mean time, I’m using a contract-free Vodafone SIM in my iPhone – surprisingly it’s working fabulously.

* fun has been redefine by Telstra.