Technology is wonderful when it works

Dec 14, 2011 | | 1 comments |

When you send an SMS from your cellphone, the carrier company is making pure profit from you. The SMS travels in the carrier identifier signal that has to be present for a cellphone to talk to a cell tower. It costs the network nothing because without the signal, there's no cell network. ie. the presence of your cellphone on a tower means you can text and it costs nobody anything. The carriers don't want you to know this which is why they charge extortionate rates for SMS plans - it's pure profit for them. However you can get around this with device-to-device messaging. If you have a Blackberry (I feel sorry for you) you have BBM - Blackberry Messenger. It's a texting service that uses your data plan to send messages directly to a device using the device's unique ID instead of your cellphone number. Apple has a similar thing now - iMessage works in the same way, device-to-device. It's why you can now text someone with an iPod from your iPhone (as long as the recipient is on WiFi of course). Device-to-device texting does use your data plan, like I said, but it's such a fractional amount that you'd need to be a teenage girl on speed before you'd see any noticable dent in your data usage because of it.

Which leads me to whatsapp - an app for most smartphones that does device-to-device messaging but it works between any two phones. So I can use whatsapp from my iPhone to message someone on an Android device as long as they also have the same app. Uses the data, not SMS, so the carriers can't charge you extra for it. The best part though is when you go international. I'm currently working on a contract for a friend of mine in S.Korea and when we're going through changes in the various items I'm working on for him, we use whatsapp to 'chat' in near realtime without incurring long distance phone or texting charges. Coupled with DropBox on my desktop, he can ask for a change, I can make it straight away, dump the updated file into my DropBox and he sees the change almost instantly. It's geekishly awesome.
Now I'm tech-savvy and moderately well educated, but things like this still make me smile. That I can do device-to-device messaging in realtime to someone on the other side of the planet and he can see the graphical changes I'm doing to his project at almost the same speed.
It's the same grin I get when I watch a Boeing 747 take off. Clearly that thing shouldn't be able to fly but it does.

Walmart isn't exactly customer friendly.

Dec 11, 2011 | | 3 comments |

You can tell Walmart isn't set up for tech savvy shoppers. Because the
other nine places I tried were out of the item I wanted today I ended
up at Walmart for only the third time in ten years. To minimize my
exposure to the hateful place, I ordered online for an in store
pickup. Mistake. Their employees have no idea how to deal with this.
Well. When someone turns up and bothers to help. I stood waiting at
the pickup area for 15 minutes ringing the bell and trying to get
someone's attention. Then it took another 15 minutes for them to
figure out what was going on. Im sure if id walked in and just picked
the item off the shelf it would have been much easier but in theory
that would have taken longer. So much for that great idea. Their
prices aren't brilliant either. They were a good 30% more than
everywhere else which I guess is why they were the only ones with
stock left.
If I hadn't need the item today, and had anywhere else in town had
what I wanted, I would have been happy leaving my exposure to Walmart
at just two visits. But sometime you can't win and today was one of
those occasions.
I feel dirty just having been in the place :-(