Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Vodafone text delays: “buyer beware”

Monday, May 10th, 2010

“Vodafone fault delays text messages” (Stuff 6 May 2010) - “People’s text messages have been delayed for several hours after a faulty Vodafone computer server hung on to messages, rather than passing them on.”

Is there an apology? Is there a statement assuring us this is unacceptable and won’t happen again? Do Vodafone even seem to care? Based on that article, apparently not.

The story I’m aware of involves a woman waiting at a bus stop for over an hour at 7pm wondering why her partner isn’t responding to her texts or picking her up ( the messages finally arrived, at midnight). When “99% of texts are delivered in under a minute” you tend to expect that 100% are - and certainly not some hours later.

One question is, “When was the fault discovered?” And the answer is unsatisfactory whatever it is.

  1. It was discovered quite soon - in which case why didn’t Vodafone send a broadcast message indicating a network problem so that important communications could be switched to voice?
  2. It was discovered after a number of hours - in which case, how can their systems not have any in-built warnings or alerts for a critical service?
Is it a critical service? Apparently not, despite Vodafone offering a text-only plan like TXT4000 for $12 a month.
David Stone, “the head of industry body the Telecommunications Carriers Forum” said that texting was not as reliable as making a voice call. The article didn’t tell us that David Stone, the CEO of the TCF, formerly represented Vodafone on the Board for 2 years. And he rattled out that old saw, ‘It was a service that came about accidentally, did not use mobile phone companies’ core systems, and it was a case of “buyer beware”.’
Let’s see now, we’ve had Mobile technology since the mid 90’s so for SMS to still be characterised as an “accidental technology” is a joke. As for “buyer beware” - take a scan over the Vodafone website and look for a warning about the potential unreliability of texting - actually, don’t waste your time - you won’t find anything.
Simply, people rely on text message services. Websites send text messages as alerts and reminders - when these arrive late they affect people. The least you could have done was apologised to your customers - and a warning of delays could have avoided some upsets.

80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2050 for G8 nations - remember Pareto

Friday, July 17th, 2009 had a report “Wealthy nations vow greenhouse gas cuts” which included the following:

“The United States and other G8 nations set a goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050. That’s part of a plan to have all such gases, from rich and poor nations alike, fall by 50 percent globally by that year.”

Following our one-day cricket analogy we now know the required run rate - 80% in 40 years or 2% per year. Remember, for every year the required run rate isn’t reached it goes up - and keeps going up if the new higher rate isn’t reached.

The one-day cricket analogy is a good one to bring in the focus of getting started as soon as possible. But in cricket the maximum possible runs per over is 36 in the first over and 36 in the last over - the maximum rate possible is the same at the start as at the end.

When we get out into the real world, we have to remember Pareto, the 80/20 principle, which tells us that reducing that last 20% of greenhouse gases is going to be 80% of the effort (others might suggest that 80% of the effort will be getting rid of the first 20%). So, when we project reduction rates out into the future we can’t assume a flat capability but a reduced capability - it gets harder to reduce the more we reduce.  What does this mean? Once again, we can’t delay getting started.

To paraphrase a Confucius quote, journey of 80% reduction in greenhouse gases begins with a 1% reduction. When that first 1% step is going to be taken is critical.

Here’s a last few words from Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

2020 targets for carbon emissions and limited overs cricket

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

2020 targets for carbon reduction are pie in the sky. What is the 2010 target?

The Green Party is pushing for split carbon emission reduction for 2020 - broadly 40% for industry and 20% for livestock emissions. OK - so you have to set these long-term goals but without short-term ones they are meaningless. At the risk of being completely cynical about this I can see a situation in about 2015 where the politicians will say that they can’t reach that target. Why? Limited-overs cricket provides the answer.

Students of limited over cricket games know that the team chasing a total has to complete a target run rate. For example in a 20 over game if you’re chasing 120 then you have to score 6 runs an over to win. The problem is that for every over in which you score below the rate, the rate goes up - and then if you don’t reach that new rate from then on it goes up again and keeps climbing each time you don’t meet or exceed the required run rate.

Starting from next year - ten years to get a 40% reduction is a “required run rate” of 4% per year. Don’t really get started for another couple of years and it’s gone to 5% per year - a 25% increase in the rate. The problem is that when you’re behind the rate it’s tough to accelerate just to make the required rate for the next year.

In cricket you can score a maximum of 36 runs an over (excluding wides, no balls etc) - once your required run rate exceeds 36, you lose - you just can’t get there. What is the maximum greenhouse emission reduction rate we can achieve in a year? Does anyone know this? Has it been worked out? Why do we need to know? Because that’s the rate we have stay below - otherwise we can’t make it.

The tough question is - in what year will there be at least a 1% reduction in greenhouse emissions? If it’s any later than 2012 we have almost no chance of getting to a 40% reduction by 2020.

@nowombats - No Wombats on Twitter

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Is micro-blogging service twitter a wombat? Some love it, some hate it and somewhere in between it can be useful if used properly - and it can be a (sort of?) amusement for those so disposed. Not sure where you are in relation to twitter? Check yourself out against “The 5 Stages Of Twitter Acceptance“.

The dangers of “always on technology” have been variously analysed and documented and commented on - the addition of twitter and “always on” twitter clients (the desktop applications that display “tweets” in real time) is potentially just one more distraction.

You’re welcome to follow “nowombats” on twitter - don’t expect a flurry of “tweets” as we will try (not always successfully) to limit our tweeting to the useful. It comes down to managing the “signal to noise ratio“.

Twitter and meetings? Not during - but if you’ve just finished a productive Action Meeting feeling great and want to tell the world, why not?

Dell keeps office hours a mystery

Friday, March 20th, 2009

“Thank you for calling Dell Corporation. We are closed for the day. Please call back during office hours. Once gain thank you for calling Dell Corporation.”

This was at 9:39am today, Friday, after calling their 0800 number.

What are the office hours? They’re not telling (and yes, I did try to find them on their website). Perhaps we share same “office hours” as Australia - don’t know.

Smith and Smith Glass flatters Supreme Screens

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Up until late August Smith and Smith Glass had a terrible website - little content and poor design - the 0800 number was writ huge and actually that was the website’s main message “forget the website, just call the 0800 number”. All that has changed with a new smart looking site, but what makes this site so good? You only have to look at the website of their competitor, Supreme Screens, to see why.

  • Supreme Screens: Repair is always our first choice
    • Smith & Smith: We repair first
  • Supreme Screens: Page titled - Repair vs Replace
    • Smith & Smith: Page titled - Repair or Replace
  • Supreme Screens: Free repair with no hassles!
    • Smith & Smith: Repair is hassle free
  • Supreme Screens: “Windscreens not only prevent ejection of the occupants, they are also the backboard for the airbag. ”
    • Smith & Smith: “the passenger airbag relies on the windscreen to provide support if the airbag deploys.”
  • Supreme Screens: “If you have comprehensive car insurance with a windscreen extension, in most cases you will not pay a cent for your windscreen repair.”
    • Smith & Smith: “If you have full vehicle insurance including cover for glass damage, Smith&Smith® can normally repair your windscreen for free.”
  • Supreme Screens: A windscreen repair is QUICK
    • Smith & Smith: Repairing a chip is quicker than replacing a whole windscreen.
  • Supreme Screens: if you can cover the complete damage with an old sized 50 cent piece…
    • Smith & Smith: A chip smaller than a 50¢ coin.

How do we sum this up? In keeping with the message of this post I looked to others for a quote.

“Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster.” - unknown

“he that comes last is commonly best.” - Robert Burton

And that, of course, is what will irk Mike & Sue at Supreme Screens.

The “man cold”

Friday, June 20th, 2008

With winter setting in now in New Zealand we are prone to an epidemic of that serious condition, the “man cold”.

Yogi Berra was a Kiwi?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

“In the words of a famous Kiwi sports commentator, it was deja vu all over again” - according to a story in the Dominion Post. Perhaps a Kiwi commentator plagiarised the famous Yogi Berra - but attribution must go to the originator who was not only a sly wit but a great baseball player and coach. There are “yogi-isms” all over the Net.

I have two favourites:

“You should always go to other people’s funerals otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

When he was told he looked cool, responded with “You don’t look so hot yourself”.

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Repeat this - the F4 key is your friend

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

If you work with Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) there’s a keyboard shortcut that can be very useful, especially if you want to repeat what you’ve just done. It’s the F4 key.

I’ve been working in Excel quite a lot recently and needing to insert multiple rows. The quick way to do this is insert a row and then press the F4 key as many times as you need. (If you know a faster way, add a comment or email me.)

You want to draw 5 identical size boxes - draw one then press F4 four times. You add some text to one of those boxes and want to add the same text to another - select the other box and press F4. You want to change the text from Times New Roman to Verdana - do it one, select the text in the other box and press F4.

Seems that most people have become very dependent upon their mice these days - pointing and clicking and right clicking. Don’t forget keyboard shortcuts, they are often much faster.

A five-minute primer for visual (and not so visual) thinkers

Friday, April 4th, 2008

I need diagrams and pictures to make sense of anything - until I see a few squiggles on a page or whiteboard I struggle to understand situations let alone try to formulate strategies or solutions.

Ten and a half commandments of visual thinking

This manifesto The 10 1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking: The “Lost Chapter” from The Back of the Napkin from the Change this website is a very quick, useful guide to some rules for generating effective problem solving pictures - the commandments come with pictures, as you’d expect.