Oh and another thing…

3G aint so cool. I’ve been looking at the numbers and basically, if you don’t use up all the MB you paid for in your data bundle, after 31 days they are forfeited… And if you use more than the MB in your data bundle you get molested with stupidly high “out-of-bundle” per MB fees, some (most) as high at R2 per megabyte. (A megabyte should be costing anything from 10 cents to 40 cents)

Why do companies take advantage of their customers like that? It’s just pure greed. It’s like walking into Pick and Pay and buying 100 tins of tuna and instead of them saying “wow, cool, here’s a discount” they say “Oh, 100 tins… you must have money, that’ll be 2000% more per tin, kthx”

Does anyone know what I get charged for 3G use on my vodacom phone? I “enabled data” a few years back and now that my new phone supports 3G I’ve been using that a bit. I never bought a data bundle or anything. I asked in a vodashop and they were amazingly unable to answer the question, but gave me a phone number to call.

I should go to bed, I’m starting to get moody.



Another schoolyard war story – Telkom: 0, Khayelitsha: 1

I have a friend called Steve who got called something horrible by an older, meaner, guy in school. It was something that had happened time and time again and Steve was reaching the end of his tether.

So one day, milliseconds after being called the horrible name, Steve grabbed Ian, the bad guy, by the neck and shoved him up against the wall and said something like “DON’T EVER CALL ME A FSCKING @#$@! AGAIN!”

When I heard this story I was like “Wow, dude, that’s awesome! What happened?”.

Steve’s reply was priceless “Oh, he totally fscked me up at break time”.

But the message was clear. It didn’t matter how many times he got knocked down… He had stood up for himself and he was going to do it again.

From what I understand, short of a beating at break, Ian never messed with Steve again.

The parallels here are interesting, albeit a bit far fetched, but I love telling that story.

Telkom has been walking around calling everybody names for ages. They rip us off, hurt us, drive us to levels of emotional stress that should really only ever be reserved for ex-girlfriends and they just don’t seem to care. (I broke up with Telkom a while ago and don’t let that bitch into my life anymore)

Well, the industry is starting to stand up in the hallways.

Sure, individuals in the industry are probably going to get beaten up a few times on the field at break, but maybe only once or twice… When a bully realizes that every time they cause a fight they will walk away a little ingured too, that’s when they start thinking twice.



ps. The adsl line that Joe’s story refers to has actually not been set up yet. Even though they had telkom in the building. I wonder if they just sent some techies there as a delaying tactic in hope that they would call off their toyi toyi.

You lose Computicket, YOU LOSE!

Never before have I been so floored by the absolute uselessness of an online process as I was 2 weeks ago when I tried to use Nu Metro’s online booking process powered by Computicket.

compu0.pngThe Computicket site requires Java to run. I run Linux, so even though I’m able to install Java I chose not to for security reasons. So, I load up my virtual machine and browse the site using Internet Explorer 7 under windows. Off to a bad start.

Lets have a look at the site. First of all, the color scheme is terrible. It looks like something put together by a color blind person in 1994. I love the way they have taken advantage of the Internet Explorer’s customizable scroll bars, because, like, red and yellow are classy.

Next up we have the interface. At first it looks ok. Then you start using your brain. The blue box is the cinema. Check. The white dot is the cursor. You wonder, where are the seats? Are they all available? Am I losing my mind.

You assume simply that maybe the entire cinema is empty. On the right you click the up arrow twice to select that you want 2 tickets. Then you click somewhere. hoping to find an open seat.

(If you’re seeing this in an aggregated form, the rest of this story is on my site)

Continue reading “You lose Computicket, YOU LOSE!”

Does bad luck really come in threes?

Permit me to dive right in

Bad Luck #1: The Warning…

My battery light has been on for a few days… I thought it had to do with the fact that I’d left the interior light on overnight and since the car was starting perfectly I resolved to sorting it out on Tuesday. Bad Idea. Today on the way to class after work my car beeps and suddenly the power steering disappears accompanied by another light on my dash. It’s the power steering light. I pull over hoping that it just needs to be rebooted. Car wont start. Eish. I wait 30 seconds and try again. It *just* manages to start up. Obviously the battery is borked. I decide to get it to a garage still hoping stupidly that this might just need battery water. I drive, without power steering, down the road only to be greeted by another light and some more friendly PINGs. ABS is dead. Ping, break light is on. PING some other not so friendly light. PING… PING… The doors start locking and unlocking themselves (I shit you not). PING, lock, unlock. (Does the car want me to get out before it explodes?)

I get to the Engen Garage on Main Rd in Newlands and carefully pull in and have them look at the battery. Alfred, his name badge read, was wearing a hard-hat but seemed to know more about cars then most pump attendants. “What’s wrong? he asked… “I dunno, the batteries dead and my power steering is dead”. I say vainly hoping that a dab of battery water will fix it. Alfred informs me that I have a No-maintainence battery… ie. They don’t refill the water. “What’s wrong again?” he asks. “ABS, Power Steerings gone, everything” I reply.

“Ah” he says pointing into my engine, “You don’t have a fan belt”. I. feel. like. an. idiot.

Momentum insurance was awesome, flat bed truck, plenty of confirmation SMSs and numerous phone calls from the great consultant, Colin, checking and rechecking that everything was ok. My car is sleeping at Barons in Claremont tonight, where hopefully in the morning it will receive a new fan belt and a charge.

Bad Luck #2: The long way down…

As nice as the flat bed truck people are, their vehicles are a bit beaten up. Climing backwards out of the passenger seat outside my flat (in the dark) I asked the driver how far down it was. This was a retarded question since I had climbed into the vehicle and therefore should know approximately how far down it was to the ground. His reply “A long way down” could not have been more apt. I commited to “stepping” out backwards. It was one of those situations where you can’t see behind you so guess where the ground is. I guessed relatively well, but i didn’t guess I would end up on the edge of the pavement and subsequently collapse like a rag doll onto my ankle. Awe.so.moe. Twisted ankle, looking like a fool. Strike 2.

Bad Luck #3: The dark floor…

I get home to a very sympathetic girlfriend who I recall the story for while making myself a sandwich. Then I notice it. The floor around the sink is dark… We have this “acid stained concrete” in our kitchen. It looks cool, but when it gets wet for a long time it goes dark. Ah crap. SOMETHING is leaking. I open up the cupboard under the sink, which contains a small but very effective geyser.  Yup, the floor is wet. The geyser, or one of it’s affiliated pipes, is leaking. Luckily this is Pam Golding’s problem, but I still need to make sure I’m around to see some plumbers crack.

I thought it came in threes?

Bad Luck #4: What were *you* doing in Jan 2004?

In December 2003 I decided I had had enough of the corporate world and wanted a break. I took 6 months off. I arbed around and generally bummed off my savings. It was a good thing. I learnt a lot of good life lessons in that time; like how to make 2 minute noodles interesting 4 days in a row.  SARS however doesn’t like the idea that I went from being a regular salaried employee to unemployed for 6 months and then back to employed. This isn’t such a big deal since all I have to do is fill in a form and send it to them, but it makes me stress over whether or not they’ll believe me or hassle me for more proof that I did nothing; which as you can imagine, is hard to prove.

There is actually something else, but I’ve decided to leave it out. It has to do with the reason why my fan belt is probably missing and, in the letter that I am writing to a particular company whose fault I believe it is, I have said I will not mention their name anywhere if they take swift action. I don’t even expect them to pay for the fan belt.  If however they decide to not heed my call I will come down upon them with a vengeance that… well, it wont be nice.



One projector, free alcohol and a spammer

Hi there

It’s me, Jonathan. We haven’t talked in a while. Sorry ’bout that, been a bit busy you know. Yah, me too.

GeekDinner time is drawing near and the registrations are slowing growing.  We still have some space, so please blog about it and invite your friends and your mom.

We’re also in need of a projector and screen, so please if you can organise one please let me know.

ok, the free alcohol story. The other day we went to the bottle store to buy some wine for dinner. As we walked in we were greeted by a promo girl holding two empty Stella beer glasses. Before I could avoid her she said “Hi, we’ve got a promotion on, if you buy this case of beer we give you two free beer glasses!”.

I’m not a big beer fan… I was not taken. Then I noticed there was a promo-boy(18 year-old PFY) standing to my left with a couple of Jack Daniels bottles. I asked “What’s your promotion”. “Oh, I’m just giving away free alcohol” he said with the wryest smile an 18 year old can pull off.

ORLY? Awesome… It struck me then and there (not some other time and place because that would be a delayed reaction and I am sharp as a marble) that this kid represented the entire body of marketing knowledge known to man. People like a good deal. Free Jack is a good deal.

I didn’t partake though since it was probably 10am and really, who drinks *in* a bottle store?. BUT, I did buy a bottle of Jack to replace the unopened one that my friend Jan is meant to come collect for services rendered.

Oh, and the spammer. Steinser Training and some guy called Billy Snyman: If I receive repeated emails from you and am unable to unsubscribe then you are a spammer… Telling me that my email address is not in your database of “addresses out of the yellow pages” is not a valid answer. I await Billy’s feeble excuse and I will keep you posted.

lots of live, peach and shabbiness


The Anti-Rant

I think I’ve been ranting a bit too much recently so I’m going to write a completely positive blog entry.

Firstly, while I’m writing this I’m listening to my flippen awesome old friend’s band, civil twilight, off myspace. I can’t believe how far these guys have come from a garage in Hout Bay.

For many reasons that will be clear if you read my posts regularly, Rian, my girlfriend, decided to return her HP laptop for a full refund. Being the instant gratification junkie that she is, she decided she needed another laptop ASAP. She’s also been harbouring a rather latent mac fetish for a few years now. I had a bad experience with a powerbook a while back but admittedly it was in the midst of a bad life experience so maybe I was just confused.

We ended up getting a really good price and awesome service from Project3 near Cavendish. They knew their products and their price for the 2gHz core 2 duo, gig-o-ram flavour macbook was 1 mili-bar less than everyone else.

What is perhaps more surprising is how nice the little baby is. Her name is Joy because until her we just weren’t getting any joy.  She’s really bright, fast and light (13.3″)… and, yes, I’m liking OSX… so all my OSX fan friends (bje, tuna) can start to hope again.

Jumping madly to food I want to rattle off the names of a few restaurants that I like.

Greens (in Park Rd, off Kloof)

Greens is pretty much where all the pretty people who drink at Vida E around the corner go to eat, however, it is actually a really nice restaurant. Their portions are larger than you’d expect and the overall quality and environment is worth the few extra rand you’ll be spending.

Jimmy’s Killer Prawns (also on Kloof)

The company and amount of alcohol previously consumed at Relish probably had something to do with it, but the few times I’ve been there (yes, all after friday night drinks at Relish) have all been wonderful. Do yourself a favour and get some of the Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, they’re awesome. I think they may also still be doing their Tuesday night all you can eat sushi.

The Ocean Basket (heh, also Kloof but the one in the waterfront also seems good.)

While the Ocean Basket probably fights against the family restaurant stereotypes in the hopes of not becoming the “spur” for seafood, what they do offer is repeatability. Their prices are good, the food is good and the service, generally good. If you’re looking for seafood give them a visit. (The one in Canal Walk is not quite at the same level as the two I’ve mentioned here)

Krugmans (V&A Waterfront)

This one is a gem. Tucked behind the Kauia, below the cinemas, this suprisingly large restaurant is probably one of those places you avoided because they look like you’ll walk out sorry with an empty wallet. Luckily Krugmans seems to only look that way.  Sure, they’d gladly sell you a R1400 bottle of wine but they also have amazingly good value for money burgers for under R50 and all kinds of steaks under R90.  On the topic of wine. They don’t have House Wine, so be careful when the waiter rattles off a list of their 26 cab savs that you don’t pick the R38 per glass option,  a few times…

Ok, enough about food… I’m getting hungry.

Just one final prop to Momentum Short Term insurance. Having recently bought a car (I take delivery in a few hours) I now know the pain of purchasing a vehicle privately. However, getting it insured proved rather simple. I currently have my household and all risks stuff (laptops etc) insured through momentum. I realise that the fact that they had me on their “books” made this slightly easier. I dialed the number, waited less than 30 seconds, spoke to a knowledgeable consultant called Yolandi who gave me the quote in less than 2 minutes and gave me her *direct* number so that when I wanted to give the green light it would be simple. The next day I called the number, she answered and remembered my name, called my policy up, initiated the insurance, told me what me new total premiums would be and sent a confirmation fax to the vehicle finance people and an email to me. All in less than 3 minutes. I’ve subsequently got various quotes via *my* bank and none have come close.

This concludes my anti-rant.



Computer Mania is shit.

Sit back and grab a coffee, this is a fun story.

Ok, so my girlfriend finally decides to buy a new laptop… we search around for a good price on a decent laptop and eventually settle on an HP from Computer Mania. We go to the Canal Walk branch, buy the laptop and take it home… That’s when the shit starts.

First of all the laptop blue screens while we’re going through the initial installation process… I figure that it might just be a once off thing and we carry on… Then we notice that every now and again the screen blanks out for a few seconds and then comes back on. Driver issues? Maybe… Failing hardware?.. maybe.

Next we notice that the laptop doesn’t actually sit on all four of its feet. The front right hand foot is slightly off the table which causes the whole laptop to wobble while you type… not a lot, but just enough to be annoying.

We press forward hoping that the various issues will go away but they don’t… Installing printer drivers (Vista drivers from the Canon website) for a brand new printer fails and then crashes the laptop.

Eventually the laptop is blue screening on about 3 out of every 5 boots; offering the option of attempting a system restore as a way of trying to get back to a version of Vista that isn’t as broken as what we’re currently dealing with… but the system restore also crashes half way through.

Finally I get the laptop to attempt a scheduled chkdsk. This is an important part of the story. The scheduled disk check, a process that tries to run itself before Vista even starts up, crashes… This should really never happen unless you’re dealing with some serious hardware issues.

I decide that it’s time to take the laptop back to Computer Mania and have them look at it… I assume the obvious; that there is some serious hardware issue with the laptop and they’ll probably have to swap out a hard drive or maybe even the whole thing.

Taking the laptop back was relatively painless; We tell them all the things that are going wrong… I go into detail so as to help the technician with his job… They give us our blue slip and we go on our way… no hard feelings… If anyone is to blame at this point it is either HP or Microsoft. But then…

We wait a week. (Their invoices say they have a average turnaround time of 72 hours). Then a week later I get a call. They want to know what the password is. That’s odd I think. It’s taken a week and *now* they want to know what the password is? Have they even looked at it yet? Obviously not.

I give them the password and they say thanks and I go on about my day fully expecting it to be another couple of days before I get a call to say that they’ve swapped out the laptop due to faulty hardware… But no…

The next day I get a call to say that the laptop is ready… I’m amazed. Maybe it was just a really screwy installation of Vista that was causing all the problems and now that they’ve reinstalled everything is working fine. Except they hadn’t reinstalled. Apparently a “system restore” did the job. Odd, I tried that… but ok. OH, and they removed some malware. REALLY? REALLY NOW? You removed some malware from the laptop? As a systems engineer who’s had to deal with real security issues for a very long time I struggle to believe that the laptop had malware on it. I know Vista aint exactly BSD, but it’s not *that* bad. The only time we ever ran Internet Explorer to download Firefox. I called Bullshit on the malware claim and told the technician to find out what Malware was on the laptop and call me back

Tracing Cookies‘ (sic)… You have got to be f-ing kidding me. First of all buddy, the term is “tracking cookies” and secondly, that’s not malware. It’s just cookies… regular old fashioned… cookies. Calling cookies malware is like calling a pillow a weapon. But this just so happens to be the way that shit computer companies try to scare their customers into believing they’ve added some “value” or “fixed” their computer.

Ok, so I’m pissed about the malware thing, but I’ll deal. The laptop just better be fixed. I ask the technician to please reboot the computer a few times during the day and make sure that the random blue screens are fixed so that I don’t drive all the way out to canal walk for no reason. He says he will. You can see where this is going can’t you?

So tonight we drive to canal walk, eagerly awaiting the return of the now-in-perfect-working-order laptop. I greet the guy Jean (sp) that we checked the laptop in with and he goes and fetches it from the back. I tell him I’d like to boot it up a few times just to make sure… no problem he says.

10 seconds into the first boot and it blue screens.

Now see, I know computers are frustrating… I know they can be unpredictable and difficult to diagnose etc. But really, was everyone involved in the ‘repair’ of this laptop either ignorant or just plain lying? I showed the blue screen to Jean. He acted suprised but I don’t really think he was. He repeatedly tried to deflect the fault on to someone else… his managers, the technicians, “head office”. I kept on telling him. YOU ARE COMPUTER MANIA, you can not disassociate yourself from computer mania.

I told him I want a replacement laptop. We’ll just start from scratch… he can’t do it. I asked to speak to the manager… OH, he *is* the manager. This is almost humourous. Eventually after moaning enough he calls his “regional manager” at home. I appreciate this. I suspect it may be possible for the regional manager (I mean that sounds like it’s an important person right?) to authorize Jean to just hand over a new laptop to make a bad situation go away.

Nope. Regional Manager says that the best they can do is repair it in the morning and have it ready by tomorrow afternoon. Well guess what. That’s not good enough. We dont want that laptop back. We want a new one. One that sits flat on a desk, one who’s screen doesn’t blank out randomly and most of all, one that WORKS!

But hey, what can I do?… I ask to get the phone numbers of all the various manager people and the name of the oke who obviously lied to me when he said he would reboot the laptop a few times just to make sure. I make some mention of bad after sales service and Jean retorts with something along the lines of “no we don’t”… I’m amazed. He still feels that ‘he’ and ‘the store’ are not ‘Computer Mania’ and so therefore he can say that ‘they’ have great customer service. I start trying to explain this to him and then I think (and verbalise to Jean) “What’s to stop me going over there and telling that customer who’s looking to buy a laptop that Computer Mania has bad after sales service?”… ‘Nothing’ Jean replies obviously not realising how much of a dick I can actually be.

So I do. The customer says thanks while the shellshocked salesmen trying to sell him a laptop grins sheepishly in the background. Ahh, that did feel good, thanks for the go-ahead Jean.

So, what I want is a new laptop. I dont wan’t that one back, it obviously has issues… but then again, so does computer mania… so what can you do?

ath. I’ll keep you posted.

New ideas for the restaurant reviews site…

cappucinoLike I was saying to Joe earlier, every time I speak to people about this restaurant website they seem to want to get involved or they have some excellent idea to add to the concept.

So the basic premise is a web 2.0 (and by web 2.0 I mean user generated content etc) restaurant reviews website where the reviewers are broken up into various bands according to their karma and the number of reviews they’ve written. New reviewers have their first 5 reviews moderated. Once they’ve got past their “New Reviewer” status they become “Reviewers” who can invite additional people to join the site but they only get 1 invite per review they write.

All the reviews are rated in digg’esqe manner and reviewers gain or lose karma (trust) accordingly.

Reviewers who achieve certain levels of Karma and write a minimum number of reviews become “Food Gurus” who have additional functionally available to them.

Food Gurus are the people who

  • Moderate the “New Reviewers” reviews for quality etc
  • Are also responsible for updating the non-review based restaurant data (addresses etc)
  • Respond to reviews that have been tagged as “inappropriate” or “suspicious” and potentially banning dodgy reviewers etc.

The idea is that the trust based invite system will hopefully keep the site as honest as possible. Continue reading “New ideas for the restaurant reviews site…”

The good, the bad and the overpriced.

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a web 2.0 restaurant review site with a few twists and the obligatory overuse of gradients, big buttons, whitespace and ajax 😉

Twist 1: The actual review has to be less than 160 characters. This is not so that it can be SMSed but a way to keep people to the point.

Twist 2: When you write a negative review for a restaurant you’ll be asked to provide a “rather go to” restaurant.

Twist 3: I’m thinking of keeping it super simple with just a single star rating accompanying your 160 character review.

Twist 4: Reviewers are brought on board by invitation only… Every user’s first 5 reviews are moderated and you can only invite other people to be reviewers once you’ve reviewed 5 restaurants.

(For those of you who actually read my last rant about systems and rules; The rules I am talking about here are rules that define the specialist functionality… There are plenty of review sites that let anyone paste pages of drivel and never get to the point.)

As any good systems person would, I always test my ideas:

Restaurant: Krugmans, V&A Waterfront

Review: What a lovely surprise of a restaurant! It looks like it’ll cost an arm and a leg but the service is top notch and the food is great. I had their huge camembert & sweet chilli burger at R47. Awesome! (160)

Average Main Cost: R50

Star Rating: 5 out of 5

Restaurant: Cape To Cuba, Kalk Bay Review: Great décor but sadly the quality of food seems to have slipped. We were two large groups and only about 30% of us were “happy”. My meal, the fillet strips in chilli and chocolate, was not worth R99. (160)

Average mains cost: R70

Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Rather go to: Polana

Review: Chapmans, near Chapmans Peak, Hout Bay

Review: We only had two deserts and two cappuccinos. The brownies were bad, the tiramisu was bad and the cappuccinos tasted like watered down wimpy coffee and presented similarly. The bill was R90.

Average mains cost: No idea, didn’t look.

Star Rating: 0.5 out of 5

Rather go to: No idea, Where is good in hout bay?

What do you think of the idea? While typing this I thought that one benefit of the 160 character thing would be that you could get the review sms’ed to you… but really, sms is a retarded format that hopefully wont be around in a few more years?

Anyway, let the debate make it stronger or kill it early so I don’t waste my time.



Never let your processes get in the way of what the customer wants

press button hardSo the gf and I decided to grab some food before we hit the ice bar. We sat down at the Little Mermaid, a restaurant in the V&A waterfront, and perused the menu hoping to find something that looked appetising at a reasonable price. We both eventually settled on getting their lunch steak… a decent looking meal for fifty something rand. The only problem was that it was past 6 and their “lunch” cut-off time. Never fear I thought, I’ll just ask nicely. Surely they would be ok with that?

Nope. Even though we said we would leave if they refused to sell us the meal, they still declined. It’s a well known fact that restaurants with two menus usually do so in order to get more money out of their dinner time guests. Before we left I decided to go and speak to the manager to get their side of the story. Their story was this: They had a system in the kitchen and that system dictated that at 6pm they packed away the lunch time steaks and unpacked the R40 more expensive steaks for dinner.

I stood there dumbfounded, 100% in something akin to a moral dilemma… As a systems person I can understand their argument, whether you believe them or not, that systems make sure that the world works and in the absence of systems you end up with chaos. But, on the other hand, I wanted my fscking lunch steak and I wasn’t prepared to pay extra just because I got their a few minutes late.

I walked away temporarily pacified, but the more I thought about it the more I realised how wrong they were. Their system was limiting their ability to serve the customer properly. I wouldn’t have been told it was “impossible” at the Cape Grace, the 5 star hotel nearby, a point I made but was lost on the two managers.

Really what this highlighted was how the systems we interact with (or design) can be fundamentally flawed by our own need to “stick to the rules”. I’m obviously not calling for all out anarchy, but I do believe you need to ask yourself one fundamental question when implementing a rule in the systems you design:

Is this rule limiting the freedom of the user and their interaction with the system to an extent greater than that which is required to keep the system running?

In other words: Could the restaurant have sold me a fscking steak without going bankrupt? The obvious answer here is yes, and it becomes more obviously “yes” when you consider that any user (customer) who feels like the system did something special for them is going to feel a certain affinity for that system (restaurant) and probably return multiple times.

The more you become aware of this the more you start to see it in real life. I had my wallet stolen and upon getting my new cards, signed up for internet banking only to discover that by default my monthly transfer limit was set to R0; something that requires you to go into the bank with your ID to change… This wouldn’t have been such a major issue if I hadn’t JUST LEFT THE BANK where the teller told me that all I needed to sign up to internet banking was my card number and PIN. In addition to that, my beneficiaries were all deleted… Why did my internet banking profile had to even get removed? Couldn’t they just have unlinked it from one card number and added it to the new one? Did they even think of the customer when designing these systems?

Then vodacom… I want an Nokia E61. I’m due for an upgrade in 7 months, BUT I’m willing to PAY THEM MONEY in order to get the upgrade now. Apparently this is impossible?

Can you think of other systems where a rule has been put in place that makes no sense and impacts the user negatively? Perhaps more important, can you think of systems where the designers have had the foresight to make the system flexible enough to accomodate the more unusual requests?