Saturday, 22 August 2009

Iphone.. or not to Iphone

So, it is that time of year again.... well actually that time of the 24
month O2 contract that I have, in which I now ponder the future of said

Do I, get all unfaithful and skip ship to another network... some of 3's
offers do look rather juicy.... or do I stick it out with my friends at
O2 and see what they can come up with to reward me for being such a
loving loyal customer....

The phones that are tempting me at the moment, are The Blackberry Bold , Curve , Nokia N97 , or an Iphone 3G (like I really needed
to post a link for that one). At the moment, I was thinking about not
getting the 3GS as... well, the refurbished 3G on the O2 upgrade site
seemed tempting enough.

What's a geek to do ?

How important to me is the 5 megapixel camera on my existing Nokia N95 ?
Would I be able to survive with just a 3 or even 2 meg camera ?
Photography isn't that serious to me, or otherwise, I would, well, buy a
camera. Sometimes it's just nice to be able to take a reasonably good
shot of something you see without thinking 'damn, if only I'd brought my

So I guess the things that I'm looking for are.. functionality and
device convergence. Back in the old days when I used to own a Windows
Mobile PDA (I went through several - XDA, XDAIIs) by far the best was
the SPV on Orange. The choice of network didn't make a difference, but
the fact that it had a normal phone's keyboard made it infinitely more
usable than the touch-screen versions. The screen was smaller, the
camera was a pile of poo (but expectations from a phone camera back then
were MUCH MUCH less) but it just... well... worked.

I think it is this, more than any side issues with a camera that bothers
me. (I do note that none of the phones I have listed have a 'normal'
phone keypad. It's just that the Blackberry's have at least a tactile
keypad/board interface). My experiences with touch-screen phones was
that they were slow to respond, looked fantastic, were brilliant for
other things, (like playing some quirky games) but were absolutely
useless as a phone, when you needed them to work like a phone they would
hang, or freeze and the speed at which you wished to 'tap' was always
about three operations ahead of what the phone was thinking about at the

I am assured by my Iphone loving friends that this is no longer the
case. I am not convinced. There is something very satisfying about
pressing a button, that you just don't get from tapping your finger or
thumb against a screen.. that being feedback, and depth of key travel on
a 'real' keyboard.

This is probably another reason why the N97 made it into my wish list,
because is has a touch sensitive screen, but also has a slide out Qwerty
keyboard. Hopefully more useful than the one on the XDAIIs all those
years ago. (I still have mine, as it's handy sometimes to use, just to
link to the wifi at home and read something. Even my lovely Acer Aspire
One is too big for the times when I just want to sit and read something
in portrait).

Iphones have another thing going for them.. they are from Apple, and
they will work much much better with syncing with my Mac Mini (my first
foray via Ebay into the superior world of all things Macintosh). It was
the 'all in one' and 'syncing to PC' that made me put up with the PDAs
all those handsets ago. The sheer ability to have everything in well,
two places, but be able to act like it was in one place. Maybe that's
not so important these days either, with always on internet and
calendars being held in the 'cloud' and the such like..

Just makes the decision harder and harder.

My contract ends in November, so I have a month or two to think about
which course of action I would like to take. There is the impulsive part
of me that wants to say 'oh to hell with it', and just order the
upgrade. My friends have, so far, sent me a couple of comments, ranging
from 'get an Iphone and you'll never look back' to 'don't get a Nokia
N97, they're shit'. Helpful, you'd think ?

In the meantime, there is of course the danger that the Palm Pre will
launch onto our shores, and that will just complicate things further,
because that has a normal phone keypad.

Do I do the boring thing and go with a 'pro vs cons' list... perhaps
that staple of decision making, the coin toss... or do I call O2 and ask
them which offer they can tempt me with more ? 3 do not, of course do
the Iphone, but they do the Blackberry Bold (sorry Curve, you didn't
make the first round, on account of your 2g-ness) for £30 per month on
an 18 month contract, free phone, unlimited internet, unlimited texts,
500 minutes... this includes the Blackberry service. On O2 their best
Bold package is £34.26 per month, for 18 months, 1000 texts, 600
minutes, this with the Blackberry service. There is a one off charge for
the phone of £97.86. (This is as a new customer, so I can see like for
like). The same package over 24 months with O2 comes in at £29.38 per

Just to see what my custom is worth to O2, an upgrade to Blackberry 1000
texts, 600 minutes, including the Blackberry service, comes in at £29.38
per month, but with me still needing to pay £97.86 for the phone. (so no
better off than new customers).

The upgrade to an Iphone 3g - refurbished I might add - 3g, 16GB version
is £34.26 per month, 500 texts, 600 minutes, unlimited data & wifi.
Iphone is free.

For a snip at £87.11 I can then get the brand spanking new Iphone 3Gs
with 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited internet, all for £34.26 per

Is it just me or do O2 not really seem to attach any value to being a
long term customer of theirs ?

3 also do the Nokia N97 for £98 (with change) upfront, and then £35 per
month, unlimited internets, unlimited texts, 700 minutes.

At this point, from a cost point of view, the Blackberry seems to be
winning... my current package gives me no internet, but 400 minutes, 150
texts, for £25 per month. Feels like I'm being done over.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Time to say 'I told you so ?'

Article on BBC website today, trying to figure out if we have any
lessons to learn from history in the dealing with outbreaks or

Is there anything to learn from the way that the press has hyped up the
nation to fever pitch about an illness, that worldwide to date hasn't
killed as many people as die falling down stairs in the UK every year ?
Hmmm. Let me think.

Another article reports that the incidences of 'Swine Flu' are slowing.

Apart from the obvious fact that this was to be expected when the
schools broke up.. what's new ? Maybe all those handwash gels littering
every single open surface in every work place, or maybe it's the 'if
you're ill, stay at home - self quarantine'. Maybe it's just that the
virus isn't anywhere near as dangerous as we were 'told' by the media,
and doesn't pose the risk to most normal people ?

Maybe this halt in the spread of the virus, is temporary, and we'll see
a resurgence when the kids go back to school, maybe things will peak
more as we get into winter, and people start spending more time in
closer confined areas.

Maybe we won't be counting the fact that of the 12,000 people that die
from seasonal flu every year, how many of them could be saved if we made
this much fuss of it ? Why do we accept so many people dying EVERY
YEAR ? Are these people somehow not worthy of our attention, or the
airtime of the television networks or those precious column inches in
the press ?

As sad and tragic as the deaths around the world from this virus are,
how are those victims any more important than the thousands of people
dying every year? Doesn't our (dare I jinx it?) temporary success at
fighting the spread of H1N1 just go to prove what is possible if the
will and the money is there ? So how as a society, can we look the
relatives of those that die every winter from seasonal flu in the eye,
knowing that we really could have drastically improved their chances of
survival ?

Says a lot about us I think. Some people say that we define ourselves by
what or who we take with us on life's journey. Actually, I think the
opposite is true, and we define ourselves by our choices of what to lose
or who to leave behind. How do we define ourselves by the people that we
allow to suffer and die ?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

[Fwd: Twitter & Facebook vs Religion]

Sunday August 2nd. 2009. 10.44am.

Interesting, or at least worthy of some comment, article on the BBC news website today.

The debate at the link, is centred around discussion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are ruining our ability to interact in person.


I wonder. There are, as ever two sides to this argument, and in my characteristic devils advocate-ed-ness, I am going to play not one side, but both. (no puns intended there).

I have to agree, that by spending so much time online, conversing with people in inane and utterly pointlessly shallow conversation that it does mean that I am not actually going out and having the same pointless and shallow conversations in person.

Somehow, I can accept 'small talk' when it's online, or in a text message, or via Facebook chat (dammit, for it really is the scourge of society, that not only is it helplessly addictive, but that it also doesn't bloody work properly !), but do roll my eyes (I roll my eyes across the table, and really do hope that someone else is awake and generous enough to roll the back again) at 'small talk' conversations in real life. Not because I am snobbish about them - well ok, maybe just a little, but maybe because, I've never quite got the hang of 'pointless' conversation. There is ironically a point to pointless conversation, it tells you more about the person, albeit unintentionally, than you may get to know otherwise. You get to see what are the random and scatty things that circulate around this person's mind ?

See, I find people both fascinating and annoying. Not really getting them, as much, if not more so than they don't get me. Now I really don't know if this is actually a natural state of the human condition, but I do have to confess to feeling that most of the people I meet in 'real life' I would rather not have to talk to, and therefore have to pretend to like them, in order to not come across any more of an arrogant self serving bastard than I probably do already. In my 'cyber life' I can freely ignore, be invisible to, or delete, people I don't really want to be bothered with. (If you are a cyber friend of mine and are reading this, then you know that I really want you on my 'list' or otherwise, you wouldn't be - take comfort. I am inordinately fussy).

All of this time online, desperately trying to get back to the point, does in my case, mean that I don't get any of the things done that I might otherwise do with my evenings. The same would be true of the Television, that evil box in the corner of my front room, that makes me, (it does make me) turn it on the minute I get home, and then sit in a near vegetative state, searching for something to watch, bemoaning that 'there's nothing on' - despite the near infinite number of channels - but still sitting there with the damn thing on. In case I miss something important.

Important ? Like what ? The end of western civilisation ? The discovery of a black hole in an underground French research facility ? Would I not get to know about these things some other way, at some other point ? I'm pretty sure on September 11th 2001, I wasn't say at my Television all morning 'just in case' something significant happened. As it was, I was out, with my then wife, and my daughter. We returned home to have one of her relatives telephone us, to say that 'America's under attack' - to which I think my reply was 'don't be stupid'. How stupid did I look, saying that to a mother frantically worried about her son (who was in America at the time) ?

Had I been online, I guess I would have known instantly. Had I had a Twitter account then, I would have - had I also had mobile internets -  seen the number of tweets about it. So I guess I would have known sooner, but again, how would that have changed the outcome ? Pivotal and unimaginable as the events of that day were, I'm pretty sure they had it covered without me.

So what is this desire to know everything that is happening, at the time that it is happening ? And what of the irony that by being at a computer, at home, you might actually miss, well, being at something where something happens ? Is it turning us all into remote observers ?

Do we no longer participate in life ?

One of the comment on the website remarks that perhaps we are all too scared to go out and really do things... I think copying and pasting would be easier than paraphrasing...

The church in all its disguises along with government and minority groups have made sure that its breaking some law or other to even get close to another human being without paying a tax,fine or be imprisoned.Its no wonder people feel safe in their own homes locked away from all the danger the "outside"has become.The internet is communicating where at least your in control without spies(for the present).

Steve Grant, ipswich, United Kingdom

Hmm. There's a point there too. Goes back to the thing about 'how many kids play in the street anymore'. Not many at all. When I was a kid, which wasn't all that long ago (depending on your perspective) my sister and I both played in the street. I used to go out cycling with my friends, (and naturally go to places I had been told I wasn't allowed to go). No harm ever came of us. I feel very sorry for the kids of today that aren't allowed to go to the park on their own, or aren't allowed to spend any time at all on their own. If you are never left to your own devices, you never learn how to occupy yourself. The constant presence of a parent leaves them responsible for finding things to do all the time. My parents never did that. As a child, I prefered to spend time alone, I would be in my room playing with Lego (don't get me started on the benefits of Lego) or reading, or playing in the garden with my Action Men, or going for a ride on my bike. Instead kids today, seem to think that everything in the universe centres around a NIntendo DS..or which mobile phone they have, or fighting over who gets to use the Wii fit, to simulate cycling, or running, or tennis.... is it just me, or why not turn the damn thing off and go get a bat and ball and learn hand eye co-ordination the old fashioned (actual) way, but doing it for real ?

One of my friends and I used to play a lot of tennis together in the summer. About when everyone else was watching Wimbledon, we would be down at the local tennis courts, playing tennis. I was never that good, he was always more athletic and physical than me. But I still had a great time. Best of all it was free (until someone that actually had paid to use the tennis court turned up).

I love the internet, for the tool that it is, and I think that it does help in many ways. It does also provide many distractions from actual life. Which I think is sad. There is something in the fact that we are losing the ability to converse with strangers, that we don't know how to read mood and body language, you can see it all over the streets when you go out. People don't make eye contact for fear of offending, everyone walks around in their own little bubble, shutting off the world by texting to someone, drowning it out by listening to music in their earphones.

The less we speak to people, and learn to accept that there's a little bit of annoyance, and inconvenience about life that just has to be tolerated, the less we are able to judge when people are really deliberately being a pain. We have no scale upon which to judge these social infractions. I'm convinced that this leads to misunderstandings and in some occasions, even conflict.

I used to wonder why I never realised that I had perhaps unintentionally offended people with a remark I had made. At one point I understood that my lack of understanding wasn't born out of the fact that I was a bad person, or that the other pary was overly sensitive, but rather that I had this tendency to not look at the person while I was saying these things. It meant that I lost the chance to read their reaction, and tailor further comments accordingly, or even apologise for overstepping the line. Something as simple as that, seems to be more and more common. And as a species, our frustration leads us to be less and less measured in our responses.

We are creating a society of bored, frustrated, intolerant, misunderstood, angry people. So frustrated are they that some find they are quick to temper. So frightened are we, and so lacking in true, real friends that actually are there, that no one says 'hang on a minute, calm down mate, he only meant.....'.

Social networking is a great tool, and a great thing to have in our armoury. But like any tool, the real skill is in its application, and that comes from the person using it. A pot of paint and a paintbrush can be used to paint the side of the house, or can be used to paint a beautiful picture (ok, maybe more than one colour), or it can be used to paint graffiti, or insults. It's not the fault of the paintbrush that its used to describe that 'sharon is a slag'.

I do genuinely worry that we are headed for a society where we never speak to each other, except on line. I find myself doing it, having lengthy conversations in Facebook chat, when really, I could just pick up one of my phones and speak to the person. You know, like wow ! Speaking in real-time ! Yes. It's called a conversation. With my love of Skype, and my mobile phone, there is nothing stopping me talking to anyone, anywhere in the world. It is only laziness that prevents it.

I'm coming out as if I am on the Arch Bishop's side of the argument, but my own actions show otherwise. I can't sit here and type about the evils of people spending too much time on their computers, because I am.. well.. at my computer....

Perhaps the organised religions of the world should use Facebook, and Twitter to communicate more readily with their respective masses. Perhaps 'God Tweets' are the next big thing. Before someone starts writing an application that lets you tweet in your prayers (I bet someone has already done it though) I have one last point to make.

No one went to war with someone because of the internet. Well, not yet anyway.