SIM Locked, Overstocked, Over a Barrel

I recently purchased a BlackBerry. I feel dirty and wrong. My excuse is that is was for someone very dear to me, and BlackBerries are cheap enough that I can use it as an opportunity to promote the virtues of iOS. But since I have not changed mobile provider myself for over 6 years it was a stark reminder of what it is actually like to be a mobile phone user in the UK at the moment. I think it’s a similar story elsewhere, but I am UK centric.

Analogy time so lube up and brace yourself.

When I was a kid, I occasionally used to go swimming at the local pool. The pool sold all kinds of swimming related accessories from trunks to arm bands/waterwings from Snorkels to floats. Generally these were all overpriced but on one occasion I wanted some new trunks (I believe I had grown tired of my budgie smugglers) so I stumped up the cash for a new pair of swim shorts. They were mine, I could swim wherever I wanted, and if I was feeling really rebellious I could wear them in the house nowhere near water!

Now imagine if the pool had sold me the swimshorts at a discounted price but informed me I could only use them to swim at that one pool even going so far as to put a mechanism in them that if I chose to swim elsewhere they would crush down and squeeze my love spuds with a vice like intensity rendering me unable to swim. There is no way the shorts would ever get sold.

By AnemoneProjectors (Angel  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Not me… in 2010

Now stop thinking of me in Speedos and now look at your mobile phone. Chances are it was brought associated with a network, either that or you paid through the nose for the handset. Back in the day a quick code tapped in to your Nokia 3310 rendered it SIM free, meaning you were off to play Snake and phone people on whatever network you liked. Not so with todays smartphones. There are many companies offering to unlock iPhones for example. However what they actually do is jailbreak them thus rendering Apple’s after sales support null and void.

I can understand that profit margins in this sector are very slim. If you buy a phone on a contract you get that phone at a huge discount. For example if you buy a iPhone 5 on a two year deal you can get it for nothing if you pay £44.00 per month for the tariff. Whereas if you buy the same phone unlocked from Apple you pay £529. So mobile providers have to try and keep your custom. I understand that but when your contract is up you should be able to move your phone to whatever provider you like. You current provider should have confidence that their service will bring you back.

Still at least it’s keeping Mazuma in business.



A skeuomorph or skeuomorphism is a design element of a product that imitates design elements that were functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design. – Wikipedia.

Look it’s just like torn paper!

From the outset of iOS Apple have applied this design principle. Address Book looks like it’s older paper brother and the same can be said for Calendar app on the Mac to name but two. This has been much maligned it would seem and with the departure of Scott Forstall in an Apple re-shuffle which sees Sir Jonny Ive take over the software design as well as that of the hardware. It may become a thing of the past.

I am torn (like the pages of my electronic calendar) I am geek enough to want my computer things to look computery and shiny. My Mac for example always boots in Verbose mode, meaning it looks like an old Windows machine booting from DOS (for practical reasons I like to see whats going on). However the folksy me that likes to sit in a big jumper with fluffy slippers (ok I have not got fluffy slippers, but they are there in my head) and curl up and watch a movie, likes the fact that there is an App that looks like Post it notes (Stickies) for note taking.

The skeumorph approach I believe played a huge part in getting those who weren’t geeks or in the Apple family to make the switch from other platforms. It’s much easier to say to Grandma that the Address Book application is the one that looks like the one that has been in her handbag since 1948. It’s easier for Grandma to understand that, and not be frightened by it, and embrace the technology.

Many of us have shown people how to do things electronically only to return later and see them bravely soldiering on with pen and paper. Tech is worthless if it is not accessible. Whilst I hold no fear that Sir Jonny won’t come up with a wonderful design for iOS OSX or iOS11 whatever it be called, I do fear that if he adopts the minimalist design he has for his hardware in the world of software, it will be a step backwards for the masses

(BDYBIS) iOS 6 First Impressions

After saying I’ve learnt from previous experiences downloading operating system updates on release days, I am ashamed to admit that my phone has iOS 6 and my Mac upon which I am typing this has a spangly new install of Mountain Lion 10.8.2. What can I say, I had some time to kill.

Time I needed because it took well over an hour to download iOS 6. I think this is because of the “world and his wife” effect, though it could be my connection as a friend of mine did his at the same time and it downloaded in two minutes, and his connection is usually ropey (bastard) I wasn’t brave enough to download the update on the phone itself, so it was old school dock cable and iTunes all the way for me.

Aside from the time taken all went swimmingly, I had to remind myself to be patient and not start unplugging things before it had completed. I backed up everything (iOS & Mac) before hand. Just in case.

So it’s there… is it different? Is it good?

Well its a little mish-mash to be honest, which is not something I expect from Apple. There are some well implemented features such as “Do not Disturb” which lets you set a time where your phone won’t tell you if someone has liked your Facebook status or if they are calling you if you don’t want. Set the times and you are good to go and sleep, punch the spaniard or do whatever else it is you do.

Maps on the other hand appears to be a dogs breakfast. No I’m not complaining because I can’t get turn by turn on my iPhone 4. I knew that. It looks awful, taking ages to render map tiles (in hybrid view) even on wi-fi, yes I am aware my iPhone in phone terms is looking decidedly like a middle aged man trying to hide a bald spot and flirt with a 18 year old nympho named Mindy, but still. Thats not even the worst of it. A search for Manchester United Football Club points you to Sale United’s ground and according to this BBC News piece, whole villages have moved.

Who wants to go to Old Trafford anyway?

The Man Utd thing is a little unfair perhaps because if you search Manchester United FC you get Old Trafford so worry not loyal Man Utd season ticket holders your iPhone/iPad will get you from Surrey to the theatre of dreams… when you have done with the Madejski Stadium it will also get you to Old Trafford. However you would expect a search for Football Club and “FC” to come up with the same things. Whole villages moving, not acceptable.

I currently am not impressed with the new App Store. I think (or hope) this might be a familiarity thing. At the moment it feels like they designed it for the iPad and then thought “Oh shit iPhone… doi” To me it feels like you have to slide around just a little too far, on a bigger screen maybe one just slightly taller this would be…. oh Apple.. I see what you did there. You want people to get iPhone 5 so everything is designed for iPhone 5. Gotya. However I haven’t had to sign in with my Apple ID to download app updates yet, which is less hassle, but less secure. Hmm.

I like being able to tweet direct from the notification screen. I like being able to send people a message if they are ringing me and I can’t answer, in just two taps. iMessage under iOS 6 plays very nicely with Mountain Lion now, with all contact methods (emails, apple id, phone numbers) being lumped in together to provide one conversation chain from device to device. iPhone 4 is not compatible with any of the siri improvements or the panoramic photo modes so I can’t comment.

This is a free upgrade, and provides many new features some of which I haven’t used yet, some I’ll never use. The maps app is the one that will hit the headlines and be one for the Android Army to use in their “iPhone sucks” arguments. I am confident that Maps issues will be resolved, but for a showcase launch of a new app on a new OS it should have been so much better.

Poem: Her Lover

Her lover is suave and stylish,
Smart and witty too,
He knows answers to her questions,
And I don’t have a clue.
He remembers her birthday,
And that of Uncle Fred,
And when that winter sale starts,
In Next and Red or Dead.

Her lover is well spoken,
He knows all the hot spots and bars,
I’ve even heard them talking,
About where best to buy her bras.
I think they are planning to kill me,
Magical evil witchcraft,
He’s told her to hide the body,
In the old abandoned mineshaft.

He’s always there beside her,
To respond to her loving caress,
For his name is Siri,
And he lives in her 4S.


Balls to iTunes

Last time I checked, quite a few folks owned iPod’s or devices that feature iPod functions, I am one of those folks. The very device I am using to write this bit enables me not only to listen to music but purchase it from iTunes should I so fancy. Over a million songs at my fingertips. Only thing stopping me is my bank balance.

iTunes is a very successful music store, just like HMV Amazon or Play.com. It is not a record label, it does not independently promote artists, albums or songs without record label say so. It is a shop, just as  Waterstones doesn’t pay authors directly for the sale of books iTunes or to be more correct Apple has no such requirement to pay the artists directly for the music it sells.

Thanks to iTunes more digital music now is being paid for than ever before. It along with the iPod was born out of a love for music. Napster the first music sharing application gave free music to the masses with artists and labels not seeing a bean. Steve Jobs and Apple struck a deal with the labels to ensure artists and labels got a fair deal from “new media” so why Pete Townsend once wanted to remove Steve Jobs’ testicles is unclear to me.

Pete Townshend guitarist from the The Who, who’s music is available via iTunes. Gave the inaugural John Peel lecture broadcast on BBC 6 Music. The full transcript of which is here. In it he seems as far as I can see to confuse the iTunes Store with a record company. He would like iTunes (as he calls it, rather than Apple, which again in my opinion is a display of his general ignorance) to do the following things:- (my opinions in green)

Item 1. Editorial guidance. A&R. Employ 20 A&R people from the dying record business. Have them respond to tracks sent in from new artists. If they feel the artists are bad, or aren’t ready, say so. But have them tell the truth, kindly and constructively. Guide them to other helpful resources, don’t just send them to the wolves of Blogland where it seems to me a lot of the vilest bile comes from people who could be drunk, or just nuts. A fledging musician at the start of a career is a delicate thing – even a rapper. (You’ll just have to take my word for that.) (Apple do already have back-room people assessing what’s hot, but they don’t have this kind of power. I’ll bet they’d love it. 20 John Peels inside Apple – imagine it).

Artists as far as I know do not submit music to iTunes. That would be the same as me turning up at my local HMV and asking them to stock it globally. Artists require a  intermediary such as a record label or at the very least a distributer such as CD Baby to provide the connection.

Oh I’m a blogger. I must be drunk.

Item 2. Financial support. Subsequently provide free computers with music software to 500 artists a year who the 20 A&R people feel merit it. Provide some basic training.

Basic Apple training is available for just £79 per year in store. This covers “projects” which would show people how to use Apple’s music products. Provide free computers? Musicians are not charity cases, why doesn’t Mr Townsend give free guitar lessons to 500 guitarists

Item 3. Creative Nurture. Follow the work of these 500 artists very carefully. Help where you can. Keep out of the way if necessary. 

Good idea, for the label, the producers.. the iTunes Store hmmm

Item 4. Manufacturing. (This should be called ‘posting’ today I suppose.) Provide a place on iTunes where these artists can share their music. It should be a like a local radio station. Yes Apple, give artists some streaming bandwidth. It will sting, but do it. You will get even more aluminum solid state LURVE for doing so.

Myspace have re-invented themselves doing this, the place where artists can share. As for streaming iTunes provides access to numerous internet radio stations. Some of which play unsigned bands.

Item 5. Publishing. Help artists protect their copyrights, don’t just exploit the loopholes of Grand Theft. This is a minefield today. The internet is destroying copyright as we know it. So they will lose the battle, but guide them to hang on to what they can. Otherwise they might only ever make one album.

iTunes as I stated has made legal digital music more common place than it ever was before. Since the abolition of DRM sales have sky rocketed benefiting the artists (and yes Apple)

Item 6. Marketing. Select a number of the artists on the free shared space local radio station and sell their work on iTunes with some helpful advertising within the Apple software machine. Show that you get behind them.

The music featured in iPod adverts has often gone on to be big hits. But the iTunes store is not a record label. It’s a shop!

Item 7. Distribution. Go further. License the best selling artists to other organisations (like record companies, bookshops and highstreet and Mall-based retailers for example) who are willing to make packages, goods you can hold in your hands and give for birthdays, Christmas and Diwali. Share revenue with Amazon. I’m not sure why that notion is so repellent to the Aluminums.

So Pete, and forgive me if I’m wrong. You want the biggest retailer of digital music in the world to sell CD’s? If you want CD’s you can go some place else, Apple won’t mind.

Item 8. Payment. Stop insisting on aggregators to deal with small artists (because you can’t be bothered with the expense of accounting for the numerous small amounts of money you’ve collected on their behalf) and pay direct. Why should an artist pay even more commission to an aggregator merely to get paid? (For the uninformed, an aggregator in the iTunes world is a company who stand between the artist and iTunes and thus prevent Apple having to deal with artists directly. Some of these aggregators provide some of the resources I’ve pleaded for above, but they are really just another form of punitive banking).

Pete, Apple is a company. They sell music, computers and electronic goods, they are not nor have they professed to be a music label or a talent scout. They do promote music with the iTunes festival but they are a place to buy music which has been signed.

Apparently if Apple do any one of these 8 things Mr Townshend will cut off a lovenut, whatever floats your boat Pete. Cutting one off will make a change from talking a load of them. But then I’m just a nutty drunk blogger.

You Cannot be Siri-ous

Yesterday my beloved Apple Inc launched the latest iPhone. The iPhone 4S. A speed bump, with a new camera and air play capabilities and more besides. Well on the face of it it’s not bad, I won’t be getting one. Largely because I am tied into my contract with 3 and I’m not gonna sell my Grandma to get my hands on this.

On the 28th April 2010 Apple brought Siri, a company founded in 2007. One selling point of the iPhone 4S is Siri integration. The technology is amazing, Siri is a voice commanded digital personal assistant, a secretary without the short skirt and stockings… (shame) Siri recognises what you are saying and can schedule appointments, tell you the weather, read your messages and listen to you dictate replies and send them for you. As I say all amazing technology, I remember the early voice recognition stuff, you had to train it, even then it wouldn’t understand what you said, it often had to be used in environment which you shared with only deathly silence. Microsoft attempted to demo this and failed.

Fast forward a few years and Microsoft have succeeded, as anyone who has ever said “X Box Play DVD” will tell you. I even have a dictation app on my iPhone 4, it is very good, it is free and if I’m not drunk it understands me. I think it wishes I wasn’t drunk quite so often, so it had a fighting chance.

Going back in time once more, forgive me for more time travel than your average episode of Doctor Who in this piece… (hmmm maybe an excuse for a pic of Karen Gillan.) In the Late 70’s all the way through the 80’s. A conversation the world over:-

“Please leave your message after the beep.” said a metallic voice.


“Oh no, not one of these, urm I hate talking to these things… pick up if your….”

Then the tape would run out or catch fire. The hatred of the answer machine remains, even though we have progressed to voice mail, which has none of the tape issues. You still have to record a greeting, and even with advent of personalised greetings there is still the risk your potential new boss will here the personal message meant for your wife’s sister about your huge member….ship of the bridge club.. What!

Karen Gillan.. with some other bloke.. think he might play The Doctor. Kidding the wonderfully talented Matt Smith

So how does 1980’s tech relate to Karen Gillan and Siri. No matter how good Siri is and it is the best system I have ever seen of it’s type. It is still a machine, flesh and blood human beings such as Karen Gillan feel like a berk talking to a machine, and as much as those folks with the bluetooth headsets will say otherwise, if your out and about talking to Siri or even Karen Gillan, other people you encounter will think you are crazy fool talking to yourself.

Tech vs Viruses

Ok as I stated before I am a Mac Guy. It hasn’t always been this way, my first proper windows PC was a mighty powerful 166mhz Pentium, with I think 16 Mb RAM. On this I ran Norton Anti virus and no firewall whatsoever! When no-one wanted to use the phone (oh dial up how I don’t miss thee) I used this humble machine as a portal to another world. (Mirc and Porn then!) Until one day a virus.

This was back in the day when I wasn’t too tech savvy, having recently transferred to the PC from an Acorn Archimedes, so down to the local tech guys, who formatted my drive and charged me through the nose. Virus removed. Fast forward  15 or so years. Malware hits the Mac in the form of Mac Defender/Guard, not a virus but pretty close, a week later Apple release a security patch, killing the threat. Oh look how far we’ve come, vendors of the operating system now provide patches for viruses and computing is now hassle free, Apple and Microsoft must be commended by for their swift action.. no wait sorry.. apparently the PC variant of Mac Defender and millions of other security threats remain un-patched. Oops.

Microsoft famously in fact have taken 7 years to patch a known vulnerability in their software. 7 years! Now because Microsoft do not make computer hardware, it is unreasonable of anyone to expect them to patch for viruses, because each PC on which it’s software runs is different, but to not patch their own software for 7 years! That is a middle finger to all their customers surely.

People have said the reason why the mac has no in the wild viruses is directly linked to it’s market share. 90% of world use a Microsoft OS. 10% Macs. This is true, partly. Mac OS is built upon UNIX and according to folks more geeky than I, that means it’s more difficult to produce a successful virus. If this recent malware scare has taught virus developers anything it’s surely don’t dick with Apple. You make it, we’ll patch it. There is sure to be a little backlash, with the malware developers changing things, but as Apple announce Mac OS 10.7 Lion I’m backing cupertino.

With smartphones, there is debate about Googles openness in the form of Android Market vs Apples walled garden App Store. Obviously I’m going to favour the garden. All Apps validated by Apple, controlling yes, money making yes, consistent  you bet ya, screw up your phone no freaking way!

Android Market is riddled with Malware Google are removing apps but the open way in which everything has been done means they are always a few steps behind, so on Android your data could be half way round the world before Google have even had a chance to not be evil.

The Mac Geek Gabs Dave Hamilton put this best, when describing internet security.

“It is easier for me to leave my car unlocked with the keys in the ignition ready to go. I don’t because it is insecure.” So if in the future all apps are brought via Apples App store or a Microsoft equivalent and all these apps are validated, we sacrifice a the ease of free choice safe in the knowledge that all the personal stuff we have on our machines is safe. The debate goes on..


Phone? What’s a phone?

Ok this is a first for this blog. So welcome to the future. This is the first posting written entirely on my smartphone.

Usually, I’m sat in front of my freshly re-furnished Mac, full of ideas and inspiration (by which I mean beer) but not today I am fully mobile & holding in my hand something which is a more powerful computer than my last HP PC laptop which gave up the ghost 2 short years ago. This I think is pretty cool in itself.

When Dr Martin Cooper invented the first mobile phone 1973 he couldn’t possibly have imagined where we’d be today.

People no longer use phones to phone, not primarily anyway. I can right now on my lunch break at work, use my iPhone to watch TV. In 1996 I was amazed by text messages. I have no clue what will happen in the next few years, no doubt apple & google do. we can but wait.