Phone Wars

I have been looking for a new phone and a new plan to go with it. Its a fascinating business, I started by some careful analysis of my existing calling activity and the plan that I was on. My existing plan is from Telstra and is a $20.00 plan. On this plan I am spending about 140 dollars a quarter. Interestingly though when I read a few of my bills I discover I get back 30 dollars, and not the 60 that I expected. I assume that this is part of the standard bait and switch that Telstra is the master of.. You know the drill, yes you get 20 dollars of included calls but the fine print says they are only certain sorts of calls and the finer print says from Telstra to Telstra when calling from your lounge to someone in Vladivostok between 3 and 5 am on Sundays. Actually I shouldn’t say that because Telstra, god love em, might just introduce such a clause.

So here I am spending around 46 dollars a month. I know that my spend is going to rise dramatically as I get involved in a sports event Pier to Pub. So for me it looks like a capped plan might be the way to go Looking around it seems that Vodaphone offers one of the better options with caps and the ability to vary the contract month by month.

Of course contracts are made to be a confusopoly, Each contract has a multitude of different services and the various rates that those services are charged at, then there is what is included for free or part of a cap and what isn’t. A cynic, and lord knows I am a card carrying member of that club,would think that this is deliberate, a ploy on the part of phone companies to make it impossible to compare different companies and their offerings. Check out www.phonechoice.com.au for a great way to cut through the deliberate obscurity.

Then there is the search for a new phone. All the vendors have racks of phones to try, but these turn out to be empty shells which allow you to judge color and size but nothing else. Since I am looking at being able to use mail/contact management/a calendar and how these things work is a very personal choice an empty non-working shell doesn’t do the job. What is weird is that none of the phone manufacturers or the many websites that review phones are meeting my needs. Not one of these sources gives an idea of what the phones software is like, or what it does, or doesn’t do. For example, I am very keen to be able to not use Outlook that bloated monster PIM from Microsoft. Instead I would rather use mozilla offerings like SunBird and Thunderbird which use iCal and vCard for PIM stuff. Now try using any of the manufacturer or review sites to find out how well this is supported. Sadly you can’t. The best that is around are simple comparators that offer a compare the check-box type comparison. Phone X has WAP phone Y has BlueTooth, These check box type features can be simply compared but more subtle things like how good is the integration are much harder and the check-box sites have nothing to say. I think that there is a real opportunity here for someone to write a decent comparison tool.

I thought that I might talk to some of the sales staff. Well that turns out to be a complete waste of time. The sales staff know gross features of the phones and have a detailed understanding of the plans available. They have no idea of any features of any phone. They are selling things that every sales person I talked with had no idea about. When I compare these guys who are selling high tech gadgets to other high tech gadget salesmen in the photography or computer lines they come up looking very very sad. I suppose that its a cut throat business, I suppose that phones change quickly and so its an endless mountain to climb. But here I am looking to park out 500 dollars or so and the people I am paying can’t tell me a thing. Amazing, and not a little sad.

The search continues.


Created: 01/Jan/2007

Wood Released

Douglas Wood has been released after 49 days captive in Iraq. I am happy. The media is ecstatic. Wood was held captive by criminals in Iraq hoping to ransom him and force the Australian government to withdraw from its unilateral war in Iraq.

In related news the Australian government has bowed to pressure and is releasing the hostages it took to win elections and appease the racist elements in the Australian electorate. Peter Quassim has been held hostage without charge by the government for 7 years, or 2555 days. Government spokesmodel commented that a multidisciplinary team had entered Iraq to free Mr Wood, unfortunately they met with no success but elements of the Iraq military had discovered Mr Wood hiding under a blanket, during an unrelated house to house sweep. The government spokes model could not explain if the blanket was pro or anti Australia, though he did comment that it was a woolen blanket.

Mr Qaussim until recently locked behind electrified razor wire in the dessert was unable to comment. The minister for Insanity averred that his and other 'long term detainee's' release was not due to the upcoming Palmer Inquiry, but to a new government policy of recruiting fresh non mad detainees for cruel and harsh punishment.

Ms Vanstone suggested that with Baxter now being empty and its guards having nothing to do, that the government might contract out random imprisonment of the innocent (or at least the uncharged) to the American military. Ms Vanstone went on to explain that the Americans were quite traumatized by having to incarcerate people without trial in Guantanamo for years without any hope of release and since the Australian government has ace hived worlds best practice in ex-judical imprisonment.. 100% of those over five years are clinically mad the excited Ms Vanstone (formerly minister for child imprisonment, now Minister for Madness) said. The Americans have had to use their own troops and suffer from world opinion, and have failed to achieve such high levels of insanity. We on the other hand use a hands off approach, so the government is at arms length from the actions of its guards, trustees, warders and jailers.

When a reporter suggested to the Mad Minister that the Americans tortured their prisoners, the Mister replied, hmmmm. Well I suppose we could too, in fact I think that we do already.

Observers are closly watching the new government policy to see how it will effect David Hicks the only Guantanamo hostage who is Australian. A spokesmodel explained that since he was charged by the Americans he could just 'Damm well rot'
Created: 01/Jan/2007

Flag waving and cheers

Its the 90th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. One small act in the larger butchery that was the First World War.

It is an epic battle that Turkey, New Zealand and Australia all trace their Nationhood and military pride to.

Naturally our supine media are playing it for all its worth, a big mention of the heroism and sacrifice of the noble Australian digger, a smaller sometimes generous mention of the Turk and no mention of the New Zealand or British troops that took place in that long ago battle.

The fantasiziation of this event started long ago, but now with Australia's muscular foreign policy and complicit media we beat the drum for war loud and long.

It seems to me that big end of town has an agenda, one is the media's love of the simple and brutal, a story that can be explained in a sound bite. 'Senseless slaughter', 'Heroic', 'Youthful adventure' 'Young lives lost' 'Incompetent Generals'.

The medias need to distill all stories to a few simple sentences means they also have to distill back to the primal and prurient. Vicar in sex shock. Noble sacrifice. The primal is sex, death, loss, tragedy, misery. This pressing need for the media to shrink a story shorting and pruning it again and again till it can be drained to a few words, is overwhelming. It is the business of the news, and the grab and the doorstop. And now it permeates everything the media does.

So instead of a measured story about Australia's involvement in a long ago war, distance has not served to give us the measured view but has instead distilled down this story to a few essential but untrue elements.

Whose interests are served by this process. Clearly it is the modus operandi of the media but it suits most of the big end of town. Pacifism and peace is anathema to the capitalist, not for simple reasons either. Peace takes off the table the use of force and most business people rather like using force, after all for many its how they got to where they are. Peace is also to be disliked because stability is bad for business. So a policy that espouses militarism and a population that is compliant with the goals of the bomb and the gun is something the big end might regard as better than the its opposite state. Peaceful, peace loving, internationalism.

Do I see some dark conspiracy, no that is not what is happening but the big end of town, the big L liberals aren't going to oppose it and with the cosy relationship between the media moguls and government, coupled with the medias truncation of all issues to primal fears suits the militarist's just fine.

to, a flag and a lone bugler playing the last post, politicians waving the flag and media making a killing.
So we still march on ANZAC day, a day to glory in and glorify war. And in all this reflected glory our political leaders hope to bask a little, wrapping themselves in the flag, borrowing the laurels that were never theirs. Never mind that like our Great Grandfathers they have invaded a land far away, for no reason other than their patron told them to. No mind that like our Great Grandfathers that action is being lost, slowly but surely. Our leaders wont mention that, they will be long on heroism and sacrifice, and short on the rights of the countries invaded the civilians slaughtered in their 100s of thousands.

How interesting that John Howard is happy to stand as one with the diggers. Claiming their action and the action of the Australian government at the time as his own. At the same time of course he hypocritically wants to claim that there is no reason to say sorry or to accept that the Stolen Generation are owed an apology, because as he puts it. 'That was not this government' and that '... it was long ago'. Patriotic Johnnie I don't mind, but when picking from histories smorgasboard a helping of flag waving goes with a helping of 'yeas and we did that as well and we are sorry'

So we have distilled the biggest of world events, the 100 thousand Australian war dead and the 10s of millions of world war dead to, a flag and a lone bugler playing the last post, politicians waving the flag and media making a killing.

It's good to know what all the sacrifice is for.
Created: 01/Jan/2007

The Ponderosa

We sauntered out Theodore and I to the new pondersosa or should that be the New Ponderosa a new development on the outskirts of town. Fresh roads had been scraped through the salt brush and the complex hydrocarbons of fresh tar wafted in the air. Consulting the plan Theodore led me to the spread. The four pegs marking our the territory were hard to find in the waste high scrub but I saw with pleasure that the property sloped down to a pleasant stream.

Fantastic Theo I said, this is a fine site for a house. Show me the plans. Theodore's craggy features creased for a moment. No plans he said and enthusiastically shoved his spade in the slat brush, no plans he grunted somewhat later having dug a short trench in the loamy soil.

So what sort of house are you building I asked at last having tired of watching the erratic trench snaking though the salt bush. Theodore beaded with sweat stopped briefly. One that will increase shareholder value he gaunted. Sorry I have no time for this and he started to dig again this time a looping sort or path though too narrow for a man, down to the stream.

The next morning I was surprised to see various trucks at the site, what gives Theodore, I asked, oh he replied off the shelf parts, we aim on incorporating best of bread features to utilize maximal growth pathways. I smiled, uneasily looking for signs perhaps of dehydration or exhaustion. So about the plan I queried, what does it look like.

No plan Theodore muttered as he started pounding 2 meter long spikes deep in the ground, between grunts he said. The house will self assemble.
No plan Theodore muttered as he started pounding 2 meter long spikes deep in the ground, between grunts he said. The house will self assemble.

What I gasped, timing his swing so I could wrest the hammer from his hand. Houses don't self assemble, we need a plan, and specifications and occupant sign-off. Theodore sat on a freshly excavated pile of dirt. You don't know that he averred. Yes I do I replied hotly. You have to have a plan, its the way house are built. No Theodore said, you don't know that! Have you tried using no plan, and warming to his them he carried on, this is house building 101 you know. They self assemble when there are enough parts, and even if they don't we only have to move a few things and presto its done. No I said you need a plan. He replied angry now. Nonsense you have never done the self assembly experiment you don't know what you are talking about. Rubbish I retorted, I have never jumped off the Westgate, because I know it will kill me, there are some experiments you don't need to do. Houses need plans. Anyway he said springing to his feet, I have no time for lolly gagging. These meetings take time and I am busy. He started nailing long lengths of wood to each other, though why I couldn't determine.

I admit I left the Ponderosa wondering. A year passed in the blink of an eye, with meetings and design sessions, building new footings releasing a development in the States and another in England. I was so busty I didn't get back to the Ponderosa for ages.

And what a difference a year had made the rolling flats of slat brush had given way to a modern suburb, neat houses lined the roads, cheery letterbox stood waiting for mail, the air was redolent of new paint and bourgeois pretension's. I rounded the corner to Theodore's place, and my jaw dropped.

There was no neat lawn, just wavering salt bush and Theodore laboring in the hot sun. Hows it going I asked cautiously. Theodore straightened grunted that he had no time but offered to show me around anyway.

First he lead me to the bedroom, which on closer inspection was a cave hollowed out of the side of the bank of the stream. Its walls were stained with soot, and a rank bed was in one corner. What happened I asked, you like it he queried with obvious pride, great functionality he said, coffee he asked and paused to light the fire. Instantly the room filled with choking smoke, Chimney I asked making for the doorway.

Theodore grunted something about next week, and time pressure and management changing their mind. How is Mrs Theodore I asked. Instead he took me on a tour, look he said here is the furnace. A 10 meter unfenced deep hole filled with rancid looking water greeted me. In the water a rusting furnace sat. oh I asked so you have hot water then, yes he replied climbing a large tumbled pile of builders bricks. Over here. He shown me several pallets of assorted pipes, copper, plastic, some clay. All plumbed up, his eye glinted proudly at me as he walked me round the pile.

But I protested they are not connected to anything. Its just a pile of pipe. Huh he said, haven't you heard of self assemble it will only take me half an hour. I might have expressed some doubt and so with a roar of engines and the raining down of random plumbing parts he started the assembly. Soon assorted pipes were heaving all over the site and water was gushing from open pipes, spurting from joins and fountaining into the air. See he said, Simple.

Well if you could just point me to the bathroom then I asked. He indicated a lone tree. Over there. I walked to the tree, looking for a shower, I was surprised no pipes went this way, I knew this because it was easy to know if you were near a pipe as the kept up a constant hammering and banging and were inclined to shower the unwary with water, hot or cold or worse without the slightest notice.

When I got to the tree there was a bucket, beautifully made, shiny, glorious. Confused I picked it up. Underneath a notice said. To Use Shower Take Bucket To Stream Fill Up Return And Then Invert Over Head. Rustic I thought, I wonder where the path to the stream was, there was only the thin wavering path I had seen cut a year ago, now overgrown with weeds. But I made my way to the stream and filled the bucket, by the time I returned to the bathing tree I had thought better of it.

I left the site just as a load crash echoed around the site, parts of a huge brick wall were crashing to the ground. I didn't look back I just drove. As I headed back to the city I wondered what had been accomplished in a year. I membered the piles of builders rubble the half finished walls the squalid bedroom. Maybe I should send Theodore a plan I thought. Maybe.
Created: 01/Jan/2007

Warriors of God

I watched CSI the other night. I think it was the New York one cause its shot with a slightly topaz filter as opposed to the tobacco of Miami and the blue of the original. Anyway I new it wasn't the Vegas show cause Grisom wasn't tooling round bing the biggest brain on set.

This guy had out the holy lance of truth. We all know that the best way to find out the truth is get a torch and wander around pointing at things. The holy lance of truth directs our attention from dull surface to meaningless thing, until the exemplar wielding the light narrows his eyes and spots something.

Real detectives wait for daylight and if they must do things in the dark they bring in arc lights that make the holy lance of truth look like pathetic flashlights, oh no wait they are pathetic flashlights.

Anyway back to the show, the fantastically good looking pouty girl wandered around the lab, pouting, primping and generally have nothing to do. She was 'Waiting' for touch of the holy lance where she could be anointed with lords sacred fire of truthfulness and go out bringing her pouty light to the criminal darkness. As lab jokey number three said 'its tough being on the bench' What crap, she was clearly the pouty office junior, she should have been going out getting lunch for the harried lab gods, or doing filing or writing reports, but wait these white coated demi-gods don't eat or drink, or file reports or have lives. Poor beauty, all she could do was pout and primp.

Then suddenly like the ugly caterpillar, anointed with the holy fire, she became a cranial facial modeling specialist and reconstructs a skull, in a long montage involving lots of modeling clay and the cleanest bleached 20 year old dead skull man-kind has ever seen. 5Kgs of modeling clay and a whole set of pouts later the hero is clapping her on the shoulder. Good job pouty one he might have said.

By then the clues were reduced to a head with stylized hair, eye-brows and eyes with a brown color, cause as we all know these things are presented well in the skull, in fact I know this. I just went and shaved and distinctly felt my jaw bone grow, or was that shrink.

Oh shit don't worry about the science cause if you challenged the beauty there would be a major pouting montage.

At this point I new that somehow the hero would flash his holy lance, jump to some wildarsed conclusion and certainly arrive at the truth. Pleased with the certainty of this outcome, and bored by the insanity of the plot, the paucity of the science and the posturing and pouting of the cast I slumped into unconsciousness.

Let me relay my own experience with the girls and boys in blue. The came, just one of them, she looked at the broken things for a bit and said, most probably wearing gloves. Dusted everything in black crap that is impossible to remove. Lifted a print, then said lets look at your thumb, ıoh that's youı no prints here and left.

Thats real investigation, full of uncertainty, doubt and simple obvious science, oh and they came in the middle of the day and they did not have big flashlights just one women with a large pelican case and a wry sense of humor.

No comparison to the insightful wielders to the holy lance of truth, the encyclopedic knowledge of all forensic science and th complete absences of any form of doubt. These shows deal in absolute moral authority, absolute certainty and in an uncertain and doubtful world they show us the writ of scripture, the miracle of science, the cleaving of light from evil, the truth, shining, certain, golden and pure.

Truly they are scientific angels, gods warriors of truth.

Either that or ham actors pedaling the hokiest script,s with crap science and dubious plots. You figure it out. You might need a torch.
Created: 01/Jan/2007

Religious War

I have been in the trenches and on the parapets of a Religious War. A fight, seemingly to the death about which language we develop part of our system in. On one side the development team, on the other the chief proto-typer. And like real religious wars no quarter is being given, all tricks are being employed and logic has been swept aside in a white hot blaze of ımy product is better than yoursı

I hate religious wars in software. They reduce everyone to arguing the same moronic arguments most of which are suspect.

Some classic examples Language is more productive to develop in that Language . Language productivity is a funny thing. If you are writing small programs, or highly specialized ones then the features of one language may indeed be better than others, but as programs get bigger and more complicated the language features become largely irrelevant and architectural features, programing methodologies and production design have vastly more effect on productivity than the language

Language is faster than language This a very real issue, if for example you were trying to analyze stock-market trends or some other CPU bound task. But if what you are talking about is a LOB type application then every language is going to be fast enough. Yes thats right even quick-basic. Again as complexity increases architectural choices are likely to be more important than any language advantages. How do I know this, I stopped writing in assembler years ago.

Language has a smaller runtime requirement/footprint than language and our customers will only buy ıThe Productı if both the runtime requirement and footprint are smaller than A/B. This is a more complex argument. Languages like C#, with its .net runtime Java with its JRE requirement are often bigger than say a C++ application. Bigger of course is subjective. How many have the runtime already installed, how many are on fat pipes, thin pipes. How long are the customers prepared to wait for a download to finish, who really cares about memory footprint.

In a language war of course all these complex variables can be manipulated one way or the other to argue whatever case you wish to argue. Rather like the Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland who says ıWhen I user a word it means exactly what I want it to mean, nothing more and nothing lessı In ours we have argued our way to a download time of under 10 minutes. Anything over this will lead to all customers abandoning our product. We don't have a basis for this in fact, but facts don't matter as we are in a Religious war and or must be defeated and cast back to the fiery realm from whence it was spawned.

The real problem that we have is one of relevance and architecture, methodology and purpose, development tool-sets and time-lines. Some have the view that many of our problems are architectural, our application runs in a tight polling loop, a PC running our application runs at 100% utlization because it is sitting in a tight busy loop. This wrong headed architectural design means that speed is an issue, that building new parts of the engine are hard.

Of course the fix is simple, redo the design of the engine so that it is event driven. But that gets us to our next issue, time-lines, like all businesses we have ample time to do what we are doing again and again, but no time to redo anything. We are up against the time-line with a vengeance.

Then we have the methodology problems, camp A builds a working example, Camp B like what it does but not how it does it. A wants it in the product, so does B but not the way it has been done. The problem, its prototype code and we are mixing it with production code. This in itself is really a methodology issue. What is the way we gate code into production. How to we ensure quality, what makes for a good 'code smell' as Kent Beck likes to say.

These method problems are hard, but trying to sort them out while engaging in a full house-to-house battle of the religious war, is impossible. Result, the real causes are being ignored while each party strives to build the bigger more destructive factioid

religious wars, bitter divisive, purposeless and heart-breaking In the end it all comes down to what you believe, all the argument, all the sound and fury will have signified nothing, the parties will retire certain that they have carried the day, but on reflection we see that neither side has moved.

Why because the war is a cover, a stalking horse for other things, and that thing ultimately is power, Who has it, who wields it, and who the rods of power will beat down. If the power is solved then the other issues become problems to be solved and not dogma to die for.
Created: 01/Jan/2007

1850s Gulag

When I first arrived in Australia I was living in Hobart and went for the mandatory visit to Port Arthur when it was still the site of old horrors. The thing that struck me the most about those grim structures was the separate prison, a prison modeled on ideas gaining currency in Britain on theories of crime punishment and redemption. The idea of the separate prison was that prisoners would be kept isolated, that they would be bared from contact with one another, indeed the entire design of the prison was aimed at this one purpose. And in this contemplative silence men would reflect on their lives and be reformed. Instead what happened was that men went mad. Perhaps because of this the Mental Hospital was built close by the separate prison.

I remember thinking that at least we modern Australianıs knew a bit more about psychology and the human mind, and that we not repeat such cruel mistakes.

But now we lean of the treatment of Cornelia Rau and day by gruesome day more details of the prison regime at Baxter Immigration Detention Centre.

This centre is set up in the harshest part of Australia, remote distant hard isolated, on television 5 small irrigated patches of green are surrounded by numberless hectares of arid desert. Surly a setting designed to both intimidate the incarcerated whilst hiding them from the publicıs gaze.

But it seems that it is inside these prison camps that the true horrors are visited on ıour guestsı. There is a prison, and inside that prison are successive layers of isolation and separation, unlike the 1850s Port Arthur there is no Mental Hospital, physc services if they are provided by a reluctant administration come from distant Adelaide.

It is the layers of separation and isolation that are the problem, these are used for punishment, punishment by psychological isolation and separation. Punishment heaped on a mental fragile women wrongly imprisoned,

Firstly there is the Red zone, 22hrs a day of isolation and solitary used it seems as punishment, punishment over and above imprisonment in Australiaıs gulag. This is a punishment that is ex judicial, not open to review, administered by private contractors.

And beyond the zone is isolation. More separation, isolation, mental torture heaped on mental torture. Again administered by government stooges hiding behind the immigration department skirts, punishing, tormenting, denying people access to physc services. Punishing indiscriminately without any sort of review, with no redress, with no process and maybe damaging the punished permanently in the process.

In this harsh environment, where the inflicting of physiological damage is official policy, it is no wonder that the mad should slip through the cracks.

Have we really come so far from Victorian crime and punishment. In Howardıs Australia of a far go and mateship, of good Aussie values, we are more Port Arthur madness, than a modern caring companionate society.
Created: 01/Jan/2007