Archive for the ‘D’ Category

The best way to manage podcasts on an iPod

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

While updating my iPod this evening I ran into a better way to manage podcasts. It’s so simple I don’t know why I didn’t do this when I first started using the podcast smart playlist hack to get podcasts to play nicely on the iPod.

The original smart playlist hack was done because there are a couple of problems with standard podcast synchronisation and playing behaviour on an iPod.

First, as soon as you start listening to a podcast (or anything I believe) it is marked as played. So, synchronizing non-played podcasts doesn’t work very well because I often loose what I was part way through listening. To combat this I have previously configured my iPod Nano to synchronise only checked podcasts so I can actively remove podcasts that I have actually finished listening to off the iPod.

Second, the standard behaviour of listening to podcasts on the iPod is bizarre. It plays one podcast and then as soon as it is finished jumps back to the list of the podcasts in the feed. Pretty hopeless since I listen to the podcasts in the car on the way to work and many of the podcasts are only a few minutes long. To address this I have additionally had appropriate smart playlists configured on the iPod so that I can listen to each podcast one after the other based on feed. Playlists work as expected, carrying onto the next item once the current one finishes. The smart playlists are easy to setup using Podcast is true and then matching appropriately on Artist or Album.

With my latest configuration I don’t synchronise podcasts to the iPod Nano at all. I simply synchronise the podcast related smart playlists. I still have the music synchronisation configured to only pull across checked items so I can remove podcasts that I have listened to and prevent music that I don’t really want to on the iPod. So simple.

Everything is much easier to manage now with the rest of the space on the iPod is filled up with a number limited randomly ordered music smart playlist. Excellent.

Samsung D900 memory card “Not Allowed” problem solved

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So I had this really strange problem with my new mobile phone. It takes a micro SD card for data storage and I bought a Kingston 1Gb card when I bought the phone. As far as the phone was aware there was a memory card installed because it showed the pretty icon on the main screen. However, whenever I tried to access any of the Memory Card storage area the phone would just beep with a "Not Allowed" error message displayed on the phone.

Very weird. Did some searching and found some luck in the D900 Memory Card help forum at http://www.expansys.com. One of the posts mentioned that giving the card a volume label worked. I thought to myself surely not, that’s just a little too obscure. So I checked my card in the laptop and sure enough there was no volume label. I gave the card one and then it worked.

Now that is some weird ass behaviour. I wouldn’t of ever thought of doing that in order to try and solve the problem. Nice one Samsung!

Pre-pay petrol pump madness

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

More and more petrol stations have now converted the normal process of getting a tank of gas into something more complicated than it need be.

Going to the petrol station isn’t one of those life fulfilling activites so I want to spend as little time as possible there. Needless to say I always fill my petrol tank to the very top until no more petrol can physically fit in.

Now, if you want a complete tank of gas you don’t really know how much it is going to cost, especially with the fluctuating cost of petrol these days, so having to go into the petrol station before filling up is just a waste of my time - especially when the attendant gets things wrong.

I went to fill up at yesterday and the only pump left was the one furthest from the pay counter. It turned out to be a pre-pay pump “for security reasons” so I went into the station to pre-pay. I said I didn’t know how much it would be because I wanted a full tank so he just asked me the leave my card, which I did. I ambled back to the car thinking how silly this was and found out that nothing had changed. I clicked on the “Fill” button a few times but nothing worked. At this stage I was just a bit fed up and thought about just going to the next station. However, they had my card so I’d have to go back and I just couldn’t be bothered. In the meantime someone else had left so I just moved the car across to one of the normal pumps.

Then last night Shelly also needed petrol. We had a 6c/l off voucher from Countdown to use at Gull so we went to the closest one of those near New Lynn. ALL of the pumps there were prepay and one was out of order because it had a cone in front of it. Shelly went inside to ask what on earth we did since we had the voucher. The attendant said to use the non-pre pay pump. Shelly then asked which one that was because we didn’t see one and he said “the one with the cone in front of it”, quickly followed by “we put the cone in front of it so that people can’t use it”. Now this seems pretty silly to us since we always thought that a cone meant that the pump was out of order.

Anyway, long story short, all the faffing around at Gull with their moronic cone solution only saved $2.80 so next time were just going somewhere that doesn’t have pre-pay!

Surely they can come up with a better solution than having everyone pre-pay to prevent people leaving without paying. For example, they could put a light above each pump that turns red once you start putting in petrol and then turns green once the account has been paid. That way it is completely obvious to the whole world when someone tries to skip out without paying the bill. This should prevent all but those people that simply don’t care from leaving without paying. Every single petrol station already has cameras in place to track what cars are at what pump, but I guess this still isn’t deterrent enough and the costs of tracking the people down eat into their margins too much. At least the red light/green light solution makes that fact that you are leaving without paying visible to something more obvious than a video recorder.

Mountain Breakfast Madness

Monday, September 5th, 2005

I was snowboarding at Mt Ruapehu at the weekend. I don’t like to eat as soon as I get up so I thought I would simply get breakfast on the mountain. Bad idea.

Here’s what happened.

Was standing in line waiting to order. Someone walks down the line and asks if anyone wants to order breakfast. At first glance this seemed all good - order while in line and pay when you get to the till. Saves some time. She took my order and I gave her my name. That seemed a little strange, that was all I gave her and was all I got.

I got to the till carrying a V drink that I had also grabbed. Total $3.50. And then I thought I should mention I was also getting breakfast. Oh, that’ll be $16.50 then. At this point things seemed pretty dubious.

Anyway I took a seat and waited. Then I noticed staff walking out wandering around with breakfasts calling (not so much calling as talking slightly aloud) names. At this point I realised that my chances of getting breakfast were pretty slim so I moved closer to where the staff were popping out of the kitchen.

10 minutes later a staff member with some form of European accent seemed to be calling out “Divad”. I asked if she meant David and she said yes. No drama, breakfast all eaten and ready to rock. Then another staff member was walking around calling “David”. At this point I started to ponder if that one was actually mine. Especially since I had talked with some other guy about the silly breakfast system. He ordered just after me in the queue but got his breakfast 10 minutes after me.

Perhaps it was mine, perhaps not. I guess I’ll never know. Who knows how many people have grabbed other peoples breakfasts, how many people never paid, and how many people never got their breakfast. Next time I’ll use the name “Snoopy”.

And it could all be resolved with a simple ticketting system which would cost a grand total of about $2.00 a day in tickets. Silliness really from a company raking in over $250k in ticket sales alone for a good day on the mountain.

Subaru Car Usability Goodness

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

With having an interest in usability it was good to find that someone had put some thought into the interior functions of my new Subaru Legacy GTB.

Driving home the front window started fogging up (the interior had just been groomed so was still a little damp). I looked around for a button that had the front demister icon on it. I found it easily because it was pretty much the closest button to the driver on the center console. I pushed the button and it did all of the settings needed to demist the window and voila, I could see again. Fantastic - no more fussing around with the temperature, fan speed, and vents.

Then when we picked up some fast food on the way home. I opened the drinks holder and put the drink in. I wondered why, when I pulled out the drinks holder, it swung away to the left. As soon as I needed to demist the window again I knew. They move just far enough to the left that you can still access the the demister button and the Auto and Off buttons for the climate air controls. Double fantastic. Small things like this give me a small fuzzy feeling inside. Much better than that frustrated feeling when something is completely hopeless to use.Well done Subaru, I might just yet be a Subbie convert yet - like just about all of the other people who I have talked to whom have owned them.

Learning computers for the first time

Monday, June 6th, 2005

My parents have just got a computer for the company business. Dad has used a computer before and can work his way around the internet pretty well. However, mum has never used one before and basically sat in front of one for the first time yesterday. She has been doing some free computer courses at the local town center, but only a couple, and she doesn’t really seem to have taken all that much in yet.

It was really interesting to see how she thought some things should work. I have set up mum with a Gmail account so she can use email anywhere she might want to. That, and it’s got a pretty good user interface - or so I thought. However, for someone who has never really used a computer before nothing was all that obvious.

For example, the Gmail user interface isn’t all that good when you want to create an email. They have used the term “Compose email”, but who on earth calls it/says that? Perhaps “Create new email” or something would be clearer. Also, once she got the hang of sending an email to one person I asked “Now how would you create an email that you wanted to send to me and Mary (my sister)”. Curiously she started typing “David and Mary”. It seemed so obvious at the time, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything in the computing world that works that obviously.

Mum also had all sorts of problems working with the cursor and getting it to where she wanted to type things. She used to type when she was younger so I thought it would come more easily than it did. Nevermind, she’ll get it in the end.

Also, I told them to have a look at the Windows XP Tour. Running through the “XP Basics” course it started off well talking about minimising and maximising windows. Then it just wandered off into networking and printers and hardware and stuff and I could see mum just glazing over and wondering what on earth this scary piece of plastic was going to mean to her.

There’s just so many things you take for granted in the computing world, like what an email is, for example.

What makes good software

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

It’s not a question that really has a concrete answer. However, one thing that makes good software is how well it handles situations where things don’t really go to plan.

Having just got my phone back I needed to put all of the contacts back onto the phone. I do (or try to do) this using the Nokia PC Suite application that you can freely download from the Nokia site. This software is a pretty poor excuse for phone synchronization software, but other software isn’t really all that much better.

Anyway, I tried to synchronize the contacts from the Windows address book and got a very nice error message “An unspecified error has occured”. Thanks, that’s really useful.

Turns out that the phone was configured to use the SIM card memory only, and when I tried to change it to use SIM and phone memory it said it the phone memory was locked. How any typical user is likely to figure that out is beyond me.

Come on Nokia, you build the phones, you build the software, at least get them to work together in some remotely useable fashion.

The perfect mobile phone – please read Nokia

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Here is my list for the perfect mobile phone. Hopefully Nokia stumble across this and create the “Just for David” Nokia.

MUST haves:
Alarm clock - a must if away travelling
Countdown timer - the one on our stove is broken
Colour screen - it just seems nicer
Small - it’s got to fit in the jeans pocket without a problem.
Changeable covers - for those unlikely occasions where it decides to take a joy ride down the concrete driveway.
Calendar - it’s got to be able to remind me of meetings when I’m at work and away from my desk.
Synchronization with Outlook - that’s what we use at work.
Either Infrared or Bluetooth for the Synchronization - I already have an Infrared adaptor at work and Infrared on my laptop at home. I also have Bluetooth in my laptop.
Good synchronization software - I don’t like using unuseable things.
Good phone editting software - I don’t want to update everything on the phone using the phone.
Good synchronization with Windows Address Book (WAB) - because I don’t have Outlook at home.
Good stand-by time - because I don’t like charging the phone all the time.
At least one good standard ring-tone - because I don’t want to do the whole polyphonic thing, I just want to choose a discrete yet cool ring-tone.
It’s got to be easy to navigate around the phone - I am really starting to dislike the whole Nokia standard scrolling menu. You don’t know what is next and you can’t remember where you just were. There’s enough real estate so move with the times and do the 4 way scroll thing (most new phones have this).
Predictive text - because when I have to send an SMS I hate doing it. The faster the better.
Vibrating alert - because you can’t hear a phone ring when there’s lots of noise about.

NICE to haves
MP3 player - might start taking the train to work and it would be good to be able to listen to music without having to carry along an MP3 player as well.
Predictive text auto word completion - why has no-one done this? PDAs do this as you scribble on the pad. There’s enough screen real-estate to do this on most phones now so why not.

Might add more as I think of them…

I just want a mobile phone, not a camera

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Why does every mobile phone these days come with a digital camera? The photos I have seen them produce are pretty poor - definitely no where near the quality of a typical digital camera, even with the 1.3 mega pixel varieties.

Consider one typical use case. You’re out at night with your mates and you’ve had a few beers. At some point someone’s probably going to want to take a photo just because they can. Problem is you’re out at night and there’s no flash on the camera and the only light is the dim corner light in the pub an eternity away. Oh, and did I mention that it’s dark. You probably can’t really see clearly yourself so you probably don’t have much hope of seeing what your pointing at using the LCD.

Anyway, it seems that I am the minority on this subject (otherwise every camera wouldn’t have a digital camera). Plenty of people seem to like taking photos of friends (during the daylight hours) and having that photo show up when that person calls. Quite nice, but I don’t think I would bother and would simply rather have a cheaper, smaller, lighter mobile phone that did what phones are meant to do - let you contact people, and let other people contact you.

Nokia have a few cool phones coming out that don’t have camera’s, but they also don’t have some of the other features that I would like. Currently I have a Nokia 6100, which is the bees nees except it’s slow and that’s getting really frustrating.

The up and coming Nokia 6030 looks like my next phone candidate, or perhaps I’ll move over to Sony. Probably not, because I like the fact that with Nokia phones you can easliy replace the cover if it gets damaged.

Digital Mobile New Lynn Customer Service

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Isn’t it strange how some shops seems to have appalling customer service but you can’t seem to pin down why. In this particular instance Digital Mobile in New Lynn have well and truely rubbed me the wrong way.

I think the main thing is that I get the impression they don’t give at rats arse about the customer. It appears that they either just want to sell you the most expensive mobile phone they can (with features that you don’t actually need) or in my case, they don’t seem to particularly care that your phone is broken, which is going to be a real PITA for you.

The other day I was waiting to be served (to eventually find out that nothing had been done with my broken phone) and I overhead a salesman talking with a prospective phone purchaser. In this case it was a girl that seemed to be about late college age. The salesman basically said something along the lines of “you need this phone because it has all the features you could ever need. It’s got bluetooth integration so you can get (i.e. spend more money) a cordless bluetooth headset and walk around with the phone in your pocket and keep talking.”

From the blank expression on the girl’s face she didn’t appear to know what bluetooth was and would likely never need to walk around talking with the phone in her pocket wearing a silly little headset over here ear. Hopefully she didn’t pay the $900+ for the phone he was showing her and got something that would do all that she ever likely needed for