Saturday, January 26, 2013

Better planning for travel

Flying is unnerving in more ways than one. There is the queuing, the booking of interconnecting flights, reading extended 'terms & conditions' by airlines which strike one as extortionate 'hurdles' than fair practice. This is my latest bugbear. My travel from the Philippines to Australia was stressful because:
1. These discount airlines often do not amalgamate their flight schedules so you can book through fares. Sometimes this is because they are code-sharing, and under different rules. 
2. These airlines don't have clear terms
3. These airlines have a propensity to change terms, or depart from long-standing tradition.

There is a revolution going on in the airline industry, and its seeing the airlines change the way they charge for flights. The telecommunications and electricity industries went through the same process, and because everyone needs electricity, the experience was both unsetting and costly for customers. Electricity and telecommunication services in small markets went through the roof, or did not fall as other markets. With flying, consumers have the discretion not to fly as much...and they don't if they don't like their experience.

This brings me to the airline industry. Flying is discretionary, and discount airlines are troubling passangers with silly rules, and some of them are not even their fault. Its amazing how hard it is for them to realise that:
1. Passengers don't want to be punished for making late choices that don't affect the airline, i.e. An airline will on average know how much weight, many many passengers, how much average luggage passengers will take, so why do they need to be punished for it. 
2. Passengers don't want to be extorted: Passengers want choices which empower them. They don't want airlines to use this discretion to extort from them. Most particularly they don't expect to pay $A4 for a bottle of water in order to replace the water they 'stole' by maintaining dry air on the plane. I lost my bottle in customs because they thought it was a bomb. Passengers don't want to be fussed carrying on empty water bottles. Just sell them a reasonably priced bottle of water for God's sake. 
3. Passengers want a pro-rata price for baggage. We understand you need to plan your fuel requirements, or luggage availability, but why can't we take as much luggage as you have space to fill, and pay a pro-rata fee for that, and only a penalty to the extent that our changes impact you.

At the end of the day, consumers expect to pay a single pricing point, and everything else to be priced at cost. This is the model which would maximise competition, as if any industry has any interest in that. This is ultimately the standard which makes maximises competition.

In future, it remains to be seen whether this occurs. But given the greater strictness of airline baggage limits...maybe we might expect greater passenger awareness of what we travel. Maybe we will see an evolution in the design of clothes for travel 'lightness' and flexibility. I have been accustomed to piling everything into a 30-kg case and taking off. Maybe new lightweight luggage will be matched by lightweight, flexible clothes designs. I recall travelling to Colombia years ago and having items stolen from my bag. How travel has progressed in recent times.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best smartphone design for the 2020s

Getting tired of those smartphones that never live up to your expectations. I'm with you. That is why I've taken it upon myself to design my own smartphone..In fact I'm ready to do into production. The first step is to recognise where the competitors get it right; then to twig them where they screw up. So here is my list of my core needs:
1. Android 4.1 - Its a great OS - well done Google
2. GPS - this is a great feature - I love recording place locations, though I wish there was better software for managing locations; not just contacts. This is where software developers are failing us. Geospatial data is the next Facebook...just giving you applications developers a heads-up. I love having a Garmin in my phone...saves me $200 and I travel light.
3. Wifi - A standard feature but noteworthy because its so important.
4. QWERTY keyboard - At the risk of being perceived as stuck in the past; I just can't type as fast with the other digital options. The problem is that existing QWERTY options just don't live up to their promise. Blackberry is big on QWERTY but it has a small screen and no Android option.
5. Just basically everything the Samsung Galaxy III has because it basically does everything.

I am really looking to enter into a joint venture with Samsung on this because they are the closest to what I want. The Samsung Galaxy III is a great let me just add my problems that my JV with Samsung will resolve. Here are the issues - actually there is just one issue.
1. No keyboard. Now there is a good reason probably, but let me suggest a solution. A QWERTY keyboards on a smartphone result in a shrunken screen size. Now, some phone like Motorola's and Sony-Ericson's Xperia Lite place a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. I don't like these because they have a distorting impact on their balance or weight distribution, and they are too crowding on the thumbs used to type. The impact is that you can't type in any position, and not quickly. Currently I am stuck using old Nokia software and its underpowered phone to get the battery life and keyboard combination I like. I often type when I'm lying down, so  slide-outs fail. Some of them also obstruct keys with the slide-attachment. The solution is to have a fixed landscape mode with an extended (longer) keyboard; much like a game controller. The Samsung Galaxy S III would be a perfect size for such a keyboard, since it would not crowd my thumbs, and a half-landscape screen would allow me to read books, type notes, edit files, even if there is restricted depth to the screen. Its not the same as a laptop, but that's ok, its not a laptop. Most importantly I want to be able to type quickly. The bigger 4.8 inch screen should at least give me reasonable depth to my landscape  screen.
2. Under development...commercial in confidence.

I'll let you know when Samsung comes back to me with terms. Basically, we will be looking at calling it the Shelsung (Sheldon-Samsung) Sheldon-lite after its designer; with some recognition of Samsung's good taste. Because its such a good phone, we will happily pay $1200 for it, and it will last 5 years because it will preserve its functionality thanks to Google's software interface.

------------------------------------ Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge - This might be my favourire notebook ever

There is a plethora of laptops being offered to consumers these days as well as tablets. I frankly think in Australia and NZ people are being offered really poor products in their local retailers such as Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, and others. I ended up buying a laptop in the Philippines - a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge. This was after I mistakenly bought a Sony Vaio. The mistake was neglecting a 'key' keyboard feature. Usually I will test the keys; but on this occasion I did not notice the small Shift key. Now most models will have a Shift key on both sides of the laptop. However if you are left-handed, you might not appreciate that this key is often smaller than on the right.
Another annoying attribute of many brands (Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, and others) is that they offer you an array of keys on the right side of the keyboard. These will only make it hard for you to type fast, and result in miskey strokes, as well as reducing the size of the keys. If you are anything like me, you will never use these keys. Another important feature is the size of the backspace key. You want also as big as possible if you make typing mistakes, it becomes the most important key to find.
The Acer keyboards also have this annoyingly thin key design which means if you are typing fast, you might actually lift a key off. I've had this happen before, where you get your finger stuck under a key. Avoid those designs. My AWARD for the best keyboard and all-round design is the Lenovo Thinkpad - I bought the Edge, but also take a look at their website for the T-series and X-series. I wanted to find one for my partner. But the thing to do is to look at overseas stores for close-up photos. You can see the Dell-like shopping cart in New Zealand and Australia.

You might struggle to find these computers in-store. This is not because they are poor products; its because the retailers want to offer you rubbish that they can get the highest mark-ups on, and knowing that, once you open the seal, you are stuck with it. Don't make this mistake. Test the keyboard. Write a letter as you would - listen to music as you would.
I personally love that you can get a 9-cell version, a Solid-State-Drive (160Gb) version, as well as a thinner 16mm version. They now have i-7 versions; mine is 1-3. But I paid just P28,000 (USD560) in the Philippines last year, so no problem.
These are of course not the only features to look for. I want a high-capacity drive, wifi, don't need a built-in CD-ROM, so buy an external drive to use with all future computers because its only for loading software. In fact, I'd say they will soon shift to USD sticks for loading software. You want 3+ USD ports; and notice where the fan is. Probably the only negative feature of my Lenovo is the location of the fan. It does not burn my hand, but noticeably hot. I guess the small navigation and delete keys are a little annoying. Small things really.
In fairness, the T-series from Lenovo might be better, but after wasting money on a Sony Vaio, which have failed in the consistency stakes, I was not prepared to buy an expensive one.
I'm not into tablets; I think a waste of money unless you read a lot of books. I fully expect to read books on computer or a phone. There is no room for a 'hybrid' middling device in my life. Just a waste.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, January 02, 2012

Best value cell phone - its a Samsung

My partner and I are always using our electronic appliances. Recently, we bought an Android-based Samsung I5503T cell phone in New Zealand for $NZ150 inclusive of a SIM card and pre-paid SMS & call credits from Telecom NZ for 6 months. This places the phone cost at just over $NZ100 we thought. The nice qualities about this phone was its Android software, its great sound playing music off YouTube, great Wifi connectivity, good design. Skype Mobile worked well. Just I prefer a QWERTY keyboard (as a writer).

Now, there are three problems with this phone:
1. The small sized battery - the result of which is short battery life - you could be charging it up every day for higher volume use. This is unacceptable to me. I am a writer; I write a lot of notes, so I want good battery life.
2. The lack of QWERTY keyboard - if you do a lot of typing you will want the QWERTY keyboard because screen-based keyboards do not offer the same 'tippled' board for better selectivity and control over your choice. If you have big fingers you could push '5' five times when you really wanted '6'. Not good. If you have small fingers however, or you want the phone only to read books,to telephone or play music, then you might be ok. The swivel screen gives you bigger keys in landscape mode, but still its a problem.
3. The phone size - The Telephone manufacturers are obsessed with size and power. Designed by macho-men you might think. This is a problem with only Nokia seems to understand because Nokia seems to be the only company under-powering their phones for longer battery life, whilst offering larger batteries than the likes of others. The other problem is screen size. I personally resent the need to have a cellphone, a tablet and a laptop. The tablet is really an 'unnecessary hybrid' of the other two. For this reason, I want a bigger screen, or a Nokia E61i/E5 size phone (with my much preferred QWERTY keyboard). Nokia could move towards a slightly even bigger phone than the E61i and I would still be able to fit it into my pocket....preferably with a slightly larger battery given the extra size.
I fully expect a phone of this design in future. The Nokia E61i is a little small on screen size to read books. I tried and I had to reduce the page to 61% in order to read was barely legible. A slightly better resolution and a slightly larger screen will make all the difference.
If you want the QWERTY keyboard, you might like our choice of the Sony Ericsson Mini-Pro (??) reviewed before. This similarly had a small battery, but it did have the slid-out QWERTY keyboard. I personally don't like slide-out keyboards because they are often lose, and tend to have poor balance in the hand. This is because you are not always standing up when you write. I often right lying down.
Only update if you need to. I'm staying with my Nokia E5 until I get my next well-designed Android-based, QWERTY phone. I've lost confidence in Nokia's software, though it meets my immediate needs. They are moving to Windows; but I'd prefer Android....but I might adopt Windows if version 8 is ok. I can live with Windows; I use it for my computing.
Tablets are a flash in the pan...not functional enough. All you can do is read on them. The shallow lives of some people.
Here is another cell phone to consider - the LG-GW620 - it has the slide-out keyboard, but check to see if its well balanced when you are lying down, standing, sitting, etc. Battery life has been questioned...because I'd say its a small battery. But you have to like its 5-row QWERTY keyboard with independent numeric and navigation keys. That's one over Nokia E5.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, July 11, 2011

Protecting your computer or smartphone from theft

Protecting your smartphone from theft - here are some good tips.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Music or study guide

Study or work can be difficult - though often we make it harder for ourselves than it need be, by not creating a 'no fail' environment. Music is a great motivator or for just relaxing ourselves. There are a great many songs you can download. I stumbled upon this music at YouTube. But there is this website which highlights a tool which allows you to run this music non-stop, so you concentration need not be broken until you achieve your goal. It does not sound like a continuous stream of music though because the file has not been edited to be seamless.
Give it ago! This is a favourite piece for me. I can imagine sitting at some piano bar listening to this!
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Computer or cell phone tracking software

There is a suite of free computer tracking softwares available online which allow you to track usage of computers. Consider the applications of this software:
1. Tracking the online or offline usage of a shared computer - Say you want to monitor the usage of your kids, the illicit or deceitful behaviour of your partner.
2. Track usage of employees - You might want to make sure that your staff are working during employment hours; and not using your computer for personal use, or at least not unreasonably so. This is particularly a useful tool for home-based contractors, or for projects which are difficult to time.
3. The theft of your computer - If you purchase or use the right software, you might be able to track the use of your computer once stolen by a thief, and thus allow you to recover it. Read this story.
4. The recovery of lost data - I am not aware of a product which does this; but it would be nice to think that there will eventually be a product which allows logging of your keystrokes in real time, so that if you have a computer crash, your data is recoverable in real time from an external server. i.e. Their server accumulates a log which is dumped to an email sent to your computer. PS: I think I just gave someone an idea for a great computer...or is Microsoft finally making a stable OS that I didn't know about???

There are two problems:
1. You might be breaking the law in your country by tracking your computer use; even if you own the computer. You might even be put in the position where your partner files a law suit against you for violation of his privacy even though he/she cheated. The reason is that your state/country might have a (silly) no-fault attitude to extra-marital activity.
2. Making sure that your software emails a report to your online email so that you can monitor the computer use from Gmail, Yahoo, etc. This will make it useful to recover your computer. As soon as the thief goes online he will allow his keystrokes to be recorded online. This will allow you to get his photo, passwords, etc, which will help you identify him.
3. Find a reliable website to download this software from. i.e. is a site I trust. There is a list of popular downloads at this site - at the bottom of the page. Some of them are free.

I suspect all computers will come with such tools in future. There is similar software available for cell phones, with the more obvious benefits of preventing the theft of your phone. The problem is that the thief might perform a reset to manufacturer settings before you can track them down. Hopefully they attempt to do this from home, so you can track them down. I searched Google for possible contenders and found:
1. - see here.
2. BuddyWay GPS - see here or here.
3. Gympse - see here.
Andrew Sheldon
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