Saturday, 26 March 2005

Back Home

I flew back to London from Atlanta on Thursday night and arrived on Friday morning. The flight was fine, apart from the 30 minutes delay in landing at Gatwick airport. I applied elCenit19's 3rd Commandment for the Traveller and talked to the young lady sat next to me. I didn't get invited to Sicily but she was a motivational speaker in Atlanta visiting her sister in the UK so we had a very interesting conversation involving motivational speaking, photography, travelling and a few other things.

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Lousy Laundry

I got some laundry done by the hotel at the end of last week. It all came back clean and on hangers except that they seem unable to iron a shirt properly. Mines have all come back with ironing creases. I'll grant you that shirts are not always the easiest thing to iron but, in this case, they even managed to crease my Marks & Spencer Easycare shirt: a shirt that even ironing challenged people like me have no problem with. So, surely, a professional laundry should be able to do better than that?

Resolving Bugs

Following Alejandra's bug report, I decided to have a closer look at the positioning of the elements on this site.

IE Bug

The first thing I did was to open the page in Internet Explorer. Of course, doing that, I came across the famous IE Doubled Float-Margin Bug. You'd think this is just a stupid bug they could have solved it in a service pack. But no! Luckily the fix is simple so it was corrected very quickly.

Padding Bug

Then I looked at the page in Firefox again but with a lower resolution than the one I used to tweak the site. And the bug reported by Alejandra appeared immediately.

Wide screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

Narrow screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

Very narrow screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

The structure of the page. The fixed sized padding is shown in red. Note how the central gap reduces faster than the columns until it disappears and the columns cannot be displayed side by side anymore.

The Symptom

To understand the nature of the problem, it is essential to understand the structure of this page. Following the header, you have 2 columns that are implemented by two <div> containers, one floated left, the other floated right. The columns are themselves followed by an inline footer that clears both left and right. The widths of the columns are specified as percentages of the enclosing page so that they resize when you resize the screen. However, padding is specified in pixels and so is fixed. My assumption was that padding was applied inside the container thus not affecting their overall width. In fact, padding is applied outside and therefore augments the total width of the columns by a fixed amount.

The consequence of this design is that when you reduce the width of the screen, the two columns change size accordingly but the padding doesn't. As a result, the white space between the columns reduces much faster than the columns themselves until it disappears completely.

When the screen becomes too narrow, the gap between the columns disappear. The two columns cannot be displayed side by side anymore so the second one is pushed below the first one.

Wide Screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

Narrow screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

Very narrow screen

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Nulla dapibus.

Suspendisse vitae augue.

The modified structure. The central gap now changes proportionally to the screen width's variation thus preserving the overall structure.

The Cure

The way to solve the problem is to remove the padding and only rely on width and margins expressed as percentages to position the columns. Using this method, the columns and the white spaces change size with the screen, in particular the gap between the columns.

Even if the screen becomes very narrow, to the point where the text doesn't fit inside the columns anymore, the structure of the page is kept untouched and displays as it was intended. The other benefit of this approach is it makes the code slightly more simple, which is always a good thing.

Having found the problem, I modified the CSS to only use percentages when placing the main elements of the page. It should now display properly in most browsers, whatever the screen size, while taking advantage of the real estate offered by large screens.

Another solution would have been to use percentages in specifying the padding values as well. This is what I thought until I tried it out. For some reason that I haven't quite fathomed, it doesn't work like I expected so it is safer to avoid padding on the main structural elements and rely on percentage widths and margins to position them in a flexible way.


As a summary, here are a list of simple rules to follow when you want to design a page that resizes with the screen, using <div> containers positioned with CSS:

  • Make sure you deal with the IE Doubled Float-Margin Bug.
  • Only use percentages to position the main structural elements.
  • Avoid padding for the main structural elements, especially fixed size padding.
  • Replace padding on structural elements with margins and padding on the inside elements.
  • Test your design with a small resolution such as 800x600.

One tool that I found very useful to nail down this problem and really understand what happened is the Firefox Web Developer extensions. It can show you where all your block elements are, resize the window to a well known screen size in one click, highlight everything on the page, disable images, Javascript, cookies, etc. It is definitely a must have for any web designer.

Note: spell checking text that contains Lorem Ipsum blocks is a pain in the neck.

Monday, 21 March 2005

Fraud Detection

Guess what? After my week-end shopping spree, I had a call from HSBC Fraud Detection Department, enquiring about the last few transactions on my credit card, in particular the ones made in the United States. So I had to confess to my visit to the camera shop. However, there was a transaction from my hotel that should not have been done as I haven't left yet. So I shall investigate tonight when I go back.

Fortune Cookie

I got my first fortune cookie ever over the week-end. It might sound weird to some but I had never been to a Chinese restaurant that gave fortune cookies. I supposed it's just not done in Europe. So here's what it said:

Rest has a peaceful effect on your physical and emotional health.

Lucky numbers: 4, 8, 10, 13, 41, 42

I didn't really need a fortune cookie to tell me that. As for the lucky numbers, 4 and 8 are powers of 2 which goes well with the fact that I'm a computer geek. 10 and 13 are the decimal ASCII codes for line feed and carriage return, which are at the centre of my work at the moment as I am working on some file upload functionality where I need to be able to report the exact position in the file where a parsing error occurred, if any, including line number. 41, I am not sure about. And 42 is obviously The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Shopping Spree

I went shopping over the week-end and try to learn from my errors of the previous week-end. As I suspected on Tuesday, or rather Monday night, I had managed to completely avoid the big shopping malls in Buckhead when I wandered round the first time. This time I knew better. I went to Lenox Square. This mall is huge! One thing that surprised me though is that in a mall that big, you only have one small book shop. A shopping centre of that size in Europe would probably have at least one major book shop and a few smaller specialised ones. Lenox Square is mainly a food court and lots of jewelry and clothes shops; and a camera shop; that ended up being the bane of my credit card. Luckily, within walking distance of Lenox Square, you also have a large Borders store and Phipps Plaza that has a decent book shop. Phipps Plaza also has a great wine bar, The Grape, where you can sample some excellent wine with food that goes well with it.

So, what was the damage to my credit card? Well, I did the really serious damage first: I went to the Wolf Camera store at Lenox Square. It was a bit difficult to find because they are in a temporary location while the store is being extended but I did find it. I wanted to find a high quality replacement for the 70-300mm telephoto zoom I have. Although that zoom lens is good, it is an old bottom of the range lens and it has not been working that well since I had it repaired after dropping it in Mexico. So I asked the shop assistant what top of the range lens he had that could replace it. So he took out an EOS-3 body, identical to the SLR camera I have, fitted an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens to if and let me try it out. I was blown off my feet! From 100mm to 400mm, the camera fitted with this lens focuses on the subject in milliseconds, even in low light, and the barrel mechanism for the zoom means you can change the focal length much quicker than with a rotating ring while following the subject and shooting in continuous mode. And then there's the image stabiliser. Even though it's not that much bigger than my current 70-300mm, it's heavy enough to warrant being fitted with a tripod ring and that's good because it means the body and lens combination is perfectly balanced on the tripod mount. Even the 4 digit price tag (nearly $1800 including a UV filter) felt justified. So the credit card went into the machine; and survived; just.

Heavier by a few pounds and lighter by a grand or so, I went to the Borders store nearby. I wanted some Manga books that are difficult to find in Europe. I found most of what I was looking for and then came across The Elements of Graphic Design and Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn. The former is a small, well constructed book on graphic design that is meant for printed media but that can be readily applied to the web in most cases, which I intend to do with this site so stay tuned. The second is a historic book about two families from Atlanta, one white, one black, that produced the two most influential mayors of the modern South.

I then went to Phipps Plaza and managed not to buy anything. So to congratulate myself, I had a nice glass of wine at The Grape. Then on the way out, I stopped at River Street Sweets and discovered bear claws. I couldn't resist so I bought two that I ate later. Now that is a calorie bomb but it's so good it's worth the indulgence. Apparently, I am not the only one who can't resist bear claws: President Bush has the same problem. I don't agree with his foreign policy but I definitely agree with his taste in sweets.

Saturday, 19 March 2005

Cleaning Up

This site used to be nearly valid HTML but not quite so I decided to clean it up. It took about an hour or so to get it to validate against the XHTML 1.0 Transitional DTD. Most of the work was around the automatically generated blogrolls in the side bar. The way it used to work looked something like this:


With the <script> tag calling BlogRolling to generate a list of links enclosed in <li> tags. The problem with this is that, according to the specification, <script> cannot be enclosed in <ul>. To correct this, I had to first correct the BlogRolling configuration so that it enclosed the whole list into a top level tag. Unfortunately, BlogRolling only supports <div> and <table> as global enclosing tags. I choose <div> and enclosed each individual link into its own <p> tag. By doing this, I lost the semantic of a list in the resulting HTML but I could have some code that looked like this:


Now, this validates fine and the result is visually very similar so by tweaking the CSS, I got something I liked.

Once having achieved compliance with the Transitional DTD, I had only 2 errors against the Strict DTD so I decided to go all the way and make the site validate against the XHTML 1.0 Strict DTD. And of course, I added the logo at the bottom.

I then dealt with the CSS code. The part I have control over was easy: there was 1 error that was easily corrected. However, the CSS provided by Blogger to style the toolbar on top doesn't validate so all in all the CSS on this site is not valid. This is a shame really because the errors reported by the validator look like they could be solved reasonably easily. At least everything I have control over validates, which was the aim of the exercise.

Friday, 18 March 2005

Lorem Ipsum

You need some text to fill up example pages that looks like real text but doesn't really mean anything? That's what the Lorem Ipsum text is for. But it looks boring if you constantly repeat the same piece of text. Enters the Lorem Ipsum, aka Lipsum, Generator. Tell it how many words, paragraphs, bytes or lists of text you want and it will generate some random text made of Latin words that are arranged in a way that derives from a sample of standard Latin sentence structures. Definitely a very useful tool for people in need of random text to fill in examples, tutorials or prototypes. And as a bonus the site explains where Lorem Ipsum comes from.

Custom News

I have been using Google News as one of my main news website for some time now. But it has just got even better! You can now customise it by removing or adding sections. The sections can be standard sections taken out of the different language editions or custom sections where you define the search terms. You can also arrange the sections on the page the way you want. I normally read the UK edition of the site because this is where I live. But, as I am French, I've now added the news section about France out of the French edition. I also added a few custom searches: Europe, Middle East and Cash Management. The result is all the news I am interested in one practical page. With the custom sections, the possibilities are endless: you could remove the Sports section and replace it with a Football and a Rugby sections for instance, so that you don't get the news on Cricket or Golf you're not interested in. Even better, if you're a fan, you can have specialised sections on Manchester United or Maria Sharapova. You have to give that much to Google: they keep coming up with great ideas on how to make good use of their efficient search engine. Because a good search engine is not enough: like any other tool, what makes it excellent is how you use it to bring people the information they're looking for in the form they want.


I just came back from seeing the Footloose Musical played by the Norcross Players at the Norcross High School Theatre, just behind the hotel where I stay. It was absolutely amazing! I enjoyed every second of it. It was excellent by any standard but when you think that the actors are high school students, it makes it even better. I do hope some of them take up acting or dancing as a career: they have the gift.

Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Shopping Solution

I seem to have found the solution to the shopping mystery I mentioned on Sunday. It looks like I managed to wander very close to some of the main shopping mall while avoiding them completely. I fact, everything is available online and a quick google would have shown me where to go. In particular, an excellent site is www.Buckhead that lists mostly everything in Buckhead, the trendy neighbourhood of Atlanta: bars, shops, restaurants, etc. Fantastic! I just have to try it all now.

Local Tipple

While at the grocery store tonight, I discovered an IPA called Sweet Water that is Brewed and Bottled in Atlanta, Georgia. I normally associate IPA with traditional English pubs, not big American grocery stores. It has quite an unusual flavour but is rather nice. Once again, it proves that trying the local food and drink is always a winner.

Bottle of Sweet Water IPA

Bottle of Sweet Water IPA Posted by Hello

Monday, 14 March 2005

BlogRolling Problems

I have two blogrolls that are managed by BlogRolling in the sidebar of the this page. The idea for the Books one was that I'd show in there the last 10 books I have been reading. Consequently, I set my blogroll to order the entries according to time, the most recent first, and to prune to 10 entries. Well, the pruning works well but the ordering is completely off: the entries are ordered in a way that has nothing to do with time, alphabetical order or anything else in the links themselves. It is not random though because it is always ordered the same way. I have sent a message to the BlogRolling team so we shall see what the answer is. In the meantime, I have disabled the pruning option to make sure the latest entries are displayed. If anybody has had similar problems with it, please let me know.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

Food And Drink

Food and drink is part of the culture of a nation. This is why I always try to eat local food when I am somewhere: it sometimes brings up an unexpected aspect of a particular place and culture. So, here is what I found so far about Atlanta.

On Friday, I had a bison burger at Ted's Montana Grill. I asked for it to be done medium-rare and it was perfect. Bison meat has a slightly different flavour and is leaner than beef, which added to the experience.

Rumours about American filter coffee are true: it is little more than brown water. They do a great espresso though. However, considering a single espresso here is the equivalent of a double one back home, I keep to the single.

I had a great breakfast at The Flying Biscuit Cafe in Midtown on Saturday. They had a 30 minute wait if you wanted a table so I opted for the bar. It is worth the wait if you want a table though because the food is great and the staff is very friendly. The scrambled eggs were done to perfection, the potatoes were seasoned just right and they have a wicked cranberry and apple butter. Next time, I'll have the bigger version that comes with a pancake and peach compote because it looked fantastic.

I had the best cheesecake ever at The Cheesecake Factory on Saturday. I had fresh strawberries with it and it came with two huge dollops of whipped cream. I am not that fond of whipped cream, even though this one was very good, so I left some on the plate but none of the cheesecake.

A mix of dry roasted peanuts and chocolate M&M's are a great snack for playing poker, way better than peanut M&M's.

I discovered Kellogg's Pop-Tarts today. I was in a store and I saw blueberry pop-tarts. As I love blueberries, I thought I'd buy some. I ate the first one cold not realising it had to be warmed up in the toaster or the microwave. I warmed up the next one but the taste didn't really improve: I can't really taste blueberries. However, I now have the amazing opportunity of getting a talking t-shirt. I'll pass.

I went to Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers for lunch today. The burger was nice, if not exceptional. However, they also do cups and bowls of fresh fruit, which is a really great idea. As I was hungry, I had a bowl, which comes with the fruit on a bed of salad and a some yogurt. I found the bed of salad was out of place and the yogurt was very bland but the whole idea of having some fresh fruit on the menu is great. Surely, this could work very well in Europe so what are McDonald's and Burger King waiting for?


I must be doing something wrong. Or there is something I really don't understand. When I went to the town centre yesterday, I sort of hoped I could find a mall where I could do some shopping, such as buying a pair of jeans, some books, finding some gear for my SLR camera or just buying some useless gadget. First, I didn't find a single shopping mall of any decent size. Second, even in the small malls I found, the only shops open where the cafes and food outlets. This being a Saturday somewhere between 2pm and 4pm, it felt very, very strange: in London, this is the time of the week when you can't walk in Oxford Street because of the sheer number of people busy shopping their wallet out. Maybe I didn't go to the right places: I went to Midtown and Buckhead, I didn't go to Downtown. So where do people shop in Atlanta? Where do they buy clothes? Where do they buy books? Where do they buy camera gear? Where can they browse shop windows and impulsively decide to buy something they fancy? I have 2 weeks to unravel this mystery.

Car Culture

The car is essential to American people and completely part of the culture. But I find Atlanta extreme. I have no car here and don't intend to hire one as I think it would be more trouble than it's worth: I would get lost in the highway jungle around here, get myself in trouble not knowing the local highway code and battle with an automatic gear box when I've only ever driven manual cars before. I also normally much prefer to discover a city on foot as I get a better feel for it. Atlanta is hard work though. They do have some public transport here and I tried it yesterday, even though I had to take a taxi to the nearest MARTA station. It works quite smoothly, even though you sometimes have to wait up to 15 minutes between trains but is limited in terms of area it serves. As a result, when I went down to Midtown and Buckhead yesterday, I felt like the only pedestrian in town, except in the area around Piedmont Park. They drive to go everywhere: the shop a few blocks away, the restaurant round the corner, the pub in the trendy area of town, etc. I would understand this in the outskirts but we're talking the centre of town here, the area where, if it were Europe, people would walk around browsing shop windows, stopping in a cafe for a drink or a restaurant for food.

What is true in the centre of Atlanta is even more marked in the outskirts like Norcross where I stay. The office where I will spend the next two weeks is just round the corner from my hotel and it would be a nice walk, if it didn't require crossing a 6 lane highway. Similarly, there is a shopping area 5 minutes away, with a few restaurants and shops. Well, when I say shopping area, I mean a big car park with shops around it, which seems to be the norm here. I can walk to it, if I don't mind doing most of the walk in the grass on the side of the same 6 lane highway.

I also now really understand what is a SUV. It is scary. If you want to know, you can have a look on SUV Online but be warned: that website has a lot of images and takes ages to load, even on a broadband connection. In fact, the website is as heavy and incomprehensible as its subject.

So, in theory, the car is the American symbol for the freedom to roam and go where they please. But that freedom is also a prison as far as I can see. They have become slaves of their cars and have lost the freedom to just go out and walk around the place where they live because everything is done for motorised vehicles. Pedestrians are second class citizens, which means that everybody who cannot drive for whatever reason is a second class citizen: children, senior citizens, disabled people, etc. And it is easy to become one of them: just break an arm.

In fact, it is very weird to say but, at the end of the day, this focus on cars reminds me of one other place I've been to: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There as well, a car is essential to go anywhere. The main difference I find is a taxi is easier to find in Riyadh, and cheaper; and Riyadh has markets in the Arabian style, where you can just wander from stall to stall.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

The US Of A

It was 3 days later than I expected but I finally boarded a plane to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon and arrived in the US in the evening. The flight was mostly uneventful. In fact, I slept quite a bit on the plane. Arriving into Atlanta airport is impressive thought. First of all the town skyline that you can see when landing is completely alien to European eyes: you land in this big sparsely inhabited forested plain and you can see in the distance the skyscrapers of Downtown Atlanta, sprouting out of that plain like an isolated cluster of mushroom; an island of modern humanity in a sea of emptiness. In Europe, a town this size would be surrounded by smaller towns, villages, hamlets; it would not suddenly appear in the middle of what looks like vast empty spaces. Then the size of Atlanta airport hits you. It is the largest in the world and the traffic on the runway is impressive. Planes take off and land continuously and they don't move one by one: a few other planes landed right behind us and as a result traffic control had five aircraft cross one of the take-off runways at the same time. Finally, you get out of the airport and America hits you in the face: 10 lane highways, huge cars and SUV all over the place and no public transport or pedestrians. Well, that's not totally true, there is MARTA but with a grand total of 2 rail lines, North-South and East-West, it is hardly extensive.

So, after this quick introduction to American transport, I was introduced to American culture today and ended up at a poker evening. I had never played poker before. Well, I sort of understood the basic principle of having a hand of card, what combinations were better than others and the fact that the game is as much about the impression you give to your competitors than the cards you actually have. I didn't pull a complete bluff but I did take risks and eventually ended up one dollar up at the end of the evening so it wasn't too bad. I didn't really expect to enjoy it but I was pleasantly surprised. One thing that was obvious to me during the games is that, all in all, the situations were I lost most severely were either cases where I didn't take a risk I should have taken or cases where I did take a reasonable risk but one opponent had a marginally better hand. So I did what most beginners probably do: be a bit too cautious and don't bluff to prompt opponents to fold. Hopefully I'll remember that for next time.

Tomorrow, the mission is to discover Atlanta itself.

Back On Solid Food

I am now back on solid food, which is a relief. It's nice to be able to eat what you want. Especially now that I am in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, for the next few weeks. I had my first American meal today in the form of a bison burger. It was very nice indeed and cooked just as I wanted it.

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Liquid Food

I've been slightly under the weather since the middle of last week. As a result, I went to the Victoria Medicentre on Saturday, as my local surgery is not open on Saturday, in an attempt to sort it out. The condition consisted of spots on the face combined with a sore throat and light flu like symptoms. I was given a cream for the face and had to insist to get anything for the other symptoms. The doctor there eventually gave me some antibiotics in case it gets worse when I mentioned that I was supposed to fly to Atlanta on Monday. I wasn't very impressed but went home with my stuff.

On Sunday night, it did get worse. In fact, I've never felt anything like it before. I was about to pack my suitcase to go to Atlanta when I suddenly felt myself shivering even though the heating was full on. And I couldn't stop. I eventually checked my body temperature: 39 Celsius, 2 degrees above normal. That would explain it then! So I reckon my temperature suddenly shot up in a space of 10 minutes. I went to bed that night with some paracetamol to make the temperature drop and having started the course of antibiotics that I had been given.

The following morning, that is the morning I was supposed to fly out to Atlanta, I was only marginally better so I decided not to fly. I called the people I had to call in the office telling them I was ill and then tried to see my doctor. Unfortunately, I couldn't see her that day so had to wait until today. So I went to my doctor today who, when she saw what I had been given at the Medicentre said I am not impressed. I got a new prescription and went to Boots to get the medicine.

It all sounds simple except that what I have is extremely annoying because it means that my whole mouth is painful. As a result, I can't manage solid food very well. I can manage liquid and soggy but not solid. Yogurt is great so I got a selection from my local Sainsbury's and discovered Rachel's Organic. I now have a new favourite fruit yogurt brand.

But then surviving on yogurt is a bit boring and not the most balanced diet ever. So I decided to pull out one of my mum's favourite, a classic French desert: compote. There is nothing easier to do than that: it is just stewed fruit. You can eat it warm or cold, it is healthy and qualifies as nearly liquid food. Fruit Happily StewingFruit Happily Stewing Posted by Hello And the best thing about it, it's a very good way to use fruits that are slightly too ripe for eating so you can make it from reduced price items and it can come out quite cheap. All the art is in choosing the fruit. The typical compote is made from apples because it has just the right balance of fibres and water to cook nicely and also has the right amount of sugar to taste sweet but not sickly. A good complement to apples is pears and bananas. Don't overdo the bananas though because they don't have enough liquid to stew well. You can also add berries, such as strawberries of raspberries, but because they have a very strong taste you don't need many of them.

Once, you've got the fruit, find an adequately large saucepan. Peel and cut the fruit in small cubes and fill the saucepan with them. Don't hesitate to slightly overfill as it will reduce later. The smaller the cubes, the quicker it cooks. In my largest saucepan went 4 apples, 4 pears, 4 bananas and a small box of raspberries. Pour water on top, to the top of the saucepan or the top of the fruit, whichever comes first. Put on the most gentle fire you have: the smallest hob at the lowest setting. And let it simmer until all the fruit cubes have melted into a sort of fruit paste. It can take a few hours if you have a large saucepan but don't try to speed it up. You might have to stir it at the end to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan but otherwise that's it. You can eat it warm, cold, on its own, with yogurt, on a piece of bread like light jam. It's all fruit and a little water, no added sugar, no nothing.

IT Support

There's a very good article on IT support over at Coofer Cat. Anybody who has been in an IT support situation will recognise some of the scenarios. I hope the Cat will update the article when the call with Borland comes to a conclusion, it looks like an interesting one.

Vodafone For Business

Vodafone Advert

Vodafone Advert Posted by Hello

I saw this advert for Voodoofone business services on Saturday, in Hammersmith tube station, while waiting for a Piccadilly line train. I found it quite amusing on the grounds that my company is moving away from Vodafone for our mobile services because the contract we have with them is not competitive and they don't seem interested in making it so. For instance: for GPRS services, we pay 6 times the amount a friend of a mine on a personal contract pays. I can understand the concept of having special business services that are more expensive than private ones. But 6 times, for a service that's not better? We don't get free phone upgrades either, we have to buy the new phones. And it goes on and on. I perfectly understand that we took this contract on a few years ago, at a time when GPRS phones were a rarity and type of services you'd offer were different than what you'd offer now and at a different rate. But Vodafone, as far as I know, have never made any pro-active effort to adapt our contract to their new tariffs and services nor are they making any effort now that we are in the process of cancelling it.

So, it seems to me that Vodafone is very busy getting competitive services out in a bid to win new customers but are neglecting their existing ones. Someone should teach them the rule of 10's: it is 10 times easier to keep an existing customer than it is to win a new one; it is 10 times easier to win a new customer than it is to get back a former one who left because he was disappointed.

Gone are the days when Vodafone was the new kid on the block, taking on the established state provider, BT Cellnet, that was so slow to move that it nearly disappeared and had to re-invent itself as O2. Vodafone is now the largest mobile services company in the world and it shows: they are slow and uninspiring. The new kids on the block are called T-Mobile or 3 and they are hungry. Vodafone customers must look tasty to them and ripe for the picking.

Sunday, 6 March 2005

First Phone Photo

Covent Garden Station, Piccadilly Line Platform

Covent Garden Station, Piccadilly Line Platform Posted by Hello

This is the first photo I took with my new phone. I took it on Friday night while waiting for a train on the Westbound Piccadilly line platform at Covent Garden station. It's not very sharp but I'm not sure whether the blur is due to the phone, the lack of light or the amount of alcohol I had drunk during the evening. Probably a combination of all three. On the other hand, considering they have to fit a camera lens in something with an area smaller that a 1 penny coin and a thickness of a few millimetres, it's not bad at all. The resulting picture is 640x480, which is quite small by today's standards but is equivalent to the best resolution my old Commodore Amiga 500 could do 10 years ago. And the Amiga could only display 16 colours at that resolution whereas the phone can do millions. Ah, the joys of technology!

New Phone

My old Nokia 6210

My old Nokia 6210 Posted by Hello

I have a new phone. Not the one in the picture, that's the old one. It got replaced on Friday by a brand new Nokia 6230. It's not the latest model, in fact, it's been around for a while but it is a serious improvement on the old 6210 and it has all the features I need: tri-band, Bluetooth and GPRS. Of course, as no phone can come without a camera theses days, it has one. So I'll surely be taking shots on the go now. It is also a quarter smaller than the 6210, which is good. However, after 2 days of usage, I noticed it comes with the most annoying Nokia feature: when the phone rings and you have keys locked, if you accidentally press a random key that is neither accept call or reject call, it tells you nicely that you have to press unlock and * to unlock the phone and rejects the call. I tried to enable the anykey answer feature to no avail. The result is that when it rings and I need to fish it out of my pocket, it lose the call more often than not because I accidentally press a key. Then the ring tones that are shipped by default with this phone are all boring or annoying so I've stayed with the default Nokia one for now. Where did the old Persuasion ring tone go? And lastly, mine has one dead pixel. Fair enough, it's only one pixel on the whole screen and that could be understandable after heavy usage but this phone is brand new.

Having said that, it is a definitive improvement over the previous one and I'll be able to test drive it over the next few weeks, especially the tri-band feature as I am going to the US for work.