Pat Drummond :: life & technology

August 23, 2013

Manners 3.0: Will someone please listen to me

Will someone please look me in the eye.  I'm in a restaurant with a friend and as soon as I go to the loo, he pulls out his phone and starts working.  Really?  Am I so boring that he can't take a lunch break from his job? (Or am I that slow in the loo?)

I once saw a photo on social media and wish I'd save it - a young couple sitting on a bench bent over their devices.  The skipper said, "I bet they're tweeting each other." He probably was right.

Remember when everyone didn't have a phone connected to everything they had an account on?  Frankly, newbies have not idea how to turn this stuff off.  They get rings on every phone call, music on every email, dings on every tweet, and lord knows what on every Facebook update.

But when I am having lunch with you, you better turn that sh*t off, because I will never have lunch with you again if you don't!

Simple solutions: Learn how to use your phone.  Most phones allow you to set your phone "ring" for special people.   They also allow you to set your phone to "SILENT" mode, with maybe a "vibrate" instead of a ring.  If you MUST get all your calls while having lunch. 

Same thing with email notifications. For G*d sake please turn these off. (Or use the silent mode)  No one needs to get a "sound" notification that you received yet another spam email in the middle of a golf game. Really!

This also applies to almost every social media app. They don't even warn you when you install them that they annoy the h*ll out out of everyone you are with when ANY new post or notification arrives. Really?

The bottom line is that people should learn how their phone works and turn off all those notifications.  You friends, fellow workers and family will appreciate it.

Note to newbies: Ringing phones and musical notifications don't tell your friends you are popular. They tell your friends you are an a**hole-newbie.

August 15, 2013

Cell towers should be a public utility

Today's Ottawa Citizen article by Andrew Coyne (Telecom complaints easily dismissed) said "Whenever I hear those words -- "level playing field" -- I reach for my wallet."  That gave me such a belly laugh, I read on, and this line hit the nail on the head: "Divest the networks into a separate corporation, allowing everyone to compete -- what's the phrase? -- on a level playing field". Yes!

I have always thought this was the answer . Mobile communication has become almost as important as electricity - which I would have thought impossible to split. And yet Ontario has split power infrastructure from the services and billing.  It's too bad Canada didn't create a mobile utility that split up the mobile towers "utility" from the companies that provide services and phones back at the top, when it would have been easier.  If they had, all the mobile companies would be truly on a "level playing field".  So it will be difficult, but let's get on with it before the country falls too far behind.

I welcome any competition for selfish reasons -- so someday I may be able to buy the service tha I want.  ALL of Canada's current 'big three' bundle phones with service. I don't want a new phone. I tried (and failed) to get internet service for an unlocked, bought-and-paid-for phone and they told me about all about their great phones - or pay the same for my owned phone.  I  can get one with only 3 years worth of service.  I don't want to commit for three years. 3 years of those fees would pay for a used car. I just want basic service for phone, text and Internet, but can't buy that for less than $70/month. Insane. (My wired home internet is $56 so a combined home/mobile service would interest me, if anyone offered that service.)

I finally gave up and bought pay-as-you-go mobile "call/text" for about $100 a year -- that's $8/month kids. I could buy the optional $2 per day from Rogers Mobile if I needed, but probably only enough to read emails, if you skip the photos (haven't tried it). I'm not a newbie - I'm actually on my second mobile phone, and not looking forward to a third. I'd rather get the next communications breakthrough, whatever it is.  In the meantime, I await the day I can get competitive "smart" service for the "smart" phone I already have.  In the current regulatory setup, that won't be any time soon.

August 07, 2013

Mobile "pay as you go" is all about the fees

I was just getting used to the idea that I can "swipe" a credit card to make small payments, and now I find out that mobile payment systems are arriving soon.  It's not just Canadian banks that plan to create apps for mobile phones to make payments - Paypal Canada (a foreign-owned business) wants a piece of this market too.  They expect to make $20-billion from mobile payments just this year, so you know there are high fees involved.

Paypal designs all its systems to make it easy for the buyer pay online, letting the seller pay their high fees to receive the payments. They lure buyers with a "free" personal account and no fees. The seller pays fees on most transfers, and a higher fee if the buyer's Paypal account uses a credit card as their source of "payment". Credit-based payments can cost the seller 2.5% of the sale or higher. It's interesting to note the seller has no way of knowing if they will get hit with this fee when they accept payment, which is hardly fair to the seller.  If the buyer pays in U.S. funds, there are additional fees to convert to Canadian dollars (Paypal does all its accounting in U.S. funds).  If the seller is a business that will be accepting quite a few online payments, they need to open an business account, at even higher cost.  And guess who pays for all these processing fees - why you do, in higher sticker prices. (I finally decided to add $4 to payments between $60 and $80 made via Paypal because that was the average fee Paypal charged me to receive it.)

Canadians with personal online banking accounts can pay online using "Interac money transfer" with very low fees for the buyer and none for the seller.  I hope a mobile payment system can be devised by Canadian banks that take advantage of this to make store payments with similar low fees.  In the meantime, Paypal Here uses a small card reader and an app that runs on iPhones. Another payment system, Square, uses a reader which plugs into the headphone jack of a smart-phone.  Most contactless payment systems use NFC - near field communication - but only the latest Android and Blackberry phones are equipped to use it. With all these technology problems, it should be interesting to see what method wins. And how much it will cost us all.