Category Archives: technology

Number Lookup Plug-in for Address Book

I've finally pulled my finger out and begun getting to grips with AppleScript. The first fruit of my efforts is a little plug-in for the MacOS X Address Book which uses 192.com's free directory enquiries service to look numbers up based on surname and city or postcode.

You can download the script here.

T-Mobile Takeover

I recently upgraded from a Sony Ericsson T610 to the T630. It wasn't going to be a big deal, it was all free under my T-Mobile contract and I was looking forward to having the rough edges on the T610 rounded a little in its successor – better screen, larger buttons and so on. Little did I know that T-Mobile have completely lost the plot.

I got the upgrade from a T-Mobile shop in Brighton and so got the inevitably T-Mobile branded phone. I expected just the usual T-Mobile logo pasted on the phone, and it did indeed have this, but this time it was only the beginning. This phone is ultra branded with the 'Internet' button on the right-hand side of the phone having a t-zones logo stuck on it. But it gets worse… switching the phone or off gives you a T-Mobile logo animation. By default the phone also has a screen saver and wallpaper with the T-Mobile logo. Everything screams T-Mobile. Like I honestly care or could forget which network I was using.

But they committed one further crime against phone usability. They actually hijacked several buttons. They didn't just set the default web page to t-zones (too easy), moving the joystick left (normally reserved for starting a text message) took you to a menu of t-zones services. Just in case I could forget about t-zones they hard-coded a replacement to the 'More' button on the phone which also takes you to t-zones. The More button is a soft button which on the T610 was eminently useful allowing quick access to features such as Bluetooth, Infrared and so on. Now it is a great big ugly single-use button plastered with the t-zones logo.

No amount of theme changing, settings fiddling or wailing will remove this annoyance. I've pretty much de-T-Mobilised the rest of the phone, but this button jeers at me each time I use the phone. I don't like it. I don't like it at all. I've discovered that the only way to remove it is to have someone illicitly wipe the phone's flash memory and install the default Sony Ericsson install. But doing so is likely to void several warranties etc etc.

This kind of brand overload serves no purpose except to irritate. T-Mobile made sure I was aware of t-zones with lots of literature in the phone's box. They set a default homepage to t-zones. Fair enough. But what good does it do them to reduce the functionality of my phone and shove their brand down my throat? Is the excessive branding going to sell T-Mobile to others? Highly unlikely. This is an exercise in corporate self-aggrandisement. One small problem, they forgot why they're in business…. their customers.

Where’s the context?

I've been playing with RDF Site Summary (RSS) for some time. When I first tried aggregating RSS feeds I did it with a webpage (think of a mini My Yahoo!) which was ok, but a long scroll. Additionally it didn't alert me to which items were new.

So these days I'm using NetNewsWire Lite and so far, so good. It collects all the feeds quickly and I can skim through those that it highlights as unread. But still it seems best to only read blogs and such things through NetNewsWire. Why? Because there's no context for the headlines coming through. So while for a blog where there is only one 'top headline' at a time this is ok. But for something as dense as BBC News online there's a sharp contrast.

BBC New Online     Net News Wire Thumb

The screenshots show BBC News headlines in exactly the same amount of space when shown through a browser and NetNewsWire (Click the thumbnails to enlarge them). Not only does the web version pack more news links in, but it gives them context with their size, placement and pictures. Now with NetNewsWire I know the full version also shows dates in the headline listing but nothing shows me a headline's importance or relationship to other articles.

So while RSS is very useful and will continue to appear in unexpected places, I'm going to stick to reading my news in Safari.