Friday, 22 June 2007


Telemarketing. At the moment, everyone hates it. Australia's federal government has recently started advertising a National "Do Not Call" Register - but they're going about it the wrong way. For starters, they're advertising this register with banner ads. (How can that possibly be right?) Also, you apparently have to renew your "I hate telemarketing" plea annually, so you have to actively maintain that you're not interested. And this all leaves one big question: If nearly everyone hates telemarketing (a theory that a simple poll will surely support), and if the federal government can guarantee that my phone number won't be targeted for a year, then why can't they just do that without my having to do anything? Why can't they just abolish telemarketing altogether?

So here's my proposal. Abolish telemarketing as you know it. Instead, let's have a national register of people who have signed up to receive exclusive offers from Australian businesses. This register would naturally be a lot smaller than the phone book, but it would be fully opt-in, which is greatly preferable for the businesses advertising to it. Of course, the businesses would have to have some exclusive offer for this to work. (In the early stages, while the register is still small, the offers could be quite spiffy - there'll only be a handful of takers, so it won't hurt the business much. That would encourage uptake - "Belkin rang me to offer a wireless router and four wireless network cards at HALF PRICE!".) For charities seeking donations, an exclusive donor list (eg "Platinum Sponsors") for telephoned people who gave $100 would give similar exclusivity and attractiveness.

The end result of this would be an advertisable register that people would actually want to be on. Nobody would be annoyed by telemarketing any more - those who want its benefits get it, those who don't don't - and businesses would save a lot of money (would you rather phone a million people and get two responses, or phone a dozen people and get two responses?).

But nobody has the guts to do it, because in the short term it would completely kill telemarketing (until the register gets some numbers on it). That'd be a good thing for the consumer, a bad one for the advertisers.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Worst tick-list feature ever?

tick-list features: Features in software or hardware that customers insist on but never use (calculators in desktop TSRs and that sort of thing). The American equivalent would be "checklist features", but this jargon sense of the phrase has not been reported.
-- from the Free On-Line Dictionary Of Computing

When I first heard of Internet Explorer 7 adding tabbed browsing, I thought "tick-list feature". It was ho-hum, someone's finally catching up with the market. I've used Firefox for a long time now (and Firebird before that), and it's been important to me to be able to, for instance, spawn a million tabs with the links from a page, and let them all load in the background. So IE getting it was a case of "good feature, but hardly innovative".

But it's appallingly implemented. My boss at work uses IE7 for certain things, and he's tried to use tabs. But for some peculiar reason, sometimes it takes a long time to change tabs. Flicking from one tab to the other. It ought all to be in memory, it shouldn't take much effort to render the other page. But no... under certain circumstances - and not obscure circumstances either - it takes so long to switch to the other tab that it's actually worth going away and making a cup of coffee while you wait. Why?!

I found this post fascinating. Written by one "Tony Schreiner, a developer on the IE team", it details some of what it took to separate the outside of the window from the inside, thus allowing multiple insides but only one outside. As a software developer, I'm fully aware of the difficulties of separating two things that have never before been separated; so I don't begrudge Microsoft their five years' development time (or however long it actually took them) - but I DO object to this poor result. They've had long enough, they have sufficient developers on the project. Why can't they get something decent?

Get Firefox, folks. I've been using the 1.5 line for a while, and have recently (with the shift to my new computer) migrated to version 2.0 - there's a few things I don't like about a few of the features (1.5 was a bit cleaner and smoother), but it's a great browser.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

RosMud version 1.3.6

Version 1.3.6 is out... the patch was written backstage during a run of The Mikado, written and debugged in between my cues for the show :)

* Added display of Paused status to the statusbar. It's still un-obvious if you have neither toolbar nor statusbar, but at least now it's clearer if you only have one.
* RM now saves and loads its full ANSI color table. At some point I might make it possible to completely reconfigure the colours... for now it's just INI-file editable.
* Yay! Fixed that rapid travel bug, I think. At least, I've fixed something which could have caused it. If a half ANSI (or TELNET) code came in, it would go into the pseudoprompt; if a command came in while a half code was there, it might cause problems. I THINK this was what caused the crash, but I'm not sure. Certainly the behaviour (losing the first half of the code and keeping the second half) was NOT desirable. It's fixed now, anyhow, so hopefully... hopefully! the crash is gone.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Faulty bus?

After leaving work, I boarded the bus on my usual route, but part way along, it developed a fault. Either something electrical, or something with the pneumatics - the rear door (pneumatically controlled) wouldn't register that it was closed. Its notification system was beeping every second, indicating that the door was open - but the door was clearly closed. The driver got out, pushed the manual door release, and pulled the door open, then went back to his seat and tried the door closer. The front door opened, and simultaneously the back door closed part-way. Then he closed the front door, and opened it again, bringing the rear door a bit further closed. Eventually the rear door was closed, and finally it fell silent.

He called up the depot (this route runs straight past one of Ventura's bus depots, and we were within a few minutes of passing it - very convenient), and arranged to change buses. (There's always the odd bus sitting around in the depot. Usually in working order, too.) Meanwhile, he drove on, moving passengers through the front door only - but every time the bus stopped, even if the front door wasn't opened, the alarm started. Opening and closing the front door silenced it, though.

When we reached the depot, we went into the driveway, where the replacement bus had been parked in readiness. (This is standard arrangement with bus changeovers.) Our driver, a tad miffed by this time but still committed to providing a good service, parked the faulty bus (877) with its door aligned with the door of the replacement (number 815) and but a short step away. All passengers stepped across, and then the driver took his seat in the new bus. Problem. The position of 877 meant that we couldn't get out.

The driver called out towards the depot, "Matthew? Can someone take this bus, I can't take this one out!" - and he sounded a bit disgruntled. Well, maybe not disgruntled... but certainly far from being gruntled. Nobody responded, though, so our driver Went back into 877, closed the front door, and moved it along. He took it forward about half a bus length, then yelled back towards the depot "Move it", and got back into 815.

Someone in yellow hivis, greying/whiting beard, wearing a cap, came out and took 877 in. Was this Matthew?

Buses 107 and 102 (coaches) came into the depot as soon as the way was clear (the two buses, aligned side by side, completely blocked the driveway). I think one of them, at least, had been blocking traffic on Centre Road.

Only now did our driver "boot up" 815, and we moved out. We'd left Cheltenham at 4:30; it was now 4:56. It's usually about a 10-15 minute journey from there to here. The half-hour journey from there to Oakleigh ended up taking about 40 minutes, which isn't too bad under the circumstances. We caught up time fairly well after a technical hitch.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Mikado

Wheeeeeee.... curtain's just come down on our opening performance of The Mikado. Tremendous applause, everyone did well. Only a few tiny little botches - a little miscommunication between the director and the stage manager resulted in me being in the untenable position of arguing with Her Majesty the SM (for about 20 milliseconds, then I just obeyed even though it was wrong), but beyond that it was all pretty good.

Am blogging this courtesy of a wireless connection here - my new laptop has wifi, so I've been online all through the night. Google Docs is a great way to manage the show data, too!

Yes, this is a little incoherent. My thoughts are a bit random at the moment. I'm off to the gala supper now, there's a crowd out there. What fun!