Technology that does not work
I have been concerned at the direction that the IT industry has been taking over the last 20 years in terms of the quality of computer software. Espically in light of the Microsoft methodoligy of distributing software that has known bugs, does not work, is slow and is not corrected or these problems exasabated in later releases for which end users are expected to pay more.
Of real conern is that the later generations of computer programers and software engineers are accepting the Microsoft methodolgy as the defacto standard so that is addition to operating system and applcation software not working, every day usage item such as web sites, interactive voice responce systems mobile phones, digital cameras, car and traffic light, often simply dont work or dont work as you would expect or as they should.
Classic cases are web sites where they have a function and that function does not work. Two examples relatively reciently are the one of the largest banks in Australia Westpac when they added what is called Bill Pay View to ther web site so that you can recieve you bills electronically and then pay them. The view part worked ok but link to pay it did not do anything. When I email them about this their reply was that part of the system had not been completed yet. The other case was the largest communication provider in Australia, Telstra. Their web site had a function to request that paper bill be not sent so that you can recieve them Electronicaly. Again this did simply not work despite my numerious attempts. One Emailing them their responce was that that they were doing maintenance of ther system and I should try again in a few hours. Days later it was still not working so I sent another email saying so and suggested they either remove the function completely from thir site or put a message up saying that it is currently un-available. I got what appeared to be an automated responce telling me how to use that part of their system. After a week or so both the Westpac and telstra problems were solved but I wonder how many other people simply figered that it was all to difficuly and never used these functions.
Our recient overseas trip (2009) has shown me that these technology problems a not just limited to Australia. Other than just trying to find information about time tables for airlines, bus companies or avalibilty of accomdation the problem in a lotof cases is that when you come to do the online booking it just wont work or regardless of saying otherwise the you can't find on the site where to do the booking. For many otherseas transport providers the problem appeas to be they simply reject our credit or debit card without giving any reason why. After getting overseas and trying to top up prepaid Mobile phone credits (see later) we have discovered that they simply dont accept (oversesas to them) credit or debit cards. They say they have not the facility to check they are valid. This seems strange when I was under the impression that the financial cards systems worked world wide and do work with some web sites. Perhaps the banks charge extra for validating such cards and some organisations simply don't want to pay for that. However the point is I don't no if this is the case but all I get is a message saying my card is rejected.
The prepaid mobile phones and Mobile broadband access are classic cases of technology not working.
On arriving in London I bought a pre-paid deal with Vodaphone and was told when I bought it the calls were 8 p per minute and I could make calls to Australia at 5 p per minute. After making a few calls and one to Aust the 10 pound credit had almost ran out. On checking on the Vodaphone web site I discover the calls are 20 p minute an to get the 5 p to Aust I have to register. This was not a technoligy issue but shows where I started out from.
When the credit was almost extinguished I decided to top it up with the top up number. One voice responce system passes me to another that tells me to say my answers. After going through this a few times I eventually get put through to a real person who sais I need a UK Credit card to top up the phone. In frustration I walk to a Vodaphone dealership and purchase a top up voucher. But then I still have to navigate the voice responce system to put in the top up number. This takes a couple of attempts.
The problem then becomes when I travel to Europe and discover where I am, Italy has Vodaphone dealerships few and far between. So I use Kristi's UK credit card to attempt to top up the credit on the mobile. Again I get transfered from one voice responce system to another which insists I speak my answers. The first thing it wants is a UK postcode tom register the Credit Card I have at least 4 attempts at it before it understands what im saying and each time rather than asking my to repeat it takes me back to the first voice responce system which I have to navigate through to to get to the second. That achieved it wants an address. At least the UK Postcodes reduce the address down to only a few oprions, but the voice responce system can't destinguish between my Yes and No answers, but does then ask me to key in somthing for Yes or No. Then It get to the credit card number so rather than say it I wait and it does ask me to key it in. Trouble is regardless of me bing 100% positive of the number I keyed in, because I can see it on the mobile's display it confirms back with a different nunber. I Key it in again and again it get it wrong. Third try correct. Hurray. finally got the credit card registered. How every even though I have registered it when I go to use it, via a pin I have set, it still want the last 4 digits of the credit car number and the Credit cards security code. Why? What was to use of registering a caard when I almost have to key in all its details again. The result was over one hour to add a 20 pound top up to the Vodophone mobile.
The next overseas technolgy problem is the Mobile broadband. I went with 3 Only was a because they are chaper then the rest. Im sure that was a mistake. The sotware they supply insist on loading the 3 web site every time it connects. Thats ok normally but whilst we were traveling around the UK and it would drop out and reconnect or I think sometimes even change towers it would reload the 3 web site, even in the middidle on be working on somthing else. When ther was not 3 coverage the software would connect to Orange but would give me a internet connection. Later I ask someone at a 3 dealership in Glasgow why this was happening and she said that 3 Use Orange ans ther fallback to 2G when 3 did not have coverage but, unlike in Australia, their is no 2G internet facility form 3 in the UK.
Whilst staying with Krisit in Barbican in London the 3 speeds were pethetic, slower than dialupn and with constant drops outs. Kristi later went to a local 3 dealership who said a number of towers in that area were not working and that was the problem. According to Krisit it has improved a bit.
The greater problem was when I went to Europe. Initally in Italy it connected ok and I was able to use it. However shortly afterwards I could not access anything other than parts of the 3 site. The help part of the 3 site about roaming was not accessable either was the part where you can contact 3. The parts Frequently asked questions about moble broadband on the 3 site gave information about mobile phones rather than broadband, like you can ring 3 for support by dialing 333. So I took the 3 sim card out of the modem and put it in my Mobile phone and rang 333. A text replied saying I did not have sufficent credits and when I purchase a recharge voucher I should ring 444 to use it. So I rang 444 and it gave the same text message. Just as well I did not purchase a recharge voucher.
Whilst traveling through Milan rail station ther was a 3 booth their so I stoped and ask about my problems. The person took my modem put it in his computer installed the UK software and changed some setting and assured me I should be able to use the modem in Italy and that the setting would be saved in the modem. Later whilst on the train I discovered the setting he entered where not saved in the modem.
At one stage because, I purchased some other internet time, I got a chance to email 3 about my roaming problems. It took them 3 days to reply, and they did not seem to realise that I can not get information from ther web site because they keep refering me to it.
Krisit had had similar difficulties with Talk Mobile.
Im sure I will adding more to this later on.