Apr 29

I came across a story posted in Digg.com, courtesy of Martin Stein’s Publishing Weblog and Die Welt (original article in German) of an interview with Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft.

A more demure interview, which is somewhat a little different to how we usually see Ballmer in public. However, true to Ballmer’s style, there are a few gems.

After asking Steve if he has a “Apple Computer”, he says that he does not have a Mac nor a iPod. ” Of course, I have to know the devices. We have to know what the competitors do”.

Naturally. Microsoft needs to know what the person next to them is doing. It would be in the best interest of that person, naturally, to cover their exam sheet when writing down their answers — Microsoft has a nasty habit of darting its eyes about, seeing what answers they can put on all their blank spaces.

Die WELT: Was it a satisfaction that Apple had to give in? [in regards to Apple running Windows]

Ballmer: Honestly, I don’t think that it is that important. Actually, it is relatively expensive if a user gets a separate Windows OS for his Mac. Not a lot of people will do this.

Actually Steve, and I’m pretty sure you’re well aware of this, that the cost of a Windows XP licence on every new machine is absorbed in the total price of the machine itself. Naturally, the cost of licence + CD is the same for those who already have a PC and wish to upgrade to Windows XP. Funnily enough though with some OEM machines, you just get the licence. That’s it. The “install disc” is a hidden partition on the hard drive, so when your hard drive dies prematurely, screwing up all partitions, you’re stuffed.

The cost of Windows XP is unimportant, since either way Microsoft is still extracting the AU$479 a pop. What baffles me more is that the introduction of BootCamp by Apple has done nothing but increase (a little one, but increase nonetheless) sales for Microsoft — why go ahead and say that your product is expensive?

Die WELT: Is Apple unbeatable?

Ballmer: Which company would be able to compete with Apple at these days? It can only be Microsoft or Apple stays without any serious competitor. I think, everybody deserves some competition.

Yes, we wouldn’t want lack of any competitors, would we Microsoft? There’s no real reason to explain this point or the double entendre introduced by Mr. Ballmer here. This quote smacks too much of irony for me to bother writing anything here about it.

This one’s gold:

Die WELT: But couldn’t you just buy a Mac without hesitation since Apple opened up their machines for Windows?

Ballmer: No, we prefer real PCs.

Ahem, “real PCs”? Oh I see, those beige boxes that are churned out of the same factory in China, albeit with different logos emblazoned on the front and side. As opposed to Apple hardware, which is churned out of a factory in China that has an Apple logo emblazoned on the front and side.

Hey hold on a tic, there’s a pattern here! Upon further investigation… holy moly they even use the same CPU! And RAM! And hard drives! Hmm, what makes a “real PC” then? Is a PC made “real”, depending on the logo that’s emblazoned on the side? If that’s the case, then custom made PCs — that have bleeding edge technology and outstrip OEM machine performance by at least 6 months — are not, by definition “real PCs”.

Then again, when you look at Apple’s hardware offerings, you may notice that much of it is provided by Intel. The same Intel that provides much of the hardware in Dells, HPs, Acers and Lenovos. Add the fact that all Intel-based Macs can run Windows XP just fine, and it seems that Steve Ballmer’s comments nail in the fact that he wouldn’t know his ass from his elbow if either one of them hit him in the face.

But that’s hardly surprising, is it?

Apr 19

As per article from The Sunday Mail (QLD), it seems that Indian call workers are having ‘nervous breakdowns’ from the abuse that US and Australian residents and businesses dish out whenever they are being interrupted from their dinner, shower or family time.

“Racial abuse by foreign customers is a job hazard that most employees have to deal with,” a report on the survey says.

“The US and Australia are the worst abusers,” said Vino Shetty, from his Young Professionals Collective office in Mumbai.

“Australian accents – especially in working-class areas – are very difficult to understand.

“The Australians then get frustrated because they are not being understood and when they realise the call is from India their anger gets worse.

“They can feel that jobs are being taken away from Australians and if they recently have been out of a job themselves, the abuse escalates,” he said.

Bollocks. Australian English is not hard to understand. There are Aussie backpackers all around the world that have no problem communicating and being understood by many walks of life. Either the Indian population/genome has a defect in not understanding the “Queen’s English”, or Vino and his mates have had one too many phone slams from calls made to their daily 5,000 people that now have a crappy day thanks to you.

Besides, if the Indian call centres have trouble understanding Australian English, that is their problem, not ours. We speak our language the way we like, foreigners and tourists that visit our country have no problem getting around and communicating with the locals. If anything, it’s the other way around.

They are highly annoying. Especially when they try to sneak in a bit of “strine” (I use the term loosely) into their conversation, or topics that is so obviously not part of any of their interests, like last week’s match results between the Saints and the Lions. It makes me shudder when they do that, as if they have just scratched their fingernails on a blackboard.

But Queensland Consumers’ Association spokeswoman Cherie Dalley said Australians were reacting to phone calls because they were at “ridiculous” times.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Hit the nail right on the head. This is why we get so annoyed with you. Especially when you call during a time that is most inconvenient to us. “But how would we know when you’re busy or not?” they ask. When we slam the phone receiver down, don’t tell your mate who’s sitting in the partition to the left of you to try call this number again in 5 minutes.

Unsolicited phone calls are annoying, not because of Indian accents or low-quality call connections. They are annoying because they happen too often. Calling about some BS offer, waiting for the phone to be slammed down, and then ringing up again in 15 minutes is HIGHLY ANNOYING. Regardless of what accent is on the other side of the line.

I am used to Indian accents. I attended RMIT, which contains one of the biggest overseas Indian populations in Australian universities. And me being in Software Engineering, it seems the Indian population is centric to this course. I have no problem understanding Indian accents; I have dealt with many helpful Indians before, and had no trouble understanding and communicating with them. And they didn’t have a problem with my accent either, and I am as working-class as you can get in an engineering department.

A few days ago, I was on the phone to 3 (my mobile phone carrier), who was one of the first companies to outsource their support and sales teams to India. I spent 25 minutes on the phone to a thickly-Indian accented woman, had no troubles understanding her and she did everything I asked her to in regards to my account.

James Organ, director of Australian research organisation Callcentres.net, said “lots of poor innocent Indian workers” were abused regularly by Australians.

“Some companies are regretting outsourcing this business to India because of the damage it does to their products’ reputation,” he said.

Well there you go. Another tale of multi-million dollar companies having a great idea to save a penny, which in the end erodes their sales on the other end of the line. Clap clap.

What I would really like to see is these companies to keep their call centres wherever they like in the world, but please stop calling me at stupid times of the day, constantly. But this will never happen.

I’ll tell you what I do whenever a call comes through (we don’t have Caller ID at home, so we never know who’s calling until we pick up the receiver). When I pick up the phone:

  • If there is a delay after the “Hello” initiated by yourself, then it’s definitely an international call. For those who have relos overseas, this may throw you off since you might think its Uncle Helmut from Austria or Aunty Olga from Kazakhstan calling. If another second or so still goes by without any acknowledgement, it’s India. Hang up.
  • If there is a recording playing asking you to hold on the line “as we transfer you to our sales team”, hang up.
  • If there is a recording asking you to press a number or the ‘#’ symbol to claim a prize, hang up.
  • If there is a person asking to talk to Mr/Ms (insert your surname here), say they’re not here. Hang up.
  • If you have a foreign surname (not like Smith or Jones) like myself — I have a long-ish Greek surname that can sometimes slip people up when they try to pronounce it for the first time — say that they have gotten the wrong number. If they can’t say your surname right first go, then obviously they don’t deserve your time, attention or money.

Most of the time I receive the first point. I figure if it’s overseas relos, they usually try to call again within 5 minutes. Whenever I pick up the phone and say ‘hello’, you have precisely 3 seconds to answer me. If no acknowledgement is received within that time frame, I hang up. Simple.

The politicians that we have voted to represent our country and its laws are not going to do anything about this widespread problem. Prevention is always better than cure, but it looks like we have no choice but to try and cure this disease. It’s a real shame that society today has to come to be so rude as I have to be when I pick up the phone, but if that means I can enjoy the rest of my day, then so be it.

Apr 17

Frigge Just a quick observation about the desperateness of Australian petrol-consuming… consumers. For those who live in Australia, they would most certainly be familiar with Coles Supermarkets’ teaming up with Shell Petrol to offer a 4c off per litre offer of petrol whenever you buy stuff over a certain limit at any Coles supermarket.

Since Coles is one of but many companies under the Coles Myer empire, its drunken sister Liquorland was advertising next door a large-ish poster offering a WHOPPING 20c OFF PER LITRE (when you buy at least 6 bottles of wine, and total cost of purchases to be $30 or higher — naturally, in small text at the bottom of the poster).

This made me do my sums in my head. I’ve always been pretty crappy with Maths in my head, even basic arithmetic, so I’m kinda proud that I was doing this all on my own — the last time I had done mental arithmetic/algebra like this must’ve been at uni.

I did the sums in my head, double-checked and carried over the ones: you need to purchase at least 150 litres of petrol — all in one purchase — to make up for the $30 outlay you had provided to Coles Myer Pty Ltd for the opportunity to “save” the 20c/L in the first place. That’s just to break even.

Friggen scammers!

Apr 08

Currently listening to: The C64 Take-away PodcastEpisode 25: The SIDelicious Special.

Hey everyone,

Well well well… here I am on a Saturday night, and typing on my blog. I know that I haven’t been updating this blog lately, but I explained my reasons in the previous post :) Many things have happened since the last time I seriously posted — many things with my own life, and many things in technology all around us.

In regards to my life, well where can I start? I had to depart from my job (the one that is a major telecommunications company in Australia), and I am now focusing on the business that myself and my business partner have started up almost a year ago — aCore Solutions. It’s great now because I am now our first full-time employee (as a Development Manager, no less) and it doesn’t take long for me to arrive at work, or to go home. It does get a little lonely and quiet though, especially at my house, with my sisters at work or at school, and my mum and dad also working. I’ve never been an extremely sociable person, but it does get a little adjusting to, especially with my “popularity” at work — I hope I haven’t sounded like Paris Hilton just saying that. Work now has been pretty busy, as we now have plenty of development time on our hands that we can spend on our clients.

There are other things I have to get used to as well — both plusses and minusses. DSL internet speed (instead of T1 at work — podcasts take AGES to download), lunch is always at some weird-ass time, but at least the phone doesn’t ring its head off every 5 minutes :)

OpenTTDI’ve gotten back into Transport Tycoon Deluxe, but in the flavour of OpenTTD. OpenTTD allows people not using Windows to run TTD on their computers. It works very well with Mac OS X, and OpenTTD has other features added to enhance the game, many of them ideas from TTDPatch, such as extended train station platforms, handling of bigger towns, etc. OpenTTD also has other features, many of them GUI-centric, such as resizeable windows and sorting of lists on different criteria and different orders (ascending and descending). One thing I really like is that you are able to run it in a window, and can resize the window to whatever resolution you wish. This works really well with my PowerBook’s screen, which is using a weird widescreen resolution. The screenshot on the left is OpenTTD running on my 17″ LCD screen. You can see that I had been getting into it in my spare time, making many RORO (roll on, roll off) stations. I have transparency turned on, so I can see which trains are going where. That shadowing box thing on the bottom left of that station is supposed to be a food processing plant (trains coming in are livestock and grain trains), producing about 600 tons of food a month, and I also have trains coming in to take the food away and deliver it to cities dotted around the island. Each livestock and grain train is cashing in about 10-12,000 euros each delivery, and I get about 5-8,000 euros for each food delivery. That is how I have so much money in the game now :) (see bottom right of that window).

There have been other things happening in the world of technology, and specifically in the world of Apple. This post has been pretty late, so I’m sure that anything I say about BootCamp would either a) have been said by about 1,000,000 other people somewhere in the Interweb already, and/or b) would fall on deaf ears. Personally it’s great to see that Apple are seriously looking at perhaps marketing their products in such a way; many people have argued against Apple, saying that the decision to release such tools are stupid and will spell the demise of Apple. Some people have even claimed that they now believe what John C. Dvorak has claimed (that sometime in the future, Apple will only sell computers running Windows, and scrap OS X altogether) — but hey, let’s not go crazy here.

So there you go — a glimpse of my life at present. I’ll make sure that I’ll keep posting in my blog here, and now I really don’t have an excuse since I now exclusively work at home. Anyone who is still alive and reading this, you will all be hearing from me again very, very soon.