Category Archives: rant’n'rave

Apple Maps #fail : My own experience

I was quite pleased when Apple chose to break away from Google. The steady infiltration of sponsored, and inaccurate information on Google Maps really bugs me.

I also didn’t join the chorus of deriders of the new Apple offering, because I remember how woeful the Google maps were when they were new.

But now I have my own thing to whinge about.

The Dropped pinI was arranging to pick my daughter up after a theatre performance in the city last night, so as part of the text messaged arrangements, I dropped a pin on a map and shared it with her. All arranged, I thought.

Then, much closer to the time, I just had one of those moments of doubt, when you recheck your arrangements, so I tapped on the dropped pin myself, just to see where I’d said we’d meet. I was more than a little horrified to find that it was almost 200 metres (the red pin on the screen grab) from the spot I’d pinned. Even worse if I’d sent it by email, as then the link loads google maps on a desktop, which just drops a whole mess of pins over a spread of about 5 kilometres! Utterly useless either way if you’re trying to meet someone in a busy city in the dark.

Curiously, the link actually includes the correct latitude and longitude coordinates, it’s just that it also includes automatically geocoded street details. Stupidly, both Apple and Google prefer the street address to the coordinates. Just changing the structure of the Dropped Pin link would yield a much more accurate result.

Hope they fix that one real quick, because it’s going to cause a lot of people to get very pissed off waiting for their friends on the wrong street corner!

@telstra #fail rant!

OK, so it’s easy enough to mock @Telstra, they are a pretty big target, but this most recent episode pretty much ticks all the bumbling, idiotic, #fail boxes, so I’m going to write about it. It’s long, but I hope it’s worth it for a smile or two.

Last Thursday Aug 2, a few strange things happened, we got some wrong numbers calling us, and our broadband connection died. I was pretty sure our ISP had somehow screwed up the broadband, my router clearly showed it was failing at the authentication server – did all the usual password checks etc. no joy.

I really didn’t have time to follow it up properly until the weekend, but by Saturday morning we were getting so many wrong numbers, we lodged a call to Telstra. Lo and behold, our lines were crossed! We were getting all the calls for the local Post Office, and they were getting all our calls! How does this even happen?
Oh well, the helpful lady with the weird accent told us that it was a programming error, and that it would be fixed within “9-15 hours”, which seemed a reasonable explanation, and timeline.

24 hours later, and we’re still off the air. You don’t realise just how much of your life relies on internet access. Study, travel plans, birthday wishes, workplace issues, they all go on hold while you thrash around trying to troubleshoot. Thank you Live Connected… your no nonsense approach to mobile data and personal hotspots helped us scrape by!

Anyway, I ring Telstra back, go through the tragic/comical voice prompts, and get another totally bizarre accent telling me that “a technician has been assigned and will be at the front of your house”, but that it may take until “Tuesday 7pm”! What?! …another 3 days? This does not tally with the programming error story, in fact, it sounds like complete nonsense – very angry now, but what can you do? Oh, I know, there’s going to be a satisfaction survey at the end of the phone call, I’ll be able to vent a little there… Phone call ends. Line goes dead. Hmmm, well that’s the second time that’s happened. I’m guessing they avoid a lot of negative feedback that way!

OK, so I try bleating about it in public… to Twitter! To their credit, @telstra respond promptly, and offer what assistance they can. Eventually pointing me to this URL: which loads on the iPhone in a reasonably friendly manner, and I proceed to tap out my complaint and hit submit: “Server Error”. Back to complain again on Twitter, where I get the utterly unbelievable response from Telstra: “Sorry form does not work via a phone”. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

OK, so I wander next door, and my lovely neighbour happily gives me their wifi password, so I’m at least properly back on the net. Out of curiosity, I try that 24x7help URL again on my desktop – this time it’s all: “Duplicate headers received from server. This problem is generally the result of a misconfigured website or proxy. Only the website or proxy administrator can fix this issue.“. So at least they’re not just blocking phones from their 24×7 help line, no, they’re blocking EVERYBODY! Win for Telstra!

Eventually, they get my email via DM and I send off the full story, hoping for a positive response, or even better, a resolution – you know, some actual help! Too much to ask?

Sadly, it seems so. The word is now steadfastly: “I am unable to have this appointment for tech visit moved forward”, Tuesday 7pm is, apparently, not negotiable :( Any wonder people get upset!

sorry, @path

So, I’ve read your ‘sorry’ post,
I’ve got the latest version of the app,
I’ve searched the settings screen on the app and the web.

Nowhere can I find any method of opting out of your secret contact siphoning ‘feature’. Does this mean that because you’ve already done it, it’s too late and you think perhaps I should get over it? No, I don’t think so.

Yeah – I missed it! Thanks to @benwest0411 for picking me up on it. In my defence, it never actually says exactly how the opt-in would work.

Your post says ‘If I accept, and later decide … to revoke…’, I should email you, but just because I never accepted sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t now want to revoke. So, Please remove my stolen contact data from your servers. Yeah, you already did

…and… just while I’m full of righteous indignation,

  • put a button on your settings page so that I can have the satisfaction of doing it again all by myself, any time I want to
  • and another button that says ‘Delete Account’ – one that really deletes my stuff, whenever I want to!

I think that still holds

Really pissed off with this. I feel like I’m a pretty savvy user, and I like your app, but you really blew it with this episode. You need to do some serious rebuilding of trust.
and probably that too!

So, let me get this straight

Shane Warne has an argument with a cyclist. At a point during the argument, he drives forward and damages the bike (something he’s admitted!) so badly it can’t be ridden, he then leaves the scene without exchanging details and goes straight to twitter to put his version of the events. Meantime, the cyclist does the right thing and reports to the police, has photos taken for evidence and, I believe, has an independent witness statement supporting his version of events.

Warne has, at the very least committed traffic offences, could even be accused of assault, but uses his public profile to push blame onto everyone else – government, cyclists, not taking any responsibility himself.

What a nong! I know he’s loved for his sporting prowess and not his intellect, but this latest episode puts him firmly in the rarified company of other complete stooges, Rex Hunt and Sam Newman. Both had their rather unspectacular days in court, I hope Shane gets his!

Google – more evil by the day?

I find this very troubling.

Someone at Google appears to be deliberately and systematically polluting and plundering the crowdsourced data of competitors. Two instances seem to have been all but proven so far (check this post about OpenStreetMap and Mocality), it seems unlikely that it stops there.

If ever an action was hypocritical and seemingly calculated to destroy trust, it is this. In fact, it’s an action which could be terribly damaging to Google, which relies so much on trust every time someone uses Gmail, sends a Google+ message, hosts a document, amends a map. Crowdsourcing is trust in action.

For these reasons, I can’t imagine the actions have any basis in official policy at Google, but are likely the actions of an over-zealous group or individual. Whatever, the case, Google need to come clean about this REAL FAST! full disclosure, and nothing less will do. We’re waiting!

smooth out the haymarket kinks please

Recently, the enormous and daunting (for cyclists) Haymarket Roundabout in North Melbourne was refurbished to provide better traffic flow and greater safety for cyclists. Mostly, I’d say it’s been a success.

I ride through the roundabout every day, but only from Royal Parade to Elizabeth Street, hardly ever the other way. If I did ride the other way, there is something that would bug the hell out of me! Take a look at the following image.

haymarket roundabout

On the left is an image taken from the planning document distributed by Vicroads, showing graceful, smooth, constant radius curves for cyclists travelling north into Royal Parade, but the aerial photo from Nearmap’s recent release shows clumsy straight lines and zig zags… what happened? The rest of the works are an almost perfect rendering of the plan, but this little bit looks like it was done by the work experience kid! The car lanes are all over the shop too!

Try this view of the actual path, overlaid on the original plan, I think it shows the problem for cyclists even more clearly.

What this anomoly means is that cyclists are forced into fairly dangerous maneuvers and sharp changes of direction in an area that is already pretty full of things to watch out for. Clearly, something went wrong with the execution and VicRoads just need to fix it.

Google, the street view trike came, and went

Update: 18 months now, still prodding google, but no answers yet :(

Google Street View is brilliant – in fact, the whole digital map revolution is largely driven by expectations set by Google. Their tech is amazing. Unfortunately, as an organisation, they often fail to come up to scratch. A shame… here’s an example:

Every now and then Google have a flurry of promotion about their street view partners program, most recently in March this year the blogs seemed to be getting the message out. It’s certainly a cool idea, and there are some stunning examples out there. Our University applied for this years ago, and after a few slips and trips, were delighted when the trike finally visited the campus (on May 9, 2010). Then we settled down to wait for the images to come online. The site said it could take up to 90 days.

The Google Street View trike visits the University of Melbourne

Today is the anniversary. Yup, 365 days later, and still no Street View on campus. Now, I’m sure they have their reasons – obviously, being very busy would be one of them. They have since released some excellent street view partner sites. I know we’re not being singled out or ignored, because I understand that the day before they came to us, they did the MCG… and it’s not online yet either! I guess what I find infuriating is [a.] that they are still soliciting for partners, when they’ve obviously got a massive backlog of images already, and [b.] that they never tell you anything – no communication, no progress updates, nothing. It’s always “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

So, Google is as Google does. It’s free, so one certainly can’t complain, but like a lot of people, I do wonder about the direction Google are taking. That they were so long congratulated as innovators, but now that innovation is contributing to a lack of focus for a business that was built on focus. I wonder how long before they do start to officially start to trim their programs, rather than just let them die of neglect.

And now they’re even going indoors! Don’t know if we’ll ever see our images online at this rate.

Yet more trumpeting about excellent new StreetView locations, but no response to any of my enquiries.

Nuclear : why there should be no debate

Like the rest of the world, I’ve watched, appalled as the people of Japan dealt with the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear. Only slightly less appalling is the way the nuclear lobby have pointed to Fukushima as an example of why nuclear energy is safe and good.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on nuclear energy – not an expert on any of it really – but I do my best to argue a point in a balanced and logical way, something the lobbyists are naturally struggling with.

Is nuclear safe?

This has been an interesting argument. The lobbyists have rightly pointed out that many people died as a result of the collapse of a hydro electric dam during the Japanese earthquake, but so far none have died as a result of the nuclear difficulties. The facts are plain enough, but to drag these facts alongside each other and deduce that therefore nuclear is safer is a complete nonsense, and it’s all about playing with peoples’ perception of risk.

How much do they think was spent on safety measures around the hydro dam? What about, as a percentage of the budget of the facility, or perhaps per Megawatt of energy produced? I don’t know, but I’m having a little guess that keeping a nuclear facility ‘safe’ costs a lot of money. I also reckon that if an equivalent proportion of money was spent keeping the people safe from the hydro dam, then there would have been no deaths.

We don’t perceive a dam as terribly dangerous, so naturally less money gets spent, less safeguards are put in place, and when things go horribly wrong, more people are put at risk. It’s completely shameful that the nuclear apologists are using this inappropriate comparison to promote their point of view.

Why am I frightened by nuclear?

People are frightened by all sorts of things, sometimes those fears are irrational. One of the main reasons we are so scared of nuclear is because we can’t easily see it. Running away is a fundamental survival instinct, we feel safer if we think we can get away from danger, but where do you run when you don’t know what you’re running from?

This is a big issue. On the news tonight, I heard a Japanese man saying that he though he would be able to go back to his home soon, because he couldn’t see any problem, but authorities are telling him he might never be able to safely return. How confusing that must be.

So, if we can’t see the problem, we rely on people to tell us when it’s safe. Unfortunately, past experience with this sort of disaster control has left us deeply suspicious of authorities. Do we really believe them when they say it’s safe? No. One of the most frightening stories I’ve ever heard about nuclear disaster is a story by childrens’ author, Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows. It’s a simply told, terrifyingly believable story that is guaranteed to give you nightmares and remind of the risks of trust.

Lets go back to the hydro dam. A terrible toll of life, to be sure, but the water passed. People will return to pick up their lives, houses will be rebuilt, hopefully lessons will be learned. What will happen around the ‘safe’ Fukushima nuclear plant? Will people return next month? Will life go on as normal? Will the wounds heal? Not bloody likely! It won’t be safe to live there, drink the water, eat the food, catch the fish for many many years to come.

How can these fools ignore such a glaring aspect of the argument?

Is nuclear smart?

To me, this is a bit like the argument against fossil fuels. Take everything else out of the equation. Forget about relative cost, safety, efficiency… just listen to this. You dig something up, a finite resource, it costs a heap to dig up, you turn it into something really dangerous, suck the life out of it, and then have it hang around being dangerous for a very very long time. Does that sound smart? Does that sound like something you want to keep doing? Doesn’t it make you, just for a moment, think it might be worth exploring the other options?

I thought so ;-)

Duh! you already pay a carbon tax!!

To the dummies who don’t want a carbon tax… Do you realise that we, the Australian taxpayer, currently PAY the fossil fuel industry $9 billion dollars a year? They are a drain on your pocket to the tune of around $450 per person, per year.

Of course they don’t want you to stop! We are paying them to pollute! It’s insanity, but that’s where bowing to industry based lobby groups will get you!

Personally, I’d be quite happy to dump the idea of a carbon tax if the government would just stop paying these insane subsidies as recommended as far back as 2003 by Christopher Riedy, when he said in his working paper:

Removal of these perverse subsidies can provide a ‘double dividend’ of greenhouse abatement and improved economic performance.

You know it makes sense!

no google, I don’t like that!

In the wake of my previous post, I was checking out some of the photos on Google maps of Sydney Road, one of my photos came up first, which was nice, but then I started navigating around the nearby photos… they were all crappy photos of a shoe store!

I probably missed this addition, but I’d always thought that photos only came from two sources – Panoramio or geotagged Flickr, which meant that there was a reasonably high quality – a natural filter if you like. Now it seems that a business owner or anyone else who adds photos to a Google Place page, gets them added to the maps interface.

Frankly, that’s crap! At least allow the user to filter them out. I often use this feature to explore an area of interest, I don’t want some retailer’s happy snaps of their shop diluting the experience!