Weekly Roundup Friday 10 May 2013

A beautiful scenic trainride through tunnels, over bridges and past waterfalls is one of the highlights of our Sri Lanka tour in February 2014.
A beautiful scenic train ride through tunnels, over bridges and past waterfalls is one of the highlights of our Sri Lanka tour in February 2014.

Good morning

Well, here I am, wrestling with my new enemy – Windows 8.

Polite words fail me when it comes to expressing the degree of total outrage I feel as I struggle to fight the impositions and idiocies of this new operating system.

I’ll spare you the diatribe for now, but do read on to the item below if you’d like to know more about why, for most normal people, and even those of us who dare to think of ourselves as highly computer competent, suicide is a better choice than buying Windows 8.  Indeed, consider Win8 as ‘assisted suicide’ – the raised blood pressure you’ll experience struggling with its unnecessary idiocies is sure to hurry along ‘the big one’.

Phew.  After the stresses of Windows 8, I definitely need a calm relaxing break.  And the good news is, there will be exactly that, albeit not until February next year.  Our Sri Lanka Nature’s Paradise Tour met with a rousing response last week, and we now have 12 people signed up to participate in this tour.

There’s plenty of room for another 12, and maybe even another 12 after that.  So please do go have a look at what it is that 12 fellow readers have already rushed to participate in, and then please do choose to come and add to our group.

What else this week?  There’s a separate item on a neat little speaker unit for your phone or tablet, and below we have the results of last week’s reader survey, plus more items on matters such as :

  • Knives on Planes Reader Survey
  • Sleeping Pilots
  • No Pilots At All
  • Naughty Airlines Part 1
  • Naughty Airlines Part 2
  • Guess What Happens When Airlines Cut Back
  • The True Impact of an AA/US Merger
  • More Money Saving Strategies (For You, that is)
  • Spirit Shows the Irony of Ever Cheaper Long Distance Costs
  • How Much Would You Pay to Sleep Between Flights
  • Vegas Buffet Extravaganza
  • Are We Winning, Redefining, and/or Extending the War on Terror?
  • The Nightmare That Is Windows 8
  • And Lastly This Week….
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Knives on Planes Reader Survey

Last week we asked you how you felt about the TSA possibly allowing small short bladed (under 2.36″ long and less than 0.5″ wide) pocket knives back on planes.  The TSA had announced it would fall in line with international practice and allow them once more, but after a lot of criticism and pressure it then reversed itself and said it would ‘study the matter further’ before deciding what to do.

Part of the chorus of complaints was a claim that a survey by a travel agency had shown that 73% of their customers (described as ‘the majority of Americans’) were opposed to allowing knives back on planes.  This claim triggered by BS meter, and so I asked you, last week, what you thought.

Sure enough, rather than 73% opposed, the survey showed that only 33% of readers are against allowing knives on planes, compared to 56% for.


As you may have guessed, I strongly support this common sense measure too, and I totally don’t understand why anyone would oppose it.  A reader wrote in against it, saying

My husband is a  retired Continental pilot and held senior positions in the company.

He has expressed that the allowing of such items is insane considering 9 11 2001 and the bombing in Boston.  It would only provide another opportunity for those bent on terrorist destruction.

My son and his wife are flight attendants for United and they too agree considering what the terrorists did to flight attendant on 9 11 2001!As a former flight attendant I too, agree with my husband and son……..NO KNIVES!!!!

Now, let’s ignore the very weak link between knives on planes and the Boston bombing, and let’s also ignore the dubious degree of expertise that pilots or flight attendants have when it comes to security matters.

Remember, these ‘security experts’ are the same people who regularly conspire to throw passengers off planes and into federal prisons as alleged terrorists, even though the passengers have done nothing worse than ask for a drink to be served or take a photo of the cabin interior.

I am genuinely curious why some people are so vehemently opposed to allowing knives back on planes, so wrote back politely and positively.  Why are some people so terrified about knives and conflating the issue to now be related not only to 9/11 but also the Boston bombing, too?  Maybe pilots and flight attendants truly do know more than me about this.

So, I wrote :


Thanks for writing.

Perhaps you could explain to me how it is for decades and decades, knives were never a problem.  And, as you surely know, knives were not used on 9/11 either.

Today we have armed pilots, reinforced cockpit doors, air marshals, self-defense trained flight attendants, and aggressive fellow passengers willing to engage troublesome passengers/attackers – none of which we had prior to 9/11.

So please tell me how a less than 2.5” bladed pocket knife is a danger now when it never has been in the past.  I just can’t comprehend what threat they pose.

Oh, and as another reader pointed out, what about improvised weapons?  Take a wine bottle, smash it, and don’t you have something every bit as fearsome as a knife.  And so on and so on.  To use your terms, those bent on terrorist destruction already have a multitude of ways to attempt such actions.

Almost a week later, and no reply has been received.

So here’s my request to all of you who are so strongly opposed to allowing knives on planes – the same knives that people can legally carry everywhere else in the country, and can fly with too, just about everywhere else in the world.

Can you answer these questions?  If so, please comment in the blog entry for this newsletter.  The majority of us who seek a safe simple return to carrying these tiny pocket knives are truly curious.

Sleeping Pilots

It is an open secret that pilots like their shut-eye at least as much as anyone else cursed with a deadly dull and boring job and no immediate supervision.

So it is unsurprising that they take naps during the long slow parts of flights, particularly at night, and when their body clock is telling them they should be sleeping anyway.  But usually, one of the pilots struggles to stay awake just in case something might happen that isn’t accompanied by a loud alarm or voice announcement.

So how to respond to this story about the pilots on an Air India A320 flying from Bangkok to New Delhi ?  It is actually a fairly short flight, after allowing for time on the ground, time up to cruise, and then time down again at the other end, there’s less than three hours in the middle; and there’s some moderately congested air-space along the way too.

Anyway, the two pilots on this flight both left the cockpit and went to have a sleep in a couple of empty business class seats.  But, not to worry, they instructed two flight attendants on how to ‘mind the shop’ while they were having a nap.

All went well for an uncertain amount of time variously described as 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or ‘the bulk of the flight’, until, ooops, one of the flight attendants somehow knocked off the auto-pilot, but fortunately a pilot was able to get back to the cabin before the plane spiraled into a steep nosedive to the group.

Bizarrely, Air India denies the event took place, although it seems clear that it did.

No Pilots At All

From both pilots asleep in business class seats, leaving an empty cockpit other than for flight attendants who ‘accidentally knock off the auto-pilot’, it is only a small step to no pilots at all.  Maybe it is a step we are almost ready to take.

Pilots will hate me for saying this, but planes already fly themselves most of the time.  The job of the pilot is more to program the auto-pilot and to keep track of the paperwork than it is to actually fly the plane; indeed, even when ‘flying’ the plane, they have auto-rudders, auto-throttles, auto-brakes, cruise control, auto-altitude setting, auto-followers (dial the heading indicator bug on the plane computer and the plane follows your instructions) and auto-just-about-everything-else.

One could also wryly observe that when things do go wrong and the automatic systems fail, the pilots many times either make things worse (ie the Air France AF447 crash in the Atlantic or the Colgan Air 3407 crash in upstate NY) or are unable to solve the problem in time (last week’s 747 crash on take-off at Baghram).  Pilot error is a large part of all plane crashes – if we eliminate the pilots, might air travel become safer?  There’s an outside the box thought that few dare to express!

We’re not denying there was a time when pilots on planes were essential, and we’ll even concede that maybe there’s a rare need for them now, too, but we wonder, in such a case, if the pilots couldn’t be flying the plane remotely, the same way drones are flown.

I’ve been saying this for some years; now others are starting to join me.  Here’s an interesting article quoting former pilots no less, plus professors at MIT and  NM State Uni, all of whom are anticipating either pilotless or remote piloted planes as a soon to become reality.  I’m not too sure about the ‘soon’ – there’s a lot of public perception issues to be addressed first before most passengers will be comfortable with the concept, no matter how technologically sound it may be.

It isn’t all that long ago that a plane needed a pilot, co-pilot, engineer, navigator and radio operator.  Now we get by with two pilots – how long before two becomes one, and one becomes none?

On the other hand, a remotely piloted or an auto-piloted plane is a very worrying thought when one considers the growing attention being given to the risks of planes being hacked and taken over by remote computer hackers.

Naughty Airlines Part 1

Seven airlines (Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and United) are being sued in British Columbia for allegedly misrepresenting fuel surcharges as being a tax on passenger tickets.

The class action lawsuit seeks both an injunction to prevent the airlines continuing to misrepresent their fuel surcharges, and also – get this – a full refund back to passengers of all amounts collected inappropriately – amounts often totalling many hundreds of dollars per ticket.  As we all know, many times the ‘fuel surcharge’ on a ticket is greater than the base fare – this would be poetic justice indeed if the airlines had to now refund some years worth of their taxes/fuel surcharges.

Unsurprisingly, it is the largest ever class action lawsuit in the province.

More details here.

Naughty Airlines Part 2

I wrote recently about reverse direction fares – how it is sometimes cheaper to buy a ticket from Point B to Point A and back, rather than from Point A to B and back.  In particular, I pointed out this was more commonly an opportunity for savvy travelers on international routes rather than domestically within the US.

Maybe Mr Couzens in England read the article, because he did some research and discovered that for travel between Europe and Britain, Ryanair commonly charged up to almost 50% more for roundtrips originating in the UK and going to somewhere in the EU than for a roundtrip originating at the destination and going to the UK.

In his case, the differential amounted to £445 ($700) so he asked Ryanair for the money back.  After no success, he brought about a race discrimination lawsuit against Ryanair, which then offered to settle in full, but only if he kept the settlement confidential.

He refused, and now the cat is out of the bag.

This suggests that Ryanair feels vulnerable.  As word spreads, will Ryanair find itself facing a deluge of similar claims?  And how long before regulation-happy EU officials make it illegal to charge more for travel in one direction that the other?  Indeed, under basic EU principles, it may well be illegal already.

No wonder Ryanair wished to keep it secret.  Surprisingly, there has been no word, yet, from normally garrulous CEO Michael O’Leary on this matter.

More details here.

Guess What Happens When Airlines Cut Back

Our incredible shrinking airlines in this country are managing to counter the global trend of increasing air travel.  An MIT study shows that for the five years 2007 – 2012, US airlines reduced their flight numbers by 14%.

Unsurprisingly, these reductions have been uneven across the country, and some cities have suffered massive losses in air service.  Midsized airports experienced an average 26% cut in flights.  Some individual cities have seen up to a 40% reduction in service.

Here’s an interesting article that chronicles which cities have lost the most over this period.

You have to wonder, don’t you, that if we still had all the different airlines flying today that we had in 2007 and before, if there’d have been quite such an amazing cut-back in airtravel numbers.  Oh yes – the study also showed that real, inflation adjusted, airfares have risen over the same period of time – another thing that one has to wonder about.

The True Impact of an AA/US Merger

Talking about the negative effects of merging airlines, the official claim to reassure us, the DOJ and the DOT, is that the merger of AA and US would see only 12 overlapping routes becoming less competitive, and there’s surely little to worry about with such a minor loss of airline competition, or so AA and US would have us believe.

However, this analysis is incomplete and simplistic.  The Consumer Travel Alliance has dug a big deeper, and discovered that in addition to these 12 non-stop routes where AA and US used to compete strongly against each other, there are another 760 one-stop routes which would suffer by the merger of the two airlines.

Rather than minimal overlap, the study shows that 40% of AA’s one stop routes overlap with US, and 30% of US’ one stop routes overlap with AA.

They point out, quite fairly, that both US and AA have predominantly a hub and spoke route structure, and so the correct comparison is not to focus only on the few nonstop flights, but rather on the vast majority of flights which involve a flight change at a hub.

There’s nothing good about this merger for us as passengers.  You know that, I know that, and of course the airlines know that, because ‘nothing good for us’ translates to extra profit for them.  But how can we encourage the DOT and DOJ to remove the blinkers from their eyes and see the same thing we do?

More Money Saving Strategies (for you, that is!)

I mentioned last week how to get a $150 discount off a new Dell computer.  This week, how would you like to get $25 off your phone and internet bill – every month?

I had received an offer from Comcast to switch to their Xfinity cable product for phone, data and television, and it seemed to be offering appealing rates for good products/services, lower than I was paying Frontier for my fiber based service.  So I simply rang Frontier and said I wanted to stay with them, but had received a better offer from a Comcast representative who was pressuring me to abandon my long-time loyalty to Frontier.  Could they do anything to help me stay with them?

Instantly – no need to check with a supervisor or anything – the woman offered to reduce my monthly bill by $25.  No need to sign a new contract for a new minimum term or anything.  Just a simple instant $25/month reduction in cost.  That was the most valuable phone call I made all this week.

If you’re in a competitive market for phone and internet (and television too, perhaps) service, and if it is a year or more since your rate was last lowered, it probably would be appropriate to be on the lookout for special deals on offer from another provider and either respond to them or use them to talk down the rate you pay to your present provider.

Truly, every time I call Frontier, and Verizon before Frontier bought their business in this region, my monthly costs go down and the bundle of services I get increases.  You should make sure the same is happening to you.

Spirit Shows the Irony of Ever Cheaper Long Distance Costs

As mentioned in the previous item, phone costs are steadily dropping.  Not only are our monthly bills reducing, but we’re getting more and more included.

It is the same for companies as it is for us at home.  Fifteen years ago, it could cost a company a quarter every minute to accept incoming toll-free calls.  Now, with the latest VOIP type technologies powering phone connections, these costs have massively reduced.

But no-frills airline Spirit has just announced its latest frill that it is cutting – it will no longer have a toll-free number for customers to call.

But rather than honestly and openly replace their (800) number with a local number related to where their call center is located – perhaps in Miramar FL where they are headquartered (area code 954 and 754) or one that rings at one of their operating bases in either Fort Lauderdale (also 954 or 754) or Detroit (area code 313); they are offering up a Utah area code instead.

Why would they do that?  They have no substantive business presence in UT that I’m aware of and don’t even fly there.  But the UT area code is 801….

Could it be that Spirit hopes people won’t even realize that they are no longer dialing a toll-free number when they call?

How Much Would You Pay to Sleep Between Flights

We’ve all done it, and particular on lengthy international journeys.  We’ve ended up at an airport somewhere with a three or four hour layover, and have been keen to sleep but have had nowhere to do so.  You’re too jet lagged to be productive, but unable to sleep in a gate area while waiting for your next flight, with people chattering and buzzing about all around you.

How much would you pay for an oasis of peace, quiet, and sleep?

Abu Dhabi Airport is betting you’d be happy to pay $12.25 an hour for sleeper seat/bed cocoons.  And, you know, I think they might be right.

Here’s an article explaining more about the concept.  Hopefully we’ll see it spread to more airports, too.

Vegas Buffet Extravaganza

I still remember my first ever visit to Las Vegas.  For a New Zealander, it was an overwhelming experience, and one of the most memorable impressions was the amazing buffet at Circus Circus.

Don’t laugh.  Back in the very early 1980s, New Zealand (and New Zealanders!) was a lot less sophisticated, both in terms of eating and in general, and perhaps the Circus Circus buffet wasn’t quite as dismal as it is these days.

It isn’t just me.  For most of us, one of the cornerstone Vegas experiences, along with gambling, show girls, and neon, is going to an all you can eat (and hopefully low priced) buffet.  Alas, the low price is very much a thing of the past in most casinos, but the buffets themselves have gone extraordinarily up-market.

Several buffets contend for the accolade of best buffet on the Strip, with the relatively new Caesar’s Palace buffet, the Bacchanal, being considered by many to be the best there is.  Sure, it can now cost up to $51 per person (plus tax and tip) but go read this article and see if it doesn’t get your taste buds a tingling.

Are We Winning, Redefining, and/or Extending the War on Terror?

Occasionally optimistic politicians seeking re-election will assure us that we’re winning the war on terror.  We certainly would be delighted if that were so, but if we are winning this war, how is it that the number of enemies seems to be steadily increasing?

According to this article, there are now 875,000 names in the main central terrorist database, up from ‘only’ 540,000 five years earlier.

Think about that – that is another 184 terrorists added to the list, every day (including weekends and holidays).  If this is a fair measure of the situation, how can we claim to be winning anything when we are adding 184 more potential terrorists to the list every day; more than a quarter million extra in just five years?  Doesn’t winning the war imply a decline, not a runaway spiraling increase?

On the other hand, fighting terror is a huge growth opportunity, especially if you’re a government department with no shame and eager to seize any opportunity to redefine the concept of terror, and to expand your size and presence.  Especially if you’re, to be specific, the hydra-headed Homeland Security Department, who apparently sent along 20 ICE agents (part of Homeland Security) as part of a team raiding a small cell phone repair store in South Florida.

The store’s link with terror, homeland security, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement?  Well, that’s a good point.  The store was accused of repairing iPhones with – gasp – non-Apple spare parts.

Surely, if any crime exists at all (and that is far from certain – in the good old days it was illegal for companies to mandate that only their supplies be used for ongoing maintenance) it is a civil matter between Apple and the repair store, and doesn’t require 20+ ICE agents to raid a store so small they probably couldn’t all fit inside it at the same time.

Clearly there’s no sequestering going on at ICE.  Details here.

Meanwhile, the FBI, which narrowly escaped getting swept up as part of the new HSD when it was formed, and happily remain as part of the Justice Department, nonchalantly disclosed that all calls in the US are recorded and available for them to subsequently play back.

They don’t say who does the recording, and surely it couldn’t be the NSA, could it, because their operating authority specifically excludes them from recording ordinary conversations between normal Americans…..

Which begs the question – if not the NSA, then who is doing this?

The latest extension of the war on terrorism (which, don’t forget, we are winning) seems to be to deem every American citizen a terrorist and therefore deserving of having all their phone calls monitored.

The happy profusion of overlapping windows that equates to productivity in Windows 7.  Windows 8 attempts to prevent you from doing this.
The happy profusion of overlapping windows that equates to productivity in Windows 7 (my former setup). Windows 8 attempts to prevent you from doing this.

The Nightmare that is Windows 8

My new computer arrived late on Wednesday, and I excitedly opened the box and took out the brushed metal exterior clad Dell laptop.

Well, first disappointment.  Actually, it is merely painted plastic – a chip of the paint was missing on one of the sides that betrayed the metallic appearance and showed it to be plastic underneath the fancy looking paint.

I turned it on, created a log in, and then, all of a sudden – wham!  Windows 8 hits me right between the eyes.

Maybe I’d feel better if this totally re-designed paradigm (it isn’t just an interface, it truly is, to use the much overworked term, a new paradigm) came with some sort of documentation – a quick start guide, perhaps, or even, if they don’t want to print anything out, some sort of help file on the computer.  But, alas, that’s way too old-fashioned for the hipster minimalists at Microsoft, who refuse to acknowledge that their interface is obtuse and impenetrable and demanding of documentation.

So there I was – no start button, no fathomable way to access any programs, and a screen full of big blobs of garish color.  Help!  What to do next?

Actually, I knew what to do, because I’d already researched the problem.  I was feeling very clever at having to spend a mere $5 to buy a program that would supposedly override the worst of the Windows 8 interface (Stardock) and make it look more like Windows 7, but alas, every so often Windows 8 appears like a zombie that will not die and takes over my lovely new computer.

I am closer than I have ever been in my entire 57 years to ceremonially burning everything I’ve ever purchased from Microsoft and moving to Apple, or maybe even to some sort of Unix environment.  I’m not just beyond outrage, I’m also feeling totally betrayed.  I’ve been a loyal user of Windows and before that, DOS.  I’ve bought multiple copies of every version of Windows right back to 1.0, and the same for DOS too back to I forget what, possibly even 1.0.

I’ve forgiven Microsoft their occasional idiocies such as Bob and Kin and Zune, because their core products – Windows and Office – have remained bulletproof, solid and stolid.  While Apple has been preening itself and prancing around, Microsoft has been solidly delivering the goods.

But what can I say today?  Right from the instant it turns on, Win8 is a wasteful unproductive layer of nonsense – you now need to hit any key to go from a pretty picture to the log-in screen.  Okay, so that’s just one single wasted keystroke, but it is a fateful start to then doing battle with your computer for all the time you’re at it, never knowing when the zombie that will not die will suddenly take over your screen again.  And this first of many wasted keystrokes sums up the new design approach – ‘We’re going to make it what we think to be pretty, even if it will cost you a loss of productivity’.

I don’t want a pretty looking computer.  Indeed, I do all I can to get rid of the visual distraction and rubbish.  I’m focused on working on programs, not admiring pretty pictures on an otherwise blank desktop image.

Again like zombies, the Windows 8 disease is spreading.  Skype (now owned by Microsoft) is now infected with Win8-itis.  It appears with ‘a new beautiful interface for Windows 8’.  As you can guess, the interface is vomit inducing, useless, and impossible to use.

I went to open a PDF and it now appears in a Microsoft program, ‘Reader’, which again commandeers one’s entire screen, and lacks any apparent way to be closed down.  Help.  Give me back Adobe Acrobat Reader, please!

Windows 8 is also introducing other hidden costs and problems.  I went to load my Corel Graphics X5 suite, which I bought less than a year ago, only to be warned that it is not compatible with Windows 8.  The cost to upgrade?  $189.  One wonders how many other nasty little surprises might be lurking in the background like this one (equal blame to Corel for this, of course).

What is so bad with Windows 8?  I’ll not go into detail, but in a nutshell, Microsoft have taken an unsuccessful phone operating system (Windows Phone 7) and ported it over to their once extremely successful world-changing desktop operating system, Windows.  In the process, they have destroyed the steadily improving Windows interface and franchise they’ve been developing and tweaking over the past seven major and many minor Windows releases.

The new Windows 8 assumes you have a low resolution touch screen and fat stubby fingers rather than a mouse and fine cursor on a high-resolution screen, and further assumes you’d never want to have more than one program open on your screen at the same time.  These assumptions are valid for a small touch screened cell phone, but totally erroneous for a normal computer.

Maybe there are some benefits to the new interface, and judging by the sycophantic chorus of hollow praise from much of the main stream media when Windows 8 was first released, you’d certainly think there might be.  Of course, the Windows 8 fanboys are now almost totally silent, or else they’ve reversed their opinion now that it is safe to dare question the value of something from Microsoft.

Other than some infantile videos that I had neither the time nor inclination to view, there’s no way of knowing if there are hidden treasures in Win8.  Surely, when you’re replacing the design structure that you’ve been building on for almost 25 years, you at least come up with some help files and quick start guides to assist people to make the transition and feel good about it?

It isn’t just the big things that are different.  It is small things, too – some gratuitous, some bothersome, and all annoying.  For example, window ‘frames’ which were first square then rounded are now square again.  That’s as unnecessary as tie widths going wide then thin then wide again.  Work software shouldn’t be driven by fashion, it should be driven by productivity.

In some cases, with some Microsoft programs, but not in all cases, with all programs, if I Alt-Tab from one window to another, I also then need to click to get the cursor focused so I can start typing.  I didn’t have to do this before, now I do.  More to the point, it is worse than an extra keystroke – instead I have to take my hand from the keyboard, to the mouse, position the cursor and click, then take my hand back to the keyboard again.

Maybe this only takes a second or so, but I do it several hundred times a day, probably.  It accelerates my decline into RSI and slows down my productivity, with no compensating benefit to justify it.  Plus it isn’t consistent.  If I anticipate it, I don’t need to, and if I omit it, I’m typing into oblivion.

I was looking at a listing of files, and the column showing the directory path was too narrow, meaning I couldn’t see the full directory path.  But whereas in earlier versions of Windows, I could simply widen the column, there’s no obvious way to do it in the new Windows 8 interface.  Did they forget about this?  Deliberately take it out?  Or obscure the way to do it?

What part of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ does Microsoft not understand?

This interesting article from the Financial Times about the generally acknowledged as being a disaster product that Windows 8 is now accepted as being, refers to the now infamous quote from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about the Windows 8 product being a ‘bet-the-company moment’.

There can be no denying that Microsoft has lost its bet, but just how high were the stakes?  Who has experienced any negative consequence (other than Microsoft’s hundreds of millions of Windows customers)?  Alas, Ballmer is still CEO.  There’s been little good and a lot bad since he took over in 2000.  There have been no mass layoffs in the Windows division.

The only good news is that Microsoft is now hinting it will be making some sweeping changes to Windows 8 in an updated version, due to be released some time later this year.  It isn’t actually saying ‘We messed up, we’re sorry, and we’re bringing back the old interface’, and it seems it will be almost exactly a year from the release of Windows 8 last October to the release of a viable Windows 8.1, so clearly there’s little priority or importance being given to the project.

For a good analysis on Microsoft’s mess, here’s a piece from The Economist.

But universally unanswered (and largely unasked) is the biggest question of all – how could a company make such a colossal mistake?  We’re not talking subtle here.  We’re talking Armageddon level disaster.  I know Microsoft spends enormously on usability studies, alpha and beta testing, and I know there are lots of truly brilliant people working at Microsoft, just a few miles from where I live.

What went wrong?

The only possible explanation?  The team that was responsible for one of the greatest modern product disasters of all time, the extremely short-lived Microsoft Kin phone, were not fired.  Instead, they moved, en masse, to the Windows Development division.  🙂

And Lastly This Week….

We often read about passengers being ordered off planes due to wearing what some fashion policeman/flight attendant deems to be inappropriate clothing.  Usually the clothing is moderate and nothing worse than you see downtown or at the local mall any day of the week.

But here’s a twist on this problem – this time the inappropriate clothing is the new uniform that female staff on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains are being asked to wear.  Never mind, Sir Richard is offering to pay for staff to buy ‘suitable undergarments’ to compensate.  Although one wonders exactly what Sir Richard might consider as suitable…..

Admittedly, they did ask for triple scoop sized icecreams, but four British holidayers in Rome were stunned to find that their four cones came to €64 ($85).  They think that a bit much, but the ice cream shop says the price is fair, because they have some ice creams that cost even more.

Moral of the story – check out the prices before ordering.

A happy mother’s day this Sunday to everyone who is, was, or will be a mother, and to everyone who has or had a mother.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels







7 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup Friday 10 May 2013”

  1. So…… other than that, David, you quite like Windows 8, then?
    Uuuh…. this is not new, do you recall Vista?…..!

    1. Hi, Lady L

      Vista was not a great product, but it wasn’t an awful product either – I had Vista on one or two machines.

      I think most of the complaints about Vista were motivated as much by disappointment as anything else – although it was promised to be a brilliant improvement, it actually wasn’t at all.

      Sure, I didn’t much like it, but the thing is that Vista did not totally destroy the previous interface design and replace it with something beyond stupid. Windows 8 does. Alas.

  2. the person formerly known as digitaldoug

    RE: Knives on planes – I am opposed to the concept because of the perfidity of the TSA. The devil is in the details – either we allow all knives from the tiniest of pocket knives to Crockodile Dundee’s “that’s a knife”, or we don’t allow any.

  3. Who in their right mind would want a knife on a plane these are idiots a knife is no different than box cutters, 2 drunks with knives would be horrific who needs a knife on a plane plz plz how can u agree with this i am shocked

    1. Hi, Barbara

      You know, I’d sort of hoped we could have a high-level discussion on the topic, rather than immediately accusing those who we don’t agree with as not being in their right mind and being idiots.

      But, to answer your question literally, please see above. 56% of Travel Insiders want to be able to bring a small (pocket) knife on a plane with them, compared to only 33% who oppose the notion, and I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that the majority of Travel Insider readers are idiiots. But we (for, yes, I am one of them) do, for sure, in turn wonder who in their right mind would object to such a simple safe concept. 🙂

      You say that two drunks with knives would be horrific. Ummm, have you ever been in a bar? Full of people in varying degrees of intoxication, and many of whom have very much larger than tiny pocket knives, all lawfully carried upon their persons.

      I want a knife on a plane every time I fly. Not for starting knife fights, but so I can have my ‘utility bag’ of emergency tools, connectors, cables, spare batteries, and other fixit things with me. I have screwdrivers (which would be a vastly better stabbing weapon than a 2.4″ long knife anyway) in this bag, and many other things, but at present, no knife. I have to check a bag, whether I need to or not, just because people like you are terrified I’ll suddenly turn into a crazed monster at 35,000 ft.

      I lose a knife a year at present (expensive multi-functional Swiss Army Knives) because I occasionally forget to take my utility bag out of my carry-on (where it spends most of its life) and move it to my checked bag instead.

      I have also occasionally wanted a knife on a plane to open up one of those pesky impossible-to-open plastic cases that has something in it I bought in a store in the airport.

      You speculate on the possible dangers of knives on planes. I could speculate on the possible danger of the sky falling on your head. But the truth is, there has never been an incident involving a passenger, drunk or sober, going amok with a knife on a plane, and happily, neither also is there a danger of the sky falling on your head.

      Perhaps there are graver dangers to give more thought to, such as the risk of getting in a fatal accident on the drive to and from the airport. Tens of thousands of people die in car accidents every year, no people die in knife attacks on planes.

  4. Loved your comments on Windows 8. I have heard nothing positive about it. Anyone I know is doing everything they can to keep their old computers running rather than deal with Win8.

    Until last night. My 80 year old Mother called to tell me she had bought a new Dell laptop….yes, Win8. I cried. She is a fairly computer literate person. Has had computers since the days of the Commodor 64. She can handle spread sheets, word processing, banking, bill paying, shopping, email, facebook, book airline tickets and hotels.

    Fortunately she has just spent 2 days with my brother-in-law who works IT for GE. He had no experience with Win8 but they worked through it together to get basic functions working.

    Whilst trying to walk her through connecting to her home WiFi on an OS I have never even seen we came to a point where I suggested restarting the computer. “I don’t know how to turn it off” she said. I had to do a google search to find out how to turn the dang thing off!!

    It’s going to be a long summer.

    1. Hi, Lynnae

      Needing to search Google to work out how to turn Windows 8 off is a brilliant summation of all that is appallingly obtuse and bad about this abomination of an OS.

      Thanks for sharing


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