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October 31, 2006

The pains of deciding on a cellphone call plan

So, BestMate was actually an 'add-on' to Vodafone NZ's newly-released Supa Prepay plan (the wording kind of made this obvious beforehand, though), and not the main offering. But before one signs up, best to look at one's usage patterns. Steve Biddle has written thoughts on Supa Prepay, reminding us that it may not be suitable for some prepaid customers, while Matthew Robinson looks at the text messaging add-on, prepay crediting requirements and why he thinks that it's only now that something new is being offered. Comments following only assume prepaid accounts.

If one makes lots of calls of one or two minutes to multiple people and in-network or to landlines, it seems not worth bothering, as Steve points out the rounding used (per second after the first minute for Motormouth, Anytime and Nights & Weekends; nearest minute -- I'm guessing upwards -- for Supa Prepay), note to mention 49¢ (Motormouth) versus 89¢ (Supa Prepay and Anytime). If one's calls are longer than about 4 or so minutes, however, a $2 two hour cap might be an incentive. Overseas calls change things a little, but not much. There's no in-network or landline restriction on Supa Prepay, however. It's possible Nights and Weekends may also be appropriate; there's no in-network or landline restriction there either. But such in-network restrictions can be solved by (depending on one's circumstances) getting another phone on a similar prepaid plan on the only other cellphone network, or a second plan (and thus, account) on the same network.

So, without add-ons, unless one does actually do calls longer than about 4 minutes or doesn't want to complicate their life with a second phone (on another plan or network) or SIM, there won't be much point.

With the add-ons, the text message offer ($10 for 2000) is in-network only, which means trying to con as many friends as possible on to the same network. That's not always possible. While Telecom NZ's $10 for 500 plan has an allocation a quarter of the size, there's no in-network restriction. They also offer a in-network $10 for 1000, though. (The most I've ever really done with a push has been about 200 or 300 all networks in a month.)

Credit minimums are a little iffy for low-volume users as well. 365 days for the existing plans versus 90 days. The number's 365 day validity stays for all plans, however.

As for the other the BestMate add-on, I've already noted that it's not worth my bother given my usage.

Overall, nice idea, but doesn't suit my usage. Oh well. But I understand that it's quite possibly an attempt to lift ARPU, as Steve Biddle talks about in his diary entry.

That's enough from me on phone plans for a while. Talking about commercial products (no, I haven't been paid for or asked to write the above) in the way I have for the last few days scares me. I'll just stick to some more news articles as I usually do, now. At least I'll try to.

Sigh.

MySpace to use recognition software to block copyrighted multimedia

The NZH has grabbed from Reuters a report that MySpace wants to use new technology to stop users from posting unauthorised copyrighted music on the social networking website and oust frequent violators of its policy. OK... I guess there must be no one at all that'd be able to claim fair use rights nor claim that they were licensed, then, and that anyone that uses so-called copyrighted music or videos must be doing something illegal and have something to hide -- or so this scheme appears to assume. I'm not necessarily disputing such an identification system, but what if someone does honestly and in good faith try to claim fair use or licensed use? What mechanisms would there be to claim fair use or for licensed uses to be noted? I'd need to know more information before I passed judgement on such a scheme.

Sigh. It'll be interesting to see the answers. :)

October 30, 2006

Another asthma cause

Over in New Zealand, are you concerned about the condition your home with regards to asthma? In the New York City suburb of South Bronx, I've no idea about environmental conditions in housing, but one newly-identified asthma cause is truck exhaust.

Two other snippets I've found in the New York Times today, with two sentences from each that summarise them:

  1. US Jobs Shape Condoms' Role in Foreign Aid -- Britain, Ireland and Norway have all sought to make aid more cost effective by opening contracts in their programs to fight global poverty to international competition. The United States, meanwhile, continues to restrict bidding on billions of dollars worth of business to companies operating in America, and not just those that make condoms.

    Eek!

  2. What Do Women Want? Just Ask -- More companies, in the United States and elsewhere, have realized that they overlook women at their own financial peril. The companies are realigning their marketing and design practices, learning to court an increasingly female-centric consumer base that boasts more financial muscle and purchasing independence than ever before.

More on Vodafone's 'BestMate' plan

Only a small snippet confirming what I found yesterday: that it's all-you-can-whatever voice and video calling and text messaging to another in-network (Vodafone) number, for $6 a month. The message appears on Vodafone's customer service site. I guess it does guarantee them, to some degree, some cashflow, revenue, or whatever the exact word is.

(Unfortunately, they don't list the last modified date on the question so I can't see when it was 'accidentally' (or apparently so) leaked, which would help determine the age of the information, but according to the UNIX date hidden in the URL, it was created on 1161052238, or 17 October, in the early afternoon NZ time. Assuming the $6 statement has been there since then, that'd be amusing in that this is linked to from the bestmate.co.nz viral marketing site Vodafone set up -- see the FAQ JavaScript-based popup link in the bottom right corner of the front page.)

The page also gives a URL for the plan's fine print. Doesn't work yet, and the HTTP last-modified headers for the general prepaid fine print say they were last uploaded on 17 May.

Again, I'm not sure I'd bother, as I tend to spread my usage among several people. It's nothing against the product -- it just doesn't fit my usage patterns.

October 29, 2006

Lots of hands, lots of disinfecting gel sort of stuff

Two more stories before I head to bed, both unrelated to the other:

  1. What's next? If politicians use disinfecting handwash stuff to clean their hands after shaking hands with crowds, perhaps it'll be disinfecting lips after kissing babies next.

  2. Archbishop defends faith schools (BBC) -- it's surrounding the controversy of a plan compelling new state-funded faith schools in England to take up to 25% of pupils from outside the religion.

    It's interesting as I recall there's a similar provision for 'non-preference students' in New Zealand's state integrated schools, pretty much most of which are Catholic. As far as I know, many if not all of these schools have a non-preference quota in their integration agreements, given though that I've never actually read any of these agreements.

Student loan company cancels conference

Enough about prepaid credit cards for now. I might keep of the topic for a long time. On to some education-related issue... and thank goodness I have only ever got a New Zealand student loan. It sounds as if the United States student loan situation is a little bit, well, odd, possibly characterised by a conference that was cancelled by a student loan provider.

'Prepaid' credit cards, finally!

Kelvin Yong writes that gift vouchers, in the form of a prepaid Visa card, will soon be available from New Zealand Post under the name 'Prezzy Card'. So it's not really a credit card per se in terms of getting a credit line, but given for some people the difficulty of getting a credit card, it might become useful -- it's apparently to be accepted in most places as per a 'regular' Visa credit card.

At least it appears, according to the FAQ, that one won't need to buy it online, which would probably need a 'real' credit card in turn. Phew.

It's a pity that it is specifically not reloadable (as per the fine print), thereby requiring effectively their $5 activation charge for a new card every time one's card is finished. For someone forced to use it for every day transacting, it'd start getting rather expensive, unless they were able to load a large amount of money each time. (Assuming the $500 maximum loading on a card, that $5 each time, the loss of interest on the blocks of $500, one's actual ability to stump up with $500 at a time each time, once one reaches about 3 or 4 cards, one might as well try really hard for getting a 'real' credit card -- credit card annual fees are as little as $15 a year or $18 a year to $25 a year, or $35 with rewards points, if one likes those.)

Not only does just that stop me from getting one for more than just amusement value -- the product's expiry date is just (at least) a year, and there's a 3.5% foreign currency transaction fee, when most banks are around the realm of 1.75% (half that of this card's rate!), 1.85%, 2%, 2.1% 2.25% 2.5% or 2.5%, as far as I recall. On the other hand, it might be worth considering getting one for higher risk transactions -- one's number would have to change often, if the card's not reloadable. Then again, I can't imagine many people using it for overseas travel. In that case, it seems there may be a more favourable option in the form of TravelMoney (also from Visa). The for at least a full year statement with regard to its validity/expiry period that's mentioned on the card's home page puts me off the most.

Overall here, I think it's a good card for a 'first mover' in to the market to use marketing speak.

I'd be interested to see what denominations of preloaded values end up being available, or whether it could be determined largely arbitrarily at time of purchase. Of course I wouldn't want to have a large amount loaded, but equally I wouldn't want to have to change often, were I to get one for purchasing reasons (as opposed to present giving reasons). The home page, though, suggests it can be between $25 and $500, but doesn't say exactly what particular values can be loaded.

Interestingly, they have a partner of sorts in the venture, so I'm guessing, like their Good Call prepaid calling card, it's probably some sort of reseller/resale arrangement with said partner (in Good Call's case, it's some people called CardCall, and in this case, some outfit called WildCard Systems). They're using some of their subsidiary Kiwibank's systems though, it seems, if the private bag number for Prezzy Card disputes is the same as Kiwibank's.

Now, why don't any banks here (Westpac did, I hear, but they aren't taking any new customers) do cheque cards, or transaction account-linked 'credit' cards? If they did, I wouldn't have a particularly desperate need for a credit card anymore. I don't really need the credit, but I'm forced to get it, and the risk that comes with it.

Delving deeper in to the product's fine print, there are some nice ones that that I haven't mentioned yet. If the card's worn out, it's a $20 fee (which also applies if one's lost it, which seems fair enough). Also, one can't use it to get cash out of a money machine or while at a shop, nor use it for gambling websites (the latter sounds like something to keep the post office's US-based business partner out of trouble).

Overall, in a naive sense, I hope it helps encourage people not using credit cards for credit. It sounds like a fun thing, too. Maybe I'll get one anyway for amusement.

Another reason I mentioned it here is the usefulness of (overseas) travel, should I do that in the future. Useful as a backup, but I have no idea if I could get a card replaced while overseas. Perhaps yes, but maybe way more than the stated $20 fee.

Buying Lotto tickets possible soonish, allegedly

In some ways I wonder if it's vapourware. But the NZH claims it's not:

Lotto tickets could soon be available on the internet, the Lotteries Commission is set to announce this week.

But gambling watchdogs are worried that that if the game goes online it is likely to become irresistible to at-risk punters.

Chief executive Todd McLeay told the Herald on Sunday that because many customers expected to use the internet in all aspects of their lives, the move would be "a natural addition to the online Kiwi experience".

I wonder if they'll try barring overseas sales?

$6 per month for Vodafone's 'BestMate on Supa Prepay'

Sick of the viral marketing that's making you say 'just bloody well tell me'? Well, some folks at a local electronics store (whom I'm guessing other locals will be able to identify from the pictures below) decided to put out their (possibly still embargoed) marketing collateral for Vodafone NZ's supposedly brilliant (I haven't I should add pass judgement on it yet, and I've got no idea if it is, really, but I'm not a marketer) new BestMate™ on the new Supa Prepay plan (yeah, they write it with the trademark symbol, even in the press release, heaven forbid), for their prepaid cellphone customers, a little early (as far as I can tell).

So, if the sign is to be believed, it's 'Call, video [call?] and TXT' one's nominated best friend for $6 per month. I'm guessing that the $6 wouldn't allow reciprocal calls or text messages back without the other friend person also paying six buckazoids to Vodafone as well. It doesn't suggest how many so-called best friends one can, uh, have. It might also be one of multiple options. I don't know. Heck, I've no idea how open a secret this is, anyway.

Makes it quite interesting for people who mostly send text messages to one other person, as it then effectively trumps Telecom NZ's 2007 $10 for 500 text messages plan.

[I would have uploaded the photographs as indicated, but all three of my usual points for uploading photos seem oddly broken. I'll try again later.]

[Update (6:18): Looks like I've managed to get one of the album sites to upload. Sigh. Took a while.]

Here's closeup of the operative part of the sign, which basically tells us to call, video call and send text messages to our 'BestMate' for '$6 a month'. And here is a detail from another of the photographs. The person holding another person seems rather odd to me. The full album might be useful, too. Lastly, here is a slightly blurry overview of the whole sign.

Yeah, the man holding the woman in his hand seems mildly odd to me. I'm trying not to make a resistant reading of that.

Would mobile number portability actually get around to happening? Vodafone claim that it's happening next year, but the same statement has been up for a while. Then again, Telecom says they'll have it sorted to launch, of all dates, on April Fool's Day next year.

I hope that's not a joke. I'd like just to see a few more points of competition. Portability would help.

October 21, 2006

It's the telly -- no wait, it's the programmes they watch... no wait, it's...

Whoever said New Zealand's biggest threat was a moral decline? Maybe even a moral decline thanks to dodgy television programmes and dodgy films? (And with that, dodgy by whose standards?) Anyone thought of all those screens of varying descriptions wasting childhoods? Sometimes it isn't totally the blame of the media or the programmes carried on the media -- it's the use of the media, too, to some extent.

The NZH also run an intergenerational comparison on the abovementioned topic.

Of course it's dangerous to get blinded by one factor, so I won't venture more in to this particular debate.

Other things -- I'm planning a study trip at the moment. For those that don't already know what, I'll mention it if (and once) all the details fall in to place. And Klaatu's Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft is currently playing on my Pandora.com station. Hmmm. I liked the Due South version that they did; it just seems to sound different now.

New on hydro.electric.gen.nz is my take on the 'new' tabbed browsing feature in IE7. It's all right, but tabbed browsing did take a while to get added as a feature (for those our there not having been pestered or nagged by Windows yet to install IE7 yet -- if you're using the operating system at all, I've left the original message window available). Loading third-party solutions (OK, so one was engineered in the form of Microsoft's own Windows Live Toolbar) just isn't my cup of tea for tabbed browsing.

It's a pity that I find Firefox's memory leaks in its current releases on some of my systems at home a little bit too much.

October 19, 2006

Two years later, the toy dinosaur's still there

Looks like the Flintstones-style dinosaur (Dino?) is still on White Island's crater webcam two years and (nearly) five months later. When its existence was first reported, GNS said that they hoped Dino sticks around for a while, but we doubt he will have the staying power of his ancestors. The acid environment on White Island gives plastic a fairly hard time.

Uh, well, as of today, it's still there on the White Island crater webcam. Courtesy of HTTrack and hydro.electric.gen.nz, some captures from the webcam for posterity:

The White Island Volcano Crater Webcam from 1.00pm on 1 October, 2006, on hydro.electric.gen.nz, not GeoNet.

This compared with earlier. To me it probably means not a lot, and not a lot's changed, but I'm guessing to a geologist, a lot has. Except the dinosaur hasn't received an acidic demise yet, assuming she or he ever will any time soon...

The White Island Volcano Crater Webcam from 10.00am on 24 May, 2004, on hydro.electric.gen.nz, not GeoNet.

October 14, 2006

Losing luggage in Las Vegas

It'd appear next time you visit LAS, you'd be more likely to lose money at the casino and less likely to lose luggage at the airport, thanks to RFID.

OK, other things: I got around to uploading Hinemoa: with notes and vocabulary (1907) by Henry James Fletcher this afternoon, scanned from a public domain copy in the VUW library.

Something to probably not get a child under 36 months for Christmas

Well, chances are you don't want to be getting a new Tickle Me Elmo toy that appears (albeit to me) to have the potential to hurt a young toddler. But look at its moves!

Methinks that I want one too.

October 12, 2006

Is 30 people big enough for a sample?

While I was writing up my final assignment draft for the university year, I spotted an article on MSNBC about dress style and fertility:

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelry when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

“They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably,” said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.

I can see the point of the research, but as usual it raises the question for me that, OK, money might be a constraint, but 30 for a sample of, uh, people being tested seems a little small to me.

(If you can't be bothered wading through digital rights management hoops for an earlier version of the paper, bothering to Google comes up with a proof version in the author's online papers list, DOI code doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2006.07.007. If you don't mind wading through, for an earlier similar paper from the same journal, prod your favourite web browser at DOI code doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.10.006 via your favourite library journal database or link resolver for some reading.)

2 days early!

Yeah, earlier than required (or what you thought was the date in question) is extremely good. And with time to sleep on the final assignment, too.

October 8, 2006

Next book

Things are still happenin' at Section 27(1) Books at the moment, but after noticing there were no books in te reo in Project Gutenberg and only one with Māori as a supporting/secondary language in Distributed Proofreaders, I found, got cleared and scanned a short book on a legend this week -- shortest scan I've ever done. Once I finish up for the term, I'll properly mention the title and post it. It's not quite a, uh, book on my usual topic area (something from the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, that is), but it's a nice distraction/relaxation from the usual.

It's a rather interesting book. Only pages 5 through 11 are actually in Māori to be honest, and the rest of the 28 pages are taken up by a preface, notes and a nice little vocabulary list. Being from the early 1900s, it also is 'pre-macrons'. Disregarding the commentary, methinks this would make it the first primarily Māori book in PG. I was hoping to find a book written only in te reo, though. I'll try again next week for another text. Maybe I'll hit paydirt.

October 6, 2006

RealPlayer 10.5 fiddling with Google Toolbar 4 without permission

At least I don't recall knowingly giving permission while updating my RealPlayer 10.5 installation. Noone should dare tell me that they just mysteriously appeared in an unrelated phenomenon.

Right now my Google Toolbar 4 installation in Internet Explorer is sitting shiny with a Rolling Stone dropdown button that wasn't there previously and a similar RealMedia icon that wasn't there previously either.

And here are the two offending icons. Clicking on the dropdown bit with one comes up with headlines, as if they were headline feeds, the other with tracks to listen to.

Poking around, these are 'custom buttons', so had I added them myself or added them with explicit permission, that'd have been my fault. Fine. But these weren't added as such. (That said, they seem rather innocent at first. Some technical information from Google Toolbar's options menu window: the Rolling Stone button says 'Sends your query to www.rollingstone.com when clicked' and 'Receives information from www.rollingstone.com periodically' and the Rhapsody.com one says 'Receives information from feeds.rhapsody.com periodically'. It still does not excuse what Real has done, though.)

This is damned immoral. It's wrong. It's as bad as spyware/badware, malware and home page hijacking. Losers. Anyone else had this?

His Majesty King of Interface -- oh, and Telecom implies that Jabber is peer-to-peer stuff

Right, two things, while I should be doing work/finishing off at Women's Studies for the university year: my friend Donald Gordon is now King of Interface, or, put simply, a life member, and (in an unrelated madness) the open standards-based Jabber instant messaging protocol is a peer-to-peer technology, Telecom Xtra implies. Egads.

October 3, 2006

13 October

I finish for the university year then. Ten days! Should be fun until then.

See you then!