Craig Mattson (Personal Website)
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Hey! Don't forget the people! (14/12/2009 08:38:06 PM)
To those who read my blog, it's nothing new when I talk about how much of an arduous task it is to work through the Software Development Life Cycle to deliver on a project. Even for what appears to be the smallest of tasks (for instance, a small spreadsheet-style application for storing small volumes of data), a considerable amount of analysis is required to ensure successful sign-off. Successful and useful analysis generally flows to a good system design which flows on to a good useful system. It sounds simple enough, right? So why then, particularly lately, am I stuck in a position where systems all around (and some with heavy investment) failing? I've done a bit of ad-hoc research into why systems are failing and the common pitfall seems to come back to Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

This has been something that has plagued some of the ingenuity of systems I've developed myself, but seemingly more of an issue now than back when systems were fairly basic (think: Windows 95 / 98 / XP). One system I have worked on recently involved the automation of data entered by multiple users (particularly customers). Whilst a considerable amount of time went into analysing business requirements, and proper coding practices were followed - the system took off to a rocky start (as most systems do and expected). Initial problems were to do with performance issues, accuracy of data and the inability to do something that was easier to achieve under an old system. None-the-less, these clients were quite positive about moving into a new system (albeit, they didn't have much of an old system in the first place). With centralising the system, the real time saving was the entire end-to-end process. Whilst certain parts of the system (particularly in the initial transactions) were slower than under a previous system, when the automation component kicks in - time savings were considerable (or so we significantly over-estimated).

So why did this happen? Well, the application was data-driven and the platform was a website. A big no-no when heavy amounts of data are required. Whilst an application may have made the initial transaction quicker, the small volume of data processed isn't much of a concern - so we had to look elsewhere. We optimised Stored Procedures, Code-Behind, created reports on alternative platforms, pulled features out etc… Whilst we were quite happy with the performance we were achieving, the client was still dissatisfied. It turns out one of the most basic fundamental principals of the system were overlooked, or what may have been something we shadowed when discussing automation.

The fact is, whilst the system automates and validates most input, the client wasn't looking for 99% accuracy, they were looking for 100% accuracy. This is fair enough, and working towards 100% was what we were hoping to achieve. With initial problems with the system, they were also expecting the system to store data inaccurately. This was proven not to be the case. The system stores exactly what you tell it. If you try to go around the perimeter of the application, or feed it garbage - of-course the data returned is going to be garbage.

The issue was quite simple and could have been rectified if we still were working on the system. They wanted to check all data coming into the system just to ensure that any mistakes could be rectified before doing anything with the data. As we are taking large volumes of data to glance over (say 94% of the input was accurate, with the most common thing - incorrect spelling of suburbs or road names making up the remaining 6%), the best way to present that is in an editable grid (or something like excel). This means you could download 100 or so records, check out, fix the data within the data grid and submit changes once you're satisfied. Quite a simple task - and oddly, something that was provided in the primitive nature of their existing system.

The point of this is to suggest how something so simple can lead to a significant waste of time. So what happens when we scale up the project from a small management system to a large state network? Maybe something like Myki (a Smart-Card Ticketing System for Public Transport in Melbourne).

Myki itself as far as I am concerned is already a failed project and not because of the usefulness (or teething issues), but because it's already 3 years overdue and way over budget. For such a simple idea, there seems to be fundamental issues with the implementation and HCI component of Myki. The two most common issues at the moment are to do with the Decision Engine for fare calculation and how long it takes to swipe a card. Myki is similar to my example above in that the end-to-end process is substantially quicker than Metcard (a metallic zone-based card system) - but particular issues are preventing users from appreciating these benefits.

Let's talk about the decision engine for fare calculation. There are quite clearly issues (such as double charges, incorrect zone charges etc…). On paper, it sounds easy - let's take a GPS device, develop some software around the GPS to pick up where the transport is, pick up the destination point on the GPS and away you go. Based on the start point and end point, you can calculate what zone you are in and away you go. This is fine for something like Melbourne's 2 Zone system (i.e. Zone 1 and Zone 2 cover the entire Melbourne Suburbs from Pakenham to Werribee and Epping / Hurstbridge in the North). There are points where Zone 1 and 2 overlap - but those are relatively straight forward to pick up.

Where Myki is failing is in the country on Bus Routes (where the primary testing is). Whilst again, on paper, you could calculate how many Kilometers have travelled, how many "stops" have been passed on the journey etc… There are points on a map you can mark as a stop. If you were to code it in an exact form, what happens if the transport is 1m ahead of the point you mark as the charge point? You could increase the variance of the stop (such as a radius of 300m?). This may be OK in a country town where stops are in excess of 1km apart, but what about the ones that are not? You end up with significant overlaps which could cause the system to confuse particular stops as being more than actually covered. Another issue may be to do with what happens if a GPS is slightly faulty? What if, the GPS signal returned goes 20km away from where you are (promptly followed by targeting back to where you are). The system may assume some 40km was covered thus you should be charged accordingly! These types of anomalies will only be uncovered through huge testing. I'm sure the developers behind Myki have seen what they would consider tiny issues as well.

In regards to swiping on and off. A contactless reader should realistically take less than a second to validate and away you go. In peak hour, you could probably move 40 people per minute (compare that to 15 with Metcard at the moment). The problem is, the boasted time saving isn't happening right now. Why? There could be multiple explanations from the system taking a moment to recognise, find an active connection to the network etc… or maybe it's to do with how the user is using the system? With Metcard, you swipe your card, the card comes out, you take the ticket with you and you can read on your ticket the expiry date / time and the zones you are allowed to travel in. You also have, if you buy multi-use cards, the ability to see how much "credit" you have left. But you do this away from the system as it's printed on the Metcard. With the recent media hype of the lengthy delays in using Myki, it is of no surprise that people are taking their time when using Myki. My "usage" of Myki certainly suggests a fairly instant procedure (much quicker than a validator impacting my ticket to print the expiry date when boarding a bus). You swipe, and the Myki reader returns some information. Hold on, returning information? On a screen? That isn't portable?

The issue doesn't seem to be due to the hardware. Granted, slow network traffic won't help - but maybe the issue is (due to the media hype in particular) that people are trying to read the information on the screen because if they don't, they have no other way of accessing it! Maybe the best thing to do is remove the screens and information all together - OR - replace the messages with a big smily face that indicates your ticket was successful. With the number of internet-capable phones and free wifi hotspots (and internet kiosks) around, maybe the solution to presenting the information is by SMS to a Mobile Phone, E-Mail, an Application (like Tram-Tracker for the Apple iPhone).

Human Computer Interaction is a big component that seems to be lacking in detail through lots of software development courses. At least, in my course I completed, the HCI component was a pile of garbage. Trying to research how a user will use a system isn't exactly easy either. Having a "tester" for instance, particularly a qualified one may yield different results compared to someone who has no idea about testing. One component of Project Management I feel many people have misunderstood was the concept of research one-on-one and a survey / discussion. The basics have been one-on-one is most useful to get targeted answers whereas a survey could be used as a preliminary discussion. What they seem to forget is that whilst a group discussion may yield only one or two main points, those one or two main points could be mission critical to the success of the project. In Myki's instance, if a group of every-day transport users were given a prototype to look at (just in the way on using the card as part of human instinct), they may have found a more appropriate way to present the interface.

So yeah - next time you are analysing something, ensure you consider your users and how they will use the system beyond the basic keyboard / mouse interaction. It may save a lot of hassles down the track. Similarly, don't get too disheartened if your system fails in User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phases. Chances are, finding the flaw in UAT will be significantly easier to target than in a controlled environment.

Oh well - time to sign off for the night. I'll try and post a little more regularly now that I have time to.

- - Craig Mattson.

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Life Update (13/09/2009 07:54:10 PM)

I've been flying under the radar lately due to the immense pressure surrounding client work lately, so my apologies for not blogging earlier. Basically this blog post is really nothing more than a reassurance that I am not dead (or to put it bluntly, I still have a pulse) and as such, there isn't too much exciting to post about.

minip180_q_400PC Upgrades:

Last time I blogged properly, I had been to Respawn LAN (which surprise, surprise is on again this weekend) with my PC and the truck load of HDD's I have. Well, suffice to say I have finally moved my HDD's into the new case and using the wonders of IDE technology, have managed to free up enough SATA ports for my collection of 1TB Hard Disk Drives. The downside to the current set up is I now have nothing RAIDed (although the important client files are synchronised properly between my Mac and Laptop). Still on the hunt for a Micro-ATX motherboard with 8 SATA Ports and isn't too expensive. Not getting far with that, mind you - I haven't exactly had the time to really hunt one down.

I've still got a little way to go with my PC; the first step will be 4 x 2GB DDR2-1066MHz RAM (more because I can than anything). I'm still working out what to do with the video card. The 512MB HD4850 is absolutely fine, but that may turn into a 1GB HD4870 (size reasons only - the HD4890 would require me to remove 2 HDD's).

Windows 7:

So as part of working for a Microsoft partner, I'm supposed to enjoy and promote new Microsoft technologies. I've migrated my Laptop and PC over to Windows 7 (Mac gets the privelege of Windows XP) and the good news is the Laptop is running much more reliably than it ever did under Microsoft Windows Vista. However, you must keep in mind that this was migrating from Vista x32 (Business) to Windows 7 x64 (Ultimate). Hibernate times are much quicker, start up times are much faster and the number of crashes are minimal (even with RTM!). Anyway, it's good to finally have a laptop that I enjoy using (although I need to reseat the Heatsink for the video card - 70*C is not cool enough on idle for my liking!).

On a side topic, at work - my manager / supervisor managed to load up Windows 7 onto a stock-standard Intel Pentium IV-2.4GHz and 1GB of RAM. After turning off some services, Windows 7 was running on about 280MB of RAM, and was running quite smoothly. Granted, any form of cool-looking Aero GUI was turned off - but the Windows Experience Index still reported a good 3.0 for Processing power and HDD speed. I can't comment on applications (such as Microsoft Office), but it's certainly easy to see why Windows 7 may soon be on Netbooks and Atom PC's.

True Blood:

front_cover_521Mmm... now here is a TV show that I've been convinced to watch by a couple of individuals. For those who don't know, it's based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels (Ok ok... so I stole that off Wikipedia) and involves some very insane acting and story lines. Some kind of R rated drama / comedy (who'd have guessed) that is, lets face it, poorly executed - but somehow very addictive.

In it's own crude way, it's much akin to Outrageous Fortune - just replace Vampires with your typical islanders and bogans from New Zealand, change V with Marijuana, base it in West Auckland as opposed to Louisiana and you have yourself Outrageous Fortune (in it's own unique way). That's not to say that True Blood is anything like Outrageous Fortune - most certainly nothing like each other.

Anyway, if the intro theme doesn't suck you in (Bad Things, Jace Everett), then I don't know what will. I have the sound track, and the music, for the most part is pretty good. I suppose I have been a bit of a sucker for western music, but this one seems to be well crafted.

Finally - it most certainly isn't some chick flick like Twilight (ducks for cover). It's also the only TV Show since Outrageous Fortune (2005) and The IT Crowd (2006) that I have been not only sucked in, but addicted to.

iPhone Development:

Ok - not so much in the way of actually releasing anything yet for the iPhone, I have something in the works as a bit of a "working with the framework" that might make it to the App Store by Christmas. The short of it is that it uses multi-touch, but the genre is most certainly for a niche market. I can't say much yet, but it's along the lines of watching paint dry and / or watching grass grow. We'll see what happens, but the idea is kind of cool enough that it is a viable $1.00 application even if nothing more than a gimmicky game. Unfortunately, I've only had about 2-3 hours to really dedicate to it. In that time, I have some game music in the works as well as some graphical assets. Although, I will be looking at outsourcing my graphics work soon *hint hint!* as - lets face it - I can't draw for shit.

For those who know me and shaking your head, you're probably right - the idea won't get completed. The difference is I have some motivation this time (i.e. App Store + Extra Income), so all those projects such as the XNA Bogan Kart, Theme Hospital remake, Sekryt Projakt etc... have pretty much died.

Having said that - Bogan Kart may still come. There's still some interest out there - and XNA is pretty easy to use (deployment to Microsoft Xbox Live would be awesome). As soon as someone wants to do some 3D modelling (and do it unpaid), I'll start coding the framework!!! It'd be awesome to drive around in shopping trolleys, cardboard boxes and toilet seats around race tracks. If Bogan Kart was ever released, it would be Open Source and free ofcourse - it's just there because I think it'd be awesome to play a racing game as your typical Bogan.

Future:

Hmm... don't know yet. A few places to check out this week around Nunawading (Wow... 3 N's). After coming off the pressure this weekend, I have some time to clear my head (as best I can) and focus on my real job. Things are CRAZY AS HELL at the moment for me, so apologies for not keeping in touch with everyone as regularly as I would like to. A few of you know the full story - more of you know parts of it, but an average of 5 hours sleep a night is not good - so to get back to 8 hours is the goal.

RESPAWN THIS WEEKEND!

- - Craig Mattson

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Woohoo! A New Wireless Router! (28/06/2009 10:04:45 AM)

It's been a pretty BIIIIIG week again with a lot happening. I am enjoying a very quiet Sunday so I can catch up on much needed rest / game playing etc... At the start of the week, the new iPhone OS 3.0 was released introducing features that most normal standard Mobile Phones have such as MMS and Internet Tethering. I can't exactly see why it's called 3.0 given the interface hasn't changed, menu's haven't changed much either... looks more like another Service Pack / Minor Revision to me! If Microsoft had the same approach, we would be up to Windows 21 by now (think of all those Windows 2000 Service Packs!).

Work Life

Anyway, in regards to work life - things are starting to make sense more rapidly (last week, I did say that I wasn't picking up things as well as I would have hoped for) - at least with the product I am currently working on. I've been able to fix some bugs with relative ease, and implement new functionality in regards to business rules with e-mail requirements (to which a build is apparently happening Monday for - so fingers crossed I didn't introduce any bugs!). I'm certainly enjoying the job more-so than last week. I'm hoping this again improves over the next couple of weeks.

Mobile Again!!!

Thursday night, I finally got myself a new battery for my laptop - after spending 2 weeks without one, it's great to be mobile again. Being able to do some work on the train, reading e-books, doing some work for some clients etc... it's great. And now with 3G Tethering, at least when I am in Pakenham onwards - the internet is quicker than my home broadband connection! I'd better watch the data ofcourse - I don't want a $4,000 bill just for one days use of the internet heheh... But the speed is good - and hopefully if I do move out (and it happens to be in Melbourne somewhere), I can pay for an extra 5GB and not worry about the landline! I'm still annoyed I can't break into iPhone development yet - this requirement to get myself a MacBook to do some Objective-C programming is really giving me the shits. If I knew I could make $30,000 or so out of an application - then sure, I'd splash out on a MacBook Pro straight away. But for the time being, my ThinkPad T60p is still well and truly overspec'd (It now has 8GB of RAM and soon to be running Piss64) with a great screen resolution that it's not going to be replaced any time soon!

Wireless Router!!!

Yes, I finally brought one - just some random D-Link run-of-the-mill router. So far, the internet has been live for 18 hours with no crashes, so I can re-retire my old Netgear 802.11b router + D-Link DSL302G Modem once again. This now leads to another important point - it's time to dismantle and smash up the Billion 7300G. Much akin to the video destroying my old Toshiba Satellite 200CDS, I need some suggestions as to what could be fun - whether it be a sparkle bomb, hooking a rocket up to it, drop testing it, the good-old car running over it trick (a truck or tractor maybe?), horse stomping on it........ It needs to be fun though.

Music

I've been pretty quiet on the music front lately. I have a few remixes in progress - particularly for Wizards and Warriors and a few videos that have been requested for YouTube. So far, that list includes: Mega Man 3 - Protoman Theme, Air Fortress - Introduction Theme, Faxanadu - Overground Theme (again), Mega Man 3 - Dr. Wily Stages 3 / 4 and for some reason, some real music - Titanic - My Heart Will Go On and Forrest Gump - Main Theme.

They *are* recorded on my Video Camera already, and they will be posted on YouTube when I can be arsed getting them off the camera (truth be told, I can't find my Firewire card - and my battery leaked!!! Shows just how much I use it.). But anyway, once they are up - I'll post an alert here.

Wish List and Things To Do...

With some newly found freedom over the weekends, I've got to start putting them to good use. First and foremost is moving out. Again, I'm in 2 minds about whether I move into Melbourne, or just move into Warragul / Drouin. Pros and Cons to both. Warragul / Drouin being on the Train Line ~ $58.90 per week by Train, rent is approximately $150-$180 per week, I gain 3 hours each day to relax / work on client business. The second option is Some of the South Eastern / Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. Rent is approximately $250-$300 per week, I lose 120 minutes each day on Public Transport (crowded / standing), but closer to work (particularly if I am driving or were to look at Box Hill).

The better financial and personal decision would be Drouin / Warragul (or even Longwarry - Nar Nar Goon), which gives me time to browse over the next year to purchase a house (wage is just under the right amount for a good home loan, and I want to ensure I have some sort of future where I am first before consuming myself in debt!).

The Wish List has already begun which includes an LCD TV, 2 x 24 " LCD's.

LAN Party - Coming Soon

1st to 2nd August at the DLC Venue guys!!! This time, the LAN will be run by Neon and his group of Admin. Great news for me - I will actually get some time playing games. It's $20 per person, and estimated to get 60 people registered. I know it's not over the school holidays, but it should still be fun - at least if you do the Saturday night, go home early Sunday Morning. I think the arrangements will be very similar for a DLC + GreenTubeLAN (i.e. midday to 10:00AM) - have to keep your eyes on the DLC website.

Um... that's about it. This has been a ramble. I'll try to make minor updates during the week, but if not - until next week.

- - Craig Mattson

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An Anticipated Delay (07/06/2009 04:36:37 PM)

Here's one for the books! An "anticipated" delay as opposed to a confirmed delay. See for yourself:

iphone_sms_vline_488

Question: How does an anticipated delay help anyone? That kind of suggests that if the service is on time, that the train will leave. Lets face it, there's bugger all to do in Warragul at the Train Station - if it was confirmed late, then you could go and do something useful - such as eat at Subway (closest slow fast food).

Edit (09 / 06 / 2009): Turns out that V/Line is using the term yet again this-morning! Straight from my inbox:

email_vline_636

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A hidden feature... (02/06/2009 03:40:45 PM)

Hi All,

I haven't written for a little while, so here's a bit of a "packed" update:

Hidden iPhone Feature:

Using the iPhone yesterday at work, I pressed the power button and the "button" button (does it have a name?) and the camera noise went off - and the screen flashed. Didn't know what it was doing, I just figured it was a short (or long) way of taking a photo. As I was going through my photo roll last night on the camera, I noticed a few screenshots appearing.

I can't say it's widely discussed anywhere (and a bit odd to pull off a power button and "button" button action in it's silicon case) - or how it's even useful for most people. I suppose the best use I have for it is to take random screenshots and send them [via Palringo] to random people on MSN Messenger as clout.

Ummm.... that is all.

My degree finally arrived!!!

I now have a degree in a tube, delivered by A/Prof. Aust Post. If anyone is interested on MSN Messenger, I can send a photo of the degree - and it's anomalies. For starters, how does a printer mis-align / skew text - let alone the spelling of "authorized" (sic) for an Australian University.

I must say - for a prestige university, they certainly don't act like it sometimes!

Finally, tonight...

Ok, ok... This isn't going to help 99% of the people who read this blog - but NZ's Outrageous Fortune Season 5 premieres tonight on TV3 in New Zealand. If you want to read more about the show (chances are, you've probably seen some episodes in Australia), then visit the website here.

If you are wondering why we don't have it in Australia, something to do with Season 1 and 2 being aired simultaneously on Channel 9 and Ten last year may have something to do with it.

- - Craig Mattson

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Another iPhone Review (01/05/2009 09:58:28 PM)

iphone_495After owning an iPhone for more than a week now, and the constant "what's it like" messages I'm getting (which consequently has made me turn off my Personal Messages on MSN Messenger), I'm telling the world!

Hardware

Let's face it, the iPhone looks sweet. It's got shiny metal, a glass screen and did I say it's shiny? To pick it up, it definitely has no plastic feel to it - just a solid device that feels like it would shatter rather than crack if I dropped it. To me, it feels like "right" weight and size.

The sound from the device is nothing spectacular, but then again - what Mobile Phone is? The phone speaker is noticably clearer than my previous mobile phones. The antennae must be weaker in some respect - as there are certainly more dead zones at home than my previous phones.

The touch screen is really sensitive (at the right tolerance level), and the screen is large and bright (I have to turn the brightness down so it doesn't blind me inside...). The whole "feel" of the device to me is great - the buttons "just" work.

I can't really fault the hardware - rather I could say it would be nice to have the arrows on the button somewhere.

Software:

What the iPhone can do, it does really well. The User Interface is nice to play with, the applications bundled work well (i.e. searching for contacts, e-mailing, the web browser, the iPod etc...). Applications run extremely quick, transitions are quick and a LOT more pleasant to play with.

The web browser for a mobile phone is great, except when you are on a 2G connection. While there are anomolies in the web browser, it is easily the most impressive feature of an iPhone (which really sucks - as it's just a stripped down version that acts exactly the same as Firefox, Internet Explorer etc...). On 3G however, the browser really shines. While Opera Mini is good, it's much more convienent to have tabbed browsing and the zoom in / out features of Opera Mini.

A compression option would be nice!!! But understanding how Opera Mini works, I wouldn't anticipate it being terribly useful either. The short of it all is that 3G really should be standard now anyway, and hopefully Australia can catch up!

Third Party Applications

There is a LOT of rubbish in the iTunes store. The number of messaging clients that are rubbishware really irriates me. The biggest letdown with the architecture of the iPhone is possibly background applications. Maybe I'm just used to a PDA multitasking, but knowing how slow a standard 450MHz Windows Mobile PDA can get, I can also understand why Apple doesn't run things in the background.

This ofcourse, makes it a problem for background applications (which is where this Push technology is kind of useful - especially where developers make use of it). Push is basically a method of alerting the user of something happening sent from Apples servers. I believe it shows up similar to an SMS which can be useful under a lot of contexts.

This really shows the way of future mobile computing (that is; process data on powerful servers rather than on the device itself). Some forums suggest that multi-threading is a major oversight putting the architecture back 10 years - which is true to an extent, but Push and external servers can easily compensate for that and it is definitely evident in the GUI that the iPhone attempts to use minimal resources as possible.

So the App store is easy to use, but with the tonne of rubbish on there, it is really hard to find a useful and workable application. Given the way the device works, no programs I have downloaded apart from Palringo (an IM+ client) restore the state of the application upon reload. It just so happens there is clearly a crowd of developers who design crap interfaces for the iPhone (fring comes to mind).

The Phone:

The phone itself is garbage. Having owned one of the first hybrid Analog / Digital CDMA phones years ago (that could only receive SMS's - not send them), I was able to define my own ringtones and SMS tones without having to pay anyone any money.

So with Apple's super-dooper-easy-to-use philosophy, the way I was able to upload a custom ringtone was to locate my song in iTunes I wanted, go to the song's properties, reduce the play time to 40 seconds, create an AAC version of the song, rename the extension to have "r" as the final character, select ringtones, drag the new file in, go to Synchronise, find the Ringtones tab, select the ringtone I want to synchronise, click the synchronise button, wait, go to settings, find the phone options and finally - set the Ringtone.

So I thought that was ridiculous until I found I cannot upload a custom SMS tone without Jailbreaking the iPhone. USELESS!

The synchronising of contacts from Outlook automatically was good, as I now have complete details for all my contacts (e-mail addresses, phone etc...) - the keypad looks hideous and yeah...

For a phone, it is really ... something ... to operate. I believe it is potentially the biggest flaw on the iPhone (close to Apple's NDA's)

SMS

I love G-Mail, and have done ever since I was invited on the launch day. SMS's work as conversations on the iPhone - and as G-Mail does the same thing, I find it a really good way of representing SMS's. Just had to get that out there!

Battery Life:

Having owned a Nokia 6300 for the past 18 months, I must say I am impressed with the battery life of the iPhone. It is still terrible to see the phone only last a day, but it is doing more than my Nokia 6300 used to do (which barely lasted half a day). The fact the phone goes into standby quick is a good thing, and it doesn't whinge when the battery is running low.

Charging via USB is a welcome addition to my phone of course, especially at work where I use the internet, MP3's etc... the most.

Multimedia:

Easily the best thing the phone can do. I've never really liked iPods. I've given soooo many away as birthday presents because I always hated the interface. The iPhone still shits me that I have to synchronise it with whatever client I happen to be using - but anyway, I can get my stuff onto it and use it to listen to music (hardly worth carrying my Pocket PC around if I have a device supposedly better at playing music).

Having a proper device designed for music through headphones is a welcome addition though. Unlike my Pocket PC which managed to stuff up even the best headphones, the iPhone manages to have a good equaliser for the supplied headphones. I do enjoy using the headphones - but I really hate having to create a playlist (coming from Linux and Windows, I'm used to grouping my music into folders - not albums).

Videos are good enough to replace my laptop for watching. Normally when I would go to bed, I would use my laptop to play a movie. The iPhone really excels at video playing (once converted), and with sound makes it easier to watch something on the train or in bed.

Having a native YouTube app is also cool. Watching The Apprentice UK on the iPhone of a Friday morning is something I've been able to do twice - and really cool.

Productivity:

Uh... what is productivity? You mean... use Office... on your mobile? You mean work?... as in handling lots of e-mails???... If productivity is your main concern then forget the iPhone. It's utterly useless for large volumes of data. Believe me, I've tried dealing with e-mail accounts in the inbuilt application - and it's just impossible.

I'll just use Safari to browse the internet for the time being.

Verdict:

The iPhone is certainly cool (especially with some of the games), and it is clear Apple has tried to design an easy to use interface and on the most part has been successful. Does it replace my other phones? Absolutely not. Most other manufacturers seem to have a differing philosophy to Apple. That is; when you buy a Nokia mobile phone, they basically give you permission to go nuts. They give you everything such as turning your mobile phone into a modem, setting everything, downloading applications, uploading anything you want really. But not Apple. To make the device more useful, it looks like I will be Jailbreaking it soon.

I have a good anecdote for this. Imagine you were buying a kitchen consisting of a Stove, Microwave, Kettle and Cabinets. Everything looks fantastic - the best thing you have ever seen. They all have nice clear LCD's with touch panels and have the best user interface of any kitchen appliance you have ever seen. The microwave has been finetuned to cook your food evenly and efficiently without your input. The oven compartment of the stove is easy to use, you type your meal in and it'll adjust it's settings for you. The price is right too! A good medium price for a high end product. You're about to sign up and pay for one of these kitchens.

You ask the salesman "does the stove come with the stove top?". The salesman says "No." You say "can I get a third party one?". The salesman says "Absolutely not.". You think Ok... maybe you can get away with buying a hotplate later on because the rest of the package is great. You look at the supplied kettle and think wow - I could make hot chocolate, coffees etc... with the kettle so you ask the salesman about what you can do with the kettle. The salesman replies "You must use compatible coffee only.". You say "can't I use Nescafe?". The salesman replies "No. It must be from our store, otherwise it won't make it". You end up buying it because it's just too shiny and too good to walk away from. You get it home, and try to use the oven and the microwave at the same time - but it's not going to let you because you can only use one thing at a time. That's what the iPhone is like.

Now, in another kitchen store, you find the Nokia, Samsung and HTC equivalent kitchen. They look like a standard kitchen with some pricey, some not-so-pricey. The oven is just standard, and requires you to use manual inputs that take a while longer. The kettle does everything you want, but has 8 settings - 6 of which you will never use. The Microwave requires you to read the manual to find the location of the stop button, but once you find it's under a completely unrelated menu item, you know how to operate it. You ask the salesman about the kettle and how you would like to upgrade it. The salesman says "yeah, sure - all these kitchens can run a third party kettle as long as you have this free attachment.". You also ask about the stove - can it be shiny? The salesman says "yeah, for $10 extra, you can get this coat of paint that makes everything look shiny". This is what other devices are like.

At the end of the day, the iPhone is a consumer device - nothing more. It's a cool item to play with, but the novelty will eventually wear thin. If you're looking for productivity, the Pocket PC is the way to go. Although the Pocket PC or even Nokia / Samsung / Motorola / LG / Sony etc... may not look as nice, they do the job. I could never see the iPhone becoming a business tool - but definitely the other brands can be.

I didn't get the iPhone because it looked cool, I got it so I can start developing applications for it. Not to mention, the cap plan is really good value for the amount I'm using the phone now. So yeah - hopefully I will be releasing a few applications soon.

Anyway, I have a workplace to supervise tomorrow - better get some sleep.

- - Craig Mattson.

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