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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Woe is the Phone Company

How is it that an industry that was so fundamental in the creation of the World Wide Web can be so universally bad at taking advantage of it?

When I moved into my current apartment, I shopped around online for phone service. It was a brutally painful experience. One site had created an infinite loop of going from region to state to region to state. Another forced you to guess their bizarre address format in order to continue ( quick - do you live on an Ave or an Ave. or an AVE? Maybe it's not a Street but a St ). Frequently I would waste precious time only to get to an error page before I could proceed.

Ever wonder why your phone company puts you on hold? It's because their website sucks and they force geeks like me to call them, when you could be talking to them instead. Yesterday when I tried to swap my cell phone to provider which has now acquired my service, their form field disabled the zip code - which was annoying since that was the only piece of information they wanted me to update.

Then, when I called them - I got a very odd conversation. First I complained that I couldn't even browse for new plans online. So he suggested that I browse as a new customer instead of as an existing one. When I asked if it wouldn't just be simpler to go to a Cingular store - he responded:

"No, you don't want to do that. They're privately owned."

WTF? Way to treat your sales staff.

Now, however - really takes the cake. They apparently updated their site and I was able to register. But right now, I'm logged in - and I'm not logged in. I can see my account page, but if I try to do anything else I'm asked to log in. And when I try, I get an error.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dev Day Diary: Back to Basics

Torque 2D continues to impress. Melv, one of the more evil masterminds of the project, released new gravity based objects to the private forums. After some fiddling with XCode (simply because it's completely new turf to me), TorqueScript knew what they were and suddenly my sprites began to behave like that bee screensaver as opposed to a lumbering train.

In a nutshell, that encapsulates why T2D works so well. It's a solid engine backed by some dedicated people who believe in keeping a close proximity to their licensees. Despite being inexpensive - they treat you like you'd expect from the "big guys". Melv's code worked just as expected, allowing me to make the adjustments I needed to get closer to the behaviour I wanted from my game. From engine to developer to game, everything just snapped together. Perhaps this is all still a honeymoon effect, we will see in about two weeks (about then I should have a running demo).

I'm also finding that the more "basic" the game, the more freedom it feels the game design can have. It's odd, you'd think it would be the opposite. But when I removed the multiplayer portion from Unreal Defense Squad, it made everything much easier to think about. Now that I'm not even worrying about 3D - I keep thinking of things which I later decide would be overkill. More technology does mean more possibilities, but it also seems that the more cards you try to stack...

I also got the secret weapon to compile with Torque last night. Now I just have to get it to direct some traffic.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I, Newton

I passed on the Newton when it first came around (I was a Palm fanatic. In fact, I ran a site called "hijacked" which was about being a Palm fanatic), although I still keep a trusty eMate around these days if I really want to type something. Now that I've found myself in a Macintosh way, I wish Apple would revisit the idea.

PDA's grew up though, and they stopped being simply satellite devices. Now they are phones and palmtop computers. The iPod, on the other hand, is a fantastic satellite device. It's cheap, it's simple and it can hold a lot of relevant data.

What I want is something in the middle. My Mini has wifi, and it has nothing to talk to. It's very lonely. Eventually I'd like to hook up the stereo system to iTunes, and don't want to be bothered running into the study just to change songs. I also don't want to have to get a laptop just to check some news and email.

What Apple could do is capitalize on Palm's mistake of not including wifi support on their low end products. I mean, for the price of some of the high end Palms with wifi, I could almost get another Mini. Give me something with a decent flash drive, decent screen, wifi, and and updated version of the Newton OS with a simple web browser interface. Call it the ... I dunno ... iPod Link. OK, that's probably not good, but I'm sure Apple has people for that kind of thing