Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's in a name?

You probably haven't noticed that my Trek and Starfleet blog has changed its name from "XO's Blog" to "Captain's Blog". Go take a look to see why that is.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Being a genius has some advantages. As fellow genius Scott Adams recently pointed out, one of those advantages is the ability to solve the world's problems.

Today's problem, which I have solved, is not that of the world at large, but rather one faced by millions of people who live and work in my home-town: Johannesburg.

The problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to both live in relative comfort, and put in a full day's work. There are several reasons for this.

1. Cost.
While a very large number of people work in and around Sandton, the property in that area is prohibitively expensive. It's simply not an option for most people to live there. Indeed, property anywhere within Johannesburg's Ring Road is generally expensive, becoming more so the closer you get to Sandton. First-time home-buyers (such as myself) struggle to find anything within the ring road, and must instead look to the far reaches of Gauteng (or else Joburg's notorious slums) for something affordable. That is not desirable.

Also, the rise in petrol and food prices of late have dramatically increased the cost of living and commuting in Johannesburg.

2. Traffic.
Because there is such an exodus of people commuting to and from Sandton every day, Johannesburg's world-class road network is overburdened. There is no public transport to speak of, which means relying on Taxis (which I don't consider public transport, since they are privately operated) or one's own car.

Despite how expensive cars have become, low interest rates and increasingly popular residual purchasing options have resulted in an explosion of new cars. There are simply too many cars on the road.

So what's the answer?

One word: telecommuting.

The technology has been around for some time, but has experienced several leaps and bounds of late. Joburg's telecoms infrastructure has expanded to allow anyone to access relatively high-speed data connections wirelessly through GSM. Even Telkom are slowly coming to the party, by gradually lowering prices on their DSL offerings.

Entry-level notebook computers have been falling in price, and now that they've dipped below the R6000 mark, they have become affordable to most credit-card wielding South Africans.

So dramatic have these changes been, that according to my calculations, it is now significantly cheaper for someone like me to buy my own laptop and HSPDA card, paying for my own data usage and electricity than it is to drive to and from the office every day (taking into account not only lost time and petrol, but also vehicle wear-and-tear and the probability of accidental damage to my vehicle).

Of course this idea won't appeal to everyone. And it won't be practical for everyone either. Some people's jobs require their physical presence in order to meet with customers, handle papers and monitor staff. However, even these concerns can be mitigated.

With digital imaging and storage technology becoming more accessible and efficient than using paper documentation, the advent of video-conferencing via cellphone and tightly-measured, performance-based employee incentives, an even larger percentage of people will be able to work from home or satellite offices.

And for those of us still stuck in the mode of "You can't have a meaningful and constructive working relationship without meeting a person face-to-face regularly", there's no reason why we shouldn't still go into the office from time to time... even several times a week. But instead of being stuck in the "nine-to-five" traffic race, visits to the office could be purpose-driven, with people being present only when necessary, thus avoiding the worst of the traffic.

(Some anecdotal evidence for your consideration: even though I have served aboard the USS Dauntless for several years now, I have never met most of the crew in person, or even spoken to them on the phone. My entire relationship with most of them is via email and other online-conferencing technology. Although we're not running a business together, we have been able to successfully run a fan-club chapter.)

Taking into account the fact that the technology exists, and is affordable for even smaller companies or individuals, there is simply no excuse why should have to put up with all this wasted time and money. I'm embarking on a campaign to convince my company to start implementing telecommuting, and I recommend you do the same with yours.

There you go. Problem solved. No need to thank me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Public service

I've decided that, as a service to my beloved readers (if there are any of you left, that is), I will share my experiences in the form of advice... specifically with regards to my current experiences in the wicked world of real estate.

Today's lesson: Real-estate agents.

They are the devil. Never forget that.

Real estate agents act on behalf of the seller, because that's who pays their commission. They will do anything within their power to get as high a price for the buyer as possible, because then their commission is higher.

Supply and demand are one thing, but these people are deliberately manipulating the market so as to screw over the buyers and push property prices as high as possible.

When an estate agent says "The buyer won't negotiate on price" it means that the agent won't negotiate on price. Agents will say all kinds of crap like that.

They'll say stuff like "The property on the market now is overlap from last year, and the new stock hasn't arrived yet... that's why it's so expensive." Although it sounds impressive, it doesn't mean anything. It's the same as when "economic experts" spout off a million and one reasons why the petrol price is ridiculously high, when we all know that it's actually just Dubya's fault.

Don't forget: estate agents are the devil.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

IOL Technology - Apple unveils new iPhone, vows to 'revolutionize' mobile sector

IOL Technology - Apple unveils new iPhone, vows to 'revolutionize' mobile sector

Once again, I'm not impressed. Apple's innovation ended when they came up with the GUI first (and even that is debatable)... since then all they've done is release a string of knock-offs of the real thing... the iPod and now the iPhone are typical examples of that.

"So, wait, you're telling me that they've released a device that you can put MP3s on, and then listen to them wherever you go? Wow!"
The iPod wasn't the first MP3 player. If I'm not mistaken, the first commerically available one was the Rio Jazz back in 1998. Granted, the contemporary iPod is far superior to those first generation Rios, but then so are all the other MP3 players that are on the market today, many of which are superior to the iPod at a fraction of the price., not iTunes, was the first well-known website to sell individual MP3s. And iTunes is still not the best or the cheapest source for online digital content.

And now the iPhone: a device combining a media player, voice cellphone and digital camera with the ability to run downloadable appliactions and surf the Internet. Big fricken whoop! My year-old Nokia 6680 does all those things. In fact, the Nokia 6600 I had for two years before that did all of those things too... it's nothing new.

(Incidentally I have Google Maps with satellite imaging on my 6680 too, and could also look up my stocks, if I had any)

The only remarkable thing about the iPhone in my eyes is the 8gig storage on-board. To my knowledge, only the Nokia N91 has comparable on-board storage with 4gigs, plus a memory card expansion slot that could take it up to 6. But Nokia's next generation will, no doubt, feature 8gigs of memory too.

So what do you want, Steve Jobs? A cookie? Once again you've just copied everyone else... and now we're supposed to praise you for it? Get a real computer, Steve, and a real job.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Published article

I know I said I wouldn't be posting my Star Trek related material here anymore, but this one is of personal significance as well: I have, for the first time, been published in a local publication!

I have, of course, been published several times in SFI's magazine, but that only has a readership of +-4000, so it doesn't count. I've now been published in NAG Magazine, a local, store-bought, specialist gaming magazine!

Of course I've scanned the article for your reading pleasure, and here it is:

From Articles

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

More Google stuff

If you're not reading this through Google Reader or another feed reader, you will have noticed a shiny new box at the top of this page labelled '01's shared items'.

This is a nifty Google Reader toy that lists the last five items that I've added to my Shared Items list. So now you don't even have to go to my Shared Items page to see what cool stuff I've selected for your reading peasure! I rule!

However, I would still recommend that you get yourself a Google Reader and subscribe to my Shared Items feed... I promise I'll make it totally worth it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

XO's Blog

Captain Swart to all my readers.

As part of my initiative to become more organised, I have created a new blog which will serve to document all my STARFLEET related activities. It will also be the place where I will be publishing all my Star Trek related posts in future.

So, if you're one of my Trekkie readers, I suggest you bookmark for future reference.

Swart out.