29 September 2009

Gouging airlines

The week before last I had tickets with Australia's Jetstar (a subsidiary of Qantas) to New Zealand. Because of work I had to let the ticket to New Zealand go, and I bought a frequent flyer ticket to travel a few days later.

A week later when returning to Australia my partner & I checked in. Now, remember, Jetstar had my money already for the ticket over, without the inconvenience of actually flying me.

During check in I wanted to check my bag. Jetstar asked me to pay $160. The return journey ticket cost me me $220! I should have got a seat for the bag.

Lara explained that she inquired before we left and were told that checked baggage was $40 per person per leg (which added up to $160). But no, they wanted to charge 1 person for 1 leg that $160.

So it gets worse all over the world. Ryanair only allows online check in, but you have to pay 5 pounds to check in. Why not just add it to the cost of the ticket? If you turn up having forgotten to print your ticket it will cost you 40 pounds to ask them to print it! That is clearly not a true pre-estimate of the cost of this activity, when you consider 40 pounds will get you around a lot of the country in a taxi, paying for a driver, fuel and the cost of the taxi. How does that compare to a sheet of paper and a laser printer?

British Airways aren't to be forgotten either... If you want to actually fly with your husband/wife/child/partner then you have to pay a minimum of 10 pounds to guarantee the privilege (and I bet there is still no guarantee).

24 September 2009

Weak-kneed NSW Labor Governement

I'm all for locking up prisoners, but a valid government needs to have a process for reintegration of prisoners into the community.

The NSW Labor Government, led by Nathan Rees, has buckled under to vigilantes and passed a NSW law for one man to summarily terminate his valid lease.

It's pretty sad when a government can't find a public policy to assist in rehabilitating ex-prisoners. It's not like it's a new problem...

Why Apple has a small market share

I decided today that I should probably pony up and try an iPhone, so tonight I went to the Apple Store in George Street, Sydney. I went in and stood there for a few minutes, looking for a sales assistant. No sales assistant. I asked a security guard what I should do, and he sent me upstairs (for no obvious reason). I went upstairs and saw about 100 people and two sales staff. Most of the people seemed to be backpackers using the free internet access. I stood there for a while as well, but no sales staff within 20 m of me.

So, I went downstairs to the two staff at the cash register - seemed like a good idea. One wandered off, and I eventually got to the counter. "Hi, I'd like to buy an unlocked 32 GB iPhone." Answer? "Sorry, you have to go upstairs. I can't sell it to you here." My response? "Umm, I know what I want, and this is the till, isn't it?"

Apple fanboy: "No, you'll need to go upstairs."

Before the sentence was finished I was heading to the door... I know Apple won't suffer for losing my AUD$1,100, but it makes you wonder how they do make a living.

20 September 2009

Cyberspace October 2009


Most litigation today involving a business will require the analysis of documents. These are often printed out, but perhaps you want or need to deal with them in electronic form? Many firms simply don't have adequate IT systems to absorb client's discovery data and manage the investigative process.

It might be fine to get a hard disc from your client, but you need to make sure it's backed up in your hands, and you need to duplicate data into a form that you can provide to your opponent or regulatory body. Suddenly you need to store at least four times the amount of data your client gave you, and you just don't have the IT sophistication.

There are a number of bureaus that can assist, although many are in the USA. An example is DOAR (http://www.doar.com/about-doar/news-and-events/press-release-detail.asp?id=91) which allows you to inspect and manage documents stored on a third party server. If you need to do some work in electronic discovery you would be well advised to start with a reputable bureau and use their software as a service (SaaS).

Mobile discovery

When the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) comes calling or discovery looms, we tend to think about paper documents, emails, and documents on file servers. However, there are plenty of places that documents exist and are hard to manage. You or your clients might have some fairly common mobile phones, or iPhones or perhaps even BlackBerries. Discovery or regulatory obligations usually include all mobile devices, so it's important to take an 'enterprise approach' to managing mobile devices. In Southeastern Mechanical Services, Inc. v. Brody, 2009 WL 2883057 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2009) a number of discovery arguments arose, and the court examined the defendant and its staff use of BlackBerry devices. It found that the BlackBerries had been wiped of data, despite forensic evidence that they had been used for data.

The judgement is interesting, but the real issue is that these BlackBerries were not managed in an 'enterprise' fashion. The users could do more or less what they wanted to them, without any centralised backup, synchronisation or reconciliation of the information on them. So while the defendant company put effort into complying with preservation orders, the individual users did not maintain the same discipline.

I'm often asked why big companies do IT in a sluggish, behemoth fashion, with everything locked down. There are really good reasons why. A 'small' change can affect thousands of users. That 'quick reboot late at night' might badly affect staff travelling in other time zones. Any machine needs to have a professionial backup regime. Any server needs to be duplicated at a disaster recovery centre. Any hardware purchased needs to be the same or similar as existing hardware so that staff can support them. Any hardware or software needs to be manageable using enterprise management and monitoring software. Any IT system needs to be able to scale in case the system usage or the company grows. All mobile systems must be capable of remote backup, wiping and disabling. Every new desktop model requires days of testing for compatibility with existing systems. I could go on and on.

So it might be cool to hand out an iPhone or any other phone to your staff, but how is it backed up? What about that crucial SMS that a client sent? What system is in place to automatically capture that information? You need to do it automatically or it won't happen. As your firm or your clients grow you need to use enterprise grade systems. The reason that RIM made it big with the BlackBerry is that it thought about these issues and found some answers. If I lost my BlackBerry my IT team could turn it into a cold lump of useless plastic in a few minutes. Frankly, I don't need to locate or find it - I just need it disabled completely. I understand that there is an enterprise kit for iPhones, but without direct experience I can't say that it has the fundamental systems behind it - backup of SMS, remote wipe, and disabling of private email. Think twice before handing out that glossy device.

09 September 2009

My VoIP life

I've been using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) for a while now. What it means is that I don't use my phone line to talk to people.

So how do I dial my friends? I have cable internet, and I bought a little box (a Linksys 3102) for $AUD65. My normal phone connects to the box, as does an ethernet cable from my router. A picture would be better, but it's actually pretty simple.

Tonight I rang my partner who is on holidays in New Zealand (I'm meant to be there too, but work interfered). I spoke to her for 18 minutes, and it cost me $AUD0.45. Yes, less than half a dollar, and the quality was that of a normal phone line. If I'd been on a different plan with my VoIP provider it would have cost AUD0.08. Really.

There are a bunch of providers who can do this for you. I use www.pennytel.com, but you can use a number of others, including www.skype.com. All I know is that my call costs have dropped from $50 per month to $7.