Arriva M-ticket Review

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nah, I'm good.

Speaking of disappointing customer experiences, I recently tried the Arriva m-ticket app on my HTC Desire (running Froyo 2.2). I remember being super excited over the prospect of never having to worry about exact change again. I told my brother just this, actually, and he said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it needs work. I did not know it at the time, but he was so right.

The problems with m-ticket on smartphones can be broken up into one of two broad categories:

  1. issues surrounding the app specifically, such as UI, functionality and performance; and
  2. general problems around using your smartphone as a digital ticket.

Starting with the first category, the UI looks good but it takes way too many button presses to get your ticket visible on the screen to show to the bus driver. It also isn’t very user-friendly. Combine this with a lengthy boot time for the app, and this can turn into a pretty embarrassing situation as the user struggles to find the ticket on their phone while an exasperated driver and annoyed line of commuters wait for them to finish. A more minor issue, but still a salient omission, is that it doesn’t include live timetables for bus journeys, which really is a feature one would expect to find.

However, the most major problem I encountered was that when I decided to send feedback via the app it hung on a loading screen. This effectively barred me from accessing my £18 weekly ticket. Rebooting the app didn’t help, as the loading screen would once again pop up and prevent me from doing anything. This, in the QA business, is called game-breaker, ladies and gentleman. It is simply unacceptable to have a bug of this magnitude in a public software release.

This leads me onto an associated issue, further compounding the seriousness of the bug. Account information is stored in the app installation, meaning that if you uninstall it or attempt to clear the cache, that information is now irretrievable. Any outstanding valid tickets you may have had are now gone forever. I did not know this, of course, and so in an attempt to reset the app and work around the glitch I had encountered, I cleared the cache.

Shit.

What followed in the next few days were frantic calls to Arriva’s customer support in order to get a refund on the weekly ticket I had shelled out for, but which was now totally inaccessible. Thankfully, after several attempts, I did get through to someone and they refunded my ticket with no hassle; they also apologised and tried to troubleshoot what had happened. Unfortunately, it was a bit too little, too late. There is now no way I’d consider going near buying an m-ticket through Arriva again in its current state. For me to change my mind, they would have to alter the way account information is stored at the very least, so that it can be recovered if the app is has to be reinstalled or that person is changing handsets.

That’s all my major gripes with category one covered, but what of the second category?

Well, despite my misgivings over the m-ticket, they are probably going to become the way to pay in a future coming to you soon. The problem is that existing smartphone handsets aren’t quite there. Battery life is still a major issue. They crash sometimes, because of how sophisticated the OSs are now. They are at risk to spyware and trojans, which will be on the lookout for the confidential data you input, and people are still way too ignorant over this. Lastly, they’re multitasking devices, but sometimes they don’t multitask so well, leading to significant UI and performance issues. Consider you’re in line with m-ticket in hand, but you’re also listening to a music, and then you receive a phone call, and now you’re right in front of the bus driver trying to figure out how to shut down all those programs and notifications in order to bring the ticket up on-screen. Nightmare.

With all that out there, I can deliver to you my final score: 2 out of 5. Conceptually, it’s a good idea, but Arriva and handset manufacturers have a ways to go before the mainstream should consider buying into mobile tickets.

Community Shitstorm at the Giant Bomb

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There’s a troubling PR crisis brewing over at Giant Bomb at the moment, one of my favourite gaming websites.

They’ve just revealed a new subscriber option, where for $5 a month or $50 a year you get access to a series of premium features they’re offering, including stuff like HD video, mobile versions for any websites hosted on Whisky Media, some avatar bling and possibly a live Friday show.

The other thing they’re doing, unfortunately, is splitting the Bombcast (their weekly podcast) into two one-hour portions, with the first half being filled with time-sensitive discussion, while the second half is only accessible a week after broadcast for free members. Premium members get access to both halves of the podcast at the time of release; and hence, they don’t have to wait.

The big sticking point here is that the two-hour podcast has been and currently is free to everyone. Now, some form it is being taken away and held ransom until a week passes.

The real issue, however, is that it was heavily implied, if not outright stated, that features weren’t going to be taken away, only added, and that they don’t want to split the community. The reality is, though, that people are now being asked to pay for a feature that was previously free, and considering how the Bombcast is one of main features of the site, there will be a community divide between those who have listened to it, and so can discuss the content, and those don’t have access and turn up a week late to the party when everybody’s moved one.

In straight forward terms: they made promises and didn’t keep them, and now some parts of the community feel betrayed; hence, shitstorm.

Personally, I think content creators absolutely have the right to charge consumers for what they produce. I’m hovering over the idea of paying for the monthly subscription, myself, since I visit the site an awful lot, value the content and opinions of the creators and want a decent browsing experience while navigating on my smartphone. I also quite like Tested, one of their sister sites, for the same reasons.

No, I think this is more about broken promises rather than straight-up Internet-user entitlement syndrome.

So, what I’m really interesting in is their response to this. They’re going to be doing their Big Live Live Show: Live! sometime this afternoon, where I expect they’ll address some of these concerns. The questions is: how? The very worst thing they could do is go into victimisation mode and start calling people cheapskates. The very best thing they could do is to drop the splitting up of the podcast idea and reduce the subscription (maybe to $3 per month and $30 per year), but I think this is idealistic. What they’re going to do – what I would do – and what they should do is this: listen to the fans, don’t persecute them, respond to their accusations and be as honest as possible why you’re doing this and what the business realities are. Ryan, Jeff and Dave actually did a pretty good job of justifying the changes in a podcast they did very recently.  It’s a good start, but this is a message they’re going to have to continually repeat, and they’re still going to need to listen and respond to the concerns of the community on this if they are to maintain their good guy image.

I will be watching eagerly to see how this all unfolds.

'More and more people die alone' BBC Radio 4 Report

July 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

In the mood to listen to something morbid and depressing? Look no further.

‘Blood Diamond’ (2006) 550-ish Word DVD Review

May 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

Sandwiched between director Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai in 2003 and last year’s Defiance, Blood Diamond is a combination between a lightweight, political, “issues” film and fast-paced action-thriller.

Today’s issue of the day is (you guessed it) “Blood Diamonds” – diamonds which have been mined in a war-zone and are smuggled out of the country to eventually be sold off as “clean” diamonds in the Western world. Set in Sierra Leone, Africa, during the 1997–1998 civil war, the story focuses on Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a smuggler with some very large debts to pay, and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a man who has lost his family during a recent Revolutionary United Front (RUF) raid on his village. During his time in a mining camp, Vandy buried a very large diamond, one which could clear Archer’s debts and get him out of “this God forsaken continent” once and for all. Archer persuades Vandy to show him where the diamond is hidden with the promise that, in return, he will help him find his family. Along the way they also meet up with a photo journalist named Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who uses her press credentials to help them both get to where they’re going.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Bowlby's Favourite Phrase of the Day

May 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

“This guy’s gonna get an assful of pipewrench” 😀

Personally, I prefer the Head Over Heels: Literal Version (embed below) but everybody’s got their favourites.

Bowlby's Run

February 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

This is my first attempt at a YouTube video – a test really. I wanted to see how the recording quality would come out when uploaded. It took a ridiculous amount of time to upload the file considering the film is only three-and-a-half minutes long. I am considering doing more videos, mostly FRAPS recordings, but possibly with commentary as well.

In a way, I’m surprised at how popular YouTube is as a video-sharing site considering some of the technical barriers to entry. First off, you need to own a computer decent enough to run a game alongside FRAPS in the background, and if it’s a game like Doom 3 or Crysis, then boy, is it going to chuuuug. Second, the amount of hard disk space needed for even a small recording to take place at a reasonable resolution is quite demanding. Then on top of all that, you need to convert the files from their raw format to something a little more condensed. It took me a fair while to find such a program and get it working – and I’m pretty technically minded. Finally, when all this is done, you can start uploading your files to YouTube. This step is simple enough; it’s just that you have to bear in mind that it takes a lot longer to upload something than to download. In which case, 180 megs may seem small, but when you’re uploading something that size it turns out to be quite a burden to carry – at least for my connection anyway. Of course, this is all specific to my experience and is only really relevent if you’re going to be recording something using a computer. If you’re recording from a video camera and want to put the film on to YouTube, then it’s only the last couple of steps you would need to worry about.

Still, I can see the appeal. It’s very satisfying seeing something you made being published in a forum for all to see, especially if it’s something immediately accessable to everyone – like a video. You definately get a buzz from it, and it does make me want to do more, but the time it takes to make something good is considerable. All I did was upload something I recorded on my computer. I didn’t use any editing techniques whatsoever; I pretty much just copy-and-pasted the .avi from my computer to the internet, with no revisions or edits, and that still took me a while to figure out. Maybe next time it’ll be a faster process; that is, if I do end up putting myself through this ordeal again.

By the way, if you do watch the video, then be sure to use the ‘watch in high quality’ option on the YouTube webpage.

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