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Thursday, March 23, 2006

I'm still a bachelor..

Well, for the next two days anyway. This will be my last post as a ‘free man’, (not that I was exactly single before anyway), and probably my last post for about two weeks, so I’d better make it comprehensive. To keep this from being just another personal post (though circumstances do make such a post understandable) I thought I’d mention some interesting developments over the last couple of days.

Oblivion has come

First off, the much anticipated game for the Xbox 360 and PC, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, was released on Monday. Along with many fans (and non-fans) of the previous Elder Scrolls game, I have been watching this one closely, and downloading every bid of footage I could find of it. Well so far it seems to be delivering on it’s promises, with reviews so far averaging 96 on Metacritic, the highest so far for an Xbox 360 title. True to form for Bethesda, who’s code has never been exceptionally stable, an exploit for the X360 version of the game has apparently already been uncovered, allowing the user unlimited gold. That took all of 3 days! Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up a 360 while we’re on honeymoon in Europe, along with a copy of this game.

Slow Sony

In news from the other big next-gen competitor, Sony announced recently that the PlayStation 3 will once again be delayed, this time until November. Developers will apparently have final-tech development kits in June though. This is a very unusual approach, and gives developers an unprecedented 5 months to polish launch titles. Speculation suggests (and for once I agree) that this delay between final hardware being available and the actual launch is to help prevent a repeat of Sony’s dismal handling of the PSP launch and also of stock shortages experienced during Microsoft’s global launch of the Xbox 360 last November. With promises of a Million units entering the market a month, it would seem that Sony is giving themselves a bit of lead time to try and have a flawless global launch, with plentiful supplies of their new console available to meet the high launch demand. Sony has also announced a free online system that will compete with Microsoft’s incredibly successful Xbox Live! Network.

More Microsoft

On the local telecoms front, MyADSL is reporting that Telkom has made another bid for local IT behemoth Business Connexion, this time to the tune of R2,4 billion. Telkom’s last bid was brushed off by BC as they felt they were worth much more, however Telkom’s eagerness to expand into the IT side of CIT seems to be great enough to warrant another, richer, try. With the convergence between communication and IT technology being a big focus today, Telkom needs a solid IT partner to remain competitive in the market.

But the real news is

Ok, enough geek talk. I’m getting married on Saturday and that’s far bigger news than some piddly little R2,4bn telecoms deal. At this point I suppose we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, though we have quite a few little things to sort out before then, and I think it’s just as well that I took tomorrow off. By the time we get on the plane on Sunday evening I think both Natalie and I will be exhausted, and we’ll probably sleep like the dead even if they squash us in a baggage compartment! The skies are looking a bit ominous, and the forecast isn’t looking good for Saturday, but hopefully we’ll see a bit of a swing and get some nice weather, even if it’s just for the photos.

Everyone (well, the guys) keep asking me if I’m nervous, and saying things like ‘its not too late you know’. It’s funny how women are celebrated and congratulated, but men are treated like they’re on their deathbed just before their wedding. It’s stupid. I’m not nervous about getting married, the arrangements may have me in a flat spin, but I’m really looking forward to married life!

Speaking of guy traditions, Tuesday was my bachelors, and true to form I spent it playing games J We had a great braai and Xbox multiplayer session at Andrew’s place. To be honest I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the day, it was awesome. We even finished Doom 3 on the Xbox in co-op mode.

So that’s it for my last ‘single’ entry. Not a bad attempt, I think. Natalie, if you ever read this, I love you dearly, and I am so happy to be marrying you, I can’t wait!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Playing Catch-up

Wow! It’s been a while since I last posted.. What with our wedding just over a week away (no, I’m nervous, before you ask), things have been insanely hectic. As if wedding arrangements weren’t bad enough, we have been moving into our new home in drips and drabs. This included a very unfortunate experience, dealing with one of the most unprofessional companies I have ever had the extreme displeasure of being in contact with.

We’re not moving!

About a month ago, I contacted a removals company called Eezimove, to request a quote for some of our furniture to be moved from Petit to our new place in Elarduspark. For the next two weeks, while dealing with ‘Yolandi’, the consultant handling my ‘case’, I never mentioned any date other than the 5th of March. Well, a few days before the move is supposed to happen, on the 28th of Feb, I received my quote from Yolandi, I immediately sent an email confirming the quote for the 5th, I did not notice that she had dated the quote for the 6th (without mentioning it to me). Since I did not receive a response from her that day, I called the following day to ensure that all was ok with the move, another consultant informed me that there were still lots of available ‘slots’ for the 5th, so it should be fine.

The next day (the 2nd) I received a mail from Yolandi informing me that they do not do removals on Sundays. A bit late to be telling me this, don’t you think? Well I called around, and all the other removal companies I contacted wanted to charge an additional R1500 levy to move us on a Sunday, so I rather arranged the move for the following Saturday, the 11th, for 14:00. at 13:00 that day I headed off to Petit to get everything ready. At 14:00 I received a call from Yolandi requesting directions-her guys were just leaving Joburg. No biggie, I could handle them being an hour or so late.. I wish it had been an hour.

At 15:00 I started trying to call on Eezimove’s ‘emergency number’ (and on their main office line). I eventually got an answer an hour later, and Yolandi expressed her surprised that the truck had not yet arrived, she promised to find out what was going on and contact me. That was the last time I spoke to her that day. Between 16:30 and 18:00 I continued calling the number, with no answer, I left a number of messages, but no-one got back to me. Eventually at 18:30, Natalie and I gave up and headed back to Pretoria. At 19:00, we get a call from the driver of the truck-he’s outside and can we please open up for him. At 19:00, five hours late!

I Told the driver we were now in Pretoria, and he would have to contact his manager and get her to call me and make arrangements for the next day. That was apparently my biggest mistake.

The next day at about 8:00, my Mom called the emergency number (she loves this kind of stuff). After a brief and polite (from my Mom’s side) conversation in which my Mom asked Yolandi what she planned to do to fix the situation, Yolandi put the phone down on her! She called, and obviously Yolandi recognized the number and ignored her, she left a message stating that she would go to the local newspaper if the move was not carried out that day. Later in the day, at about 10, I called myself, and after what became a very heated discussion during which Yolandi accused me of chasing away her moving crew and failing to make an arrangement for the next day (that’s her job, isn’t it), she equally rudely put the phone down on me. I, too left a message, but at that point it was farting in the wind.

On Monday I tried to contact the manager at Eezimove, but apparently he was on leave and failed to leave anyone in charge. No wonder the service was a joke. On Tuesday, Yolandi requested my details for a refund. I think I’ve received the refund, but I have yet to receive so much as an apology from Yolandi, never mind her management! If you ever have to move anything in Pretoria or Joburg, do yourself a favour and avoid Eezimove like the plague!

Family first?

I’m getting married next Saturday. That date (and the time- 16:30) has been set for almost a year. Last week my Mom informed me that my sister will be leaving early (right after the service) to take part in a performance in Pretoria. Lovely, my own damned sister won’t be in the photos, and will miss the speeches, and the first dance which Natalie have only been working our asses off on since the beginning of the year. Aint life grand.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Told you so..

For the last couple of months, whenever a discussion about Google has arisen (which happens surprisingly often), I have at some point insisted that we will, within the next year or so, see Google release the first few ‘proper’ applications that are entirely web based. We’re all used to web-based email clients, and the connection is obvious after all. What I am talking about is the kind of applications that just about every person that uses a computer for business purposes ends up utilizing. My usual example is Microsoft Office, since that is probably the most universal piece of Microsoft software after Windows itself. Convincing people to use a free online equivalent, rather than dishing out for the retail version that includes more functionality than most people need anyway would hardly be difficult (especially considering the ‘always on internet’ is becoming more and more commonplace). Once people are accustomed to the idea of using online productivity tools, they will quite happily use any other new applications on the same format. Think of it in terms of the transition from DOS to Windows applications; initially resistance was huge, but I doubt most users today would go back to DOS based applications. The web also seems to have a way of reassuring people, once they have become accustomed to browsing and using basic online applications, they easily adapt to new web based applications without even realizing it. By comparison, new non-web based software tools typically meet heavy resistance from users that are used to an established tool, despite usually being quite similar.

Usually, by this point, one or more of my colleagues will have given me funny looks and/or said I’m nuts. Well at this point I can, with great satisfaction, present them with a great, big, fat I told you so! This is because the first of these applications will apparently be available soon. Google has acquired a startup called Upstartle, the creators of the collaborative online word processor Writely. Writely will undoubtedly be re-branded as a Google product and will be added to Google’s growing list of online tools that serve to increase its already substantial targeted advertising space. Thanks a stack for proving me right Google, now please look at creating a free online development environment, that would be just dandy!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lines down and lights out

It’s amazing how dependant many of us have become on being constantly online. At each of my last three jobs I have had always-on internet access, and over time I have come to dread being ‘disconnected’. Between emails, instant messaging, syndicated news feeds, forums and the odd bit of random surfing, I am accustomed to being bathed in information and communication. Today, when I came in to work, I discovered our international connection is down, probably due to something wrong with IS’s infrastructure, but I prefer to blame Telkom since it’s more fun and they are evil incarnate after all. None of my IM services are connecting, I can’t retrieve my Gmail (all my non-work-related communication is through Gmail) and even soe of the sites I like to check in the morning, which are hosted overseas, are unavailable to me, and it really surprises me how unsettling it is. I mentioned in a previous post that I am addicted to forums; I think it would be more accurate to say I am addicted to being connected. Not having access to my warm info-soup feels like walking around in a desert with no sign of life for miles.

This makes me wonder what it will be like when Gauteng (and the rest of South Africa) start experiencing power cuts, as Cape Town has been doing. If being cut off from the internet is difficult, living without something that has become almost as essential as air and water in our everyday lives-electricity- will be all but impossible. There are many sides to the story, and as is the case in any great political or economical disaster in this country, there are fingers pointing in all directions but no one is willing to take any responsibility upon themselves. A number of ‘experts’ have claimed that Eskom (and the government) have been warned of the inability of our current electricity infrastructure to continue to meet the needs of our growing population and economy. It is reminiscent of a scene out of any Hollywood disaster flick, where a lone, badly dressed, bespectacled scientist tries to drum the danger of an immanent natural disaster into the heads of short-sighted politicians. In fact it’s probably very similar to the kinds of sessions attended by President George Bush before hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico and shattered thousands of lives.

Well, these same scientists that supposedly warned the government and power utility of impending local power shortages are now trying to warn them again- about countrywide shortages. Have the politicians learned anything? Of course not, they are still denying the possibility in the press (privately, they’re probably stocking up on baked beans, gas canisters and mineral water). So what exactly happens when the lights go out in Gauteng? Our economy has already lost millions from Cape Town’s periodic outages, and number of large businesses in that city pales when compared to those in Johannesburg, Pretoria and their surrounding areas. A single day without power in this region, just from a business perspective alone, could cause havoc. That is before considering the impact on healthcare, residential homes and the transport system.

Surely the responsible thing to do would be to acknowledge the problem and at least give business and individuals the opportunity to plan ahead. The really scary thing is that the CT outages happened in mid-summer. As far as power consumption goes, this is the ‘slow period’. We are heading into winter (and if recent cold snaps are anything to go by, it’s going to be a VERY cold winter), traditionally the time when power consumption skyrockets-and when a lack of electricity has the biggest potential to be fatal. At least by admitting that there might be a problem and warning people in advance, there is a better chance that businesses and individuals can be prepared for the eventuality. If people start preparing now, essential items like blankets and alternative heating and cooking systems can start to be sold and replenished early on. If people are only informed about cuts by realizing that the lights are out, there will be a mad rush for supplies (especially with the horror stories arising from the Cape Town outages).

Why is it that our government and large companies insist in sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge problems and plan for the future? HIV/AIDS debacle anyone?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

South African Game Development webring

After a lengthy process (note the navigation bar at the bottom of this blog), I finally qualified to create a new ring on I have created the South African Game Development webring, and invited a number of sites to join it. Hopefully this will go some way to pulling together the various hobbyist sites out there. I’m hoping it will prove to be a valuable resource for headhunters as well, we have so much talent in South Africa, it’s just difficult to find it. Now if only I could track down some of the mobile game developers I know are hiding in SA.

The site and ring navigation are not particularly pretty right now, but over time (and with some community help) I’ll fix that.


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