Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Do Telecom companies keep a shadow phone bill ?

Here is an idea that deepens the feeling of all pervading surveillance. Each quarter the telecoms companies sends or just charges you for the outbound calls made to other numbers. You will also get a bill of the calls made to your mobile phone if the phone has roamed to another area. If you have itemized billing enabled or a web account you can even see the list of calls made, time, date and the cost associated.

That's all very well and those web accounts are useful for those doing surveillance, just one master password is needed for all the phone accounts at a single company. To complete the picture for the watchers that password will enable the shadow phone bill that you never see. On that shadow bill are all the times, date and phone numbers of the inbound calls made to the target number.

The next step is to pull the complete phone bills of those inbound and outbound numbers and so on three or fours steps out. Once consolidated a complete picture of who is talking to who around the target number is generated.

Lets not get too uneasy but remember ... "The telecoms companies keep shadow phone bills and know who is calling you."

PS: Like all the best rumors this has yet to be proved.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Website form selector madness at IBM

This classic example of clumsy web form design brought to you on the IBM customer enrollment profile form. Screen shot on 15 Nov 2010.

What does this form say about the company ? Lack of attention to detail, does not customer test web interfaces, cannot tell the difference between a number value and alphabetic sort ?

Its says all of that along with making me grin as I struggle to find the correct selector for 8 employes. Oh and what the heck are "unsized employees"


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

It's not you in control. That's a Placebo button.

Just when you thought that you were controlling your environment, turns out your not. All those buttons that you push, they don't really have the control you imagine. Let's look at some examples
  • Close the door button in lifts,
  • Request to walk buttons on crossings,
  • Office thermostats.
Many of the above have no effect what so ever except maybe to show a "The button is pressed" light. And it makes sense to have it that way, lets see why..

Pushing a floor button tells the lift you want to go and most lift doors have person sensors. Would you want to get sued if you had your finger on the close button and someone was caught in the door ?

Traffic flow in cities is computer controlled often through many sequential junctions. Road censors provide the input for fine tuning and coordinating the cross flow of traffic. Having pedestrians generating random flow interrupts really does not help. Pedestrian crossing time is factored into the normal sequence.

For office thermostats, one persons hot is another ones cold. The overall environment is controlled by balancing between sensor points and flow control areas. Giving finer control by adding control points would not achieve anything unless there was a corresponding increase in flow control points. For many offices that is just not possible within the ducting infrastructure.

So why give the pretense of control ? It keeps people happy. "I am master of what I ( think I ) control." Make no mistake placebos work but only some of the time, you just have to believe, or not know about the fakery.

On the downside superstitions are born when folks think they are in control of a random event. poor predictions are made when control is assumed but not actual. Stepping out into the road 10 seconds after pushing the crossing button is really not a good strategy even if that's how it is supposed to work.