Eskom's “power” pool

Three weeks ago, I attended a conference at the conference and training centre of Eskom, South Africa's government-run power utility, in smart-ish Midrand, near Pretoria. This is quite a large complex, with free-ranging antelope, where Eskom has advanced training facilities and accommodation for conference delegates and trainees. The picture below, shows the pool next to the conference centre restaurants. The gate giving access to the area was unlocked.

Since the government has classified me as a “non-African”, I am slightly less embarrassed than before when foreigners see something like this but it is still irksome because of the sheer waste. Could it be that none of the strapping working-class trainees of Eskom like to cool in summer off by doing a few laps? Or, that there are no trainees at all?

Quod vide

Google Maps image of the conference centre (the pool still had water then, although it was apparently in winter)
SA electricity costs are far too steep - analyst (Wiseman Khuzwayo in Business Report) http://www.busrep.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=552&fArticleId=5254124


Die onbepaalde lidwoord op Facebook (ʼn, UTF-16: 0x0149)

Die gewoonte van lomp woordverwerkers uit Redmond om die Afrikaanse onbepaalde lidwoord tot die foutiewe en lelike misbaksel ‘n te omvorm, is 'n hinderlike deel van 'n mens se alledaagse leeservaring. Op Nuus24.com kan 'n mens vanoggend sommer drie variante van die lidwoord ('n, ‘n asook ’n) heel naby aan mekaar sien.

Ou Afrikaanse tikmasjiene het blykbaar 'n aparte sleutel gehad vir die lidwoord en die moderne Unicode-standaard vir die voorstelling van karakters op rekenaars bevat dan ook 'n enkele simbool vir die Afrikaanse onbepaalde lidwoord, die ʼn. Laasgenoemde is 'n enkele karakter, soos die Griekse λ, en nie twee opeenvolgende karakters, soos die bogenoemde drie van News24, nie en het die UTF-16-kode 0x0149. Die gebruik van ʼn (0x0149) sou die misvormde lidwoord kon uitskakel en word, tot my matige verbasing, wel deur Facebook gebruik.

Die Kanadese veeltalige sleutelborduitleg ondersteun dan ook dié karakter deur dit as AltGr-N (die regterkantste Alt-sleutel word ingehou onderwyl N gedruk word) beskikbaar te maak. Die maklikste manier om die misvormde lidwoord uit te skakel, is egter om die woordverwerker se autokorrigeer-opsies heeltemal af te skakel. Indien dít te moeilik is vir mense wat in Afrikaans skryf, wat van die Kanadese sleutelborduitleg?


Using AutoCorrect http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Documentation/OOoAuthors_User_Manual/Writer_Guide/Using_AutoCorrect (vir OpenOffice)
Turn on or off AutoCorrect options http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/hp051894301033.aspx (vir MS-Word)


Notice to accompany offline archive files

My personal archives (documents, photographs, e-mail etc.) now comprise three DL discs and I want to place a few copies with friends and family and had been wondering how to properly indemnify them and protect myself. The solution I chose was to wrap it all up in a huge file which is weakly encrypted. This means that if one of the discs is popped into a computer, you won't immediately be able to open anything. In addition, I included the following notice on each discs and on the inside and outside of the envelope in which I seal the discs. Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I think that we should start thinking about our digital legacy!

Personal Archive ‒ Important Notice

The discs, files and/or other media contained herein (and their content) are the personal property of the undersigned and may not be opened, used or accessed in any other way other than those expressly authorised in writing by the undersigned or the executor of his/her deceased estate.

Persoonlike argief ‒ belangrike kennisgewing

Die skywe, lêers en/of ander media hierby ingesluit (en die inhoud daarvan) is die privaateiendom van die ondertekende en mag nie oogemaak, gebruik of andersins toeganklik gemaak word nie, behalwe waar uitdruklik skriftelike toestemming gegee is deur die ondertekende of die eksekuteur van sy/haar bestorwe boedel.


I am releasing the notice into the public domain, so please feel free to copy and use it if you'd like!


Van Bulgarye, met liefde – kaarte vir die selfoon

Ek het hierdie week toeval tot by die nuttige maps.webgate.bg genavigeer. Dít is 'n webblad wat vir selfone ontwerp is en deur die webblaaier van die selfoon toeganklik is. 'n Mens kan daarop per adres soek en dan 'n mooi klein kaart van Google Maps ontvang. Die afbeelding hier onder wys die resultaat van 'n soektog vir die pseudo-adres „Benedictus Kok Street Bloemfontein” op my rekenaar. Dit lyk dieselfde op my selfoon en sou my baie gehelp het in Bloemfontein verlede week, toe ek by die verkeerde sterrewag opgedaag het vir 'n skemerkelkie!

Dit werk ook 100% in Afrikaans en 'n soektog vir „Benedictus Kokstraat Bloemfontein” gee die regte plek maar „Benedictus Kok Straat Bloemfontein” wel nie. Hulle weet blykbaar van Afrikaans se los- en vasskryf in Sofia!


$200/month - the cost of broadband in SA

I paid my Telkom bill this morning and had to reflect on the charges that I am paying to the fixed-line monopoly. The “line rental” is R693 [sic] per month, which is for a 4mbps ADSL line with no service. According to recent reports, average broadband use in the world is just over 11GB per month, so let me add the price of R719 for unshaped 10GB/month of usage from my ISP as well as R70 for an ad hoc additional 1GB. That comes to R1481 per month, i.e. $200 (US, to the nearest cent) at today's exchange rate. Foreign readers will think that I am inventing this, but this is the actual price of being connected in South Africa. The sunshine and mild weather, for which we can thank no Earthly authority, are still free.

Update on 2009-10-24: an Afrikaans version of this post has appeared on my Sake24 blog.


Broken/Stukkend 4 : receiving e-mail from customers

Picture by Wikimedia user Bidgee
A friend's frustrating attempts at correspondence with Telstra, Australia's lumbering telecoms giant, has galvanised me to reprise my occasional series about customer service. He has been finding it impossible to get any reaction from Telstra about his serious billing problem by e-mail and his calls to their “customer service” numbers are simply terminating in Tagalog or Cantonese voicemail promts. The e-mail channel consists of a web-based form that allows the customer to enter 200 characters ‒ hardly sufficient for describing a real complaint.

I myself have recently had Standard Bank, “a leader in banking technology in South Africa” which is busy “ensuring the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and fairness” ask me to resend a 18-month old message to which they had assigned the reference number 1955721, since although they have not yet replied to it, they reportedly no longer have it. If anyone from Standard Bank is reading this and cares to refute the alleged loss of the message, please post a comment below.

Why are many companies so terribly bad at replying to e-mail? My conjecture is that the inappropriate pricing model (free at the point of delivery) of e-mail is partly to blame. Postal mail and a telephone call to a service center both require the supplicant to invest time and money in lodging the enquiry. Of course, an e-mail also requires time but not as much as holding for 30 minutes for the call centre. With telephonic customer service, any unmatched demand for service simply disappears as customers hang up when they are tired of waiting. E-mailed enquiries pile up, and much faster than postal mail. Why not automatically return unhandled queries or unopened e-mail messages, flagged appropriately, to the sender after a week (say) has expired?

To my surprise, I have recently had the South African Post Office reply to a message within 48 hours. The Hong Kong Post Office took a week to respond to a similar query. Kudos to the SAPO for this! On the other hand, I am still waiting for a reply to my e-mail of 20 September to CustomerCare@virginmobile.co.za and have all but lost hope. I am reminded of a remark by Niels Kjellerup of the Call Centre Manager's Forum in a recent BNet podcast:
“outsourcing [of call centres] is only for those businesses who don’t care about customers.”
He went on to explain that these are typically businesses which have customers tied up in a contract and really do not need to provide anything resembling reasonable service. I tend to agree.

Earlier posts in this series

Broken/Stukkend 1 : in QLD's “captial” city
Broken/Stukkend 2 : DSTV se rekeninge-afdeling
Broken/Stukkend 3 : SARS eFiling's e-mail


Telkom and me, at parliament

On Tuesday, had been invited to Cape Town to take part in hearings of the Parliamentary Committee on Communications on South Africa's mobile interconnection (or, mobile termination) rates. I deviated a bit from my written submission but I hope that I impressed three things on most members of the committee:
  1. the situation is not new, and had been unfolding under their (and the regulator's) noses for more than ten years now;
  2. government, as a shareholder in most of the major telecommunications operators, cannot now accuse them of “greed”; and
  3. that Telkom's fixed termination rates are at least as disproportionally high as the mobile rates.

It was a nice experience and I was impressed by the obvious eagerness of most committee members to learn more about the issue, especially MPs Vadi, de Lille, Killian and Zondi. The Deputy Minister of Justice did not appear to appreciate my second point, though. The CEO of Vodacom also attended the hearing, as did executives from Neotel, Telkom, the CEO of Vox Telecom etc.

Since I was in Cape Town only for a few hours, I heard only two other submissions – that by Telkom, for which the time of three senior executives could apparently easily be free up, and a personal submission by Thabiso Mokgoro from Accenture. Telkom's entire contribution consisted of (as far as I could tell) some slides from their annual report and a plea to regulate a special interconnection rate from public phones to mobiles. Has anyone actually seen people use public phones? Mokgoro's submission recounted his personal experience of excessively high roaming rates. MTN had charged him around R25 000,00 after a visit to Botswana. I really think it would not be disturbing if these operators alerted one by SMS each time the unbilled amount went up by more than R1 000,00 (say) - even if it is only to express their gratitude for the custom.


Cellphone operators under fire over rates http://www.sowetan.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1078069
Parlement kap selfoongroepe http://www.sake24.com/articles/default/display_article.aspx?ArticleId=6-104_2556976


Standard Bank spam

Just to show that I don't pay several hundred rand per month in fees for absolutely nothing, Standard Bank was kind enough to send me the following spam earlier this week. How do they expect me to take an e-mail from “Standardbank” that addresses me only as “Dr,” seriously? Somehow, I do not remember where I put the Tardis.
The message continues to be misleading and, generally, not helpful. The description of phishing
“a form of identity theft in which fraudsters masquerade as reputable institutions such as banks or retailers”

is not that useful since many readers might not know how easy it easy to register a domain name such as stundardbank.co.za which was available at the time of writing for R50/year and copy an entire website. Instead, we get the following waffle.
“These fraudsters then urge you to provide your sensitive information such as identity numbers, card numbers and PINs. They then use this information to defraud you.

Please remember that we will never ask you to update/confirm personal or secret information like PINs or passwords via an email or over the phone. We urge you to remain vigilant at all times.”

Actually, I think that Standard Bank asks me for my ID number on the telephone all the time. Have you tried refusing to give it? What about mentioning that all of the above can happen on an exact copy of the Standard Bank website? They continue with
“Never click on a link in an email that takes you to another website”
but their own e-mail contains two such links. Better advice would be to never click on a link in an e-mail message. Further, my Internet banking profile clearly states that I prefer plain text e-mail over HTML and my correspondence language with Standard Bank is Afrikaans. Would they not engender more trust by sending me a plain text message in Afrikaans? After all, phishing is all about confidence. But, please Standard Bank, do not send an update.


Parlement praat oor seltariewe

Ismail Vadi, PPKK-voorsitterDie parlement se portefeuljekomitee oor kommunikasie (PPKK) het verlede week vergader oor Suid-Afrika se skokkend hoë interkonneksietariewe, die gelde wat betaal word deur telefonieverskaffers aan ander netwerke vir die terminering van 'n oproep op die netwerk waaraan die geskakelde nommer behoort. In spitstyd is dié tarief R1,25 vir die selfoonnetwerke, m.a.w. die netwerk van die geskakelde party sit R1,25 per minuut in die sak en die bellende party se netwerk móét nog hulle koste en winse bó dit verhaal. Dié besonder hoë interkonneksietarief is bepaal deur onderlinge ooreenkoms tussen Vodacom en MTN sowat 10 jaar gelede, net voor die toetrede van Cell C tot die mark. In wese is dit 'n uiters onmededingende situasie omdat nuwe toetreders deur dié prysvasstelling – die meeste geskakelde partye is immers op die gevestigde netwerke – verhoed word om op prys mee te ding. Suid-Afrika het dan ook van die wêreld se hoogste beltariewe.

NJ 'Sê-Wie?' van den Berg, DABovermelde komitee, waar welige baarde by sowel die voorsitter as die DA se skaduminister (het iemand hulle vertel ons het nie meer die Westminster-selsel nie?) spruit, het aangekondig dat hulle teen 1 November 'n verlaagde tarief verwag. Alhoewel feitlik almal dít sou verwelkom, hoort die ekonomie nie uit parlementêre komitees bestuur te word nie. Die toepaslike owerheid is die Mededingingskommissie of OKOSA (ICASA). Die einste komitee sou egter reeds in 2005 kennis kon neem van 'n voorlegging aan hulle deur (toe) professor Alison Gillwald van Wits, waarin sy waarsku dat onder nuwe wetgewing
“with the retention of certain regulatory and licensing powers by the Ministry, together with some of the necessary provisions of the ICASA Amendment Bill not being in place, the constitutionally required independence required for the broadcasting regulator in Section 192 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is probably not met.”
Op daardie tydstip was die openbare mening nie soseer op dié kwessie toegespits nie, en kon die PPKK die professor se goeie advies maar rustig diep liaseer. In Namibië het hulle reeds na goeie advies geluister en aangekondig dat die interkonneksietariewe stelselmatig sal daal tot R0,30 per minuut teen Januarie 2011.


Selgroepe moet hul tariewe sonlig gee
High Interconnect rates: The PPCC and ICASA Independence
Parliament attacks South African telecom operators
Submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications on the 2005 Convergence Bill (Notice 27294 of 2005) by the Wits LINK Centre
Telecom laat sak belpryse


Zuma's office not taking my free call

It was announced yesterday that call to South Africa's new Presidential Hotline 17737, instituted by President Zuma, would be free from all operators. This is clearly an enormous mistake as everybody (and there are more than one million citizens per operator) with time on their hands can now just call the Hotline and tie up the lines for people like me. This morning, after having navigated through the friendly multilingual (English, Afrikaans, generic Nguni, generic Sotho, Venda, Tsonga) menus, I was told that my call was being forwarded to an "English" operator. After a few more minutes, a message was played saying that they are extremely busy and I should try again later. Line disconnected. Why not just play this message right at the beginning?

In spite of assurances from Cell C that the number is reachable from their network and free, my Virgin Mobile phone gives me the famous Cell C husky voice, informing callers that the number is "not available" when I dial 17737 from my cellphone. The cause of my original complaint? The Post Office's "Expedited Mail Service" does not answer their call centre number more than 10% of the time and in those cases, the system is reported to be down. I am trying to track a US Express Mail International item that is reported (by the USPO) to have arrived in SA three weeks ago. Never again!


Free calls to Zuma from all operators http://mybroadband.co.za/news/General/9614.html


Waarom 0861-nommers?

Die gebruik van 0861-inbelnommers in Suid-Afrika grief my al 'n geruime tyd. Eerstens is 0861-nommers oor die algemeen nie uit die buiteland (en/of deur Skype) bereikbaar nie en indien 'n mens dus nodig het om 'n betrokke instansie van oorsee te kontak dan sit jy sonder 'n spaan. Voorts kos hierdie nommers altyd soveel as 'n binnelandse langafstandoproep - selfs al bel jy van langsaan. 0861-nommers heet immers nie MaxiCall vir niks nie. Laastens, is dit ietwat onduidelik of selfoondiensverskaffers 0861-oproepe onder sogenaamde naweekminute tel. Waarom adverteer Unisa, byvoorbeeld, 0861 670 411 sowel as +27 11 670-9000 (vir "internasionaal") indien dit oënskynlik vir almal goedkoper is om eenvoudig 011-670-9000 te skakel?




RICA-registrasie by Vodacom bra brakkerig

Ek het vandag my eerste veldervaring gehad met RICA, die Engelse afkorting vir Suid-Afrika se Wet op die reëling van onderskepping van kommunikasies en verstrekking van kommunikasie-verwante inligting, Wet nr 70 van 2002 (in Engels: Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act). Volgens dié wet moet enige gebruiker van 'n SIM-kaart sigself laat registreer by die diensverskaffer, in persoon, met bewys van adres en identiteit. Dié reëling geld seder 1 Julie 2009. Laat staan nou

  • die absurditeit daarvan dat kontrak-gebruikers, wie se bankbesonderhede die diensverskaffers het, en welke bankbesonderhede reeds aan 'n soortgelyk wet onderworpe is, hul bestaan weereens moet bewys;

  • die feit dat enigeen met 'n betaaltelefoon of Skype soveel anoniem kan kommunikeer as wat hulle sou wou,

ek was vanoggend vasberade om myself laat RICA sodat ek vir 'n buitelandse besoeker 'n SIM-kaart vir Internet-toegang kan aanskaf. Dié besoeker is, ironies genoeg, van dieselfde universiteit wat vir die ontslape Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri haar doktorsgraad gegee het.

Dapper trek ek toe af Menlyn toe, met my inligting van Vodacom se webblad en die nodige dokumentasie in my sak. By Vodacom se kliëntedienssentrum aangekom, word ek begroet deur 'n kennisgewing dat hulle stelsel stadig is en op 'n ingewing gaan doen ek gou my RICA-papierwerk by Virgin Mobile (VM), waar my stemdiens is. VM was, soos gewoonlik, vriendelik en redelik doeltreffend maar dit het my bygeval dat die adresbewys wat ek voorgehou het, netsowel tuis met my kleurdrukker gemaak kon gewees het.

VM het my egter snuf in die neus gegee want ek moes my SIM-kaart se nommer verskaf. Terug by Vodacom, is die rekenaars steeds vertraag en ek vra die ontvangsdame of hulle my SIM-kaart nodig het vir die registrasie. Sy sê ja en toe ek uitwys dat Vodacom se webwerf (argiefkopié hier onder) slegs vermeld dat die selfoonnommer vereis word, pluk sy haar eie stuk papier uit waarop staan dat die laaste vier syfers van die SIM-kaartnommer ook nodig is. Op die vraag of ek dan maar net dié vier syfers kan saambring, sê sy nee - hulle wil tog maar die hele SIM-kaart sien. Môre probeer ek weer.

Wenk: dit is nodig om in persoon te verskyn (volgens Vodacom in Menlyn) vir elke SIM-kaart. Koop dus sommer soveel as wat jy dink jy gaan nodig hê in die afsienbare toekoms, en gaan registreer almal gelyktydig. Volgens die personeel van Vodacom, geskied registrasies tot Desember 2009 en volgens Vodacom se webwerf tot Desember 2010. Kies een.


Vodacom se RICA-bladsye op 2009-08-31 http://www.kolmogorov.net/download/Vodacom_RICA_20090831.pdf


Expired countries populate the Internet's web forms

While making travel bookings in Australia over the past week, I have been amused yet again by the "nations" that populate assorted drop-down lists for the Country field of many web forms. The image below shows some of the jewels garnered from the websites of Jetstar, the budget airline subsidiary of Qantas, and VroomVroomVroom, a car booking site.

Have Soviet drivers ever been welcome to rent cars in Australia??! I have frequently wondered where these lists originate and still have no good answer. I am prepared to supply a standards compliant list for $500. Strewth, as one says in Australia.


Broken/Stukkend 3 : SARS eFiling's e-mail

My tax advisor just forwarded to me the reply he got when enquiring about the money that SARS (the South African tax authorities) owes me.

The following recipient(s) could not be reached:

eFilingAssist on 2009/07/23 03:16 PM
The message could not be delivered because
the recipient's mailbox is full.

That is, for a country of 50 million people, they did not think to solve this very usual problem. In fact, what they should do is not to have an e-mail address at all but only accept queries on the Web. Many organisations work like this and it is more-or-less as convenient for the sender because they could receive a copy of the sent message by e-mail, which - at the same time - confirms delivery. Is one morally obliged to even pay tax if the tax authority refuses to accept any correspondence?


New LaTeX plugin for gedit

LaTeX is used by most mathematical scientists, like myself, to typeset most of their writing. At a one-day workshop in economics yesterday for example, at the University of Sydney, most of the speakers had done their slides using LaTeX. The basis of LaTeX typesetting is a source file which consists of plain text which is run through the LaTeX engine to produce a PDF or other display file. This meands that one is usually working with at least two files at the same time - the source code and the rendered output. Now, the excellent text editor gedit has a plugin which displays the rendered PDF (or DVI) file right next to the source code, inside the editor!

This is a really nice feature and gedit's nice syntax highlighting and wealth of other plugins, makes it a pleasure to use. Gedit is, of course, the default text editor in Linux' GNOME desktop environment and will probably run in other operating systems as well. The LateX plugin can be found at live.gnome.org/Gedit/LaTeXPlugin.


SpringbokRadio.com - broadcasting daily

Because television was introduced in South Africa mercifully late (1976), many of us still grew up with an excellent selection of radio dramas and serials. The most popular station was Springbok Radio, the “commercial” bilingual broadcaster (all stations were state-owned). It had fantastic radio versions of The Avengers; Father, Dear Father as well as local classics such as Test the Team and Só maak mens. Many will remember the serials Wolwedans in die skemer or My Name's Adam Kane and the more high-brow Tuesday Theatre or Castle Playhouse. Now, many of these shows are available again on the streaming audio service of SpringbokRadio.com, courtesy of the Springbok Radio Preservation Society. Highly recommended!


Telkom stel weer teleur met landlyndigtheid

In hierdie webjoernaal is al heelwat berig oor Suid-Afrika se lae landlyndigtheid of teledensity. Landlyne is natuurlik konvensionele telefoonlyne, van die tipe wat natuurlik wêreldwyd ook vir Internet-toegang van die ADSL-tipe gebruik kan word. Telkom, wat pas aangekondig het dat hulle opgeblaasde notering in New York beëindig gaan word, het steeds in praktyk 'n monopolie oor die verskaffing van dergelike lyne in Suid-Afrika.

In 'n jaarverslag wat pas verskyn het, word berig dat die aantal landlyne nou gedaal het tot 4 451 000, d.w.s. 'n landlyndigtheid van aansienlik minder as 10% van die bevolking. Volgens my vinnige skatting, plaas dít die landlyndigtheid van die land nou op die vlak wat dit was met Nelson Mandela in die tronk. Voorts het Telkom in Nigerië aansienlike verliese gely. My voorstel is dat Telkom, wat steeds amper 50% in besit is van die Suid-Afrikaanse belastingbetaler, eenvoudig aan Zimbabwe geskenk word as 'n gebaar ter ondersteuning van beide lande se heropbou.


Telkom says goodbye to Wall Street www.itweb.co.za/sections/financial/2009/0906241042.asp?O=FPTOP&S=Telecoms&A=TEL (Candice Jones)
Telkom’s broadband plans mybroadband.co.za/news/Broadband/8500.html (MyBroadband)
Telkom line(')s down www.cyphafrica.com/2006/11/telkom-lines-down.html (CyphAfrica)
Telkom shocks, again www.cyphafrica.com/2006/08/telkom-shocks-again.html (CyphAfrica)


Coffee and connectivity at Jo'burg airport

I am writing this from the airside Vodacom Connect Zone at Johannesburg's main international airport (formerly Jan Smuts Airport), while waiting for my flight to Bloemfontein. The Connect Zone is simply a communal work station with desk area and electrical outlets (for South African as well as European plugs) and several special devices for charging cellphone batteries. Kudos to Vodacom for this but I am the only traveller using it right now! There is still no free WiFi at the airport but I can still access the commercial service using my ISP account and although the download speed is worse than I get on my ADSL at home, the latency is quite good and the upload speed is excellent.

Vida e Caffe (why so proud of their Regent St branch?) would be doing even more brisk business, if they were to actually switch on the second espresso machine at their airport franchise. People waiting for flights do not have infinite patience and some might actually have had two coffees, if it seemed feasible.


Broken/Stukkend 2 : DSTV se rekeninge-afdeling

DSTV is die Telkom van betaaltelevisie - 'n monopolie wat deur die Suid-Afrikaanse owerhede (in beide gevale, OKOSA/ICASA) in 'n skoon kombers toegedraai en warm gehou word terwyl die verbruiker steun en kreun. Ek het al meer as tien jaar lank aaneenlopend 'n rekening by DSTV/Multichoice maar ontvang vanoggend 'n kort SMS waarin ek ingelig word dat my rekening agterstallig is en ek 'n R50-herkonneksiefooi moet oorbetaal. Ná tien minute se versigtige rondblaai deur my bankstate, kom ek agter dat daar vroeg in Mei laas 'n betaling af is. Gaaf, dan nou maar na DSTV se webwerf toe om hulle telefoonnommer te kry. Op dié werf lees dat kredietkaartbetalings sedert Mei nie meer aanvaar word nie.

'n Verdere tien of vyftien minute se aanhou op die inbellyn, en ek praat met 'n simpatieke dame wat my vermoede bevestig en aanbied om die diens onmiddelik (daarmee ís hulle goed) te heraktiveer en my bankrekeningbesonderhede te neem vir 'n maandelikse debiet. Sy verstaan my probleem en bevestig dat DSTV wel my eksakte e-posbesonderhede en selfoonnommer het. Hulle beweer dat ek 'n brief per pos in dié verband moes ontvang het. Waarom nie maar ook 'n e-pos of 'n SMS om te waarsku nie? Het hulle mooi gedink en besluit die R50-herkonneksiefooi is meer werd as die intekenaars wat hulle gaan verloor?

Was DSTV nie die enigste opsie in SA vir TV anders as die grusame SAUK s'n nie, het ek sonder twyfel die DSTV gekanselleer. Trouens, dit word net deur my ouers gebruik en ons DSTV het ek lankal kanselleer omdat hulle so duur en hopeloos is. Hulle het hier weer die eerste reël van kleinhandel verbreek - om te weier om 'n klant se geld die aanvaar indien dié klant gereed staan om die geld te gee. Ek hoop daar is baie mense wat hulle DSTV-intekening 'n stille dood laat sterf. Ek is taamlik seker dat DSTV, soos Virgin Active, nie maandelikse state (per e-pos) stuur nie, want hulle wil nie slapende honde wakkermaak nie. Is dit nie tyd dat die bemoeisieke owerhede diensverskaffers dwing om, indien hulle meer as - sê maar - R100 van 'n verbruiker te verhaal, die verbruiker die reg gee om 'n maandelikse staat (per e-pos of MMS) te eis, nie?


Suid-Afrikaanse vakansiedae op die Google-kalender

Die uitstekende span van www.translate.org.za het die Suid-Afrikaanse openbare vakansiedae as ICS-lêers opgestel en beskikbaar gemaak vir insluit in enige kalender-programmatuur - soos Google se Calendar, Thunderbird en (vermoedelik) Outlook - wat die ICS-formaat ondersteun. Tot nou verskaf Google ons vakansiedae (jammer, Namibiërs, ek weet nie wat julle gaan doen nie!) nie as een van die beskikbare opsies nie - nie eers in Engels nie. Net vir die pret, het ek die vakansiedae in Afrikaans en in Sjangaan ingevoeg. Indien iemand sukkel om dit reg te kry, kontak my gerus. Ek is phpotgieter op Skype.


Broken/Stukkend 1 : in QLD's “captial” city

A colleague has introduced me to Seth Godin's blog. Godin is a best-selling author and speaker and used to blog under the slogan This Is Broken about disasters in customer service and the customer experience. I have decided to collect a few examples of my own, in an occasional series.

Exhibit 1 is from the website of the Watermark Hotel in Brisbane (archived version at http://backupurl.com/x3wwqm). Big U has been trying to book me a room in Brisbane and has finally uncovered this gem, at a mere R1 500,00 (about US$200) per night, as opposed to the hotel's own website special of R720. This qualifies as a big success, incidentally, because Big U's initial offer was R4 000,00 per night in the South Bank, in a 4 star hotel. The typo (?) has been on the website for days now. The accolade "inspired 4 star" almost certainly means that the hotel is only aspiring to 4 stars, and clearly not with a surfeit of determination.


Toiletpapier-inspekteurs gebruik perforasies

Daar word vandag op Fin24.com dat here van die SABS by vervaardigers van verdagte toiletpapier aan die Wesrand. 'n Fabriek vervaardig blykbaar rolle wat te min papier op het, en boonop ontbreek die perforasies. Volgens die woordvoerder van die SABS
"Perforations allowed the paper to be easily torn and also helped the regulator to measure it."

Is dit net ek wat die gedagte aan 'n kantoor in Pretoria, waar die here ernstig sit en blokkies tel - met behulp van die perforasies - belaglik vind? Kan mense nie 'n toiletrol optel en voel of dit lig is al dan nie?


SA toilet paper 'too short' http://www.fin24.com/articles/default/display_article.aspx?ArticleId=1518-1786_2527828 [toegang op 2009-06-08]


SMS agter die stuur

Die koerant Rapport berig afgelope naweek oor die verminderde bestuursvermoë van diegene wat SMS in die kar. Volgens dié blad erken amper 20% van bestuurders dat hulle SMSe stuur op die pad. Ek doen dit soms self alhoewel ek dit natuurlik probeer vermy. Indien die selfoon lui terwyl ek bestuur, antwoord ek - as 'n reël - ook. Die rede is eenvoudig dat Suid-Afrika 'n gevaarlike plek is en 'n mens nie kan weet wanneer jy 'n noodoproep gaan ontvang nie. Ek twyfel of dít méér gevaarlik is as om te rook terwyl 'n mens bestuur.

Waarom SMS mense dan so baie uit die kar? Eerstens, vir dieselfde rede dat mense buite die kar so baie SMS - die koste van selfoonoproepe in SA is uitermate hoog. Tweedens, selfs al word/is dit onwettig om te SMS terwyl 'n mens bestuur, is dit 'n aktiwiteit wat baie maklike vir verkeerspolisie weggesteek kan word of onderbreek kan word indien 'n beampte verskyn. Die wetgewing wat die praat op selfone in die kar verbied, het dus 'n teenwerkende en onbedoelde effek - mense SMS nou meer agter die stuur. My ervaring dag-tot-dag in die verkeer het in iedere geval lankal gesuggereer dat selfoonpraat nie die grootse gevaarfaktor op die pad is nie...

In 'n ideale wêreld sal alle motors se klanktoestelle outomaties aan die bestuurder se selfoon koppel, soos 'n vriendin van my se oulike nuwe Mercedes (nee - sy is nie in die politiek nie!) doen. Maar ons is nie in Utopia nie en die meeste mense moet kies tussen 'n nuwe klankstelsel en nuwe bande. Ek hoop hulle kies die bande.


Studie oor foon in kar skok http://jv.news24.com/Rapport/Suid-Afrika/0,,752-2460_2524591,00.html [toegang op 2009-06-04]


BigU's dumb-A DNS

Most of the servers of BigU have been unreachable since this afternoon. Thank gods for Google's cache... By this evening it all got too much for me and I decided to check the WHOIS information at http://www.ac.za/ to get some information about the setup. This is what I found out.
  1. The contact e-mail addresses of the administrators are in the domain which they administer. Google is brave enough to do this, but CNN is not.
  2. All the nameservers are on BigU campuses. Ditto re Google and CNN.

At least a neighbouring large residential university has had the sense to specify a nameserver in the far-off Eastern Cape. BigU is, however, ignoring the stipulation
[A]t least one secondary name server must be on a different network from the primary server

on the registration form. In my understanding, this means that a problem with the nameservers on the BigU campus will make the entire BigU network inaccessible, except by IP address. In any case, the problem actually appears to be worse because the servers cannot be reached by IP address either... Ouch. If I remember correctly, they are in the examination period.


Tidying up GMail IMAP

I am one of those backward souls still using a standalone e-mail client (Mozilla Thunderbird) for most of my e-mail reading and sending. My three main reasons are:

  1. good Afrikaans localisation in Thunderbird, which GMail still lacks;
  2. using a standard protocol for offline copies, allowing me easy offline access (which I know GMail now kind-of has); and
  3. the range of add-ons for Thunderbird, with some nifty productivity tools.

That said, GMail is the subject of constant improvement and I am a big fan of the nice new themes and the option "Include original attachments" which has recently appeared and often switch to the GMail interface just to use the latter.

GMail has also recently made it possible to select which labels (hence, folders) are visible to the IMAP server. Although one could also manage this using the IMAP client's Subscribe feature, I like the clean look that is now automatically there when I use any IMAP client to access my GMail inbox. This feature requires (free) subscription to the GMail "Lab features".


RICA reg om selfoongebruikers te byt

Suid-Afrika se Wysigingswetsontwerp op die wet op die reëling van onderskepping van kommunikasies en verstrekking van kommunikasie-verwante inligting (RICA, The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Amendment Bill) gaan stellig die lewe vir selfoondiensverskaffers en -gebruikers moeilik maak. Dié wetgewing vereis dat verskaffers van telekommunikasiedienste nie net die ID-nommer en adres moet aanteken van gebruikers nie maar diegene ook moet identifiseer in 'n aangesig-tot-aangesig ontmoeting. Die finale datum vir dié proses (wat natuurlik ook van toepassing sal wees op die gebruiker van voorafbetaalde SIM-kaarte, wat tans nog vir so min as R0,99 en sonder identifikasie te koop is) word, volgens berigte, binnekort aangekondig.

Nie net sal die selfoondiensverskaffers hulle 30m of so voorafbetaalde kliënte deur dié proses moet help nie, maar gebruikers sal ook die verlies, diefstal of oordrag aan 'n ander persoon van 'n SIM-kaart moet aanmeld. By verlies of diefstal sal die polisie betrokke moet wees. Enige kans dat iets kan skeefloop?


ITWeb: Mobile operators share RICA jitters http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/telecoms/2009/0904171038.asp?O=FPTOP&S=Legal%20View&A=LEG [toegang op 2009-04-25]


Information bottlenecks at Big U

I was asked to write a few notes for management at the Big University (Big U) where I have an office that I use when not extreme telecommuting from one of my favourite islands. It occurred to me to rather place my comments here, where they are not so easily lost.

E-mail archiving (not)

Where better to start, than the pothole on the information superhighway that I struck just today. In a somewhat tersely worded e-mail from the person in charged of archiving at the library, I was requested to provide a copy of an "outstanding" document from October 2007. Fortunately, I clearly recalled a pleasant interchange of e-mail at the time and quickly found an e-mail message dated 1 October 2007 in which the same person thanked me for sending the documents which she was now requesting - 18 months later.

It is, of course, possible that this colleague simply did not think to check her e-mail archives, but I suspect that she does not have an e-mail archive because Big U provides staff with roughly 10% of the storage space (per user) that is allocated per student and has been known in the past to purge staff e-mail accounts of messages older than a few months. This is outrageously stupid, especially given how inexpensive storage is, and Big U should seriously consider archiving all internal e-mail forever.

Processing payments

Students apparently find it quite hard to have their payments acknowledged at the Big U. Someone at a Big Four auditor told me this week that a trainee in Pretoria had to fax a proof-of-payment to the office of the Registrar 65 (sixty-five) times before the payment was registered. I heard from another student that she was instructed to join a mile-long queue in order to pay R35 [sic] in order to join some tutorial group. Why it takes any time at all to register a payment is really beyond me. Any online shopping site or cellphone company can credit one's account instantly. At the university, students really only have a single account balance so it should not be more difficult to handle than a prepaid cellphone account. Why can Big U not make it easier for people to pay it?

Multiple submissions of "identical" documents

Multiple submissions are required of many critical documents. In spite of protestations to the contrary, Big U is still just a correspondence university which sometimes conducts this correspondence by e-mail. Lecturers submit tutorial letters separately (1) to the online environment (myBigU) and to (2) the department Scheduling. The latter requires one blue docket per language version of the letter, and on each blue docket information is repeated several times. They may later ask the lecturer to provide fresh "original copies" (3) of the tutorial letters for "peer evaluation" or some other purpose. The online versions (myBigU) are periodically purged. Nobody really checks whether any of (1)-(3) are the same. Why not let Scheduling simply source the documents from the online system, myBigU - where such documents can be approved electronically by the Chairs of departments - or at least rethink the procedure?

No currency information about documents

Watercooler gossip has it that the Advertising Standards Authority has been breathing down the neck of Big U because it has been charging students fees different from those advertised on its website. It is certainly easy to find some very outdated information on the Big U website, including by using the Google search box which Big U is so proud to display. There is a very simple solution to this - just place a "packed on" and "best by" date on every document. The same applies to internal policies and forms. How often does one complete a form, only to have it returned with a instruction to use a later version?

Information in an MS-Word DOC file cannot be considered "captured electronically"

I call this one, with no disrespect intended, Secretary's Delight. An old-fashioned paper form is lovingy retyped, with loads of megapixel scanned bitmap graphics to a document which is almost impossible to complete using the original word-processing software. Unfortunately, the request is often to return said form "electronically", so we slave on and somehow manage to massage the MS-Word tables into something that can conceivably be printed and e-mail it back. At this point, nothing has really been captured electronically. The documents being mailed around are not amenable to machine processing and no database records have been created. Until such time as the capacity exists to properly handly information in an electronic fashion, I suggest that such forms be reduced to plain text files with the required fields numbers 1.1, 1.2 etc. and comments and instructions given in lines starting with one of the usual symbols for commented computer code, e.g. the percentage sign %. A small amount of education in the use of plain text editors will be required, but Big U could dump thousands of licenses for MS-Office and improve the accessibility and archiving of their data at the same time.

No document workflow or tracking

Although many forms are available on the intranet, the workflow for the vast majority of these is not defined and/or unpublished. I am now in month 5 of my first (monthly) claim under the BigU broadband subsidy policy, which will finally pay about R125 per month. It is still not clear whether my claim has been accepted or not although - after much trial and error - I now believe that the correct procedure has been followed. Since this is a claim which should be made by hundreds, if not thousands, of staff members, would it not have been worth adding a single and authoritative paragraph to the form to detail the procedure?

Determining the progress of a critical application or process is a Herculean task. With the exception of very few processes (the submission of the "blue docket" version of a tutorial letter being one) information about the progress applications, submissions, etc. is very hard to obtain. It should not be terribly difficult to contrive a system whereby each official document is assigned a unique number and whereby each individual handling the document can register - on a publicly accessible website - the hand-over of the document or request down the line. The recipient of a document or request might, naturally, have the right to dispute a notification of hand-over but a system incorporating this feature would do wonders for university-wide tracking and record keeping.

Information that is readily available is not produced where required

Information that has been registered officially and that is easily available, is often not made available as and where it could be very helpful. A simple but non-trivial example is the coversheet that accompanies student assignments send in the internal mail to lecturers. Normally, the students' initials and surnames appear on the coversheet but no information that could be useful to the lecturer in case s/he wanted to contact the student instantly - such as a telephone number or e-mail address. It's in the database and should simply be printed.

The issuing of cheques is another opaque process. By the time that a staff member receives a cheque, s/he no longer knows what exactly the cheques was for. If every offical document had a unique number, that number could be printed on the cheque. At the counter where cheques have to be collected, staff apparently have access only to the recipients' telephone extensions and sometimes spend weeks trying to call staff members to let them know that cheques are ready. Why not just e-mail them? E-mail addresses could be printed on cheques, or if each document had a unique number, staff could simply use the unique number to look up the contact details of the originator of the document.

Presence information is not available online

Big U's electronic staff directory is not linked to the system for administration of leave, so it would typically require quite a bit of research to determine that someone is - for example - on leave for the month, or even on sabbatical for a year. It would be horribly simple to add a single record to the staff directory, where "away" messages could be posted by staff members themselves. The information in this staff directory should be made available to students as well, so that lecturers can leave messages like
At a conference in Namibia, available by e-mail only

for instance.

Password and privacy policy

A ridiculous password policy pertains at Big U. Apparently, "auditors" require that passwords be changed frequently and that accounts be locked out when a password has been entered incorrectly three times. This is, how one can gain complete control of the account of user X:
  1. Look up the username of X - this is simply the part of their e-mail address before "@bigu.ac.za".
  2. Go to any website that requires authentication, e.g. staff.bigu.ac.za and use the username of X and arbitrary text for the password - three times, so that the account gets locked out.
  3. At this point you e-mail the ICT helpdesk - from any old account - and ask them to reset the password for X. It could happen that they ask you to provide the staff number for X, in which case you should have determined it in advance. If you don't have the staff number for X, just try again later - there is no restriction on the number of password reset requests.

If you are successful in obtaining a valid password for X's account, you probably have all night to use it since X will typically ask for a reset the next morning and will not suspect much to be wrong, because passwords frequently expire. Big U should reconsider their entire password and username system. The administration of the student online site myBigU requires a tedious process of associating usernames with courses. Why not allow any lecturer that is logged on to edit any student online course site? Just track the edits in order to be able to follow up an unlikely case of malféasance.

Open access to study material

Big U has problems with its registration process that have been widely reported in the press. One of the consequences is that students have difficulty gaining access to their study material (guides and tutorial letters) while waiting for their registration to be finalised. If Big U were simply to grant read-only access to all its tutorial letters and study guides (on an open FTP archive, for example), this problem would be solved instantly. However, Big U - in spite of the fact that its management is completely dominated by individuals professing a bleeding-heart ideology - is apparently mortified by the idea that *some* people might be able to read our study material without having paid. With MIT and other universities posting their study material for free on the Internet, is this likely anyway?

This posting is released into the public domain and may be copied and used in any way whatsoever, provided that any reference to the author is removed in case the text is modified.


Privatisering van die Royal Mail

Daar word vandag op die BBC berig dat gedeeltelike privatisering van Brittanje se Royal Mail deur die Arbeidersregering voorgestel word. Volgens Lord Mandelson, is dít kwansuis die enigste manier om die posdiens se toekoms te verseker. Afgesien van die onafwendbare ontwrigting wat só 'n stap sou teweegbring, en moontlike duistere motiewe (die pensioenfonds van die Royal Mail is blykbaar in 'n bedenklike toestand), word 'n mens tot nadenke gestem oor twee spesifieke kwessies.

  1. Indien die staat nie oor die vermoë beskik om iets so relatief eenvoudig en goedkoop soos 'n posdiens te bestuur nie, wat laat die heer Mandelson dink dat die besit en bestuur van banke deur die staat 'n goeie idee is?

  2. Wat is die rol van vereistes t.o.v. sogenaamde universele diens? Is dit essensieel vir die integriteit van die nasiestaat dat daar één instelling moet wees wat teen één prys oral, rofweg, op die nasionale gebied pos aflewer en sodoende afgeleë gemeenskappe subsidieer?

Indien die antwoord op die tweede vraag ja is, dan moet 'n mens erken dat die staat 'n spesifieke rol het by die waarborg van 'n dergelik diens of dienste. Aan die ander kant: ek was al in dele van Suid-Afrika waar daar geen selfoonontvangs was behalwe deur Orange (Botswana) nie. Dít het my nie spesifiek gehinder nie. Daar is vandag baie manier van kommunikeer en indien die staat nie die behoefte het om 'n poskantoor met hulle vlag op te sit in my dorp nie, sal ek dit net waardeer indien hulle nie iemand anders verhoed om dít te doen nie. Tydens 'n onlangse besoek aan Nieu-Seeland het ek op die sypaadjie in Picton, op die Suid-Eiland, twee posbusse hier onder afgeneem. Die een behoort aan die New Zealand Post en die ander aan 'n private posmaatskappy.

Die regering van Nieu-Seeland het sedert 1987 stelselmatig die monopolie van New Zealand Post (NZP) afgetakel en in 2003 het dit ook sy monopoliestatus binne die Wêreldposunie verloor. Die NZP se status t.o.v. pos is dus soortgelyk aan dié van Telkom s'n in SA t.o.v. landlyne – dit is dominant en onderworpe aan regulasie maar het formeel geen monopolie meer nie.

Ek is self 'n relatief groot gebruiker van die posdiens a.g.v. die gawe bestaan van eBay, Amazon (Resellers) e.d.m. Dit val my dikwels op hoe groot die verskil tussen die diens by die poskantoor en die diens by PostNet in dieselfde Pretoriase winkelsentrum is. In Australië en Nieu-Seeland, waar ek onlangs redelik tyd spandeer het, is die poskantoor eerder soos ons PostNet. Dit is 'n winkel waar 'n mens o.a. goed pos, oulike en gerieflike koeverte kan koop, koeldrank en so aan, of deur 'n tydskrif blaai. Daar is enkele poskantore, soos dié een in Menlyn, waar 'n poging aangewend is om meer vriendelik en veeldoelig te wees maar miskien kan ons in SA begin deur die poskantoor se monopolie op te hef vóór daar oor privatisering gepraat word en nie (soos met Telkom) weer die fout maak om die andersom te doen nie.

O ja, Vraag 1 was retories.


'No alternative' to mail sell-off (BBC) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7931061.stm

Wêreldposunie (Wikipedia) http://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C3%AAreldposunie

Telkom - do they know their number?

A few days ago I reported on the Telkom website that the speed on my ADSL line was reported by my modem to be half of what it should be. Within seconds, I got an e-mail from them with the following contact information.
Tel: 0800 375 375
International: 0272010181

It is sweet that they thought of the hapless customer abroad trying to resolve the problems of the non-technical household left offline back in Mzantsi – I've been in that position – but could someone work out for them that 0 is not the international call prefix? My line is up to speed again, by the way, but I'm not sure whether it was due to technical intervention or natural healing.


Petty Apartheid with Excel

Everyday life in South Africa is, mercifully, much less constrained by legal restrictions based on race than it was 30 years ago. However, it appears that IT has rendered our racial bureaucrats more "productive". A certain very large university has just released the following statistics.

What, on earth, is this meant to convey and is it really likely that the unbelievably exact 66,74% should appear twice, in adjacent cells, or did someone's finger slip?


3G on the go - in Australia, NZ and the UK

During December and January I had the occasion to visit three countries in which I wanted to use my unlocked Huawei E220 UMTS dongle for prepaid UMTS ("3G") Internet. Here are my experiences, in brief.


Australia was the only real success of my trip. Although it takes about 20 minutes to buy a SIM card in Australia, it is not expensive (around AU$10). I bought two cards for data, one of which I could net get to work, but the second of which - from 3 Australia - worked just fine. Data usage is not expensive - a $20 voucher bought me 2GB of traffic. Another nice experience in Australia was my hotel in Melbourne, which offered - again, inexpensive - prepaid ADSL usernames and passwords and a connection to an DSL access point over the hotel's Ethernet network.

The reason it takes long to buy a SIM card in Australia is the requirement that one should fill in a standard registration form - even for prepaid - from the Australian federal government. Needless to say, I ended up "accidentally" giving incorrect details all three times (once for voice and twice for data) that I purchased a SIM card and it seems that two different credit cards are considered sufficient verification of identity for these purposes.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, it was very easy to buy a SIM card for voice but at NZ$35 it was a bit expensive. I could not work out how to activate it for data and I was unwilling to purchase another one for further experimentation. If I remember correctly, there was no paperwork involved. Most of the places where I stayed, all at the lower end of the market, did offer free or inexpensive Internet for guests. New Zealand has the curious situation where there are really just two cellphone networks, using incompatible technologies (CDMA and GSM), so the competition is somewhat restricted.

United Kingdom

The UK was, in some sense, the most frustrating experience of all. I had purchased a SIM card from T-Mobile over the Internet before going and after working out how to activate and recharge it, it worked just fine for voice. A nice feature about the UK card was that it had a different magnetic card in the starter pack that can be swiped in many stores to identify the number when one adds credit. This dispenses with the entering of silly voucher numbers etc.

In spite of the fact that one sees wireless data plans advertised widely in the UK, at very attractive prices, I was unable to find anyone prepared to sell me a SIM card to work with my own modem. All the shops that I visited, claimed that it was necessary to buy a modem as well - whether on a prepaid or on a contract service. The supposed 3G service on the SIM card is supposed to work for WAP browsing on the phone only, although it is not clear to me whether it is technically possible to limit it, and I could not even get that working, anyway. One of the best experiences was visiting an Orange shop in the large and fashionable Bullring centre in Birmingham, full of phones and people, where I asked to buy a SIM card after the shop assistant (accurately) reported that she did know whether it could work. She came back after 5 minutes to tell me that they "did not have SIM cards in stock". I know when to give up.


Zimbabwe telcos start billing in US dollar

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reports from Windhoek that the cellphone companies of Zimbabwe have been given permission by the government to start billing customers in foreign currency, mainly US dollars. The MISA report is somewhat hysterical about the right to communicate being under threat and the people of Zimbabwe being increasingly repressed - the latter being, no doubt, true - but I recall Zimbabwe imposing severe restrictions on the availability of the local currency. I mean, how many 100 trillion (that is one neel in the Sanskrit numbering system) Zim dollar notes does one actually need to tip the parking attendant? Using US dollars seems a practical solution and a small step towards eventual liberalisation of the economy. I would prefer to be using President Obama's money myself.

Source: Zimbabwe: Foreign Currency Billing System, Deprivation of Right to Communicate And Free Expression


Kaarte vir Suid-Afrika

Die kaartdienste van Google en Yahoo, met hul lieflike satellietfoto's van die aarde, is natuurlik 'n plesier om te gebruik. Veral indien 'n mens in die buiteland is waar baie stede - waaronder selfs die sekondêre stede van Australië en Nieu-Seeland - nou straatvlak-beelde het. Kyk byvoorbeeld na die beeld hier onder van Madrasstraat in Christchurch. Hierdie beeld is dinamies gekoppel aan die Google-webwerf en mag later nie meer beskikbaar wees nie.

Die kaarte van Suid-Afrika is ongelukkig pateties. Nie eers die belangrikste strate is almal aangebring nie en hoewel ek dit geniet om, veral in Pretoria, na die satellietbeelde in hoë resolusie te kyk, is dit nie van baie nut in stede wat ek minder goed ken, nie. Die volgende beeld wys hoe Google se kaart van Kaapstad se middestad teenswoordig lyk.

Dít is nie van baie hulp indien 'n mens herinner wil word aan die presiese ligging van Kerkstraat, waar die teikenrestaurant van die aand is, nie. Nou, ek is bewus dat daar webwerwe is met beter kaarte van SA en ek het hulle al gebruik maar hulle name is vir my moeilik om te onthou. Gelukkig kom ek toe vanmiddag af, deur 'n websoektoeg, op die uitstekende maps.yellowpages.co.za wat nog 'n lieflike bykomende diens bied vir Suid-Afrikaanse gebruikers: hulle stuur 'n skakel per SMS na 'n mens se selfoon sodat jy op pad weer die kaart kan oproep deur middel van die selfoon se Internet-verbinding. Die kaarte van die Geelbladsye word verskaf deur AfriGIS. Met die detailkaart hier onder, weergegee sonder toestemming en met dien verstande dat dít op regmatige redelike gebruik neerkom, gaan dit baie maklik wees op die plek te vind!

Die vier straatblokke op die kaart van die Geelbladsye stem ooreen met vier blokke sigbaar op die kaart van Google.