The IPad – I can't wait

Unfortunately, I am not one of the select few who had the opportunity to get their hands on the new IPad at the recent Apple Launch last week. So my views are based solely on what I have read and seen about the product having watched the presentation by Steve Jobs (what a great marketer!)

The first impression is that in look and feel, it is a large Iphone – and if that is so, it is no bad thing. Those of us who are committed Iphone users know how the slick interface and responsive touch works so well -so to have this on a larger scale is great. That any of the Iphone applications will also work on the IPad interface provides a seamless integration of the two items. It wont be too long, I am sure, before the hackers have done their work and there will be the Cydia equivalent for the Ipad which would be terrific.

The continuing lack of flash is an interesting omission – one that is more political, I suspect, than practical and it will be interesting to see where this goes in the future. The introduction of the Ibook store will prove to be direct competition to Amazon’s Kindle. I have been using the Kindle for the last few weeks and it is a positive experience. How the Ipad interface and screen will work with this remains to be seen but the graphical interface looks appealing.

Whether the Ipad can be used in place of a laptop remains to be seen – the fact that a dock and a keyboard is provided as an extra is some sort of acknowledgement that it will have its limitations in this area. Having said that it does introduce a whole new concept and way of working – where the touch screen will replace the mouse.

I for one can’t wait.

Oh Brave New World…

Continuing my research into Gadgets new (that’s my excuse!), I have acquired the new Kindle ebook reader from Amazon – and I am very impressed.

This is not my first foray into the world of ebooks as I have been using a Sony PRS 505 for a year now but the advantages of the Kindle are immediately apparent. The main one is its own 3G wireless network which enables books, newspapers and magazines to be downloaded directly onto the Kindle without the need of a PC connection. It is, in fact, an Ipod for books which is a pretty neat concept.

I like the concept of subscribing to a newspaper or magazine and have it downloaded automatically to the Kindle. I realise the same thing happens every morning with my actual newspaper which appears as if by magic through my letterbox – irrespective of the weather! – but its not quite the same thing.

I remember some years ago taking my, then teenage son, (he is now a father in his own right) to an exhibition at the Science Museum based on Star Trek. One of the more serious themes was how the then imagined technology had become reality – the communicator – aka the mobile phone for example. A number of items had still to become reality but the ebook is one of them. Even the digital pad that I signed to confirm receipt of the book had been imagined in the series – although the pretty ensign in the impossibly short dress that constantly presented something seemingly important to Captain Kirk for signature was a great improvement over the rather surley delivery man who arrived at my doorstep on a wet and cold morning.

..And that is what is so intriguing in this technological age. We really are only limited by the extent of our imagination and what once appeared in a cult sci – fi series is now reality.

Brave New World indeed … although I am still waiting to talk to a machine in the wall and say..”tea – Earl Grey -hot!”. Maybe next year!

A still small vice

As readers of my previous blogs will know, I am an unashamed technogeek. I make no apologies for this – sad as it is for a 50 something chartered accountant – but I like to think it is one of my few vices and mostly harmless, if not, at times, somewhat expensive.

One of the darker sides to my obsession is an uncontrollable urge to do things to my various gadgets which I know deep down will end in tears, but which I have to do to discover what the result will be.

When looking at various computer programmes or working on a complicated spreadsheet, my dark urge takes the form of pressing what I call the “Oh sh.t” key. I know it will be disastrous but it just calls to be pressed.

I did this once when setting up my contacts on Linked In. I ending up inviting the whole of my Outlook address book – causing as you might imagine some bemused responses.

My latest lapse was with my pride and joy -my Iphone. I recently upgraded to the Iphone 3Gs – a great piece of kit if ever there was one. Who else has a phone with its own compass – pointless, yes, but fun all the same. My Iphone was jailbroken which means I can run it on the network of my choice and use some pretty nifty applications which for reasons known only to Apple are not available in the standard application store.

Apple have just upgraded the software to version 3.1. I know that a jailbreak version for this was just round the corner but could I wait….

The result, I now have a fully featured Ipod but can I make phone calls – no I can’t. I now have to wait until the fix becomes available.

If anyone knows of a clinic somewhere which will cure me of this, please let me know..just don’t phone me.

My take on Twitter

I am a relative newbe when it comes to Twitter. With a modest 90+ followers I am a long way from the likes of @StephenFry or even @BookMarkLee who has written an excellent summary of the way that he uses Twitter.

However, I thought that I would add my halfpenny worth to the discussion with my personal view on how I have found Twitter working for me.

I must confess to being somewhat sceptical at the outset, and couldn’t see why information that so and so had just made a cup of coffee (or in some cases, done something a lot more personal!) could be of any interest to anyone – and I must say that is still the case. But when I realised that the medium could become considerably more focused and targeted, it became much more interesting.

As regular readers of my blogs will know, my particular area of interest is Cloud Computing with special reference to SaaS applications relating to the accounting world. Now, writing a blog is one thing – getting someone – anyone – to read it is another. And this is where Twitter comes in.

By using Twitter as a medium for directing traffic to my blog, I have built up a small but steady following which would never have existed otherwise. I have now exchanged comments and thoughts with interesting people from all over the world and have started to develop a modest reputation as a commentator in this area. I suppose that in some respects it is a modern day equivalent to having numerous pen pals (no wonder Royal Mail is in such trouble!)

Another aspect of Twitter is as a provision of interesting and relevant information as commented on and re-tweeted by those that I am following. To anyone familiar with RSS feeds – a method whereby relevant site information is downloaded directly to your browser – Twitter becomes an RSS feed with a personal face.

It is also an excellent Networking tool, and for those so inclined, it provides a great opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with people with similar interests. I have had a number of useful networking meetings and conversations which have originated from Twitter exchanges -I must add that it is a very strange experience meeting up with someone for the first time and, as a result of seeing their Twitter image, having a deja -vue moment!

Have I generated new business from it – no, but to be fair that hadn’t been my intention. Have I found an audience for my thoughts and ideas on my favourite topics – most definitely.

Have I become a celebrity as a result – well not yet, but I have made it to Accounting Web’s Ten accountants to follow on Twitter list – does that count?

Selling my old mobile – a salutary tale!

I have fallen foul of the old adage “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. In my case it was responding to an advert in the Sunday Times which offers to give you cash for your old mobile phone.

Being the unashamed geek that I am, I have recently upgraded my Iphone to the 3Gs (a great piece of kit- it even has a compass!). I saw the advert in the Sunday Times and was pleasantly surprised (more fool me) when their web site advised me that the amount they would pay for my old iphone was £101. Not bad and it would go some way to ameliorate my somewhat guilty conscience for such an extravagance.

I duly completed the details, and very efficiently, a few days later received a letter confirming the offer and an envelope in which to send off the phone.

At this point matters became somewhat Kafkaesque.Having posted the phone, I received a few days later a text message simply stating that the phone had been received and – wait for it – the revised offer was £20!

Now I am not that naive not to realise that any offer must be subject to confirmation of the condition of the phone – but £20 as compared to £100 is a bit steep. I immediately texted back to say it was not acceptable and would they please return the phone.

Silence came the reply – nada – nothing. There followed three days of fruitless phone calls – sorry we’re so busy but extreme call volumes etc… – when on finally speaking to a human being, I was advised that my phone had a software problem (it didn’t when I sent it) and thus the reduced valuation.

OK I say, send me back the phone. No, they say, we dont return the phones. As you may imagine, at this juncture, the conversation became somewhat circuitous and little bit heated.

There is a moral to this. These adverts are obviously a scam. What is surprising is that they appear to be backed by a respectable newspaper such as the Sunday Times.

So be warned – if it sounds too good to true – it is!
Postscript
13th October 2009 – There is a psotscript to this story. I complained to the News of the World who are the apparent sponsors of this scheme. I received a prompt response from the Senior Associate Editor with a profuse apology and agreeing to pay the full amount originally offered. I have today received a cheque from them.

It is good to see that customer service still exists in some quarters!

The helpful tax man

This is a real reply from the Inland Revenue (UK). The Guardian newspaper had to ask for special permission to print it.

Dear Mr Addison,

I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to
our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise. I
will address them, as ever, in order.

Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last as a “begging
letter”. It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a “tax demand”.
This is how we at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy,
traditionally referred to such documents.

Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the “endless stream of crapulent
whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the
doormat” has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other
letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from
“pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers”
might indicate that your decision to “file them next to the toilet in case
of emergencies” is at best a little ill-advised. In common with my own
organisation, it is unlikely that the senders of these letters do see you as
a “lackwit bumpkin” or, come to that, a “sodding charity”. More likely they
see you as a citizen of Great Britain, with a responsibility to contribute
to the upkeep of the nation as a whole.

Which brings me to my next point. Whilst there may be some spirit of truth
in your assertion that the taxes you pay “go to shore up the
canker-blighted, toppling folly that is the Public Services”, a moment’s
rudimentary calculation ought to disabuse you of the notion that the
government in any way expects you to “stump up for the whole damned party”
yourself. The estimates you provide for the Chancellor’s disbursement of the
funds levied by taxation, whilst colourful, are, in fairness, a little off
the mark. Less than you seem to imagine is spent on “junkets for Bunterish
lickspittles” and “dancing w**res” whilst far more than you have accounted
for is allocated to, for example, “that box-ticking façade of a university
system.”

A couple of technical points arising from direct queries:
1. The reason we don’t simply write “Muggins” on the envelope has to do with
the vagaries of the postal system;
2. You can rest assured that “sucking the very marrow of those with nothing
else to give” has never been considered as a practice because even if the
Personal Allowance didn’t render it irrelevant, the sheer medical logistics
involved would make it financially unviable.

I trust this has helped. In the meantime, whilst I would not in any way wish
to influence your decision one way or the other, I ought to point out that
even if you did choose to “give the whole foul jamboree up and go and live
in India” you would still owe us the money.

Please send it to us by Friday.

Yours sincerely,
H J Lee
Customer Relations

Fame at last – of a sort!

So- I have been included in a list. I may have been included in lists before, but they were probably ones which were not of great interest. But this list is the creme de la creme. It is Accounting Web’s Ten accountants to follow on Twitter list.

Ok, admittedly I am at number 10 and my 55 followers are a mere drop in the ocean when compared to the likes of @dahowlett but its a start.

The interesting point about this, of course, (apart from my 15 minutes of fame) is the way that Twitter can be used for a business and professional purpose. Much has been written on the subject already – but the networking benefits that can arise from using Twitter are a much underplayed benefit.

Likewise, it is an alternative or more personal approach to RSS feeds – a source of interesting articles, posts and technical information and serves as an excellent medium for publicising ones particular cause or issue.

To those of my professional colleagues who have yet to discover this medium, I would strongly recommend that it is worth investigating.

As for me, I will enjoy my 15 minutes – as the words of the song go.. after 25 years it doesnt mean a thing.. but its nice to know!