Dear mobile operators, stop treating us like morons

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South Africans are well accustomed to being treated like morons by the ANC but there’s no reason we should take that from the private sector too.

international_airtime_transfer_clip_image002In taking SA mobile operators to task I could be talking about their rapacious data prices or mind-bending bundle configurations designed to confuse us into signing over large chunks of cash monthly. But I’m not. Not this time.

No. I’m talking about the bullshit around different types of airtime.

Sign up with any one of the four mobile operators in this country for a top-up contract and you’ll soon learn what I’m talking about. The bundled airtime, for which you pay a monthly ransom, is “not-transferable” and “non-convertible”.

In other words, you have no ability to share airtime with others or use that airtime to buy SMS or data bundles. Oh no, if you want to do that you have buy more “prepaid” airtime.

Fuck off. That’s just theft. Airtime is fucking airtime. It doesn’t matter how or when we pay for it; It’s bloody airtime and it’s paid for. It should be as transferable or convertible as the money what purchased it.

It’s long past time that somebody took the mobile operators to task on this and many other questionable practices they have evolved over the years.

Unfortunately, there is nobody to do that. Icasa is a hopeless case because, whenever a bright young thing starts to make a mark there, one of the thieving foursome makes them an offer too good to refuse. In this way, they collude to keep the regulator weak and ineffectual.

All of which leaves us consumers with nowhere to turn. We end up venting on soapboxes and in irrelevant forums like this one. We desperately need another Isabel Jones.

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It’s not patently obvious

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If you want to know what the current patent battle is about the answer is simple: money. The bottom line is that Apple and Microsoft’s litigation against Google are nothing more that attempts to undermine the Android mobile operating system, which, for those who don’t know, the search giant gives away free, gratis and for nothing to mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola. This is unacceptable behaviour in Cupertino and Redmond, where serious cash is generated by “selling” operating systems – but I digress.

The bottom line is that I applaud Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s mobile phone business because has potential to defuse the ridiculous patent litigation from Apple and extortionate license fees demanded by Microsoft. You see, Motorola has been around a lot longer than either of those two and has a portfolio of over 17 000 patents. That gives Google the option to threaten litigation of its own and, thereby, keep Android free-of-charge and unburdened by unreasonable licensing.

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Facebook kills privacy

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I was an early adopter of Facebook and for a while it was interesting and fun – actually too much fun because it tended to get in the way of work. Then rumours started to circulate that Microsoft was going to buy it, whereupon I joined a group called “If Microsoft buys Facebook I’m outta here” – or words to that effect. Microsoft did buy in, albeit only in a small way, but I decided to leave anyway because I wasn’t getting that much value from it. Now I’m glad I did. More

Same old Microsoft

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and that’s most certainly true when it comes to the dog named Microsoft. Unless you’ve been living on another planet for a while, you will remember the furore over the Borg’s application to have its proprietary XML format recognised by ISO as an international standard last year.

Just to refresh your memory, Microsoft tried to sneak an extremely dodgy version of its file standard through the ISO system. Fortunately, we thought, the checks and balances came into play and the monopolists from Redmond were sent back to the drawing board to address many of the objections raised by participants in the ISO process. Some months later, the Borg was back with a greatly revised standard that made it through the process. All well and good except for the fact that Microsoft has just released its Orifice 2010 suite featuring, you guessed it, the originally rejected version of the so-called OOXML standard. You read the whole sordid tale here.

Virgin Mobile sucks

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This is both weird and stupid. The only way the average consumer can communicate with a telecoms supplier in SA is through their respective call centres – most of which are outsourced to specialist call centre operations. In effect, that means they’ll take your money but won’t speak to you, ever.

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Your details belong to us

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One of my pet hates has always been fine print. The reason is simple: companies always choose to hide unpalatable aspects of their relationship with their clients in it – presumably as an attempt to keep it from notice until it’s needed to wriggle out of paying for something. Well now I’ve found a new, possibly even more nefarious use for fine print.

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First serious 2010 malware attack

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There have doubtless already been other cyber attacks seeking to exploit increased interest in the FIFA 2010 soccer world cup, but this is the first one that has come to my attention – and it’s a real doozy. The sneaky swine have downloaded and inserted vicious code into an existing PDF created by a legitimate organiser of touring packages to the event.

They then send out seemingly legitimate emails (like the one featured on Symantec’s analysis here) in an attempt to gain back-door access to targeted organisations. And there have been cases where they have targeted apparently less-sophisticated family members in an attempt to get them to forward the malicious attachments on.

What to do to avoid it? The usual: advise users not to open emailed attachments – even if they’re sent to by family members. Of course, such sage advice will not be followed and the attack will inevitably succeed.

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