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Commerce and Technology

I’ve now had two bad experiences with Photolab’s putting stuff on CD for me and totally messing up the quality of the pics…  I don’t know what the big deal is…

The first time was a simple request to copy images off my Digital Camera’s memory stick onto a CD.  Nothing more.  But they “colour corrected”, and compressed the images.  Now if you call totally wrecking the colour balance “colour correction”, then they did a good job on that one. (for those who don’t know – I’m being sarcastic, they basically ruined the colours)  Then comes their “compression”… but I’ll leave that for later…

The second time was a request to scan images from negatives onto a CD… The photolab had done well in getting the images printed, and came highly recommended for its quality of work.

Both photolabs, clearly don’t look at the photo’s after they’ve “compressed them”.  Because in both cases I ended up with images with large dimensions, but shocking quality (to keep the file sizes down).  But when I say “shocking quality”, I mean that I wouldn’t even put these photo’s on the web they were so broken!   And they charged us for producing this CD of images!

So today I go to a photolab that I know will do a good job, and they want to charge me R50.00 a spool for “medium” quality photos (about the same quality as a 3.2megapixel camera), and R90 a spool for “high” quality photos (not sure of the quality, but they’re about 9mb per image).  One of the reasons that they’re charging so much is because the negatives have been cut already… (if they’d developed the photo’s themselves, they’d have fed them all through in one go – but now they have to feed each little strip of 4 photos into the machine by hand)  I fully understand why this would be a more time consuming process, so I’m ok with it. 

And I’m guessing that the “high quality” images might require more “scanning” time to get the quality.  They aparently put it through their normal photo printing machine and get it to save the images to disk as opposed to printing them.  With that in mind, I have a slight doubt that it would actually take more time to do a “high quality” scan.  Why? Well, I’m guessing that the machine would normally scan them to do the colour correction, and then it would make sense to scan at the highest quality so they could be sure to do it right.  So in normal operation, it would be scanning the images at “high quality”.  To develop, and print the photos would probably only cost me about R60 or R70.  So if the major factor in the high price of digital copies is the “time”, and the machines on a normal “develop and print” run are scanning at high quality, then a “digital only” run should cost less than a “develop and print”.  Anyway… I know there are other factors involved, and that I’m by no means an expert on the process of photograph development.

What actually pisses me off no end is that the first two photolabs, charged me money for basically useless images.  I wonder how they can get away with offering such a stupid service… I mean, how can customers be so stupid to accept it? And how can they, with a clear conscience, sell a product that really is useless.  Maybe its just because “digital photography” is not “mainstream” here yet?  And I guess photolabs want to protect their business, so by making crappy digital images they might be able to convince their clueless customers that non-digital images are much better for the average customer. (if I was vaguely artistic and had a cool tablet PC, I’d do a “Rory” and post a short cartoon about these interactions between the photolab staff and a “clueless customer”… but I’m not, so you’ll have to imagine it on your own)

But I just had a thought(no sarcastic comments from the peanut gallery, ok?)… Isn’t this what “Internet Companies” did to the whole world in the whole “Dot Com bubble”?  In both cases, people are sold products that claimed to be amazing, but which fail live up to them… (there are exceptions in both situations)  And those that are selling the “bad” products are only selling them because they either want a quick buck, or they don’t know any better… and the customers choose the “cheapest” solution because they don’t yet know how to measure the quality of solutions offered.

I wonder if that is the same with any new idea/market/technology?  And what do you do if you’re one of those who actually cares about the solutions you offer?  How would you convince clients that your solutions are qualitatively better than the rest?  How do companies survive with making bad technology decisions?  So often once you’ve bought a bad solution the only way to fix it is to throw it out entirely and start over – and NO financial manager will be happy with that. (unless they can see the “bigger picture”, and understand why they’re currently in the situation they’re in)  I wonder how many companies do that?  And how do companies who are offering the solutions ensure that they’re offering quality solutions when the playing fields are changing so greatly?

Why do I ask these things? Well, when I worked for Internet Solutions (eCommerce division (which changed its name twice, merged with a bunch of other DD companies, changed its name a few more times, and basically kinda closed down/was absorbed after many retrenchments)) in 2000, they were busy dealing with major changes in web development.  They were starting to use Dynamo Application Server (a Java based App Server), the whole idea of OO was new to most of the teams, and their old ways of managing projects was not the most efficient. They knew this, and were busy re-developing their methodologies – but not fast enough (sometimes).  Systems were built “fast”, and ran with many bugs or “quick fixes” to keep them stable.  Clients could be lead to believe whatever was needed. (not that this happened on purpose :)) In general, the clients really didn’t know enough to be able to evaluate what was being provided for them. (and sometimes neither did we)

At the next company I worked for (2001 & 2002), we had similar problems – except that now the people implementing the solutions often knew “best practices” but the people “managing” them didn’t care so much about quality as they did about “speed of implementation”.  Now that the “dot com bubble” had burst, clients were far more “cost conscious”, but still they didn’t seem to focus on quality.  I still remember some projects where we’d developed “phase 1” of a site, and some other developers took over for “phase 2” (we provided the hosting for both phases).  In the one case, the second developers knew a TINY bit of ASP, virtually no Javascript, and the VB based COM objects they built were terrible – which all together caused their servers and site to crash regularly.  The client chose them over us because they cost less.  I’m not saying we were perfect, our systems were often terribly buggy. 

We had novice developers, and the managers had gone through a phase where projects were built in whatever language the developer liked the best. So we had systems in C++, Delphi, VB, ASP only, some with all hte logic in stored procs and triggers, others with no intelligence on the DB. So as developers left, we’d find ourselves with sites written in languages that our developers couldn’t understand.  I guess they’d fallen into the trap of not guiding the development – leaving it up to the developers to pick the technologies, and having nobody to evaluate what was being done. (Well, there were people who were supposed to evaluate it, but they were NOT (in any way) developers, nor did they understand anything technical (they were people with a sales/design background).

So what are the similarities between my time at Internet Solutions and my time at Company 2 (I can’t mention the name, because its not yet 2 years since I left them, and my contract with them prohibits me from mentioning things about them that could be used against them by competitiors withing 2 years of leaving them. And showing their weak points, could definately be used against them)

I guess there are three common threads:

  1. Managers who don’t know technology/current technology
  2. Developers who don’t know much about technologies outside(and inside) of their current technology of choice
  3. Clients who don’t have enough experience to evaluate the solutions they’re offered

How would I fix them? Well, if it was my company, I’d ensure that the managers and developers were getting training (there are so many companies who offer free courses, just so that they can get their products name out there (especially good are Microsoft’s MSDN Essentials), so even if the company can’t afford “paid-for” training right now, their staff can keep abreast of what’s happening in technologies to some extent).  I’d also make sure that standards were in place and followed, something like the MSF.  (Even the free documents from Microsoft about the MSF could have helped both companies a lot)  And finally, I’d make sure that we focussed on the impact of quality in our presentations to clients (like guaranteeing transaction times, uptime, security, maintainability/extendability)

I’ll keep mulling over this for a while – some day I’d like to start my own company (either alone, or with a small group of friends) so I always find these thoughts interesting… and I’m hoping that “someday” is not too far off in the future, so these thoughts currently get applied more seriously than they would if it was “somewhere in the distant future”…

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Highs and Lows

After having a particularly random sequence of thoughts… (although, how could you have a random sequence… doesn’t the word “sequence” imply something of an order to the items? so I guess it would be a random attack of thoughts… (although “attack” describes something about the intent of the thoughts, which is not accurate in this case – I guess I could use “bunch”, but that implies that they arrived together, as opposed to arriving in a haphazard fashion (I just did a spell-check on “haphazard”, and I really need to get some kinda clipboard based spell checker – currently I open MS Word, paste the offending word into it and get it to check the spelling), much like this set of thoughts)

Ok, so after a particularly random randomness of thoughts (although, mind you, how can you get a “particularly random” anything? Surely its either random, or its not?)…. [Grrr this is getting tiring]

After a random randomness of thoughts I… oh wait… I forgot what I was going to say with all that “random randomness junk”…

Thank goodness for titles – I was going to talk about my highs and lows… basically I was having a few random thoughts and was debating which I should blog.  I ended up canning most of the ideas as irrelevant, stupid, time wasters, or just plain boring… So I thought that a good post would be a “Highs and Lows” post…

I got the idea from a movie – I think it had the “Die Hard” guy (also starred in “The Kid”, and that comedy about the dentist who’s wife hires someone to have him killed) anyway… the movie was about a husband and wife who were not getting along (at some point they send their kids away to “Summer Camp”, the parents “separate” and I think they get back together before “Summer Camp” ends)  At some point, when the whole family is sitting around the dinner table and the dad asks them what their highs and lows of the week were.  Its meant to be a “quick look” into the other person’s life to help them get to know eachother… but at some point it loses its sincerity (kinda like walking past someone you know in the street and saying “Hi, how are you?”) Eventually you do it because its “what’s meant to be done”, and not because you really want to know how they’re doing.

So, anyway… What are my highs and lows for the last week?

Highs: Going to the Zoo with my wife (Christie), buying a dishwasher (its extremely cool to not have to wash dishes), our first “group dinner” at home (Sean, Matt and Helen came for dinner and DVD’s), and our 1 month aniversary of being married, and finding our marriage certificate after not being able to find it for almost 2 weeks.

Lows: Lack of sleep/energy (all these “stoopid” public holidays are messing with my brain’s clock), a “really slow” pc at work that’s making my progress pretty much non-existant…

I’m sure there’s more lows that I’m not thinking of, and I’m sure I’ll have a high tonight when Christie graduates from Wits with her BA (English and History)… πŸ™‚

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Blogging blues

I must admit, I chose the title coz I liked the alliteration… A more accurate title would have been “Blogging Introspection” or something like that… But without further ado, here’s the blog entry


Some day I hope to blog like Rory or Wil… Well, not EXACTLY like them… but with a similar style… one that’s less “Today I did x, y, z, had A for lunch, and met person B, and C“, and more “here’s a snapshot of my thoughts“… Less “Dear diary“, and more “insight into what makes me tick“.

Something like that…

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Links…

Here are some cool links I found:

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2004-02-10 – Shepherding, Maturity & Leadership


“To infinity and beyond” / “The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step”
Eph 6:13b:

“And after you have done everything, to stand”


When praying about tonight, I saw a picture:

Imagine an “epic battle” like you’d see in a movie, the “good” outnumbered by the “bad”.  You get an aerial shot panning over the battle field and the warriors preparing to engage.  It’s a mass of people, but in the ranks of the “good” there are a few people who stand out – not from stature/size, nor from their weapons/skill(we haven’t seen them in battle yet) but they stand out none the less.  Running into battle, their faces are set, weapons ready.  Leading the charge.

In battle they fight courageously (supporting the weak, leading the strong), and when the dust settles they’re still standing.  Facing their goal, having overcome.


Those people represent us.  You might not feel like one of them, but that’s not the point.  That what God sees in us.  We’re all growing towards that point, and we can all get there in time.


As Christians, all of us must show “leadership attributes” to be disciples.


Matt 28:19-20:

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”


As disciples we are supposed to “make disciples of all nations”.  Its not a command to the “elite”.  It’s a command for us all.  So what does making a disciple mean?


Some ideas:



  • Leading them to Christ
  • Being a living example
  • Knowing the bible so you can explain it to them.
  • Baptising them in the Holy Spirit

Those are all characteristics of Christian leadership. (There are more)  Someone who isn’t in the church has no other “leader” to look after them but you and me.  And in the church, there are situations where you will need to lead people to the right path.  A person with the “title” of a leader won’t (necessarily) be with you at 5am when you best friend from junior school calls you at the end of their rope.  A leader won’t necessarily be around when you see a friend from church about to make a decision that will destroy them spiritually.  Nor will they always see when a good friend of yours is backsliding.


That’s what God has put you and me there for.


Eph 5:19:

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord”


1 Cor 12:4-13:

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”


1 Cor 14:26:

“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”


Luke 4:17-19:

17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
    18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
       because he has anointed me
       to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
       and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
        19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.””



Where am I going with this?  We’re meant to be shepherds.



  • People who can lead others to safety, “bind up the broken hearted”.
  • Etc…

Ezek 34:2-4:

2“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.”


If you read on, it becomes quite harsh for the shepherds.  At some point in our lives we are shepherds to those around us, whether appointed there or not.  What are we doing with these opportunities? What am I doing with them?  What are you doing with them?


Vs 2-3: Do we look out for others?
1. In how we relate to them (honesty, integrity, caring)?
2. In directing them in the right paths?


Vs 4a: Restoration
 Coming alongside the weak to see their restoration.  Not to point out their faults, or to make ourselves look better (compared to their faults).  But to genuinely desire to see them whole and restored.  (Without the right motives, restoration is nothing more than self justification.)


Vs 4b: Bring back the strays
1. Relating to the last point – Do we see when people are starting to stray? Do we lovingly bring them back?
2. Do we find time to connect with non Christians and lead them to Christ?


Think about it…


[UPDATE: A lot of the focus in discussion towards the end of the “talk” was that many times we don’t realise that we are the only “shepherds” that the world will have contact with, and how we need to start seeing these opportunities and how we should be preparing ourselves. (studying the word, practicing various of the spiritual gifts in the 1 Cor 12 verse above.)]



Homework
As we’re going into the fast next week, prepare ourselves for it.  Make an effort to be at the corporate prayer times.


Home cell will happen again on the 24th.

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How urban legends are born…

Read this blog… The person wrote an april fools article when they were “in college”, and included a doctored image of a guy standing in front of an old (1955) PC… this image was then recently picked up via someone browsing, and used on a computer museum website.  Little did the museum site’s creators know that they were showing the world the doctored version of the image.  They just assumed that because the caption under the image said it was the Illiac, it was a valid image of it.

I wonder how many other people are lead to believe false information just because “I saw it on the web”… Oh… never mind.  I just thought about those tonnes of stupid “mail this to 5 friends and some association will donate $0.05 to help save some poor kid dying in a hospital”, or “mail this to 5 people and Microsoft/Nokia/CocaCola/etc will give you a free gift”, or any of the other hoax e-mails (or virus alerts) that get sent around.

Check out snopes.com (hope I got that address right) for other urban legends/hoaxes, and for virus hoaxes check out McAffee’s site. πŸ™‚