Archive for the ‘ Consumer ’ Category

Kindle Review – New Zealand

At the time of writing the new ‘international’ version of the Kindle is not for sale in New Zealand, although there are rumours floating around that Vodafone might get involved in selling it.

Undaunted I bought one online and had it delivered to an Australian address and now have it safely back in New Zealand.

The first thing that impressed me, before I even had it, was that Amazon announced a price drop before it had been delivered, and they put a $50 credit on my credit card. When was the last time anyone did that for you? Having just purchased a number of iPhones off Vodafone and was assured they “made a tiny margin on them and couldn’t discount them” I found within a few weeks that the prices had dropped by$100’s, the response from Vodafone was unsatisfactory and amounted to “tough’. Enough of me bitching about Vodafone.

amazon_kindle_21The second thing is that I think the Kindle actually works ‘wirelessly’ here. When Amazon talk about wireless, they don’t mean wifi, they mean that you buy books through the mobile phone network. This will explain Vodafone’s involvement. The top of the screen shows a ‘GPRS’ symbol and connection to a mobile network, although there’s no way of telling which network it is. As far as I can tell you can go to the online store, and buy a book and it’s delivered ‘wirelessly’, this all takes a few seconds. Should I be publicising this? I don’t know, maybe it just works and there’s nothing mobile companies can do about it,but I doubt this, it could be that Vodafone is running a trial and I can take advantage of this… it could also be that I’ve got this totally wrong and it’s getting the books from a pre-loaded list.

If it doesn’t work on the mobile network, don’t panicl. I bought a book from the online store and it took a few seconds to appear on the Kindle with no software required. All you need is a Kindle the USB cord that comes with it and an Amazon account, it’s really that simple.

As far as usability goes, like an iPhone, it comes with a small manual and is fairly intuitive. It’s very slim and light, lighter than a real book, there is also no screen reflective glare and the e-ink is very easy to read, even at an angle on a table, much better than reading a e-book on an iPhone. The styling is simple and sleek with a frosted aluminium back and a matt finish plastic front with flush buttons and a small raised navigation toggle.

Quite simply this is a well designed, easy to use e-book reader, and I can see that long term these are likely to replace paper books, and be used in unexpected ways. While it may be a while before it appears for sale in New Zealand, if you’re going to Australia or can get someone to pick one up, the exchange rate is good and it’ll work just fine in New Zealand. Make sure you get a cover, the only one available in Australia is the Kindle brand cover which is a nicely made, simple functional cover, it would pay to get this at the same time as the device to save freight.

The problem with iphone is… Vodafone

except if your'e an NZ customer... then your'e just a cash cow

except if your'e an NZ customer... then your'e just a cash cow

Well, I haven’t given Vodafone a serve for at least… a few weeks, so here goes.

This isn’t a critisim of the iphone, I’m even more happy with it than I was a week or so after I got one last year, but it is a critisim of Vodafone.

The iphone is cool because of all those useful app’s, you can use google maps to find the nearest ATM machine, an currency exchange rate widget to check prices using latest rates, a weather app to check the weather, a subway app to get an update on the London tube (so you can see if they are on strike or not) etc etc. This stuff is really useful when you’re overseas… but

But, only if you’re really really loaded, like Steve Job’s loaded.

Last time I used my iphone in Sydney I came back to a $600 data bill – yep, I used every app on the phone with total abandon, they were great and really useful. Then I got the email from Vodafone and just about had a stroke… yes, that’s NZ$600 plus all the calls etc, for 4 days in Sydney.

This time in Europe I have data roaming turned off and just use the wifi, but it’s not the same, the apps and maps don’t work when I want them, but on the other hand I am not remortgaging the house to pay Vodafone for 6 weeks in Europe.

Vodafone is (once again) operating with it’s head up it’s arse. If it was really sensible it would drop data roaming rates to a reasonable level (even their staff in Auckland say it’s a rip off) then I could use the damn phone the way it’s been designed, I don’t mind paying a few hundred dollars, but by my estimation it would cost me thousands to use data roaming. So Vodafone won’t be getting a cent out of me for data roaming, whereas if they were sensible they would get something.

And before anyone start making excuses about termination rates and the costs other companies might be charging Vodafone, I am using Vodafone in the UK. And that takes me to my second grip about Vodafone.

One of the reasons I use Vodafone is because it’s a big international company.

I notice billboards right across the UK announcing that Vodafone has “abolished” roaming changes across the EU AND NZ and Australia (probably because they were told to by regulators, or a pre emptive action to prevent regulation), so why the hell aren’t Vodafone NZ doing this, or at least dropping them? Who are they kidding with $2 a minute plus your local charge for phone calls??? International mobile phone rates in the UK from Vodafone and other carriers are as low as a few pence, so it’s not the termination charges from Vodafone UK to Vodafone NZ.

If your’e from Vodafone and reading this, get with the program. Ripping me and your other customers who travel off by not offering seamless and discounted charging based on a fair rate with Vodafone ‘International Inc’ is just dumb. It’s so obvious to anyone that Vodafone in the EU has better rates, so as a Vodafone NZ customer why can’t I get something close to these rates?

And what the hell are these rates for Vodafone UK customers on Data roaming???

C’mon, stop treating NZ customers like morons!

Pigs & Pork fuss, what about imported Pork?

I won’t go over the already well done ground of the current pig farming fuss, but I will take this opportunity to point out something that will be lost under the rumble of little trotters as the pigs break free into free-range farms.

Country of orgin labelling.

Pork is very cheap at the moment, in fact if you look at the kg price, it’s cheaper than lamb and beef. 

The only problem with, as with bacon, is we often have nop idea where it’s come from. While we fuss about the condition of pig farms here, it’s relevant only in the locally produced pork context, but what about the imported pork, ham and bacon, how’s that produced?

We have no idea because 90% of the time we don’t know where that products come from, is it Canada or China, if we knew, then we could decide whether we want to eat it and can factor in how it’s produced – I’d hazard a guess that the space the pigs in China are kept in would be secondary to what they’re being fed and medically treated with.

As consumers we should be able to make informed decisions on the food we eat, and in order to do this we need not only nturicional information, which is now of 99% of all foods, we also need to know where it’s made or grown.

I’ve seen the myriad of reasons why it can’t be done, but these look like pretty thin excuses to me. It can be done, sure it might be a bit of as hassle, and it might add a few cents onto the cost, although I personally doubt it. Will it change consumer habits, possibly. But at the end of the day it’s about choice. We deserve to have the option to buy or reject a particular food based on it’s origin. Some countries have very different food standards to us and the Food Safety Authority does not, and cannot, check everything that comes in. The fact that they continually find issues with food, some of it serious, implies that for everyone they catch at the border, there are more that are never caught.

It’s not too much to ask and it’s about time it was a legal requirement.

Auckland Museum thinks we’re all “screaming” idiots

It seems that there is a bit of a pattern emerging in the disagreement over ‘ownership rights’ of Sir Edmund Hillary’s papers between his children and the Auckland Museum.

The Auckland Museum is now saying that they have;

“complex and nuanced points – when it appears we can get them across without being screamed at by the public for being disrespectful, we will reengage

Does anyone see what’s wrong here?

This is a public organisation, but it clearly is not used to having it’s agenda challenged, especially publicly. Vanda Vitalli hasn’t given any interviews, won’t discuss it expect through finely crafted press releases, won’t speak to the Hillary family (but claims they can ring her any time), and now they feel that we’re all a bit hysterical for questioning their motives over ownership. They’re lack of communication skills is clearly annoying the Herald otherwise they wouldn’t have published that letter (what on earth were they thinking???)

How about you put out a press release with your “complex and nuanced points” so we can all make our own decisions?

Or do you think we’re all a bit thick to understand them Vanda?

Top claim that they will reengage on their terms, when they feel ready, smacks of arrogance. They could have put out a press release with their points right when this all was made public. Like I said, this didn’;t happen overnight and they surely must have seen where events were headed – into the public arena. 

Vanda and her PR team are making a really bad call here, the longer they leave explaining what they were doing the worse things will get, and currently they have handed the stage, and the mor5al high ground, to the Hillary family.

Vanda and Co and being “disrespectful”, to the public. Clearly they think the issues are too complex for the great unwashed, and I suppose a bunch of academics stuck in a stone mausoleum overlooking Auckland might be forgiven for thinking they were a bit too special  to have to justify their actions to the public who provide the money for their operations.

Bad mistake. 

As a story for the MSM to pick up and run with, this is great, it has a feud over property rights, a famous deceased NZder, a public institution, and an American. 

A suggestion to the museum would be to get a new PR team, do a press conference and explain yourselves. This won’t go away and you’re inability to state what you are trying to achieve leads everone to suspect the worst. If this isn’t the case it shouldn’t be too difficult to explain that, should it?

If your’e planning to dig your way out of this hole, you’re going to need some pretty heavy equipment. I’m not sure people thought you were being disrespectful, just a bit money grubbing and sneaky, now we can add arrogant to the list – disrespectful is about to be added.

Government double standards on Myanmar / Burma

There was the usual tutting and “dismay” as the loathsome Military Dictatorship in Burma once again engaged in slapping Aung San Suu Kyi around. Nothing like kicking someone when they are down.

Captain Orcon, cuddling up to dictators and repressive regimes since 2006

Captain Orcon, cuddling up to dictators and repressive regimes since 2006

Our latest Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, made all the right noises, but right under his nose a Government/Taxpayer owned company is still trading in that region and quite possibly doing work for the Military Dictatorship.

Kordia, the parent company of Orcon, apparently thinks just fine to do business in Burma, and still advertises the fact that it has business there on it’s website, it also throws in another repressive regime, Laos into the mix for good measure. 

I’m not sure how Kordia/Orcon justify doing business in Burma, no doubt some bollocks about not doing business with the regime, although it’s impossible to do any business in Burma without dealing with the military, who in turn are controlled by the regime, who are just there to line their pockets of the backs of the Burmese.

I don’t see the consistency it Government policy by making a fuss about Fiji, ignoring China and it’s appalling human rights record, and then allowing a state owned enterprise to operate in what is universally agreed, is an appallingly despotic and venal regime in Burma.

Next time you are thinking about switching your ISP, or some ‘dude’ from Orcon shows up trying to sell you some new service or an Internet package, maybe you’ll want to consider that this is part of a company that’s done business with a regime that stood by and let thousands of people die a while back during the cyclone, they refused international assistance, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Burmese Military Regime is a disgusting excuse for a government. No state (read taxpayer) owned business should be doing any business there. 

Possibly a bit of pressure is required to make Orcon/Kordia come clean about what there business interests are in Thailand (usual launch pad for Myanmar/Burma) and Laos?

That could start by customers deciding there are other options for internet providers, ones that don’t deal with repressive regimes, like (dare I suggest it) Telecom.

Is Auckland Museum planning to make money out of SirEd’s papers?

My heart sank when I saw the headline, “Sir Ed’s family sues over papers”. This is just the kind of undignified shit fight that often goes on in families after a death, and inevitably involves money.

This case it appears, is no different, but there’s a twist.

Vanda-Vitali-209

Dr Vitali - a step to far with Sir Ed's legacy?

The Hillary children are disputing the Auckland Museum interpretation of their rights of ownership of the material that Sir Edmund Hillary bequeathed to the museum.

It looks like Hillary’s intention was that while the museum had possession of the papers and photos, obviously so they could be shared with the public, they were required to consult the Hillary children over the use of them. This was probably intended to stop the Museum doing something like selling them, or allowing them to be used or published in a way that would offend the family. Fair enough.

So why is the Auckland Museum, which is never exactly flush with funds, getting involved in a court case to test their interpretation of the will? Exactly what this interpretation is they haven’t made clear, but it looks like they want to have sole publishing rights of the material, which would clearly be quite lucrative for the museum – they could cash in by publishing the material and licencing the photographs etc.

What’s interesting is that Dr Vanda Vitali, now Director of the Museum, and formally director of the Los Angeles Museum, what comment and will not talk to the Hillary children about the matter. All rather odd, and confirms that the museum has decided to take a hard nosed approach to the possibility of turning some cash out of Hillary’s legacy.

This is all rather unfortunate and Dr Vitali might be making a mistake. I suspect the public won’t like what she’s planning to do and see it as a money grab.

If Dr Vitali is worried about getting her hands on some cash, marching off to court is not the way to do it – yeah, I know that’s how things are done in Los Angeles, but not here sister. Sitting down with Hillary’s children and coming to a mutually satisfactory arrangement with some dignity is what’s required. I’m not saying that Sir Ed’s kids are the easiest people to get on with, Peter Hillary seems an ‘interesting’ individual, but Dr Vitali owes it to the public to approach this issue with some dignity and not get involved in a silly and costly legal shit fight.

Dr Vitali seems to be a pretty bolshy individual and has been ruffling feathers at the museum for some time now, this might be a step to far as we, the public pay her wages.

Dr Vitali might be underestimating how pissed off we might all become if she starts being pushy and aggressive with the belongings of one of NZ greatest hero’s.

Politicians miss the point over Bank profits

It’s not surprising the main banks are raking the money in. We’ve had high interest rates for years now, and the majority of the lending (mortgages) is locked in on long term loans that will see the profits roll in for some time to come.

Banks here have also been fairly careful about lending and have moved swiftly to call in any dodgy looking mortgages.

I’m guessing that the Reserve Bank Governor and Bill English are playing to the public gallery when they make nosies about being “disappointed” banks are not passing on the lower interest rates.

It’s all about pretty basic economics, supply and demand.

There is still a strong demand for mortgage lending, strong enough for the banks to not have to compete too strongly with each other for customers, and this is why interest rates are not falling. If the actual pool of mortgage customers had shrunk to the point that the main banks were fighting each other for custom, then you can be sure that rates would be a lot lower. Unfortunately the only way this will happen is if the housing market collapses completely and buyers dry up, and so far this hasn’t happened. There are still enough people out there who can ‘afford’ to pay the high rates and meet the stricter lending requirements for mortgages.

Until the demand drops, Bill English and Alan Bollard can whine all they like, but things won’t change as Banks don’t have to budge. Naturally both of them know this, well, you’d hope they understand this, which is why this is all nice headline material for the MSM.

If the MSM wasn’t so lazy and allowed Politicians to write their stories for them, what they would be doing is calling out the Banks over what they are doing with the profits and why they needed to shed staff so quickly. They could also ask why the ANZ Chairman was tooling around the Pacific being treated like royalty in a corporate jet while the bank was crying poor and laying off staff. They could also be doing a bit more digging on how the ANZ is screwing it’s customers over with the ING scam, where it put customers money into high risk investments, telling them it was low risk. Those events would make for a far more interesting stories.