Monthly Archives: July 2008

The customer’s always right…?

‘Customer service’ is a difficult thing to achieve.  It’s a bit of a buzzword for corporatedom… but does anybody really think what it is?  Well, really, it’s about giving people what they want, for a price they think is fair (or better still, a bargain!), and the icing on the cake is to throw in something unexpected to delight them.  All done with friendly politeness, but not descending into uncomfortable obsequiousness (I will never take pleasure in a person older than me calling me Sir!).

That’s my take on it anyway, as a customer, that’s generally what floats my boat.  I suspect many people’s ideas of what constitutes good service might vary slightly – but I think the core of addressing your needs, for a price you’re prepared to pay and polite/friendly are pretty core to all but perhaps a sado-masochist or similar.  That might not be good service at the ‘Be a Gimp for the day’ emporium, for example, but that’s another train of thought entirely…

So anyway, over the last couple of weeks I have encountered what I believe to be the very Apex of my experience of such things.

It all started when the dreaded note popped up on my car’s display – “Service C due in x miles”.. naturally the number of miles was sufficient to procrastinate away for a while; but after a while I started to think about actually planning getting the work done.  I checked the prices at the Mercedes dealership, was revived from the floor, and then decided to opt for something else.  You see, having had work done there before, they’re very good – and they’re polite (teetering on the brink of fawning, though), but so fecking expensive it’s untrue.

Which is why I was chuffed as hell to discover MB Nottingham.  If you have a Mercedes in Nottingham, or indeed if you are unfortunate enough to live in Derby or Leicester, then it’s worth keep these guys details.  I dropped them an email from work, they got back to me pretty quickly quoting a price much much much lower than the main dealership – still using Mercedes trained mechanics, and still using Mercedes approved parts.  That was me sold, so I duly booked in.

They had offered to collect and return my car, but I opted instead to drop my car in on a saturday morning – upon doing so, was offered a lift to and from the City Centre rather than hanging around or making my own way somewhere else – how cool!  So I mooched around Nottingham for an hour and a half or so before getting a call from the garage, a few filters and things not included in the service were worn out, did I want to replace them too?  Also the brake pads were 95% worn and the front tyres were heading to be borderline legal soon…

… “Argh!” thinks cynical I, “This is where they make the cash!”… not so, having asked for a breakdown of prices, the service, filter replacements and the brake pads would come to a smidgen over the Mercedes service alone.  I had asked them to hang fire on the tyres so I could shop around a bit.  So, another call when it was ready, and a car waiting to pick me up where we’d arranged – rock and roll!  They hadn’t got the brake pads they needed, so had ordered them – so I booked the car in for the following weekend, and asked for a price on the tyres too – which were, as it happens, very competitive too, so I asked them to do that too.

Fast forward to this saturday, I again took the car to them, confirmed everything and handed over the keys – and as an afterthought asked them to check the wheel alignment for me, as I’d noticed it pulling slightly to the side.  This was all agreed, and this time I opted to wander from the garage down by the canal to get a coffee and some breakfast whilst the work was going on.

The bottom line is I got what I needed – my car being serviced, as well as some needed maintainance both pointed out to me and remedied once I’d given it the go ahead, I wouldn’t say I was happy to hand over the amount of money it cost, but I know had I taken it to the Mercedes garage it would’ve cost a great deal more – so I do believe I paid a fair price.  The team I dealt with were all polite and friendly without being obsequious, and – to top it all off – a follow-up letter arrived in the post in between appointments with a card entitling me to free breakdown cover from them for a year.

They come highly recommended from me.

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Useful!

I’ve got a couple of hours to kill, having dropped of my car at the garage; hmm, I think to myself, I don’t know Lenton very well, where’s the nearest greasy spoon to get me some breakfast?

iPhone to the rescue! Making use of the Vicinity application, I asked for a café near me, and it duly obliged an easily walkable example complete with integration into Google Maps, providing my start point, my destination and current location en route!

So now I’m arsing around posting this whilst supping a nice cup of tea!

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A new record!

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I wrote before about using the live mpg measure in my car as a bit of boredom relief when commuting; well today I’m proud to say I’ve smashed all previous records! Normally I’m ecstatic (well, okay, quietly smug) if I exceed 50mpg on my cross-city commute!

Given the ongoing concerns over ridiculous fuel prices, it’s a good thing to make it last a bit longer! Of course, it’s absolutely no coincidence at all that the school summer holidays started this week, now is it? 🙂

So I can feel a little better about my carbon emissions for today at least! With reports of fuel prices coming down tomorrow, fingers crossed I can save even more on ever seemingly-spiralling fuel costs!!

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Blogging on the go..

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Thanks to a nifty iPhone plugin, I can now update my infrequently updated blog whereever I may be!

Utterly pointless, in my case, but still cool!!

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When I were a lad…

This isn’t a ‘things ain’t want they used to be’ kind of ponder.

Far from it.

Anyone who knows me even reasonably well will know that I’m a big fan of technology and gadgets; and it was upon sorting out my portable music into a state of anally-retentive organisedness that I started thinking about all things technological.  It’s pretty amazing how things have changed in my relatively short time on the planet on the consumer technology front.

The first computer we had was a Spectrum 48k when I would’ve been about 9 or 10; something like that.  It wasn’t an integral part of life, more an interesting diversion.  I can remember when I first encountered a video tape, thinking it was most peculiar.  Indeed, when my Granny first got a Microwave which we had assumed was a television in the kitchen – how decadent that seemed!

And so, as I was arranging my music into portability, I noted a few stats down – 2171 songs, lasting 5.7 days currently sit on my iPhone.  They’re all labelled up properly with id3 tags and album artwork, and I was thinking that if you rolled back 20 years or so, how much effort you’d need to go to without the Internet, a device like an iPhone and a laptop with iTunes to compile a reasonably-sized music collection for portability.

Well, you could’ve just about had a cassette-based walkman I suppose.  Now assuming you had 12″ vinyl or tapes of the music you wanted, or – and I remember doing this – perhaps you tape the songs you like from the radio – you could’ve made a stack of tapes to carry with you to accompany a walkman.  Let’s be generous and assume you are using C90 tapes that lasted an hour and a half – to have 5.7 days of music you’d need not only your bulky Walkman, but you’d need an amazing 91 tapes.  It’s hardly portable is it.

Also Lord help you if you wanted to find a specific song; you would have had to meticulously written the track listings on the tape inlays and memorised some kind of order; and then undergone a series of rewinding and fastforwarding to find the song in question.  And shuffling is pretty much out of the question.  So how amazing is it the leaps and bounds we’ve come on in just those two short decades?  It is bloody phenominal when you think about it like that, and that’s not even starting to scratch the surface of the ability to stream media over the airwaves etc.

I can’t wait to see what insanely advanced gadgets we have in the next 20 years!

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The great Gedling shreddie scandal!

Alas, I fear the novelty will never wear off!!

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Car booted…

I used to be quite a fan of car boot sales as a young’un – say early to mid teens, it was an invaluable source of Amiga games and utilities if nothing else; as there’d inevitably be a stall with stacks of dodgily copied disks for sale… also it’s a great place for people watching.  The same went for the occasional foray into selling too, having a big clearout and getting rid of stuff and some banter with the fellow carbooters.

Since the advent of eBay and internet shopping / downloading I’d kind of assumed that the notion of carboot sales must’ve died somewhat; but clearly not.  As part of Rich and Ed’s Mongol Rally fundraising we took a fine and wonderous array of donations to sell to the great public of Nottingham at Colwick Racecourse – and given that it took us an hour to snake our way around the carpark to simply get into the site to set up our stall, clearly they are still very popular!

The weather helped too; immediately upon arriving, the sales team of myself, Rich, Ed, Granny and Aunty B gamefully attempted to get our stuff from the cars in some semblance of order, whilst fellow traders usually of Eastern European or Asian origin cruised around seeking mobile phones or Nintendo games – none of which we had.  It was an interesting experience to be sure; and despite having a number of things we’d tagged jokingly as ‘unsellable’ – we did manage to shift the majority of stuff we took – given that we filled two cars getting there, the fact that only the Rally Car was needed to take stuff back to the charity shop was a testament to our success.

A grand total of £124.93p profit was made; which is perhaps not that much when you consider there were five of us working full time on the stall from around 8am (7am if you include travelling time!) until around 12:30pm… and Cat joined us later too… but even so, it’s money for stuff people didn’t want, so it’s a bonus – and it was quite entertaining people watching – particularly the people who seemed compelled to buy any old crap when we introduced a ‘everything 10p’ policy, followed by an ‘everything 10p and get another thing free’ policy to try to shift more stuff.

All in all, an interesting morning – however I’m definitely not a fan of alarm clocks going off at 6:15 in the morning on a Sunday!

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iPhone jailbreaking and unlocking..

I’ve had a mentality change to technologies; using a pre-hosted blogging platform like WordPress was one of the starts of it – having an iPhone and not immediately trying to hack into it was another… I guess as I get older I’m happier having things that are ‘locked down’ to an extent, in favour of them just kinda working without any hassles.

As we know, the iPhone is locked to o2’s network by default (or AT&T in America) – and since I have a contract with o2, that never really bothered me.  It was also locked to prevent the installation of third party applications, or access to the file systems with the exception of the photos in your Camera Roll when you plugged it in via USB.  Ostensibly to limit the option to copy your music from the device, but also I guess to prevent too much hacking around in the file system that will make it break.

Upon upgrading to the 3g iPhone, I opted to experiment on my old one – partly out of interest, and partly because I’d already arranged to rehome it with somebody who wanted to use it on another network – so it needed unlocking at least.  I also decided I would ‘jailbreak’ it (enable the ability to install third party applications on it) via the Installer.app program.  Upon having a chat with somebody at work, he pointed me towards this website to download the latest version of ZiPhone.

There’s really nothing more to say.  As I type, it won’t unlock the new iPhone nor an old one upgraded with the 2.0 firmware.  But anything up to 1.14 will work just fine – there’s no point in posting instructions as it is so simple to use it’s untrue – plug in your iPhone, open iTunes (reject any offers to upgrade to 2.0!!), open ZiPhone and press the button ‘Do it all!’ – this will unlock the phone for use on other networks, it will ‘jailbreak’ it, activate it and install ‘installer.app’ which is effectively an illicit version of the Apps Store that Apple have just added to iTunes.

Very easy peasy indeed.  I would suggest bookmarking the link above, as I know that there is a version for the 2.0 generation of devices being worked on.

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iPhone tips: Making custom ringtones.

I’m now definitely an iPhone convert; having upgraded to the latest 3g incarnation on launch day yesterday. As I discover more things about the device and associated applications and things, I’m going to make a note of them on here. Mostly so I know where they are incase I forget stuff, but also with an afterthought that they might be useful for other people.

One of the bugbears I have with Apple is their locking down of their systems – ostensibly this is to prevent (or make more difficult) the pirating of music and videos contained on the devices, but in reality it gives their competitor devices – particularly in the mobile phone arena – an advantage in personalisation and customisation.  Not that I particularly like to have my phone making noises anyway, but the choice of ringtones in the device itself is limited, and the option of buying songs I already own again in a 30 second segment through iTunes isn’t that appealing.

So, what to do?  Assuming you have your desired ringtone already in mp3 form, it’s a bit fiddly, but quite easy.  I shall attempt to provide a step-by-step guide:

  1. You need to have the desired ringtone in mp3 or AAC format, or on a CD.
  2. Add the file to iTunes – if it’s a tune you already have, copy the file and add it a second time.
  3. Identify the 30 second section you want to use as a ringtone (ie. if you want to remove an extended intro, or go straight to a chorus, you need to know the number of seconds from the start you wish your ringtone to commence from).
  4. In iTunes, right click the track and select Get Info.  Click the Options tab, and you will notice a ‘Start Time’ and ‘End Time’ box.  Adjust these to be the 30 seconds of track you want for your ringtone.  Click ‘OK’
  5. Right click the song again, and select Convert Selection to AAC.  After a brief conversion period a new version of the song will appear below your original, hopefully displaying a length of 30 seconds.  Delete the original track from iTunes (it should still be selected), and then delete the new track from iTunes – but make sure you do not delete the file itself.
  6. Locate the file iTunes has just created (this will vary from computer to computer, however mine are in User/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/ and stored in ‘Artist/Album’ directory structures.  Once you have the file, it will have the extension .m4a – simply rename the extension part of the file so that it is .m4r.
  7. Double-click your new .m4r file and it will open in iTunes as a ringtone.  Plug in your iPhone and when you click on it, choose the Ringtones tab – it should display your new ringtone in the list.  If you have all ringtones selected to be synced, then it should transfer when you next sync the device; if you have chosen selected ringtones, then make sure you tick the check box next to the ringtone(s) you are interested in.
  8. Sync the iPhone with iTunes and you should have a new section of Ringtones above the ‘Standard’ ones on your device.

There you have it; a wee bit of a faff, but it isn’t particularly difficult – and gives you a lot more flexibility.  Unfortunately there is no similar process that I’m aware of that works for the other system sounds the iPhone has, such as text message, voicemail or email alerts.

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Fiddling with mobile updating..

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