Archive for the ‘product review’ Category

Alternate Approach to MTN SIM Card Registration Process & Web Tool 

MTN Uganda has finally put together an application to support the online registration of simcards. However the process as outlined in the Dignited article (http://www.dignited.com/15503/you-can-now-register-your-mtn-uganda-sim-card-online-heres-how/) requires a user to download a registration form, upload it then wait until MTN staff can get back on the registration status.
This blog post provides an alternate design and approach for an online sim-card registration tool, thanks to the team at Styx Technology Group for putting the design and mockups for the alternate solution.
The principles of the system design are as follows:
  1. A user can register more than one sim-card under their own names only after completing their profile information, which cannot be changed later (for audibility)
  2. A user can return and check their registration information later
  3. MTN staff can respond to a registration pointing out any missing or inaccurate information
  4. The user can be notified by SMS and/or email of the status of their registration, and can also login to check the status
  5. The registrations can also be downloaded and added to MTN systems (as may be required)
  6. For identification, two documents have to be provided to confirm, and because the numbers are entered, it is easy for MTN staff to verify
The mockups below tell the story of how an alternate process looks like  licensed under the Creative Commons 3
Login Screen

Login Screen

Signup Screen

Signup Screen

Dashboard

Dashboard

My Profile

My Profile

Register Number

Register Number

UPDATE – November 19, 2015: Looks like MTN updated the sim card registration process to an online form at https://www.mtnbusiness.co.ug/mtnreg/ in response to this post

Service Provider Dilema – How to Choose and Live with Your Choice

The dilema and rants of “Service Provider” quality of support and services is one we go through day by day. This morning I awoke to a rant by a Tweep on the costs of certain bank services, in this case US$2.5 (UGX 6,500) for an over the counter withdrawal. I smiled because I has been hit with a similar charge for a statement on my account at US$4.7 (UGX 12,000) per month (irrespective) of the number of transactions.

So then I started thinking, yes its going to get me into trouble, how does a consumer (non-technical) but who knows what they want live with service providers. Personally I follow a couple of rules of thumb:

  1. Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    • I cannot change the service provider however, though I can get them to listen to me
    • The service is mass market so is not optimized for my particular convenience and usage, so I may need to modify some of my behavior to suit my needs
    • If the service is not working for me I can change it, but I must be willing to pay the price for the change
  2. If you make your bed, you need to sleep in it
    • Once you select a service provider, you may need to adjust to their shortcomings in order to make the best usage of their style of service delivery
    • The cost of changing service providers is usually high, so either stick to the one you have or pay it and move on
  3. Research your service providers before committing to them
    • The reality is you never have enough time, but if you do focus on the basic service you need and your special needs (those on which you cannot compromise)
    • Most times the service provider you choose will be based on a referral or positive feedback so accept that you will not know enough when you jump in
    • Read social media on experiences (spend the time now, and you will know better later)
  4. Use multiple service providers
    • This may not always be possible hence  #1, #2 and #3 above
    • If its possible however, you need to determine what each provider is best at focus on that, and mitigate where they are weak. I use 3 different Telecom providers for mobile phone & data services, because over the three plans I am totally covered for voice and data needs.
  5. All service providers cost the same
    • Even with different service offerings, always check the exceptions which is where you will get hit the most (#3 – Research)
    • Henry Ford recommended creating a product or service that caters for 80% of the populations basic needs, leaving 5-10% who have special needs and are willing to pay extra to get it…. Pick a service where you fall in the 80% and it will work for you most of the time
  6. The best tool for the job is the one you know how to use well
    • In the new consumer driven information age, this is true, learn to use your service providers as tools, at times they change to you, other times you change to suit them

How do you manage the relationships with your service providers? How do you deal with their shortcomings?

Mac Conversion for Windows Guy – Baby Steps

Ha ha ha, most would balk at the thought, have I gone over to the dark side? Have I lost my mind or has the evil empire taken control over me? Many would ask other would run scared to the hills, but well I have decided to make the switch mainly because of the battery life … My last laptop was a 17″ HP Envy 3D – a beast of a machine not very field friendly I think I developed a hunchback lugging it around, and abysmal battery life (what do you expect from a desktop replacement), quad core, 8GB RAM, 17″ screen, and hot as hell.

Many of my friends and collegues have made the switch bragging to me that once you go Mac u never go back… So he not being one who balks away at a challenge I made the jump to a Macbook air… So here is my story actually my 2-3 week journey all summarized …

Unpacking, the box was slim and lightweight … The packaging was I should say magnificent (black) and the air stood out. Only the laptop, and power cables … that’s all! I was stumped so simple ….

Starting up was smooth I was asked for a language, my contact details, whether I wanted icloud and how to use the trackpad. The trackpad was a little bit of trouble since was I was used to click and drag, yet the trackball requires using one or two fingers in a specific direction. I am still getting the hang of it but its impressive that I can get more without having to revert to the mouse.

Having used Windows from the venerable 3.1 (oh yes that old) through 3.1.1 (Windows for Workgroups) then 95, 95 Second Edition via 98 missed the Millenium train landed on Windows 2000 the best release yet. It was a big push to XP but an easier migration to Windows 7 when for the first time a newer version required less resources than an older version. I missed Vista thankfully and not sure if I will go 8, but the jury is still out on that one. I am finding that Mac OS is more like my Android smartphone so it may not be as difficult as I think it will be.

So next step was installing apps, my list is old fashioned but here goes:

  1. Google Chrome – oh yes the beauty is that I can sync directly with my personal Windows laptop
  2. Skype – who does not use it
  3. MS Office for Mac 2011 – I am an MS Outlook super-user without it I feel lost.
  4. Macintosh Explorer (http://www.ragesw.com/products/explorer.html) as a compliment to Finder which is very hard to use, no way to navigate outside system defined folders

The next step was to sync the Google Calendars (both personal and work) with my MS Outlook without needing to use ICal, as I would love to track everything in MS Outlook on the Mac, Windows and my Android smartphone, so that I can create events anywhere and have them auto synced.

I have to say that the battery life is really not overrated, it is goooddd!!! 1.5 hours on using a full charge and I have used 23% of my battery which means I can safely push 6 – 8 hours of power usage, which to me does not make me hostage to a power outlet …

The Air also has a 256GB SSD which provides an almost immediate bootup, and many times I am shocked when I restart whether I did so and usually do it a second time just to be sure.

The trackpad is the most amazing productivity aspect, by using a combination of 2 or 3 fingers, I can access anything and I mean any dashboard, scroll, zoom, slide between windows and apps (I still have to learn many of them though). I now find myself trying to use the gestures on my Windows laptop … so the brain is still in a state of limbo …

The user interface while not so alien needs some getting used to as I am currently getting confused when moving between Windows and Mac …

Please do share your experiences too …

HTC Desire HD – My Journey

HTC Desire HD

HTC Desire HD

This is a review, a journey of enlightenment (that sounds so Zen), learning, and eye opening experience for a techie who has not used a smart phone at all. I am still in love with the Samsung SIII, and that is essentially my next smartphone …. but in the mean time I will love what I got, the HTC Desire HD. I still have my Nokia C200 which well works for 3 days, without need for a recharge, has primitive Facebook and Twitter so hey I got lots to compare with 🙂 Did I mention that the HTC and Nokia phones use the same data cable, well now that is a welcome feature since I can cut down on the cabling on my desk and travel bag.

The first thing I do for any computer that I get is upgrade it, thankfully the phone has inbuilt WIFI so all I did was turn on WIFI, and use the office wireless connection, now that is really neat. When I checked the HTSense 3.0 was upto date and the Android version 2.3.5 was the latest. There was no way to go any higher due to the 512MB ROM which was too small, again acceptance. Next step was to install Tweetdeck, yes, no Facebook since I am on a 30 day no Facebook diet, and I seem to be handling it very well btw.

Email next, both my work and personal email are Google, so I just fired up the pre-installed Gmail APP and we are off to the races. Syncing took a long time and later I found out why, my personal Gmail box is “big” with all sorts of emails, Linked In, Twitter, Newsletters, GitHub, MojoLive, GeekList, etc, so I configured my personal Gmail to only show emails from the priority inbox which makes it manageable.

Next test camera, but oh no, it does not work. Seems like the delivery man (who brought me the phone) decided to take the only thing that would not be missed, the microSD card, really!!! Now I gave up on that one till I bought a 2GB card, then wow!!! The camera is really good! Crisp clear photos

Still on the battery problem, seemed like I had turned on background sync for Twitter and Gmail so now I turned them off, installed Juice Defender following steps at  http://www.stephenjackel.com/2011/04/16/how-to-fix-battery-life-problem-on-htc-desire-hd-android-2-2-mobile-phone/ I still got my eye on the battery life.

Oh yes next battle, sharing my contacts with my Nokia, it has been my primary phone for over a year now (lovely feel and battery life), so I have a couple hundred contacts, which I have rebuilt after losing them a few weeks ago when the battery went dead and deleted everything. Using Google I found instructions at http://leetstreet.net/blog/2011/05/nokia/ which let me export all my contacts from Nokia into Google Contacts, and just sync them into the HTC. So all I need to do is add new numbers to the Nokia and HTC, and I am done, how so handy it has become that I add business cards as I get them from meeting to meeting ….

It seems like I am a fanboy, but I love the contact linking between Skype, Whatsapp, Google and my contact list, and I assume that once I get another Android gadget they will all be transferred to it, which is nyce given that all is then stored in the cloud.

Customizing the screen pages, well I love my right menu on my Nokia which gives me quick and easy access to the same menu items I have used for the last 10 years, Inbox, General Profile, Silent Profile, Task List, Calculator and I am done. I have mulitple tabs on Android so on my main screen (like my old feature phone) I have got Gmail, Twitter, Messages, Call historry, Contact list, opera mini and the default browser, Whatsapp (I find myself using it more and more). Now on the second screen I have got other common utilities, Camera (great quality), Gallery, Reader found books on here though I have failed to connect to Kobo for more books, iStoryBooks (a gold mine, my kids are loving my phone and wait eagerly to get at each book that I have downloaded), calculator, wordpress statistics for my blog, Google Talk, Flashlight, Google Playstore, Calendar, Evernote (trying to use it to share notes across everything), and Skype.

I also ran into a problem of syncing my calendar with my phone with the creation of duplicated events. This puzzled me till I remembered that I already have 2 way sync between my Google Calendar and MS Outlook, so syncing both with my phone creates two events. This one was cleared using instructions from http://sysadminspot.com/phones/delete-pc-sync-calendar-on-htc-desire/ So once that was done all I had to do was turn off the Outlook calendar event sync from HTC sense on my laptop and voila!! It was all good to go. So now I create an event in Outlook it ends up in Gmail and on my phone and vice versa, and I love it. So no more birthdays forgotten or events missed.

And oh yes I have been introduced to the pain of Internet bandwidth data caps, I found that I ran through 100MB in a week, yet I only use the mobile data when I am out office, I use the office WIFI when in office. I found that the cheapest bandwidth 30MB which is valid for 24 hours for 10 days is the same cost as 100MB which is valid for one month. So I will need to find a way to automate my daily purchases so that I do not have to go through the 6 steps to get around the USSD codes.

The major challenges, that I am still running into are battery life which dies after an hour or two of heavy use, when I go out for meetings so it’s tied to a USB port on my laptop, left the 240V power charger which uses USB too at home to make sure I have my bases covered. Also I found that using the power charger gets it full while the USB charger does not move it along as fast.

So HTC love your phone, but there is terrible battery life …

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