January 2011 Archives

Retail, gods and goggles.

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Traditional, brick and mortar, small-sized retailers in Australia are an amusing crowd. 

Competitive ranges of products, pricing strategy, fierce competition do not exists here: instead, a great many of those small retail shops are actually a cult. 

I have a strong suspicion that many of those guys and gals believe that by opening a retail store they PLEASE THE GODS! After that holy deed, they just seem to sit on their arses waiting for miracles in form of customers entering and buying something from their sorry ass range. And indeed they are granted this miracle,  since those stores continue to exist and their owners look well-fed. 


Truth is, those retailers are like goggles: they do nothing. 

Last saturday I went into a tobacconist shop in with a simple desire to buy some pipe tobacco. One would think that the tobacco store next to the supermarket which already carries most of conventional smoking products would have to do something and offer extended range or service to its customers, but no. They don't need to: The Gods are already pleased, and from that point on all that a shopkeeper has to do is to stare through the dirty window at well-legged females strutting by. There is no need to sell anything even slightly specialised: "people in this area are not interested in those products" he says. 

No shit, Sherlock. People in this area do not need another useless shop with a clueless shopkeeper either. And the first reason these people travel 10+km to the nearest worthy tobacco store in the city is because they know precisely, that local shops aren't here for them. They are here to please The Gods of retail. 

And this is why I do welcome online stores. The Gods seems to be much less pleased by those, so anyone selling anything over the internet actually has to work his or her (i prefer her) arse off in order to survive, and this includes better range, better prices and probably blackjack with hookers too. It also usually means that there is no low wage, clueless shopkeeper from funny country inside, and no one will fearfully eye me, expecting potential anal trauma I could deliver for having a lamantine instead of sales assistant. 

I'm not sure, why did the situation became so dire. Maybe it's because in Australia, the market outside major brands and mainstream goods is so scarce that any crap you stock will eventually be sold for twice its normal price, simply because it's better than nothing. 

Or maybe it's local councils which are to blame: they do have a say in what shops will be around and where. Those guys can be blamed for anything odd going in the urban area anyway: the only thing they good at is to fill coffins with themselves (only parking inspectors best them in this job), yet somehow they get a say in almost anything. 

Truth is, it doesn't really matter. There is a place there, without councils (yet), bored brain-dead shopkeepers who are as attractive as herpes, and with blackjack and hookers indeed. So screw you brick and mortar specialized stores, I'll buy my stuff on-line. 

Suddenly, a HTC Legend appears!

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I've always wanted to get me dirty hands on Android phone. 

And i did. 

htc_legend_image.jpgIt was a bit inconceivable that rather geeky phone with Java inside managed to compete with ultra-refined iOS X from you-know-who. Now, I am really afraid of things with Java inside, probably a result of exposure to way too many Java programmers hailing from various warm countries which are somehow in south and east at the same time. I suppose one can say those programmers have Java inside them too, which does explain the scare factor, but many of them, apparently, traded their brain for it (hat said, I do know some excellent Java guys too).

Yet, despite blackest suspicions, Android  turned out to be excellent. I still do think that in terms of general population iPhone is pretty safe: Android still exposes too much of its internals during normal usage, and I can imagine people who would not be amused by this. I mean, you really do not need see the intestines of a partner you living with to appreciate them more, and this holds with other devices as well. 

But, being a fat person with a beard and aura of stupidity, exploring the device actually was fun, the sort of fun you get when you are digging a hole to plant a tree and then suddenly you discover a hell pit with crapload of angry demons inside, who when proceed to merrily chase you, occasionally delivering fun and probably anal trauma. In fact, it's been a while since I felt so interested in exploring a new device, and this feeling was welcome. 

So, I think Android is awesome. It's probably still not for everyone and slowpoke elderly of today are not likely to appreciate it, but it looks nice, has tons of apps some of which aren't written by complete nerds, does lots of things well and do not submerge its owner into a horrible depths of red-eyed software hell like Nokia N900 does. It also does not generate any female deflector field at all too, being rather cute and desirable. It doesn't even look like a gangrenous wound, a feat that ruined many fine phones (and gangrenous wounds). 

I am pleased with it. 

Australia day.

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I really like Australia day. 

Not for its festive capabilities (which are quite formidable, by the way), but for the opportunity to see a rare process: hell lot of people from rural areas going to the city and hell lot of city people going to rural areas. The clash of cultures is immense sometimes, though I'm yet to discover, why do I even care. 

Still, weird things happens on this day. 

It is wrong - but it feels so good!

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The miracle of exchange rates is upon us!

US $36.00 (Approximately AU $36.00)

Yes, I realize this is bad, hurting our exporters, does not really make retailers to lower prices on imported products, and so on, but somehow this still make me smile in stupid amusement (as in, more stupidly than usual). 

Still yet to figure why. 

Angry Birds are angry! And made of birds.

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In a year of our lord 2011 I've finally succumbed and installed Angry Birds.

I resisted till the end, but It kind of was facilitated by the fact that they are now available for it seems every device possible, including irons and industrial meat grinders. 

My excuse is that I've got it on Nokia N900: first of all, it's free there. 

More importantly, it adds a meaning to the otherwise futile existence of N900: before this game I simply had no idea what to use that rather magnificent device for. Now there is a meaning for this technological marvel (and utter marketing failure) of it's time. 

Mogambo is pleased. 

Australian websites and usability.

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Clearly, most people who are responsible for usability in Australian web-design are thinking of web browsing as of luxury. According to them, you are supposed to dip yourself in some sort of excessively comfortable chair, light a cigar and, having most of a day ahead of you, start browsing some retail chain website. 

Either that, or a war against fast and effective access to information is raging on, and we, semi-normal people, are losing. 

One particular pet peeve of mine are store catalogs. Those monstrosities are made entirely in flash, and the only way to browse through them is to flip their kinetic pages with mouse. By holding and dragging. Of course, all normal benefits of flash, like broken browser navigation, inability to bookmark or link anything and necessity to have flash in the first place come with it.  Just to make process more lengthy and doubtfully entertaining, to extract any information from this catalog one usually has to zoom in (and zoom out later to flip it by dragging your mouse). 

I'm literally lost at telling on how many levels it is wrong, yet most retail chains are incredibly persistent in creating slow to browse, awkward copies of their paper mailbox spam on their websites. 

This is worrying.

This is as if we hit some usability threshold and rebounded into the need for some traditional and really ineffective metaphors for getting access to information. I do not want traditional metaphors, they never work well on computers and I do not want to delete my files by dragging them to some sort of mouth that will chew them, digest and poop them to trash 8 hours later. Garbage bins in most OSes are as far as I agree to go. 

Hence, I really hope that things like this come from some sort of flash-peddlers who approach CEOs with ideas like "Our customers will flip the pages just like they do with paper catalog". Or maybe it is a good time for me to process myself through huge meat grinder. 

Macanudo Ascot Maduro.

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A quest to fuel the desire to smoke various smoldering objects yielded me a box of these Macanudo Ascot Maduros. And they made me sad. 

Problem is, Macanudo in general makes really good cigars. They are cheap, and for the price asked truly awesome. Or maybe they are not, but I will hold to this misconception of mine. 

This, however, fails in case of Maduro Ascots. They look like a darker version of normal ascots, they are made by Macanudo, yet sympathetic magic fails here: they do not taste like I would expect them to. In fact, at some stages through the cigar they actually taste like something that a dog has made, and dogs in general are not known for producing anything but crap. 

Funnily enough, they (cigars, not dogs and their byproducts) do have an absolutely epic, coffee aftertaste. They also taste best (or just taste) in their last third, which is not too common with cigars, as far as I can tell. 

Another problem, apart from funny taste, is the fact that people who make them have truly ascended to the top of cockhandness. Or maybe, if they are made by machines, robots have already turned on us and those small cigars are the first shells fired on the human race from the heartless metal beasts who will reasonably soon rule the earth. Or maybe I am right and it really were dogs who made them. Bottom line is, they are not really well made. And this is a shame, as if they didn't unravel, I'd probably think of them as very well made. 

All of that leads me to a interesting conclusion: me (and probably someone else) are much better off buying things like fake beards, pottery or even an axe murder, than spending money on these. Which are, here in Australia, not that cheap anyway. 

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