Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Technological jumps

From time to time we witness significant changes on how things are done. In terms of how we listen to music in the last ten years I've seen several interesting changes.

Ten years ago I bought my wife her first MP3 player: It was Diamond Multimedia with 32 MB (yes, Megabytes) that could hold a couple CDs of 128kbps MP3 music. Since then on I've bought many other MP3 devices for my household. However, that marked the end of traditional media (CD-audio) for our portable uses.

While MP3 players have been around for quite a while, it seems that Apple's iPod is now the king. And while kingdoms do not last long in this market I guess Apple has done something right.

Many people (like myself) are device-centric. For quite a while I favored Creative players and while I've never bought music from iTunes, I've bought some software there. Meanwhile I've stopped buying from Creative after problems with several players.

And now that I have time I've played a bit with another thing that could change the way we listen to music at the computer. In the same line as Napster and Audiogalaxy helped people to download music from each other and later where shutdown for copyright infringement. Spotify presents us a compelling service that delivers music to us from a huge selection, I mean huge, over the Internet. Their service is not about downloading files but streaming on-demand music to your computer.

Spotify had a catch that prevented me to use it more: It only worked on Windows and OSX. However, it works over wine too. So that means Linux users can happily use the windows binary.

I know this is old news for many, but till now I did not have the time to learn more about Spotify. Whether you use the free service (that contains some ads) or the fee-based one (ad-free) the system is easy with a clean interface. It just works.

Apparently, Spotify is not available in USA. I'm sure the agreements for not being sued haven't been signed yet. I guess Spotify business is going to be based on the fees collected from subscribers and commercials (both on the UI and the audio of free service). So I really would like them to succeed as they seem to be offering yet a new way of doing a business that till now proved quite elusive: Recording Industry seemed to oppose to any change to the status quo. However, while doing that they are putting every time more and more on the edge of extinction.

Give Spotify a try and listen to some old or new music.

There seems to be an iPhone version coming soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Visit Norway

It's been hectic times around here, mostly due to different changes at my workplace. Now it's time to start thinking on having some vacation. A summer trip seems a good idea but this year I've selected Norway: beautiful but expensive.

While there are tons of information on-line, I have found details are a bit sketchy. This is likely due to the fact I'm interested on cheap accommodation. Maybe the average wages in Norway are much higher than in my home country, Spain.

I've got some trouble getting things done online. There seems to be some odd behavior and this booking website, when browsed with Firefox on Ubuntu 8.04. The worst thing is that it was this the browser I was using when booking my flight with and I was offered a very competitive car-rental price at the end of the airplane booking process.

Unfortunately when trying to go to book the car I was offered an almost empty page. I was wrong when I thought I could go back to the former page too. So I realized there was not way for to either book the car here nor to download the details about my flights.

To make things worse I had refused to create a user on Norwegian website as I wsa not planning to be buying more tickets anytime soon. However, lacking of a user login I had not clue on how to get my flight details. Email was producing no document either. I was expecting a bit more help after shelling out a couple of grands.

My wife, using her iMac, reported that airline website might allow us to get our flight details using the flight locator and lastname. Unfortunately, that didn't work either. No clue about why.

Frustrated I decided to go to check my flight on Amadeus system. I used CheckMyTrip website. I used the flight locator and my lastname (that included a dash) and voilà, I finally obtained my flight details. Good news.

Then I realized that the dashes on our lastnames have been erased in the booking process (maybe their online system does not like dashes). So armed with this new info I went back to Norwegian website and, finally, I was able to recover all the documents about all flight (pdf files with barcodes that can help you avoid the check-in if you fly without baggage). Of course the trick was not to used my lastname dash!

Even better, I was now able to book the car-rental at that best rate but only if I was using my wife's iMac with Firefox.

I guess the moral of the story is to be very careful when booking on-line using not the latest version of browsers, and, if possible, use the nasty Internet Explorer on Windows that seems to be what many developers consider the "standard".