Sunday, April 29, 2007

Height of tech incompatibility!

All of us have been frustrated at one time or the other by so many different charging cables and plugs for the different varieties of cellphones. Why couldn't all the cellphone companies have come up with a standard cable-and-plug combo to charge any and every cellphone? Is it really necessary to ship a separate charger (or two, if you count the car charger) with every single cell phone? It's ridiculous and such a waste!

As technology advances and big companies consolidate, the companies usually try to build their own universe of products, accessories and software. They jealously guard these from becoming interoperable with other company's products. These days, with DRM technologies, they are even trying to limit music and video to play within the borders of their own hardware and software. Such tactics are invariably driven by the management and marketing types who think it helps them make more money. They don't realize what the engineers, who have been at the forefront of technologies which have resulted in huge economic gains, have always known: easy interoperability is the real way to make your products popular, capture a big chunk of the market and rake in all that money!

Recently we came across what I consider to the be the height of incompatibility among tech devices, and which can't be explained even by the above theory of dumb managers and marketers: we discovered that the charging cables for the Thinkpad T42 model and T60 model laptops are incompatible! Yes, we couldn't use the T42's cable to charge a T60!! How the hell did that happen?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Google's 411 rocks!

I tried Google's 411 service yesterday, and was mighty impressed. Just dialled 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411), and I was connected to the business I wanted to talk to in around a minute. The system understood my responses the first time, every time! It was my best encounter to date with voice recognition software.

My past experiences with voice recognition response systems have sucked a lot. I have been much frustrated, yelling the same thing over and over into the phone before giving up with disgust. So, it was a pleasant change to use Google's system. And the fact that I don't have to pay for the 411 service (directory assistance number in the US & Canada, for those of you who don't know what that is) ever again, makes it even sweeter!

Normally, the 411 service costs $1.28 over a landline and $1.57 over the cellphone. And, I read today that 411 is a $8 billion market in the US! Now, Google is offering this service for FREE (regular phone call costs apply, of course).

This service is highly recommended! Be warned though, Google says this service is still in the experimental stage and may not always be available.