Thursday, May 24, 2012

I don’t rate Rated People (or maybe I do)

You’ve probably seen the adverts where Phil Spencer, the man whose remarkable negotiating skills can sometimes get £5,000 knocked off a £500,000 house purchase, tells us about this remarkable website which can connect us punters with local tradesmen. To me this seems like a good idea for a website and I have some work that needs doing, so thought I’d give it a spin.

So I filled in my details, entered the job details and waited for a response. And then, nothing. OK, not entirely true, I received a couple of text messages and emails. A couple of days passed and I received an email telling me that I hadn’t had a response and maybe I should expand on my job description to get a response. So off I went and updated the description and hit submit and then I was presented with a 404 error (for the non technical, this means the website is broken). So I tried again and got the same result (definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results). And I gave up at that point.

OK, slightly annoying, but no worries, I’ll drop them an email and let them know and I’ll update the description later when it’s fixed. So I go to their contact page. I can ring them, but not at this time or I can send them a tweet or write on their Facebook page or add a comment to their blog. No feedback form, no email address. I didn’t particularly want to berate them on a public forum, maybe the problem is something specific to me, so none of those options appealed. Yes, yes, I see the irony, I am now berating them quite publically (hello my many reader), but I’m annoyed now.

So, so far, Rated People is something of a failure for me. I think if you’re going to be spending a bunch of money on TV advertising, quite a bit of effort should also be spent on the product…

Update – A funny thing happened today, I got a call from Rated People, specifically due to this blog post. I’ve ranted about a few companies on here and never got any response from the company involved, so it was a pleasant surprise to get some feedback. I should also say that I did eventually manage to update my job description and also got a response from an interested builder, who is repairing my pointing as I type. So it would appear my initial review of Rated People may have been overly negative. And what’s more, Phil Spencer is no longer doing the voice over on their ads…

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Smart phone + app + bike mounting > bike computer

I recently took possession of a new Nokia Lumia 800, thanks to work, and immediately thought it would make a great replacement for my Veloset GPS 600 bike computer. Hearing Windows Phone didn’t have many apps, I thought I’d have to write my own biking app, but it turns out there are already a couple available, both free.

The first is MapMyRide. This initially seemed pretty good, but it has one fatal flaw, it lets the phone go to sleep. If you want to look at the map as you ride it is pretty tricky. You really don’t want to be fiddling with your phone when you’re riding.

Next up is MyBikeMap, which has one big advantage in that it doesn’t let the phone sleep, so I can look at my map all the time during my ride. It’s also well designed, with a simple user interface and showing just the pertinent information on the screen displayed when riding. It’s not perfect, my main complaint is the lack of support for miles, but it’s hard to complain too much when it’s free and it does most of what I want.

The final piece of the puzzle is something to attach the phone to my bike. I went for this mounting, primarily because it came up first on a Google search. The phone fits it perfectly and I was pleased to realise I could leave the zip open slightly to still have access to the buttons and I was able to use the touch screen through the plastic cover. But it does have a somewhat major problem as I found out today. Although the coupling between cover and bracket on the bike is perfectly adequate when riding on a road, if it gets a jolt then the cover (and the phone) can go flying. And you might not even notice until you look down some time later.

The design of the mounting is kind of weird, the cover is attached to the bracket not once but twice. One of these couplings is pretty secure, but the other isn’t. So the solution I’ve come up with is to glue the weaker coupling and I’m hoping this solves the problem. But you may want to consider this issue before purchasing this mounting.

But other than the teething problems, I’m pretty happy with this set up. It’s great to have a map in front of me as I ride, since it gives me much more opportunity to try heading off down a road or track that I don’t know without worrying about getting completely lost. And it makes me think the market for high end bike computers may not last much longer. Why spend £200 on one of them when a smart phone can do the same job? 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

KmlLayer error handling in Google Maps

Two years ago I noted that the KmLayer in Google Maps didn’t provide an event to inform me if there was a problem when loading the KML. Things have moved on and an event has been added to the API at some point. Usage is as follows.

  var kmlLayer = new google.maps.KmlLayer(url, { map: map });
  google.maps.event.addListener(kmlLayer, 'status_changed', function() {
    if (kmlLayer.getStatus() == 'OK')
      $('#status').html('KML loading problem - ' + kmlLayer.getStatus());