Monday, March 17, 2008

One less "oops". A success story.

I have an ambivalent relationship with my cell-phone. I cancelled my "land line" a few years ago, without regret. But currently I prefer the simplest, least committed type of relationship with the my cell phone carrier-- a "prepaid" account -- analogous to living together as opposed to being married. I pay by the minute, from the moment a connection is made. Needless to say, I try to avoid making unnecessary calls -- let alone unintentional ones.

How can one be surprised at having initiated an outgoing call? It is very easy to do on my phone, due to what seems to me to be a design flaw in the placement of the keys. The keys are so small that I often find myself pressing the adjacent key rather than the one that I intend. The red key is used for hanging up a call and for turning off the unit. I sometimes accidentally hit the #3 key which is right below it. One function of key #3 is for speed-dialing. So sometimes, after thinking I have turned my phone off, I have heard a tiny little mystified "hello?" coming from my pocket.

This has proven embarrassing as well as expensive. I partially fixed the problem by getting into the habit of immediately changing the speed dial assignment of any new entry to my phone book from #3 to something else. That works fine, except that my phone just cannot leave that #3 slot empty, and automatically tries to assign it again the next time.

I've just come up with a solution which I think is fairly elegant -- I assigned the #3 as the speed dial for my cell phone company's customer service line. The only free calls I can make are to them. And since this company also provided my poorly designed phone, I think it is fitting that my accidental calls are now going out to "Andrea", their automated robot voice. I smile when I hear that tinny little voice calling out of my pocket to tell me "Your call is important to us!" She can't even make any money for her company out of my mistake!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Shutdown Day 2008 is on for May

Good news! Computer Shutdown Day is a "go" for this year, though this year it will be later in the spring -- sometime in May. They are taking the time to build the event without burning themselves out! I'll pass the date information on when I see the announcement.

In the meantime, the stirring of this year's activity is like a bear coming out of hibernation. I found to my delight when I looked there that the event began here in Canada. The organizer Denis Bystrov is from Montreal. Together with another Montrealer, Ashutosh Rajeka, he has expanded upon last year's success and registered as a Quebec non-profit society to promote the theme of finding a more balanced life. Both career software developers, they describe themselves as "first hand victims of excessive use of computer related technology". So there is a lot of common ground between the issues that I look at here and those being addressed by events like this.

I plan to do a small video about my experience with last year's event. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, here again is the very funny video they made to introduce the concept for the first Shutdown Day, last year. It is called "Alternate Uses for Your Laptop".

Update in 2013: Wikipedia article on Shutdown Day