Customer service made simple

The one thing I really like about the Pixel 8 Pro is a feature called Direct My Call. Its ability to handle pesky operator menus (well, some of them – it depends on third-party data submissions – so it won’t work with everything). I got to use it today when I had to call EE to return the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 – all because Samsung has locked mobile data to Samsung phones.

The Hold for Me function is also extremely useful in that the phone will monitor what’s going on (on hold music for example) and will immediately alert you when the call is connected to somebody human. This means that you can put the phone down and leave it rather than listen to the same bloody music track over and over again.

All in all, the phone experience of the Pixel 8 Pro has been substantially better. And if isn’t my ears that are deceiving me – the call quality is substantially better than the iPhone 15 Pro Max too.

Time to put on my pith helmet..

.. and go job hunting.

I can’t go into any detail (yet), but it’s looking likely that I’m going to need to find another job rather soonish. As such, if you know of any open positions for a (senior) systems administrator/IT Infrastructure engineer – please get in touch.

A copy of my CV without my address and phone details is embedded below (assuming your browser supports it – otherwise please click here).

Please get in touch if you’d like a copy with full details. Essentially I’d be looking to work in the Woking/Guildford areas, or London, Farnborough or Basingstoke. Anywhere where I can commute to easily by train and bus. Hybrid working is good, and I’d also accept remote working too.

Forget the iPhone, the Google Fun Fone (Pixel 8 Pro) is where it’s at

OR: Tired of Scams: Why I Switched from iPhone 15 Pro Max to Pixel 8 Pro

The onslaught of phishing and scam calls and texts lately has been overwhelming. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max excels in many areas – display, photography, audio, gaming – it simply falls short as a reliable phone.

In search of better call management, I decided to change both my phone number and my phone (again!). I loved my Pixel 7 Pro, but concerns about cracked camera glass and limited UK-based call screening features (due to local laws) ultimately pushed me away. Apple’s on-device processing is great, but it offers no real spam call solutions, and third-party apps are costly and ineffective.

However, the Pixel 8 Pro is a game-changer. I’ve opted for EE’s full insurance to protect against any physical issues and ensure the option to replace or swap models if needed. Even better, the Pixel 8 Pro’s enhanced on-device AI processing for call screening is a major win. I tested it by calling my own number, and the phone flawlessly processed the call and transcribed everything, saving the data locally.

Another reason for the switch? While Apple’s Face ID is convenient, authenticating with low-placed NFC/Bluetooth readers while they’re active is cumbersome. Having a fingerprint scanner is now a necessity for me. The Pixel 8 Pro offers both AI-based facial recognition (which works surprisingly well for 2D) and a fingerprint scanner for those challenging scenarios.

The Pixel’s customization features are incredible! AI-generated wallpapers are way more fun than I anticipated, and Android’s flexibility for app icon arrangement makes it easier to group apps based on my preferences. Plus, I can fit more apps per screen compared to the iPhone.

Data transfer from iPhone 15 Pro Max to Pixel 8 Pro was surprisingly simple – just connect a USB-C cable, unlock the iPhone, and let the Pixel handle the rest. The most time-consuming part is re-authenticating all the banking and financial apps.

So far, my experience with the 256GB Pixel 8 Pro (sadly, no 512GB model in sight except directly from Google) has been fantastic. I’m excited to put it to the test this week. Google’s commitment to seven years of updates signals a serious investment – and while I wouldn’t call them a traditional consumer company, they’re are seemingly taking the right steps. The integration with Google One, now that I’m off Google Workspace, provides genuine value. I hope Google maintains this positive trajectory in the consumer space.

#TeamPixel

The BBC is about to make a great mistake..

.. in removing the ability to download programs from iPlayer on desktop and laptop computers.

Firstly, I don’t think I’ve truly watched anything longer than 5 minutes on any of my phones (past and present) which, ironically, have better displays than my 27″ desktop monitor and 55″ TV. It’s not particularly pleasant watching TV shows or films that have been formatted for exhibition on larger screens on a 6.5″ screen.

My only tablet is an iPad Mini 6, which doesn’t have a screen that’s much bigger than the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s. It’s more watchable, yes, but it doesn’t have the kind of display quality that most premium mobiles offer.

With a laptop, you get a bigger (and usually better) display, and it’s better suited for taking with you when traveling and need to be productive. I certainly can’t do my job on a tablet or mobile phone – I need a fully functioning computer. But if I were to take my laptop with me on holiday…

But maybe I’m an old fogey stuck in the past. My own analytics tell me that most visitors to this site are using mobile devices. For me, though, I just can’t use a phone for mainly browsing websites or consuming media (other than music). I carry it with me as a pass, for travel tickets, as a contactless wallet, for banking, and other things – but anything that requires me to read or watch things for long periods of time is just not productive for me.

So why the BBC is taking away downloads for desktops and laptops puzzles me. Firstly, I’m pretty sure anybody with reasonable technical capability is going to be able to get around it by spoofing a tablet or phone.

Secondly, why have I – as a BBC license fee payer – not had a say in this? It only makes me want the BBC to be stripped of its license fee. For the past few years, it hasn’t really done anything to warrant the cost. All productions are through third-party production companies now; barely anything is made in-house. What is left of the BBC except intellectual property and its archives? Not much, and it seems as time marches on, there’ll be even less. The Mac version of BBC iPlayer was particularly buggy – the support system was a pain in the arse, and overall the experience was a lousy one.

And what REALLY gets me is at the height of its powers, the BBC were extremely innovative and forward thinking. Take the BBC micro, and all the services it provided for it. We had some truly mind-blowing stuff back in the 80’s and 90’s. But as we’ve headed into the streaming age, the BBC has failed to keep up and is about as much good as a grandmother figuring out the equation of nuclear fission.

So, as a once staunch supporter of the Beeb, maybe now’s the time to do an Old Yeller and put the BBC out of its misery. Either give the license money to Channel 4 who can do a better job replacing it, or just kill off the license fee and let people choose which services to watch without the penalty of having to pay for something they may not necessarily use.

I’ve written to the BBC Board about this via a web form (URGH) whose no-reply email response returned a badly formatted copy of my complaint. Honestly, if companies and organisations cannot figure out how to accept email and has to rely constantly on web forms or live chats for public communication, it makes me wonder why they spend so much money on it in the first place. And no, social media such as X, Bluesky or Mastodon are not the answer either.

Anyway,I also asked my new pal, Gemini Ultra 1.0, or just G. to me, as to what the overall reaction to the BBC plans are. G said:

The reaction to the BBC removing downloads for desktops and laptops from BBC iPlayer has been largely negative. Here’s a breakdown of the key points of criticism:

  • Accessibility: Many users relied on the download feature for offline viewing during commutes, travel, or in areas with poor internet connectivity. This change disproportionately affects those who don’t have consistent or reliable internet access.
  • License fee value: Many license fee payers feel this change diminishes the value of the BBC. They argue that the fee should guarantee certain services and that removing an established feature is a step backward.
  • Lack of consultation: There’s a feeling that the BBC made this decision without properly consulting viewers who rely on the feature. The perceived lack of transparency has damaged trust.
  • Frustration with wider BBC changes: Some see the removal of downloads as part of a trend where the BBC is reducing services while still demanding the license fee. This has contributed to growing resentment towards the model.
  • Technical workarounds: Some people point out that those with technical knowledge can likely find ways to circumvent the restrictions, creating a two-tier system where less tech-savvy users are disadvantaged.

Here are some resources where you can find specific examples of the reaction:

Happy 1st work anniversary…

.. meeeeeeee!

Today marks my first full year working for Supermassive Games. I didn’t think I’d even get to this point because I’d applied for the same job in 2022 and wasn’t sure if my Windows skills were up to par. I tend to go through phases where I feel much more like a Linux sysadmin than anything else. Now, I’d describe myself more as a tech generalist than anything specific. I try to be platform agnostic, but I do have a soft spot for Linux and macOS! So, I declined to go further with the original interview. However, I re-applied in 2023 and surprised myself by getting the job.

The one thing this job has taught me is that continually getting out of one’s comfort zone is a good thing. My Windows skills (in particular) are constantly improving, and I’m currently deep-diving into Microsoft 365 for fun and… a quiet life at work when people ask me about SharePoint and Teams! Just kidding – or am I?! As for my health, things are much easier now that I have to go into the office every day, which is doing me a lot of good. I think working from home does have its benefits, but I stagnated during the pandemic – not leaving my house for long periods – which definitely affected my health. Plus, there are some seriously cool projects that I’m getting to work on.

Then we’ve had people like Ted Raimi, Hideo Kojima, and Nicolas Winding Refn visit our office, which speaks volumes about just how much this company is valued by gaming and film industry professionals. Occasionally, when I’ve mentioned to random people who I work for, they’ve told me how much they love our games. And when I’ve played our games (The Quarry in particular), I’m astonished at just how brilliant they are, and that – along with Death Stranding – narrative-focused games have become extraordinarily entertaining for me and are now among my favourite genres. There’s definitely something in this whole cinematic gaming malarkey, oh yes. Oh, and did you know that one of the games we’ve developed for Sony is being turned into a feature film?

I feel extraordinarily lucky to work with an amazing team – all of whom are extraordinarily talented and hugely knowledgeable about their field. And friendly too. It’s a company that really does care for its employees and their well-being. Very rare for the creative industries. It’s also the company that made me buy and love the PS5. I really do think it’s an amazing console.

But it still strikes me as amazing that when I was working in the VFX industry, I worked on a film based on a computer game (Tomb Raider 2 and the Cradle of Life – with the fictional Laura Croft living in Guildford of all places). Now it’s vice versa (working in Guildford on computer games). Madness. But I like it!

WhatsApp? It’s WhatsGone.

As part of my social media account cull, I’ve inadvertently nuked my WhatsApp account in the process (since it’s owned by Meta, owners of Facebook). I owe a few replies, so I’m going to get around to it shortly (through old-fashioned SMS, iMessage or.. gasp.. email) – my apologies. I am on Telegram, however (assuming you know my mobile number).