International Technology Frustration

We live in a world where our communications are sent around the world in sub-second times thanks to services like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and other people hubs we are closer connected to those around us without geographic discrimination and thanks to all of this high-speed communication and information transfer, we discover news and new information faster than ever before.

Taking all of this into consideration, why is it, that we are still in a world where one country takes the glut of the new technology releases without them officially seeing the streets of foreign lands only assisting to line the pockets of the lucky few who are able to import and export these technologies and sell them in the foreign lands via channels like eBay at exorbitant prices.

In the technology arena, Microsoft are one of the worst offenders for doing this. There’s been a number of releases over the years including but not limited to the Zune, Surface Pro, the Microsoft Band and the Wireless Display Adapter for screen Miracast that have been released and neither of them have been released outside of the borders of the US and Canada. Why is it that these highly sought after devices are only being sold in the US and not sold worldwide via Microsoft’s normal retail channels?

I remember when the Surface Pro first launched and I waited months to get one officially in the UK but it never came so I ended up importing one from the US with the help from a former co-worker. Back when Zune was a thing, I happened to be in the US on a long bought of work with my family in tow so I decided to buy one whilst I was there. I for one, would snap up a pair of Wireless Display Adapters and a Microsoft Band the day that they went on sale if they did ever appear here in the UK but I’m not holding out much hope which leaves me with the remaining option to buy them via eBay sellers.

The Microsoft Band is in high demand right now and whilst there a few of them on eBay UK for sale, the price is riding higher than retail and given that the device isn’t officially available here in UK, you don’t know how your warranty will be effected.

The Wireless Display Adapter isn’t quite so hot, largely because other competing products are available in the UK such as the Netgear PTV3000 and as a result of this, if I wanted one, I’d have to buy one from a seller on eBay US and pay whatever import and duty taxes the British government deemed appropriate and then pay whatever handling tax DHL or UPS levy on the shipment for the privilege of advancing my customs payment for me.

All this behaviour results in is a reduced consumer experience because there are devices out there that we want and the companies making them aren’t making them available to us so middle-men fill the void lining their own pockets with profit and driving the retail price up for consumers like you and me. I know that beaming a packet of data down an undersea fibre is obviously easier than arranging shipping and stocking of physical goods, but my point here is that with all of this technology to tell us what is happening around the world, to let us see what we could have, it’s akin to teasing a kid with a lollipop, waving it in front of their face and showing them it, videoing you licking it and playing it over and over again in their face. The kid will end us crying and wanting the lolly and you’d likely give in and let them have it after enough tantrum so why can’t companies see the same logic?

If the trend of devices only being released into the US and not being made available in Europe and the UK (and let us not forget our friends in Australia and New Zealand) continues then I think anything relating to the devices should be applied with IP filters to block people from outside of the availability regions from seeing, hearing or reading anything about it. At least that way, we wouldn’t have the lolly being waved under our noses to tempt us without the opportunity to ever have the lolly.

WordPress Upgrade and Hosting Woes

So after typing the Surface Pro article earlier today, I realised that all of my WordPress plugins and my WordPress were out of date. After about an hour of tinkering with plugin versions, authorizing Twitter OAuth plugins and upgrading the main install.

So what’s new? Well the media manager in the admin interface is very nice and welcoming over previous iterations. Internet Explorer 10 still doesn’t get recognized as a modern browser still as logging into the admin interface produces an error that looks like it thinks I’m running IE6 – Something I as hoping would be fixed. Looking at the categories in the admin interface makes me a little sad too because my categories are all over the place so I think I need to spent a few hours aligning and rearranging them, and I also noticed a few quirks with my custom theme which I need to resolve.

Every time I upgrade my WordPress instance though, it reminds me how junk my current hosting provider are. I was only able to get between 10-20Kbps transferring files to and from the FTP site. A ping to the site results in a round-trip time of 165ms and the load times are terrible not to mention the HTTP500 errors I’ve been getting on a couple of my other sites recently because of some new user on the shared server pillaging the MySQL instance.

Normally, I forget about the issue by the time I get round to sorting it, but I’m determined to remember this time especially as my hosting is up for renewal soon, so I’m going to be finding a new home in the UK as UK hosting prices have dropped in recent years. I did take a look at Microsoft Azure earlier today, but the free instance doesn’t allow the use of custom domain names and the shared instance works out at about $45 a month for my sites which is too much.

If anyone knows a good UK hosting provider for £15 or less a month then please feel free to drop me a line.

Learning Styles from Scott Lowe

I had the privilege of attending VMUG UK at the National Motorcycle Museum this week for the second year running. I felt like I got more out of it this year, in part due to the fact that I wasn’t spending half the time overwhelmed by attending my first proper IT conference (albeit a local free one).

One of the interesting things to come out of it for me was the closing keynote from Scott Lowe, entitled “Stay Sharp and Relevant in IT”. During this keynote, Scott talks about topics he feels are relevant to IT Pro’s learning over the next twelve months in order for them to stay relevant. What was interesting for me wasn’t actually the subject matters we defined, but the chatter before it surrounding learning.

All my IT life, I’ve studied and obtained my certifications predominantly using bookings and self-study, a hard thing to do for someone who’s never really liked reading too much. I took some time last night to take some online tests and assessments to try and calculate my learning style, and wow: it’s amazing how you can find yourself in printed verse doing these tests.

Based on the results of about four or five different tests I took, I come out every time as a kinesthetic learner. This means that I learn best from the act of doing with hands-on interaction, touching things. When I think about how I go by my daily life and compare the information online relating to kinesthetic learning it just all fits into place.

Take this report at Dirjournal for example (http://www.dirjournal.com/guides/study-tips-for-kinesthetic-learners/). They say that kinesthetic learners are likely to fidget and can’t sit still for long periods and when forced to do so, often resort to tapping or bouncing their feet and legs and like to fiddle and play with inanimate objects like pens or pencils when in classes. These two attributes alone describe exactly my behaviour when at work at my desk or when in classes learning new topics. Kinesthetic learners also find it hard to read materials and are more attracted to reading or looking and content when it is visually appealing which explains my passion for good design and striking documentation and materials.

So now that I’ve identified how I learn best and what I should be doing to aid my learning, I think it’s time to cut back on the books and get my hands dirty with more home labs and play time, and hopefully, that will give me the motivation and inspiration to learn more, faster and to be a better IT Pro.

I want to thank Scott for his keynote at VMUG for making me think to stop and asses my learning style, identify it and to help me to help myself. Thanks Scott 🙂