“To boldly go…” and the Cycle of Time

To boldly go...: click to embiggenThere’s something symbolic and, indeed, deeply personal about the image illustrating this week’s Weekly Wrap, my five-year old photograph titled To boldly go….

A small boat heads out into the fog of San Francisco Bay on 10 December 2010. Even though it’s probably just crossing the bay to Marin County, or stopping near Alcatraz Island for a spot of fishing, it looks like there’s a vast and dangerous journey ahead.

It continues to be one of my personal favourites.

I’ve used this photo before, to illustrate Weekly Wrap 267: Chaos, then embracing the change, on 19 July 2015.

But I also used it four years earlier, on 24 January 2011, to illustrate Accommodation: into the unknown. I’d had to leave Enmore with no clear plan. I was worried. The image reflected my mood.

Less than a fortnight after that post, three strong men and a truck took away all my household possessions and office furniture, and put it into storage.

I took just two suitcases of clothing and my most important tools and documents, and headed to the Blue Mountains to stay at Bunjaree Cottages for “a few weeks”. I had a month of work-related travel coming up, I said, and I’d sort out my accommodation when I got back.

Five years later, I’m still at Bunjaree Cottages.

And it’s still temporary.

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Adventures in Identity: ASIC Connect

Stylised screenshot of ASIC ConnectMy legal name, a single word or “mononym” that’s a given name, with no surname, isn’t handled well by poorly-designed bureaucratic information systems — that is, the usual kind. Today I launch Adventures in Identity, a blog series where I politely request every guilty organisation to fix the problem — and post their responses.

First up, our corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), and in particular their ASIC Connect online service.

This was drawn to my attention because the registration for one of my business names, Skank Media, is due for renewal — and ASIC Connect is the easiest way to do it.

Part of the ASIC Connect account creation screen: click to embiggenThe first problem I encountered is that ASIC Connect’s account creation form has both “Given name” and “Family name” as required fields, so immediately I must enter something other than my legal name to create an account — although to ASIC’s credit, the rest of the process was painless.

ASIC had previously sent me a letter with an “ASIC key” that linked this new account to my existing ASIC business name record.

I have another business name, Prussia.Net, so I decided to link that in too. But ASIC Connect wouldn’t let me. My name didn’t match the name of the registrant of Prussia.Net. Really?

Sure enough, while Skank Media is now registered to “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”, and it was previously registered to “Mr Stilgherrian”, Prussia.Net is registered to “_____ Stilgherrian”. Five underscores! What an excellent work-around.

Then when I tried to link both business names to my Australian Business Number (ABN), the basic business identifier for entities other than registered companies — I’m a sole trader — that’s now listed as “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”. It was once correct, though, as an historical ABN search shows a single-name version from 4 October 2000 to 27 February 2010. See the attached PDF.

One of key problems with this mess — apart from the untidy data that makes it look like something shonky is going on — is that these are all legal records. “To the best of my knowledge, the information supplied in this transaction is complete and accurate (it is an offence to provide false or misleading information to ASIC),” we are warned. But I can’t do that.

As I write this, it’s still before 0900 AEST, so my tweets directed to @ASIC_Connect have yet to receive a reply. They may well have a straightforward way to sort this out. Stay tuned.

I should also point out that in ASIC’s defence, they’ve recently merged data from state-based business name registries, cross-matching it with the Australian Business Register — and the latter was notoriously inaccurate.

[Update 1415 AEST: I just got a call from the ASIC staffer who was monitoring their Twitter account earlier today. This isn’t the first time they’ve encountered a mononym, but so far they’ve just carried across records from the state databases so left the work-arounds in place. In my case, they have to cleanse the data so all my records match — and they’ll need to decide on a policy so that similar cases are handled uniformly in the future. So I sent them some photo ID, and they’ll take it from here, and let me know what they decide. Pleased.]

[Update 1620 AEST: The ASIC staffer just called again. They have a system. The back-end database can handle mononyms, it’s just that the web front end has the more stringent input validation. So they’ve settled on putting “Stilgherrian” in the given name field, and a single underscore “_” in the family name field, so I can still enter something and get a match. They’ve manually updated all my records, and now I should be able to merge them. Now that’s service.]

Note: I’ve previously called ASIC incompetent and reckless, calling for a head on a spike, but that was a completely unrelated matter. Obviously.

Nokia Lumia 925 and Windows Phone 8 trial: Day 39

En route, a frame from Strathfield to Central: click to embiggenI’ve finally wrapped up my Nokia Lumia 925 / Windows Phone 8 trial. I’m impressed with both the phone and the operating system, but is it too little too late for both Nokia and Microsoft? Who knows? I’ve made a video! You can scroll down for that.

That possible problem with Wi-Fi dropouts that I detailed last time? I couldn’t reproduce it with the replacement handset — or at least not in a way that couldn’t also be explained by the swirling electromagnetic soup in the vicinity of my desk and all the wireless devices thereupon — so let’s just write that off as a false alarm.

So where does that leave us?

Well, to reiterate, the Nokia Lumia 925 is a nice piece of kit, in keeping with the best traditions of the brand. Windows Phone 8 is also a solid forward-looking operating system. I’d been told about Windows 8’s design heritage at TechEd on the Gold Coast last year. Now, having used it for a month, I can see where it’s heading. App developers should be able to do good things with it.

But with both Nokia smartphones and Windows Phone 8 having such a tiny market share, will it all have been in vain? Has the flood of iOS and Android mobile devices taught the business world that, no, they’re not actually shackled to Microsoft’s products after all? That there are other ways of doing things? And that “producing documents” isn’t actually the purpose of business?

Sometimes when I look at Microsoft’s strategy with Nokia, or the previous one when they inserted Yahoo! into Bing, that the two potentially troubled companies are clutching to each other in terror as they plunge, each hoping the other brought a parachute. And maybe they have. But all the talk I’ve heard so far is your common or garden variety corporate waffle. Good luck, guys.

The only other loose end is to post the video I shot. And here it is. Over the fold is the full 16-minute video Strathfield to Central, shot on the Nokia Lumia 925 at full 1080p resolution, and all other video settings on their defaults.

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Nokia Lumia 925 and Windows Phone 8 trial: Day 10

Mountains dawn: click to embiggen“‘Day 10’? But the last post was Day 5,” I hear you complaining. Well, the dynamic of my Nokia Lumia 925 / Windows Phone 8 trial changed a bit last week, so I’m skipping over the dull bits.

Day 10 is Thursday 8 August 2013, and the photograph with this post was taken one minute before dawn on that day.

In the intervening days, I had continued to use the Lumia 925 much as I had been, and I continue to appreciate the quality of the camera and the ability to customise the start screen in Windows Phone 8. It makes the iOS grid of icons look positively old-fashioned.

However you may remember that I was having trouble with the Wi-Fi link dropping out when the phone was physically handled. Well, I put that question to Nokia and Microsoft on Monday.

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Nokia Lumia 925 and Windows Phone 8 trial: Day 5

Penrith railway station at dusk: click to embiggenIt’s time to catch up on my Nokia Lumia 925 / Windows Phone 8 trial, skipping over Day 4 to Day 5, Saturday 3 August 2013 — when I finally discovered the proper way to synchronise the phone with my MacBook Pro.

I’d been frustrated by the slow process of using Bluetooth to transfer photos. Nowhere in the “Welcome” booklet that comes with the phone is there even a suggestion that you can plug the phone into a computer, let alone that there exists an official Microsoft Windows Phone for OS X application!

And it works!

Furthermore, if you use Apple’s default workflows for managing your images in iPhoto and your music in iTunes, then that all works too.

OK, so I’m an idiot. Maybe I should have looked, or perhaps browsed Nokia’s support site. But I still think this is something worth mentioning from the beginning — particularly as certain phone configuration options are only available from the management software.

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