Friday, July 06, 2007

Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction: Ian Rankin finds an outlet for his writing

Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction: Ian Rankin finds an outlet for his writing

As a crime writer myself (waddya mean? Didn't you see the links at left, eh??) I can recommend this chat page. Very well done, Peter. Good stuff.

Like, especially dropping the odd Rankin name. Did I ever mention I was chatting to Ian Rankin at the Crime Fiction Convention in Doncaster in 1997? Well, I heard him talking. Well, I saw him pass by. But I heard people talking about him. Hey, that's nearly good enough, isn't it? 'Friend to the stars' and all that?

Strange thing is, when you read stuff about people who write crime fiction, the writers are always trying to explain what's going on. But isn't the point about the genre that it's Mystery fiction (as they call it in America) ? Shouldn't we just leave a bit of it alone? Why does everything have to have a reason?

Why, that's only true in fiction!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hanging on the telephone

If I had to target the next big corporation that nearly ruined my life, I've have to pick on Kodak (get the picture?)

Ooops, I know you're going to say this is my fault, but hear me out. I bought a new mobile phone about 2 years ago, and it was because I needed a camera. I'd seen these people who'd taken pics and got them on telly. I thought, wouldn't it be great if I was walking down the street and suddenly saw a dear old lady being mugged (or a bank being robbed, or Sporty Spice signing autographs) and I could get them into a pic? Then I could download them and put them on my website, (or my Blog, hey pay attention, this means you) or some 'Breaking News' programme? Yeah.

Let's cut this short. For most of that 2 years I had pics on the phone but couldn't get them off. My biggest and most immediate problem is that didn't have a wire. Everyone else did. 'Plug your phone in', they'd say. It's easy, they'd imply. I got no wire, I'd reply. Worse, I got no hole. The only input into my phone that I could see, anywhere, was the wide connection at the bottom that I used for charging. There wasn't anything else, honest.

Okay, look in the Manual, they'd say. Well yes, I got a small instruction booklet with the device, but it was less than helpful when talking about getting the damn pictures out. The only route it recommended was sending them to Kodak, or more precisely, the Kodak web site, (and it would be all jam after that, it seemed to be saying). I tried that, early on, but the thing wanted me to sign on, fill in forms, choose a password, all the usual dross, and when I went back the next day to see if it was working, I couldn't remember what I'd told them. I couldn't log on.

Skip 6 months. Yes, really. You don't want to know the agonies I went through trying to get that little lot sorted out. The basic problem was that I couldn't log on, but I couldn't use the helpful 'Forgotten your password?' button, because it kept telling me that nobody with my name and email address had joined. Ever. Great, I thought. I'll join again. That didn't work either. Every time I filled in the form (and I tried several times) it said something like 'That phone number is already registered'. I know, I wanted to scream. It's me. Hey, I'm banging on the door. Let me in. Frustration followed frustration, as I tried to email, many many times, and got no reply, just an acknowledgement and a promise that I was being 'dealt with'. I wasn't.

Okay, now it gets really good. I looked up Kodak in the phone book. No, they aren't in Manchester, England, where I am, but they had some kind of Head Office in Guildford, or Ilford, or some garden suburb of London. I plucked up my courage, girded my loins, and dialled. A very nice lady said I needed to call the Freephone number. Great. I got a number and it's free, what could possibly go wrong? They didn't answer. I got a recorded message and an assurance that my call was important to them, but nobody picked up the damn phone. Worse, it was Robbie Williams singing while I waited. Grrr, my teeth gnash at the very memory. After 45 minutes I was ready to climb the walls, then someone picked up. I made it! Wrong. You got the wrong number, they said.

But I phoned (G)Ilford I screamed! Besides, I've suffered Robbie for three quarters of an hour. Have you any idea what that's like? I bellowed. They gave me another number. I called it. A man answered straight away, listened, then said, 'Simple, I'll cancel that registration and you can re-register. Here, I'll even wait on the line while you do it'. God, he was helpful and all my problems were answered. I was in, I could upload my photos, I was open in Kodak with my own album, everything was going my way. What could possibly go wrong?

Easy. (Well you knew it was going to be something, didn't you?) I wanted to use my phone photos on my web sites or, possibly, to email pics of the wild party to my friends. Simple, all I had to do was click and save, right? It didn't work. No matter how I manoeuvred, there was no option like that at all. The only thing they were offering was to print out the pics. Ahhhh, Kodak, you say. Don't you get it? They sell films. They print pictures. What else did you expect?

Back to Google. I searched for someone to take my mobile phone pics and found Moblog. Thank the Lordey for Moblog. In case you don't know, it's and you can find my pics there, under the username 'mburry', (well, you don't want 'Mike' all the time, do you?) And that's it. Well, not quite the end of the story. There's a final kicker. When I was setting up my Moblog account it told me to email my pics in, which I did. Hold on a minute. Email?? Yes, the fact is that I could have emailed my photos at any time to any of my email accounts. What do you mean, you know that? Why didn't you tell me?

Ah well, two years later. A little wiser.