A video celebrating Tim Cook from his alma mater. I found this interesting not just for the interviews that provide insight into his character, but also because it shows a difference between Tim and Steve Jobs that has never been highlighted so clearly before. Worth a watch.

London Calling

Today’s my last day of work before I take some long-needed Long Service Leave. My family and I are going to London for almost exactly 100 days. My wife will be studying patisserie  at Le Cordon Bleu and I will be looking after the kids. I’m really looking forward to the break, and to spending some more time with the boys, but it means that for the next couple of months this blog is probably more likely to be filled with London anecdotes than technology news, although there should be an Apple event at some point while we are away that I will likely blog about.

A great presentation for TEDMED 2013 by Erin Barker & Ben Lillie of Story Collide. The message on this video is really compelling and something that I’ve never thought about before, which is that even for research results, personal story works much better than statistics. It’s like when you watch TodayTonight, you want the individual story first because it means more, and then they can give you the stats of xx% of people have this problem. Going forward, I am going to try my best to exemplify this approach, make my presentations personal first and then present the work.

It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want.

Steve Jobs

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.

Steve Jobs (seems appropriate to post this the day after a big WWDC announcement!)

CEO of Apple Tim Cook doing an interview with Walt & Kara for the D11 conference. It’s really interesting to watch him do a little dance with them, trying to avoid talking about new products while giving insightful answers. You do pick up a bit though, like the fact that iOS will be pretty different this year and that a watch seems much more likely than a TV in the fall. Definitely worth a watch!

CQUniversity International Education Research

This is a presentation that I did a couple of days ago to introduce the new International Education Research Special Interest Group of LTERC at CQUniversity which I am convening. Here is the summary of what I discussed:

Please feel free to tweet or e-mail me with any questions.

Using Technology to make paying bills easier

I was browsing the web when I stumbled upon this article, which is from a website called Get Rich Slowly. In it, the author talks at length about the pro’s and con’s of autopay as a method to pay your bills. I pretty much agree with everything that it says, which in summary is that autopay is great because you don’t forget bills, but a problem because you are giving everyone access to your account. It also made me think about my own experience, which has evolved to having the technology work for me quite well. Let me tell you about it….

For quite a number of years, I was hopeless at paying bills. I would often gets calls from the call centre about a missed bill or a missed payment, so much so that I was starting to expect them! Because I often waited until I got paid, the bill would end up in a drawer somewhere totally unpaid and it was costing me a fortune in late fees and driving me mad.

I used various systems to help me remember, corkboards for bills, reminders in my phone but some bills would always slip through the cracks.

Anyway, eventually I discovered autopay. It was great, no more reminders to set, corkboards to use, it just worked automatically, and most of the time I could line it up with my pay and just forget about it.

Problem was, it didn’t always work the way I wanted. The first problem I encountered was that if something odd happened with my pay, all of a sudden all my autopays didn’t work. One time, work missed paying us by a day and I ended up with hundreds of dollars in fees from the bank dishonoring the payment. The other was that sometimes the institutions would come and take the money at the wrong time or in the wrong amount. I would walk up to a shop and try and send my card and discover that my bill that month was bigger or some company had decided to take an extra payment and all of a sudden I didn’t have any money to pay for lunch.

So, I decided to put a stop to all the autopayments before I got even more fees. But what to replace it with?

That’s when I noticed that pretty much ALL my bills had a BPay number on them. In Australia, BPay is a pretty standard system where you can pay money directly out of your bank account to a company that sends you a bill. The important thing about BPay is that they don’t have access to your account, you have to initiate the transfer to make the money change hands. Some further investigation revealed that not only did my bank allow BPay, but they even allowed me to schedule it! An idea was forming.

I went through all my bills and worked out a rough fortnightly payment for each one. For bills like electricity, I divided by 13 weeks for the quarter, for bills like my mobile phone I took the minimum monthly amount and divided by two. I then went through Internet banking and set up payments for all the bills to come out straight after I got paid each fortnight.

It worked like a charm!

I discovered that pretty much everybody will keep track of your BPay payments in their system and credit them towards future bills. So, the phone company remembers you made a payment in the middle of the month and applies a credit to the value left when they send the bill. Assuming I don’t go over my call and data cap limits, it just pays itself automatically every month and I don’t need to do anything. If I do go over, then I can see it when I get the bill ($150 due in two weeks and I know only one more $70 payment will go out between now and then) and set up a once-off scheduled payment or an adhoc payment for the difference.

Of course, for some services this means that sometimes I get ahead. For instance, I am essentially paying my mobile phone bill fortnightly and it’s a monthly bill, so I am making a month more payments than I need across the course of a year, but again this is easy to spot and it’s really easy to adjust the schedule in my Internet banking to skip a payment. Sometimes it just works out because I spend too much one month and the overpayment balances it out.

By the time we got our home loan this system was working so well for us that when they had BPay as a payment option, there was basically no choice. Now we pay our home loan ourselves every fortnight and it gives me total control to pay more if I want, or to skip a payment if we are getting ahead (and I want the money for something else). I can even set up a once-off schedule payment to take the money we skip and funnel it into a savings account so I don’t spend it!

Overall, it’s a great way to work the autopayment mechanism but keep control of your own money. I’m so happy with it that when we go to London later this year for my Long Service Leave I think i will just leave it in place to continue to collect my pay and pay the bills, transferring whatever is left over into a UK bank account for us to spend.

I think this is a great example of technology enabling a better life for us. I don’t know what I would do without technology in this instance, probably just continue to pay late fees on bills or overuse my corkboard! But since it’s here, I recommend everyone give it a go.

This is the video of Steve Job’s first keynote when he came back to Apple in 1997. Watching this after having read the Steve Jobs Biography, it strikes me that two things are very clear in hindsight: 1. Steve wasn’t ready to be CEO. For at least the first 18 minutes they never mention what his job is and he appears on the slides as “CEO of Pixar”. This is consistent with the stories in the book, he was hesitant to come back and you can see it watching this video. 2. Larry Elison was a big part of Steve’s life. Again, this is clear from the book, but you can also see it here. Larry is a strange choice for the board of directors but you can see from the video they play of him that he really understands Steve and what he’s about. It’s clear that he was really Steve’s best friend outside of Apple.

Unconscious Computing

This blog post puts forward a really interesting idea about unconscious computing. As I’ve mentioned here before, I wear an iPod Nano as a watch and I often wish that it did more in the way of communicating with my phone to provide me alerts etc. But, apart from this, it would also be good for it to give unconscious data back to my phone - for instance on the number of steps I take each day, or the current temperature, or my GPS coordinates. The phone could then use that data in apps automatically. Think of it like a series of sensors that collate data about your world, free for you to use when required. Pretty amazing thought.

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