Archive for April, 2010


(Not so) Easy Pass

Some of you commuters in The City of Traffic (Krung Thep Mahanakorn) may have noticed a lane reserved solely for users of Easy Pass electronic toll payment system. You may have also noticed an increase in congestion in the areas leading to the toll booths.

The Expressway Authority of Thailand (EAT) decided to roll out this system in the hopes of either making travel more convenient (PR spin) or making more money (cynical view). Over 50,000 commuters bought into the system last year, but when they started testing it they encountered a software glitch.

But if it works, thousands of commuters a day are going to enjoy the convenience of breezing through the toll gates as their fee automatically debited from an electronic account.

So why don’t I think it is a good idea?

No Big Brother issues here, for once. I strongly believe that Easy Pass is fundamentally at odds with the Thai mentality. You are going to see a rise in traffic jams because of the following categories of drivers:

1. Commuter too busy to notice that the line breezing along is for Easy Pass users only, gets to the gate and protests ignorance, insisting on just paying in cash.

2. Commuter (likely a self-entitled asshole in a Benz or BMW) notices that the line for Easy Pass users only is moving fastest, gets to the gate and feigns ignorance, insisting on just paying in cash.

3. That prick who likes cutting in an out of traffic (usually driving a pick-up with a covered bed) takes advantage of the faster Easy Pass lane, and, right before reaching the tollbooth, will try to cut into a normal lane at the last minute.

So instead of making things go faster, this Easy Pass is going to add another layer to the delicious cake that is Bangkok traffic (joining taxis parked/creeping along the side of the road, VIP shopping/movie motorcades, and urban train crossings).

What can EAT do about this?

The only solution I envision is to wave offenders through and have cops waiting to pull them over. Let them know right away that they have to pay a stupidity fine. Say, 200 baht for category 1, and half of whatever is in their wallet if they are category 2. For category 3, take whatever is higher, plus a whack on the head with a tack hammer.

Repeat offenders should be photographed and their pictures published in newspapers and online, under the headline DUMBASS DRIVERS with a caption under each picture with name, car model, license plate, and category of offense. Women will have their estimated weight printed (with an additional five kilos) and men their penis size (Ex: Ferrari drivers no more than 4 inches).

If they do all this, then I change my mind. Easy Pass is a GREAT idea!


RIM Jobbers: the Twitter showdown

About a week ago, Blackberry sneakily pushed a version of their Twitter app onto my phone while I was sleeping.

At the time, I was quite happy with Übertwitter (especially in comparison to the craptastic Twitterberry, the Friendster of Twitter apps). I had no plans to use their version, banishing it to my Games folder.

One day, though, the shortcut icon to Übertwitter mysteriously disappeared. Was it bored of overuse? Or did it get kicked out Microsoft-style by a cronyberry app?

So I decided to try Twitter for Blackberry (or T4BB for short, as I am typing this on my Blackberry), to see if I liked it.

After a week, here’s my two cents:

T4BB definitely has a pretty interface, with a navigation bar that makes it easy to search for users and look up trending topics.

It’s easy to navigate and can be set for bigger fonts if you have poor eyesight.

Tweet notifications show up in the messages timeline along with email and Facebook, for nice integration.

Also you can view a whole thread between two parties, to see how a conversation (or slagging match) develops.

That’s all the nice things I can say about it, though.

The refresh for T4BB can only be set for 5 min to 1 hour with no Never setting. And it can only pull 20 to 100 tweets at a time, which means if you follow a lot of accounts and leave it overnight, you’ll miss a lot.

And a message box is always popping up: “Twitter is experiencing a problem” it says. But it doesn’t shut down, so I could do without your complaints T4BB.

With Über you can just type “@” and it pulls up a list of who you follow, makes it easy to add mentions. If you have a flawless memory that is not a problem, but I like the convenience (as I forget my own screenname sometimes).

Another great thing about Über is that mentions to you are highlighted in yellow (and Direct Messages) in green on your timeline. Aside from the ego-boost (Wow TheRealShaq replied to me!), it is nice to see where these messages are chronologically on your main timeline.

A bigger issue I have is how Über incorporates Tweetphoto much more conveniently, where you can send a post directly from a photo you just took, or from an opened photo file. With T4BB you have to scroll down through your media library (with its tiny thumbnails), which anyone who has a lot of pictures knows can be a headache.

The last issue is the one that is the most grave to me. I like how Über allows you to post with Twitlonger for updates of more than 140 characters, which is sometimes unavoidable. When you view someone else’s (or your own) posts that uses Twitlonger on Über (indicated by it automatically loads the rest of the post for you to read. If you live in a 3G enabled country, I guess it is not a big deal to load the extra page address. But here in perpetually 2G Thailand it is an annoyance, and I can do without the additional step.

On the bright side, I discovered when posting a pic of a red-shirt with big guns that I can still post photos using Übertwitter, and if I don’t close the application I can still access it fine. So now I can do both; while I may be in a forced marriage with T4BB, I can still find a way to congress with my beloved Über.

That is, until a better mobile app comes along, at which time I mercilessly dump both of them for a sleeker, newer model.

Tweemmanuelle Chriquiberry, anyone?