How “official iphone unlock” ignored me (officialiphoneunlock.co.uk)

I have an iPhone I bought in Japan when I was living there. It was SIM locked by Softbank. I moved to Europe and I found a website (http://officialiphoneunlock.co.uk) that provides factory unlocks. For those of you who don’t know, a factory unlock is basically a definitive way to unlock your SIM locked phone. No need for jailbreak. It’s perfectly legal and clean. At the beginning I was a little bit suspicious but the site looked right. On a first look they have a support number, a contact email, testimonials using http://trustedreviews.eu with very good reviews. They have a Facebook page with 33K+ likes.

I submitted the IMEI of my two iPhones a 4S and a 4. Total cost 117€ (£93, $160).
After a couple of days I got the following answer for both phones:

iphoneblocked
blockedreason

iPhone marked as ‘Blocked or In-Contract’.
“The IMEI you gave us has been rejected by the carrier for unlocking due to being marked Blocked, usually meaning it’s a lost or stolen handset, but handsets can be blocked for any number of reasons including non-payment of bills, blacklisted, bad ESN and/or contract issues or still in contract. We cannot supply a refund for handsets that come back as blocked – this is mentioned on the website before purchase.”

At that point I decided to check what was going on with my phones. I contacted the Softbank international service and they confirmed to me that my phones weren’t in any of those states. They also provided me with a link to check the status of my phones by providing the IMEI. The page is in Japanese, but look at the image bellow, I translated what it means:

cleanphone

(click on the image to see it in full size)

The text in Japanese: ○: 利用できます(後日不正契約が認められた場合を除きます)
Means:
Allowed to use. (excluding the case in which the contract is recognized as fraudulent in the future)

My contract with Softbank is totally closed, the iPhones are my property now and I have no issues or pending payments with them. I’m totally in peace with Softbank.

In the same email from officialiphoneunlock.co.uk they continued:

anynetwork

“Good news however. We can easily unlock your Blocked handset on our ‘Any Network’ service which is guaranteed, the cost of this is an additional £50.00 and takes 24-72 hours. Please remember this service will NOT bypass an iCloud Activation Locked handset.
To upgrade to the Blocked service, please use this link http://www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk/worldwide?mb=2
If you use our Guaranteed Any Network service and it fails for any reason, we refund ALL monies for that IMEI, including your original payment.”

This is when things turns even worse. They suggest me to pay extra £50 to unlock my phones and in case it’s not possible they will refund everything, including my original payment. Wait a minute. You can refund everything if I pay another £50 but you can’t refund my original payment?
This literally sounds like SCAM to me but comments of people in Facebook look very good.

I tried to reach them by phone but I got no answer. The answer is just a recorded message saying that they are busy, and after a long while, the communication just dropped. Also the phone recorded message said that they don’t attend support by phone.

I wrote several emails in their support page but again no response.

I wrote an email to the only email I got from their site: sales@officialiphoneunlock.co.uk but no response as well.

I sent a message using Facebook, no response.

I posted in their wall, the post was deleted…

I also commented on one of their posts in their Facebook page. And, so far, no answer.

fbcomment2
At this point what else should I do? The next step should be to contact the police, notify the site as SCAM, and keep my personal online war against officialiphoneunlock.co.uk to see if they will eventually refund my money.

I don’t care if they couldn’t unlock my phones, that’s fine because technical issues are normal. But what frustrates me and makes all this really fishy is the fact that they don’t get back to me and ignore all my attempts to contact them.

officialiphoneunlock.co.uk if you guys cannot unlock my phones, that’s fine! But I want my money back because my case is none of the special cases which don’t get refunded.

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The expert

This is a very well made video that shows a common situation faced, not only by engineers but, by almost everybody that has a logical and analytical mind when confronted by people that think they know your job better than you do. Enjoy :)

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What is hidden in positive statements

I just finished reading The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind by Marvin Minsky It was a really interesting book which I really recommend. I would like to highlight this part from the first chapter “Falling in Love”

On the surface such statements seem positive; they’re all composed of superlatives. But note that there’s something strange about this: most of those phrases of positive praise use syllables like ‘un–’, ‘–less’, and ‘in-‘un-’, ‘-less’, and ‘in-’—which show that they really are negative statements describing the person who’s saying them!

Wonderful. Indescribable,
—— (I can’t figure out what attracts me to her.)
I scarcely can think of anything else.
—— (Most of my mind has stopped working.)
Unbelievably Perfect. Incredible.
—— (No sensible person believes such things.)
She has a Flawless Character.
——(I’ve abandoned my critical faculties.)
There is nothing I would not do for her.
—— (I’ve forsaken most of my usual goals.)

Positive statements might hide what we really are thinking about. Did you heard in a wedding someone saying “He’s a very lucky man for marring her”? What that person probably meant was something like: “He’s lucky because I can’t understand how a woman like her could marry a man like him” or “He’s lucky because she could find a better man”

Reading about iOS7 Design Resources in the iOS Human Interface Guidelines I found a similar approach comparing iOS 7 and iOS 6. Look at the screenshot:

ios7ios6

This looks wrong. One thing is to talk about the improvements of iOS 7 and the changes they made, and another thing is to trash your previous product. They are not doing it explicitly, but they are doing it indirectly.

  • Deference. The UI helps users understand and interact with the content, but never competes with it. (The previous design competed with the content and wasn’t clear)
  • Clarity. Text is legible at every size, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate, and a sharpened focus on functionality motivates the design. (Icons weren’t precise and adornments were not appropriate)
  • Depth. Visual layers and realistic motion impart vitality and heighten users’ delight and understanding. (Previous design lacked vitality and was hard to understand)

These three positive statements would be just fine if they were announcing iOS 7 as a new product for the first time. In that case the listener wouldn’t have a previous model to compare with and would use the hidden negative statements on the competition. But comparing in this way your current product with the previous one is just trashing your previous work. That damages the credibility of what Apple continually claims about their products, depicting them as the best in the market. How could they say they have the best Mobile OS if they are trashing it when the next version comes out.

I think that the right thing to do should be to avoid direct comparisons between your own products and only point out the evolution, the improvement, the new features instead of sending subliminal messages to costumers saying “today we sell you gold and tomorrow we will call it shit”.

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First impressions about Mavericks

I installed Mavericks over Mountain Lion on a MacBook Air early 2011. Let’s first start with the good stuff I found so far:

  1. More disk space. Before the installation I had 22GB free and now I have 34GB free. I have no idea what stuff was occupying 10GB of space, anyway it’s gone!
  2. Faster! Yes surprisingly it’s faster than Mountain Lion and Lion. I was a little bit afraid about the speed, specially after seeing how bad iOS 7 is doing on the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
  3. All my important apps work. So far I tried: TrueCrypt, VirtualBox, Chicken, Google Earth, LightRoom, Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4, AptanaStudio 3, Libre Office, TextWrangler, Audacity, VLC, JEDict, CyberDuck, Skype, go2Shell, Temperature Gauge.
  4. Leap Motion drivers work.
  5. Full screen works as indicated by Apple. I finally have my top bar enabled on the second monitor so I can now work full screen without sacrificing one monitor. I had one pretty bad issue that will be explained later in the post.
  6. The american voice Samantha is sexier than before.
  7. Disk utility didn’t crash until now…
  8. Battery had a better performance. I didn’t measure the charge time, but it discharges at a slower pace.

Bugs:

  1. I can’t rotate the second monitor. I used it at 90 degrees rotation but I can’t use it now. It was very handy specially to see the iPad/iPhone simulator working on it… Look at the image. This is ridiculous:
  2. Bug Rotation

  3. When I activated the second monitor in LightRoom it worked fine. But the second one’s top bar overlapped the maximized Lightroom’s second view. I can adjust that by making the second view a window but there should be no overlap of the content.
  4. bug full screen

  5. Sometimes you get something like this. I was in the launchpad and the app behind got an alert. The mouse pointer was operative with the launchpad icons but the content of the program overlapped the launchpad view. I had to click outside the window to get rid off the launchpad and respond to the message. If this is not a bug, it’s poor design
  6. bug launchpad

  7. In Lightroom I don’t get the right colors on the controls. Look at the image on the left is from Lightroom running on Mountain Lion and the right one on Mavericks. Don’t you see something is missing?
  8. mavericks lightroom bug

  9. I also had an issue with the keyboards. I have a Japanese keyboard which I use most of the time. I also installed an Italian and Spanish keyboard when I have to write in those languages. The problem is that the Japanese keyboard, when is set to Romaji, it means to write in roman characters, thinks that the previous used keyboard is the default romaji. So I ended up with a Spanish keyboard when I want to use the Japanese distribution. This didn’t happen with Mountain Lion. I fixed it by installing the US keyboard which maps the Japanese one. This is conceptually wrong, because based with the previous schema, the US keyboard should match an US keyboard distribution instead the Japanese one. Finally I gave up all the keyboards and I followed the advice of my friend @rcivit Now I use shortcuts to create characters like éáñ and so forth. Anyway I still have to install the US keyboard on a Japanese keyboard to have the right mapping…

So far so good, I won’t rollback to Mountain Lion mainly because Mavericks seems faster and more battery friendly. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for your production machine after at least 5 or 6 months.

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The challenge of user interfaces simplification

iOS 7 is here. I’ve been using it since the first beta. As far as user interfaces are effective, I don’t care too much about aesthetic, also because it’s totally subjective. What is ugly for you is beautiful for someone else. In a previous post I shared a couple of screenshots showing the difference between icons in Xcode 3.2, 4.6 and 5.0. You can see a progressive simplification of the interface. First flatting colors then flatting depth. The challenge with this design is to avoid reaching the point of maximum simplification. Let’s look at the icons in detail:

simplify

Symbols don’t have any meaning by themselves, we give meaning to symbols and icons which simply are symbols, ideograms, pictograms. If we keep the design around the first icon on the left, it’s possible to change its look without changing its meaning. It’s not a practical need, but an aesthetic one, and I understand that’s more a marketing choice than a practical one. Even if nothing really changed inside the application, a new look gives you the idea that you have a new and fresh product.

The problem with the icon on the right is that simplification reached the limit. It’s so simple, so minimalist, that a change of its design means also changing the symbol and therefore removing the meaning. Symbols are powerful and that’s why many people over the years in history tried to steal symbols and change their original meaning, like the the Nazis did with the swastika. We should avoid changing symbols too often, because that removes semantic consistency in the interface and creates confusion.

Another example:

simplify02

The icon in 5.0 is a simplification of the correspondent in 3.2. The icon in 4.6 is a change in the previous symbol, creating confusion and inconsistency. Then they changed it back again to the original one. The new one has very little room to evolve or change without changing the symbol. It’s the extreme simplification of the original one.

I think that iOS 7 and the OSX interface and design are great. They are simple, effective, intuitive and fun but over simplifying hides the potential risk of reaching a point where simplification cannot be accomplished anymore and the only possible choice is changing the symbol, therefore breaking consistency.

I’m curios to see if, at this point, they will be able to update the design in the future without breaking the symbolic consistency.

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OSX flat design doesn’t mean cryptic.

Xcode 4.6.x had already some sort of flat design. They removed the colors and everything was flat and grey but at least it had some sort of depth. Look at these screenshots:

Xcode 4.6.x

xcodeorg01

xcodeorg02

Now look at the new Xcode 5.0 flat design. I don’t see an improvement. It looks like an old fashioned GUI of the 90′s. It’s even hard to understand what the icons mean. It’s so abstract that someday we’ll need an ideogram dictionary to understand what those icons mean.

Xcode 5.x

xcodenew01

xcodenew02

Now look at a very old version of Xcode 3.2.x and tell me which one do you prefer. Honestly I don’t see an evolution in the look and design from colorful and self explanatory icons to cryptic flat ones. Flat design is not bad and it doesn’t even matter if it’s flat or not. The point here is that an user interface should be self explanatory, an icon should be worth a thousand words.

Xcode 3.2.x

xcodeold01

xcodeold02

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Forcing air currents in urban areas for weather change. Ideas #1

I’m not a meteorologist or an expert in the matter. Anyway it doesn’t mean I cannot have an idea. Maybe it makes sense or it doesn’t, anyway here it is.

Summer in Tokyo is like hell on earth. Huge humidity and this year will be remembered in particular. I always read that the main causes are urbanization disorder that prevents air from moving, extensive use of air conditioning and inefficient construction materials that absorb heat. I don’t know if these are the causes. Anyway what if we paint the roofs in one area white and another dark. That will create a difference in temperature and therefore an air current. There are articles that predict that white roofs are not the solution and that it will be even worse. (here, here)

But what I’m saying here is not about just reflecting light. I’m thinking about how to create a huge cheap ventilator effect inside the city.

tokyosummermap

Air in the dark area heats up, and creates a current moving from the white area. The idea behind this post is to use huge areas to work as artificial ventilators creating air currents by using houses roofs for heat absorption or heat reflection.

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