Fires Near Me app featured on the App Store

Back in January I posted about the Rural Fire Services of NSW’s Fires Near Me app on what was a record temperature day in NSW, with a declared catastrophic fire danger. Fortunately the danger passed mostly smoothly.

Ten months later we are in the midst of a declared State of Emergency in NSW and that old post is still getting a lot of hits. I am pleased it might be helping to get the word out.

I just cruised by the App Store app and was pleased to see that Apple is giving the Fires Near Me app top left billing in the above the fold featured area for Best New Apps. Fires Near Me is not technically a new app, but it is great that people can find it quickly, on a day that has the very real potential for disastrous fire damage.

This is a small but important gesture by Apple, one that supports the incredible efforts of the fire fighters, police, emergency services personnel and the variety of government, private sector and volunteer organisations supporting their efforts.

Best wishes for a safe day for all those effected. Use the app, along with news services and social media to keep teack, and heed warnings. If recommended, leave early.

Welcome to Uepi

Welcome to Uepi by DesParoz
Welcome to Uepi, a photo by DesParoz on Flickr.

Getting to Uepi Island Resort is an adventure in itself – it is one of the most hidden away places you can imagine. First you must fly to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. Then a domestic flight to Seghe. Then a short walk through bush to the water’s edge where you board a "motorised canoe" for the 40 minute ride to the very edge of Marovo Lagoon where Uepi is situated.

Marovo Lagoon is the world’s largest natural lagoon, and Uepi is on its very edge, near where it meets a deep ocean area called "The Slot".

This is the Welcome Jetty at Uepi.

Uepi is isolated, wonderful and spectacular. I think it would be my single favourite diving destination.

Pro Apps at tomorrow’s Apple event?

There is as expected a lot of noise going around about tomorrow’s Apple event.

Of course there will be new a new iPad – probably both a full size and an iPad mini with Retina. Theres likely to be new MacBooks and I think the long awaited MacPro is bound to get a mention.

OSX Mavericks will also be released.

Personally I am also interested in the app side of things. Updates to iWork for Mac are long overdue and much needed. Rumours have been circulating regarding iLife apps – particularly GarageBand.

But how about Pro apps. You know, to go with the new MacPro and the (new) MacBook Pro models…

I think we’re likely to see a new release of Aperture [1] and perhaps some surprises.


  1. Affiliate link. Thanks in advance  ↩

Des Paroz on the go returns to WordPress

Six months ago I moved DesParoz.com over to SquareSpace, specifically SquareSpace 6. Today I am moving it back to a self-hosted WordPress installation.

I really like SquareSpace, and continue to run 3 important sites [1] on SquareSpace, and continually heartily recommend SquareSpace as a great option for businesses and organisations who need a fully featured website. But for a site that is primarily a blog, such as DesParoz.com, I was frustrated with the process for publishing an article.

With WordPress, I can write and publish directly from Byword – both Byword for iOS and Byword for Mac. On SquareSpace, I would have to write in the editor, then copy the HTML, then paste it into the SquareSpace website (or app). It was simply too many steps for my liking.

Frictionless workflows are important, so after considering this change for a while I made the decision to switch back. Frankly my life is likely to be even more on the go in the forseeable future. The ability to write and post on the go is critical. So while I lose some of the powerful features of SquareSpace, I gain the flexibility of WordPress and Byword.

My workflows are based on the front-end apps I choose to use on a daily basis. Backend systems, whilst important, should be chosen based on how well they support workflows and apps.

DogHouseDiaries on social media’s simmering privacy policies

Social Media is an important way to interact with friends and colleagues, and in many cases, with colleagues, customers and suppliers. It can be a powerful tool, but it can also be an incredible productivity sinkhole.

It is also a fact that many of the major social media services have progressively and slowly evolved (eroded) their terms of service to decrease privacy.

Today’s DogHouseDiaries comic beautifully expresses this.

Personally I minimise my time on social networks, sticking mainly to Twitter and LinkedIn. I use Google+ and Facebook selectively, and then only in dedicated (read: sandboxed) apps, or in a browser that I only use for these sites. I don’t access Google or Facebook from my main browser.

Warships

Warships

Image of warships alongside at Sydney’s Fleet Base East (HMAS Kuttabul). In the image are with HMAS Tobruk (L50), HMAS Stuart (FFH 153) & HMAS Darwin (FFG 04). Peeking in front of the bow of HMAS Tobruk is MHNZS Te Mana.

This photo was made 6 weeks before the recent RAN International Fleet Review, and all the warships shown participated.

View this image on 500px, Flickr or Google+

Dekudekuru Split

Dekudekuru is a reef close to Uepi Island Resort in the Solomon Islands. It is an ideal place for both over and under shots and images made from underwater shooting the nearby jungle canopy. This is due to the protected shallow waters of the reef inside a reef, and the nearby jungle canopy.

Under & over shots like this have held a lot of fascination for me for some time. There’s a reason that you see comparatively few of them published – they’re difficult to setup and difficult to execute well.

To make an under & over image you must shoot through air and water simultaneously, with the different lighting that brings. You need to minimise water droplets on the “dry” part of the image. And you need to focus near and far.

To create this image I used a very wide angle lens, used a small aperture for depth of field and shot in shallow, clear water on a bright, sunny day. Even then, this image was the best of quite a bunch, and is far from perfect. But I am quite happy with it!

View this image on 500px, Flickr or Google+

Dealing with a customer service disaster – the NerdGap way

One of the basics of customer service is (or at least should be) honesty. If a problem occurs in a customer service scenario three simple rules should be followed:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Find the root cause and fix the problem.
  3. Move on.

While this should be fundamental to all customer service situations, all too often something gets in the way. Whether it be a fear of liability or simple ego too many service providers fail to own up to a problem when it occurs.

Author of the fabulous Evernote Essentials ebook, Brett Kelly, had a customer service disaster and quickly identified a problem that resulted in a lot of customers (and non-customers) getting incorrect emails indicating a purchase had been processed. Brett quickly fixed the problem and has today posted on his blog about it.

Brett goes into detail about the cause of the problem (spoiler alert: human error) and its effect. He offers an apology, and then learns from it.

The moral of the story is summarized nicely by a proverb I’m going to get tattooed across my frickin’ forehead later today: Measure twice, cut once.

This is a good example of a customer service problem being turned around. I suspect he might even gain sales from his honest approach.