Thursday, July 24, 2008

Uh, yeah, browser compatibility

PG&E has taken a new spin on browser compatibility. Using firefox? Well, then credit card payment will give you a "service is not available" error. But, you can go ahead and schedule recurring bank account payments.
Using Opera? Well, in that case credit card payment will work fine. But trying to schedule a bank account payment will give you an "Unsupported browser" error. Looks like this must have gone through a lot of testing.

All these oddities are probably a function of a bunch of 'isolated' applications that seem to be cobbled together. There seem to be a lot of extraneous clicks needed to go from one place to another. Seems to have 'big, expensive consulting company' written all over it.

Uh, and if that were not enough, the billing system could use a little connectivity. There seems to be nothing on the actual bill indicating that an automatic payment is set up. At least emails get sent out (though Yahoo! thinks some are spam.) And to add to the confusion, they announced that visa payments would stop at the end of June. Oops. It seems to have gone through fine in late July. Turns out they did not get 'regulatory approval'. Uh yeah... Thanks for the double payments...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Walkable cities has put together a nice site that evaluates the 'walkability' of cities. You type in an address, and it pulls up all the nearest amenities to determine how walkable a city is. The results seem about in line with I would give the various communities where I have lived.

The algorithm itself seemed somewhat susceptible to error. (It based the results on a google local search - which is prone to outdated, misclassified, or otherwise invalid listings. It also uses 'as the crow flies' distances, which don't account for whether you could really walk there or not. And a simplistic point system that awards points for a close amenity in a category without judging its usefulness to an individual could be susceptible. However, in spite of this the numbers still seemed about right.

It would be nice to add to it. Perhaps a personalized feature, where you could select features that really are important, and possible veto some results that come in. (If you have kids you care about a close elementary school, not a college.) Also, a walkable community close to work may trump some other features. And of course, it would be nice to actually look at the real conditions (such as sidewalks, weather, or even census information about car ownership and use)

Overall, it is a great tool that is helpful in evaluating potential good places to live.