Opera Mini 4 and McDonalds

I’ve been using Opera Mini 4 on my Palm TX for a while now and it is very slick at viewing websites. Its not a “one-size-fits-all” product but for certain niches its excellent. The browser is Java based (so works across platforms) and uses a server to pull in the webpages. For graphically large pages the server produces a screenshot which you can then zoom in to. Not too bad overall. It is fast and works well. The downside is that there is no way you can use this to log in to a wifi access point. Which means the fall back of Palm’s default Blazer browser which works just fine, but isnt as fast.

I was in McDonalds this week and tried to access my email; no joy as I needed to log in. McDonalds have an agreement with The Cloud to provide free wifi access (thank you!) but you’ve needed to provide your postcode and name in the past. So I tried Opera today and much to my surprise it worked. Clearly The Cloud arent blocking the ports Opera Mini uses. I then tried Blazer which, as expected, redirected me to The Cloud login page. And, thankfully, no longer are login details needed. Just click on the “Free Wifi” link (agreement to the T&Cs) and wifi is then fully available.

This is really very good. I have found public wifi access points painful to use on a PDA but, with iPhone’s now so popular, maybe operators are smartening up a bit

“OS to make mapping freely available”

OK, the OS aren’t going to be making their mapping freely available anytime soon, but this is a Sun-esque headline (I’m sure Charles Arthur could do better!) that could have been written following the publication “Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds” by Newbery, Bently and Pollock. This is a government commissioned report by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and HM Treasury, and is designed to comment upon the societal costs/benefits of providing public sector information via trading funds. At 154 pages its no lightweight read (and they are economists!), but the Executive Summary is as good a place as any to start:

Performing this comparison on the subset of products suitable for analysis, it was found that, in most cases, a marginal cost regime would be welfare improving - that is, the benefits to society of moving to a marginal cost regime outweighed the costs.

In other words their main recommendation is to a adopt a marginal cost charge for PSI. Trading funds such as the OS, UKHO and Met Office do have direct costs and these would need to be met by the Treasury with “performance monitoring … independent of the charging policy.” That is to say, the government shouldn’t couple together the cost of the operation with the quality. If they did we would end up in a similar situation to the US where maps are given away free of charge, but due to the miniscule budget, they actually only know where roads, railways and towns are. Everything else remains a bit of a mystery!!!