Entries Tagged as ''

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

Go Green — Goes Slow

1 April 2010 the US (by the hand of Barack Obama) sets new standards requiring automobile manufacturers to increase their fleet average MPG by about 5% per year starting in 2012, moving up a goal set three years ago to meet a 35 MPG average by 2020.

Also, the waiver request California filed to have more stringent emission standards than the federal standards that was blocked by George W Bush (who obviously needed to serve his friends interests in the oil and auto industries) was reversed; allowing California to require automobiles sold in that state to further improve MPG and reduce emissions.

Nearly four decades after the oil embargo; and almost as many decades since emissions have been linked to air quality and climate change the US makes a small move forward to require the carbon foot print of every automobile sold in the US is reduced to a standard that could have easily been met years ago — and further encouraging the development of alternative energy.

So little, so late, so slowly — while it might seem like an event to applaud, it really is something to hang your head in shame and ask why was this not done sooner — why aren’t we doing more?

Oil companies still report record profits and push to drill off shore of our pristine beaches while sitting on thousands of parcels of lands they already have leases for.

Originally posted 2010-04-13 02:00:46.

Free Hosted Email

If you have your own domain and you really don’t need web hosting you might want to consider hosted email servers from Microsoft or Google.

Both of them provide free hosted email services; limited to 500 accounts (which can actually be increased — but for free hosted email that’s probably fine).

I generally recommend that you consider just getting a hosting package that gives you a free domains, web space, and email — often on the order of $1.99 per month.

Microsoft Live Hosted Email (Free):  http://domains.live.com/

Goolge GMail Hosted Email (Free):  http://www.google.com/a/

Originally posted 2008-08-12 23:12:04.

Bloatware

Normally you’d think an article with a tittle like this would have to be ripping on Microsoft Windows – but in fact I’m talking about Linux.

Windows XP minimum requirements were 256 MB of RAM and a 800 MHz CPU, but if you take a look at the minimum requirements for Gnome and KDE you’ll see they’ve surpassed it.

Desktop Required RAM Required CPU
fluxbox/idesk 48 KB 100 MHz
XFCE4 128 KB 200 MHz
Gnome 1.x 256 KB 500 MHz
Gnome 2.x 384 KB 800 MHz
KDE 3.x 512 KB 800 MHz
KDE 4.x 512 KB 1 GHz

Now we are comparing a “modern” operating system with one that’s nearly a decade old; but still, Linux used to be a lean mean performing machine… apparently though making Linux usable has had its trade-offs.

Personally I have no problem with a machine meeting the minimum requirements for KDE; I think targeting a machine with 2GB of memory and a 1.8 GHz process is perfectly reasonable for modern computers (as long as Linux retains the ability to trim down to run on older computers)… but then again, I do think that paying attention to performance and footprint are important — and hopefully the Linux community will  make sure that every byte and cycle count.

Originally posted 2010-08-28 02:00:58.

Economic Recovery

The Fed is telling us that we’re on the road to recovery… that economic activity improved across all 12 regions tracked, and have reminded us that the last time all regions were in a growth mode was prior to December 2007.  Remember, though, the Fed told us all several months ago that economic activity improved in all regions except for St Louis (which was marginal).

The Fed chairman was upbeat in a report to congress that the economy is likely to expand, though slowly – and we needed to be weary of the European debt crisis (and slipped in warnings about high unemployment and a fragile housing market here at home).

But we’re also told by the Labor Department that job openings in April rose to the highest level in 16 month to 3.1 million (from 2.8 million in March).  Remember, these are openings advertised, not necessarily openings filled… and even with those statistics there are 5 unemployed people for each job opening.

I think it’s great to paint a positive picture — but I also think it’s important to keep people well grounded in the reality that the economic down turn is far from over; and while the Fed might like to encourage increased spending to speed a recovery — that’s more of a chicken-and-egg problem than they’re willing to admit… after all nearly 20% of this country is unemployed (though the government clever fuzzy math makes that number out to be much lower), and most of those people aren’t independently wealthy!

Originally posted 2010-06-23 02:00:48.

Green Online… JUST SAY NO

Below is a note I sent to Willis Orchard Co about an order I placed for some tropical plants.


On 19-Mar I placed an order for three Medjool Palms (1.5′-2′) and a Drawf Cavendish Banana Tree with and expected ship date around 1-Apr… yesterday (11-May) I received the FedEx packages containing those items.

Roughly a week after the expected ship date I began calling approximately once a week for an update on the shipping status — to which (other than the last call) I was always told that the product should be shipping within a couple days…

Needless to say, my impression of your “customer service” wasn’t very high; in fact it was so low that I acquired the forty-seven other fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees I used to begin landscaping my yard from local sources…

I understand that your shipping delays were caused by your vendor; however, the failure to realistically appraise me of delays is solely a fault your company and customer service people must bare.

While the shipping delay alone was enough to make me shy away from doing additional business with your company; the condition of the plants I received certainly indicated to me that I shall not put your company high on a list to consider again.

The committed size of the plants is stated to be the overall height; while I’d would have hoped that would be the height from the top of the root ball to the highest vertical point on the plant, it’s obvious that you intend that measurement to be the distance from the top of the root ball to the furthest point on a (stretched) frond of the palms.

In my case that appears to be two just less than 18″ (one of those I’m being generous with the “just less”) and one that isn’t even 16″… further the one closest to 18″ and the one less than 16″ are based on measuring fronds that are brown at the ends (dead) — which most likely didn’t occur in a single day of shipping from Southern Georgia to Northwest Florida.

I can’t say I was the least bit surprised… and certainly I don’t think any of these three specimens would have come home with me had I visually inspected them before purchase (at the prices you charge).

Whether these represent the plants you would normally ship to a customer or simply you feel you’re a victim of the volume of your orders verses the inability of your supplies to fulfill their commitments I can’t say… all I can say is that I’m greatly disappointed.


In retrospect, I’d say ordering plants online should be put in the same category as ordering produce online — what you get might not live up to your standards, and what others are happy with says nothing about the quality.

Originally posted 2010-05-13 02:00:35.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

New Car Shopping Preamble

So you already know how the story ends — I’ve posted that already; but I felt it would be a good exercise to go through the exercise of buying a new car.

I’ll start with all the research I did online, all the possibilities (the field started out pretty large); my requirements for a vehicle, the items that became deal breakers… and finally what vehicle I narrowed it down to and then how I closed the deal; plus I’ll provide a little more information on getting an extended warranty.

Up front I’m just going to re-iterate what I ended up doing before we get into each of the posts.

I purchased a 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited with Premium package; exterior Titanium, interior Black (leather).

I purchased my vehicle from Palmer’s Airport Hyundai in Mobile, AL.

I purchased my extended warranty from Palmer’s Airport Hyundai in Mobile, AL.

I purchased floor mats and a trunk mat made by Lloyds (Rubbertite) online (go with the absolute best price you can find and look for coupon codes).

The bottom line, I’m please with the car (it has actually exceeded my expectations thus far); and I’m happy with the dealership.

2011 Elantra Limited 2001 Elantra Limited

Originally posted 2011-05-17 02:00:38.

Defective by Design

The Free Software Foundation has started a new campaign — Defective By Design.

I personally do not agree that software quality depends on open source; but certainly open source does allow for a complete review of a piece of software — but it in no way assures that it has been tested or is secure (in fact, being open may make it’s weaknesses easier to leverage).

Defective By Design seems to single out DRM (Digital Rights Management) yet I would think that with a name like Defective by Design they might want to address more issues that render software, hardware, and services ineffective than just DRM.

Read for yourself, an informed consumer is the best guard against questionable business practices.

DefectiveByDesign.org

Originally posted 2009-12-27 01:00:10.

Cellular Carriers and Plans

In this day and age you have a choice of a fair number of cellular carriers… actually there aren’t that many carriers in any one geographic area, but there are quite a few resellers.

Nation wide the big cellular carriers are:

  • Verizon (CDMA)
  • AT&T (GSM)
  • Sprint (CDMA)
  • T-Mobile

Regionally there are a number of others:

  • AllTel

And of course there are a number of resellers:

  • MetroPCS (limited areas, unlimited plans, resells Sprint)
  • Boost (pre-pay, resells Verizon)
  • TracPhone (pre-pay, resells Sprint)
  • Virgin Mobile (pre-pay, resells Sprint)

And a new kid on the block:

  • Helios (I believe they actually resell Sprint, but I’m not sure)

The question is always which carrier and plan is best for me?

That’s a difficult decision, let me illustrate some things to consider by characterizing the service I have and why…

I have an AllTel PDA phone (Motorola Q) because AllTel offers a very competative price on PDA service, unlimitd nights and weekends (nights start at 7pm), free in-network service (important because most of my relatives have AllTel service), and provides lots of free features (unlimited text, unlimited data, ability to tether to my laptop, no charge for roaming — you do tend to roam on Sprint, but do roam on Verizon and other carriers when there’s no AllTel or Sprint service).  And AllTel provides “MyCircle”, which is a group of number (on any network or land lines), the plan I have provides for 10 numbers.

Essentially, this service saves me a great deal of money by making most of my calls airtime free because of the nights-and-weekends, in-network, and designated airtime free numbers.

 

In addition I also have a Verizon cell phone because I have so many friends nationwide that have Verizon numbers (it saves them airtime charges, and allows me to carry an account that has a very low number of minutes).  Verizon, though, charges for just about every additional feature — so the plan always ends up costing more than you expect.  Of course I also get a 19% discount on my services (because of a Corporate Discount program I was able to take advantage of).

 

My point in going into the above, is there’s a lot of details you need to consider other than just the number of minutes… who do you call, when do you call — are there any special features that you can take advantage or — are there enhanced services you need or want — do you travel…

My advice would be “profile” how, when, and how much you use your current service, then look at all the carriers and figure out what service would cost.

For instance, if you rarely travel and don’t want to have a landline you might find that MetroPCS gives you the absolute lowest cost service…

Whereas, if you only use your cell phone very rarely, you might find that one of the pre-paid plans give you the absolute lowest cost service (the major carriers also offer pre-pay; but selecting a pre-paid plan requires you understand minute expire and charges, and most pre-pay providers offer more than one pre-pay option).

Lastly, remember that there are taxes charged to your cell phone based on where you specify your billing address and primary useage area.  Many pre-pay providers don’t charge extra for the taxes (they obviously build it into their billing model)… but other carries do.

There’s no way you’re going to avoid the federal taxes on your phone; but your cellular company might be charging you a number portability fee (consider that when comparing carriers), and the location you base your service and billing address greatly effect the local taxes (for instance, the City/County of San Francisco access an $8.00 cell phone tax per line).  You’ll often find you can save a substantial amount of money by using an alternate service / billing address.

 

Let me know if there are any glaring omissions or mistakes!

Originally posted 2008-05-12 12:53:27.