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iOS 4

With the announcement of iPhone 4 Apple announced the a new version of their phone / media player operating systems — iOS 4; which will ship on the iPhone 4 and be offered as a free upgrade to iPhone 3G and 3GS users as well as second and third generation iPod touch users.

I’m sure everyone will be quick to tether their Apple device to iTune and apply the upgrades…

Originally posted 2010-06-10 10:50:15.

Tea Party

The Tea Party has been holding a number of rallies to make people aware of how government is misusing their tax dollars…

Damn straight!

Remember, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not in the budget; the wars were entered into based on lies told to the American people (and the House and Senate — which you would have hoped would have been a little more savvy than the average taxpayer and ask for proof).

So let’s start by getting that nearly trillion dollars that was misappropriated ack; from the defense budget (after all — gotta cut to pay, right Tea Party — and best to cut from the same programs that used misappropriated money than a program that didn’t).

Am I serious… well, I’m as serious as the Tea Party.

If you want to look for places to get money to help this country make ends meet; here’s the short list.

  • Wall Street
  • Banking
  • Oil & Gas Industry
  • Defense

Seems like these are the areas which have taken far more than they have put in for the past several years…


And honestly, no, this isn’t the way I’d try and balance the budget.

I’d look at fixing what’s broken…

Health Care — the Obama health care plan is a waste; let’s move to a single payer system (much like our neighbors to the North) that _all_ US citizens are a part of; and that government employees and elected officials have no option but to use (and have no special access).  Of course any business or individual could elect to pay for private insurance, but that would be using after tax dollars.  Medicare and medicaid would simply be a part of the national health system; and the only difference would be that very low income individuals would get at least some number of co-pay waivers per year.

Social Security — definitely needs to be looked into, but a program that many Americans over 50 have been expecting to be there when they retire cannot continue to change…  I’m not sure how to fix this, but we probably need to view all the different parts of the Social Security system separately and deal with solutions based on the needs of each.

Defense — definitely needs to be trimmed.  We simply cannot spend 20% of every tax dollar for defense (40% of what the world spends on arms — six times that of China)… and that money doesn’t need to be wasted on weapons programs that aren’t needed (or wanted by most Americans).  Let’s keep it in perspective, military spending is what caused the implosion of the Soviet Union, the US need not continue to escalate the arms race.

Taxes — there’s a simple solution, throw out the old tax code (and the IRS) and institute a simple code.  Something like: no tax on earnings to poverty level,  5% on everything above poverty level to say 2x poverty level; add 5% percent on each 1x poverty level beyond that to a maximum rate of 50%.  That’s it, no other Federal tax (everything comes out of one tax stream).  No American entity pays 50% of their earnings in tax; and very few pay anywhere near that.  If the tax rate is too high, just adjust the single 5% number on each band, and instantly the earnings amount the cap applies to goes up.  Plus, as poverty is eliminated, the tax bracket broadens.

Term Limits — any elected official needs to be bound by the same term limits as the President; no more than two terms in the same office.  And we need to make sure that these officials are paid the US median salary — after all, they should represent the views of an average American, and that they have the exact same safety net as the rest of America (Social Security)… no special retirement plan.  Now I would certainly agree that they could be considered government employees, and count their time in office toward a retirement — the same as the clerks in their offices do.

Education — we definitely need to consider education as a national issue, not a local one.  Standards need to be more consistent and graduates need to be functional in our society (if you don’t think education is closely tied to economics, you’re living in a cave).


None of this is what’s being talked about — the Tea Party is completely politically motivated, and are only interested in imposing their regressive (misguided) Christian ultra-right views on the process; and don’t want to work towards any real solution since they view failure as the way to gain control.

The first step to fixing the problem is change — and I subscribe that change starts by sending the signal that we as Americans just won’t put up with the way in which business has been done too long.

Perhaps the American Spring isn’t far off.

Originally posted 2011-09-26 02:00:49.

A break from posting

I have too many commitments at the moment to make a post every day (my quotations will continue each day — and I hope you enjoy them); and I just don’t have the time to schedule out posts…

I will take this opportunity to wish each and everyone a safe, sane, and happy end of the year, and I’ll try and post relevant articles as I find the time.

Originally posted 2010-12-01 02:00:57.

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal Immigrants
By Arend Van Dam, 13-May-2011

Originally posted 2011-05-15 02:00:11.

Gizmo

Years ago I found a free program named Daemon Tools… it was a very simple, very functional application for mounting CD/DVD images (ISO, BIN, NRG, etc)… then it was “improved” and now it’s a POS (that would be short for Piece of Shit)…

I’ve tried several other programs, and none of them seemed to work all that well, until I stumbled on a product that not only mounted CD and DVD images, but also VHD (that would be Virtual Hard Disks, the container that Microsoft Virtual PC, Virtual Server, and Hyper-V use)…

The product is called Gizmo; and it has a lot of modules that do other things (you can turn them off if you won’t want them — some of them you might like); but I was floored by how easy it was to use, and how well it worked!.

Now, there is a “free” version and a “for-sale” version.  I don’t really know the differences between them (you can read all about it for yourself).  The free version does everything I want (and more)… and thus far I’m quite happy with it.

Also, one installer supports Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, 7 — 32 and 64 bit!

You can get more information from the vendor’s web site:

http://arainia.com/software/gizmo/

Originally posted 2009-09-25 01:00:24.

Google TV — Post Notes

Just a follow up to my Google TV post… the Logitech Revue Google TV box’s price has been slashed to $99, and it will be updated to run Honeycomb and support a host of new apps.

While the current version isn’t compelling, the new price just might be — at least when Honeycomb actually ships on the Revue and you can do something useful (like run Google Music perhaps).

 

Google TV

Originally posted 2011-08-12 02:00:00.

May Day

May Day, or the 1st of May (not the call for help) is celebrated to mark several different events in many parts of the world.

In much of the world it is synonymous with International Workers’ Day or Labour Day, but the oldest references to May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night.

While the basis of the celebration might be pagan, the Christians usurped it (as they did with many others)  to be more in keeping with the teachings of their church.

Whether your interest is in International Workers’ Day or Labour Day or the Celtic festival of Beltane or the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night or pagan/neopagan festivals such as Samhain…

Take a moment and read up on the many facets of May Day… and take a moment to celebrate the day in any and every way you choose!

But for me, May Day marks the end of Winter and the start of Spring.

May Day on Wikipedia


May Day

Originally posted 2010-05-01 02:00:53.

Lowes “We Care” LOL

I purchased an inexpensive ceiling fan from Lowe’s in July — I needed something small, something that would be close to the ceiling, and since I didn’t really care for anything I had to choose from, something that wasn’t expensive.

I ended up with a:

Harbor Breeze,  30″ White Breezeway Ceiling Fan
Item #: 20006 / Model: 0020006

For about $30…

I found the fan a little noisy from the start, and originally it wobbled quite a bit on the ceiling (that I took care of by taking it down, and putting it back up using some felt spacers to help cushion it against the outlet box).

Last week, it finally got cool enough here that I didn’t need the fan circulating air in my office… so I turned it off.  Yesterday it got warm enough that I felt like it was a good idea to turn it on to circulate the air to keep the office as cool as possible.

To my surprise, a ceiling fan less than three months old appears to have bearing that are going bad (certainly I don’t class this fan as inexpensive any longer, I classify it as CHEAP).

I figured, I’d contact Lowe’s and find out what the warranty was and how painful it would be to get service… so I clicked on their web site, send off a message to customer service (with all the information on the fan, model, etc) and went about my business doing other thing.

Submitting online requests are great; they very low impact on a person’s time — you send in the request when you have time, you deal with the response when you have time — it’s the next best thing to not needing to contact support… that is when you actually get customer service.

I got a message fairly early this morning — they needed the item and / or model number in order to provide me with the information I ask for.  Hmm — can you say careless, incompetent, and not really interested in providing service — all that information was in the web request AND embarrassingly enough, the entire web request (including that information was sent to me).

I replied that I had provided the information already… and if there was something more they needed they’d have to be more specific.

The next note came back that they couldn’t access the original web request; yes — you got it, all the previous information was once again copied onto the request.

Enough was enough… I picked up the phone and called.

The woman who I spoke with (after going through the obligatory maze of voice prompts and responses — a good sign a company doesn’t really care about it customers) seemed concerned, but she immediately needed to put me on hold (wasting more of my time) to research the problem.  Then all she had to come back with was that the local store would call me.  When I told her I’d like to speak with her manager, she immediately apologized and told me that the local store would be calling to help me (yeah — like I was deaf, dumb, or stupid — she obviously had been dealing with Lowe’s customer service people too much).

I was a little “rough” on her… and got a manager.

The manager was equally ineffective — but in fact confirmed that all the information that would have been needed to resolve this had been entered into the original message; but since it had been turned over to the store they would need to handle it.

As I pointed out to him; I did an online request for information because I didn’t want to spend the time chasing this down on phone calls — had I wanted to make a phone call originally I would have been able to, and that all they had really done was to waste my time and encourage me to shop elsewhere.

I received a voice mail this afternoon from one of the local Lowe’s store — apparently they’ve pulled a replacement for me and it’s ready for me to pick it up at my convenience.

I’ve got news for Lowe’s — it will NEVER be at my convenience, and I certainly don’t intend on wasting more of my time to take down this POS fan, drive to Lowe’s, pickup another POS fan, and install the same POS fan — I’d much rather invest a little more of my money and less of my time in acquiring and replacing this fan with something that provides better service than either this POS fan or Lowe’s!

Originally posted 2009-10-23 01:00:11.

Media Com – Followup

I got an email notifying me of my first (and last) Media Com statement about two weeks ago, only problem, I couldn’t access my bill online without the PIN printed on my first statement… a bit of a flaw in their system (nice of them to switch me to paperless billing before they sent the first statement).

And, of course, I’d already gone through customer service and been told that they will not provide me with the PIN over the phone (nor is it printed on anything they had given me to date)… so I had to ask that they send me a paper copy of my final statement.

The statement arrived on Saturday, and it had a balance (nice how their 30-day guarantee guarantees nothing but to waste your time). 

No only did the bill not have a zero balance (they had refunded my payment to my credit card), but it didn’t have the $20 credit for a missed appointment — so by any measure the bill was WRONG.

I called up customer service bright and early Monday morning, and actually spoke to a billing representative who seemed moderately bright… as she went through the bill she found more and more issues and from the tone of her voice was almost as disgusted as I was after reading the notes and looking over the bill.

Apparently the individual who closed the account noted the money back guarantee, but didn’t do anything about it.  The supervisor who refunded my credit card didn’t process the money back guarantee either, and that’s why the system re-billed me.  The system billed me for more family cable than it should have (on the first bill Media Com indicates you have to give them a seven day notice of disconnect, technically I told them when they failed to provide me reasonable speed internet that I was disconnecting — but even using seven days from when I turned in the equipment the system billed me for over two weeks).

You’d think that companies would build into their billing systems rules that enforced their policies… and who knows, maybe they do build in rules to enforce their billing polices and sending out fraudulent statements is the way they choose to do business.

Original Post

Originally posted 2009-08-15 01:00:59.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.