Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

nexus one

Today Google starts selling the nexus one Android smart phone (manufactured by HTC) direct.  The current model supports AT&T and T-Mobile GSM networks, but there will be a model for Verizon and vodafone this Spring as well.

The unlocked phone will set you back $529.00; the T-Mobile version costs only $179.00 (with contract).

Like most all HTC phones, this is a nice phone.  Well designed, and packed with all the latest features (including an OLED display).  You can check out the specs online as well as get additional information and order one if you like.

With Google selling an Android phone direct (it doesn’t appear on the HTC site) one can see that they are preparing to compete head-to-head with Apple (and Apple must be getting ready to compete head-to-head with Google since they just purchased an advertising network).

nexus one

google nexus one

Originally posted 2010-01-05 02:00:48.

IPTV

IPTV has come a long way since the early 90’s and for most of the nation we’re on the edge of an era where digital entertainment in the home will be carried throughout our home (and enter our home) over a conventional data network.

At the moment, most media player devices are vendor specific in what they will do (ie, the U-Verse set-top box is an IPTV device, but is very limited in what it provides beyond allowing a consumer access to the U-Verse servers) — though there are some general purpose devices.

Sure, you can attach a Media PC or Home Entertainment PC, a XBox 360, a PS3, or a Wii to your entertainment system and use it as a somewhat general purpose media player — but it’s not really designed to provide a good user experience for media (they’re intended for general computing or gaming) – or you can purchase one of a growing number of media devices that are being offered that are targeted specifically to provide for a reasonably good consumer experience.

There are also a number of BluRay players that have media player capabilities — but since I consider BluRay a dying media format (and have since the day the format wars were decided) — I see no reason to invest in a player that’s likely to go the way of the 8-track; nor do I see a reason to pay for over priced discs (particularly when I already own a license for the material in another format, and no longer subscribe to making the MPAA richer when they offer me nothing).

There are also a number of display panels that have media player capabilities — but you’re going to find that the display panels that use the best display technology don’t contain the wizzy features to allow for streaming media. So my advice, is buy a solid panel and just realize that you’re going to have an external box (I don’t know of anyone who’s built a cable-card type module for IPTV at the consumer level let).

That leaves us with just the stand along devices — and if you decide that NetFlix is an absolute requirement you come down to three devices currently: Roku Streaming Player; Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player; and Western Digital TV Live Plus HD Media Player.

For my money the Roku is a joke — and I’m just going to pass right over it since I’ve already given it more attention than it deserves.

Both the Seagate and the Western Digital devices look like they have potential (note, only the WDBABX0000NBK is worth considering, the other models are in the same bucket as the Roku)/

The WD TV Live Plus; however, specifically supports the “play to” feature of Windows Media Player — which means you should be able to play any content on the device that you can play on a Windows 7 machine… which opens you up to a much larger potential source for entertainment.

Let me be clear at this point that I haven’t tried any of these devices for myself — I’m just in the phase of trying to figure out which would be worth my time to look at… once I have a device (and hopefully I’ll be happy with the first I get) I’ll write up a detailed post on the feature set — if you’re in a hurry, just read over the capabilities of each of the possibilities and decide what features you have to have to eliminate the number of possibilities down; and before you do that, if you haven’t looked at the value of the NetFlix streaming feature — acquaint yourself with that, and you too will likely consider it a “must have”.

Originally posted 2010-08-03 02:00:49.

Dynamic IP Filtering (Black Lists)

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use a dynamic black list of IP addresses to prevent your computer from connecting to or being connect to by users on the Internet who might not have your best interests at heart…

Below are three different dynamic IP filtering solutions for various operating systems; each of them are open source, have easy to use GUIs, and use the same filter list formats (and will download those lists from a URL or load them from a file).

You can read a great deal more about each program and the concepts of IP blocking on the web pages associated with each.

Originally posted 2010-08-17 02:00:55.

Hello… hello…… hello………

I just received my RMA replacements for three H700 Bluetooth headsets I purchased around the time California’s head set law went into effect (I used headsets before that point in time, but I wanted to make sure I always had a head set with me after that point even to answer a call and say that you’d need to get back to them could get you a ticket if a law enforcement agent felt like writing it).

The H700 was a great head set; but it wasn’t without problems.  And notably one of the major problems was that Motorola purchase a large lot of batteries all made around the same time.  In fact, the same time three years ago, and Lithium Ion only lasts about three years. 

Once the last of the three headsets died, I called up Motorola, provided them the information, gave them a credit card number since they wanted to do a pre-replacement on one (they would send out one replacement guaranteed by my credit card — which in fact they never authorized a charge against) and then I would return it and the other two and receive two more.

I recieved an H710 as a replacement model; some of the features of it was nicer, but one of the major downsides was that it used a micro-USB power connector, which mean it couldn’t share my the CLA I used for my phone, any of the phone charges I already had; and I wasn’t about to spend $20 on another CLA.

The first hitch… I never got an RMA number for the pre-replacement.  No information by email, no information in the package.

The next hitch… they sent the same RMA email and number to three different people (yep, three addressees on the email).

The next hitch… they still hadn’t sent me the RMA for the other two head sets (and I wasn’t about to pay multiple shipping charges).

The next hitch… I never received my two additional head sets.

The next hitch… I was advised they were sending out ONE more headset.

Finally… I was advised they were sending out the THIRD and final headset.

This took me almost two months to get the replacement; and sixteen phone calls, three supervisors, and one executive complaint.

Oh yeah, and it’s all over… including losing almost TWO MONTHS of warranty time.

Thanks Motorola — you’ve certainly convinced me that I need to look else where for cell phones and cell phone accessories.  Of course during these two months I’ve developed problems with my T815 navigation system — another nightmare I’m sure to get that fixed.

It’s easy to see why Motorola isnt’ making money with their cell phone and cell phone accessories even though they have some of the most popular phones and head sets made.  I mean think about their costs in manpower and shipping to resolve what should have been a simple RMA.

NOTE:  One solution for charging the micro-USB head set is to buy a mini to micro-USB adapter; or better yet, a micro-micro-USB Y cable and a mini to micro-USB adapter.

  • Motorola SKN6252A – mini-usb to micro-usb
  • Motorola SKN6222A  – mini-usb to mini-usb Y (one full usb one power only)

NOTE: Technically Motorola still hasn’t fulfilled my RMA(s).  The original headset they sent was a full retail package; but when I opened the two boxes arrived last Friday I found that they had sent me one more retail packaged H710 and the other box contained just a H710 in a bubble envelope (no charger or instruction manual).  Since the H710 uses micro-USB rather than mini-USB I’m technically short one charger; but after sixteen calls to Motorola I’m convinced that this will never be made right, and another forty minutes of my time is worth more than the charger.

Originally posted 2009-02-14 01:00:22.

The Anti-Green – Postal Mail

Receiving postal mail, such as bills, statements, etc and making payments via paper check (either dropped off or mailed in) wastes an incredible amount of natural resources.

Like junk mail and advertisements you receive in the mail, your bills and statements require the use of paper and energy to produce them, energy to distribute them, and energy to properly dispose of and recycle them — plus your paper check payments require the same.

Electronic bills and statements provide you the same information in a form that is far more environmentally friendly.  The production and distribution of that information requires a fraction of the power sending out traditional paper would, and totally saves the paper.

Additionally, paying electronically further reduces the wasted paper and energy.

Most institutions offer statements and bills via electronic delivery at no cost, some even offer incentives such as statement credits or some type of bonus or reward for signing up for electronic statements; and you needed be afraid of electronic statements, you still have every protection that a paper statement would have offered to you.

As for electronic payments, there’s a number of ways in which you can do that…

You could authorize a company to automatically debit your account for the amount you owe.  There are there often used methods.  First, a company could issue an automatic draft against your checking account — that’s essentially like a paper check, though since Check21 it’s likely it would be transmitted electronically.  Second, a company could issue an ACH (Automated Clearing House) transaction against your checking (or savings) account — that’s presented to the bank generally though a purely electronic medium.  Third, a company could issue a charge against a major credit card account.

Personally, I’d be cautious about authorizing any institution to directly remove money from my checking (or savings) account; while there aren’t any real long term issues with them taking out too much, you might find that the time required to correct a mistake is quite long (and you don’t have use of the funds in question during the resolution period).  With credit cards, however, all the mechanism are in place to insure that if someone makes a mistake — you won’t be out the money (or charged any interest) while the error is being looked into and resolved.

Another (entirely different) way you could pay your bills electronically is by using a bill payment service.  Most financial institutions now offer free bill payment services and puts you totally in control.  You decide who to pay, when to pay them, and how much to pay them.  If the bank makes an error, they’re totally responsible for resolving it — and if they remove funds that you didn’t authorize, or in a way you didn’t authorize then they are responsible for the ramifications.  At worst this type of bill payment generates a paper check that’s sent out on your behalf; generally it’s totally electronic.

Another place to look for reductions in postal mail is to discourage companies to send you out anything by mail that can be delivered electronically (remember, in the United States, electronic signatures are legally recognized — faxes and physical signatures are no more binding that an “electronic” signature).  So the bottom line, companies that feel the need to interact with you in writing are simply showing you that they care little for the environment and do not wish to invest in the future.  My advice, look elsewhere and send them a clear message by terminating your relationships with them.

Finally, many people use postal mail to send pictures, greeting cards, personal letters, etc.  Sure, sometimes you’re going to have to — but have you ever considered that most people just throw those away, or put them in a shoe box at the bottom of the closet?  Consider sending what you can electronically — if they really want a picture printed, they can do that locally (for probably the same it would have cost you — and less than the postage you paid).

As I’ve said a number of times before… it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.

Originally posted 2010-05-11 02:00:16.

The new SPAMmer in town — Apple Computer, Inc

Last week I wanted to update my Mac Pro to the newest version of OS-X, it’s free after all…

So powered up my Mac, let it apply all the updates for the software I had on it; then I went to the App Store to download OS-X Version 10.9 “Mavericks”.

When I tried to use my Apple ID to log in, the system told me that it had been deactivated; when went through the rats maze of information I ended up needing to call Apple Support.

I got through in about two minutes, which was impressive until I was connected to a person who barely could speak intelligible English (if English was her native language I’d consider her near illiterate). After what seemed like an eternity of back and forth (the human version of the electronic rats maze I’d just been subjected to), she told me that she would not be able to re-activate my account… after that I ask to speak to her supervisor.

I don’t know how long the hold was, but it was long, and long enough to put us past the operating time for support — the phone clicked (I could tell a person had answered), and I was immediately disconnected.

Great service Apple — the only other places recently I’ve found websites as poorly done and customer service as clueless is HealthCare.gov…

Since service was now closed, and I couldn’t get another call through to Apple (I did schedule a call back for the next morning; which FYI — I never got, absolutely no record of any call attempt within an hour of the scheduled time) I decided to be creative with their recovery system.

Eventually I got a reset email (perhaps Apple’s recovery system takes a few hours to send an email — I don’t know — and I really don’t care).

I gained access to my account, changed my password as required (it indicated I couldn’t change my password to my previous password — so in fact it wasn’t that I had forgotten my credentials, the account really had been deactivated).

Finally, after several hours I was able to “purchase” Mavericks from the App Store (as an aside — what happened to the cat motif ) and start the install.  I just went to sleep, it was way later that I had expected to be up.

While it really miffed me that Apple decided to deactivate my account (no one could really tell me why) and made it so difficult for me to re-activate it (and threw a horrendous web site and clueless customer service in my face) but what really pissed me off is that Apple automatically subscribed me to their f’ing mailing lists.

WTF???

I don’t want $#!+ from Apple – unless you’re giving me something to get your f’ing marketing crap I don’t want it — and I (and the laws of the State of California — where Apple is based) would classify it as SPAM.

All I can say is Wall Street isn’t the only one who’s becoming disillusioned with Apple.

Originally posted 2013-10-29 16:00:04.

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.

No Flash

I’ll start by saying that my view of Flash is that it’s total garbage – completely unnecessary – and a huge security hole.  Before I dive too deep, here’s what Adobe says about flash on their product page:

Adobe® Flash® Player is a cross-platform browser-based application runtime that delivers uncompromised viewing of expressive applications, content, and videos across screens and browsers. Flash Player 10.1 is optimized for high performance on mobile screens and designed to take advantage of native device capabilities, enabling richer and more immersive user experiences.

What the hell is “richer more immersize user  experiences” supposed to mean?  Is that the way to say that the vast majority of sites that use flash on their first page are done by idiots who don’t know how to build a standards based web page and think that annoying glitz is all that people care about?  I dunno — but the whole spiel reeks of a load of crap to me.

No one has ever (successfully) explained to me why they feel they need to use Flash.  Does it actually do anything that can’t be done in a standards based way that doesn’t require that you update a crappy plug-in almost as often as you change your underwear?  Any one got an explanation as to why Adobe feels that they need to us a download manager and update manager that further pollute your machine?  Wait, maybe it’s because Adobe engineers are nearly as clueless as their target audience.  I dunno — seem like more crap from Adobe.

Flash is just crap — and it’s from a crappy company that lives in the past and tries to sell over-prices products to clueless individuals who don’t understand what they’re doing.  I dunno — maybe Adobe should just be used as a synonym for “crap”.  It would fit; some Adobe huts look a little like a huge pile of dung; and Adobe and it’s software share more than a slight resemblance to a huge pile of crap!

I have (on several occasions) republished a Flash video by embedding it in a post – but I certainly would rather provide a link to a h.264 or MPEG4 video in a standard container that didn’t require individuals to install any proprietary trash on their computer to view or hear it.

Join me in moving forward to make the web a “NO FLASH” place… just say no to flash.

FLASH

NOTE: One of my good friends tells me that I shouldn’t just rant on how horrible Flash is without presenting a solid argument.  I don’t, in fact, have to substantiate my opinion — my feeling is that Flash is such a huge pile of crap that it wreaks such that anyone who’d understand the argument already realizes it’s crap — and those who are clueless are hopeless… but, I’ll present a link to Wikipedia which describes what Flash is, and I’ll emphasize that anything legitimate that can be done in Flash can be done using open standards (that require no browser plug-ins) in HTML4 with JavaScript (ECMAScript) with some work, and allegedly they can be done much more simply in HTML5.  And for those with only a basic understanding of JavaScript you can find free and open source JavaScript foundations and widgets to help you build a web site that works on virtually any browser (or degrades nicely) and doesn’t require a huge stinking pile of crap from Adobe.

Flash (aka ActionScript) on Wikipedia

Originally posted 2010-10-21 02:00:39.

Windows Live Writer

Part of the Microsoft Live Essential software suite available either from Live.com (see link below) or through the Microsoft Update is Live Writer; a simple tool to make posting to a BLOG easier (certainly for novice BLOG posters).

Live Writer will post to Live BLOGs or to a number of other BLOG engines / sites (including WordPress).

This post was create with Live Write (though a few settings were edited after posting to keep everything consistent with the way I publish to my BLOG).

With Live Writer, you can post formatted text, hyperlinks, pictures, photo albums, tables, maps, videos, etc… you can use a clean easy UI on your computer rather than logging into your BLOGs and using a different interface on each of the sites you have an account on.

The only thing that doesn’t seem to work are:

  • WordPress categories and the tagging is different.  If you have an existing BLOG there’s now way I’ve found using just Live Writer to use categories and post tags in a WordPress fashion.
  • The ability to schedule a posting for a later date and time.  I haven’t found any way with just Live Writer to schedule a post for a later date and time.

For both of these you can log into your BLOG site after posting and make the minor setting changes.

The ability to create a BLOG post in a WYSIWYG fashion is certainly helpful for many.  You see the post much as it will look when published (with the background and text styles), you get spelling check as you type, and manipulating rich content is substantially easier than the default WordPress editor.

Windows Live Essentials

Originally posted 2009-11-23 01:00:21.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a “discount” cellular provider (apparently a Verizon Wireless MVNO) that offers no-nonsense plans with no contract and low rates for users who only occasionally use their cell phones and the ability to change your plan at will.

Let me underscore that I don’t have any personal experience with Consumer Cellular, so I can’t vouch for their service — so my recommendation is keep a copy of the information from their web page in a PDF and pay with a credit card; that way if you find they don’t live up to their end of the “bargain” just work with your credit card company.

http://www.consumercellular.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-28 02:00:11.