01/31/07 11:51 PM: New Cell Phone
So after a lot of consideration, I opted to take the “discounted” cell phone offer from Cingular and renew my contract. I’ve had Cingular since they bought my old wireless provider, AT&T Wireless. So I had the old AT&T, and soon I’ll have the new AT&T.
I had previously been using an old Treo 600, which was nice for the PDA functions (that I didn’t use), but it was a terrible phone. Well, it wasn’t awful, but it was not wonderful. I loved being able to play all sorts of games, including a Game Boy emulator I had… but my main problem was using the damn data functions. I had Google Maps and whatnot, and along with the browser… I was using tons of data. I ended up upgrading my data plan, but I can’t justify paying $15/mo just to surf the web from my phone. I figured the best way to cut down on data use was to get a regular cell phone with a crappy browser.
I renewed my contract, got a better deal on my voice plan (shaved $20 off, I had too many minutes before… had banked over 8,500 rollover), and took their free phone. Sure, I’m locked in for another 2 years, but you’re going to have a contract with any provider (unless you get a pay-as-you-go phone), so I figured why not.
I picked the Motorola L2, as it was completely free. I would have liked to get the L7 or the Blackberry Pearl, but I figured the better the phone I have, the more I’ll spend on a wireless plan.
It’s super-thin, as bluetooth as well as USB connectivity, so I can sync all of my old contacts from the Treo without any hassle. It seems to have decent voice quality, and the screen is fine for what I need to do. All I really want to do with my phone is make a few calls and have it for emergencies. When I’m rich, maybe I’ll get a slick PDA, but I can’t justify some $150/mo cellphone bill.
I still have the Treo, I may just go back to using it and sell the L2, or perhaps I’ll sell the Treo… I haven’t really decided. I could probably get around $40-50 for the L2, or $60-70 for the Treo. Not a whole lot, but better than nothing.
I also figure when this AT&T changeover becomes “final” this summer, they will want me to sign a new contract with the “new AT&T,” and they will offer me another free or discounted phone. I can either keep my existing contract, and be one of those old school “Cingular Orange” customers with the new company… or bite the bullet and give them another 24 months. We’ll see. If I have a million dollars by then, maybe I’ll get an iPhone.
01/12/07 09:52 PM: Cingular to become AT&T, again
So lately I’ve been doing a lot of research into cell phone companies and plans, as my contract with Cingular expires next month. I haven’t decided what I want to do, but it threw me for a loop to hear that Cingular will once again be rebranded as AT&T
As you may recall, back in 2004, Cingular purchased AT&T Wireless and rebranded everything under the Cingular name. I was a former AT&T Wireless customer who unfortunately thought it would be neat to get another new phone and signed a 2-year contract with Cingular right after the merger. I got a new phone (which has since broken) but lost many of the nice features of AT&T (such as unlimited incoming text messages).
Anyhow, back to 2006, and in December the new “AT&T” (a rebranding of SBC Communications) acquires BellSouth (part of Cingular) and now owns Cingular. I realize this is difficult to understand, and at first glance it somehow looks like Cingular bought itself and changed it’s name.
I invite you to read Cingular’s entry in Wikipedia for a better explanation.
Starting next week, AT&T will begin to assimilate Cingular, starting with an aggressive advertising campaign. I don’t know what impact the change will have on pricing, and the changeover isn’t expected to be completed until mid-year. Just in time for the iPhone.
I’ll probably just end up staying with Cingular/AT&T, but we’ll see. It’s frustrating to keep track of this, not to mention all sorts of questions surrounding the dubious nature of AT&T quickly on the road to being the #1 telecommunications company in America (again).
A side note, though, Cingular Wireless has been recognized for excellence as a union employer. Verizon, on the other hand, was singled out as being very union-unfriendly.
12/11/06 02:22 AM: All I want for Christmas...
If I had my druthers (by the way, that’s a great word, and I’d like to see it make a comeback), I’d want a Mac Mini for Christmas. However, the $599 price tag (plus I’d want at least 1GB of RAM, so more like $640 or so), makes it a bit pricey for a Christmas gift. As we get older, I suppose, we get more accustomed to a bunch of small gifts from our various friends. If only someone made a web site where you request a gift, and your friends can all pool $25 or so towards that big gift. That would eliminate the dozens of iTunes gift cards you get each year.
The Mac Mini is great, namely because 1) I already have a laptop, so I don’t need another. As much as I’d love to have a MacBook or a MacBook pro, the fact that I have a working laptop makes it difficult to justify the need for a new one. Maybe in a few years, but not right now.
2) I’d love to hook the Mac Mini up to my television, and with Front Row and everything, I’d be set and it even has a remote control. Right now I’ve got this absurd setup… I used to have an old G4 plugged into my stereo (running with no monitor). I would log in using VNC to control iTunes, and thus listen to my digital music on the stereo. I decided I also wanted to watch videos on my television… so I’ve rigged up a broken TiBook (Titanium Powerbook) to my television using it’s built in S-Video output. However, since it lacks Front Row or any sort of remote control… I again have to log into it using VNC since I can’t take advantage of my HDTV using the S-Video cable (so I can’t really see anything on the screen very well). At least I can now watch those (legally) downloaded TV shows on my TV.
It’s all very half-baked, and since the Powerbook is sort of broken (the hinges broke so the screen doesn’t work, among other issues), it’s finnecky and sometimes just shuts down for no apparent reason.
Lastly, I have no Mac that works decently enough to use Photoshop and all of that. With the Mac Mini, I would normally have it set up with the keyboard/mouse/LCD monitor I have, and then when I want to watch it on the TV, just move it to the other room (since it’s so tiny).
But yeah, enough raving about why the Mac Mini is such a great product.
11/02/06 10:33 PM: Marshall Kirkpatrick takes on indie music, loses
Yesterday, Marshall Kirkpatrick over at TechCrunch wrote about some new features at last.fm. The article starts off fine enough, discussing the new features and how they fit in with Last.fm’s long-term strategy.
But then Kirkpatrick decides to go on a tirade about how much indie music sucks. It starts off with the comment: I find that the sheer majority of so called “indie bands” just aren’t very good.
He goes on, wrapping things up with this:
On principle I would love to be supportive of all these moves to support independent musicians, but my experience makes that difficult. Independent punk is good, but in most other genres the bulk of unsigned musicians are not music I want to listen to. I can’t help but think that all of this emphasis on indie bands is motivated primarily by economic necessity. Check out the songs of the day at GarageBand and PodsafeMusicNetwork right now – I can’t listen to either all the way through. Be honest, you probably can’t either.
What I want is this. Give me an iTunes plug-in that recommends music through both user habits and musical qualities, lets me opt out of “indie music” if I prefer and gives me access to free or dirt cheap files with related concert tickets and other value added items for sale.
I’m not sure what he means by “economic necessity,” and it seems he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the phrase “indie music.” But of course, I don’t particularly care about what music Marshall Kirkpatrick listens to. My problem is that he seemingly has little understanding of what makes Last.fm popular, and that the site would have little or no utility if it was filled with people playing the latest Dave Matthews tracks, or the latest Eminem songs. It’s a music social networking site, which helps you to discover music you probably never would have heard had you not seen it on the site. In most cases, these are “indie bands,” even though that term is so absurdly broad.
Clearly, though, the conclusion we can draw is that the guys over at TechCrunch do not use marijuana.
11/01/06 11:25 AM: OpenDNS is Nifty
So I just started using this service called OpenDNS, and I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty slick.
A little backstory: I have cable internet from RCN, and for a while I have been noticing their DNS servers are very slow to respond. I didn’t perform any scientific tests on this, I would just notice my browser hanging on “Resolving whatever.com…” when I’d go to a site I had not visited before. Sometimes this would be a lag of up to 5 seconds or so, and it was frustrating. I eventually began to just ignore it, until the other night when I was getting failures every 5 minutes or so.
OpenDNS provides DNS servers for public use, free of cost. They have multiple servers around the country, and a self-proclaimed “huge cache.” All you have to do to use the service is change your default DNS servers. The site has instructions for how to do this on many operating systems, and also on your broadband router.
Things are noticeably faster for me at home, and OpenDNS also has a system in place to correct basic typos (their example is correcting craigslist.og to craigslist.org) and an anti-phishing filter.
I’m not entirely sure what their business model is at this point, other than offering more services at a fee. However, it is a neat idea and it seems to work well.
UPDATE: For reference, the business model for OpenDNS is revenue via ads shown when a lookup cannot be completed (i.e. bad typo, non-existent domain). In the future, OpenDNS may offer more extensive services for a fee, but basic, fast DNS will always be free.
10/27/06 12:34 AM: Top 7 ways to get a useless article Dugg
So lately there has been a flurry of lists getting frontpagged on the social news site, Digg. These range from top mistakes made by startups, to ways to launch a successful blog, and now how to generate high quantities of content for your blog
Personally, I don’t really dig digg. I don’t really read Slashdot anymore either, but tend to just look at top bookmarks on delicious or Technorati. But in any case, it seems clear there are some really easy ways to get an article on Digg.
2. Write about how to make Mozilla Firefox do something, anything. Such as maybe, “How I downloaded Mozilla Firefox.”
3. Pay one of the top Diggers to post your article.
4. Find an article that has appeared on Digg before, take the content, put it on your blog and submit it.
5. Talk about the iPhone, the iTV, or Steve Jobs.
6. Find a “hidden feature” in GMail or any other Google Application.
7. Call something the next YouTube.
Just follow those steps, then sit back and watch a few thousand people come to your site. It’s likely maybe 1% will become repeat visitors. In the spirit of this article though, to sum up: a lot of users using Apple OS X on an Intel Mac will view your web 2.0 blog using Mozilla Firefox 2.0. These users will most likely belong to several social networking sites and some of them may be prominent Diggers trying to raise start-up capital for what might just be the next YouTube.
10/06/06 12:23 AM: Test Drive: Songbird 0.2
Over the past few months I’ve found myself in a bit of a jam. My primary computers are now Windows machines. Both my PC at work, and my laptop at home. Unfortunately my Titanium G4 Powerbook is out of commission, and while I also have an older G4 400Mhz desktop… I don’t use it on a daily basis (other than to store my music, and it’s hooked up to the aux input on my stereo).
Back in the day, I used to use Winamp and manually keep my files organized. Of course, after using a Mac for several years, I became accustomed to all of the features in iTunes. So of course, I gave iTunes for Windows a try. Not a huge fan. Personally, I don’t think the GUI translates very well, but aside from that it was sluggish and it just didn’t work as well as I wanted.
Then I discovered Songbird. It’s an open source media player, based on the Mozilla code that powers applications such as Firefox. I thought I’d give it a try.
Songbird is only on verson 0.2 (“Test Flight”), so I didn’t expect much. A lot of features I would really like are not there. It doesn’t provide library organization (yet, and yes, I understand some people don’t want that… but it would be a nice option). It also is missing a few things such as the ability to reorder items on a playlist. But, it shows promise. It also integrates with a ton of online music resources and stores, and while I don’t use that functionality, it’s still kind of cool.
I’m hoping by version 1.0 it will truly be an open source iTunes killer. I am a bit worried about the future of iTunes. A friend of mine predicted that by iTunes version 10, it will only play music files with DRM. I potentially see that as a real possibility. We’ll see. I also just like the idea of an open source player.
Other options include Foobar2000 but it lacks the pretty GUI that I’ve gotten used to.
Anyhow, if you’re curious, I suggest giving Songbird a whirl. It probably won’t replace your current music player, but it’s interesting.
09/30/06 03:58 PM: Let's talk Google Reader
I’ll be honest, I’ve always thought RSS was pretty neat, but I was not one of those feed-junkies, who get their daily blog fix through some slick feedreader application. I don’t even know if there are any good feedreading applications for Windows. (And yes, I’m currently on Windows for the time being, until I can afford a MacBook or mayhaps a Mac Mini).
A couple months ago I started reading a few feeds using Thunderbird, but I still ended up just visiting the actual blogs—mostly out of habit I assume.
But now, Google has revamped their RSS Reader, aptly named Google Reader. I must say, I’m a big fan. This allows me to read the latest posts regardless of what computer I am on, and regardless of what operating system I am using, and all of that.
The interface is also well done, it’s clean and is both easy to understand with no previous experience and powerful when it comes to customization. Or at least, for me it’s powerful enough. I don’t need to perform a lot of ju-jitsu, and I don’t read more than maybe a dozen feeds. I suggest checking it out, even if you already have an application set up to read RSS feeds.
10/02/05 05:50 PM: What up web browsers?
So, I open Safari and instead of getting my normal homepage of Google, I get:
Now this is interesting, as this is clearly NOT Google.
So, I’m thinking, what the hell? Then I remember someone mentioned something about this happening before. So I bring up google.co.uk which works fine, and search for it. They talk about Google having some kind of DNS error.
Knowing a little bit about DNS, I do a dig on google.com to see if something has been compromised or what have you. ‘Cept the results for Google.com are fine and normal:
So I try doing www.google.com. in my browser. And it works, getting me back to Google.
Apparantly, this Google pretend site is actually located at google.com.net, and for some reason I am being redirected there. I have to ask, what the fuck? I open up telnet:
$ telnet telnet> open www.google.com 80 Trying 22.214.171.124... Connected to www.google.com.net.
Now tell me how hard it would be for this fake google.com.net to set up a fake gmail page at mail.google.com.net, and collect my username and password? Or better yet, why not just set up a bankofamerica.com.net and get my banking info. Because if my connection is automatically being redirected there, and the site looks the same, how the fuck would I know? If Sogo’s homepage looked like google, I would have never thought to check if it was really Google or not.
So, will someone who is apparantly smarter about DNS than I am, please explain to me why I shouldn’t be really pissed off about this?
Some people are saying it’s an issue where a browser automatically appends other suffixes onto a domain name that can’t be found. And telnet does this too? And who came up with this idea of automatically appending other suffixes? That’s really stupid. And then let the server mod_rewrite www.google.com or whatever? I’m not even sure how they are doing that.
And Firefox is no better.
09/30/03 12:07 PM: somebody’s got class
the best thing i’ve ever seen invented is wireless internet. it allows us to lead an “on the go” lifestyle.
IT ALSO ALLOWS ME TO SIT IN MY INTRO TO MASS COMMUNICATIONS LECTURES AND TALK ONLINE AND POST TO WEBSITES.