Wednesday, December 31, 2008

After the First Full Week

We've had our first full week with the Instinct, and are still thrilled.

Stocking stuffers included belt cases for each of us. I'm surprised that members of the family who previously laid their phones on the entry way table when they came in from outside, now sometimes keep their phones on them in the house. Increased use of text messaging with friends is one cause.

And yes, we have been known to call each other, even text, from within the house.

My son made his longest solo drive this week to a place he'd never been, and did so without any missteps using the Navigator. That in itself is worth the price paid.

Newest application added just today : Google Maps. It has satellite view but not yet street view. I can see this being a big help. Recommending without extensive testing. Go to Getjar.com on your phone, and input code : 36398.

Things I'd like to see in Instinct

TV - playback of sideloaded could have bookmarks and better forward/reverse.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The First Application

Following the advice of both a knowledgable friend / Sprint sales person, and the users on the forums, the first thing I did after opening the phones was to invoke updates of the Operating System and email application.  I knew from following the forums before buying that a major, long awaited upgrade had occured in late November and and the email application had been updated in early December.  The update allowed the phone to use some Java applications that needed a keyboard, and view Office and PDF documents when attached to an email.

And again, following the advice of the forums, I installed my first application.  Opera Mini.  The built in browser is okay, and apparently a lot better than it used to be, but Opera Mini has a better reputation.  I downloaded from here.  

One nice thing, you can download the PC version of Opera and synchronize bookmarks between your desktop and mobile.  I don't want all my desktop bookmarks on my phone, but having my phone's bookmarks on my desktop makes it easier to edit them and add new ones.

The Instinct

Okay, today was day three with the Instincts. If you are a long user of the phone, the posts that are going to follow in the next days will make me seem like Captain Obvious.

On the other hand, if you are new to the phone, or to smart phones in general, what follows is what I would have liked to have found when I began researching smart phones.

Blogs like I wanted to find likely exist, I just didn't find them. Feel free to leave your suggestions in comments.

When I began researching phones, and more or less settled on the Instinct, I found some excellent forums for the Instinct. They include Sprint's own forum, Buzz about Wireless (from here on, BAW), Sprint User, Instinct-Users.com, and even a Yahoo Group.

I've spent countless hours learning on those forums, and the users have been generally very helpful and informative. A lot of the tips & tricks you'll see here are from those excellent sites. Be sure to check them out and contribute if you are thinking of, or become, an Instinct user.

Warning though : there are some negative Instinct users there. That is for a lot of reasons. Foremost is happy users aren't motivated to go to a forum and express their feelings. Unhappy users do.

Why they are unhappy could be a post unto itself.

eBooks from Google

From JKontheRun I learned tonight that Google has a new mobile page where you can read 1.5 million public domain books. I tried it just now on my Instincts and it works great. Go to http://books.google.com/m .

I've already bookmarked a couple books I've wanted to read.

As long as you have a web connection, you'll always have something to read.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Instincts have arrived

This family of simple flip phone users moved up to smart phones yesterday.

At first blush, we are thrilled. We've been out running errands all day today, and have made test runs using the Navigator, found dinner with Live Search, web surfed while out to learn something we needed to know and of course, phoned and texted.

I can see this as another life changing gadget, just as the PC and regular cell phones once were.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New York Times-Mr. Obama’s Internet Agenda

The editorial concludes :  'Restoring America to its role as the world’s Internet leader could be an important part of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy."

It also has this pithy quote :  “This is the Eisenhower Interstate highway moment for the Internet,” argues Ben Scott, policy director of the media reform group Free Press.  

I couldn't agree more.




Saturday, December 13, 2008

Google Chrome

Google this week took their Chrome web browser out of Beta.

I primarily use Firefox, although I use Internet Explorer too for some specific things.

During the work day I tend to have a lot of tabs open in Firefox. My company uses web based email, CRM, and calendar. Plus there is the companies own Intranet site to keep open, and the company website. I was noticing memory use of Firefox growing a lot through the day. It might start up using about 330K and grow to over 500K. That could bog down my system. I could exit Firefox, restart it and all would be fine again for a while. It was like using Windows 3.1 again!

And it may be worse on my system. I suspect my PC could benefit from a wipe and reinstall of Windows and all the apps, but man, that would be a huge job now.

Chrome uses a different scheme for memory management. You can see the memory usage for each tab by typing "about:memory" in the address box. I am going to try it out for a week and see if it bogs my system down like Firefox did. Based on the first day, I don't think it will.

Another nice feature in Chrome for multi-monitor users like myself, is you can move a tab out of the main window, and onto one of your other monitors.

One downside of Chrome is the absence of Add-ons. I've been doing some thinking about my add-on use and realize I use most for specialized tasks I don't do every day. I use Firebug when programming a javascript application I am working on, but I work on it rarely. Those times I can use Firefox.

The only add-on I use very day is a signature program from Wisestamp. My solution for now then is to have a Firefox open with just my work email in it so I can use Wisestamp. I have Chrome open with all my other tabs open. We'll see how that goes.

Google has announced they will soon support add-ons, and I've already emailed Wisestamp encouraging them to move their add-on to Chrome when possible.

I'm sure add-on developers will support Chrome as enthusiastically as they have Firefox. And of course, Firefox will continue their great efforts. If they lick their memory issues, they may win me back.

I suspect though, I may be a Chrome user for a long time. I use a lot of Google products: mostly Calendar, and Reader for now, but may make Gmail my primary email soon, and starting using Notebook more too. I suspect the first add-ons will be from Google and support those products.

Chrome will soon be on their Android platform and the browser for mobile phones. We are planning as a family to go with the Sprint/Samsung Instinct, but that is a stop gap until the Android phones become more available and affordable. The temptation to use the same browser on my two primary platforms, PC & Phone, will be great.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Government Meddling in Broadband could be good

The always good Gigaom today suggests three reasons government should meddle in broadband : Education Access, Medical Care Improvements and Telecommuting.

I've always thought the best things Congress ever did involved infrastructure.

Transcontinental Railroad
Land Grant Colleges
Rural Electrification Program
Interstate Highways

And you could argue the Space Program of the 60's helped trigger the technology boom that started in the 70's and continues today.

I consider a national aggressive broadband program that puts the goods of the citizenry ahead of the telecommunications company to be worth doing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Smartphones for the Family

Since our family is now three adults, my wife and I and the > 18 yo son, I can't get away with just buying myself a SmartPhone. It has to be three or none.

A smart phone is not very good without unlimited data and unlimited text messaging. Pricing out 3000 minutes for the three of us to share is an eye opener.

Best I can figure, AT&T wants $300 a month, Verizon (our current provider) wants $350 a month, T-Mobile $215 a month and Sprint wants $190 a month.

So that leaves Sprint & T-Mobile as my candidates. Verizon has the better coverage in our area, which is why we switched from T-Mobile to them two years ago. But paying $135 more a month (or $160 more if we choose Sprint) is way too much of a premium.

And I want the Android phone over the iPhone anyway (that's a future topic). Right now, the only Android phone in the US is the G1 from T-Mobile.

Problem is, we left T-Mobile because their coverage of our street is abysmal. With the carriers now offering street level coverage maps, I can tell Sprint is as bad.

Sprint has an ace up their sleeve. Their Airave basically creates a mini-cell site right in our home. It takes our cell signals, and channels them out through our Broadband to Sprint and thus to the phone / cell networks. The equipment cost is $99 and the service is $5 a month.

And the G1 has some flaws. There will be more choices in two years. I have a habit of not buying the latest & greatest, but instead buying the affordable "good enough" choice. So it is good that Sprint has something that is "good enough", and affordable and will hold us for two years until the choices of Android phones are plentiful and hopefully cheaper.

I think we'll go with an Instinct.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mobile Websites

I've added a box to the right hand column listing websites for mobile phones.

The BGB family is considering new phones as our family Christmas present.

Our priorities (after being a phone, of course) are :

1. Turn-by-turn instructions
2. Voice dialing for safety while using when driving
3. Affordability for three people

Kind of leaves the iPhone in the dust at the starting line, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

VoIP speed test

I'm a big user of Voice over IP (VOIP) aka telephone over the internet.

Here's a site I ran across that measures your internet connection to see how well it will work with Voip.

http://myvoipspeed.visualware.com/

Corporate Evolution

President-elect Obama has apparently pledged to appoint a National CIO. Considering the impact technology is having on our society, this is a wonderful idea, and overdue.

A website has even been created to allow you to vote on what you believe are the most critical technology issues this CIO should address.

I happen to agree with, and voted for, the current #1 choice : Ensure the internet is accessible and network neutral.

The cable and phone companies have a unique opportunity. They get to engineer their own demise.

Both sell broadband to their customers. For my cable company, it means they have doubled the revenue they get from me each month. And DSL customers are providing more money to their phone companies.

These companies love this. Each is using the increased broadband coming into your home to try and put the other out of business. Cable companies are selling phones using VoIP, and my phone company is wiring their customers with FIOS (fiber) as fast as they can and then selling television through it.

But us darn consumers are messing both of them up.

I make some of my calls out with Gizmo. Others use Skype and other free or very inexpensive VoIP phone systems. Combined with my cell phone, I'm starting to question my need to have conventional phone service. At the very least, I may cut down to a bare bones basic phone system for emergencies. Younger consumers, or those braver than I, are eliminating home phones entirely. Cell only voters actually became an problem with polling during the recent election.

Let's consider television. Monday night television watching is a dilemma. Three of my favorite programs are all at 8 PM. I end up watching Big Bang Theory, taping (well DVR'ing anyway, Chuck. That leaves Terminator. I can watch that online.

I could watch the other two also online when I want, not when the networks choose to show them.

So, if I can watch online and when I want, why pay money for cables huge pipe of a hundred or more flowing programs? Some people love channel surfing to find something that fits their mood for then and there. But others like me, like to have a library of unwatched but carefully chosen programs and watch them when they can.

Let's assume phone is $50 a month, TV cable is $50 a month and broadband (no matter who you get it from) is $50 a month. That means before the internet, you paid $100 a month. Now with the internet, you pay $150 a month.

By getting your TV and phone over broadband, you could drop your expenditure to $50 a month.

This puts your phone and cable companies in a cage death match. One will continue with you as their customer, the other will not. And the winner will not be getting double the money from you as they do now (if they are also your broadband provider). And neither will be providing you the service they did 20 years ago-neither cable TV or telephone, but simply broadband.

Being able to profit with the technology that is putting you out of business would be enviable for some. Horse carriage manufacturers would have loved to have become the car manufacturers, but they didn't. Pullman, maker of passenger train cars wishes they could have become Boeing, but they didn't.

Surviving as smaller broadband providers isn't good enough for the phone companies and cable companies. And I guess they do have a duty to their stockholders to fight.

How are they fighting? By being able to say who gets to send content up and down their connections to you and charging those who do send you content a toll charge. They'd love to be able to demand a cut from Apple for very tune you bought through iTunes, or 1% of what you of your purchases from Amazon. And more to the point, they'd love to limit the packets containing voice calls to be from their own phone service only, and TV content to be what they are selling you only.

They say it is only fair. It is their lines. Except for one thing...

You pay for those lines, making them your lines.

Any money they get from Apple or Amazon etc. would be passed along to you. They be getting you to pay for the product twice.

It would be like the guy who charges you to put in your driveway, coming back to say a year later that he was imposing a fee on all delivery men who came up your driveway. Or that you could only park Toyotas in the driveway since he had made a deal with Toyota.

The good news is the Obama Administration-to-be seems favorable to net neutrality.Before them, I was rooting for broadband through the power lines. It would allow the power company to provide your internet and it wouldn't cut into one of their core businesses, but rather be a new revenue stream for them. They could jump on it wholeheartedly instead of with the gloom Cable and Phone companies have knowing their success in broadband is creating self-inflicted wounds to their core business.

Update 11-22-2008: A study from Knowledge Networks' MultiMedia Mentor finds 11 percent of 18-34-year-old adults now watches TV online at least once a week.

Bob DeFelice, vice president for client service at Knowledge Networks, said in a statement that this segment of the key 18-34-year-old demographic group appears to be expanding. "As more and more of the 18-34 population moves in this direction," he said, "understanding this group's media preferences and habits will grow in importance to marketers. And we know that a 'platform-agnostic' approach -- one in which content is accessible many places, at the user's demand -- will be an essential ingredient of reaching young adults."

This is the kind of hand writing on the wall the cable companies are freaking out about.

Reported at IMDB.com



Update 12-04-2008: The always good Gigaom today suggests three reasons government should meddle in broadband : Education Access, Medical Care Improvements and Telecommuting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where I am coming from

I suspect a lot of this blog is going to about my adventures, and misadventures with technology. Technology is moving so fast that a persons point of view is skewed by their age. Therefore it is important I think to give readers an idea of where I am coming from technology wise.

When I graduated from high school, there was but one telephone company. You couldn't hook up any equipment to the phone lines unless they sold or rented it to you.

Video games had just come out. They had plastic overlays that went over the tv screen to make the borders of the game.

Video tape recorders existed only in TV stations, not in homes yet.

A few years before, a TV series that ran for only a couple years forecast days when we'd have communicators in our pockets, video stored on small silver disks, devices that could stun someone, engines that would propel us faster then the speed-of-light and teleporters. A bright future we figured we'd never see. The first three on that list are here today. Who says the other two won't appear in my lifetime? Or maybe at least, my sons?

I was in First Grade when the first American went into space. Thirteen when we landed on the moon.

Bill Gates talks about having access to a teletype hooked to a mainframe in Eighth Grade. So did I, although I have done less with this head start then he has. I also remember there was actually a small computer store in our town. That would have been 1973 or so. I'm not sure what they sold--had to be kits only--but they were there.

I guess it isn't surprising. Our town had six major corporate research centers in it. My senior year, one of the labs installed what was then the world's largest electron microscope. They gave their old one to my high school!

We learned BASIC programming in 8th grade. I forget what criteria was used to choose who got to use the teletype, but I never did. My programs I handed in to the teacher all ran though, but they were pathetically simple things to count to 10, or count in twos, that sort of thing.

So, from a world where video games needed acetate overlays, phones had to be rented from a monopoly and computers were something you never actually saw, to today. Is it a wonder I'm not amazed by the tools and toys we have now?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The First Entry

What's this? Another new blog no one will ever read? Maybe. Hopefully not.

Stay tuned. I have diverse interests : gadgets, technology, life hacking, history, reading, and more. Maybe one of mine, is one of yours.