Wednesday, August 31, 2011

adventures in phoning

So, after watching craigslist cell-phone ads intensely for the past couple of months, I leaped into the unknown two days ago. Here's the setup:

I have been on AT&T since my Enron days (my first cell phone). We have 4 phones on our family plan, so that makes switching to another carrier a challenge, especially with Dylan living in Ashland (we pay for his phone, in the curious hope that he will call us often - ha ha).

Furthermore, since I have been a customer so long, I am grandfathered into a situation where I am NOT required to purchase a data plan, UNLESS I buy a phone from AT&T and renew my expired contract.

I am generally quite happy to rely on WiFi for internet access on my phone (have had a 'smart' phone for several years). If I am somewhere where I absolutely need to get on the internet, I either find an open WiFi site, or ask one of my ubiqitous iPhone friends to look it up for me.

There are two significant benefits to this: I save $300/year on Data Plan charges, and email I send from my phone does not have the highly-annoying 'Sent from my iPhone' signature.

I was extremely happy with my Windows Mobile 6.1 HTC Tilt - it did everything very well, including taking pretty sharp photos and videos. It was set up exactly as I liked it, and was stolen in Costa Rica last December. No identify-theft took place, but I lost a bunch of photos and videos of Zacky.

I replaced it with a Tilt 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5, purchased from a craigslist person for an amazing $65.

Over the course of the past few months, I had it set up exactly as I liked, with effortless Calendar sync (using a 3rd party tool), a free WAP-enabled browser for my email service's very-lean-very-nice mobile interface, the (free) Freda eBook reader (populated with many free epub files, both downloaded from Project Gutenberg and created myself, using this wonderful web service which permits you to convert Word files to epub), and a cool Task Manager, to easily kill background processes that were consuming memory.

Really, I like Windows Mobile 6.5 on the Tilt 2 a lot. It also has an FM Radio and Google Maps, not to mention Word and Excel. Moving files to it (using ActiveSync via USB) is trivial. Managing files and editing the registry is easy. Vertical scrolling via a finger-swipe is smooth. Using a stylus to tap the keyboard is pretty fast and accurate. All in all, a pretty darn good phone.

The only drawbacks to the Tilt 2 are:

1) lousy camera - photos always out of focus
2) decreasing battery life over the last month
3) unable to see my home WiFi from places in the house where the original Tilt worked great
4) increasing problems with AT&T phone signals here at the house - did they change something?
5) beat-up case and somewhat-scratched glass cover (my fault)

So, moving to a new phone went onto my To Do list a couple of months ago - no hurry. I just knew I wanted a good craigslist deal, to maintain my don't-need-no-stinkin'-Data-Plan cheapness (and minimizing my internet-data-consumption footprint, unlike all you folks out there who are using the internet to listen to the freaking radio and continually update the current temperature, for God's sake, but don't get me started).

I knew I didn't want an iPhone, since, on principal, I must resist Apple fascism, no matter how good their products are (as you all keep telling me, ad nauseum).

That meant either an Android or another Windows phone. Since Microsoft is getting props for Windows Phone 7's innovative interface, I figured it would be nice to go that route, rather than get another Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.

So, as I said, I've been watching craigslist obsessively, and, on Monday, spotted The Deal. I met up with the guy Monday night, and bought his Samsung Focus for a pretty-darn-reasonable $100. It's running Windows Phone 7, with the Mango beta installed (the guy is a hacker).

What I like:

* I can now see my home WiFi from the in-front-of-the-TV couch, which is a mixed blessing.
* totally easy to sync my Google Calendar with the phone's calendar. This was absolutely essential. No need for a 3rd party sync tool (which they haven't ported to Win Phone 7 anyway).
* Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (can't imagine ever using this) are included
* two-finger pinch-to-zoom works great
* camera seems fine, with flash
* Win Phone 7 Marketplace seems full of good stuff, and installing stuff is easy - this is how it will be on all phones from now on.
* the interface is 'interesting', very responsive and seems well thought-out
* integration with my SkyDrive is, naturally, excellent.
* telling AT&T to not do any data-pulling is controlled by an easily-accessible switch, which I will leave turned off until I break down and sign up for a Data Plan, someday.
* word suggestions when typing text are amazingly-apt

Less than cool:

* it was easy to import my Sim Contacts, but Contacts that had multiple phone numbers (i.e. Home and Mobile) generated separate Contact entries, rather than one entry with multiple phone numbers. Dumb!

* the POP3/IMAP setup for my email was easy, but there is NO OPTION to leave mail on the server when you delete it on the phone. Grrrrrrr. So, I have my Gmail account set up to pull mail from my account, and the phone pulls in Gmail, which I can delete as I wish, without impacting my main mailbox.

* I miss the ability to mount the File System as a drive on my PC. I no longer have the ability to drag-and-drop files, and haven't quite figured out the best way to move files to the phone, short of emailing them to myself (clunky).

* My WAP-enabled browser (see above) has not released a Win Phone 7 version yet, although I understand it is in final beta now. Internet Explorer does not display my email very well, which is a genuine bad thing, for now.

* no 'Message Sent' confirmation when sending a text message. Anyone know how to turn this on?

* the 'Maps' program included is pretty good, but I'd like to get Google Maps installed (love the ability to tap a restaurant and get reviews). Does anyone know if this is possible?

That's where I stand, two days into the new phone. I am writing this to record my first impressions - let's see if my gripes are ever resolved.

In the meantime, call or text me anytime: 503-860-4514

Monday, August 29, 2011

the recession gets closer

A friend we've known for MANY years called Saturday morning, to tell us that his (or her) home has been foreclosed, and he (or she) needs to move out of the house immediately. We were truly shocked, as we had had no inkling that this person was in trouble with (did you guess correctly?) Bank of America.

This person just found out last Thursday that he (or she) had to get out NOW.

Anyway, we spent MANY hours yesterday helping with the move. We are storing in our garage a fridge, washer, dryer, oven, dishwasher, couches, bookcases, tables, chairs, boxes of books, etc. etc. etc. A giant garage sale is planned.

After moving all that stuff here, we ended up the long day moving bed and other necessities into the spare bedroom of another friend. It was 12 hours I had planned to spend in other ways.

This is the first person we personally know who has been directly affected by the double-whammy of drop in home values and loss of job. He (or she) is admirably philosophical about it, accepting the loss and preparing for the next phase in life.

All we can do is stand by and help as we can.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

are they stupid or shameless?

First thing every morning, I run thru my list of Favorite web sites, to make sure that I get my initial dose of correct (i.e. non-GOP) thinking.

At the top of my list is Talking Points Memo. This morning, here are two stories (the links are live) that grabbed my attention:

Romney Backs Away From Climate Change Support


Rubio: Social Security Harmed America

So, are they simply pandering, to curry favor with their financial supporters (who certainly have agendas contrary to the Public interest), or do they actually, totally, believe these positions (i.e. stupid)?

The only alternative is even more horrifying: perhaps, it is a complete synthesis of both.

'Compassionate Conservatism' will go down in History as one of the most clever marketing slogans of All Time (or is that End Time)?

Monday, August 15, 2011

my clever son

It's great to see that my son has managed to be his own friend. The question remains, how the heck do you do that?

good-bye, Mitt

The gaffe about 'Corporations are People' is fascinating, for many reasons. Obviously he didn't mean it in the sense of the Citizens United decision (which, in effect, declared virtually exactly that). However:

1) The Media that seeks a good story ignores that context and piles on, ironically stoking the Progressives (as if we need any more reasons to roll eye-balls at Mitt). This is unfair to him, of course, but nobody cares since 'knocking off the Front Runner' is the chief sport at this phase of the race.

2) It reveals the world in which Mitt lives, where he honestly does hob-nob with fellow Rich Guys, who all own corporations. He just simply sees them as the People who make up Corporations. Ergo, Corporations ARE People.

3) Didn't John McCain use the 'my friend' rhetorical gimmick a lot, too? Just sayin'.

4) Either Mitt was oblivious to the consequences of such an off-hand statement (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President), or he knew what he was saying and didn't care how folks reacted (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President), or he honestly subscribes to the notion of Corporate Personhood in its fullest sense (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President).

I don't see any way he can escape being branded with this for all eternity. This is Mitt's 'I can see Russia' event, and this fodder for ridicule will scare supporters.

He obviously has enough personal wealth to pursue the goal, but once the common meme is that you are a doofus gets established, your political prospects are in jeopardy. Think Steve Forbes.

Of course, there are exceptions - a former Texas governor comes to mind, although I believe there was eventual consensus reached on him (unfortunately, much too late).

I gotta go.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

obama's sinking poll numbers

Let us remember.

During his first two years, when there was a 'kinda' Democratic majority in the Senate (but not the magic '60'), the GOP Senate launched a record number of fillibusters, intended to deny Obama any of his progressive measures (had he taken the trouble to fight for them).

Thus, he was 'forced' to cripple the Stimulus bill, by accepting a ridiculous amount of 'tax-relief', which was certainly enjoyed by the folks who benefited (hint: not you).

The Health Care overhaul that, from the start, was missing a Public Option is another story - don't get me started.

Then, after the 2010 elections, we see the crackpots in the House dominating the show, preventing any reasonable compromises (except for the ones Obama made - that's another story).

So, do I blame Obama? Kinda, but let's keep in mind the reality that the GOP decided from Day 1 of his administration that nothing meaningful (i.e. counter to the GOP philosophy that 'give good stuff to the Rich and everything will be OK) will pass Congress.

Add to this toxic mix the corrupt, utterly disgusting Supreme Court majority, and this explains why an argument can be made that the Obama Administration failed.

Oh yes, there's the unpleasant memory that the GOP ran on 'jobs, jobs, jobs', but I've heard nothing but crickets from them, on this issue. And yet, the media (ah, the Media) covers the Horse Race as if it mattered.

Very sad. Our Republic is in bad shape, and I know where I place the blame.

The Backmann candidacy is the one bright spot in all this. I am hoping that the seemingly-endless bamboozlement of the American public will reach a tipping point with this. Certainly there can't be enough Evangelical idiots to actually propell this woman to the White House. You read it here.

I gottta go.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

is blogging dead?

I gave up on Twitter, as being too superficial.

I like Facebook, because I can tell, at a glance, what my 'Friends' are thinking about, and there is always someone posting something of some interest. It's not quite as superficial as Twitter, and often leads to some valuable links.

I used to love blogging, since it gave me unlimited space to rant, post photos, and link to sites I find valuable.

Now, these days when I am consumed with the sense that we are seeing general Collapse (climate, economic, social, you name it), all I can think of to write about here is that stuff, and who needs to be reminded?

Today I am taking my 100 year-old mother-in-law to the airport, so she can fly back to her current home in Santa Cruz. She's been with us for two weeks, and it has been alternately inspiring and infuriating. She is a character and, despite problems with sight, hearing and memory, constantly shows that not only is she quite engaged, but has retained a zany (hence, infuriating) sense of humor.

So, the tomatoes are coming along nicely, the beans are beginning to blossom, there is chard to pick tonight. I should have no complaints.

But today is Recall Election day in Wisconsin, and I hesitate to write to my brother, hoping that he gets out to vote for his local Democrat, because, after a number of conversations and forwarding-to-me-of-inflammatory-emails-about-Obama, I simply don't know who he would vote for.

It's all so complicated, but the main thing I wonder about is, with the rising tide of hooliganism (just who was Hooligan, by the way?) in Britain, what will it take for the copycats to think this would be great fun here, too?