Half Million OnStar Customer May Go Dark in February thanks to FCC

OnStar may see a half million customers lose service in February of 2008.  At that time, analog cellular providers will be able to start switching off analog service on their networks.  Analog cellular service can provide superior quality, but requires more power and under the original network configurations did not allow as many users to place calls at the same time.

he FCC voted in 2002 to allow cell phone carriers to begin allowing their analog networks to go offline beginning February 18, 2008.  As this date is fast approaching, as many as 500,000 OnStar users will no longer have access to emergency services.  It is believed as many as one million cell phone users will be shut out, as will about 400,000 wireless home security systems.  Many people are also completely unaware this shutdown is coming.
Analog cell phone network going off-air Feb 18, 2008

The FCC and cellular network owners tried to make people believe that call quality under digital networks would be superior but that was just propaganda inspired by wireless lobbyists hoping to get more users talking on digital networks.  At the time it also enabled manufacturers that sold network hardware to push the replacement of analog towers with digital towers generating billions of dollars of revenue.

It also resulted in a number of kick back scandals by the major wireless hardware providers, their customers and government agencies around the world.  Anyone that really believes that digital provides better quality might be interested in Tennessee land for sale at wooden nickel prices.

Corporations Invited to Collect Biometric Information on Employees for the FBI

Corporations have been turning to law enforcement for background check information for many years.  Now, it appears that law enforcement might start looking for a little reciprocation from corporations.

The FBI is seeking $1 billion to build a biometric database that references and more importantly cross references multiple biometric data points that include:

  • Digital images of faces
  • fingerprints
  • palm patterns
  • iris patterns
  • face-shape data
  • scars
  • walking patterns
  • speech patterns and characteristics

The reason for this is to develop the ability of giving more complete information to law enforcement agents during more routine situations.

If all goes as planned, a police officer making a traffic stop or a border agent at an airport could run a 10-fingerprint check on a suspect and within seconds know if the person is on a database of the most wanted criminals and terrorists.

FBI Plans $1 Billion Biometric Database; Provides Corporate Access : Reclaim Liberty

The trick will be for the FBI to turn the Corporate requests into a street of two way information.  As it is corporations will receive notifications about criminal activity involving their employees (not sure if that is before or after they are proven guilty).  I can just picture people standing around the flat panel plasma mount tv watching employees names scroll through the FBI's recent activity blotter reports.

Laws Against Mobile Texting Not Getting Message Across

The United Kingdom may have been one of the first areas to impose laws banning the use of mobile messaging while driving several years ago.  This may not be surprising if you consider that the UK, possibly only second behind South Korea, had a very high adoption of acceptance of the practice of mobile text messaging.

That acceptance led to accidents while driving and laws to prohibit messaging while driving (Possible jail time for mobile-wielding drivers ) But that did not stop a lot of people from texting while driving.  So now lawmakers have to figure out how to put some bite back in the law.

Many are pointing towards higher levels of enforcement but the reality is that its difficult to enforce because it is difficult to catch people

Picture Matt Damon texting a message to Jack Nicholson in 'The Departed' while Damon holds a phone in his pocket and doesn't look.

How can Police catch someone doing something that they can not themselves witness?

Its not like they are looking at a Cat 5 hurricane blow in across the ocean.  This is an out of site, out of mind problem, until someone wrecks a car.  By the time that happens, it is too late and other charges will be more serious typically.

Telecom Industry Wins a Round on Eavesdropping

A strange battle is still advancing in Washington DC.  The Senate is working to advance dueling bills.  One would hold the Telecom industry accountable for handing over information to the Executive branch of government that enabled internal spying on Americans.  The other bill would prevent individuals and groups from filing lawsuits against the individual companies that engaged in this practice.

The bill to forgive the industry passed forward to be considered during a vote in the Senate today.

By 76 to 10, with Democrats divided, the Senate voted to advance the bill for consideration. 

Telecom Industry Wins a Round on Eavesdropping - New York Times

Plus, there is even an amendment to that recently forwarded bill that would remove the telecom industry from the lawsuits and replace the defendant with the United States Government itself.

This particular battle has Congress fighting the President and the Senate fighting the House and the Courts biding their time and dealing with the court cases as they come up.  Politicians are spinning around as if they were all caught on an automated elliptical machine perpetually doing ellipticals with no way to get off the machine.

Maybe that is the point.  They will keep the noise high and pretend that they are doing nothing while they really just spin their wheels.

For Whom the Monopoly Bells Knol - Google's December Attack

Google has been attacking different industries all month long as they attempt to expand their monopoly both horizontally and vertically.  They have been preparing to kick of the GPhone, By wireless spectrum, Attack bloggers and website owners for working with alternative advertising platforms and this month they are taking on one of the internet golden children, Wikipedia.

Google's new Wikipedia clone is to be called Knol and it will pay users to put their name to their entries and share in the advertising revenue.  There is already a means of achieving a similar result in both Blogger and Google Pages, but this will open up pages to be shared and edited by the world, taking it one step further.  It will also give Google a supremely unfair advantage over its competitors.  What's next for Google?  Absolute Vodka, Heroin, Cigarettes, and investments on the flip side in alcohol rehabs?

Inspiration ~ Google's Know-It-All Project

Ask.com Takes High Road with User's Information but Leaves Low Road Option Open

privacy Ask.com appeared to take the high road today when they announced that they would enable users to delete search information from their Ask.com profiles.

Well that would be great for internet search customers that want to go in and delete information that shows their IP address, location and search phrases such as Lange Sohne a popular holiday watch.  It would be great if it were deleted from all servers, but they are not.

Ask.com is deleting this information from its own servers.  However, it is not requiring its partners to delete it from their servers.  Ask.com may not have the info on your searches after you delete it but their third party partners will be taking that information to the bank or to the Government.

That's right Ask.com will also still supply the information to the Government, if Uncle Sam shows up with a legal request for information. 

The iPhone Runs into the Google Monopoly

iphone-webbrowser Google has been hard at work exercising its monopoly powers this fall.  They kick things off with the double-click deal which rapidly gain the attention of European Union antitrust advocates.  Then in October and November they started attacking several hundred thousand websites, banning and blacklisting those websites for idealistic reasons that also happened to wipe out some of their competitors.

Now I phone users are just starting to learn what many other smart phone users learned a few months back, Google sucks on mobile phones and Google News on mobile phones is even worse.

The funny thing is that Google used to be great on mobile devices.  However they reconfigured the way their webpages render on mobile devices and other services there are just about useless.  Even more strange, the iPhone used to render as a normal webpage with a view to will news and other Google pages.  Just as Google was starting to unleash rumors about the Google phone and purchasing wireless spectrum, the rendering of Google webpages on I phones suddenly became crap, and that starts to hint at Google's possible work to block the iPhone and pave the way for its own Gphone.

It is a small thing, and it can easily be explained away in the nebulous world of web design, mobile web design, web real estate and Google's large bureaucracy, but that doesn't make it legal.

Any bets on what Google might accidentally nuke off  the iPhone next?

  • Google Maps?
  • YouTube?
  • Gmail?

Inspiration ~ Google Ruins Its iPhone Home Page & my own experiences

Oregon's AG - Invading Student Computers May be Worse than Students Sharing Files

The RIAA has long been making a name for itself as it fights against file sharing.  They make no bones about playing bad cop, even filing law suits against dogs, dead people and grannies that don't surf the internet.  They utilize strong arm financial tactics to get people to settle suits, pay large fines and make headlines that scare other people from sharing files.

Is the RIAA Illegally Gaining Access to Student Computers too?

That's just one of the questions that the Attorney General of Oregon is hoping to determine.  The state of Oregon is fighting the RIAA's efforts to gain information from students at state schools.  The state is trying to gain information about just what tactics the RIAA has sunk to in order to build their cases.

Subpoenas have been filed against the RIAA and we might just see an RIAA scandal that shows the RIAA using unlicensed investigators to break, hack or acquire information from computer users without their permission.

Unlike the artists that the RIAA is supposedly protecting, if it turns out that the RIAA has engaged in some of these tactics, they are not going to be able to avoid serious legal repercussions by checking into a drug rehab for the weekend.  Some of the investigators could be looking at jail time and attorneys might be facing a disbarment in Oregon.

Tipping Point of AG Iceberg during Election Year

This could also be the tip of the iceberg that leads other Attorney Generals across the country to stand up in an election year and make a name for themselves working against a very unpopular foe.

Suspected New Zealand Teenager Cybercrime Ringleader Questioned and Released

A New Zealand teenager was questioned and released as part of a joint jurisdiction investigation.  The teenager is accused of ring leading a penetration into 1.3 million computers and skimming millions of dollars from owners bank accounts.

Working with the FBI and the police in the Netherlands, the New Zealand police raided the home of the 18-year-old in the North Island city of Hamilton and took him into custody along with several computers, said Martin Kleintjes, head of the police electronic crime center. The youth was released without charge, though the police said he was still part of their investigation.

New Zealand teen questioned on suspected cybercrime ring

Identity theft now has impacted 1 out of every 25 Americans and it is rapidly becoming obvious that authorities are falling behind in the race to protect people from this type of crime.  One minute you are surfing Google, not even making a purchase, you click on a search result, and before you know it a teenager is lifting personal and sensitive information from your computer and engaging in a shopping spree to outfit their cats with high end modern platform beds.

Black Friday Started and All I got Was this stupid 10 percent off email!

Many holiday shoppers this year are going to have to settle for paying normal price on Black Friday.  The deals in a tumbling economy with a continually devaluing dollar and hints of inflation are going to keep inventory tight retailers from pushing out the big incentives.

black-friday-coupon

I received my first personal example of this on Wednesday.  Circuit City sent me a nice email offering me a whopping 10 percent off if I shop online and enter their tracking code.

Now as a consumer, 10 percent off is not going to get me to act on anything unless, I just happen to be going to circuit city that same day and the email comes an hour or so before I go.  Then I might remember or make the connection and use it. 

Otherwise I suspect Circuit City is just wasting their direct email budget.  I'd rather they spend that by giving me a free diet coke while I wait in a long check out line next month when I do spend some money at the last minute.

Has The Zune Evolved Enough for Prime Time?

Microsoft's mobile Zune Player is releasing this week with a major upgrade. 

The Zune is now able to sync up wirelessly.

Zune30GB_72dpi

That may not sound like a real big deal, but from an ease of use perspective it is much bigger than you might think.  I happen to be one of the few people in the world to have used a mobile WiFi media player with a full synchronization capability, almost 3 years ago. 

Microsoft may not be first to market with this capability in a wifi media player, but they are doing it more successfully.

So why is wireless synchronization so important for the Zune?

It works like this.  You set up your synchronization settings.  You set them up once or update them as you like.  Your Zune player can then log in in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, while you are working out on exercise equipment or whenever, and grab your updated content.

  • Get the latest news before you leave the house
  • refresh part of your song list
  • Get the latest podcasts or video casts downloaded
  • You can even have your email audioized and sucked into your player to listen to your unread email on the way to work.

The point is that this can all happen without the user having to do anything.  It all happens while the player sits somewhere in your house or maybe even your car charging up for a new day.

This upgrade is all about making the users life easier.  You get an iPod and you get a job managing files.

You get a Zune now (or get the free upgrade on your old Zune) and suddenly the Zune takes over your former job as a file manager.  You have more time to do something important, more time to enjoy your Zune and more time to consume the information or media on your Zune.

Free Upgrade is so Un-Apple

Now look, you can be an Apple fan boy all day long, and I will not sway your opinion.  I could care less, do what you will.  The Zune however is doing something with this major upgrade that is so Un-Apple.  They are providing a firmware upgrade to all existing Zune players to provide this new functionality.  When Apple comes out with a major upgrade, you usually have to get a new device or computer, Zune is giving this new functionality and usability to its existing customer base.

Blogworld Kicks off a few little SNAFUs

First, what is the plural spelling of SNAFU?  Is it SNAFI?  SNAFUes?

Anyway, I'm out at Blogworld for the convention in Las Vegas.  Writing this during the corporate blogger session.  I write as a ghost writer on several corporate blogs, write as a ceo on my own blog and write on a number of niche topics as well (as you know among many other areas of business, marketing, entertainment and specialization.)

blogworld corporate conference session

There are not too many of us blogger / social media/ social marketing gurus in the world and that is a big reason why we are in such high demand these days. 

Blogs may be a dime a dozen but good blogging/marketing skills are a valuable commodity.

I wanted to point out a few of the negatives about the show so far (there aren't that many and I view these as areas of opportunity for the organizers).

  1. There are no shuttles running bloggers around.  Navigating Vegas for first time visitors sometimes is easier when conferences provide shuttles at least to the show.
  2. Sound, Sound, Sound, the first keynote address this morning had bad sound, and even lost sound for a while.  The audience interaction fell apart for about the middle third of the conversation because people could not hear the speakers correctly.
  3. Food and drinks at the convention center.  For what ever reason finding plentiful food and drink at the Las Vegas Convention center is always problematic whether its Blogworld or CES.

Note. Someone is probably looking for some new cufflinks.  I know this because I had one lodged in my shoe after getting off the escalator.  Fortunately, it didn't puncture my skin and I didn't need a tetanus shot after attending Blogworld. 

I will be providing a much longer list of positives later!

BlogWorld in Vegas 7 - 9th - Next Week!

hard-rock-cafe-las-vegas

I am heading to BlogWorld in Las Vegas on Wednesday.  It should be a fun time.  There are several parties already lined up on Wednesday(hard rock) and Saturday(Tao) and I've heard unconfirmed rumors about parties on Thursday and Friday too. 

What Happens When you turn on tens of thousands of bloggers in Las Vegas?

Lots of talk, lots of gossip, lots of pictures, lots of video and lots and lots of blogging.

Seriously, it will be a good chance for everyone to get together learn some new stuff (I'm all tracked up with conference sessions to go to in an effort to learn the latest and greatest in blogging) and then since its Vegas where they pump Oxygen into the casinos to help keep you awake, no one will sleep.

Now if only they had wifi at the craps tables . . . .

If you are going to be out at BlogWorld next week or over the weekend, contact me and maybe we can catch up at one of the events.  I'll be staying a few days at the Stratosphere (saving money) and at the Hilton (proximity) but I won't be at the Orleans hotel Las Vegas

PS not sure if it is still there, but the night club known I think as Lights in the Bellagio Sucks!  (I promised them a plug the last time I was there.)

Microsoft Zune is Like a Portable TiVo for Television Recordings

What is the Important difference between a Zune and an iPod?

Zune30GB_72dpi

Free TV Recording Capability!

The iPod will sell you some but not all TV shows for a couple bucks. Plus, the list of available shows seems to be dwindling as the networks, like studios become more wary of Apple's power.  However, consumers are in for a big benefit from Zune's and the studios and networks might be looking at a VCR/TIVO like nightmare in the portable Zune devices.

Using a PC running Media Center (I am writing this on a laptop with Media Center), you can record television programs and zap them over to your Zune.

There is one feature that may well call out to a certain group of users: the Zune can download television programs recorded on computers with the Media Center feature of Windows Vista. I haven’t tried this, and it well could be harder to use than it should be. I would say it’s the sort of thing that mainstream users might want to wait to do when Apple introduces an easy version.

Microsoft Sings a New Zune

That is a huge deal.  All that is needed to make that popular and useful . . .

 

Well that's locked up inside my head.  Microsoft will have to hire me for that information. 

I worked on the first Wireless Media Player device that was introduced 2 years before any other device including the Zune, so I have a few lessons learned and tricks up my sleeve that I'm banking for retirement.

In the meantime, the Zune guys, (very nice and very smart people, I met several of them a year ago and again last month) will have to either figure out these key lessons on their own or  . . . .  :)

In the meantime, I'll continue to write and as winter approaches start to focus on some indoor exercise ellipticals , I've been working a bit too hard the last couple months and picked up a few extra pounds that I don't need.

Comcast Censors Customer Downloads

comcastcesnsorship Comcast is now apparently a censor of its customers.  It started out as a rumor among several of its customers.  Then concerted effort were made to attempt to determine if Comcast was actually censoring its customers.  As it turns out, it appears that they are.  They are not selectively censoring content, they are censoring bandwidth.

In particular they are censoring bandwidth as it is used with BitTorrent.  BitTorrent provides a peer-to-peer downloading service, and is popular these days with people that like to download movies or TV shows.  If the legality of these downloads is sometimes in question as the ownership of the content is dubious at best.

Regardless, it is unusual for an Internet service provider to censor its customers.  The test utilized to determine is Comcast was actually doing this activity, utilized a version of the King James Bible which is in the public domain and it's legal to download.  People rely on their Internet service providers to deliver them information.  In many ways this is similar to the reliance of people have on the postal service to deliver their mail.  The censorship by Comcast would be similar to the postmaster preventing some mail from making it into people's mailboxes based on the source of mail.

Receive a letter from the Vatican and you might get banned, receive a letter from Falwell University and it might be okay.  Regardless of who sends it to the post office would subjectively ban it in this analogy.  That is what Comcast seems to be doing with information that comes from BitTorrent, the service that they are slowing down.  They don't entirely blocked the information, they just slow down the download, which serves to put a speed bump on the bandwidth and frustrate people you're trying to get information off the Internet.

Ticking off the Right Tools for the Job

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with an Information 2.0 company, UmbriaListens. They specialize in figuring out what people are writing about on the internet. 

Not, individuals, but all people.

It almost sounds like something out of an Asimov book, but its not psychohistory as much as something akin to a precursor.  A means of sensing what is going on at a macro level across the internet.

How would a person employ such a Tool?

That is the question for such a technology.  Once you know what millions of people are writing about, what do you do with that information? 

Whenever, I'm confronted with tools and technologies that I lack the wisdom to employ, I revert to an analogy from an Eddie Murphy movie from the 80's that was not very popular.  It was a comedy about arms dealers (pre Iran Contra scandal).

In the movie, they talk about two rival warlords that spend millions on the latest fighter jets.  The warlords do not have any pilots or support systems capable of flying the jets, so they just roll the jets down hills at their enemies and crash them into things.

That's Not a good Utilization of Technology!

So when I run across a technology that I can't utilize (yet) I think of rolling jets down a hill.

That said, I can definitely envision a use for this technology, just like those warlords could envision their jets flying.  But thinking it so, does not make it so.

As an example, I read a watch article the other day that mentioned some watch tools.  This reminded me of my grandfather, who used to repair watches and cameras and lots of other things as well.  The point is that I could go to the local Hobby Lobby and pick up some watch hobby tools, but I could repair a watch or a clock any better than I could without those tools, regardless of the type of clock whether it was mechanical, digital or even atomic. (If it were programmed on a computer that might be a different story. . . )

Having the Right Tool for the Job is almost as important as Having the Wisdom to do the Job

Now, if you do have the right tools, odds are that you might be able to figure out the right methods, just like a non-plumber might figure out how to tighten a pipe with a pipe wrench, but probably could not tighten a pipe with a wood saw.

Having the wisdom of how to use the pipe wrench and when to stop applying pressure so that you do not strip the threads, is something slightly beyond trial and error, but at a level that is necessary to complete a job successfully.

How to Sell a Tool that You Cannot train a Customer to Use before you Sell it

So anyway, I was very interested in this tool, but I was in a Catch 22.  If I purchased the tool (informational report) I wouldn't know how to use it.  That would make the information about as useful as a pipe wrench. But my odds of success and my ability to realize a return on my investment would not be very good.

I would essentially need to pay for some training in using the tool.  Having the training would make it possible to use the tool correctly, but then I run into the final question.

Is the tool worthwhile at all?

At this point, I have the tool, I have the wisdom to use it, but its only with the combination of those two things can I realize if all of these things are really worthwhile.

I have to buy the tool and invest the time and money in the training in order to determine if I have the right tool in the first place. 

Back to my Watch Analogy. . . .

If I were repairing a cookoo clock, and I purchased a sledge hammer and bashed the cookoo into the clock and ruined the clock, I would learn that I had the wrong tool for the job.  I'd also be out a cookoo clock (in need of repair) and out the money for a sledge hammer.

If I purchase a small clock mallet, I might tap on the cookoo all day long and never get the peg into the clock just right either.  I could then keep buying mallets until I found the right one (assuming I didn't go to far and end up with a similar result to the sledge hammer.)

So in the age of the internet and Information 2.0, how can a company get the message across about how to use their tools and products, without giving the product away?  How can a buyer make a good buying decision without having the wisdom to use the information they buy effectively?

Goodbye TiVo - Going to miss you

I am waiting on hold right now to cancel my TiVo account.  I am in the middle of an extended temporary housing situation, and the TiVo is going in a box for a while as I am stuck with a crappy DVR from Dish right now.

byby-tivo

I do plan on picking TiVo back up again in the future, but its not in the cards to keep it right now.  Besides, by the time I am ready to use TiVo again, my TiVo box will likely be outdated.  I suspect that I will probably be looking for an upgrade at that time and the old TiVo will head to the garage sale or maybe the kids room.

The 5 Month Pause

But TiVo surprised me with a smart 'save the account' counter offer.  They offered me a 5 month billing pause on the account.  No strings attached other than they don't have to lose a customer nor go through the expense of setting up and closing down an account.  I probably needed 7 months, but 5 months will at least get me closer.  Unlike a bank or something that might give a digital camera for signing up for a mortgage, when I don't need a digital camera.

So TiVo met me a little past halfway and provided a solution that I did need.

Kudos to TiVo

I'm not a terrorist, that's Just and iPod Burning in My Pocket

Ever since that fateful day when the Dell laptop burst into flames on camera, there has been an unofficial count down to the day when the first iPod would self combust.

Many people thought the idea of self combustion was just and urban legend, something that was not possible, especially in that most sacred of devices, the iPod.  The iPod is that rare device that comes along once every 100 years.  The type of device that turns an atheist into an idolatry fanatic worshipping at the altar of gizmo wording off the evil doer luddites trying to destroy the modern world as we know it.

But when your idol goes up in flames, you have to question just how safe your iGod is. 

Is your iGod a violent iGod or a benevolent iGod?

The person that had their frontside burst into flames from their pocket to their chest was very lucky.  They apparently were not seriously harmed (although the lawsuit will likely say otherwise and rabid iPod worshippers will probably issue death threats once the lawsuit kicks off.)  Regardless, this fire like the Thinkpad fire at LAX took place in an airport, this time at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport. 

The victim of a brimstone burning iPod remarkably was quoted as saying that if the TSA people had seen them while their clothing was smoking, pre iPod flames, the TSA folks would have probably jumped to the conclusion that it was not an iGod zealot smoking but a different type of zealotry that results in personal explosives.

Now this particular burning bush of an iPod was apparently over 2 years old so iPod defenders will easily be able to identify a number of reasons why a burning iPod is not Apple's fault, but instead is the fault of the owner, that obviously should have retired their Ipod and purchased a new one at least a year ago.

iPod's have taken over popular culture from Airport workers to Arizona luxury real estate professionals to students and parents and CEO's across the country and around the world.  Could we all be sitting on an iPod time bomb waiting to fizzle and flame out in a great ball of pocket fire?

PC World - Hot Tunes: Man Says Nano iPod Caught Fire in His Pocket

Why New Blogger Sucks - Written on a Blogger blog that will never validate - thanks blogger!

If you want to create a blog that complies to web standards as by the W3C and you want to use Google's newest Blogger system, well sorry about that.  It will not validate.  You are just screwed. 

I like blogger, I'm a proponent of it on many levels despite some of its handicaps and flaws, but this is one that they should not overlook.  This is just stupid, Google among all companies should not promote the creation of invalid websites.  Hell, Google's blogger might even be criminal in the UK.  From an accessibility perspective, new blogger is to disabled people what 2 inches of sand on a sidewalk would be to people in wheel chairs.

There is really no excuse - but check it out if you like

This launch is a huge deal for Blogger. They may not have gotten everything right out of the gate, so I’ll cut them plenty of slack, and I would hope others do the same based on the number of improvements and enhancements they’ve made all at once. For instance, those who know my style and promotion of web standards may immediately try to validate the home page. I’ll save you the time and tell you it won’t validate right now. (If you’ve already visited Blogger and hit your Validate HTML favelet within a minute of seeing the new design, shame on you. Don’t you have better things to do? Aren’t there other things more interesting than making sure a new site launches with valid code the very same day?) A few simple omissions of closing brackets, and use of the target tag within a XHTML 1.0 Strict doctype is preventing the front page from validating right now. They’ll get to it eventually. Bear with them as they try to make sure everything else is working correctly for all the users who depend on the service to publish their thoughts and experiences to the world. Fixes and new features will most likely continue to roll out in the weeks ahead, so expect changes over time.

Stopdesign | The New Blogger

Poker Void in My Life

Where did the Poker Hours Go?

I was talking with my brother last night commiserating or the fact that we both seem to have the same cold even though we live 1000 miles apart.  He was telling me how he has been playing online poker ball he lays sick on the couch trying to pass the time.

As my dad describes it, he has a fairly high stress job, and when he gets sick it's very hard to lie there and do nothing.  I haven't had a high stress job for a couple years and as time passes it's getting harder for me to relate to that it seems like a foreign thing that just isn't necessary.

Mac Poker

So we were talking about how he was playing poker online, and how I haven't played online poker in probably five or six months.  I have been thinking about getting a Mac for about the same period of time, and I mentioned to him a website that specializes in showing people how where to find Mac Poker games online.

PokerStars

Now my personal favorite place to play Texas hold them online is PokerStars.   Now that same website, MacPokerOnline.com,  does a great job of walking people through all the different options and sites where they can play online poker games of every different size shape and flavor.  They're especially good at showing all the different platforms that the games work on best so if you're working with a PC versus a Mac you can see which games work best on those systems.

Other Sections to Check out on MacPokerOnline

Since I have not been playing poker online lately, I suspect maybe I need to freshen things up a little bit.

Sometimes you get away from games like this because your a little tired of them even though you're having fun.  So maybe it's time I learned a new game like one of these below:

This article Generated with MindManager Pro 7 and Windows Live Writer Beta 3

iPhone Coming to a European Union Near You


1. Deutsch Telecom Lands iPhone in Germany

In case you missed it, Apple announced this week that they will be launching the iPhone in Germany with Deutsche Telekom.  Deutsche Telekom is the parent company of T-Mobile in the United States and even though I am definitely not an iPhone fan, I'm somewhat surprised that Apple did not partner with T- Mobile in the states where they opted instead to work with AT&T a notoriously troubled and evil company in my humble opinion as they stole $1000 for me a few years ago in a phone slamming scam.  (Sorry I just can't hide my bias about AT&T)


2. Orange Lands iPhone in the UK

AT&T also announced that they were going to launch the iPhone with Orange and the United Kingdom.  It's kind of funny because a number of Europeans have been purchasing my phones in the United States and in hacking them so they can use them on their own systems at home. Guess all that hacking was for naught as the iPhone is now available.

Podcast Expo 2007

For those of you still following this blog, I wanted to share with you that I am still here and still blogging.  In fact I am coming up on having reached my 4,000 th article since I started blogging.

Next week, I will be traveling to the Podcast and New Media Expo in Ontario California and look forward to meeting anyone that is also at the show.  The conference is free to attend and the community that attends the show is normally a great group of people.

On a separate note, we have a number of very interesting things happening throughout the Softduit family of websites.  We'll be making some new announcements next week and I can't wait to share those.  This evening, I am attempting to catch up on some of my writing covering a number of different sites. 

For those of you that follow my mobile office travails, I have been working by the lake again recently, but I run into snags at night.  The mosquitos come in and are attracted to my computer screen.  So I have to head indoors.  I have to wonder if it could be possible to create a type of lighting and a type of computer screen that did not attract bugs! 

If I could find that type of lighting, I'd snap it up no matter what the cost nor brand so that I could work out doors much more often.  It doesn't have to be fancy quoizel lighting nor does it have to be cheap generic looking stuff, it just needs to work.

Electric Razors that do not Run off a Cord

Here's a quick rant and addition to the Broken Technology Series.

Its the day after the labor day weekend.  For several reason, I did not shave all weekend long and today I really need to shave. 

My wife and kids recently purchased a new electric razor for me as a Father's Day gift.  It has been a couple months and I am still getting used to the new razor. 

I suspect it may be a bit of a dud, but its a gift and I am hoping to make it work a bit longer before I replace it.

Anyway today I learned something that definitely escalates it into the Broken Technology level and possibly shoves it full force into the dud category.

The razor will not run off of the Cord!

The battery ran down.  Someone cleaned the restroom and unplugged my razor and then it sat all weekend and so when I attempted to electrically machete my way into the beard jungle, the thing just kind of rolled over and died.

No problem, I think.  I grab the cord, plug it in and it starts to go again.

Then it runs down again.  It had regenerated just a little bit of juice for that short effort, which created the illusion that the cord worked.  So now I'm writing this silly blog post hoping to kill a couple minutes, while my razor slowly gets it act together.

As an aside, maybe the fine folks at Remington that made my Titanium MS 280, could pool their resources and collaborate a little bit better next time. 

Collaboration Software packages are a dime a dozen these days.

I had an offer in my email box at about the same time my razor died, offering collaboration software from Epazz.

    • There is a 30 Day free trial of their software.
    • integration to backend systems -
    • total manage hosted solution
    • website content management
    • group scheduling
    • business email solution
    • Seamless Integration - To all of your enterprise's back-end systems.
    • Powerful Collaboration -To improve workflow.
    • In-Depth Personalization -Down to the end-user level.
    • Enhanced Communication - Among managers and employees.
    • One-Point Secured Access - For all of the enterprise's on-line services;
    • Thoughtful understanding - Epazz works with you from start to finish.

Maybe somewhere in there, the Remington folks and their outsourced Chinese manufacturers can remember to put a cord into the mix that is capable of running the device in addition to charging the device.

Inkjet Cartridges - Are they a dead Technology?

Several years ago I made the switch to laser printers and left the world of inkjet toners and cartridges forever.  I never did a great deal of work printing out pictures on my own inkjet printer.  Mostly I don't do a lot of work with pictures that need to be printed, my wife is a photographer and she does and so she has an inkjet printer that mostly draws dust.  Most of the pictures that either of us work with are pushed out to the web.

Our situation is not necessarily standard or typical for most people, and I realize that many people still like to print out their pictures and put them in a frame or send them to a relative or something.

So it's been a while since I've had to hunt down a place that offers cost-effective ink cartridges.  I recently had to dust off my mother-in-law's inkjet printer while I was visiting, and needed to replace the cartridges.  Came across company called Inkers.biz.  They offer free ground shipping and have a no questions asked return policy, and they shipped the same day they take your order.  Those are a little things, but when you're dealing with a commodity like an ink cartridge for a printer, they're kind of important it is you don't really want to monkey around with something as simple as an ink cartridge.

So I'm throwing their name out there, but I'm also curious if anyone else is found something better or more effective or if you had any experience with inkers.biz. 

Drop us a comment most of the your preferred ink cartridge vendor is or was no if you even using cartridges these days.

Mindjet Under Utilizing Early Adopter Feedback

There have been some very interesting discussions taking place on the very old Yahoo Group established to discuss MindManager a mindmapping software program designed by Mindjet.

The group includes early adopters, trainers, resellers, and users that share ideas and best practices for the use of the program.  Some of the users in the group (including myself) have grown increasingly frustrated over the lack of progress in the development of MindManager software. 

The software was extremely innovative when it rolled out versions 3, 4 and 5, but innovation has lagged through recent versions 6 and 7.  Improvements have been made, but the software is no longer pushing the envelope.  MindManager is a mindmapping tool that helps people to think visually and manage knowledge visually and rapidly, reducing meeting times and enabling better communication and problem solving skills among groups stuck behind conference tables in the meeting rooms of corporate America. 

Mindmanager currently holds a lead over most mind mapping software programs that is hard to beat, for now.  But other free programs and open source movements are rapidly catching up and MindManager has done little recently to maintain its lead.

One of the most unrealistic statements in the group highlights some of the problems at Mindjet.  People representing the company claim that they are having a hard time keeping up with the information coming out of the group.

The irony here is two fold:

  1. If they used MindManager to track the conversation it would not be difficult to track
  2. If they built a tool that enabled MindManager to parse forums or even created a mindmap forum (generation) tool, the program would be invaluable as a knowledge management and research tool to millions of people around the world.

Stupid DirectTV Plus DVR R15 receiver has no Undelete!

This was just stupid enough that I had to share it in the hopes that someone else wouldn't make the same mistake I did.

I was visiting my in-laws house for several days.  They have DirectTV and have a DirectTV Plus Receiver DVR (Model R15).

I have a TiVo at home and I'm very used to the ability to go into a recently deleted folder and recover a program that was mistakenly deleted or deleted too soon.

Apparently the DirectTV Plus Receiver DVR (Model R15) was made by fools hoping to trick fools like myself.  It doesn't have a recently deleted folder, nor any way to recover a lost program or mulitple programs.

I had recorded a series of shows (Meet the Press) and I wanted to delete the four shows in the bin so that the disk drive space would not be wasted.  So I walked through the steps to delete the shows, and hit delete.  It took about 20 minutes to delete 4 shows, which kind of put me on edge because it shouldn't take that long to delete 4 shows.

Well turns out the stupid DVR from DirectTV deleted ALL the shows on the entire DVR!

Holy Crappy Engineering Batman!

OK, so I figured, I'll just undelete all the shows that were incorrectly deleted.  No problem.  Little annoying but no harm no foul.

Wrong!

That's when I learned the brains at DirectTV failed to include an undelete capability in their DVR (the Plus version no less, I'd hate to see what the original looked like, probably didn't have a play button or something.)

I searched and searched online for something that would show me how to undelete the shows from the Tivo DVR.

Searched on the following phrases

How to undelete DirectTV Plus DVR

Undelete DirectTV Plus  DVR

Undelete DirectTV Tivo

Undelete DirectTV DVR

undelete, undelete, undelete

yada yada yada

Nothing came up.  Nothing showed how to do it.  Nothing said that it could not be done.

I went to the DirectTV website and searched endlessly for the product manual.  I looked there for about 30 minutes and gave up and started searching the house for the paper version.  That lasted about 15 minutes and I went back to looking for the DirectTV Plus DVR manual online and didn't find it.  I looked behind the DVR for the model number and found the manual stuck under the DVR!

I opened it up and went to page 26 and learned to my dismay, that there was/is no instructions on how to undelete anything.

I went to the FAQ section, which is supposed to cover Frequently Asked Questions but I quickly learned that in DirectTV language it means Frequently Asked Question that We Won't Dignify with a Working Answer and will Instead Opt to Show Our Customers Just How Stupid They Are! 

The acronym is longer ( FAQTWWDWAWAAWIOTSOCJHSTA ) obviously and may account for the extra amount of time it took me to navigate their website.

I did find the relevant question

A Program I recorded was displayed in the MyVOD(stupid acronym is trademarked but this is blogger and I don't know how to put the tm symbol in here and I just don't care.  DirectTV can take me to court and make a federal case out of it if they like, it will give me something to blog about) Screen, but got DELETED before I could watch it.

Well to make a long irrelevant answer short, they basically state that any user stupid enough to delete a program too early or to allow a program to be deleted automatically before they watch it is just shit out of luck because there is no Undelete capability on this TiVo knock off, so there!

 

 

So long story short the DirectTV Plus DVR (Model R15) Sucks and will suck especially hard for anyone that is used to using a DVR or TiVo with any type of undelete capability.  I highly recommned against this product and if you are unfortunate enough to have experienced the same problem I did, I apologize.

If you are looking for the DirectTV manual for the R15, here it is.

If you are looking for other manuals for DirectTV equipment, they are pretty hard to find also, but here they are.

I can talk to myself, Skype is back up for me at least

Skype finally came up for me this evening.  It was down for about a day.  I didn't mind at first and was impressed with the updates on the Skype blog.  Unfortunately, the updates seemed to stop shortly after I remarked how impressed I was with their communications.

Fourteen hours later, I was finally able to log into Skype,but there are still millions of users that can not get on the network and Skype (an eBay company) reports that they are still working to get out of the woods and re-establish a reliable network.

They blame the problem on a deficiency in their algorithms (ergo there program is very buggy).  I have a cordless skype phone, but for all the good its doing me, I might as well be talking to a stuffed animals or playing with my daughters imaginary friends.

I've never experienced a problem with Skype before, but when this one hit, it really hit hard.

Study Reveals that iPhone Touchpad is Not a Good fit for Business Users - Big Surprise There

A recent study of business users has found that people used to a Qwerty styled keypad on an existing phone have a much harder time going back to the touch pad technology that iPhones are built on.  The innovation of the software in the iPhone does not appear to compensate enough for the inherent challenges presented by touch pad screens.

Phone users that were used to texting on phones without a Qwerty keyboard faired better on the iPhone's predictive type applications.

Users also complained that they could not type as fast on a touch screen, made more mistakes and felt the touch keypad buttons were too small for their fingers resulting in even more errors.  When the hype is removed the design flaws of the iPhone have been apparent for quite some time.  iPhones are less like diamond rings and more like faux jewelry at worst and a diamond in the rough at best. 

Skype Goes Dark - Their working on It

This morning I woke up to a world without Skype.  Skype hasn't gone bankrupt like competitor SunRocket, but they do have a major glitch that prevents users like myself from successfully logging into the Skype system.

They have been having problems for at least 5 hours as I write this at 5:16 am US est.  They thought things were getting better around 2 am, but for the users that can not login it doesn't matter much. 

Using Blogs to appease customers facing an Outage

I have to give Kudos to Skype for using their blog to communicate very regular updates to their customers around the world.    As of the writing of this message, they have posted 5 blog updates on the problem since they announced the problem 7 hours ago.  Its a great example of how companies can stay on top of a problem, demonstrate they are staying on top of a problem and curb customer discontent during a service outage.

Skype has been dueling Vonage for real estate in the VOIP industry.  Skype captured an early lead in Europe and spread to the states, while Vonage focused on the US and looked to spread elsewhere. 

Vonage experienced major legal issues this year as some of their technology according to the courts belonged to Verizon and things were touch and go for a few months for Vonage, which came close to being forced to shut their doors.

SmartShopper Won't Make Your Schwartz Bigger but might reduce your Ginko Biloba Bill

Bill Pullman (Spaceballs) Holding his Big Schwartz I was reading an article last night that casually referenced Dragon Naturally Speaking which I'm rather passionate about.  The article mentioned a great product that I saw at CES last year.  It's called SmartShopper.  This is a little gizmo that you put on your refrigerator and anytime you walk by you can push a button and say a few words and it will add those words to a shopping list.  When you're ready to go the store, yet another button and it prints out your shopping list!

It's basically using some voice-recognition software to generate the list.  It seemed worked great when I was at CES and according to the review I read it seems to work great as well in real life.

So let's say you run out of natural skin care products, and you don't have any more Ginko to rub on your biloba, you just push the button and say "Ginko Biloba" and it should add this to your list.

note. I'm using Dragon Naturally Speaking to write this post and Dragon Naturally Speaking doesn't auto transcribe the word Ginko Biloba.

Note to note. Yes I am aware that can go below but is not a natural skin care product and that you couldn't rub your ginko on your biloba if you wanted to.

Note to Note to Note.  If anyone has a Smartshopper, I'd be very interested to see if the device can accurately transcribe Ginko Biloba.

Note to Note to Note to Note.  I used Ginko Biloba as I thought it was ironic to use an example with a memory enhancer about a device that is essentially a memory enhancer.  Be glad that I was not talking about enhancing other areas of the anatomy.

Time to Put My Laptop through Memory Rehab

My brand new laptop(8 months old) isn't feeling so new anymore.  Its getting bogged down by my 4 favorite/most utilized programs.

memory hogs

Now I have 1 gb of ram, but apparently that isn't enough to keep my machine running smoothly when the ram is at 40% capacity. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but historically it seems to hold true. No matter how much ram you have, you always need more for your computer to run "fast". Notice I'm not saying faster.

I think what I really need is to put my computer through something like drug rehab, lets call it Memory Rehab. My computer is an addict a memory junky. It needs to learn how to cope without having to constantly adjust to its increased tolerance to heavy doses of memory. There needs to be a point where enough memory is enough memory!

Who Knew that Buy.com Sold Books too?

On the Internet, it's easy for almost anyone to go in to any type of business.  Yet every now and then I'm still surprised when I find a business that is expanded into an area that I just didn't expect.

I came across simple example of us tonight when I'm searching for a RAM memory upgrade for my computer.  I was browsing through buy.com and notice that they also happen to sell books, like Harry Potter and others.  I'm not sure if they're going to be the next replacement for Amazon.com, but in a way it does make sense that they sell books to cover many other things and offer up some good deals from time to time.

In general when we buy things on the Internet, it's important to remember that most of the merchants on the Internet are just middlemen.  The creators of whatever it is that were buying, or the producers that is are the ones actually making the widgets.  The Internet basically creates one big marketplace where you can get the same thing from almost anyone.

The big difference is typically an a service and support and sometimes the price.

Government Preparing for Cover Ups - Scape Goating P2P Networks

 The House of Representatives held a hearing this week and pulled the mother of all trump cards out to attack the Peer to Peer industry.  The government is accusing the P2P industry of being a threat to national security and they are lumping confidential corporate accounting documents in the mix.

They claim that sensitive documents are being shared on peer to Peer networks (like the governments unconstitutional domestic wiretapping activities).  They specifically call out a number of areas that do not seem to be related to government at all.  The list of topics includes:

Now, any one of these items might risk exposure on a P2P network or any other area of the internet for that matter, but it bothers me that the government is citing the networks as the risk.

Let's say that Limewire came across papers disclosing that President Bush at called for the detainment and torture of prisoners of war in Iraq and those papers had a very high classification on them.  The government should have been responsible enough to have kept those sensitive documents from being leaked. 

In regards to corporate documents, they too have a responsibility to keep documents safe.  In fact, this type of leak often is the thing in the corporate world that exposes corruption.

When you see those two topics put together by a Republican in Congress calling out the holy concept of national security it makes me suspicious that they may have something to hide, possibly even a scandal of their own.

The truth is that the world is rapidly opening up and becoming more and more transparent.  The politicians need to learn this and learn how to adapt to running a super power in a world where information travels at the speed of light.

You push a button and the world sees your order.  Complete some sensitive market research and sooner or later others are going to learn the same thing. Collude with a corporation and some day soon it will be exposed. Have an affair with a prostitute and the phone records will become public. Stash $90,000 in your freezer and it will probably show up on YouTube.

The Right Stuff, Drunk and Sabotaged

Now that the public has developed at taste for scandal at NASA, it seems only fitting that NASA would seize upon the opportunity to prove the axiom that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  So following the diaper wearing astronaut that drove half way across the country to kidnap her lovers new girlfriend, NASA has been struggling to find its next 'moon shot' in the tabloids.

Fortunately, some of the astronauts didn't have to much difficulty in figuring out a new waive of buzz in the media, after all most of them are rocket scientists.

Apparently, some of those rocket scientists have been tying one on before a launch and showing up the next morning to fly still very drunk.  So drunk in fact that they were identified to be a risk to the mission and its safety.  But they were allowed to fly.

Then contractors at NASA identified some electronics gear intended to be installed on the International Space Center that had been sabotaged as well. 

The damage to wiring in an electronics box was intentional and obvious, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA probes sabotage, report says pilots flew drunk - US

Now, the drunkenness is definitely disturbing when you consider that people's lives are riding on each and every mission not to mention the billions of dollars that US citizens have invested in NASA over the years.  Given the antics that are coming to light, it seems unlikely that sabotage is less than serious.  Its probably not some prank being played by a bunch of jockie types trying to one up each other with practical jokes and hazing attempts, replacing diet suppliments like hydroxycut with laxatives or something. Flying a space shuttle under the influence should be against the law (if its not already) and sabotage of space equipment could possibly be a treasonable offence. Imagine what other countries would say if a tragedy happened at the international space station because American equipment went into space after it had been tampered with.

Wider the Monitor the wider the interface to your Brain

It strikes me that over the years monitors have gotten bigger as technology improves and prices go down.  We always blindly accept that our vision will benefit from bigger, brighter and more colorful.

The reality is that the monitor is an interface through our eyes and directly to our brains. That bigger better lcd monitor that makes things more clear for our eyes to see and our brains to accept.

That $200 monitor that gives you twenty inches of insight into the big picture is worth every dollar of its price tag.

Reverse Perspective

Can you imagine saying to yourself, I want to go buy a monitor that only shows me half of the big picture or cuts off 20% of the most important part of the big picture. 

I want something that provides more distortion or runs more slowly or is difficult to see from multiple angles in my home or office.

Not To Likely

We go for better technology, especially a monitor.  Its our primary input into our brains right before our ears. 

Online Protest Power

More and more people are finding their protest voice online.  The web enables people to share their complete opinion online and many people are getting more creative about how they amplify their voice.

Here are some Examples

KentuckyFriedCruelty targets KFC

WakeUpWalmart.com

Here are some more protest sites

Radioshack Sucks
Slaveway
Home Depot Sucks
Target Sucks
PayPalSucks
Frontline
Is Sam the Devil?
Wal*Mart Movie

Similarly, its very easy to find petitions, especially for the Impeachment of George Bush and now even the suspension of Michael Vick.

Back to School Gadget that Campus Security will not like

I have no idea what drove me to this site, but I came across a website that sells mini motorcycles.  You've probably seen these a few times if you live in the suburbs or the city.  They look like crotch rockets made for 1st graders.

pocketrocket-mini-motorcycle

But they are capable of doing 65 miles per hour and rev up with a four stroke engine that can actually provide some fun power. 

Following a tangent of thought that should not be possible for a person with 2 degrees and a master's in laws, I started day dreaming about having drag races on mini motorcycles on the sidewalks of the quad of my alma mater.

Think something like that Greek challenge from revenge of the nerds with the beer and tricycles and then provide some a little bit of mini me power and you can do 65 miles per hour in the quad.

Stupid - Yes.

Fun - Definitely.

Land you in campus jail before finals - Probably so.

These things aren't terribly expensive as toys go.  They cost under $600.  Your typcial college Junior could probably get a student loan consolidation and save that much in interest.  They could probably film it and put it on itunes and pay for the rest of their tuition even. 

Maybe even pay for bail money and a lawyer also!

Is Microsoft's OS troubles starting with Vista?

 Lackluster sales of Microsoft's new operating system Vista.  I've read articles from the PC manufacturers that tell us that they have not seen a increase in demand in PC sales as a result of the upgrade Vista.  I've heard of troubling sales numbers coming from Microsoft and its operating system.

I have even heard that the steep cost of the upgrade both in equipment and software is proving to be the straw that broke the camel's back and is pushing many people onto Apple computers and OSx.

In a way I am half of an example of the problem that Microsoft faces.  I purchased a Vista capable machine for tax purposes at the end of the year.  All I have to do is go online I can download of copy a Vista, but I haven't done that because I'm afraid of what it might do with some of my other software programs.  I've made a pass to of the hurdles of most people face, the equipment and the cost of the software, but I can't get past the potential problems and costs of the other software already on my machine that isn't even related to Microsoft.  QuickBooks 2006 is actually one of my primary hangups that I know for sure is not compatible with Vista.

I wonder if the Microsoft monopoly might actually be finally coming to an end following a 20 to 27 year reign.

 

Dilemma of Microsoft Vista at Top 10 Tech Software

Do you Have a Good Voice for your Business?

Do you have a good voice for your business?  If you lined up voice talent that can truly inaccurately get your message across to your readers or to your customers without turning them off?

Finding great voice over talent is not easy to do, but it need not be impossible.  There are many great voiceover artists you hear on the radio and television every day that are available to do work for you, your publication, or even for your business in an advertisement.

Great voiceover talent doesn't have to cost a fortune either.  Artist availability is probably greater than what you think.  It makes sense if you consider that voiceover talent artists are not necessarily going in to work on the same project or script day after day after day.  This enables them to have great range of availability for many different projects.  That availability extends all around the country and with the power of the Internet you can even make arrangements from long distances without having to sit down in the same studio with the artist that you choose.

iPhone Converted to iSmoke on Will it Blend

Watch this video to see a perfectly good Apple iPhone converted into iSmoke in a blender.  I bet the Apple warranty department is going to have a puzzled look on their face with this return!

Make sure you share this one with your friends, and if you do try this at home, DO NOT INHALE THE ISMOKE!

The funny thing is that you can watch this video via YouTube on your iPhone while you blend your own iPhone n a blender. Kind of reminds me of the Disco is dead era when they were blowing up disco records. . . .

UK Broadband Directory - UK v US Broadband rate correlation

About half of our readers here on Maven Mapper's Information are from the United Kingdom.  I was doing a little comparison between services from the United States to the same services offered in the United Kingdom.

I noticed that while gasoline is more expensive in the UK than it is in the US, it is much easier to find Cheap Broadband in the United Kingdom.  Not only are there more offerings, but the average rates are less than what you find in the US.  In fact when you look at US based companies like AOL operating in the UK,they seem to export their high US price structure to the UK and end up competing with a service package 3 times higher than the average Broadband Provider.

I haven't put together a more detailed comparison yet these are still just first impressions.  However, I am somewhat intrigued to the correlation of gas to broadband rates.

In the US we have low gas prices and high broadband prices.  While the inverse can be found in the UK where broadband prices are low and gas prices are high.

Plus its also easier to Compare Broadband in the UK than it is in the US.  I suspect this has more to do with a smaller geographical area.

Snap shot of partial index of UK broadband prices

Call Sprint Customer Service a Whole Bunch to Avoid Early Termination Fees

 Cnet ran into a somewhat interesting story about Sprint getting mad with some of their customers that call to complain too often.  So Sprint decided to churn through these complaint happy customers and dump them.  Sprint sent out a 30 + day notice to some of their customers on June 29.  The customers were informed that they had until July 31 to find a new wireless provider if they wanted to keep their phone numbers.

Sprint was also nice enough not to charge their customers and early cancellation fee of $200 for getting canceled by Sprint.

One canceled customer reportedly had called to have a billing error fixed.  Sprint re-routed her call multiple times and hung up on her.  She feels that Sprint is now canceling her account because their own call center system may have made it look like she called in more than she really did.

This strategic move to cancel customers before they cancel on Sprint might be the best thing that ever happened to many Sprint customers.  The Nextel customers that got stuck with Sprint after one of the most ill conceived mergers in the telecom world mixing Sprint's horrendous track record of bad call quality and even poorer customer service with Nextel's business customer base, might get lucky with an early out also.  This has to be one of the strangest moves that a wireless company could take, but its not terribly surprising as there just seems to be something flawed in the DNA of Sprint's corporate culture.

There are probably a large number of Sprint Customers that would probably love to get out of the terrible contract they are stuck in.  Maybe all they need to do is call in to customer service a little more often during peak calling hours.  Then maybe come the end of July, they will get that most sought after letter saying that there Sprint contract will be canceled without any early cancellation fees!

Sprint breaks up with high-maintenance customers | Tech news blog - CNET News.com

i-Hype-Phone iNails iLid on Motorola iCoffin

 The iPhone is a first generation prototype piece of junk.  It lacks fundamental phone capabilities and delivers a nice user interface that is incomplete at best.  That won't stop the iPhone from nailing Motorola.

Motorola announced a $101M 2Q charge for cuts relating to layoffs.  Motorola has consistently proven itself to be incapable of making the right choices.  They have been unable to choose the right products, the right prices, the right partnerships, and possibly even the right CEO.

Motorola probably made their worst choice when they partnered with Apple on the iRokr, Apple's first junkie mobile phone MP3 player.  Motorola was too ignorant to avoid dealing with Apple back then and they have paid for it dearly for the last 12 months as Apple has raced to hype and raced to market with the iPhone.

Apple has successfully sold the hype and Motorola is taking a 2Q charge.  

Cell phones and the cell phone industry will not benefit from a dead Motorola nor will they benefit from an Apple i-Hype-Phone. 

Socially Responsible Investment Manager Demand rising

AE Feldman's Management Consulting Firm Blog,  recently posted on their blog that there is a rising demand for Investment Managers that have experience or capabilities in Socially Responsible investing.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Socially Responsible Investing, its basically investing in stocks, or other financial investment tools that are backed by companies or organizations that are socially responsible.  This means they do not harm their stakeholders nor act unethically.

Stakeholders can include but might not be limited to stockholders, employees, partners, the community where the company is located, the consumers of the product and the world at large.  Anyone or anything that might be impacted by a company has a stake in that company acting responsibly.

This is not a new concept, but it has been growing in importance over the last few years.  Many people thought this would take off after the fall of Enron and the disclosure of the ineffectuality of auditors and bankers to police corporations books.

The tide has been rising in demand for more socially responsible companies as people continue to become disenfranchised with ineffectual government and with corporations that pillage communities and stakeholders as opposed to building up an ecosystem of good business.

Texting in an Emergency

The Boston police have finally started to catch up with the texting capabilities of police forces around the world.  They have set up a text messaging tip hotline where citizens can text in 'anonymous' tips.  Now, I have no earthly idea how anyone could establish an 'anonymous' tip capability, but the concept of texting in an emergency is not a new one.

Many police agencies and emergency response system coordinators encourage texting through coordinate systems under many scenarios that can range from texting when its not prudent to call:

  1. You have been kidnapped
  2. You are a hostage
  3. Your mouth is duct taped
  4. Your signal strenght or battery strength is very low
  5. The person you are contacting might not be available if you were to phone (voice mail is sometimes dangerous)

But there are also other scenarios where this can be useful.

  1. Large crowds can convey information to authorities without clogging up the phone lines.
  2. Some cell phones ould be equipped with sensors for Nuclear/Biological/Chemical attacks
  3. Sending pictures of events to authorities
    1. License plate of dangerous car
    2. image of dangerous person
    3. video of a suspicious incident
    4. picture video of a person harming a child (assuming you can't help)
  4. Receiving anonymous tips when someone doesn't want their voice heard (maybe they are on the fence about being an informant?)
  5. Accepting tips and information in the medium and form that it is available.  Sometimes you have to go with the flow. If people are using text messages to communicate, then accept information in that form.

Palm CEO Looking for iPhone Returns - Swap for Treo

Palm Chief Executive Officer, Edward Colligan showed a little moxi with investment analysts stating 

"They will have 30 days to return (iPhone) so we hope we'll benefit from that, if that happens,"

Source: Palm reports profit drop, expects iPhone effect | CNET News.com

Its hasn't been a safe bet to bet against Steve Jobs for a decade but the decade preceding that proved to be a safe time to be against Jobs. Its possible that Colligan is betting on Palm and Treo's consumer experience honed over the last decade. Palm learned some hard lessons about handheld devices that do not have keyboards, especially those that are phones.

The iPhone is essentially a glamorized beta device, while the Treo has been tested and refined year after year for quite a while.

The iPhone does show some innovation in displays and in the software, an Apple strength. However, software does not make a phone. A multi function device that combines an MP3 player/phone/wifi device/VOIP phone/text messaging device/email device is a long long way from Apple's comfort zone working with just little MP3 players that get knocked off by the dozen with any company that has half a brand.

I don't know if Palm will actually receive any of that return sale traffic from potentially disappointed iPhone customers, but I think his head is in the right place. Besides if iPhone is a stellar success, Palm will probably not last much longer anyway, so that kind of simplifies Palm's strategy. Thrive or Die.

Krillion.com Matches Local Deals that you Can Pick up in your car

Often times people browse the Internet looking for just that right thing at just the right price.  Once they find just the right thing at just that right price, they then hop in the car and drive to their local retailer where they either con the retailer into giving them the product of the same price or they end up paying more for product if they get the right product at all.

A recent press release from the new website called Krillion.com covers their new services.  They provide a search platform that allows people to search for products that are available in their local vicinity.  So if you are out there looking for Frigidaire Refrigerators, because your old refrigerator is an quite as efficient as it used to be in the summer starting to kill your electric bill, you can find the refrigerator on their site and then they will give you directions on where you can find that same refrigerator in your local area and you can drive to the store and pick it up today. 

Circuit City offers a similar option for things that they list in their store, but this service covers many stores within your area and not just a single retailer.

Is Vodafone Passing on the iPhone

Apple Waves Flag in Europe A few rumors circulating through iTWire would seem to indicate that Apple and Vodfone have talked about pushing the iPhone through Vodafone, but the rumor has it that Vodafone isn't going to leap at the opportunity too quikly.

  • Its a first generation phone from a company that has never done a phone before.
  • There is already speculation of problems with the device such as the battery life and talk times (after all it does everything and that takes juice).
  • Probably more of a deal killer, Apple reportedly wants a minimum guaranteed order, which is almost laughable in the US market and down right ridiculous in the European Mobile market where American beligerance has never been accepted terribly well. 

They may try it on after all the rumor and speculation are over with, but Apple is likely to have a tougher time in Europe than in the US.  Its one thing to be a US darling but another to be a belligerant foreigner fighting off anti-trust litigation.

Link to iTWire - Vodafone to get Euro iPhone?

Apple's iPhone- Fast One or Coup d'etat

Zdnet is reporting that Apple may have pulled a fast one on At&t with an iPhone built in the form of a Trojan Horse.  They claim that Apple has held back the WiFi controls from At&t so that some day down the road, Apple or other developers could use the phone to make WiFi calls from hotspots.

The premise here is that the telcos have been holding back on WiFi with mobile phones since they have not yet found a way to make money from it.  They also claim that they have been reducing costs while increase mobile phone bills to consumers.  I support both positions myself having worked in the mobile phone industry for several years and working directly with 3 of the largest phone carriers.

Whether or not the iPhone is a trojan horse is a bit of a red herring.  It has to be accepted by consumers and it has to work before its trojan potential might be explored.  I think that it could be a trojan horse, but that is a game that Microsoft has played in the past and not Apple.  (DOS on every IBM computer)

Apple has always worked to be unique and avoid the business model of living off a host.  Steve Jobs is that devious, but he's also probably arrogant enough not to want to need another service to leach off of.  In my opinion ZDnet doesn't go far enough.

Apple doesn't want to open the door for WiFi service, they want to become a mobile phone carrier.  If you notice, activation of these phones can only be performed through iTunes.  That means that if you buy the phone in the store, you can't activate it until you get home.  You won't even know if Apple accepts your credit until after you buy the phone and install iTunes.

I'm sure Apple set up that system as they did not have the wireless infrastructure to activate phones through the normal cellular processes, not to mention they probably didn't have time to complete the EDI or XML testing of key codes required to activate a normal mobile phone.

At&t must have dropped or ignored every rule and protocol in their book to get the iPhone to market. Playing that loose allowed them to take a big gamble on the iPhone, the question will be if they gambled for a few million more handset sales a year, or if they just gambled their mobile phone service away.

That was the same question the record labels asked themselves a few years ago when iTunes came out.  Their nightmares have not become reality yet, but they are definitely bleeding out from other wounds.  Maybe Apple has learned enough from that experience to perform a coup d' etat on the wireless industry.

Stock Options Software Trial

If you are curious about learning to trade stock options, you may want to take a look at signing up for a website called stockopt.com.  Per their latest release, they are currently offering a free 14 day trial where you can sign up with just your name in any military's, no credit card is required, and you can access their online tools to help you learn how to invest in trade with stock options.

Investing in stock options is definitely an advanced investment practice and shouldn't be entered into lightly or without a great deal of investigation, study, and research.  Stock options let you leverage your investment dollars on the velocity of movement of another financial products such as a stock or a bond or foreign currency or even a commodity.  You're essentially investing in the option to buy or the option to sell whichever financial instrument is backed by the Stock option.  Stock options generically referred financially backed options of stocks, however sometimes the word stock option is also used as a synonym for other types of options which may not be backed by investments in actual company stock.

"Steal My Book" Jonathan Lethem

I read an interesting article about a week ago in Forbes that I wanted to explore in more detail.  Jonnathan Lethem an author and would be movie writer, has been hoping to break his novels into Hollywood movies.

He has attained a modest level of success as a writer, but none of his movies have made it successfully into a movie yet.  He had one book optioned off, but it never made it to the big screen. 

So he is taking a new approach.  He is encouraging writers to steal is books and rewrite them for a movie.  He is looking for acknowledgment in return.

Books that are made into movies often times pay big dividends to the authors after the fact.  Its not the money they receive for the book up front from the movie studios, but the increase in sales of the original book after the movie comes out.

Movies like Forest Gump pushed sales of the book Forest Gump and its sequel into the stratosphere for Winston Groom.  The movie of course was very very different than the books.  The movie was like a Brady Bunch rendition of Jackass the Movie.  However, it sold lots of books for Winston Groom and put a great book into much wider circulation.

This model has legs in my opinion not just for authors but for other artists as well from clothing designers to musicians.  Movies are a way to market a product globally and if your product is a Coke, or a song, or a new fashion dress or even the story behind the movie, a Movie can push the envelope on your potential new market.

CoverMyTravels

This week I've been reviewing several travel insurance, insurance companies.  This time I'm turning my attention to CoverMyTravels.co.uk.

They offer a fairly comprehensive set of travel insurance policies and price structures designed to fit the needs of sometimes travelers, senior citizen travelers, and excessively regular travelers just to name a few.

They offer medical travel insurance in the following categories:

  • Travel Insurance for Pre-existing Medical Conditions
  • over 65 travel insurance
  • Single trip travel insurance
  • Annual travel insurance
  • Family travel insurance
  • Long stay travel insurance

Travel insurance can be very useful when you need to cover your foreign medical expenses, cover losses of personal belongings such as luggage or clothing, replace passports and cash, and even cover your personal liability or legal costs if you should happen to fall into legal trouble while traveling.

Travel insurance premiums will vary from person to person depending on their age and medical conditions and more.  But to give you up in the ballpark look at what some travel premiums cost, it look that their example premium sections which list premiums for different age groups ranging from £29  to just over £400.

I have reviewed several travel insuranc sites and this is one that caught my attention with their offering of Family Travel Inusrance plans in particular.  Some business travelers are individually covered by their companies, but that coverage does not always extend to their spouse and children.

Corporations trying to Avoid Obscene Protests while Capitalizing on SecondLife

If there is money they will come .

SecondLife is creating for virtual economy made up of real money with real paying customers.  These customers purchase things in virtual reality and oftentimes take those things back out to the real world with them or are just the real items in the real world.  In this way SecondLife can sometimes be used as a staging area.

However doing business in SecondLife is not easy.  At least it's not easy to do business in SecondLife in a way that you would do business in real life.  In real life it's very unlikely that your customers will break out into an orgy in your retail store.  When protests happen in real life, they can cause real damage and sometimes even heard people.  In SecondLife, they caused virtual damage intend to embarrass people and corporations.

Forbes recently covered an article on SecondLife to talk about some of the pranks that occur there.  For example, a virtual helicopter crashed into a virtual Nissan Corp. building.  The crash erupted into a fire at Nissan, but no workers were armed.

A separate incident involved American Apparel which was bombed within SecondLife.  Bombing a virtual reality retail store fortunately will not harm any shoppers.  It can be embarrassing for corporate image managers.

Many corporations hope to make big bucks fast in SecondLife.  Many are not having much success with this for a couple different reasons.  There are only so many things that lend itself to purchases in SecondLife today, music videos or music might be good examples.  Many other things don't lend themselves to a virtual shopping experience unless you're purchasing those items just to enhance your virtual experience.

Corporations are also somewhat stymied by the lower than expected numbers of people actively participating in SecondLife at any given time.  That number seems to hover around 30,000 people logged in and doing something in SecondLife throughout the day or night.  There are millions of registered users, but that's different than millions of people showing up every day.

It's likely that corporations will continue to dabble in SecondLife until somebody finds a way to make it work.  At that point in time more people will come for the SecondLife experience and the shopping and the corporations will be there to take their money.

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