Archive for November, 2008

Brief plug in the Washington Post

Looks like this is online only, but I’ll take what I can get!

A weekend with the iPhone

Last Friday I was in a bit of a bind. My Blackberry Pearl was on the fritz, and I needed to get a new phone. The new Blackberry Storm was tempting — until I used one (it needs work). Friends have been recommending the iPhone forever, and as an Apple-lover (and iPod Touch owner), it’s been very tempting. The main thing that’s held me back: AT&T.
Friday, I gave into temptation and bought an iPhone. My number was ported almost instantly, and I was in business. The iPhone is an amazing device. It’s fast, the interface is slick, and the applications are first rate. But none of that matters if the wireless network that it relies on is poor. Over the weekend I became frustrated with dropped calls, poor call quality, and a few occasions where I had to reboot the phone to get any coverage at all. After doing some reading on the various cell phone forums, I concluded that AT&T’s 3G network here in the Bay Area is overloaded, which is the root of most (if not all) of these problems.
After 3 days, I decided that I didn’t want to spend two years owning a cool phone with bad call quality. So, Monday night, I took it back to the Apple Store, and returned it without any problems (not even a restocking fee).
My next stop was the Verizon store, to see if I could get back online with them. Unforutnately the stores cannot reactivate you if you recently left, but the employee gave me a number to call when I got home. I called as soon as I got home, and immediately got connected to a helpful guy (also named Jeff) in Telesales. We talked about my iPhone experiences, the Blackberry Storm, and how to get me reconnected quickly.
I ended up signing a new contract (to get a new phone at a discount) and will be getting the HTC Touch Pro on Wednesday. If that phone doesn’t do it for me, I have 30 days to exchange it for something else. If the Storm gets its issues straightened out by then, I may try that… otherwise I’ll go back to a regular Blackberry.
Oh, and if this story sounds familiar, the same thing happened in 2005, albeit with a much less exciting phone.
Update: The HTC Touch Pro wasn’t my cup of tea, so I traded it in for a good old Blackberry Curve.

Extreme nerd alert

I’ve been wanting a new gaming PC and decided to A) save a little money and B) challenge myself by building it myself. Remind me not to do that again.
This whole thing started when Fry’s offered up a Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 processor and a motherboard for just $229. The processor alone normally sells for like $320! So I made my way to Fry’s, and with some moral support from Mark, bought everything I needed.
The fun started when I discovered that the bundle Fry’s was selling wouldn’t actually work. The motherboard required a BIOS upgrade in order to support the processor, and since I couldn’t get the computer to boot due to this incompatibility, I couldn’t upgrade the BIOS!
I took the motherboard and processor back to Fry’s, and the “customer service” people discovered that some of the pins on the processor socket (on the motherboard) were bent. I don’t see how I could’ve possibly done it, but it didn’t matter to them. “Equal exchange only”, the manager said. I had read that they actually had some updated motherboards in stock, but I went to the components department and they had none. Their own employees were shocked that they were selling such a bundle in the first place.
A helpful and much smarter geek who happened to witness the whole thing suggested just keeping what I had and buying another motherboard — and that’s just what I did. After probably 10-12 hours of work and trips to Fry’s (which is 20 miles away), I completed my project. The computer’s up and running and it screams. Even Vista is sort of fast! It was rewarding to do this project, but next time I think I’ll stick with Dell.
Pics and more after the link.

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A sign of the times

I got a letter from Wells Fargo today about my home equity line of credit (HELOC). For the last three years I’ve had $77,000 worth of credit. The letter today says they’re lowering it to $35,000, due to the “substantial decrease” in the value of my home. My house has lost maybe 3% of its value, yet they cut my credit by more than half. I’m going to bug them on Monday to see if they can bump it back up — it’s a good safety net during these tough times.

A downside of self-employment

When you get sick, business comes to a grinding halt. I’ve felt like crap for most of the week, and I don’t know if it’s the antibiotic I’m taking, or just a stomach bug. Regardless, not much work is getting done at the moment.
(Postscript: I was pretty much all better by Friday)