Posts Tagged ‘phone’

Try Again

7 September 2011

Dear J-

The few small successes I’ve had with backing devices are usually undone by something as simple as an upgrade or bugfix that requires me to go through an endless cycle of hacking and rehacking without an end in sight. I rooted my phone so that I could run a custom ROM and connect to a Bluetooth HID keyboard which worked great yesterday yet today requires an endless dance of pairing, unpairing, connecting and not connecting. This in turn leads me to think that maybe there’s a fix for this or a hack and please say that it’s not going to require me to re-load the ROM because then I lose all my settings and applications and …

You know, there’s just not enough time in the day to deal with all of that. I’ve been using a bluetooth keyboard (to be precise: the SAME bluetooth keyboard) for years now with several different devices, from a Treo 650 to Nokia N800 and now to this Android phone. A good keyboard is worth its weight in gold; devices, not so much. Given that time spent fiddling is not time spent using, there’s something inherently wrong with any device that requires you to spend more time setting up than using. The measure of success should be how quickly you’re able to get it working, and at the moment, iOS is winning that race. Note that it’s probably ludicrous to carry around a keyboard that’s larger than your phone in order to type efficiently, but we won’t get into that.

I remember this with the PSP, which sounded great at the time, promising emulation action — finally, here you could have a portable 16-bit Final Fantasy. The problem was two things happened: Square started going crazy with SNES/SFC remakes on the DS, and Sony started waging war with the hackers by forcing firmware upgrade after upgrade to play the latest games (and you could count a third cause, too: the PSP hardware was a battery-sucking hog on the order of the Nomad or Game Gear) and you had to choose: legitimate games or retain the hack? I eventually chose neither and the PSP has been sitting in a box somewhere for years now. It is why I’ve been so hesitant to root the phone: I’m sure it can be done. I just don’t have the time to deal with it.



Phone Roam

19 August 2011

Dear J-

I suppose everyone has a curmudgeon inside but I wonder what the actual utility of a large-screened phone is. if you recall Jeff Hawkins, one of the founders of Palm, carried around a block of wood for a week in order to come up with his ideal shape and size — 120 x 80 x 18mm, 180g. Lately though it seems like the newer the phone, the bigger the screen (the leaked Droid HD has a 4.5″ screen), the bkgger the device, and the bulkier our pockets become until we’re all left toting around something way bigger than a stack of 3 x 5″ cards (it’s the closest analogy I can think of to the original Palm Pilot 1000).

I’m sure the saga of Palm will be dissected throughout the week until some bigger tech story moves on to displace it (it has been a bad week for hardware, with Motorola and now HP/Palm; I’m beginning to understand why my brother now has to work in Taiwan). Us personally, we’ve had a fair amount of involvement with the products. I got a TRGpro, sort of a forked Palm IIIx with a CF slot for theVet when she was in vet school (we managed to wipe the memory twice and she stopped using it). Then when I graduated to a team lead I picked up a Palm IIIc and used it usefully a few times (the contact list was pretty nice for keeping tabs on the little telcos and LECs, and the color screen was pretty whizzy at the time). Various other models followed including a couple of Cliés and the original Tungsten T, nice and solid, but the one most useful was a Treō 650. Between wireless (bluetooth) sync and keyboard I wrote most of the entries from 2007-2009 or so on that beast.

I picked up a used Pre not long ago as I was interested in seeing what webOS was like. That was the device which provided the tipping point and I jumped into a smartphone six months ago and its associated bad habits (charging every night, turning off radios and managing RAM). There are those who will not accept anything less than full control but for me, the whole point has been to have the computer make some of the mundane decisions for me. I shouldn’t have to root the phone to gain increased stability and performance: if that’s not already standard that tells me they aren’t sweating the end user experience. I stayed with Palm OS for so long because of its relative polish and am considering dumping Android for tis lack of the same. Selling phones based on feature points and scrren size is like buying audio equipment on THD and watts.


Upgrade Downgrade

14 March 2011

Dear J-

So the Android experience has been mostly positive for me so far — I’ve gotten pretty hooked on the Swype keyboard and think that you can get most of the functionality you might need from a smartphone at a fraction of the cost — but the hardware is unacceptably cheesy. The LG Optimus V I was using happily last week fell roughly three feet today and the screen broke. So I upgraded, in a sense, to the Samsung Instinct, which is no doubt capable but with a palpably less crisp screen and a hardware keyoard I feel compelled to use despite its poor feel. The rest of the hardware seems a bit more solid though and hopefully it will survive a bit better than the nice but fragile LG.

With the LG sold out everywhere and me out of a phone I keep wondering, y’know, is this the best cheap option or will they come out with something even better for cheaper in a few months? I’m sure they will. And I could keep waiting for the next best thing but this point — where I can declare good enough and things are effective. Next best may be six months away and if I can find something good enough — whether that means functional or reliable — then I can live with that.

The phones keep getting more and more capable after all. The paralysis of hoping to get the best period instead of the best for now has kept us from upgrading phones for six years or so. And yet I find the more I can rely on it the more indispensable it becomes. Stupid. After the phone broke we spent hours today that could have been more fruitfully spent at something fun instead of trying to track down a phone. Aggravation becomes part of the equation when you have too many functions on one converged device.


Night Caller

13 January 2010

Dear J-

There are two reasons to call someone at the wee hours of the morning, both having to do with matters of life and death. The joy of birth or the sad tidings of death jolt you out of sleep faster than cold water down the back of your shirt. Yet I’ve gotten two sobering calls in the last month, making my heart race for nothing more than work. Work. I keep telling myself the longer I work in the same place the easier it should be to separate my life and my career, but they tangle in unforseen ways without cease, knotting together inextricably.

We spin in circles; we find ourselves in the same places time after time despite trying different ways, different paths. Time’s wheel keeps rolling on. This time is not that time and yet the eerie sense of deja vu keeps reappearing to remind us of what we keep missing. When the phone rings in the dark I keep thinking back to bad news, hurried flight preparations for the morning, that curious sense of displacement when you’ve moved thousands of miles in a single day without effort and a destination without celebration lying ahead still.

Lately we keep getting the family together for weddings; this year already has two on the calendar but it looks like we’re going to miss them. They tend to be laid out months in advance; the anticipation leads us forward, knowing who’s going to show up and it’s another opportunity to measure the years slipping by in the familiar faces. But meeting up after the calls of the night are constant surprises; we see each other in our naked grief and emotions, our honest truths, our tender hearts. When the phone rings in the night we unlock ourselves, too numb to dissemble, too smart to be anyone but us.


Phone Fuss

12 December 2009

Dear J-

We spent the morning working our way through IKEA; the thousand steps you end up taking are all painful when your companion is prone on the floor after the slightest slight (“Hey, let’s keep going” “NOOOOOOO!”). Thankfully, most of the people passing by were more amused than horrified (strangely enough, the parents in the crowd seemed to recognize the face-on-the-floor tantrums: one in every room of the pretend houses, and one at the foot of the stairs, too, for good measure). It did make for a pretty quick way to pass the time, though I think we’ll be banned from IKEA if we keep going back (especially if we break stuff like we did today).

We live in a wonderful place, where we can decide to head off to the Zoo at a moment’s notice (so to speak) to watch the lights; though I know she’s getting sick (you can tell by how crabby she is) the one thing that’s going to perk her up is having the chance to stare at Christmas lights and stay out later than usual, even if we’re going to pay for it in further anger (best not to wake a sleeping figgy, and best not to keep her much beyond bedtime).

We woke up disoriented from a call from work this morning — the joke that that place can’t run without me came ironically true — and I thought about calling in to offer my services later (whether over the phone, in the afternoon, or tomorrow), but I just got over twelve days in a row and the batteries were flat. Instead, we spent the day we needed — starting out I wouldn’t have predicted it would turn out to be a perfect day, between early morning interruptions and all day fuss, but somewhere between splashing in puddles and plucking a sleepy figgy out of her seat, we make it work out perfectly. Again.


Level Up

29 April 2009

Dear J-

When we say that we want to make things better, we really mean that we want things to be better for us.   Try to be altruistic — I’m teaching you for your benefit, let’s say — and anyone can twist it back on you:  you’re only teaching them to cut down on the number of calls and requests for help you get going forward.  It may not be perfectly selfish, but if the goal is to cut back on the time spent on the phone, there are lots of ways to do it.

I do make a lot of assumptions throughout the course of the day; one of them happens to be that I can ignore my phone calls, at least for a while, but I suspect that’s something that’s seriously going to come back on me.  It doesn’t help the person waitng for a call back, either; they just end up getting impatient or annoyed, or trying to get in touch some other way.  Own the issue, close it in such a way it remains closed.  Though it may seem helpful to do things for other people, all you’re doing is depriving them of a chance to learn how.

At some point, then, you have to evaluate — perhaps even constantly evaluate — how effective you’ve been.  What do you use as the yardstick?  Can you compare results  from the past?  There are times that I think of role-playing games and the grind of experience points and levels; although your character goes up and gets bigger and badder, donning the Excellent Armor of Excellence +4 with the Vorpal Sword of Slaying +3, all that means is that you keep pace with the monsters you’re trying to slay:  the battles don’t become easier, and your character dies just as often.  Put simply, you get better and the target keeps moving; where am I today, is the target closer or just rising faster?


Stingy Phone

6 April 2009

Dear J-

Dreaming a bit here — trying to marry my stinginess with technology — makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to reconcile my so-cheap cell phone service (Virgin Mobile) with desired features (a handset that doesn’t have a bullet list straight out of 2005).  We’re getting closer, but it’s going to take a small miracle in technical ability — or monetary means — to find the right mix.

You want to be able to do so much with the phone, right — there’s that lovely word convergence again — but ask for too much and you become paranoid about taking it out to show off.  Me, I’ll settle for something that reduces the number of battery-powered gadgets in my bag:  phone, camera, music player, PDA, game machine; it doesn’t have to do everything well, it just has to be able to do the things I need.  Of course, I suspect it’s a fool’s chase, and I’ll no doubt end up hoping for the next big thing.

It gets back to how much you need and how much you want.  Things are fine as they are; it would be nice to go on-line to grab e-mail and web sites away from a computer, but there’s no burning need to do so.  I don’t text message enough to justify a full keyboard, and my portable camera, humble as it is, is plenty adequate for my needs (there I suspect it’s a question of getting used to how it works).  Once the justification phase starts, that’s when I get in trouble with money, though.