Friday, December 26, 2008

Mobile Broadband and why Verizon is stupid.

Send Email to Sprint Customer Care:

Mobile Broadband Connection Plan


Mobile Broadband Connection Plan: If I had this in addition to voice service would Sprint reduce the total amount due?  For instance, $40 voice plus $60 Broadband  = $70 instead of $100.

Also, does Sprint handle Broadband the same way that Verizon does, i.e., assign a cell phone number and apply "tax" at about 25% in New York?  That increased my Verizon bill from the already outrageously overpriced $60 for Broadband to $75.  I canceled but am disappointed to see that Sprint has the same price.


Yes, the noble experiment to achieve mobility to the Internet has hit a big bump.  I canceled my Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service within the thirty day trial period.  The tech companies force you to speak to them so that they can attempt to dissuade you.  However, the Verizon Wireless person with whom I spoke made no such attempt.  She tried a stick instead of a carrot: YOU MUST PAY THE $175 EARLY TERMINATION FEE!  I asked for a supervisor and after a long wait she returned with the good news that I was correct, that no such fee was due.

I explained that cost was the reason that I was canceling.  Still no attempt to mollify the customer.  I later thought that I should have explicitly asked for a discount but, no, Verizon should have made the effort.  Verizon is really in trouble.  Any other tech company would have tried to keep me.

I immediately had cancellation remorse.  I used the Verizon supplied FedEx label to return my nice small wireless broadband modem, the one that stinky old Cradlepoint made no attempt to test with its wireless broadband routers, another reason for my canceling the service: limited mobile functionality.

The Verizon Wireless person who took my cancellation referred to the "other company", by which she meant regular home service Verizon from which I get FIOS video and Internet service in my suburban New York apartment and for which I get the only meager attempt that Verizon makes to leverage its unmatched varied services: a flex bundle discount.  My Verizon Wireless voice service counts towards a Verizon FIOS discount: voice ($13), Internet ($8) for a monthly FIOS total for two services of $85, not much below what Verizon FIOS charges for its triple play, a stupid reaction to that offered by cable TV companies.

It is stupid because video, Internet and home voice are the only three services that cable TV companies have to bundle.  Verizon has much more but is too stupid to creatively leverage them, such its three Internet services: home, wireless on smartphone, wireless for laptops.  As mentioned previously, the retail prices are $53, $30 (plus 25% "tax"), $60 (plus 25% "tax") respectively.  Verizon also has home voice and mobile voice services.  OK, home voice service is still regulated but that is the only Verizon service that is regulated and Verizon could and should be allowing consumers to combine multiple services at big discounts.

I like the Verizon services but if I can find a way to get what I want for substantially less money I would not hesitate to dump Verizon completely.

Plus, WiMax is coming.  My guess: within 24 months.  Verizon, wake up!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apple, the Evil Empire

The Evil Empire is Apple, not Microsoft.  Not that Microsoft is not basically guilty as charged on most reasonable criticism.

Apple has the closed systems.

Apple relies on customers being dummies.  Like AOL.  Fear is good for Apple.

Microsoft is a software company.  Apple is a hardware and software company but primarily hardware.

Everything, especially games, are written for Microsoft Windows, which runs on computers from MANY companies.  MANY of these Windows computers are inexpensive.  Most non-games are also written for Apple's MacOS, which runs only on Apple computers.  Developers would prefer to have only one version of their products.  Businesses want only one OS.  Most consumers want only one OS; they want to buy apps.

Apple computer pricing is indefensible.  Apple seems to set a premium price and then add $300.  How the heck can Apple justify those prices?  $1,300 for the new Apple MacBook with a 13 inch monitor.

Apple is much more of a control freak than Microsoft.  Apple is abandoning MacWorld events to concentrate on Apple events in order to have total control.

Does Apple have a better product, i.e., MacOS fitted to Apple computers v. Windows on computers made by many different companies?  Probably.  But not nearly enough to justify the price.

All this is why Apple will remain a minor player, with at most ten percent market share.

Verizon Wireless Smartphone Internet

After deciding to dump the Apple iPhone and its $30 data plan after only one day I was about to buy a BlackBerry Storm on the Verizon Wireless web site, counting on the thirty day return policy - same as that for the iPhone.  I had noticed that there were two options for the data plan: $45 for corporate, $30 for personal use.  I had never seen the $30 option for my Palm Treo 700P on the Verizon Wireless web site.  My purchase of the BB Storm was interrupted by a chat (instant messaging) with a Verizon Wireless person who informed me that my Treo could have the $30 plan added by calling another Verizon Wireless person but not through the Verizon Wireless web site.  What?  How does that make sense?

Since I could try the Verizon Wireless data plan on my Treo, I avoided buying a new device.  I may cancel at any time.  There is no turn on or turn off charge.  Cool.  This will enable me to test my need to have an Internet connection where ever I am.  The Palm browser is Blazer 4.5, not much improved over Blazer 4.3 on my Palm TX.  Blazer displays some photos but it is basically text.

I can return to the Verizon Wireless voice only service on my Treo, which I might do if I decide to retain the Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service to replace my home Verizon FIOS Internet service.  Keeping both the Treo Internet service at $30 plus some tax and the BROADBANDACCESS for $30 more that FIOS Internet, would increase my Internet cost by $60 ($45 to $105), something that I want to avoid.

iPhone for a day.

I bought an Apple iPhone Friday.  I returned it Saturday.

1. ATT Wireless network dropped a call Friday and another Saturday.  That NEVER happened with Verizon Wireless.  After that the other reasons did not matter.  It is primarily a PHONE, something that Apple does not grasp.  Ironically, the ATT Wireless 3G data network performed better that its reputation.

2. I like to read The New York Times on the 3.5 inch screen of my Palm TX, which can connect to the Internet only through WiFi.  The Palm TX cannot handle things like video and it presents the Times as text, not as an image of itself.  The iPhone presents an image of the Times front page.  Obviously, the image is small.  The iPhone has this cool thing where you push two fingers apart or together to change the size of the image and then slide the image around to view different parts of it.  And turn the iPhone sideways from portrait to landscape, which I needed to do often to be able to see enough text at a reasonable size for it to be readable.  Cool.  But try doing that for an hour, constantly resizing and re-orienting the image.  You get a headache.  The iPhone was clearly designed for people who do not read.

3. Yahoo mail worked irregularly, fetching messages then repeatedly stating that it could not connect to the server and demanding that I confirm that I understood this to be OK.  I thought that the OK button was a snide Apple and Linux criticism of Microsoft.

4. I could not load anything from the App Store, the biggest positive about the iPhone.  I am sure that eventually it would have worked but the fact that it did not added to my increasing frustration.  This should have been made to work by the Apple person who sold me the iPhone and provided a generally good orientation.  He did tell me that I might have to log in to iTunes on my Windows PC.  I even tried that.  iTunes crashed.  Enough.

5. My PHONE, not to be confused with audio only, headset would not fit into the iPhone jack.  The Apple person who handled my return of the iPhone told me that the iPhone audio buds, the ones that fall out of my ears, include a mic.  Who knew?  The sales guy should have told me.  More frustration.

6. I knew that text entry on the touch screen was an acquired skill that might take a few days but it was more frustrating to use it for a while rather than the few minutes at a time when visiting an Apple store.  Going back to change something was shown to me by the sales person but it was pretty awkward.  What is Apple thinking?  What are iPhone sycophants thinking?

7. Moving among the functions was clumsy.  I had thought that the integration of functions was a big strength but it is not so.

8. iPhone could not play all video forms!  Amazing for a non-verbal product.  At I clicked a video and was eventually informed that the browser was not acceptable.  iPhone played youtube videos well.  That was cool.

I tried everything.  Some stuff I liked.  Most gave me problems.  If the iPhone itself had been overwhelmingly cool, I might have been tempted to overlook the week ATT Wireless voice service, which the ATT rep I spoke to insisted, several times, should be good because I was in a good reception area.  What does that tell me?

Apple accepted my iPhone, provided credit and contacted ATT Wireless to cancel that subscription.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Linux - chapter 6: Strange but True.

I am running Ubuntu Linux 8.10 from my Dell laptop. No, it is still not installed.

I had multiple failures, usually during the Ubuntu partitioner program. I could always run Ubuntu from the CD but that, of course, was VERY slow. I stumbled around with Ubuntu and eventually tried something that wanted to create a boot on my four gig USB flash drive. By this time I figured, what the heck. It created successfully and I rebooted to try to create a new partition for Ubuntu and load Ubuntu into that new partition on my hard drive. The Ubuntu partitioner program failed again, this time with an inability to do anything other than wipe out Windows and have Ubuntu take over the entire hard drive. This would happen when the Ubuntu partitioner program failed AND I did not reboot to Windows so that Windows could fix or at least stabilize the hard drive.

Then I removed the "bootable" CD but left in the bootable USB flash drive and rebooted. Ubuntu booted off the USB flash drive. There was no dual boot with an option to boot to Windows but it booted Ubuntu OK. The best part is that USB flash drive is MUCH faster than the CD. It may be faster than the hard drive since it's solid state memory. Ironically, the USB flash drive's four gig is the same amount as that in the Dell Mini 9 netbook PC that Dell had loaded with Ubuntu Linux 8.04.


I am sending this message from FireFox browser within Ubuntu Linux 8.10. The real test will come when I try to load Skype.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mobile Internet Device

Here are the options that I have been considering:

1. my current Palm Treo 700P, service from Verizon Wireless; NO WiFi
2. Apple iPhone, service from ATT Wireless; WiFi; possible use with ATT Wireless or WiFi
3. G1 Google Phone, service from T-Moble, which I would not use; WiFi
4. Nokia N810 WiMax Internet tablet, no service provider; WiFi and WiMax.
5. Netbook, such as the Dell Mini 9 that I bought and returned because Linux OS was deficient.

Note: Verizon FIOS gives a flex discount if I have two Verizon FIOS services (video and Internet) AND Verizon Wireless service, either voice or Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service.  The discounts are:

- FIOS video: $48 down to $40 ($8)
- FIOS Internet: $58 down to $45 ($13).

1. Palm Treo 700P

Price: $400, already paid three years ago.

1. Do not need to buy a new device.
2. Stay with Verizon Wireless, which has the best voice network and the best data network.
3. no two year commitment.

1. Monthly bill: $45 plus 25% tax, about $56.25!  Ouch!  That in addition to nearly $50 for voice.
2. No WiFi.  NOT acceptable.

2. Apple iPhone

- $200 with two year ATT contract
- $500 on eBay without contract.

1. Cool.
2. WiFi
3. could use with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service if I keep it and if I get that Cradlepoint battery powered router to work.
4. Apps, including Skype free from
5. Could use it instead of Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service.
6. With ATT Wireless voice I would get roll over minutes!  Big plus!
7. Lightest and smallest.

Cons for using ATT:
1. Monthly bill: not as onerous as that for Verizon but still $30 plus 25% tax, about $37.50.  That in addition to nearly $50 for voice, same as Verizon.
2. ATT network sucks.
3. Verizon FIOS would increase cost of video service from $40 to $53 plus tax if I switch voice service from Verizon Wireless to ATT Wireless.

1. If I kept Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS ($60 plus 25% tax) and cancel FIOS Internet ($45 no tax), which I would do, Verizon FIOS would increase cost of video service from $40 to $48 plus tax.
2. No physical keyboard.

3. G1 Google Phone

Cost: $325 on eBay; no contract.

1. WiFi
2. Google syncs from G1 to google web server for gmail, contacts and calendar without using a PC.  Huge.
3. Enhanced google earth.
4. Physical keyboard.

2. No sync with MS Outlook, Mac iCal, etc.
3. No apps yet.

Nokia N810 WiMax Internet tablet

Price: $458; $362 from Nokia online chat,

1. NO service provider.
2. WiFi only connection to Internet.
3. WiMax; future.
4. Biggest screen, over four inches, even larger than my PalmTX.
5. Physical keyboard.

1. No option for a service provider.
2. WiFi only; really need Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service AND Cradlepoint router.
3. Heaviest at half a pound.


My current Palm Treo is eliminated because of the cost of the Verizon data plan: $56.26, including tax.  That's ridiculous.

G1 Google phone is eliminated because it cannot run Skype.  T-Mobile is a joke as a carrier, so using it for voice is not an option.


1. Apple iPhone with ATT Wireless for both voice and data.  The data plan replaces BOTH Verizon Internet services and leaves me with the iPhone as my only access to the Internet other than the free WiFi in a public room in my building but not near my apartment.  The additional ATT data cost of $37.50 is less than what I pay with me flex plan for Verizon FIOS Internet - $45.  Verizon FIOS would then want to increase the cost of my video service from $40 to $48.  I could switch back to the hated Cablevision at $30 plus $10 for an HD-DVR.  Unlikely.

2. Replace Verizon FIOS Internet ($45) with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service ($75) for a cost increase of $30.  This would negate the Verizon flex discount and increase my video cost from $40 to $48.  That's a total increase of $38.

2a. Apple iPhone with ATT Wireless for both voice and data, replacing Verizon Wireless voice.  Cost for data: $37.50.  Total increase: $75.50.  Unlikely.

2b. Apple iPhone, no contract.  Use it to make Skype calls.  Cancel Verizon Wireless voice, saving $50, which more than offsets the extra cost of BROADBANDACCESS ($30).  This is the least expensive option, reducing my cost $20 and increasing my mobile functionality.  It completely adheres to the basic concept: a mobile Internet device for multiple functions, including voice and browsing.  It is also the most risky.  Two points of failure for voice service: ATT Wireless modem, Cradlepoint router.  Skype lacks functions of wireless service such as call waiting.  All this would need to be tested in phases.  Possible.

2c. Nokia N810 WiMax Internet tablet.  Use Palm Treo with Verizon Wireless voice as I do now.  Possible increase in cost of video service of $8.  Least risky.  Nokia N810 could be a good addition either with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service or as an additional and more powerful WiFi device.  Possible.

3. Apple iPhone with ATT Wireless for both voice and data, replacing Verizon Wireless voice.  Cost for data: $37.50.  Keep Verizon FIOS Internet ($45)  and cancel Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service ($75).  This would negate the Verizon flex discount and increase my Verizon FIOS video cost from $40 to $48 and increase my Verizon FIOS Internet from $45 to $53.  That's $21.  Total increase: $58.50.  Unlikely, unless I can get concessions from Verizon FIOS OR a better deal from Cablevision for both video and Internet.

4. Netbook with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS.  Cost increase: $30.

Linux - chapter 5

Some where the sun is shining.
Some where children shout.

I may not be mighty Casey but I am striking out.

An exchange between my friend Steve and me:


I just read your entire blog on Tech Thoughts. You are spot on on so many things. It's really a laugh to read. I chuckled out loud a couple of times. Keep going.

Just one bit of info for you which you probably already know. An ISO image can be written to  CD with any of several programs (Nero is one) that detect that (or ask you if) the image is an ISO and write appropriate boot info on the CD. Just moving the ISO image does not create the boot data, so you can't boot it. I went thru this a while ago, also with Ubuntu as a matter of fact, to test their boot-only-from-CD-you-don't-need-to-write-anything-to-your-PC process. 




Now you tell me?

I downloaded Nero.  It took a LONG time.  Now I have the Ubuntu version of a DOS prompt.

Apparently, the boys wonders included Nero in the ISO file with a configuration that fails to boot.  Their Nero also expires New Year's Eve.  Nice touch.

So ... I again started Ubuntu from the CD onto which I extracted the ISO files using 7 zip.  Installation starts and always fails during partition.  When I restart Windows it runs chkdsk and fixes what it describes as a dirty drive.



Windows is looking like a wonder despite the snide comments of the Linux over aged wonder boys.  Even the name Ubuntu.  From the web site:

What does Ubuntu mean?

Ubuntu is an African word meaning 'Humanity to others', or 'I am what I am because of who we all are'. The Ubuntu distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.

Could they be more condescending to black Africans whom I assume are their intended beneficiaries, not middle class people in developed countries like me.  I'm OK, you're OK in African.  Some snooty Latin phrase was unavailable?  Or an English word unused by more than a dozen people?

Notice when clicking through Ubuntu installation screens the button to continue is called Forward, not Next.  I guess Next is contaminated by Microsoft Windows.  Too many people are familiar with it.  That decision must have gotten an extra beer at Miller time.

I just debased myself and ordered Ubuntu on CD.  Hopefully by the time it arrives in "4 to 6 weeks to deliver, depending on the country of shipping", I will have become completely despondent and bought a MacBook, outrageously overpriced plus $300 by Apple.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Linux - chapter 4

My laptop now opens to a dual boot screen with the options Windows (default after 10 seconds) or Ubuntu.

You would think that I had been successful. WRONG!

If I choose Ubuntu it boots into Never Never Land. I have to hold down the power button to get it to shut down. Eventually, I powered on and chose Windows. I was never so glad to see that Microsoft WindowsXP opening screen.

I never did get my PC to boot from either the USB flash drive or the CD drive. Totally by accident I stumbled onto the Ubuntu install. How? From Windows I opened My Computer and clicked the CD drive to see what, if any, files had been successfully copied onto the CD. I had given up on burning stuff onto it. Real Player software wanted to burn audio files. Anyway, the Ubuntu installer auto ran. Wow. I thought I was in. Silly me.

I chose the option that Ubuntu states is seldom needed to let Ubuntu help me boot from the CD drive containing Ubuntu. Rather than run Ubuntu as a sub task under Windows I chose the Ubuntu partitioning utility. Of course, along the way it failed and after that I had no idea what happened other than going once again into Never Never Land. Hold down that power button, here we go again.

I am not sure where things are, other than greed is good and good old WindowsXP still works despite the recent abuse to my PC. I will try to install Ubuntu again. I may be able to run it from the CD bit what good is that?

Linux - chapter 3

I am Ahab and Linux is the white whale.

It is just a whale.  And I am a whaling man.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Linux - chapter 2

I did not like failing on my first attempt with Linux.  And maybe I wanted to give myself an excuse to buy a MacBook whose MacOS is based on Unix.

For some bizarre reason I decided to try to load Linux on my one PC, a Dell laptop of little note.  I want to preserve WindowsXP, you know, in case Linux cannot do stuff like the stuff it could not do when I briefly had that Dell mini 910 on which Dell had installed Ubuntu Linux, one of the many Linux flavors.

I have developed an increased belligerence toward the Linux community for their impractical, self-laudatory, non-commercial attitude.  I also have decided to pronounce Linux as I had when I first learned of it, with a long i.

The latest silliness: Ubuntu Linux encourages you to download the operating system (OS).  Here are the choices:

Notice that the older 8.04 will be maintained longer than the newer 8.10.  I'd like it to remain a mystery, so don't tell me.

Here is what prompted me to write this and admit my silly attempt to deal with Linux again.  The OS is contained in an ISO file.  What the heck is that?  Read on.  After downloading it I first tried to copy it onto a CD.  The ISO file is too big for a standard 650 meg CD, not by much, just big enough to not fit.  Who does that?  Who distributes something in an unusual form and makes it just a little too big to fit on the medium they encourage you to use?  How impractical are these people?  They seem to be so full of themselves that they want to keep this open OS restricted to their elite circle.  That's probably why there are so many flavors.  Each genius wants to do it his way.  Yes, they are all men as far as I have seen so far.  The only woman mentioned is Ian's wife Deb whose names  together form the Debian name associated with this guy's flavor.  I hope Deb dumped Ian.

I then bought a USB flash drive at Radio Shack with four gig for $15; good deal.  I never had one before.  I thought that I could somehow put the ISO file on the USB flash drive.  First I copied both current versions onto the flash drive and tried to boot from the flash drive.  It just sits there.  Turns out an ISO file is an image of the Linux OS on a CD.  Who knew?  Oh, the geniuses who want to make the world a better place but cannot even distribute their product.  Ordering a free CD takes TEN weeks.  Gee, I guess they are trying to discourage that.  It worked.

Then I found way down in the site some info that indicated that they want you to "burn" the ISO file onto a CD.  While I cannot find an actual definition of burn it appears to include formatting the CD.  My USB flash drive comes with programs on it.  I do not want to burn it.  I want to burn the Linux guys.  I just want to expand the stupid ISO file, which unlike zip and cab files, does NOT compress, and then copy the liberated files onto my new USB flash drive and try to boot from the flash drive and load the damn Linux OS.  Whew!

Here's another flash for the Linux geniuses: some new PCs do not contain a CD drive!  The Debian site talks about creating a boot disk on a floppy.  Say what?  Floppy drives have not been placed in PCs in years. mentioned:

Treat the iso file as if it were an archive.

Recall how I indicated that iso files are much like zip or cab files? As it turns out some of the popular archiving utilities, including WinRAR and my personal favorite 7 Zip can also read and extract the contents of iso files.

Now you're talking.  OK, Leo's link to 7 Zip did not work but I found it.

7-Zip is open source software.

Hey, tell the Linux guys!

It worked!  Wow, wow, wow, wow, wowie!  Thank you Leo.  Thank you 7 Zip.

Of course, the Linux boys had yet another silliness: a file named README.diskdefines.  I tried to open it but they did not have the sense to name it .txt so that Notepad would open it.  I used Notepad to open it.  Here is the content:

#define DISKNAME  Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex" - Release i386
#define TYPE  binary
#define TYPEbinary  1
#define ARCH  i386
#define ARCHi386  1
#define DISKNUM  1
#define DISKNUM1  1
#define TOTALNUM  0
#define TOTALNUM0  1

Yeah, that's s real readme file.  I learned a lot.

OK, it's time to try to reboot from my USB flash drive and use Ubuntu to create a partition and then to load Ubuntu Linux into the new partition.  Wish me luck.  If this blog does not have a follow up message soon, you will know that I fell into the Linux abyss.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cost implications of swapping home Internet service for wireless.

The cost of my Internet service would increase more than I had considered if I replace home service ($45 with my Verizon flex bundle discount) with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS ($60 PLUS $15 tax). Hey, nothing like 25% tax. Do they think we don't notice? And, there's no tax on Verizon FIOS Internet. Who knew?

That's an increase of $30 per month. I thought $15 was bad enough.

In addition, my Verizon FIOS flex bundle requires that I have both video AND Internet service. Replacing Verizon FIOS Internet with Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS  would cause my FIOS video service to increase from $40 to $48 plus 14% tax on video service.

That's a total increase for the Internet switch of almost $40. Ouch! NOT what I had in mind.

The only way that it makes money sense is to cancel Verizon Wireless voice: $40 plus 24% tax = $49.61.

Wow, I would SAVE about $10 per month. However, I would need to exist with Skype as my only voice service. That would absolutely require getting that Cradlepoint router to work with my Verizon USB760 modem. Then I could take Skype on the road.  Here is the latest from Cradlepoint:

Unfortunately your device is currently not supported at this time. We are constantly trying to expand our list of supported devices and hopefully in the future we'll be able to support your device. With every firmware update we expand this list so please keep an eye out on our website. There have been reports from customers who've been able to get some devices to work on our router that aren't on the supported device list. Even so, we wouldn't be able to support these devices if they aren't on our list.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Other routers.

My blog has google ads. They are sensitive to what I write. One just popped up for D-Link routers that do what Cradlepoint routers do: use an EVDO modem to connect to the Internet, although I will need to look for one that runs on battery. Maybe there is a non-Cradlepoint product that had been tested with the Verizon Wireless USB760 modem that I bought.

iPhone Terms and Conditions

I had to do a google search to find this.

Cancellations/Early Termination Fee: An Early Termination Fee may be assessed against you in the event that you terminate your Wireless Service Agreement and/or selected plan before the expiration of its term. The fee will begin at $175 per device and decrease by $5 each month for the term of the agreement. You may cancel your service, for any reason and without incurring the Early Termination Fee, within thirty (30) days of signing your Wireless Service Agreement, PROVIDED, however, that if you cancel service you will remain responsible for any service fees and charges incurred. If you cancel within three (3) days of signing your Wireless Service Agreement, you will be entitled to a refund of your activation fee, if any. If you exercise this option, you may be required to return devices and associated accessories purchased in connection with your Wireless Service Agreement.


This does not exactly answer my questions. If I cancel between 3 and 30 days may I keep the iPhone? There has got to be more or lots of people would do it. I wonder if the emphasis would be different if I bought the iPhone at an Apple store v. an ATT store. Apple just wants to sell product. ATT wants the service money each month.

Maybe there is additional language that jacks the price of the iPhone up to $600.

Yeah, it is a good idea.

Getting back on the horse. Don't want the attitude of an anonymous techie at 3gstore to influence me. Yesterday was aggravating.

Wireless usage so far is 700 meg since Dec. 3. That is about 23% of a month and usage is about 14%. Good.

I need to check what the penalty is for buying a new iPhone and canceling the service within 30 days. Cannot buy online from ATT. Even if I pay a penalty it may be worth it after what I saw on eBay yesterday. Prices around $550 for a $200 iPhone 3G. Verizon charges $175 but ATT/Apple may charge more if they anticipated my thinking. Also, may I keep the iPhone after cancelling the ATT service? Is there an additional penalty for that? let's me order an iPhone 3G online. Along the way I get this:

An eligible data plan for iPhone is required. This data plan does not cover international data usage and charges. AT&T reserves the right to add an eligible data plan to your account and bill you the appropriate monthly fee.

All plans require an AT&T service agreement and are subject to AT&T credit approval. A wireless service plan with AT&T is required to use the wireless phone capabilities of your iPhone.


Notice: An eligible data plan for iPhone is required... AT&T reserves the right to add an eligible data plan... A wireless service plan with AT&T is required to use the wireless phone capabilities of your iPhone.

They may have anticipated my thinking. No penalty info has popped up and I do not want to push it any further. Maybe the regular two year commitment is enough and ATT would try to collect it all instead of messing with a $175 penalty.

I also need to check if Verizon Wireless still has those plans for old farts: emergency use only, never turn on the phone, 30 minutes a month for $15-20. They do not pop up on the web site.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maybe not such a hot idea.

This mobile personal hot spot idea has become a headache.

Getting an iPhone 3G online is more expensive and unsure than I had expected. eBay is a mess. I do not know how it makes money.

3gstore is showing too much attitude on the Cradlepoint wireless router part:


Had you consulted us before buying the USB760, we'd have warned you that it does not yet work with any router, and that we already knew it would not be officially supported by cradlepoint for at least as long as you have left on your 30-day trial.

we do not control what cradlepoint decides to do or not do. all we can do is influence, and that only goes so far. thats why we suggested that if you know you must have a device compatible with a router, you return the USB760 and start over with a USB727. feel free to get your USB727 from whomever you want. getting it from us at least guarantees you get what you need/want, not what someone at a verizon store wants to sell you simply because its the smallest, new-kid-on-the-block.

there is nothing 3gstore can do for you to "resolve this matter" by the time your 30 day trial runs out, ASIDE from suggest you start over with a USB727 and of course we would suggest our services over some verizon store who wouldn't know the difference between a cellular router and a FM radio.

not sure what you expected us TO do.

PS: "resolved" means the ticket needs no further action unless the respondent asks another question. this ticket is again, resolved.


Hey, 3gstore guy, I told you that I selected the USB760 myself and ordered online, the only place that it can be bought. I did NOT buy it from some guy in a Verizon store trying to unload his old inventory. I got ahead of the game. I'm not a dummy, like a guy who dumps on his customers. What happened to the old saying that the customer is always right?

Another reason that I got the USB760 is that it was supposed to be the only Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS modem that worked with Linux. Remember that. Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS techies called me four times over the weekend, speaking to me once. Firist I was told that no Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS modem worked with a Linux PC. When I pointed out that the Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS web site saiid that the USB760 worked with Linux, they checked and conceded the point. When I asked which of the many versions of Linux, they disappeared into the Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS black hole and have not returned. I did not mention that I had already returned the Linux PC last Monday because it had given every indication that nothing would work on it that had already been loaded on by Dell. Linux is a Tower of Babble.

The Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service has been spotty. Mostly OK. Sometimes slow. Sometimes very slow. Sometimes very SLOW. This morning I switched to FIOS WiFi. Now back on Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service.

Cannot test the fring program until I get an iPhone.

I even checked Apple MacBooks. Least outrageously overpriced is the old model: $1,000. It was $950 on black Friday, the sale day after Thanksgiving.

If I had to decide now, I would stick with what I have now. I know it works. Verizon Wireless voice service is rock solid. As mentioned in my original post on this, I could always use my current stuff over existing public WiFi: PalmTX with WiFi to browse and my Skype WiFi phone for voice.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Skype runs on the iPhone.

In my previous post:

If I can somehow get Skype voice to work native on an iPhone (a long shot)

Silly me. It's already been done:

I have not tried it but it appears to be exactly what I was looking for, a program that runs Skype voice (not just instant messaging) in native mode on an iPhone without dialing out through the old phone network. Cool.

The best part is that Apple sanctions it so no jailbreak is needed to install it on Apple's iPhone. Supposedly it can be downloaded from the Apple App Store but I cannot find it there.

I wondered how this conformed to the exclusive deal between Apple and AT&T.

Offical Fring app for iPhone and iPod Touch limted to WiFi for VOIP due to Contractual Agreement with Apple

That's exactly what I wanted, to use Skype via WiFi. Very cool.

Now my concern is: how does make money? Maybe they hook lots of users and then introduce a cost. Maybe they introduce a premium version later on.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Personal mobile Internet connection.

When someone calls my phone number that person wants to reach me, not my home. That is why I only use wireless service for voice communication, i.e., a cell phone. Plus, when I am away from home I cannot make use of home voice service. I am paying for something that I can use from only one place. I want to take my voice service with me.

The same should apply to Internet service.

Currently, I have Verizon FIOS Internet service in my home. It works well. However, as soon I go out my Internet service is left behind. I want to take it with me.

Eventually, maybe within 24 months, we will have that as a reasonably affordable option due to the recent FCC ruling on the use of spare capacity in the airwaves. There will be generic wireless Internet service. See Clearwire.

I am trying to accomplish that now, at least functionally. However, billing plans and devices from traditional wireless companies preclude that. For instance, Verizon
has three Internet services:

1. FIOS for home: $52 per month
2. Wireless PDA/SmartPhone: $45 per month
3. Wireless BROADBANDACCESS: $60 per month.

Those three would cover everything for $157 per month. Yikes! Who the heck is going to pay that for personal wireless Internet service?

The old line wireless companies, especially Verizon, will be outflanked when the new service providers take hold. Verizon has the best network but limited devices (no Wi-Fi) and unimaginative plans (no roll over minutes). The network advantage will not prevent Verizon from being threatened by ATT in the short run and by the new competitors in the long run.

Skype provides easy to use Voice over IP (VOIP) for free to other Skype accounts and for very little to regular phone numbers. In addition to regular Skype voice service, Skype has a special wireless service that is only available in Europe but eventually this and others like it will available in the U.S. Check:

With 3skypephone you can use Skype when you are out and about, or away from your PC.

What we will all have is a mobile Internet connection that can be used for many functions including voice service.

OK, back to my plan. I am in the first few days of a thirty day trial of the Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS service. I have the Verizon USB760 modem. It is about the size of my thumb. It is inserted into a USB port on my laptop PC and provides a connection to the Internet at about the speed of DSL, Verizon's broadband technology that has been replaced by the faster FIOS.

If I decide that the speed and usage can displace what I have with FIOS, I will replace FIOS with BROADBANDACCESS. So far, speed is acceptable, however, I am concerned about usage. In four days I have used a quarter of a gig of the five gig allowance that Verizon provides.

The difference in retail cost is $60-$52=$8. However, I have a flex bundle from Verizon, which associates my Verizon Wireless voice service with my Verizon FIOS video and Internet services and reduces my FIOS costs. I pay $40 for FIOS video and $45 for FIOS Internet. So switching from one Verizon Internet service to another would cost me an extra $15 per month but with increased mobility. I have asked Verizon about a discount for getting two or all three of its Internet services but there is no such discount. Argh! Verizon, wake up!

If I switch to BROADBANDACCESS, then phase two begins. I will get a special router (Cradlepoint Personal Hot Spot - PHS300 Battery Powered EVDO Router) sold by 3gstore. Just to make things more interesting I learned that my hot shot BROADBANDACCESS Verizon USB760 modem, the newest and smallest, may not work with ANY router. It has not been tested yet by Cradlepoint or 3gstore. Other Verizon, ATT and Sprint wireless modems work with various Cradlepoint routers.

Phase two would be this: get a modem that works with the portable router. The modem plugs into the router. That provides the router with a connection to the Internet from wherever it is. The router also has Wi-Fi. That means that I have my own hot spot wherever I am. I can connect a PC but I could have done that by simply plugging the modem into the PC. I can connect multiple PCs. I can connect a PC and a Wi-Fi enabled device such as a non-Verizon smartphone, Palm, iPod Touch, iPhone, Skype Wi-Fi phone, which I have, etc. Ah, now you get it.

If I can somehow get Skype voice to work native on an iPhone (a long shot), then I can get a jailbreak iPhone and use it to make voice calls over the Verizon, not the inferior ATT, network for free.

Worst case, I can take my mobile hot spot out and use my current stuff: PalmTX and Skype Wi-Fi phone. The router is about the size of the PalmTX hard case. That's three things to carry in addition to my Palm Treo 700P smartphone, which has only voice service because I do not want to pay $45 for the data plan on top of the $40 I pay for voice.

It would be nice to roll all that into one device but the billing plans make that unreasonable. Let's see how all this goes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The day before Thanksgiving my new Dell Inspiron 910 mini, aka, netbook arrived. A few days after Thanksgiving I returned it. Why? Linux.

I had long been curious about the Linux operating system (OS), which is one of the many derived from Unix, developed at Bell Telephone Laboratory in the late 1970s. Linux is especially well suited to the communications needs of small devices.

I ordered my mini 9 with the Dell installed flavor of Linux: Ubuntu 8.04.1. It is loaded with most of what you would need to connect to the Internet. It also has Open Office, which like Linux, is open source and free.

As bad as WindowsXP is in providing info on Internet connections, at least it provides info on Internet connections. With Ubuntu Linux it is largely a mystery. I was able to connect but it took quite a while before I got the hang of positioning my cursor over a changing mini icon in the top panel and trying catch a glimpse of the changing connection status. This info cannot be found through a menu.

One of the advantages of Linux is that it is stable. My system froze three times in less than a week. The worst was when I was selecting a system screen saver. Froze solid. If there was an equivalent of Ctl-Alt-Del I never found it. Had to remove the battery to restart. Yes, I read the documentation.

The one application that I really wanted to install was Skype, which does Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). I found it at the Skype web site. Skype had different icons for the versions of Linux:

Ubuntu 7.04-8.04
Debian Etch
Static OSS
Fedora 7
Fedora Core 6
OpenSUSE 10+

Some have the same file as that for Ubuntu:


Notice i386 in the file name? Neither did I. Apparently Ubuntu or Dell's version of Ubuntu is NOT compatible with i386 architecture, as in the kind that Windows and MacOS run on. The bottom line is that I got error messages every time I tried to install Skype on my new netbook PC. I tried often.

Since Skype uses a proprietary protocol I considered an open Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) VOIP app, Gizmo5, but it did not have a version for Ubuntu:

The cryptic error message was innocuous enough, however, I did not understand it until a techie explained to me the short version that I just conveyed. No, not a Dell techie. Someone at Canonical whose number I received from a Dell person. The Canonical person explained that Dell had a bad habit of sending Dell customers to Canonical, which is not responsible for supporting Ubuntu on Dell PCs.

Dell had the same reaction as Microsoft several years ago when I had the temerity to ask for help when the OS balked at an attempt to install software on my PC. It seems that the OS provider cannot be expected to assist in such cases and that the OS is provided for its own enjoyment and not as a platform for running the nasty little applications written by those third party entities.

Apple Computers, of course, does not have as much of a problem as it maintains a stranglehold on the relationship between its hardware and OS. This accounts, but only in part, for its outrageously overpriced products.

I made a couple of other attempts to install other software, even breaking the install package provided in Ubuntu.

I also am trying Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS, a wireless connection to the Internet, which runs at DSL speed. I bought the newest and smallest "modem", the USB760, which can only be ordered online, not in the Verizon Wireless stores. It was the only one that indicated that it could run on Linux.

Windows® 2000, XP, Vista and Mac OS X 10.4.0 or higher or Linux

By the time it arrived I had already returned my Dell mini 9. Just as well. The Verizon Wireless BROADBANDACCESS USB760 paper documentation provided gave no indication the company had ever heard of Linux.

After returning the Dell mini 9 I stumbled upon a PC Magazine online (it's only online now) review of netbooks:,2817,2334967,00.asp

Featured in this roundup:

Acer Aspire One ($319 street)

The Acer Aspire One is aggressively priced and will entice customers with its Intel Atom processor and a well-developed Linux operating system.

ASUS N10Jc-A1 ($650 street)

This netbook's advanced features—an HDMI port, nVidia graphics, and a big battery—cater to sophisticated consumers and small-business users with tight budgets.

Dell Inspiron Mini 9 ($424 direct after instant savings)*

Although it's not the best netbook available, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 might have enough appeal to propel this category into the mainstream.

*The E-Value code for the configuration we reviewed is no longer valid. You can configure a Mini 9 on Dell's Web site the same way for $424 ($474 minus $50 instant savings taken off the purchase price).

HP Mini 1000 ($550 direct)

The Mini 1000 is arguably the sexiest netbook on the market, and it's the only one shipping with mobile broadband.

Lenovo IdeaPad S10 ($469 direct)

The S10 has all the essentials of a solid netbook, including a 10-inch screen, an Atom processor, and a 160GB hard drive.

MSI Wind ($400 street)

Out of all the netbooks available in the market, the $400 MSI Wind is the best deal.

Notice how blithely pcmag mentions Acer Aspire One ... well-developed Linux operating system. Yes, Linux indeed. The full review by pcmag states:

The Aspire One runs a customized Linux operating system called Linpus Linux Lite, which is basically a stripped-down version of Fedora.

Say what? Does the reviewer even know what that means? Does it support the newly important i386? Can it run something like ... oh... Skype? Linpus Linux Lite is not on the list of eleven Linux flavors that Skype thinks it can handle.

I really wanted Linux. I am still tempted to try it again. However, not before the mainstream media starts to evaluate it more seriously. Linux cannot continue to float on the niceties of open systems and free software for the masses. A profit driven entity would never get away with this. Linux may be free but it should not get a free pass. For now give me a netbook with ... dare I say it ... WindowsXP. Greed is good!