My Idea for the Ultimate Google Android Phone

In my previous article, I used Ubuntu as an example of needing a single star to promote a platform (in this case, Linux). So far, the Nexus One and the Nexus S attempt to do so with Google Android, but still hasn't done it. They had some right ingredients, but missed a few things.

First, it was great that they were unlocked phones and would work on all GSM networks worldwide. They had to make 2 different versions of the same phone so one can work on the AWS 1700MHz 3G band (T-Mobile, Wind, etc), and other on 1900Mhz 3G band (AT&T, Rogers, etc). Either phone should work with 3G overseas (where most 3G bands are on 2100Mhz).

Second, they were Google Experience phones, which means upgrades are available as soon as Google was ready. It was also a good phone for developers to code for, which means it will have the least compatibility issues.

Lastly, the hardware (at least the Nexus One) felt good and used premium materials. The Nexus One felt rock solid. The Nexus S was made by Samsung, and light plastic seem to be in their DNA, so this is where I think they went wrong.

So what prevented the Nexus phones from taking off? Well, for starters, the Nexus One was only sold online. For a lot of people, that's a scary thing. Not being able to have the phone in your hands to try out is probably one of the reasons why it didn't take off. That was one of the real reasons I didn't buy one myself. There wasn't a huge marketing campaign, either. Even the Nexus S isn't being pimped around. The Nexus S does have one thing going for it: you can finally try it out at a Best Buy.

There are other phones out there with excellent hardware specs.  Dual cores, Super AMOLED, etc.  However, every one of them tries to differentiate themselves by putting on a custom skin.  You know what?  With so many phone makers trying to hard to make themselves different, a stock Google Experience phone is on itself a great differentiator.

So what is my idea of the Ultimate Google Android phone?


Materials and Design

The hardware must use premium materials. I love the way the iPhone 4 feels, so lets borrow from it. A glass or polycarbonate back, metalic band for the side (doesn't have to be used as an antenna), and a semi-removable battery. The reason why the iPhone feels so solid is because the battery isn't removable, so there is no flimsy door. Lets do one better - lets make the battery removable, but the battery door is the entire back of the device. Apple had the right idea, except they screwed themselves by screwing the back on (now "improved" with pentalobe screws!). This way, the rear will still be a single piece, giving it a more solid slab-like feel. Anything that can't be made with glass, use aluminium or stainless steel.

I would like to eliminate any curves that would making installing protective skins a headache.  Right now, the iPhone 4 is one of the best phones for these kind of skins.  With the iPhone 3GS, I had to keep coming back to replace the skin as the corners of it comes off.  With the iPhone 4, I am still on the same skin that I put on when I first got the phone.  The reason?  There weren't any difficult curves for the skin to wrap around.  The overall look and feel of the device should be minimalistic and feels like a solid slab.

Yes, the iPhone 4 got this down, but it doesn't run Android.


Buttons and Ports

I'd like the home button to be a physical button. This is because it doubles as a power on button, which makes it easier to use in the car (mounted on your dash, of course). I find it harder to have to feel for the small power button at the top. The rest of the buttons (menu, back, and search) will be touch sensitive to keep the device feeling more solid and less flimsy.

Since we are starting to standardize on micro USB for charging and data, I would put it at the bottom center of the phone. To the left of it will be an micro HDMI port for video and audio duties. To the right of it, there will be a new port for control signalling. It will support signals for playback, pause, FF/REW, next/prev, call answer, and more. The spacing between these connectors will always be the same for all future versions of the phone. This will facilitate a standard dock connection to foster accessories that will work with all future devices. Also, this will mean any other manufacture can use this standard spacing so their device will also work with the myriad of accessories and docks. As you can tell, the micro HDMI port will provide a way for video and audio to output from the device. The micro USB will allow for data transfer and charging. The data control port will be for controlling the device using a dock or other various accessories and uses that we haven't thought of yet. The port will be a royalty free standard. The main microphone will be down here as well.

The headphone jack will be at the top left, and will support the same remote signals as the iPhone if it isn't a patented Apple thing. If it is, then we would have to create a standard signal code to do the same thing and open it up for the world to use. Much like the iPhone, a noise canceling mic would be here. Since the bottom of the phone is pretty occupied now, the speaker will be located at the top between the headphone jack and the power button.

I personally don't have a preference for a dedicated camera button, but a lot of people are, so that should be located on the side, near the bottom, so it feels like a traditional camera. It will be dual stage so half press for focus, all the way for shooting. A volume rocker on the left top side as usual.



The sweet spot for screen size seem to be 4". Thanks for finding that out, Samsung! (And why is your Galaxy S 2 phone going towards 4.3" like the way-too-big EVO?). Since Samsung isn't letting anyone use their Super AMOLED part, the next best thing is an IPS LCD display like the iPhone 4. This will give us excellent viewing angles. I'm afraid we may have to stick with the standard 800x400 resolution so we won't have issues with compatibility.

There will be sensors for light and proximity by the ear piece, as usual. The front facing camera will be in the same area. More on the camera later.



Of course, who can go without having both a rear and front facing camera?  I'd give it an 8 MP rear camera that can do 1080p 23.976/24/30/60 fps video.  Who can forget an LED flash.  The front facing camera should have a 1.3 MP sensor.


The Nitty Gritty

The dual core CPU from nVidia's Tegra 2 would be my SoC of choice.  It would be a good solid platform for game developers to create games for.  1 GB of memory would be on parity with the Atrix.  32 or 64 GB of onboard storage, depending on physical space constraints and budget.  Of course, a micro SD card slot hidden behind the batter door along with your standard SIM card.

The usual sensors such as compass, GPS, accelerometer, and the somewhat new gyroscope will be present. WiFi B/G/N support (both 2.4GHz and 5GHz), and the use of Qualcomm's MDM9600 baseband chip for radio duties.

I mentioned the Qualcomm MDM9600 chip specifically because it allows for CDMA and GSM operation, as well as LTE and HSPA+. This chip does everything, which will allow us to have one phone for all carriers. And yes, it would be an unlocked world phone that works on 3G (HSPA+ as well) and LTE on all carriers.

NFC will be included, and of course, the antenna will be on the battery door.



The Ultimate Google Android phone will have to be a stock build of Android.  We can make software updates and complete ROM images available for download from the website support page. Source codewill be available as well, and root can be easily obtained or turned off.  If device drivers are prohibited from being posted on the site, we can keep a hands-off approach and encourage someone else to extract them from our image.

For the average Joe, we will include software that will address the limitations of the stock Android build.  For example, the stock Camera app was said to only capture at 480p, which is why the Nexus S couldn't do 720p.  For enthusiasts who (if they want) a completely stock image for whatever reason, they can just download it off the support site.

There will be a tool for easier flashing and partitioning. The boot loader will be completely unlocked.  The hardware will be so open, developers can even try to boot other mobile OSes on it. MeeGo?  Why not.  Maemo?  Sure.  Heck, why not Ubuntu like a few people done already on some existing Android phones?  And while it may not be legal, what will stop people from porting iOS over?




Of course, all this won't do any good if you don't let the world know it exists.  Your average Joe probably won't care about the technical stuff, but this Ultimate phone will have enough marketable bullet points to make it easy to market.


  • One phone that works with your carrier of choice on 4G
  • nVidia Tegra 2 dual core 1GHz CPU and GPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Plays demanding 3D games
  • 4" IPS LCD at 800x400 resolution
  • Noise canceling mic
  • 32 or 64 GB of storage
  • 8 MP rear camera /w 1080p video
  • 1.3 MP front camera
  • Near Field Communication
  • WiFi B/G/N 2.4GHz & 5GHz
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS/Gyroscope/Compass/Accelerometer
  • HDMI audio/video out

Make it available at major retail stores, and maybe some carriers (if they decide they want it in their stores).  It can be demoed by customers.  Carriers can choose to offer the phone at a subsidized price with a contract, but the Ultimate phone will always be unlocked.


Of course, with a phone like this, it would be on parity with Apple's own iPhone, whcih will probably mean it may cost as much as a factory unlocked iPhone.  Ouch, I know.  But, it would cost the same as the iPhone when subsidized as well.  Given the choice, I'd go with this phone over the iPhone, wouldn't you?



Do People Really Want Choice?

Seriously, think about it.  When you are bombarded with all these Android devices, do you actually feel empowered or does your head spin?  Apple and Microsoft proved to us that people only want the illusion of choice.  In the Apple camp, the 3 different choices for iPhones are more or less the same (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 16GB, and iPhone 4 32GB).  There are a few different iPod choices, as well as MacBooks.  However, they are all Apple.  On the Microsoft front, it's all Windows.  Do you want to know why everyone flocks to the iPhone, iPods, and Windows?  It's because every has one, and that makes it easy to share the same experience.  It's the hive mindset.

Want more proof?  Lets talk Linux.  For a while, Linux didn't have a unfied front.  There wasn't a single distro that was popular.  Because of this, Linux adoption was very low in the consumer area.  Ubuntu changed that.  It became the defacto Linux distro.  Anytime you talk to someone who isn't a hardcore techie about Linux, Ubuntu is the first thing that comes to mind.  Once they try it out, they are hooked.  They can't believe how easy it is, and it spreads.  It's still not as big as Windows, but when you have a non-techie ask about it, you know it's starting to spread.


A Good Experience is Key

 So how did things become the way they are?  Well, in my opinion, it starts with a good user experience. Sure there were MP3 players before, but Apple made it big with the iPod because it was the first to have a user experience that was worth telling a friend or family about.  Say what you will about Windows, but their user experience is what drew people in.  Apple actually had the lead with MacOS, but didn't follow through.

In the tech world, the software has to be easy to use, and the hardware has to have a good asthetic design.  It also can't feel like it's going to fall apart.  This is why Apple is killing it with their iDevices, and gaining market share with their Macs.  However, their Macs aren't selling as much as their iDevices because it's hard to convert people who have Windows.

Ubuntu may not be the first Linux distro, but it was the first to be easy to install and use.  They also have a live CD option so you can try it out without fear of loosing your data.  There's no compiling involved.  It seem to magically detect most hardware.  Also the Software Center made it easy for users to find and install 3rd party software.  Don't even ask me how Linux was before Ubuntu, because I don't want to relive it!


Be There First

Having a good user experience isn't the only the thing that will catapult you to popularity.  You have to be the first to get it right.  This will build mind share.  As more and more people buy into it, it's harder to switch away from it when something that's just as good or better arrives.

Apple's iPhone and iOS got here first, and got a good lead.  People weren't used to the slick interface, and the easy to use gestures.  Before the iPhone and iOS, we had to Windows Mobile and the Palm OS.  Neither reacted quick enough to counter Apple.

Android only started to catch up only because Apple had one flaw in their plan for world domination: they were only available on one carrier in the US.  This gave Android an opening.  Actually, come to think of it, that's how Windows dominated the MacOS.  WebOS has an arguably better user experience than iPhone, but because they didn't get there first, they had less momentum.  And while it's too early to tell, Windows Phone 7 seem to be following the same footsteps.  The only difference is that Microsoft didn't saddle the OS with a single failing hardware design like the Pre.

When I was saying that Android is starting to take over iOS, I was just talking about the OS.  Lets talk iPhone vs other phones.  iPhone still dominates here.  Is there any smartphone that outsold the iPhone?  Nope.

The iPhone may actually still pull out on top now that they are on Verizon, and if Apple is smart, get on the other carriers as well.


Be Consistant 

Once you lock someone into your world, you want them to feel comfortable.  Owning a Windows PC usually means that if you were to buy a new Windows PC, you can get it back to how you had it, and start working or playing.

It's the same for the iPhone.  When you buy the next iPhone, you're instantly able to get back to where you had it.  Most software are still compatible, and because there is less fear of people having different versions of the OS, app developers are more comfortable with making a living creating more apps for the device.  The hardware is also relatively consistant.  This foster a market for accessories.

Android has a problem here.  When you move from an HTC EVO to a Samsung Epic, you may be able to get all your apps and data back (thanks to a Google account), but the interface, home screen, and menus have been shuffled around.  The critical default apps (music, calendar, email, etc.) changed on you.  They are totally different from one model to the next!  They are consistant in the way Windows is consistant.  Apps will more-or-less work on different Android devices, but the fear of your app not working with one phone over another is there.  Also, name one speaker dock on the market that was made specifically for, oh say, the EVO.  Of course you can't.

Linux really got a shot in the arm with Ubuntu.  While it's easy to use and install, every version seem to have a consistant look and how things work.  Even with a new refreshed look on Ubuntu 10.10, it's still the same Ubuntu.

Consistancy is the key to keep the people in your kingdom happy and not want to leave.


The Illusion of Choice

With Apple, there really isn't much choice, is there?  Be it with iPhone or a Mac computer.  And yet, it's thriving.  Sure there are multiple iPod devices now, but they are all Apple, and you're feeding iTunes.

With Android, you have a "choice" of phones, but it can cause headaches.  Even if your thought is "at least I have the choice", you're still choosing Android.  It's the same with the myriad of PCs running Windows.  To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can choose any PC you want, as long as it has Windows.

In reality, people want to be locked into a software platform.  They also want to be on a platform where there are other people on it.  This way, they can share the same experience, and they can "upgrade" and still keep the same experience.  The hardware can change, but the more similar it is from the previous version, the more it will be accepted.

This is why in the PC world, there isn't a whole lot of different OSes that's popular.  You have Windows, and a distant #2 is MacOS X.  In the Linux world, there is only Ubuntu, which in the grand scheme of things, is a distant #3 in the overall PC OS world.

Because how Apple played things with carriers, there is a duopoly with iPhone and Android.  However, in terms of actual smartphone devices, iPhone trumps any single Android phone make and model despite the fact that it's only on AT&T.  Marketing the same device world wide helps, too.

So in conclusion, it seems that the world won't change after all.  At least not very quickly.  Windows will still be the dominant OS on computers.  Apple will have to battle it out with Google, but in reality, the Android phone makers still won't make as much as Apple because the pie is split up even more so for them.  And while Ubuntu won't over take Windows, it will continue to be the first thing most people will download when they think about getting a Linux distro.


Other Differences Between a Verizon and AT&T iPhone

We were lead to believe that the Verizon iPhone is essentially the same as the AT&T version, except it can now make calls, and the antenna was redesigned.  That skin-deep description aside, there are more differences, but they are more about the fact that things are done differently between a GSM network vs a CDMA network.

Some examples include how Call Forwarding works, and CDMA's limitations on Conference Calls.

Apple actually has a support page that details the other differences between the two iPhones, and can be found here.



Comcast Data Cap - Now a Reality in My Life

I heard about Comcast's 250 GB data cap a long time ago, but what choice do I have now?  I used to have a 6 Mbit connection via DSL with DSL Extreme for just a little over $34/mo after taxes, but I also had to pay a little over $17/mo for phone service I don't actually use just for DSL.  With the "just a little over" added up, that came up to around $52/mo I am paying.

I learned that AT&T was offering the same 6 Mbit speed for $25/mo, so I decided to go back to ma bell.  Unfortunately, DSL Extreme said I was still under contract for another month.  After that was up, the AT&T promotion was over, and because I already put in my cancelation, I was without internet access.

Calling up AT&T and DSL Extreme to re-establish service, they are now saying I am not qualified for 6 Mbit, and that the fastest I can get is 3 Mbit!  Even though I had 6 Mbit before, their computer is telling them I couldn't!  AT&T had the audacity to tell me that they can offer 3 Mbit for the same price as the 6 Mbit speed (because they had a promotion going on for the 6 Mbit service).

I found out that Comcast is finally in my area, and it is the only other ISP that is in my neighborhood.  I decided to give them a try.  For $30/mo (first 6 months), I get 15 Mbit down and 3 Mbit up.  The next 6 months would be $45/mo, and after that, it'd be $60/mo.  They tell me I don't have a contract, so I can leave any time, or sign up for the new promo price if one is available.

All is good except the data cap.  That looming dark cloud that makes the faster speed a bittersweet nectar.  Even though people say that 250 GB is more than enough, they don't account for heavy users that rely on the internet for everything!  Movies, TV shows, music, podcasts.  All sorts of media are now being consumed on the internet, which eats up a lot of bandwidth.  It is my belief that if your infrastructure cannot handle it, don't try to change the way people are using your service!  Instead, beef it up so it CAN handle it!

This is my 4th day using it, and according to the usage meter, I am already 24 GB into my 250 GB plate.  That doesn't include my parent's usage because their computer is down, and I am currently looking for a replacememnt.  What does this mean when they finally get their computer online?  They watch internet TV all night, and also rely on iTunes to serve them daily video and audio podcasts!  Also, I'm worried about re-downloading my collection of Steam games if I ever have to.  I can also forget about cloud backup solutions like Carbonite and Mozy.

Must I ask my mobile phone to relieve the internet usage at home by leveraging the 3G connection?  Even then, I have around 5GB for a T-Mobile data service (after which, they will throttle data down to modem speeds).  While AT&T has a 2 GB cap, I was grandfathered in the unlimited plan.  However, AT&T is dog slow at home (around 300 kbit/sec).

If I find that I will be hitting the cap next month (since my service started in the middle of this month), I may have to go with Comcast Business Internet.  As much as I would like to boycott Comcast, I don't have a choice if I want faster than 3 Mbit/sec speeds.

Their cheapest business class service is $60/mo and is slightly slower than the consumer service I currently have.  At 12 Mbit/sec down and 2 Mbit/sec up, it seems tolerable.  There is no data cap at all, so that by itself may make it worth while.

What do you think?


iOS vs Android

Here's my take on it, after having both an AT&T iPhone 4 and a Samsung Vibrant.  It's the little things on both sides that make hard for me to decide.


Android Likes

I love the fact that most devices are easily rooted. You can then back up all of your apps and data.  For example, I had almost every level at 3 stars in Angry Birds on the iPhone, but there's no easy way to back everything up without using iTunes.  As you now, if you Jailbreak, you have to be afraid of iTunes No worries with Android.  After your root, you can use Titanium Backup to back up Angry Birds with the data.  I've changed ROMs so many times and I still didn't need to start Angry Birds all over from scratch!

That's another thing: custom ROMs.  My Vibrant now looks like stock Gingerbread, even though the ROM is built off of Samsung's Froyo ROM.  It was also heavily optimized, so it's quick, stable, and the stock Gingerbread theme works with the Super AMOLED (thanks to the black theme).  If you didn't know any better, it feels like you're using the Nexus S!


Android Dislikes

Notifications could still be better(I still like how WebOS does it), but it's definitely better than how Apple handle their's.

My biggest pet peeve is that Android still isn't very good for in-car use.  This is despite the Care Home app!  I have a suction cup near my stick shift where my phone can hang out.  From there, I find it hard to turn it on (thanks to the power button on the side, instead of an easy-to-hit Home button like on the iPhone).

Android is also not very good with voice recognition.  I have a hard time dialing by voice, since it doesn't seem to recognize what I'm saying.  It could be a hardware design, and not the fault of the Android OS.  The iPhone doesn't have this problem, even in a noisey environment like a car.  If Anroid doesn't understand you, it would require you to look at the screen.  On the iPhone, it would actually talk to you and tell you what's going on, so you don't have to look at the screen.

That said, even if I had to look on the screen for something (not browsing the web or email, mind you, but to switch tracks and podcasts), I can't!  There's no zooming on the Android!  On the iPhone, you can turn on zooming in the Accessibility settings, then use three-finger tapping to zoom in or out.  I can then check the battery status, see what I'm listening to, etc.

Summary of Android Likes:  Easily rooted, easy to back up and restore app/data, custom ROMs

Summary of Android Dislikes:  Notifications could be better, not very good for car use, harder to turn on (when mounted in car), not good with voice recognition, voice recognition requires you to look at the screen, no zooming



I really can't put my finger on it, but the iOS just seem more polished.  There are more high quality apps, and they all seem to have some consistency.  And lets not forget about the games.

There is also something to be said about a tight knit bond with hardware and software, and that is the home button.  Normally I wouldn't mention hardware designs I like on a software vs software discussion, but I can't help myself here.  After all, the home button helps make one of my pet peeves about most Android phones go away: in-car operation.  It just seems easier for me to hit the home button than the power button to turn on the phone, then swipe to unlock.  With most Android phones going towards capacitive (touch sensitive) buttons, I'm starting to appreciate the physical home button of the iPhone more and more.  This also means what little Android phones that have physical buttons (like the MyTouch 4G) gets much respect from me.

Speaking of which, the voice recognition for dialing is much better than how Android deals with it.  It simply handle names better, it seems.  Sure, it makes the occasional mistake, but you'd know about it before it calls without looking at the screen.  This is because the iOS gives you audio feedback so you don't have to look at the screen to see if it is dialing the right person.  Android would just beep at you, and you would have to concentrate on the screen for a possible match on a list.

Adding to the in-car use theme, you can enable zooming with three-finger taps in the Accessibility settings.  This way, I can check the battery status or the name of the current song or podcast that is playing at a glance.


iOS Dislikes

Everything I liked about the Android and it's what I dislike about the iOS.  There is no easy way to back up your apps and data without using iTunes.  Even then, it's dicey.  After all, if you jailbreak, you'd want to avoid iTunes as much as possible.  And since I jailbreak, there is no easy upgrade for me.  Upgrades require jailbreakers to clear out their phone.  I am now afraid to play any games on my iPhone because I know one day I will lose my saved games.

Also, iTunes is a pig on Windows, and most of us use Windows.  Even if you don't, having to rely on desktop software to sync seem so 90s (thinking back to the Palm Pilot).  iDevices are getting to be very computer-like, so why can't we just do everything iTunes related on the device itself?  We can already purchase music, videos, and apps on the device.  Why can't Apple keep track of what we own, so that when we buy a new phone, we can just download everything back?  Same with the data associated with the apps, like saved games?

And of course, you have to jailbreak the iOS for all the cool stuff.  That wouldn't be a big deal, except that Apple seem to be actively blocking the jailbreakers.  It seem that the team that jailbreaks iOS is a very small group of people (with few "stars" like comex, GeoHot, and MuscleNerd), where as it seem the Android rooting community is larger, and there just isn't one person who is working on rooting all the phones.  This also means it takes longer for a jailbreak when a new version of iOS comes out.  In fact, the untethered jailbreak for 4.2.1 didn't get released until after 4.3 beta came out.  And how much longer until a jailbreak for 4.3 is released when that version goes gold?  It's a cat and mouse game, and the cat always seem to be behind.  Heck, I'm still on iOS 4.1 because the jailbreak for 4.2.1 requires you to update the baseband, which also means you would lose your carrier unlock.  I guess this won't be a problem for Verizon iPhone owners.

Of course, there is the notification system.  We know the story.  Notifications only comes as badges on the app's icon, and messages that pop up and interrupt you.  Also stacks of notifications require you to go through them one after the other without an easy way to put them aside to deal with later.

Summary of iOS Likes:  Polished, high quality apps, games, physical home button, easy in-car operation, good voice recognition, audio feedback, zooming

Summary of iOS Dislikes: No reliable app/data backup, iTunes, jailbreaking (cat and mouse game), notification system


It seems like everything I hate about one mobile OS, I like in the other.  If only we can combine the best of both worlds.  The iOS comes the closest to ideal for me.  It just needs to be a little more liberated like Android - being able to sync to the cloud, get access to the file system, easy to "root" for tech-savvy users.  I know they are afraid that jailbroken phones may ruin the experience, but come on, Apple.  It's not like I'd let my grandmother jailbreak.

These are the two most influential mobile OSes.  Windows Phone 7 is still in it's infancy, and I haven't had real world use with it.  And I still love the WebOS, but I bet it wouldn't work all that great in my car.  There's something about having a physical home button that is in front.  Or maybe hardware designer needs to put their wake/sleep button where the iPhone's home button is at.


The On-Call Phone: Sprint's Call Forwarding and Google Voice

 Does your company have an on-call cell phone you need to rotate between employees?  Do they use Sprint, the only major cell provider that charges for call forwarding?  Mine does.  It gets to be a pain carrying two phones (the on-call and my personal phone) with me all the time.  I was looking to forward calls to my iPhone, but the on-call Blackberry is on Sprint, and they charge $0.20 per minute to forward calls unconditionally.

Getting Around Sprint's Call Forwarding Charges
Thankfully, I found that you can get around this by using conditional call forwarding, which is free.  This is documented on Sprint's web site here.

In case the link goes bad, I've pasted the details after the break.

Here's the breakdown:

*72 to forward calls unconditionally, *720 to cancel
*73 to forward when busy, *730 to cancel
*74 to forward when no answer, *740 to cancel
*28 to forward when busy or no answer, *38 to cancel

So if you don't want to get charged, don't use *72 at all!  Instead, use *73 (forward when busy).  It'll act more or less like *72 (unconditional call forwarding), except the caller will have to wait through more rings (first set of rings for the Sprint phone, then the second set for the forwarded phone).  If that is a problem, you can turn off the Sprint phone and it will go straight to your forwarded phone number without having to go through the first set of rings.

The caller's phone number appears on my iPhone just as if they called my personal cell number directly.  This is great because I can still see who's calling.

Pairing Up with Google Voice
Now that we can forward calls from the rotating phone, I can have some fun with Google Voice!

Since you can ring multiple phones at once with Google Voice, I can set up the Sprint phone to forward to my Google Voice number and have it ring both my personal iPhone as well as my co-worker.  This way, instead of rotating, it can become more like "first come first serve".  Of course, he's not going to go for that idea.  Another good use for Google voice is to use it to switch between us instead of trading the physical on-all phone back and forth.  With this set up, I can turn off the physical on-call phone (with the actual number the company wanted to keep) and keep it locked away.

There are a few drawbacks, however.  Since you'll be using your personal phone, your number will show up on their caller ID, not the on-call number.  Makes sense, right?  After all, you're basically calling them directly from your own phone.  I haven't found a solution to this except to dial *67 to block caller ID.  This isn't a good solution of the person you're calling is expecting to see the on-call number to show up.

Secondly, if people tend to text message the on-call phone, you won't be able to receive them on your personal call.  This method only forward calls, not text.  Thankfully, we rarely get texts.

And of course, since you're using your personal phone, minutes used when in a forwarded call will eat up your personal call plan's minutes, not your company's.  If you can live with that, or if you have an unlimited voice plan, then go for it.


Offical Word from Sprint's Web Site 

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010

It is important to note the following details specific to using Call Forwarding on your Sprint phone:

  • Call Forwarding charges may apply when forwarding calls to other cell phone or landline numbers.
     - *28, *73 or *74 are at no charge
     - *72 is billed at $0.20/minute unless you're on a UNLIMITED Simply Everything Plan
  • Call Forwarding does not use up cellular minutes included in your plan.
  • Call Forwarding features are available on both the first and second lines.
  • You can contact us to request that Conditional Call Forwarding (*28 Busy/No Answer) be set for your number the following reasons:
     - Your phone is physically damaged.
     - Your phone will not turn on or the battery is not charged.
     - You are in a bad coverage area or you are experiencing network-related issues.
     - You will be away from the phone for extended period.
  • Call Forwarding cannot be set if either of the following apply:
     - Any call restrictions are added to the number, excluding Caller ID.
     - The phone is no longer active.


  • Call Forwarding does not work with text messages. Any text messages sent to you will not forward to your alternate number.
  • Tuesday

    SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network Dual DTV TunerDigital TV Tuner

    SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network Dual DTV Tuner

    When my HTPC (Home Theater PC) was acting up, it took a while to troubleshoot the problem.  I replaced the memory, the hard drive, the motherboard, and the power supply - basically a brand new PC.  Short of replacing the video card and TV tuner cards, it was practically a new PC!

    I had a total of 4 tuners (2 PCI cards, and 1 PCI-E card that has dual tuners).  I took out the PCI cards, and found that fixed the instability issues!  A single dual-tuner card was not enough, however, as I find myself missing TV shows (recording more than 2 TV shows at the same time slot would not be possible).

    The single PCI-E dual tuner card I have was performing admirably, so I was about to buy another one (Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250).

    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 PCI-E Dual DTV Tuner with FM Radio


    However, after reading some of the HTPC enthusiast sites like AVSForums and The Green Button, it seems that SiliconDust HDHomeRun is a very highly recommended product.  It turns out that it is an external DTV tuner that supports over-the-air digital TV (ATSC) and unencrypted cable channels (QAM), and instead of connecting to your PC via USB, it connects via Ethernet.  SiliconDust promises a product in the near future that allows for encrypted premium cable channels via Cable Card.  Why is this a big deal?

    Because it is a network device, you can share the tuner with more than one PC!  Of course, you can't use the tuner simultaneously, but if your main HTPC isn't using it, you can actually use it to watch or record TV on another PC.  Imagine that your front room is being used by someone else, but you want to watch your soap opera.  Now you can on a laptop with Windows Media Center!

    SiliconDust makes both a single and dual tuner.  I bought the dual tuner, of course.

    Here is a video review of the SiliconDust HDHomeRun.  I also have a written review at ePinions.



    An addendum to my review, this video shows what what would happen if you type in the IP address of the HDHomeRun into your web browser.



    Android Lock Pattern Defeated

    Just a story to caution those who use the lock pattern on their Android phones.

    My co-worker left his EVO 4G on my desk as he was helping someone on their computer (used my computer to remote into their's). I tapped his shoulder to get his attention and unlocked his phone in front of him. He was shocked!

    All I had to do was wipe the screen on my shirt vigorously, and he knew right then how I did it. Clean your screens regularly, Android users!

    Netbook-optimized Operating Systems

    Got a first generation netbook?  The small 8.9" screen with a lowly 1024x600 resolution cramping your workflow?  Then why not try out some of the free OSes that are geared towards netbooks?

    Honestly, even the new netbooks aren't suited for full-blown Windows.  While Windows 7 runs decently, I keep finding myself needing more verticle space.  Sure, there are ways to customize Internet Explorer and FireFox to keep the tool and address bar small, but then there's the Windows taskbar!

    Netbook-optimized OSes like Jolicloud, Moblin, MeeGo, Chromium OS, and Ubuntu Netbook Edition seem to be more fine-tuned for the slower and lower-resolutions.  What's even better is that you can test-drive these OSes without actually installing it on your hard drive.  Just download them and follow their instructions on putting the OS on a USB flash drive, and give it a spin before committing.

    Netbooks are used mostly for internet-related tasks: web browsing, chat, webcam, and VoIP.  It's rare to use them for heavy content creation like word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, and audio/video editing.  Mostly because the Intel Atom CPU isn't very powerful, and because the low screen resolution isn't conducive to producitivty.  Thus, these netbook operating systems are designed mostly for internet-related tasks.  Besides, isn't the term "netbook" lends itself to be used this way?


    Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04
    (Formerly Ubuntu Netbook Remix)

     Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 homescreen

    If you've used the full Desktop version of Ubuntu 10.04, then this netbook-optimized version should feel right at home.  Don't let the radically different interface fool you.  It is very much Ubuntu underneath the pretty skin.  This is a good thing for those who want the full functionality of a Ubuntu OS, but just wished it was more aware of the low netbook screen resolution.

    Most of the applications included in the full desktop version is here, too.  This includes the media player, the remote control software, bittorrent client, and even OpenOffice.  Because of this, Ubuntu Netbook Edition is also one of the heavier, resource intensive netbook OSes.

    It's not as graphically animated as MeeGo, Moblin, or Jolicloud, but it's a bit more animated than the standard desktop edition.  Basically, if you take the applications organized in the menus and placed them on the screen with large icons and text, you get the netbook edition.  Again, it's the full Ubuntu OS with software, but easier to navigate.  In fact, this version of Ubuntu is perfect for my mum.

    Because it was built with netbook's small screens in mind, most applications will open in full screen.  Running applications show up on the upper-left hand corner as small icons, while the title bar uses up space where the menu bar would be on the desktop edition of Ubuntu.  This frees up a lot of vertical space.  The only gripe I have is that the included FireFox browser's navigation icons are still too big, and I found no way of reducing their size.  I found the Chromium browser (not included, but can be downloaded in the Ubuntu Software Center) makes better use of screen real estate.


    Chromium OS Flow

    Chromium OS Flow menu screen

    Google's Chrome browser makes great use of limited screen space already.  So to base an operating system around this browser sort-of makes sense.  However, it's a bold move to use a web browser as your OS.  You're basically putting your chips all on web-based (they call it cloud) computing.  Will it work out?

    With Google Docs taking care of most of the productivity part of computing, Gmail and other web-based mail doing good on the email front, Google is trying to prove web apps are the way of the future.

    Google Chrome OS (Google's offical build of the OS) is still not ready yet, but they are putting out the source code that ChromeOS is based on for all to see and use.  This open source version is called Chromium OS.  In fact, on the official site, there is no ready-to-use download available.  It took outside developers to actually create usable builds for you and me to try out.

    One popular developer for Chromium OS builds is Hexxeh.  He's a 17 year old boy in the UK who took it upon himself to take the source code and create something that's actually usable.  There were a few builds before this version I'm using here.  There was Zero, Cherry, and now Flow.

    Much like Jolicloud, Chromium OS requires you to create an account online, and then logging in the OS with those credentials.  While you probably don't already have a Jolicloud account, with Chromium OS, you can use your Google login that you probably already have.  It's the same login you'd use for Gmail, Voice, Google Talk, etc.  This may give Chromium OS (and Chrome OS) a leg up in adpotion rates when it is offically released.


    More to come soon...


    StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition Unboxing

    I got it!  And it only took a decade!  Jokes aside, the Collector's Edition is a good bit of kit!  I think it's worth the extra $40 over the non-CE version of the game.  Take a look!

    I've also written a full review at Epinions.  Please check it out and let me know what you think.


    StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector's Edition Unboxing


    StarCraft II CE USB Flash Drive



    Samsung Vibrant Review and Video Unboxing

    Well, I decicded to check out the Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile, and did the unboxing at Rainforest Cafe (it was late, we had dinner there - it was good).  And yes, I do find it ironic I was filming this with an iPhone 4.

    I also have the review up on Epinions.





    My Thoughts on the Smartphone Triad

    I've finally got my mitts on all three platforms, and came to a conclusion: all three are in various stages of completion.  Every one of them is lacking something to make it ideal for me.  Steve Jobs said it best when he said "Things are packages of emphasis" at the 2010 D8 Conference.  Each of these mobile platforms emphasize certain features and strengths the others are lacking.

    In that sense, it is apparent that each of the software designer has their own vision of the perfect smartphone OS.

    Honestly, I value my smartphone more than any other gadgets.  It has become an Swiss Army Knife that does almost everything I'd need or want, and just as portable so I'd have it with me almost all the time.  Communications is licked by the basic phone, SMS, and MMS, but also extended with VoIP, Facebook, Twitter, and IM.  There's entertainment in the form of games, YouTube, music, and videos.  And of course, with internet access, you get all the information you want at your fingertips.

    The smartphone is one of those devices that Steve Jobs would refer to as "post PC devices".  The standard computer form factor is still going to be around for heavy duty work, but when you're out and about, you wouldn't want to carry a laptop with you if you have most of the functionality on a device that fits in your pocket.

    That makes the smartphone a very personal device, and of course, it's personal preference as to which phone and OS you'd like.  There are no wrong answers or choices.

    That said, I there are still no platform that satisfies me 100%.  All three of the platforms presented here does something I like.  They also do things the ways I didn't like, either.

    Apple iPhone and the iOS
    Let me start with the Apple iPhone and the newly named iOS since I've been using it for the longest time.

    What I Like
    From the original iPhone 2G to the new iPhone 4, the build quality of each model is superb.  Forgoing the need for a battery cover and the use of glass instead of plastic for the screen, every phone felt rock solid.  There were no phones that were built like this before.

    The size of the screen has remained unchanged at 3.5", and why not?  It seems to strike a good balance between screen size and the overall size of a handheld phone.  Apple also seem to get the minimalist design down, with very little buttons and switches.  Having nothing but a glass screen that just disappears into the black front have a very sexy appeal to it.

    The OS is completely touch and gesture-based, which made it very natural to use.  Apple have some kind of secret sauce (apple sauce?) that make animations and transitions fluid.  Even after 3 years, no other mobile operating system comes close to this kind of fluidity.  Neither Android or WebOS can do this, although Android comes close.

    After using it in my daily routine, I've come to get spoiled on the little details that makes the iPhone so natural to use. Having the home button to also wake up the phone makes it easy to use one-handed, as well as mounted in a car dock.  Hitting it with your thumb, then using the same thumb to slide the lock slider is a very fluid thing to do.  I never gave this much thought until I tried out the EVO 4G.  None of the buttons below the screen will wake it up.  Instead, you'll have to reach over to the top to hit the wake button, then unlock the slider at the bottom, which is the opposite end of the phone.  Come on!

    I also like that you can control your music player on the lock screen. Granted, it was only for the native music app until iOS 4 came out, but now it is available for any audio app that uses the background audio API.  WebOS does this, but not the stock Android OS.  HTC does add this with their Sense UI, however.  Still, if I wanted the Google Experience (which I do - I like Sense's lock screen, but I don't like a few of their native apps that replaces Google's).

    Jailbroken, the phone is in a class of its own.  Customizations can be as high as or over what you can do on an Android platform.  You can customize your lockscreen to have notifications, upcoming appointments, real multitasking, etc.

    What I Dislike
    No amount of software customization will fix one hardware issue: the neclect of a notification light.  Since there is no such light, you're forced to check the phone every once in a while.

    Not to mention, without jailbreaking, you don't have much of a software notification system either.  Small red badges will show up on the app's icon when they have something for you to look at (new text message, missed call, or voice mail), but that's it.  When you get an incomming text, the screen comes on to show you the text, but then goes away.  If you're not there to catch it, you won't find out until the next time you turn on the phone.  If you're doing something else in another app, a new text message will pop up and distrupt you until you close the notification pop up or address it.

    Lets not forget that we have to deal with iTunes.  You have no real way of putting music and videos into the phone without iTunes, at least if you want to use the built-in iPod app.  This makes podcast listeners a slave to iTunes.  While there are a handful of apps starting to crop up to address this issue (downloading podcasts from the phone itself), it's not perfect, nor a polished experience.

    Also, multitasking isn't real.  With iOS 4, you get fast app switching, which pauses the app so you can switch to another.  However, if you really do want an app like YouTube to continue to load or stream because your connection is slow and you can do something else, tough luck.  When jailbroken, you can do this, but you can't do this even on iOS 4, which touts multitaskking.

    Then there are hardware issues with the newest phones.  iPhone 4 has issues with signal drops when held the "wrong" way, as you may have read by now.  What they say is true.  I have experienced this.  When holding with my left hand, which covers the bottom lower part of the phone, my signal can drop until it says "Searching".

    I've also have a problem with their proximity sensor as well.  The screen comes on sometimes when I'm on a call, and I'd accidently hang up, mute, dial numbers, or initiate FaceTime with my cheeks.

    It's hard not to lump the hardware with the software when I'm talking about the iOS because with Apple, you can't have one without the other, unlike Android.  Even Palm's WebOS isn't safe from this.


    Palm Pre/Pixi and the WebOS
    Like Apple, Palm (now HP) made their own hardware with their software, so it's going to hard to just evaluate just WebOS itself.  This is because this is one of my favorite mobile OS, but it's saddled on hardware I dislike.

    What I Like
    The WebOS is as perfect as it comes.  Like the Android OS, it's open for developers to do anything they want.  Sure there's an app store called "Catalog", but you can also write programs for it and side load it without needing to go through the app store at all.  It reminds me of how the old Palm OS was like.  Just copy the app to the phone in the right folder, and you can just run it!

    There are also custom ROMs available that allow you to do things like overclock the CPU, which gives a breath of fresh air to the phone.  It makes the whole thing runs snappier, which was one of the downfalls of the WebOS: it was saddled with a slow phone.

    The interface is more natural to use than the iOS.  I found myself taking to it much quicker.  It's quicker and more efficent to navigate around, close apps, open apps, etc.  Multitasking is real, unlike the iOS.  Things are still running and loading when in the background.

    The notification is top notch out of the three mobile OSes.  Any new text messages that come in while you're in another app shows at the bottom of the screen so it won't disturb you while you're doing something else, unlike the iOS.  You can choose to address it, or dismiss it without leaving your app.  Even when playing music in the background is nicely done.  The same notification area is where you can pull up the controls to manipulate the player, all without leaving your current app.

    Even on the hardware side, there is a soft blinking LED for notification, so if you miss it as something came in, you'll know you missed something just by looking at the phone without having to turn it on first.

    What I Dislike
    The most glaring is the slow hardware.  Animations and transistions seem slow and clunky.  It takes it a good while to load apps and web pages.  Also, the screen is too small!  A higher resolution with even an small uptick in size (matching the iPhone's 3.5" screen) would be nice.  Heck, it's 2010, make it a 3.7" with 800x480 resolution.

    A virtual keyboard would be nice as well.  I really hate having to slide the keyboard out just to type in a single word or enter my login credentials.  It's also awkward to open.  The most natrual way of opening it is to mash your thumb in the middle of the screen and push up.  However, this will probably activate something on the screen since it's touch sensitive after all.  If you try to avoid touching the screen when sliding the keyboard out, it makes things really hard.

    Besides, a lot of people are now used to a virtual keyboard.  If Palm can bring us a non-physical keyboard version, there is a market for it.  I, for one, don't like how flimsy a phone with a slide out keyboard feels.  Because of the way the are, they will feel like they are going to fall apart.  Palm Pre users ave complained of the "Oreo" effect.  Like the cookie, it feels like it slides and twists easily.  The only phone I know that has a physical keyboard and still feel relatively solid is the Motorola Droid.  Other than that, people love thin solid phones like the (gasp) iPhone.

    While you can control the built-in music player from the lockscreen like on the iOS and Adroid with SenseUI, thrid party apps like Pandora and Slacker aren't so blessed.  You'll have to unlock the phone, switch to app (if it's not showing up on the small notification area on the bottom), and control it from there.  It's not the best way to do things when driving.  Apple has a leg up in this area.


    Android OS
    Android OS is unique in a way that it's not saddled with hardware at all.  In fact, it is what makes deciding on an Android phone hard.  There's so many formfactors, large (EVO 4G) and small (HTC Aria), and everything in between.  There's ones with hardware keyboards, and ones without.  There's some that are so highly customized, you can't even tell it's an Android phone (T-Mobile's Garmin phone).

    So in this case I find talking just about the OS easy.

    What I Like
    The first time you use Android, you'll see that it is much more like a computer OS than a mobile one.  I'd like to see it as a good upgrade for Windows Mobile users.  It's fast, it's modern, and it has all of the nomenclatures that makes a Windows Mobile user comfortable.  Things like managing tasks, and the ability to access the file system with a file manager.

    Unlike Windows Mobile, it's not sluggish, and the interface is much more polished for a mobile experience.  I mean, a Start button on a phone.  Really, Microsoft?

    It's an open platform, so you can side load programs.  Andorid also have it's own apps marketplace so it the OS is accessable to non-techie users, too.

    The interface is straight foward, and allows for you to add widgets on the home screens.  These widgets expand the functionality and it make a few things easier.



    There are things about the Android OS that cancels each other out.  It's the only mobile OS that seem to have things that are half-baked.  Again, it's very much like a desktop OS this way.

    The notification system is better than the iOS, but still not as good as the WebOS.  You have to slide out a window pane to access them, but they don't ever get in your way.  In this manner, it's better than the iOS.  However, you need to pull down the pane to do anything with them, which is not as good as the WebOS.

    Multitasking is real.  Backgrounded apps continue to run as if they are in the foreground, so if something needs their numbers crunched, or uploaded, or streamed, you it can be done while you do something else.  However, switching betweens multitasked apps isn't as good as the WebOS.  It's more or less like the iOS.  You have to hold down the home button to bring up the last 6 (last 8 in Froyo) opened apps.  To really see all backgrounded apps, you need a third party manager like Advanced Task Killer.  You can manage them without one, you that requires you to dig into the Settings area under Manage Applications, whichi s tedious.

    Also, multitasking is so much like a desktop OS, it's actually a fault in some cases.  For example, if you have a music app running in the background, and you start a different music app, both will play at the same time!  In both WebOS and iOS, if you start another audio application, it will pause or stop the other one.

    What I Dislike
    Because it's a free mobile OS, everyone is having a free-for-all.  While in practice, it's a good thing, but it's also what prevented Linux from becoming more mainstream.  For a platform to be sucessful, it has to have a united front.  Ubuntu is bringing this to Linux, being the most popular and most consumer-friendly Linux distrubution yet.

    With HTC creating SenseUI (also very popular and easy to use, thus the most liked), Motorola with the MotoBlur, and Samsung with the TouchWiz, Android just isn't really Android anymore.  These custom interfaces not only changes the Android experience for the user, but also slows down upgrading when a new version of Android comes out.

    There is only one true Google Experience phone: the Nexus One.  Google needs to push this phone in retail stores.  It doesn't have to be with carriers, but what about places like Best Buy, Radio Shack, Walmart, and Fry's Electronics?  Places where people can grab the phone and play with it.  This phone wasn't just a nice piece of hardware, it was Google's official Android phone that didn't have any added sweeteners like SenseUI.  It was also sold unlocked.  We need more phones like this, and not just an Android, either.


    The Upshot
    I've decided to stay with the iPhone 4, but only because I can sell my old 3GS for a decent price, as well as apps I've previously bought.  I'd like to see how the other camps develop in the future.  Hopefully HP will give WebOS the hardware it needs, and Google gives us some indication that they are still interested in making and selling their own Google Experience phones in the future.

    It's truly the marriage of hardware and software that helped seal the deal.  The iPhone 4 is extrenely well built, and the materials Apple used felt good and solid.  The OS is familar, so while it's kind of boring now, it fits like an old glove.  I find the little things Apple did to the OS and hardware makes it easy to use in a car, while I fumble a bit on the EVO 4G and on the Palm Pre (though a bit less so than the EVO).

    I still can't help but keep looking at the other side to see what I'm missing, though.


    Related Epinion Reviews

    Apple iPhone 4

    HTC EVO 4G

    Palm Pre Plus


    Smartphone-less: Day 22

    After this long, I found myself missing the IM-like SMS of the iPhone, the ability to check the web on a whim, and to keep up with my Facebook.  The method I have for listening to podcasts isn't work out very well for me.  It's too much work to keep myself updated on new podcasts that I started listening to music again.

    In fact, I found myself enjoying myself more in the car with music than with vocal words spoken.  The only podcasts I downloaded and listened to were the ones pertaining to the EVO 4G and iPhone 4.

    The battery life of Samsung lasts forever!  It look about 7 days before it required the charger.

    This concludes my smartphone-less experiment.  I've gone back to my old iPhone to check out the new iOS4.  I've also checked out the Palm Pre Plus on AT&T as well as the new EVO 4G on Sprint.  I'm looking forward to checking out the new iPhone 4.

    In fact, I might just moving on to a Nexus One on T-Mobile because of the cheaper $59.99/mo unsubsidized plan.  I'll need to try it out sometimes before I jump, but I do hope for a new Google Experience phone.

    I'll have to write about the iPhone OS (now iOS), Android, and WebOS one of these days.


    Smartphone-less: Day 2

    As I suspected, I am having a hard time keeping track of the podcasts I've played using a file-based MP3 player.  I also forgot how long it takes for the iRiver H320 to boot up before it can start playing.  I still love it as a music player, but it just wasn't meant for podcasts.

    On the phone side, I forgot the torture before syncing to the cloud.  On all of my previous phones, I was able to sync to my work's Exchange server (and now, Google's ActiveSync server that acts like Exchange) to bring all of my contacts in.  Even the Centro allowed this.  Previous PalmOS phones required me to export my contacts to a file, then import it into Palm Desktop before I can sync them in.

    However, there is no real way for me to automate importing of contacts to the Samsung A177.  Instead, I've just been adding people back in as they call, or as I need to call them.  The contact list will be much smaller this time around, but they will be filled with people I'd actually call.

    To my surprise, I found that my phone actually has an alarm feature that allows for you to set a time to certain day or days, much like my previous smartphones.  I was able to set the alarm I use to wake up for work from Monday to Friday, leaving the weekends alarm-free.

    There is also a calendar application, but I don't think I'll be using it much.  While it's not as slick as the PalmOS's or the iPhoneOS's, it's still surprisingly easy to input appointments.  I was also shocked to see Guitar Hero III as a game you can play!  It's only a demo, and the one song that's included I've never heard of.

    So, what about texting?  Well, I didn't get a texting fit today, so I can't really tell you if I will miss iPhone's threaded SMS app.  There is a web browser, and before I called AT&T to turn off my data plan, I was able to determine that I wouldn't want to use it as much as I would on the iPhone.

    Being a feature phone, they battery still has all its bars after a full day.  Granted most of the time, the phone was idle.  After all, if all you do is text and talk, there's no real reason for me to whip it out to check my email, Facebook, or read the news anymore.  Perhaps the long battery life is also attributed by the fact that I rarely take it out!

    I'm not going to keep updating my blog day-to-day about how I'm doing.  I just figured an early impression may be in order.  Right now, I think I'll be okay.


    Free GPS Tracking Using Your Cell Phone.

    My co-worker found a site that allows you to track most GPS-enabled cell phones, and I thought it was great!  It's easy to set up, and works with Blackberries, iPhone, and Android phones.  It will even work on some cheap pay-as-you-go phones, making it a cheap solution for a 24/7 tracker for your car (keep track of your teens).

    The site is called InstaMapper.  Of course, if you're using a non-jailbroken iPhone, you won't be able to track it when it goes to sleep.  Remember that Apple just doesn't like background processes.

    Let me know if you've used this service, how you liked it, thoughts on privacy, and perhaps some amazing stories involving InstaMapper.


    Smartphone-less: Day 1

    My first smartphone was a Palm Treo 600.  That was circa 2004.  Since then, I've never looked at a normal cell phone ever again!  From there, I went to a Treo 650, then a Centro.  I was a huge Palm fan, and even before the smartphone craze, I had a Palm IIxe PDA.  My first break from Palm was an HTC Touch Pro.  Yes, it was a Windows Mobile 6.1 phone.  I hated it.

    Then, a few years ago, my brother bought me a just-released 2nd gen Apple iPod Touch 32GB for my birthday.  I was wondering what to do with it.  I had (actually still have) an iRiver H320 20GB hard drive-based MP3 player that allowed for direct drag-and-drop playback of audio and video.  It's primitive by today's standard, but it worked and sounded great!

    I used it mostly for podcasts, and have been using FireFox's RSS feed feature to download a handful of podcasts I listened to.  I quickly found a good use for the iPod Touch!  iTunes made it easy to automatically get the newest episodes and allowed me to transfer them quickly to my iPod Touch by just connecting the sync cable.  It was almost like getting the daily newspaper in audio form!

    As I added more podcast feeds, I also wanted more convenience.  I wanted web access everywhere!  At the time, I was using a Palm Centro, and then the HTC Touch Pro.  The web experience wasn't so great.  However, using the iPod Touch at home with WiFi gave me a taste of what it would be like if I had that access outside the confines of WiFi.  The iPod Touch was a gateway drug to the iPhone.

    And so I did the hardest thing: I dropped my awesome Sprint $30 SERO plan that included voice, text, and data for AT&T's similar plan that costs almost 3x as much, just so I can jump on the Apple iPhone 3GS bandwagon.  It was just released, and I decided it was a good time to jump over.

    Eight months later, a handful of podcasts became a boatload, and it seems that iTunes just couldn't keep up any longer.  iTunes would just get stuck syncing my iPhone.  In fact, a friend of mine posted this appropriate picture to my Facebook in response to my status update:


    Har, har.

    Despite Horatio and other people advices around various forums, I just couldn't get it to work correctly 100%.  After blowing away iTunes and the iTunes Library folder (to start over from scratch), I had some success.  However, I would still get stuck syncing every once in a while.

    I'm sick of it, and decided to just sell my iPhone on eBay.  It's still up on eBay as of this writing, and should be up for another 7 days.  Of course, before I did, I jailbroken it with the latest firmware, as it seems iPhones are worth more jailbroken.

    I bought myself a Samsug A177 feature-phone for the time being.  It's an AT&T pay-as-you-go phone, but works just fine with an AT&T SIM card that uses a monthly plan.  It looks remarkably like a Blackberry.  It's got a full QWERTY keyboard!  Sadly, web browsing is worst than the Palm and Blackberry, so I'd rather not even use it.  Because of that, I was able to get rid of the data, but keep the voice and texting, saving myself $30 a month.  I still have another year left with AT&T, but may break contract to jump back to Sprint's arms.  The HTC EVO 4G is coming, and I was always intrigued by the Google Android platform.  Plus, the plans are the cheapest out of all of the major carriers.

    When the EVO 4G comes out, I'll try it out with a temporary number.  Since Sprint is advertising a 30 day money back guarantee, I guess I'll check it out to see how I'd like it before paying AT&T an early termination fee.

    Until then, I'll be rocking a Samsung A177 and relying on my trusty laptop and WIFI for internet access.  How long will I last without a smartphone?  Subscribe to my RSS feed and find out!



    Guy with Typewriter in a Hollywood Starbucks

    I was on vacation early this May, and found myself at a Hollywood Starbucks.  This place really is "Hollyweird"!  We had no less than 3 different Michael Jackson come up to us, as well as two fat Mario brothers (I thought Lugi was suppose to be skinny) saying "Hey!" in New York fashion.  What's also weird is that Sonic the Hedgehog was also there, but there was no brawl.

    We then stopped in for coffee at a Starbucks not far from all that weirdness in front of the Chinese Theater, and found that weirdness still followed.

    Kudos to the man with the typewriter!



    Apple iPad 16GB WiFi Review & Video Tour

    My review of the Apple iPad is now up on Epinions here.  I've also put up a video tour and review on YouTube.  Thanks to the 10 minute limit, I had to split it up.

    Let me know what you think!








    Stuck CD/DVD Drive Tray? Fix It!

    Here's a video I made on how to fix a stuck CD/DVD drive tray.  It's a common problem with older drives that don't get used much.  I've also seen them on consumer CD and DVD players, not just CD/DVD-ROM drives.

    Hope it helps someone out there!




    Apple iPad 16GB WiFi Unboxing Video

    Yes, I did get one.  Here's my obligatory unboxing video.  An Epinions review will be coming soon!