Category Archives: electronics

Highly Misleading NY Times Tech Post

Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

I was reading some tech news this morning and came across this article on how iWork is going to compete with Microsoft Office by being free for new buyers of Apple hardware.  I read the article and realize more and more that there is no fact-checking in the tech media.  The article states that these apps are free for new buyers of hardware (which is true), but for old buyers, they state the prices as being $9.99 per app.  When I got the App Store on my MacBook Air, these apps run $19.99 each and not $9.99 — why this discrepancy?  Is it to make the $100 per year price for office look worse?  The author does not add the fact that this $100 price includes 5 licenses of the software and includes alot more than the core iWork apps for this price.

I really am getting more and more distrustful of tech media writing and fact checking and this is a misleading article that hammers home my point.

Tech media nonsense

I, like many others, watched the Apple event today (October 22, 2013) and was mildly unimpressed with the announcements.  But more interesting to me are some of the articles I see being written after the fact coming from the tech media.  Recently, it has become common place to say the computer is dying and tablets are killing them.  I don’t really understand this statement, as I see them being the same thing.

Computers are devices that we use to create, manipulate, and consume information.  The form factor is what is changing, not the fact that its a computer.  If the general public likes typing on touchscreens and more simplified software, this does not change the fact at all that the underlying components still comprise what is a computer at the core.

I recently started using a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 combined withe multimedia dock.  This dock provides usb ports for storage, mice and keyboards to be used with the small computer.  Additionally, the HDMI out port on the dock allows me to use my television or monitor as a large display.  In this configuration my large phone is now nothing more than a very small desktop computer, is it not?  It runs Android which is nothing more than a flavor of the Linux operating system but provides (in its phone format) touchscreen inputs as well as easy access to some sensors which also can be used with any other computer.  There are some limitations in that much of the software does not scale well and is designed to be used by fat-finger button presses as opposed to pinpoint accuracy of a mouse and that some of the shortcuts I am used to do not work properly on Android.  But, ultimately, you would have to provide me some seriously compelling data to convince me that this is anything but a small computer.

So when I read articles like this in the NY Times, I really question what the author is trying to convince me of.  So what if large computer boxes are not selling as much as small ones?  Most people don’t need a Xeon powered workstation to post what they are doing on Facebook.  So, they choose to use a smaller computer – whether or not this computer is in the shape of a smartphone or tablet means nothing – they are still computers and the idea that one factor is devouring the other really doesnt mean anything – does it? If the end goal is to post a picture of your glass of beer why does it matter what type of computer you use to do it?

Most iPhone users love AT&T

An article that appeared the other day on CNN money made me laugh. The link to the article is here:

Anyway, the article seems to be the typical attention grabbing headline regarding the iPhone.  I assume that CNN gets ALOT of traffic (and add dollars) when they have iPhone articles.  I know I do – when I post something about the iPhone on this blog, the number of hits rises DRAMATICALLY!!  I will update this post if the hits actually do rise in a significant fashion.

So, the article is saying that most people like the AT&T service, even though the media makes it sound like AT&T is just terrible.  Whether AT&T is terrible or not, is not what I am writing this post about, but rather the photo at the top of the article.  The happy iPhone user in this image is not using AT&T.  He is using Softbank.  It is very clear from the credits and from the image itself that the user is not using AT&T and is located in Japan.  Softbank is the sole service provider of the iPhone in Japan — just like AT&T is in the USA.  As I have traveled to Japan many times, and I have rented a Softbank sim card for my iphone 3G, I can attest that Softbank does indeed offer better service in Japan than I am used to in New York City.

I find it odd that CNN couldn’t find an image of an American user with the AT&T logo to use in such an article.  What’t up with that?  It really doesn’t support the gist of the article at all – for reference, I am linking to the image here:

He is happy because its Softbank, not AT&T

Update to AT&T Microcell

In the course of the last 2 weeks, I have been testing out the AT&T 3g microcell to see if it would improve my cellular service in Brooklyn, NY. After 2 weeks, I have to say that I am generally pleased withe the device. Here are some of the pluses:

1. It generally “just works”
2. Aki and my iphones switch to the microcell almost immediately when we come home (as they should)
3. The voice service is VASTLY improved, and I have not dropped a call since I had the microcell.

Now for the negatives:

1. On day one, the microcell connected at first and worked great. It immediately proceeded to lose its GPS signal (which is required for the device to work) and took hours to reconnect again. This has not happened since day one, but I am always wondering why it happened at all….
2. AT&T is seriously saying that the data usage over the microcell counts against your phone’s data plan. This is insane, evil and is the definition of double dipping (especially if AT&T is your ISP).
3. Because of the problems on day one, I tried out a new router. That was a complete fiasco, and the router was returned IMMEDIATELY. The thing is, I the microcell is kind of picky about routers and firmwares. This could lead to future problems and compatibility issues. I am, for example, unable to get the microcell to work with any router I have except my Linksys WRT54-GL. This router has been a workhorse, but it is lacking many of the advanced features of modern routers, and I don’t like having to run an N access point in my house as well as the G just to have coverage. I can not pinpoint the problem here, but it has to do with the devices talking to each other.

In summary and closing, I have to say that I am happy with the microcell, and would recommend it to others who have problems with connectivity on their AT&T phones. However, here is an interesting anecdote to think about before you decide to drop the $150 on the microcell. My friend Serge got the new 4th generation iPhone the other day and came over to my house for a few beers over the weekend. We looked at his phone and he had 5 bars in my house!! He was not connected to the microcell, but rather to the AT&T local tower. He had no problems making calls either. I am happy that the new phone works better, and would think about updating, however, this is really shifting my blame from 100% on AT&t’s shoulders over to Apple’s. If the new phone works, and the old one doesn’t is it really AT&T who is at fault?

AT&T Microcell

As many of you know, I have never been able to actually use my cell phone in my apartment. This has been an extremely annoying experience, but I had hope over a year ago when AT&T said they were going to offer microcell service. For those that don’t know, a microcell is a box that plugs into your home internet connection and transmits cellular service in your house. The theory is great, and initially, I had very high hopes. Then came the AT&T caveats (of course I expected these….) The first issue is that the microcell does not provide unlimited talk time. When you are connected to the microcell, it actually counts against your monthly allotment of talk time. This is annoying as I am providing the service (at least partially). Of course, AT&T offers an unlimited talk time on the cell for an extra $20 per month. This is WAY too high for the amount of time I am home and talk on the phone. Most of the time I am home is at night or on the weekends, so I decided immediately to bypassed this option when the microcell became available in New York City.

As of the first week of June 2010, the microcell is officially available in NYC. I made my way to AT&T and bought one for $150 plus tax. Afterwards, I went home, and plugged the microcell into my router. After following the directions, and waiting about 45 minutes, the microcell was ready to use. I looked at my iphone, and didn’t notice any change. I tried to make a phone call, and was immediately greeted with the typical call failed sound. I decided to restart my phone. That did the trick — the phone was officially connected to the microcell!!! I made a call and it worked perfectly. I sent a SMS from Aki’s phone to mine and it was received!!! This was officially new territory!!

Then about 30 minutes later, I realized one of the major limitations of the microcell. The box REQUIRES you to have a GPS signal so that the e-911 service works. I can understand this, but the GPS signal at apartment is very intermittent. The box was dis- and re-connecting quite a bit. I am not sure why this is, but I think it has something to do with my Linksys WRT54GL router. This router has worked well for years, but lately I noticed it looses the signal more often than it used to. To remedy this, I ordered a new router and will write more about this later. Anyway, this GPS/router issue has made the microcell less than usable. The problem is that the microcell doesn’t readily connect if it loses the ethernet or GPS signal. While the microcell is looking for the signals, the phones dont work. Once it finds the signals the phones work again (most of the time).

Anyway, to close this post, I will say this — the microcell works well when it works. I have 30 days from purchase to decide if it works for me well enough to warrant the $150. The new router will be here this week, and I will see how it works. Until then here are some pics of the router.

AT&T to allow Sling Player over 3G

I read this on Edgadget this morning. This is a nice turn of events. First Skype is allowed to provide us with VOIP and now we can use our Sling Boxes. There is only one thing left for AT&T to do. Make the network actually work in NYC. I cant even make a phone call in my apartment. Very disappointing, but Aki’s work cell (from Verizon) doesn’t work either. I guess we are either in need of a new type of technology or maybe AT&T will get smart and release the femtocell in the New York Market….