Blog

Boo Verizonwireless.com, Yay Verizon Wireless

Posted on: 2008-08-28 21:19:52

Well, I'm heading up to Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas this weekend with Sarah to visit her kids up there. It'll be a long weekend since we have Monday off! Considering my quasi-successful PHP4 to PHP5 upgrade on my hosting server last week, I figure it'd be a good idea to get a wireless access card. This is how my adventure began...

When I first got my own cell-phone in college, I ordered it directly from "verizonwireless.com":http://www.verizonwireless.com/. It was quick and painless. What happened between then and now? I'm not sure, but it was definitely not the same experience I had with them in the past.

The first SNAFU was when the order "completed," there was no e-mail verification. I'm really used to the idea that I always get at least one e-mail when making purchases online. It's the electronic equivalent of a receipt. What vendor doesn't send one? Verizonwireless.com, apparently. "Oh well," I thought, "maybe it's just stuck in cyber-space." This was Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday rolls around and no e-mail has graced my inbox from verizonwireless.com. I call their support. She asks me for an order number, which I don't have, because I never got an e-mail. I ended up giving her my SSN (which they get from you for a credit check online) and my first and last name. She says that she order shows as being "in process" and hasn't been shipped out yet. She promises that once it does get shipped out, it will be overnighted to me. This was Wednesday (yesterday).

Today, still no e-mail from verizonwireless.com. Actually, that's not true. I did get an e-mail from them. They were nice enough to tell me that they were glad I stopped by and to sell me the "experience" of buying online:

!sites/nickvahalik.com/files/free_overnight_shipping.png!

I called them at lunch and was rather terse with the woman on the phone about my order. This time, she explained that she "wasn't quite sure what was going on" with my order. I asked her if I could cancel it and she said that she could "cancel the credit check" which would, subsequently, make the rest of the order fail to process successfully. When told that "their website says it would be delivered tomorrow":http://www.verizonwireless.com:80/b2c/promotion/controller?vendorid=EMAIL&jspName=/promotion/controller&promotionId=2154&promotionType=SPECIAL_OFFER&email=Responsys&CMP=EMC-C-S-ShopCart-1 , she responded that it only happens if an order gets processed successfully. Ugh. What a joke.

So I finally went to a store and ended up paying a little bit more for a "UM175 USB Modem":http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/2421/64/. It's a great little device and so far, the speed is very acceptable for my purposes (1.19Mb down, 234Kb up... in Belton). The lady who helped me was out very nice (her name was Natalie, and she works at the "Verizon store in Temple Mall":http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=verizon,+temple,+tx&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8. It was definitely a much more pleasant experience going there instead of buying online.

I shall follow up again once this card has been put through the rigors.

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Why I Disagree With Psystar

Posted on: 2008-08-28 08:58:55

I'm an avid Mac user and wouldn't trade my machine for anything. I do agree that there is a need for a mid-range Mac, just like the ones "Psystar offers":http://www.psystar.com/index.php?&page=shop.product_details&category_id=21&flypage=flypage_images.tpl&product_id=38&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=72. So when "Psystar":http://www.psystar.com/ started shipping systems, it looked pretty tempting. Then "Apple sued them":http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080715-apple-finally-sues-unlicensed-macintosh-cloner-psystar.html because of EULA violations and now "they are counter-suing":http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2008/08/27/psystar-finally-answers-to-apples-suit-by-suing-right-back.

From TFA(The Freaking Article) emphasis added:

bq. Pedraza told CNet that his goal is to make Mac OS X "more accessible, to provide an alternative" to what he characterizes as exorbitantly priced "generic hardware." Though Apple's most recent hardware uses the x86 architecture and uses many of the same components as other PCs, calling Apple's hardware "generic" is just unfair. And, Apple is under no obligation to make its OS available to install on any hardware. One of Apple's selling points it that it makes "the whole widget," and its approach has generally worked in its favor.

That's the whole point. The reason why Mac's have such a great reputation is because Apple does have so much control over them. That doesn't mean there won't be "problems":http://www.geocities.com/surfithead/pblines.htm. These are complicated pieces of machinery. And you know what? Despite those problems, "Apple's satisfaction rating for Q2 2008 (85) is 'all-time high' for the computer industry":http://www.forbes.com/2008/08/18/apple-consumer-satisfaction-tech-enter-cz_ah_0819apple.html?partner=yahootix.

If there is one thing a marketing guy can tell you, it's that "people who complain are some of your best customers":http://www.crosspond.com/apple/hall_of_shame/1. They complain because they have expectations, and they let you know when they aren't met. It's a sign of a quality company when people care enough to complain about your products "instead of just throwing them away":http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/technology/17spy.html?_r=1&hp&ex=1121572800&en=178b2edcf06c6a45&ei=5094&partner=homepage&oref=slogin. They spend a lot of money and they know what they are supposed to be getting.

All in all, I think the market that Psystar is trying to reach is something that Apple should definitely notice. However, they are definitely going about it the wrong way and for sake of Apple, I hope they lose their lawsuit.

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To: The Coolest Coffee Shop In Waco

Posted on: 2008-08-24 23:26:01

Please shop changing your hours every 4 weeks. This is annoying.

That is all.

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Work, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Posted on: 2008-08-23 12:43:58

This is pretty much how it's been lately. Finding some new things to write about as I go along but this is pretty much the first day I haven't been hard at work since I first woke up. And, sadly, this is probably what the outlook looks like for the next few months. I've decided to quit my full-time job and focus my efforts fully on "Netoteric":http://netoteric.com/.

I've already given advanced notice so that projects I'm working on will have enough time to finish and other departments can set appropriate timelines before February. It's going to be a long, tough road... but ultimately I believe everything will be much better off than when I started and the company will have a good infrastructure to build on for the next 5-10 years as it grows.

It seems lately that it's been an uphill battle to make progress and finish projects. Lots of different sides demanding attention and need things done to keep the flow going. Recently, the server Netoteric hosts on was updated to PHP 5.2.6 from PHP 4.4.4. This was an unexpected upgrade, but now that it's done, it feels like more of a blessing than a burden having to update some of the old sites that have been hosted on that box for more than 3 years.

The outlook is incredible bright, and there are good things ahead!

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Well, It Seemed Like A Good Idea

Posted on: 2008-08-11 22:02:36

It turns out that Adobe AIR's embedded version in Windows is not the same as the version embedded in OSX's AIR. Observe (click on a thumbnail to enlarge):

p=. "!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/AIR%201.1%20Mac%20OSX_thumb.png!":/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/AIR%201.1%20Mac%20OSX.png

p=. The pristine, Mac OSX version[1].

p=. "!/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/AIR%201.1%20Windows_thumb.png!":/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/AIR%201.1%20Windows.png

p=. The no-so-correctly rendered Windows version.

The biggest noticeable difference is the number "4" in the upper-left hand corner. There is no text-stroke, and no text-shadow on it. The second thing is that my box-shadow around the dark content box is missing. Again, it's perfect on the Mac, but is not rendered on the Windows machine.

I've been trying to find documentation that specifies what version of Webkit (in relation to Safari) AIR seems to be running, but it would seem that nobody really knows that the people at Adobe are trying to get the "latest" version out there. I apologize for the lack of linkage, but even what I did find didn't seem very convincing.

This is very promising technology, but fails on something very simple. I have to say that I'm a little frustrated that a piece of software that has the same version number for both Mac and Windows doesn't provide the same experience on both platforms. Especially with how it's marketed.

However, my enthusiasm for AIR is only slightly stifled. I'll continue in the hope the fix this... and soon.

fn1. Yes, I know the aspect ratio is not right for the poster, but it's going to be stretched on a monitor, so it'll look right there, I promise.

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Yet Another Reason Why Adobe AIR Is Amazing

Posted on: 2008-08-09 13:47:13

On a project for a client, recently, a vendor he was working with dropped the ball, and in a last minute call, he asked me for my "solution" to a problem we had discussed before. I spent a few hours researching the how of solving the problem, VB.Net perhaps (bluh), maybe some snappy C#. I went through the different languages, looking for a solution. Essentially, he wanted to display a full screen webpage on a couple of multi-monitor systems. Finally, I came back to "Adobe AIR":http://www.adobe.com/products/air/.

"AIR has a Screen class":http://help.adobe.com/en_US/AIR/1.1/devappshtml/WS5b3ccc516d4fbf351e63e3d118676a47e0-8000.html that allows you to enumerate screens and gather info about them. These was much better than "importing DLLs from user32.dll in C#":http://www.java2s.com/Tutorial/CSharp/0520__Windows/EnumerateDisplayMonitors.htm or VB.Net and had much better documentation.

After all was said and done, the application works flawlessly and said customer was very happy. (And I know everyone reading likes to have (or be) a happy customer! The nicest part, though, was what I also gained by using Adobe AIR.

The web pages that will be shown on those screens are not your standard web-viewing fare. They have quite a few custom elements and effects (text-shadows, drop shadows on things, etc). Since "AIR uses Webkit":http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Apollo:developerfaq#Is_this_the_same_WebKit_project_that_the_Safari_browser_on_Mac_OS_X_and_the_KHTML_Browser_in_KDE_use.3F I was able to use all of the really nice features that Webkit has to offer. Things like "strokes":http://webkit.org/blog/85/introducing-text-stroke/, "box shadows":http://webkit.org/blog/86/box-shadow/, and "text shadows":http://www.css3.info/preview/text-shadow/. And the best thing is... since these pages are going to end up on Windows machines, they'll display as expected since AIR is displaying them with Webkit!

Adobe, you have made my day!

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Skullcandy Smokin' Buds + Old iPhone Headphones = Headphones of Win & Awesome

Posted on: 2008-08-08 15:11:13

So, I’ve been reading on the internet about people who have been modding their iPhone headphones with new earbuds. There is even a company who will do it for you. Where is the fun in that? There is none. Real men take care of it themselves. They get out their soldering irons, wire cutters, and drills and get down to business.

I didn’t take pictures during the bulk of the process. To be honest, it was very frustrating and, in hindsight, a different set of headphones would have been much easier. Explanation to follow.

The <a type="amzn" azid="B000CMS5B2">Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds were chosen because they:

  • are very comfortable.
  • were under \$35.
  • are white.

The iPhone case on my phone managed to tear apart my old headphones, so those were already provided. In case you didn’t know, 3rd party headphones with a mic and button on the cords are fairly hard to come by, and expensive even if you can find them.

The Skullcandy ’phones came apart after cutting around the rims with a razor blade. Their are epoxied together, so some sort of glue is needed to put them back together after they are separated.

Most headphones (like the iPhone headphones) simply tie the wires in a not to make sure the wires don’t easily get pulled off the buds. The Skullcandy wires were glued in-place inside the ear piece. This was the beginning cause of frustration during this part of the process, as we’ll see next. Pulling the wire out of the headphones will leave some of the wire jacket still in the shaft. This gets cleaned out later.

When preparing the iPhone headphones, it works well to cut the wires right under the knot. The unknotted wire doesn’t work so well when trying to push it through the rubber part on the Skullcandy headphones.

There is no picture for this, but the wire that comes with the Skullcandy headphones is quite a bit thinner than the wire on the iPhone headphones. WIthout modification, the iPhone wires would not go up the rubber part and into the earpiece. The jacket bunched up and was a real pain to get up there.

To get around this, part of the rubber on top of the earpiece (you can see it pulled away in the picture) was pulled back and a 1/16th inch drill bit was used to drill a hole pretty much straight through the headphone and through the rubber. This cleaned out any of the extra left-behind wire jacket that was glued, and also made the shaft big enough to accommodate the iPhone wire.

This step is extremely important, and great care should be taken to make sure you don’t ruin the jacket. Go through it once with the drill on low, and once it goes all the way through, then speed it up.

Soldering is pretty easy. Just match colors. A quick burst from a lighter or a match can burn away the jacket on the very small wires in the iPhone headphones. In the right earpiece, there will be 4 wires. Don’t worry about them. You can safely not solder them to anything and have your mic and button still work.

When they’ve been tested, you can reattach the buds to the ear pieces with super-glue. You can also glue the top rubber piece back over the drilled holes. This makes them louder, too.

Great success! Finally, headphones that are comfortable, sound great, and work flawlessly with the iPhone.

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Put It Where It Goes!

Posted on: 2008-08-04 16:31:02

Why can't people just make the bodies of e-mails the content? Why do they insist on putting an entirely new message in a Word Doc, attaching that to a message, and then sending that message? Put it in the freaking body of the e-mail! It's not that hard.

I don't want to have to click to open the document and then have to delete the document. It's not like there are graphics or pretty colors. Just names, and dates.

Put it in the e-mail body, where it belongs!

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Movie Curiosity: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Posted on: 2008-08-02 10:45:49

This morning, I finally managed to finish <a type="amzn">No Country For Old Men. It was great. One of those genre overlapping movies that doesn't fit into any one particular category. You might say it was basically a "chase" movie (as the Coen brothers called it).

The bad guy in that movie is "Javier Bardem":http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000849/. He's so good at it. Really great. As it turns out, he is going to be in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0497465/ as well.

It's a little deja vù with what "Gerard Butler":http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0124930/ did with "300":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416449/ and "P.S. I Love You":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431308/. One minute, the guy is a total ultimate badass putting fear and animosity into the hearts of any intelligent soul, the next he's the reason all the lady's are wishfully sighing and getting all teary-eyed.

His performance in this movie will be a very interesting contrast to what we've seen of him in NCFOM[1].

fn1. Considering that I've only seen him in one other thing, my scope is limited. You might already know he's a great actor.

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Back From Vacation!

Posted on: 2008-08-02 09:46:11

The cruise to Cozumel was amazing. Probably one of the best parts was turning my phone off for 5 days. At first I wasn't sure if I could do it... but we got through it and it was such an amazing experience that I would love to do again.

While I was on vacation, I read <a type="amzn" asin="0441012035">Neuromancer and started reading <a type="amzn" asin="1585426393">The Dumbest Generation. Neuromancer was a great book. It was way ahead of it's time, and if you have seen the Matrix and never read this book, you should. This book was written by the guy who brought into existence the words "cyberspace" and "matrix." Totally worth the read.

The Dumbest Generation is about the death of reading in America's youth. So far it's been very eye-opening. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through it, but I'm going to try to get through it over the course of the next week.

Turning my phone back on after getting home only yielded 3 voicemails (2 about one thing, and 1 that wasn't for me), 100 e-mails (already gone through and finished), and 1 txt message. Not bad.

I've still got some time this weekend to get re-acclimated to life outside of vacation. That's great because my brain is still in vacation mode! Got more stuff going trying to get my business in a better state. We'll see where it is in 5 months!<SCRIPT charset="utf-8" type="text/javascript" src="http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822/US/nickvaha-20/8005/e443cb55-0a37-444a-9a42-e111f6a2e840"> </SCRIPT>

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