Tag Archives: cell-phone

The Great Verizon Data Famine

The other day I visited my local Verizon store for the fourth freaking time! My mission was simple: upgrade my goddamn phone and change our account from my wife’s name to mine. In sane retail environments long-standing customers with impeccable payment histories get treated like royalty. I know it will come as a shock to all you parasitic socialists out there but it is the paying customer, and only the paying customer, that is keeping civilization’s lights on! I understand and appreciate the need for businesses to make profits and for the last three years Verizon has profited from my patronage and I have benefited from their excellent cell service. We had a mutually beneficial relationship but now I’m wondering if this marriage can be saved.

I have no technical complaints about Verizon. The engineers at Verizon clearly know what they are doing but it looks like the administrative and sales division’s model themselves on the DMV or Obama’s healthcrap.gov. I’ve seen this before. Most software companies harbor competent to brilliant programmers yet are often fronted by ethically challenged sales baboons. My father, a retired petroleum engineer, used to say, “It’s a good thing oil is so valuable and customers are beating down our doors because head office couldn’t sell shit to a house fly.” I know it’s not my place, as a motivated shit seeking house fly, to question the sales practices of multi-billion dollar enterprises but, to quote a very wise old white guy, “you’ve confused me with someone who gives a crap.

When I first walked into the Verizon store I wanted an accurate answer to this question:

How much will my monthly bill be if:

  1. I pay the full retail cost of the phone upfront. Old white guys do not buy on credit because old white guys have learned the hard way that buying anything on credit means you eventually pay more. I am not interested in paying more. I have a very bad attitude when it comes to paying more. My butthole has been reamed often enough, long enough and hard enough that it’s now operating on a strict cash upfront basis.
  2. And if I have an uncapped 4G data plan. Cell providers constantly go on about their unlimited data plans yet down in the fine print — old white guys always read the fine print — you typically see “limited to two gigabytes per month.” Two gigabytes is not unlimited, four gigabytes is not unlimited, fifty yottabytes is not unlimited; unlimited means arbitrarily high.

It took two trips to the same store to get a simple price quote. The quoted rate was $69.99 per month. This is close to my current rate and since I’m burning another $39.99 per month on Internet cable it looked like I could cancel cable, divert all my residential Internet traffic through an iPhone 4G hot spot and save about thirty bucks a month.

I realized I would have to go on a data diet. 4G connections are faster than 3G but 4G is still much slower than cable Internet. The cable provider in St. Louis, Charter1, runs at 30 megabits per second. This is about five times faster than 4G. 4G is okay for blogging, modest sub-gigabyte downloads, uploading a few dozen high-resolution pictures and normal web browsing. 4G is not up to irritant free HD streaming. You can stream but the image is often downgraded to a blocky low resolution mess. I planned on giving up streaming because TV, whether broadcast or streamed, is still mostly time-wasting garbage. I was looking forward to reallocating my streaming time to good old-fashioned paper2 book reading.

After doing my research, considering the options and allocating funds I returned to the same Verizon store I had visited three times with the intention of plunking down the full cost of an iPhone 5s and signing another two-year service contract at the price I was previously quoted. Then things went horribly wrong. First, we had to call my wife to change the name on our account from hers to mine. The simple act of changing the account name voided my unlimited data. I went from an uncapped plan to a two gigabyte plan. Then, as a final affront, it turns out that you if you actually want to use your iPhone’s hot spot you need to pay another $30.00 per month on top of your normal data plan. In other words my bill would be a few cents shy of $100.00 per month. So, I would pay roughly the same as my current Verizon and Charter bills combined and end up with a connection that is five times slower. Old white guys are slow and stupid but not that stupid.

Instead of walking out of the store with a shiny new iPhone 5s and another two-year contract I left with my old iPhone 4 and a downgraded, but equally expensive data plan. I am now looking at other options. I will probably retain cable and cut off all cell phone data. Most of my cell phone data moves over Wi-Fi so why pay Verizon, or another provider, $30.00 bucks per month to keep up on Twitter tripe. Verizon’s sales did a bang up job here. They convinced a loyal and reasonably happy customer that it’s time to take a serious look at the competition. I was planning on a data diet but not a data famine. Can you hear me now!

  1. Charter Internet is a binary operation. When it’s working it works very well, but over that last three years I’ve watched it go down more often than a cheap street prostitute. Right now it’s down. Charter outages are annoying but they’re usually quickly resolved.
  2. EBooks are developing nasty data mining habits. I have no desire to expose the precise details of my reading to busy bodies. This doesn’t mean I am giving up on eBooks but I am giving up on on-line eBooks. I now demand complete control of the eBook file on a device that I can shut off logging and communication. If you don’t control it you cannot trust it.

Controlling Cell Phones the new IT Frontier

no cell phones

Personal cell phones are on the IT hit list.

It won’t be long before your employer starts jamming or confiscating your personal cell phone. Wait a minute isn’t that a tad hyperbolic? Wouldn’t that trigger an avalanche of “freedom of speech” lawsuits?  Wouldn’t people yell “fornicate elsewhere” and quit?  Ahh, if only it were so.  I would love to be wrong about this but I have a superb track record when it comes to predicating IT control freak trends.

In my long programming career I’ve never met a “liberty loving” IT manager. There’s something utterly intoxicating about being in a place where reliable minions, (dead computers for the most part), completely manifest your vision.  I’ve watched the most libertarian of programmers turn into Dilbertian despots when tasked with network security, software procurement or SOX compliance. IT’s first impulse is to control, control and control even if control is counterproductive.

Here’s the sad news. Most IT polices are counterproductive and they never fix the problems they claim to address.  Consider my case. I have never introduced a network virus, distributed proprietary company information or collaborated with competitors.  Everywhere I’ve worked had specific IT policies for these, and other corporate crimes, but I could have easily circumvented 95% of them at any time. The only defense any of my employers ever had was my personal honesty and integrity.

Unfortunately my personal honesty and integrity is beyond the control of IT and, as I have said before, control is key when it comes to IT. If IT cannot control it they won’t even recognize it!  This is why we end up with abominations like SOX — perhaps the must ludicrous bit of micro-managing nonsense ever foisted on American companies. Incidentally SOX does SFO when it comes to preventing the Enronesque crimes it was intended to prevent. Don’t believe me, ask Jon Corzine about where MF’s billions went.

Exactly where do personal cell phones fit into IT policies? When cell phones first appeared they were just phones. Now they’re web browsers, cameras, microphones, stereos, GPS receivers and recently full-fledged programming environments. So much power and all outside of IT’s control. Most employers keep lists of banned websites. What’s the use of tasking neutered lackeys with maintaining a list of banned websites if an employee can whip out an iPhone and browse at will? What’s the point of banning USB drives and locking down proprietary files if you can take a quick snapshot of your monitor and post it on Facebook?  IT has a personal cell phone problem and I can guarantee that whatever twisted solution their misguided minds fixate on it will have nothing to do with employee honesty and integrity.

Revenge of the PhD Camera

Hipstamatic water meter

Hipstamatic water meter

Cameras come in two flavors. There are expensive serious cameras used by serious photographers to take serious photographs and then there are PhD, (Push here Dummy), cameras. Serious cameras meet the highest technical standards, lenses are diffraction limited, chromatic aberration approaches zero, pixel counts match Nyquist limits, ISO’s exceed retinal sensitivity, auto-focus is instantaneous, color spaces are wide, calibrated and range into the infra-red and ultra-violet. PhD cameras don’t go there! PhD cameras provide a button for dummies to push. Over the years I’ve ying’ed and yang’ed from serious to PhD cameras. It’s not that I cannot make up my mind. Camera choice is another eternal struggle sort of like that squabble between good and evil or light and regular beers.

When I’m on a serious photography kick I put time, expertise and money into my pictures. For me serious photography is exhausting. I  seek out worthy subjects, wait for the right light, agonize over composition, experiment with lenses, tweak f-stops, adjust shutter speeds and take as many exposures as light and time allow. Then the post shutter ordeal begins. Digital imaging processing makes anything possible. You can take your exposures and like some mad photo-shopping Rumpelstiltskin spin straw into gold.  But, as in the fairy tale, there is a high price, perfect images will suck years out of you. Photographers often talk about workflow and they aren’t kidding. When I start tweaking my workflow I know I’m reaching the end of my serious rope. Photography is one of my hobbies and I never ruin hobbies by turning them into jobs!

The World's largest Photo Libraries 2011  1000memories.com

Eventually I snap out of it and resume PhD’ing. Unlike serious photography PhD’ing is effortless and fun. It’s always been fun, remember Brownies and Instamatics, but this is the golden age of PhD photography! In the last decade PhD cameras have evolved and mutated from cheap plastic boxes filled with grainy high-speed ISO film to sophisticated little internet photo-shopping engines that ride around in our pockets as cell phones. I don’t even know why they are called cell phones. My iPhone takes hundreds of images for every phone call it processes. It’s really more of an iCamera+iBrowser that can, on rare occasions, be used as a phone. Based on surveys of web image sites I am not the only iCamera user. PhD photography is growing faster than the national debt.

Mixing up cell phone color channels

Mixing up cell phone color channels

Explosive growth attracts armies of sinners and saints. Every two-bit whore chasing a buck is now writing image processing software for cell phones. In the last two years we’ve seen apps that stitch panoramas on the fly, apply cheesy photo-shop effects and automatically create HDR images by blending two or more exposures.  As Sturgeon’s law predicts most of these apps are crap but that’s not a problem for PhD photography. The goal is to offer a fun button for dummies. My favorite PhD app is a great little toy called Hipstamatic. Hipstamatic simulates crappy old PhD film cameras loaded with expired film. You can choose a lens, a film and a flash or you can just shake your iPhone and let it randomly select these parameters. Shake and shoot; it’s the revenge of the PhD camera.