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December 23, 2004

Cingular can bite me

My wife Joy has a tendency to forget to remove her cell phone from her pants pocket before putting them through the wash. Such was the case last week. As a result, I needed to pick up a new (cheap) phone for her. I went to a local AT&T Wireless store (now Cingular, of course, but they haven't changed the sign yet) to purchase the phone, at which point I was told that Cingular was not selling any more phones that were compatible with my AT&T SIM card. I had to buy a Cingular phone and migrate to a Cingular calling plan.

For most people, this wouldn't be a problem. However, since I have a Family Share Plan with four lines, this represented a BIG problem. I was told that I had to either split up my Family Share Plan, or purchase four new Cingular phones. You can imagine my reaction to those unappealing options. Given the touchy-feely notes that I had received from Cingular regarding the merge (one was even in the form of a Christmas card), I had expected a lot better.

Luckily, I chose long ago to start buying my phones from AT&T at rack rate, so that I wasn't tied to an annual commitment. I figured that if I was going to have to buy four phones, anyway, I was better off exploring my options. After all, my house was somewhat of an AT&T dead zone, anyway.

I looked around for a bit, then settled on T-Mobile. They don't have as rich a coverage area as the big hitters like Cingular and Verizon, but in the place where I spend 95% of my time (including my house), coverage is superb. Who wants to live out near Clermont, anyway (sorry Steve)? Sprint is a black hole in Orlando, so that wasn't an option.

I didn't even consider NEXTEL because there is nothing more annoying than an avid NEXTEL phone user. The constant beeping of the walkie talkies is absolutely maddening. And what makes those peoples' conversations so interesting that they want to broadcast them to the world? The whole NEXTEL thing reminds me of a bunch of truck drivers with their CB radios. I won't even go into the limited functionality of their high-priced handsets, or their horribly overpriced rate plans (this coming from a guy who bought the maximum rate plan from T-Mobile).

The good news is that I was able to reduce my monthly cell bill by about $100, and I got three really nice Motorola flip phones for the family (one of them is a camera phone). Those were all free. For myself, of course, I got the HP iPAQ h6315. I got that for a scant $400 (not bad for a Pocket PC phone). Other than the fact that one handed operation pretty much sucks (making car usage a challenge), I love the thing. It syncs up perfectly with ASPSOFT's Exchange server. I bought the Motorola Bluetooth headset to make it a bit easier to use. The T-Mobile guy threw in car chargers for all of the phones since I was signing up for the Cadillac rate plan (plus an internet plan for my Pocket PC phone).

Who knows? Maybe I'll be bitching about T-Mobile down the road. I signed up for a one year commitment (vs. two years that all of the other services wanted...the discounts were just too good to pass up), so they've got some time to aggravate me. I'm really hoping that things work out with them, though. I was a long-time AT&T Wireless customer (8 years, I believe), so I am fiercely loyal to companies that care about their customers. Somewhere along the way, AT&T/Cingular forgot what customer service is. Hopefully, T-Mobile will fare better.

04:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 21, 2004

ASPSOFT Christmas Dinner

Last friday, I took the crew out to dinner at Kobe Steakhouse to celebrate the completion of another very successful year for ASPSOFT. They had each already received their annual bonus, but I surprised them with a Signature Series Robosapien. They went over a lot better than the bowling shirts that the folks at the table next to us got. Some employers just never learn.

09:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 14, 2004

Search engine bliss

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the new Google Desktop Search. As predicted by just about everybody, Microsoft was quick to retaliate with its own salvo, the Microsoft Desktop Search. It's built into the beta of Microsoft's new MSN Toolbar Suite. I have both of them installed, and between the two, you can locate damn near anything on your PC in the blink of an eye. They even index your email, calendar, contact lists, etc... from Microsoft Outlook. Incredible stuff.

By the way, you might also want to check out the new Google Suggest beta. As you type your search terms into the box, it makes XMLHTTP requests to the Google search service behind the scenes to give you dynamic suggestions of complete search terms and results. It's an excellent time saver (especially if you're not quite sure how to phrase your search).

11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Popup blocker overkill

Like just about everybody, I hate popup browser windows. That's why I installed the Google Toolbar as soon as it came out. A few months ago, Windows XP Service Pack 2 was released, which had its own flavor of popup blocking baked right into Internet Explorer. Well, Microsoft has now gotten into the custom browser toolbar game, which I promptly downloaded and installed. It has yet another popup blocker built in. That's triple protection, baby, so I say "Bring it the hell on, script kiddies!"

11:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 09, 2004

The price of helping out

As anybody that works in a tech job knows, it's easy to end up being labeled "the computer guy" by anybody who needs computer or networking help. Such has been the case with the gymnastics facility that my sister-in-law trains at, Orlando Metro Gymnastics. Besides managing their website, I somehow ended up in charge of all things technology for the club. Yesterday, they asked me to go buy and install a color laser printer for them. I figured what the hell, so I hopped in my car and schlepped over to Office Depot.

Office Depot was offering a $200 rebate on the HP Color LaserJet 3550 (a pretty sweet printer), so I picked it up. Unfortunately, I was driving the 911, so getting the enormous box in the car was quite a challenge. By reclining the passenger seat all the way, though, the Office Depot employee and I found a way to shoehorn it in. It was quite a sight to see. I redefined the term SUV (Sportscar Utility Vehicle). The employee busted out his camera phone to capture the moment. He promised to email the picture to me so that I could post it here, but he's apparently a total slacker. No promotion for him.

When I got the printer back to the gym, all of the parking spaces were taken, so I parked my car diagonally across two handicapped spots right next to the front door. I didn't want to have to transport the box very far. Once I was inside, I got a bit carried away and spent the next couple of hours re-arranging the office network to accommodate the new printer. I wanted to make sure that everything was working before I left.

Meanwhile, a city cop had stopped by the gym and after noticing my car straddling two handicapped spots, left me a $250 ticket. Of course, the officer didn't have the benefit of knowing why I did that. Not that she would have cared. For all she knew, I was just some cocky jackass with a sports car; Oh wait. Anyway, that's what I get for trying to help out. To quote Joe Pesci, "They fuck you at the drive through."

12:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 07, 2004

Major new version of Vault

SourceGear recently released version 3.0 of their Vault source code management program. Since my company does 95% of its work remotely, we use Vault constantly (it is absolutely the best tool for managing source code remotely). Of course, I had to upgrade immediately. Since this was a major new version, the upgrade wasn't free (bummer), but at $99 a head, it wasn't a back breaker, either.

When I went to run the new Vault GUI after I had installed it, I ran into a bit of a problem. I got a cryptic message about Vault not being able to obtain a public key. While this was annoying, I was pleasantly surprised that SourceGear had implemented a real-time link between error messages in their product and their online KnowledgeBase. I simply clicked on a link on the dialog that took me to an article that explained how to solve the problem with my installation. It turns out that I had to tweak some security settings on my RSA/MachineKeys directory on my server. No big deal.

I originally thought that my article in CoDe Magazine from a few months back was the catalyst for the link between the error messages in Vault and SourceGear's KnowledgeBase, considering that I mentioned Vault by name in the piece. After exchanging some emails with Eric Sink (founder of SourceGear), I found out that this wasn't the case, but it's good to know that more companies are beginning to see the importance and value proposition of helping customers help themselves.

Incidentally, I should mention that I haven't tried out SourceGear's new Dragnet Bug Tracking system. It hadn't been released at the time that I needed a solution, so I went with an outsourced solution called BugTrack, by SkyeyTech (that's actually the proper spelling). It's built on ASP.NET and has done the job pretty well for me thus far. It's a bit on the expensive side (I pay $99/month for unlimited access to their Standard Edition), but it frees me from having to host it myself, like I was doing with FogBUGZ (a quality product in its own right). If anybody has used Dragnet and have something to say about it (either good or bad), then post a comment here. Since it is supposed to integrated really well with Vault, I may just have to give it a whirl.

01:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2004

The Orlando Nerd Dinner community grows!

Another successful Nerd Dinner! Thirteen people showed up for the meeting (an improvement over the eleven people that showed up for the inaugural meeting), so it is obvious that there is a genuine interest in the Orlnado .NET developer community for Nerd Dinners. I'll post pictures when I get them from Eddy Recio (who had the forethought to bring a camera). The next dinner is slated for Tuesday, January 18th, 2005. See you there!

04:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Orlando Nerd Dinner Pics

As promised, here are some pictures from the Orlando Nerd Dinner (Episode II):

12:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)