Ivor O’Connor

November 26, 2011

Google Voice’s Blocked Call Feature

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 8:11 pm

Google Voice has a feature to block callers so they don’t bother you. These blocked callers get a message of “The number you are trying to reach is no longer available. If you feel you have reached this …” with the traditional background music that makes it seem like the number is no longer available. I’ve been using this feature quite a lot. In fact I don’t answer 800 and 866 numbers and see if they leave a voice message. I block them if they are spam. If they didn’t leave a message I then look them up with http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/ to see if they are legit or get marked as blocked spam.

Google voice unfortunately doesn’t have any way of handling phone numbers that have no caller id. So I get bothered with them. I’d love to not be bothered with people who have no caller id. Or route them to a phone I never pick up that has a voice message saying that since they have no caller id they must leave a message and that I would then call them back. Alas Google Voice needs a bit of fixing so it can handle unregistered phone numbers to my satisfaction.

November 23, 2011

2012 Chrome Is The New Standard!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 7:37 pm

I was thinking to myself Chrome and Opera are technically so far ahead of all the other browsers. Yet I know hardly anybody uses Opera because their ctl-k brings up an email app rather than search like all other browsers. But what about Chrome? Has it gotten to the point where others are using it? So I looked for stats and found http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp which shows real user stats for the last 10 years nicely labeled the way I like to see information. Not data from Microsoft endorsed sites skewing in non obvious ways to convince people IE isn’t dead. So this data shows in 2009 Firefox overtook IE. Followed by Chrome passing IE in 2011, two years later. However Chrome and Firefox are now neck-and-neck. By extrapolating linearly Chrome is going to easily overtake Firefox in a few months sometime in early 2012. This is great news. Firefox lost it’s direction a few years back due to too many people at the steering wheel and no vision and they quit supporting obviously needed things like sqlite.

Google’s Chrome though has vision. And it along with Opera support this library html5sql making nice client side applications much easier. I think I’ll code only for Chrome and Opera in the future. Except for code that will send IE and Firefox users to my “challenged browser page” with links to where they can download real browsers. It’s nice to have stats backing my opinions.

2012.01.06 UPDATE: Another good reason for using Chrome is that it appears to be the only browser that supports the latest file system APIs. These standards have been around in HTML5 for quite a while now but nobody else seems to have implemented them. See http://www.html5rocks.com/en/tutorials/file/filesystem/#toc-support. You can see if your browser is supported simply by visiting this page. They have coded a snippet that automatically detects and displays the results of your browser’s support.


2013.05.31 UPDATE:  I have removed Chrome and Chromium from all my computers. As you do this they ask a bunch of questions about why you would want to do something so horrible. I replied “Firefox doesn’t die Jim”. I got so tired of seeing chrome and chromium hang and then eventually say “It’s dead Jim”. Google is at the very bottom of my list of supported companies. No. That’s not positive. Instead let me rephrase it. It’s at the very top of my list of hated companies. Everything they do now days seems to reek of evil. As soon as it is convenient I will be off all their products and never ever return. Kind of like what I did with Apple.

November 21, 2011

Dinosaur Car Industry

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 7:18 pm

My “check engine light” went on today. On a cold and rainy morning in the middle of the mountains while still dark. Miles away from anything.

I didn’t feel any change in the ride. Nothing to give me a clue as to why. And I wondered if I should pull over and call AAA. I decided to risk it and keep driving rather than possibly ruin half a day on something that was probably nothing. Sure enough. No problems. Made it home.

But while driving home I wondered why do they have just a light. One dummy light to warn you that something somewhere may be wrong. It today’s computer environment there is no reason for not having a small display which can give a detailed explanation of the problem. A display that could also display when your next maintenance is due and how much you should put aside for it.

Car companies need a boot in their rear.

November 20, 2011

How to buy a cell phone

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 9:14 pm

I have been having the worst of luck in every way with cell phones over the last 10 years. They are not designed to last and the insurance companies do not come through. And when they fail you may lose your address book and hundreds of dollars. Then there is the lack of reception and length of contracts before you can get a new phone. All-in-all I have been suckered for over 10 years. This post is to help other end users and hurt the phone companies.

First off durable phones are not durable. Google “most durable android phone” and then google “most durable cell phone”. You’ll probably get “Casio G’zOne Commando” and the “Brute i686 graphite” respectively. If you read up on them though you’ll soon discover most people who get the Commando wet find the screen shorts out. Verizon then says it’s physical damage caused by the user and will not replace it. Despite it supposedly being water resistant up to a meter for 30 minutes. The Brute i686 on the other hand literally falls apart. The hinges break in the first year with an alarming frequency and Sprint says it’s your fault. Sprint knows it is a problem. Many people think their old model is the same as the new but it got so much bad press they decided to rename it so they could get rid of their excess inventory.

You might say that you just need to insure your cell phone so you don’t have to worry about your provider forcing you to buy another phone for hundreds of dollars. If you google companies like Asurion with a search on “asurion insurance reviews” you’ll see they have mixed reviews. Extremely negative reviews detailing how the company gave them the run around for hours, weeks, and months before being told something very lame where the customer either had to pursue it legally or give up.

Now for the solution. Google Voice! Everybody needs google voice, or GV for short. It is immunization against the cell phone providers. GV routes your calls to your phones. You give people your GV number and GV routes their calls to all of your phones. You can get a free GV number in your local area or you can have them take over, port, your existing number for $20. From that point on it’s free.

This helps because now your number is no longer tied to any telephone provider. Say you are a typical smart phone user on a verizon blackberry and you wake up in the morning to find your blackberry no longer works. You take it in to the local verizon shop, waiting for them to open, hoping to get it fixed asap because all your business comes through that line. They spend a couple hours, you know the drill because it’s happened to you many times before, and they eventually tell you it’s ruined. That fortunately it’s not your fault and insurance will handle it. That you must go home and fill out the information on the website and they will ship you a new phone in a day or two but luckily it will only cost you a $90 deductible because you have insurance. Well at this point you wonder why you’ve been paying $10 a month for insurance. Wonder why the verizon shop doesn’t have extra blackberries there to swap the phone immediately. You wonder why they don’t handle dealing with the insurance company. You wonder why your contract can’t be broken immediately since they haven’t kept up with their end of the deal. So you go get a temporary boost mobile phone for $30 and a $50 a month unlimited plan and you call into your Verizon phone from it. Then you check all your voice mail. Then you forward all future incoming calls to go to your new boost mobile phone. Fill out the insurance forms online and wait. But you do another couple of steps. You sign up for GV and then pay them $20 to have your verizon phone number ported to GV. You also set up GV to forward all calls to your new boost mobile account. When the new blackberry arrives you go back to verizon and ask for another number. Then you download the free app called “voice” to your blackberry so that when you call out from your blackberry it will appear as if you are calling from your old number. Nobody will know there is this thing called GV that is in the middle. And because GV is in the middle routing calls to both your boost mobile and verizon phone you will no longer ever miss a call because a phone dies.

There’s more though. You notice that boost mobile supports smart phones for only $50 a month. May not be 4G but 4G and 3G are usually the same speed. If you look into 4G you’ll notice no carrier supports anything even close to the minimum standards as specified in the 4G specs. These carriers are selling snake oil. Lots of marketing. I haven’t looked into the old 3G specs but I’d be surprised to discover their 4G speeds even match the minimum 3G requirements. And if you look for reviews you’ll notice there are many cases where existing 3G is faster than 4G. So you start thinking of how much money could be saved by switching to a smart mobile phone using boost mobile. You wouldn’t have any two year contracts. However if you stayed a customer for two years you’d only be paying $35 a month for unlimited talking, text, and internet use. All the features you may be paying $130 for now at the price of $35.

You can make that switch and not lose any of your contacts. Because to make that switch only requires you to add another phone number to GV’s router. The Voice application on your new phone will automatically download all your contacts and voice messages. Because of GV you can switch between the cheapest providers as any moment. And you’ll find breaking the contracts with your existing provider so that you can use AT&T Go phones, or Boost Mobile’s sprint network, or T-Mobile’s Verizon, or your laptop via IP is now an easy option.

GV also adds lots of really cool features. One of my favorites is marking people as spammers. If they are a spammer and they have a real number I only get bothered once. Because after the first time through I mark their number as spam and when they call the second time they get “The number you are dialing is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this number in error…” message. Also GV has an option to send you via text messaging or email a transcript of all voice messages. It’s far from accurate though but usually enough to get an idea of what was said.

However you can use dumb $30 phones too. Say you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a smart phone that has a battery life of four hours. You noticed the dumb temporary phone only needs to be charged once a week instead of several times a day and think that’s more important than a phone you can “teenage” out on. You can still use GV to hide the number you are calling from and replace it with your “real” number everybody knows you by. You simply speed dial yourself and then their number. You can still receive text messages of all your voice mail. And of course GV still handles all your voice mail for you. You just don’t get your address book synced with GV in real time.

A $30 phone is cheaper than the $50 deductible the insurance companies charge for replacing a dumb phone. So instead of getting a tough robust “brute i686” you might want to consider getting two dumb $30 phones. If one fails you activate the second dumb phone and within minutes you are back in business. So much cheaper and quicker.

Now you may be stuck on a particular provider because they are the only ones offering good reception in your area. There is a solution to that too. It’s called an amplifier. I bought one of those a few months back. It works wonderfully. Here is the one I bought. You stick the antennae on something up high. A wire goes from there to your amplifier in the house which boosts the signal by 40DB or more depending on what you bought. That new signal is then broadcast from an antennae you stick up somewhere high, say your attic, so you get good reception from anywhere in the house. Problem solved. The cost is about $300 though. It works so well and works with all carriers that I’m thinking of putting it in my car. They are that good.

I think I’ve outlined how you can beat the phone companies. It may take a little up front money but the payback is immediate and never ending.

November 19, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 alt-tab

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 6:19 pm

alt-tab has changed. Now if you are bouncing between multiple browser windows and multiple terminal windows alt-tab is no longer works. The paradigm has changed. Now alt-tab switches you between applications instead of windows. If you pause once you have arrived at the application then all the various windows belonging to that application are displayed and you can alt-tab between them. Or instead of pausing at the application keep the alt key held down and start pressing the ‘`’ key right above the tab key.

Or if you want to bounce between two or more windows of the same application you can alt-` to save time.

So to summarize Ubuntu 11.10 has redefined a paradigm that has worked on virtually all operating systems for the last 20 years because as this person put it the old is dull and the new is sexy. So keep in mind:
alt-tab bounces between applications not windows. Unless you paused on a particular application then a mode switch is done.
alt-` bounces between windows of the same application.

If you keep the new paradigm firmly in place the switch isn’t totally bad. However they should have left alt-tab alone and added the new functionality to some other keys.

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