Great AT&T Cell Service Coverage

April 25, 2015

imagesAlmost exactly two years ago, I upload a posting about switching from Sprint to AT&T Service. I’ve been using AT&T for my cell phone and iPad data service since then, and I’m still very happy with the LTE coverage. I live in the Seattle area, and get great fast data service. I’ve also driven on I-90 East towards Idaho, and for most of the way I get excellent LTE coverage. I’ve also been on two West Coast road trips where my family has driven down I-405 from Seattle all the way to San Diego and for the majority of the way we’ve had excellent cell service.

My son has an iPad with AT&T cellular service, and he used it for most of the road trip to San Diego watching YouTube videos and playing online games, and he rarely complained about losing service. That alone, is a huge testament to the excellent coverage that AT&T has for the West Coast.

Strangely, the only place where my AT&T coverage was poor or weak, was at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. From my last visit a few years ago, my cell phone connectivity was very sporadic. Maybe that was done by design by Disney to keep their visitors focused on spending money rather than checking email or text messages on their cell phones.

So in summary, I’m extremely satisfied with my AT&T service. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on where you live and work, but I’m definitely glad my family switched off of Sprint!


Windows Phone Limbo

January 20, 2015

Yesterday I saw a posted article on BGR.com that had the header, “New details emerge on Microsoft’s last-ditch effort to make Windows Phone relevant“, which made me think: Is there any reason why I would switch from my current Android smartphone over to a Windows Phone?

After a few minutes of thought, the answer would be no. There’s no existing reason I could think of that would make me want to switch to a Microsoft Windows Phone. Not even low price would make me consider switching from Android, since my phone works perfectly fine and meets all my needs.

So, what would make me consider switching?

Being able to run desktop Windows apps on a smartphone (as the BGR article suggests) wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I’ve got all the apps I want on my current Android phone and tablet (also, I don’t use Windows but OSX). Windows Phone would need a big game changer for me to consider switching. Something like a 1-week battery life, or super-thin and strong design. Some kind of projection screen maybe, or extremely accurate voice recognition. A superior tie-in with my car’s bluetooth system to control it’s systems (e.g., self starting, security monitoring, etc). Easy home security link. A truly wireless charger which will charge my phone just by being in the same room as the charger. A next-generation wireless connection system that would allow me to remotely use and control my smartphone at greater distances than Bluetooth (like, me being at the gym with a wireless headset listening to Pandora from my Windows Phone that is sitting in my car 40 feet away).

A lot of pie-in-the-sky stuff which is what it would take to my me consider switching to a Windows Phone.

One thing that Microsoft really does need to do, is create a much, much better GUI interface than what Windows Phone has now. I think the Microsoft decision makers are stuck with the current OS theme, but to me it seems really drab and ancient. In fact, the Apple iOS is also getting long in the tooth even though Apple tries to update it. What I like about Android is it’s customization, and the fact they recently switched it up with the new “Material Design” look.

So, does Microsoft have a chance? I don’t think so with their current Windows Phone product. I think they need another reboot to be successful in today’s market.

 


Amazon.com’s “Guaranteed Delivery”

October 19, 2014

My wife and I purchase items online from Amazon.com routinely, for both the convenience and cost savings. Since we make so many such purchases, it made sense for us to pay the $99 to become Amazon Prime members and get 2-day shipping for free on our “Amazon Prime” online purchases.

Now, being a prime member with the 2-day shipping, when I order an item I usually get a “Guaranteed Delivery” Date on the order page like what you see below:

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Recently, I made a very simple purchase of a book which had the “Guaranteed Delivery” promise on the order page, and the book didn’t arrive on the promised delivery date. I really wanted the book by that date, so I could take it on a business trip and read it on my flight. So, I initiated a support chat session with Amazon asking about my missing delivery.

The Amazon chat person stated he could only refund my order amount, or resend a new book to me. Both options wereimgres not satisfactory to me, since I wanted the book delivered by the promised date. So, I asked the chat person this question: “Does ‘Guaranteed Delivery’ mean that my order is guaranteed to arrive at my doorstep by the given date?”. The response by the chat person was, “Yes”. However, there’s really no “Guaranteed Delivery” by the true definition of the word, since Amazon doesn’t guarantee anything other than they will refund your order or send you a new item and make you wait longer.

This really perturbed me, because my order would have most likely arrived by the guaranteed due date if they didn’t use the US Postal Service to delivery my book. It seemed that the USPS actually delivered my book to the wrong address, and they have done this on a routine basis. For a 2-Day order, why would Amazon trust the USPS to deliver an order for a guaranteed delivery? If it was FedEx or UPS, I would think the chances of it being delivered on time would be much higher than the USPS.

 

Being frustrated with all of this, I emailed Amazon Support with my complaint, asking that they send me another book at no-cost to me, and fully refunding my charges. To me, that should be the penalty for Amazon deciding to use USPS to delivery my book with a “Guaranteed Delivery” date for one of their Amazon Prime customers.

Surprisingly, I got an email response back from Amazon within 5 minutes stating they would comply and send me a new book with no charges. So my book arrived by Next-Day air delivery by FedEx (after my business trip, of course), at no cost to me.

Now when I visit Amazon’s site I find this message when you click the “details” line next to the “Guaranteed Delivery” statement:

 

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Even by this statement, there’s no true guarantee of anything but a refund of your shipping costs if it arrives late. There is no Guaranteed delivery, period. I understand that such things can’t truly be guaranteed, so why should Amazon make such a statement on their web site?


Switching from Android to iPhone 6?

September 21, 2014

With this week’s release of the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, there’s been a lot of online articles covering the topic of Android users switching over to the new iPhones. These articles seem to convey that the only reason keeping some people on the Android platform is the larger screen size, which the new iPhone 6 has now. I think this statement is partially true, but I don’t believe most Android users will jump ship so easily.

I do have to admit, that I was considering the possibility of moving back to an iPhone. The main reason being that I own and use a desktop Mac system and staying in the “Apple Ecosystem” would certainly reduce some headaches with syncing painlessly my calendar, contacts, etc. I have it working to some degree now with the Google Services, but I still have issues now and then getting data synced timely between my Mac and HTC One phone.

My wife just upgraded her iPhone 5 to the new iPhone 6, which is roughly the same size as my HTC One M7. Although the phone is bigger and has a nice screen, I’m still very hesitant to switching to iOS. The big reason, is that I really like and feel comfortable with the Android OS. I’ve been using it for 3 years now (and have written apps for it), and I feel it is superior to the Apple iOS in many ways.

The biggest benefit I see with Android, is the ability to customize the interface and how the phone works. I use an app called “Tasker” which allows me to fully automate lots of tasks, and I can’t see myself not having such automation on my phone. Sure, you might be able to do something similar with an “jailbroken” iPhone, but I’ve tried that in the past and it’s a pain maintaining a jailbroken state when you go through Apple’s update process.

So for now, I’m sticking with my Android HTC One, and will probably move on to a Moto X, LG, One Plus, or Nexus 5 in the near future. Lot of great choices in hardware, and I see the Android OS getting better and better by leaps and bounds.


The Anti-Smartwatch Approach

September 6, 2014

The big electronic trend now seems to be “Smart Watches”, which are usually running the Android operating system. These smart watches appear to be an extension of their smartphone counterparts, in fact, in most cases you NEED a smartphone to make full use of these smart watches. A whole slew of these new smart watches were revealed earlier this week by Motorola, Samsung, LG, and ASUS at a tech conference; all of them had one thing in common: they are really BIG!

From the photos I’ve seen, all of these watches are ridiculously large for even the largest man’s wrist. They look like miniature smartphones, which in fact they practically are. Being a geek I considered getting such a smart watch, but I came to the conclusion that such devices are too costly, unnecessary, and obtrusive. Also, they need to be charged at least once a day (in fact, the “Moto 360” watch has been noted by some early adopters needing to be charged twice a day!).

Because I was in the market for getting a new wrist watch, I decided to go in the opposite direction. Bucking the system, I opted to go with a watch that was not digital. In fact, the watch I chose didn’t even have a battery. I ended up purchasing the Seiko 5 Automatic Watch, which is a self winding watch. This means, the motion of my arm moves a small weighted pendulum in the watch which winds a coil spring. So long as I move the watch during the day, it will stay winded up and function.

Since there is no battery, there is no backlight for night-time viewing. The watch uses old-fashion luminous paint on the hour and minute hands which glow in the dark (just like the old days!). I think it’s really cool to have such a retro watch, when everyone is clamoring for the latest smart watch technology. Who knows, maybe I’ll dump my smartphone calendar app and go with an old DayTimer paper system!


Filtering Chinese Spam Emails

September 1, 2014

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of spam emails with Chinese text and an attached Excel file (ALERT: Phishing). I’ve been searching for a solution for my Mac OSX Mail app to automatically filter out these emails and dump them into my Junk folder, but there’s not an obvious solution. I tried filtering the “Content-Type” and “Content-Class” of the email, but no luck. I finally came across this web blog page where the blogger had a brilliant solution: His email filter searches for a few common Chinese characters in the message body to identify an email written in Chinese. Bingo! I’ve implemented the method below, and it seems to work. In the Apple Mail app, select “Preferences” and then click the “Rules” tab, and make a new filter. Add the following rule checks:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 9.11.22 AM

 

Here are the Chinese characters that I search for:

的 OR 是 OR 否 OR 要 OR 不

Now, hopefully no more Chinese spam emails!

 


Dump Your Wall Chargers!

August 2, 2014

My family has tons of electronic gear, all of which use some sort of USB wall charger device. Often times, these “wall warts” are somewhat bulky and don’t alway fit too well side-by-side with another wall wart or AC plug. This was the case in my bedroom and family room, so I replace those two outlets with a new one which has two built-in USB ports (see below):

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Swapping out the old outlet for this new one was a breeze, only taking me 15 minutes (be sure to turn off the power first!). The only thing to note, is that this new outlet is deeper than a standard outlet, so you need to make sure to push the stiff wires all the way to the back of the box to get the new outlet to fit inside it. Also, this particular outlet didn’t come with a cover plate, so I needed to buy one separately (around $1.00 US).

The two USB ports output 2.1 Amps, which is plenty to charge up two iPads. You can also use the two other AC outlets at the same time if needed. I bought this outlet from my local Lowe’s Home Improvement store, but you can get the same one off Amazon.com for the same price of $24.95.

It was a great weekend project that took under an hour to do, and I now don’t need to worry about charging adapters every again!