Category Archives: Technology

The New Ride

My beloved 1994 Chevy S-10 unfortunately drives very much like a 1994 pickup truck with 200K miles on it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my truck. The thing is, now that we’re in the city, when I commute to work in the morning it feels very much like I’m going to die at any moment. My truck shimmies, it rocks, it skids, and its safety features are pretty much non-existent. I’ve almost rear ended several vehicles because old Betsy just doesn’t stop like she used to. So, it’s time to get a new vehicle. And I LOVE my new vehicle.

Pictured here is my new 2013 Dodge Dart SXT/Rallye Sedan. The cool blue color is nice, but honestly is just a bonus, as the stuff inside is really what I was worried about. Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

  • 1.4L Turbocharged, 16 valve, 4 cylinder engine
  • 6 speed manual transmission
  • 17″ Aluminum wheels
  • Eleventy hundred airbags (estimate)

The 1.4L engine with the multi-air turbocharger makes for interesting driving. I’ve never driven a car with a turbocharger (it actually still sounds like something fake to me), but it takes a little getting used to. The “turbo” kicks in when the car reaches a certain RPM, so with gentle driving it’s rarely engaged. Give it a little gas, however, and you REALLY notice the difference. It makes for a very VERY fun drive. 6 gears is a lot to shift through, but even that I’m getting used to.

Here is a photo of the inside. Doesn’t that look fun?

Along with the drive train, the technology was something I was very concerned about. I’m going to have this car for 10+ years, so it has to be worthy of such a long relationship. Along with the 8.4″ UConnect touchscreen entertainment panel (pictured above), I insisted on having Bluetooth connectivity. If I’m going to be driving 90MPH 70MPH on the way to work, I can’t be fiddling with my phone. So, the Dart has handsfree built in. It also has Bluetooth audio streaming, which is really cool — but in practice it’s a little underwhelming, because it lacks tools like fast forward and such. Still, in a pinch it’s pretty neat.

While it wasn’t a feature I was really concerned about one way or another, my car does have Sirius Radio with a year of service included. It turns out this is actually kinda nice, and while the stations aren’t really up my alley, a few are nice. For the most part, however, when I commute to and from work, I listen to audiobooks. At first I did this by connecting my phone to the car via USB (cool feature), but now I actually just loaded up an SD Card with a bunch of audiobooks, and leave it plugged into my car. It remembers where it left off, even if I remove the card and put it back in later. Oh, my car has an SD Slot, did I mention that? 🙂

At the end of the day, this $22,000 car is a big investment. I feel so much safer driving to work now, however, so I think it’s worth it. And at 39MPG on the highway, it will practically pay for itself. In about 300 years or so. 😀

My Chat with AT&T

Posted without comment…

info: Please wait for a chat representative to respond.
info: You are now chatting with ‘Ian Young’
Ian Young: Thank you for chatting with at&t today, I am happy to assist you

Shawn Powers: Can you give me an idea when our service will work here in Indian River, MI?

Ian Young: I am happy to look into that with you today

[over 5 minutes go by]

Shawn Powers: Are you doing that now?

Ian Young: I am

Ian Young: I do see the reports of the issue, but no estimated resolution time

Shawn Powers: So you recommend I switch to Verizon?

Ian Young: I did not say that

Shawn Powers: You are one of many AT&T folks that acknowledge a problem, yet have no estimate for repair time, nor explanation as to what is happening.

Shawn Powers: So, since you can’t help me — switching companies seems the only logical choice.

Shawn Powers: What if this goes on for years?

Shawn Powers: Shall I never again make a call or text?

Ian Young: unfortunately, we only have the information our technicians provide us, and as of yet they have not advised us when the expect to have the issue resolved, in all my years with at&t I have never seen an issue like this last for years, but if you feel that is what you must do, that is your choice

Shawn Powers: Do you understand why a continued “we don’t know when it will be fixed” makes me question why I spend $350+ a month?

Shawn Powers: this is at least week two, which means I’ve paid for half a month of service that rarely works

Ian Young: I do understand, and if we had a date we would be more then happy to provide it to you

Shawn Powers: Do you have an estimate on when you might have an estimate?

Shawn Powers: or possibly does a manager have a better idea of when the problem will be identified or fixed?

Shawn Powers: Certainly someone in all of AT&T must know something.

Shawn Powers: I could flag down AT&T trucks that pass by on the road, but that seems a bit drastic.

Shawn Powers: I would call and talk to someone, but you see, my phone doesn’t work.

Ian Young: they would have the same access to the information as I do, unfortunately our technicians have not provided us that information, weather you reach us through here for chat or call, we have the same information

Shawn Powers: Perhaps could someone *call* the technicians?

Shawn Powers: Or email them.

Shawn Powers: Or text them

Shawn Powers: Communicate with them in some manner?

Ian Young: if we had a way to contact them, we would already have done so

Shawn Powers: So… the company which claims to be the biggest and best company for communication can not contact their own technicians?

Shawn Powers: You do see the irony, no?

Shawn Powers: I suppose I would understand if you can’t reach them on their phones if they live in Indian River.

Shawn Powers: Our towers don’t work here.

Ian Young: with our technicians it is a one way communication, the let us know,

Shawn Powers: You don’t think that is unacceptable? That’s the same efficiency as smoke signals.

Shawn Powers: Perhaps a note could be slipped into their paychecks, asking for an update?

Shawn Powers: I’m certain they receive that from AT&T, even if they never have to receive information from the company in other matters.

Ian Young: I do understand your frustration

Shawn Powers: Yet, you have no suggestions for me?

Shawn Powers: Let’s pretend you were me, what would you do?

Shawn Powers: Would you continue to pay for service that does not work?

Shawn Powers: Is that that what the ideal customer would do?

Shawn Powers: Or should I continue to spew sarcasm at you, and hope it goes up the chain?

Shawn Powers: I realize you personally aren’t responsible — but you’re my only point of contact.

Shawn Powers: So you get the brunt of my frustrations.

Shawn Powers: I must have some resolution, as I’ve patiently waited for two weeks now.

Shawn Powers: If I ordered a hamburger, and it didn’t arrive for two weeks, I would most likely leave the restaurant, thus my questions about switching to Verizon.

Ian Young: again it is your choice as to weather to continue service with at&t or not, at this point, the information you are requesting is not available, our technicians are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible

Shawn Powers: So will I be charged for the past two weeks?

Shawn Powers: Or will my bill reflect the time it takes the technicians to fix things?

Shawn Powers: If I knew the length of time it would take, I could better judge if I wanted to remain a customer.

Shawn Powers: I would say the phones work about 25% of the time, will I get a 75% discount?

Shawn Powers: If you can’t resolve my problem, can I stop service with AT&T, and no longer have a committment on my contract? ie, revoke early termination fees?

Shawn Powers: I think that would be a fair compromise. If you can’t tell me when my phones will work, then canceling my early termination fees would be acceptable.

Shawn Powers: it’s not even all my phones, some are past their contract dates.

Ian Young: I apologize, we in tech support do not have information on termination fees or contracts, if you want to call our Customer Care at 1-800-331-0500 from a land line phone, they would be able to look into that with you

Shawn Powers: Shall I go ask the neighbor if they have a landline phone?

Shawn Powers: We have 5 cellphones you see, and no landline.

Shawn Powers: Customer care cannot chat?

Ian Young: I am happy to find the location of one of our at&t company owned stores, they would have a courtsey phone you would be able to use

Shawn Powers: The store itself couldn’t help me?

Ian Young: they might be able to, but most likely they would direct you to call

Shawn Powers: I see. Well, Ian, I would thank you for your help, but really you haven’t helped at all.

Shawn Powers: I’m sure you tried — but you’ve said the same thing I keep hearing over and over.

Ian Young: as I said if we had more information, we would not hesitate to provide it

Shawn Powers: Well, if I see a technician, I’ll let them know you’d like to talk to them. Too bad AT&T doesn’t have two way phones for them yet.

Ian Young: it is not a matter of Phones

Ian Young: it is a matter of allowing them the ability to do the work they have to do with out intruption

Shawn Powers: So you *can* call them, you just won’t?

Shawn Powers: “Ian Young: with our technicians it is a one way communication, the let us know,”

Shawn Powers: But they don’t let you know apparently, therein lies the problem.

Ian Young: they let us know when they know, if they don’t know, then don’t have the information, hence we don’t have the information

Shawn Powers: If it took me two weeks to figure out how long it would take to solve a problem, I would be fired. Perhaps I should get a job as an AT&T technician, it sounds like they have a cake job.

Shawn Powers: “We’ll get it fixed… someday. No, we won’t tell you what’s wrong. No, no idea how long it will take.”

Ian Young: I understand your point of view, but the technical aspect is not as simple as you seem to imply

Shawn Powers: Ahh, yes, that’s it. Think about it not as the AT&T tech support, but as a person that paid hundreds of dollars for shoddy service.

Shawn Powers: If you truly believe it’s acceptable to hear “no estimate” for weeks, with no further information, you have a horrible concept of customer support.

Shawn Powers: Hours, i would understand.

Shawn Powers: A day, maybe

Ian Young: I do apologize that we do not have an estimated time of resolution, it is not an issue of weather I feel it is acceptable or not, it is what we have to work with

Shawn Powers: So what should I do?

Shawn Powers: Please tell me what the recommendation is.

Ian Young: What you should do is up to you, at this point all I can say, is we are working to resolve the issue

Shawn Powers: So you have no recommendation?

Ian Young: If I had a recommendation that would fix the issue, I assure you I would not hesitate to provide it

Shawn Powers: What I’m asking is, when I go into the other room and my family asks about their phones, I need to say, “Ian said we should __________.”

Shawn Powers: Because that’s why I contacted you.

Shawn Powers: I need to know what to do now.

Shawn Powers: My phones dont’ work.

Shawn Powers: I came up with ideas, like switching to Verizon. I need to know what AT&T suggests I do.

Shawn Powers: Continue to wait indefinitely? If that’s the answer, just let me know.

Shawn Powers: You currently represent all of AT&T, I need to know what AT&T suggests I do.

Ian Young: What to do now is up to you, as for you concerns about the contracts, is to call and speak with our Customer Support,

Shawn Powers: let’s start over then. Ian, my phone doesnt’ work, what should I do?

Ian Young: I do understand Mr Powers, you want us to tell you what to do, but you don’t want us to tell you to wait till it is fixed, no carrier is going to tell its customers to go to another carrier, outside of that what else are we to tell you?

Shawn Powers: I guess you don’t have an answer for me then. Very well. Thank you for a lovely chat, Ian. I do hope you have a good day.

Ian Young: I hope you have a good day as well, and that the issue is resolved soon for you

Photon Obesity At All Time High

Our nation is struggling with a growing obesity problem unlike anything we’ve seen in generations past. Our slovenly lifestyle is beginning to leak into science as well, however, and the ramifications could be deadly.

Researchers at CERN, (yes THAT CERN) have discovered the speed of light is beginning to slow down. They fired a beam of light and some subatomic particles (neutrinos, arguably the most physically fit subatomic particles) into a particle accelerator, and a neutrino won the race. Light wasn’t even on the heels of the neutrino, and was lagging 60 billionths of a second behind!

Scientists are baffled at how our precious photons are getting so slow. Margaret Flanahan of Boston University posits, “We think it might be due to all the television watching that happens. As we sit on our couches and get fat while watching sitcoms, photons are exposed to the same life-draining drivel. I’m only surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.”

What seems like a minor mathematical error or fluctuation in space time is really a more serious problem than most people realize. If photons continue to pork out and slow down, light won’t be as reliable as we’re used to. Live reality TV will no longer be in real-time. Sunsets will happen later. Cats will be able to catch laser pointer lights with minimal effort. Truly, it’s the beginning of the end. Real life scientist Bob McFeebly thinks obesity is only the first problem. “What happens when our happy go lucky photons start to get depressed due to their obesity problem? As their mood darkens, so do we. Global cooling, food shortages, return of the ice age, and the bankruptcy of countless sunglasses factories. We’ve only seen the beginning, folks.”

Certainly a grim sign of what’s to come. Some folks are making the best of a bad situation, however, and nature photographers in Florida’s Lightning Belt are getting some prize photos. Snappy McSnapherson, a well known lightning photographer commented to our reporters, “It’s easier now than ever before! You just wait for the thunder, then point your camera in that direction. By the time the light gets there, you’re set up for an awesome shot!”

Former California governor, and known health advocate, James Rolph Jr. recommends a rehabilitation program for our overweight photons. “We just need to put photons on a regimen of diet and exercise.” Rolph recommends the following:

  1. Use fewer batteries. Flashlights are way too bright nowadays. Back in my day we carried around a glowing coal ember, and it was plenty. Light is getting fat because we use too many batteries. Just take one battery out and replace it with a stack of pennies.
  2. Swing around your flashlights. Make those photons get out and MOVE. Why I once had a dog named Old Chuckles, and he got fat from not moving around. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. My dad was in the Navy, and I had to switch schools at least 23 times a day. Days were shorter back then, and twice as hard. I miss my friend Cooter.

That was all we could get from Mr. Rolph, as he started babbling nonsense. Good advice though, we should all follow it. Of course, by the time the light gets to your eyeballs from the computer screen to read this, it will likely be too late.

So long folks, and remember to turn off the lights. Otherwise you’ll wake up with a lazy puddle of photons on the floor, and who’s gonna sweep that up?

I Miss My Droid

Three or four months ago, my beloved Droid died. Since I don’t use my phone for actual phone calls, I decided to just not get a new phone, and stick with my work provided iPhone for my mobile computer needs. (I can’t use it for personal calls, but I have unlimited data and talkatone, so those rare times I have to make a personal call, I just use that) Anyway, it’s been a few months, and I can easily say:

I miss my Droid.

Really. I have nothing against Apple products. I use them all the time, and they usually “just work”, which I really appreciate. When it comes to a mobile device, however, it turns out I need more from a phone that the iPhone can offer. Heck, even jailbroken, the iPhone lacks customization that Android has by default. The big things that annoy me about the iPhone:

  • Lack of real integration with core services. If I want to use Google Voice, I should be able to do it without some weird hack.
  • App limitation. I need to use a WiFi scanner rather often, and a phone is perfect for such a thing. For some reason, however, Apple deems that an inappropriate use a phone.
  • Customization. iOS 4 gave us the earth shattering ability to set a background photo. Wow.
  • Did I mention app limitations? 🙂

Anyway, I’m up for a new device now, and I’m thinking about getting the Motorola Atrix. I don’t want the weird laptop thing that goes with it, but the battery life, CPU horsepower, and screen resolution look appealing. Anyone ever use one? If not, what’s your favorite Android phone?

Linux Journal: It Bytes To Go To Bits

Today, Linux Journal announced something that I’ve known was coming for a while now. We will no longer get that wonderful excitement of finding a good old fashioned paper magazine in our mailbox every month. The good news is that Linux Journal won’t be going away. We’re just switching medium. It’s no longer possible for the company to sustain the cost of printing and shipping a physical magazine every month.

This shouldn’t really come as a shock to anyone, as magazines right and left are either switching to digital, or closing shop altogether. As a tech magazine, I’m quite pleased to see us go for the former instead of slowly and painfully succumbing to the latter. The truth is, I can tell you first hand that Linux Journal is about 2 things: Content and people. And not in that order. With this change, those 2 things will remain at the top of our priority list.

It’s funny, because based on some of the negative feedback we’ve gotten, I suspect people think Linux Journal is a big conglomerate somewhere, and a fat guy smoking a cigar decided to cancel traditional publishing. As if he were sitting on a pile of money, and didn’t want to pay the small increase in price to keep printing. The truth is we’re a handful of regular old people scattered around the country. We have mortgages and drive crappy cars. Most of us have “day jobs” that not only supplement, but bring in the lion’s share of our income. We do Linux Journal because we love it. We love the people. We love the freedom. We love the penguin. If it were a matter of increasing prices a buck or two, we’d have done so. As the entire industry is showing, it’s a much, much bigger problem than that.

I kinda thought of all readers, ours would be the most understanding. And for the most part, they are. Linux people are smart people. The print magazine industry is dying, and either we adapt, or we just become a nostalgic part of history. We don’t want to move to a digital only platform, we must do so, or just pack up our toys and go home.

Thankfully, the majority of our subscribers are positive, if not bummed, about the change. Heck, we are too. We’re terrified that this “thing” we’ve come to love might not make it. We’re worried that people will just get angry and not buy the magazine anymore. We’re sad because we have no magic wand to make things all better. So, we will do all we know how to do: Create content. It’s what we’ve always done, and as long as we can find a place to write our stuff, it’s what we’ll continue to do. Hopefully we’ll thrive in this new digital age. It seems we are the right demographic to do so.

Hopefully, you’ll join us. 🙂