Monday, December 21, 2009

Falling Short

I recently took the plunge and purchased a “smart phone”.  My particular model is an HTC Droid Eris.  For the record, it’s cooler than cool.  At a cost of $500 without a contract, the phone is still well worth the expense.  I’ve been enlightened.

One of the things which I’ve found incredibly cool about my phone is the Pandora Internet radio application.  The cost is minimal, and it streams radio directly to your phone.  It’s great.  Part of the reason it’s so cool, though, is that you can purchase Bluetooth headphones.  Unlike the cliché wireless headsets, the headphones look good and they service both ears.  They connect wirelessly to my phone, and allow me to listen to music with no cords attached.  After a few minutes with the headphones, I was compelled to recant my dislike of Bluetooth technology.

My problem with Bluetooth has been largely in the failure of general Bluetooth adoption.  Bluetooth devices are (headsets aside) still rare in terms of consumer adoption.  After my revealing phone experience, I had to have Bluetooth on my laptop as well.

An E-Bay Bluetooth dongle cost me a whopping $5 plus shipping.  It’s USB and sticks out of my computer only a very small amount.  When it arrived, I eagerly plugged it in and powered up my headphones.  The ensuing antics reminded me of why Microsoft completely failed with Windows Vista. 

Vista on my home laptop works well.  I don’t have any major complaints, however I was infuriated to find that Microsoft removed the level of Bluetooth support from Vista that’s available on my phone.  Vista cannot recognize an a high quality audio device, and it cannot even use a simple HID device (as in…mouse).  But my phone can.  Go Google!

It quickly became clear that in order to use my Bluetooth device with my laptop, I would need to purchase a third party Bluetooth stack.  At this rate, I thought “Well, they probably did Windows 7 right…maybe I’ll upgrade”. 

Windows 7, Microsoft’s new flagship OS cannot use an elegant, mature technology like Bluetooth any better than my phone.  Buying a third party stack (Bluesoleil’s stack) cost me an additional $30.  If Microsoft had decided to properly equip Windows 7 to meet the demands of it’s consumers, I would have purchased that instead.  Unfortunately, despite the catastrophic losses Microsoft took on Windows Vista, it has made an active decision to make the exact same mistake again.  Nice work Microsoft!  The good news is that at least this time, they have more practice when they execute the marketing blitz to convince people that they want an operating system which has been specifically built not to meet their needs.

The silver lining is that it sounds as though Google is building a PC operating system.  If it’s anything like my phone, I’m confident that it will become the operating system that Microsoft failed to deliver not once, but twice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Phone power

I've been eating a lot of terrible food lately, and exercising very little. It is really starting to show, so I recently got the bright idea to enlist the help of my phone for tracking my nutrition.

Google market has lots of applications for people who want to track their calorie intake. I found one simply titled 'Calorie Counter'. While poking around the program, I noticed an option called 'barcode scanner'. It does just what it says. Point your phone camera at a food product barcode and the phone will identify the product in its database.

Phones have come a long way!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Some Well Deserved Rest

On Friday afternoon, I commented to a coworker “I think I’ll try to spend some time in the basement this weekend.”  That’s where my workshop is, and for some reason it’s relaxing just to hang out in the basement and put things in order.

Today I decided to get off my duff and install the new shocks I bought for Aimee’s car.  They’re air shocks, so I had to drill some holes.  After drilling the holes, I went to retrieve some tools from the basement.

The floor was wet.  Our basement hasn’t been wet since we had a B-Dry system installed, and that’s been three years!  My first suspicion was a leaking furnace humidifier, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.  As I rooted around a bit, I finally noticed water coming out of the water heater…except that it was coming from places where is wasn’t supposed to be coming from!

So, it turns out that I really did spend time in the basement today.  A lot of time.  More than I could ever have expected!  The really annoying part is that I probably aided the failure of our old water heater.  We recently installed a water softener, and despite advice to install an expansion tank, I did not.  Plumbing never turns out well, and there had previously been a softener installed without a tank.  I was really afraid of upsetting our delicately balanced, non-leaking plumbing.

Today, of course, I finally picked up a tank when I bought the heater.

It cost $40 and installed with a saddle valve that pierced the copper line.  If I had simply taken a few minutes to read about the expansion tank, I would have known that the installation was brain-dead simple, and I might have prolonged the life of our heater.

Of course, then I probably wouldn’t have spent time in my workshop today either.