I cancelled my T-Mobile account, and it went great

I tried out a new mobile phone recently. I did so with some nervousness--I had to get an account with T-Mobile. I wasn't sure I was going to like the phone better than my current phone... so maybe I was going to want to cancel my account with T-Mobile. I was going to have to deal with customer service at a mobile phone carrier!

I kind of lost track of which mobile phone companies have terrible customer service. You hear a lot about Verizon, but maybe that's just because they're bigger and thus have more customers complaining.

It turned out that, sure enough, my the new phone wasn't as good as my old phone. (I claim that the G1 phone is better than an iPhone... but still not as good as my Blackberry.) Thus, I would have to call up T-Mobile's customer service department and get through a transaction that would mean less revenue for T-Mobile. I braced myself for a Telephone On-Hold Unhelpful-People Transfer-Runaround Nightmare.

But it went great. T-Mobile answered their phone quickly. The guy I talked to was nice. I even had a question--they had not yet billed me for anything and I wanted to make sure that they had my payment information OK--and the guy answered it.

That was surprisingly painless. I'll remember this the next time I'm looking for a mobile phone company. Especially if I type this note to myself.


Site: Updated No-Name Sushi Menu

I've been forcing myself to use the new computer, putting it through its paces. If there are important files/settings/whatevers that I forgot to copy over from the old machine, I'd like to know about it before my dialup service goes away. That is, I'd like to know about it before it gets difficult to rescue files/settings/whatevers from that machine. I finally got my monitor configured. In general, I love how easy it's been to get started with this Dell Ubuntu box. The network just works; the sound card just works. Plenty of other things just worked and I probably didn't even notice them, because who notices the things that "just work"? I only noticed the network and the sound card because they didn't work on the previous machine. Anyhow, one detail that didn't "just work": Dell happily sold me a monitor as something standard that goes with this machine; but the Ubuntu setup on the machine didn't realize how many pixels this monitor had. When I tried to choose a screen resolution, it maxed out at 1024 x 768. But this big label on the monitor said I should go for 1600 x 1050. It wasn't obvious how to do this; I'm not sure I did it the right way. Anyhow, edited my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, found a likely-looking place that said "1024x768" and changed that to "1600x1050". Then I restarted (if I were a 'leet linux admin, I probably could have just restarted X instead of restarting the whole machine, but I don't know how to do that), and then I was able to select 1600 x 1050. So now I have more pixels. And I edited an X11 config file by hand and didn't brick my machine in the process, yay.

What? My point? Oh yeah. So I've been putting the machine through its paces. My goal was not to get more pixels. My goal was to set things up so that Firefox and emacs windows are next to each other so I can edit web pages and see how they look without having windows obscure each other. What web page did I work on?

I updated the No-Name Sushi Menu page. The old version of this page was based on a take-out menu from 2003. This new one is from 2007. What changed? There are fewer kai (clam) choices, no tamago (cooked egg) choices. There are more fresh salmon choices. There is kinbow, which is apparently burdock root. I think I hate burdock, but I'm not sure whether I hate the root, the stem, some other part, or all parts. I guess I should find out eventually.

In other news, because my employer is participating in an upcoming FCC spectrum auction, starting Monday I am not supposed to talk about spectrum stuff. Mostly I'm not supposed to talk about the auction, but in general I'm supposed to be skittish about talking about mobile phone services. So I guess there will not be so many phone-service-hating rants in the upcoming months. Thus:

  • Verizon says that they're going to create an "open" version of their service. Sort of like how your ISP doesn't restrict what model of machine you hook up to their ethernet socket, Verizon wouldn't restrict what mobile devices you use with their services. That would be nice. I'll $&#*ing believe it when I $&#*ing see it. Remember ~10 years ago when telcos were legally required to open up to the CLECs? They all said they were opening up; but they were dragged their feet.
  • You iPhone users are so gullible. How did you get tricked into using a device which such a slow data connection?

You see, most of the people who are likely to be annoyed by those two rants are my co-workers. They're going to be gagged by that same FCC rule. They probably won't read this until Monday, by which time the gag rule will be in effect. I get the last word!

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Book Report: In Search of Stupidity

I'm not working on gPhone the Open Handset Alliance. There were various internal recruiting drives for the project; I slunk away from those, kept my head down. I've worked on some mobile phone platforms. Lately, I've been working on other things. Mobile phones were interesting, but it turns out that these other things are pretty interesting, too. Still, there are memories.

The first of those mobile phone platforms was made by a company called Geoworks. Ah, Geoworks. The name brings back waves of nostalgia. But it's a rue-tinged nostalgia. Like, there's some rue mixed up in that first mobile phone platform. It was pretty advanced, it ran pretty fast, seemed to be engineered better than the competition. But then all of the deals went away. A competitor had turned their platform into a standard which many companies would contribute to--an alliance, as it were. In the end, most of those allies didn't use the software, but it took those allies a while to figure out what they would do, software-wise. Meanwhile, they sure weren't buying Geoworks' software. Eventually, most of those allies fell away from the alliance; Is Nokia the only one left? Anyhow. That alliance was Symbian. Recently the CEO of Symbian was described in the news as not being too worried about the Open Handset Alliance. Was he really being disparaging--or does he know how hard it is to keep an "alliance" of mobile phone companies to cooperate?

Ah, Geoworks nostalgia tinged with rue, woven through with rue.

GEOS didn't start out as mobile phone software. It started as an OS for x86 machines. You know, PCs. Microcomputers. Going up against Microsoft? What could we have been thinking? Which reminds me: I am supposed to be writing this book report on the book In Search of Stupidity. (This might be a good time to mention that my opinions are mine. My opinions are not my employer's. My opinions are not my now-defunct ex-employer's--any of them.)

Joe M. at work recommended this book. It has some fun anecdotes from the early days of microcomputers. Back when PCs were called microcomputers. Back when all PCs were not necessarily called "PCs". Anyhow. I liked it plenty. Then again, I am a geek of a certain age and thus remember some of the products described. The book's theme is marketing blunders. But (as noted in an afternote), it's hard to narrow blame marketing for all of these blunders. In one anecdote, the company fires all of the engineers... and has trouble marketing future updates. Is that bad marketing?

The most flattering part of this book is in the chapter on OS/2. It talks about how plenty of software companies wasted plenty of effort to port their software to this OS... to no benefit because that OS never really took hold. That wasn't the flattering part. What was the flattering part? The book, a book about stupid companies, mentions my old employer Geoworks, but does not call it out as a stupid company. Yay.

At this point, IBM still had the ability to checkmate Microsoft's plans for Windows. One way was to buy a new OS from a company called GeoWorks. The company had developed a highly optimized product with a slick GUI that could run in a small hardware footprint; GeoWorks ran with amazing alacrity even on the original IBM PC. This was the path favored by [IBM's] Desktop Software division.

The book doesn't mention that Geoworks actually worked on implementing the Presentation Manager look and feel on top of GEOS. (I'm probably getting the details wrong there. But we were doing something like that for IBM.) The theme of that chapter in the book is Companies that IBM Tricked Into Wasting Effort on Presentation Manager and OS/2. I think IBM paid us for our work, though. If we were getting paid, that means our effort wasn't wasted, right? I sure hope so. I think the main lesson we learned was: Never work on a project codenamed "Wizard". It's always bad news.

What, the book? You wanted to hear about the book? Oh, the book is good in some places, other places you might want to skim. The best places are the first-person anecdotes. The author, Rick Chapman was employed with some kooky characters at some of these early microcomputer software companies. Reading about them... you just can't look away from the trainwreck.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, but the Go Game Isn't One of Them (Not that it Claims to Be)

This afternoon at work, I snuck into a certain cafeteria. Thus I was there when hordes of interns streamed in for a late lunch. They were late because they'd been at the intern scavenger hunt. I was curious to know how it had gone.

We'd outsourced this year's Hunt to The Go Game. As I hear about treasure-huntish things in the San Francisco Bay Area, I occasionally hear about The Go Game. They don't claim to be puzzle-oriented. So I never was that motivated to try it out. But I was glad that the interns were trying it out so that I could find out whether I was missing something.

The Go Game is not a puzzle game. It doesn't try to be. It derives excitement from time pressure. You get a mission: you have four minutes to trot to a building a few blocks away and note down something about it to prove you were there. Go. Not puzzly, but frantic. You have 15 minutes to re-enact a historical event through the medium of ballet. Go.

It doesn't sound like my cup of tea. But it might be someone's cup of tea. I talked with one intern who'd played in last year's game and eavesdropped on another. Both liked JustPassingThrough's hunt better. Gnarly puzzles are a more Googly fit, I guess.

One impressive thing about The Go Game: the final part of the contest allowed each team to vote on the others' creative creations (e.g., videos of balletic reenactments of historical events). To make this work, the organizers had to show us team photos + videos. To make this more interesting, they accompanied the photos/videos with music and sound effects. I was impressed with the presenter, who quickly queued up semi-appropriate music. It was a good show. I'm glad I snuck in.

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Site Update: Contact Info

The next time you visit the site's contact info page, you might notice that I got a mobile phone. You're not the only one who noticed. Ron figured it out right away: "Ha! You got it so that you can use Google on those puzzle hunts!" Yes, yes I did. And I don't even consider mine to be hard-core behavior.

If I'd got a Braille phone, that would have been hard-core.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, including my pager

I received this message on my pager with mixed emoticons:

:-!:-% :-!:-@ :-$ :-!:-# :-( :-!:-@ :-!:-@ :-!:-^ :-! :-!:-* :-!:-! :-!:-# :-( :-!:-@ :-!:-@ :-@:-@ :-! :-!:-@ :-!:-@ :-% :-@:-% @ :-* :-! :-!:-#

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