Sunday, February 05, 2006

He's a lousy lover but he's good with his thumbs

[There are just my opinions as a private citizen who happens to have to deal with these device five days a week, eight hours a day from a support standpoint. Opinions stated here do not represent those of any given cellular provider, duh, but are repeated daily by many of the people I work with. If you happen to be associated with the same company as me, I am not the 'droid you are looking for. Some products are named but no cellular carriers are mentioned. It's wonky electronics like the ones below that give me and my comrades any form of employment security in this send-the-jobs-offshore economy.]
Ain't this a pisser?If you're old enough to remember when the Village People were releasing albums, like me, you likely saw some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups ads on television where one person would be walking along eating a chocolate bar obliviously while another was bebopping down the sidewalk eating peanut butter straight out of the jar blythely (ever see that happen in real life?), and the two bump into each other, conveniently sticking part of the chocolate bar into the peanut butter in such a way that both people had a chunk of chocolate with peanut butter on it. After the cursory "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!" they both eat their chocolate slabs and announce that it's delicious, and the voiceover says it's "two great tastes that taste great together." Got the cultural reference now, kids? Fast forward to now. Picture two business dweebs walking along toward each other, one yakking away on his cell phone and the other in his own private Idaho punching away on a personal digital assistant (PDA). The two dweebs collide, as does happen quite a bit in real life because people don't freaking pay attention to where they're going while engaged in digital nirvana, and somehow the phone and PDA have merged into one device. Two bad tastes that taste bad together; this is a common description of the Palm Treo and the Research In Motion Blackberry.

Now, first I have to say that I don't dislike Blackberry devices that much. It's the people who use them that I don't like. "Crackberries", as they are often referred to due to their addictive nature (have you played Brickbreaker today?), are fairly stable and pretty easy to use. Most of the problems can be solved by doing a factory reset to renew the programming, and anything beyond that is likely fixed by reinstalling the operating system (a 40 meg download) if it's not a physical issue. They interact fine with Microsoft Outlook and a few other programs, email sent from one or sent to its dedicated email address arrives within one minute, and the loosest cog seems to be if one is using a Blackberry Enterprise Server (a Blackberry-only email system used in corporate circles) because like your office network it relies on one or two people to fix their own goofups when mail stops coming. And no, I am not going to comment on the recent issues Research In Motion has been having in American courts with the patent-collecting company NTP, I leave that to the pundits who point out that the US Patent Office and courts in England and Germany have called NTP's allegations of copyright infringement bologna. It's the people who worship these devices with the thumbwheels that I make fun of. Especially those who want it to do more than it can or walk around like these are executive-level GameBoys. While most PDAs (with or without phones attached) are quite expandable, there is no Blackberry that comes with a 1.3 megapixel digital camera, MP3 player, or other geegaws built in because this is strictly for business use. It's a tool, that's why it has a calendar, address book, and email program primarily and little beyond that. Pay attention to your surroundings, assclowns.

Treos, however, these are a scourge. Palm made some mighty fine PDAs that didn't go online, or if they did (via a modem) they didn't use your cellular minutes. Then came this all-in-one beast which does no one task particularly well. 75% of the calls I take are about this device, and 50% of the calls I take on them require either a factory reset or an outright replacement to fix the problem. I'm sure this isn't the only device with an LCD screen that gets damaged thus causing a big orange blob to spread across the screen, but the "Treo fungus" is rather unique to the device. I can't name any other electronics that reboot itself 2 seconds after it starts up in an endless loop, with the exception of some Windows 95/98 computers I dealt with years ago. It's surprising how many of these Treos stop ringing and send calls straight to voicemail, have issues that can't be resolved with a factory reset, or have other failures where they require warranty replacement within a week of coming out of the box. My former boss was reading some press release about the Treo 650 which referred to it as "award-winning", to which she said out loud, "what award did that thing win, the Crap Award?" (She then quit the cellular company to work for HTC, the company that designed several cell phones for other companies, including the Treo 650...) I am curious whether there's any truth to the rumor seen online recently that says the Treo 700 to be offered by some cellular carriers this spring will be using Palm's own operating system, which is found on previous Treo models thus restoring compatability with earlier models' software and hardware, whereas the ones currently available use the Windows Mobile 5 operating system, which is found on all the non-Palm/non-Blackberry PDA-phones. Of course, like with the Crack(berry) addicts, I diss on the owners themselves too, since it seems a lot of people will accumulate a lot of address book data (do you actually know the 13,000 people you have in your contacts list??) and never back it up to a computer, then when the phone goes toes-up as inevitably it does suddenly they can't get the data off. As the saying goes, a lack of foresight on your part does not a crisis for me make. (Or something like that.) Oh, and in case you wondered, I'm not going to say anything for or against Windows Mobile-using devices, because I don't care if it's a Microsoft product as long as it's stable. I will however say that I get more calls saying "my phone suddenly reset on its own and dumped all the data" about Windows Mobile devices than the same complaint about Blackberries or Palm devices. Those two devices just up and quit working yet retain the data, that's all.

Okay, you want a recommendation? Easy. Put your cell phone (doesn't matter what brand) on one hip and your PDA (doesn't matter what brand) on your other hip. Never the twain should meet. If one breaks, the other still works. If you need to read and reply to email on the go, use a notebook computer and a WiFi connection so you not only have a real keyboard and monitor but the connection is free or nearly so. If you actually move around a lot outside metro areas, make sure your cell phone can be used as a tethered modem for your notebook, and know your carrier's coverage area. Some entire states are 'dead spots'. Throwing your Internet connect, online and organizational functions, and your phone into one handheld device? Bad juju. Don't have an email account already or intend to use 3/4 of what the device can do? Consider spending that $300-$500 on something more lasting and useful, like your grandkids' college fund. But if you won't follow these helpful tips, I thank you for paying my salary and keeping the likes of me off the street during the day.

A cell phone is all I need, and for now, I can't use that. I'm in ultra mute mode for awhile, but since this was a new procedure (my thigh fascia is now in my vocal cords), I have no idea what the time frame will be before I see what kind of voice I'm left with.
Isn't this fun?!
I use a wireless laptop at home, but thankfully, I'm not one of those people who has to be connected to everyone on the planet twenty-four hours a day.
I call them gadget people. They are tethered to their electronic devices. Like you said, they make your living for you. Keep those problems coming!
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