Tagged Verizon

Where is my Windows Mobile 6.5 update, Verizon? Oh wait, I dug it up

If there’s one thing Apple understands, it’s marketing. Why would I lead a post about Windows Mobile 6.5 with this statement? Because if there’s one thing that’s holding back Windows Mobile as a viable operating system for smartphones, it’s the inability to announce important things and make updates and applications available to users. Take, for example, Microsoft’s late entry into app stores with the Mobile Marketplace–too little, and maybe too late.

Or, take the update for my HTC Ozone. I just found a link the recently-released update. Where did I find this? On HTC’s Twitter page, where it was available as a link. Not on HTC’s main page, as a news item, or even on the Microsoft 6.5 update site, which says that there is no planned date for its release. I haven’t checked Verizon yet, but it’s telling that this update isn’t hosted on a Verizon site. As long as Microsoft fails to properly inform its users about important updates, the iPhone and the Droid will all but eliminate Windows Mobile before the long awaited version 7 can arrive.

Compare rates on long distance and cell phones

The following is a sponsored review of a site which allows you to compare long distance phone service from multiple different carriers.

If you’re looking for the best deal in long distance phone service, LongDistanceUS is a good place to start. The major companies’ plans are all laid out in order from least to most expensive per minute, and things like monthly fees, minimum usage, and customer service call wait time are listed for each company.

Telephone Comparison

Of all the features listed, the average call wait time for customer service was the most significant in my mind, since something like ‘Excellent’ customer service is a relative term. It’s also nice to see the sometimes ‘hidden’ charges like monthly fees listed right alongside the per-minute pricing, so that you can easily evaluate the plans in their entirety.

LongDistanceUS.com also offers similar comparisons for cell phones, internet phones, calling cards, local service, and business long distance. Their selection of providers is pretty extensive for all categories. For example, the listings for VoIP phone companies goes well beyond just Vonage, with about 10 different providers listed for comparison purposes.

You can also plug in your zip code for a listing of plans available in your area, as some of the carriers may not be nationwide. The site also offers helpful information, such as how to switch long distance service, and has a few FAQ pages covering commonly asked questions about long distance service from companies other than the Verizons and Sprints of the communications world.

Of course, one caveat should be noted here. While the site does claim to be ‘unbiased’ in its listings of the different phone companies, there doesn’t seem to be any areas for user / customer feedback on the different providers. While it’s highly likely that all the information on LongDistanceUS is actually unbiased, there is no way to prove that customer service call times for certain companies were ‘skewed’ by calling them at peak times, or other such tactics. If someone from LongDistanceUS would care to comment and satisfactorily explain the methodology employed to make determinations of service quality, and other specifics about the site’s rating system, I would be completely sold on this site. As it is, I would definitely use it as a starting point for finding a phone company.

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Mobishark SharkModem for Blackberry: Having it makes you a better person

Mobishark’s SharkModem for the BlackBerry lets you view detailed connection info in a simple format.
The Connections screen gives you a breakdown of each http or socket connection

Up until 20 minutes ago, I had no internet access from home. How could this be, you ask? Living as I do, in a rural part of the country, however, high speed access is not ubiquitous by any means. In my case, I could get cable, but until two weeks ago, my service provider was Adelphia (soon to be bought by Time Warner Cable), and now is Time Warner Cable (staffed apparently by new and different, yet equally incompetent, call center gnomes). Neither of these moronic corporate behemoths are able to muster the energy to appear at my domicile, even to extract an exorbitant $24.95 a month for ‘mediocre-speed’ 256kbps access on top of a $49.95 ‘installation fee,’ which is where the company’s tech gets paid training in how to set up a cable modem, and I get to pay him or her for it. Dialup is the same price, and therefore a rip-off in its own right. So what’s left?

The Blackberry, dingus! Pay attention.

Now, the fine folks at Mobishark, errr, Software? have created a truly interesting piece of software, not to mention a good way to stick it to the big wireless companies for their strong-arm tactics. Here’s the breakdown of the scam your service provider’s probably trying to pull: (1) An ‘unlimited’ data plan with a provider such as, say, Verizon Wireless grants you ‘unlimited access’ to use your Blackberry handheld to surf the web, no matter how many of those little bits and bytes you steal through the mysterious magic wires in the sky that let us all be ‘IN.’ (2) Your Blackberry can be a modem. Pure and simple. After all, Verizon’s perfectly willing to sell you their NationalAccess or BroadbandAccess plans for another $30 a month, so it must work, right?

Heh, yup. Download the trial of SharkModem from Mobishark’s website, and you’ll find just how freaking easy it can be. Install it on your computer and use the app loader to put it on the Blackberry, and you’ll be up and running almost right away (albeit with a 5MB throughput limit on the demo). I was sold immediately. After all, it doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense to be paying for unlimited data which is being unfairly limited (SharkModem uses the device itself to make HTTP and socket requests, so it’s exactly like surfing the web on the Blackberry, only with a real screen) solely to make free money for your wireless provider. At $34.97, on ‘sale’ right now, SharkModem is around what I would’ve paid for a month’s service through my wireless provider, and it’s a one-time fee.

The speed is not bad, although it’s nothing like Verizon’s BroadbandAccess in terms of being able to stream media or live content. Not surprisingly, the big delay is on the initial request, while (I assume) the device has to wait its turn to send the request through the tower to a computer, to the content’s host, back through the computer to the tower and back to the Blackberry. It can take up to 5 seconds before there’s a response (which you can see on SharkModem’s simple yet highly informative Connections tab), but once you’re going, download speeds on Verizon’s network average around 10KBps with 2 bars of service, or approximately 2x modem speed. And the price is right.

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Transfer your MP3s from your computer into your Blackberry as ringtones

The Blackberry 7100x. Source: www.mobilegazette.com
Blackberry handheld

Ok, I’m fairly certain the Blackberry doesn’t provide any simple way for people to transfer their mp3s into it for the purpose of being ringtones. So, either you’re limited to whatever tasteless drivel your wireless provider deems most profitable, or you can work around the stupidity.

Now, I love Shakira and all, but with my provider, Verizon, I couldn’t even find where to buy mp3 ring tones, so I was left instead with a meager selection of free MIDI crap. It was time to work around the stupidity.

For this recipe, you’ll need some web space. There’s plenty of ways to get that for free, mostly involving allowing the hosting service to cover 90% of the screen with their branded crapola. Or, consider that a domain and hosting for a month at godaddy.com can run you as low as $10, and offers the prospect of loading unlimited mp3s on your phone, and the investment starts to sound pretty good.

Anyways, once you’ve got your web space, all you have to do is create a nice, simple HTML page. Here’s some help, in case your normal OS is Etch-a-sketch:

Yay, I made a web page!
<a href="mymp3.mp3">My legally obtained mp3</a>

Now, here’s the key. You need to put the mp3 on your web space as well, and it’s also wise to name it the same thing as you’re referencing in your HyperText Markup Language. If links confuse you, just make sure to put the file in the same folder as the .html file, then put the name of the file between quotes after the a href part.

Now, go to your newly created page (name it something short like bb.htm–it will become obvious why when your giant fingers try to type in the URL on that tiny keyboard). Select the link and open it on your blackberry, and voila! Your PDA downloads the file, saves it into the Tunes folder, and you can make it a ringtone or play it to annoy your friends. Unless you get an error like the following: HTTP Request failed: Item too large. Then, it’s time to go back and edit down your mp3, because it’s obviously over 500 kilobytes in size. That’s right, you can’t request an object much larger than that, so you’re SOL if you can’t get your file smaller than that.

So, you ask, how do I do that? Well, the first step is Audacity, the free audio-editing software that packs a serious punch, runs stably, and must therefore have been programmed by the nicest, bestest people on Earth. Once you’ve got that downloaded, follow the included instructions on obtaining the LAME mp3 encoding codec, or any other mp3 codec you want to use. The Blackberry doesn’t much like songs encoded under 32kbps, but even so, you can get almost 2 minutes of audio in under 500k at that bitrate, and by fiddling with stereo/mono settings, you might get even more. Remember, if you wanted something that could play real, whole songs longer than 2:00 long, you should’ve gotten a Treo. And if your $500 Blackberry left you too poor for another ‘smartphone‘ or an iPod, just learn to love punk rock.