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  • My review of Google Voice

    Posted on November 11th, 2010 Scott 5 comments

    I hate to have to fly a banner like the one on the left, but after a careful analysis and period of experimentation with Google Voice – I’m not very happy.  Google Voice promises (amongst other things) free domestic calls, free SMS, integration with your Android phone and much more.  Being a big fan of Google’s product offering (and a bigger fan of their free price tag) I was eager to unleash the fury and excitement of Google Voice on my new HTC Droid Incredible.  Let’s do this!

    Installing GV is very easy, just like every other application I’ve installed on the droid.  It just works.  Nice.  Setup is also very easy especially if you have a GV account already – which I did.  So now I am ready to make “free calls”.  I set my phone to dial using GV and off I went.  People got calls from my GV number, I told people “use this number now”.  I enjoyed the ability to send, receive and archive my txt messages online.  I enjoyed being able to route and re-route my phone to different handsets/phones.  Life was good.  I was so cool!  I was taking it to Verizon Wireless!  Soon – I would be well on my way to reducing my minutes and cutting back on my txt plan.  WRONG!

    Let me start breaking down the wrongness of this situation.  First – I will take the ‘blame’ for not reading and understanding correctly on this one.  SMS – or Short Message Service is for SIMPLE messages, most of us would call text or txt messages.  It does not include or incorporate photos, videos, fancy font emails and is limited to 160 characters.  (Google will split long messages for you, which is very cool!)  To send photos or other multimedia content, you need MMS or Multimedia Messaging Service. Ultimately – that is ok – because I still have messaging on my phone.  It’s not a big deal – but my contacts could/should/would need to know “Send pictures to THIS number, send TXT to THAT number”.  My dad, my wife and a few others could keep up with that – but well – why should my friends have to stomach that burden?  I take the blame for not understanding what the service offered, I do not take the blame for them not incorporating MMS.  It would be HUGE and make the service much more valuable – but this is Google VOICE not Google MESSAGE so one does have to wonder why they are so closely incorporated and tied.  Probably because phones are no longer about just voice.  We digress…

    The second shortcoming – Google is going to take the blame until somebody else helps me understand it is Verizon’s, my droids, or anybody else we can blame.  “Free domestic calling” uses your minutes – if you are connected to a mobile network.  I was under the impression that when connected to a 3G network your calls would be data – not minutes.  Verizon has unlimited data – and as such – I could circumvent my minutes from being used and I would again be happy joyous and FREE! – WRONG! Every Google Voice dialed call IMMEDIATELY calls a “secret” access number.  This number then automagically forwards on your call the number you called, using your GV digits.  All this is GREAT – except – that “secret” access number changes all the time.  With our family plan, we could add all the GV access numbers we find, but we only get 10 Friends and Family numbers – and it would eat them up quick.  Verizon to Verizon calls now use minutes.  For this reason, I think the system is a #fail.  Now – having said that – if I were making international calls, I would only be using minutes and paying low international rates through GV, which would be cool – but I don’t call internationally very often (I don’t remember my last international call, to be honest).

    I probably shouldn’t mention this – as it was only one outage – but about a week into my ‘trial’ they had one of their first outages.  It’s a long story, but Google doesn’t have a huge support staff for their free/beta applications.  I managed to find a guy that works for Google on twitter.  He made a few calls and got people working on it.  The unfortunate thing was, nobody could send/receive calls.  Outages happen, but that tarnished my impression.

    The final thing I need/want to complain about – for years, if you didn’t have enough cell signal to call, you could txt.  No bars… you can txt and tell people “Bad cell!”, but not with Google Voice.  If you aren’t connected well, you aren’t txting.  If you were trying to hide your personal cell number, this could be a problem.

    Pros:

    • I have a permanent number, I can forward to any phone in the US and you can reach me.
    • I can txt from the web, meaning I do0n’t have to type so much on my phone.
    • It will integrate with my droid.

    Cons:

    • Integration uses minutes.
    • SMS… not MMS (which really was me getting excited about something that wasn’t there, but well – It would be cool if it had it!)
    • Outage – but Verizon has had them before too.

    Current Status:

    I continue to use GV on a regular basis.  I consider myself an experience phone/computer user and can tell you that I do thing you probably never wanted to do with your phone and/or computer.  Would I recommend you use GV?  Maybe.  If you are prepared to explain why you just sent a txt from a number that’s “not yours”… sure.  If you need some subsegment of the functionality – go for it.  If you have no idea in the world why I just wrote almost 1000 words about a telephone that has google and a web page involved – I’m proud of you for reading this far!  Do not bother with Google Voice!

    It’s a system with a lot of potential, it just isn’t ready for prime time.  I wonder if that is why they say it is still in beta?

  • Are you ready for Conficker?

    Posted on March 31st, 2009 Scott No comments

    http://www.mcafee.com/us/
    http://www.symantec.com/index.jsp

    If you cant get to either of those sites, you have a problem.  You have been infected with the W32/Conficker virus due to attack the internet tomorrow.

    I don’t claim to have any idea what it will do, i’ve read a little – but I am not an expert.  It’s set up to go bonkers on April first.

    Even if you can get to both of those sites, never ever run IE again.  Avoid using IE at all costs.  Here are some other good options:

    That is in the order I would rate them.  In my opinion, IE is the single biggest security hole online.  It’s nearly criminal!

    Today’s a great day to update your virus protection, head over to http://windowsupdated.microsoft.com and get things cleared out!

    Of course, if you are one of the people I have convinced you should use a Mac … you have NOTHING to worry about!  🙂

  • The evolution of watching a bicycle race from another state

    Posted on February 19th, 2009 Scott 1 comment

    Back in 1990, a guy in Ireland (Seamus Shortall) had a TV card in his PC.  He downloaded images off the live Tour de France coverage and I posted them on an FTP site.  It was about as much internet coverage anybody had really seen of the Tour.  Today, I’m sitting here at work.  I can watch the race happen – but to be honest, this stage is about as boring and predictable as Atlanta traffic.  I can listen, but the chucklheads talking are KILLING ME!  I open up my twitter and realize that “Radio Tour” is giving us bits of info about the race.  She’s talking to (via twitter) Johan Bruyneel (Lance’s boss).  Allen Lim is bored out of his mind in the Garmin team car…. there are photos and much more.

    This will make little or no sense to many people, but in short – it’s cool to me, to be connected to so many people so easily.  I can watch, I can ignore, I can read later… the information is everywhere.  There are even some rumors that when Lance’s stolen bike was recovered – it was on Twitter before it hit the news!  Tech Support, News, Information … good stuff!

    The more stuff you get into, the more stuff that breaks – but I’m proud of myself for giving up on my Facebook <–> Twitter sync issue!  I just said “whateva…” and moved on.  That’s progress for a geek like me!

  • Is this the final Comcast chapter?

    Posted on February 2nd, 2009 Scott 2 comments

    I think so – but at this point, I won’t hold my breath.  Many of you dont care – and you don’t have to read – sorry – but I have gotten a lot of email, comments, etc… people want to know if I win my battle with the blundering media giant.  I pray this will be my last update on this subject…

    When the technician left the on Saturday, I checked a few channels to see if they worked.  They did… Cool.  I didn’t check my percieved channel listing and compare it to the TV.  Who does that?  (I do now).

    Today, I go to watch some TV at lunch and cant get to channel 44… or 46… or any thing above 26.  You can imagine my reaction.  I am back on the warpath.  I start contacting people at comcast in every way known to man.  Email, phone, internet, blog, twitter, chat… (all at once).  The tech that was here the other day calls me and tells me you are supposed to only have those channels. That’s not what I was told.  That’s not what I saw on the web.  My wife can verify that.

    Well… being a bit OCD… I freak out and continue to annoy comcast.  Help isnt coming (I mean, it isnt fixed yet and my obession grows… )  Hearing what the tech had said I say to myself – what am I supposed to get.  I search, I research… but I keep finding I get “all” the channels.  That cant be right.  (This is where the geek in me comes out).  When you go to Comcast and click on the “Channel Lineup” button, a string is passed to the next web page.  Based on that string – you get the appropriate channe line up.  EVERY PACKAGE ON THE PAGE … except “Limited Basic” works properly.  You see, they pass “Limited Basic Cable” instead of “Limited Basic” to the next page.  Since that string isn’t recognized – it fails and gives me false information.  Yes – computers are a addiction, a sickness and obsession sometimes.  It haunts me at times, but coming to the reality that the second chapter of this saga was caused by a mis-understanding perpetuated by a website – I was at least able accept the circumstances.

    The rest of the story is a bit happier.  The tech had dispatched a person to come to the house and fix it.  At the same time, I was on the call with Comcast sorting out the whole ordeal and learning about special packages… etc.. I was not home… but Sarah called me.  I told her not to let that comcast person leave!  I frantically called comcast and got the workorders sorted out.  I now have all the channels I wanted.  I have OnDemand, I have internet and I am poised to cancel my phone service in a short time.

    The maddening thing about this all… at the end of all this, I told the woman at the executive office how to reproduce the error, how to fix the error and what was going on.  She tested it, she could not reproduce it… I talked her through the steps I took and she saw the error.  Why did I do all that?   I hate computer errors.  I fix computer errors.  It’s what I do… that and MAYBE I will save ONE PERSON from she shit I just went through, I will have done a good thing.

    Since Comcast is in the subject, @comcastcares and @comcastBonnie probably get this.  Thanks… but you shouldn’t have to be online looking for us screaming.  You should fix the problem on the frontline.  I like to sit down, surf the web, watch my TV and relax… maybe I can finally do that.

  • That not so fresh feeling

    Posted on January 22nd, 2009 Scott No comments

    I had it, but I’ve done some stuff to change that.  I’ve updated my blog theme and re-organized the side a bit.  The key thing I’ve done is integrated my twitter stuff.  For those of you who haven’t found twitter yet, you have now!  Twitter is a platform for what is called “micro-blogging”.  You are limited to 140 characters – you can basically comment or say what you are doing how.  You can find my twitter feed @ http://twitter.com/scottpatton if you are so inclined.  You can do all kinds of cool stuff like update it with your cell sync it with your facebook and your blog.  There are TONS of people on there including our new president, Lance Armstrong, friends, family and people you couldn’t POSSIBLY care about… It’s there if you want to use it!

    As you may have picked up if you are following me on FB or any other place, the quest for fitness has been rekindled.  I hate to admit it, but I lack the fire I had last year.  I have this feeling (right now) like “I did this last year…. why do it now… only to have to do it again”.  I mean, how many times have I (and kabillions of other people) lost a butt load of pounds, FELT SO FREEKING GOOD…. only to start eating like you used to, forgetting to work out…. bleh… it’s painful to think about.

    Last year, I got motivated and ran a streak of 50+ days with intentional exercise.  I’m at 2 right now.  2… 50+ more to go.  The cool thing I have going for me is that Sarah is now gearing up for her next Team in Training event.  She will be riding the “Fletcher Flyer” in June.  Yes, I said RIDING!  I’m very excited to have her doing a sport I can easily support her in her efforts.  I will also be riding the Flyer with her.  We have a few months to get ready for the 100 mile jaunt around North Carolina.  I’ve ridden a Century in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida.  Time to add NC!