Say NO to the SMS “Tax”

As you may already know, the “evil” telecom companies want to squeeze every cent they can out of you by making up fees. SMS or Short Message Service is what is usually described as texting by your carrier. In the last decade before the explosion of smartphone, SMS used to fill a gap where there was little to no connection to the Internet. SMS functioned though SMS centers hence requiring its own infrastructure.

Nowadays, this is completely irrelevant as most smartphones typically use standard mail protocols such as SMTP over TCP/IP. Meaning, if you have a smartphone, it is very likely you are being charged for something that should be covered by your data plan alone. Of course, I am not familiar with pricing from all cell phone companies; however, if you are on a “bundle” plan and texting is part of it, most likely they are just getting a bundle of money from you. Otherwise, if it is clearly spelled out as a separate fee, you might want to consider just not paying for it and using alternatives that require your data plan alone.

There are several apps out there, each one with its limitations, but with more features than SMS.  So far, Kik is my favorite cross platform messaging app as it is free and it is available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and WP7. The makers of Kik are currently being sued by RIM, the maker of BlackBerry Messenger Continue reading “Say NO to the SMS “Tax””

Why I got a Blackberry

I recently acquired a Samsung Focus which is another run-of-the-mill phone with a full touch screen front that are supposed to be “innovative”. Who knows if the new iPhone 4S will redefine the type, that’s probably a matter of opinion. Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that I went from a BlackBerry Pearl to a Curve, to a Bold 9700 and finally to a WP7 Phone and somehow I miss my BlackBerry. I miss BBM, the longer battery life, message integration, switching languages on the fly, docks that don’t require pushing or pulling, one-handed operation, the security features as well as a full non-touch QWERTY keyboard. These are very resilient and durable devices. I left my Bold 9700 on top of my car and when I took a curve at 30 mph it went flying into a ditch. It has a couple of punctures and scratches on it but when I put the battery back in everything worked like a charm. I seriously doubt that would be the case with other types of smartphones. I believe in several areas the BB’s still can’t be beaten. If you’re a very social person and do lots of messaging and email. I don’t think the BB can come close to being beaten.

As you may know if you actually used one, Blackberries are way behind in the App department with their “developer unfriendly” OS, which is the root cause for the lack of Apps, Continue reading “Why I got a Blackberry”

Best Price to Perfomance Ratio PC for Summer 2011

This build is for people who want a good quality system but do not want to research the components themselves. There is nothing taken into consideration for future upgrades. This is a PC for 2 to 3 years that will perform well and play games decently.

I have decided to pick an Intel CPU since for most purposes it outperforms AMD and I like Z68 chipset features. As you may notice there is a small SSD drive on this build. This will allow you to use Smart Response Technology (aka SSD caching). It will speed up your system automatically without having to deal with all the nuisance of small SSD maintenance or SSDs in general.

I want to provide an overall great experience so I still want good quality on all components. There are plenty of areas where money can be saved like input devices but they make PC usage more enjoyable. Most people skimp on a good UPS but I strongly recommend getting one especially for areas with a lot of thunderstorms. It helps and increases your components’ lifetime. The whole enchilada comes down to about $1450.

Components list after the break:
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The end of the Blockbuster era

For Lease or Sale

As you have probably already noticed if you are a baby boomer that still goes to Blockbuster, it has gone bankrupt. The franchise name was sold to Dish Network. We still don’t know what they are going to do with the brick and mortar stores, maybe sell you satellite dishes. They are, however, keeping the brand for online and mail-in rentals. It is sad though that growing up I used to go there with friends, sometimes just to socialize or talk about movies with people knowledgeable in the subject. You would get great recommendations especially from more mature people that could steer you away from “Glitter” or “Crossroads.” It was a place where you could buy snacks, walk around, and our movie hobby wouldn’t be just being a couch potato.

I miss these days, not to mention that streaming still has not caught up with physical media. No streaming option can match the quality of Blu-rays. Most are on par with DVDs, a more than a decade old standard. The Surround Sound and HD Audio availability is very limited. Streaming services have done a terrible job of providing Closed Captioning and their prices are quickly going up. Coincidentally, right after Blockbuster bit the dust, Netflix increased their prices to up to 60% to keep your previous plan, with little to no improvements to the service.

Video is going through many changes, just as audio did in the last decade. MP3s are not nearly the same quality as formats that did not prosper such as Super CD or DVD-Audio. Even though storage is very cheap nowadays, we have not even moved to slightly larger lossless codecs or uncompressed audio. I understand most people do not have equipment to appreciate the difference since iPods are the most common/convenient audio player out there. This leads me to believe that eventually great video quality is simply going the way of the Dodo (and Blockbuster). One day, I will tell stories to kids of how we had much better video and audio back in the day.



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Facebook was making me dumb

Facebook Fail LogoAs if I don’t have enough stuff in my life to make me dumber, friends and family micro-blogging (aka Facebook) was not helping at all. Therefore, I decided to quit Facebook and you might be wondering why. Well, probably not but bear with me, let’s say you do. I completely skipped the whole MySpace era because I was in college in graduate school so I barely had time to breathe. I had no time to waste online, and the little time I spent on the computer not coding or writing papers was spent checking my email and cleaning up the spam or clicking on the “unsubscribe” link that actually tells spammers that it is a valid email.

Anyways, I would actually read forums where knowledgeable people would gather and discuss topics and most of the time this was productive. There was a certain level of anonymity that encouraged people to be more open and actually ask questions in order to learn something. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to have these kinds of conversations in social networks. This could entirely mean that my “friends” are retards.  Plenty of them are geeks that can’t admit they are wrong and end up trolling. But, they might also just pretend they know something when in fact they are clueless and make it up as they go. The problem arises mostly because access or interest to the thread is limited to your dumb friends.
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A Letter to Congress

My wife decided to send a letter to our local government officials who include Rep. Steven Palazzo, Sen. Thad Cochran, and Sen. Roger Wicker. This was because she was concerned about government defaulting in our debt. I would like to share this letter with you. She writes:

Dear Congressman Palazzo:

My name is Michelle Rios and I reside in Hattiesburg, MS. I am a longtime Mississippi resident with a deep love for our beautiful State.

I am writing you to ask that you help with reaching compromise with members of Congress and President Barack Obama.  Our current situation and lack of resolution regarding the debt ceiling and debt crisis are very worrisome to me and many other Americans. I guess you could say we are part of that “silent majority”. The current political games taking place in Washington by members of both parties are endangering the American people.

Republicans need to find a way to compromise with the President and other Democrats so that we can move forward to a better future. I agree with Republicans that we need to get our fiscal house in order and spend a lot less, but I do not agree with this idea of never adding a new tax or never letting tax breaks expire. Both parties need to look at each other’s points of views, work together and COMPROMISE.

I think extremes do not get us anywhere; we need to find the right balance and keep an open heart and mind. Please do your best to find common ground in Washington and avoid extremist views and positions.
Thank you for your time and considering my request.
Sincerely,

Michelle Rios

************** UPDATE Jul 29, 2011 **************

Sen. Roger Wicker responded after the break:
Continue reading “A Letter to Congress”

Signs you are becoming a WoW widow

 

By now most people have heard of the infamous World of Warcraft or WoW for short. The latest expansion pack to the game is called Cataclysm. If your husband has shown interest in playing this game, this is a very bad thing. Here is why, the game is incredibly addictive for many people. Specially if the person has problems with anxiety or depression, the game can provide a false sense of achievement by leveling. The game requires very little gaming skill other than being able to click buttons with a mouse which is the reason it is very easy to learn and pick up. Instead, the game does little to reward skill but rewards time that you have played instead. Granted, some skill might make things a bit faster.

The more time the player keep playing the game, your avatar starts gaining levels which makes you stronger against foes. However, there is no shortage of enemies as they endlessly re spawn or throw more difficult enemies that will probably require several players to beat. This starts escalating up to a point where you need dozens or more people to beat enemies. These players then need to arrange a time when players with enough time sunk into the game can play. This is where things start getting ugly. In WoW, these groups are called guilds, several of them meet 4 or more times a week for 2 or more hours. This could add up to the time you would spend in a part time job. The game can not be paused unless agreed by everybody in the group. Somebody hooked on the game will probably not leave the chair in a while.

I tried to explain what the game is in a nutshell avoiding lingo used by people that play it. If suddenly all your partner can talk about is WoW and all the words coming out of his mouth are raid, guild, crits, aoe, dkp, aggro, spec a warlock with nightfall. This is a bad sign. When they start saying my druid, my mage, my paladin without giggling. You got a problem.

If he starts making up excuses to not go out or work out, he is sick etc but he feels well enough to play on the computer. That is also bad. Eventually, it is going Continue reading “Signs you are becoming a WoW widow”

Can somebody please train personnel at tech stores?

advance, pander, shuffle

Some friends and I walk into a store that sells Nooks. I consider myself very tech sawy and I keep up with gadgets so I am not sure why one of my friends decides to ask the store dude about it instead of myself. They had two models on display, the Nook and the Nook Color. So the guy starts going off about how the nook color is much more advanced because you can fit 6000 (8GB) books rather 1500(2G) books on the original one. To what my friend replies that she can always take books out and put back in the ones she wants to read. So, I tell my friend that she doesn’t need to worry about it because if she EVER needs more than 1600 books she can always buy a cheap SD card that could easily triple the storage.

Then, the guy starts talking about how the color screen is so much better because it is easier to read. I can certainly see that device being better for children’s books and maybe magazines but not for reading books. So, I tell my friend that for reading books which is the main purpose of the e-reader, she will probably prefer the e-ink so that she could read outside and her eyes won’t get tired as much because of all the reflection in the color screen. The guy says that that is not really a problem when my friend’s husband points out that you can see all the store lights reflecting on the screen. At this point, with all the pandering, I am thinking this guy works on commission or something.
Continue reading “Can somebody please train personnel at tech stores?”