Great Phone . . . or Greatest Phone

Some background first . . . .

I got my wife the iPhone 3G the day it came out.  Waited in a line for a few hours and everything.  She had been using a Razr for about 3 years and it was time.  And we were already on the AT&T network so it was easy.  I would have gotten one for myself but a month before the 3G was announced I got myself a Blackberry Pearl so I wasn’t eligible for the $199 new customer price.

At the time the biggest problem with an iPhone was the $30 mandatory data plan.  It’s the only phone on any network that requires you have a data plan.  I like the idea that even though I’m locked in for 2 years I can get the $40/month voice plan to lower my bills just in case. And a year ago the iPhone was a 10 and there was nothing even close from what I could see.

Anyway, a few months ago I went to Google I/O and got one of the G2 HTC phones (it’s called a Magic or myTouch or something like that on T-Mobile).  It was a dream come true . . . a chance to use “the other cool phone” without paying for it.  And the best part is that I got AT&T to give me a data plan for $15 a month!!  Please don’t call AT&T and ask for that plan and ruin it for me.  No, seriously . . I’m glad that no one will be reading this.  And it sucks that I only get “Edge” speeds because apparently 3G isn’t a standard and AT&T and T-Mobile do 3G data in different ways so if I want 3G on AT&T’s network I have to wait until an Android phone comes out for AT&T.

Okay, so that’s the background info out of the way . . . I’ve never had an iPhone personally but being the techie of the house I do get how the iPhone works and use it occasionally and I always know about cool apps for it before my wife does.  And I’ve used a Blackberry for over a year.  And now I’ve had the Android phone since May.  Here are the results:

If you are a non-tech person, the iPhone is a 10.0 and sets the bar incredibly high.  If you can afford that phone, ignore all the stuff about how crappy AT&T is and just get that phone.

If you are a tech person it’s a much harder call because although the iPhone is great . . . it’s locked down!  So, a phone like the G2 or any other Android phone (once they come out!!) has an incredible appeal since they are so hackable.  It’s an 8.2 to the 9.0 of a iPhone (not a perfect 10 because it’s missing concurrent apps and no Google Voice app but those things don’t matter to a casual user).  The old blackberry I had would be a 5.0 at best . . . I mean, you can use maps and check gmail with those apps but getting the apps in the first place sucks because you have to get them directly from the vendor (although this is different now from what I understand) AND it’s still a locked down OS that no one want’s to develop for.

The apps and the speed of the iPhone is why it has any chance against an Android phone . . . and both of those problems will fix themselves if someone releases some decent hardware.  It needs to be powerful and WITH a headphone jack (even though bluetooth noice canceling headphones have got to be in the pipeline somewhere at Bose, right?).

I’ll do a pro/cons list about my Android phone some other time, maybe.


Categorized as Gadgets, Rant

Tourist Craps

This article that I found with Consumerist inspired me to make my own list that’s small now but will grow as I remember the places that underwhelmed me.

Meteor Crater (someplace in AZ)

I won’t even bother trying to find this on the map because I’m sure it’s a Google Search away . . . and with an areal view on a computer you would get more out of it that paying $15 to see what’s essentially a big hole in the ground.  Sure, they try to spice it up by putting a “spaceman” down in the middle of the crater so you have something to spot when you use the binoculars at the top of the crater.  But the longer you walk around looking for SOMETHING of value the more you start to feel like someone just stole your wallet . . . . especially if you have a family.

Honolulu (yeah, the city in the island of Oahu)

Okay, there is Pearl Harbor and that’s something you need to see while you are there but I’m not sure that really counts as the city of Honolulu.  Anyway, Honolulu is just like any other city on a beach that has lots of tall hotels around.  It’s about the same and anywhere in Florida or on the coast of California.  Drive around the island and get away from Honolulu and if you can . . . fly to another island!  And stay away from the beach there . . . worst sand ever!

Categorized as Rant

Buca di Beppo buyout has ruined everything

My wife really likes Italian food (or whatever you want to call shaped pasta and some tomato or creme based sauce combined in a variety of ways that all taste about the same but have different names) and she wanted to go out for her birthday.   There happens to be a Buca di Beppo right down the street from our house that we pass on the way home everyday.

I have never been a big fan of the place because it seems overpriced and the “Buca Large” dishes are almost always smaller than what I think they should be to feed 3-4 people.  Plus, I noticed about a year ago (around the time of the buyout by Planet Hollywood I think) that the “stuffed chicken” (I don’t remember what they call it) is $18 and some change for “Buca Small” which is  2 pieces of chicken and $28 for “Buca Large” which is 3 pieces of chicken.  That third piece of chicken costs more than the first two!  I’ve pointed this out to people at Buca at least 3 times and they don’t even bother to lie and say that the “Buca Small” chicken pieces are smaller.  Needless to say we always get the “Buca Small”.

Anyway . . . this time we go in and the food is good (well, the chicken was a little burnt but I didn’t bring that up as no one else complained at the table) but then it was time for dessert.  We wanted to get a “Celebration Cake” for Sarah’s birthday as we had it about 5 months ago (the last time we were there) for our anniversary and it was good cake and it was enough for *at least* 4 big servings.

The waitress comes by to pick up some dinner plates and asks if we want any dessert beside the birthday cupcake.  We ask about the “Celebration Cake” and she said that they don’t give out the celebration cake anymore for birthdays.  We are disappointed but understand and asked for the celebration cake and that we don’t really want the cupcake because the regular cake will be enough.  A few minutes later she shows up with the cupcake and the NEW Celebration Cake and it’s a cake that was half the size of the old cake and it’s not red velvet cake anymore and it’s colored white with three layers to match the colors of Italy’s flag.  HALF the size, same price! I ask what happened to the real “Celebration Cake” and the waitress just says that it’s been a long time since they had that other cake and that this is the new cake.  Okay, what can I do?  So we split up the cake except that now it has coconut so my wife can’t eat it.  Thank goodness for the cupcake.

And . . . the cake was dry . . . it wasn’t impressive at all and worse than what I could have made at home with a 99 cent box of Betty Crocker and some food coloring.

After that I make up my mind that we aren’t going back to Buca for a long time.  But then the waitress comes back with these “prizes” where you bring the envelope back within a few months and open them later with a waitress or whatever and you can win all these fabulous prizes!  I want to tell her to shove those award cards up her you know what but I decide to keep that to myself as I don’t want to embarrass my wife.

But then the “manager guy” had to come over and ask how everything was.  Everyone at the table gave the “great” but I gave a muffled “okay”.  He stuck around so he could tell us about the prizes we could win if we come back before October 5th.  I can’t take it anymore and tell him about the cake and about the the wacky pricing.  Here is about how the conversation went but it was much longer (because of repetition) and more embarrassing that you can imagine for everyone else at the table:

BM (Buca Manager):  If you come back before . . .

Me: Yeah, we won’t be coming back but thanks.

BM: Why?

Me: We got the Celebration Cake and it’s half what it was and it’s not that good anymore.

BM: Well, we change things on the menu to try to better server our customers.

Me: By making it half the size and the same price and still calling it the “Celebration Cake”?

BM: Well it used to be two cakes stacked on top of each other and now it’s just one cake and it’s not red velvet anymore.

Me: Okay, great, I understand that but you came here and asked how it was and I’m telling you it sucked.  You telling me the opposite isn’t making it better.

BM: Well, we want you to come back in and we have a great promotion and . . .

Me:  You don’t want me to come back!

BM: We want all of our customers to come back.

Me: Well, by the looks of this place it seems that people aren’t comming back . . . back in the day this place was always packed.

BM: It’s the first day of school and it’s the middle of the week.

Me: Well, okay great, this isn’t going to get any better but thanks, we’ve paid the bill, we’re good thanks.

BM: We have this great promotion . . . .

Finally he went away but only after my wife was giving me that “shut the hell up” look and saying “okay, that’s enough” as nicely as she could.

I had already paid the bill and was going to leave it at that but after talking to manager guy I decided I would tear up those stupid promotion cards and put them in with the bill.  Maybe that was childish but I think they got the point after that and no one came back to bother us.

Really, this is all Olive Garden’s fault for not building a location closer to our house!


Categorized as Rant

San Francisco scams

Okay, so I really like Frisco (I don’t care what it means that I say “Frisco” instead of “San Franshutthefup” . . . Frisco is shorter) and have visited a few times and it’s always been fun.  But on this short trip (for Google I/O, more about that later) my time is the city sucked.

I don’t know if it’s the economy or what but for every block that you walk you’ll have *at least* two people ask you for money.  That’s annoying in itself but usually I usually feel kind of bad for them in that they have to ask.  But it’s no exaggeration that on the 5 block walk from my hotel to the conference center there must have been 10 people asking for money . . . each way!  After a while it’s just plain annoying and I don’t feel bad for anyone and I just want them to go away and I start thinking about ways the city should try to fix this problem.

But it gets worse!  I’m at the BART station trying to get a ticket to get on the train.  I have my wallet out pulling out a $5 to put in the machine and a guy walks up and has a BART ticket and a few dollars in his hand all spread out perfectly and says something like “I only need 75 cents so I can get home” and I look up and say “okay” and hand him a dollar.  Before I can even finish getting my $5 in the machine another person walks up to the people next to me and says the same thing.  I look over and at that point I didn’t know what was going on and the people there didn’t give him anything.  Then I finish my transaction and turn around and the same guy that asked me for 75 cents is consulting with the new guy and is looking at me as if to say “No, you get the money from that chump over there”.  I just look at the guy blankly in disbelief and he says “Seriously, thank you”.

It gets worse.

The BART incident happened on my way home . . . the night before I’m walking up California street . . . a street that’s not at all crowded like Market Street but isn’t exactly deserted . . . and I’m stopped by a frazzled (but not homeless looking) woman who looked like she was lost:

Frazzled: Are you from the city?

Me: You mean from here? No, I’m just visiting.

Frazzled: Oh okay, well, can I ask you a question anyway?

Me: Sure, maybe I can look it up on my phone.

Frazzled: Oh, um well, I ran out of gas and my car is over there I can pay you back just give me your information . . .

Me: How much do you need?

Frazzled: Twenty dollars but I already have five.

Me: <pulls out wallet and hands her a $20>

Frazzled: Thank you so much!

In hindsight, I think that transaction was a scam.  I’m not sure I like Frisco as much anymore.

HDTV and Cox

What is HD worth?  If you are a Cox customer in Phoenix it depends on what services you already get though Cox.  If you go to the Cox website you see that “With Cox, HD is free”.

But then you find out the “free” part is just the stations that you could get for free anyway if you set up an antenna.  To get the other stations (Discovery, TNT, ESPN, etc, not to mention HBO and the “pay channels”) you have to have a “minimum service level” of Cox Digital (the most expensive plan) *AND* you have to rent a Cox HD cable box . . . it’s easy to figure out . . . just read all about it on the “Cable Packages” page at

So, if you just have regular cable . . . the basics . . . no cable box, just enough so you don’t have to use bunny ears the costs to get HD adds up fast.   For me I have to pay $12/month to rent an HD cable box so I can get all the HD channels.  I already have a regular cable box I could trade in so that’s *only* $6/month.   But it’s too much . . . and it’s certainly not FREE!

I happen to have the most expensive “Cable Package” (Digital Cable – see the link above) just to have HBO.  Most of what we watch is from network TV and HBO along with some throw away home improvement shows from HGTV and the like.  If I didn’t love HBO I would have the “Expanded Cable” plan at best.  Sure, the cost to get “Digital Cable” over “Expanded Cable” is only $5/month but it’s for channels I don’t want.  So, that means to get HBO I have to pay for HBO ($14/month) AND I have to pay $5/month for “Digital Cable” (which on your bill is the “Digital Gateway Service”).

Anyway, the point here is the prices don’t seem fair.  When will we get a la carte pricing?  When will there be true competition in this marketplace (Dish and DirectTV are not competition!)?


Categorized as Rant