The iPhone After A Week

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

Thumbnail image for apple-iphone-3g.jpgI’ve had my iPhone over a week now. I suppose an update is in order.

There have been two very distinct responses I’ve gotten from people who’ve found out about the phone.

  • Welcome to the dark side
  • What about the keyboard?

Dark siders: This doesn’t mean I’ll eschew the PC world for Apple. Sorry.

Keyboarders: It’s a bitch! There’s no doubt this keyboard is very difficult to use. I make many more mistakes than I did with the BlackBerry keyboard, itself on the small side but at least with tactile response (you know, the keys pushed down).

If I had a dollar for every time I thought I hit the “m” key but backspaced instead I’d be a wealthy guy.

The one saving grace is Apple’s incredibly useful self correction feature. A few commenters told me to just type away and let the iPhone fix things on its own.

I do. It does.

It’s still not enough.

Using the keyboard in landscape mode is better than portrait mode–but it’s not always available. This is the most anti-intuitive part of the phone. I don’t quite understand why this happens, but it does. Frustrating.

The world famous iPhone apps are pretty amazing. I think I’ve spent around $5 so far for dozens of cool and fun tools. Some are worthwhile. Others will be removed the next time I sync the phone with iTunes.

I bought a UPC scanner app (please, don’t ask why) which automatically tells you what its read and then prices it out on the Internet! I also have a few games and audio services. Yes, I can now provide my own rim shots for one liners!

One program which lets you hold your arm outstretched and shows you which stars you’re seeing is amazing. It shows the incredible value of the compass, which Apple seems to market more as a gadget. No–the compass is much more of an enabling device than I would have ever thought.

Last night after the Phillies won I used the iPhone to play KYW radio. I’ve also used it in the car to listen to some NPR shows.

The phone call volume is TOO LOW!!! It’s too low from the phone and from my bluetooth earpiece. There is a solution published online for more volume but it includes poking tiny holes in the speaker enclosures. Sorry–I need it in software.

Surprisingly it’s too difficult to make calls directly from the home screen. Yes, there’s voice control, but it doesn’t always work correctly. My Motorola RAZR and the BlackBerry are superior in this regard.

As if by magic, one week after I bought the iPhone Verizon began to advertise what many are calling the iPhone killer. What were they waiting for? Couldn’t they have run it as I was driving home from the store?

Bottom line–I’m mainly pleased with the phone though more because of its computer attributes than its phone attributes. I’ve gone on EBay and ordered a bunch of little accessories.

The iPhone stays.

With Computers Nothing Goes Smoothly

I could feel it as the mouse pointer began to lag behind the mouse. Then audio came out as if a 78 rpm record was playing at 33 rpm (old reference–I know).

pc-box-wires.jpgThe new PC fired up the first time! Windows 7, thought not a painless install, also went in pretty easily. Of course, being the consummate pessimist I waited for the other shoe to drop.

5 – 4 – 3 – 2- 1 Bingo! The computer to begin to crawl.

The mouse pointer began to lag behind the mouse. There’s an interesting connect here because you feel something you’re really not feeling! Then audio came out as if a 78 rpm record was playing at 33 rpm (old reference–I know).

When something like this happens Google is your friend. If you can enter the right terms you’ll find someone else who’s felt your pain and, hopefully, found the solution.

I could find nothing!

The problem doesn’t come on at boot. It waits before happening.

busy-box-computer.jpgThe voltages and temperatures seemed fine. The CPU was running OK. My power supply is very beefy with more than enough power to run this machine (and a small town). It was all very puzzling.

Maybe it was a problem with Windows 7? I reformatted the hard drive and loaded Windows XP SP3. Time consuming, but painless. I’ve installed and re-installed this OS dozens of times.

Things started fine but withing a few minutes I realized I’d pissed away my time. The machine was crawling.

I think (but still am not sure) the problem is an internal card reader bought for under $10 on eBay.

Once I get this problem stabilized and eliminated I can begin to optimize the BIOS and get this thing screaming. I did run a short benchmark and the results were stunningly fast.

A few more days–I hope.

The Bee And Me

One of the reasons for getting my macro close-up lenses (under $20 on EBay) was to shoot insects. I know, it sounds weird.


One of the reasons for getting my macro close-up lenses (under $20 on EBay) was to shoot insects. I know, it sounds weird.

This is my first attempt. This bee was helping out in a rhododendron bush right next to my deck.

This is a little tougher than it looks because the bee is constantly in motion and the lens produces an extremely shallow depth-of-field.

I’ll be trying more insects as the weather continues to warm.

Cheapie Close-Up Lens Set

This lens set definitely has some shortcomings, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun when the bees are out and flying!

A few nights ago I went on eBay and plunked down $18 for a set of four close-up lenses. These are cheapies, guaranteed to be a little flaky on color convergence and sharpness. It’s a chance to play with macro photography.

Hey–it’s $18. I’ll take a chance.

I shots some test pics this afternoon and then tonight shot away at a US quarter. That’s the photo below. Click for a full size crop.

This lens set definitely has some shortcomings, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun when the bees are out and flying!


Null And Void – Not

Earlier today I wrote about my EBay purchased intervlaometer and how I was going back to PayPal to undo a bad purchase.

It’s here in my grubby little hand. Rudy, our postman, just came by and had Helaine sign for it!

So, when GraceG at EBay said the sale was “null and void,” what she meant was, “I’m making this up since I have no clue what’s going on.”

I’ve apologized to the seller and canceled my PayPal dispute.

This is 100% EBay’s fault. If they would have told me what had happened with the seller, and when, I would have been much less antsy about my purchase.

The only problem now is, the weather is totally wrong for taking time lapse photography. Maybe later tonight.

A Modern Buyer’s Quandary – My EBay Story

EBay had done to my seller what George Bush wishes he could do to photos of him in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner! They made him disappear.

I’m a 21st Century guy. I buy online all the time. That’s why tonight, I am the proud recipient of this:

Item Not Received Dispute Open: Case #PP-448-713-624


I have become obsessed with time lapse photography, so I bought an intervalometer. That’s the instrument that rhythmically fires the shutter on my still camera, making the time lapse happen.

It was a good price from an EBay seller with an excellent and long track record. Sure he was in China, but I’ve bought from there before.

Because I had a small balance, two thirds of my purchase came from it, the rest from my credit card.

Today, 10 days after the sale, I went to show someone at work what I’d bought, only to find the listing gone. The seller’s gone too!

10:45:09 PM AgentGrace G.

the item has been removed on the site by our Trust and Safety Department due to listing violation.

10:45:19 PM AgentGrace G.

So the sale may be considered null and void.

10:45:39 PM AgentGrace G.

In this case, what you can do is to contact PayPal to file a claim to get a refund.

I can tell you from past experience, Grace wasn’t about to reveal what had gone wrong. EBay had done to my seller what George Bush wishes he could do to photos of him in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner! They made him disappear.

She added, “It’s a good thing that you paid it through PayPal as they offer money back guarantee.”

That would be great… except:

If the claim is decided in my favor, will I get all of my money back?

If a claim is decided in your favor, PayPal will make every effort to recover funds from the seller. The amount of money you are eligible to receive depends on a number of factors…

I’ll spare you the rest.

PayPal is owned by EBay, which is great, when it benefits them. When it doesn’t, they might as well be the Israelis and the Palestinians… and I’m some poor shnook from Gambia sent by the UN to stand between them.

I’ve chatted, been on the phone, and now filled out some forms. I’ve got a dispute going which PayPal promises to try and resolve it within thirty days. They’re promising to try, not promising to do. That’s the same as promising nothing.

So, what do I do? Should I plunk our another $50 and wait while someone else in China fills my order? None of these intervalometers with the proper cabling for my camera seem to exist in the states.

It’s possible my order could still come. It’s only been 10 days, which includes two weekends. China is still pretty far when surface transportation is being used. And, he could have shipped before EBay whacked him.

Tonight, I am frustrated and EBay’s the center of my frustration.

A New Obsession

I always thought this was done with video or movie cameras. Not so. The best looking time lapse photography is taken with still cameras, like “Clicky” my Canon Digital Rebel.

I have spent the last day or so obsessing. It all started with a link, that led to a link, that led to Ross Ching’s website and Eclectic 2. Ross Ching is the master&#178 of time lapse photography. Eclectic 2 is his latest masterpiece.

Simply put, time lapse photography speeds up action. A full day of traffic or clouds or anything can be boiled down to a few seconds. The true fluidity of nature, usually masked by our normal time frame, becomes instantly obvious.

clicky.jpgI always thought this was done with video or movie cameras. Not so. The best looking time lapse photography is taken with still cameras, like “Clicky” my Canon Digital Rebel&#185.

An electronic switch controls the shutter, allowing it to open at set intervals and for a set amount of time. Officially, it’s an ‘intervalometer.’ I’ve already ordered one on EBay. It’s coming from China.

Ross also uses a telescope’s planetary mount to slowly pan and tilt the camera. Normally, these are used to track the motion of the Earth, so long duration photos of the sky can be taken without the stars smudging or forming trails. It has to be capable of very slow, very dependable, but steady, motion, like turning 180&#176 over a few hours.

Sounds like a good Father’s Day gift.

After hundreds of still photos are taken, a video editing program is used to piece them together producing the finished moving image. Because a digital still camera usually has better optics and a better sensor than a ‘regular’ video camera, the finished product can be spectacular. But, because it’s a time lapse, this is all very time consuming with a few minutes of video taking hours and hours.

There are some pretty cool video on the web, but none cooler than those from Ross – a college student. If you haven’t clicked to look yet, you really should.

Right now I’m chomping at the bit to join in. I have my own ideas on some shots that might be very interesting.

&#185 – I don’t know which is stranger, that I’ve named my camera, or that friends have actually referred to my camera by its name without prompting! We’re all very troubled.

&#178 – Since I wrote this, I have stumbled upon 599 Productions in Burbank. Wow, these are amazing too. Where Ross concentrates on rural settings, “599” shoots lots of nighttime city videos, which I find particularly attractive.

The Excitement Of Android

I read a lot last week about Google’s new mobile phone initiative – Android. It’s not an actual phone, that much is perfectly clear. Instead, phones will be built on Android.

Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications.

My current Samsung Blackjack runs on Windows Mobile 5. Android would perform that same function. There are many similar, though different, phones using WM5. I expect the same thing with Android.

Does the world need another mobile platform? Maybe not. But what makes Android so exciting and different is, it’s open source. That puts it in the same category as Linux, MySQL and Apache&#185.

In a video (see below), Google co-founder Sergey Brin makes it perfectly clear he wants Android to be supported by the same type of free software tools he used to get Google going! This time, in his role as super rich guy, he gets to be the one who pays to have them developed, then set free.

To that end, the Android SDK (Software Developers Kit) is open and free. The SDK is the tool with which Android applications will be developed. SDKs for platforms are pretty commonplace. Having them be open and free is not.

Finally, Google has offered a $10,000,000 bounty for Android software developers. That might not be enough to excite Microsoft or Motorola, but it will spark many propeller head geeks into action. That’s big money if you can write a killer app all by yourself, or in a small partnership.

This open source phone talk can’t be pleasing my cell carrier, at&t, or any of the other incumbent carriers. Their business model is predicated on control of both the network and the hardware you buy. Right now, they decide what you phone can do, not you.

Understand, this isn’t a perfect solution. Free and open software can lead to ‘crashed’ cellphones, with no one to take responsibility. Still, it’s a very exciting concept.

My limited time with the Blackjack has shown me the potential in the mobile platform. We’re barely out of the stone age. My hope is, Android takes it to the next step.

For someone like me, who still fancies himself a bit of a hacker, it’s pretty exciting. There’s a lot of upside potential here. This is actually better than if Google had just gone ahead and announced a phone!

&#185 – Even if Linux, MySQL and Apache mean nothing to you, understand that much of the Internet would stop running immediately without them! That includes Google, EBay, and a gaziilion other sites… including

Making Believe I Can Program

Yahoo! has an interesting feature hidden away in the bowels of the site. It’s called Yahoo! Pipes. You can create custom feeds using a variety of sources.

I know. That explanation was worthless.

What I wanted to do was see any lenses for sale for my camera (Canon 300D) on both eBay and Craigslist. I tried to filter out the worthless crap that’s often listed alongside ‘real’ lenses.

Here’s what you get.

If you’re interested, here’s how I did it.

I’m not sure what the real utility of this is, but life’s a learning experience.

The $30 Camcorder

I am too much of a geek for my own good. I can’t look at any kind of technology without wanting to play.

It’s a sickness. It’s my sickness. Maybe there’s tech rehab?

Within the past few weeks I’ve bought a wireless remote to help with some PowerPoint presentations I’ll be giving, a USB Bluetooth dongle and a $30 camcorder.

The AirClick USB remote control works perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased. Hopefully tomorrow, when I administer “Death by PowerPoint,” it will serve me well.

The drivers for the Bluetooth dongle&#185 will not install in my Windows Vista laptop. The dongle is made by some anonymous Chinese company that isn’t answering my emails… of course they might not speak English.

I bought the dongle with the intention of using my Bluetooth headset with Vista’s new voice recognition technology. Meanwhile, the dongle currently has paperweight status.

I’ve just begun to play with the $30 camcorder. This is a more interesting story and really does play to my geek spirit.

CVS, Rite Aide and a few other places sell one-time-use camcorders for $30. They record 20 minutes of reasonably decent quality video with no tape necessary. For another $15, or so, the drugstore will download your video and burn it on a DVD.

The camcorder itself is a little bit larger than a pack of cigarettes and easily fits in your pocket. There are few controls and no zoom lens and a nice 1.5″ LCD screen on the back. It’s basic.

I said it was a one-time-use camera, and that certainly was the manufacturer’s intention… but there’s the Internet. Hackers have figured out how to accomplish what the drugstores do – offload the video and reset the recorder for reuse.

Though I probably could have soldered it myself, I bought a cable on EBay from a guy in Syracuse. $17 (with shipping) and my camcorder is complete! I’ll post some video samples a little later.

It’s not like I need this camcorder. We have a perfectly good Samsung DV recorder at home with a nice zoom lens and excellent video quality.

This camcorder is a challenge. That’s what the geek life is all about… at least to me. I will not allow the technological world to pass me by.

&#185 – I didn’t make up this name, but it does sound positively filthy, doesn’t it?

Only On EBay

I found a pair of very inexpensive earphones on EBay. I liked them because they full insert in your ear. We’re talking about a purchase, from Hong Kong, that came to under $11 including shipping!

After a two week boat ride they arrive late last week. I unpacked them, saw they said “Shure” and plugged them in. Not terrible. Not great either.

I’m pretty sure they’re not really Shure.

When I looked at the earphones, one other thing stood out. The right ear bud is connected by nearly three times the lead as the left.

They sound fine. They look weird.

I contacted the EBay seller, who will replace them. But, he wanted to see a photo. That’s only fair.

This is near the top on the ‘weirdosity’ scale.

She’s A Jolly Good Fellow

Helaine just called from Atlantic City. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. For the first time in over a week she was calm, collected, smiling.

Here’s the back story. Helaine and Steffie are big fans of Rick Springfield. You remember Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Talk To Strangers, Dr. Noah Drake from General Hospital.

With a huge dollop of help from the Internet, Springfield is able to tour the country, mostly on weekends, filling nice sized venues. A significant percentage of each show is filled with his most rabid fans. These are people who can sing the songs and have probably memorized the set list.

Stef and Helaine try and catch his shows whenever they can, usually a half dozen or more times a year.

Though Helaine is active in his ‘fan world&#185’, she isn’t an officer or board member of anything official. She’s just a fan… an active fan.

As a fan, Helaine knows about Sahara, who with her mother are also fans from Cape Girardeau, MO. Sahara has cancer of the brain stem.

No explanation is necessary. It’s as horrible as it sounds… and Sahara has not quite entered her teens.

Helaine thought it might be a nice idea to help the family by throwing a fundraiser… and that’s what she did, just a few hours ago at Harrah’s in Atlantic City.

It’s not easy organizing a luncheon for 125 woman when you’re three or four hours from the luncheon site. Helaine rounded up items to be auctioned (you have no idea how much Rick Springfield stuff is available on EBay)&#178, arranged for the room and its fixings, dispensed the luncheon tickets and got a commitment from Rick Springfield to show as a special, unannounced but hinted at, guest.

One afternoon, she sat me down with Photoshop to design a “Love for Sahara” logo, which was then printed on buttons. Gotta love the Internet!

As the luncheon got closer, Helaine got a little more antsy. Had she remembered everything? Would Harrah’s provide what she’d requested? What would go wrong?

Let me answer that last part first: Nothing! It all worked perfectly.

Helaine and Steffie, along with Stef’s sorority “Big Sister” and a few other friends, executed Helaine’s wonderful plan. The food was great. The venue perfectly set. The auction a total success.

The numbers aren’t finalized, but when all is said and done, somewhere around $11,000 will find its way to Sahara’s family. I’m sure, with everything that’s going on, the money will help.

I never had any doubt Helaine could pull this off. She very organized and very smart. More importantly, I’m proud of her big heart and compassion.

A room service sandwich is on its way to her hotel room. She threw a luncheon and never had time to eat.

Right now she’s feeling relief… and pride.

&#185- I refer to Rick Springfield’s fan base as the “Rickdom,” which upsets Helaine to no end.

&#187 – My personal thanks to Regis & Kelli and Rachael Ray. Working for an affiliate, I asked for and received tickets to both shows, which were then auctioned off.

Blogger’s note: The original entry has been edited to correct Sahara’s age, which is 12.

An EBay Weakness

I like eBay and have bought loads of things there. And, like many eBay users, I check feedback to see if those I’m dealing with are relatively trustworthy (you never really know).

Still, I’m irked by the email I received tonight. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the second one from this seller.


SNN5696. Please leave feedback for me on eBay and I’ll do the same for you.

Immediatly Upon leaving Positive feedback You will receive positive feedback

for your account!! Take this opportunity now and help build a better eBay


He got his money before he shipped the product. At that point, he should have sent feedback, right?

By saying, “Please leave feedback for me on eBay and I’ll do the same for you,” it’s extortion, not a freely offered opinion. This is not how you build a “better eBay community.”

But, what can I do? If I post my opinion as his feedback, he’ll tar me! Like I said – extortion.

I Voted Today

Photo from my Motorola RAZR cameraphone

7 Nov ’06, 3.15pm EST

Originally uploaded by Geoff Fox.

This might sound naive or Pollyanna’ish, but I voted and the mere act of walking in the booth and pulling the levers made me feel good. This is a wonderful country based on fundamental values worth protecting.

My single vote won’t tip any races, but it’s still incredibly important. I really feel that way.

I had a discussion with a relative yesterday. He never votes. I was shocked. It’s his choice, but I couldn’t imagine not voting.

I remember my mom bringing me into the booth with her. I was a little boy and she was voting at PS 200 on Jewel Avenue in Flushing. It was virtually the same machine I voted on today.

My first vote on my own was at Mallard Creek #2 in Charlotte, NC in 1971. Nixon versus McGovern brought everyone out. It’s the only time I ever remember a significant wait in line. Again, the machine was the same.

This will probably be the last time I pull a lever on one of the old mechanical machines. New technology is coming. I am suspicious of the new electronic machines.

A few days ago, eBay sent me a note, telling me they had canceled an auction I participated in. Only, the auction had already ended and I had already paid for and received the merchandise. All the usual details of my transaction have been removed from my eBay page! It’s as if the transaction never happened.

Can that be done with my vote too?

On the news over the past few days I’d seen stories about how ‘buried’ Joe Lieberman’s name was on the ballot. He’s right. He’s in that ballot ghetto, way down at the bottom. It’s an area normally reserved for fringe candidates. In the poorly lit booth, some people will miss it.

I will watch with interest tonight as the votes come in. There’s more anticipation and angst for me than there’s been in a long time. Connecticut is in the national spotlight for the first time in a long time. There are other contests I’m watching from across the country.

I’m so glad to have participated.

In The Trash It Goes

Today was my first ‘real’ day of dumpster duty, participating with Helaine as we tried to empty the house of more accumulated stuff. There’s a lot to choose from!

I suppose some of what we tossed today has resale value… but it’s so much to deal with, nickels and dimes at a time. After the entire job is done, there will be material for eBay – just not this stuff.

We started in the attic. Ours is quite large. It’s a whole floor above three of our bedrooms and a full bath.

I found old computers and circuit boards. It was tough to move them out, but some are so outmoded, it made no sense to continue to house them.

I tried to quickly calculate what they were worth ‘in the day.’ Too depressing. Then I tried to figure out how quickly they’d become outmoded. One computer monitor had a 1999 manufacturers stamp on it. Could you even get a 17″ CRT monitor today?

I did notice one thing that’s changed in computing. I threw out lots of manuals. An old printer had a ‘programmer’s manual.” Some programs had two or three separate printed books. I read those manuals. I miss the reassurance they brought.

I threw out some books related to Photoshop 3. Photoshop version, CS2, is really Photoshop 9!

As we carried load after load to the front door, for a wheelbarrow ride the rest of the way to the dumpster, I realized how nice a ranch home would be right now.

We headed to the garage next. Are you like us? Do you push things against the wall, hoping you’ll never have to deal with them again?

As with the attic, there was lots of stuff in the garage ripe for throwing. Each successive layer removed revealed cobwebs and dirt. Is there a place where dirt accumulates better than a garage? Those big doors open to the elements a few times a day, and then there’s whatever the tires track in.

I moved in with the shop vac. Everything was quickly scarfed up – though my back won’t soon forget the stooping I did. Growing up in an apartment, a shop vac was foreign to me. I learned quickly as a homeowner, this was no option!

Helaine called me over. She said she’d found a dead frog. Nope – dead mouse… long dead.

You can’t live in the woods without having a mouse in the house every once in a while. Luckily, there’s no evidence they’ve ever lived in the parts where we live.

After the garage, it was on to the basement. There was too much there for one afternoon, so Helaine will continue while I’m at work this week.

One thing we did do was clean the basement’s walk out steps. It’s possible they’ve never been vacuumed in the 16 years we’ve lived here. They look great now.

I threw out some more videocassettes – some from my days in Buffalo. It’s not that I didn’t want to cling, but even today there are few places to play these outmoded U-Matic format tapes.

I did keep a box of reel-to-reel audio tapes. I have a few marked 1973. I might have been in Cleveland, or maybe Phoenix, then. I’m not sure. I do know radio airchecks aren’t for tossing.

The dumpster is still a long way from being full. Thirty cubic yards is a heck of a challenge!

We’ve got one more week with it as a house guest. I told Helaine, when it’s picked up and the driver looks inside, we won’t be embarrassed.