In One Fell Swoop Google Makes GPS Units Obsolete!

Probably not a good day to own Tom Tom, Garmin or Magellan stock.

Verizon has been showing off its new Android based cellphone, “Droid.” Today came word it ships with turn-by-turn GPS navigation. If you buy the phone this functionality is FREE!

In other words, that GPS you have built into your dashboard or mounted-by-suction on your window–obsolete!

Google Maps Navigation is an internet-connected GPS navigation system with voice guidance. It is part of Google Maps for mobile and is available for phones with Android 2.0.

Google Maps Navigation uses your phone’s internet connection to give you the latest maps and business data.

Probably not a good day to own Tom Tom, Garmin or Magellan stock.

Word is this will be coming soon (possibly not quite as fully featured) to my iPhone. Apple and AT&T can’t afford not to.

Has there ever been a moment in history when so many game changing/industry changing events have come so quickly.

The Love Hate Relationship With My Smartphone

I think this shows most of the smart phones are really ‘pocketware,’ too kludgey to use as advertised If people were really using their Blackberrys as Internet devices, what I’m doing wouldn’t stand out. In fact, that point is supported by real world experience.

Thumbnail image for blackjack_upgrade_screen.jpgI thoroughly enjoy my cellphone, a Samsung Blackjack hooked to AT&T’s network. It’s more than a phone. It’s really a little, cumbersome, computer with a too tiny screen.

I use the Internet connection nearly every day. There’s always something I want to look up when I’m away from a ‘real’ PC. That’s especially true at dinner, which I usually have with the rest of our anchor team.

Last night we were looking for the lyrics to a song (the iconic Route 66), but it’s also been used to find the cast of a movie or a direct quote from a story that was on the wires (a now quaint appellation). I even use the Internet connection to pass photos I’ve taken to Flickr, where they’re easily integrated into this blog.

Stef dates a musician. I show his Youtube video to friends on my phone.

You really have to want to use Internet functions on the Blackjack, because there is not one easy or dependable step along the way!

It’s common to press two of the small keys at once, or the wrong one. Sometimes the Internet will stop responding, though the phone says there is Internet availability.

Most web pages are formatted for PC monitors. The much more narrow Blackjack screen forces multi-column pages to become long single column streams, or just extend off the edge of the screen entirely. Navigation is a nightmare, made more difficult because a useful roller controller is on the wrong side for left handed users… like me

While ‘thumbing’ the keyboard, people will often come to me and ask if it’s a Blackberry? Score one for RIM in really working their brand name. These poor, innocent souls look at what I’m doing as if I’ve just dropped in from outer space.

Is there better evidence that this that most of the smart phones are really ‘pocketware,’ too kludgey to use as advertised? If people were really using their Blackberrys to surf the web, what I’m doing wouldn’t stand out.

In fact, that point is supported by quantified real world experience. This revelation is from AppleInsider.

Google on Wednesday said it has seen 50 times more search requests coming from Apple iPhones than any other mobile handset — a revelation so astonishing that the company originally suspected it had made an error culling its own data.

Google’s contention is every smartphone, other than the iPhone, is underused. I agree.

Let’s go back to my opening sentence: “I thoroughly enjoy my cellphone, a Samsung Blackjack hooked to AT&T’s network”. That’s no lie. If I had the purchase to do over again, I’d still make it and the Blackjack would still be my choice (even over its successor, the Blackjack II)

What I’m getting at is, the power of having all this information available everywhere is so powerful, it trumps a lackluster platform and all the hurdles one must jump.

The iPhone is certainly a step ahead (as born out by the usage data), but it’s still not the answer. It is throttled by its dependence on AT&T’s older, slower data network and it’s lack of a real keyboard with tactile feedback.

We are still at least one breakthrough away from the real breakout in portable computing. When that time comes, usage will be unleashed in a torrent.

How Times Have Changed

Last night, in the middle of the night, I plugged a cable from my new cellphone into my laptop. An experiment was underway.

Since the phone is on the Internet, it’s possible to tether it to my laptop and use the cell connection as an Internet connection. In essence, the Samsung Blackjack would be my modem.

It was very simple and it worked, but it was ploddingly slow. Though the phone works with AT&T’s high speed 3G network, there’s no 3G service here. I ran a speed test and found 76 kbps. My cable modem speed a moment ago was 7,275 kbps, nearly one hundred times as fast.

At least I know it works in case of an outage.

There’s something else I thought of at the same time. Back in the dial-up days, when modems were 28.8 kbps, I used to connect at 24.4 kbps.

As slow as last night’s experiment was, it was still three times faster than the Internet service I used to be happy with. Times have really changed.

What we have now for connection speed is only a stop, not the destination.

Sh*t Happens

When do you first know you’re coming down with a cold? For me it’s that moment when I realize my mouth tastes like I’ve been sucking on a crowbar (not that I’d actually know). That happened Wednesday evening. From then on, it’s been downhill.

This time it’s not just getting a cold. For the past two days nearly everything that could go wrong did!

My Internet connection had been slowing down. We have so many computers and devices spread around the house, finding the real culprit becomes very hard. By last night, there was virtually no connection at all.

I spent a half hour on the phone with Comcast (where in India is Newfoundland?) with nothing to show for it. It might not be their problem.

Meanwhile, at work I had pushed the button to lower the volume on the TV near my desk. The button fell directly into the set! Now you can raise, but not lower the volume… well, once.

Also at work, the computer which displays weather watches and warnings decided to disregard two warnings. I was watching, actually more anticipating, so we only missed by a few seconds, but it was frustrating.

With thunderstorms in the area, I asked some friends who were going to dinner to bring something back for me. They went to Friday’s. When I opened my dinner, it was someone else’s leftovers! That’s a first.

Since I hadn’t gone out, I went upstairs for coffee from the machine. The cup was leaky. No problem, I just double cupped… except I didn’t realize it would continue leaking. All it took was me tilting the cup back as I went to finish it for it to pour on my white shirt… about 30 seconds before air.

And then, of course, there’s the cold. I tried to just grin and bear it, but acquiesced to Sudafed at 6:00 AM.

Last night, knowing I wasn’t going to be better before I got worse, I sent an email to my bosses asking if someone could fill in. I called midday, no email had been received!

I think I’m better off staying in bed today, even if I didn’t have the cold.

Blogger’s addendum: I have the Internet working again. I left the modem off all night, though I’m suspicious the real fix was replacing the cable between the cable modem and router. Meanwhile, it’s the first thing that’s gone my way today.

What Hath Comcast Wrought?

As of last night my Internet connection had slowed to a crawl. Nothing has changed.

Comcast has a DNS problem. That’s their computer which gives my computer directions on where to go when I type in or any other website.

There is a fix and I know it, but my particular router doesn’t support it! It must be the only one. So, I sit and wait.

Some websites, like the one I use at Mississippi State, have many separate files for each webpage. Trying to get through to them is worse than brutal.

We have quickly grown dependent on speedy web connections. It’s an inconvenience now. We will only grown more dependent with time.

My Internet Connection S-L-O-W-S to a Crawl

Sunday evening, playing poker on the laptop, I first noticed the problem. My Internet connection would stop for a few seconds – sometimes 10s of seconds – before resuming. The poker site I play at allows you to check the connection of the others at your table. They were fine, I was not.

Comcast has been very dependable. So, I did nothing, figuring all would be well on Monday morning. Guess again.

Helaine asked me what was going on. Her connection was slow. Steffie later chimed in with the same complaint. “The Internet is sketchy,” she said.

Between the three of us we spend an awful lot of time online and we’re spoiled with reasonably fast connections. This was totally unacceptable.

I decided to call Comcast when I came home from dinner. I worked my way through the phone tree (press 1, press 2, press 1 again). My hold time was somewhere around 10 wasted minutes.

On hold systems have two options:

1) Incessant announcements (which drive you nuts when you start hearing them the fifth, sixth, twentieth time).

2) No announcements, just a little light elevator music. That was Comcast’s choice and it’s really not much better.

While on hold I wondered if I was really in the queue? Maybe I’d be listening to these European studio musicians for the rest of my natural life!

A pleasant sounding woman, from Central Ontario it turned out, answered the call. She made me jump all the usual hoops – reboot, unplug, replug, etc. She could see there was a problem with packet loss and offered to send a service tech, but the system wouldn’t let her schedule one. Could I call back later?

After work, and on whisper mode with Helaine asleep in the next room, I dialed Comcast again. As I was waiting for a live person, I scooted over to to see if anyone else had reported this trouble. The Comcast Connecticut thread was four pages long! I had plenty of company.

This time a Canadian guy (I didn’t ask if he was Canadian – but I worked in Buffalo, just across the Niagara River from Canada and know their regionalisms, eh) picked up. He started to do his dance and talk about sending a technician to the house, but I stopped him.

The problem isn’t here, in my house. It’s far away at some router. I even know the router’s address: It’s owned by AT&T and probably serves as Comcast’s connection from Connecticut to the Internet in general.

If I know this, why doesn’t Comcast’s tech support guy? Why spend money and send technicians when there’s no problem they’ll fix? Why not tell me loads of others have reported problems, we’re working on it?

If I asked someone high up at Comcast whether they wanted this fixed right away and wanted their customers informed, I’m sure the answer would be yes. They want the best possible result spending the least amount of money. Yet their actions show there’s a disconnect between what would benefit them and their customers and what they’re delivering. And, they might not know this customer service problem even exists.

There is no one served by what went on tonight. Not me. Not Comcast. Their phone people were polite and pleasant but never even brought me one step closer to satisfaction.

I really don’t want to have to call back on this tomorrow.

The Penguin And I Are Speaking Again

With an international crew of geeks at the ready (they were working on video drivers before I got stated) I have finally got my Linux machine up and running while looking and sounding good.

It has been a long and arduous task – and even today it reverted to some of its old habits; losing its Internet connection and sound functions.

The benchmark I had been running, “glxgears”, has gone from 130 fps to over 300 fps. When I switched to fewer colors, though still more than I can discern, the speed went to 600+ fps.

I have run a few screensavers and a ridiculous little game to stress the video system, and the computer has responded perfectly.

Now, what to do with the computer? It sits next to this perfectly competent Windows XP machine which can already do most everything.

I will be looking for some modeling and animation software to run. The Linux machine is the perfect testbed because I can dedicate the processor and not have to worry about bumping other things like mail or web browsing.

Still, the most important thing is, it’s running. I’m just not sure it’s currently, or permanently, stable.

They Shut Down My Website!

I woke up this morning (feeling pretty awful I might add), went to check my email and… nothing. So, I went to my webpage and, instead of my site, a page was posted telling me there was a technical or billing problem and that the page had been shut down.

Ouch. As bad as I felt, I now felt worse. Would there be enough Pepto to get me through it?

I called hostforweb who hosts own and operate the computer this site lives on, and provide the Internet connection to it. Tech support answered quickly and I was told one of my processes which draws some of the cool weather graphics I show was hogging computer resources. Since I share my hosting computer with others, I need to share fairly.

It’s a real puzzlement to me because the function that was using all the computer’s power was designed specifically to use very little in the way of resources and had been running for months with no problem. Maybe it had gotten bad data? Who knows? It had become a problem child overnight.

My site was re-energized and the problem seems gone. I sent an email to the hosting company telling them more about the program that went bad so they could keep an eye on it. I don’t blame them for shutting down the site. But, I wish there had been a better way than putting a note which mentioned a possible billing problem. That makes me look like a deadbeat… on an account that’s prepaid.

I still feel pretty rotten, but it’s probably not web oriented.