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Toys

Journal: What to do with carputer?

Journal by f1vlad

Plenty! Why carputer? Is it really necessary? After my first carputer, I got me an iPhone. After iPhone, I became discouraged in using cheap Lilliput Chinese touch screen. Because its quality was simply crap compared to iPhone. So somehow back then I had hopes that all my carputer needs could be realised by a smart phone. It is almost true still, but carputer is still better. So overlooking the fact that carputer is simply cool thing to have, what are the benefits from having a carputer.

The biggest thing that empowers a carputer need is nothing else but a mere fact of having a constant Internet connection and what it could bring. I have a pretty amazing unlimited mobile broadband internet provided by Sprint, which allows me to enjoy a numbers of things while in the moving car. The keyword there is moving. With my carputer in the past, I could park somewhere hopeful to hop on someone's WiFi to get done what I needed. Now it's a whole different story I have Internet wherever [pending mobile coverage], which gives me lots and lots of freedom:

  1. Streaming music (pandora.com, imeem.com, blip.fm, last.fm).
  2. Streaming radio (moskva.fm, molode.com.ua, etc.).
  3. Streaming TV/news (hulu.com, joost.com, russiantvonline.com, etc.).
  4. Download podcasts (podcastalley.com, rpod.ru).
  5. Download [via torrent] TV shows and sport events that I missed.
  6. See right on the moving Google Earth where I am driving at any given time, i.e. GPS navigator.
  7. Local places finder (cheap gas, particular restaurant, specialized store, hotel, etc.)

It's quite obvious from the list above, that Internet connectivity is a key factor here, since I have that mobile broadband internet, it's a perfect opportunity to enjoy all these new innovative services, why not? There is no need to carry 200gb worth of media in your hard drive.

Portables

Journal: Mobile broadband thoughts

Journal by f1vlad

I just read a very thorough article on mobile broadband in USA: Engadget Labs: The best mobile data carrier in America. I highly recommend this article to all interested parties, but can't stop wondering about one thing, that is how all four carriers are now essentially provide internet that is limited. If you reach certain quota, and it's quite ridiculously small, you will get cut off in best case scenario. You will get charged by kilobyte/megabyte in your worst case nightmare scenario.

I have to admit, I am among those early [lucky] subscribers to my Sprint mobile broadband, who gets absolutely unlimited traffic. There were times I was far from home and have definitely reached 5Gb (currently known quota). Since I was concerned about very high fines, I called Sprint customer support to double check that I am indeed on unlimited plan. Having spent little under one hour on the phone, I got confirmation that, yes, indeed, I am among those early subscribers who are on unlimited plans that are no longer offered to anyone.

It's well known that ordinary Internet providers are introducing quotas as well. I guess I can't stop wondering about it and all this sounds sad and pessimistic for the future. I don't understand one thing -- why not offer more expensive unlimited plan, whether it's mobile or regular internet? In the case with mobile one, I reckon would never have signed up for 5Gb per month.

User Journal

Journal: ALL CAPS

Journal by f1vlad

Today I had an insightful conversation with the person who is part-timing on craigslist. What he does is he posts ads to craigslist about his friend's limo company, then he receives phone calls and takes care of booking.

So this person today decided to disclose his marketing success secret to me. And before I tell you what it is, I must stress, this is not a joke, he is being serious. So this guy figured out how to "steal" attention of potential customers and captivate them to his ads and not competitors'. Below image illustrates how he uses ALL CAPS to do it:

click to see image

-- "You seriously think you figured it out and the rest of the people just not up to speed yet?"
-- "Yes.", absolutely seriously admits the guy.

Needless to say my explanations of Internet etiquette were ignored and taken for attempts to undermine his brilliance.

User Journal

Journal: Do not forget display:table-cell

Journal by f1vlad

The last -based website that I did was tomswebplaces.com, which I believe was in 2003. A lot has changed since, both on the web and the way I write HTML. But today I remembered usage once again; that is, using for layout and design, rather than tabular data.

The task at hand: to align text vertically in a div. At first quite trivial -- div inside div, first position:relative, second position:absolute -- until it comes to text wrapping. When text wraps to the next line, there's more white space above the box than below. I could not believe that there isn't a native solution for this. Few google queries revealed long forgotten display:table-cell, combined with vertical-align:middle achieves desired behavior. It works perfectly on all standard compliant browsers; however, IE6 and IE7 that do not support display:table-cell.

Below is the way I solved IE6/IE7 problem via adding extra wrapper around the block that is to be vertically aligned. This wrapper is used to imitate vertical alignment in these two non-compliant browsers, while proper layout is display in all, dare I say, normal browsers; it isn't perfect, but it works.

see HTML source code

In a couple of weeks, you will see how I utilized this method in production environment on slashdot user pages.

Handhelds

Journal: Tuning your voice mail

Journal by f1vlad

When I moved to America, I discovered voice mail. At first cool, eventually [mostly] huge waste of time.

For instance: "hey this is me, bye", "why are you not answering your phone?", "call me!", "this me, I have nothing to do so I decided to call you", and so on. The only argument one can make here is that, yes, some of these short messages could be helpful if there is no "no missed calls" message on your phone or otherwise when a phone has been out of network, out of battery power, or simply turned off.

On the other hand, there definitely are meaningful voice mails; for example: "Hi, this is your insurance agent, we wanted to remind you to come to our office tonight to renew your policy".

So where exactly is time wasted? I will tell you. Time is wasted not only listening to meaningless voice mails, but also retrieving them, here is general rough scenario of retrieving one message:

  1. dial voice mail;
  2. enter pin code/password;
  3. listen to "you have 2 new messages and 1000 old messages, click 1 to listen to new message, click 2 to listen to old messages";
  4. listen to "message number one, received on February 3rd, at 5 o'clock, to listen to the message click 1, to delete this message click 2".

It varies from one provider to another making this process easier or harder. To listen to each new message I have perform some time-consuming work. Apple, however, was the first one with breakthrough called visual voice mail, but it still only works on AT&T iPhone. Another public service that does sort of visual voice mails online is Google's GrandCentral. The latter one is the solution to the problem.

Bottom line -- voice mails are useful occasionally, sometimes important, but often time-wasters.

I tasked myself to ease management of these annoying things while not lose potentially important voice messages. I had t-mobile service. I was unwilling to switch iPhone data plan with AT&T. I did have a sort of ideal solution for visual voice mails with GrandCentral. The only problem was -- connect my t-mobile account with GrandCentral account in a way that only voice mail be outsourced to GrandCentral. Thankfully, a GSM-based network, which t-mobile is, does make this possible!

Solution to the problem, that is, connecting t-mobile account with GrandCentral account comes with the help of GSM MMI codes.

MMI codes are special sets of commands that allow you to configure your GSM phone. In other words, tt allows for alternative non-GUI way to configure some common things such as changing PIN, as well as some hidden/undocumented features of the phone/network such as changing your voice mail forward number, which is exactly the problem we're trying to solve!

And so we have come to solution. Open the dialer and dial the following three commands, one by one, and click dial:

  1. *67*16031231212# -- forward call to 1(603)123-12-12 if line is busy;
  2. *61*16031231212# -- forward call to 1(603)123-12-12 if phone not answered;
  3. *62*16031231212# -- forward call to 1(603)123-12-12 if out of reach.

some remarks: (1) 16031231212 is fictional phone number for this example, (2) these settings are performed to GSM account, not device; therefore, if one phone is unable to execute these settings, try another one (borrow someone else's) with your SIM card, (3) depending on your GSM provider some MMI codes may not work.

Hope this solution helps some people who are struggling like I used to.

MMI codes resources

  1. Steve Punter's Southern Ontario Cell Phone Page
  2. GSM Command Strings

User Journal

Journal: Goodbye iPhone, hello Andriod

Journal by f1vlad

I have said many times that G1 Android is ugly and I still stand by what I have said. However, the day before yesterday I got tired of trying to attempt unlocking my iPhone and I started to consider Android.

Ever since I bought iPhone 3G, I could not unlock it successfully. First it was Turbo SIM, which did not work 100%; then it was so-called yellowsn0w, which did not work at all after many hours invested.

So perfect opportunity came and I said screw it. I went ahead and bought G1. Yes I had to sign 2yr t-mobile deal. But that is why I never went to AT&T because I had always been happy with t-mobile.

So far, quite happy with Android, especially its google account dependency. Time will tell but I don't think I will miss iPhone much!

User Journal

Journal: Username is not available -- says Gmail -- but neither is it t

Journal by f1vlad

After inability to register a desired username at Gmail, I settled with an alternative. But in years passed I haven't stopped wondering why I can register this screen name with every service, but Gmail.

1. Certain male names with prefix 'f1' cannot be registered with Gmail. One would assume they're taken, but they aren't. We've sent test emails to these accounts, but we get back "This Gmail user does not exist". Examples: f1rich, f1richard, f1robert, f1alexander, f1nate, f1sasha.

2. Female name with prefix 'f1' can easily be registered and marked as available in ajaxy registration form. Examples: f1sally, f1catherine, f1becky, f1molly, f1britney.

3. If you swap 'f1' with 'f2' for male names, names become available.

Why would Google keep these usernames reserved?

What the world *really* needs is a good Automatic Bicycle Sharpener.

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