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My Samsung Focus and WP7

Last fall, as my 18 month old LG Xeon phone was failing, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the new mobile operating system from Microsoft, Windows Phone 7. Everything I was reading about it sounded great. On November 8th, 2010 I went to my local AT&T store, plunked down $200, and go my brand-spankin-new Samsung Focus. I ran home like a child with a new toy (because I was!) and started tinkering with it.

After 8 months I have come to rely on this little device for a lot of things. I love the phone. Sure the OS has a few quirks, but it is a 1.0 release, so I will put up with them until the next release comes out. Unfortunately about 2 months ago it started doing some strange things. First it was just that it would run hot, like a process was out of control. Turning the phone on/off cleared that up and it only happened maybe once a week. But then there were a few times when I would send a text and the person on the other end wouldn’t get it. Or I would get one, but receive no notification, not even a number on the live tile. To fix this I had to turn the power on/off. And when I turned it on, any text messages I had sent would finally be sent.

This started to concern me. Then last week the battery was running hot AND the texting was messed up. I called AT&T and they sent me a new battery. Things seemed better for a day but then went right back to the problems. At this point I was faced with two options, a Hard Reset or getting a new phone. I knew that either of them would wipe all the stuff from my phone that isn’t synced somewhere else, which means everything except e-mail and contacts. So I wasn’t to thrilled with these options, but what choice did I have.

First I tried the Hard Reset. As predicted it wiped everything from the phone so I setup all the accounts and hooked it up to the PC to so it could sync quicker, and to charge. Imagine my surprise when I checked it later and found that every application that I had put on the phone via the Zune software had been re-installed. Even ones I had deleted. It even, since I named the phone the same, synced up the music, photos, etc. that I had. Everything I had read about the process said that it wouldn’t do this.

What I did realized though is that any application you installed via the Marketplace on the phone, had to be re-installed. Apparently the Zune software keeps track somewhere of what apps you installed for you and will re-install them when presented with a new phone.

I also found out that any progress in games is wiped out. Yes, your XBox Live achievements are still there, but progress is gone. For instance, I have Ilo & Milo. Dylan and I had completed the entire game, both storybooks. Wiped as if we never played. A solitare game where I was level 20 in all the games, back to nothing.

Unfortunately the Hard Reset didn’t fix the problem and I had to get the phone replaced, but that is what warranties are for. The real thing is what I learned through this process, and some suggestions I have for Microsoft if anyone happens to read this.

1. Please provide a way for us to back up ALL data that is on the phone, such as the applications and “save games”, and most importantly, text message history.

2. Add a feature to Zune where you can actually view the list of apps you have on the phone and check/uncheck the ones you want to keep. Zune re-installed about 15 apps that I had deleted, which of course, I had to delete again.

3. Improve the process of contact management. I set my phone to grad contacts from my Windows Live account (which is pretty much a requirement), Facebook, and GMail. In Windows Live I can see contacts from Windows Live, Facebook, and Linked In. When the contacts sync to the phone I end up with many duplicate entries. You can’t really manage them anywhere but on the phone. So here is what I would like:

- It would be much nicer is what it did was actually import all the contacts into Windows Live and allow you to manipulate them without changing anything on the source of the contact (unless it is Windows Live or the phone).

- The People app has a feature to only import Facebook info into existing contacts, this way you don’t end up with a phone book full of Facebook friends who you really never talk to. A nice added feature would be a way to simply convert a Facebook contact into Windows Live contact.

- Windows Live contact application could be improved to allow for easier editing of contacts. Though I guess I could sync that with Outlook on my PC and use Outlook to manage them.

All that said, I am still very happy with the Windows Phone 7 OS and am looking forward to the “mango” update which is going to add a great deal of features that people are looking forward to.

Fiscal Shenanigans

<pulls out soapbox and climbs up>

Would some one please explain to me how the people in government think when it comes to budgets and finances? Does all common sense and the ability to balance the checkbook go out the window once you are elected to public office? Does the term “fiscal responsibility” actually mean anything to these people? Do they ever think through what they are about to do? Oh, you want to know what I am talking about. Okay, sure. We will start with Nassau County, where I live.

Nassau County, home of the most incompetent county government in the nation

Nassau County was almost bankrupt about 10 years ago or so, and NY State stepped in and created NIFA (Nassau Interim Finance Authority) which is an oversight committee. They keep an eye on the budgets that the county comes up with to make sure they don’t dig themselves into a hole again. They also control the borrowing that the county does, and can turn off that source of cash if they deem it necessary. They can also decide to take over the counties finances if they feel that the budget is screwed up.

So fast forward to 2011 and guess what, they are in a bind again. Only this time the recession and high levels of unemployment have helped. So the county comes up with a budget, and of course it uses projections of revenues (which is the same as wild guesses) to make things balance. NIFA looks at it and pokes holes in it left and right and demands that the country show them all the data they used to come up with the projections. County Executive Mangano (R) refuses, NIFA threatens to take over, Mangano tells them if they do, he will sue. So NIFA announces that they are taking over, Mangano announces that the county is going to sue to prevent it.

First off, who is paying for the lawyers that will be involved? If the county has no money, how the hell are they going to pay the army of lawyers that will be needed? And if NIFA is a state agency, who is paying for their lawyers? I sure as hell hope it isn’t the taxpayers (which it will be). Because then I am paying for lawyers on both sides of a fight that shouldn’t even be happening. And that pisses me off. Especially when you consider the next thing I want to rant about, the NY State Budget.

NY State, where the government gives a whole new meaning to ‘dysfunctional’

Gov. Cuomo announced his proposed budget this week. He also had the NY Senate pass a bill to have a “property tax cap” of 2% put into place. Which means that your property taxes can’t go up more than 2% a year. Sounds great, right! No more 5% or even 10% jumps in our already ridiculously high property taxes. It is enough to make any homeowner smile, until you take a step back and think about it. What does our property taxes pay for? It pays for things like police protection, waste removal, water treatment, road maintenance (and after this winter they will need A LOT of that), snow removal, and let’s not forget the biggest part of it, education. Now we all know that there is this thing called inflation that essentially means that the cost of everything goes up a little bit each year. So in order to cover inflation that would have to include the property taxes since the cost of everything they pay for is going up. So if inflation is 3% and the tax increase is only 2%, where does that other 1% come from? Cuts. Cuts in all those services mentioned (and all the ones I didn’t mention).

So if you cut back on all those things, police and education in particular, what happens? Well, the residents aren’t as well educated which means that they get lower paying jobs. Crime rises as the police force is reduced. If the quality of our schools goes down and crime goes up you know what else happens? Property values go down. If they go down then the tax revenues go down since they are based on the value of the property. And a viscous downward cycle begins.

Oh, and did I mention that the 2011-12 budget includes cuts in school funding of $1.5 billion across the state. Cuts that would average 7.3% across the state, but because of the unfair, archaic, and ridiculous way the state gives out school aid will hit Long Island districts with cuts of around 11%. These are cuts that would hit the poorest districts the worst, but would hurt everyone. And how are the schools to make up those cuts if there is a tax cap? They do it by cutting non-essential programs. The very same programs that make Long Island school districts the shining stars that they are. The same programs that have been proven over and over again to be beneficial to children. Things like music, band, sports, and let’s not forget Special Education. They would also have to let go of teachers which would increase the class size, and reduce the quality of the education in many cases.

Instead of a tax cap how about forcing the school districts to merge. There are over 120 school districts on Long Island ranging in size from a few hundred to 15,000 students. There is no reason for that. Consolidation would eliminate many of the administrative jobs, lower the number of ridiculously paid superintendnets, and allow for the bigger districts to have more buying power. All this would save money, therefore eliminating the need for tax increases as often or as big. Which means we don’t even need a tax cap.

Bottom line is that instead of treating the symptom, the state legislature should treat the cause. lack of fiscal responsibility at *all* levels of the government.

My Two Cents

When I first started this blog I was going to call it “My 2 Cents”, and for a while I did. But then it went from opinion oriented to simple sharing with the family. Today, however, I am going back to my roots so to speak. Theres been a bunch of stuff going on recdently, both big and small, local and international that I feel the need to rant a bit about. I even have some links I want to share with you about a great blog I found. So let’s get started.

Wikileaks

Everyone is making a big deal about the sensitive information that Wikileaks published, however I think that the majority of the people, especially the windbag politicians are missing the real point. Assange is not a “terrorist” or, in my opinion, not even a criminal because he published that information. The real crime here is the fact that he GOT the information to publish in the first place. The fact that a relatively low-level soldier could so easily copy all that data to an optical disc and get it out to the public is what should be setting off alarm bells. It is well known that most diplomats also act as spies and none of the information released should really surprise anyone.

Making a criminal out of Assange and prosecuting him is like pruning a dead branch from a rose bush when the roots are bad. It’s not going to help. If they had better information security this never would have happened.

Holiday Spirit

One thing that working in retail for the past two (almost) years is that way to many people forget what the Holiday Season is all about. It’s not about who can give the biggest and best gifts, or who has more lights on their house, or who got the last Pink Leapster Explorer system. It is about celebrating life, family, and friends. It is about trying a little harder to be nice to friends and strangers alike, about spreading happiness. And for the most part, people seem to get it. But way to many people are just downright nasty, mean, and rotten. And it seems that they get worse during the holidays. So for everyone out there, be nice to a stranger. A simple wave or holding the door for someone else can change their day and turn one of those grumps into a happy person.

Family

I cam across a blog the other day thanks to one of my friends on Facebook, I believe is was Chris Wolfey, called “Single Dad Laughing”. It is written by, you guessed it, a single dad named Dan. It was started over the summer and is one of the fastest growing blogs out there, and after reading a few of his posts, I can understand why. I seriously suggest everyone go check it out. He has great posts on parenting, kids, and the one that got me there in the first place, “Worthless men and the women who make them“. And before you get your panties all twisted that is the follow-up to “Worthless women and the men who make them“. Everyone should check out his posts “The disease called “Perfection” and parents need to read “You just broke your child. Congratulations”. He also does funny stuff, like “Grandmas say the damndest things” and has, of course, a Facebook page.

His writing style is very easy to read and follow and his insights into things related to parenting and family are, well, remarkable. Really. I don’t tell people to go read blogs very often, but this is one you should read. It will make you a better person.

That’s all for now.

Samsung Focus

About a 2 months ago my LG Xenon phone’s touchscreen started acting up. Unfortunately it was 3 weeks out of warranty and I had not purchased the insurance for it so I have to either deal with it or pay a nice premium to get a new phone. I wasn’t ready at that point and figured maybe I could live with it until my contract was up. I was wrong. It got progressively worse until it was almost unusable. I would have to use the upgrade on the third phone line I had (that wasn’t being used and I should have cancelled) to get a new phone, and soon. I was able to hold out until the new Windows Phone 7 devices were released last week, and I am happy I did.

I refuse to get an iPhone because they are ridiculously expensive, require that you use iTunes (which I despise almost as much as AOL), and you MUST live in Apple’s little world. The only way to break out is to jailbreak the phone and that has pros and cons as it is. I love the Android phones like the Droid, except they are on Verizon and I am pretty much stuck on AT&T. And while the Samsung Captivate on AT&T is pretty nice, I just didn’t like some of the things that I had heard about what AT&T does to Android phones. Combine all that with the good things I had read about the new WP7 phones, and my mind was made up.

I purchased the Samsung Focus. The reasons for it as that I do not plan on using my phone as a multimedia platform like the HTC Surround and the LG Quantum slider phone with keyboard, while enticing, had it’s own issues, such as the fact that it wasn’t ready on launch day and not all apps on the phone would rotate so you could use the keyboard. Besides, the Focus is the only one you can add a microSD card to which gives the ability to bring the memory up to 40gb (8gb on the phone plus a 32gb card).

In the week that I have had the phone here is what I have discovered so far…

Pros:

  1. Screen is AMAZING!
  2. Zune music software is way better than iTunes (imho). SmartDJ is great.
  3. Synching content is dead simple, over -the-air synch with SkyDrive.
  4. The 3g Internet speed is impressive (at least here on Long Island)
  5. Integration with mail (Yahoo, Google, AOL, Outlook/Exchange) is top notch.
  6. Mobile Office and OneNote
  7. Camera takes good pictures, haven’t played with the video yet
  8. Integration with Xbox Live is cool.
  9. Included earbud headphones are actually pretty good!
  10. Call quality is very good.

Cons:

  1. Wi-Fi + Bluetooth + 3G = maybe 4-5hrs of battery life
  2. You can’t create/use custom ringtone
  3. You *MUST* sync stuff via a Windows LIVE account
  4. No direct connection to stand-alone Outlook, must go through either Exchange or some sort of connector.
  5. No good cases for it…. yet.
  6. When browsing the marketplace phone is sometime unresponsive while it loads content. Enough so that you think it may have locked up.

That’s all for now. I plan on doing a full write-up of the phone in the upcoming weeks after I have had time to really put it through it’s paces.

Car Shopping

Yeah, yeah, there are a million guides out there on how to get the best deal for a car. I know, I read most of them. I made a deal on a 2011 Kia Sorrento LX V6 FWD with the Convenience Package, Remote Start, and a few other extras that was pretty good. Well, I think it was.

Debbie and I went to the Kia dealer on Saturday to check out the Sorrento. We test drove, looked at  a bunch, selected a model, and got a price. A price that have a monthly payment that was $85 more than I wanted to pay. A little back and forth and it was looking better, but no dice. We left.

I did some more research and went back tonight. Keep in mind, it is the 29th, tomorrow is the end of the month AND the 2nd quarter. Deals are in the air. I showed him an add from another dealer that had a slightly cheaper model ($1,500 less) for a monthly payment of $159 + taxes. I asked why the car I wanted, which after all incentives wasn’t much more, was so much more a month? It didn’t make sense. He agreed. I showed him the print out from Edmunds with the pricing. He got the invoice and showed me that their invoice price was actually a little higher due to advertising fees and other BS, but that they would give me the car for the Edmunds price.

After a little more back and forth on the details I told the sales guy here is the deal. I have $X cash for the down payment, tags, etc. And want a monthly payment of $Y. These are the same numbers I told him I wanted on Saturday, that he said he couldn’t do. The difference is I told him if he could do it, the car was sold. Now. Tonight.  And it is the end of the month.

He goes to talk to the manager. Come back a few minutes later with a huge grin and BAM! congratulations.

It comes down to three things: I proved the first time that I was willing to walk away. I had ammo for getting a better price. And I went the end of the month. You can’t lose with that formula.

New Portraits

As part of the photo package we got when Marissa was born we get a free sitting for 5 years. Here are some of the results of this year’s sitting….

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Click on the one above to jump to the album, and here are a few more…..
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Beware the Rogues!

As most of you who have read this blog know, I work part time at the local Staples as a Resident Tech. I am the lucky one who get’s to fix everyone’s computers when they break, or more commonly, get a virus. Lately there has been a large spike in one particular type of infection, rogue security software. Simply put this is an application that looks like a legitimate security application such as Norton, McAfee, Windows Defender, etc. but it isn’t. They warn you that your computer is infected with tons of virus and malware applications and then ask you for a credit card to remove them or to download the application. Some of the common names are things like AntiSpyware 2009, Antivirus 2010, Security Essentials 2010, and hundreds more.  Here are a few screenshots to give you an idea of what they may look like.

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People typically realize there is a problem when these windows keep popping up on their machines that are scanning and finding virus and malware infections all over their hard drive, and not matter what they do, the windows won’t go away. When they bring their computers in to me, once we are done discussing their options for getting rid of it, the next two or three questions are usually something like “How did I get infected?”, “I have <Norton/McAfee/AVG/whatever> antivirus, why didn’t it stop this?”, or  ”What is the purpose of these things?”

So let’s take a look at these questions and see if we can’t shed some light on the subject, and possibly prevent you from becoming the next victim.

Continue reading Beware the Rogues!

Friendship

There are a lot of excellent websites out there that have lists and lists of quotes about Friendship. They range from the really funny to hardcore serious and everything in between. This past year has been very, um, “interesting” for me on the friendship front. As I have become re-acquainted with old friends from high school via Facebook and made new ones while working at Staples. There are hundreds of quotes I could post here that would be appropriate, but I will just put a few of my favorites.

Best Friends vs Regular Friends

A friend will bail you out of jail at 2am. A best friend will be sitting next to you in the cell saying “Damn!!! That was AWESOME! Next time we just gotta make sure we don’t get caught.

General Friendchsip

“A friend will be there for you when things are good…but a TRUE friend will be there for you when things are good and also when things are very bad…and just when it feels like you will never smile again…they can put a smile on your face with just with a hug!”

“In loneliness, in sickness, in confusion-the mere knowledge of friendship makes it possible to endure, even if the friend is powerless to help. It is enough that they exist. Friendship is not diminished by distance or time, by imprisonment or war, by suffering or silence. It is in these things that it roots most deeply. It is from these things that it flowers.”
-Pam Brown

“A friend with break your heart, a friend will mend it, a friend will provide you with every feeling in the world, good and bad. A friend is emotion incarnate.”

“If it hurts too much to look back, but you’re too scared to look ahead, just look beside you and I’ll be there.”

“If I could give you one gift my friend, I would give you the ability to see yourself as others see you, so you would know how very special you are.”

And finally, a really funny and truthful set of rules… (thank you for sharing this Kathy)

Friendship ~ None of that Sissy Shit

Are you tired of those sissy ‘friendship’ poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality?

Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship.

You will see no cute little smiley faces on this ~ Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1. When you are sad ~ I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

2. When you are blue ~ I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile ~ I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.

4. When you are scared ~ I will rag on you about it every chance I get until you’re NOT.

5. When you are worried ~ I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.

6. When you are confused ~ I will try to use only little words.

7. When you are sick ~ Stay the hell away from me until you are well again.. I don’t want whatever you have.

8. When you fall ~ I will laugh at your clumsy ass, but I’ll help you up.

9. This is my oath …. I pledge it to the end. ‘Why?’ you may ask ~ because you are my friend.

Friendship is like peeing your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.

Insurance Farce

WARNING: This is going to be an angry, frustrated, rant about the state of the health care system in this country and New York State in particular. If you don’t want to read a rant, then close your browser or click a link to go someplace else. In 2006 New York State passed a law called the “2006 Mental Health Parity Legislation” or “Timothy’s Law”. It is called Timothy’s Law because it was the suicide of Timothy O’Clair in March 2001, seven weeks prior to his 13th birthday, who was discriminated against by his parents insurance company that started the movement to get it passed. It is, in concept a great law. Simply stated it requires private health insurance to cover mental health issues at the same level they cover regular medical issues. Here is a quote from the Timothy’s Law website

:

Timothy’s Law mandates that insurance providers covering any health care services must also provide coverage for mental health and substance abuse services, and that coverage and cost must be ‘on par’ with all other health care services covered under such policy.

Since the majority of insurance policies do not offer this type of coverage you would think it was a wonderful and great thing they did, and it is. Except as with any law, especially ones in NY and ones dealing with the insurance companies, there are loopholes. Big, huge, gaping ones that you could march an army through. Here are the two biggest ones as far as I can tell. It only applies to group health insurance or school blanket insurance that is obtained through an employer or association. What the hell does that mean you ask? It means that if you get your insurance through a group policy from work, it *might* apply to you. If you get your insurance through an association, such as a Chamber of Commerce, union, etc., it *might* apply to you. However, if you buy insurance on your own or use one of the publicly funded or subsidized programs such as Healthy NY, Child Health Plus, Health Care Plus, etc, you are screwed. No mental health coverage for you. Now, if you make it past that first obstacle and have a policy that meets those requirements there is one more HUGE loop hole that you have to get past. The law only applies to policies that are WRITTEN in New York. Now I am not an expert, but from what I have been told and found out the state that the policy is written in has nothing to do with the state the people covered live in or the company buying the policy (ie: your employer) is located. Case in point, a company headquartered in Massachusetts has and insurance policy for residents of New York state that is “written” in Florida and administered by a company in Kentucky. Now some of you who live in other states or know about these things would say “But Rich, if the insurance coverage is mandated by your state law, the insurance company has to abide by that mandate.” And you know what, in many cases you would be correct. However, there is apparently some national level reciprocation agreement that states have the option to participate in. Sort of a “you wash my back and I will wash yours” thing. If the state where the person lives and the state where the policy is written both participate in the program, you are covered. Guess what, New York State doesn’t participate. So you can join the other people who are screwed. Now there is one other option for those that do not want to be completely at the mercy of the system, and that is a program called Family Health Plus. A program that to get into you need to do an hour long in-person interview, provide financial data on every member of your household, and wait 2 months for approval. Oh, and you have to pick one of the plans that has the coverage you need and there are income requirements that anyone who makes more money than Unemployment pays probably exceeds. So in a nutshell, if you live in New York State and have medical insurance that doesn’t cover mental health issues and it was written in a state other than New York… you better hope you never have a mental health issue. Like anxiety and stress related to the fact that you don’t have mental health coverage….. UPDATE: A friend posted this link over on Facebook and I thought it timely…. http://awesome.goodmagazine.com/goodsheet/images/goodSheet_002_BillofHealth.jpg

Bill of Health Goodsheet from Good Magazine

Bill of Health Goodsheet from Good Magazine