Reflections on Steve Jobs

Tonight as I sat on the couch reading the news coverage on Steve Jobs’ passing, it struck me why I’m enamored with Apple’s products. It’s not that I’m a fanboy (okay, I might be on the edge of being one..) — it’s because of the culture set in place by Steve Jobs.

He didn’t just want to make the average run-of-the-mill beige box computer. It’s not that he just wanted to enter the mp3 player market. It’s not that he simply wanted a piece of the mobile phone market. It’s that he wanted to revolutionize by thinking different.

It’s that he was so meticulous about the products his company produced. It’s that he was so adamant about his ideals that he’d not waver.

As I sat tonight using my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone, it sunk in what Steve Jobs truly meant to the technological world.

RIP Steve.

– Blogged from my iPhone

AT&T Redemption

I previously wrote about my woes with AT&T. I’m happy to report that they’ve done the right thing!

After a horrible exchange with their email support team, I called and spoke with a woman who reassured me I was eligible for the regular upgrade. She informed me I’d have to visit an AT&T store though.. but that’s not a problem.

So tonight, after waiting 30+ minutes for an associate, I ordered my iPhone 3GS! It’ll be delivered in 7-14 days. 🙂

AT&T.. Why Must You Upset Me So?

I’ve been an AT&T customer for years. And by years, I mean 12+ years. I was an old AT&T Wireless customer back in high school and early college, and then Southwestern Bell/Cingular, and now AT&T again. I’ve not had any complaints with them.. until now.

Flash back to two summers ago. I’m attending TBA/TODA/TCDA with Director’s Choice. Upon my return home, Monica has a surprise for me — the newly-released Apple iPhone. Such a great wife, isn’t she? 🙂

So for those keeping track, that was July 2007 — a month after the iPhone was released. So at that time, my contract was renewed for another two years.

Summer 2008 arrives and we move to the DFW Metroplex. Just like most people would, we head to our local AT&T store (company store, not an authorized retailer) to have our phone numbers changed. Turns out, AT&T tells us it’s not as simple as changing phone numbers. Reason being — we’re changing markets. So we can either keep our old Lubbock numbers or set up a new account in the new market. We opt to set up a new account so that our phone numbers can be local. In the process, the plan we were on at the time was no longer offered, so we were forced to change plans.. and conveniently, the price was $10 more per month. Frustrated but without options, we proceed.

June 2009 — Apple announces the iPhone 3GS. I would love to get one, and Monica says I can.. remember, I have a GREAT wife. 😉  I log into our AT&T account online and discover I’m not eligible for an upgrade. I realize this is because AT&T is considering Summer 2008 as when our contract started!

So let me get this straight.. First, AT&T made us open the new account to only change our phone numbers. Secondly, AT&T forced us to change plans and give them $120 more per year because our plan was no longer available. And now thirdly, AT&T is screwing me over by not honoring when my original iPhone was purchased. Hell no.

I’m not complaining about AT&T requiring early upgrade fees. I fully understand subsidizing and the costs associated with that. I have absolutely no problem with that.

But in my situation, I should not be punished for what AT&T forced upon me simply because I wanted to change my phone number. I’ve heard horror stories and experiences from friends and coworkers concerning AT&T, and I always came to AT&T’s defense. After this though, I’m not too sure I can do that anymore. AT&T has severely disillusioned me.

I have not yet contacted AT&T to see if anything could be done about the situation. If any AT&T employee reads this, I’d love nothing else to be able purchase an iPhone 3GS and extend my contract for another two years from now. I have no problems with that. But there’s no way in hell I’m paying an early upgrade fee when I do not feel it’s applicable to my specific situation.

My Life

No, this isn’t an entry about Billy Joel.. It’s been quite a while since I have actually blogged about something meaningful, so I figured tonight would be a great night to write.

Where to begin..

Monica is now out of the first trimester and into the second. All is going well, and we’re looking forward to the big sonogram in six weeks. Just as we did (or didn’t) with Katie Lynn, we’re not going to find out the baby’s sex. So few things in life are truly a surprise, so we are just going to let the baby’s sex be a surprise. To keep up-to-date with baby news and goings-on, feel free to use subscribe to the RSS feed or just follow our updates over at tomandmonica.com.

Katie Lynn continues to amaze me. She’s growing up so quickly; it’s hard to believe she’s already sixteen months old. She’s enjoying her day care, her friends there, and her teachers. I love the social interaction and skills she is developing at this young age.

Wrigley is doing so much better. For those that don’t know, she had ear surgery a couple years back to resolve a condition affecting her ears. The surgeries went well but, in the end, did not seem to stop the condition. The vet in Lubbock said this was normal, so we took the “professional’s” word. When we moved to McKinney, we naturally had to find a new vet. Our new vet took a look and in five minutes knew there was a problem and how to treat it. The vet also diagnosed Wrigley with hypothyroidism, so she simply has to take one pill with her food.

Work is going great. Site5 was recently bought out by a couple of industry veterans. I had known that was the plan for quite a while, so naturally there was this sense of uncertainty. I’ve got to say though.. I could not be happier how things have turned out. Ben and Joel are exactly what the company needed, and I’m excited to be a part of the “new” Site5. I do miss working with the old owners and CEO, but luckily I still get to chat with them on a frequent basis as they’re all great friends.

I turned thirty last week. My wonderful wife planned a great surprise party for me. I had a great time, and are thankful for my family and friends that attended.

I’m still loving the MacBook that I bought back in October. I recently purchased an Acer LCD monitor to use while working. I used one back when I worked at DC, and I had forgotten how much I loved having one.

I’ve somehow gotten addicted to Twitter.. it’s even linked to Facebook. Who would have thought that I would be so into this whole social networking scene after being anti-MySpace for so long.

Instead of writing some corny summation paragraph (oops, too late), I’ll just end with some great pictures.

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Apple Fanboys Annoy Me

Disclaimer: I probably am a fanboy myself. Maybe not to the extremes I’m blogging about here, but I love Apple and the products it produces.

Apple fanboys annoy me. Greatly. There’s no pleasing this bunch.

Apple releases the iPhone. Within two days, there are a plethora of posts throughout the fanboy websites and blogs containing ways to make it better.

Apple releases the unibody MacBooks. Within hours those fanboy sites are complaining about their lack of firewire.

The day Apple gets behind on the fanboy-imposed product lifecycles, all hell breaks loose. Is the Mac mini being discontinued? Is AppleTV on its last breath?

My advice for the fanboys:

Get over yourself and enjoy and appreciate the Apple products you already own.

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My Phone? An iPhone.

I know I said that I’d wait a week to write a review of my iPhone, but I can’t wait that long! I will attempt to write this review with my “fanboy-ism” aside, but that may prove to be difficult. In any event, here we go.

Initial Thoughts
In pure Apple fashion, the packaging is brilliant. It mimics the iPod packaging style with silver embossed Apple logos, the word “iPhone”, and the size within a square all set on a solid black background. On the top/front of the box, there’s a picture of the iPhone itself. Inside is the iPhone first set in a plastic holder. Underneath is the instruction booklet, polishing cloth, headphones, USB cable, and the dock.

Activation
Activation was quick, simple, and painless. I was an existing AT&T customer, so I chose to keep my current voice plan and add on the $20 iPhone data plan. The activation process took at most seven or eight minutes.

Features
The four main features of the iPhone are Phone, Mail, Safari, and iPod.

Phone
First and foremost is the Phone. I get great reception with AT&T in Lubbock and Dallas – the two places I use my phone 99% of the time. iPhone’s Phone is quite simple and easy to use. You can designate a favorite numbers list; this is in essence the iPhone’s speed dialing. Other reviews point out that there’s no speed dialing or voice activated dialing. I personally don’t like voice activated dialing. My only complain with the Phone is in the recent calls list. There’s an “All” list and a “Missed” list. It would be nice if that were expanded into “All”, “Missed”, “Dialed”, and “Received”. Most cell phones have that, and it would be easy for Apple to implement via a software update.

Mail
I was most skeptical about Mail as that was one of the major aspects for me, and it just so happened that many of the reviews I’d read said that Mail was basically unusable. I’m happy to report that Mail is very usable. I’m an email junkie, and IMAP is a necessity for any email junkie that uses multiple computers. IMAP on iPhone Mail works as it should. All folders are there, and navigation is very fluid. Unlike OS X Mail, iPhone Mail does not use the “one Inbox for all accounts” rule. I’m actually okay with that; in fact, I like it better that way. I don’t use multiple email accounts right now, so this is a non-issue for me. There is a 200 message per folder limitation, but that too doesn’t affect me. My only real complaint with Mail is the lack of junk mail filtering/processng. My guess is that junk mail filtering/processing would increase the application’s footprint too much. So if that’s the trade-off, I’m all for it. Some people seem disgruntled that it takes two finger presses to delete an email. Again, this doesn’t bother me. I’ve deleted far too many emails mistakenly on my laptops.

Safari
Like Steve Jobs said during his January keynote, the iPhone has the real Internet. He was right about that! I’ve had an easy time browsing ESPN, Google Reader Mobile, CNN, and other sites. So far, the only website I’ve had difficulty using is my company’s Microsoft Exchange Outlook Web Access. I don’t know if it’s irony or not at work here, but I haven’t found a fix yet. A couple issues with Safari: no saving username/password combination and no form history.

iPod
The iPhone’s iPod is perfect: cover flow is beautiful on the screen, sound quality is great. I don’t have one complaint about iPod.

Other Applications
SMS Texting: Simple and easy. I don’t understand why MMS wasn’t built-in, and I can understand why some people complain about it. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Apple adding this capability in a software update.

Calendar: Again, simple and easy. Great syncing with iCal. You can only select one calendar to add new events to, which I too don’t understand. Hopefully Apple will address this as well.

Photos: Photos look gorgeous on the iPhone’s display. I’m not a regular user of iPhoto, so I’m not really in a position to say much more than that.

Weather: I love this widget! You can specify multiple locations to have easy access to current weather information.

There are other applications, but I really haven’t used them much yet.

Overall Impression and Thoughts

Apple has done so many things right with the iPhone. The virtual keyboard definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s very usable – even for me and my fat fingers. The fact that it “only” supports AT&T’s Edge network is a non-issue as there are few places I’ll use my iPhone where there isn’t WiFi. And since I just mentioned it, WiFi completes this device. I couldn’t imagine using the iPhone without WiFi capability.

Without trying to sound like just another Apple fanboy (which I unashamedly am), I truly believe that the Apple iPhone will change the cell phone industry forever. The iPhone will force other manufacturers to up the ante on the quality of their products. What makes Apple Apple is their attention to quality, but most importantly, the user experience and interface. It’s obvious you’re using something made by Apple. Apple puts so much time and energy into perfecting the user experience. Many companies concentrate on the appearance of their product but forget about the interface. Case in point: Motorola’s RAZR. It’s a great, high-quality phone. But the Motorola software interface leaves something to be desired. It’s very confusing and complicated whereas iPhone’s interface is simplistic and fun.

Hopefully I haven’t been too biased. The iPhone is an impressive smartphone, but there are some shortcomings as I’ve outlined above. I don’t see the business world adopting the iPhone until there’s BlackBerry-style Microsoft Exchange support. Rumors say that’s coming, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Also, the lack of an instant messaging application baffles me. I’m sure it will be added via a software update, and hopefully it will include both AIM and Yahoo IM.

To summarize my overall impression of the iPhone in two words: undeniably amazing.

A Nice Surprise

I went to San Antonio on business for a few days. Every summer, my company attends the Texas Bandmasters, Texas Choral Directors, and Texas Orchestra Directors conventions. For the past five years, I’ve simply gone down for our booth setup and flown back on the first day of the convention. It works out fairly well; I don’t mind going to down to do setup. In fact, it’s actually fun to an extent. This year we actually setup our entire exhibit in a record four hours; we were done at 11:30 am!

Monica picked me up at the airport yesterday and had an absolutely wonderful surprise for me at home. I walked by the mantle (where it was sitting) without even seeing it. I went into the bedroom, threw my bags down on the floor and got changed. Monica was laying on the bed, and I start to head out into the living room when I look up and see an orange and white AT&T bag.

And I knew it could only be one thing.. my iPhone!

I’ve been using it for about half a day now, and I’m blown away by it. I’ll be writing up an initial review in about a week.

I have the sweetest wife. 🙂

A Cell Phone Freak’s History

I was daydreaming about my upcoming iPhone purchase the other day and it really got me thinking about my cell phone history. Unsurprisingly, I’ve had quite a few cell phones.

sonycmh888.gifMy first cell phone was a Sony CM-H888 on the old AT&T Wireless I believe. I got that phone my junior year in high school. It was an analog phone; digital wasn’t widespread at that time. Wireless plans back then were expensive and didn’t contain many minutes, so I had pretty stern instructions from my parents to only use it for emergencies. If I went over on my minutes, it came out of my pocket. I still remember that phone number, but won’t repeat it here out of respect for its current owner (if there is one).

nokia6162.jpgMy next phone I got was a Nokia 6162. This one was on the old AT&T Wireless. I got this phone for Christmas of my freshman year at Tech if I remember correctly. Digital technology had become more mainstream, but AT&T Wireless didn’t service Lubbock digitally at that time. I loved this phone and it definitely served me well for a couple years.. until..

Nate and I were in Florida visiting Kim and her then-boyfriend now-husband Ryan over spring break. The night before we left, my truck was broken into and my cell phone, 300+ CDs, CB radio, and Minidisk player were stolen.
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Upon my return to Lubbock, I decided to get a Lubbock phone number since that’s where I lived. AT&T Wireless still didn’t have digital service in Lubbock, and with that meant no caller ID. So I decided to give Sprint PCS a try since their plans were cheaper than Southwestern Bell’s. Both providers offered digital service in Lubbock, so that was already a step up for me. I went with the Nokia 6185 since I had fallen in love with my old Nokia. The phone was great; too bad I can’t say the same for the service. Sprint PCS’s coverage area is horrendous. They target major highway areas; traveling between Lubbock and Dallas meant very little coverage. That rather defeated one of the purposes of having a cell phone, so luckily Sprint took back the phone and canceled my plan.

nokia6161.jpgnokia3360.jpgSince I still wanted digital service, I went with Southwestern Bell and the Nokia 6161. That Nokia was very similar to my stolen 6162. It lasted for about a year and a half; it suddenly died on me and it couldn’t be fixed. Continuing my Nokia habit, I chose the Nokia 3360 based on its size. It was the most compact phone I’d owned. That phone allowed user-changeable color faceplates, and I loved that. This phone didn’t last very long though; I think the faceplate customization actually impacted the lifetime. I could be wrong though, but I think it did.

motorolav60.jpgBy now flip phones had become the rage, and Nokia took the stance to not jump on the flip phone bandwagon (which incidentally lasted until roughly 2005). Because of that, my Nokia streak ended. I had heard great reviews and comments about Motorola phones. After all, Motorola was responsible for starting the flip phone craze with their infamous Star-Trac phone. By now, Southwestern Bell Wireless had been spun off into Cingular; I went with the Motorola v60t. After using only Nokia’s phones for the past years, switching to a Motorola phone had a learning curve with different menus and such. This phone was exceptional; far better than any of the Nokias I’d owned over the years.

samsunga460.jpgAround this time, a buddy of mine gave me a Samsung A460 to be used on Sprint’s network. It just so happened that I had been given a company cell phone for work and my company uses Sprint. So I switched out the company-owned phone for the Samsung. The phone had great ringtones but suffered from Sprint’s crappy coverage area. At some point, my company made some cost-cutting decisions and cut back on the number of people who had corporate cell phones. I had my corporate phone taken away, so I no longer needed to use the Samsung.

motorolat720.jpgI began to notice that the antenna on the Motorola v60t was loose and breaking. Instead of replacing the antenna, naturally I bought a new phone. I liked the Motorola phone so much that I decided to go with another one: the Motorola T720. I absolutely loved this phone. Front caller ID display, great Motorola quality, etc. The antenna was more of a bud-style so therefore I wasn’t concerned it would suffer the same fate as my v60t. This phone lasted quite a while; I believe this is the longest-lasting phone I have ever owned.

motorolarazr.jpgSticking with Motorola, my next and current cell phone is the Motorola RAZR. I have absolutely loved this phone. It’s thin, high quality, and doesn’t have an external antenna. I bought this phone in December 2005 and will stop using it next month (August 2007). By far, the RAZR is the favorite phone that I’ve owned so far.sidekick3.jpg

In July 2006, I purchased a second cell phone but only used it for data service: a Sidekick 3 on T-Mobile. I loved having the SK3 at Tech basketball games and while traveling. Being able to check email and browse the web anywhere within T-Mobile’s coverage area was extremely convenient. However, it became annoying and inconvenient carrying two devices. My opinion changed from wanting a cell phone that was only a cell phone to wanting a cell phone/PDA/smartphone. I decided that I would upgrade to a smartphone when my Cingular/AT&T account was available for an upgrade. I sold my SK3 on eBay and was leaning towards the Samsung Blackjack running, gasp, Windows Mobile. But..

iphone.jpgIn January 2007 Apple finally announced, after two years of speculation and rumors, the iPhone. I watched Steve Jobs’ keynote and instantaneously knew that I had found my smartphone. It has email, Internet, phone, calendar, address book, and iPod – all in one device. It syncs with iTunes. It’s Apple quality, Apple design, Apple experience. I am extremely excited about this upcoming purchase and will naturally post a review once I get it.

So there it is – my entire cell phone history. This has got to be the longest blog post I’ve ever made, and it’s on a random, meaningless topic. Oh well. I doubt anyone will even make it this far, and that’s okay. It was fun going back down memory lane.