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Hillbilly Burritos

The hillbillies are loose again, and this time with a word processor.

$0.99 Breakfast at IKEA

Who would have thought. Eggs, bacon and potatoes for only $0.99.

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Free coffee at IKEA!

I recently found out that IKEA offers free coffee in their cafe thirty minutes before the store opens!

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American Express ExpressPay key fob

American Express introduced ExpressPay in 2003 as a key fob which was trialed initially in the Phoenix area.  They begn to expand it and CVS was the first merchant I noticed with the ExpressPay logo on their payment terminals.  I locaed the ExpressPay web site and immediately applied for one because 1) it looked extremely cool, 2) I love new technology, 3) it was from American Express. 

I received a letter from American Express a few months back that indicated they were discontinuing the ExpressPay key fob as of 31-July-2008.  I immediately wondered why they would make one form-factor RFID device stop working while still supporting it embedded in other products such as the American Express Blue Cash card.  Some of you may remember the original Blue from American Express which was a Smart Card, something that does not exist today in the US market.  The Smart Card has been removed and now Blue is just another card which happens to have ExpressPay RFID embedded.  I phoned the ExpressPay customer service line to enquire as to why they were discontinuing the, in my opinion, most convenient form-factor device.  They took my complaint and asid that somebody would get back with me in the next few days.  Even though it was American Express I half expected to hear nothing.  No more than two days later I have a very friendly call from a nice person working in the Salt Lake City office.  He listened to my concerns and explanation then answered my questions and took the time to make sure that I understood.  Apparently the original platform for ExpressPay on wich the key fob was developed had never been integrated with the rest of the American Express processing platform therefore the decision was made to discontinue that device.  Also apparently some people had problems with the key fob coming off the key chains.

My friend Mike and I have been discussing the benefits of points, miles or cash back from credit card products.  He finally figured out that the best option is just to take the cash so he encouraged me to get rid of my Delta SkyMIles card from American Express and get a Blue Cash because at least I could still use ExpresPay and it does have up to 5% cash back rewards program.  I phoned American Express customer service and asked if I could simply convert my existing Delta SkyMiles credit card to a Blue Cash, “no problem” was the response and less than three minutes later I hung up and my account conversion was complete!

Why I love my iPhone

With the release of the iPhone 2.0 software and the unlocking tools I decided it was time to take the plunge. My old Sony Ericsson phone was showing age with buttons missing etc. So a friend was selling his first generaton iPhone for $300. The unlocking tools worked well and fairly easily.

I setup my email accounts for MobileMe and Exchange. But I was told that you cannot have more than one contact or calendar set or syncing. I was confused how on 2008 people designing mobile phones did not grasp the concept of somebody wanting to separate personal and business information. After having the phone for about ten days I got to looking around. I tried turning on the Exchange calendar and wonder of wonders the iPhone made a new group “All calendars”. With contacts I was not so adventurous. I looked online then made backups of both contact lists and tried it. The heavens smiled upon me and I not only did I have separate contact lists but I was also able to view a combined list. I should have expected this to com from Apple!

My issues with the iPhone and AT&T

I have been considering the iPhone for the first time after the announcement of iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 software.  Before that I was more than happy to stick with the wonderful handsets from Sony Ericsson.I am presently using T-Mobile and I have been on their network for over seven years.  My services are as follows:

  •  5000 Minutes $99.99
  • Buddy time (Unlimited text and Mobile to Mobile) $10.00
  • T-Zones (Unlimited 2.5G data on handset) $5.99
  • Monthly Total $115.98

On AT&T with the equivalent services my bill would look as follows:

  • Unlimited Voice/3G Data $129.99 
  • Unlimited Text $20.00
  • Monthly Total $149.99

The AT&T rates do not even include sending text messages outside the US.  T-Mobile charges $0.15 per message to send an international text and the incoming messages come out of my text messaging plan.  AT&T charges $0.25 to send an International text and $0.20 to receive an international text unless you buy their international text plan for $9.99 which includes too international text messages and additional messages are $0.20.Now to be fair, the T-Mobile price would go up to $129.98 if I had a proper T-Zones plan like T-Zones Total Internet however I can do anything I need on the phone with the T-Zones plan.  T-Mobile has not officially released their 3G network so their rates may go up but that remains to be seen.  Also if I was on the T-Zones Total Internet I would be able to tether my notebook to my phone via Bluetooth and use the phone as a modem, the iPhone still does not support this without hacking that I am aware of.So other than getting an iPhone what am I getting for  the additional $34.01 per month, $408.12 per year and $816.24 at the end of my required two-year contract before taxes!Take for example how another country is promoting the iPhone.  Optus in Australia has the following statement on their iPhone pricing page ”Optus is making the iPhone 3G affordable for everyone.”  Does that even sound like something you would hear spoken aloud in AT&T offices?Also because of the progressive nature of Australian government, they do not allow things like mobile phones to be locked down to a carrier.  So when an Australian iPhone user travels to another country, they can simply purchase a local pre-paid SIM and have a local number without all the international roaming surcharges… GO USA!�

Flash Player support on 64-bit operating systems

Can somebody please wake me up from this bad dream because it only keeps getting worse.  I visited a web site today that announced I needed to install the Adobe Flash Player.  I tried to install several timed by clicking “Install” on the window that popped up.  Finally I clicked on the “Adobe Flash Player Installer” link which took me to this TechNote on the Adobe web site.

Am I reading things correctly “Adobe Flash Player is not supported for playback in a 64-bit browser…”?  What in the world is stopping Adobe from releasing a 64-Bit Flash Player?  I know it cannot be as simple as re-compiling it with the “64-Bit” checkbox, but people come on!  64-Bit computing has been increasing in popularity and availability for the last few years, is there really any excuse for this?

64 Bitness

So I finally upgraded my computer about a year ago now. I knew I would be running a virtual machine so I wanted to make sure I have the memory and processor. I ended up with a Core 2 Duo and 3GB or RAM. TO take advantage of the memory I knew I would need to use a 64-Bit OS. Originally I ran 32-Bit Vista but quickly decided to retreat to XP. A friend recommended that I use XP 64, I had no experience and was a bit hesitant to do it but knew it would give me the best use of the processor and full use of memory.

Along the way I have found a series of ups and downs trying to adapt. I was surprised and amazed at the number of applications that have specific 64-Bit versions of their applications. Overall application support was not a problem and I could run all that I needed. Lately I have been running into problems with drivers. It started when I tried to connect a Visioneer Strobe XP 100. At that point I did not realize that the 32-Bit drivers would not work, so I connected and tried and tried. Finally I phoned support and was told that I could try the Vista 64 drivers but they could not guarantee that they would work for XP 64 and they had no plans to support XP 64. Needless to say that did not work and I gave up on scanner support under XP 64.

Then a few days ago I needed to have a second network adapter to my computer. Since it is a small form factor the easiest way is to use a USB to Ethernet adapter. After doing some research I came to find out there are only two or three that actually are on the HCL for XP 64 and Vista 64. One of them was the Apple USB Ethernet adapter but since people in the forums were having trouble getting them going I figured it would be better to avoid this since I would probably need to dig through Boot Camp to find the drivers if they were even released yet. Then I found the D-Link DUB-E100, it was on the list and even less than $30. It arrived last night so I plugged it in today and no-where on the disc were drivers that would install on XP 64. I went to their web site and the download version was the same as the disc with the product. I did a search for “DUB-E100 xp 64″ and the first link is a product manual for the product that has a section telling you how to install the XP 64 drivers. I noticed two things about this manual. The URL indicates it is for 3.4 not 3.3, and also it is from the D-Link Australia site. AFter playing with the URL I was able to navigate to the Autstrlian drivers and download the 3.4 package with the XP 64 drivers.

On the flip-side I also needed to use a USB to Serial adapter I bought years ago, but guess what… I needed to buy a new version from the company because they did not offer XP 64 drivers for an “old” product. After researching I found a totally generic product that scared me a little but but claimed to support almost ever operating system from Windows 98 to Vista 64 including Windows Server 2003 64! It arrived in the mail with a 3 CM disc and I put the disc in the system. Autorun opens a splash screen with options to install drivers for the product and all the drivers are clearly in their own folders on the disc. The install goes smoothly and there are even drivers for OS X and Intel!

Someone please explain to me why a generic little USB to Serial adapter that cost $17 can have broad range driver support but USB to Ethernet adapters from the likes of Linksys, Netgear and others cannot support XP 64? Why does Apple upgrade OS X to support 64-Bit processors and without obvious turmoil in requiring new driver models? Every version of Windows in recent history has had a “new and improved” driver model which while it will cause a little hassle initially will solve the problems and be the end-all, only to be replaced again for some reason?

Finally I will note that I am displeased with scanner support in OS X. The Visioneer XP 100 will not work under OS X and I see no reason why Apple should not have better native scanner support. I thought Twain was supposed to be an industry standard? All the scanners I can find that are compatible with OS X are large desktop sized ones and I just wanted a small portable scanner for occasional use.

Queueing… the great American past time

I was in Super Target the other night trying to check out at 8:30 PM. There were only two lanes open on the grocery side of the store, neither of which were express lanes. There was one register with a short line, however the light was turned off which I have always understood to mean “I am closing but I will finish checking out customer who are in line.” As I noticed this I picked another lane. I watched as three people walked up behind me they stopped at the lane with the light off but with a cashier. They looked at the light then stood in line as if to say “she can certainly take just one more person”. The cashier looked up and did not even make a face, she just continued checking out the customer. Do these people believe that the rules of the queue do not apply to them?

So after observing this same scenario over and over again as I wait in lines, I was reminded of Best Buy. Several years ago they changed their checkout arrangement to have a single queue and then as you wait in line you do not have to worry about “did I get in the fast line”, “is the person in front of me writing a check” etc. If Best Buy, which moves hundreds of people an hour through at their busiest holiday times has come up with this idea for efficiency, then why have places like Target and grocery stores not considered this approach? I think with the advent of self-check out (Target… get this concept soon please) there is little to no reason for express lanes in my opinion.

I have peered into the past and seen my friend

I had no idea about my poor friend Aaron. If I had, then I believe I would have been more sensitive. Here he has been dead for almost 204 years. I will finish this post with a copy of the epitaph.

Uncertain life, how swift it flies
man lives tomorrow dies.
This hour in health & strength & bloom
& the very next he fills the tomb
Ask you for proof, Behold it here
And give your friend a ?? of ??.
(bottle of beer?)

We will miss you Aaron!

Now who gets his MacBook? ;)