28 Jan. 2010
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Add to Technorati Favorites

Listen to or download MP3 version of this blogitem

 The Storm is Dead

Long Live the Storm 2

The Storm isn't really dead, but it's not at all well.  I hadn't intended to write about it again, after my multipart RIKLReview of late 2008 and its occasional supplements.  Many problematic issues with the Storm were resolved with two successive software updates, and I'm not eligible for a more-or-less free upgrade for another half year.  Having read about its successor, the Storm 2, I stopped by a Verizon store and asked what would be involved in upgrading now.  The answer, unsurprisingly, was lots of money.  (And to get that answer, I needed to give them my fingerprints and be subjected to a CAT scan.  I can't imagine what I would have gone through if I wanted my account balance or something similarly sensitive!)  So:  No immediate plans for a Storm 2, no upgrade for a while.  I've been content if not ecstatic with the Storm.  So mote it be.

Immediate Plans for a Storm 2

It seems that Verizon had different intentions.  In addition to its main purposes (camera, music player) and its occasional usage as a communication instrument, my cellphone serves as a "tethered modem."  It provides internet connectivity for a laptop computer when I'm travelling or for any computer when normal access is unavailable.  That particular feature was working fine until the most recent Storm software upgrade.  I called Verizon technical support, assuming that they would tell me that I needed a software fix of some sort.  Their response was that I would have to "downgrade" my Storm to the previous software version.  The printable portion of my reply was that it was just barely acceptable with the current software and I dipped into a recent enhancement to my vocabulary to assert "No way!"  Verizon at that point told me that there was no other option than for them to send me a Storm 2. 

Huh?  This is Verizon?  The same Verizon that demanded "lots of money" just a few weeks earlier is now offering me a free upgrade ahead of schedule?  Instead of simply telling me to download software?  What's the catch?  None, or so they and even I (for a moment) believed.  The Storm 2 arrived a few days later and I discovered

The Catch.

The Storm 2 is very similar to the Storm.  So much so that one can remove the memory card and battery from one and install it in the other with no loss of data.  And the Verizon guy said that all I had to do was back up the Storm, do a "restore" to the Storm 2 and I'm all set.  Of course I knew that the Storm 2 would require setting up the WiFi network since that was a new feature.  And that the Storm 2 has a somewhat different feel when typing on the touchscreen.  (Quick review:  They're both about the same in terms of convenience or inconvenience; I have no preference.)  I did my backup and did my restore.  Good to go?  Let's practice that "No way."

The first problem arose when I realized that I wasn't receiving any email.  It didn't take me long to figure out the problem:  I had to go to "email setup" and "move" my email account to the new device.  It seems that the way you do this is to press the little screen button that says "Move."  I can do that!  I was looking forward to receiving the test message I sent myself.  Instead, I got an additional message from BlackBerry:  Please enter your email password.  My WHAT?  I had no email password, unless I somehow put one in when I set up the account over a year ago.  If I ever had one, I promptly forgot it since I never had to use it.  Foreseeing an hour of telephone hell ahead of me, I called Verizon to solve this problem.  An hour of telephone hell behind me, I finally got the email working.  It required Verizon to call BlackBerry, and for a brief interval I was receiving somebody else's email from AOL.  Now would be a good time for you to silently thank me for not embellishing this narrative with all the details of that call. 

RIKL's rules

I try not to be meddlesome.  Rarely will you find me offering, unasked, suggestions on life and how she should be lived.  I'm a laissez-faire kind of guy in most respects.  Occasionally I will offer wisdom based on my experience, such as "eschew involvement with tramp steamers."  I have had a number of people thank me for that one and it has emboldened me to offer the following piece of advice to business owners:

Business Owners

Don't go out of your way to annoy, irritate, or otherwise vex your customers unless you have such a strong monopoly position that you can do it with no repercussions and strictly for your own entertainment.

I mention this because BlackBerry does NOT have such a strong monopoly position, and has annoyed me, gratuitously, with a truly boneheaded change to the Storm 2 software.  It has to do with web search, and I found out that I am not the first person to note this change and the controversy it has caused.  In the old Storm, I used the Google search engine.  Possibly you've heard of Google and use their search as well.  Or you might be one of the roughly 28% of those who use a different search engine.  Do as you wish, say I!  But BlackBerry says "Use Bing (the Microsoft search engine)."  It seems that they (or Verizon, or both there's a lot of finger pointing) made a deal with Microsoft to set up Bing as the "default" search engine on the Storm 2 web browser.  So far so good.  You press the button next to the search window to select a different search engine, or press the default search browser button to change the default.  (Otherwise, why even have those buttons?)  One would expect to find a handful of choices, certainly including Google.  One finds Bing and Bing alone.  One is surprised.  One looks for a way to add default providers without success.  One calls Verizon.  Again.

And what one discovers is that, according to Verizon, the deal that BlackBerry made with Microsoft not only requires Bing to be used as a default, and that no other search engine can be selected as a default, but that no other search engine can even be added as a default.  If one chooses to use Google, and 72 per cent of web users do, a workaround is necessary which makes the whole feature of easy searching in the BlackBerry browser inoperative.

Even if you're not BlackBerry, see the box above.  Blackberry does not have a strong monopoly position.  I don't have to use their phone, and I'm annoyed, irritated, and otherwise vexed by this high-handed and fundamentally silly obstinacy on their part.  Surely they can't be making more than a few pennies per user in this deal.  Is it worth that to alienate, totally unnecessarily, an otherwise content user?  If they think it is, they're dumber than AM stereo. 

Please don't take this as a rant against Bing.  I've used it on occasion, it's in many respects a satisfactory search engine, and possibly a superior one for some applications.  The problem it that someone else chose it for me, simultaneously removing the option of using the one that I selected.  There is no technical reason for this, obviously, it's simply greed (of which I don't necessarily disapprove) and stupidity.  They could have easily changed the default to Bing and left the others as options, with no comment or complaint from anyone, and perhaps the same amount of revenue.  Instead they have customers now thinking about changing cellphone brands.  This is really a molehill problem which has become a mountain due to the silly way it was handled. 

Talking to Verizon

As much as I hate talking to tech support (or pretty much anyone) on the telephone, I want to acknowledge that Verizon continues to have surprisingly good telephone representatives.  Everyone I spoke with was courteous, cooperative, and tried to be helpful.  Not all were successful with the last item, but they reflected well on their employer nonetheless.  

There.  I've said something nice.

The Apple iPad

One screen.  1024 by 768.  So it goes.

"Lathe of Adonai"
Chris Flynn/Art In America




A Piece of Rock & Roll history.  This is the front of the T-shirt from the company that made the first wireless guitar system, The Ken Schaffer Group.

No mystery about where I got it, either.  It was handed to me by Ken Schaffer himself.


Ken Schaffer Group "No Strings Attached" T-shirt
Richard Factor

Yesterday  |  Tomorrow