Blah to Text Messages

I saw this headline on Ars Technica, and I just had to post about it and agree: Text messaging: Annoyingly expensive and insanely popular

I’d probably change the sub-title to: Insanley expensive and annoyingly popular, but the title in its original form was fairly accurate.

It does seem ridiculous to me that a message only 160 bytes costs $0.20 to send or receive when one does  not have a TXT plan.  In fact, Crunch Gear did the math and determined that sending 1MB of data via text message would cost over $1300! Now that’s insanely expensive.

I rest my case.

Blackberry Storm: 10 Minute Impression

I went to the Verizon Wireless store during my lunch break to check out the launch of the Blackberry Storm. They had sold out that morning, which isn’t surprising based on that Reuters article.  But they did have two demo models. I only got to play with it for about 10 minutes before a line formed behind me.  Some of my impressions shouldn’t come as a surprise based on the published specs, but they do reflect how I feel about the presence, or lack of certain features.  Keep in mind that I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing with Charlene’s iPhone, and I’ve never owned or spent any significant amount of time with a Blackberry, so that’s the perspective I’m coming from.  In any case, here are my initial impressions with letter grades:

  • Physically, it’s beautiful.  The screen is nice and bright, though I didn’t get to take it outside under the Sun. (A)
  • The screen grabs fingerprints like no other, so a screen protector is recommended. Then again, what glass screened device doesn’t (including the iPhone?) (C)
  • It lacks the iPhone’s multi-touch, which is disappointing.  While web browsing, it was easy to zoom in by clicking the screen, but it wasn’t intuitive on how to zoom out.  I was ultimately able to zoom out by hitting the return arrow hard key, not clicking the screen. (C)
  • The click screen is great! It brings the whole mouse hover/click paradigm to the phone.  By resting my finger on the screen, I could hover before finalizing my selection by clicking.  It’s a much better experience than the iPhone. PC World’s assessment that “Ultimately, the Storm’s touch interface feels like a failed experiment.” is bogus.  It just needs a little more polish.  I’d give it a B-/B.
  • I don’t like the SureType technology when the phone is in portrait mode.  It made it really hard to go to my favorite tech news site:  I think it was trying to send me to “” or something.  And it wasn’t easy to correct. Also, in this mode, the space bar is tiny, the same size as all the other keys, which seemed non-intuitive. (D)
  • The typing in landscape was good, but as other reviewers have mentioned, they keyboard is so big it leaves little to see where you’re typing on screen. (B)
  • Browsing was fast enough, but I couldn’t really comment whether it was faster than the iPhone or not. (B)
  • The browsing experience wasn’t as good as on the iPhone.  Scrolling isn’t nearly as smooth.  I mentioned the zoom and multi-touch issue above.  It was hard to enter information into forms, or to even get the phone to recognize that I was trying to click on a form to enter information.  Once the form field was selected, sometimes there was a delay in the UI before the keyboard showed up.  It was noticeable enough to make me wonder if it froze. (C)
  • I didn’t get to use the camera or the obvious feature that makes the Blackberry a Crackberry: e-mail, but I’m sure it’s fair to say that the experience will be consistent with other Blackberries. (A)

I think in sum, it’s a good product.  It’s a great competitor to the iPhone, but does lack somewhat in UX (user experience) and polish. On the other hand, this is a first generation product, and the iPhone is already on v2.  So Apple has a bit of a head start.  I’m hopeful that the Storm will give Apple a run for its money and create a win for all consumers.

Alrighty, that’s all for now.

Dell Insprion Mini 9

Dell introduced the Inspiron Mini 9 to the world a few days ago. It’s a tiny 8.9″ screen, 2.3 lbs, Atom powered “netbook.”  It’s target audience is people looking for a second laptop to do e-mail and web surfing. The specs aren’t beefy, but the thing is pretty compact and portable. I think I want one.

To me the interesting thing is that they’re selling the one with Windows for $50 more than the one that has Linux ($399 vs $349), but if you customize them, whether they have Linux or Windows becomes irrelevant, as they’ll both cost $424. So in essense, you could get Windows for free:

I also find it interesting that the models denoted above aren’t Mini 9, they’re Inspiron 910 and 910u (presumably for Ubuntu Linux).

Microsoft 1/Juniper 1

Microsoft announced yesterday that Kevin Johnson, President of Platforms and Services, is leaving the company to take the CEO spot at Juniper Networks. In and of itself, the news isn’t that interesting. One company loses a president, another gains a CEO. But I find it interesting because merely 8 months ago Microsoft was able to lure away Stephen Elop, Juniper’s COO, to take the position of President of the Microsoft Business Division. Maybe the papers have bad memories, but in the articles I’ve read, it seems that few ever mention the fact that Elop was taken from Juniper first. It seems that we have some tit for tat going on. I wonder if the two companies, which by the way are in very different industries (hardware vs. software), will continue to swap executives.

As an aside, Scott Kriens, Juniper’s former CEO, will stay on as Chairman of the Board.

Some have speculated that Johnson is leaving the company because Microsoft failed to close the deal on buying Yahoo. I have no idea, but that sounds reasonable to me.

Get Firefox

Today marks the release of Firefox 3. In celebration of the release (and presumably an ingenious marketing ploy), Mozilla is celebrating Download Day 2008. Mozilla is asking people to

Please download Firefox 3 by 17:00 UTC on June 18, 2008. That’s 10:00 a.m. in Mountain View, 1:00 p.m. in Toronto, 2:00 p.m. in Rio de Janeiro, 7:00 p.m. in Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Rome and Warsaw, 9:00 p.m. in Moscow, and June 19, 2008 at 1:00 a.m. in Beijing and 2:00 a.m. in Tokyo.

So that they can set the record for most software downloaded in 24 hours. Their hope is to set a Guinness World Record. That shouldn’t be too difficult, because I think that’s a brand new category. But if they play their cards right, it might be a difficult record to break.

According to the statistics as I write this, about 1.87 million copies have been downloaded in the last 8 hours. That’s not bad, working out to about:

  • 310k downloads/hour
  • 5.2k downloads/minute
  • 86 downloads/second

If that pace keeps up, they should have around 5.5 million downloads by the end of 24 hours.

Anyways, you should do your part to become part of the record and download Firefox 3.

Backblaze: Backups Made Easy?

Ars Technica has an article on a relatively new company called Backblaze that intends to make backing up one’ files easy and transparent.

I think the concept is really cool, and great for people who don’t want to deal with the hassle of backing up their machines with DVDs or tape. Everyone knows that’s a pain. I like the fact that they do versioning of your files, keeping daily and weekly versions of your files. This means that if data was inadvertently erased last week, I could still go back and get a prior version without losing my data.

I also like the idea that it’s only $5/month, for unlimited storage. That seems pretty reasonable to me. I also think their restore options are pretty cool. You can download files directly from the website for free, or you can pay to have DVDs or a USB hard drive mailed to you. Sounds pretty good to me.

Right now, it’s invitation only because it’s still in beta, but I’m excited about the possibilities.