Your Are What’s On Your Phone

userpic=verizonYesterday, I asked people to suggest some of their favorite apps on their phones. Although few fave answered directly on the blog, I have gotten responses on  Livejournal, Google+, and on Facebook. The responses have been telling, less in providing useful app suggestions, and more in showing how one’s phone reflects one personality and lifestyle.

There are people who use their phones as a media center. These folks suggested apps such as Kindle, Netflix, Pandora, and such.  This is much less important to me — my media center is my iPod Classic, which holds all my music. I’d rather not use precious bandwidth for streaming media.

Others use the phone as a tool. These folks were suggesting apps such as rulers, levels, calculators. They were also suggesting apps such as terminal emulators to give ssh access, or (apropos for where I work) satellite monitors.

Still others use the phone as a tool in a different sense — learning about the environment. These folks included traffic apps, apps to provide social connections, and even earthquake monitoring.

One might even wonder whether the collection of apps on one phones is a signature for an individual…



Looking for a Few Good …

userpic=verizon Thursday evening, I entered the modern world and got a smartphone, a Motorola Moto X. I’ve figured out a few apps I want (the Caltrans Quickmap app, Waze, a QR code reader, and apps from our credit unions). Still, I’d like some recommendations. What are your “must have” apps for the Droid ecosystem? One note: no bandwidth hogs, and I’m not interested in games. I don’t plan on streaming music — that’s why I have an iPod Classic!

Some additional security questions:

  • Do you encrypt your phone? (I see pros and cons)
  • Do you run a mobile virus scanner, such as Avast Mobile Security? Is this unnecessary given the Motorola capabilities?
  • Have you enabled the remote administration features for lost devices? According to Motorola, this allows you to find your device instantly when you’ve misplaced it. You can also lock and wipe your device remotely, and have it display a message asking for its safe return. To do this, however, you need to activate the device administrator?



Technical Items of Yore

userpic=televisionIn my continuing question to clear off my accumulated news chum list, here is a collection of links related to technical items of olden days (like, say, when I was young 🙂 ):



What’s Missing in This Article?

userpic=verizonWhile eating my lunch and reading the news, highlighted an interesting article (alas, from Fox News): “FCC announces plans to upgrade century-old phone system“. In short, currently 1/3 of people use cell phones, 1/3 use digital services from cable providers, and 1/3 use what is called POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service. This is the century-old copper wire switching network. Of course, eventually, both the cell phones and digital services end up on that copper as well.

What happened is that yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to expedite the largest change to the nation’s phone system in decades — a move away from the circuit-switched system that sends those analog signals over copper cables to a digital, IP-based network that largely relies on fiber optics. Once tests prove that the new system works in localized trials, the system will be rolled out nationwide, and the copper wires that have been the basis of POSE for over a century will be turned off.

Be scared, be very very scared.

According to the article, the FCC is expected to begin in January “a diverse set of experiments” in order to figure out how to transition to the new IP-based system, a transition certain to take years. FoxNews was told that the initial experiments will likely include regional tests of an IP-based system to ascertain reliability, scalability and so on. The commission’s technological advisory committee set a goal of 2018, which is likely too ambitious, he said. But expect localized trials as soon as 2015. The upgrade may mean introducing the age of video calling to landlines. An IP landline network, unlike current copper wires can handle much larger amounts of data that could be used to make video calls.

What’s missing in the above? Security.

One of the facts I remember from studying for the CISSP is that Federal wiretap laws apply only to telephone (read: POTS) communication. It does not apply to VOIP (which is one reason I don’t do digital phone systems). Once our copper lines move to all digital…

Further, there is no mention of using encryption — or giving the provision for encryption. Ideally, if we’re going digital, it would great to be able to be able to use public-key encryption for the payloads of the messages (not routing), where the user controlled the key (for one thing, this would allow you to sign over the phone). Will it be there?

What about analog devices? Is this the death of the modem? What about all the technologies that depend on analog signals over copper (many medical devices do; fax machines may)? Does this mean (using an IP-based service) that a side-benefit is instant internet connectivity? What does that do to the ISPs?

One big advantage of copper is that it provided its own power infrastructure. If your electricity went down, often your phones would continue to work. That’s not true for VOIP, where you require additional power adapters. Further, the phone system was very simple — which also made it robust. Yes, the Internet was designed for robust switching, but I’m not sure it will have the resiliency we’ll need for nationwide telephone service in emergencies. One wonders, in fact, if they’ve actually figured out all the requirements properly.

Much as I can see the benefits to moving away from copper, I’ve got the increasing feeling that these benefits are not necessarily for the end users. They will lower costs for the telcos, and may make things easier for, umm, other parties, but the end consumer?

Your thoughts are welcome.


Things That Aren’t Around/Will Not Be Around Anymore, Plus Friday News Chum

userpic=dr-georgeToday’s lunchtime news chum post is mostly about things that either aren’t around anymore, or are going away. But, as it is Friday, there are a few “clearing the links” items at the end….

In other items:

  • Brain Food. I meant to post this with yesterday’s post, but the link was a work. Evidently, eating too much fructose can make it harder to think. According to research by UCLA biology professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, binging on soda, candy and sugary snacks for as little as six weeks may reduce brain function. The study, which was conducted on rats, is the first to show that a diet high in fructose slows the brain, which hampers memory and learning. The article fails to note they wanted to conduct the experiment on UCLA students, but they couldn’t find a control group.
  • Junk Food. Things that make you go “huh?”: Pepsi-Cola and Chicken flavored Potato Chips.
  • Thinks You Need to Know. Did you ever wonder why . . . – – – . . . (better known as “SOS”) became an international emergency code? Wonder no more.

And lastly, I wrote about the updated UC logo earlier this week. Well, it has been suspended from use.


Friday News Chum: Periodic Table of Tech, USS Enterprise, Kickstarter, Disney+Lucas, Sitcom Spinoffs, and Robocalls

Well, it’s Friday at lunch (well, really, it is Thursday evening, but you know how things go), and it is time to clear out the accumulated links of the week. There’s a bunch of real interesting stuff here folks, so let’s dive in…



News Chum – Old Things: Dumb Phones, Old Medicine, and Building with Books

Today’s lunchtime news chum presents three articles about old things:

  • Stupid Phones. A CNN reporter has an article where she defends her use of a stupidphone. Although I’m not the luddite she is, I too have a phone without a data plan. Why? The primary reason is that I’m cheap, and data plans are expensive. Second, I’d probably waste far more time futzing around on the nets than I already do (did I say that with my outside voice?). But I’ll probably cave at the next replacement, depending on the cost of Verizon’s data plans.
  • Expired Medicine. A recent study has shown that most drugs are actually still good for years and years after their expiration date (aspirin being a notable exception). This, of course, is published after I cleaned my dresser and got rid of a load of expired medicines. Still, it is useful to know. The same, by the way, is true of much food, where the “expiration” date is really a “best by” guess. Speaking of medicines, CVS has been refilling prescriptions without consent and billing insurance companies. The LA Times is investigating this, and wants to know if it has happened to you. I’ve never trusted the current incarnation of CVS — the outlet near us has screwed up prescriptions, been late on filling things, and has been uncommunicative. I’ve been very happy to be able to return to our local Walgreens.
  • Building with Books. Old fashioned books. Most of us love them; some of us are replacing them with digital books. But what should we do with the books and books that fill our house. Perhaps build another? This interesting Curbed article looks at what happens when people build things with books. The results are well worth reading.

P.S.: There’s an election coming up. Read. Investigate. Be informed. I’m going through my sample ballot, and you can find the results of my research in the following two posts (a third should be up by this weekend):



Getting the Message

An interesting article in USA Today today notes that with the rise of texting and chat applications, “voice mail” is being killed, just as voice mail in turn killed the home answering machine (who here remembers RecordaCall), and the home answering machine killed the answering service (made famous in Bells Are Ringing). The article notes that:

Vonage, an Internet phone company, says the number of voice-mail messages left on user accounts was down 8% in July from a year ago. Checking one’s voice mail seems to be considered an even a bigger chore than leaving a voice message. Retrieved voice mail fell 14% among Vonage users in the same period.

The article also noted that use of voice lines is down as well. As for me (and I’m one who grew up in the telephone age), I’ve grown to dislike the phone. It always seems to interrupt me, and I have no control over the call. I much prefer to get messages via email or text, and I really like the service we have at work where your voicemail gets delivered as an email message (although I wish the attached WAV file would play in something other than Lotus Notes; outside of Notes there are regular bursts of static).

So what do you think? Do you still like to call people up? Do you leave voice mail? Do you retrieve your voicemail? Do you prefer text and email? Are you finding this is a generational thing?