Archive for the ‘city living’ Category

Checking out Clear WiMAX in Portland

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Clear, mobile internet access provider, had introduced WiMAX in Portland, only the second market in the US. Since my income is dependent on internet connection, I have been looking for a backup to Comcast, who is OK on a daily basis, but CLUELESS and unconcerned when my service goes out.

Clear is not looking good. I was looking for a solution that would simplify my life. My intro was a mailing that I suspect every household in their market got. It featured simple layout with a crisp green color scheme. That’s where the pleasantness and my hope for a different experience ended.

For a company named Clear, there’s a lot (and all-to-common) obfuscation going on. I first got it when I followed the URL in my mailer. My goal: to find out what the real costs would be and what the difference between home and mobile internet access. The web promotion for both named the 6-month promo price, but provided no information about eventual costs or the difference. I clicked on the Chat button and was connected to someone who knew next to nothing, parroting back what I’d just read on the web site. She referred me to technical support who did answer some of my questions before disconnecting me. My follow up call got the rest of my questions answered.

Here’s What I Wanted to Know
(and took a visit to the web site and contact with five Clear people to find out)

  • Home is a USB or Ethernet “stand up” modem (cost not pursued)
  • Mobile is a USB key modem that costs $50.
  • The mobile plan with the USB modem will not work with OS X Leopard.(3 out of 5 Clear people say it won’t work. Not very clear.)
  • The mobile plan with the USB modem will work with Windows XP running on Mac hardware.
  • Mobile can be used at home. You just need a USB slot. No speed difference.
  • Activation fee of $35 is to go month-to-month. It’s waived with a 2-year contract.
  • Account is system-wide, i.e., my Portland account will work in any Clear service area.
  • Clear Tech Support says they support Leopard and XP on a Mac. Once denied, twice confirmed.
  • Clear software must be installed on each machine to use the modem.
  • Account/Internet access is not limited by machine or user. My USB modem can be used on any hardware that has their software installed.
  • Installed software can monitor data usage (for data-limited plans).
  • Data overage costs: $10/GB. These were REALLY difficult to find out. One guy insisted there were no overage costs even though they have data-limited plans.
  • Cancellation: With contract, 7-day grace period. No contract, cancel at any time within 7-days with no penalty. Sacrifice activation fee to cancel after 7 days for no contract. Hardware: 7-day credit, otherwise you own it.
  • Contract: upgrade plan without penalty. Downgrade extends the contract. Early Termination fee is more than $35. No Contract: no fee to change/stop.
  • The only difference in monthly cost between a monthly plan and a contract for WiMAX is the $35 activation fee. It’s waved if you sign up for a contract. Why would anyone sign up for a contract?

Local Hold™ Submitted to Google

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I posted my idea for Local Hold™ to Google Product Ideas today.

Local Hold allows users to listen to music [short for any audio content] of their own choosing while on hold. The source of the music can be from anywhere, but the default is the music they are listening to when the phone rings, whether it’s a mobile phone, land line, or VOIP.

For years, I’ve longed for a system that would allow me at least two-fold advantage over the current system for hold content. First, I would not have to listen to the crap that most companies subject their customers to. Why they think that people want to listen to inane music interrupted by frequent reminders that they are on hold and, nonetheless, important? I can get stuff done while I’m on hold. Having a human voice interrupt the music reduces my productivity by grabbing my focus, then shifting it to the reason for the call, only to have it be a false alarm.
I have digital content everywhere, and it’s starting to converge. If I’m listening to audio content on my smart phone, that would become my hold music. Laptop? Hold music. Home stereo? Hold music. Car stereo? Hold music. You get the idea.
Second, I like my music. Why should I listen to ads and music selected by Verizon, Apple, Dell, or some local utility or municipality? I shouldn’t. I’m the customer.
I hate to give this idea away because I think it will be vastly popular. However, I don’t have the resources to develop and market it. I, perhaps foolishly, still hold hope that Google will stick with its “Do No Evil” policy and treat my idea with fairness and generosity.
Vote on my idea here. (Requires Google account.)

Lead the nation forward Sam. You are in the perfect position.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I posted this on the Portland Mercury site as a comment to a picture of Sam Adams with Gnomeland Security and Sister Krissy Fiction:

Just before the beloved Gnomeland Security crew grabbed the focus of the mayor-elect for the photo op, I was trying to talk to Sam about fixing the marriage problem.
Sam Adams will be the mayor of the biggest city in Oregon. He’s gay and in a visible leadership position. Although Multnomah County issues marriage licenses in the Portland area, I still think Sam could play a role in this solution:
Multnomah County stops issuing all marriage licenses, offering instead civil unions to all couples. All couples could experience what a bunch of crap civil unions are at the institutional and Federal level. If you want to get ‘married’ you got to go somewhere else. Multnomah County, and by association and visibility, Portland, could lead the national discussion toward the ultimate resolution: the government gets out of the marriage business and leaves that to the churches.
The activist part of me wants everyone to have to suffer through getting their government marriages changed to government civil unions, and the practical part of me says that grandfathering will be necessary.
This issue is one where the far right and the far left have a common cause: letting religions have marriage. Our constitution dictates the separation of church and State. Our marriage laws do not reflect that.
Lead the nation forward Sam. You are in the perfect position.

This is a time for leadership. Sam Adams is in a perfect place to take the national conversation to the next level. (Straight) SF Mayor Gavin showed leadership by issuing marriage licenses. Just before he did, he said (I paraphrase), “Watch me throw away my political career.” That has not been the case. Getting rid of government-sanctioned marriage of any two individuals would be wildly unpopular, yet, ultimately, it’s the solution that makes the most sense. Lead us forward Sam Adams. I’m sure the Supreme Court will back you up.

PCP and Pole Dancing: A Portland Evening

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The Portland Cello Project had a free concert tonight at the John Ross building. The small crowd in the small space had sold out in 4 hours.
While I was there, I got a message from Jen. She invited me to the Lucky Devil Lounge. Her classmates were giving pole dancing recitals. After the PCP concert, I headed to the east side of the Ross Island Bridge and saw the red sign. It looked like what it was: a strip club. The parking lot was full so I had to drive into the industrial area to park, adding to the experience. I parked next to a dairy, fully aware of the irony.
Today a friend send me an email with a quote from a play that focused on being “Gay-Ready,” ready to undergo the scrutiny of gay taste at any moment. No ‘just running to the store.’ Gay-Ready means put together at all times. As I was driving to the Lucky Devil, it occurred to me that I had a gay-ready shirt on. In fact, it’s an out-and out gay shirt. Luckily, I had a fairly plain t-shirt on and my jacket was invisible. As I thought about getting “Straight-Ready,” it occurred to me that I might have a baseball cap in the car. I did. Perfect.
Being straight-ready means blending in, thus eluding the scrutiny of straight people.
Without gay shame or self-judgment about wearing a hat indoors, I went in the club and quickly found Jen. A recital means the women’s bits are covered. It’s more about technique, which involves being sexy and/or slutty, demonstrating flexibility, clonking tall plastic shoes together, flinging hair, and using upper body strength to keep one’s self from falling. (It could be argued that flinging hair and clonking shoes is sexy and/or slutty, and therefore redundant.)
During recitals clothes can come off, but the bits stay covered. Recital night has a crowd wild with other female classmates and teachers screaming and throwing money. Boyfriends and other guys rounded out the crowd. Lucky Devil Lounge was out of tri-tip, the only thing on the menu that looked appealing. The whole thing is so weird.

Protecting Your Bike

Friday, June 27th, 2008

An article with some techniques for making a bike less desirable looking with the thought that it might not get stolen if there are nicer bike around.

Looks and performance have no exclusive relationship.