I used to love my BlackBerry Pearl

I got my phone in April 2007 from LetsTalk.com. I got a good deal — a BlackBerry Pearl and 2 Motorola RAZR V3rs for… free. No rebates or anything, totally free. LetsTalk screwed up the account creation but I got that straightened out with Cingular.

The BlackBerry served me pretty well until around September 2008 when the trackball got so gunked up I couldn’t use it. I keep my phone in my pants pocket and not in some protective case, so I guess the lint and finger grease got to be too much. I dealt with it like this for a couple of weeks until I decided to try cleaning the ball. It’s pretty easy to remove the clip and take the whole apparatus out, and it was indeed very gunky in there. I went at it with a can of air (computer dusting stuff), a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. I got all the gunk off, put it all back together and it was pretty good for about a week or two. Then it was back to its old self – spinning the trackball didn’t do anything and I couldn’t navigate menus or use almost any of the features of the phone. Plus – this is the best part – the plastic clip that kept the trackball apparatus in place had apparently lost tension or something and would pop off, and by the end of 2008 the trackball had fallen out completely and is now lost to the ages.

Fortunately at some point before the complete failure of the trackball, when it still functioned intermittently, I had gone into the configuration and set the left-side convenience key to go to my inbox and the right-side button to go to the web browser. These two apps are navigable using the keypad, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. So my phone still has email and basic browser support, but if a dialog box pops up that doesn’t have hotkeys for “OK” or “Cancel” I have no choice but to hit the “go back/cancel” button, so e.g. I can’t accept many SSL certs.

This whole experience has soured me on the BlackBerry. I’m not buying a phone with a trackball again, and I’d like to buy something with no moving parts if possible. I had high hopes for the BlackBerry Storm – I love the BlackBerry OS – but the week the Storm was released I went to a Verizon store to play with it and I found it horrendous. The reviews that came out about the Storm since then have said pretty much the same thing – the phone is a dud.

After reviewing the options it looks like my two best choices for internet phones are the iPhone and the Nokia e71. A guy at work has the e71 and loves it, but even he has conceded that the iPhone has a superior browser. I’m not a fan of touch keyboards but the iPhone still seems like the most advanced phone available today, even almost a year after the 3G iPhone’s launch.

My contract is already up but I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s supposed to be an AT&T-subsidized version of the e71, the e71x, coming out pretty soon that’s rumored to cost around $100, but it’s been “real soon now” apparently for several months. I’m leaning toward the iPhone but I hate to spend $200 out of pocket when until now I’ve never paid for a phone.

Cell Phone Spam is Illegal, no?

This hasn’t hit me yet but several people I know have complained about it, so I figured I’d look it up to make sure my assumption was still correct:

“Rest assured that placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is — and always has been — illegal in most cases.”

The Truth About Wireless Phones and the Do-Not-Call List

Converting FLAC to MP3

I downloaded a couple of albums in FLAC format the other day and wanted to convert them to MP3.  I found a couple of ways to do this, with the most trivial seeming to be FLAC -> WAV and then WAV->MP3, since there are plenty of tools to do WAV -> MP3.  But, being lazy, I didn’t want to have to re-enter the ID3 info for each of the tracks.  After a couple of minutes of searching I found foobar2000 which has a nifty convert function. The included MP3 presets, however, were not to my liking. Namely they were both Joint Stereo. I know there’s some debate in audiophile circles about Joint Stereo and lots of people claim it’s fine, but I don’t like it, and if it’s a matter of a couple of extra kB in a file to ensure I don’t hear weird warbling then that’s a small price to pay. To setup my own preset I had to get an executable copy of LAME. CDex comes with LAME but it’s in a .dll which doesn’t work. Fortunately I found lame.exe on this Audacity download site and I was able to specify the command-line options to lame.exe to encode the tracks exactly how I wanted. So now, after having lost the discs (which I purchased) years ago, I again have Electric Ladyland and The Wall. Yay!

Chicken Soup

I am making chicken soup. The pot has been boiling for about 5 hours now. It smells awesome. Earlier today we colored Easter eggs. It’s 4:11 and I still haven’t showered. I think I’m going to right now. Then I’ll make matzo balls.

It’s time for a new camera (again)

My old Canon A540 has served me well but I feel it’s on its last legs. The flash timing seems off for indoor pictures, so the shot gets ruined – too dark but lots of glowing eyes. I’m a real newb with cameras, I like setting it on full auto and just letting it rip. It would be nice to know how to take fancy photos but I’d rather the camera do it for me, because I’m lazy.

Anyway, I’ve narrowed it down to two, the Canon SD770IS and the Canon SD1100IS. I’m leaning more toward the 770 now, it seems to be the better of the two, and only like $10 more.

It's time for a new camera (again)

My old Canon A540 has served me well but I feel it’s on its last legs. The flash timing seems off for indoor pictures, so the shot gets ruined – too dark but lots of glowing eyes. I’m a real newb with cameras, I like setting it on full auto and just letting it rip. It would be nice to know how to take fancy photos but I’d rather the camera do it for me, because I’m lazy.

Anyway, I’ve narrowed it down to two, the Canon SD770IS and the Canon SD1100IS. I’m leaning more toward the 770 now, it seems to be the better of the two, and only like $10 more.

The SAN Scam

It’s time to buy some more disks for the SAN we have at work. The SAN is made by Compellent and we’ve had it for a year and it’s been great. One of the selling points was the ability to add disks however we wanted – one at a time is possible, which apparently isn’t the case with other SAN products. The one we looked at from LeftHand expanded by purchasing entire nodes, so the incremental cost was pretty high. Compellent seemed to have a higher initial cost but cheaper incrementally.

Well, that wasn’t really the case, as I’ve come to discover. The way they license features on the SAN requires “expansion licenses” for each set of 8 disks you add on. As it happens, I would like to add 8 SATA disks to our SAN, bumping us into a license expansion. The net result of this is that purchasing these disks costs over $16,000.

If that sounds like a lot of money, well, it is. I expected some markup for enterprise-class hardware, but this is ridiculous. A quick search on Newegg shows that hard drives are readily available at about $0.09 – $0.10 per gigabyte, and even Seagate drives are only around $0.14 per gig. At the price I was quoted for the Compellent drives, the price per gig is over $2.00 per gig! The markup is over 1500%, and that’s not even factoring in the discount they likely get for buying disks in bulk – I doubt they pay retail. They claim this is due to the disks being “certified” but I don’t imagine they’re opening up each disk and checking its platters. They probably just make sure the firmware is correct and then ship it out. Their quote also includes 1 year of support on the disks, with 4-hour on-site replacement, but still, as someone who’s basically “cheap,” this just pisses me off.

Now, in Compellent’s defense, their product is amazing, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with the need for it and the means to get it, but it is very pricey, moreso than I was led to believe. The fact that I rarely have to think about the SAN probably means it’s money well spent, but as I said, I’m a cheap bastard, so this bothers me.