My Communications Infrastructure is led by Google Voice (with teammates the iPhone and Ooma)

In the last month I have completely revamped my communications infrastructure, hopefully for the better.

Here are the before and after pictures.

Before


After


Yep. I am using Google Voice as a hub for phone communications. My Google Voice number will be a primary number for people to contact me. Depending on the person calling, Google Voice will forward to my iPhone, my home phone, my spouse's mobile phone or any combination of the three. (With Google Voice, you can actually get so granular that you can forward to different numbers based on the person calling, have a different greeting for any person, and a different voicemail message for any person or group of people). And I can add or remove phones from the forwarding mechanism at my leisure because my Google Voice number will shield anyone who calls from the black box that is now my web of communication facilities.

Sure people will still call my iPhone directly. And I expect some people to do that as it is my primary line for business discussions, etc. But for a majority of people, calling the Google Voice number will be all that is needed.

And, as what I am seeing as a huge money saver, I have left Vonage (where I was paying $20-25/mo) and came to Ooma. I paid $199+tax at Costco for free U.S. calls for life. Ooma has premium services that you can pay for, but at this point, since I have Google Voice, I don't see the need just yet. (Note: I had no real negative issues with Vonage. The service was actually very good for the time I had it. But, you can't blame someone for trying to save some money).

What if Ooma goes out of business? Well, that's the beauty of Google Voice. I can remove Ooma and add something else to the infrastructure and no one would be the wiser. People know the Google Voice number and don't really care how (and with what device) I answer the phone on the other side. I am actually considering adding a Skype phone number to my account to see if I can forward numbers to the Skype number for the times I am away from my home and online.

Here are my assumptions about using Google Voice as a communications hub:

  1. Google is not going out of business anytime soon. Thus, my Google Voice number can be my number for life.
  2. Google Voice will continue to be free (or ad supported), or some reasonable charge if it comes to that.
  3. Google Voice will keep my privacy just as well as the government does with respect to my phone calls ;-)

We'll see how this all plays out; but right now I feel excited with my new setup.

Google Voice is in beta right now, but you can sign up for an invitation and these invitations are going out daily.


Save 35% on an Apple iPhone Using Microsoft Bing??

[Note: This deal could stop working at anytime. But it was working as of June 10, 2009 2:50 PM]

Well, I would say this is quasi ironic.

Check out the results of the top of this link: http://www.bing.com/search?q=att

Notice how it has a "Bing Cashback" logo at the very top result which is the AT&T Official Wireless Site.

So apparently, if you use Microsoft Bing to buy a phone at AT&T, including the Apple iPhone 3GS, you will get 35% off your purchase!

Microsoft and Apple are "partners" here. Like I said, quasi-ironic.

There is a noted stipulation that this is for new subscribers; that could be true, but I can't verify it.

Check out these links for more info on this:

FatWallet Forums
MacRumors Forums

And as always, your mileage may vary (YMMV) :-)


MacBook Pro Battery Health Waning Quickly - But Why?

I usually leave my MacBook Pro sitting on my desk connected to a power adapter. Since I had the battery replaced back in October 2008, my guess is that I may have cycled through a power charge at the most 10-15 times.

However, this past week I had my MacBook Pro out and about around the house way more than usual. I would use the computer on battery a bit, then recharge it when I was done. Stuff like that. But, most of the time, even this week, I would still use the MacBook Pro connected to a power adapter.

So, yesterday (4 April 2009), I used iStatPro (highly recommended widget) to check the health of my battery. It was at around 96% after about 20 cycles. I didn't think this was too bad. Before I went to bed, I noticed my batter was down to about 35% as I had been using it untethered to my power adapter. So I shutdown the computer, plug it into the power adapter and then went to bed.

This morning (5 April 2009) I woke up to the strangest thing. I noticed the light to my power adapter was *off*. No green light to mean the battery was charged. No red (or is it orange?) light to mean that the battery was charging. Nothing. So I removed the adapter from the MacBook Pro and plugged it back in; then the light went on as to indicate it was charging.

When I booted the computer up, I noticed the battery still had only 35% charge. What the heck? I had it plugged in all night. So I brought up iStatPro again, and here is what I found :-( (except replace the 100% with a 35% because I just took this snapshot right now)


69% health after only 21 cycles!!!!! No way that is normal.

Then I opened up System Profiler and found corroborating evidence.


I tried resetting the SMC, but that didn't help.

So what is going on here? I must be doing something wrong, right?

Will calibrating the battery help me or am I just screwed and going to have to bring the battery back to the Apple Store again for replacement?


MacRumors Live MacWorld 2009 Keynote Feed Hacked!

<Warning: semi-R-Rated Content Here> Ugh!

I tuned in this morning to macrumorslive.com (which is now down) over there at MacRumors see what interesting goodies were going to come from Apple at this, their last MacWorld, and during their first announcement of iLife '09, I started noticing some strange phrases coming from their twitter-like feed.

Here is a screenshot of the good, normal, G-Rated feed I was watching:

 

Good Feed

 

 

And here is where it got crazy and R-Rated.  I crossed out some things for the innocent :)  :

 

Hacked Feed

 

 

I wasn’t very happy about this because MacRumors had the best live feed going, and obviously they had to shut it down. But, it does go to show that hackers are abound, and the next time I am sure that MacRumors will double check their security before going through this circus again.

MacRumors even issued a mea culpa on their site. Good for them! I think MacRumors is still one of the best Apple sites around.

 

MacRumors Mea Culpa

MacBook Pro SuperDrive Burn Problems Update: Fixed with Laser Lens Cleaner!?!

Here is an update to my fun (and more fun) with my MacBook Pro optical drive. I called Apple support. We talked for about an hour. We tried different things:

  • Tried burning a DVD again (just in case magic would happen this time)
  • Made sure that I didn't have any drive permission corruption or something stupid like that -- so we repaired my hard drive disk permissions
  • Ran a quick hardware test, which showed no problems

None of our initial troubleshooting resulted in success.

So the thinking before the end of the call was that I was going to have to get the drive replaced. I would prefer not to send my computer in a box to who knows where (even though it would be free with AppleCare and I hear good things about it). So we made an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar (again) so that I could bring my computer in, they could have a look at it, and then they can also tell me that the drive needs to be replaced :-) ; then I would have to come back to the Genius Bar for the actual replacement after they ordered the part. (Apparently, Apple phone support and Apple Genius Bar support are totally separate entities, so my call to Apple support could not be used as the definitive answer to replace the drive. The Genius Bar would have to make that decision for themselves. That is why I would have to go twice).

Anyway, right before we hung up, the support representative on the phone just off the cuff said to try a CD/DVD drive laser lens cleaner. I was a little surprised because I always thought these things were frowned upon. I made sure that doing so wouldn't void my warranty and AppleCare support. She said no. So I decided to give it a shot. Anything to save me two trips to the Apple Store and the possibility of being without my computer for a day or two.

So I went to Target and bought the Memorex Optidisc CD/DVD Lens Cleaner. Came home. Popped in the cleaner CD. It did whatever it does with the little brushes that are pasted on the CD. And the CD ejected.

Pessimistically, I tried to burn some photos to DVD.

WHOA! It worked. I was shocked. A $10 fix, that I should have tried all along. 

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the right solutions, I guess.

(P.S. I highly recommend getting AppleCare for your Mac products, especially big purchase items like a computer or monitor. I usually frown on extended warranties, but I have used it for a couple of issues after my year warranty ended on my MacBook Pro. And if indeed there was a problem with my SuperDrive, having AppleCare means it gets replaced for *free*. AppleCare is good for 3 years after the purchase of your Apple product. And many times you can find the AppleCare for your product cheaper (e.g., Ebay) than buying it directly from Apple).

Mac Personal Finance Software: iBank Wins, Moneywell Has Promise, Who Knows About Quicken Financial Life

iBank will be my Mac financial application, as imperfect as it may be. But it is by far the best and most complete financial software package out there for my needs (and if you include iBiz, it would match Microsoft Money in most, if not all, facets). I will wait and see what happens with Moneywell, and I am intrigued by the upcoming release Quicken Financial Life (although I am disappointed I cannot be a part of the beta).

Read More

MacBook Pro Slot Drive Is Finicky - It was the CD-R Brand After All

UPDATE: It ended not being the brand necessarily. I used a CD drive cleaner and all seems fixed: http://joelmarcey.com/2009/01/05/macbook-pro-superdrive-burn-problems-update-fixed-with-laser-lens-cleaner/ This weekend I went to the Apple Store Genius Bar to see if they could find a resolution to my slot drive problems.

Well, it was the CD-R brand after all! I showed the Genius Bar representative my problems with my Sony (Brand A - I don't need to protect the innocent anymore) and my Memorex (Brand B) CD-Rs. She popped in a Staples brand CD-R (Yes, a Staples Brand!!!), and it burnt an iTunes playlist flawlessly.

Thus it seems the MacBook Pro slot drive is finicky; but better than having it sent in for repairs. ;-)

I am heading to Staples soon. :-)

Boot Camp 2.1 Update Gave Me Hell!

image

I have a MacBook Pro, 2.2 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM laptop. I can dual boot either into Mac OS X Leopard or Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit via the Boot Camp technology provided by Apple.

So here I am minding my own business in Windows Vista, when Apple's Software Update prompt appears saying a new version of Boot Camp is available, 2.1. I figure, cool, maybe it fixes a few problems and it is only a .1 release (I am currently running 2.0), let me go ahead and download it.

Well, that was mistake #1.

The update failed. I tried downloading in manually, and running it failed. Then I noticed some funky things going on with my current Boot Camp installation, like what happens when an installation gets 1/2 way through but didn't finish.

I was like "Oh no! That's not good"

So needless to say I spent the better half of the weekend reinstalling Windows Vista Ultimate from scratch and I am keeping Boot Camp 2.0 until Apple gets this whole installation thing figured out.

I am surprised Apple would release something that has had so many problems; I generally have had a good experience with them.

Please release Boot Camp 2.1.1 soon Apple!

I recommend staying with Boot Camp 2.0 until things stabilize a bit. I sure am.

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) - Initial Impressions

OK, I have been able to "play" with Leopard a little bit and here are my initial impressions: My System

MacBook Pro 15", 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, 100 GB Hard Drive

Best Feature

Spaces. Having different virtual desktops is not a new concept. But, it is for Mac OS X. And I can see this being a mainstream feature for me. One space for coding, one space for web browsing, one space for email. It is especially useful on a laptop where I hate having to minimize, drag, etc. in order to get to windows and see multiple windows.

Most Disappointing Feature

Time Machine. Why, you say? Well, because I cannot use it with a configuration that you would think would have been easily supported (and, apparently, was in some of the Tiger betas). I have my external hard drive connected to an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station (AEBS) so I can back stuff up from multiple computers over my home network. Well, that is not a supported configuration. So, to back stuff up using Time Machine, I would have to unplug my external drive from the AEBS and directly connect it to my MacBook Pro (there is a supposed workaround that I am not sure I want to try). I am hoping this is fixed sometime in the future.

Biggest Surprise

The upgrade process. It was such a seamless upgrade from Tiger to Leopard. Just popped the DVD, chose "Upgrade" and off she went. No blue screens of death, no missing applications, and even my Windows Partition via Boot Camp was, for the most part, unaffected.

Wish It Was Better

Safari. Actually, maybe I should say the support for Safari. The browser is fine. It is fast as claimed. But, it still feels like a 3rd class citizen as far as many of the sites I use are concerned. For example, I am writing this post in the WordPress.com editor and it can't really handle it (it squishes all of the text in one big paragraph). FireFox and Internet Explorer still dominate support for web-based applications and sites. Maybe this changes now that Safari has been upgraded nicely.

Other Notes

  • I still need to play a bit more with Finder and Spotlight to fully give my impressions of those.
  • Boot Camp (which allows you to run Windows) is working great -- although, during the upgrade, it changed my video card from NVida to Standard VGA. That was weird and I had to reinstall the drivers from the Leopard DVD
  • The appearance of the menus and windows is strangely close to Microsoft's Aero Glass interface that is found in Windows Vista. I don't find this good or bad, just interesting.

Best Review of Leopard

The best online, and thorough, review of Leopard has been by Ars Technica

Pirates of Silicon Valley

I just watched Pirates of Silicon Valley (again). It was originally a TNT made-for-TV movie, it came out on DVD/VHS a few years back, and apparently it is on YouTube as well. For a techy person like me, this movie was really good. For a non-techy person, this movie should be quite good as well. It stars Noah Wyle (of ER fame) as Steve Jobs (of Apple fame), and Anthony Michael Hall (of Breakfast Club fame) as Bill Gates (of filthy rich -- errrr, Microsoft fame).

It is set from 1971 to 1984 (with a glimpse of 1997) and discusses the rise of these two powerhouse companies -- how Apple "stole" all the constructs for the Macintosh OS from Xerox Parc, and, in a weird sense of irony, how Microsoft stole the constructs for Windows from Apple Macintosh.

The movie really shows, whether true or not, interesting sides of both Jobs and Gates; their business savvy, their quirks and their relationship together. I personally like the way the movies personifies Jobs as a brilliant mind, yet a man who sometimes has a distorted view of reality around family and work (e.g. around his daughter Lisa, whom he claimed was not his, but he named a computer after)

In the end, we all know what happened. Gates got the better of Jobs. Microsoft won, owned the 1990s, and Apple has been playing underdog and catchup ever since. But, since 2000, Apple has coming on very strong and is really a formidable force in both hardware and software nowadays -- all due to Jobs returning as leader of Apple back in late 1997. Hey, I am writing this on a MacBook Pro running OS X Leopard.

This is a popular interpretation of how Apple and Microsoft got their starts and the relationship between Apple/Jobs and Microsoft/Gates. I don't know if the movie provides *the* truth or not; I wasn't there. But still.....great movie!

Goodbye Tiger, Hello Leopard

Today at 6 PM, where ever you are in the world, Apple lets yet another big cat out of its cage. Leopard, the next major Mac operating system update from Apple, will be delivered, bought and/or installed on many a Mac computer. I ordered mine from Amazon because I am frugal, I suppose. So I won't be getting mine until next week. But, I did get an email this morning with the oh-so familiar Amazon subject line: Your Amazon.com order has shipped.That's good news. And, I will be heading out to my local Apple store to see the hoopla (I did that for the iPhone and it was kinda wild -- I don't expect it to nearly match that for Leopard though)...and then have a nice meal at Chick-Fil-A with the family.

 Now, given I am a relatively new Apple convert (I just got my MacBook Pro back in June), I am not sure what to expect with this new update. Apparently, there are 300+ new features or updates from Tiger (the previous Mac operating system).

What I am going to be looking for is how I feel about this update as compared to Windows Vista. I am in the minority in my opinion that Windows Vista is worth the upgrade -- and I am running it on a Mac, which is also relatively rare. So we'll see how how impressed I am with Leopard.

Apple Will Allow 3rd Party Applications for the iPhone

This is good news! Why? Well, 2 reasons:

  1. Customers and developers alike have demanded this functionality, and Apple has seen the light. Applications that just run in the iPhone version of Safari was not going to cut it.
  2. My new business can make use of this wonderful news in product development :-)

More details need to emerge before I get super-excited, like what will the developer limitations, if any, be? But I am a bit excited.

Some discussion has been going on everywhere in the blog-o-sphere. Example: Robert Scoble discussed this.

Gateway One, an IMac killer!

Ha! Just kidding. I just noticed this on the Gateway site:  http://www.gateway.com/programs/one/index.php

But, it does raise an interesting question. Are we seeing the end of the "box" computer as we know it? Is this new sleek, efficient design going to be the norm? Some will say, maybe justifiably, that the Gateway One is an Apple copycat (it wouldn't be the first time people have accused a company of copying Apple, and vice-versa). But maybe this design is becoming the new black. It may take a few years to get the design right for the ultimate productivity machine, for example, but that is what innovation and technology are for.

Would I buy a Gateway One? If we weren't going to buy an iMac, I would consider it. Maybe I am a schmuck, but I love these type of desktop computer designs.

Buying a Computer: New or Used?

For the business my spouse wants to start (I am not ready to give up what type of business it is just yet), she needs a new computer. The 4 year old, first generation Intel Centrino, Dell laptop, with 512 MB RAM is just not going to cut it. We have had a lot of discussion about the brand of computer we are going to buy. We are fairly confident that we are going to settle on an Apple iMac -- while the cost may be a little bit more than a <Dell, HP, Gateway, insert your favorite vendor here> PC, the fact it can run both Windows and OS X just makes it a no brainer. And with the business my spouse wants to start I can see her switching back and forth between operating systems. And, the new and previous generation iMacs are just sweet looking and designed so efficiently!

Now that the "What type of computer are we going to get" question has been answered, we are faced with another dilemma. Should we buy new or used? The fact is, the previous generation iMacs had Intel Core 2 Duo processors in them, etc., and would serve just fine for my spouse's business. And now that the new iMacs were announced back in August, these previous generation iMacs can be found "discounted" on eBay and other sites.

I have always leaned towards never buying a used computer. I like my computers "clean as a whistle", so to speak. So buying from an individual on eBay scares me a bit. There are reputable stores, like even Apple themselves, that sell refurbished computers. And notice above I put the word discounted in quotes -- I am not 100% convinced that the value you might be able to get from a used/refurbished computer will really outweigh having the latest generation and never touched machine. The new iMacs start at only about $1200; add another 1GB of RAM and you are looking at $1300 or so. Not too bad. Amazon has a $50 rebate too.

So what is your opinion? Would you buy a used/refurbished computer? If so, from where would you buy such a computer?