OMG, it’s complicated

It is about my Kindle — in fact, Kindles. I have three Kindles at home. One for my son, and a Kindle DX and a Kindle 2 for me. I use Kindle DX for mostly for papers and articles, and Kindle 2 for my pleasure reading.

Although both my son and I really enjoy Kindles, we had defective screen problems with them. My son’s Kindle showed black mark on the screen twice. Each time, Amazon sent a replacement immediately as a warranty service. However, the person who processed the second replacement made a mistake and charged for it. I called Amazon to ask them to cancel the charge. Instead of cancelling the charge, the person that I spoke to process it as a refund. The problem, however, that he refunded a wrong Kindle — my Kindle, not my son’s, which was bought using my school’s account. So, they charged to my personal card and refunded to my school. God knows why he did it, but eventually, we sorted out this mess. Another Amazon person apologized for the inconvenience and I thought all the problems have been resolved.

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two mobile phone stories

(1) indestructible LG phone.

My son, Kevin, has an LG phone — I don't remember the name of the model except the fact that it is a pretty cool phone. Just like many other teenagers, he is not the best caretaker of his mobile phone. He often leaves his phone on the floor so that others can step on it. He lost his phone twice and put it in water once. Now, we carry an insurance plan for his phone.

So, what happened on Friday was nothing extraordinary. He left his phone in the pocket of his shorts and put his shorts in the washing machine. We ran the washing machine — not once but twice as our machine does not work very well sometimes. Then, we put his shorts in our dryer and ran it for an hour. Then we discovered his phone, completely dead, in his pocket. Although I became upset for a moment for his careless behavior, I soon realized that such behaviors are somewhat expected of him and that's why we had an insurance.

What is surprising came after. When I informed Kevin that his beloved mobile phone is completely toasted and we probably need to get a replacement, he simply shrugged his shoulders and calmly connected his phone to a charger. He seemed to be convinced that it was just a dead battery and all he had to was just to re-charge it. To my surprise, he was right. The phone survived two cycles of laundry and the heat of a dryer. This is an amazing engineering accomplishment. Perhaps LG engineers thought about teenagers and water- and heat-proofed their phones when they designed it. If that is the case, they should contact us to use our story as a reality-TV like commercial. Then, perhaps, it was not the design of the phone, but the fabric of his shorts that protected his phone. Who knows? At any rate, the phone is still working without any hint of problems. Here is the picture of the phone.

Uploaded - Jul 15, 2008

(2) getting an iPhone

When the first generation iPhone came out, many friends of mine asked me if I would get one. I told them that I would get one when they release the second version with 3G and GPS in it. Now, Apple came out with the new model that has both features, I had no reason to resist my temptation to get this beautiful phone any more. So, on Saturday, I went to local Apple store, expecting a long waiting line. To my pleasant surprise, there was no line and I was able to leave the store in 15 minutes with a working iPhone, sort of. Almost. Not quite.

Since I wanted to keep my old mobile number from Verizon — and those who know my number know how cool that number is , the iPhone had to be crippled until the port process is completed. The process was supposed to finish within six hours. However as my old number was owned by my school, AT&T people could not simply take it away. They kept asking me a pin number which I did not have. It was Saturday afternoon and there was no way I could get that number. So, I waited until yesterday to call my school's telecommunication department, who informed me that all I need to do is to fill out a form to take over the billing responsibility of the number. The form had to be faxed back and forth at least three times to the extent that it became almost illegible. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, I was able to get the form faxed in to Verizon and was instructed to follow up with the customer service reps. But, of course, the number that I had was a special number (!) and they could not do it in a normal way. Yet, the wonderful rep somehow found a way to sidestep that procedure and release my number from the bondage of the corporate account.

Then, I called back AT&T to re-start the porting process. I informed them that now I have a new account number from Verizon and the AT&T rep told me that she will cancel the original port request and start a new one. She informed me that everything went successfully and I should get a text message around 7:40 pm. Alas! My phone went complete silence with a "no service" sign on it around 7pm, instead of getting a text message. So, around 10pm, I called the tech support of AT&T again. The rep told me that my SIM card has been disconnected from the service and cannot be re-activated. It turned out, when the previous rep canceled the original port request, she canceled my SIM card as well. So, she told me that she can either send out a new SIM card which will take 3-5 business days, or I could walk into a local AT&T store to pick a new SIM card.

This morning, I drove to a local AT&T store around 8:50am and waited for about ten minutes for them to open the door. I was the second one at the store. The person ahead of me, who literally bang the door to open it at 8:59, was another Verizon Wireless customer who wanted to switch. Unfortunately for him, there was no more iPhone at the store. While I was there waiting for my new SIM card get activated, there were at least five phone calls inquiring about iPhones. Eventually, they re-activated my phone, but as I was leaving the store, I noticed that my phone did not have any data connection, which took another 15 minutes to resolve. Finally, I have a fully functional iPhone 2.0 and I am happy.

Uploaded - Jul 15, 2008-1

multi-modal communication in action

Today, I am working at a local library, trying to finish up a paper that is much overdue. Then, I received a phone call from my colleague. Since I could no talk in the library, I sent a text message back to him saying that I could not talk to him, asking him to call me later tonight. He then sent me an e-mail back saying that would be fine. Within a span of 2 minutes, we invoked three different communication modes. Perhaps we have too much choices of communication.

Bye, Bye Verizon and Hello to Comcast

I have been waiting for Verizon’s FIOS service to come to my house for some time. The idea of having 20Mbps service was very tempting. First, I called them last October, 2007 as I received a lot of unsolicited calls and mail to get FIOS at our home. They sent their engineer who found that there was no fiber cable in our neighbor. He was puzzled and frustrated, and said “someone head is going to roll tomorrow. You will trucks out here, digging and laying the cable in a day or two. You should really call and complain about it.” Well, I decided not to. I have better things to do.

In late December, I noticed finally Verizon people digging our neighbor burying cable under the ground. When that work was done, I thought I would give them a call. I was told that “we would love to take your order now, but you will not get our HDTV service, since we are out of stock for HD receiver.” When I asked them when I will receive HD receivers, they had no answer. So, I decided to wait further.

About a week ago, I finally decided that it is time to pull the trigger and called Verizon one more time. They gladly scheduled an appointment for installation and I received about 5-6 phone calls reminding me about the appointment. I decided that I would work at home, waiting for the Verizon engineer. Of course, I scheduled my Comcast Cable TV to be discontinued beginning today. The guy finally came and he was a very pleasant person. But, after an hour or so, and many phone calls, he told me the bad news. To my surprise, it was the same reason. There is no fiber in my neighbor yet. I asked him about the work that they did in front of my house — they dug the ground and put the conduit, but did not put the cable through it. So, I was back to square one. The guy and his foreman apologized and said the same thing. Call Verizon and complain. So, I called this time and asked for an immediate action plus one-year free service. But, so far, nothing has happened yet.

Then, I had to call Comcast to cancel my cancel order. The guy that I spoke to persuaded me to completely switch over to Comcast, including our phone lines. So I did. No more waiting for Verizon to put the fiber in my front yard. No more cancelled appointment. No more waiting. I am getting Comcast Triple play. So, bye bye Verizon and hello to Comcast.

absent-minded professor — almost there

I was in San Francisco earlier this week for the NSF project on distributed innovation that I am working on. My flight arrived late on Sunday night. I arrived at the Club Quarters almost around midnight. The following is what happened.

Me: Hi, I have a reservation.
CQ: Sure. What’s your last name?
Me: Yoo. Y-o-o.
CQ: Well, you have TWO reservations. Do you need both rooms?
Me: (Surprised) Are you sure? I only made one reservation.
CQ: Well, let’s see. You made one on August 15th and another one on the 24th. Both through Orbitz.

(At that point, I realized that I remember checking the price of hotel twice on Orbitz, but I really did not remember reserving it when I went there first. That was why I went there in the second place.)

CQ: Don’t worry. The Orbitz people have become very flexible. I am sure they understand.

(Understand what?)

The problem is that Orbitz wants you to pre-pay the hotel fee ahead of time. So, I actually paid for two rooms. So, I had to call Orbitz customer service and had to explain my situation. Fortunately, I was able to work with very understanding person who was more than willing to take it with a sense of humor.

Next morning I shared this story with Dick Boland, who then responded by saying, “well, once you find yourself spending more than half of your time solving this type problem that you created (big laugh), you are ready to become a full professor.” So I guess I am not that far off from it.

mobile phone number portability

It has been few years since people are able to switch their mobile carrier without changing their mobile phone number. I recently got a Blackberry 8830 from Verizon Wireless. My old number was a part of a family plan. My new phone is a part of the Temple business account plan. And, I was told that I am not able to keep my old number. It seems really strange when they can let their customers who are switching over from another carrier keep their old number, while cannot let their own customers keep their old Verizon number. Something is not quite right in this picture.