Billy Graham on Technology and Faith on TED

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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.

Continue reading “OMG, it’s complicated”

celebrating work

I came across a presentation by Mike Rowe at TED. I never watched his program on Discovery, but I can’t agree more with him as he talks about the importance of work — simple work that is repetitive, physical, laborious and, yes, often dirty. He talks about the necessity of boring physical work of soldering circuit board in order to complete the wonderful design of iPhones. He mentions the “War on Work” that was declared in our society at all level.

Celebrating work means that we focus more on creating the real stuff than focusing on creating wealth through derivatives. Celebrating work means that we also respect and honor the materials that we come to contact with at our work. Celebrating work means that we recognize the importance of quirky and idiosyncratic nature of work practices over generalizable abstract “knowledge”. Celebrating work means, in fact, knowledge resides in the work itself.

It is a short presentation that is worth watching.

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ubiquitous computing… except in my office

I forward my office phone to my mobile phone. This ensures that I can take calls no matter where I am at in the world. That was until I gave up I had my old Blackberry with Verizon Wireless. Once I got iPhone with AT&T, however, I noticed that I have no access in my office. So, ironically, I can take calls made to my office anywhere in the world, except when I am in my office.

Solution: My office phone rings once before it forwards the call to my mobile. Of course, my mobile phone does not even ring. So, when I hear my office phone rings, I run out from my office to the hall way, hoping that I can get the call before it goes to the voice mail. Most of the times, I am not fast enough.

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.

my travel companions

I travel a lot and I enjoy it. It is important to travel with right gadgets so that I can continue to work. Recently, I started traveling with my MacBook Air and iPod touch. They are absolutely wonderful travel companions that allow me to continue to write while I am traveling no matter where I am. I can write in hotel rooms, book stores, cafes, or airplanes. And, then there is my Blackberry, which has become even more useful as I figured out how to integrate my Google calendar.

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There are other stuff that I am wondering about to experiment with. For example, I wonder how Amazon's Kindle would work out for me. Also, I love taking pictures with my Nikon D80. But, it is too bulky and it does not do geotagging. I wish Nikon would come up with GPS pack for digital SLR cameras. I have other smaller digital cameras (from Sony, Olympus and Cannon — don't ask me why I have so many), but I much rather take pictures with my Nikon and pay the price of carrying its bulky body. My N95 has a built-in GPS and decent 5 mega-pixel camera. When I travel to Europe, I take it with me and occasionally take pictures with it, which automatically uploads pictures to my Flickr account, sometimes in the background without my knowledge. My main complain with D80 is not that it is integrated into my phone, but rather it is not compatible with a GPS device that I have. So, if there is DSLR from Nikon with an integrated GPS support, I will be very tempted. It will irresistible if it comes in a small body.

Based on my own experiences, the notion of all-in-one mobile personal device does not seem to work. I seem to be gravitated toward specific devices that work well for its task, yet play nicely with other devices. Of course, that means I am constantly looking for different bags that I can comfortably carry these stuffs.

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.

One Week with MacBook Air

I received my MacBook Air about a week ago and I am very happy with it. I no longer carry my old MacBook Pro. Instead, I carry my new MBA and iPod Touch. I am waiting for my portable hard disk that will go with it. 64GB just isn’t big enough.

It is incredibly light. Keyboard is just perfect. The only thing is that when it gets hot, it makes pretty bad fan noise. I thought if I get one with a solid state hard disk, there wouldn’t be any moving parts. Apparently, there is one. I wonder if one can design noiseless fan.

Demise of Municipal Wi-Fi network

There was an interesting article in New York Times today about the doom of the municipal Wifi network. The article points out the flawed the business model as one of the primary reasons of failure. In an article that I wrote with my colleagues for last year’s Global Mobile Roundtable in Los Angeles, I pointed out the danger of applying the notion of “universal access” that was originally developed simplistic utility service to a complex and dynamic digital information infrastructure such as broadband wireless network. Therefore, it is not just the failure of business model, but the failure of underlying philosophy. As we argued in the paper, the notion of universal access needs to be expand from a technical concept to a much broader socio-technical-economic concept. A business model that reflects such complexity will be the one that can sustain this type of complex infrastructure, which can do so much good for the public.