Browse Tag: at&t

Starbucks Experience – coffee, cakes and Wi-Fi

Due to some personal commitments (read: being engaged to a wonderful beautiful woman) I spend quite some time in a Starbucks near 7th Ave South and East 11th Street, New York, NY, waiting to pick her up after work. Regular visitors and staff already know me well enough to stop making passes on me, as well as learning that whatever I order is “to stay” and not “to go”. So, this post isn’t about them.

Before the ill-known Wi-Fi take-over by AT&T this Starbucks’s connection never had an issue. I come here with either one of my three laptops (my personal favorite T60p, smaller X61s or horrible company issued HP Compaq 6710b). None of them had any troubles connecting to T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi. Not until some time after AT&T took over.

Now, I am not trying to bash AT&T altogether. I am happily using their 3G with either BlackJack or Tilt (sometimes with my laptop tethered) while my fiancee’s second most loved thing on Earth is her iPhone (I hope I still hold the first place). What I was expecting to see from this clash of providers is that at the converted locations customers would experience intermittent outages while on T-Mobile hookup. You know – login process times out on you couple of times. Then some of your web sites are so slow that you can’t really so anything. Then the connection is dropped for no apparent reason. And that is just what I have been fed up with for previous two weeks. So much so that I had changed my weekly routine that I only have to spend one day of the week at that location.

A ticket submitted to T-Mobile customer support two weeks ago finally got answered today. In brief it says: “Yes, it’s a converted location, if you have any problems – call this number or that number”. Surely, just a template, with some name attached to it. Two weeks to send a canned reply – something tells me it isn’t a company that cares about me being their client. After all, if I decide to go with AT&T for Starbucks’ Wi-Fi, it’s going to cost me two times less money. Once the takeover by AT&T is complete, there would be not much incentive to keep T-Mobile, right?

X61p brief review

Lenovo X61p Laptop & Monica Belucci Since I have got the new Lenovo X61s laptop I am getting used to do things slightly differently then before. For one, I don’t have to lug around with all the beauty of T60p with two hard drives and all the data on them. Even though all the e-mail isn’t here (it’s insane to try to synchronize two Outlook instances), but all the work-related correspondence is backed up on two Gmail accounts plus I have IMAP access to same e-mail accounts (POP3 instance of Outlook doesn’t delete messages from server unless it’s spam). Additionally, a Samsung BlackJack that I use in conjunction with AT&T “laptop tethering” provides to be a decent cellular modem in case I get to spend some more time waiting then expected.

Windows Vista Home Basic that was installed on it initially didn’t quite impressed me, so I upgraded it to Ultimate flavor, since I purchased a license a long ago, but never got around to install Vista Ultimate on my main laptop. Overall impressions are mixed. System sometimes momentarily freezes for no apparent reasons. Only today (two weeks after arrival) Windows Update was able to successfully find and install PS/2 Trackpoint driver. It was a miserable experience before…

Carrying weight is almost non-existent. Keyboard is large enough for convenient typing in non-convenient locations (my previous post, including Excel spreadsheet and chart, was compiled in a waiting area of a medical office. The only concern I have is the placement of USB ports – two on the right side very close to hand rest and one on the left, approximately in the middle. If you are in a crumpled space and want to use a portable USB mouse the sticking-out dongle will take up the precious space. Sometimes I really miss backside USB ports of T23.

To sum up the impressions – getting X61p was one of the best things I could’ve done to ease the stress on my back. With recent Lenovo discounts my unit cost me much less then I anticipated initially, so my budget wasn’t that much harmed either. Spacious enough screen and near-full size keyboard allows basic work to be completed with minimal discomfort and in almost any place. The choice of OS (Vista Home Basic) is questionable, but XP flavor would have cost me around $80 more and I already had Vista Ultimate license laying around. 6 hours of battery life (I never worked on it for 6 straight hours, so I cannot neither confirm nor deny this, but so far it looked close enough) sounds pretty good too. Additionally, Vista has “battery stretch” feature that allows you to literally stretch your battery when you’re at your last 20% of charge by powering down unnecessary activities (radios, hard drive, peripheral devices, etc). Overall – very nice piece of hardware, but with showing signs of degradation of quality. T40 that I still have has a more robust and solid feeling, whereas X61p handles and feels like cheap plastic.

Small business travel

Don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but my budget is really limited when it comes to travel – be it vacation or business travel. Unlike some big-name CEOs I can’t afford business class (let alone a private jet), so I travel just like most of the Americans – the cheapo way.While traveling to Chicago and back, I refreshed on usual travel things. Like purchasing tickets for early morning flight, avoiding weekends (I flew on Wednesday to Chicago and on Monday back) and packing lightly (you can have up to three luggage pieces for free, but each must be less then 50 lbs. For me it would have been easier to pack one large suitcase then two small, but…

Another thing I figured out is how NOT to rent a car. On the spot, even if you have a reservation, agent will try to upsell you stating that they don’t have the car you reserved. In my case instead of Dodge Charger the company’s (Dollar Car if you’re interested) representative stated that the only car they have in the same class would be Dodge Caravan. How are they in the same class beats me, but I ended up renting Chrysler 300 which was good enough for my purposes. Next time I’ll skip online reservation altogether and just show up at their desk inquiring as to what they have. If I don’t like the selection – I’ll just move on to the next desk. In Chicago Midway airport (another saver on ticket price) all rentals’ desks conveniently form a single line, so it won’t be a big deal with two bags under 50 lbs each.

Hotels are finally catching up to the 21st century. Last year, when I was in Arizona, Hilton hotel wanted $25/day for high-speed broadband. One year later, on this trip to Chicago, I stayed in two hotels (how that happened – long story) – La Quinta in Arlington Heights and Holiday Inn. Both feature free wireless internet, no problems and no strings. Of course you have to jump through couple of screens and maybe enter the access code (listed on a special note in your room), but other then that everything worked smoothly. I even didn’t have to pull out my cell phones (I brought both AT&T and Verizon devices, just in case) to use as a cellular modem.

On the road I used my Garmin nuvi 360 GPS unit with firmware updated to version 3.90 (was actual as of the first day when I arrived in Chicago). Except for one total failure to deliver me to Olive Garden somewhere close to airport (almost ended up in someone’s backyard) the thing worked fine, much better and faster then Google Maps on my HTC Advantage.

Last thing I’d like to mention is the airlines (again). If the current trend is any indication – in next several years seat space will decrease even more (I guess we all be standing on short flights), the weight of allowed luggage will also decrease and there will be almost no room for carry-ons in cabin, so we will only be allowed one personal item (like laptop). But they will be banned for security reasons.