Phones Issue

Last Saturday I switched to Cingular New AT&T. The circle is complete now. My first phone was some brick Nokia from AT&T with 200 minutes calling plan. I don’t even remember what I paid (something around $30 – 40, I believe). Good thing was that the phone was virtually indestructible – it was dropped, accidentally thrown, stepped on, fallen off various heights. It still worked for me and even after I gave it to my (older) sister, who was even less cautious. Bad thing was that getting through to me was mission impossible.

Then I switched to Sprint and (not knowingly) got the ever-famous StarTAC phone. The phone was so good, I didn’t want to leave Sprint even after 70% of my calls were dropping or I couldn’t get a connection with full-signal bars on my phone in the Middle of Manhattan. And in the basement I was living in it only worked if placed on top of my 19″ MAG monitor, where it was constantly falling off of. With a little push from my ex-girlfriend, I switched to T-Mobile.

The phone I got was some cheap small Motorola that didn’t really want to be bothered with both incoming and outgoing calls. Some smart movements later I switched to Samsung SGH-R225. One more indestructible phone, I had three of them, after servicing me for over three years I gave them away. As far as I know – they still work. Another Samsung’s creation – E715 – was next to perfection. Small, yet comfortably fitting the hand, it was my all-time favorite. I still have it somewhere around. Unfortunately, while trying to unlock it something went wrong, service in Ukraine reflashed the memory with Vodafone firmware, but it still says “Phone is locked. Return for servicing”.

But the reason I later switched to Verizon was that they have their glorious EVDO Rev. A network, that allowed me to use their phone/PDA (Audiovox 6600 AKA HTC BlueAngel, CDMA edition) to browse internet from virtually everywhere. Or pair it with my laptop via Bluetooth and use as a modem. In the middle of Manhattan you can get a decent speed (around 400-500Kbps), but if you are somewhere where the phone is in the roaming mode (as I found myself around Bear Mountain) – you are out of luck. Still, it’s a great (although quite heavy) device, too bad Verizon “went TV”. By the way, the screen on today’s PDA phones is much much better for viewing video, then on any “smart” phone Verizon currently has to offer. I watch TV shows all the time on my 6600’s screen when I work out – for anything except feature movies it is excellent.

So why AT&T again? Because they’re 3G (although in Brooklyn the most I got was either EDGE or GPRS). Because they GSM (meaning I can use any HTC/ETEN device I can get stateside, including HTC Advantage/Athena which sits in my Amazon queue). Because I can use same device in Europe without much hassle and not hunt for yet another device to take with me. Because if anything happens I can take the SIM card out of the non-working piece, put it into a backup phone and instantly have my phone connectivity back, so when my clients call me – they wouldn’t get a message like “Please call a backup number XXX-XXX-XXXX” just because it takes a week to replace insured Verizon phone.

Overall – it’s not like the Cingular/ATT is significantly better, it’s just more convenient to continue to do my business. And last, but not least, you should have seen my girlfriend bouncing off the walls and dancing with her brand new iPhone. I already feel a bit jealous.


Everybody Else Is Doing It…

… so why can’t we do?

Firefox LogoWhile porting Firefox settings and bookmarks over to replacement laptop I realized that I am using a whole bunch of quite useful plug-ins. So here’s short run-down, in case someone missed any of these very useful things.

  • FEBE – simply must-have. Transfers all your extensions, themes, bookmarks, settings and God knows what else. Unavoidable if you don’t want to spend couple of hours figuring how to do this on your own.
  • AdBlock Plus – blocks everything and their cousins – all known advertising (banners, text ads, even Google ads). Another must-have extension. Personally, I was VERY surprised to see how messy, overstuffed with ads and unreadable some pages appear in IE/Opera/Safari. Ads are being blocked by the list to which you subscribe when you install the plug-in, so you may not even know something was blocked unless you see the page in different browser.
  • AI Roboform Toolbar – actually, I don’t have the toolbar running, but I use “Fill Form” feature almost all the time. The software itself quite useful, especially with so many passwords to remember.
  • ColorZilla – useful, especially during conversations with clients, when the phrase “I like the color I’ve seen on such-and-such web site” gets tossed around. You can actually go and pick that color (unless it’s a part of Flash movie).
  • Download StatuBar – saves you the annoyance of watching that Download Window. Personally, I believe this is the plug-in that deserves to be included in the next release of Firefox. Version would be just perfect for it.
  • IE Tab – for lazy people who don’t like to fire up Internet Explorer to see how it looks. As far as I know it uses Internet Explorer’s engine, so the only two real benefits of this extension is that a) you get to see pages rendered in IE when you miss that “Open in New Tab” in right-click menu (I do sometimes) and b) you can get rid of IE icon on your desktop/quick launch panel.
  • lori – Life of Request Info. Shows times from click to first received byte (can be treated as a server response time), from click to complete page display, loaded page size and number of requests. Very useful web developer tool, we at Zealus use it quite often to see how responsive client’s web site is.
  • MeasureIt – allows you to draw and measure any rectangular area on the screen. Useful when you need to fit content (usually it’s Flash movie) in a already defined environment.
  • NoScript – kills all the scripts (JavaScript, Java and so on) on a page if you want to. Very useful when some script-anxious webmaster puts that no-right-click JavaScript on the page you just happen to visit.
  • S3 Firefox Organizer – if you are using Amazon’s Simple Storage Service you may find this one quite useful, although it does have a very big drawback – if you have a transfer in progress in inactive tab and are trying to close the Firefox it will not warn you.
  • Save As Image – saves the area on the page as image. Very useful when we need to show a client certain area of the web site he may want to pay more attention to.
  • SearchStatus – displays Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, Compete Rank and a bunch of very useful SEO data, like keyword density analyser, keyword/nofollow highlighting, backward/related links, Alexa info and other.

Obviously there are many more useful plug-in, we had (at some point) had them installed and tested but turns out that these above are the ones that get really used around.


Outlook 2007 to Mozilla Thunderbird mail database conversion

Outlook to Thunderbird conversionEver since I purchased Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 for my business this question was haunting me – how do I convert my 700MB Outlook mail database into other formats? Obviously, converting it into a (really really large) bunch of EML files is definitely not an option. Outlook’s own Import/Export functionality is very limited (to put it nicely). So I set a realistic goal – convert my Outlook mail database into Thunderbird e-mail database. Or at least find a tool that can realistically do it.

Similar problem had risen year ago, when I was transitioning from TheBat! mailer to something more user-friendly with calendar and contacts manager built-in (namely – Outlook 2007 Beta). TheBat’s mail format was unique and non-exportable to anything but EML files. The only sensible way to transfer three years worth of e-mails from half a dozen accounts was (I kid you not!) drag and drop all e-mails into IMAP mailbox (I used my personal AOL account), shut down TheBat!, fire up Outlook, open and sync AOL account there, drag and drop e-mails from that folder (must have different data file and folder for that) into the main inbox (or specific folder). Took me several hours on broadband connection to move everything properly.

But, there is no way I was going to do same thing again. Among many various solutions, including, but not limited to, exporting the whole thing into Outlook Express format and then converting from OE to Thunderbird, I found a software I wish I’ve seen a year ago. It’s called Aid4Mail by Fookes Software and it “understands” bunch of formats, among those Outlook (PST, MSG, MAPI), TheBat!, Eudora, Pegasus and, of course, Mozilla-compatible mailboxes. The conversion is guided by simple wizard and only took me about 20 minutes to process all Outlook folders. The only drawback of the program is its licensing structure – the Standard version ($24.95) does not support Outlook formats (most popular, as far as I know) and in my opinion simply useless. Professional has all the necessary features but will cost you $49.94 and up (depending on number of licenses). Given the one-time use nature of this program fifty bucks isn’t cheap, but not unrealistic. Site license (the one that doesn’t require activation) costs astronomical $1999.95 and I have no idea who it is aimed at. As to my understanding the pricing structure was created with single goal in mind – to push the Professional ($50) version of the product. Why the other two prices exist at all remains a mystery.

However, in spite of 90-s web site and messed pricing structure the software itself worked flawlessly and fast enough to complete conversion during lunch break. Additional perks include mail filtering during conversion and ability to skip the duplicates. Must have if you do a lot of experimenting like this.