Thursday, December 01, 2005

Single-man PalmOS PDA repair company is better than the official repair service.

I went through pda-repair hell a couple months ago, trying to get Sony to repair my broken PalmOS PDA, a beatiful Clié NX80V with mp3 playback, swinging LCD screen and 1.3MP digital camera. The device fell from a table to the floor and it just died. Swapping the battery with a
new one didn't help, nor did fiddling with the power switch.

Luckily for me, it was still under warranty, and it was purchased and registered in the U.S., so I shipped the dead PDA from South America to a friend in California, and then called Sony USA trying to obtain a RMA#. My friend would ship it back to Sony and when the repaired unit is received, he'd re-ship it down South. Easy right?. Wrong.

Sony's tech support number is an insanely designed speech-recognition IVR system where the system tries to outsmart the customer. For instance, I called from overseas, so there's no caller-id info present on the inbound international call -that I know of- so the system must have identified my call as "# not available". The IVR greeted me with a message along the lines of "are you the same person that just called from that same number about a Sony Handycam?". Bloody hell I was not!.

When I finally got a chance to speak with a "customer care representative", he insisted on painfuly slow pace trying to walk you, the idiot user, through all the joy of "resetting your PDA". Hint: telling the genius that you're fairly knowledgeable on PDAs and that you already tried everything including a new battery, that you left the PDA charging for weeks, and that you're on a long distance call and that you're paying through the nose won't help: "we still need to go through all the required steps" was the answer.

If you manage to skip the ignore the babbling from the other side, you'll eventually be turned to a tier-2 tech support, that is, someone who supposedly knows about the product instead of just reading from a workflow chart. I managed to convince the person that the PDA was efectivelly dead, and no ammound of fiddling or tinkering with it was going to bring it back to life. So he issued me a "work order number" (Sonyspeak for RMA), and told me I'd be receiving an empty prepaid box from Sony by Fedex, at my registered U.S. addres. I then told my U.S. friend to wait for this box from Sony... which never arrived, actually, it did, but it wasn´t sent by Sony.

Since it wasn't labeled "Sony" anywhere my friend's secretary never realized it was the very important box from Sony they were expecting. Ok, so it wasn't technically Sony's fault. But by the time the box was found by him, the PDA was already out of warranty by a few days, and the Fedex prepaid postage on the box expired. That left me with two options: tell my U.S. friend to throw the pda away or auction it as non-working. Definitely I didn't want to spend any more greenbacks on long distance international phone calls to the Sony IVR hell to obtain a new RMA#.

Luckily for me, I found about Chris Short. He´s a guy from Mankato, Minnesota, who runs his own PDA repair shop from home. Not only he enjoys a "100% positives" rate on eBay, his services are also inexpensive: you only pay for USPS shipping if you don´t agree with the quoted price.

In the end, I was able to get my NX80V PDA back in working order in a few days, and only spending $49 US dollars on it. While Sony´s official repair service wanted $150 -apparently their "flat fee" for out-of-warranty PDAs.

Recommended!. Find his ebay listings here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

George W. Bush in Mar del Plata: what is he doing?

Many people might be wondering "What is George W. Bush doing down there in the Mar del Plata, Argentina's favourite beach destination???".

Well, this humble correspondent has the answer.... away from the spotlight and on an almost DESERTED CITY under siege due to the presidents' get-together party dubbed "Summit of the Americas", George W. apparently used this time to have a good time alone, and reflect on his administrations' latest scandals.

Media reports "The Argentine city is virtually seized by security forces; some 200 blocks have been fenced off and movement there is restricted" but that didn't seem to bother young George.

Images courtesy of my old school pal and Mac advocate #1 Pablo X.

Click to enlarge each image....

(For those who sadly don't know Mar del Plata, these are actual Mar del Plata sights in the background. My kudos to Pablo X for his great photoshopping).

While George W. enjoyed the beach, the rest of Mar del Plata's inhabitants wrestled with the police trying to get to their homes, or trying to send George their greetings and salutations....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Expocomm Argentina: an expo worth seeing

Expocomm Argentina -the 2005 edition- came to an end last Friday, and I had a great time covering the event for the Inquirer this year.

Among the highlights was the deployement of WiMAX, the broadband wireless standard, by two local ISPs. This comes way before the U.S. starts trials of the technology, which according to reports won't happen until 2006.

Once again, Argentina shows the way, and the U.S. follows, later. . Ok, I'm just teasing american readers. Of course Argentina still has a way to go and improve in about every area, yet it's kinda ironic to see the U.S. lag so much in WiMAX deployment. Who knows, maybe in a few dozen years, there'll be a U.S. president who realizes the danger of climate change and signs the Kyoto treaty, as my country did years ago?. . Ok, enough teasing. :)

Here's a link that takes you to a list of my Expocomm 2005 coverage for the INQ. And I made a record number of articles as well!.

Happy reading, and I hope I'm able to meet some INQ readers in the 2006 edition!.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Peace Doves bomb innocent passers-by

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

This is not a doctored photo. I took it last Friday while shopping around for the best price of cat5e ethernet cable around town. This is what a particular block of the "Boulogne Sur Mer" street looks like in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's an old neighborhood, full of electronics parts sellers, and as you see, in one particular block, packed with doves / pigeons. EVERY wire has a community of pigeons standing there, 24/7. Suffice to say that one has to be careful when walking around (or carry an open umbrella), because of the continuous fall of, well, smelly "liquid paper" (sheesh, I´m old!) alike poo...

I´m a peacenik, but in this instance, I think doves are going too far...

btw: while I can´t say it with 100% certainty, the exact location must be around here. Congrats to the guys at Maporama for the great site!.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Fernando Cassia makes it to Forbes shock

I can´t frigging believe it!. One of my Inquirer articles mentioned in

The "business" and "finance" magazine Forbes (the kind of magazines I generally despise due to their weak and oversimplified coverage of the Tech world and their promotion of the "get rich at all costs" kind of mentality - or as The Beast, would say, the kind of magazines read by "every rich asshole cokehead with a fast car" -even while I admit that there´s ONE business magazine that I can read without feeling contempt, and that´s BusinessWeek :), publishes an article titled "Top Ten Tech Articles worth reading".

And what article do we find mentioned in the first place?. My own INQuirer article titled "Top 10 Firefox Annoyances". Now that´s a surprise!. I don´t even know yet if to be honoured or outraged. But as someone once said "there´s no such thing as bad publicity". Yet at the same time I don´t feel to good about being used as a weapon against the Open Source movement ("see, open source isn´t that great", seems to be the implied meaning in Forbes´ mention of my article), because my article, while very critical, was meant to be well-intentioned, showing the flaws and shortcoming so it gets better.

I doubt that helping Open Source projects is in Forbes´ top ten interests. Forbes is the kind of magazine that is always glorifying software companies with proprietary products (and the more proprietary, the more market grip they have, and thus earn more, and thus shareholders benefit from it) are actually "Good for Society".

And one last thing.... the name of the author of that piece.... Penélope Patsuris sounds like a totally bogus name of the kind a phone pranker like Tom Mabe would make up.

"I´ve made it to Forbes, Dad, I´m famous!". (not ;-)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Do the Math: Intel Snaps Sun's "Open Source Diva"

In case some of you were wondering why Intel Corp snapped Danese Cooper, formerly Sun Microsystems' Open Source Diva, here's the answer. Like always, a simple mathemetical equation shows us the answer:

^Click on the image to zoom it.

Congratulations once again to Danese for her great sense of humour!.

Do the Math: Danese Cooper, open source Diva

I will start a new, hopefully new section with this post, dubbed: "Do the Math". The goal?. Explain both people´s origins and also company moves with simple mathematic equations. Well, sort of. At least these equations are much more fun for me to create than working with "real" math!. ;)

Today, we will see who is the "Open Source Diva" that until recently worked at Sun Microsystems. In the spirit of discordance, I will always try to e-mail the works to the equation target before publishing it -if possible-. In this case, Danese Cooper took it humorously and seemed to enjoy it, saying "LOL...Yes, that old pic really did get overused. I liked it so much better than the sterile ones Sun PR had made for me, though. At least
I looked awake, you know!".

So, my kudos to Danese Cooper for her great sense of humour!.
After this tiresome introduction, here´s for you.... April´s

Do the Math: Danese Cooper

^click on the image to zoom it

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Advantages of having a German Pope, which some accuse of being a former nazi

[Note: This is humour, a parody, folks. Don't read if you're too easily offended!]

1. Forget those complaints about the Roman Catholic Churc moving slowly and not keeping up with the times!. The old (John Paul II´s) italian-made "Popemobile" will be replaced with a sports model specially designed in Germany by BMW, sporting ABS brakes, a maximum speed of 198 mph, an onboard computer and GPS, plus airbags. That will surely help quiet those accusations that the Catholic Churc Moves Too Slowly. Ha! the new German Pope will be able to speed without limits on the Autobahn!
Now there will be a tasty reason to attend!. The new Pope will guarantee more attendance to religious services, because now... priests will be allowed to hand out each comunion wafer along with a tasty german slice of Leberwurst!.
3. Confessions will be PAINLESS. The classic confessionary will be re-designed according to a new model proposed by Pope Ratzinger. Now the priest will stay outside, and the sinner will confess his sins inside an air locked chamber. It is necesary for the priest to be outside so he can press the button opening the gas valves, if needed.
4. Catholic Symbols get a facelift. The catholic churc will rejuvenate the classic cross symbol, adding four extra lines, one to each extreme of the cross.
5. New dress code. Ratzinger’s past included a brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement, which according to him "dressed muuuch muuuch betterrrr than the current crop of Catholic altar boys!!!!!!!" (read in maniacally voice ;). Expect the altar boy outfits to be redesigned as well.
6. No chance of misunderstood messages. The classic Easter message delivered by the Pope will be changed slightly. Instead of "Happy Easter", Pope Ratzinger´s message will now end with "Happy Easter, it´s an order!".

Have any other ideas of coming changes to the Catholic Church? Post those below by clicking on the "x comment(s)" link below this.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Software patents are Evil. Read this and get scared...

If you are still not convinced that software patents can be EVIL, just see this patent. It seems like corporate juggernaut Symantec has been granted a broad patent that covers something as simple as the delivery and apply of software patches (incremental updaters) over a network, although with a specific method of grouping patches together to make it easier to jump from one version number to another.

I´m not really a legal expert and I'm not accusing Symantec of anything (they applied for a patent and it was given to them). What I´m simply saying is that the SYSTEM of granting patents to SOFTWARE PROCESSES is EVIL and rotten, and has the potential to end up hurting development and hampering innovation.

On a slightly related note and speaking of patents and "patches"... the other day I installed a trial version of RTpatch, and saw the dreaded "patent pending" message on its "splash screen". The trial version I installed (6.5) is a few years old so I don´t know now if the patent has been granted already. I suspect anthing they applied for should be granted or denied by now (the trial was dated 2003).

In a blog entry on Joel on Software, he says that a license for RTPatch reportedly costs $2750 greenbacks (US dollars :) now, but that some years ago the same licence had a cost of $5,000 greenbacks. The price drop for RTpatch , at least the post seemed to imply, was coincidental with the introduction by folks of Red Bend Software from Israel of a competing product dubbed vBuild which, the same report says, sold for $2500 dollars.

Now, speaking hypotetically, what would happen if the folks that make RTPatch one day need new revenue desperatelly, wake up in "trigger happy" lawsuit mode a la Darl McBride of SCO fame, and starts taking everyone who does a "delta patcher" or "binary differential updater" to court, demanding payments for breach of their patented design?. This is pure speculation, in fact, I don´t know if the Israeli software conflicts with RTPatch´s patent, I'm just using these examples to highlight the implications of widespread patent grants covering about anything imaginable. The whole thought of it should scare everyone that has ever written a single line of software.

The potential of software patents to prevent software innovation is amazing, and largely unreported in the mainstream press. How can you be serious that routing you've written doen't step in to someone else's patent?. Are you scared already? You should...

Ok, I have a blog in, now what?...

"I'm a trend follower not a trend setter" was at some point in life one of my mottos, and this certainly confirms it. I feel kinda uncomfortable now, however, having opened this blog on rather than installing and running my own. Hrmmm.... I still haven't decided what to do.

The good part of having your blog in a "free service" is that you can continue blogging even if your life goes down the drain... even a few coins can let you update your blog from the street, if you ever become a homeless (provided you find an internet cafe that lets a homeless in, and that you don't stink too much ;). The bad part, and this is pretty obvious, is that you lose control.

The problem I see is that I have several personalities, me the computer geek, and me, the political advocate. And to top this split-personality disorder, I have friends overseas, who would certainly like to read my babbling in english (ok, spanglish ;), and local friends, who would very much prefer to read my babling in español.

What to do?. Split my musings in four different blogs? Create sub-categories?. I'm open for suggestions....