Treo 650, month one

I'm still pretty happy with this phone; it's certainly the best phone I've used to date. But since it's been a month, here are the things about it that still bug me:

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  • I wish both the ringer and the vibrator had more oomph. I often don't notice it going off when it's in my pocket.

  • Every now and then it locks up and I have to pop the battery to reset it. This has only happened to me maybe 6 times, but it happened twice today. (Possibly this is the fault of VersaMail or VeriChat, I don't know.)

  • Until you get used to it, it's really easy to call people by mistake. I have my "front page" set to display a list of "favorites" instead of the on-screen keypad. This means that what happens is, I say "goodbye" and reach for the "hang up" button, but the other person hangs up first, and I end up calling whoever's quick-dial is now in that spot on the screen instead. This seems like a pretty rookie UI design blunder, but the solution is to never use the on screen "hang up" button, but always use the hard button on the keypad.

  • When you get a call from someone not in your address book, at the end of the call it asks whether to add them, which is nice. But if you hesitate for more than ~2 seconds when deciding whether you want to do that, the phone turns off and you can't get back there again. At that point, you pretty much have to go into call history, remember the number, go to address book, and re-enter it manually. Wow, awesome.

  • Mashing the side volume buttons makes the ringer stop if it's a voice call, but not if it's a text message.

  • I found out the hard way that, though both iCal and the PalmOS calendar have a field for "location", the iSync/Palm Desktop conduit doesn't sync that! So there I was on my way somewhere, sure that the address was in my phone's calendar, only it wasn't. Does Missing Sync solve this? I couldn't find anywhere a description of what exactly that improves, aside from a lot of crap I don't need, like iPhoto integration. That list doesn't answer questions like "will the location field sync", "will the address book userpics sync", etc.

  • There's an AIM feature you can turn on where, when you're "away", AOL will forward messages as text-messages to your phone. That sounds perfect, but when I try to set that up, the confirmation text message from AOL to my phone never arrives. It appears that AOL can't get text messages to my (Sprint) phone at all, though plenty of other people can. AOL tech support says "yes, it should definitely work with Sprint". I haven't called Sprint yet, because I can't imagine getting a satisfying answer from them, but has anyone else experienced this sort of thing?

  • Since that doesn't work, I have VeriChat set up with a different AIM login ("jwz phone") that I told it to keep online all the time, but it doesn't. It seems like after about half a day, it goes offline and never auto-reconnects until I go into VeriChat manually. Since I want this more for incoming messages than outgoing, that makes it pretty useless.

  • I have VersaMail set up to talk to my home mail server over POP3S (it makes me feel good that my mail only passes through Sprint's network in encrypted form). My desktop mail reader keeps mail on the server for 24 hours, which gives me a second copy of the mail on the phone. Except that it doesn't work for shit, because VersaMail can never maintain a connection to the damned server! Typically I'll hit "get mail" and have ~200 messages that I need to download, and it'll download 10 and stall out. Then another 12 and stall out. Then 4 and stall out, and so on. And of course the phone is locked up solid while it's waiting to time out: you can't even power it off. I don't have these problems browsing web pages, so it doesn't seem like this is just a "network is down" issue.

  • The filters in VersaMail don't work. I just wanted to filter personal, work, cron, and LJ messages into different folders, and auto-junk certain obvious spam (ebay, etc.) First problem: you can only have 9 filter rules total! Second problem: if you have more than ~3 filter rules, it randomly ignores half of them, and dumps all of those messages into Inbox anyway. So I just turn off filtering entirely and wade through a raw inbox when I want to read my mail remotely.

    Is there a PalmOS mail reader that sucks less than VersaMail?

  • I used LEDoff to make the phone not blink the LED incessantly to indicate "we get signal", but regardless of settings, it still does not turn on the LED when I have messages. Maybe this is a Sprint thing, since other people report having that work.

  • KMaps (the interface to Google Maps) kinda works, but is sloooow and a total pig (in that you have to install an entire Java runtime first). And it doesn't behave like a Palm application (e.g., no menus). It's a cute hack, but useless in the real world.

    Is there an interactive map browser that works well on small devices like this? Meaning: no Javascript perversions; pages without baroque guilding around the maps; and basic N/S/E/W/zoom links? Yahoo Maps doesn't load, and MapQuest is just totally unusable.

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latest feel-good news

  • Black people "loot", white people "find"?

  • Economics of disaster:

    "The poorest 20% of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources -- meaning, the political will -- weren't there to get them out."
  • Nero:

    "Was this a moment unfairly captured? No. Experts had forecast an imminent possible disaster days ago. And from the start, other elected officials -- Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, for example -- began urgently working to save American lives. Bush chose instead to continue making public speeches before hand-picked audiences pushing his political agenda for Medicare and trying to spin his unpopular war in Iraq."
  • Chris Randall asks:

    "The first thing I don't understand is why there isn't a line of Chinooks and Sea Kings bringing food to that god-damned dome, and taking people away. The sky should be black with them. There should be a line of helicopters from Atlanta to New Orleans. [...] Why are the national guards of, say, North Dakota and Utah still sitting in their houses watching CNN? [...] The second that hurricane passed by, the Atlantic Fleet should have been parked offshore with water making ships and hospital ships and helicopters and amphibious vehicles. This whole operation has gone to hell in a handbasket. Actually, it didn't go anywhere. It started there."
  • Children's Hospital under seige:

    "Bottcher said the director of the hospital fears for the safety of the staff and the 100 kids inside the hospital. The director said the hospital is locked, but that the looters were trying to break in and had gathered outside the facility. The director has sought help from the police, but, due to rising flood waters, police have not been able to respond. The National Guard has also been unable to respond."

    Update: Times-Picayune now says this story was bullshit.
  • Extensive, but difficult-to-navigate, gallery of recent images on (also home of the feed from Times-Picayune-in-exile).

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our top story today

"An ostrich who busted out of a cargo van checks out the territory around the Golden Gate Bridge."
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handy travel-size container

"Joe Stevens, of Mobile, Alabama, fills his 1,500 gallon gasoline tank after waiting for approximately one hour in line at a Shell gas station along Interstate 10 in Mobile, Alabama August 30, 2005. REUTERS/Frank Polich"

This has to be a gag. If there's an hour long line for gas and this guy pulls up, the people behind him would have lynched him. Also, that's over $4K worth of gas that would take at least seven hours to get out of any gas pump I've ever used. And how much gas does a typical gas station have?

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disaster porn

Here's a Java applet that shows an animation of the path of Hurricane Katrina. Damn that's big.

Here's a cut-away view that shows how New Orleans can easily turn into a lake.

Earlier today this page said the following, but it's since been deleted. I don't know if that means they no longer believe it, or if they thought it was a little too wrath-of-god:

Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. all gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.

The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.

High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out.

Airborne debris will be widespread...and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Sport utility vehicles and light trucks will be moved. The blown debris will create additional destruction. persons...pets...and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck.

Power outages will last for most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.

The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Only the heartiest will remain standing...but be totally defoliated. Few crops will remain. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed.

Some folks in disasterporn said:

And what lives in the water in that part of the country? Alligators and poisonous snakes? Oh, that the basin also has above-ground graves, chemical plants, and (like most cities) sewage treatment plants. [...] The live feed reporters also just said, "Oh, and fire ants." They'll swarm floating things to save themselves, then people out there wading grab the floating things, and... (the reporter actually shuddered a little).

A couple of older articles about how screwed New Orleans is: What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans? And Thinking Big About Hurricanes.

Rescue teams would have to don special breathing equipment to protect themselves from floodwaters contaminated with chemicals and toxins released from commercial sources within the city and the petrochemical plants that dot the river's edge. Additionally, tank cars carrying hazardous materials, which constantly pass through the city, would likely be damaged, leaking their contents into the floodwater and adding to the "brew." The floodwater could become so polluted that the Environmental Protection Agency might consider it to be hazardous waste and prohibit it from being pumped out of the leveed areas into the lake and marshes until treated.

Lots of info at Wikipedia.

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not a simulation!

This is amazing -- it doesn't look real at all, but apparently it is:

The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005. Several hundred images, taken with the wide-angle camera in MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), were sequenced into a movie documenting the view from MESSENGER as it departed Earth.

Comprising 358 frames taken over 24 hours, the movie follows Earth through one complete rotation. The spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America when the camera started rolling on Aug. 2. It was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth - farther than the Moon's orbit - when it snapped the last image on Aug. 3.

Earth rotation (4.90 MB) or Earth rotation with date and time (5.78 MB).

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The Brothers Grimm

Van Helsing was a far, far better movie than The Brothers Grimm. I think BG may be the worst movie I've seen this year, and that's really saying something. Since I couldn't fast-forward, I actually started playing solitaire on my phone a couple times.
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Current Music: Curve -- Crystal ♬

"I'll eat your soul!"

Update: Originally from here, apparently.


weeping for the future

A common occurrence in my life: Angela and I would leave the house for lunch, and on the way down the stairs, I'd tell her about the latest horror I've just read about online. She'd make a whole series of angry and incredulous faces, then sigh, and say to me, "baby, why you gotta make me hate the world so early in the morning?"

Yesterday it was my turn. I had lunch with someone who works at a certain blogging company whose name rhymes with "LiveJournal", and I got to hear about an argument my friend had with a co-worker who took the unbelievable position of being opposed to the ski jump. "If it was your wedding, you'd understand," he said.

So it goes on from there in an almost-parodic, predictable way, and anti-ski guy says that he's heard some rumor that a nightclub down the block from their offices was going to be shut down soon (false) and he thought that was a great idea, so that they could make room for more condos! "The city has had this planned for years," he said. "Pretty soon this neighborhood will be nothing but condos and grocery stores."

"Then it will be a really hip, urban neighborhood."

I strongly suspect you are now making the same sequence of faces that I did.

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spikes! spikes for everybody!

The Anti-Sit Archives is a gallery of photos of pigeon spikes for humans: steel teeth to make it impossible for you to sit on anything. Those things really make me sad.

They're even worse than pigeon spikes, and those are pretty awful, too. It's so pathetic when you see a building that at one time had some attention paid to its architecure -- that looks like someone might have cared about it, by adding some ornate detail or other -- and then someone glued a thousand wire scrub-brushes to it. Am I the only one who thinks that those are far, far uglier than pigeon shit?

Even worse is when there is an overhead alcove with a statue in it... with chain-link fence closing the hole. Why not just use plywood! Turn the building into a cube, stucco for everyone! Gaaahh.

There's a church in North Beach that has some large statues on the building, halfassedly crowned with pigeon-thorns. There's an eagle that looks like it has an aluminum mohawk. It's kind of funny, but mostly just sad.

Skateboarding vigilanteism:

Skateboarders routinely conduct guerrilla missions to remove what they call "Nazi knobs" from their favorite skate spots. They use saws and power tools, and sometimes cellular phones to connect the demolisher to the lookout.

"One dude cuts and one dude's watching and one dude is ready to run with the generator," said Rob Dyrdek, a professional skateboarder who admits to removing Skatestoppers. "It's pretty ridiculous."

Once, while Loarie was installing Skatestoppers at a school in Orange County, a young skateboarder walked up to say he'd be back to tear them out over the weekend. Later, Loarie said, the Skatestoppers had been hacked off and human feces smeared across the wall.

On a computer screen in his office, Loarie showed off a forthcoming Skatestopper he calls the "future of skate deterrents." The piece, made from aircraft-grade aluminum, looks like a mooring with deep anchors and can be installed directly into wet concrete, making it impossible to remove without destroying the bench or curb in which it is imbedded.

This all reminds me of one of my favorite visual gags in Transmetropolitan: all of the park benches had signs on them that said, "WARNING: this bench becomes red hot between 2 AM and 6 AM."

But you can tell that was science fiction, because the park had grass in it, unlike the concrete Soviet monstrosity of the reconstructed Union Square.

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