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Cell phone

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I ordered Motorola E815 and Verizon Wireless new service plan from Amazon yesterday, after doing some research on the web. My contract with T-mobile expired recently, and I was not impressed by their service: the biggest problem is their limited coverage area. Many times when I am off the highways, I no longer have the signal. The other day when I was in MSP airport, in some places it had signal, in other places it didn’t. And their customer service is not consistent either. I heard mixed messages from time to time.

I checked out the cell phones and plans from Amazon. Cingular and Sprint both require 2 years contract, which I don’t like. I had some difficulty to choose the phone between E815 and LG VX8100. Sometimes choice is not necessary a good thing. I chose the Motorola because it’s slightly cheaper and it comes with bluebooth headset.

This evening (Feb. 21) I drove by the Verizon store and decided to take a look at the real thing. It seems the LG phone is much sexier than the Motorola E815. Now I can only hope the E815 has better substance. How can I forget the store which I drive by everyday? I know I am a little out of mind these days.

Note: I found the cell phone buying guide from eBay to be helpful.

Note on Feb 22: on second thought, I changed my order from Motorola E815 ($20 money back with mail-in rebates) to SamSung A850 ($100 money back with mail-in rebates). People in China will think it’s crazy we can make money here just buying cell phone. But it’s just a way the carriers here used to entice new customers. The monthly rate of the plans is not cheap. The one-year plan I am going to have is $39.99 per month before tax. That’s $480 for one year. Thinking I may not be in St. Louis for several months in the coming year, I want to cut the phone bill a bit. Besides that, I don’t think the extra feature offered by E815 such as 1.3M camera, video capture and MP3 player will be very useful for me. I am just a simple guy who use phone for talk and text messaging.

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Be careful

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The following is a faked email I received today. I found it out by
“show full headers” in my Yahoo email. I believe you can do it in
other mail clients. The lesson here is don’t click on the link from
your email unless you are absolutely sure it’s from a trusted source.

To: my email address (msgid-XXX-XXX-XXX)
From: Paypal-XXX-XXX-XXX
Subject: Resolution Center Notice: (PP-XXX-XXX-XXX)
We recently reviewed your account, and we need more information about your business to allow us to provide uninterrupted service. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited. We would like to restore your access as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Why is my account access limited?

Your account access has been limited for the following reason(s):

Jan. 19, 2006: We have observed activity in this account that is unusual or potentially high risk.

(Your case ID for this reason is PP-XXX-XXX-XXX)

How can I restore my account access?

Please visit the Resolution Center (here is a faked link) and complete the “Steps to Remove Limitations.”

Once you complete all of the checklist items, your case will be reviewed by one of our Account Specialists. We will send you an email with the outcome of the review.

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Car problem

Reading Time: 2 minutes

My car is making funny noise recently. So I made an appointment with a local Nissan dealership 9AM today, to take a look. The customer rep asked my phone numbers and the usual stuff. I gave them both my work number and mobile number (that turns out to be a mistake). He told me expect an hour and half before getting back to me. The dealership is about 20 minutes walk from my home. On the way back to home, I decided to work remotely using VPN so that I don’t need to ask somebody giving me a ride or rent a car. I started work using Remote Desktop and fixed the problem I mentioned in the previous post. There are a few glitches such as “Network disconnected” or slow response from Graphic intensive applications. But in general I am pleased with the performance of Microsoft Remote Desktop.

When I was happily working on computer, I forgot one thing — call the dealership more often. I did give them a call at 12:30 PM and they told me they still have not figured out the cause of noise. So I figured give them some breeze time. I had some sympathy for them because I am doing similar things such as they do: debugging computer problem vs. car problem. But they did not call my cell phone. When I walked to the dealership at 6PM, they told me they called my work number and left a message. Dahn! They did find the cause of the problem, but they did not fix it without my permission. Now I have to wait till tomorrow morning to pick up my car. I can take another 20 minutes walk. But I was disappointed by them not calling my cell phone number earlier.

This reminds me of something I experienced in Toyota dealership when I was shopping my first new car years ago. I was going to buy a Toyota at two dealerships but both of them have a “either buy it at my price; or just leave” attitude. So I ended up not buying it.

Japanese car companies, Toyota, Honda and Nissan are having a good time these days in the US market. Their quality and reliability are undisputed. But their customer service…I don’t want to talk about it.

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Make used books more useful

Reading Time: < 1 minute

A good friend of my brother recently visited St. Louis. He is an avid reader and used book collector. Although I like to read too but I have to admit I am not at his level in terms of reading breadth and expertise. Neverthless, we spent quite some time in two of the used book stores in St. Louis. The first one is The Book House at Manchester Road. It’s a family owned operation, a two story building full of all kinds of used books. We spent about an hour and half there and my friend picked up 6 books. I think the cashier was quite happy with his big spending. It seems to me not many people here will buy that many at one time. After that we went to the Left Bank Books at the Central West End. Left Bank is a larger (but independent) book store and it has both new and used books. I remember I saw the late Chinese American writer Iris Chang at the store a few years ago. We also picked a few books there.

Besides the brick-and-mortar stores. We can also look for books online. These are nothing new: one can search on ebay and Amazon for those used books. What interested me is I found some new ideas about the exchanging used books. Two web sites, bookins, paperbackswap, are helping people exchange used books online. It seems the former is more business oriented (creating profit), the latter is more service oriented. But I like the idea very much. Unlike my friend, I am not a book collector. And I want to read more books without owning them. Library is a good source. But this online exchange thing is also interesting. I may try this in this holiday.

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Microsoft Xbox 360 strategy

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This morning I went to 3 local Best Buy stores. I knew my chance of getting a Xbox 360 would be as same as winning a lottery. But I went anyway because I was already awake at 7:15 AM. There was a little flurry but I made it to the Best Buy Bridgeton location at 7:58 AM. There was already a line there. And I noticed the chairs (people camped outside the store overnight) were already empty — later on I saw those people waited in the check out lanes with their new Xbox inside the store. Interestingly enough, the Best Buy greeting guys in the front door handed out 15% off coupons for those missed the Xbox. Smart sales pitch.

I spent a minute or two before heading off to the Chestfield Best Buy store. At Bridgeton I saw a girl (or lady) asked the customer rep if there is any more shipments before X’mas. Obviously she needed this as a gift.

When I got to Chestfield, people were picking up their Xbox, tents (I saw at least two tents) and taking off. I gave up my unrealitic hope and went to Mcdonald for breakfast. After that I went to Best Buy at Ellisville and tried out the Xbox demo my first time.

I talked the Xbox shortages problem with my friends who are game lovers (I am not). Originally I thought it was Microsoft’s fluke. But they made me realized it’s a Microsoft’s strategy. I agree. By releasing the Xbox in limited quantity, with all the free media coverage (include my blog), they gained more excitment about the product. And people like me who are not Xbox gamers are also aware of this and may be converted to gamers through all this frenzy, e.e., I tried their demo this morning.

This is a really smart business strategy. But could it back fire especially for those where are real gamers? Unlikely. The thing is there are not too many alternatives. The new PS3 is one year away, and the Xbox 360 has great graphics in my view.

Bill made his day again in this X’mas. Now if he could also make the “blue screen” go away (recently my Windows XP laptop died twice with blue screen, very annoying).