FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2004
I'm amazed at the new research on landline-free homes
that hit my desk this week. Between the years 2000 and 2004, the percentage of U.S. households with no landline phone has just about doubled, from 4.2 percent to 8.1 percent. And it's presumed that the increase is due to cell phones.
Doing some quick and dirty math, there are about 108 million households in the States, of which about 3 or 4 million have always been without a phone because of poverty and such. But recently, another 4.5 million households have now chosen to go with cell phones only.
my cell phone service was good enough to do that. It isn't even close. Nowhere near that close.
And even if it were, storms, earthquakes, and other disasters all knock out the brittle cellular network when you need your phone the most. Unless you're really broke, I counsel you to keep a landline. It's about the most brutally resilient technology ever invented, requires no local power, and does voice and data--nice for a technology that's 128 years old.
The big lure for cell-only folks is that calls on nights and weekends are free. That's quite attractive if you're a Chatty Cathy. I am not. In fact, if it weren't for my bill being paid regularly, SBC would probably send the cops to my house to see if I was dead because so many months go by without the receiver being picked up.
I'd love to hear from the cell-phone-only people. Do you feel safe relying on something a glitchy as the cell phone network? And what did you do with your old telephones, turn them into planters or something?
TalkBack | Read all comments THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2004
Why didn't I think of that?
By now you've seen the story about the TV-B-Gone
clicker that goes on your keychain and does one thing: turns off televisions. That's a neat trick in places where TVs are left on just out of habit. It's a simple idea, and the guy who came up with it will sell truckloads of the gadgets, since they're cheap.
Palm PDAs have been able to control single TVs
remotely almost since their inception, so having a TV remote with you wherever you are isn't the clever thing about TV-B-Gone. The clever thing is how it rolls through all of the known power-off codes in rapid succession. I'd imagine a similar program will appear for Palm very soon, since they're about halfway there already.
Even sooner, I expect a story on the newswires about someone who was shot in a bar for turning off a TV with one of these things.
TalkBack | Read all comments TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2004
Nothing really sticks in my craw today (yes, I feel fine, thanks), but I would like to mention a couple of Treo toys I think are interesting. Not sure how many of my readers are Treo owners, but judging by the e-mail I get, it seems a pretty good percentage:
I was delighted to see someone with the alacrity and humor to code up an application called Fake Call 1.0
by ToySoft, which simulates a phone call on your Treo to get you out of yet another bone-headed meeting.
Now, people have been doing this with their cell phones for years, using the mobile's alarm clock and setting it to use ringlike alarm sounds. The thing that's so delicious about Fake Call is the lengths it goes to pull off the caper.
For example, Fake Call actually displays a Treo-realistic incoming call screen when it goes off and greets you with a prerecorded "caller" on the other end. Only masters in the art of bogus excuses would realize that the hardest part of the scam is being convincing as you pretend to be surprised by an urgent call that demands your attention and exit. The other pitfall is some nosy guy next to you trying to hear or see who's calling you. This little app hams it up on both counts.
I salute the sick bastards at ToySoft--they know of whence they scam.
Not nearly as devious but still useful is HoliDates
, a Treo app that manages holidays in your Palm OS calendar application.
An application just to list and insert holidays probably sounds like total overkill, but you'd be surprised. HoliDates has an array of multicultural check boxes that let you load other cultures' holidays into your calendar and view all of them going forward through 2008. It saves you the exquisite embarrassment of strolling through the quiet office on Yom Kippur muttering aloud, "What, did everyone
play hooky today?"
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2004
Early this year, Bill Gates pondered the idea of an e-mail tax to scare away spammers
. Everyone in the room furrowed his or her brow. Some gasped. None pursued it.
Meanwhile spam kept increasing and becoming more than a nuisance--in fact, it's now another weapons system designed to get a payload into your in-box
Statistically, you're probably a person who is really bothered by spam (unlike me, who so far finds the thousands of daily messages still manageable), so ponder these two solutions for me:
- Trusted-class e-mail: Goodmail is a good example of the trusted sender idea. It's a verification program that requires senders to buy so-called stamps to send e-mail. To buy those stamps, they also have to become part of a registry, so even if they were willing to pay to spam others, they would be known and sanctionable.
- Fee-based e-mail: A little company called V5Mail just launched what it says is the first fee-based e-mail service. It's a Web mail system that costs senders a minimum of 30 cents per message to reach you. V5Mail keeps 5 cents of that, the rest goes to you. So you actually get paid to receive e-mail. The sociological hurdles are enormous. But the company suggests that it could take off first with professionals who need a priority mail channel. Doctors, lawyers, and so on might promise to respond immediately to V5Mail, since it wouldn't get caught up in a polluted in-box.
These are both radical ideas, but laws won't have any effect on spam. When do you become bothered enough by spam to cry uncle?
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