Ohio isn't for lovers, apparently it is for work.
Yes, its been a long time since the last post I made, but I'm really
bored. I'm working in Ohio this week, in a town called Springfield. I
must say, its one of the gayest places i have ever had the displeasure
of going to. If you smoke, stay away. Its kind of like a gay California.
Anyway, a few things have happened recently that are very very
exciting. Firtstly, IM GOING TO BE A DAD!!!!!!!!!!!! See a later post
for more infromations.
Secondly - I bought an iPhone. Review to come soon.
Thirdly - I finally got my inheritance that I had been waiting for.
More posts to come.
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We've had it almost one week, but between us, we've added over 500 miles. I'll start off by saying, for $17000, you can't do a whole lot better than this (unless you don't care about comfort). The car is smooth, has more than enough power, and handles reasonably well for a box on wheels. The styling is something to get used to. At first, I really wasn't sure about how I liked the way it looked, but it looks a whole lot better in person than in pictures and I've grown to love it. The interior is functional and does not offend. There are some things I wish were available, though, as it is, those are really not needed.
In typical Toyota fashion, the panels fit tight and look smooth. The paint on our Blackberry Crush is smooth and vibrant. The front nose is a lot more rounded with a more sloping windshield than the previous wonder box. In it's stock form, the rear of the car sits about an inch higher than the front. Front windows are small and squared and run along to the back C-Pillar to where the rear windows are somewhat inset. The C pillar, from the outside, looks thick as though it would intrude on sight, I will get back to this later. From the rear, the lines of the windows vaguely follow to the back window. Smooth lines on the back hatch continue to show that this version is a lot more round than it is square. An oddity compared to almost all cars sold stateside exists on the rear bumper, there is only one reverse light which is located on the drivers side. The car overall looks "fun" and unique. Though on paper, the specifications compare to the Element, PT Cruiser or HHR, it comes across as much younger and less utilitarian.
Stepping into the drivers seat is really freaking easy, no matter how tall you are. The steering wheel is up fairly high and the seat bottom is flat. The driver is met with a rather small, though comfortable steering wheel with audio controls and a 3rd stalk for Cruise. The seat is comfortable, it's not too hard, not too soft and wide enough to fit those of larger proportions without making them feel as though they've just put on a pair of speedo's. Attached to the drivers seat is a tiny little armrest that feels awkward. It really needs something better and thicker. Just as the first gen had, I'm sure plenty of aftermarket armrests will start to pop up.
Just like in the previous xB and xA, the guages are located in the center of the Dash. Though the analog speedometer has been replaced in favor of a digital readout and all other guages have grown to a more readable size. Included in the gauge cluster is the ability to view more information about the car. This includes outside temp, current MPG, average MPG, fuel range and engine time. Those are nice features, but when you want to use them, you need to lean halfway across the dashboard to change them around. Although the placement of the guages is a little unorthodox (but that is what these cars are all about), viewing them while driving is not an issue and is probably easier than in a standard placement. Toyota placed the speedometer in an easy to read place high on the dash. In front of the Gauge Cluster, the next thing you meet is the radio. I will admit, the standard radio looks kind of pathetic in this car, it is a disappointment. If you plan to keep the stock headunit in the car, go for the upgrade to the OLED unit, it is much more visually pleasing. Right below the stereo are the HVAC controls. To help keep everything ergonomic, these have been pointed towards the driver, and kind of help give a little more of a cockpit feeling. Right below the HVAC is the shifter which is mounted up high, for manual drivers, this is an excellent place as it offers much smoother and quicker shifts than being located directly on the floor.
Overall, cargo room is pretty big. With the rear bench folded (60/40 split) there is roughly 100 cubic inches of cargo space. If going to Ikea isn't on the books for the weekend, rear passengers will find that there is plenty of space for them to stretch out and the seats are fairly comfortable even though the position in the back resembles that of a school bus. Underneath the rear seats, there is plenty of storage space in the semi-well thought out storage compartments. They could have maybe added a little more space under there, but it's OK. Up front, in the dash there are a few little storage areas, though not as plentiful as the previous model. In addition, in between the seats is an added storage console, though, it's maybe big enough to hold two CD cases or a Cell phone. One thing that is offered as an option is an overhead console. The overhead console is close to useless and would have been better offered as a standard item.
Now to the juicy pieces, everyone wants to know how this thing drives. It is a lot different to the previous model. The original xB felt like the little box that could. It was fun and required a lot of finesse and timing. It wasn't fast and didn't handle like a Miata, but for it's size and lack of power, it was an admirable daily driver. The new box fixes the power issue. It receives the same power plant as the tC and Camry which puts out 158hp and ~150ft/lbs of torque, compared to the first gen's 1.5l with 103hp. Acceleration is smooth and fairly flat. I have not yet had to put the pedal to the floor and go W.O.T, but getting on the freeway in tight situations is a whole lot easier than it previously was. Handling is nimble, there is about 650lbs more weight that comes with the added safety features and the bigger engine that is easily felt, but doesn't do much harm. The brakes are fantastic. As standard, the box comes with 4-Wheel discs, Toyota added EBD and ABS as standard which helps bring the stopping distance down quite substantially and gives a good firm feel. Steering feels above average. Toyota opted to use an electronic steering system in this car which changes the steering depending upon speed. Back to the C-pillar that I mentioned earlier. Most people have commented that it looks like it could impede vision, but after 500 miles, I've not noticed it at all. Even with the smaller windows, vision is fine and everything can be seen.
For under $20k, this thing is packed with safety features. It comes standard with Electronic Brake Distribution, ABS, Traction Control, full frontal and side impact airbags. This should help a lot of younger owners lower they're premiums a slight bit. These added safety features and bigger engine add roughly $1000 to the MSRP of the car, but it keeps it in a very affordable bracket.
As far as ride goes, it's no Bentley, but for under $20k it probably has the smoothest out there. Unlike the previous xB, small bumps in the road aren't nearly as jarring, and freeway driving is a lot more pleasurable. One other thing I have noticed, which I'm going to say has something to do with the electronic steering is that there is very little steering hop when going over bumps. As I said before, the seats are very comfortable and offer a decent about of lumbar comfort.
The standard stereo system is bland in looks, but sounds fairly decent. I would recommend the upgraded stereo for those who desire something that looks better and those who use an iPod as on-screen navigation of songs is greatly improved. The upgraded stereo also has standard pre-outs on the rear so that audiophiles can add an amplifier for subwoofers, as well as front and rear speakers. I have not had chance to play with, nor have I seen in person, the Navigation system that is available.
As many have noted, fuel economy is down quite a bit in this years model. But there are two things to remember. The mileage on the sticker was calculated using the new EPA testing methods which bring most other cars down a few miles or two. It also has a lot more power than before and almost 1 whole liter more displacement than the previous engine. The EPA Estimates show 22mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, but given my real-world experience, average is right around 28.5mpg with mixed driving. So it really isn't that bad, it's actually close to the same as I was getting in my 2000 Celica which had a similar rating to the old xB.
Given all of the above, it's a good car for the money. Some people who liked the first one won't like this as it's lost it's uniqueness and it's not true JDM although it is built entirely in Japan by Kanto Autoworks. Although, a lot of buyers of this are people who have previously owned the original. It's all a matter of taste. I predict though, just like with the first one, a lot of mature drivers will favor this thanks to its improved power and safety. I love my new Box.
Anyway, I will post a detailed review of the car coming soon when my wife will let me drive it some more. I have the pictures uploaded to my Picasa Gallery, so feel free to peruse them for now.
2008 Scion xB Gallery.
The spec's are impressive: 2.0MP camera w/Flash, A2DP Bluetooth Profile, 3.5mm Audio-Out, 64MB Rom and I imagine it will use the same 312MHz Intel XScale as before. I'm hoping to see this phone drop pretty soon, and with Verizon/Sprint due to get the 8800 GSM/CDMA and 8100 soon, this is probably going to be a GSM handset.
Blackberry Curve Official Site
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My Latitude D620 has a 256MB NVidia Quadro NVS 110m video card. The driver has not been updated since June 2006 when the laptop was released. The main problem is that every now and then, I will come back to my laptop after it has been sitting idle (Not in hibernate) and all I have is a black screen. The only way to regain life from this poor thing is by powering it down and turning it back on. Although, when it comes back on, the video driver crashes. The only way to fix it then is to remove the driver completely and re-install. I'm praying for a new release.
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Customer service, obviously, is not one of they're selling points as I have found out...
The first mistake I made was to open the accounts online using the BoA website. In the 21st century, one might imagine that this would be one of the quickest ways to do it, but you would have to live in bizarro world for that to happen. I expected to open up the account, and be able to log in and manage my account almost immediately, or within a few hours. Nope. I waited a couple of hours after opening the account, then a couple of days. The only communication I received from BoA was an automated email thanking me for opening up the accounts. After 3 day's, I called Customer Service, after some looking, they finally gave me my checking and saving account numbers. I then waited a few more day's hoping to see at least a box of check's or my ATM card, but nothing.
I knew I still had to visit a branch to sign a "Signature" card, so I went in. I asked them again about my ATM/Check Card and my Checks as it had been over a week since I opened the account, the Account Manager checked a few things, and saw that both where on order. While I was in there, I also opened up a line of credit that I was planning to use to transfer some of my high interest cards to and pay off using the 12-month interest free promotion, I will get to this later. After an hour or so, I got to leave, and I head back home. On the way there, I checked the mail, and guess what, I have a new shiny ATM card. I get to my apartment and open it up, but there was no PIN number sent with it, neither in the same envelope or in a different one. I called customer service, and they told me it comes seperately and that I should wait a day or two, which I did. Bare in mind, at this point, my checking account and savings are useless to me. After 4 day's, I finally got the PIN number and could start using the card, but I still had no checks in sight. I called customer service again to check on where my check's where, they show them as "On-Order". Needless to say, it's been a month, and I am still checkless. It's a good job I didn't migrate all of my funds from my old checking account otherwise I would of had a problem paying my rent.
So, in the past month, I have already witnessed first hand, the complete lack of customer service you offer, and I have already spoken to half of your inept customer service team. I'm taking my money elsewhere, somewhere that will give me check's and not give me a hard time when I call to follow up. I'm thinking WaMu or Wachovia. WaMu at least refunds ATM fee's on ever ATM anywhere. Sound's good to me.
Here is the kicker. Remember earlier where I mentioned the line of credit that I opened while I was in the Branch? Well, I was approved for a $2900 limit (I'm only 21) in the branch. Shortly after I get home, I get a call from someone with they're credit services department asking me to send a utility bill by fax to them so that they can verify my address. I faxed the bill's that Monday. I received another call on Tuesday from BoA asking me whether I sent the fax or not, I told them I had sent it the previous day and verified my "Reference" number and the fax number that I was to send it to, I had in-fact sent it to the right place.
A few more days go by, then a week and I call again to verify the status of my card. The CSR could not find any information on me, so I was transferred, and then I was transferred, then I was transferred, then I was transferred back to the original CSR. She told me to wait a week and call back. I'm not in a rush to get this card, I'm only going to use it to help pay off some of my debts. In the meantime, I decided to re-send my utility bill's thinking they may have been lost. I neglected to call them after a week, instead I called them today (2 weeks). I go through the same game of being transferred from department to department and I do not get anywhere, no one can find me. They do not even see an application. I'm frustrated, not because I haven't seen my card yet, but because this Bank is thoroughly messed up, I do not trust to leave my measly amount of money with them, and I have no clue what happens to larger accounts.
Thanks to The Consumerist I was able to pick-up a phone number for they're manager escalation line. I have left a message and shall report an update as soon as I receive one.
Final words- Stay away from Bank of America.
It's a slick looking phone, originally sold in Black with Chrome accents on T-Mobile, more colors have been added. T-Mobile introduced this phone in mid 2006, shortly after, it was picked up by Cingular. Currently it is only available for use on GSM networks, but CDMA versions are on they're way. Shortly after the Cingular version (Black with Gun-Metalish accents), T-Mobile introduced an white version. In Q1 2007, Cingular (AT&T) released a Red version. In white or red variations, this is a sexy phone, even in black, it looks better than most other handsets.
The Pearl varies in price, some places sell it for $100 after MIR, and Amazon sells it for $0 (Sometimes less, -$75) if you get a new number with service. For the price, even if you do not plan to use it for email, it packs a lot of features. It is equipped with a 1.3MP camera which only takes still shots, but it does have a LED flash. It is also capable of accepting MicroSD cards to help boost the memory. It is also a Quad Band phone with Edge data speeds, doesn't look as though there will be a UMTS BB coming for a while.
Using the Pearl is fairly easy, there are a lot of in's and out's. For user's who are moving up to this, or have used a BB previously, migrating from the trackwheel to the ball is slightly confusing. The ball is very sensitive, but does allow for a much better range of motion and helps cut down the amount of time you spend drilling through menu's. The only problem I had with the ball is the size, it is far too small in my opinion, a few more mm's and it would be perfect. The SureType keyboard is bound to throw off everyone who has never used a 71xx device before. It is handy for writing short emails and SMS/MMS messages, but is not good for the person who wants to write a novel for an email. The placement of the keys, however, is very satisfying, I had no problem with the keypad, even when typing fast. The OS is fairly customizable, however, most user's I encounter leave it pretty much how it ships.
For me, it was a love/hate relationship with this phone. I love the dependability of the device and the reliability of email delivery (Most of the time). But I hated things such as data speed, lack of video capture, no actual QWERTY key's, and lack of Bluetooth stereo support. There are a few things, but they are common issue's such as call volume that weren't great, but do not render the phone unusable by any means. You can synchronize the phone with your computer, and in all honesty, the Desktop software is probably one of the best mobile synchronization solutions I have ever seen. I was able to flawlessly synchronize the phone with Novell Groupwise and Outlook as well as perform full backups and restores without the need for 3rd party applications. It is far better than ActiveSync of intellisync.
As far as differences between the carriers, T-Mobile and AT&T, they are few. I did notice that Data speed did seem better on the Cingular version, but without travelling, I will chalk this up to coverage as T-Mobile coverage is poor in my area. As I previously stated, there are different OS' loaded depending on carrier, but an AT&T OS will work fine on T-Mobile. Other than the color choices, everything remains the same. I originally went with T-Mobile as the Pearl is part of they're MyFaves system and Blackberry Internet Service cost only $19.99/mnth compared to Cingular who offer no MyFaves alternate and data is $29.99/mnth.
Overall, this is a great device for just about anyone. There are a whole host of 3rd party applications, and probably even more coming. If you just want to keep on top of your email and schedule, but want a phone too, this does just that. That is the beauty of Blackberry, they just work. If you are a business user, or one with bigger fingers, I would suggest going to the 8800 which is similar, but has a QWERTY keyboard and lacks the camera. If you want something more media centric, you may want to look at Windows Mobile devices, or hold out for the iPhone. I will have a better comparison of the Pearl next to other Windows Mobile offerings coming shortly.
This phone graced my hands for less than one week. It wasn't a terrible phone, but it did have several flaws. I'll start out with what I like about the phone... 1- QWERTY Keyboard Overall, the above is what attracted me to the phone. However, there are a few things that bring this phone down... 1- "Joggr" pad Let me start off with the Joggr pad. It is a small touchstrip on the top right-hand side of the phone, it is used for volume adjustment. It's a neat little strip, but the problem is that it is just not in the right place. It never failed that when I was on a call, I would either hit the strip and turn the volume down. And due to it's placement, it was almost impossible to get it back to normal. As far as data speed goes, Edge is so 2005. The Dash does makeup for this shortcoming by having integrated Wi-Fi. The problem is, open wireless networks are becoming harder to find, and they do not blanket regions the same way as UMTS. Nevertheless, Wi-Fi is handy to use when you are in a network's range, but 3G is still more convenient. Compared to other phones, the call volume of this handset is pretty bad. This may just be my own opinion, but whether used with speakerphone turned on or just using the earpiece, it was always a struggle to hear anything in a crowded area. Battery life is also rather dismal. AT&T at least provide an extra battery with the Blackjack. During one day's use with BT on and Wi-Fi off, the phone would need a charge.
2- Built-in Wi-Fi
3- Support for A2DP bluetooth profiles
4- Small Size
5- T-Mobile MyFaves compatible.
6- Used standard 5-pin USB connection
2- Edge Data only
1- QWERTY Keyboard
Overall, the above is what attracted me to the phone. However, there are a few things that bring this phone down...
1- "Joggr" pad
Let me start off with the Joggr pad. It is a small touchstrip on the top right-hand side of the phone, it is used for volume adjustment. It's a neat little strip, but the problem is that it is just not in the right place. It never failed that when I was on a call, I would either hit the strip and turn the volume down. And due to it's placement, it was almost impossible to get it back to normal.
As far as data speed goes, Edge is so 2005. The Dash does makeup for this shortcoming by having integrated Wi-Fi. The problem is, open wireless networks are becoming harder to find, and they do not blanket regions the same way as UMTS. Nevertheless, Wi-Fi is handy to use when you are in a network's range, but 3G is still more convenient.
Compared to other phones, the call volume of this handset is pretty bad. This may just be my own opinion, but whether used with speakerphone turned on or just using the earpiece, it was always a struggle to hear anything in a crowded area.
Battery life is also rather dismal. AT&T at least provide an extra battery with the Blackjack. During one day's use with BT on and Wi-Fi off, the phone would need a charge.
First off, let me say, business professionals and power users may want to research other devices. The version of Windows Mobile that is embedded in this device is Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone. The "Smartphone" designation is very important. Basically, Smartphone edition is just a stripped down version of Windows Mobile in it's more common form. It lacks mobile versions of Excel, Powerpoint and Word, and it is also designed to be used with phones that do not have touch screen display. Also, due to the lack of touchscreen and the separation in OS class, many Windows Mobile app's do not work the same, if at all on this phone. Also, if you are a user who requires constant and reliable email, Blackberry is the way to go (Despite the recent outage). Otherwise, this is an excellent phone for the power user who doesn't need a touchscreen, but wants they're phone to do more than the standard device.
As far as the hardware goes, the phone is pretty amazing. It comes with a 220MHz TI processor and the standard 128MB RAM. Compared to the T-Mobile dash, it does not have Wi-Fi, but it does have a UMTS radio in it which will let you access much higher data speeds than Edge (Which is the only Cellular data in the Dash). It has a bright 320x240 screen that is very crisp. The keyboard is small, but agile. However, using the keyboard does take some getting used to and you will often hit the wrong key. Overall form factor is very pleasing, it is not as wide as the Motorola Q or Dash, but still packs a QWERTY keyboard. It fits very well in the hand, both for in calls and general usage. One handed usage is relatively easy, Samsung kindly provided at trackwheel on the side similar to that on older Blackberries. The only thing I wish this had hardware wise include a standard 2.5mm audio out, Built-in flash and a slightly faster processor.
Call quality is superb on this phone. My usual reservation on most things labeled "Smartphone" usually are lacking in the calling dept. However, this phone is awesome. I have had no complaints about the quality of the call, and I can hear people clearly most of the time. The volume of the earpiece and speaker is great. I have often had to turn the volume down on calls because it is far too loud, I have never had to do this before. Usually, speakerphones on most devices are lacking, you almost have to lock yourself in a quiet room to hear something, on the Blackjack, this is not the case. I have used the speakerphone for both calls and music playback, music playback is also admirable considering the speaker is only meant for voice-calls.
Since everyone knows most of the issue's with Windows Mobile, I will not focus too much on that. The phone is easy to use, even for the WM Novice. Microsoft made it to where all of the important stuff is either on the home screen, or can be accessed by pressing a button on the keypad. Once you know more about how to use the phone, you will learn how powerful this device can be. One of the main things that attracted me to this phone is the HSDPA data speeds. Web surfing while out and about is a neat way to kill some time as you stand in line (as I recently tested at the DMV), however, PIE (Pocket Internet Explorer) is sadly inept at showing even the best designed mobile web page. It works, but things often come out looking like a project rather than a finished page. I stongly suggest downloading Opera Mobile 8.65 for this purpose. One of the best things about using a 3rd party app for web browsing is an increase in speed. Microsoft has previously offered a beta version of "Deepfish" which is the next gen mobile web browser. Unfortunately, I have not yet gotten the software, but I hope to later. Messaging is relatively simple, however, one of my disappointments after using Blackberry's is that there is no "Universal" mailbox on the device. If you have more than one email account you wish to access from POP on this device, you will have to "Switch Accounts" to change mailboxes. This is a minor problem, but it was convenient on the BB to have all your mail in one place.
Media wise, this device is pretty stout. It's not about to blow away a stand-alone MP3 player, Camera, PMP, or game system, but it does do a lot of media activities well. As of right now, I do not have a bluetooth stereo headset, even though it does support A2DP, so I went the old wired route. As I mentioned earlier, there is no standard audio-out, but you can buy an adapter that will plug into the data outlet which will let you use a 3.5mm headset (I found one on eBay for $1.99). I have used this phone already as an MP3 player both in-car and working out, it's not an iPod, but it works. Using Windows Media Player , songs and playlist's can be synchronized smoothly. I recommend buying a MicroSD card before you start doing this as you will max out the built-in memory fast. I have not yet played my own video on the device, but I have used Cingular Video from time to time. Cingular Video is a neat little service, I have viewed several snippets of episodes using this. The only problem I have is that video's from Cingular's service are not optimized for the screen on the Blackjack, this is disappointing, video is displayed in 150x150 (I think) so that it works with all 3G phones. The camera is 1.3MP and takes somewhat decent pictures. There is no flash, and the zoom is digital, but for shot's on the go, it is OK. The camcorder will let you shoot footage in either 320x240 or 176x144, not great, but it's still a phone.
One last point to make is the battery. There has been much discussion about this. To get to the point, if you want your phone to last more than 2 days, don't buy a Smartphone. Cingular/Samsung at least did something favorable with this phone, they included and extra extended battery. The phone comes with 2 batteries total. There is a standard battery and cover and an extended battery and cover. The standard battery can last at least 1 full day w/o bluetooth or 3G (Which sucks) and the extended battery will last for about 2 days with both 3G and Bluetooth on. The extended battery does add a little extra weight, and it does make the phone a little wider but it is worth the extra power.
Overall, there are a few bugs, but most of those come down to the OS. Compared to the standard line-up of phones, this offers more, much more, but at a price. You will have to spend some time learning how to use this phone to it's full potential, but It won't take long. For those who are already familiar with Windows Mobile, this is probably the best choice out of all the Smartphone devices, if you need a touchscreen and more functionality, go with a Treo or 8525. I will probably keep this phone, it may not always be my primary handset. This meets almost all of my need's in a small and attractive package. I will have some pictures on the site soon.