Saturday, January 01, 2011

Here's To A "Spiffy" New Year

2010 has not been a fantastic year for me. It has also not been a terrible year for me. A FaceBook friend said 2011 was going to be "spiffy" so I plan to make sure that it is. (is there a resolution in there somewhere?)

My blogging in 2010 was considerably less than previous years but, surprisingly, I find myself with several ideas and updates running through my head as the new year dawns. I will present them in no particular order since each one finds its way to the front of the line in random and recurring order. Some will be, I hope, eloquent and profound. Others will be random and scattered. Most will probably be the latter.

I will start with my wrist.

Now, see, the job just jumped to the front of the line. It will have to wait since I already mentioned my wrist. I only mention it now to ensure that I come back and give it its turn.

I have had minor problems with my wrists for the last 3-4 years. I'm pretty sure it is the beginnings of Carpal Tunnel or some other repetitive motion injury. It has never been bad enough to go to the doctor and usually only lasts a couple of days.

Shortly after starting the new job I ran down the battery in my car. Someone came along and helped me out with a jump start but I had to push the car out of the parking space so we could access both batteries. After that, my right wrist started hurting bad enough and long enough that I went and bought a wrist brace. I wore it, iced my wrist and took Aleve for about a week and everything settled down.

This week my wrist started hurting again. A lot. I'm wearing the brace again but I really need to get an ergonomic keyboard at work (more on that later - maybe). I think typing on the iPad aggravated it. I will also mention it to my doctor when I see him on Tuesday.

Now for the job. I have read the company social media policy and can, in fact, tell you I am working as an Enterprise Technical Support Analyst for Dell in Oklahoma City. I do phone support for tape backup units of all shapes and sizes. I must, however, tell you that the statements I make and opinions I express do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and the statements and opinions expressed by my employer do not necessarily reflect my own. As a friend of mine puts it: I do not speak for Dell and Dell does not speak for me.

I have been taking calls for about a month now. A lot of it is coming back to me. I sometimes get frustrated when something comes up that I have seen before or that I used to know and can't bring to mind the solution. As predicted, the most difficulty has been in (re-)learning procedures and using the new case management software. I am becoming more proficient every day.

The toughest part has to be the sales tool. technicians are now allowed to prepare quotes for and sell spare parts, warranty extensions, etc. Pretty much anything without a service tag. It's a good idea because I can now give out of warranty customers an answer to the question, "How much is that going to cost?" The problem is a) I am not a sales person and b) It doesn't come up very often. We are encouraged to do a bit of suggestive selling (i.e. I see your warranty is due to expire next month. Would you like me to help you with a warranty extension?) but we're not allowed to push. No means no. The good part is if we prepare a quote and the customer purchases off that quote we get the credit and the commission. The bad part is there is a reason I'm not in sales. Nobody has asked me to make a quota so I'm good with it. I like having the ability to help them all the way through the process.

I'm still loving the iPad. It is sort-of like a giant iPod touch but with more cowbell. I have paid for a couple of apps (one of them being a remote desktop app called SplashTop Remote) and have been hording free apps and paid apps that are temporarily free just like I did do with my iPhone.

The iPad has 3G capability so I can use the cellular network when WiFi isn't available. The problem is that since AT&T dropped their unlimited data plans across the board, I'm afraid to use that functionality for fear of getting raped on data usage charges going over my allotment. An iPad can eat up 250MB easily. I used 352MB on my iPhone last month (thank goodness they grandfathered my unlimited plan) and I don't really use it that much since leaving the last job.

With the iPad I also received a Camera Connection Kit. This is a set of two dongles. One of them has a USB connection on it, the other has an SD card slot. With the USB dongle you can direct-connect your digital camera or your iPhone and the SD slot is self-explanatory. Whichever way you go, the iPad automatically launches a built-in transfer app that allows you to transfer all the photos or to select specific photos to transfer. It is not without its limitations. When connecting the iPhone it will only pick up photos from the camera roll. It does not see any in the photo albums. (this also means that the dongle does not add a functional USB port to the iPad unless you know something I don't) When using the SD card the card apparently has to be formatted from a camera. The iPad does not react if you insert a card full of JPG files. Yet another Apple limitation that seems to have no rhyme or reason.

Speaking of the iPad (still), I have been on the hunt for an iPad case since I got it. When the wife bought hers she also bought one of the Apple cases. We then headed to Radio Shack where she bought a nice leather folio bundled with some other accessories. She used the leather folio for about a day then went back to the Apple case. I have been using the leather folio. This leather folio is actually quite nice. I can't tell you if it's genuine or synthetic leather but it is padded and well constructed. The inside has slots for papers, cards and other small, flat items. There is a leather tab/strap that slides into a slot to keep it closed.

There are a few reasons I have been looking for another case. First, this case does not function well as a stand. I use/wanted the iPad primarily to watch movies on my lunch break and propping it up, even with the strap inserted, I am constantly concerned about it tipping over forward or backward. There is also no "typing angle" available. Second is the way the iPad is held in. It is held in securely but not functionally. On the bottom are two formed, leather corner pieces. The right one partially covers the speaker but doesn't seem to affect the sound. The top is held in with two elastic straps.

From a manufacturing standpoint elastic straps are cheap, functional and easy to install/use. The problem is that they block key parts of the iPad. They always do, it's not just this case. The left strap all but covers the headphone jack and does cover the microphone. It can be pushed out of the way for headphone insertion but shouldn't need to be. The right strap covers the power button which is not a big deal since it can easily be actuated without moving the strap. The right strap also covers the mute switch (formerly the rotation lock switch). The strap has to be removed then replaced to actuate the switch. Sorry, this one's the deal breaker.

At first I thought I just wanted a leather version of the Apple case. These are plentiful on eBay in a variety of colors. Then I discovered something. If I'm sitting in my car (stationary, of course), I can fold the cover back over the top of my steering wheel and secure it in place using the leather strap. Connect it to the AUX audio input on my radio and I have in-car theater! (the photo also demonstrates the full reflective nature of the iPad screen)

This development necessitated a modification of my criteria. My new case needed to be leather, preferably padded, it could not use elastic straps to secure the device, it needed to have the capability to operate as a vertical stand as well as a typing stand, and it needed a closure of some sort to allow me to wheel-mount the iPad. You would think that wouldn't be hard to find. You would be wrong.

Some are WAY overpriced. Some are fun but don't fit the criteria. Some downright suck. Most don't make the cut because of stability issues when using as a stand, cheap materials, or poor quality control. I looked on Amazon. I looked on eBay. I read reviews. I just couldn't make a decision on one that would be right for me without going to the iPad Case Store and touching each one and examining the quality. Unfortunately, there is no iPad Case Store.

In the end, I pulled the trigger on a unit on eBay for $12.00. I figure that way I can see how well the design works for me but I'm not out much if the quality is lacking.

Okay... what else... Ah, Christmas in general.

On Christmas Eve we met my wife's side of the family for our traditional Christmas Eve Dinner at the Olive Garden. This tradition grew out of a desire not to spend my father-in-law's birthday (December 24) alone after his passing. For the last 5 years it has been a fun time of feasting, conversation and remembrance. There has been a lot of controversy on that side of the family over the last year but it was all put aside for the gathering.

On Christmas Day we drove to Kansas City to be with my family. From there we all went to St. Joseph, MO to my niece's house for Christmas Dinner. There was lots of laughter and loudness - just like it should be. It's always good to see my nephews as well. Each one of them thinks very differently from most people and their thoughts and interactions are often amusing to behold.

I, of course, brought my camera and took several pictures - including some group portraits. Using the Camera Connection Kit I uploaded them to my iPad and started showing people pictures of themselves. In short order someone else was holding my iPad with several others gathered around looking at all of the pictures. It was really cool to see.

Well, I've been sitting here for a couple of hours working on this and I think I (and you) have had quite enough. Here's wishing 2011 is as "spiffy" for you as I plan on mine being.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Ref: Remote Desktop- I have started using TeamViewer. While it needs to be installed on the Host PC, it allows me to connect to my office desktop without VPN (free)

Mybrother Jailbroke his iPhone so he could load "MyWi"

That app turns his iPhone into a "wifi access point" using the 3G connection. It allows a few devices to be connected, so others in your car could connect as well.