Make it easier for me, Amazon!

Went to buy something at Amazon tonight, and decided they really need to let us add a nickname or notes to our payment methods. I’d like to call my payment methods “Golf card” and “Regular card” and “White card,” but instead all I get to distinguish my credit cards are the last four numbers, which mean virtually nothing to me, but it mean a whole lot to my banks, and to my likelihood of having enough funds to buy what I wanted to buy tonight. Instead, I have to laboriously haul out the wallet. Make it easier for me, Amazon!

AT&T or Verizon for my new iPhone? (Updated answer: AT&T)

Updated! – discount on Vz, too!
Update #2 – no voice+data on Vz
Update #3 – done and done

Hi all. Back to the mundane. Apple announced (or rather, confirmed what we’ve all known for several months now) a new iPhone today. The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order this Friday, to ship a week later. I will be getting one, as will my wife, as we lurve our current iPhones 4, we are out of contract, and we would like faster more capable phones.

There are three carriers available to us: AT&T (our current carrier), Verizon (with whom we carrier-ed for a decade before we got iPhones), and Sprint (actually a hometown company here in KC).

Sprint is out right away for poor coverage and confusing plans that don’t actually come out to anything better than the others. They do have unlimited data, mind you, but we actually use our phones for phones, and their “add a tablet” options are ridiculously expensive should we ever go that route.

Which leaves the other two.

Verizon. We loved Verizon when we were customers, we always had a signal and never had a call drop. Of course, this was in the stone age of cell phones, and the number of phones, the technology of the airwaves, etc. has changed a lot since then. But we hear from the hoi polloi that Verizon doesn’t drop calls. The plan would cost us $150 per month. Adding a tablet, if we should go there, is $10 per month, per tablet.

AT&T. We have AT&T now, and when we first started two years (more, now) ago, we dropped calls like crazy. Not like, cray cray more-often-than-not crazy, but frequently enough that we pined for good ol’ Verizon. But I regularly use voice and data at the same time (looking up my calendar while on a phone call, for example), which you can’t do on Verizon right now. The plan would cost us $150 per month. And adding a tablet is also $10 per month, per tablet.

Research! Root Metrics surveyed KC and compared voice and data reliability for major carriers. The results suggest that AT&T has improved their dropped calls frequency a lot (borne out by our anecdotal experience), but Verizon still has faster overall data speeds (and fewer dropped calls, technically). But mostly, it seems a wash between those two. Here is the link. Apologies to those of my friends in smaller markets. Also: ha ha!

There are two other factors that will weigh on this decision:

LTE. This is the new supa-fast mobile network the iPhone 5 uses, and both V and A support. From what I read, LTE only does data, and cannot be used for voice. Instead, both use the previous 3G networks for voice calls. (This will change sometime, maybe soon?) Therefore, when an AT&T LTE phone tries to do voice and data simultaneously, it actually drops to 3G for both. A lot slower than LTE, but you can do both. A Verizon phone with LTE, currently can do data and voice simultaneously. It continues using LTE for data, but fires up the second radio device for voice, and runs both at the same time. The jury is out on whether the iPhone 5 is equipped with two radios at once (I think Apple made beef about there being one magic-tasking radio in the iPhone 5 that did all things, but I don’t recall).

Research! Someone explained the reasons why simultaneous voice and data are not possible on all networ… zzzz, tl;dr. Basically, what I said up there. If you really need to read it, here is that link.

State of KS Discounts. AT&T offers a discount for service to employees of the State of Kansas, which we are. Our current AT&T plan has this discount applied. I would expect we could get the discount applied to a new plan with AT&T, which would make it cheaper than the equivalent Verizon plan (though I don’t know how much cheaper).

So, what do I need to do?

  1. Find out if the iPhone 5 can do simultaneous voice and data on both AT&T and Verizon.
  2. Find out if there is a discount for State of KS employees for AT&T still, if there is one for Verizon, and how much a discount might be.
  3. Before Friday.

Update. Okay, so Verizon also offers a discount to employees of the State of Kansas. So yay. Also, it appears from the Intarwebs that both carriers will be able to provide simultaneous voice and data when you are on their LTE networks. Also, when not on the LTE network, AT&T will still provide that ability. But we still have no verified verification of iPhone 5’s ability to do this on Verizon once you fall off LTE. Not sure it matters.

Update #2. So, in this article, it unequivocally states that no, the iPhone 5 on Verizon will not be able to do simultaneous voice and data. Apple would have needed to add a third antenna to the phone for that, and they chose not to. The short of it, technically: AT&T does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, does data and voice over 3G. Verizon does data over LTE, and when you make a phone call, drops to CDMA, but with too few antennas in the phone, they can’t keep working the LTE for data, so presto, no data while talking.

Turns out it does matter to me, so we’re sticking with AT&T. Also, the Future will be awesome, and you can see how by Googling “VoLTE” (Voice-over-LTE), which is coming Real Soon Now. Honest.

Update #3. Ordered two new iPhones. Had to use the Apple site, because AT&T’s was borked, and had to order them one at a time, because the Store’s system can’t handle more than one carrier subsidized phone at a time, so, whatever. They ship in two weeks, and take five days to ship, and may require a signature. That’s… like, October 3rd or something. Arr.

The Legacy of Nine Eleven?

Driving to work today, I drove by a home in our neighborhood where they had mounted a huge American flag on a flagpole attached to a tree. I thought of all the people who had their lives taken from them on 9/11/2001, and all the people who had someone ripped from their hearts on that day.

I have visceral memories of watching the towers go down. I was stupefied, horrified, and angered. But above all, I was sad. I felt hollow to my core.

I also gave thought, this morning, to all the people who have died in the aftermath of the events of that day. I am a Liberal, and so I am predisposed to dislike war, but I think everyone can find room in their hearts to decry the end results of the second war on Iraq, entered into on the pretext of security/revenge for 9/11, but against a country that was ultimately determined to have had nothing to do with those attacks.

Let me repeat that.

The People of these United States went to war with Iraq because we were told Iraq was responsible for 9/11, except that it turns out they were not. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator, yes, killing with abandon and with no fear of retribution. But Syria’s Assad is the same, and our country has no will to fight that fight. We were told we went to war with Iraq to avenge, and prevent, any further 9/11s.

This is part of the legacy of 9/11:

  • Victims killed on 9/11 itself: 2,977 (source)
  • US Military killed in the Iraq War since 2003: 4,409 (source)
  • Iraqi citizens killed in the Iraq War since 2003: over 100,000 (source)
    (These numbers are from various Wikipedia articles, fwiw, and that last number is the lowest of estimates)

Here’s what I take away from this.

Terrorists attacked our country, killing innocent people in numbers staggering to behold. Almost three-thousand people died on that single day. In reaction, and for no good reason, we sacrificed almost four-thousand five-hundred of our bravest men and women, and had a hand in killing or provoking the deaths of over one-hundred-thousand people, most of them as innocent as the original 3,000 who died eleven years ago.

I think today is a day to hang our heads in shame, and in anger. That we were attacked. That innocents have died. That we reacted so childishly, so violently, with such patriotic fear. We did the work of Evil for them. We killed thousands of our own, and a hundred thousand innocents died because of us.

I am sorry.

And I still find myself, on this day eleven years later, ineffably sad.

Forty freakin’ two

Too old to be a child prodigy, too young to be an elder statesman. Today is my birthday. Serious thoughts on the date itself later today, but for now, I just want to give a shout out to my parents, without whom I would not be here, and my family, without whom I would not be here. My life is pretty good right now, and I have only had a little part in that. Much love.

Good TV tonight

I absolutely love it when my wife claps at the television. It expresses a kind of deep-felt passion that my… what, my personality, won’t let me deliver. I fall instead at the snarky end of the spectrum.

Tonight, she was in fine form as William Jefferson Clinton delivered (what might have been) the best speech of his career. He made all the arguments we have desperately wanted someone to make against the Republican plan, and in a very public forum. He crushed, as the kids put it these days.

Let me just say, I’m glad Bubba is on our side.