by Robert McGarveyre: The Techno Miracles
o Car Phoning -- legislative lunacy and easy cures
o Palms Away: Travels with a Palm.
o Email-Country. Of Ricky Skaggs, cruising, Yahoo, and the ubiquity of email.
o Ebay and the triumph of ecommerce.
o VirtualOffice: The best travel bag.
oChangingTravel: New rules for a new century.
o Hotels: Never over-spend; read McG's rules.
o Moving On: Motel mania.
o Cooking Schools for road warriors
o NotMicrosoft: Beat the Beast
o Junkmail: the war on spam.
o Spam: More Tools for the war
First there is the story of the miracle cell phone, a Nokia 6610 that survived a full wash cycle and still works, perfectly. I am starting 2005 on a high about technology and the miracle phone is reason #1. In that incident, the handsfree kit died, alas (it also did time in the dryer). But…I opened the washing machine after it had run its full 30 minute course (cold/cold for those into details, no bleach, generic liquid detergent) and as I pulled out my shirts and pants and socks there at the bottom of the tub lay the Nokia. It must have been in a shirt pocket and, obviously, I tossed the shirt in the wash without checking. I didn’t even wait; I went to my desk, called T-Mobile, and ordered a replacement phone. Meantime, I took out the Nokia’s battery, retrieved the SIM card, and left the carcass on the floor. Two days later the replacement phone arrived (a Siemens CF62T), I inserted the SIM, and, oddly, the phone connected to the T-Mobile network but it didn’t see my address book. I fiddled with it for a few minutes, nothing, and, whimsically, I stuck the SIM back in the Nokia, inserted the battery, and, miracle, it powered up and connected to T-Mobile. I placed a call, no problem. The person on the other end had no clue why I was so giddy, but it simply was that the phone in my hand clearly is a miracle.
I cannot tell you why the Nokia survived. I have had cell phones die after a few seconds in water. This phone did a half-hour wash cycle!
Of course it has won my affection. The Siemens phone sits on a shelf, unused, and everytime I hold the Nokia I am reminded that, indeed, technology is getting better and better. I got my first PC 21 years ago (an Eagle, an early IBM PC clone) and for perhaps 20 years my relationship with technology has been fraught with frustration. One step forward, one back, but, lately, the sailing indeed has gotten smoother.
Success #2 came when I took a BestBuy gift card to the nearest store – lord, is the store in Secaucusm NJ a crowded, ill-run, unpleasant place; give me the nearby Sam’s Club any day – and bought a Linksys wireless router. I had been delaying setting up a network because I have been so busy the last 12 months, but, miracle, the Linksys is basically plug and play. Within five minutes I had two PCs and a MAC happily chirping away on the wireless network. The only bummer was that the Linksys range extender that I also bought proved not to be compatible with the router, or so said the Indian tech who very promptly came on the line and reviewed the specifics with me. Bummer, mainly because that meant a return trip to BestBuy and a half-hour wait to return the thing. Fortunately, however, the router seems quite powerful on its own. Mine is a three story Edwardian house and wherever I’ve looked, I have a network. Price for the router was under $100, much under because it came with multiple rebates. If, like me, you’ve postponed installing a wireless network because it seemed too much of a hassle, take another look. The Linksys (Cisco) folks really have upped usability, particularly for computers running XP.
Success #3 came with the Kodak EasyShare CX7330, a bit over $300 at Amazon. This is digital photography done right. The hassle always has been interfacing the camera with the computer – now actually quite simple with XP – so Kodak has created a dock that serves as a great printer for creating vivid images that match any made on drugstore developers. Take the parts out of the box, plug them in and you are in business. If you cannot get your computer to recognize the camera, no matter; the dock does a good job of helping you distribute your images. But, probably, if you are running XP hooking up a camera will be a matter of plug and play. At least it was for me.
Success #4 – the most glorious of all – is that just before Thanksgiving my computer croaked. It started acting wonky, I knew the drive was going, so I hurriedly backed up everything to Connected.com, an online data warehouse that costs me around $16/month. Daily my new files back up, via the Internet, to Connected.com. I like that it is remote storage, I like that it is automatic (configure it once and never fiddle with it again), and I like that it is there when I need it. This is twice in four years that I called upon Connected to save me from data ruination and it has done the job.
As Connected backed up my files, I went to Sam’s Club, bought a new HP laptop, came home and began setting myself up anew. Within the day I had everything on the new laptop – applications, data files, even email and browser favorites. Meantime, I called American Express, filed a warranty claim on the dead laptop. It died a week shy of two years of age; Amex doubles the original manufacturer’s warranty so I was covered by Amex's Buyer Assurance plan. Amex picked up the computer, sent it to be repaired in Utah, and within a week I had it back. It’s now only a backup/travel computer but it works and it didn't cost me a dime to fix it. What’s not to like?May technology treat me -- and you! -- every bit as well in ’05!
See McGarvey's Blog -- add comments in real time: http://rjmcgarvey.blogspot.com/2005/01/techno-miracles.html
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Copyright 2004 by Robert McGarvey
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About Robert McGarvey
Author of How to Dotcom (Entrepreneur Press), and a onetime columnist for BizTravel.com, Jersey City-based McGarvey is a frequent contributor to dozens of magazines, ranging from Selling Power to American Way, and Rutgers. He has also contributed to Harvard Business Review. For the past siix years, he has served as "The Ombudsman" for PORTHOLE Cruise Magazine. Still curious about McGarvey? Read up on him here.