"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." J. Danforth Quayle

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Geek Barrier

The ringtone on my cel is the theme from Star Trek (TOS, of course). When I get a text a Dalek calls out "Exterminate!" I know this mostly because I have set them off myself. I have received less than a dozen calls over the years I have had a cel. Made just about the same.

The only texts I have gotten are from the phone company itself - a privilege that costs me minutes. That they do this is just an irritant. I have minutes to burn.

I have 2057.06 unused minutes. They are not going anywhere.

I am a tech geek. Really. I love this kind of stuff. I not only use a PC, I can crawl around under the hood and fix and replace things. Among those around the house there are three that a business was going to trash. I fixed them up and restored them as perfectly capable workstations. You can surf the web just fine, but they are a slow, and sluggish for streaming. So the kids aren't satisfied and prefer one of the laptops.

Yes, in addition to the four PCs there are two laptops. Not as easy to play inside but I have upgraded memory and replaced a hard drive and a DVD drive. I am on my second iPod touch making four in the house (iGor, iNigo, iNez and iDiot). A Kindle classic (Kendall) and a Fire (Kelvin). Two GPS units, a hand-held for geocaching and one (Evelyn) for the car.

You would think that having my own personal device right out of Star Trek would be something I'd jump at. You'd be wrong. I hate the telephone to the point of a phobia. That cold-calling gig in High School. Not one call. Making calls as a lawyer - a major trauma. Asking a girl on a date? Never by phone.

Aside from the fear factor, I hate getting my my train of thought interrupted. If a secretary was buzzing me through a hold-my-calls moment I would unplug my phone.

Most weeks, if you don't count calls to my wife, I make one call - to my parents. With caller ID, I  don't often answer it either.

A cel just takes the annoyance and my aversion and makes them portable. I am not going to answer in the car, and I don't want to be bugged in a store. I don't think much of people that do either. I won't be calling to find out if I have the right brand, or whether I should get the 14 or 28 oz can. I am certainly not interested in chatting when all I want to do is shop and be done with it. Neither will my wife. Nothing like that is so important.

It doesn't help that I have yet to use a cel that I can hear on (shut up, my hearing is fine). Please don't talk to me about bluetooth earpieces. I didn't like them before I saw "Rise of the Cybermen". (It's so cool that BBC actually created a Cybus Industries web site.)

The cel is for emergencies, though I have never needed it (knock on wood). The cel is so the kids have a lifeline when I leave to run errands.

Mine was the only one we brought on vacation two weeks ago. Never turned it on.

Since the beginning there was no cel plan that made more sense than Tracfone (what I really need is something that works like a pre-paid debit card - add money, use it up, add more money as needed). You buy minutes good for a specific period of time, if you renew you keep the unused minutes. They kept adding up. Then there were the signing bonusus. Then Tracfone sweetened the pot with double and later triple minutes. Trish was issued a phone from work so we merged our two phones' minutes. Voila - over 2000 minutes.

I have never gone below 1900. Even when trying. Hard.

We started with the basic, no-frills, low rent $9.99 phone. Other than a brief try with a flip phone (That Communicator thing, you know) that's what I had until last year.

But what about all those cool apps? Tracfone doesn't have a smartphone.

My need for apps is satisfied by the iPod touch. I have a bunch of apps - including the Star Trek Communicator app. I have cooking apps, news apps, books apps, fart noise apps, blogging apps and the app that makes my voice sound like a Dalek. Works fine with WiFi.

I even Skype.

There have been those times that I have needed an app when WiFi wasn't an option. And I have all those bloody minutes. So when Tracfone offered the LG800g touchscreen phone I splurged $35 on it. Java apps, alas, but basic web surfing, facebook, mapquest or a GPS, right?

Not really.

The browser that come with it sucks moose-genitalia. Other apps have to be purchased through Tracfone and, other than games, they don't have any apps. Want a ringtone? Nothing but their limited offerings. Managed to change the wallpaper, but there are those pesky fixed icons in the way.

Sideload an app and they function, if you don't mind getting interrupted every 15 seconds with a reminder that the app is not approved. Which might be OK. if the whole thing wasn't so frakking slow. And difficult to use. Walking the streets of DC this summer I needed a simple address. Forever. I walked eight blocks to Barnes and Noble and logged into their WiFi and got the answer. Still waiting an answer with the phone.

So that's my story. That's where I'll be until Tracfone offers a better phone or somebody else comes up with a better plan. That's why I have 2057.06 minutes I can't burn. At least until next week.

Then I'll have 2237.06.

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