Goodbye home phone service, hello Ooma Telo - this thing is great!

I picked up an Ooma Telo for my parents for Christmas. It's a VOIP service that doesn't charge a monthly fee, edging out services with a monthly fee like Vonage. As much as I liked the idea of Vonage, I could never get behind it because it wouldn't save much money. However, since Ooma has no monthly fee, the savings end up being substantial, and that's something my dad can appreciate for Christmas.

I'll be honest - I was skeptical as to how well the voice quality would be. This was my number one concern. Having been jaded by Skype and other VOIP services in the past, I wasn't sure if the voice quality would really be up to par. However, from the first time we tried Ooma, I was nothing but impressed. The delay on a call with the Ooma between caller and recipient was standard with any other wired phone system, still even less delay than a cell phone connection. And most importantly, there was no cutouts or bandwidth problems - the voice quality was crystal clear.
Sure, the device itself could have been a little easier to use. As nice as it looks, I can foresee my parents having trouble knowing what all the icons mean, since there are no labels and no LCD on the device. But in the long term, the Telo itself is a minor issue. I'm sure my parents will adjust to listening to their voicemail online rather than from a wired box in the house.
The thing I was most interested in when it came to Ooma was the service itself. The call quality was the most important factor, and having worked just fine on my parents' cable modem connection, Ooma did not let me down. It's too bad I don't need a home phone for myself, because I really want an Ooma just to say I have one, but nobody would ever call me. Although, I do have a Skype In number. Maybe I could port that number to my Ooma. Hmm...

On Christmas Eve, Verizon snuck into my house and installed a Bing shortcut on my Blackberry


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At some point last night on Christmas Eve, Verizon snuck into my house and installed a Bing shortcut on my Blackberry Tour. That's right, without my consent, Verizon added a Bing shortcut to my list of apps. And I'm not the only one. It looks like it happened to Blackberry Storms last month, as well, but we probably didn't hear anything about it since nobody owns a Blackberry Storm anymore. I feel like I should be a little upset about this. I guess I'm a little miffed because they didn't even ask me if I wanted it (maybe an email would have been the way to go?). After all, it should be *my* choice to install apps, not Verizon's. This might be more acceptable if my phone was free, and this was a way to cover costs with my consent.

And no, Verizon. I'm not going to accept the answer that this is your Christmas present to me, nor that "maybe it was someone in my house" that installed it for me. I can assure you that my Santa barely knows how to unlock my Blackberry. I must admit though, this was an optimal time for Verizon to do this - at the beginning of a holiday weekend, likely in hopes of less media backlash.

In reality, it's not that big of an issue - it's just a shortcut...so far. But the thing is, this is more than likely a gateway to what they *will* do in the future without asking me. Uninstall competitive apps? Restrict me from apps that I want to download (hello, Apple)? In my opinion, it's really a gateway "crime". There's a good chance that Verizon is testing the waters to see what they can get away with. The terms of service most likely grant Verizon to this kind of nonsense, but there is a line of decency with consumers and I think this crosses it.

New Posterous themes

Just posted a couple of my themes at themes.posterous.com. Was planning on getting them up like a month ago, but then life got in the way and they didn't happen, but now they're finally done. If you're a Posterous user and haven't gotten into the theming game/want to make your Posterous prettier, you should try it out! Just go here and follow the directions.

Here are screenshots of the new themes, designed and coded by yours truly:

My new theme!

It is finally done. Well, it's never done, but I think I'll be happy with this for at least a couple months. My newly refinished Posterous now features my portfolio, profile, and contact form all right here, housed within my Posterous page and easily accessible via the jump links on the right sidebar. Plus the portfolio blocks have their own little rotators. Oh yeah.

Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Where do you talk about Twitter when Twitter is down?

Twitter is down. The problem: I don't have a place to talk about it. My Facebook friends don't care about Twitter. My AIM buddies don't care about Twitter. Only people on Twitter care about Twitter being down. And even worse is that there's a good chance you won't find this post without Twitter, so you won't even read this until Twitter is back.

Here's to complete isolation in the digital age, all thanks to a dumb little addictive website that didn't even exist a couple years ago.


Worst web registration form I've seen in a while

I don't complain about much when it comes to user experience (oh wait, that's not true), but I couldn't pass this up. This is the registration form for CBS 2, a local TV station here in Southern California.
I had originally wanted to post a comment on the news story of a high speed chase about how terrible the television coverage was (they cut to commercials every minute at times, no joke). As it turns out, they require registration to comment. No biggie, I thought. What's one more registration? That's until I got a look at the form...
(scroll down for my analysis below the image)

I can't tell you how many things are wrong with this form. This registration form - to interact with a news website - REQUIRES a security question, a birthday, and...MY HOUSEHOLD INCOME?!?! Not optional; no, they are REQUIRED for registration. Oh, and it also lets me opt in for spam too. I won't even talk about the very large ad bordering the registration form, nor the myriad of font usage.
Now, I understand the need for an ad-based media company to want to be familiar with their demographics, but there needs to be somebody within the organization that stands up to this sort of idiocracy. Just because the ad guys tell you they want all this information doesn't mean you should bow to their every request. Garry Tan pegged it when he said that when "*anyone* makes a product lousier, [designers] should get up and shout, and raise hell."
It's a well-understood principle that the shorter and simpler your registration form is, the more chance the user has of actually filing it out. Even Facebook experimented with an extremely simple signup process. Simplicity is key, and when you make something too complex, people will just leave. When I was greeted by this registration form tonight, I was initially overwhelmed at the amount of information this site wanted, just for me to leave a comment on a news story. As it turns out, I never got around to filling it out. I'm not concerned about my privacy; heck, there is enough information about me out there already. In this case, the amount of effort outweighed the benefit for me.
CBS is not a financial institution, my bank, or my social network. They don't need to be asking my household income or to fill out a security question. Heck, I'm surprised there isn't a field for my social security number.

Moral of the story: If you make a task on a website too difficult to complete, it's going to decrease the number of people who actually do. And in my case, that's what happened.