Dial Zero
A look at what's surprising, silly, scary or stupid in telecommunications and data

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh deer, it's electric, not phone; but it could have been phone, so read it

On Sunday, about 10,000 people in Juneau, Alaska lost electric power after a bald eagle carrying a deer head crashed into electricity transmission lines.

"You have to live in Alaska to have this kind of outage scenario," said Gayle Wood, a spokeswoman for Alaska Electric Light & Power. "The overly ambitious eagle evidently found a deer head in the landfill."

The bird, weighed down by the deer head, apparently failed to clear the transmission lines, she said. A repair crew found the eagle dead, and the deer head nearby.

The power was out for less than 45 minutes. If it was a moose head, it might have taken longer. (Info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Burning cellphone puts man in hospital

Now that the laptop fires have died down, it's time to deal with cellphone fires.

Luis Picaso, of Vallejo, California, suffered second- and third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body, apparently because his cellphone ignited his pants pocket and touched off a fire in his hotel room. "It seems like this was just an accident," said fire department spokesman Bill Tweedy. "Maybe the power button was depressed for a long time while in his pocket or there was some sort of short circuit in the phone."

Picaso's injuries were made worse because he was wearing flammable polyester and nylon clothes and sitting in a plastic chair when the fire began in his pocket. "His clothes were pretty much made out of a petroleum product and when the chair ignited it became like melted gasoline and continued to fuel itself," Tweedy said.

Tweedy would not reveal the brand of Picaso's phone but said that he did not think the fire was connected to a specific company's products. This is not the first incident of a phone catching fire. Most of the previous incidents have been caused by defective or counterfeit batteries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The phone itself is still in Picaso's room and it is Picaso's responsibility to notify the Consumer Product safety commission, Tweedy said. (info from Times-Herald)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Girls jailed for threat to Oprah, Bush, Bunny

Six high school girls in Dunlap, TN were charged last Wednesday with conspiracy to commit criminal homicide after allegedly making online threats about classmates, teachers and President Bush.

School officials had also found a printed list including the names of Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and the Energizer Bunny. They first considered it a joke, but authorities then found the ninth-graders' online MySpace pages and postings with the word "kill."

Secret Service agents determined there was no threat to Bush. There was no evidence they had weapons or that an attack was imminent. The girls were held by police for two days, removed from school and told to take classes off campus. They cannot have access to weapons and must undergo psychiatric evaluations.

"I think the best thing to do is wait until we know all the facts," said Keith Grant, attorney for one of the girls. "There are two camps on this thing: One is that it's very serious; the other is that it's just goofy girls." (Info from The Associated Press)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Stupidity Report:
CompUSA thinks I drive where seagulls fly.
So do Circuit City, Best Buy and Staples.

I'm in Milford, Connecticut, just north of Long Island Sound (pink in upper map). I can't walk on water or part the sea, so to get across the Sound, to Long Island, NY, I'd have to swim, take a boat, or fly about 21 miles.

Unfortunately, the incredibly STOOPID store locator software used by companies like CompUSA, thinks that Long Island Sound is a highway, not 8 trillion gallons water up to 120 feet deep. It assumes that if I am hot to get Windows Vista and that the CompUSA store in nearby Orange, CT is out if stock, I can make a quick 29-mile trip, as the bird flies, to Hauppauge, NY -- allegedly one mile closer than Norwalk, CT.

However, since I lack wings, and lack a boat, and don't feel like swimming in five-degree weather, I'd have to drive around the Sound to get to Hauppauge -- which is a distance of about 100 miles. If traffic is light, which it almost never is on Long Island, the trip would take two hours.

If I don't feel like going to Hauppauge, CompUSA suggests that I drive just 44 miles to Farmingdale, NY. Unfortunately for people in cars, not birds in the sky, the distance is about 96 miles -- much farther than the quoted 52 miles to reach Manchester, CT.

Computer competitor Circuit City thinks that their store in Smith Haven, NY is just 34 miles from here, allegedly just a little farther than Meriden, CT at 26 miles. But, since I can't fly, I'd have to drive. Mapquest says it's really 37 miles to Smith Haven, but it's going to take two hours because I have to take a slow FERRY across Long Island Sound ($112.50 round trip, and if I miss the boat, I have to wait 90 minutes for the next one). If I force MapQuest to keep me on the highway and off the water, it shows 108 miles of driving to reach the "nearby" Circuit City.

Best Buy isn't better. They show three Connecticut stores on their first listing page. The farthest in my state is Norwalk (25 miles), and the "next closest" store is South Setaukut, NY -- about 105 miles if I don't use a ferry or a helicopter. Best Buy thinks their stores in Danbury and Meriden CT are farther away than South Setaukut. But if I drive (or even walk), they're just 38 and 32 miles from here.

Staples is very precise. Their website says their store in Port Jefferson, NY is 20.05 miles away, apparently closer than the Norwalk, CT store at 22.48 miles, and just a teeny bit farther than Cheshire, CT at 19.81 miles. Sorry, Staples, I'm not a bird. If I don't feel like forking over $112.50 for the ferry, I'd have to drive about 113 miles to Port Jefferson -- a much longer trip than going to Cheshire or Norwalk.

CompUSA, Circuit City, Best Buy and Staples all need some new software. I wonder if I can trust any of them to sell me Vista on Tuesday morning. UPDATE: I tried to buy Vista at the nearby Staples, but they didn't have it. CLICK for the sad story.


Panasonic doesn't sell Vista, but they seem to use the same screwy software as the big-box electronics stores. Their website says there's a Panasonic phone system dealer 18.5 miles away from here, in Redding, CT; and one just a teeny bit farther, 18.9 miles away, near the Staples in good old Port Jefferson, NY. Of course, without a boat or wings, it's really 113 miles to Port Jeff.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Now you can PoIP:
Pray over Internet Protocol

We've had Voice over Internet Protocol, and Video over Internet Protocol, and now (sound of heavenly thunder, please) Prayer over Internet Protocol.

A new service provided by a company in Israel is called Pray Over IP. It sells phone cards that allow customers to record their prayers, which are then transmitted via the Internet to webcams with speakers at holy sites.

"It's just $5 or $10, and you get eternal life," says Hanan Achsaf, chairman of POIP. "With the lottery, you pay that amount, and what do you get? A piece of paper. This is much better value. Send your prayer for health, matchmaking and livelihood directly to the holy site in Israel."

The company estimates 1,500 users a day, and has separate websites for Jews and Christians. The sites stream video from the webcams, giving users a real-time look at where the prayers are broadcast. POIP service at Jewish sites stops for the Sabbath, because rules prohibit using electronic devices then.

A pray-er calls the POIP phone number (1-888-HE-HEARS in the US), and enters a PIN from a prepaid POIP card or a credit card number. She or he records a prayer and taps a touchtone button to select a holy site, such as Jerusalem or Sea of Galilee. The company doesn't listen to the prayers, but has a program to monitor for foul language. The prayers generally seek health, wealth or a spouse. Some critics say high-tech prayer delivery isn't appropriate. Others say it enables more people to pray. "What we are doing is no different than what Pat Robertson is doing," says Avshalom Neumann, POIP's co-founder and CEO, "We're just a one-way messenger to the Lord."

Neumann traveled in the US Bible Belt last fall, meeting with church leaders to try to get PoIP cards sold in their gift stores. The company sells cards to churches, priced at $2.50 to $5. The churches determine how much to charge their members, typically $10 to $25, and sometimes higher for fund-raising purposes. Cards can also be bought at 7-Eleven stores, and at POIP's websites (info from The Wall Street Journal & POIP)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SURPRISE: now there's a surplus of area codes

A few years ago, telephone area codes were filling up. Area codes were rapidly being drained of phone numbers with the proliferation of cellphones, pagers, modems and fax machines. Some cities changed codes, some got multiple codes; and people had to dial "one" plus area code even to call next door. It seemed like every few weeks, new codes were announced and phone equipment needed to be re-programmed and business cards and stationery replaced.

There was even a fear that the US would run out of 10-digit phone numbers, and we'd all get new numbers that would be one digit longer, to provide billions of possible new numbers.

Well, things didn't turn out to be as bad as expected. We actually have more area codes -- and more potential phone numbers -- than we need. Some new codes have as little as two percent use.

Despite growing demand for phone numbers, the need for new area codes sharply declined since 2001, because new regulations cut down on wasted telephone numbers and the end of the telecom boom killed off startup phone companies, freeing numbers those companies hoped to use. People also dumped pagers for cellphones.

"These area codes are living longer," said John Manning, director of the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA), which manages the registry of area codes and phone numbers. NANPA extended the projected "exhaustion" dates of nearly all 322 geographic area codes. Among the few estimated to be depleted earlier than expected are the 212 and 646 codes that serve Manhattan, and 702 for Las Vegas. 609 is the first New Jersey code expected to run out of numbers, around 2010. But back in 2002, it was projected to run out in 2006. (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

As expected, Lucent poison infects new partner Alcatel; merged revenue down 16%

Growing pains and tougher competition hit Alcatel-Lucent's revenue and wiped out fourth-quarter profit, the telecom-equipment maker warned Tuesday, sending its shares plummeting less than two months after the company's creation in an $11.6 billion merger. Alcatel-Lucent said pro-forma revenue — calculated as if the tie-up had taken effect previously — fell 16 percent. Operating income was "approximately at break-even" after a 570 million euros profit in the fourth quarter of 2005. The revenue shortfalls are "astonishing," investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort said in a note. "Massive market share losses are in clear evidence."

Before the merger, Lucent was one of the biggest money losers in history, with stock price dropping from a high of $84 to a low of $1.07. The company, an AT&T spinoff that makes a wide range of phone equipment, has been cited for mismanagement and "cooking the books" to make its business look better than it really was. Last fall, when President Bush approved the merger, Lucent stock went up a penny and Alcatel shares dropped eight cents. The combined company plans to fire about 9,000 people, saving $1.8 billion over three years.

Chief Executive Patricia Russo said implementation of the "largest merger to date in our industry" had created short-term uncertainty among Alcatel-Lucent customers and staff. "This uncertainty, together with the work required to close the merger, significantly impacted our business," the former Lucent boss was quoted as saying in the company statement.

"I blame the former management of Alcatel for having agreed to pay such a price for Lucent," said Pierre-Henry Leroy, head of the French proxy advisory firm Proxinvest. (info from Home News Tribune and other sources).
If you want to read more aboyut Lucent's screw-ups, I strongly recommend Optical Illusions: Lucent and the Crash of Telecom by Lisa Endlich.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Stupid GPS thieves caught by GPS
they thought was a cellphone

Three thieves who thought they had burgled cellphones, actually grabbed 14 global positioning system units, that led police right to them.

The GPS devices were stolen last week from the Town of Babylon public works garage in Lindenhurst, New York. The town immediately used its GPS system, which showed that one of the devices was inside a house. When they arrived there, Kurt Husfeldt had the swag in his hands.

Husfeldt was charged with criminal possession of stolen property. His 13-year-old son and a friend of the son were arrested on grand larceny charges. Babylon installed 300 GPS devices in snow plows, dump trucks, street sweepers and other vehicles last January. (info from The Associated Press)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Congress should get tough on wiretapping

(editorial from the Washington Post)

When the Bush administration announced that it had belatedly put its warrantless wiretapping program under court supervision, its attitude was like that of a traffic officer trying to hurry along bystanders at an accident scene: "Move right along, folks, nothing to look at here."

The administration would like Congress, under its new management, to abandon its efforts to dislodge details about the program's operations or to craft legislation to provide a legal framework. Lawmakers don't seem inclined to simply go away, nor should they.

It may be that the Justice Department has devised what Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales called a "creative" way to bring the surveillance program under the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), one that preserves the "speed and agility" that the administration wants while ensuring adequate judicial review, not simply broad-brush, "programmatic" approval for warrantless wiretapping. If so, that would be good news.

But there is no way for lawmakers to make a determination about the program on the basis of information they have and every reason for them to be skeptical of the administration's assurances, given its previous intransigence.Those who've been briefed on the program have said they still have questions, and they expressed concerns.

The special court that oversees the FISA law has said that it is willing, with the administration's approval, to provide a copy of the order under which it is operating. But Mr. Gonzales was anything but reassuring last week when members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed for access to the relevant documents. "Are you saying that you might object to the court giving us decisions that you've publicly announced?" said Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) "Are we a little 'Alice in Wonderland' here?"

A little? Traveling down the rabbit hole with Mr. Gonzales is an endlessly frustrating journey, light on details, heavy on unsubstantiated assurances. "So could you give us some idea of the breadth of these warrants?" Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the attorney general. "What I can tell you, Senator, is that they meet the legal requirements under FISA," Mr. Gonzales replied. Maybe that kind of conclusory non-answer would suffice when Republicans were in the majority. In fact, no senator of either party should stand for it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It's the weekend: time for some fun.

Sure, you knew that the new Apple iPhone is a communicator, camera, emailer, mapper, media player and more.

BUT...did you know that it's also a mustard dispenser, substitute sideburn, hair dryer, bottle opener, mouse trap, lip gloss, hair dryer and hand grenade?

CLICK to see, and to laugh your ass off.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Why I hate Sprint, Part 3 of 3

A few years ago, I was rejected for a credit card, despite what I thought was a perfect credit record. I got copies of my reports, and found that Receivables Performance Management was trying to collect $1237 that I allegedly owed to Sprint.

After some digging, I learned that Sprint apparently merged my former cellphone account with the account of someone else with the same name, who lived in Arlington, Texas. They even caused the Trans Union credit bureau to change my address from Connecticut to Texas.

I called the collection agency, and explained that I did not respond to the dunning letters they mailed to Texas, because I lived in Connecticut. They wanted me to prove that I never lived in Texas (which is impossible to prove), and they also said they would not cancel the collection effort or remove the derogatory credit report unless directed to do so by Sprint.

I called Sprint, and was told I had to fill out a "fraud kit." I explained that I thought there was merely a bookkeeping error, and I had no reason to suspect fraud. They said that I still had to complete a fraud kit, which I did. I actually did it three times, because they lost the first two. Ultimately, Sprint accepted the fact that I had never lived in Texas, but they said they would not remove the bad credit report because it was filed by the collection agency, not by Sprint.

Eventually, the collection agency removed the bad report, and then it came back, and then it was removed, and then it came back, and then it was removed, and then I stopped checking.

I'm not sure what the current status is. But one thing I am sure of, is that I would gladly use smoke signals or semaphore flags or yell really really loud, rather than use Sprint.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why I hate Sprint, Part 2 of 3

For several years, I had cellphone service from Sprint. There were some big gaps in their coverage, so I switched to another carrier. I'm not sure why, but at the end of my Sprint contract, they owed me $14.

Each month, for about a year, they paid a few bucks to generate and mail a statement to tell me they owed me $14. Each month I called and asked them to mail me a check. Each month they said they would. And each month they didn't. One Sprint customer service guy said he would send me a personal check for $14 just to get rid of me... but of course the money never came.

Eventually, Sprint opened a store in my neighborhood, and I called the manager and explained my situation. He offered to pay me the $14 from his petty cash account. When I got to the store 15 minutes later, he said he found out that he was not allowed to pay me the money, but Sprint would credit the $14 to my first bill if I became a Sprint customer again.

I didn't re-enlist, and I never got paid. Sprint stockholders, however, should be pleased to know that their company is no longer wasting money to mail me statements to remind me of the money they owe me. The company needs to save money. Sprint's earnings per share for the last reported quarter were a third less than that quarter in the previous year. Lots of people are canceling service, especially customers of Nextel, which Sprint bought in 2005. Sprint is firing 5,000 people to save money. I'd like to suggest a few.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why I hate Sprint, Part 1 of 3

A while ago I went into a Sprint store to get a loose cellphone antenna fixed. The technician opened the phone, and said I was due for a firmware update, which would take about an hour. I went to lunch, and came back an hour later. The technician apologized that the phone wasn't ready, and said it would take another 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, he said it could take another 30 minutes.

I needed to take a leak, and asked where the mens' room was. The technician said that the Sprint restrooms were for Sprint employees only; and if I need to pee, I should go back to the restaurant. I calmly explained that Sprint had already delayed me by over an hour, to do work I had not requested, and there was no end in sight, and they should let me use their facilities, and that I would not steal their toilet paper.

I spotted the john, and started walking toward it. At this point, a large man yelled at me to stop. He ran toward me, and stood in front of me with arms crossed, and said that if I tried to use the Sprint toilet, he would have me arrested for trespassing!

I calmly explained that there was no need to call the police, because if he did not want me to use their toilet, I was perfectly willing to drop my pants and piss on their carpeting; and I started to un-buckle my belt.

He moved out of my way and let me use the john.

Panasonic boss skips work to see Apple phone

Last week, the biggest excitement in consumer electronics wasn't at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where 2700 companies showed thousands of new products to 140,000 people. It was 600 miles away at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, where one company, Apple, revealed two new products to 4,000 people.

The multi-function, super-cool iPhone captivated journalists, AppleGeeks, and even competitors.

According to the Associated Press, Yoshi Yamada, chief executive of Panasonic, ditched CES for part of Tuesday to fly to Macworld just so he could sit in the audience to see CEO Steve Jobs introduce Apple's new products — the iPhone and the Apple TV set-top box.

''I really wanted to be there and I was very impressed with the iPhone,'' Yamada said Wednesday after returning to CES.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

HOLD THE PHONE!
One more company owns the iPhone name

Last Tuesday, Apple unveiled a new super-cool multi-function cellphone, called the iPhone, that attracted unprecedented media attention. On Wednesday, Cisco Systems, which owns the iPhone trademark in the US, sued Apple for trademark infringement. Apple said it expects to be able to use the iPhone name because its new phone is different from the products Cisco has been marketing with the iPhone name.

The situation may get more complicated. A Toronto-based company owns the rights to the iPhone name in Canada. Comwave Telecom has been marketing several iPhone VoIP services and products since 2004, including one called iPhone Mobile.

The company's boss Yuval Barzakay said Friday, "there's no confirmed reports that Apple will launch iPhone in Canada, and there's no trademark designation on their iPhone logo. So we're not quite sure where they're headed." He plans to wait until Cisco and Apple attempt to launch iPhones in Canada before determining what action to take. Apple expects to launch the iPhone in June in the US, but no Canadian date has been set. (info from CBC)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hey Nige, it's Hertz, not Bytes.
Crossing Jordan geek goofs

(not telecom, but close enough)
In the NBC crime drama "Crossing Jordan," Steve Valentine plays Dr. Nigel Townsend, a forensics expert with high-tech talents, who can hack into any distant computer and even remotely disable a cellphone's SIM card.

Sunday night, in the long-delayed season premier, he talked about a miniature wireless "pen cam" audio/video surveillance transmitter that operates at "2.4 GigaBytes." It should have been "2.4 GigaHertz."

Bytes are units of data storage. Hertz is the unit of measurement for frequency -- what used to be called cycles per second.

The Giga prefix, which rhymes with a rapper's pronunciation of the N-word, means a billion.

The initial G is usually hard, as in go. Sometimes the G is soft, as in the 1985 movie "Back to the Future." Doc Brown told Marty McFly that his plutonium-powered flux capacitor provided 1.21 jigawatts of power for the time-traveling DeLorean.

TV show uses real cellphone number;
man gets over 3,000 annoying messages

A man in China received more than 3,000 nuisance text messages after his cellphone number was used in a police TV drama; and a court ordered the television production company to pay him the equivalent of $256.

The Runshi Rongguang Film Production Co. said it made up the number and did not mean to cause trouble. The court said they should have made sure the number was not in use before having a villain say it on the show.

Chen Bing Chen started receiving prank text messages in July 2004. "It was so annoying, and for a long time I wondered why I was getting all these text messages," he said.

He discovered his number was used in a TV series broadcast between 2004 and 2006, and later released on DVD. A bad guy spoke the number slowly, to allow another character to write it down. (Info from Xinhua News Agency, via The Associated Press)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's the weekend: time for a joke

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW drives up in a cloud of dust. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, "If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"

The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, "Sure. Why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Panasonic laptop, connects it to his AT&T cell phone, goes to a NASA website, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location, which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area with an ultra-high-resolution camera.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data via an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1586 sheep."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep", says the shepherd. He watches with amusement as the young man select one of the animals and stuffs it into the trunk of his BMW.

Then the shepherd says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a consultant," says the shepherd.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess it?"

"No guessing required", answered the shepherd. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked; and you don't know crap about my business. Now give me back my dog."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sign makers rejoice:
Cingular will be AT&T, again.

As noted in one of our first postings last May, there is probably more money being made selling signs to AT&T, than AT&T makes selling cellphones. Now it's official: Cingular will start morphing into AT&T on Monday.

  • In 2005, AT&T Wireless stores were either closed or converted into Cingular stores.
  • In 2007, Cingular stores are being converted into AT&T Wireless stores.


  • They can't use the signs that were taken down in 2005, because the new AT&T (which is really SBC, which bought AT&T), has a new uglier logo, so about 2,000 stores need new signs.

    At the end of 2006, AT&T bought BellSouth and became sole owner of Cingular. Previously, the two had owned Cingular together.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T executives hope a sole brand will signal to consumers that the company is a one-stop shop for myriad services including wireless, TV and land-line phone. The coming months may be confusing for some Cingular customers who not long ago were absorbed from the old AT&T Wireless. The service will be sold as "Wireless from AT&T," and initially, AT&T ads will combine Cingular and AT&T logos.

    AT&T will phase out the Cingular name altogether. This move might prove unpopular with young consumers (AND THIS OLD EDITOR) who prefer it over AT&T's stodgy brand, according to branding and advertising experts. Cingular has cultivated a hip image, most recently through its deal with Apple to offer the iPhone.

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    NY mayor gets pestered on hotline phone

    New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg complained that he's annoyed by dinner-time phone calls from salesmen, calling on his "secure" phone line.

    Much like the "Batphone" used by Police Commissioner Gordon in Gotham City, an emergency phone with a secret number has been installed in the kitchen of Bloomberg's townhouse.

    Testifying at a Senate hearing on protecting America, Bloomberg was asked about New York City's updated communications equipment that allows city officials to talk to each other in a crisis. Bloomberg mentioned his secure phone and the insurance salesmen that call him on it.

    "It's never been used other than to answer an occasional call for 'Do I want to subscribe to a particular magazine, buy an insurance policy' or some other such ridiculous thing," Bloomberg said. Asked what thoughts race through his mind when it rings, Bloomberg said "It's somebody trying to sell insurance. That's what I think."

    For the record, the phone is not red. As for how salesmen call into the super-secret line, Bloomberg said, "You can dial numbers at random and eventually get to everyone in the world." (info from Reuters)

    OOPS!
    Maybe it won't be called the iPhone,
    and maybe it won't be called Apple

    Cisco Systems sued Apple Wednesday for infringing on Cisco's iPhone trademark. Cisco claims it obtained the trademark in 2000 after buying Infogear, which had owned the mark and sold iPhone products for several years. Infogear originally filed for the trademark in 1996.

    BigMac Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, a long-anticipated combo cellphone and iPod, on Tuesday. Cisco said that while Apple had repeatedly sought permission to use the iPhone name, they never reached an agreement. Cisco expected Apple to sign an agreement the company sent late Monday, but Apple did not sign it.

    Last month, Cisco's Linksys division launched a family of "iPhone'' devices, including VoIP WiFi antennas.

    Apple argues it's entitled to use the name iPhone because the products are materially different. An Apple spokeswoman called Cisco's lawsuit "silly" and said there are already several other companies using the name iPhone for products like Cisco's that use VoIP. "We believe that Cisco's U.S. trademark registration is tenuous at best," she said. "Apple's the first company to use the iPhone name for a cellphone, and if Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we're very confident we will prevail." Cisco executives argue that, despite the current dissimilarities between the Cisco and Apple iPhone, both phones could take on new features or work on different networks than they do today. Cisco has a market capitalization of more than $174 billion, more than any other company in Silicon Valley. Samuel Wilson, an analyst at JMP Securities, said "you'd think Cisco had a better use of its time and money than suing Apple over a word."

    Apple (formerly Apple Computer) has also been sued by Apple Corps, the Beatles' music publishing company, over the use of the Apple name on music-related products. (info from Mercury News, New York Times, Associated Press)

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Rumors were right: iPhone is real.

    At Macworld, BigMac Steve Jobs turned long-swirling rumors into reality, revealing the iPhone -- the Swiss Army Knife of cellphones that does just about everything but wipe your behind. (Apple apparently made a midnight deal with Cisco to use the iPhone name. In 1999. Cisco bought a company that owns the iPhone trademark in the US.)

    Apple built a bunch of functions into one lightweight handheld device: an innovative cell phone (for Cingular only); a widescreen video iPod with touch controls; an Internet communications device with email, web browsing, maps, and searching; a new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and new software to let you control everything by tapping or sliding a finger, like on a laptop touchpad; and a 2 megapixel camera.

    iPhone is fully multi-tasking, so you can read a web page while downloading your email in the background. iPhone’s full QWERTY soft keyboard lets you send and receive SMS messages in multiple sessions. The keyboard is predictive, so it prevents and corrects mistakes, making it easier and more efficient to use than the small plastic keyboards on many smartphones. Two versions of the iPhone should be available in June. The 4gig will sell for $499 and 8gig for $599. CLICK for more details at Gotta Get One or Apple.

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    SBC is dead.
    WAIT A MINUTE!
    It's alive, and so are its sisters.

    In 2002, Southwestern Bell changed its name to SBC. Then in 2005, SBC changed its name to AT&T. You might think that the SBC name has disapeared, but it hasn't. The name is licensed to Intellitouch Communications for use on a line of consumer phones. AT&T collects rent for the use of the SBC name.

    But wait; there's more.
    1. Some years ago, Lucent, the AT&T phone-making spinoff, licensed the AT&T name from AT&T for use on consumer phones, because the Lucent name meant nothing to consumers shopping at Best Buy and Staples.

    2. Then Lucent spun-off its business phone division as Avaya, and sold its consumer phone business to Vtech, which got the right to use the AT&T name.

    3. About ten years ago, Southwestern Bell sold its Freedom Phone consumer phone division to appliance maker Conair, which got the right to use the Southwestern Bell name.

    4. And, at about the same time, Southern New England Telephone ("SNET"), licensed the Bell Sonecor name to phone maker TT Systems. Later, TT systems went bust, and SNET was bought by SBC, which became AT&T.

    So, if you go phone shopping and want a brand with some heritage, you can choose among a bunch of competing brands, who all rent their brand names from AT&T.

    If you prefer not to contribute to the telecom behemoth, consider Northwestern Bell phones. They're made by a Chinese company called Unical, which got the Bell name from US West, which got absorbed by Qwest Communications. Qwest competes with AT&T (at least as of today).

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    How many lawyers does it take
    to buy a phone company?

    Edward E. Whitacre is chairman of AT&T (formerly known as SBC, which was formerly known as Southwestern Bell, which was formerly known as part of AT&T).

    In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, Whitacre bragged about his company's efficiency and speed in buying other companies.

    According to Whitacre, SBC's recent takeover of AT&T was accomplished in just ten months, and required that 80 million pages be examined by 450 lawyers.

    Assuming that they worked eight hours per day, and five days per week, that works out to about two seconds per page. Do you think they missed anything?

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Best phone company in US
    is a (GASP) cable company.

    Following the 1996 Telecom Act, Cox Cable became the first major cable company in the US to get into the phone business.

    In 2006 the company received the highest honors in the J.D. Power Residential Telephony Customer Satisfaction Survey in the Northeast, Southwest and Western regions.

    It was the fourth straight year Cox topped the Western region, where it challenges AT&T (formerly known as SBC) and Verizon, and the first year it has been included in the other two regions, where its telephone service is newer. In the Western region, Cox ranked highest in all six categories J.D. Power measures — performance and reliability, customer service, company image, offerings and promotions, billing, and cost of service.

    The company has 46% of the phone market in Orange County, Calif., where it competes against both AT&T and Verizon, and appears to be the dominant phone company in Omaha, NB -- overtaking Qwest. “We get called a cable company,” Cox president Pat Esser said. “But we are a telecom company, both residential and commercially…if you look at a pie chart of where our revenues and contributions came from in 2000 and a pie chart of where they come from now — you wouldn't know it was the same company.” (info from Telephony magazine)

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Cellphone saves dumpster diver from crushing

    A man in Oak Park, Michigan awoke inside a garbage truck that was about to compact its load, and was rescued after making a cell phone call to police. The man had been scavenging for bottles when he fell asleep in a dumpster, and awoke when the container was unloaded into a truck.

    He told police he didn't know which truck he was in but gave the location of the dumpster he fell asleep in. He had tried yelling for help but no one heard him.

    Police lost contact with the man when his cellphone battery became loose. Police checked several trucks, including one in a parking lot. An officer went and pounded on the side of the truck and somebody pounded back. The truck driver emptied the garbage in the parking lot and police officers searched through the garbage and found the man. He appeared to be unhurt except for a scratch. "If I was him I would go to church and play the lottery because today was his lucky day," a police officer said. (info from The Associated Press and The Daily Tribune)

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    Cincinnati Bell will play ball

    In an unusual promotional move, Cincinnati Bell is going far beyond mall kiosks and stadium signs. They’ll have a "Riverboat Deck" in the center field area of the Cincinnati Reds' Great American Ball Park, that it can use to show products, have meetings and watch ball games.

    In a three-year deal worth more than $1 million annually, the company's Technology Solutions division will have a pavilion to display products from partners such as Cisco, Sun and Nokia; plus a conference room, and access to seats to watch the games. The Reds will remodel an existing building and add several levels. There'll be several hundred seats on top.

    "The idea for this is to reach the mid-level businesses," Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions GM John Burns said. Bell's Technology Solutions unit offers communications security and other products and services to business customers. Technology Solutions has not done in-stadium advertising before, but Bell's Wireless unit has sponsored a special event for fans. (info from The Cincinnati Enquirer & SmartBrief)

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    AT&Ts network neutrality agreement may kill price-hike plans of other telecom providers

    Last week, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) caved-in to critics and agreed to two years of "net neutrality," and received the FCC’s blessing to buy partner/competitor BellSouth for 86 billion bucks. Now it looks like ATT’s capitulation may hurt its telecom competitors who hoped to make extra money by NOT going along with net neutrality.

    Backers of neutrality, which requires equal treatment of all traffic, say AT&T's agreement provides a template for future legislation and may at least temporarily hinder hopes of other telecom and cable companies from charging companies such as Google and Amazon to give their traffic priority and faster service.

    "Anybody who violates this policy is going to run into a political buzz-saw," said Jonathan Adelstein, one of the two Democrats on the FCC, which pressured AT&T into accepting the condition. Other telecom companies aren't required to abide by the conditions agreed to by AT&T, but may feel compelled to do so because of the public backlash they would face by ignoring the conditions.

    Even the chance of non-neutrality can cause a powerful reaction. Last June, some Cox Communications customers reported problems reaching Craigslist. Consumer groups and bloggers immediately protested, accusing the company of blocking the site. Cox said it was a technical bug and access was quickly restored.

    FCC Chairman Kevin Martin doesn't believe neutrality rules are necessary because there hasn't been evidence of problems, and he has enough votes among his Republican colleagues on the five-member board to block them. On Friday, he slammed the FCC's two Democrats, calling the net neutrality conditions they got from AT&T "unnecessary" and "discriminatory." (info from The Wall Street Journal)