The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for November, 2007

Nokia N810 otw

Posted by Deliverator on 25th November 2007

Well, after much internal deliberation, I finally decided to purchase a Nokia n810 to replace my n800. While the n810 was introduced/released in October and has been nominally “released” in retail sales channels for a little over a week, it still hasn’t hit the market in significant quantities.  The hardware has been finished for a while, but the software only recently reached what Nokia considers release quality. My guess is that Nokia is loading up already finished units with the software as fast as possible and kicking them out the door. This trickle of a release has been frustrating to a lot of enthusiasts and especially developers. Nokia wisely released the SDK for the new Chinook version of the Linux based OS 2008 ahead of time and instituted a developer discount program whereby 500 lucky developers get a n810 for the low low price of $100 via a discount code on Nokia’s online store.  Unfortunately, there is as yet no way to redeem the discount code as the n810 has yet to show up on the online store. It also looks like European developers may be hard pressed to redeem their discount code, short of selling it to someone in the US.  This is all by way of saying that Nokia has managed to botch yet another major product release. Many gadget freaks are impulse buyers, so it is a really good idea to have said gadget available for purchase when the impulse strikes. Nokia should really take a page from Apple and not “release” a product until it is ready to ship in sizable quantities. It would also be a good idea to have a developer program that actually gets devices into the hands of developers prior to or at launch times.

Anyways, after my initial and quite concerted attempts to get my hands on an N810 failed, I did take some time to reconsider whether it was enough of an upgrade to the N800 to justify the purchase. To me, the major deciding factors came down to the transflective display, built in GPS, better overall build quality, improved button positioning for ebook use and slimmer design. On the negative side was skepticism over the keyboard’s design/utility and the switch to a single mini-sd card slot instead of the n800’s two SDHC slots. In the end, after a couple weeks of mulling things over, I decided I still wanted one.

After a couple very frustrating attempts to purchase the N810, including several companies verbally confirming they had units in stock and ready to ship only to be followed by post-purchase emails announcing that it was back ordered, I finally managed to get in an order with tigerdirect shortly after they received their allotment and I now have a tracking number confirming that my unit has left the warehouse.

By far the worst experience was attempting to purchase through Nokia directly. Nokia has an order by phone system and I called up and talked to a sales-person who confirmed that they indeed had n810’s available for immediate shipment and that they were even discounting the price by $75 over retail price, which put the damage at much more palatable ~$410 . I gave her my billing information and then was floored when she asked me for my full social security number to verify my credit. I immediately balked and told her there was no way that I was going to give anyone my social security number (a number which should only ever be used for tax and employment purposes). She explained that they are using a new system called Verid, which uses your SS # to generate questions that only you are likely to have the answer to. She told me that they have implemented the system at the request of their credit card processor because of high rates of credit card fraud (which doesn’t impact them directly)  and that they don’t store the number. I told her I still wouldn’t give her the number, as I have no way of verifying that they don’t store it, and even assuming I trust some faceless corporation to do the right thing, I wasn’t going to read my number out to some random call center employee identified to me only by a fake first name.  I explained to her that I had already provided her enough information to verify that my credit was in good standing with my bank and that my shipping and billing information were the same, so there is basically no chance of fraud.  She explained that she had no way of processing the order without going through the Verid system and she practically begged me to just relent and give her my ss # so that she could rack up a commission.  It was at this point that I told her pretty bluntly that there was no way in hell I was going to just hand out information which is commonly used for identity theft and told her to cancel my order and hung up. About five minutes later I received a call from the sales person’s manager who ran through a list of completely irrational arguments as to why Verid is a good idea and how handing my social security number left and right is a good thing for me. After completely debunking everything the manager said to me, she then tried a different tack and tried to appeal to my love of fortune 500 companies saying “Verid is legitimate and is being used or soon will be used by most of the fortune 500 companies including Macy’s.” I asked her to list a few more and once she did, I thanked her for saving me the hassle of ever bothering to try to give money to those companies ever again and hung up. I’ve seen more than a few ill-conceived “security” schemes in my day, but Verid really takes the cake. While I like a lot of Nokia products, the insulting amount of effort it takes to actually purchase one or get even basic support increasingly makes me want to look to other brands when making a purchase decision.

Posted in Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Proper Projector Mounting

Posted by Deliverator on 1st November 2007

I spent some quality time today shuffling between a ladder, Vetco Surplus and numerous hardware stores on an epic quest to mount my Optoma HD 70 projector on the ceiling. Until today, the projector has been sitting on a somewhat wobbly TV tray directly in front of the couch. This adhoc setup has interfered with the number of people that can comfortably watch the screen at the same time and has lead to lots of minor accidental bumping of the projector and necessary repositioning and refocusing. It has also made it somewhat awkward to play movement heavy games on my Wii, as players have needed to stand to the side so as not to interrupt the projector’s beam and moderate their swings so as not to kill my beautiful projector. After a 26 hour 100% completion of Metroid Prime lead to a serious crick in my neck, I resolved to ceiling mount the projector at any cost.

My first thought was to just build a shelf mounted high on the wall or rigidly suspended from the ceiling, but I quickly nixed that idea for two reasons. The first is that the wall is too far away for the ideal throw of the HD 70’s lens and secondly, the projector casts it’s image upwards from where it sits. The projector needs to be mounted upside-down on the ceiling and put into a special vertical flip mode for ceiling mounting, so a simple shelf/platform wouldn’t do. I checked Optoma’s website and they sell an optional ceiling mount bracket which attaches to the projector via 3 small screw holes on the bottom of the projector. It looks like it would do the job nicely, but at $215 it left me reconsidering my “must mount projector at any cost” statement. I started looking into 3rd party alternatives and quickly came up with an inexpensive 3rd party mounting bracket from a company called Atdec for $45 at Amazon. No-longer-patented one click ordering accomplished, I spent a few days mulling over how best to pump video from my myriad devices into the projector.

Flinging video and audio about through circuitous paths without loosing fidelity is  one of the eternal geek problems. I wish I had the money for a nice remotely controlable switchbox or the time and Arduino-Foo prowess to coble one together.  For now, I have decided to leave that problem (fiscal and otherwise) for another day and just work with what I got as much as possible.  That said, I ended up spending $170 at Vetco acquiring longer cables and connectors so as to be able to hook up 1 HDMI source and 3 component sources with a minimum of fuss.  I have to manually flip a switch to change component sources, but the fully remote controlled alternative would have cost me considerably more, so I consider the occasional need to leave the sofa a small price to pay…and I could use the exercise.

The lion’s share of the work in getting the projector mounted was in figuring out the directions, assembling the mounting bracket, finding studs in the ceiling and a fair amount of drilling. Thankfully, my father who is far more mechanically inclined than I was willing to help me with the drilling and figuring. While he handled the majority of that task, I headed to 3 hardware stores in a subquest to find m3 type metric screws with which to secure the mounting bracket to the projector. The bracket came with a fair selection of mounting hardware for most projectors, but the smallest screw in the included selection was m4, the next size up. I was lucky to finally find a couple m3 screws at Lowe’s, which had a marginally better selection of hardware than the other places at which I stopped. m3 is an exceedingly small shaft size for a screw and I really have to fault Optoma for using such a mechanically poor fastener for hanging a rather expensive and fairly heavy device upside down. I managed to torque the head off one of these screws just trying to tighten it. I have to conclude that they used such a non-standard and hard to find screw as a dis-incentive to the use of generic 3rd party brackets.

I did eventually get the bracket attached and mounted to both the projector and the ceiling and got all the cables run and messes picked up and have been happily spending the remainder of my All Hallow’s Eve watching Vincent Price horror movies. Getting the projector properly ceiling mounted was somewhat frustrating but I think the result will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Movies, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »