Review: Samsung Captivate on at&t

Samsung Captivate on at&t

Despite the news that RIM was going to finally launch a new touch screen slider phone “any day now,” which did finally launch as the BlackBerry Torch 9800, I decided to give an Android phone a serious look.

After looking at the various options that at&t offers, I decided to give the Samsung Galaxy S-based Captivate (details: Samsung, at&t) a try. I ordered three new phones–one for me, one for my wife, and one for my Dad–at the start of August, and by the 6th, we had our phones in hand.

Right off the bat, I’ll have to admit that I went into this with extremely high expectations. I know, big mistake. To be honest, after dealing with BlackBerry phones for the last two-plus years, I was excited at the prospect of finally getting on a modern platform that didn’t involve using that crappy iPhone OS.

On the surface, it sounds really promising: a fancy 4-inch Super AMOLED display; lightweight at 4.5 ounces; 5MP camera; 512MB of RAM and 16GB internal SDHC; Samsung’s 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 Hummingbird CPU. With these specs, there’s a whole lot of potential to build something really incredible.

My first disappointment was the “Email” app that ships with Android 2.1 on this phone. Apparently, I’m not alone, so much so that folks have forked the code and released their changes called K-9. However, K-9 still has its warts: I can’t figure out how to copy-and-paste text from an email message, without “replying” to it and copying from the quoted text area, then discarding the reply. Perhaps I’ll “fix” this and submit a patch.

Next, the lack of out-of-the-box wi-fi tethering was disappointing. I went and rooted my Captivate and then installed Android Wi-Fi Tether on it. Having a free, open source “solution” is a great thing, but certainly not for the average, non-technical consumer.

The Calendar app. isn’t too bad, but I sadly discovered a shortcoming in it: there’s no way to duplicate an event. I’m not talking about creating a recurring event, but taking an event and duplicating it. Suppose you have an event, like a doctor’s appointment. You go to your appointment, and at the end, you schedule your follow-up appointment. It’d be really convenient to be able to just copy your current appointment, and paste it on the new date and maybe adjust the time. Can’t do that with the stock Calendar app on the Captivate. You have to just add a new event and enter in all the data. Annoying, to say the least.

Battery life also seems disappointing. The specs claim over 300 hours (over 12 days) of standby time, and over 5 hours of talk time. Given the amount of email and Twitter and Facebook I get, even at an hour interval for refreshes and K-9 mail set up to do IMAP “push,” my battery seems to last around 4 hours before needing a charge. I suspect the 3G data use of the cellular radio uses more juice than voice “talk” time … and the notion of “standby” time is a bit misleading, since when the phone is doing background data tasks, it’s really not “in standby” as its actively using the radio.

Another huge problem is the fact that GPS on the Captivate appears to be totally broken. The TeleNav GPS navigation application is pretty much unusable, with it not being able to track your location properly, which causes it to constantly reroute as it tries to figure out where you are. Supposedly there’s a workaround, where you can manually reconfigure the phone to use Google’s Location Server, which I’ll try soon, but again, this is just poor out-of-the-box experience and “fixing it yourself” isn’t really a satisfactory solution for a non-technical consumer.

On one hand, I wonder if I should have bothered making the switch from BlackBerry to Android, yet. Despite my complaints with RIM and BlackBerry products, the few things they could do, they did reasonably well. But, I’m tired of waiting for RIM to catch up. Maybe the next generation of touch-plus-slider devices following the Torch 9800 could be an option, but for now, I’m going to stick it out with the Captivate, hoping that Android 2.2 brings some fixes, along with community-developed Android functionality closes the gap between “sucks badly” and “usable on a day-to-day basis.”

Today’s moment of gift card FAIL

Over the last year, I’ve accumulated several “one-shot” Visa credit cards in the form of “gift cards” and manufacturer rebates. I decided today would be the day I’d try to spend some of these. I went to one of my favorite online shopping destinations,, picked out some items, and went to go pay with these cards. This should be no big deal, right? Right???

Handful of Visa cards.

So, I picked out an item that I couldn’t pay for with a single gift card. No problem, I’ll just tell Amazon to charge two of these cards and that would be that, right? Only, I discover that I can only choose one credit card to pay for the transaction. Ha, ha, this must be a joke, right? It’s 2009, you can’t expect me to believe that the company that basically pioneered e-commerce hasn’t figured out how to implement split billing?

Out of disappointment, I decided to locate the same item on, where I discovered that they also only allow you to choose one credit card as payment. I did notice that both Amazon and allow you to use multiple site-specific gift certificates to pay for an order, so I decided to work around the problem by ordering a gift certificate for $50, the value of one of my Visa gift cards. I chose email fulfillment, figuring that I’d soon receive the necessary information by email to redeem my card and be done.

How can an e-product be “on backorder”?

Estimated ship date: Back Order???

When I received my order confirmation email from, this is what I saw. Try to appreciate the moment of WTF I experienced as I tried to believe what I was reading. An emailed gift certificate was on back-order??! Are you kidding me? What, did they run out of electrons or bytes in the warehouse?

I tried to attribute this to some bug in their order confirmation email process, so I waited for an hour for a second email, which would never arrive, containing the gift certificate. Finally, I gave up and went back to and cancelled my order.

Does do any better? I’m not sure. I just noticed this fine print on their gift certificate order page:

* Note: For security purposes, e-mail gift cards and printable gift cards may go under a 24-hour review process while payment information is verified.

I don’t know what to do, at this point. Have any of you been in this situation, trying to make a purchase using multiple credit cards? Should I just bite the bullet and purchase these gift certificates and wait 24 hours? Are there any better solutions? Please, help me out, leave me a comment with your best suggestions.

Can we flush $150M down the toilet in 5 days? YES WE CAN!

What happens when you give ultimate power and unlimited wealth to a black man? He invites all his homies to his crib and pops open the Cristal and throws a huge party, that’s what:

Obama’s inauguration set to be the most expensive in US history

President Barack Obama’s inauguration next week is set to be the most expensive ever, predicted to reach over $150m (

The world would be better off without you!

Can you believe this crap? I mean, look:

Prosecutors say Drew, 49, of O’Fallon, Missouri, helped create a false-identity MySpace account and harassed Meier with cruel messages.

Meier, who was being treated for depression, hanged herself after allegedly receiving messages saying the world would be better off without her.

So, some kid becomes an hero and they want to prosecute using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? That is absurd.

Sure, what Lori Drew did to Megan Meier–sending cruel messages–wasn’t nice. But, “not nice” in this case is in no way criminal! Otherwise, there’s crimes being committed every day in school yards, offices, customer service departments, etc., across the country. Seriously, where do we draw the line?

I’m sure it doesn’t need to be asked, but where were Megan’s parents in all of this?

I hope the trial jurors are smart enough to figure out how ridiculous this whole thing is. Case law really needs to be established here so no one else can get crucified like this.

Before you go flying into a rage in my comments section about how insensitive I am, or how I’ve got it all wrong … listen carefully: the world would be better off without you! Go hang yourself, now.

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Could Obama be the new Pragmatic Party?

In May 2006, Scott Adams described what could be called the “Pragmatic Party” (sadly, his blog archives were nuked, but you can still read my entry). Last Tuesday, Barack Obama was elected President. Two days later, we have this website, website screenshot

Could Obama really be doing what Adams suggested? I was skeptical about Obama’s rallying cry for change, but this is incredibly hopeful looking.

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This is “high speed” EDGE?

This is my BlackBerry Curve 8310 tethered to my MacBook Pro over Bluetooth:

Not the “high speed 3G EDGE” I was expecting. Is this really the height of technological achievement for 2008? Where’s my flying car? Jeez.

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Sarah Palin is 2008’s Dan Quayle

While I self-describe myself politically as centrist–financially conservative but socially liberal–I typically lean towards supporting Republicans over Democrats. However, I have to admit that an Obama/Biden victory sounds interesting. But, the novelty of a black senator and one with a sob story is going to wear thin when they accomplish nothing positive of note like every other recent President and Vice President, and we’ll be stuck with them running the country. I will likely support them in the upcoming election, but before I do, I seriously need to find an answer to the question, “Can they possibly make things worse?” While it seems hard to believe they could, the only thing inifinte in this universe is stupidity.

On the subject of stupidity, I want to share this image with you:

Dan Quayle (1988), Sarah Palin (2008)

Clearly, McCain is taking a play straight out of Bush’s playbook. Why?

  • Both are clearly underqualified for the position.
  • If elected, no one would want the President to pass away for fear of the ascension of the VP to that esteemed position.
  • They are both physically attractive.
  • Both say things that are inconceivably stupid.

I’m sure there are even more similarities that aren’t even obvious yet, but if anyone doubts, just remember this worked back in 1988–just 20 short years ago. But, 20 years is a generation already; young, impressionable voters today are weren’t alive when the Dan Quayle play was run (think about that for a moment) and are just as stupid as the Vice Presidential candidate presented so they can better relate, and they all like a pretty face.


Thank you for NOT BEING QUEER

No Queering sign

“NO QUEERING” … yeah, how would you feel if you saw this sign as you walked into a restaurant? Whether you’re gay or straight, it would probably strike you as questionable to say the least. It’s discrimination, right? But, what about when you see this sign:

No Smoking sign

You probably see these things all over the place and probably think nothing of them. Even if you’re a smoker, you just accept and generally obey these offensive things. Why doesn’t seeing one of these signs make you uncomfortable, then?

Before you jump on my case about the fact that smokers aren’t a protected class in the United States while homosexuals are, lets remind ourselves that fat people aren’t a protected class, either. How would you feel if you saw this sign up at a restaurant:

No Overeating sign

One could argue that the restaurant is trying to discourage folks from engaging in unhealthy activities which could lead to serious negative health effects like obesity, increased risk of heart disease, and early death. Also, they might be trying to create a more pleasant atmosphere for the other patrons–you know, it’s an unpleasant sight watching someone eat themselves into a food coma as part of their 6,000-plus-calorie-per-day diet. Yet, if a sign like this went up, there’d be no end of people complaining about how insensitive or offensive it is, or how businesses nor government should have this much control over how folks choose to fill their bodies.

According to the CDC/NCHS, a rough estimate based on sampling from 2003-2004 suggests that over 32% of U.S. adults are considered obese. Similarly, from the CDC’s 2003 data, the national average of smokers is only 22% of the population.

The American Lung Association claims that 438,000 deaths per year may be attributable to smoking-related causes, including second-hand smoke. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates 300,000 deaths per year may be attributable to obesity.

When I’m standing outside in the freezing cold, trying to enjoy my cigarette in peace in the only place left where I can exercise my personal freedoms, I really love it when someone feels the need to come up to me and say “you know, those are bad for you, you should quit.” Well, boy-howdy, I’m so sorry your great aunt Ruth died of emphasema or lung cancer and blah, blah blah. Look me in the eye and ask me if I really care. If I was related to someone as intrusive and annoying as you, I’d probably rather be dead, too.

The next time you see some fatass ordering two double-Whoppers with cheese and a large diet soda, you walk right up to them and tell them how your great aunt Ruth died of coronary disease and kidney failure and how they might want to think about quitting overeating–you might just save a life. Or, piss someone the hell off who is likely to be a lot less polite than your average smoker, who will likely tell you to shut the hell up, instead of just nod and smile and let you walk away.

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Can someone at at&t please fire whoever broke data services?

mock of new at&t logo with Death Star from Return of the Jedi

“Wish you weren’t paying $40/mo. for unlimited cellular data services that aren’t working? With at&t, you will.”

Yes, at&t’s cellular data services have been unavailable since January 31. You know, the service I pay $40/mo. for each Treo 650 and I have two on my account. It’s been unavailable since the outage started, and it’s still not working today, February 2. This also includes SMS text messaging.

I don’t know how many people are affected, but it seems this was widespread enough to make it a newsworthy outage. It’d be interesting to see if there’s any estimate as to how many customers are being affected by this.

Do the math real quick and you’ll see that this service is costing me close to $80/mo.–that’s roughly $2.60 a day. Is at&t going to give me a service credit for this outage? I doubt it. The best you’ll probably get is a “oh, we’re sorry” and basically screw the customers. But, if I “forget” to pay my bill on the due date, they’ll cut the service off until payment is made! WTF?

Is this a large enough outage to create a class-action lawsuit? If they fix the service by tomorrow, that’ll be 3 days of outage, or $7.80. I don’t know how much your data portion of your monthly bill is, but I imagine this is at least a few million dollars of revenue that at&t is collecting but hasn’t provided the service for. It’s plain old theft, if you ask me. Telcos should be federally mandated to return monies paid for services that weren’t delivered–customers shouldn’t have to wait for hours in hold queues to get refunds that weren’t their fault to begin with.

Did this outage affect you? Is it still affecting you? If you want to join the angry mob, drop a note in the comments. Lets see how widespread this is: share your city and state so we can see. I’d also like to know what data plan you’re paying for, to get an idea of how much this outage is costing us all.

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Still no FiOS in Butler, NJ Verizon FiOS map for Butler, NJ
(click for full-size image) offers a neat view showing “actual” Verizon FiOS coverage using Google Maps. The screenshot above shows Butler, NJ (07405), which I drew a big blue ring that shows a total lack of FiOS coverage within a 12 mile radius around Butler.

Come on, Verizon … hurry up and roll out FiOS in Butler! I’m waiting!

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