Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cast Off the Yoke of Oppression

In days of yore there was no such animal as the internet and its myriad of online applications; nor were there cell phones, digital recordings, or GPS units. It was the seventies and the eighties and it was just around the time that yours truly was growing up. Over the past 30 – 40 years some pretty amazing things have taken place in the realm of electronic wizardry. Technology has shrunk the world. Paul Simon once sang, “These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slow-mo. The way we look to the stars. The way we look to a distant constellation that is dying in the corner of the sky. These are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…”

Ah Graceland – great album. Please forgive the musical interlude, Gentle Reader. I got carried away. Still I think you get the idea. It’s not as easy as it once was to find people who want to return to the “good old days”. They all have their own websites and Twitter feeds now. A common theme that surrounds times of technological growth is will our technology outpace our humanity. I would argue that our humanity benefits from the inclusion of new technologies and, in fact, creates dynamic and new forms of socialization and communication between, well, humans. The popularity of Facebook, MySpace, Geocaching, Twitter, X-box Live, and the other worlds of the Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOGs) sites are shining examples of how technology and human interaction are no longer mutually exclusive. So much for dehumanization; right here, right now in the latter years of the first decade of the twenty first century – change is good. Change is our friend. If we make friends with change we won’t stagnate in a pit of nostalgia and depression at how good things were so long ago. The world has moved on. We must move with it.

“Why are you telling us all this stuff?”

I’m telling you this, Gentle Reader, because while I love the new and emerging technologies and all the wonders they can bestow, I detest being nickeled and dimed for functions on an electronic device that is theoretically owned by me.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m talking about Verizon Wireless. I have a state of the art (5 years ago) free cell phone from Verizon; it’s a Motorola RAZR V3. Motorola, with the RAZR made one of the most popular cell phones ever. The product itself is capable of taking pictures & digital video, playing MP3s, internet browsing, and you can even make phone calls with it. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty neat gadget; unless, that is, your little 5 year-old electronic marvel of a cell phone happens to be using Verizon Wireless as its carrier. You see when you take a picture with your phone Verizon will charge you for you to send it to your own email address. It’s the same thing with videos. Do not think for a moment that you can remove the SD ram chip and insert it into a card reader to download your 300 plus pictures – oh no, Verizon has assigned a Electronic Serial Number (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Serial_Number) to block the use of free applications. Please allow me repeat that in all caps; “BLOCK THE USE OF FREE APPLICATION!

Ladies and Gentlemen, exhibit A: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_RAZR_V3. Please direct your attention to the Verizon Wireless version of the phone; and I quote from Wikipedia my favorite second brain, “Verizon Wireless disabled certain features on the V3m including the ability to transfer data files to and from the phone via Bluetooth (a specific protocol called OBEX). Verizon has also blocked the transfer of most data over USB, such as ringtones. These phones also run Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW), which signs each application to the phones Electronic Serial Number, or ESN, thus preventing the use of free applications. The equivalent models offered by competitors (such as the V3t by T-Mobile) still retain these features.

Verizon also installs their own user interface instead of the default Motorola interface that they used to use in the past. This has led to many Verizon Wireless users to resort to using their own artificial means of reverting their phones back to an original Motorola condition, or to that of a Verizon phone that has some of the disabled features enabled. A newer Verizon version of the phone has been upgraded and features limitless video capture, easier laid out menu system and the ability to customize the external screen. The phone is still unable to sync to a computer via USB cable for anything other than charging, unless a software such as Bitpim is used to access files.

All of those things that you thought your cell phone could do – it can but only with other providers; now on Verizon? Not so much. You have to pay them for the basic functions that come natural with the basic programming of your phone. What a deal. Do not even get me started about the Verizon web browser.

Perhaps in the distant future there will just be a monthly Data Fee that would be set / adjusted on the amount of bandwidth you use. You no longer would have a cable bill, cell phone bill or internet bill. The Data Fee would encompass them all. A world without double, triple, quadruple dipping – a world where the market decides what products and services the populous uses. This Data Fee would cover your phone and digital television too – hey it won’t be that long before you will have an HD projector on your wrist anyway and when that day comes how many bills do you really want to pay? Charge for bandwidth used; that will be the future.

What about the now? To be fair Verizon has a lot of towers in the South Jersey area. That translates to clear signal strength. These are the “days of miracle and wonder” and I am truly excited about what the near future just may hold for the micro personal computer and mobile electronic and information community. While the short-term financial gains that come from replacing a user interface may be appealing to companies such as Verizon Wireless the long-term prognosis is pretty weak. Case in point, I have four cell phones through Verizon Wireless, 700 minutes a month, and on two of those phones I pay extra so that two of those phones can Text without being charged per each Text message. We do not use the Verizon web browser since the interface is clunky, it is entirely too expensive to do so, and, quite frankly, we prefer the real thing to Verizon’s alternate universe version of the internet. As each one of our cell phones reaches the end of its contract I will take said number and I will leave. Four, Three, Two, One, Zero. I will cast off the yoke of oppression one cell phone at a time.

Can you hear me now?


mommanator said...

I feel your pain-truly!

Merci said...

I am stuck with Verizon for DSL and landline, and my satellite dish is part of the bundle. No Comcast availability down here. Our cell carrier is Nextel/Sprint. Not great reliability, especially at home :( We could change to Verizon and get better reliability, but I really do hate dealing with them. Customer service is awful, and they just upped my rates for the landline and DSL. I want to drop the DSL and drop the landline, but I'm running into resistance...

Screenplay Girl said...

Funny I should read this post today as this afternoon I am headed to the Verizon store for a two-year upgrade phone. I have scoured the internet for the last week, comparing phones and reading posts on forums regarding the phones I'm considering. I was amazed and disillusioned to discover that Verizon disables certain phone functions strictly to gouge the consumer for more money by making us use their paid services. For instance, Wifi is not included or even worse, disabled on a lot of their phones so you have to buy an internet plan for $30 a month! I tell you, if Verizon didn't have the best coverage, I'd switch carriers in a second! Ahhh. Evil Verizon!!

Evil Chicken said...

Mommanator & Merci – I hear ya. There’s just got to be a better way.

Screenplay Girl – A $30.00 internet plan for a phone that has disabled wifi! That is insane. It’s like an old western where a rich, corrupt rancher dams up the river so that the poor dirt farmers and cowpokes go belly up and have to sell their land and mineral rites. The river’s name is Information and Verizon is damming it up. That is subjugation; pure and simple. The more I think about it the more I think I’ll just pick up one of those Netbooks (about 300 bucks) that will easily support wireless networks, has a full keyboard and weighs less than 3 lbs. I’ll be able to throw it in my backpack and use it for all of the services that my phone SHOULD be able to perform if it was not being blocked by Verizon.

I hear ya about the coverage thing. Here in South Jersey Verizon have the most towers and, therefore, the best signal strength. I am over a barrel and, it pains me to say, I am not alone.

Good luck with your search!