Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sprint's LTE up to 443 cities?

I must have missed a press release because my last count was 340 cities.  Maybe, they're counting individual cities in a metropolitan area now but the addition of 41 cities does not come to 443, as far as I can tell.  Maybe, this is why they have so many billing problems?  They can't do math correctly.

In any case, I was reading this article on Android Central.

Sprint has announced Spark is up and running in 24 cities, including a fresh six:

Austin, Texas
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Fort Worth, Texas
Jacksonville, Fla.
Kansas City, Kan./Mo.
Los Angeles
New York
Newark, N.J.
Oakland, Calif.
Orlando, Fla.
Provo, Utah;
Salt Lake City
San Antonio
Tacoma, Wash.
Tampa, Fla.
Trenton, N.J.
Waukegan, Ill.
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Spark is their 3 band/frequency LTE.  I looked at the choices and wondered why some were chosen.  The Texas and Florida locations make sense, as to thumb their nose at the New AT&T/SBC/BellSouth.  My iPhone 5c is only a 2 band device, so I'll never know the joy of incredible speed.  Oh, no.  Equally, my Verizon mobile hotspot is a 2 band device, but then, they only have two frequencies, unlike poor, beleaguered Sprint, which is finally reaping a little benefit for all those catastrophic losses taking on Nextel.

I found the full list of active LTE markets here.

I was amused to find the town where I live to be on the active list.  I'm not sure the Sprint store sees an active LTE signal, and it's close to the main road.  I lose the signal when I've driven about 500 feet from the main road, though in the harder hit areas of town, LTE works more reliably.  It would be difficult to explain to a customer why they can't get a signal next to their store, though.  This particular tower services the shopping centers and is overloaded much of the time.  However, with their upgrades, there should not be a problem, and Verizon's LTE reaches my house just fine for my mobile hotspot.  (I couldn't connect with my Sprint hotspot and switched the hotspot to Verizon while keeping my phone with Sprint, so I'd have at least one working all the time.)

I'm sure, about the time I'm moving in June, they'll have LTE working just fine somewhere around here.  Then, I'll go through the frustration in the next area.  I noticed that Modesto, CA is active and they seem to be working their way north along state road 99, so hopefully, more from that area will be active this summer.

Update 2014.05.01: A while ago, I was seeing 1xRTT service, which tells me that they're trying to finish the final tower here, but they're likely running into problems keeping service going while converting it.  You'd think that it wouldn't be so primitive--and that they'd be working in the middle of the night when most people are asleep or at work.

Update 2014.05.02: I got a message a bit ago that the enhanced network is working.   I guess it is enhanced in that it's not so slow, but LTE is not available in most places.  Getting the data is the most important thing, unless it's so slow that it can't be measured in whole numbers.

Later in the day, I was traveling down Ohio SR 503 from SR 122 to SR 73, noticing that the cows were well-equipped with LTE, better than those living in anything big enough to be considered a city in Ohio.  Are the technicians just not able to focus their efforts on the heavily-used towers first?

Monday, April 28, 2014

While I'm packing my house...

Okay, so, I don't really know if anyone cares about what I write or not.  I'm trying to save you all some steps, to see my decision-making process, to avoid the pitfalls of a lack of information or slick marketing practices.

I've accepted an offer on my house, and I'm fairly busy packing and cleaning, etc. so I don't have much time to write or photograph or anything like that.  I'm moving (back) to northern California but to a place where I've never been.

After spending time in San Jose, California last August, I determined that it wouldn't be feasible to just drop into the area at the costs of the area.  Out in farm country(Central Valley, Tracy, Manteca, Modesto, Stockton), things are a bit less expensive.  I would say that they're more laid back, but I'm not sure that's possible compared to San Jose.  They're certainly laid back compared to San Fran or Los Angeles.  I found San Fran strangely contentious the day I was there.  Los Angeles is just an interesting city/county.  Orange County is more laid back and less fake but only just.  I remember people in San Jose calling Los Angeles weird when I was little, but I didn't find it to be weird--just fake, superficial.  Maybe, it's just my sense of reality, though.  I have an acquaintance who is a singer/songwriter.  I once called him friend but we're so far apart on friendship that I cringe when he uses "friend" when talking to me.  I guess I'm too Japanese.  Maybe, living in California as an adult will change all that.

I was talking today with someone at the Bose store who grew up around Sacramento, the state capital.  He told me that I'd love where I'd be.  I hope so.  Life can be far too disappointing otherwise.

Technology-wise, this move has presented some interesting challenges.  Getting rid of technology is not always easy.  I ended up trading my 3D TV and Blu-Ray player, along with some compatible audio equipment for help with moving heavy things to the garage.

I couldn't see how a 42 inch panel could survive 2800 miles on that fragile, little base that wiggles when you move the TV just a little.  Finding 1 million pieces of broken glass at the other end didn't seem okay.  It would be better to give it away than to find it broken, and trading it for help was even better.

While I was shopping for another 3D TV, I found that there weren't any new models, but I'm probably missing something.  However, the 4K TVs seem to have 3D technology as part of them.  Now that means that I'll need a larger TV than 42 inches.  The smallest I've seen is 55 inches on the diagonal.  That's huge for an apartment or smaller rooms of any building.  I'd think that you have to have about 25 feet of space between you and the TV.  12 feet seemed reasonable between the 42 inch and me.

I was thinking that it would be pretty crazy to move into a place, not knowing your neighbors, and the second thing that they see is Best Buy or someone else bringing the latest TV to your door.  The next day, you return from work, and your TV has been stolen.  Anything is possible.

Since my compatible audio equipment is also gone, I'll likely replace that quickly.  I saw that Yamaha has a number of refurbished AV-receivers available at reasonable prices.  I can't tell what the warranty is, but I would buy an extended warranty, just in case.  Most companies have different standards on refurbishment, unfortunately.  With Apple, I guess I've been lucky to receive something in nearly new condition each time.

In addition to the receiver, I'd like to buy a full range of Infinity speakers.  I'm not sure whether I should buy a 5.1 setup or 7.2.  Do the presence speakers really make a difference?  I've also never had a subwoofer and I'm not sure about buying one or two.  If I end up in an apartment, I think my neighbors will work with me, but not at loud volumes, which may be too typical of my house-only way of listening.

As an alternative for apartment living, I went into a Bose store today.  What do you mean, stop?  I have to choose for myself, okay?

I've had a set of Bose 901 Series VI since about 1994.  I'd also had a 601 pair, and I have a Wave Radio that hasn't been used enough recently.  The 601 pair was adequate, and the Wave Radio is a fancy clock radio, 'nuff said.  I really dislike the Acoustimass systems since the first time I heard one before they were introduced to the market way back when.

I was listening to the Cinemate 1 SR soundbar + subwoofer (errr, bass) module today.  At US$1499.99, it's definitely expensive but it was also impressive, at least, in their showroom with carefully selected materials though having systems side by side doesn't help.  It uses an offshoot of the same Direct/Reflecting technology that made Bose speaker systems, like my 901s, liven up a otherwise dead room with realistic sound spaces.

What's rather amusing is that practically everyone else in the industry has created a sound bar that uses a variation on Doctor Bose's theories that were panned as being stupid and/or ridiculous, and that it took so long for Bose to arrive with one like this one.

I'm not saying that I'm thinking that it would be my first choice, but for apartment living, it may be just the thing.  Of course, many people out there will claim that the lack of specifications damn it right away.  I say that a blind test is better than looking at numbers.  I rarely listen to numbers but I listen to movies, music, the news, and more.  Yes, I know where 440 Hz is on my piano keyboard, so in that sense, I listen to numbers.

Analyzing the data may be fun, if you're creating hearing aids, but sometime, you just want to hear the music.

I was also thinking about getting a pair of Beyerdynamic headphones for apartment listening.  Yamaha has that Silent Cinema mode (that I've never used) on their AV-receivers.  I think I've been a few models back, so the newest have 4K passthrough, even though they probably don't have 4K upscaling.  Imagine, trying to upscale SD content to 4K.  It would seem more guesswork than mathematics.

I guess a new Blu-Ray player that touts 4K upscaling would be in the works too.  It wouldn't be any more than my first Blu-Ray player was, I'm fairly sure.  Prices have improved quite a bit.  I'd like to have a Yamaha or Oppo Blu-Ray player but they're a bit more conservative with their lines.  Oppo would be good because of the ability to turn off the region coding confirmation.  I have a number of Japanese and Korean products I'd like to view without needing 3 DVD players.

In any case, I may not be writing for a while, as the packing must be a priority.  Then, the closing and the move will take precedence.  The trip will be the turning point.

Update 2014.05.04: I went to the local Best Buy the other day, not really in the mood to buy but only wasting time.  One of the staff approached me, and I explained to him what was happening.  Then, he tried to push an LG TV on me that was returned.  When he was called away, I looked at the Open Box tag closely and it didn't have a pedestal.  I wonder how I could use it without it--in a rental property, which I explained ahead of time.  Yes, it was nearly half of the retail price.  Somehow, setting it on the floor, leaned up against the wall didn't seem quite right.  Do people actually listen?

Update 2014.10.29: I happened to be in Oklahoma City, OK on the way across the country and I stopped into a Guitar Center store on a whim.  They had the Beyerdynamic headphones I wanted at $100 off.  That was great luck.

I got my TV early in September: an LG 49UB8500--4K TV, which was bargain priced at $1499.99, though I got it on sale for $100 off for Labor Day.  The next weekend, I bought a Sony 4K upscaling Blu-Ray player for $149.99, even though the TV supposedly upscaled content anyway.  Either way, I'd have good upscaling available.

The TV has been better than good, but great?  I'm not sure; however, I no longer go to the store thinking that another TV looks better.  I still have no discrete sound system.  I've looked at a few sound bars, and almost bought that Bose Cinemate 1SR sound bar, but they were discontinuing it, and I didn't find it in time.  I'm considering a Yamaha YSP-4300, which is much like the RX-V671 receiver I traded for help, but in a sound bar only.  At $1799.99, it's expensive.  It's also bigger than my TV stand, so I need to find a company which can get me a piece of glass to fit on the stand and extend it safely.

Update 2015.12.07: I finally got a Bose sound bar but that took quite a while.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Leica T (Typ 701) too much, not enough, both?

I've been looking at various first impressions like this one at DPReview.

Each time Leica introduce some new piece of equipment, everyone who can't afford it and those who can but won't buy it comment about what a piece of crap it is.  Does it matter?

I'm impressed that they've done what Apple (and HTC) have done with a solid block of alumi(num/nium) and carved out a product.  I'm even more impressed that they could make their little block even more expensive than the big blocks that Apple produce through their third party manufacturing partner.  I'm typing this blog entry using one of those 15.x inch MacBook Pro machines.

The feel of my MacBook Pro is interesting, so I can imagine how the new Leica Typ701 feels.  Since I replaced my hard disk drive with a solid state drive, it feels as though I could toss the whole thing to someone else and, being caught, there would be no problems.  That wouldn't be the case with the older machines, even with an SSD in each, I'm sure.  Actually, the MacBook Pro still has fans and an optical drive, so there are moving, motorized parts remaining.

I can't speak for the image quality of Leica's latest machine, nor would I dare to buy one.  It's not something I would feel comfortable using, similar to how I'd feel driving a Jaguar car.  I'm sure they will work on the firmware and it will work so smoothly, people will not think to want something else.  To me, the only Leica equipment I would want is the S medium format SLR and it seems to be wrapped around adapters to be able to use lenses from other medium format systems.  When you get into the hallowed ground of medium format, does the name Leica shout "expensive" when you can easily spend US$80,000 on a camera body and digital back and maybe, get a lens?

In any case, I think those who regularly buy Leica equipment will buy the Typ 701 in due time, and enjoy it as they do their others.  Hopefully, they'll get something really satisfying.  There is more to a camera than just a sensor and pixels.

Update 2014.05.04: I saw something about embedded lens profiles with raw files--a forced correction.  I can't blame them, if their customers want a very quick, very smooth way to a finished photo.  I doubt people buying this certain model will care as much for photographic precision or extremely high image quality.  The whole thing about forced correction sounds so Panasonic to me, but it's particularly sad that the Leica name is associated with lower quality lenses.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Clean power for technology, self-sufficiency for all

Okay, so, you charge and use your phone, and charge it again.  You usually pay for charging your own battery through your car or home outlet.

What about all that media you use?

As much as I criticize Apple, they've done some good to reduce their energy demands on the grid.

For Earth Day, they took a poke at someone with this advertising and also had a video about their accomplishments.

If you remember the rolling blackouts in California not so long ago, you know how bad the energy demand can be.  It got to the point where the Standby mode for electronics became a problem, and people were unplugging their electronics, and waiting for them to be powered again when they wanted to use them--like the old days.

I remember working at a hospital outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (before and) after a new shopping center with Best Buy and Barnes & Noble had opened.  It was hot and the extra drain from the shopping center and the air conditioning caused brownouts.  Since our main computer system was on a generator and a battery back up, there should have been no problem but the people who sold the system never considered a voltage regulator and when things were switched, the computer system crashed, due to bad power.  Hospital systems aren't supposed to crash--ever.

So, being self-sufficient is so important.  Obviously, the day is coming (slowly) that every house or apartment complex will have alternative energy sources.  Not every area is right for solar panels, or wind turbines, or hydroelectric generation.

Even when solar panels work, they're not quite efficient enough.  I've recently seen some technology to turn heat into energy, which would work in conjunction with solar panels.  I could also imagine capturing other radiation to use as energy.

If none of these techniques work, we'll have to get Gilligan (Gilligan's Island) to ride the bicycle to generate electricity.

What would happen if every company in the U.S.A. would take the cost and effort to make themselves self-sufficient in energy usage?  Would there be a glut of energy?  Could coal usage drop to minimal levels and only natural gas be used?  Could the air be less toxic?

I'm not an activist, but maybe I should be--maybe we all should be.  The more we put the planet right, the better off it will be for everyone.

Update 2014.05.08: I noticed a Tweet this morning that had India acknowledging that New Delhi was no more polluted than Beijing, but they disagreed with the UN's WHO's report about it.  Maybe these people could look at standards already in place for California, as the brown cloud over Los Angeles is much smaller than it used to be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

dSLR users: open up to mirror-less models

Over a year ago, I couldn't really see myself using a mirror-less camera model.  I have been good with a dSLR, and I didn't feel any need to switch.  The various new system cameras didn't offer me anything great, until the GH3.

Now, it's easy to see that the Panasonic GH3 is the size of a smaller dSLR, but with a well-proportioned body and good grip.  The designers actually thought about its being used by photographers.  Isn't that amazing?

Add to that reasonable still photography and incredible video photography at a reasonable price with weather-sealing, and you've got a recipe for taking on a hurricane.  I know--I've been out in hurricanes, photographing them with the Olympus E-1.

I was stubborn that an electronic viewfinder could not work for me and I wasn't going to use the rear display because of the trouble using it in bright sunlight.  I was half right.

Using a rear display doesn't work well in bright sunlight, but the smaller EVF can, especially those of the Olympus E-M1 and FujiFilm X-T1.  I haven't seen the Panasonic GH4's improved EVF but I expect it to be good, not great.  I have various issues when using the GH3 viewfinder, mainly with sunglasses, but it is relatively good.  I've used the Olympus E-M1 extensively and found that it doesn't seem to have the GH3's problems, and since many people have commented that the FujiFilm X-T1's viewfinder is even better than that of the E-M1, I would say that my short experience with the X-T1 would be very positive and typical also.

Where the EVF shines on the GH3 is at night.  I can see to frame and focus in ways that an optical viewfinder does not work well.  I had great respect for the Olympus OM-1N viewfinder--the brightest in the business at the time, but the GH3 does miracles for night work, and I'm guessing that any EVF can work similarly well.

Along with that, the GH3's auto focus works to EV -4.  That's equivalent to starlight.  I took some quick photos after the firmware update, just to see, and it worked incredibly well.  I hated the image quality, as I wasn't really trying to do anything important and didn't plan, but it worked.

The one thing I dislike with the Olympus E-5 and Nikon D7100 and Canon 70D users will understand: switching to Live View takes a fast camera body and makes it seem horribly slow.  There were occasions when I flipped out the display (don't try that with the D7100 or 70D!) and enabled Live View and it felt as though time stopped.  I got the photos I wanted, and it's so nice to be able to point the lens upward, while looking at a comfortable angle, but you have to be a bit patient.

The GH3 allows me to switch back and forth quickly because the same feed and the same auto focus is working.  Since there is no optical viewfinder, the imaging sensor is working in Live View mode all the time, and it's made to handle the thermal stresses, as well.  Need to hand-hold a Live View shot at a steep angle in portrait orientation?  The GH3's rear display can do that for you, and you will still be comfortable.

There was a time when I would be flat on my back, looking up at a building, working to get a certain vertical shot.  I no longer have to do that.

I was taking some photos last Saturday at an arboretum and park and it was simple to get each shot.  I thought that the rear display would be unusable, but I could actually see it fairly well.  Someone asked me to take a photo or two with their smart phone, and I was surprised at how poor the Samsung Galaxy S4 display did in bright light.  I could barely see where the shutter release button was.  Considering that Samsung uses their phones to showcase their displays, it was disappointing.  I had new respect for Panasonic.

I know, better than most, what speed means.  After all, I photograph a lot of sports.  I can understand why photographers have switched to video for cross country and track events but I have not.  I'm still sorting things to use the GH3 in such sports, although replacing it with the GH4 will likely help, and that's on the list.  I don't do a lot of burst mode shooting, but 12 frames per second sounds better than 6 frames per second when it comes to crunch time, don't you think?  Of course, auto focus had better work well also, or you'd better be able to manually focus the lens quickly.  (I'm good with manual focus on dSLR lenses because they're big enough for that to happen.  micro Four-Thirds lenses are tiny, in comparison, so I require auto focus to work well.)

The only thing you can't fix with mirror-less equipment is the price.  I pick and choose but on the whole, everything that will get you high image quality is really expensive.  Mind you, it's often cheaper than equivalent dSLR equipment, especially weather-sealed equipment, but most people don't see that.  Once again, photographing hurricanes, the weather-sealed equipment worked beautifully, and every time I shoot cross country in the rain, I giggle at the people trying to hide their equipment from the downpour.

I know that dSLRs will go away eventually.  I'm sure everyone realizes that.  I was stubborn and didn't want to let go but suddenly, with the right lens, I'm realizing the benefits of mirror-less technology.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Will iPhone size balloon to hold a 5.5 or 5.7 inch diagonal display?

When I switched from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5c, the display size was somewhat altered with the 3.5 to 4.0 inch display change.  It's not as comfortable as I would hope.  I was reasonably happy with the smaller display.  Putting another row of icons on the display wasn't my priority.

We're expected to believe that the iPhone 6 will have two sizes, such as 4.7 inch for a typical model, and a 5.5 or 5.7 inch phablet-sized model.

I know that some people have larger hands and yes, typing with thumbs can be a problem.  It's especially a problem with Android-based devices, as I've found with the LG Optimus S, 2012 Google Nexus 7, and 2013 Nexus 7.  You'd think on a high resolution, larger-display device that the keyboard would be spacious, but it is still a bit cramped, though better with 4.4.x than with 4.1.x.

Apparently, displays are becoming less expensive somehow, as we reach for intense densities.  Otherwise, how can they afford to put such displays in smaller hand-held devices such as phones?  Phone carriers aren't going to accept more subsidies/discounts degrading their profits.  Besides, in some parts of the world, people have no subsidies at all.  Often, their contract (or lack-of-contract) deals are better than those in the U.S.A. or Canada.

Of course, with a larger display, efficient or otherwise, more battery power will be required.  Since the case is bigger to hold the display, that automatically provides some thin real estate in which to add batteries.

If the display requires more power than the current displays, of course, it will need more battery capacity just to stay even with the current phones.  Hopefully, they've found some magic beans, errr, magic screens.

My first color display-using phone required too much recharging.  So did my first 3G phone, and thankfully, the iPhone 5c chipset for LTE seems a bit more thrifty than the previous chipset in the iPhone 4s, although in 3G mode, it seems to quickly drain because of poor connectivity, tower or phone-related.

When I see reviews about an airport, they often mention electrical outlets.  Isn't it sad that we're so tied to hand-held devices that we need to find outlets?

I'm not sure of the actual sizes, but it seems obvious that Apple will put together some bigger devices, perhaps, as they did with the MacBook Pro--three sizes, to compete with the larger Android-based devices.  I'm just not sure I'll be ready for them.

Update 2014.05.08: I saw something the other day suggesting that tablet sales have dropped a lot, in favor of phablets.  If that's the case, then, Apple should be targeting the space with both 4.x and 5.x devices.   I'm still becoming acclimated to the 4 inch display.  I think it is good but a bit on the large size.  Other hands will disagree.  As long as the pixel density is similarly tight, I will be fine with a larger phone when I switch.  I can't imagine having a phone with a display larger than 4.5 inches but things may happen and I'll have to go with the crowd.

Update 2014.12.17: 4.7 and 5.5 inches for these two.  I got an iPhone 6 at the smaller of the two sizes and it's not quite comfortable.  I moved to the 4 inch iPhone 5c fairly easily from the iPhone 4s, and to that from the second generation iPod touch.

As far as I'm concerned, a phablet wouldn't work for me, nor would a tablet that of 5.5 inches.  It's both too big and not big enough.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Buying a tripod: Manfrotto 190XPROL, 804RC2

In 30+ years of photography, I never bought or even used a tripod or monopod.  I know that there are uses for them, but I photograph sports hand-held only.  I'm good at it, except when I have the challenges of low light, and image quality fades, as well as my ability to focus manually.  Thankfully, most cameras have trouble focusing manually in low light, so I don't feel so old or feeble.  :-D  Plus, my Panasonic GH3 focuses down to EV -4, and the EVF is quite useful in darker conditions, where a dSLR, like the two I have, can be quite difficult to use.

Toward the end of summer 2013, I went to the camera store to participate in Olympus' social gathering for the presentation and group use of the soon-to-be-released E-M1 and 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.  While I was there, I bought a tripod.  The salesperson asked what I wanted to spend and my upper limit of US$300 was brought down to about $200 with the Manfrotto 190XPROL, 804RC2 combination.  I felt satisfied that I'd got a good combination.  The center post could be used horizontally, which meant that food photography was very easy and stable.  I would normally hand hold the equipment and re-position myself a few times to get what I wanted.  I never did the top-down shots because they would not be even.  (I also don't really care for top-down shots because they don't prompt much desire for the food the way my head-on shots seem to work.)

That was Thursday, I believe.  Monday, I was tweeting with the store about the new 190 series.  They were not informed yet.  A few tweets and one phone call later, I learned that the new series equivalent was US$150 more.  Holy shhhhhhh!!!!

Being that I've used the tripod a totally of 30 shots, I think the cheaper but fantastic combination was the better choice for me.  I could have bought fancier equipment and if I was a landscape photographer or doing video on a tripod, I probably could use better equipment, and pay for the extra cost quickly.

I was shocked, though, that the initial combination was only about US$200 for Manfrotto.  That's not much more than you pay for the cheap brands.  The 3-way head is very, very adjustable, and the legs have a lot of height and at the same time, great stability.  The ability to use the center column in horizontal and vertical orientations seems incredible at the price.

Except for using the tripod to show off some lenses, I've only used it outdoors in the complete darkness to photograph a star, since most of the time I've had it, it has been chilly.  My Panasonic GH3 will auto focus in that amount of light, but instead I used the Olympus E-5 and 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 since it had further reach.  I thought back to using the Bulb setting, when there was actually a flash bulb, and held the shutter release and counted.  It worked out well enough and it was chilly enough that I didn't want to be outside long anyway.  Now that spring has sprung, the nights will be warmer--and I'm moving to a warmer climate than here.

I could have bought a Pro-Optic or whatever brand, but how much is my equipment worth?  As with my Crumpler bags, I don't want to damage my equipment by something that can't handle the load.  Imagine a US$2500 lens falling to the ground and being destroyed.  Mine fell from about 12 inches and was fine, and so was the attached camera body.  Four times that height would likely be too much.

I'm pleased to say that I have a good brand, and even more than that, a good tripod combination.  Now, if I will always remember to turn off the image stabilization while using it, I'll be set.

Here is a review of the new 190 series: http://www.dpreview.com/articles/4361312796/manfrotto-190-series-carbon-fiber-tripod-review

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Verizon, don't !@#$ with me, okay?

It's been a month.  I'm in for the long haul with a company I barely trust.  The positive about it is that they're not as bad as the new AT&T/SBC.  Almost two years ago when I got a refurbished mobile hotspot shipping from AT&T in Texas, I was charged for the three days it was in the mail.  Verizon isn't that bad.

Now, here is a huge tip.  If you change your plan because you want to not exceed the data allotment, make the change retroactive to the beginning of the current billing cycle so that it claims the whole amount for the whole month.  Do not let the change be immediate.

Why?  I got overages, even though I changed from 5 GB to 10 GB and only had 9 GB used.

When I made the change on the web site, instead of seeing 10 GB as the limit, they gave me 3.871 GB, even though I hadn't yet crossed 5 GB.  They divide the number of remaining days to calculate how much data you should receive, rather than just dumping the full amount into it and they use pro rata calculations for the price to you equally.

Therefore, at the point where I crossed the 4.86 or whatever + 3.871 GB, I was in overage land.

I'm still not sure what I'll be charged but I certainly have a headache about it now.  Then, there is part 2.

Sunday, after the overage message, I called customer service.  Someone friendly answered my question and explained how I was over.  She told me that I should switch to the 12 GB plan instead of the 10 GB plan and that would eliminate the overage.  Besides, it was only $70 instead of $80, so I would be saving money and getting a bigger allotment.

I had seen the "Share" plans and they all had a $20 fee for the line.  I asked precisely "are there any other charges, other than for the government?"  She said that there were no other charges and that an extra 2 GB of data would be $10 instead of the 1 GB per $10 with the current 10 GB plan.  I agreed.

Part 3 came today in an e-mail about the changes.  $70 + $20 = $90.  What?  That's not cheaper than $80.

I called customer service and tried to calmly explain the situation.  I'm back on the $80 plan with no $20 fee for the line.  It may be older but I don't have another Verizon device and it seems rather expensive if you have more than one.

I'm wondering now if the person got a commission for the switch to a new plan that would "help" me.  I had a similar experience with a cable company (Time-Warmer or BrightHouse Networks, which took over the area), and I called back and told them that they could rip out the changes or rip out their cable lines to my house because I wasn't paying extra.  Oops.  They liked to play games, though.

I can' imagine how this is going to look when I get the bill, but whatever.  It's difficult any time you start with a new contract.  It's just too bad I couldn't have bought the device outright and gone contract-less.

Besides all that, I sent the rebate form without the labels from the box.  Damn.