Saturday, September 29, 2007

just back from climbing Mt Whitney

Made it to the top at 14, 497 feet. Much colder and snowier than expected, so it took a lot longer than planned. Finally returned to the cars, triumphant, 20 hours after we left. Only half our party made it to the top, and only a handful of folks made it the entire day we were permitted to be there.
More detail to come, but I've just posted my photos over in my Flickr Mt Whitney set.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

minor improvements to DirecTV HR20 experience

In this latest round of software updates on the DirecTV HR20 HD DVR, they've finally introduced "smart" technology into the experience of fast forwarding or rewinding through a show. By "smart" I mean "forgiving."

The situation they've addressed is to help compensate for people's slow reaction times when speeding through a recorded show. If you're fast-forwarding through a block of commercials and you see the show's started again, by the time your brain sends the signal to your finger to press the PLAY button, you're already several seconds into the show already and have to rewind. No matter how hair-trigger your own response times, you still miss a couple seconds of shows.

The brilliant folks at TiVo took this into account from the start and always backed up the show a few seconds from when you hit the PLAY button when rewinding or fast-forwarding. A nice touch that demonstrates they really pay attention to how folks use technology, and a great demonstration of technology closing an interface gap seamlessly.

So, having been trained on a TiVo for three years, you can imagine our frustration when we discovered the HR20 did not compensate for this gap and we had to relearn how to fast forward and rewind through a lot of trial and error to get our timing and prediction skills honed.

Flash forward to this past week, and the good folks on the HR20 dev team have at last introduced this compensation feature so that the DVR automatically backs up five seconds from the moment you press the PLAY button. At last!

On another front (following up on my DirecTV Ka-Lo upconversion process) we're at last seeing the lineup of HD channels expand. This morning I see in the menu a total of 21 high-def channels (up from eight), and the DirecTV folks are promising 100 High-Def channels by the end of the year. Now we get to see the Weather Channel folks in all their HD goodness 24 hours a day!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

using Blackberry 8830 outside USA? think again

Something's been nagging me for the last couple days about my new Blackberry 8830 and whether or not I'll really be able to use it in Berlin (Germany) when I fly there this weekend. One of those too-good-to-be-true nags that's probably borne of all my past experiences with Verizon's products not quite working as billed.

So I gave the folks at Verizon tech support a call today just to make sure I'd be able to use my 8830 next week in Europe.

Boy am I glad I made the call today.

Turns out you need to acquire (read: purchase) the "Verizon Wireless Global Support Pack" which is a fancy way of saying: you need to get the Vodafone(TM) SIM card which does not come standard on the Verizon Wireless Blackberry 8830 World Edition.

Beg pardon, but what, exactly, makes it a World Edition phone if it doesn't come out of the box equipped to work around the World?

Maybe the same folks who decided to cripple the GPS also made the brilliant decision to ship the phone sans SIM card.

In any case, the tech support rep was happy to inform me all I needed do was stop by any local Verizon Wireless store and pick up the Global Support Pack for $39.99 and install the SIM card and call back to make sure the phone's ready to go before I leave the States.

So, to the store I went, and surprisingly I wasn't charged for the SIM card (thanks to my being a BlackBerry Global Email subscriber) aside from the 20 minutes it took to wait in queue and then wait some more for the sales guy to do all that hocus-pocus behind the scenes to lock my phone to the SIM card from VZW. (If the stakes weren't so high for my making and receiving calls next week, I might've waited to see if I could buy a SIM card over there so as to have a local phone instead.)

In any case, be forewarned: if you've purchased an 8830 thinking you can use it straight away overseas, be sure to call *611 from your phone stateside to see what all you're still missing before you leave.

Can't wait to blog from Potsdamer Platz, but I've got a mountain to climb in the meantime.

UPDATE: I called the Global Support Services team this morning to double-check all is well and ready for my trip, and I was instructed to update the roaming capabilities on my phone by calling *228 from my phone and choosing option 2 from the menu. Did so, and one minute later, I'm all set to go!

Monday, September 24, 2007

three days to the Mt Whitney Summit

Three nights from now, I'll be a couple miles into my ascent of Mt Whitney at this hour of the night (midnight) as part of a same-day assault on the summit. We'll be covering the full 21 miles of hiking (going from 8,360 feet up to 14,497 feet and back down again) in a single day as we have a day permit to be on the mountain Friday, September 28.

I've been training for this climb the last two months with a variety of exercises running, cycling, hiking and lifting weights (in the process I've shed 15 pounds from my frame, to boot). So, I feel I've done everything I can to get ready, now it's just doing it.

I'm leaving the Bay Area Wednesday with my climbing partner, Victor, to make it to Mammoth Lakes (elev 8,000 feet) to sleep at altitude before making our way down to Lone Pine to meet the rest of our party (six of us total) for dinner Thursday. We'll start hiking around 10pm Thursday night so we can summit by dawn and be back at the Whitney Portal by Friday mid-afternoon.

From there, we'll drop back down into Lone Pine to re-feul our bodies and then up to Bishop to sleep (at last!) before returning to the Bay Area Saturday.

In all, it's going to be a great trip. Per the weather forecast, we'll have mostly clear skies for the hike with temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the low 40s at the summit (about 10-15 degrees warmer down the mountain), and we'll have an almost-full moon to help save our headlamp batteries, as well. Couldn't ask for better conditions.

Now it's just up to my own conditioning. Wish me luck, and help me figure out what the next goal should be so I don't gain all 15 pounds back again!

tracking another season of survivor

Finally got around to watching the season opener of Survivor: China last night (it'd been festering on our HR20 since Thursday), and a few passing thoughts on the situation as I see it:
  • why oh why does anyone show up to meet Jeff wearing anything but sensible clothing for the 39 days ahead? This means no skirts, no spiky heels, no rompin' stompin' footwear either.
  • If you know you've been chosen to be on Survivor, and you're going to be outdoors for 39 days, make it a point to actually go camping for a night or two before leaving the States.
  • And there's absolutely no reason anyone going on Survivor shouldn't be able to make a shelter or (gasp!) make fire. We're fifteen shows into this thing, and folks have no excuse to be surprised at the challenge that awaits the first couple days in, no matter where the show's taking place: Australia to Africa, Cook Islands to Vanuatu.
And a few thoughts on the participants this year:
  • I can't wait for Courtney (the bitchy waitress) and Leslie (the righteous talk show host) to get voted off... bonus if it's in a surprise two-fer trip to tribal council.
  • From the looks of things, Ashley (the pro wrestler) is going to keep the blur-it-out censors busy since she can't seem to keep the twins in her top for more than a few moments at a time.
  • Given both his accent and his attitude, I coulda told you Chicken (yes, the Chicken Farmer) was going to be first to go the moment he drawled in his only-in-Virginia-way that he wasn't going to share his opinions anymore cuz nobody was smart enough to listen to him. A shame, as I'd hope I'd pick up some chicken farming tips from him
  • I hope James (the quiet grave digger) goes all the way.
Looking forward to the next 14 weeks of the show to see who does what to whom and when (and why).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sharks hockey season is here again!

It's that most wonderful time of year!

Just as I did a year ago, tonight I had the distinct pleasure of cracking open the San Jose Sharks season ticket books and dividing up the tickets to be shared with my fellow season ticket holders, D and N. There's nothing quite like the smell of a fresh print job to conjure up images of a stellar season ahead.

Looking forward to another great season of Sharks hockey, and the long-awaited trip to with the Stanley Cup here at the Shark Tank in San Jose.

While the Sharks are playing their first preseason game tonight down in LA (untelevised, of course), I'll have to wait until this Saturday to see Grier and the boys take the ice in person. In the meantime, I'm amusing myself watching footage of last year's playoffs wherein my man Grier put the smackdown on Nashville's Hartnell over on

Let's go Sharks!

favorite items from Bourdain's Overrated Menu

Kottke points out this precious article in Radar Magazine: Anthony Bourdain's Overrated Menu wherein the celeb chef plates and then eviscerates trendy food items from a menu near you.

While I haven't seen this particular menu printed out just like this, I know I've seen some dishes remarkably close to these popping up on menus I've recently perused.

My three favorites overrated dishes (Bourdain's commentary for each):

  • Pea soup topped with truffle oil: Truffle oil is the lazy chef's way to add value, by which I mean charge more.
  • Mesquite-grilled Amish organic free-range chicken, served with Fijian mango chutney and accompanied by foraged mushrooms: It should never take longer to describe your dish than to eat it. Mango chutney was innovative when Bobby Flay did it in 1978. Foraged mushrooms? Amish chicken? Who gives a shit about who picked the mushrooms or if the people who raised the chicken wear bonnets?

  • Cruelty-free Berkshire pork with shallot reduction and Yukon potato gnocchi: Nobody wants to be cruel, but you did kill the thing—what's cruelty-free about that?

Hear hear!

Monday, September 17, 2007

who would ever use fuzzmail?

Normally I'd think to find the funnies in the Style section of the Mercury News. Over a bowl of Grape Nuts this morning, however, I found my humor in this Monday's Tech section in the form of a product review written by Craig Crossman titled "Fuzzmail gives importance to what you delete"

You know you're in for a good time when the product under review isn't even mentioned until the end of the eighth paragraph(!) of the review and even then the product's only mentioned three times total.

The premise is this: Fuzzmail allows a recipient to see how little much time a dupe sender spends composing and rewriting an email before it's sent. So, instead of seeing the finished product that says simply and politely "thanks for your inquiry, we're not interested," Fuzzmail would allow the recipient to see all the different ways the sender really wanted to tell the recipient to buzz off before doing the proper and polite thing. As a bonus, the recipient could actually see how much time it took the recipient to calm down and do the right thing.

To me, this begs too many two questions:
  1. Who, in their right mind, still indulges their fantasy response in the actual email window at the risk of prematurely hitting "send"? Isn't this the stuff of urban legends by now?
  2. Who else, being of right mind, would ever willingly subject themselves to the watchful recordings of Fuzzmail? Seems to me, it's the stuff of a sneaky spyware install, not something a person would consciously force themselves to use. While the recipient might benefit from a voyeuristic tour of how someone composes an email to them, there's no payoff for the sender (the one who's giving up the goods).
Crossman claims Fuzzmail provides insights into the composition process that are completely lost once the author hits the "send" button. Sure, there's plenty to online communications that's suffering for lack of context, but if Fuzzmail is the best response we've got to adding dimensions to our electronic communications, we're all in for a wild ride big trouble.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

to donate platelets or whole blood?

Since I was old enough and heavy enough to do so, I've been donating blood somewhat regularly for a couple decades now. In all, I think I've donated close to five gallons of blood, one pint at a time, although there's no one place where I can get my history, as I've donated all over the country and it seems none of the collection groups are on the same tracking system.

In addition to donating whole blood (something you can only do once every eight weeks), I've also donated platelets by apheresis which is this nifty process by which they drain blood from your arm, send it through a machine that uses a centrifuge to extract the platelets from your blood before pumping the blood back into your body. Since we humans generate so many platelets so quickly, one can do apheresis a lot more often than giving Whole Blood (once a week if not more often).

The apheresis process is stunningly cool from a geeky technology standpoint... you're basically hooked up to a machine that's acting like part of your circulatory system for a short time. You can watch as the blood is drawn out of you and as it's returned back to you (with some anti-coagulants mixed in). The side effect of the anti-coagulants is that you get really cold during the process (at the Stanford Blood Center, you recline on a heating pad and are covered up with toasty blankets throughout to counter this sensation), but it only makes sense you'd get cold given your blood's coursing through a machine, right?

Nowadays, the draw and return are done through the same needle, in one arm. Back when I first did apheresis in the early 1990s, you had to sit for an hour plus with a needle in each arm: one side is where the blood was drawn and the other side was where blood was returned. It was a rather bizarre experience back then because the return side of your body got amazingly cold while the rest of you got only a slight chill.

So, this past Friday morning, I showed up at the Stanford Blood Center at 7:30a to undergo apheresis, in response to an emergency call for platelets they'd sent out earlier in the week.
I was pleased to learn that they paperwork one has to fill out before each and every donation has finally been updated, so the long list of questions you're asked once behind closed curtain is a lot shorter than it used to be. Still, it takes a good half hour to check in and get your vitals taken and all that jazz.

By 8am, I was reclining in the apheresis lounger feeling my back get nice and toasty thanks to the heating pad. I was one of six donors that morning, all male, and with the exception of one other guy my age, I was youngest by a couple decades. Given how long it takes to do apheresis (an hour versus the 10 minutes to drop a pint of whole blood), it's most popular with retirees who've got plenty of time on their hands. Taling with the nurse, I found that they're starting to get more young people to do platelet donations, but mostly early in the mornings (like when I was donating).

Now, given how long it takes to donate platelets, it's no wonder the Blood Center has numerous ways to help you pass the time: a huge DVD library, lots of cable channels and free wi-fi. I didn't bring my laptop with me (this time), and instead brought a book that I need to read for work. Next time, though, I'll be bringing in the laptop so I can spend the hour catching up on RSS feeds.

This time around, I only donated 4 x 10^11 platelets, and it still took me an hour. Compared to the older gentleman to my left, I was a real lightweight. He donated 12 x 10^11 platelets in 75 minutes, putting me to shame.

But, as the nurse reminded me, it's not a race. I learned this the hard way when the apheresis machine got a little too quick on the draw, and I could feel the needle shimmy in my vein and my lips momentarily got numb. The process is automated, though, so an alarm signal went off when the machine sensed the draw was too fast, and the nurse immediately came over to slow the machine down a bit.

I especially enjoyed being able to watch on the monitor my own progress and see the machine calculate how many platelets it'd extracted and therefore how much longer I'd be in the chair watching it share my blood with me. Once the allotted number of platelets were extracted, the machine beeped approvingly, and at 9:04am, the most painful part of the donation process occurred: they ripped off the tape holding the piping in place on my arm. If you've seen me, you know that this means they ripped off quite a bit of hair from my forearms, too boot. Thus, the pain.

But by 9:20am I was hopping in my car to go to work, knowing I'd given platelets for someone who really needs them more than I do.

So, while I like the fact I can donate platelets more often than I can whole blood, I find it ironic that the apheresis process takes so much time. The incentives are all backwards on this. Shouldn't the thing that takes the least amount of time (donating whole blood) be the thing you can do most often?

Alas, no.

So I'll have to figure out where the value proposition is for me. I get the same payoff in feeling I've done a good thing whether it's whole blood or apheresis. do I give whole blood six times a year at a cost of six hours to me? Or do I give apheresis the same six times a year at a cost of 12 hours to me on the assumption I'll actually find even more time to donate via apheresis more often?

Not quite sure what I'll donate next (mid-October, once I'm done with climbing Mt Whitney and my business travel overseas). Maybe I should decide on apheresis now while I'm still sufficiently geeked out at the thought of sharing my circulatory system with a machine. Better check my calendar.

Friday, September 14, 2007

using my blackberry with my bmw

One of the biggest joys of owning my new Blackberry 8830 World Edition is how it seamlessly interfaces with the telecommunications package on my 2005 BMW 325i.

My e46 3-series came with the BMW Assist package (among other things) which includes the Bluetooth capability to pair the car with a phone. Longtime readers know how displeased I was to find out my Verizon Treo 650 wouldn't work with the car because Verizon crippled the connection (kinda like they've crippled GPS on the 8830). So, prior to buying the 8830, I borrowed a friend's phone (exact model and carrier) to make sure it would work on my e46 bimmer. It paired and called easily, so I made the jump and got the phone.

After setting up email and contacts, the first big thing I did was pair my phone to my car (the pairing process was a piece of cake). After they paired, it took about a minute or so for the phone book contents to sync between Blackberry and bimmer, and now, whenever I hop in the car and need to take or make a call, I use the bimmer's built-in handsfree to do so.

Here's how it works:

INBOUND When there's an inbound call, the music (be it from radio or CD) stops and instead I hear the ringing of a phone through the car's sound system. The phone number of the inbound call displays on my stereo head unit and I press the "talking head" button on my car's steering wheel to accept the call. According to those I've spoken with via my car's telecom system, I come through loud and clear on their end with little outside noise bleeding through (the microphone for the system is in the reading lamp cluster, just above the rear view mirror). When I'm done talking, I simply push the "talking head" button again and the call is disconnected and the music comes back on.

OUTBOUND When I want to place a call, I use the Blackberry to scroll through contacts like I would if I were placing a normal call from the phone. When I tap the SEND button, however, the car intercepts the call, cuts the music (if needed) and handles the mic/speaker duties just like on an inbound call.

The super-double-bonus piece of this is that if I've left my cell phone in my bag (as I sometimes do) and want to initiate a call, I simply press the R/T button on my steering wheel and my contacts list shows up in my stereo's head unit and I can use the fwd/rev buttons on the steering wheel to scroll through the names until I find the one I want and initiate the call by tapping the "Talking Head" button on the steering wheel to start/stop the call. Sweet.

QUIRKS Since I've paired the phone to the car and enabled them to automatically connect whenever the car is in range, I have to be careful when Left Coast Mom borrows the car while I'm in the house. When she starts the car, my phone turns on and connects to it even when the phone is inside on the kitchen counter (about 30 feet away). Once she drives off, the phone and car disconnect, but I know one of these days the timing of an inbound call is going to be perfect so she hears the inbound ring as she drives off.

I've got over 800 contacts in my phone book, so it takes a long time to scroll one-at-a-time through the list via the steering wheel controls. I'd like to find a way to do this faster.

I have yet to deal with managing a call and a passenger at the same time since most of my driving is solo driving. Not quite sure how I'm going to handle it when it comes to taking a sensitive call with someone in the car, but I have a feeling I'll figure it out on the spot.

All in all, though, I couldn't be happier with my paired Blackberry and bimmer. Not sure why Verizon nor BMW touts the fact the phone and car work together... seems to be a HUGE selling point on both sides, imo.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

comcastic indeed, redux

Thanks to my friend Lisa, I've had a schadenfreude morning reading about Bob Garfield's experience as yet another displeased Comcast (soon-to-be-ex?) customer.

While my lousy experience trying to LEAVE Comcast ultimately was resolved by my throwing up a white flag, Bob's been burned by Comcast's lack of customer support trying to BECOME a customer.

I like the way he's ended his post with a call to action:
In any event, the damage has been done. They have ruined two weekends and screwed up half of my telecom services. I will shake them down for as much free service as I can get, then drop them at the first opportunity. And they deserve it. They deserve much worse.

Is this company so frantic to seize market share on voice and broadband that it is willing to disrupt customers' lives, fail to appear, repeatedly lie to them, walk out on them and then treat the customer as if he or she is a nuisance?

Well, we shall see. This is the Listenomics age. We will not take it quietly.
And by the 49 comments (and counting) left so far, it looks like folks are not staying quiet.

Monday, September 10, 2007

setting my goal as the Feynman point

Courtesy a post today, I have a new goal: to memorize pi to the Feynman point.

The Feynman point is the sequence of six 9s which begins 762 digits into pi. "[Feynman] once stated during a lecture he would like to memorize the digits of pi until that point, so he could recite them and quip 'nine nine nine nine nine nine and so on.'"

Maybe I can work on this as I climb Mt Whitney at the end of the month?

Why the rote memory exercise? Well, it helps me pass the time on those solo ventures (hiking, motorcycling, kayaking) when the mind otherwise goes to jelly. I've already memorized pi to the 76th digit (cluttering up my memory from a contest in math class back in high school over 20 years ago). Oh, and I can sing the alphabet backwards, too.

So many brain cells, so little time.

Friday, September 07, 2007

recording industry exploits, redux

Yet another example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, social capital style...

In today's WSJ (online), there's a great story about the secret behind YouTube (and MySpace) Singer-Songwriter MariƩ Digby.

In an Aug. 16 blog posting on her MySpace page, Ms. Digby wrote: "I NEVER in a million years thought that doing my little video of Umbrella in my living room would lead to this . tv shows, itunes, etc !!!"

Ms. Digby's MySpace and YouTube pages don't mention Hollywood Records. Until last week, a box marked "Type of Label" on her MySpace Music page said, "None." After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the entry was changed to "Major," though the label still is not named.

The artist and her label say there's nothing untoward about the campaign. In interviews, Ms. Digby and executives at the company describe her three-month string of successes as part of a lengthy process of laying the groundwork for the upcoming release of her debut album.

Ms. Digby says she doesn't mention her record label on her Web sites because "I didn't feel like it was something that was going to make people like me."
So, while she's been playing up the aw-shucks-how-did-this-happen-to-little-old-me? schtick by posing as an amateur on both MySpace and YouTube, she's actually been signed to the major Hollywood Records label since 2005.

It turns out the passed-as-happenstance events that have found her on TV, on radio, and on iTunes were actually part of a carefully executed exploit of the audience's thirst for amateurs and disdain for labels.

Just as lonelygirl15 has heightened our suspicion of anything that seems to good to be true in terms of amateur-produced video, now MariƩ Digby has raised our guard around amateur singer-songwriters.

Sure, the exploit works once, but where's the long term payoff when the customer base only grows more suspicious of any future endeavors?

UPDATE: Good to see Ben over at Church of the Consumer Blog take this issue on (what with his huge readership). With a week's distance from the WSJ article, he's made the same hopscotch leaps from Digby to lonelygirl to future implications, and has a nice follow up on the repercussions on Digby's MySpace presence.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

changing habits to fit a Blackberry 8830

I've been using a Treo 650 for the last couple years, and have finally migrated over to the Blackberry platform, specifically Verizon's 8830 World Edition Blackberry.

If you're looking for reviews of the 8830, check out what's being said on C|Net, PC Magazine or Mobile Tech Review.

This post is about what it's like to try to get used to using a Blackberry after having lived on a Treo for two years. Likely this'll spread over several posts, so let's get started.

  • Size and Feel: while the 8830 is the biggest Blackberry, it's still shorter and thinner and lighter than my Treo 650. And the keyboard of the Blackberry's a lot easier to touch-type from thanks to the raised beveled keys.
  • The trackball: I'm liking the trackball a lot. It certainly beats the buttons on the Treo for navigating around the screen. However, the tracking is a little slow for my taste in its default setting, and I haven't yet figured out how to speed up its sensitivity (assuming I can). (you can control the trackball sensitivity under Options>>Screen/Keyboard) When I'm trying to get to the bottom of my deep email inbox, it'd sure be great to have the iPod-like tracking mechanism to move around quickly, but that's not to be.
  • The Back Button: I considered the lack of a back button to be the major flaw of the Treo. The fact that I can get back to where I was by clicking a single button is great. Kudos to RIM on this feature. Now if only I could figure out how to stop accidentally going back, I'd be in business
  • Email systems: Not until I started using the Blackberry's text-based email system did I realize how spoiled I was using SnapperMail on the Treo 650 which allowed me to read html-formatted email easily. I'll get used to the RIM's email system quickly tho (although I need to change my email subscriptions to be text-based instead of html-based), especially since I love the push email system. I also really like being able to direct both my work and personal emails to my 8830 and they both alert me when a new message comes in. I would like to be able to separate them out so that during the day I only get work email alerts, but I can live without it (for now).
  • Camera (lack thereof): I didn't realize just how much I used my Treo's camera (crappy as it was) until I found myself looking for the camera app on the 8830. Hmmm. In skimming the crackberry forum boards, I'm reminded I've got a business tool now, and next time I report to jury duty, I won't have to fork over my phone due to its built-in camera function. Seeing how much I love my wife's Canon Powershot 1000, I think I can live without the camera-based phone.
  • Memory: Given the Treo's lackluster performance on the built-in RAM front, I'd supplemented its capacity with a 1GB smart memory card which I used (thanks to an adapter) as an always-present thumb drive. However, given the location of the memory card (top center of the phone), I was always accidentally ejecting the smart card. On the 8830, however, the micro memory card is tucked away in the battery compartment so there's no chance of accidentally ejecting it. The opposite is true: I was able to install a 2GB micro memory card only after a lot of precision installation work. Not likely to replay that installation process, so I view it as a permanent install. Considering I can't take pix or movies, I wonder what I'll fill it with?
  • Themes: I've only learned about four different themes on the 8830 (the Verizon style and three BB styles), but wow, I'd love to be able to personalize it a bit more. It's not readily apparent how to add graphics, styles or sounds to the 8830, so I'm stuck with a default theme (for now). The Treo, on the other hand, was quite personalizable (what a word!).
The biggest difference I'm enjoying between the Treo 650 and the Blackberry 8830 is that the 8830 is compatible with my car's telecom system, so all calls to me while I'm driving are routed through the hands-free car system, and no more fumbling for the phone or holding it awkwardly while I drive. As a bonus, I can scroll through my address book using the buttons on my steering wheel and initiate a call from there. Sweet. This has made the purchase worth it all by itself.

BTW, I got my 8830 for $199 after all the discounts from Verizon (new every two and online ordering) along with a two-ear commitment back to Verizon. Hey, I've been with them this long, what's another two years?

(of course, I've still got another 25 days to change my mind without penalty)

Stay tuned!