Archive for the ‘Review’ Category
I’ve been trying out Republic Wireless, a startup that offers very inexpensive wireless service: $19 for unlimited talk, text, and data. In a nutshell: they resell Sprint’s network, and you agree to connect to wifi as much as possible; they use the Internet instead of the cell network when you’re on wifi. I thought for $19/month it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. After several months, my experience has been that it isn’t worth using at all, no matter how cheap it is.
I don’t want to dwell on the problems at great length, but here are some of the issues I’ve had.
- The phone is junk. It’s a super-low-quality Motorola Defy XT, which is basically hardware and software (Android) from 3 years ago. It has flaky behavior such as turning off the screen when I try to use the keypad during a call, for example, when I try to press the 7 key to delete a message from voicemail. It also does bizarre things like rotating the screen from landscape to portrait repeatedly and unpredictably when I’m in the middle of trying to use it. It’s a really poor experience in every way; my 3-year-old Droid 2 was much better.
- Sprint’s network is awful. Just awful. Voice quality is terrible. I haven’t been able to actually have a call for more than a couple of minutes at a time. It disconnects or goes into some kind of zombie state where the call still seems to be connected but nobody can hear anything — or only one person’s voice gets through. The phone is literally unusable as a telephone.
- Connecting to wifi doesn’t work. I connect to wifi, I have a strong signal, and their VOIP software uses the cell network instead. It’s incredibly buggy. VOIP calls are better than over-the-air calls, but not much.
- Something is wrong with number routing. I’ve gotten calls from people who were dialing completely different numbers (same area code, but different last 7 digits.) When these people apologized and hung up, then tried calling the number they were trying to reach, they’d get me again. This never happened on Verizon.
- Customer service isn’t merely bad, it’s actually nonexistent. They just use a community forum, and they don’t even answer threads on the forum. See, for example, my thread asking them to make voicemail passwords optional, after they removed passwords from everyone’s voicemail (which is a serious and well-demonstrated privacy/security blunder).
- Text messages stopped working several weeks ago, with basically no notification except for a relatively hidden post in some area of the community forums. Last I looked, there’s no update on whether they’re even trying to fix this.
I’m sure there is more, but that should be enough for now. The summary is that the phone is almost completely unusable for voice calls, completely unusable for text, and practically unusable for anything I’d like to do that requires data (e.g. typing an email) because of the hardware’s flakiness. It’s little more than a small, poorly behaved Android tablet that I paid $250 for.
My wife and I switched from our previous price-gouging phone network at the same time, and both of us have had all the same issues. So this isn’t “just me.” There’s a sample size of at least 2.
This is a lucid and interesting introduction to Clojure and the LISP family of programming languages. It’s been years since I programmed in LISP and I found myself recalling those days, at the same time as I learned a lot more than I used to know. Indeed, I realized that my knowledge of LISP was only superficial, and that I probably ought to take some time at some point and learn it deeply enough to have the epiphany people talk about. (Can I plead that I’ve had the epiphany with SQL? No? How about XSLT — it’s basically LISP in XML? Drat.)
The book is in two parts. First you learn about the fundamentals of Clojure, how it works on the JVM, state and concurrency, and so forth. In the second part there’s a lot of deeper and more specific topics. You could say that the first part is about learning the language and environment, and the second part is about how to really put Clojure, um, into action. Conventions, idioms, and the like make their appearance in both parts, but in the second part there’s a lot of specific topics like building web applications with Clojure and creating DSLs.
I haven’t read the whole book. I saved parts of it for later. Perhaps that’s a shame, but perhaps I’m just not ready for them yet, either. In any case I found the parts that I read to be well worth my time.
tl;dr version: I like XFCE better than Gnome 3.
I wrote previously about trying out Gnome 3. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it’s time for me to make a decision about whether to keep using it or revert to Gnome 2. I’m actually on vacation, which ends soon. I need to do this before vacation ends, so I can be fully productive at work.
My ultimate impression of Gnome 3 is that it’s very slick, and makes significant improvements in some ways, but it’s not very usable for my purposes, and has too many self-contradictions. I still have the complaints I listed in my earlier blog post, such as the identity crisis between keyboard and mouse use. It is geared to keyboard control in some ways, but not enough to really work, and at the same time it’s hard to use it with the mouse. For example, it wastes space on items such as huge thick titlebars (what is that for, if not for the mouse to grab?). Yet window borders are only 1 pixel thick, which is very hard to grab with the mouse when I want to resize, and there are no minimize buttons by default. And there is a big black bar across the top of my screen, which contains a lot of useless items I normally hide. At the same time, this bar isn’t configurable and I can’t put the things I actually want onto it, so it simply sits there making part of my screen unusable.
After using Gnome 3 for a while, and trying to customize it to my liking, I gave up a couple of days ago. There are simply too many things that were either designed in a way I don’t like, or don’t work as designed (bugs). At this point, I revisited my reasons for using Gnome. I used to use XFCE, and Fluxbox before that, but I ultimately decided to use Gnome because it was the default, and I want to avoid customizing my environment as much as possible. Gnome had gotten to the point where it was about as good as anything else, for my purposes.
So instead of reverting to Gnome 2, since I’m going to customize my environment anyway, I decided to go back to XFCE instead. And now I’m happy again. It’s simple, usable, functional, attractive, and fast. It’s easy to customize slightly to my taste (e.g. moving the taskbar to the bottom of the screen, Windows style). And Alt-TAB works sanely. And, I get back some of the things I always missed, such as one-click ways to maximize windows vertically or horizontally.
When Fedora 16 comes out I’ll revisit Gnome 3 and see if it has improved, but for now I’m done with my evaluation. I also just set up a new computer for my dad, who’s a Windows user, and installed Fedora 14 with Gnome 2, instead of Fedora 15. I hope the Gnome developers are able to collect and integrate enough feedback to make a groundbreaking Gnome 3 interface that still does what people expect and works the way they work, because that is the key to getting more adoption.