Thursday, March 13, 2008

Now I Know Why They're Called "CrackBerries"

For the last year or so, I've been using a BlackBerry to check email and. surf the Web. The little handhelds from Canadian company Research In Motion have carved out quite a niche for themselves in the cutthroat smartphone market on the strength of their push email capabilities and also their ability to be deployed by corporations and governments to keep their employees connected.

In fact that was the original intent of the BlackBerry in the first place. It has only been in the last two or three years that BlackBerries have transitioned from the business/government sector to widespread usage by ordinary consumers. Usually in the smartphone world it's the other way round. As a result, the BlackBerry has developed quite a following amongst business and personal users. This following is quite vocal about their devices, almost to the level of Mac Addicts, andmembers of BlackBerry Nation often refer to their phones as "CrackBerries" because like the heavily addictive form of cocaine, BlackBerry users tend to become dependent on them at first use and can't go more than a few minutes without pulling the thing out of their pockets and checking it.

Sadly, it seems that I, too have fallen under the spell of the CrackBerry also. Since getting the BlackBerry 8100 also known as the Pearl due to the white trackball on the keyboard, I spend at least 2 hours a day checking email, reading blogs, and surfing web site. Part of this is due to the fact that my Net access at home is down until further notice, and the 'Berry has been invaluable in helping me to stay online. My email is constantly pushed to me as it arrives, I can look stuff up on Wikipedia in no time and services like Google and Yahoo are only a key stroke away.

Being an unrepentent geek, I've used smart phones running kinds of platforms. Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, I've used them all, but the BlackBerry OS is one of the best out there. Palm? They haven't upgraded their OS in almost 5 years. That's an eternity in the tech world. Their once dominant position in the PDA/Smartphone battles was lost years ago when they allowed Microsoft to pass them with Windows Mobile. They even showed how little they cared about their own OS when they decided to put WinMobile on their Treo phones. I had a Treo phone running the Palm OS, the browser was slow and ugly, the thing kept hard resetting for no reason at all, and the battery life was 2 days whether I used the phone or not. Back in the day, I had numerous Palm PDAs and I always liked how stable they were and the plethora of free apps availab le. Palm barely registers in that market anymore. Windows Mobile, not bad if your hardware has a processor that can chew through all the bloat. I had two Win Mobile units. Both had nice screens and blew away the Palm OS in terms of looks, but unlike the Palm, they took up to three minutes to boot up, Pocket Internet Explorer was slower than molasses in January, and the battery life wasn't much better. What about Symbian? What about it? Unless you're in Europe and are running a Nokia phone, you'll hardly even know that OS exists. I will admit to being of the few idiots who bought a first gen NGage, the electronic taco model, which ran Symbian and it was ok, but not earth shattering.

The BlackBerry OS is fast, lean and mean, reliable, and very stable. On my Pearl with its Intel 312 Mhz processor, the OS runs like a scalded dog. Apps launch quickly and easily, and unless a reset is needed, the device turns on and is ready to go in less than 15 seconds. There's a growing amount of software available, and while the native browser won't set the world on fire, Opera's Mini browser is very fast, renders pages beautifully, and runs like a charm even on T Mobile's mediocre EDGE network.
There's also a very large and supportive community of BlackBerry users at such sites like HowardForums.com and BlackBerryForums.net that answer even the newbiest question.

That said, there are a few bad spots about the BB. The messaging system does not play nice with HTML emails, but the next major upgrade for both the handhelds and the servers will clean that up. My Pearl's battery life is not great, but then again, I'm using the thing 4 hours a day on the data side. The current version of the OS does not allow apps to be run from memory cards, the camera is meh, and because every scrap of data has to go through RIM's system, there exists the chance of rare, but still annoying service outages. but those aren't total dealbreakers for me. Compared to the other smartphones out there, BlackBerry is the best choice for me. I can even blog from it! So let me introduce myself. My name is Pierre and I'm a CrackBerry addict.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Am Now Officially Old.

What, pray tell, yea verily, tells you Uncle Pee, that you're getting old. What was the indicator, the confirmation, the proof that you're now eligible for citizenship of The Gray Nation?

Well Bunky, I now I'm officially entering the senior set because I received my first piece of mail from that bastion of biddies, that enclave of the elderly, the AARP. Oh, Joy!! I don't know how they got my name, but someone over at their headquarters needs to know that I'm still five years away from eligibility for membership. I'm only 45 and you need to be 50 to join the AARP.

I guess this is their way of putting a bug in my ear that I've got more years behind me than ahead, and that I better get my ass in gear if I want to face my "golden" years (yeah, right. Fool's gold's more like it) with some sense of dignity.

I don't dread growing old. It's part of that package deal called life. It's not an option, It's going to happen whether I want it to or not. And I'm already seeing signs of the inevitability of advancing age. I already went through all that in the post titled "On Turning 45", so I won't mention them again. After all I'm almost looking forward to what life will be like when I'm 64.

I know that Social Security as we know it won't be around. The ratio of people paying into the system to the people drawing out is approaching one to one. The Baby Boom generation is just now reaching retirement age, so a ton of people will be drawing Social Security checks within the next few years. And considering that generation will live much longer than their predecessors, the Social Security will need serious overhauling to insure that those on the tail end of the Boomer generation like myself come even close to getting out what they paid in.

I'm counting on working until I die because Social Security alone won't take care of my situation. Beside's I'd be bored shitless if I just sat around retired. I have to be doing something for no other reason than to keep what little brain I have left somewhat active.

Every day, another part of this body of mine shows that it ain't the spry young stud it once was. It's a game to predict which body part wins the "Ache of the Day" contest. The short term memory is all but shot. I've lost quite a bit of weight, but I'm still what most would call obese. My face has a heavy growth of salt and pepper beard that will NEVER see a bottle of Grecian Formula 16, Just For Men or any of those other products because I earned my gray the hard way and damned if I'm gonna cover it up to satisfy the culture's obsession with youth.

It's rather ironic because my face is the only place with a large concentration of gray hair. If I were to let the hair on my head grow out, I would have little gray except around the temples. Then again, I'd also have a rather large bald spot on the top and front of my head so I just keep it shaved. I have little sense of vanity and I'm not on the planet to impress anyone with my stunning good looks so I have no problem with Nature taking its course in regards to my looks. I'm a laissez faire kind of person so what happens happens and letting myself go is no big deal.

More and more I'm starting to think about what happens when God has had enough of my antics and punches my ticket. I hope that my passing will be quick and fairly painless. Ideally, I just want to fall asleep and pass away quietly in the night. Or if it has to be while I'm awake, I don't want to know what hit me. I don't want to be kept on life support with my brains reduced to mush. That's not living, that's existing. And there's no joy in that. If I'm found in that condition, pull the plug and send me on my way with your prayers. I know where I'm going and death is just the gateway to that destination. Not that I'm in a big hurry to get there, mind you. I won't go one nanosecond before God pulls the switch, but if it happens in the next 10 seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, or decades, I hope to be ready to make the jump.

I once heard a saying that to the Christian, earth is as close to hell as they can get, but to the non-believer, earth is as close to heaven as they can get. I'll leave the sorting process out to God because He and alone knows the contents of our hearts and maybe what the Bible says about heaven and hell may or may not be accurate. I have a feeling there will be a lot of people who were thought to be spending eternity wearing asbesto undies and SPF 1000 sun blocker, that will end up hanging out on the corner of Faith St and Hallelujah Blvd. And vice versa. We'll know when we get there won't we??
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile