Happy to be a Zero TV Home

When we moved into our new house, MG and I didn't bother calling the cable or satellite TV company. Instead we decided to became what is called a Zero TV home. Yes we still have a TV but anything we watch are online or through inexpensive subscription services like Netflix. (Marathon Girl is streaming a show on Netflix as I write this.)

Apparently this is becoming more and more common:

Some people have had it with TV. They've had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group "Zero TV" households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Marathon Girl and I have been happy being a Zero TV home and have no plans on going back to regular TV ever again.

Just a few of the positive changes we've noticed since cutting the cord include:

  • We spend more time together as a family.
  • We spend more time together as a couple.
  • I spend more time writing.
  • The kids fight less.
  • We spend more time outside.
  • We watch less TV. A lot less. The few shows we do watch tend to be only those we find worth our time and we watch then when it’s convenient—not when broadcasters want us to.

Here’s a list of negatives: .

For those who haven’t tried it, I highly suggest giving Zero TV a try for a month. I think you’ll notice a positive difference in your life too. More time and freedom is a wonderful thing.

Amazon Didn't Blow It

I was a tad worried before Amazon announced their new Kindles. I knew they were going to launch a color version of their popular e-Reader but was concerned they’d mothball the E Ink (black and white) versions.

Thankfully I was wrong. The new Kindles keep the same screen size but are smaller, faster, and—most importantly—keep their E Ink technology.  Since I stare at a computer screen all day, the last think I want to do is read on another computer screen before I go to bed. My eyes enjoy the break. I will continue to be a Kindle customer so long as they keep this technology.

My only concern about the new touch version of the Kindle is that it appears they lost the buttons on the side of the Kindle. I really like those as I can keep my hand still as I read. Not sure how it’s going to feel wiping the screen every time I want to turn the page. I want to read, after all, not look at my smudges on the screen. Sadly the classic Kindle, which still keeps those side buttons, doesn’t come with a 3G version—which is way more convenient than the wireless ones.

Sadly I'll to wait until November to test one out.

A Story of Two Cell Phones

I carry two cell phones—one for personal use and one for work. My personal phone is with T-Mobile. My work phone is with AT&T.

I’ve been with T-Mobile for 10 years. I signed up with them back in the day when they were called VoiceStream Wireless. Though coverage was a bit spotty with them 10 years ago, those problems were resolved within a year or two of becoming a customer. (Let’s be honest, 10 years ago most cell phone coverage was spotty.) Aside from this one issue when I first signed up with them I’ve never had a problem with their products or services.

Whenever I call their customer service team, wait times are short, the reps know what they’re doing, and my problem or issues always gets resolved. I also like the fact that I don’t have carry a one- or two-year contract with T-Mobile. Marathon Girl carries her T-Mobile service month to month. When my contract expires in a couple months, I’ll be doing the same thing. Though I’ve been on the same talk plan for about five years, it seems that whenever my contract comes up for renewal, price around at competing products and services. None of them seem to offer the same bang for the buck. And since I’ve been happy with T-Mobile, I keep resigning with them.

My work phone is a different story. The coverage and signal from AT&T isn’t as nearly good—especially if I try to get online. Their network always seems congested. The few times I’ve had to call AT&T for support, the wait times have been horrendous and the customer service even worse. I’d probably be more upset about the AT&T service but the company foots the bill for the phone and I can (usually) do what I need to do with it when it comes to email and other work-related tasks, I tolerate it.

With this in mind, I wasn’t happy to read that AT&T was buying T-Mobile. The following two paragraphs especially jumped off the page.

AT&T customers have been disgruntled about the quality of the company's network, especially for voice calls made over Apple Inc.'s iPhone. . . .

On Sunday, AT&T pitched the deal as a way to solve network congestion, by combining two operators using the same technology and alleviating a spectrum shortage that would keep T-Mobile from building a next-generation network.

Should this deal be approved, it sounds like AT&T is going to shove its customers on to T-Mobile’s network. If they end up combining that with their higher-priced plans and crappy customer service, it looks like I’ll be shopping for a new cell phone provider next year.

Sadly, it looks like my only other options will be Verizon and Sprint.

Ads in E-books: Resistance is Futile

The Wall Street Journal reports that marketers are looking for ways to put ads in e-books.

Marketers are exploring a variety of formats, including sponsorships that give readers free books. Videos, graphics or text with an advertiser's message that appear when a person first starts a book or along the border of the digital pages are also in the works. Ads can be targeted based on the book's content and the demographic and profile information of the reader.

The advertising business has dabbled with books before without much success as authors howled and revenues proved skimpy. It's not clear that readers and authors would be more accepting now.

But with sales of bound books under pressure, the introduction of sleek e-readers and the emergence in the industry of such big players as Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. is fueling new enthusiasm for e-book advertising.

No doubt there’re a lot of readers and authors who will start kicking and screaming once ads start appearing in e-books. My guess is that a lot of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth will go away once readers are offered discounts or other incentives to buy books with ads in them and authors realize they can make some extra cash by allowing them in their books.

As the Borg famously stated, “Resistance is futile.”

iPad = Newton

Apple Newton

Remember Apple's Newton?

Not many people do. It was one of many Apple flops from the 1990s. It died an ignominious death in 1998.

As much as it's been fun to see what Steve Jobs as done with Apple since he regained his leadership role, the new iPad reminds me of the Newton.

It's really not that cool.

Sell your Apple stock before its too late.

Thank You Chris

Many thanks to Chris who gave me the fixes for the two issues mentioned in the previous post. It’s nice to know there are talented programmers who read my blog. Chris has also just started a blog about a subject that is close to my heart and many readers here. If you want, you can check it out here.

Overcoming a Technology Gap: Texting


I’ve overcome a technology gap: I’ve learned how to text. Were I about five or ten years younger no doubt I’d have mastered this long ago or been ostracized for not knowing how. But when bought my first cell phone back in 2001, they were mainly used for – get this – phone calls. Now they’ve morphed into amazing communication devices. And though I like some of the extra gadgets on my cell phone like the camera and occasionally use them, texting has been one of those things that eluded me until last week.

It started when my brother (10 years younger) sent me a text from New York telling me that he and his buddies were going be in the audience for an episode of The Late Show. I wanted to text him back and tell him I wasn’t going to watch unless he or one of his friends did something stupid to get on camera.

Of course writing my thoughts out in a text one letter at time (the only way I knew how to do it) would take forever. And I didn’t have the time because I was at work and in the middle of project. So I handed the cell phone to the company’s receptionist and asked to type the response to my brother. Her hands flew in a furry over the keys and in about 15 seconds had typed out the response I requested.

“It’s amazing how fast you can type that out,” I said.

It’s easy when you have predictive text,” she said.

“Predictive text?” I said feeling like an idiot.

The receptionist them explained how it worked and then showed me how to do it. I went back to my office and quickly composed a text to Marathon Girl telling her I was going to be a little late coming home. Since I never text, Marathon Girl immediately called after reading the message and asked if I was mad at her.

“Why do you think I’m mad at you?” I said.

“You sent me a text message instead of calling,” she said.

“I’m not mad,” I said excitedly, “I just learned how to text.” And spent the next five minutes explaining to her how easy it was to send text messages using predictive text. To prove the point I sent her some loving text messages after our call ended.

I have no plans to text on a regular basis or become one of those people where it’s the preferred method of communication. But should that be the best way to send someone a message, it’s nice to know I can do it.

No doubt this will come in handy when I need to get hold of my kids once they have their own cell phones – if it’s still the preferred method of communication.