Entries Tagged as 'Techie Stuff'

Net10 and the cell phone wars

I recently switched cell phone providers. I had Verizon for about 15 years because they were the only cell phones that worked at my house in the early days. Times are changing. There is an explosion of new cell phone companies out there that are offering cheaper phones and cheaper service than the big guys. An Android phone with unlimited talk, text and data will likely cost you $300 for a phone and $100 a month or more through one of the big guys like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon etc… and they require a two year contract.

Enter the new small guys like Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Tracfone, Net10, Straight Talk and Cricket just to name a few. With these guys you can get a cheap Android phone for less than $100 and $50 a month for unlimited everything with no contract. They ride on the same networks that the big guys do and so far, it’s been my experience that the quality is good.

I’ve had the same phone number through Verizon for 15 years. It was costing me $49 a month just for the minimum plan of 200 minutes a month. No text, no data. I bought the Net10 android LG Optimus Net phone for $99 from Radio Shack and brought it home and it worked very well. I decided I made a good move so I ported my old Verizon number to the new service and phone through easy online tools that Net10 and the others provide. It took about 3 days to complete. When the number port is complete, if that’s the only number that you have with your old phone company, then that account is automatically closed. My Verizon contract was long since satisfied so no penalties were due. Bottom line is that I got rid of the old guys, got better service with the new guys and got to keep my phone number so I didn’t have to go through the hassle of changing phone numbers.

The common thread on the internet is that the customer service sucks for these smaller companies, but that was not my experience at all. I suppose if you are the type that requires a lot of customer service then that might be the case, but the dealings that I had with them through the porting of my number were pleasant and professional. Also, if you are a cutting edge type of person, these guys are not for you. While the big guys are rolling out 4G everywhere, the smaller guys are just now rolling out Android phones with 3G.

I honestly couldn’t be more pleased with my new phone and service. The Android 2.3 operating system is awesome, everything works and syncs with Google, and the great GPS and voice/speech applications work flawlessly. Do yourself a favor and look into these phones if you feel you are stuck paying too much for your cell phone service. I’m glad I did!

My cool linux console box


This is bubblehead. It’s an AMD Easy Now PC that was sold in the mid to late 90’s. It’s maxed out with an AMD K6 processor and 256mb of RAM. I really like this little collector peice so I decided to make it as useful as possible. I was inspired by a small linux distro named INX. I like INX but it is geared towards being instructional, or as a tutorial and I wanted a more useable and functional box. So I stole a bunch of scripts and ideas from INX and built this box. I loaded a basic installation of debian etch on it and a bunch of useful console apps like mplayer-nogui, calcurse, links2, sc, mutt, and a bunch of other stuff. The drab black background on a linux console was annoying me so I went out and swiped the latest Morphix kernel and installed it and bootsplash. Now my linux console has a nifty wallpaper (that I also snargled from the web). Oh sure, I could have compiled a kernel and enabled splash image support, but why go to all that trouble when you can just download and install one and change the graphic. 🙂


I installed screen and dvtm so I could run virtual terminals. I always like to keep my IM client going when I’m online so I installed naim. BTW, you can click on any of these thumbnails to get a bigger picture. Here’s a screenshot of dvtm running 3 virtual terminals. In the upper left I’m streaming nasa tv, in the upper right is the IM client and in the bottom terminal is links2 with titan tv loaded so I can check out what’s on tv.


Contrary to popular belief, you can watch movies and display graphics in the linux console without x windows. you can see in the screenshot above, I’m streaming nasa tv using mplayer-nogui. Here’s a shot of links2 doing a google search for sailboat sunsets.


I wouldn’t want to have to use this box as my main PC. Links2 is a good console browser, but I need flash and all that other good stuff to make my websurfing experience more enjoyable. This is a great little box for what I use it for though. I have a cron job set up on it so that it fires up a playlist of some good salsa music at full volume every weekday morning at 6:45, so it’s my alarm clock too. It also opens a “good morning” script that I wrote that opens a few virtual terminals in screen with my IM client, stock quotes, the dow futures, alsa mixer, a radio script that I stole and modified from INX to stream different radio stations, and my mail (via mutt). The screenshot below is that “good morning” screen that opens. You can see that it is a split screen with my IM on the bottom and my stock quotes in the top screen. The other terminals that are open are listed at the very bottom of the screen and can be accessed by typing crtl+a and the number of the terminal. Whatever I choose is then displayed in the top section.


All in all, I am happy with bubblehead. It’s a very capable box, and pretty speedy since it’s not having to labor under x windows. I like the transparancy with the background image showing through in all of my applications and it does everything that I need that computer to do. I’ll leave you with a few more screenshots of Mutt (mail), calcurse (a calendar/appointment application) and a shot of the bootup/login screen.