Monday, 14 November 2011

All I can say is thank goodness, finally… Google has announced phone-based support for its Google Apps for Business customers. Not that I need to ask for help too often (although I’ve wanted to a couple times, and the email assistance was quick enough to be useful one time), but when I do need help – I really *need* help. So, having a place to call, and a person to talk to until an issue is resolved is a good thing to have. If you’re paying for a service, you expect some form of support specific to your problem and your use of the service. So, great to see that Google is offering phone support now for people who pay for Google Apps.

One former colleague of mine pointed out that this is a good thing “only if it’s good support.” To which I responded, “One thing at a time. No option for good support until there's someone to get it from. Baby steps. Although I'm sure it's "in beta" hahah.” I mean hey, this *is* Google!

Information about accessing Google Support can be found on the Enterprise Support page. The new phone support options offered are:

Business and Education editions, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day

  • U.S. Technical Support: 1-877-355-5787
  • International Technical Support: 1-404-978-9282
  • For local international phone numbers, please visit the Support tab in your control panel.
Tip: Help us provide you with faster answers by creating a case before you call, and have your Customer PIN and case number handy.

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Monday, 14 November 2011 11:15:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 24 October 2011

A few weeks ago a friend and I installed a kit full of micro vortex generators (VG’s) on the wings and tail section of my airplane, a 1975 Piper Cherokee Warrior PA28-151, N639MR. As I described in some detail before, the VG’s modify the flow of the air over the surfaces of the wings, making the air “stick” better, resulting in smoother air flow and better air flow where it’s needed – over the control surfaces at the trailing edge of each wing.

Micro Vortex Generators on Piper Cherokee Warrior PA28-151Well, I’ve now flown the plane several times since installing the VG’s and the results are in:  It’s truly amazing the difference they make!

In a nutshell, here are the results of the modification. I’ll start out with takeoff, talk about in-flight changes, and then finish up with benefits at landing time.

  • From the beginning, the plane gets off the ground sooner. A lot sooner, in fact. And it doesn’t need as much airspeed to initially get into the air. That translates into less ground roll needed, and a much sorter takeoff. I’ll have to measure it to see exactly what the distances are.
  • The plane climbs faster. In situations (load/weather) where I used to get 500 feet per minute I often now get 600-700. In those situations where I used to get 700-750 feet per minute, it’s not unusual to get 800-1000. And if I want to convert some airspeed to altitude, pulling back and riding it up is really fast and fun.
  • The airplane is faster in cruise flight. Truly faster. You’d think that adding nearly 200 metal tabs to the flying surfaces of the wings would create drag and slow you down, but nope. Apparently the improved airflow over the wing is a great tradeoff – Add a little bit of drag as a result of adding the VG’s, but reduce overall drag over the wings and tail thanks to improved laminar airflow. Net result is higher airspeeds at the same engine RPM.
  • Related to that, I can now fly at a cruise speed like 120 mph at a lower RPM than before, which translates into burning slightly less fuel going cross-country. It used to be a real chore to get the plane to stay at 120 mph in cruise and maintain it there at 2500rpm. But now it’s sometime hard to keep it below 120mph even at 2400 rpm. That 100rpm difference makes a real dent in fuel consumption, believe it or not.And if I want to fly at 115 mile an hour, the difference in RPM required is even greater. So, I can get there faster on the same fuel as before, or take my time and burn even less.
  • In flight, one of the critical tests you put an airplane through when you are becoming familiar with it is stall characteristics. Needless to say, I have stalled this plane more times in the past few weeks than is typical. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to get it to drop it’s nose and stall, one wing or two. In power-on stalls, much of anything beyond a buffet is very difficult to make happen. It just keep on flying and buffeting along at 44 miles an hour or even slower, which is a lot slower than it used to fly before it would stall. In a power-off configuration I’ve flown it in a slight headwind down to 40mph indicated and all it really wants to do is drop a little nose and keep flying. I literally flew it at 45mph in a buffet for half a minute. Of course, eventually it will drop, but it sure hangs in there, and loses very little altitude. Compared the before the VG’s, stall speed is at least 5 mph lower, probably more.
  • The control surfaces respond quickly, sharply and with authority in flight. I thought the plane rolled left and right pretty fast before the VG modification, but it’s much cleaner and more responsive now. Similarly, although not as important or pronounced at cruise speeds as the different with the ailerons/roll axis, pitch changes happen quickly and yaw is solid.
  • Steep turns (45-degree bank or more) are so much more fun now. The plane carves and holds it’s altitude in steep turns, and is so easy to control you just have to wonder if you jumped in the wrong plane by mistake… Nope, this is my plane. Okay, cool. :)
  • As a final note regarding in-cruise flight, the plane generally feels much smoother and more solid moving through the air.
  • The rest of the major differences are noticed in preparation for landing and during the landing itself, which is so different than pre-VG’s that many will say you almost have to learn to land all over again, and they’re right. At lower the speeds flown in preparation for landing, the control surfaces respond much more sharply and with more authority than before the VG’s. Not only that, the plane simply won’t descend as quickly anymore. It just wants to fly. So, careful reduction of speed to under 80 mph is needed to make sure you’re descending soon and fast enough in the landing pattern.
  • Landing pattern turns are clean and sharp. The sluggish, slightly-mushy sort of feeling is associated with rudder at the slower speeds in turns and when slipping on approach is gone.
  • In the landing flare, one simply must fly the airplane slower than ever used to be the case, since the plane just floats along over the runway like nobody’s business if you’re too fast. Cherokees – especially the tapered wing models like the warrior – are kind of famous for floating, but now the effect is VGs - how they work - from Micro Aerodymanicseven more pronounced. In fact, I’m flying almost 10 miles per hour slower over the numbers at the approach end of the runway than in the past, and the plane finally settles to the runway at a much lower speed than before. Makes for some smooth, sort, nose-high landings – which is great.
  • One of the chief complaints some people have about Cherokees at landing time, when the plane is slow, is that the rudder (which controls yaw, or the direction the nose is pointing) and the stabilator (which controls pitch, or how high or low the nose is pointing) lose their effectiveness. With the VG’s installed and the improved flow of the air over these surfaces at landing time, rudder and stabilator authority is much, much improved in a very noticeable way.

So, is it worth the time and money? I spent almost $1500 on the kit and a couple evenings installing them (under the supervision and approval of my IA). And the plane flies great – faster, more responsive to control inputs and more efficient, plus a longer glide and the capability of going to and departing from noticeably shorter fields. The Warrior isn’t intended to be a back-woods airplane, but shorter-field capability is definitely welcome and valuable.

So, yes – It’s definitely worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Other items addressed lately by the aircraft shop include a new landing light – a Whelan LED model that will never burn out (which beats the heck out of 30-hour or so per halogen bulb) and a newly-rebuilt attitude indicator (the gyro had seen it’s better days, and was in desperate need of repair before I start my instrument training). Needless to say, I won’t be dumping any more money into the plane for a while (at least not voluntarily), since it’s emptied my wallet this summer, to be sure!

Related links:

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Aviation | Random Stuff
Monday, 24 October 2011 17:44:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What if I told you that you could now have Google voice working with an iPhone’s native phone and messaging apps -- much like you can with Android -- and that you don’t have to jailbreak or install the Google Voice iOS app to do it? Yep. Read on!

Last week I ordered an iPhone 4S from Sprint. That’s my carrier since I left AT&T well over a year ago, and I’ve been a Android user on Sprint since I made the move. But before that I was an avid iPhone owner, happy with the phone and reluctant to drop it. But AT&T woes finally forced my move. Now, for the record I like Android. One of the great benefits of an Android phone for me over the past year has been the fact that the Google Voice service can be built right in, native to the phone. For those not familiar, Google Voice (lots of info is available here) is a service that gives you “one phone number for life.” You give that one phone number to people, and that numbers is used to ring all your phones – cell phones, home phones, work phones, whatever – in whatever manner and schedule you choose. If you switch providers and get a new cell number or iphone4s-1home or work number, no worries. Just update your Google Voice account with your new or additional numbers, and you main GV number that you give out to everyone will ring the new ones, presto zappo bango. Google Voice also provides text messaging services and voice mail, accessible on a mobile phone via mobile web or a smartphone apps, as well as through a web browser on your laptop or desktop computer.

For quite some time an iPhone app has been available that one can install on the phone, which allows you to place calls, send text messages and get voicemail from your Google Voice account. But you have to do all of those things in the Google Voice app. So, it’s a little clunky – think of it as an extra, non-default phone dialer and text messaging app that sits alongside and kind of duplicates the purpose of your iPhone’s native dialing and messaging apps. In other words, to use Google Voice on the iPhone with the app, you have to use your iPhone differently.

But – thanks to Sprint and the fact that they now have the iPhone 4/4S in their inventory – we no longer need to use the Google Voice iPhone app and can get practically full functionality, using the apps that are native to the iPhone.

Problem? Solved!

Earlier this year, Sprint and Google announced they were joining forces (loosely) and providing the ability to integrate your Sprint wireless account with Google Voice in a manner that would allow you either to use your existing GV number as your mobile number, or alternatively to use your existing Sprint phone number as your Google Voice number. When you set the service up that way, Google Voice becomes your voice mail system and you get all the messaging and calling benefits of Google Voice, too. And, it works with all Sprint-branded mobile phones, not just Android – which is a real differentiator vs. the other wireless carriers.

The beauty of it all: You can set up Google Voice integrated with your Sprint account to both send and receive phone calls and text messages from the native iPhone app interfaces, without the need to jailbreak your phone to install third party apps/hacks, and without the need to install the Google Voice iOS app. People you call or send a text message to will see your Google Voice number in caller ID or as the message sender. Voice mail access works a little differently, but we’ll cover that in a bit.

google-voice-cartoon-logoFor discussion purposes to try simplify things, I’m going to refer to this integrated-Google-Voice-Sprint-Account customer experience as “Sprint Integration” for the remainder of this post.

It’s also probably worth pointing out that there are a couple of practical limitations (which are in no way related to the iPhone) that some people run into when setting up their Sprint Integration.

  • First of all, if you have a Sprint calling plan that is business-liable (as opposed to a personal phone account), the integration is not supported or enabled. Some individual Sprint customers own their own phones and pay their own bills, but because they got an employer’s corporate discount or similar situation their account is actually flagged as a business account. That should be pretty simple to fix in most cases with a call to Sprint customer service. But just know that actual business accounts are not eligible.
  • In addition, if you’ve set up phone call or SMS blocking or filtering through Sprint, you won’t be able to integrate your line with Google Voice until you disable those features in your Sprint account -- but note that Google Voice can usually enable you to do effectively the same thing.

So, how do I make this work?

It’s actually pretty simple. I won’t go into every single detail here, but I will cover the basics. I’m going to assume you can set up a Google Voice account, and if you need more information use the links above to learn everything you need to know.

Okay. First of all, there are a few things you need to make this work:

  1. An iPhone 4 or 4S provided by Sprint (no, this process can’t and won’t work with an AT&T or Verizon iPhone).
  2. A Sprint plan that is not a corporate/business plan. Family plans are fine, as long as they are not a business-liable plan.
  3. No call or text blocking/filtering configured in your Sprint account.
  4. A Google Voice account (they’re free) that has a phone number already assigned (in other words, not just the GMail-based “Google Voice Lite” thing – upgrade if necessary).
  5. About 15 to 30 minutes of free time.

To start, once you have logged into your Google Voice account, you’ll need to go to the Settings menu (by clicking the gear icon on the GV screen, over in the upper right area). Then navigate to the “Phones” section of the Google Voice settings. Here you’ll see any forwarding phones you’ve already set up in Google Voice.

A side note: If you already have another Sprint phone line set up in Google Voice with Sprint integration enabled, you cannot set up a second Sprint-integrated line on the same GV account. That’s not really documented anywhere, so I found this out the hard way since my Android phone was already fully integrated before I got my iPhone. So, when I added the iPhone to my Google Voice account I wasn’t even given the option to enable the Sprint integration. What this means is that if you already have one Sprint phone integrated, you’ll either need to disable the Sprint integration on that line or use a different Google Voice account to set up your new Sprint number on. I had troubles deactivating the Sprint integration on my Android phone, so had to search down help from both Sprint and Google so it could be manually deprovisioned. Hopefully you won’t run into that problem - but let me know if you do and I will try to point you in the right direction…

If the Sprint number you want to integrate has not already been added to your configured phones in Google Voice, you’ll need to do that now: At the bottom of the list of configured calling devices (phones, GMail chat, etc.) is a link you can click to “Add another phone.” Follow the simple instructions, enter the codes it promts you to use, and in a minute or three you’ll have your Sprint mobile SprintIntegrationGoogleVoicephone number set up and working in Google Voice is basic mode. You’re not completely done yet, but you’re close. For now, make a call from another phone to your Google Voice number and validate that your newly-added phone rings, just to verify everything is working properly. Remember: Test often, and at each step. It’s a good habit to get into when it comes to “mashing up” multiple computer/technology systems.

Next, take a look at the entry for your iPhone in the GV Phones list (in Settings). You should find a Sprint logo on the screen, next to the nickname you gave your iPhone phone, as well as a link that says “Check eligibility for Sprint integration.” Click on that link.

You’ll need to choose between the two available options: Do you 1) want your Sprint mobile number to become your new Google Voice number, or do you 2) want to replace your Sprint mobile number with your GV number? If everyone has and knows your Sprint phone number, then you can choose option one, so you don’t have to distribute a new phone number to everyone. But, if you’ve already given your Google Voice number out to people who need to reach you, you’ll choose option two like I did. The net effect of that choice in the end will be that when you place calls and send messages from your Sprint phone, the recipient of the call or text message will see your Google Voice number in Caller ID and on the text message. And that’s really the point.

So -- Make the choice appropriate for your situation, then wait patiently for several seconds while the Google Voice communicates in the background with Sprint. Before you know it both companies’ systems will be provisioned to handle your calls all mash-up-cyborg-app style. If successful, you will see a message that tells you:

Your Sprint number, (000) 000-0000 is now integrated with Google Voice.
Calls and text sent from this phone will display your Google Voice number.
Your Sprint voicemail has been replaced with Google voicemail.
International calls from this phone will be placed through Google Voice.

Now you’ll probably want to set up a voice mail greeting in Google Voice if you don’t already have one (or just use the generic default if you prefer (yuck)).

Testing, testing…

Your next step should be to place a phone call to a number that’s not attached to a Google Voice account (like a friend’s cell phone) and verify that the caller ID shows the correct number.

Next, make sure “Receive text messages on this phone” is checked in the Google Voice setting for your line, and then send a text message to a non-GV phone to make sure it’s sent using the correct number.

Note: It’s actually important to use non-Google-Voice phones for these test calls and text messages, since GV can recognize when one GV enabled phone is communicating with another GV number, and will sometimes try to be “helpful” and modify the normal process of displaying Caller ID data.


If the proper phone number is displayed on calls and text messages sent from the iPhone native Phone and Messages apps, and if your iPhone rings when someone calls your Google Voice number, you’re all set!

What about voice mail?

The only thing that won’t work natively in the iPhone apps in this configuration is visual voice mail. Since the iPhone’s visual voice mail app doesn’t recognize Google Voice from the voice message perspective, you have a couple choices here:

  1. Configure Google Voice in your browser to email you link to any voice mails (on the Voicemail & Text tab in Settings), and/or
  2. Check the box in the list for your integrated phone (on the Phones tab in Settings) to enable Google Voice send you a text message when a new voice mail is received

Compatibility, continued…

This integration works – as I started to explain earlier – with any “Sprint branded” phone. That doesn’t mean phones that have a Sprint logo painted on them, but rather refers to phones provided under contract by Sprint that operate on the Sprint CDMA network (not Nextel, nor the other carriers that piggyback on Sprint’s network). And, just to be clear one last time, Sprint is the only current service option for native integration of Google voice on an iPhone as described here. So, if you have AT&T or Verizon, sorry pal… No native app integration for you, at least not yet. You’ll just have to use the Google Voice iOS app, which you can download free from the Apple App Store.

And honestly -- If you’re thinking about getting an iPhone 4 or 4S and are leaning toward Verizon or AT&T – stop and consider this:

  • Sprint’s mobile service costs less than both Verizon’s and AT&T’s
  • Sprint’s plan actually allows unlimited data usage, while Verizon’s is capped – as is AT&T’s
  • When Sprint customers roam, it’s free of charge – and it’s on Verizon’s network (!)
  • Dropped calls? Not in my experience, which is a far cry from what I dealt with on AT&T…
  • Did I mention Sprint’s service costs less?

So – lower cost, you get to use the other guy’s network for free when needed, and no data caps. Sure, download speeds *might* be marginally slower here and there (and even that’s a debatable point), but there’s one more benefit you should know about: Sprint lets you sign up, get the phone and service, and try it our for 14 days. If you don’t like it, cancel your service and return the phone in good and complete condition where you bought it, and you’ll walk away with a refund for the price of the device and any early termination fee you paid. You will pay for the service you used and probably for the activation fee as well (unless you cancel service within the first 3 days), but nothing more.

If I sound like a Sprint commercial, trust me - I’m not. I’m just a customer that likes my wireless provider – and for what it’s worth, I’m a pretty darn picky customer.

Got questions about the Sprint iPhone integration with Google Voice? Post them in the comments and where it makes sense, I’ll update this post with details I may have missed. And be sure to share your iPhone integration success stories as well!

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Android | Apple | Google Voice | Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 18 October 2011 23:40:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 13 October 2011

Siri is coming to the iPhone 4S on Friday, and already people are starting to discover the Apple virtual assistant has a but of a sense of humor.

To chronicle and record for humorous posterity all the unusual, funny, shocking or otherwise interesting crap Siri comes up with, I have created Darn Your Siri - - where anyone can post their funny Siri screenshots there, too - just go to the submission page. That name seemed a little less inappropriate than something like "shit Siri says" but I see that's also a site someone fired up. Of course they did! :)

To take a screen grab of any iPhone screen, hold down the home/round button while at the same time clicking teh power/sleep/wake button on top. The resulting screen grab JPG file is saved in your photo gallery on the iPhone.

I'll be seeing what all Siri has to say soon, when my phone arrives from Sprint on Friday.

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Apple | Humor | Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 13 October 2011 18:19:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 08 October 2011

Google has released a Chrome Browser add-on called Chrome Remote Desktop Beta that allows two computers running Chrome to be connected to so person can control the other person's computer. For those of us who occasionally need to connect from, say, your place in Portland Oregon to a computer in Boulder Colorado to troubleshoot a certain family member's computer issues, this is a simple and workable method. Of course, many of the tech-support requests are actually efforts to get you to visit your mom, so keep that in mind. But I still think you might find this new capability helpful. It allows any computer running Chrome - regardless of the operating system - to connect to any other computer running Chrome. So your Windows computer can control a Mac or Linux machine or vice-versa.

Chrome Remote Desktop Beta Access Code

You can set it up and get started in just a few minutes. First, you need to have the Chrome browser on both ends of the connection, your computer and the one you want to connect to. Next, download and install the Google-created extension. One you complete that step, you'll find a Chrome Remote Desktop Beta icon in your browser window. When you run it the first time, it will propt you to grant some extra permissions, which are required for it to work.

The next step is to share your computer, or alternatively to connect to another shared computer. Both options are available to the user. If you choose to connect to a shared remote computer, you'll be prompted to enter a numeric code that is generated when the person on the other end of the line starts the sharing process. The "sharer" just provides the one-time code generated by the app to the person who needs to remotely connect. Access codes are good for just that one session, which helps ensure security.

This is the initial release. Google's description of the browser app:

Chrome Remote Desktop BETA is the first installment on a capability allowing users to remotely access another computer through the Chrome browser or a Chromebook.


The goal of this beta release is to demonstrate the core Chrome Remoting technology and get feedback from users. This version enables users to share with or get access to another computer by providing a one-time authentication code. Access is given only to the specific person the user identifies for one time only, and the sharing session is fully secured. One potential use of this version is the remote IT helpdesk case. The helpdesk can use the Chrome Remote Desktop BETA to help another user, while conversely a user can receive help by setting up a sharing session without leaving their desk. Additional use cases such as being able to access your own computer remotely are coming soon.


Chrome Remote Desktop BETA is fully cross-platform, so you can connect any two computers that have a Chrome browser, including Windows, Linux, Mac and Chromebooks.

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Saturday, 08 October 2011 08:27:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Looks like Apple already sold out of its pre-order inventory of iPhone 4S phones on the first day you could pre-order one, and looking at Sprint's web site right now, they've sold all of their 16GB pre-order models (but 32GB and 64GB options can still be ordered).

Meanwhile, AT&T says they've been rushed and sold 200,000 units in the first 12 hours of availability (which is what you'd expect, since many people are coming off a two-year-old iPhone 3GS purchase now). Verizon' selling a lot, too: Their 16GB white and black 4S models are showing delivery dates of October 21st, while the larger models still show the original release date of the 14th.

So, it's looking very much like the 16GB model is the hot item right now.

Are you going to order one? I'm still on the fence, but judging from the Sprint pre-order situation (I made the below screenshot on Friday night just before midnight), it might be a good time to make a decision soon. Or wait a couple weeks after launch, sure… At any rate, I'd probably order a 32GB, maybe 64GB, to accommodate my data requirements.

Sprint iphones preorder2

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Friday, 07 October 2011 23:07:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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