Friday, June 18, 2010

How to report an unauthorized call to the FTC ...

First, if you have not done so, you should register your phone number in the "Do Not Call" national database. Kind of sad that we have to worry about such things, but lately there have been a lot of scams running that (besides soaking up valuable cell phone minutes) are potentially quite expensive and damaging.

One involves someone saying they will sell you an extended warranty for your car. I've comically accepted the calls before for entertainment value (and to understand the scam a bit). Honestly, if someone calls saying your warranty is just about to expire a lot of things should set off alarm bells. Some of my favorite responses: "This is great timing! The transmission just went out in my 1954 DeSoto! Can I buy coverage to get it fixed?" Better: "I have a 2000 Hudson Hornet... You can insure that? Awesome!" The scams are well documented and the primary offending company was recently shut down. Hopefully the people executing the scam are doing jail time now.

Another scam involves someone from "Cardholder services." I've had a few of these end recently rather abruptly -- before I could say the phrase "Please take me off your list." The more generic the call -- the more likely it's a scam. Cardholder services to what card? What interest rate range are they talking about. Do they even know who they are calling (let me answer there -- no, they're doing robo-calling through a range of telephone numbers hoping to hit a live body).

In all cases, reporting these things to the FTC is a good idea. Here's the web site:

You'll find a link on there to also register your phone number in the do not call database.

Do your civic duty -- if you get a call like this, report the idiots and help the FTC shut them down. And if you're not pressed for time, it doesn't hurt to waste a little bit of their time (the scammers) in the process.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Android Fragmentation

Disclaimer: I'm a long-time users and enthusiast when it comes to Linux -- and I own a Motorola droid.

Recently, there have been a few articles that talk of something called Fragmentation in regards to the Google android operating system. These articles talk about developer-centric problems and the general lack of stability as compared to other operating systems, such as Win Mobile and Apple's operating system for the iPhone.

This is my humble opinion: none of this crap matters to anyone but developers and technical journalists. The Android is for the most part, from what I see, unstoppable. It has recently taken the mobile operating system space by storm, spawning multiple products from multiple vendors.

It will continue to do so, despite any kind of stupid fear, uncertainty or doubt. Here are the reasons why:

  1. Android phones work acceptably for the vast majority of smart phone users.
  2. Unlike the strategic mistake that Apple made -- the Google android operating system is available from a host of carriers.
  3. Unlike Apple, the android store is far more open to developers.
  4. The operating system and the underlying development components are transparent. They are truly open in most respects compared to Apple.
Sure, developing for a moving target of device capabilities, APIs and "fragmented" operating system versions is going to suck. Sure, the interface is no where near as smooth and polished as Apple's. Sure sure sure, lot's of things compared to other proprietary vendors.

At the end of the day, the decisions that Apple made will continue to make their product the Cadillac of phones. The Droid will be the Chevy.

And the real reason it will continue to sell will be obvious to the end users: Most times, all you need is a Chevy.

Those of us in the Free/Open Source community will wax onward about why people should choose freedom over tyranny and all that important stuff that's right -- and I wish that these things mattered to a lot of people. Sadly, most people haven't a clue. At the end of the day, Apple will still have a huge market share -- but over time, I'm willing to bet that Linux (Android) will take a large or similar percentage.

More carriers, a good product, more choices, less cost. It's a simple equation. It reminds one of the bad choices Apple made in the 1980's to single-source their own hardware and sue the crap out of anyone that tried to establish anything close to a competing hardware platform. I'm not saying that mobile devices will be exactly the same as that territory -- the devices are replaced much faster and cost far less. But it sure is similar.

Fragmentation though? No one on the receiving end will really care all that much. The market physics pretty much dictate the outcome -- Android will march on, more or less unstoppably, regardless of any kind of FUD around the platform.

Because, most times, at the end of the day, you just need a decent phone that works at a reasonable price. Android definitely delivers that.