Tuesday, July 29, 2008

iPhone 3G experience

I bought an iPhone 3G this morning to replace my broken Verizon Wireless (VZW) Motorola E-815.

Here it is sitting next to a 9.5mm 2.5" 320GB (laptop) portable hard drive and my defunct Motorola phone.

I ported my number over from Verizon. It took a few hours and a support call to ATT Wireless. I've been a Verizon customer for probably 15 years plus. So long Verizon.

I checked the iPhone 3G availability table last night. I wanted the 16GB model in black.

Felt it was a bit ridiculous to be standing in line at 8:30am at the Cambridgeside Apple store just to buy a phone that wasn't even on sale. The lady behind me in the line reassured me it was okay: nothing to be embarassed about, nobody's around in the mall this early. She was waiting in line to get the iPhone 3G 16GB in black for her husband. Same one I had my eye on. I wasn't the only one in line wondering just how many they had left.

Anyway, I got the phone around 9:30am. ATT Wireless handled the porting, without me having to contact VZW directly, once I gave them my VZW account and SS numbers. But I didn't get the "port completed" text message on my new phone (allowing me to receive calls) until noon. When I called ATT at 11:30am, I was told the delay was because I hadn't turned off my old phone.


Since I had a .mac (now MobileMe) account already, the setup was incredibly slick. It grabbed my contact information, iCal, Mail server settings and browser bookmarks sans intervention. I also synced my iTunes library. One reason I paid more for the 16GB model was that it could store more albums than my 8GB (Gen2) Nano.

I get all my email just like on my Macbook. Viewable PDF attachments and everything. It's set up to Push sync rather than poll with my .mac mail but the other two mail servers I use at Arizona and MIT are Fetch (poll) only.

If I add a new event to my calendar it's transparently and automaticaly synchronized with my computer. For appointments, this is handy and great.

The level of integration from just these two features make the phone truly useful for me. The $299+tax price tag means it's not inexpensive by any means but the humble cellphone has taken a huge step in usability for me.

There are other bells and whistles. As far as I can tell, A-GPS is cool and fast too. I wonder if it's better than my little Garmin Etrex Vista CX (which has all the roads in the US preloaded).

The iPhone 3G experience with ATT isn't completely seamless though. For example, they sent me an email:

Unfortunately, you can't redeem the ringtone coupon since the iPhone is not a listed phone on ATT mediamall! (That saved me from downloading Abba's Dancing Queen as my ringtone.)

I called ATT to point this out. They gave me a $2.49 credit on the account to facilitate buying a ringtone on iTunes.

Unfortunately, since I'm in Boston for a few more weeks, I can't check the ATT Wireless coverage back in Tucson. That's a risk I have to take. From the maps below, I'm hoping it's as good as VZW. Nothing would be more frustrating than a state-of-the-art phone that works everywhere except between home and work.

Voice coverage (darker is better):

3G data coverage (in blue):

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Running in Washington DC

I just had the chance to visit Washington DC in the heat of July for a conference.

Don't know the city at all. And I was only there for a few days. In sum, I love DC.

Two reasons for that sentiment were two gorgeous 6:30am runs.

It's very hot and humid in DC in summer. I went out early to try to beat the heat but still ended up absolutely drenched in sweat each time due to the omnipresent humidity.

Still, I'd love to spend time here. DC has vaulted over SanFran as my #1 favorite US city.

Run #1. Rock Creek Park

Right next to the conference hotel (Omni Shoreham) is this thin ribbon of a park that cuts north-south through DC following a creek.

I could scarcely believe I was in the middle of a major US city. I ran out and back for a total of 5 miles (thereby justifying a trip to the hotel breakfast buffet).

The running path next to the creek near the National Zoo:

The water is remarkably clear for inner city water/drainage:

On a later day, I saw runners training for the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon in this park.

Run #2. The Mall

For the second run, at 6am I hopped onto the DC Metro Red line down to Union Station.

Then, with the sun slowly rising on a beautiful summer's day, and almost no traffic, I ran from Union Station to the Capitol, past the Smithsonian museums, around the Washington Monument, onto the World War II memorial, past the Reflecting Pool with the trees lined the dirt trail, up the Lincoln Memorial steps, turn around and look back across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument and the rising sun. Said good morning to a guard, down the steps and retraced my steps back to Union Station. Under 6 miles total. Most beautiful urban run I've ever done.

The monuments are stunning beautiful in the morning light. Their layout is gorgeous. M. l'Enfant did a great job.

Details. The route I took is in blue:

I took some pictures on the previous day.
(The first two below (as well as the Metro escalator pic above) were taken using an 8mm fisheye lens on a friend's Olympus DSLR: hence the exaggerated, non-rectilinear perspective.)
The Washington Monument:

At the World War II Memorial looking towards the Lincoln Memorial.
(Those trees line the paths I ran on both sides of the Reflecting Pool.)

The Lincoln Memorial: