Sunday, September 28, 2008

SMS is a G*dd*mn ripoff

This is a bit of a geeky post, but the end result affects just about everybody.

SMS, aka Short Message Service, or better known as a text message on your phone, has a maximum length of 160 characters or 140 characters depending on the alphabet used. If it's 160 characters, each character is 7 bits and if it's 140 characters, each character is 8 bits (a standard ascii character). Thus the max length for each text message is 140*8 = 160*7 = 1120 bits.

If you don't have a text plan, here's what happens. Each text you send or receive costs you $.20.
.2 dollars per text / 1120 bits per text = 0.00017857 dollars per bit. At this level, it doesn't sound too bad. Less than a penny. But let's move on.

$0.00017857 per bit * 8 bits per byte = 0.00142856 dollars per byte. This is a little over 1/10 of a penny per byte. Sure.

$0.00142856 per byte * 1024 bytes per kilobyte = 1.4628454 dollars per KB.

$1.4628454/KB * 1024 KB/MB = $1497.9537 per MB. That's almost $1,500 per megabyte! For those not very familiar with these terms, consider this. An average quality 3-minute MP3 song file is about 3 megabytes. Can you imagine spending nearly $4,500 to transfer a song over a network? A good quality digital photo can take up 1 or more MB of space. Imagine being charged per message for using AIM or any other instant message app. Those conversations would get pretty costly, wouldn't they?

Text messages are just plain data. Ever see a "Readme" document on your computer that's got a bunch of text instructions in it? Same thing. Plain text. It's a heinous ripoff. It's a crime.

So you might be wondering "well I have a plan where I pay $5 per month to get 200 texts." Well, that's a little better. Without a plan you'd be paying $5 already for only 25 messages. But following the same formula above ($5/# of total bits) * 8*1024*1024 you will pay $187.25 per MB of text. Does that seem reasonable?

Even if you were to get 1,000 texts per month for $5, it would still be a ripoff at $37.45 per MB. I pay less than that for unlimited data over my DSL Internet service with AT&T. By myself I probably use several hundred MB per day just doing light surfing, and I'm not even the only person in my household using the same line.

By the way, I should mention that even if you don't send a text that's the maximum length of 160 or 140 characters you still get charged the same. In other words, it's $.20 for a 160-character message or $.20 for a 10-character message.

If all data were treated like SMS it would be impractical to transmit anything anywhere.

Special thanks to Leo Laporte for the idea.

Check this out, part 5

You've heard of case mods - it's like tricking out a car to make a hot rod, except for computer cases. Well, this one's the best I've seen in a long time. This one's a Lego Mac Pro. Yeah, the case is made entirely of Legos. Check it out at

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RSS Redux

If you look at a lot of news online, you probably use RSS feeds. And if you look at a lot of news online but don't use RSS feeds, then why don't you? RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a way of subscribing to news (just like in the olden days of paper newspapers... remember those?) so that whenever stuff happens it comes right to your computer/iPhone/smartphone. The news arrives in a very simple digest form - a list of headlines accompanied by short summaries of each news story. This format allows you to quickly skim the articles available so you can choose what you really want to read and what you'd rather skip.

You might say "well I have CNN set as my home page and that's all I need for the latest news." Well, has a fine site and it's laid out pretty intuitively so you can find your news, but you have to wade through all the pictures (and ads if you don't have an adblocker) just to see all the articles that are up there. Maybe you'd like to bypass having to load an entire web page just to glance at what's going on. If so, RSS is for you. Most major news sites (again taking CNN as an example) have multiple RSS "feeds" that you can subscribe to. CNN has separate feeds for: Top Stories, World, US, Sports, Politics... well, one for every section of their site. You get the idea.

An RSS feed is basically a special version of a webpage, formatted specifically for quick and easy digestion by you. Why would you want a simplified version of a page, when websites these days are filled with gorgeous graphics and attractive layouts? Well, many of us lead pretty busy lives, so we don't want to waste precious seconds being distracted from what's really important - the news.

Still not convinced? RSS is not hard to set up, and it will change the way you look at news online and make it much more efficient. You can have your ESPN, CNN, UCLA Daily Bruin, ICanHasCheezburger, and entries all sent right to your computer in one convenient place. Your reader will notify you when new articles come in. You don't have to constantly refresh a page if you're waiting for news to happen.

So you want to try out RSS but you don't know where to start. If you're using Safari on Mac OSX or Windows, you already have an RSS reader! Click on the following link to read the RSS feed for my own blog: feed:// Subscribe by bookmarking it! Another popular reader is Google Reader (, though it's a web-based reader rather than a dedicated RSS client program. There are also plugins for Firefox that track your feeds for you. When you subscribe to a feed, a number appears next to the feed's name indicating how many new unread articles exist.

Here's a link to the CNN page that lists all of their RSS feeds:

And here are some feeds that I have subscribed to and regularly read.

Fox Sports College Basketball

Daily Bruin News

Touch Arcade

Now, I have to admit that I'm doing this partially to get more readers on my blog. I completely understand that I don't update regularly enough and that I usually don't have much interesting stuff to say. But I've gotta try anyway, right? If you like what you read here, please subscribe to my feed and leave a comment on the blog itself.

The other reason I'm doing this is to make people aware of some of the cooler things you can do with a computer these days. Most people use computers and go on the web to look at things, but they often do it in a very rudimentary fashion. They aren't exposed to many of the useful tools out there for making things more convenient, fun, and uncomplicated. I promise I'll be back with more cool tips.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Facebook Folly

If you have a Facebook account, you will be familiar with what I'm writing about today.

People lose their phones all the time, and they create a Facebook Event and invite all their friends just so they can get all their lost phone numbers back. Many of their friends post their phone numbers up there for everyone to see. Sure, the event and its comments are open only to those the Event creator designated, but sometimes that means everyone. Do you want just anyone calling you on your phone? Don't you want your privacy? It can be argued that if someone whom you don't want to get ahold of your number is clever enough, he or she would be able to get it anyway. But by posting your number publicly on such a well-traveled place such as Facebook, you're making it far too easy for your nemeses (that's plural for nemesis) and telemarketers to find you.

Maybe you feel that you don't care who gets your number, so you just post it up there anyway. Well don't complain when you get prank calls, telemarketer calls, or creepy messages.

People have been doing this for years. Why am I suddenly talking about it now? I was just on Facebook right now and I saw the following ad:

I understand and appreciate that Facebook makes it easy and convenient to retrieve your lost numbers. But I would never ask any of my friends or family to post their numbers in such a public forum as a Facebook event. And now there is an app to retain your phone numbers. A freaking Facebook app for storing your phone numbers! Anyone ever hear of an address book!? If you have a bunch of numbers for people you talk to a lot, it's absolutely foolish and mind boggling to only have a copy of them in a device (your cell phone) that is very prone to being misplaced, stolen, lost, etc. Keep a damn copy of your numbers on your computer or in a book so you don't have to inconvenience all your friends and make them vulnerable to time-wasting calls. The idea for this new app is great, but the cause for its existence is ridiculously stupid.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I know that the subtitle of my blog is Bruin Basketball, Terrific Tech, and Random Ramblings, but I'm also a general UCLA sports fan. So although no one's going to read this post before 12:30 (or ever), I thought I'd mention that UCLA football's gametime is 12:30, and it can be heard on radio at AM570 in LA and Orange County. On TV it'll be shown on the Versus network. Thus I won't be able to watch it. Booo! Versus sucks footballs.

Extra Life

On October 18, the Sarcastic Gamer community will host a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise money for the Texas Children’s Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. If you play games, please consider getting sponsored to do what you do anyway for a whole day, and donate to a good cause. Unlike most other events like this, there are no requirements as to what or where you can play. It's all on the honor system so you can play Rock Band with your friends, play WoW for a day (though I wouldn't recommend that), or play Aurora Feint on your iPod Touch. And it doesn't even have to be 24 hours straight. You can do it in spurts or over the period of a week. If you're interested, head over to 100% of the donations go toward the hospital. If you don't play games, tell someone you know who does play.

Blogger's Block

I always get these great ideas and this great motivation to blog about something interesting, but the minute I actually get to my computer to write, nothing comes to mind. I have a list of stuff to write about, but most of those are a bit too in-depth to write a quick post about.

Monday, September 8, 2008

AT&T Doesn't Suck

I take back what I said about AT&T. They don't suck that much. The problems I was having was with my modem and not with their service. Sorry AT&T.