Monday, November 23, 2009

The Phone to End All Phones

I recently purchased the Samsung Moment

First of all let me just say that this is the phone of my dreams.  Working at a bank, I'm limited to what I can do online, so this is basically a mini PC I carry with me everywhere.  I can check gmail and the interface is fantastic.  It looks just like gmail.  I can gtalk and it doesn't drain my battery like my old HTC Mogul with a faux gtalk chat app.  It has a big bright screen, an easy to use keyboard, a touchscreen, and on and on and on.  To boot, I had a super cheap $30 SERO plan that I didn't want to give up, so by threatening to leave for TMO, I was able to get a $20 credit applied to my account, upgraded to the $70 data plan, tack on my corporate discount and I have everything for $42.  Not ideal, but doable to pay $12 more a month.

I've only had to work out a few kinks of which I will post some tips/tricks here and continue to add to this as I find them out.

1)  I couldn't get my contacts to load correctly. 
My first step was to open Outlook Express where I had synched my contacts from my Windows Mobile phone previously.  I exported these to a .csv file.  I then imported the .csv to Google Contacts.  I had to do a little work to merge emails and phones and get my contacts all looking good, but once that was done, they still weren't showing on my phone right.  My basic problem was my "Starred in Android" (on the PC) were showing up on my phone as Favorites and Contacts.  I couldn't get the "My Contacts" (on the PC) to show up under Contacts on the phone.

Alas, I figured it out.  From contacts tab on phone, hit menu. Then you have option to edit sync groups. I had to select "my contacts".

2)  I'm trying to get visual voicemail on my phone. 
Visual voicemail takes your VMs and converts them to email or text message.  I kind of assumed this was a feature you turned on or off on your phone.  That was a dumb assumption.  Apparently it is an app you download from the market place.  I couldn't one that jumped out for me to download, so my husband suggested using Google Voice.  Google Voice allows you to set up an account for your existing mobile number.  Set up is fairly simple and entails creating a pin code, responding to a text, and recording a voicemail message.  The cool thing is that now when I get voicemails, Google Voice translates them into both a text message and an email.  I practically never have to listen to it on the phone anymore and waste time going through 12 prompts to delete a message.  Plus since it sends it to my email, I have a text copy that I can save forever as well as an actual MP3 of the message that is attached to the voicemail.  Damn that's snappy. 

If you don't like it, you simply go back to the website and turn it off and your old voicemail system will take effect.

3)  Learning to use Voice Control
There's a voice control button on the right side of the phone (above the camera button).  No programming necessary to use this.  All you do is press and hold the button.  Then, you can speak things like Call John Smith Mobile 1.  You don't even have to teach it to understand your names or program it to remember them.  You can even tell it to Send Email John Smith or Play Playlist1.  Smart.

I'll keep adding to this list as I find more fun things on my wonderfully slick new phone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blog in a Blog

I'm sure it's not very typical to blog about a blog, but in this case I just can't help myself.  Porter, Stout, and myself were at the dog park last night when we ran into Porter's twin's owner.  Sounds weird but there is another mutt out there (Macy) who could be Porter's sibling from the same litter.  I think Porter a pretty unique looking dog so to see this "twin" is just odd.  To continue on, Macy's owner and I got to chatting about a trip he just took to Colorado and all the amazing wildlife he saw out there.  During the discussion, he brought up this blog called the Daily Coyote which I decided to check out this morning.  All I can says is WOW.  I think having our two little tykes is hard work (especially walking both at the same time), but this is just plain nuts. 

The Daily Coyote blog.

I'm pretty sure this is some sort of copyright infringement problem I've just created for myself by posting a pic of the book she wrote (from her site) but maybe because I'm touting the blog and that a part of me is actually considering buying the book because I'm fascinated by this Coyote and her relationship to it, she'll give me a break and not sue me.  Reading this blog makes me want to go meet this animal as well as this person who has given up a life to raise this creature. 


Post Script:  Figured I would add a pic of what I feel are my own little half coyotes...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sit Means Sit

Since the last post, we've successfully completed 4 more training classes and "graduated" the class.  I'm trying to recall all the other important training items we've learned and may or may not have successfully taught to our dog(s).  Yes, plural as we've adopted a second the day we took our last class.

So lets recap what we've learned:
1. Never let your dog go out the door first.
2. Teach your dog to come.
3. Walk your dog, don't let it walk you.
To add to those lessons, here are some more things we learned in weeks 2-5:

4.  Teach your dog a "Jackpot" word. 
This lesson is all about having a secret word that you only use on your dog in emergencies such as he runs out in the road after a squirrel or he's about to get hit by a car.  You yell the word, and no matter what, your dog is going to come running back to you.  Different then Come as that is hit or miss with us depending on what's going on around the dog at the time.  The key to this is using the word only in emergencies and always rewarding your dog with something crazy good.
We decided that our word would be Hot Toddy which I had in my head was spelled Tottie which is apparently wrong.  To train Porter (and now Stout too) a couple of times a day for a month straight you yell the word, when the dog comes to you grab it by the collar and yell the word again, then proceed to feed the dog deliciously good meat, cheetos, treats, etc. for 30 seconds straight.  Now the first time you yell the word, you might have to drag it over to where you were standing when you yelled the word, but after about 2 times, your dog will pick it up pretty damn quickly and come bounding over to you.  We started the training yelling this in the house when the dog was playing or sleeping.  Then we graduated to out in the back yard, and next we're hoping to try it out at the dog park.  Let me tell you that the back yard test definitely worked because Porter ran to the fence to bark at a dog walking past and as soon as we said it she bolted over to us practically drooling at the anticipated reward.  We like this one as it's not time consuming and we get a satisfying feeling since it ALWAYS works.
5.  Lecture your dog like you would your child.
If you ever catch your dog doing something bad (wetting in the house, chewing up a shoe, eating your wood trim, etc.) you hold them and stare them in the eye and proceed to lecture them in a calm but firm voice for about 1 minute.  If you don't catch them in the act, but see the evidence that they've done something bad, you walk them over to the place the act occurred and lecture them for a full 15 minutes.  The instructor taught us that this may seem like a long time, but it seems like an eternity to your animal.

After lecturing, make sure and leave the evidence out where you found it (unless it's a puddle of pee in the middle of the room).  The idea is that you should let the shoe, table leg, sock, etc. tempt the dog (and most likely it will) and if it occurs again, lecture them again.  At least if it does happen again it would hopefully be the same, already 1/2 eaten shoe, rather than a brand new one.  This may happen 2 or 3 times, but after that many 15 minute long lectures, your dog should learn its lesson.

6.  Leave it
Teaching your dog to "leave it" can be very valuable, especially if it's something your dog is trying to chase or put in its mouth.  To train this, feed your dog several treats from your hand.  After giving it 4 or 5 pieces, put the next piece in your hand, hold it down for your dog, say leave it, then when your dog goes for it, close your fingers.  If your dog is quicker than your hand, make sure and at least attempt to pull the treat out of its mouth.  If he's not quick enough, never give the "leave it" treat to your dog, throw it away or put it on the counter to feed them later.  Start with a new one, give him a few of those, then try "leave it" again with a different treat.  This also works using your foot.  Put a few treats on the floor, one by one.  Then put a new treat on the floor and say "leave it" and when your dog goes for it, cover it with your foot.  Once you feel your dog will leave this specific treat, put a few more on the floor near it.  If your dog goes for the leave it treat again, cover it with your foot and say leave it.  Once your dog has mastered this with treats or dog food, graduate to bacon or food wrappers.  The idea is that if you drop medication on the floor or your dog tries to lop up some yummy anti freeze then they would leave it for good.

7. Teach your dog to notify you that it wants to go outside.
Our dogs don't bark so this is a challenge for us.  Some people use the bell technique, but if you go to a friends house, they may not have a bell hanging from the door.  So, an easier way is to teach your dog to "speak" when it wants to go outside.  We started this by teach our dog to "speak" in general.  You can do this a couple ways.  If your dog barks while playing or at any other time, say speak.  At some point the idea is the dog will associate the bark with the word speak, then when you say speak it would bark.  We tried another method that seems to be working, but takes 2 people.  Person A yells speak and person B (sitting on the ground next to the dog) barks like a dog.  Continue to do this and at some point your dog will take a queue from person B and bark as well.  When this happens, give the dog praise and a treat.  Once the dog has mastered speak, ask it to speak before it goes outside.  We've mastered speak, but haven't asked the dog to speak to go outside, so not sure how easy this will be.

We learned a few other things in classes 2-5, but these were the most memorable and useful lessons.  Most of the last two classes were simply question and answer time as well to re-visit what we'd learned earlier. 

There's a second training class where you perfect these lessons as well as learn to have more control over your dog when it is off leash.  I pretty much guarantee we won't make it to those. 

Stout (the day we brough him home, 9/24)

Porter and Stout, tuckered out

Stu and Stout (aka Little Man)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Train the Trainer

So Wednesday night we attended our first dog training session with the Gentle Dog Training company.  I thought the training would be more interactive, but turns out most of the time is spent sitting and listening to the trainers and then we get to go home and practice for a week.  This first week we were taught (at first it looked like that was spelled completely wrong) 3 things to work on.

1.  Never let your dog go out the door first. 
This is for a few good reasons.  The first being that you should go out first to check the environment to make sure it is safe.  Example - you don't want your dog hitting the front steps and immediately chasing after a squirrel or the neighborhood cat that is 5 feet away.  Second, you want to show them that you are the Pack Leader.  Showing your dog who's boss helps make them more apt to listen and follow commands and tames aggression.

Now Porter has been pretty good about this so far.  We make her sit at the door when we put her collar on and she stays sitting until we walk through the door and "release" her to go outside.  She wasn't so good at this rule getting out of the car or going doors that weren't attached to the front of our house. 

So, to train for this it's actually VERY easy.  If a dog starts to go out a door when you haven't told it to do so, you simply shut the door in its face (not hard...come on I'm not that mean).  The trainers demonstrated this technique in class using Porter as the example.  The put her in a kennel and when they opened the door she attempted to bolt out (and actually managed to do so 1 time).  As she was trying to sneak out, they gently shut the door in her face.  They had to repeat this about 8 times before she finally "got it".  After that when they opened the door she would just sit there until the training waved her out.  Note ** we've found this extremely useful when letting the dog out of the backseat of the car when we're parked on the street.

2.  Teach your dog to come. 
Porter only comes when we call her in the house.  Outside she pretends to be deaf.  We know better.  The trainer said we should reinforce this by randomly popping in front of the dog throughout the day and saying "here boy" (or girl) and giving the dog a treat.  This teaches the dog the association of "calling it", getting a treat as a reward, and most importantly seeing the owner in front of it.  Supposedly next week they'll associate the act of the dog coming to the master (instead of the flip side).  Porter has this one down pat, granted all she has to do is sit there and eat a treat.

3.  Walk your dog, don't let it walk you.
This last one has proven the toughest for us.  Dogs should always walk at or slightly behind their master's side.  Porter does not.  She pulls and pulls and pulls and tries to take us on walks.  As per my previous >post, we've tried harnesses, choke chains, and the Halti.  The trainer recommended we use the Halti, so Halti it is.  We've had her using it for less than a week now and she seems to be doing better and better.  By this I mean she doesn't claw at her face nearly as often.  We can practically make it a whole block at a time before she lays down and rubs her face in the grass.  She does NOT however get the part where we're supposed to be leading her.  The trick to this is making random turns through out the walk to get her to understand that she is to follow.  If she doesn't follow, you yank on the leash 3 times each time progressively a little harder.  This is supposed to teach the dog that the first time is a warning, the second time sucks, and the third time...well you don't want to get to the third time, so listen up when I tell you once.  The trainer gave us a long leash (10 feet) to try this technique.  We need to be more dilligent about practicing and I am committing myself to working with her in the yard tonight.  Again, pull 3 times, each time a little harder, and then let the leash go slack.  At that point they should be walking right by your side rather than wandering around somewhere else. 

Round 2 of training class is Thursday at 8pm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Halti or Not To Halti

So we got our dog Porter from the animal shelter almost 2 months ago. She has been a very well behaved little girl for the most part.

A couple accidents in the house the first few days we had her, no chewing on furniture or shoes, very temperate around other animals, loves babies, etc....

We do however have what we see as one big problem..."Crittering". She loves to chase squirrels, birds, leaves, basically anything that moves. Now in the back yard, that's not so much of a problem. However, when you're walking her, chasing after a squirrel poses a few issues, one being that she could easily chase the animal into the street and quickly be run over by a car, or two pull your arm out of its socket and in the process, practically strangle herself on the collar. I vote no to either option.
So, to combat this issue, we've invested in a multitude of products. The first being the front hook harness. This is supposed to help prevent the dog from pulling. As the dog runs away, the front of the harness pulls together. This worked to successfully pull her feet out from under her as Porter would take off running. It didn't seem to deter her from trying over and over again. So we returned it...
The second attempt to squash all bad habits has been a try with the Halti. We've been easing Porter into the contraption similar to torture gear found in the middle ages. This works by leading the dog using the restraint on the face. The idea being that where the dog's head goes the body will follow (I know...complicated logic). It's also much easier to pull/turn a dog's head than it is their body. We've consistently been putting it on her any time she eats. This gets her to associate the Halti with something she Then you begin with taking her on short walks and eventually she "should" be okay with wearing it all the time. The issue is that she hates the thing being attached to her face. When it's on her she continually paws at the side of her face. The first time we walked her, she pawed every 2 or 3 steps and only got a block away before taking it off. I've since walked her 2 or 3 times using it and she seems to progressively be getting more used to it. Don't get me wrong...she hates the things and paws at it, but now it's every 5 or 6 steps. Progress.
Another attempt to quell the pulling on the leash has been the common Choke Chain. Porter has now worn this on 2 walks. She still pulls, but the choking part seems to make her give up the chase a little sooner. Stu thinks this is the way to go.
I'm still torn.
Feel free to vote for your opinion on the poll at top right of page -->

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Night Shift

So I'm working nights this week. By that I don't mean that I've taken to the streets, but rather my company implemented a big project that needed 24x5 coverage so for Monday - Friday this week I'm on a 2am-8am schedule.

My sleep/work schedule so far has been to try and go to sleep at 10pm, wake at 1:30am, work from 2-8am, then go back to sleep until noon. I mean if Da Vinci could do it, so could I, right?

Well I'm currently on day 3 of 5 and so far it's easier said than done. Monday morning I slept after my shift, and got a LOT of stuff done that day. Tuesday morning came, I slept until noon then found myself needing another nap (assisted by a glass of wine) from 2-4pm and then went back to bed at 10:30pm only to be shocked into wakening by my alarm clock at 1:30am early Wednesday. As I drove into work I passed by Waldo Bar & Grill and noticed all the people still up and going at it. I was instantly jealous that the reason they were awake was to partake in a beverage and would soon be going to sleep.

I digress. So far, this wacky sleep schedule has given me slight headaches at times, and my vision is seriously diminishing so I've resorted to wearing my glasses while driving and staring at the computer. And of course I'm tired most of the day. I did find an article how working the night shift can also screw up your metabolism and cause problems like diabetes and heart disease. I seriously doubt that after 3 days of work I could have screwed up my body too much, but I do know it would take a serious raise for me to take on a job where I permanently work 3rd shift.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

GTalk for Windows Mobile

So I've been complaining for months now that I am a Crabby Patty with Google and RIM (the makers of crackberry phones) for only making GTalk available on those damn phones and not my phone that works with Windows Mobile. Most all of the other Google Apps are available with the Google Mobile pack (Maps, Gmail, YouTube, etc) except for GTalk.

So here I am stuck at work with no way to message out to my friends to make plans to go to The Jones tonight. That's almost as bad as having a kraut filled baguyna.

I decided to do a little more research today to see if the crazy smart people at Google have gotten even smarter and granted me my birthday wish from last November. Well the Eugooglers have put the icing on the cake, just not my cake. Those damn bastards went out and created GTalk for iPhone. La ti da.

Well after a little more research I found something new called Beejive. Not sure why they couldn't spell it normal like beehive which is the way it's pronounced because as far as I can tell no one else has that website url. DBags. Regardless, they have given me a medium substitute for GTalk that will suffice until the Goog peeps do their job. If you too have sucky Windows Mobile I suggest you check it out. T'is free after all.