No matter how bad things get, there's always something trivial we can completely take out of its big picture context and blow up into something dramatic.   Mountains, molehills and all that.

Sure, there are people starving in third world countries and the US may be on the verge of becoming one economically - wars are being fought, globals are being warmed, dogs and cats are secretly plotting against each other ...

... and even with all that drama on a macro scale, we have micro scale things, like Mike White's peer review blues, which inspired the name of this post; because nothing drives home my point about a search for a cell phone being completely overblown than comparing it to, you know, his life's work.

I like to think I am a simple man.   I want things either as basic as possible or as cool as possible.   Not much in-between.    I still use my Replay DVR, for example, because it was to TiVo what a Ferrari is to a Prius.   I have a few (okay, three) of those crappy cable company DVRs which do basically nothing but the kind of recording I could do on any hard drive, except they do it in high-definition and Replay cannot, so they are worth the somewhat ridiculous (you do not want to know my monthly cable bill) expense.  I think.   But if I didn't overspend wildly on cable I would just have an antenna hooked up and then watch movies instead of TV.

So it goes with cell phones.   I replaced a very basic Motorola StarTAC phone (analog) that worked virtually everywhere only when something truly revolutionary came along, like the Palm Treo 600.  The Treo did not work as well as the Motorola as a phone because, let's face it, digital phone technology that supposedly has clearer sound yet works in far fewer places is not great(have you noticed we have trained an entire generation of young people to be the first in history to go backwards in their expectation of quality in both sound reproduction, like MP3s, and phone service?) but it does a lot of other cool stuff.   Way before it was chic I could watch movies, play Madden football and virtually any other game, send text messages, have my contact database, etc. 

And I didn't need an Ayatollah (I mean you Steve Jobs) to tell me what I could put on my phone.   The Treo let me be an adult and load on whatever I wanted, a somewhat totalitarian policy that has caused even the guy who wrote the Facebook app for iPhone to rebel against their Draconian policies (and don't even get me started on the exercise in zen it was getting our approval to do an app for the iPhone) but there are a few things the Treo cannot do.

It can't operate on the high-speed network and the browser won't take javascript.

I have a wireless laptop card from Verizon and it works quite well so my first inclination was to use Verizon.   My Treo is on T-mobile but they didn't carry the 650 so I had to buy one and unlock it myself to get it to work when my 600 died.

I don't have much interest in the newer Treo because it is Windows Mobile and I have been with T-Mobile a long time but not because their network is anything special so I went for Verizon.

I tried out the Samsung Omnia because it got great reviews.   It's one of those swanky touchscreen things.   

It's probably fine for people who want a phone as part of their identity but for someone who just wants a phone that can do web and email stuff, it isn't so great.    Their web browser may be fine for regular people but to do anything of value of Scientific Blogging you need to log in.    And since the screens are tiny they want to zoom in when you click on things - but I need to be able to click on a log-in and enter my name and password.

And it has this nasty habit of deleting email.   Every single time I checked email it would delete the emails I already had downloaded.    I am not exactly new to software technology so I looked for every setting I could find to stop that from happening.  No luck.

Thanks for stinking, Omnia.   And an even bigger thank you for not caring, Verizon.

Luckily I had a 30-day out clause on the phone, so I took it back to try and get some help and the people in the Verizon store who bragged about their onsite support staff told me they could not help with why my email did not work and how to keep keypad from filling in words and I had to call technical support.     Worse, it had been 31 days since I bought the phone so they couldn't let me trade it in on anything else.   Obviously the 31 day thing is my fault - I knew it stunk for a while but I didn't use it much and when it finally annoyed me to where I couldn't take it, I was too late.  But all I asked for was a different Omnia to see if I could get the browser to work and not delete my email every time I checked it.   No, that was not possible.

The great thing about being in my position in life is I never have to get mad about anything stupid like that.    I cancelled it on the spot and paid the $150 penalty, to the surprise of the monkey behind the counter.    So Verizon, if you're wondering why someone would be with you one day over the out clause and still cancel your crappy service it's because you have crappy service - not the network, your commercials always talk about the network and that's smart because it's one thing you can easily control.   People are a different issue.

I'd rather pay $150 now than $100 a month (or whatever - see, I can't even tell you how much it cost a month, which means Verizon is losing the people they should want to lose the least - those with too much money and who never look at the bill) for something that's crap but if your management had a clue they would empower someone in stores to say, "Here, try this Blackberry Tour" or whatever and not sweat the one day.   
So if anyone wants a barely used Omnia that's probably fine if you like the touchscreen thing and don't mind email that disappears,  let me know.  Otherwise, it's going on Ebay.    They sell for probably $250 or so in stores so I will get less than that on Ebay (which means I lost $150-200 on the phone) but I get to write this article ridiculing Verizon (at least in Folsom, California - your experience may be different, people being people) for lacking a clue.    Obviously they are having the last laugh since they got me to buy a phone which is useless to do anything except the web browsing and email (it has wi-fi and bluetooth along with phone) which I already hated.

Since I already have T-Mobile, I did some research and decided to try out the T-Mobile Sidekick LX.   Like the Omnia, it got good reviews though, like Omnia, I am convinced these reviewers use this stuff for one day and write something up.    It has a real keyboard, which may be better for a guy my size - on the Omnia I had to use the stylus anyway (which dangled off the side like a billy club and was pretty annoying) to write emails.   

Perfect in all ways except its browser doesn't seem to work with sites that have javascript, though admittedly I tried only one.   If it doesn't work with a site like ours, that is just about as compliant as you can get, too bad.

But this ain't my first rodeo so I went to the store to try it.   They advertise 'real web browsing' but I looked at a coverage map and their high speed network here isn't as good as Verizon's - 5 miles up the hill from my house it drops to regular speed so it won't be all that real.

The problem?   Their crappy browser couldn't even load our site.   It apparently doesn't accept javascript.  How many modern sites will have no javascript, unless they are written specifically for crappy mobile browsers that don't take javascript?   Even my old Treo accepts javascript, it's just really slow.   The Omnia accepted javascript just fine (they use Opera as the browser, my favorite for the last 10 years) their stupid haptics just made it impossible to click on the log-in button and instead it kept zooming in and out.

So I am stumped.  If this thing is going to get used, it has to have email and a browser that can substitute for a laptop.   It won't be Apple, because I don't want to encourage a company run by a smarmy muckspout (I did like Mike White's iPod Touch well enough, when he was at the AAAS conference out here) and it can't be Verizon since I just indignantly cancelled their service.

What else is there?  Does anyone know of a T-Mobile that has a big enough screen to bother with, a keyboard and can actually work with 99% of the sites in the world that have javascript?