Visual Voicemail fixed

One of the oh-so-cute features of the iPhone is visual voicemail, the “duh” feature of showing you an actual on-screen list of your voicemails instead of making you sit through voice prompts.

Bad: My iPhone mysteriously reverted to the classic “press 7 to delete” system when I changed rate plans a couple weeks ago… with voice mail disabled altogether so callers couldn’t leave messages until I noticed it and set up a new password.

A little Googling indicates this is a fairly common mix-up, and the only way to restore visual voicemail is to call AT&T tech support and have them fiddle with your account settings.

Good: AT&T tech support was able to fix the account settings so it works again… after a half hour on hold… :)

WTF: The AT&T tech swore that visual voicemail doesn’t work if you have a WiFi connection active. He had me disable WiFi while initially testing it, then when I asked him about it he told me outright that Visual Voicemail only works on the EDGE network and therefore you must turn off WiFi to check your voicemail.

This is demonstrably false; just to confirm I hadn’t been crazy for the couple of months my voicemail was working just fine, I turned WiFi back on, left myself a voicemail, and retrieved it just fine in all its visual glory.

It’s entirely possible that the voicemails still download over EDGE, but having the WiFi up doesn’t seem to interfere at all.

Now if they can just add a feature to route phone calls over WiFi, I could actually get calls through from my flat. 😉

Google Transit WTF?

One of the great joys of my life is Google Maps. It’s attractive, fast, easy to use, usually gives workable directions, and lets you do cute things like customize your route with a simple drag-and-drop (ooooh).

Plus it’s built in to iPhones now. 😀

But… When you’ve gone carless in the big city, the driving directions aren’t always helpful — you want to find the best metro or bus route to take.

There’s a fairly complete online trip planner for Bay Area transit at, but it fails in every way that Google Maps succeeds — it’s ugly, slow, confusing, and if you want to adjust to an alternate route it’s almost impossible to figure out how.

Google keeps taunting me with a little link on Maps to “take public transit” which never ever is able to find any directions from anywhere to anywhere.

Eventually I discovered that it does give you directions… but only if you put in exact train stations as your start and end points. If I already know which stations I need, I hardly need a transit planner now do I?

Even if it did work, here in San Francisco it includes BART but not MUNI, which has more in-town rail lines and about a hojillion buses and thus is far more likely to be what I’d take.

Update 2008-05-08: It actually works now!


So my fiancée and I recently moved into a cute little Victorian flat in San Francisco. Not the fanciest place, but it was a great price for the neighborhood and it’s got character.

One element of character in an older building is, naturally, batshit-insane electrical wiring.

The flat has a pretty classic linear layout: living room out front, den behind it, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and a hallway going all along the side. You’d think this would give a natural way to partition the electrical circuits by part of the house — in case of overload, one room at a time should go, right?

But no. For some mysterious reason, about 90% of the wall sockets are on the same circuit. That means my computer in the den, the microwave in the kitchen, and the space heater in the bathroom.

So if I’m so foolish as to try to fire up the computer to check my e-mail while my oatmeal’s in the micro and my lady’s in the shower, *boom*. It all goes out.


Ubuntu Gutsy vs Parallels

There’s some awful problem with video mode detection in Ubuntu Gutsy on a Parallels 3 virtual machine… I finally got the installer up at 800×600, only to discover that the buttons in the wizard don’t fit on screen:

Further you can’t resize the window vertically.

Luckily I can sort of get it to fit by moving the desktop panels to the sides… 😀