Loving my Windows Phone (HTC HD7)!

3 12 2010

It has been a year and a half since my last blog post, in which I proclaimed how much I enjoy my new Nokia phone. So I figured it would be appropriate to re-start my blogging (hmmm, not sure I am ready to commit to that, but I’ll try for a few posts a year) with an announcement that now I have a new phone, that I absolutely love, and which beats every other phone so far!

Introducing Windows PhoneHTC HD7!

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I love it!





Loving my Nokia 5800 XpressMusic!

8 05 2009

Recently I finally got fed up with my mobile phone and decided to get a new one. My good old T-Mobile Wing and I had a nice few years but phone had some serious flaws, namely that it was slow and frequently running out of memory, and was ending up in situations where taking out the battery was the only possible fix.

Nokia5800XpressMusic6 The title of this posts reveals which new phone I ended up getting, but I have to say that Nokia (or any other Symbian-based) phone wasn’t even a remote possibility when I started looking. I put together a set of criteria on what is important to me and then did an extensive research online, and even went into some local mobile shops to check out phones in person. I completely accidentally stumbled upon Nokia 5800 XpressMusic review and to my surprise – it won hands down!

Here is what I was looking for…

Good phone, damn it!!! This is about signal strength, sound quality, battery life (even – shock – being able to change the battery), stability and responsiveness, and the form factor (large, and especially very wide, flat screen is pretty but really not handy for a phone). It is unbelievable to me how some recent “cool” phones completely miss the mark on this. 5800 totally aced all of the above – after all this is a Nokia phone (call it my Euro-trash snobbism but we love our Finnish phones).

Fun and cool: Yeah, I am done with the business phones. They are either ugly, or those that do look nice are not much fun. 5800 is a head-turner and tons of fun!

Great (full) browser: At the very least being able to browse full pages, preferably with the Flash support. Since I quickly narrowed down my choices to a touch phone this is also about a nice touch navigation. 5800 comes with Nokia’s WebKit based browser which works great, satisfying all of the above. Hell, it even supports feeds.

Works good as a music player: This does not mean fancy interface for “flipping” through music which I find slow and clumsy, and anyway I don’t really want to _look_ at my phone while I listen to music. Rather this is about being able to play popular music formats, select music effectively, and use the standard headphones. I hate non-standard (USB included) headphone jacks! Since 5800 sports a standard 3.5mm jack I can use my nice noise canceling headphones with it.

Syncs my Exchange contacts and calendar over the air: I keep all my contacts in Exchange so this is very important. But note that I left out email syncing. That is on purpose since I am either always next to a desktop/notebook computer, or I can just browse to OWA and see all my email. Nokia 5800 comes by default with “Mail for Exchange” app that does that, as well as syncs the email inbox.

Well supported OS that makes sense: What I mean by this is that I didn’t want silly proprietary one-off Operating Systems written just to get a few gadgets on the screen but rather an OS that third party developers care to write apps for. Also preferred not to take OS governed by fruity fascists, or one made to lock you into particular services and advertising schemes. (no links, interpret that as you wish ;-)
Symbian may at first look like a little odd choice, but there’s no doubt it has tons of supporters and existing applications. In fact, with 5800’s support for Symbian S60v3+ apps, Java apps, as well as Web Widgets, I am discovering new apps and games daily…

Inexpensive, unlocked, international: I was and am expecting lots of fun development in the mobile space in the coming years so I didn’t want to pay too much for the phone now. At the same time I travel reasonably often and usually internationally, so it would be nice to be able to buy and use cheap local pre-paid GSM SIM cards while abroad. Clearly this also meant that phone had to be quad-band GSM (so some US providers that don’t use GSM were quickly disqualified) and it was preferable not to switch carriers and take another contract.

Decent camera: I am not looking to replace my camera with the phone but being able to take decent photos when I forget the actual camera would be nice. 5800 comes with 3.2 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens and LED flash.

Multiple input methods: Being able to use touch only is a must, given I decided to get a touch phone, but I actually really liked my old phone’s stylus and handwriting recognition. Nokia 5800 provides both. I never have to use stylus, and full-screen-landscape-keyboard is fantastic. But the stylus is there and handwriting recognition supported.

Some other fun things that 5800 has are GPS (enables some very useful apps), very good video player (kind of silly to watch videos on the phone but I suspect Maksim might like it), TV Out, Office and PDF file viewer, voice control, upgradeable memory (what a concept!), it syncs my Hotmail and other inboxes seamlessly, and so much more…

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Phone is, of course, not without a fault. Double-touch approach to touch-UI is questionable (one to select then one more to execute; though this really does save one from incorrect input and I really got used to it), browser likes to default to a mobile version of a page, connection manager settings are way overly complex (should be as simple as “use wi-fi if available, otherwise use data connection”) and some apps like to offer their own separate connection settings, camera is not good enough to replace your main photo camera (like some other recent phones can), MfE only syncs inbox emails not the subfolders (or at least I didn’t find how to set that up)… but these are minor compared to all the great things about this phone.

One single major problem, actually with buying any unlocked 3G phone, is with 3G frequencies. This one has proven pretty much impossible to satisfy with an unlocked phone, at least without me switching providers (from T-Mobile to AT&T).

It turns out that EU and far east all use different 3G frequencies than the ones we use in the USA, so European/World phones don’t support US 3G networks. And since I insist on GSM for voice my only choice of providers is T-Mobile or AT&T. Lastly, since AT&T doesn’t have a signal where I live I really have no choice whatsoever – T-Mobile it is. And their 3G frequency is the weirdest of all and has the least phones supporting it. So phones that are advertised as US 3G phones actually support only AT&T network.

Since there is no such things as “tri-band” or “quad-band” 3G phone I was unable to find 5800 that would support T-Mobile’s 3G network. I don’t care much, phone’s wi-fi support is great and EDGE works well in other cases.

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Now, if you have, or plan on getting, this same Nokia here is some really cool (and all free) software for you to install:

  • Shozu – share your photos, videos and status on any of the major services, track Facebook friend status, and much more.
  • Nimbuzz – perfect messaging, with support for all major IM services, as well as VOIP; has version optimized for Nokia 5800 with perfect touch-UI
  • amAze – free navigation software! (Nokia Maps is far better but you need to pay for it after first 30 days)
  • Google Maps – maps, local search, directions, traffic… all using the built-in GPS
  • Nokia Photo Browser – stunning 3D photo browser with magnifier, face detection and more (check out the video at that link)

And then there are tons of other apps (YouTube client, weather widgets that use GPS to detect your position, Fring, Paint Pad, X-plore, RoadSync for advanced Exchange syncing support etc) and games (Touch Piano, Block Breaker, Prince of Persia, and piles and piles more).

 

Brief comparison with iPhone is in order, I guess. I quickly disqualified iPhone because using AT&T and spending tons of money were not options for me. It could have been a serious contender  but even then I think Nokia 5800 would still have won my heart.

I do think that iPhone’s interface is more polished, that Safari is a better browser, and that there are more apps for the iPhone.

On the other hand, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is cheaper, is a better phone, battery seems to last forever (and can be changed), form factor is more handy (narrower than iPhone), haptic feedback is wonderful, there are tons of free apps, multitasking and task manager work like a charm, camera is better than iPhone’s, and really – it is a phone about choice rather than having something pushed down your throat. Last but certainly not least – not everyone has 5800, so it really does get a lot of attention (who cares about iPhone anymore, anyway?)

 

BTW, I am not alone – recently it has been reported that Nokia has sold 3 million units of 5800 XpressMusic in just over a quarter, and that 5800 is a best selling music player in the UK, surpassing even Nokia’s expectations (in spite of their abysmal earnings results).

Part of me hates to say it (those who know me will know why) but after many many years I am finally LOVING MY PHONE!





Playground

6 04 2009

Maki enjoying a playground at Stanley park in Vancouver.

Posted by ShoZu





In Bruges

17 03 2009
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Ah, Bruges, the Venice of the North, one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world… you just have to love it! Like they said in the “In Bruges” movie: “It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s fucking thing?”

Hell, just look at this red-door-with-reflection detail. If I framed a large version of this photo I could easily sell if for hundreds of dollars at the local art festival!

Wifey has several blog posts with photos of the beautiful Bruges.

Of course, for me one of the main attractions was beer!

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Those are Leffe Bruin (my favorite) and Steenbrugge (Bruges’s own, also great) Belgian abbey beers. My other favorites, also consumed during our visit to Belgium, include Duvel, Grimbergen and Chimay.

I could live in (or near) Belgium just to have a steady access to those beers…





Mussels in Brussels

16 03 2009

When in Brussels for sure you must have Mussels with fries… just don’t call them “French fries”, they actually originate from Belgium.

But first something that really made me laugh. This is a display window for a souvenir shop in Brussels, in vicinity of the Manneken Pis.

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The label claims this is a “Limited Edition” T-shirt. Indeed. Given the endless government crisis in Belgium perhaps Obama taking over is not completely out of question.

 

American influence can be seen in more ways than just through the open support for our new president. Check this out!

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Unfortunately this Scientology center was closed so I couldn’t improve my life on the spot and get rid of my body-thetans. Could this be because Belgians consider Scientology to be a “criminal organization”?

 

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Anyway, to wrap up, mussels in Brussels are indeed wonderful. If you find yourself at the Grote Markt try a nearby Chez Leon restaurant; they’ve been in business here for well over hundred years.





London

14 03 2009

I am finally able to find time to blog about the trip we took to Europe last Christmas. My wifey already posted about all the wonderful things from our trip but I wanted to point out a few random things that caught my attention.

Firstly, if you know me you’ll know I love coffee. And who would imagine that land of the afternoon tea is also the land of the 24/7 coffee?! It turns out London has almost as many coffee shops as Seattle, only far fewer Starbucks ones. That being said, if you get a chance do drop by Starbucks in London – pastry being offered is totally different from what you can find in USA, and far far better (example: the one in Covent Garden was offering Belgian chocolate cake… yum!)

I really enjoyed this excellent coffee in a small quiet place in Kensington:

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Most omnipresent chain was “Costa’s” who’s trademark decoration is a chocolate star:

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Boxing Day sales in London were totally crazy. Check out these Selfridges ads:

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These turned out to be warning signs really, since Selfridges was attacked by hordes of people trying to buy that discounted Louis Vuitton or Prada bag… Maksim and I had to escape out of the store while wifey stayed behind to bravely fight the barbarian invasion.

 

One of the most messed up things about UK is that they are driving on the wrong side of the road (saying “left side” doesn’t express my feelings accurately enough). I wonder how many dead tourists it took to add these signs to the London streets?

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Driving on the left side should go the way of the…
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Dodo!!! (yes, this was just a silly excuse to include a picture of Dodo I took at London’s Natural History Museum)

 

All in all, we LOVED London and we had great time and tons of fun!





Triple monitor setup

3 02 2009

For years now I’ve been running a dual monitor setup at work on my main (development) machine. Most recent setup consists of two gorgeous 24” WS Samsung SyncMaster monitors running on nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS video card.

A few months ago I realized that I have a spare 20” monitor and wondered what it would be like to setup a triple monitor configuration. And now I cannot believe I ever lived without it! I am now able to keep my email/Outlook always visible on the left monitor, source code editor/debugger in the middle, and the rest (usually browser or remote session) on the right. Amazing!

See for yourself:

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Wonderful gizmo that made a third monitor possible is EVGA UV Plus+ external USB video card (no, it is not a typo, they actually called it Plus-Plus… doh!). UV16 can only push resolution up to 1600×1200 but that happened to be perfect since that’s all that my 20” Samsung (third and left most on the photo) can handle.

If you do set yourself up with three monitor desktop you might want to visit this and this for some nice backgrounds…








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