CCL Computers and the case of the well, crap case

Hi folks, yeah, the blog isn’t dead although for the amount of attention I give it sometimes it might as well be but it comes in handy at times like this when illuminating more than the 140 characters that Twitter allows.

So I thought I’d like to share a little something with you. I’ve been a longstanding customer of CCL Computers. Barring the motherboard and RAM, all the other components in my current desktop I purchased from them including the monitor. I’ve always been very happy with their service and quality of products which probably makes this all the worse.

You see, if it had been a first purchase and I’d received the pitiful excuse of a desktop computer that they sent me then I’d have just chalked it down to yet another poor quality merchant, sent it back, got my money and gone elsewhere, but when you’ve ordered stuff from a company over the years you build up a trust relationship. When that comes crashing to the ground it hurts, especially when you’ve recommended them to friends as a good and trusted supplier.

However, I have a sorry tale to tell about my recent experience with CCL Computers that I’d like to share.

A couple of weeks ago the computer used as the main office PC for an organisation run by a friend of mine broke. Technically it didn’t, the OS, Windows XP went completely tits up to the point of it being impossible to restore and the system restore discs seem to have disappeared too. So it was a case of grabbing a copy of Windows 7 to put on it or just take the opportunity to do an upgrade. The system in question was about 8 years old and would cost more to upgrade to make it capable of running Windows 7 than simply getting a new one. So with all his files safely recoved by the use of a Live Linux CD we decided to do a full blown new purchase.

Now my friend in question was due to go off abroad on holiday over Christmas so he woudn’t be around to receive collection of a new machine so we decided to order him a new computer, a proper Vanilla version of Windows 7 and Office Pro 2007 and I’d set it all up for him while he’s away. He’s back soon btw and expecting a fully functional computer that I promised him.

We found the PC we wanted from CCL Computers, made a few adjustments to specs and tried to place an order but we couldn’t specify a different delivery address as apparently, and this is quite reasonable from an anti-fraud perspective; you can’t do this on a first purchase after registering an account.

So, we went to the extra trouble of contacting our bank, thankfully we have the same one and getting the money transferred from his account to mine so that I could purchase the machine on his behalf and get it delivered to my address.

It came the other week.

I took it out the box and put it on the kitchen surface. It wobbled. I inspected it, one of the leg pins was bent in so it wouldn’t stand straight. Then I looked at it a bit closer, the back panel section was bent quite considerably outwards to the point where you would have problems plugging the cables into the interface sockets on the motherboard. Then I looked even closer, the top of the one side of the case at the rear was completely buckled in.

OK I thought after also spotting that the polystyrene surround in the packaging was also damaged, this thing has been dropped quite heavily, or something heavy dropped on it. Hey, it’s Christmas, the weather’s interferring with deliveries up and down the land, accidents do happen.

So, I called up CCL Computers on the phone, explained what I thought had happened and they said no problem, we’ll get someone to pick it up and they’ll sort it out. Great I thought. I explained the situation, that I was on a timescale in getting this thing up and running for my friend’s return and they said they’d be as quick as they can.

It got picked up. I got an e-mail confirming they’d received the unit for inspection. Then, rather surprisingly, the following day I received the computer back. Wow, great turnaround service I thought. That was until I took it out the box and put it on the kitchen surface. It wobbled and rocked. The backplate still stuck out from the connectors on the motherboard.

At first I thought they’d just sent exactly the same computer back. I got on the phone. This was Christmas Eve btw.

I was told the case had been changed. I looked carefully at it, yes the buckle in the case at the top was no longer present. So this was a new case with the same wonkey leg and buckled out backplate? Apparently yes I was told, they’re quite cheap cases so the guy on the other said and if I wanted better I’d have to pay more money.

Now I’ll admit I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve been building computers right since it was pretty much possible to do it with more standard components. Since 1992 in fact. In that time I’ve seen some ‘cheap cases’, one’s which to be frank, I would fancy dropping but in all that time, I’ve never seen even the cheapest or nastiest of cases that came brand new incapable of standing up straight on a flat surface or that has a backplate so bent outwards that it actual inhibits the ability to stick the cables in the motherboard. I’m not sure if it’s just me or my age but when exactly was a case that stands straight or has a non-buckled backplate considered to be a premium quality of PC’s that you should expect to pay extra for.

They asked if I could send them pictures, I did one better and did a video and posted it to Youtube. It’s at the end of this post. I’ve tweeted at them, sent them a message via their online submission form on their website to get in touch. As yet they haven’t. Well, it is Christmas time after all so I’m reasonable to give them a bit of a break but it’s Tuesday now and still nothing.

I’ll give them another couple of hours and then I’ll be on the phone. They said they couldn’t collect till Thursday anyway when I spoke to them but as things stand, I fear I can do nothing more than send this piece of crap back, get my money, go elsewhere and drop them on the blacklist of companies I’ll never bother doing business with again which is a real shame.

The problem is now, I’m going to have to source another machine, get it delivered and what’s the chance they’re not going to refund my money straight away so I’m going to be forced into raiding the savings (yes it is just after Christmas and like everyone else I’m skint) just to be able to get a new machine up and running before my friend returns from holiday.

Thank you so much for all this hassle and fuss CCL Computers. Just because you couldn’t supply me with a computer in a case that wasn’t a load of old crap. I also have a tip; this is exactly the kind of practice that turns good longstanding customers like myself who have recommended you to friends into people who never want to do business with you again, and will tell their friends why.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZQS1LrtskQ[/youtube]

Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth Headset Review

Finally getting round to this post which to be fair I should have done nearly a month ago but I’ve been having the worst kind of writers block recently that’s rendered me almost incapable of writing anything beyond the few characters allowed for a tweet on Twitter. This thankfully seems to be lifting now and so I’m getting down to polishing off some things I really should have done, one of which obviously being this review.

So without further ado, I was sent a set of the Nokia BH-905 Bluetooth stereo headphones to have a play with for a fortnight. Here’s what they look like:

nokia 905 bluetooth headset

Not small and decidedly classical in form factor is probably the best description. Definitely not designed to be unobtrusive while wearing either and certainly not lightweight. Which incidentally in my case are nice and attractive attributes.

These things aren’t cheap either at a quid shy of £200 but they are quality which explains the price tag. I get quite finicky about build quality on almost everything I buy. Nothing irks me more than the feeling something I’ve purchased feels like it’s been knocked out on the cheap to improve a company’s profit margins and I haven’t got a problem with paying that bit extra to get something of quality. That’s why my garden fork is over 40 years old, has a fork made from a single piece of properly forged British steel and a hardened ash wooden handle. It’s as tough as the day it was made and not one of those rubbish welded fork section with handle that’ll break if you use it too much £10 jobbies from B&Q.

The BH-905 headset is up there in the quality stakes so it gets a thumbs up on that count. Well constructed, feels solid, no squeaky bits of plastic that I noticed and unlike my old Panasonic headphones, I don’t see the padded ear cushions breaking up and peeling either.

Bits in the box:

Usually when you get a new device or whatever sort it is, there’s a few extras included, maybe connector cable and charger but two thing I did like about the headset wasn’t just that it came with adaptors and connectors for almost all occasions but the box itself or should I say case. Here it is:

Nokia-bh-905-case

Here’s the case open with all the bits and bobs in it too:

nokia-bh-905-case-open

I’m not sure what the exterior of the case is made from but again the quality feel comes through. I’m going have a guess at it being leather as opposed to some sort of vinyl coating. I could be wrong but I don’t think Nokia would have appreciated me taking a knife to it to find out. Either way, it’s lovely and I liked it.

The important stuff, actually using it:

A product can look lovely, exude quality but if it performs badly at what it’s supposed to do then it’s pretty much worthless. Equally, in the case of something like headphones any appraisal is highly subjective as the facets being analysed aren’t readily reproducible through the medium of text and pictures so you’re at the mercy of the background knowledge of the person assessing it.

For the record, I used to do sound engineering, it was a long time ago but I think I know the odd thing about how things should sound.

Wearability: (not an actual word in the English language but it should be)

They’re not a light headset at 175grammes so you definitely feel that you’re wearing them. There’s also a slight weight imbalance in them with the left being heavier than the right. I presume this is as the battery is on the left hand side. (must be the battery but happy to be corrected) It’s not a problem, they don’t slip down on the one side because of it or anything like that but it is noticeable (just about). In practical terms it’s irrelevant though. There’s plenty of adjustment settings to fit different sized heads and they sit quite comfortably and firmly in place. Contrasting this to my old Panasonic headphones the BH-905 is great in term of staying where it should and not slipping off.

The padded ear pieces sit nice and comfortably on the ears. They don’t encompass the ear area completely, (and I have relatively small ears) they do let in some external sound around the tragus so we’re not talking passive noise cancellation here which is not so much of a problem as they have an active noise cancellation system. More on that in a bit.

Battery:

I charged it twice in the fortnight I had it and it saw me through plenty of commuting and generally knocking around and using around the house. From a purely user perspective I call that fairly good. The only gripe I would have is that when the battery gets low and music is being played over bluetooth there is a noticeable deterioration in the quality. It simply going dead when it hasn’t got the juice would probably be better from an end user experience.

Sound Quality:

Obviously the most important aspect of an aural related device. I tested it across a wide range of music from classical through to heavy rock and it was very good. I don’t personally go in for music with really heavy bass so I didn’t test it to the extreme in that area but as far as I did test it on bass it performed well. Having a bit of an ear for it, I can tell the difference between music being played back over bluetooth as opposed to a straight wired connection. I’ll be honest on this one, I couldn’t tell the difference with the BH-905, apart from when the battery was running out of course. Overall, very good across all the frequencies that I have the ability to modify on my not so posh hifi.

Active Noise Cancellation:

This is the only headset I’ve ever used that has this so it was a bit of a first and obviously I can’t compare it to anything else in terms of its performance so purely from a subjective point of view I thought it was good. It didn’t cancel out absolutely everything (as in lorries going past me at the bus stop, although it got dangerously close). It did annoy Mrs Penguin as I couldn’t hear her talking to me; I will leave that up to the reader as whether it’s a plus or minus point. However I did enjoy having it on public transport. I will don my grumpy old git hat here but there is nothing more irritating than being forced to listen to the incomprehensible shite that passes for music of da yoof played through pisspoor tinny mobile phone speakers on the bus. Especially when you’re trying to listen to your own music with headphones on and you can still hear theirs. The least they could do is buy a Nokia 5800XM, the music may still be crap but at least it would sound reasonably good on its rather impressive external stereo speakers. Old git rant over. For this alone I really liked the BH-905 headset.

Controls:

All bar the active noise cancellation switch are located on the right side of the headset. They’re easy to use, functional and do the job. Really there’s not much more to say. Good tactile feedback from the clicks but took me a bit of getting used to. I’ll put this down to although being ambidextrous, I tend to favour doing controls with my left hand, just personal preference but I’d hazard a guess the focus of the design would be on right-handed people as they make up the majority.

Criticisms or lack of functions:

I can only really come up with two areas that I would criticise the BH-905 for. When I did a review of the BH-214 bluetooth headset I liked the nifty way it had a 3.5mm audio-out jack meaning it could be plugged into external devices and used to stream content elsewhere. Given the BH-905 is the top of the range, an extra audio-jack socket would have been good. The second criticism I have is the audio-in jack. This is handy because if the battery dies, it can still be used with a direct cable connection although obviously the active noise control doesn’t work then. So I have to ask, why a 2.5mm socket? I can understand them having been used in handsets where space is an absolute premium although almost all now have 3.5mm sockets but it just seems wrong to have a 2.5mm socket on a headset. Apart from that minor point, I enjoyed the headset overall.

Conclusion:

Top notch quality from a build perspective, very good on all the audio fronts and connectivity. I realise I didn’t do a specific section on the bluetooth connectivity but suffice to say, it just worked. Plenty of extras in the box for all occasions. Would definitely suit grumpy old buggers like me who use public transport.

Nokia N97 Review

Along with the BH-214 that I reviewed last week, also came an N97 handset. This one to be precise:

Nokia N97 on table with slider out

I will admit I was a bit dismissive of it as a handset when I did my rather long review and thinking aloud post about what I was planning for my next mobile phone last year. Some of those criticisms are valid but others were less so after having the chance to use it for a fortnight as my main device.

It’s hard to know where to start so in time honoured tradition I’ll break it down into a series of header sections.

Build Quality:

I’m very particular when it comes to build quality, almost slightly obsessive about it but if you’re going to fork out serious money or tie yourself up to a contract till the end of time to get a handset then it would be nice to think it’s well made and isn’t going to fall apart on you.

Here the N97 scores very well. It’s solidly put together, no noticeable plastic creaking noises or loose bits with only one exception. The main menu button on the front I felt had a little too much sideways play to it but apart from that it was solid.

I’ll also note that I did notice a rather large scratch down the camera lens. This was a known (now fixed) issue with the originally produced versions of the N97. This means that the handset I tested out was one of the originals and presumably has been around for quite a while. Despite it’s age I didn’t notice anything like weakness in the screen hinge section which is another good plus for it as I do quite like that form factor design.

Form Factor:

That leads nicely on to the next section. I like elongated phones, I’m not that keen on the squat chubby style phones like Blackberry’s Iphones and even my own N900. I like length and a clearly defined top, bottom and sides layout.

Here it suits me very well and just feels right whether in the hand or pocket, it’s where it should be and no fussing about or confusion.

The snap out hinge system when using it in landscape mode felt very intuitive and a definite plus over a more tradition slide out QWERTY keyboard.

Hardware functionality:

Here I’ll be concentrating solely on the functionality of the hardware of the phone. Its buttons, keys, touch screen and the like. I’ll do software functionality separately.

The QWERTY keyboard:

I’d tried N97′s in shops from time to time since it was launched and I didn’t like it. Bear in mind for most of that period I had a Nokia E90 Communicator which arguably has the best QWERTY keyboard ever plonked on a mobile phone. The E90 is obviously a lot bigger and has acres more space to play with because of a different hinge system but in equal measure, now with an N900 which has less space available, it’s keyboard is still better to use than the N97′s.

There are three factors in my mind at work here. Key travel (the actual amount of depression available to the key, the shape of the key and tactile feedback. The E90 has quite a spongy feeling keyboard to use but the keys are shaped in such a way that reduced miss-keying with their raised bottom bevel edge and equally provide a good amount of travel that reassures the user the key has been pressed. On the N900 there’s not as much key travel which may account for the increase in typos on my Tweets but the raised centre leading down on all sides bevel coupled with a distinctly clicky tactile feedback make up for this.

The N97 in contrast loses out here. The keys are quite small to begin with but have both little travel and less in the way of tactile feedback.

I also had an issue with the layout, often getting a ‘b’ when I wanted a ‘v’.

That said, after a week or so I became accustom to it and these issues subdued but I do think the keyboard could have been better and a lot of potential space has been wasted by including a D-Pad. Which moves us on nicely.

The D-Pad:

I never actually used it in general usage and in my mind it’s fairly redundant outside of perhaps games on a touch screen phone. By all means have cursor keys to fill this function but the D-Pad really wasn’t needed on this handset. Which is probably a good thing because I didn’t particularly like it either. Again spongy, flat, with little travel or tactile feedback and easy to hit a direction when you’re going for select. Not a patch on the clearly defined D-Pads I’ve used on the E90 and E65.

Exterior buttons and sliders:

Back to the good stuff now. Whether functionality wise, tactile feedback wise, the volume switch, power button, menu button, dial and hangup, camera button, lens cover slider and screen-lock slider all felt lovely to use. With only the bit of sideways play in the menu button they all felt solid, well engineered, gave the right amount of resistance and feedback and were in all the right places.

The only thing I’ll add as a note was the that the screen-lock slider took some getting used to as I’ve now become accustomed to the (what I originally though rather silly placing but now quite like) slider on the N900.

Touch Screen:

Here is an area where the cross-over between hardware and software make it harder to judge the quality on the basis of performance as they are significantly intertwined. On the whole, it’s a good responsive touch screen with functionality right up to the edges where some touch screens start to lose sensitivity or not register at all. It’s not as good as the touch screen on the N900 and it loses tracking. By which I mean, if I touch a specific point on my N900 and scroll the screen, the area displayed on the screen stays solidly underneath my finger. On the N97 it did move at a different rate. Not a massive amount, but enough to notice. Whether this loss of synchonisation is a software or a hardware issue is anyone’s guess but I’d probably put it down to software.

With that little quibble out the way, it is nice and responsive with the all important tactile feedback.

Off with the hardware and on to the software:

There will of course be some aspects of internal hardware I’ll have to touch on in this section because they have a bearing on the software and the experience it provides to a user but we’ll get round to that in a little while.

Software wise we’ve got Symbian S60 5th Edition running under the bonnet and it’s actually quite good and functional. I’ll note here, I did try out an N97 when they first came out with the original firmware and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t as bad as I subsequently read lots of reviews of it were portraying, but it wasn’t impressive either. The latest firmware which this device had pre-installed (so I didn’t need to flash it upon receipt) is considerably better.

Switching between portrait and landscape on the original firmware was sluggish but here it was nice and snappy as was orientation change when popping out the keyboard.

As far as screen customisation goes, I do like the idea of active widgets although it’s not in the league of the N900 for total customisable layout styles but equally, switching these layouts between landscape and portrait modes actually works really well which I accept would be an entirely different and far more difficult thing to achieve on the N900.

picture of Nokia N97 showing widget desktop

Initial set up was fairly easy with getting hold of my usual (when I was using a Symbian based device) applications through either straight downloads or off the Ovi Store, as was importing contacts from Funambol which meant I had a working handset with everything I’m used to in under an hour.

I have read other reviews that stated music library population and indexing took a lot of time but I didn’t find any kind of problem here, dropping my entire collection (circa 8GB) onto the device in under half an hour and indexing didn’t take more than a minute or two.

Performance:

Another area where the N97 has been criticised mainly along two lines of argument. Lack of RAM (128MB) and lack of any graphic acceleration chipage. I’m probably not the right person to evaluate graphic acceleration capabilities because I don’t tend to bother with games (which are where these are really put to the test) but with the increases in transitional effects and the draw on the core processor, it’s an area where the N97 lacks a bit of future proofing for what’s likely to come.

RAM-wise, for almost anything most people are likely to do with a phone it is adequate but given it’s high profile and the relative cheapness of chips, 256MB really should be on-board. Despite this it still manages to multi-task well with any slowing in performance or hangs only noticeable when it’s being severely tested with a good half a dozen applications open and running at the same time.

Device Application Memory is an issue, it’s really quite small with; from recollection, about 22MB free with a default installation. Enough to get a handful of applications on but not much more. Sure, you can always install applications on mass storage which isn’t short of space but some require installation on device memory and it is preferable to have them there.

Camera:

We’ve got the usual Carl Zeiss optics in place with a 5MPixel camera and it’s good, very good in fact. Balance and richness of images are all there by the bucket-load. I couldn’t think of anything truly exciting to take a sample picture of as it’s not like all the flowers are out yet so here’s a picture of Wolverhampton Police Station and the wall of my house (yes I know it need pointing, I’ll get round to it one day). Even zooming right it, the quality is definitely there which makes it more than capable as an imaging device.

Wolverhampton Police Station

picture of brick wall side of house

Battery Life:

The N97 comes with 1,500mAh BP-4L battery, same as the one in my E90 so I was expecting good life out of this little beast and it performed well. In my “Let’s try and kill the battery’ test I got it to last a little over 5 hours. This is with half a dozen applications running simultaneously all actively using things like 3G/Wifi connectivity, running music constantly via Bluetooth and with full geo-location GPS tracking going on at the same time. That’s a pretty good result in my book and more than I’d get out of my E90, at least the last time I tried doing that to it.

As for normal usage, it’ll easily see out a day (got it to last 2 days with fairly moderate usage) so no fears of having to carry a charger around or running out in the morning when you wake up.

GPS:

Not a lot to say here, it’s good, finds position in a second or two and stays locked to it which was very handy as I did have to use it for a fair bit of navigational work when I had the handset and with both Ovi Maps and Google Maps it worked great.

Bluetooth:

Again, nothing to grumble about, never dropped any music or calls, nice clear quality, file transfers were painless and range was fully up to scratch.

Data Connectivity:

No grumbles in this department. 3G/3.5G connections performed well where I know they should in the locality and wifi was solid as was switching between the two automatically.

The Pocket Test:

I’m a creature of habit. I like routines. One of which is how I arrange things in my pockets. Usually it’s simple. Things that might scratch my mobile phone like keys, lighters, boxes of matches I’ve long since learnt to segregate so under normal circumstances these go in my right pocket. Wallet and mobile in my left. However with all this stuff in my trouser pockets and dependent on how much small change has accumulated in my wallet, it can get quite cramped in there so the last thing I want is erroneous stuff going on like my phone being accidentally activated, turning off my music or calling someone.

My current N900 fails the pocket test miserably, to the point that I’ve had to resort to putting it in my inside coat pocket which isn’t optimal for me because the slightest rub of wallet against phone against thigh starts and usually completely opens the slider and therefore activates the phone.

The N97 in contrast passes with flying colours, as the slider requires both a small amount of vertical force as well as horizontal force to open. As it’s wedged between wallet and thigh it can’t achieve the vertical force and stays nicely shut. I like that.

Final Conclusions:

Despite reading a fair few articles knocking it, and my own initial impressions of the device it’s certainly gone up in my expectations. It’s not perfect by any means and there’s a few things that I don’t like such as the keyboard (although after a week or so it’s not as bad as I first thought).

It’s got solid build quality and I’m sure could take a fair few knocks over time. Battery life is good, form factor is very nice by my preferences.

It could do with a little more oomph in the power stakes with more RAM in particular to give it that edge and definitely a keyboard with more tactile feedback and travel in the keys. To be precise, the D-Pad should probably not be there and a few extra/bigger keys inserted in its place.

Size and weight wise I like it, enough of a presence to make itself felt in the pocket and known it’s not fallen out or got swiped by a toe-rag.

The OS is functional and performs well. I’m sure people complain about it not being pretty and slick but I still take functionality and capability over effects and prettiness any day.

Looking back, had I bought one as a replacement for my E90 when I was deciding on a new phone, I don’t think I would have been disappointed but equally I don’t think it would have ‘wowwed’ me in the same way the N900 has.

(Another post, including all graphic image cropping [with GIMP] and rendering done on an N900 with the exception of example images which was just easier to do on the desktop).

Nokia BH-214 Bluetooth Headset Review

This is the first of what may become a series of techie reviews. The upshot is, I’ve done a few reviews in the past on books, bits of technology that have either been things I’ve bought myself or those that have been sent to me from companies like Toshiba but Nokia have agreed to send me various bits of kit to play with and generally say what I think ‘which is nice’. (That’s an in joke between me and an old Finnish mate, who coincidentally also works for Nokia).

The deal is, just so everyone’s clear. I don’t get to keep anything, get paid for writing nice things and anyone who has been reading my blog in the past knows I’ll give credit where it’s due but not hold back on criticism or where I think things are lacking.

So here is the little unit in it’s box which is the first area I’d like to comment on.

I know most manufacturers have gone down the road in recent years in reducing packaging which is a very good thing and there’s plenty of recyclable card and plastic in the packaging for the BH-214 but looking at what’s in the box, it’s clear that it’s not the unit itself that takes up the majority of the volume but the charger.

I think there would be a good argument in shipping this device without a charger unit which could really save space and packaging.

The charger in question is a box standard Nokia charger with the small 2mm jack. Odds on anyone purchasing this device already has one of these, I’ve got three, I think.

A better solution would be for the unit itself to have a Micro-USB port that can be used to charge either via PC or the new generation of standardised chargers and ship with a simple adapter cable like came with my N900 to convert between an old 2mm jack charger and Micro-USB.

This could also open up the possibility of extending the function of the device to not only what it is but also allow it to be used as a Bluetooth dongle for a computer, which could be quite handy at times.

With the wishlist out of the way, we come down to the unit itself which is a two tone white and light grey moulded case, clip on the back for attaching to lapels, power button on the top with indicator LED’s, volume control on the side and navigation/call option button on the front.

It comes with a default set of in-ear headphones of the rubbery ear plug variety that seem to come with everything these days.

The headphones are detachable and has a standard 3.5mm audio jack which makes swapping them out for any other earphones easy. I’ll not here, and it’s not a criticism of the produst but I just simple don’t like these rubbery in-ear headphones. Not just the set that came with the BH-214 but all of them. I accept it may just be me and I have funny shaped/small ear canals but I can never get the damn things to stay in.

However as this is a review I persisted with the default headphones for the duration and dropping out aside, the sound quality was particularly good.

Connectivity was flawless in all the devices I tested it with (Nokia N97, E90, 5800 and N900) with no interference of drops in playback with music or calls.

All the functionality worked on the handsets barring the N900 which doesn’t support everything (yet, I hope), but I already knew and expected that.

I had the device for a fortnight and although I didn’t do any specific battery strength tests on it, I did only charge it twice in that time and it still had plenty of juice left after the second charge.

The one thing I did enjoy doing with it was hooking it up to my hifi via the audio jack to aux sockets making it perfectly possible to live stream music direct from my mobile phone which surprisingly lost very little in audio quality compared to a fully wired connection.

This was however a bit of a problem when I got a call and ended up conducting it through the speakers of my hifi which probably felt a little weird to the delivery guy on the other end.

In conclusion the BH-214 is a very nifty little bit of kit. Does what it says on the tin and does it well. Good battery life and offers a few options in connectivity to play about with. For the price it’s not a bad alternative for using to live stream music around the house and turn the concept of a home media server on its head.

The only criticism that I would lay at the device which to be fair is understandable given it’s small size; is the inability to remove the battery (at least I couldn’t figure out a way to remove it). The environmentalist in me likes the ability to change over elements of hardware that will eventually degrade over time which in most electronic devices is the battery so that would have been nice.

(This post was written entirely on a Nokia N900 using WordPress for Maemo 0.5.4a)

N900 Birmingham Meetup

You know how these things go, first it starts as me and a mate from Twitter, @_Nexus planning a pint in Birmingham to have a little geeky tinker with our Nokia N900′s.
Then tonight, a chance discovery that @MeeGoExperts is from West Bromwich and a suggestion he might like to come along too and the next thing we’ve got a whole load of people from as far away as Denmark coming along.
So within the space of a couple of hours we’ve gone from a quiet geeky pint to full on all invites meetup. The date is set for the 27th of March and we’re working on a time and venue with our own hashtag. Which incidentally is #N900BrumMeetup
If anyone is interested in coming along to play, learn or share N900/Maemo/MeeGo related geekiness then feel free. Most of the discussion is happening on Twiter so just look for the hashtag.

Twitter Hijacking

I’m writing this post more in the way of a public awareness message than anything else, with the hope that at least it will help some people understand some of the risks they take and how they could easily avoid them – plus a bit of philosophising about the issue and basically blaming Twitter’s methodology for it.

Anyone who partakes in the usage of Twitter will probably have become aware of a distinct increase over the last couple of days of spam messages, mostly ones received as direct messages (private ones) from their followers. At best it’s just a little annoying as they seem to fall into two categories. The “you look silly on this website” and the “I’m having the best sex ever, find out how” variety. Obviously spam to entice people to click on the truncated attached link, and by the looks of things it’s been pretty successful.

This is important because although most of us can laugh these off, change our passwords and move on, if you happen to be a high profile person or a company with a specific corporate image to maintain, the throwbacks can be damaging if played correctly by competitors or adversaries.

How all this shit works:

Knocking about Twitter you pick up on people spitting out accusations of “someone’s hacked my password” and the like. Let’s be realistic here. There ain’t no spotty nerd in his bedroom running John the Ripper with Openwall’s wordlist against your account because if they were, your account would lock up anyway. Although no one seems to be pinning it on a specific cause, odds on, it’s a plain old fashioned cross site scripting (XSS) attack.

So as I’m aiming this post at the generally not so geeky crowd, here’s how it goes:

You are logged into your Twitter account in your web browser. You click on a link, it takes you to a dodgy site that runs a nasty bit of Javascript against your browser and hey presto, your Twitter account has been hijacked.

The remedy is simple, change your password and the world will once again become a better place, however we really shouldn’t need a remedy as we should, with a little bit of knowledge be able to protect ourselves a lot better, quite easily.

First up, the web browser. Some are good, some are shite. If you’re using Internet Explorer 6 then you may as well give up and your best option is to avoid Twitter all together or never ever click on a truncated link.

Some web browser come with in-built XSS preventative measures. If you like the Microsoft variety of browser then at least make sure you’re using IE8. Opera is also very good by default at protecting you, as is Firefox (I have no idea about the capabilities of Safari or Chrome as I don’t use them nor particularly care).

However, if you want to be completely safe, there is only really one option, disabling Javascript all together.

This is fairly easy in the settings of any browser but as so much on the World Wide Web depends on Javascript it will adversely affect your browsing, so you won’t be able to seen YouTube vids and some menus may disappear and the like. Obviously that’s probably a non-starter for most people so here’s the Penguin’s recommendation (which he uses himself).

Go here and download the Firefox web browser.

Then go here and type “NoScript” into the search box, click return and it’s the first result.

What you’ll end up with is something like this, a browser with a button with a little ‘S’ on it at the bottom. (big arrow):

screenshot of firefox with no script add on

When you first visit a site it will have Javascript deactivated by default so you’re safe. When you visit a site you know and trust, a simple click of the little ‘S’ brings up a list of the active Javascript for which you can choose to allow or not allow for that site. It takes a little getting used to when first starting out but as it remembers what you’ve allowed or chosen not to allow; after a week or so you’ll probably not notice it for most of your visited sites.

So there we go, the best way to stop spamming your mates about how good your sex life is or how they look funny on this or that website and it won’t cost a penny and you’ll probably have a much better web browser than the one you’ve got as a plus too.

Final note on security and browser, it’s a no-brainer to most technically astute people, but do check what version of the browser you’re using and see if there’s a newer one available. It’s not much harder than clicking the ‘help’ menu looking at ‘about’ noting the number and Googling for said browser to see if there’s a new version available.

On to the blame game now.

It’s Twitter’s fault, simple as. OK, I’m being mischievous. Being unkind, it’s actually the fault of people clicking on dodgy links and using crap web browsers but I’d like to pose a suppositon if I may.

For many years people have become savvy to the old e-mail from person pretending to be your bank, please go here and enter your details so we can validate you and empty your bank account of cash while we’re at it scams.

E-mail clients got better at detecting it as well but mostly people became aware that the e-mail they got from NatWest Bank with a link to www.nigerian-fraud-please-give-us-your-money.com probably wasn’t kosher. The hint was in the URL. (PS, I’ve not checked but if anyone actually has registered that domain, I am not specifically accusing you of fraud, it’s just and example). (Should also make clear I am not blaming or wishing to stigmatise the country of Nigeria nor its population but sadly a lot of these scams seem to come or pretend to come from there).

The problem with Twitter and it’s users inherent higher risk of being duped comes from a fundamental flaw/feature of how it works; the 140 character limit.

We know why it’s there and where it came from, it’s the heritage of text messaging mobile phone usage but it inherently applies a constriction on the number characters available and thus a desire to abbreviate.

URL shorteners like bit.ly were relatively rare before the explosion in Twitter (and other such-like services) usage but they are now the default option for anyone wanting to link to a website on Twitter.

They do their best to cut out dodgy links but with their enormous usage, reality dictates that it’s a losing battle as there simply isn’t the resources available to them to check every link people create.

The best solution for Twitter would be to allow Tweets of more than 140 characters for those that include a URL link so that people can actually see what they’re clicking on, however whether they’d ever allow such a thing is anyone’s guess but it would go a long way to negating this issue.

In the mean time, security measures are best placed at the user level, hence why I’ve penned this post to spread a little awareness.

If you do use a Twitter client as opposed to the web interface you’ll be better protected (as long as you don’t also happen to be logged into Twitter on you browser as well). However if you want to maximise your security then the Firefox web browser with the NoScript addon is about as good as it gets.

Let’s hope this little post helps a few people not DM their friends about how great their sex life is or how funny they look on some site.

Some ponderous thoughts on mobile phones

I have a confession to make. I’m an addict. Since I first owned a mobile phone in 1997 I have diligently upgraded my handset at every available opportunity. As soon as the contract runs out I get these little pangs of anticipation and an insatiable urge to start looking around for something new.

This is in many respects completely out of character to the rest of my persona. I’m a consummate re-user of old bits of stuff. I had (still do) a Sony Walkman circa 1989 that was by default music player right up until I first got a mobile phone with an FM radio on it sometime around 2001. I keep bits of old wood (much to Mrs Penguin’s annoyance) on the off-chance they might come in useful one day for something and absolutely everything else in my consumer habits from computers, to tellies (got a Decca Colour that is at least 27 years old) through to clothes I will make do and mend or use till completely knackered and or unrepairable.

Partly this is down to a desire to not overly impact upon the natural resources of our little planet but mostly it’s down to being brought up that way – poor.

So without too many other aspects of my consumer lifestyle being dominated by a constant desire to buy more, mobiles are the one little vice in life and I’m happy to admit it.

The point of this post is more thinking out aloud rather than anything else because it’s that time again. My contract expired a month ago and I’m getting the shakes again for a new handset. The only problem this time around is that with all my previous upgrades there’s always been something more alluring knocking around and with equal measure, something about my current handset that I could pick fault with (with the exception of my first ever phone) but that’s really not the case this time around.

So without further ado, I thought it would be helpful to do a bit of a rundown and comment on every handset I’ve ever had.

Nokia 8110:

Nokia_8110The venerable Nokia 8110 AKA the ‘Banana Phone’ AKA the ‘Matrix phone’ (Yes, I know the photo is of an 8110i for the zealots but the phone is identical on the outside apart from ‘Nokia’ being written in white on the 8110 and dark grey on the 8110i)

My first ever mobile and well, it was great. It might only have had the capacity to store 12 text messages and look a bit retro by today’s standard with its sticky out aerial but it was an ace phone. Virtually indestructible (I did once drop it on concrete and snap the sliding out section off but no worry it popped back on and worked fine).

I really did like this bit of kit and I’d probably still have it lying around somewhere had it not been for an encounter with some muggers in Estonia but hey ho, that’s life and shit sometimes happens.

Compared to what was around at the time it was a very nice stylish phone and after seeing the horrendous menu structure on friends Motorola phones the logical and well thought out user interface was just perfect.

Nokia 6110:

nokia-6110

Not the prettiest of handsets ever produced but typical of the time. What it lacked in outward appearances it made up for in added functionality over the 8110.

Again building on a nicely laid out menu structure, more memory capacity, generally faster performance and a few niceties like the ability to store one solitary personalised ringtone that had to virtually be forced on to the handset through the not so perfect bit of software in Nokia Cellular Data Suite but at the time that was something really cool.

Long before late night telly was festooned with adverts for ringtones and background pictures of naked ladies, a world before Jamster or whatever the hell it’s called, this phone could have a personalised ringtone and in a world of ‘Nokia Tune’ coming out from half the handsets you’d come across in the street, that was something special.

Yes, me and my Dutch mate Rudolf were indeed probably some of the first people to start knocking up our own ringtones and when the Soviet Union anthem goes off in a bar in Finland, you don’t half get some strange looks. Not quite as strange as when we were once in a bar and a Soviet Union anthem ringtone went off and it wasn’t our phone, but that’s what happens when you flog it to Radiolinja and they start punting it out to customers.

Note, soon after this I switched to Maamme as my ringtone, the little ‘.wav’ audio file having stayed with me right up until a couple of months ago until I accidentally wiped it doing a firmware upgrade on my current phone. So now I have a new version of Maamme which I’m not quite so keen on. (Note to self, check old phones donated to parents to see if it’s still on one of those).

Sadly this phone got nicked in the mugging incident too although it wasn’t as great a loss as the 8110.

Ericsson GA628:

GA628After having both the other phones nicked I was on the verge of cancelling my contract but O2 or as we used to call it in the olden days, BT Cellnet said they’d send me a replacement for free if I didn’t cancel and it wouldn’t be considered an upgrade so my contract would stay the same.

They didn’t say what they’d send me but this is what turned up.

Without doubt the most useless, crappy, hideous mobile phone I have ever had the unfortunate experience of using.

There is nothing remotely endearing about the handset. It was heavy, thick, looked shite, had a useless menu system, even though the battery was huge, it’s talktime was crap, even though the aerial was huge the signal was crap and the charger connector was loose.

Put simply, this is the worst phone I’ve ever owned and probably went some way towards ensuring I never bought anything from Ericsson/Sony Ericsson ever since.

It was so crap that a few years later when my boss broke his phone and I lent it to him, he had to selotape phone numbers on the back of the battery because he couldn’t use the memory system to store them as it was so rubbish.

Did I mention, this phone was crap?

Nokia 6150:

nokia6150

There’s not a lot I can really say about the Nokia 6150. It was essentially a 6110 on steroids in both outward appearance and inner functionality.

I really did quite like it a lot at the time and I have a suspicion it may still be lying in a box in the attic somewhere.

Eventually after a lot of use it did start getting a bit funny. Mainly down the the battery coming a bit loose. I could probably have got a new battery to fix the problem but got a new phone instead.

All in all though, a nice usable phone with some good enterprise touches which probably represents how phone since it started to diverge into handsets aimed at different market segments.

Nokia 8210:

nokia-8210My first strictly speaking candybar phone without the big old aerial sticking out the top.

Still to date my lightest and smallest phone which was both a good thing and bad.

It carried on the traditional functionality of the 6110/6150 in a smaller package but if I’m honest it was probably too small and light for me that I used to get paranoid it had slipped out of my trouser pocket as I couldn’t feel the damn thing.

That said, it was well built and took a fair few knocks in its time and I believe is still working to this day with a friend in Malta after having a prolonged loan period to my mate Wally in Walsall.

Nice phone apart from the size and weight.

Ericsson T18:

Ericsson-T18I did state I’d never own another Ericsson after how crap the GA628 was and this remains technically true in that I never owned this phone but thought I should include phones that I’ve also used.

This was a works phone. It was crap, the menu system was almost as bad as the GA628 but it had a whopping 2 lines instead of 1. It was heavy and the battery was crap.

That’s about all that can be said of this handset.

Nokia 6510i:

Nokia-6510iIt was  the first phone I owned that had an FM radio (pretty sure there wasn’t one on theNokia 8210) and which finally consigned my Sony Walkman to the shelf of doom.

Another classic candybar but heavier and a bit larger than the 8210 which was nice.

Functionality wise it was pretty much the same but did have one horribly addictive space shooter game on it that I must have wasted hours of my life on doing the daily commute.

Not a great deal to say about it, simply another incarnation of the same sort of feature set as the 8210 but was a generally nicer phone to mill around with.

This phone did teach me the very important lesson of keeping mobile phone in a different pocket to my house keys as by the time I’d finished with it, almost all the metallic paint had been scratched back to the not so impressive looking white plastic underneath.

Nokia 9200 Communicator:

nokia-9200-communicator

Another works phone, but one I chose this time and well, it was bloody brilliant (for its time).

The keyboard was a bit rubbery and almost Spectrun ZX 48K-ish but functionality wise, it was a world away from everything I’d had before and ushered in my first ever usage of mobilei internet, which as the contract covered 0845 numbers meant it was effectively free if dial-up was a pants really.

My only regret with this phone was not using it to its full potential but it did set me along the road to where I am these days in terms of what I find important in a handset.

Nokia 8910:

nokia-8910For the pedants, yes, this is a picture of an 8910i, the obvious differential being the colour screen as opposed to the grey scale screen on the 8910.

I have mixed feelings abouth this phone. In many respects I liked it, but in others I didn’t.

It was a pricey handset and eventually the spring-loaded slider mechanism got quite touchy, in that over time the metal clips stopping it from springing up had worn down meaning it would open very easily or not stay shut properly.

Just after I’d upgraded from it, the keypad went bandy and overall it wasn’t as good or highly specced as the 6510i that it replaced. Bit of a disappointment of a phone really, but it did teach me to start looking more at the full tech specification sheet of phones rather than outward appearances. It is also the first of only two phones I’ve ever owned that has had a technical problem with it. (I don’t include the loose battery on the 6150)

Nokia 6230i:nokia-6230i

This phone represents my shift towards a fairly consistant appreciation of the business orientated Nokia range, from the 6000 series through to the E Series handsets where functionality and capability has been a key aspect of any handset purchase ever since.

It also represents the first time I started to look at phones, less as what they come with, but more with what’s going on underneath and the first time I heard about Symbian (of which this ran Symbian S40) and a realisation of how important the software of phones was becoming.

It was also the first phone I owned that had a camera which even way back then could do video, of which the first ever home vid of my son was done on. The resolution wasn’t much to speak of but the still camera, even at 1.3Megapixels turned out surprisingly good snaps.

I really liked this phone and it is happily working away to this day in the safe hands of my father.

Note:

There’s a bit of an interruption in my upgrade schedule at this point in time because it’s when Mrs Penguin moved in and so we started down the road of alternating upgrade on my contract so technically speaking, the next phone I had was a Nokia N73 but she nabbed it and apart from fixing the odd thing on it for her, I never really got to use it which wasn’t a problem as I was still very happy with my 6230i.

I will note though that although a hideous looking phone, the N73 was a very good multimedia phone that even by todays standards isn’t exactly that far off the mark and the video quality on it was probably better than Mrs Penguin’s current phone.

Back to the list – the Nokia E65:

nokia-e65We’re entering the true smartphone era with this handset and a continuation for my appreciation of business orientated Nokia phones.

With it’s slider form factor hankering back to my old 8110 I have to admit I really did like this phone. It was pretty powerful and very good at multitasking running Symbian S60 3rd Edition.

It was also the first phone I used properly online with a data tarriff as prices were starting to get reasonable in the UK market.

It was the first phone I discovered how many applications there were actually available for mobile phones and the first I ever used Opera Mini on.

Put simply, this was a really ace phone but with my increased use of applications and in particular, mobile web access came a realisation that despite how fast I am at typing on a T9 configuration keypad, it was just that little bit annoying and I was looking for a QWERTY solution.

It’s also the first phone that I started regularly looking out for things like firmware updates which also made me realise the limitations of a network purchased phone when O2 can’t be bothered to punt out an update when Nokia release one.

It’s the first phone I ever used Nemesis on to change the product number and install default firmware upgrades and rid the phone of those bloody bubbles.

This phone represents a lot of firsts for me and even now when I decide to turn it on again to try something out, it impresses me with both its build quality and general performance for what is a pretty old phone these days.

This phone is currently in Germany as I forgot to bring it back from holidays, I hope to see it again soon.

The only criticism I’d lay at this phone is the battery life wasn’t as good as it could be. It did need recharging at the end of every day after being used with multiple applications. This by the way was the second phone that I’ve ever had a technical fault on, microphone went a bit screwey on it but it was fixed and worked fine ever since.

Right up to the present – my trusty Nokia E90 Communicator:

nokia-e90-communicator

It’s hard to know where to start with this phone. It is my current handset and has been faithfully by my side for the last 18 months.

Barring a few bits of chipping in the exterior and D-Pad paintwork it’s in good nick and I really did expect the hinges to get looser over time but they’ve stayed solid.

It like the E65 runs on Symbian S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 which gives it a massive selection of applications that are available for it although with it’s dual screen configuration this does cause the odd problem with a few but none that have bothered me.

The QWERTY keyboard is easily the best I’ve ever tried on any phone, past, present, hard or touchscreen, it’s perfect with the allignments of ever key obviously well thought out (that shift key below the ‘@’ symbol key, spot on).

It’s fair to say that general online usage, reading, feeds, Twittering, this phone has replaced my desktop. It’s not a complete desktop replacement, there’s things it doesn’t lend itself perfectly to doing but they’re few and far between.

By todays standards it’s speed is suffering a little against modern handsets but it is getting a bit long in the tooth as a design.

It is the first phone I’ve had that’s had GPS in it which has opened up a new world of daft little things to do with my phone.

In short, I really, really, really like this phone and if Nokia bought out a handset identical in form factor, upped the processor, RAM and memory (mine’s got an 8Gb chip in it), ditch the D-Pad and install a slightly deeper touchscreen, switch it to USB rechargable and fix the completely crap camera button I’d snap it up in no time irrespective of whether it’s running Symbian S60 5th Edition or Maemo 5/6.

Just to note, the battery on this thing is huge and lasts very well, unless you’re canning it on GPS and running wifi/3.5g, while listening to MP3′s all at the same time.

So where to now?

The simple approach would be to stick with the E90. It’s got no faults, hardware wise and runs quite nicely but the upgrade urge is very strong.

The problem I have this time around is that there are things I’ve come to appreciate which draw me away from the routine of call up operator and see what they’ve got and upgrade to it.

Firmware:

The main reason for this lies in operator customised firmware. I know operators may wish to tweak handset firmware to optimise it for their networks but I’ve not noticed any difference in performance between my O2 firmwares and my virgin Nokia firmwares, if anything at least the phones seem to run faster without the O2 stuff on them.

This is also important with the firmware upgrade cycle. My E90 was stuck on the 212.xxx firmware for ages because O2 wouldn’t update it until I complained and they bought out version 300.xxx by which time version 400.xxx was out. In the end I did a Nemesis job on it to get it to the latest Nokia produced firmware and it runs far better and definitely more stable than the 300.xxx firmware from O2.

This very much pushes me towards buying an unbranded sim-free handset in the future where my primary concern on firmware is what the manufacturer pushes out. I also quite like the idea of not being tied to a stupidly long contract as these have slowly moved from 12 months, to 18 months to 24 months over recent years and even arguing discounts for long standing custom is getting a bit of a pain these days. A simple cheaper tarriff with no lock-ins is starting to look preferable.

Software: (or as it seems to be called these days – apps)

I need a reasonably good selection and the focus of them is on functionality and productivity, not games or farting noises. I’m probably in that class of business user when it comes to things I need to run on my phone whether they’re pre-packaged as I’ve come to be used to with 6000 and E-Series Nokia phones or ones I can download from somewhere. There’s probably only about a dozen applications I need on my phone to cover various areas of usage for regular use and a dozen more for on-off usage or specialised functions but on-going development of applications for the handset is important which means something running an OS with a reasonable community/in-house company behind it.

Hardware specifications:

Has to be obviously better than my current E90, so faster, more RAM, not that fussed about memory really, 8Gb is more than I need now anyway unless I start putting loads of movies on the phone. 5Megapixel camera seems to be the reasonable standard for a good smartphone these days, GPS obviously, all the connectivity options as well and a hard QWERTY keyboard. I recognise you can get touchscreen QWERTY’s but I generally haven’t liked them. Haptic feedback ones aren’t so bad like on Mrs Penguin’s 5800 but a QWERTY with proper buttons is a probably a must, at least this time round and I’ll see how good the touchscreen ones get in the future. Must also have a touchscreen for OS navigation and browsing.

OS:

Linked in heavily with the development and community support, has to have reasonable backing and definitely has to be able to multi-task, there is no debate about that. The OS being open source is also a distinct advantage from both ideological/practical reasons and the sad geeky hackery perspective.

Price:

Not too much, but obviously recognise something good is going to cost a fair bit of wonga.

Form factor:

I’m not that fussed on form factor apart from obviously prefering to have a hardware QWERTY keyboard is going to impact on this a lot and pretty much means a side slide-out keyboard ala Sony Ericsson Satio/Nokia N900, a bottom slide out QWERTY ala Palm Pre or a front side one like the Nokia E71/72 or Blackberry style. I should note, I’m not that keen on narrow QWERTY’s like the Blackberry/Nokia E71/72, I do prefer a wider orientated keyboard.

Display:

I think this is an area that’s often overlooked but having had the E90 and used other ‘smartphones’ I have come to the conclusion that any mobile device aimed at internet usage should have a minimum width resolution of 800pixels. I’m happy to accept that maybe it’s just me that thinks this but most of these phones sport around the 640pixel width displays and rely to some extent on making up for that by using innovative zoom features. I’ve never used the zoom feature on my E90 because the screen displays website fine.

For me, 640 pixels was my Amstrad 1640 circa 1990. Most websites are designed with resolutions of 800-1024pixels in mind and the best results from mobile browsing, taking into account how hard it would currently be to get a 1024pixel width display on a phone, then 800pixels is very much preferable. I’m not so fussed about the vertical resolution, 353pixels on the E90 has been fine but it’s a strange ratio and something a little bit taller would be nice.

Battery life:

I want good performance obviously.

Other odds and sods:

Less important but do need a mention. I am a bit of a greenie at heart, so extra bonus points go to stuff made by companies with good environmental records, produced in Europe. Sorry I can’t say Britain here but apart from those really stupidly expensive ones with diamonds and crap on them and a hotchpotch of weird, generally crappy custom made for network jobbies, we don’t make mobiles in this country.

So who’s in the running of the current or due to start coming out soon handsets:

Blackberry Storm 2/Curve:

blackberry

I’ve never owned a Blackberry, probably on account of the orientation of their keyboards more than anything else. I recognise they’re solidly well built bits of kit with a good OS and user functionality but I’m reticent about one.

Mainly due to the proprietary/corporate nature of the way they work. I like open standards and minimal lock-ins.

There’s plenty of applications available, but there’s just that keyboard issue. I might consider the Storm 2 if the touchscreen keyboard were something special but that’s to be seen. I thought the Storm 1 had the most horrendous touchscreen keyboard I’ve ever used; more akin to banging on a piece of plexiglass that any sense of feedback.

Might be fun to try as something new but it’s not that far up on the list as things stand unless the Storm 2 is something brilliant.

Palm Pre:palm-pre

The latest hyped bit of kit. I get tetchie about handsets that get hyped up, particularly in the US media. Hardware wise it looks well specced and the user interface seems very polished. I’m just not sure about this Web OS. It’s looks nice and functional but is there the developer community behind it or not?

I think in the case of the Palm Pre, in very much the same vein as an Android phone when the first one came out, I’d sit back and see what happens for a bit to see if it’s a viable proposition. Personally I can’t see what all the fuss is about, but perhaps I’m a boring old techie.

Nokia N97:

I’m getting a bit tired now, so enough of the pictures.

Earlier this year I have to admit I anticipated the N97 as the most likely replacement for my E90. It is a very good handset in many ways, I really do like the innovative angled hinge for the slide out keyboard but after having tried it out a couple of times there’s just too much about it that I would pick fault with.

The keyboard isn’t really that pleasant to use. I’m still humming and ahhing about this whole off-set space bar layout but I could probably live with that. However the keyboard on the N97 seemed tiny compared to my E90, and just didn’t look right. My two pence on what they should have done; ditch the D-Pad, it’s not needed and make the QWERTY larger and easier to use. It’s interesting to note that this seems to have been the approach with the N97 Mini but I’m not contemplating buying that anyway.

Added into this so hardware specs on the RAM, processor side which although with the latest firmware don’t impact heavily on performance, it’s still not much of a leg up from what I’ve got, so I’m definitely not going to get the N97.

Iphone 3GS:

I guess it’s compulsory to mention the fruit machine phone in any run down of higher end mobiles these days.

Simple, can’t multi-task, doesn’t have a hardware qwerty, a desktop UI that amounts to a layout of icons is so dated, locked down proprietary OS and one single monopoly vendor of applications, doesn’t support Flash, stupidly expensive and rip-off contracts by O2 (yes I know it’s coming to other networks soon, we’ll see how much they charge); answer’s no.

Sony Ericsson Satio:

I have to admit I really like the look of this phone. It has a very high specification and a lovely looking keyboard. It is probably my number 2 choice of any phone out there, or likely to be out there in the very near future. There are only really two major drawbacks to it. It’s not getting good reviews on battery life and there’s a question mark over how much upgrading or commitment there’s going to be to the software on it as it’s a highly customised version of Symbian S60 5th Edition.

Samsung Omnia HD i8910:

Again a phone I really do like. Samsung have done a great job customising the Symian OS on it and it’s solid in almost every area apart from the obvious lack of a hardware keyboard which pretty much puts it out of the picture.

Some form of Google Android based phone:

I haven’t rounded on one model in particular although the obvious would be the HTC Hero. I have to admit, I don’t quite get Android. I know everyone seems to rave about it being Linux based and open and all that but it looks more like a proprietary OS built on top of a Linux stack to me. I could be completely wrong but I also recognise that Google is coming at the market from being a service provider that is tryin to punt out hardware that compliments those services.

The problem is, apart from search and occasional maps, I don’t really used any of Google’s services so there’s not that much attraction to me. I’m also wary of the whole app store culture which has been why I’ve quite liked the open and varied marketplace for Symbian applications up until now.

Update:

I actually started penning this post last night but didn’t get round to finishing it. Since then I’ve been doing a bit of thinking and ‘if’ I get a new mobile phone, it’s going to be this one:

Nokia N900:

nokia-n900First up, it’s not perfect. I’m still not convinced about that smallish three line QWERTY with off-set space bar but it doesn’t look like there’s a direct replacement for the E90 Communicator coming along any time soon.

There’s a double edged sword in the OS, running Maemo 5. The downside being it’s brand new (yes Maemo’s been around for ages but version 5 was a major revision) and applications for it are obviously still quite light given that it’s the only phone in the world that runs that OS and hasn’t even been released yet.

There’s also looking to the future, which is obviously QT and it’s using GTK. That said, QT has already been ported to it so this probably won’t be a problem but something to consider.

There’s also the issue of how long it will be developed for with the N920 probably emerging in the first half of next year which I’ll admit does look very nice but it lacks the hardware QWERTY that I, at least currently, prefer.

I was a bit concerned about the battery in it. Still am. I’m used to pretty good lengthy usage out of my E90 with a 1,500 mAh battery and this takes a 1,320mAh battery. However it has had some good reviews on the battery strength so this may be a case of the OS being optimised to negate this issue. Still think Nokia should have put the BP-4L battery in it, if only so I had a couple of spare lying around.

That’s about it on the negatives, on the positives however:

It will be the most powerful handset available on the raw processing/RAM side. I’m not going to start wittering on about OMAP, ARM11 and virtualised RAM but the specs are good, very good.

However, even though it was a minus point in one sense, the Maemo OS is a massive plus which probably outweighs everything.

I actually really like the Symbian OS in all it’s current and recent flavours. It’s solid, has mammoth amounts of customisability and options hidden away in its labyrinthine menus. It has masses of application written for it, some of which I really do enjoy, like Opera Mini and JoikuSpot. (If you have a Symbian based phone with wifi, then I highly recommend checking out Joikuspot. Brilliant application that can save a fortune in dongles, and no I don’t work for or get any kickbacks from them, it’s just really good).

However what I really anticipate, should I decide to get the phone is having a handset that runs a Linux based OS. I’ve fancied one for a few years but LIMO phones never really impressed me. The openness of the OS is an increasingly important thing to me. I don’t necessarily intend to crack the software on it, there should really be no reason to need to crack the software on a phone if it’s open enough but I do fancy a tinker around. A command line would be very nice to see. The ability to add in other Codec’s (I’m talking Oggs here) would be very nice. I know it doesn’t support them by default but that should while away an evening trying – probably.

So to run down, it’s got the QWERTY keyboard, an 800pixel width screen, is a significant step up in performance over my E90 and runs and open source Linux based OS. Oh, and until the 21st of October I can pre-order it for £424.15 as opposed to the normal list price of £499 so I have a day or two to decide on it. I’m still a bit wary of ordering a phone I’ve not used, but that price offer seems too good to miss and if I don’t like it, then I still have a 14 day cooling off period in which to send it back.

Me and my mobile phone

I’ve been tagged by Dave Cole with a meme. The task is to explain why your phone is your phone in exactly 139 words. For me a phone is a tool so my phone is mine simply because of what it does so I thought the best way to explain why it’s my phone is to say what it does/what I do with it. Here goes:

nokia-e90-communicatorThis is my mobile phone. It really is, if you look closely you can see how I’ve worn some of the chrome plating off the D pad through constant use. It is my little window on the online world, I read almost all my news on it, I even sometimes blog from it, I upload photos, geotag stuff and draw funny shapes on maps with it. It does e-mail nicely with html and images and everything.

It’s my default camera and can open all kinds of documents. It’s quite possibly more powerful than the desktop I had 3 years ago. I can watch movies on it and livestream video to the net which is nice. I can turn it into an encrypted wifi hotspot for the netbook. It also does Twitter and can send text messages and even call people.

Disclaimer: No, I don’t work for Nokia but I do truly love this phone which is quite possibly the best phone ever made. I will tag Tygerland and Mrs Penguin.