Sunday! D-day for Lewis!

October 31st, 2008

Aargh! Lewis! Why did you leave it so late? Again seven points!

Okay, okay. For those who haven’t been keeping up with the latest in Formula1 – under which rock have you been hiding? – Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be a nearly déjà vu repeat of last years final where Lewis Hamilton with a seven point lead in the championship needed to only come fifth or better to win it from Kimi Raikonnen.

This year is slightly different, mainly because it is Felipe Massa rather than Kimi; but it’s not all that different. Unfortunately – imho, since I am a fan of the Silver Mclarens rather than the Scarlet Ferraris – last year, Lewis blew it big style and failed to win the coveted driver’s trophy.

He was just 22 and in his first season in F1, and of course was the grand F1 spy scandal. But the scary thing is that this year, Lewis has had a few failures that couldn’t be just simply written off as inexperience anymore.

Still, holding on to a slim seven point lead, I am holding my breath, crossing my fingers and doing voodoo dances in the hope that he can become the youngest Formula 1 champion ever.

ps. He’s the first driver since Ayrton Senna whom I admire this much.

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Sometimes I wish this is how I could be…

October 28th, 2008

toothpaste for dinner

unfortunately, most times I just fix the computer. Why does everyone think that because I work in IT and am good with computers, it necessarily means I want to fix them all the time, especially when IT’S YOUR OWN STUPID FAULT YOUR COMPUTER IS F***KED UP ANYWAY!*

* I mean who told you to click that link while browsing in Internet Explorer? Didn’t I install Firefox for you the last time I was here?

ps. I like fixing computers, just not under circumstances described above!

Categories: personal, science, technology | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Continuing with the TyTN II

October 28th, 2008

Continued from here…

One of the things I was worried about when I got a slider phone was whether it would be sturdy, and here I can most unequivocally state that there is nothing to be worried about. While I haven’t tried throwing it about or banging it on the floor, I have not been overly cautious, and there have been no squeaks or rattles at all.

The other thing that I like, as I said earlier, is the WiFi. It makes using email and other internet enabled applications simpler and faster. But there’s an odd problem with WiFi on the Kaiser. As it was shipped out of the box, the performance/power setting for WiFi was 50/50, but I was unable to browse. Later, when I moved it to 100% performance, I had no issues.

But coming to browsing – when is M$ going to ship a decent browser with their mobile software? I want something fast but useful. When I try browsing with IE mobile, it sucks. Then I tried Opera Mobile, which is nice, but sucks because it is too heavy. Maybe when Fennec gets released, it will do for the mobile web what Firefox did for the desktop.

And as I see it, the problems with the Kaiser are mainly with the OS. Even the keyboard problem is a software problem – mainly. Adding a calendar event – go to calendar, click menu, new, and then enter the details. In PalmOS, just go to calendar, tap on a time and start typing. It’s quicker to create complicated events in WinMo, but for a basic event, Palm wins hands down.

It’s very similar throughout the OS – whether it’s contacts or tasks or messaging. And then there are such glaring inconsistencies. For example, cut and paste. In some applications, I can tap Menu->Edit->Cut/Copy/Paste. In some others I can just hold down the centre button of the d-pad and a context menu pops up, and in other cases I have to tap and hold on the screen for the context menu. Why can’t we have one consistent method (or preferably all three in all apps)?

The biggest advantage, though, with regards to the OS is the flexibility of installing a huge variety of 3rd party applications. Even though it is claimed that PalmOS has more applications available (especially free ones), most of them are now outdated and not maintained. WinMo applications cover a whole lot of ground ranging from ones that almost completely hide the underlying OS like SPB Mobile Shell, to others like Fring and Dashwire for communication, to proper RTS games like Age of Empires. And unlike with the iPhone, anyone can make software (the SDK is free to download) and you don’t need to use iTunes to add applications. And of course, Apple won’t be around to stop you from selling the app you make.

It’s much nicer to use the Kaiser than most other smartphones that I’ve seen, especially because of the touchscreen+keyboard combination, but it’s not perfect. It’s not as neat and clean as the iPhone, but it is functionally more powerful. It’s not as simple to operate as a Blackberry, but is more extendable. So, for now, I like it – mainly because there is nothing really better out there. But if it were up to me, I’d want a Treo Pro running Android (in about six months when the hardware and software settle down)!

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My time with a TyTN II

October 27th, 2008

So, as my previous post indicated, I am now the proud owner of an HTC TyTN II (aka Kaiser) Windows Mobile phone. I am a big fan of Smartphones and for the last few years I have had a variety of Palm Treo devices ranging from a Treo 180 to a Treo 650.

So, with great trepidation, and not much choice about it, I have jumped the sinking Palm OS ship and jumped straight on to the Microsoft bandwagon. So this review deals both with the Kaiser (when I say Kaiser, I mean the TyTN II) as well as with the Windows Mobile 6.1 platform.

For those of you who don’t know (or to refresh your memory), the specifications for the Kaiser are:

CPU:          32bit Qualcomm MSM7200
CPU Clock:     400 MHz
ROM capacity:     256 MiB (accessible: 145.2 MiB)
RAM capacity:     128 MiB
Display Type:     color transflective TFT , 65536 scales
Display:     2.8 " 240 x 320 Touchscreen
Networks:     GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS850, UMTS1900, UMTS2100
Data:         CSD, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA
Expansion:      microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash, SDIO
Bluetooth:     Bluetooth 2.0
Wireless LAN:     802.11b, 802.11g
GPS Services:     Assisted GPS, QuickGPS
Main Camera:     3.1 MP
Secondary Camera:     0.3 MP
Battery Capacity:     1350 mAh
Keyboard: Sliding and tilt

If you’re not really technically minded, it means that this is a fast device, with a touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard which tilts up to make it look like a laptop. To top it off, it’s got connectivity anywhere in the world and it supports 3G, 3.5G and WiFi data.

For a person like me, the last one is really great, since in India we don’t have 3G and getting on the net from one’s phone otherwise really sucks.

So, the first thing I did on getting hold of the Kaiser was to upgrade the software from Windows Mobile 6 to 6.1. (Okay, okay, I’m a geek – sue me!). I was not really curious to see the difference between 6 and 6.1 and all the reviews said that 6.1 is far better, so there it was: I went to the HTC website, downloaded the update, plugged in my phone and voila everything worked – wonderful! Updates on the Treo were as easy, so it’s quits between the two.

One of the nicest things about the Windows Mobile OS is the home screen. It’s got a lot of stuff to see at a single glance and is easily customizable with a variety of plugins from a huge number of developers. I like the default HTC home page, but it is a little limited. Unfortunately, HTC decided that since they were going to ship a top-of-the-line phone they would not add the customizations that they had put on their slightly lower-end phone (the touch) like the Touch cube and the finger friendly optimizations. Luckily a number of developers have spent a long time working on porting all these applications, and now I have a really nice home screen similar to what you would get if you follow this thread on xda-developers. (btw xda-developers is clearly the best place to get started if you have an HTC phone).

Unfortunately, the phone dialer isn’t half as nice. On the Treo, the buttons were nice and big and SEPARATE! Here, the buttons are not nice, not very big and touching each other, so with my thick fingers, I often end up typing the wrong number. The good part about the dialer is that it tries to figure out my contacts based on the letters I type, so if I type 234, it finds ADItya sengupta. Since this is a clever device, if I type 273, it finds Aditya SEngupta. This is very useful, considering that I really don’t want to slide out the keyboard to find my contacts by name.

And this is the biggest problem on the Kaiser – the keyboard. As keyboards go, it isn’t bad. It has a nice tactile feel and the buttons are big and nicely spaced and you can feel the press of each button. But Windows Mobile sucks here. When I slide the keyboard, sometimes the screen rotates almost instantly, but sometimes I have to wait for it to realise – oh! the keyboard is out, the keyboard is out – and then run around madly wondering what to do next before it changes the orientation. And then, there’s the problem of auto-complete. Until I disabled it, auto-complete was making typing so slow that it s e  e   m  e  d to take forever to type a single word! I guess it’s useful if you’re using the onscreen keyboard or the transcriber, but using the hardware keyboard with it sucks. Also, the other funny thing. If I use the onscreen keyboard when the physical keyboard is hidden away, it still shows later when I slide out the physical keyboard!

On the Treo, on the other hand, the keyboard was much smaller and more difficult to type on, but it never needed to be slid left, right, up or down. It was just there, which made it easier to type!

Ok… this is getting to be a long long post, so let me cut it here. More in the next installment…

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One man can make a difference – NOT

October 26th, 2008

After 20 years, two TV movies and a TV show that no one ever watched, Knight Rider is back on the small screen with your favourite car KITT and Michael Knight. But not quite.

David Hasselhoff, the TV star everyone pans but still watches played the original Michael Knight. In his tight jeans and cowboy boots and with his overly ham acted performance, Michael was a unique character. Someone who was different, because they were – not because the script told them to be.  Justin Bruening just doesn’t cut it. He is stiff and starchy and carries a gun, something that the original Michael Knight rarely did. And of course, in deference to the original series, he starts off as Mike Traceur and then is “killed” and is reborn as Michael Knight (btw he is supposedly the original Michael’s son).

KITT has changed as well and how… Even though he now has Val Kilmer’s voice, he just doesn’t have the dry, sardonic style of the original William Daniels. And to top it off, the car has no personality (unlike the original Pontiac TransAm), because although it supposedly is a Ford Shelby Mustang, it morphs into a whole variety of other Ford cars and pickups, like a long running Ford commercial. And then there’s the voice modulator box. Unlike the original single glowing box or the later three bar design, there is a glowing orb, which just looks to weird, like an alien creature.

But the biggest problems with the show is the scripting and the story. Firstly, the original show was really about the car and it was technological, but it wasn’t un-accessible. Most of the stuff the car did was considered “Hey Cool, I wish my car could do that!”. But here it seems that everything is in the realms of half-reality and half-sci-fi where you wonder whether it exists, but you’re sure that you will never get a hold of it even fifty years later unless you work for the US Government or have as much money as Bill Gates (which reminds me, have you seen the really stupid Gates+Seinfeld MicroS**t advertisments? – a post for another date). Secondly, the story, at least for the pilot and the first episode, makes no sense. Some weird people do some weird things like cutting a guy’s thumb for his DNA instead of a blood sample! And the plot just meanders along at times while seeming over full at other times.

And of course, the biggest problem is the premise. The original series said that it was the story of “a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law…”, but here it seems to be a FBI operation which doesn’t say much for the original Foundation for Law and Government which worked on its own in a kind of vigilante way with tacit approval from the Government. And instead of Michael, KITT, Bonnie and Devon in a world of their own, we now have a dedicated team of FBI personnel which means leaks and stupidity and a bunch of idiotic people who sit around and stare at KITT.

Does that mean I won’t watch it? No… but I will keep going back to the old campy stuff!

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