Friday, December 23, 2011

Why I just purchased the SAAB of Smartphones

Why did I just purchase the SAAB of Smartphones, friends want to know. Or less accurately, why did I just purchase a new eight-track tape player in the era of Spotify?

There just aren't any physical keyboard phones out there, at least in the United States, other than BlackBerrys. The integration between e-mail and phone just works so right. The thing is first and foremost a phone with e-mail rather than a computer with a phone built-in. And it the nicest device in my hand--curved in all the right places, unlike the slab that is the current iPhone. Since it's the inanimate object that I touch daily more than any other, that's really important.

Yes, I've tried virtual keyboards. I have a Nexus S too. But for actually doing real typing, I simply can't get adjusted to virtual keys. Same reason I still use a ThinkPad. Can't get used to a trackpad.

Now, if anyone could find me an Olivetti portable ... I really miss the way that thing typed and Mom gave it away when I was off at college.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

quick question on mass production and personal modifications

There's something nice about modifying a computer in even the slightest way. I just yanked off the silly little cover to the headset jack and USB port on my ThinkPad X1. It was put there by the designers so the down-angled sides of the box would be flush, hiding the cutout for the jack and port. Now I'm happier with the machine and it's mine. Earlier I undid the keyboard and put a mSATA drive into the guts of the machine. You could argue that neither of these things would have been necessary if I'd bought the perfectly designed MacBook. True. But I wonder if setting up a computer so that it can be modified isn't a better design. I'm not suggesting such intentionality was present in the design of this laptop, but I wonder, what examples are out there of mass produced, personal products like computers and cars that are specifically designed with mods in mind? Some cars, certainly, like Jeep Wranglers. What else?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

mSATA on a Lenovo Thinkpad X1

There's a type of SSDs (Solid State Drives) called mSATA that takes the form of a mini-PCI Express card (LINK for more info).

For $200 (September, 2011) you can purchase an 80gB Intel mSATA drive (LINK to NewEgg). It's a minuscule thing!

I have just installed it on a Lenovo ThinkPad X1. I'm running a standard 160gB Intel SSD on the computer and now have a secondary drive in the form of the mSATA installed under the keyboard where the mobile broadband card would go. Unfortunately, it's either the mSATA or the mobile card, not both.

The user guide for the X1 has a pretty good explanation of how to do the install. One step you can skip is disconnecting the keyboard. You'll have to remove the keyboard but no need to disconnect it.

Remember that you have to format the drive after you install it and also that if you don't have it as the boot drive, make sure it's set as the second drive in the list for startup.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the URL to be able to download Skype onto your Verizon BlackBerry Bold 9650

Because even though your BlackBerry 9650 is pictured on the Verizon/Skype website and the site says it's compatible, when you try to download through normal channels, Verizon and Skype will say your phone isn't compatible but it is ... sort of ... at least on my phone with BlackBerry 6.0 it does work but not very well. Takes FOREVER to connect a call. Only time I use it is when I have to take a Skype call on my mobile.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thinkpad vs. MacBook Air: all in the boot times

As of this morning, you can start ordering the new Lenovo Thinkpad X1, supposedly a competitor to the Apple MacBook Air. I'm currently on my fourth Lenovo X series, which is in some sense the original MacBook Air. It ditched a CD drive many years ago, offering a 3 pound device with its a style all its own (al beit black) when MacBooks (nee PowerBooks) were still 4-5 lbs at best and saddled with a build-in CD drive.

Unfortunately for Lenovo, the MacBook Air can't be beat because it has something even the new X1 doesn't have: the instant-on functionality of flash storage, just like a iPhone or iPad. That alone may be enough to get me to switch. The ability to flip open and start working on your laptop anytime can't be beat, certainly not by Windows which seems to randomly decide how long it's going to make you wait before it wakes up from Sleep or Resume.

Lenovo does offer "Enhanced Experience 2.0" which supposedly beats other Windows machines in start-up time. And there's some promise that the X1 will ship with an 80gB SSD with Windows loaded as well as a standard 320gB HD, allowing boot off the solid state drive. But Apple with flash memory is hands down a better offering. My switch to Mac may end up being all in the boot times.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Manual update Nexus S from 2.3.1. to 2.3.2 to 2.3.3

If your Nexus S is stuck on 2.3.1 you can't upgrade to 2.3.3 without first going through 2.3.2. But FINDING a a link that works for the 2.3.2 download isn't as easy as the 2.3.3 download. I found 2.3.2 on MediaFire (via Software2tech).

I have no idea why Google can't seamlessly push out upgrades to its flock of Androids. But mine's finally upgraded.

Instructions on how to upgrade are everywhere. Here's one set of instructions.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

10 reasons why not Macbook Air

The new Lenovo X220 has:
  1. That red eraser-like pointing stick thingy
  2. Better keyboard noise reduction during Skype calls
  3. Can't beat the keyboard for typing feel
  4. It's black
  5. More battery life
  6. Bigger hard drive
  7. No slip exterior (someone I know stuck fuzzy fabric to his Air so he wouldn't drop it)
  8. More usb ports
  9. No dongle to external video
  10. No dongle to Ethernet
Yes, I definitely want to upgrade to the X220 from my rare X201s (which was an upgrade from an X61s, an X60s, and an X40)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Android vs. Blackberry

I just bought an Android phone, a Nexus S, the "pure" Google phone without the additional skins and features that manufacturers like Motorola bundle in with their Android variants. I'll use it for its hotspot feature, for its seamless integration with my Google accounts, including Google Voice, and for Kindle reading and other functions for which the Android is really just a tiny tablet.

But I've kept my BlackBerry Bold and am surprised at how several applications that ought to be better on the Nexus are so much better on the Bold. This is mostly the challenge of physical keyboard vs. touchscreen. But it's also, I think, that the constraints of the BlackBerry force application developers to hone the functionality they provide.

Take Gmail for example. Google makes for BlackBerry a very nice application that allows you full access to your Gmail. It does need an update for BlackBerry OS 6.0 because the search function display doesn't work correctly. But compared to the native Android application, I find the BlackBerry Gmail application easier to navigate, easier to delete and archive items quickly, easier to see the threads of a conversation, and certainly much easier to use to compose messages.

Foursquare is another example. The ability to quickly check-in to places is much simpler, quicker, easier on the BlackBerry than with the Android app. Of course the Android app looks nicer, but it's not faster to use.

Applications that require scrolling and larger screen real estate, like maps or a browser, are obviously so much better on a touchscreen. But if you use a smartphone for basic business applications requiring accuracy and speed, BlackBerry has perception to counteract not functionality.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

wonderful support from @AmazonWireless not so much from @attnetwork

Bought a BlackBerry via Amazon Wireless because it was much less expensive than buying the upgrade through AT&T. The device arrived. Worked great. I threw out the packaging. And then a week or two later, the phone started malfunctioning, randomly turning on and off. This was definitely a hardware problem. I called AT&T to see if they could resolve the issue. The said that I could return it within the 30 day "buyers remorse" period but ... oops! ... I'd thrown out the packaging so no, I couldn't. I'd have to wait until the thirty day period was up and then go through the warranty services department. And in order to extract all this information from them and tell me that they couldn't help me, I had had to first go through a song and dance, giving them the IMEI number from the phone (twice) and going through the various procedures they wanted to go through with me to verify that I knew what I was talking about.

If Amazon is in the loop, always call them first.

I called Amazon second. What a different customer support team! No questions asked. Didn't need the IMEI number. Didn't question whether I knew what I was talking about. Happy to exchange the phone. Yes, it would be ideal if I had the original packaging but they could make an exception. What a joy to deal with Amazon (as usual) and what a pain to deal with AT&T (as usual). Amazon trusts their staff, doesn't require that they go by the book. AT&T requires its staff to follow a script in everything, from the way they say hello to the way they say good bye. Painful, painful.

Only challenge is that the BlackBerry model is out of stock at Amazon, so it will be a week. But with such good customer support, I'll forgive them that.