Stevenator65’s Weblog

Technology, Commentary, Opinions, Reviews and Fun Happenings.

MSI Wind Q2 Mini Review

WindTop

The MSI Wind is a small, impressive laptop.  It sports an 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1 GB ram, 120 GB hard drive, Windows XP home, WiFi B/G and a 10.1″ screen.  It came with a wall charger, and some very meager instructions.  But fortunately it was simple to setup and use.  It is small enough to be very portable, yet large enough to be quite usable.  Lots more photos and info to come…

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January 31, 2009 Posted by | Laptops, Reviews, Steals and Deals, WiFi, Windows | Leave a comment

18 Months is a Lifetime

train

When I wrote the article, “Divergence and Death” last August, I said in regards to Windows Mobile (WM), “Windows Mobile is Dead.  Read on to find out why your next device will not have a Windows Mobile OS…It’s grown old.  And boring.  I’m thinking of kicking my excitement level up by taking up Bocce Ball or Bowling.  All the devices are the same.  They are no better than what we had four years ago.  They’re just getting bloated with compromised add-ons.”  ZDnet just did an interview with Andy Lees, Microsoft’s top WM guy, and he admitted, “We aimed to go for a lower common denominator…We started out when we were in PDAs (personal digital assistants) and then a phone got strapped to the back of the PDA,” Lees said. The company also failed to recognize that phones–even those that were used for business–were still as much personal as they were professional.”

There were 38 responses to that article, such as,

“Another anti-Windows Mobile rant. Why don’t you write about how cameras have not really changed in 10 years, or laptops? They still sell like hotcakes, much like Windows Mobile. 90% YoY growth is not to be sneezed at, and WM gained market share on Nokia in Europe recently.

People who have used WM for 10 years are understandably bored. They should really just move on without this traditional “slamming the door on the way out” rant.”

and

despite ANYTHING that is said here, WinMo is NOT, I repeat NOT dead or on life support. As I recall, this was a hardware based rant. Which, was right… I’m not certain why we are still using devices with speeds and capabilities we had 3+ years ago…

and on the opposite end,

“The big culprit here is the Windows Mobile OS with the lack of innovation and effort from Microsoft over the past several years. Honestly, the devices are good in terms of hardware but the core is lacking significantly.”

and this:

I’ve been having this conversation with Chris Gavula and the rest of the Team over at Gear Diary for more than a year. While this rant is right on when it comes to the hardware, in many cases, its not about can’t…its about don’t or won’t.

We had wildly divergent opinions to the article.  But the bottom line, at least to me, was that WM phones and PDAs made today are using the same hardware as almost five years ago, and WM looks like DOS next to next gen OS’s such as the iPhone, Symbian, BlackBerry, Android and the upcoming Palm Pre.  Is all hope lost?  Can Microsoft regain the confidence of users?  Andy Lees thinks so.  He said, “Microsoft embarked on a new strategy some time ago that will come to fruition over the next 18 months.”  Wow, 18 months is forever in the world of technology.  Time seems to have stopped for WM.  With incremental upgrades to the OS, Microsoft is making a half-assed effort at pleasing customers.  If they come out with an OS with a major WOW factor, if it’s not delayed, if it is not buggy, are you going to wait 18 months for it?  Are their competitors?  Apple has made significant improvements to the iPhone, RIM is cranking up the heat, Android is new and exciting and Palm really is putting forth a huge effort with the Pre.  I don’t see any of them falling to the wayside.  Chances are that over the next 18 months your cell contract will be up.  Will you pay hundreds of dollars for a WM device that is no better than what you have today or will you look at the competition?  I believe many people will think twice before going to the same old same old.  And once you change trains, it is that much harder for WM to win you back.  18 months can turn into a lifetime.

Source: ZDnet via Pocket PC Thoughts

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Blackberry, Opinions, Pocket PC, Software | Leave a comment

25 Greatest Albums Ever – Of All Time! Redux

in May of 2008 I created the first version of the 25 Greatest and really enjoyed doing it.  Sure, it’s a bit off the beaten path of what you normally find at this site, but many people found it interesting so I’m back with 25 more.  As before, feel free to comment on your favorites.  I’m always looking for something unique, new and different, so your contributions are welcome.

The original 25 seemed to share a theme of great musicians who died before their time.  This set features singers who would not make it to Hollywood on American Idol, yet made great rock anyway.

So now I present to you, in no particular order, 25 more Greatest Albums Ever – Of All Time!

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January 26, 2009 Posted by | Mp3, Opinions | 2 Comments

I Want a New Drug

tweaks  iPhone_blackberry

 

I’ve had a Windows Mobile (WM) device for 8 years, as I’m sure many of you have.  I feel so comfortable with it.  I know its capabilities, I have tons of great software, and best of all, I have support from this excellent forum and others like it.  If I want to find how to do nearly anything a Windows Mobile device is capable of, all I need do is ask.

But my comfort has grown into boredom.  I’ve done many things to alleviate this boredom and make my device more exciting and user friendly, such as upgrading the ROM to WM6.1, and adding Winterface, ZoomBoard and other modern applications.  But when it comes to using the device, ultimately I have to pull out a stylus, and that’s where my frustration lies.  When a customer calls and I need to look at the notes in his contact information or look up product information in my device, I get very frustrated by having to pull out the tight-fitting stylus and navigating a bunch of menus.

Supposedly Microsoft will unveil the next version of WM in the second half of 2009, called WM6.5.  But there are no firm details as to expected improvements.  And the new version will reportedly only be available in new handsets.  I’m not sure I want to wait at least six months for a new, exciting product, when I have no idea what to expect.  Will we still have to drag out a stylus for picking out contacts or playing some of my favorite games?  How will our user experience be enhanced?  Judging from past versions of WM, I suspect only incremental upgrades, and that’s ok, because I’m sure Microsoft doesn’t want to alienate their current user base by making radical changes.  But I feel radical changes are in order.

If you were to suggest a pocket pc or new phone to someone, would you recommend a WM product if they had no previous experience?  I don’t think I would.  I think it would be a steep learning curve as compared to the out-of-the-box user experience that competitors supply, such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, the upcoming Palm Pre, Symbian and Android.  I have many non-techie friends who have recently bought new handsets from BlackBerry and iPhone and were up and running quickly.  Can one expect that from a WM device?  Certainly a WM device has more capabilities, is more tweakable, has a huge software base, and of course huge communities to help one along.  But the vast majority of users are not looking to reflash ROMs, or edit the registry.  Which begs the question, what is a power user?  Is a power user someone who endlessly upgrades roms and software, tweaks the endless amount of settings and spends hours hacking away at the user interface, or is a power user someone who makes tons of calls, emails and text messages?

I think both are power users, but they are very different types of power users.  One is a power user and the other is really a power tweaker.  Take my wife, for example.  She is very non-techie.  When her work got her a BlackBerry Curve she was emailing and texting in minutes.  She has turned into a major power user.  Yet she has no idea how the inner-workings of her phone function.  And why should she care when everything works with no intervention?

I enjoy tweaking my device.  It’s fun.  I’m amazed at some of the incredible ideas people have come up with in order to enhance the WM experience.  But really, is this experience radically different than it was 8 years ago?  I submit it is not.  And that would be fine if I never saw a BlackBerry or iPhone.  But with that door open, WM suddenly seems old fashioned.  To be sure, you can dress it up in the beautiful cocoon of an HTC Fuze, and you can add finger friendly software, but that won’t attract the casual user who makes up the vast majority of customers.  Isn’t it obvious?  A recent article from Computerworld.com showed the numbers.  For the 3rd quarter of 2008 Symbian is first in sales with 15.4 million sales, followed by RIM with 5.8 million units sold, and 3rd place iPhone finally beat out WM devices for the first time, 4.7 million units to 4 million.  Of these nearly 30,000,000 units sold, how many owners are in the power tweaker category as opposed to the power user?

Are you happy with your WM device, or are you looking for easier access to your information and communication functions?  Do you want to spend your time tweaking or texting?

And while I’m at it, I have to say I am sick of using a mouse.  I only have two hands and the mouse is slowing me down.  It’s also time for a new desktop user interface that allows two handed use or we will be forced to evolve into three-handed people.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Blackberry, Opinions, Pocket PC, Technology, Windows, Windows Mobile | Leave a comment

New Blog Milestone

Wow, I reached 5000 hits on my blog!  It took many months to reach this milestone.  I’d like to thank my mom for clicking on it so many times!  By the way, if you have trouble leaving comments please email me at Stevenator65 at Yahoo dot com and let me know about it. 

 

I really enjoy blogging and hope you like reading what I write.  Let me know what other subjects you want covered and thanks for visiting.

CIMG0192

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Opinions | Leave a comment

The Ultimate iPod Accessory

I’ve been thinking about my drive to work.  It’s one to one and a half hours each way.  My factory car stereo, as most, is mediocre at best, so to make my drive more palatable I upgraded the speakers.  It was pretty easy to do so, and not very expensive.  I also installed a $30 Scosche FM modulator so I can listen to my iPod.

scoshe

To install this I had to remove the receiver, plug the car’s antenna into the modulator, then plug the modulator’s antenna into the back of the receiver.  I then tapped into the power cord of my cigarette lighter for a power source.  It took about 1 hour and was fairly simple.  The FM modulator, like wireless FM modulators, converts the sound of the iPod into an FM signal.  There is a plug that connects into the iPod’s headphone jack to provide music.  This was fine for a few months, but the problem is that the FM sound band is far less broad than a cd player’s sound.  According to Crutchfield,

Answering this question relies upon two technical specifications: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and frequency response (FR). SNR is a measure of signal strength compared to background noise in the signal or equipment. A higher number, in decibels, is better. FR is a measure of how much of the audio spectrum, from bass to treble, gets reproduced. It’s measured as a range in Hertz, and the wider the range, the better.

The FM radio, cassette player, and CD player all have different measurements for these specs. The CD player has an SNR of 90 or 100 dB, while a cassette player has an SNR of 50-70 dB. The frequency response of a CD player tends to be better too, often in the neighborhood of 10-20k Hz. Cassette players don’t deliver as much detail on the extreme ends of the spectrum and tend to have an FR around 30-18k Hz. Even so, that difference isn’t nearly as significant as the disparity in signal-to-noise ratios between the two. That’s why it is a cut-and-dry situation that the CD player sounds better than the tape player.

FM radio is restricted (by FCC regulation) to a frequency response of 30-15k Hz. Pretty similar to your typical cassette player. Likewise, the SNR of the FM tuner in a typical aftermarket stereo is similar to a good tape player: around 70 dB. When you use an FM adapter to pipe in your tunes, the music is fed into your radio over an FM frequency — the radio thinks it’s just another radio station. So theoretically, we can expect the music from our portable to sound about as good as a typical FM station.

The best sound I could hope to get out of an FM Modulator is no better than FM radio.  Though the performance is better than a wireless FM modulator, the sound is lacking in not only detail, but also is delivered with far less volume.  I often cranked my volume up to the highest level my radio offered but was not satisfied.  So I started doing some research and realized I had to upgrade my radio.

 

I looked at several receivers and settled on the Alpine CDA-9884, which was on sale at Best Buy for $180. 

Alpine

Some receivers have accessory jacks in the front, making it easy to connect mp3 players.  These provide top notch sound reproduction.  But I chose this unit because it specifically works with iPods and allows complete control of the iPod through its menu system.  I leave my iPod connected and in the glove box and can control virtually all the functions through the receiver.  It even charges the iPod.  It lets me choose genres, playlists, songs, albums and artists.  It has 18 watts per channel, which is so loud its scary.  It has many other features, such as being Satellite and Bluetooth ready, but all I care about is good, loud sound and iPod control.  This really is the ultimate iPod accessory.  My drive to work is much more fun now. 

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Accessories, Automobiles, Mp3, Technology | Leave a comment