Stevenator65’s Weblog

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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.

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

ID3 Tag Basics

id3

I just read a great article at Anything But iPod that explains what ID3 tags are and how you use them.  According to the site,

“ID3 tags are basically information tags inside the MP3 file that tell the player all sorts of things. It can be as simple as artist and album or as complex as having 20 high resolution images of the cover and booklet inside the same MP3 file. Read on for a roundup of this feature and a how to on tagging your files.”

The article explains in easy to understand terms how your mp3 player uses these tags to display your music information.  It goes on to show you how to add missing ID3 tags as well.  This is a must-read if you have an mp3 player.

You can read it here.

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Mp3, Technology | Leave a comment

Freedom Slim KeyPad Almost Here

slim

Freedom Input just emailed me and told me that the oft-delayed and long awaited Slim KeyPad is available for pre-order and they will be receiving the first ones in mid December.  Here are some details:

The slimmest lightest keyboard available in the market.
This light ultra slim metallic keypad is lightweight and slips easily into the pocket.

The new Freedom Slim Keypad. Sleek, sexy, small yet fully functional. Not just cool in looks and feel, it will be using both HID and SPP profiles, thus offering a wide range of compatibility with most Smartphones and PDA’s including BlackBerry devices.

The keypad is only 10mm or just over a quarter if an inch thick, and features the popular Motorola RAZR style metal keys with an switched option to back illuminate.

This looks to be a very exciting product.  Pricing is SRP: $69.95. €59.99(inc tax). £39.99(inc tax).

Read more at the Freedom website

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Technology | Leave a comment

My Next Car Will Get 106 MPG!

Aircar

According to a report from Yahoo!, Indian car maker Tata, has begun production of a car that runs on a unique technology.  It combines compressed air with a splash of salad oil, gas, diesel, or a pint of gasoline to get 106 mpg while driving at a top speed of 35mph for up to 60 miles.  It can cruise at highway speeds for nearly 800 miles with a small motor that compresses air and keeps the tank filled.

These cars will also likely be built in the US starting in 2011.  Each state may get one or more factories,  depending on how many drivers that state has.  For example, California may get 17 factories.

This is not new technology.  It’s been around for decades, but was never utilized because the low cost of gas didn’t necessitate it until now.  With increased gas prices and pressure from the government to produce low emission vehicles, the time for this technology may be right.

Tata will not manufacture in the US.  Instead, they will license the technology for $15 million,  which includes a full turnkey auto plant.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Technology | 2 Comments