You may have seen that registration for UK TechDays events from 12th to 16th April is already open - but you probably won’t have seen this newly announced session, even if you are following @uktechdays on twitter
After Hours @ UK Tech Days 2010 – Wednesday 14th April, 7pm – 9pm. Vue Cinema, Fulham Broadway.
Reviving the critically acclaimed series of mad cap hobbyist technology demonstrations – After Hours reappears at Tech Days 2010. After Hours is all about the fun stuff people are building at home with Microsoft technology, ranging from the useful ‘must haves’ no modern home should be without, too the bleeding edge of science fiction made real! Featuring in this fun filled two hour installment of entertaining projects are: Home Entertainment systems, XNA Augmented Reality, Natural User Interfaces, Robotics and virtual adventures in the real world with a home brew holodeck!
Session 1: Home entertainment.
In this session we demonstrate the integration of e-home technologies to produce the ultimate in media entertainment systems and cyber home services. We show you how to inspire your children to follow the ‘way of the coder’ by tapping into their Xbox 360 gaming time.
Session 2: Augmented reality.
2010 promises to be the year of the Natural User Interface. In this session we demonstrate and discuss the innovations under development at Microsoft, and take an adventure in the ultimate of geek fantasies – the XNA Holodeck.
Like all other techdays session this one is FREE to attend - if you hadn’t heard: UK Tech Days 2010 is a week-long series of events run by Microsoft and technical communities to celebrate and inspire developers, IT professionals and IT Managers to get more from Microsoft technology. Our day events in London will cover the latest technology releases including Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft Office 2010, Virtualisation, Silverlight, Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 plus events focusing on deployment and an IT Manager day. Oh and did I say they were FREE
Monday, 12 April 2010 - Virtualization Summit – From the Desktop to the Datacentre
Designed to provide you with an understanding of the key products & technologies enabling seamless physical and virtual management, interoperable tools, and cost-savings & value.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 - Office 2010 - Experience the Next Wave in Business Productivity
The event will cover how the improvements to Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Project and Visio will provide a practical platform that will allow IT professionals to not only solve problems and deliver business value, but also demonstrate this value to IT’s stakeholders.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 - Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – Deployment made easy
This event will provide you with an understanding of these tools including the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, Windows Deployment services and the Application Compatibility Toolkit. Understanding of these tools including the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010, Windows Deployment Services. We will also take you through the considerations for deploying Windows Server 2008 R2 and migrating your server roles.
Thursday, 15 April 2010 - SQL Server 2008 R2 – The Information Platform Highlighting the new capabilities of the platform, as well as diving into specific topics, such as consolidating SQL Server databases, and tips and techniques for Performance Monitoring and Tuning as well as looking at our newly released Cloud platform SQL Azure.
Friday, 16 April 2010 (IT Managers) - Looking ahead, keeping the boss happy and raising the profile of IT IT Managers have more and more responsibilities to drive and support the direction of the business. We’ll explore the various trends and technologies that can bring IT to the top table, from score-carding to data governance and cloud computing.
Monday, 12 April 2010 (For Heads of Development and Software Architects) Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Launch - A Path to Big Ideas
This launch event is aimed at development managers, heads of development and software architects who want to hear how Visual Studio 2010 can help build better applications whilst taking advantage of great integration with other key technologies. NB – Day 2 will cover the technical in-depth sessions aimed at developers
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 Getting started with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 WAITLIST ONLY Microsoft and industry experts will share their perspectives on the top new and useful features with core programming languages and in the framework and tooling, such as -- ASP.NET MVC, Parallel Programming, Entity Framework 4, and the offerings around rich client and web development experiences.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 The Essential MIX Join us for the Essential MIX as we continue exploring the art and science of creating great user experiences. Learn about the next generation ASP.NET & Silverlight platforms that make it a rich and reach world.
Thursday, 15 April 2010 Best of Breed Client Applications on Microsoft Windows 7 Windows 7 adoption is happening at a startling pace. In this demo-driven day, we’ll look at the developer landscape around Windows 7 to get you up to speed on the operating system that’ll your applications will run on through the new decade.
Friday, 16 April 2010 – Registration opening soon! Windows phone Day Join us for a practical day of detailed Windows Phone development sessions covering the new Windows Phone specification, application standards and services
There will also be some “fringe” events , these won’t all be in London and I’ll post about them separately (James in the Midlands, I’ve heard you :-) )
As titles go that’s an odd one, but stay with me.
I’ve written before about my Citroen C6: Before Christmas a warning message popped up saying something was wrong with the hydro-pneumatic suspension which give the big Citroens their wonderful ride. A visit to the garage confirmed the problem was real – not a diagnostic issue, and lay with a part which rarely goes wrong i.e. one no dealer keeps in stock. It would be take a day or two to get the part and by the time it was fitted I needed to be at Tech-ed in Berlin. I expected the car to be ready when I got back, but it wasn’t. Having replaced the faulty part it turned out it had failed because of a fault in the hydraulic pump: this is beyond rare – Citroen UK told me later that they’d only ever supplied one before and that was after an accident, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The pump should have arrived before I got back from Tech-ed, but there was no sign of it. We then began a sequence where every few days I would call the garage or they would call me, and I’d get the news the pump had not arrived but would be there in a couple of days.
I’m not totally without patience, but after 3 weeks I was getting cross and started to tweet about it, and found Citroen UK on Twitter. So I posted things like Day 26 of my Citroen C6 being in the Garage. @Citroenuk promised to deliver the part today and they #Fail to. Now promising Thursday. It was partly to vent and partly to see if Citroen responded - if your organization is “doing social media” you really should know what you’re going to do if someone complains – we try to do this at Microsoft when it isn’t the “I hate Microsoft because they’re a big money making concern” variety. Citroen UK’s twitter account turned out to be someone from marketing who took enough ownership of the problem to get some information and make sure the right person saw it. That was how I ended up talking to Brian (I’ll keep his last name out of it – I can see just people calling Citroen asking for him). If Brian was trained in customer care (rather than doing it by instinct) his teacher would have been pleased: he apologized (sincerely - not in an over the top way), saw the customer’s point of view “I know Caterpillar have a ‘parts anywhere in the world in 24 hours, or Cat pays’ promise. You should be able to get a part here in 24 days for your top of the range model”, explained why it had gone wrong (the pumps showed as in stock but been taken to be modified to the latest specification), committed to speeding the resolution of the problem and promised to follow-up to talk about how Citroen could rebuild the relationship. I’ve had Citroens (7 of them) for 16 of the last 20 years, so I guess I qualify as a loyal customer they’d want to keep.
Brian had an unexpected spell off work so it was well into January by the time he got in touch, and offered me a choice of accessories as compensation. I wanted to be able to plug in a music player in the car – I’ve tried those little FM transmitters and found on a decent length journey they’re more trouble than they’re worth. The accessory catalogue had a “USB box” which plays MP3s. Some of the other options which Brian was willing to pay for were pretty pricey and would have felt like taking advantage, but this seemed OK. It took a while to get the kit and sort out a day to fit it, but it went in last week and I have to say it’s a pretty neat gadget. The handbook suggests it goes in lot of cars - Peugeot and Citroen across the PSA group; it has a USB socket which is powered, so will charge my phone (I’ve twice blown the cigar lighter socket fuse with cheap adapters), plus a dedicated iPod socket – which will work with my wife’s nano, and a 3½mm jack plug for anything else. I tried playing a few MP3s I’d copied to a memory stick – and the first impression was nice sound quality: the integration with the built in Stereo isn’t perfect but is quite good enough. But there was better news: it turns out the USB box plays pretty much any format, including WMA, WAV and even OGG format. Most of my music is in WMA format and sync’d to my phone, so just I tell the phone to connect in storage mode by default , plug it in (even if locked) and the USB box reads the files and plays them.
Playing OGG isn’t quite the advantage it might be when Co-pilot is installed on the memory card, because it uses OGG files for all its messages, and the USB box thinks it should play them – so the first thing it played was “Take 1st exit at roundabout” , “Take 2nd exit at roundabout” and so on. I set the files to hidden, interestingly file explorer on the phone ignores the hidden attribute, so I can’t blame the USB box for doing the same. It’s not an insurmountable problem, unlike its predecessors this phone has enough main memory to allow me to move Co-pilot’s sound files off the storage card. So that’s another plus for the phone.
And as far as the car is concerned it’s one more thing to like about driving it, I’ve had another, minor problem since which was quickly fixed and thanks to Brian I’m back in the happy customers column.
In theory I was supposed to be taking a day off on Monday to look after my children on half term. (Note for parents, making hot cross buns at home is a fantastic way to occupy the kids.). A spot of car trouble killed off our trip to go swimming so I ended up spending a fair chunk of the day following the announcement of Windows Phone 7 series and the reactions to it.
Blogging about my experience with my new 6.5 phone so close the launch of Window Phone 7 Series was setting up a hostage to fortune. I had 3 factors in mind when I decided to get it.
(1) Windows Phone 7 Series (as we now know it) was in the works.
(2) It always takes time from the announcement of a new release of Windows CE / Windows Mobile / Windows Phone to get new devices to market.
(3) My old phone was falling apart, and needed to be replaced.
Past experience tells me to allow of six months from release of software to device makes, to device availability, with potentially another couple of months before they are available as my corporate phone.We’re setting an expectation of “Holiday season” for general availability of the Windows Phones with the 7 Series software on them. One article I read said the prototypes on show in Barcelona this week are made by Asus, but Dell, Garmin, HP, HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba are all listed as launch partners. Qualcomm are listed as the partner we are working with on the silicon. Orange supply phones to Microsoft UK and were given special prominence as a launch carrier, with Vodafone, T-mobile and Telefonica (who own o2) also named.
If “holiday season” is right it’s quite possible that ordinary phone users inside Microsoft won’t get the new phones until January next year: I couldn’t wait that long. Whether it is cameras, PCs or phones – you know that whatever you get today, there will be something better (and probably cheaper) in a year’s time. This looks like being true here in spades, I have the latest version of Pocket PC phone edition which has changed in small increments since 2001, and the next generation will be a big change – but there was no sensible alternative. The upside of having a 6.5 phone for roughly a year before 7 is available set against the downside of having it for roughly a year after compromise I’m happy with.
One thing that amused me about what came out in the launch is that every Windows Phone 7 series will be a Zune. Having heard my colleagues in Redmond saying over and over “Microsoft is not going to manufacture a Zune phone” the answer turns out to be that lots of people are going to Manufacture Zune phones. How long before rumours start that Asus, Dell and the rest will be able to make non-phone devices based on this software (i.e. Zunes) ? [No, I have not heard any such thing, and I’m not trying to start the rumour] Beyond that – there is hardly anything I’ve seen internally which isn’t viewable externally. This is perhaps the best demo. (Found among other places on the Windows Blog)
There’s more at http://www.windowsphone7series.com/. I like what I have seen, no two ways about it. I didn’t see anything much in the way of negative commentary – though a few people were reserving their final judgement until questions like “How will the Marketplace work ?”, “What exactly is the Multi-tasking model ?”, “How much app rewriting is needed ?” There’s an intriguing point on the last two in a tweet by Charlie Kindle, but the real answers will have to wait for Mix.
Gizmodo seemed blown away saying “Windows Phone 7 is almost everything anyone could've dreamed of in a phone, let alone a Microsoft phone. It changes everything” - although I found their comparison of philosophies with the iPhone more interesting. Engadget were similarly enthused starting “Forget everything you know about Windows Mobile. Seriously, throw the whole OS concept in a garbage bin or incinerator or something” and ending “for the first time in a long time, we're excited about Microsoft in the mobile space.” Techland were just as excited “it's a brand new decade, and Microsoft is about to leapfrog Apple and every other player in the mobile space with Windows Phone 7”
Sharon picked up that beyond the headline grabbing UI, Zune and Xbox live hook-ups, this is a useful business platform not just with Exchange ActiveSync for mail and mobile office apps but Sharepoint integration.
Tim Anderson had – let’s call it “an interesting take” - on Microsoft’s partner model and how it plays in the phone world, translating one set of Steve Ballmer’s words as “we are being hammered by OEMs who wreck our product with poor quality hardware and add-on software”. Ouch: it is a charge that some – including Tim have levelled at PC suppliers; once we might have had the ability to say what software should or shouldn’t be on a machine, but courts decided we abused that ability and took it away. Having a smaller market share in phones we mean we can be much more prescriptive about the hardware and what the OEMs can change in the software. Some Microsoft cloud services (notably Bing search, but also Xbox live and Zune) can’t easily be removed without changing the character of the phone, so those seem to be fixed points: the words that Tim translated were “We want to lead and take complete accountability for the end user experience”. The danger doing that is reaching a point when things are so nailed down when everyone says “Wouldn’t it make more sense for Microsoft to take charge of making and selling the thing – as with Xbox.”. But things have gone too far in the opposite direction and what is available on the devices vary so widely that developers can’t be sure that what they write will work on two different devices which supposedly run the same OS, and we’ve moving back from that.
Tim also responded to a statement from Andy Lees “[Mobile operators] have tremendous value to add. They are not just dumb pipes” I know from my time working on Mobile Information Server (the forerunner of Exchange ActiveSync) that Mobile Operators hate the idea of being a dumb pipe, but I don’t think Tim is alone in thinking “I find it hard to think of tremendous added value from the operators”. I recall a time when Orange reduced the value of the phone (adding applications which killed the battery, blocking installation of apps they had not signed). The iPhone has shown that a platform is better for developers of it (a) is one consistent platform, and (b) it bypasses the carriers for sale of applications. Today my phone has Orange Maps and other services which only work if you are connecting over Orange’s network, not over WiFi for example. A service I have to disconnect from my WiFi to use ? Forget it, I’ll use Bing Maps (or Google Maps or whichever other Map provider I use on my desktop computer). It will be interesting to see how the operators change their game as phones get smarter.
Our press site says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will host a press conference at Mobile World Congress 2010. Watch the live Webcast Recording here on Feb. 15 starting at 6 a.m. PST/3 p.m. CET. That’s 2PM UK time, and thanks to other commitments I’m going to have to watch the recording which should show up in the same place.
Commercial sensitivity means the detail of what Steve will say has not been shared widely within Microsoft (though having him make an announcement suggests it is important, and MWC is the place to announce phone-related things : that much is obvious) . We have had a small amount of information about the topics areas which will be left for another day*, and the correct and incorrect way to write product names when the time comes. This came from Charlie Kindle, who has a new blog which may be worth keeping an eye on. Charlie is also on twitter.
* Update. Charlie now has a post on-line which says
There’s a whole bunch of stuff we did not announce today. Specifically we did not announce anything about building applications & games for the new Windows Phone 7 Series operating system. We did this because
(a) The new phone user experience we are talking about is so hugely cool we want people to be able to absorb it for a while, and…
(b) We are working on being able to tell the full story in March at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas. We have at least 12 sessions lined up and attendees will be the first to get access to the bits.
Which is what were told. That and “Windows Phone” – capital P – for devices in general - and Windows Phone 7 Series for the new release is the proper naming.
Arthur : “You mean you can see into my mind ?” Marvin: “Yes.” Arthur: “And … ?” Marvin: “It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small”
Looking back down the recent posts you might notice that this is the 8th in a row about my new phone (so it’s obviously made something of an impression), this one brings the series to a close.
I’ve said already that I bought at 16GB memory card for the new phone which is a lot – I had 1GB before, so… what will I do with all that space? I’m not going to use it for video and 16GB is room for something like 250 hours of MP3s or 500 hours of WMAs: I own roughly 200 albums, so it’s a fair bet they’d fit. Photos – well maybe I’d keep a few hundred MB on the phone. In any event, I don’t want to fill the card completely. After a trip out with no card in the my camera I keep a SD-USB card adapter on my key-ring so I always have both a USB stick and a memory card : currently this uses my old micro-SD card in an full size SD adapter. If I need more than 1GB I can whip the card out of the phone, pop it in the adapter and keep shooting
However the phone has a mass storage device mode so I thought to myself why not copy the Windows installation files to it, and see if I can boot a Machine off it and install Windows from the phone ? That way one could avoid carrying a lot of setup disks. Here’s how I got on.
I’m getting on reasonably well with my new HTC Touch Pro2, and Windows Mobile 6.5 (a.k.a Windows Phone). There are places where it has adapted well to being operated as a touch device – chunky menus and big buttons are essential – the 480 pixel wide screen is as wide 3 of my fingers which puts about 20,000 pixels under my thumb –so big targets are good if you read my post about radio I was operating the device with gloves on On the other had there are some things which work better with a stylus. I still find myself occasionally caught in two minds whether to unholster the stylus or not. Some of the older applications (3rd party ones or things like solitaire, which doesn’t feel like it has changed in the decade since I first saw it on a pocket PC) need the stylus. [This post from Mary Jo suggests that may change: I don’t know if what upgrade(s) will come to this phone in the future] .
A case in point (pun intended) for apps that need the stylus is remote desktop , and I’ve had a couple of instances where the easiest way to get something from my home (Vista) PC was by remoting into it. Remote desktop maps storage through – just like it does on a fully fledged PC. I’ll grant that the Pocket keyboard and screen aren’t ideal for a fully fledged VDI solution – indeed before I tried it I thought remote desktop on a 3.6 inch 800x480 screen would fit Dr Johnson’s quote, “like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." Still as you can see, as a way of doing a quick check on or file transfer it works. In the first window you can see me checking on media center (you can tell this is the old machine – I wrote Back here about "My channel Logos” for Windows 7, which has prettied this up for my laptop) and in the second to copy a file I needed without needing to install the Mobile bits on the home machine first.
The more I explore the features of the Touch-Pro 2 (and Windows Mobile 6.5 – or “Windows Phone” as the marketing people have it), the more I find to like.
Being a Sunday I found myself with other parents from the village standing beside a freezing soccer pitch cheering on our offspring (since mine was only on the pitch for half the time I spent most the time I was there just freezing). It’s at these kinds of times that two of the greatest comforts are Radio 4 and a cup of coffee.
When I first got the device I found it had an “RSS Hub” program – this credits Ilium software and appears to be their News Break in all but name. I’d set it up to download the podcast of From Our Own Correspondent , a programme I never seem to get to listen to when it is broadcast. The downloaded Mp3 just plays in Windows Media Player. After that… I hadn’t given the FM radio on the device a try; it needs headphones plugged in to provide an aerial : I use an adapter to connect standard ones – HTC provide “in-the-ear” ones which I never find comfortable – with them it works as well as any other pocket radio I’ve tried.
It does surprise me just how may radios there are in this device.
* Phone / Data (3G / HSDPA / Edge/GPRS) * Bluetooth * WiFi (802.11 b/g) * GPS * FM Radio
I might be showing my age, but I’m still comparing this device to my original iPAQ – that had a 950mAh battery (non-removable), no memory socket, no keyboard, no radios (although it did have Infra-Red), and a volume of 172cc. In its 118cc the Touch-Pro 2 packs in a 1500mAh battery, all those radios, a Micro-SD socket, two cameras and a Qwerty keyboard. I’m genuinely stumped how they the electronics in the tiny amount of space not occupied by screen, keyboard or battery.
I keep thinking back to the theft of my laptop last year. I’ve had maybe a dozen laptops over the years and I haven’t really the same bond with them that I have with, say, my cameras. Even so whichever laptop I happen to have at the time goes everywhere with me like some kind of comfort blanket. It might be a business machine, but I do personal stuff on it. There’s business payoff to that that, the fact I am on-line and signed into Exchange and Office Communications Server when I’m editing photos (for example) means that colleagues from the other side of the world can get hold of me at all kinds of odd hours, but it’s my choice of hours. Windows 7 is the first time that we have put Media Center into the Professional and Enterprise editions of the product, so now I have a machine which is both protected with Bitlocker (good for IT) and when I’m travelling I can take the USB TV receiver or programmes I’ve recorded on the Media Center at home.
With the new phone I thought I’d try taking a TV recording I’d made under Windows 7 and moving it over from the Sync panel in Windows Media player. This works, but with the downside that the video is resized down below the resolution of the screen and I went off round the following loop.
* Expansys can supply me with a Video cable for the phone * I now have a 16GB memory card in the phone. [This was a special offer from Expansys, £30.47 including taxes shipping etc –my memory of prices gone by makes this seem so cheap. How much cheaper will memory be in a year or two.] * If I convert my TV recordings to 480p resolution WMV I can then play these from the phone to a TV or whatever
Then I came to a stop because:
(a) The 480p / 30 Frames per second video that came out of Movie maker was too much for the phone (it might be speed of reading from the card or CPU/Graphics chip might not be up to the job, it might work better with a different codec) (b) I’m probably going to have to power the phone because this will chomp through the battery at quite a speed. Where will the power supply be ? In the bag with my laptop, along with the video cable. – or more likely if I’m travelling I will charge the phone from the laptop.
In short the phone is a nice music player but it is best suited to playing low-res video. If I’m anywhere that I can use a big screen I’ll have my laptop. Since Windows 7 gives me media centre why would I waste time with the other stuff ?
Just on music front, I’m expecting to have a combined USB / Jack plug connection box in my car soon, it can play MP3 files via USB or anything the phone can output (via another connection adapter) to a jack plug. I have put voice command 1.6 on the phone so I can control Windows Media player by tapping my bluetooth earpiece and saying “Play artist/Album/whatever” – which is always a fun trick when the phone is in one room and you are in another. In the days when 512MB was a big storage card it made a lot of sense to use WMA files as used less space than Mp3 for the same quality. But depending how well the MP3 side of the adapter integrates with the existing stereo controls I want to use the phone’s ability to go into “Mass storage class” mode and act like a USB stick, which which will mean transcoding (or re-ripping) music to play in the car. I’ll be spending enough time doing that to not want to bother doing the same for video. Heck, I still have a decent pile of vinyl albums I keep saying I will digitize and haven’t got round to.
OK cards on the table. I’m prejudiced. I don’t pretend to be anything else, and I try to open about my biases - flaunt them even. And Like most prejudiced people I can explain the logical roots that my prejudices spring from.
When it comes to browsers I think IE is pretty good .Actually let me qualify that: I thought IE 7 was when we got back to being pretty good and IE8 ups our game. Yes I know some organizations are stuck on the IE6 – I think being unable to move to current technology is a sign of badly run organization, so excuses for being stuck on 6 always sound lame to my ears. Usually it comes down to “We made a bad choice of something years ago and now we we can’t upgrade anything”. The investment to put this right which then makes people more productive, and reduces support costs etc is always a good one. When XP was still a current OS (early 2006) IE6 was looking old and tired and I tried Firefox and liked it. These days IE does what I want, so I haven’t felt the need to use the recent versions of Firefox, but to me it still embodies what is good in open source software development. I don’t hear its advocates talking open source ideology, and it strikes me that they want it to succeed on merit – the only way a competitor gets my respect. I can’t feel the same respect for Opera, since it was their complaint to the EU which nearly caused us to ship Windows 7 to Europe with no browser at all. Opera has a market share miles behind Firefox, (and well behind Chrome and Safari). If IE were to vanish it would seem a fair assumption that 3/4 of the total market would go to Firefox. Prejudiced against Opera ? Guilty as charged m’lud.
So… It came a bit of disappointment to find that my new Windows Mobile device comes with Opera installed. Oh the irony: we can’t tell HTC and/or Orange what browser(s) should be on the device , even in our position as customer. On the first day I had the device, I hooked the device up to the corporate wireless (Windows Mobile Device Center handles getting the certificate that is needed) and configured the proxy for work networks. I pointed internet explorer at Www.getCoMo.com and downloaded Communicator Mobile which is working very nicely. Next I wanted to find some IP utilities to check what the network was doing. Sadly the beautiful photos on Bing’s home page are wasted on me - I don’t go to search pages (and my home page is set to blank) – I use the browser’s search box. Except Pocket IE doesn’t have one: however there is a live search icon in the Programs folder but when I used that the result was an error in Opera. It seems Opera can’t connect through a proxy: it certainly doesn’t respect the global proxy setting which IE and Communicator used (it didn’t pick up my favourites either), and if there is somewhere to set, I can’t find it – it’s certainly not under settings.
This produced an outburst which must have startled anyone who heard it. “Congenitally stupid” was one of the more repeatable phrases and I’ll draw a veil over the rest. Seriously. This phone is an evolved pocket PC, and I beta trialled the 802.1x drivers for the wireless LAN card which went in a jacket with my iPAQ 3600 series when Microsoft first started to use wireless LANs in 2001, and could use a proxy. It’s such a basic function I couldn’t believe it was missing. IE at least will me set it as the default browser, so any attempt to jump to a URL at least goes there now. But, can I re-assign the short cut key on they keyboard to it ? That is beyond me. I can remove IE from a PC supplied with it (and presumably if the supplier replaces IE with something else , I can remove that, and go to whatever I want) but there isn’t the same freedom of choice when you move away from the PC. [Unless there are hacks which the average phone user can’t find]
One of the things with the change of phone means sorting out sat nav software. I’ve been using ALK’s co-pilot as my sat-Nav on the last two phones, with a Bluetooth GPS puck. I’ve been through 3 different versions of the software and I’ve grown used to its foibles. Since my phone arrived the day I was going to NEbytes in Newcastle I wanted to get CoPilot on installed right away and I decided to take the opportunity to upgrade to the latest version
Sadly the ALK’s e-commerce site wouldn’t accept my old key to approve an upgrade and so I ended up paying full price – which was still a bargain £27. Then the site wouldn’t release the download – the download won’t work, even as a trial without the key, which only works on one device at a time, so the protection seems unnecessary. I’ve had problems getting to the point of installing CoPilot before and this time, as then their support line sorted everything out for me in a few minutes.
As it turned out – my phone hadn’t got past the initial handshake with the Network so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to activate CoPilot and I headed for Newcastle with the software on my laptop, but not yet on the phone. Installing the software is as simple as copying extracting a zip file to a memory card, Powering up the phone with card in it, and answering a couple of simple questions. Switching to a bigger touch screen changes the UI to something closer to a dedicated sat-nav unit, and its pretty self explanatory, touch friendly controls
Now , it wouldn’t be Copilot without some bit of User interface which doesn’t follow conventions – this time it’s the on-screen keyboard : Windows Mobile provides one and Copilot doesn’t use it. It provides an ABC layout instead of QWERTY. (See the bottom two images on the left for a comparison of the experience in CoPilot and elsewhere – in this case IE). I’m glad of the slide out keyboard! Aside from that it’s a pretty easy going. One of CoPilot’s strong points has always been up to date maps and Points of Interest which still seems to be true, there is a nice feature which tells you which motorway lane to get into in advance and the routing algorithm seems a little less inclined to go through town centres to save a small distance (although it still thinks it easier to get to the Microsoft office by driving through the centre of Reading) . All very easy to switch to, basically.
It has a number of different modes including walking and cycling. I set it walking mode to guide me the last little way to Monday’s IT tweet-up in London. I was on the train at the time, doing 125MPH – hence the comical message “You are travelling faster than normal walking speed, would you like to change modes”. It was interesting watching the software trying to to match location to roads as we sped down the railway line – it’s worth remembering that the device saves a lot of battery time by throttling back the CPU so this can be expected to hammer the battery life. CoPilot has settings for managing the backlight – the other battery killer – “always on” is going to hit the battery pretty hard so is best kept for when the device is on external power, and leaving Windows Mobile to manage things actually suspends Copilot and turns the GPS receiver off until the device is switched back on. “Backlight: On Near turn” works pretty well, with one qualification; on the smartphone jabbing any button would bring the display back up, so on a long trip down the motorway one could see the software’s ETA or distance to the next turn. When the Touch-Pro 2 turns the display off it seems to turn the touch functions off so it is necessary to press the wake-up button not such a good thing when driving.
There are several advantages to ditching the GPS puck – not least the battery in it is at the end of its useful life so it has to be powered to be usable, and one integrated unit is always a better proposition. Reception is no worse as far as I can tell, and there are two implementation advantages. First Windows-mobile multiplexes the GPS between applications so it is possible to have co-existence between CoPilot, the various twitter clients I tried (see this post) which support GPS and a second GPS program – I also use Efficasoft’s GPS utilities when I don’t need navigational guidance - it’s great if what you want is a GPS compass, speedometer, or data logger. The second advantage is the GPS has a “pre-warmer”. When the receiver starts from cold it can get to a fix more quickly given an approximate position – the phone can get a rough position from the 3G network – the information available is not GPS-accurate (otherwise we could dispense with the satellites) but it speeds up the first plot dramatically – as I found emerging from the underground in London.
CoPilot automatically saves the logs from the GPS receiver which are in the started NMEA 0183 format, and it’s pretty easy to process these in anything which handles CSV files: Excel for example, or PowerShell. I thought it would be rather fun to plot speed against location so I did quick bit of data munging and pushed the information into MapPoint (MapPoint doesn’t seem to like importing Excel files with the 64 bit beta of office 2010 installed so I ended up using PowerShell, but any normal person would have used Excel). For each minute of data I averaged the speed, latitude and longitude and plotted the point a different colour – green for 55 MPH and up, blue for 40-55 MPH and Red for under 40. It’s pretty easy to spot the blocks of camera enforced speed limits through roadworks on my my return journey from Newcastle.
Depending how well the battery manages I may end up geotagging a lot more of my photos – that will be PowerShell again. The tip I learned for this from my diving is photograph the time on the data recorder (The Efficasoft tool in this case). The image of the time on the data is tagged with the time on the camera is of the time on the logger so you can workout the difference when tagging the pictures. I’ll come back to that another time.
I’ve tried more several different twitter clients on my desktop but I always end up gravitating back to the Web interface – I think mostly because I follow a lot links from twitter posts and with IE7 pro installed (on IE8, despite the name) I can use a “flick” gesture to open a link in a new tab and carry on reading down in twitter – then go to the pages I’ve opened. Some of the free standing readers are very good but opening a link takes you away from the reader.
On Saturday I was on my way to London and I knew people were tweeting about the photographers gathering in Trafalgar Square with the tag #PhNAT (photographer, not a terrorist) and I wanted to see what was happening.I tried the full and mobile web versions of twitter and with the bigger better screen of the Touch-Pro 2 it wasn’t a good experience. With 3G bandwidth at my disposal I decided to download a client. But which one ? There are 10 or so for Windows mobile. One wouldn’t download, a couple wouldn’t work once they were installed. I tested 4. Here are my totally unscientific, sample-of-one personal experiences. Don’t take my conclusions as a Microsoft endorsement.
First up, and therefore the standard that the others had to be beat was Twinki
Looks nice, and you can add pictures , co-ordinates from the phones GPS or a shortened URL when making a tweet. But where is the search ? If it hasn’t got search I need another client. I know some colleagues use TinyTwitter, so that was next.
As you can see Tiny Twitter wants to tell me to the second when a tweet was made and from which client. I can live without that – it’s not a killer but Tiny Twitter doesn’t seem to have any way of showing full names on tweets or adding GPS data to one of yours. It also takes more taps to start a new tweet. If you look at the text of the second post Tiny Twitter gave me the whole thing but Twikini truncated it. One tap shows the whole message in Twikini and second tap takes me to the linked page. In Tiny twitter it’s tap the Tweet, then menu, status, links and I found it corrupted some links (bit.ly ones). It still doesn’t have search.
Next I tried Twibble, a Java client. I never got it to work, and what little I saw of the UI didn’t encourage me to try very hard. Next came Twitula, which demanded a new version of the .net compact framework and didn’t work even when I installed it (and slapped wrist for us: I had to do that at when I got back to my laptop as it is not packaged for direct installation on mobile devices). Then came Twobile.
Twobile has the big advantage that it it support all the functions of Twitter including … drum roll … search. It also packs in the maximum number of tweets – although it does so by truncating them so you need to go to open each one to read it. It also can invoke Google translation to translate a tweet (sadly Hebrew isn’t one of the options, so I never will know what Shay was saying). Its looks are definitely against it and some things like following a link require so many taps it borders on the perverse. I could use this with one of the others to get search but that really is all.
[Update: somewhere about this point I tried Pocket Twit. Somehow I left it off the original list]
PocketTwit is the opposite of Twobile – those controls are geared for stylus input (which the Touch-Pro 2 supports) rather than finger input (which it also supports). Pocket-Twit is a true touch app – slide the column of tweets out of the way and you find menus which are located off to the sides. I found this baffling at first and still not feeling entirely I’ve made touch I had a few misgivings. The major one being when I slid the keyboard out and the device went into landscape mode I found I wasn’t sliding the column far enough to get the menu to snap into place. This may be worth re-visiting as and when I get on better with touch, but I discarded it for lack of search, although (thanks here to Scot Lovegrove) I later found it does have search, just not very accessible. I can understand people liking this app – I feel a bit of luddite for not doing so myself.
Finally I arrived at mo-tweets, which comes as an “Ad supported” version or a $3.95 version.
First of all it has the option to run full screen (as here) and the use of bar along the top gives a tap-to-tweet button (of the other 3 only Twikini lets you tweet in a single tap from the home screen). The “sections” item from the main menu also has a short cut button on the top menu , so it can access the same wide range of choices as Twobile. there’s a choice of truncating the messages which don’t have the focus or showing them in full, and tapping on a message gives the widest range of choices (search hash tags in it, send it by e-mail, translate again), and there is an option for short cut buttons on the message with the focus – for reply, retweet and add to favourites. Finally the tweet dialog as buttons for adding people, new or existing pictures, a shortened URL or your GPS location. I could suggest improvements for mo-tweets. It previews the Google maps page it will display for a URL link but it jumps out to the default browser when a link is clicked – I’d like the option to preview the page inside mo-tweets. It gives a choice of URL shorteners, including Bit.ly – I’d like to put my bit.ly account information in so I can see what traffic has gone to the link, and I’d like to be able to choose my own mapping provider. However as stands it gives me the key things I want in a form that I like so that is the one I have settled on for now – just remember folks, you can’t extrapolate from what one guy at Microsoft likes to anything about Microsoft as a whole.
Last week Orange delivered a consignment of HTC-Touch Pro 2 phones and one of them had my name on it. Every phone I’ve ever had has been driven by buttons and I wrote before Christmas that I was in two minds about “going touch”. But my old E650 was falling apart and I decided the HTC was the best of my choices, so here are some first impressions
This is the 6th device made by HTC I’ve owned (the original Compaq IPAQ 3650, the first 02 XDA – which I never used, the first Orange SPV phone, the SPV-C500 and the E650). It’s the first to have HTC’s name on it. In terms of build quality and design it is the best of them, and so it should be with a price tag which would let me buy a laptop or two net-books. Adjectives which come to mind are “clean” , “minimalist”, “solid”, “business like”.
The device is built around an 800x480 (“Wide screen VGA”) display: my old desktop monitor is about 85 Pixels per inch, my lap is twice that, and the HTC is 3 times that – I suspect that is a large part of the cost of these devices. The screen is actually slightly smaller than that original IPAQ (47x79mm - 3713mm² against 58x77 4466mm²) but packs in 5 times as many pixels. Not to mention phone and GPS functions a Micro-SD memory socket, a much more powerful processor, two cameras and a bucketful more memory. Each new device seems to have better brightness and saturation than its predecessor and this one is no exception - I thought this was one of the new OLED screens but the specs say it is just LCD. That screen enables some new scenarios, especially as graphics abilities of the device seem pretty good, and there is no getting away from the fact that applications I had on my E650 are just better on a big screen (that’s not a surprise – I can’t think of anything which gets better on a small screen.)
One oddity of this phone is the extent to which choosing a home screen changes the whole user experience of the phone.
From left to right we have HTC’s “Sense” UI which has short-cuts to other HTC apps along the bottom. Then there is the “Microsoft default” which puts people in mind of Zune’s UI. Neither of these is greatly customizable so far as I can tell so I can’t get rid of the getting started or voice mail options (I only use my Exchange voice mail, and have turned off the one that Orange provide). Then there is the Orange home screen - the latest incarnation of something that first saw the light of day on the C500 phone and I’ve never warmed to. And finally there is the traditional Pocket-PC page – this certainly used to be highly customizable using XML files I haven’t found out if that still applies, but it looks dated beside the first two. However it lets me see time and upcoming appointments at the same time, and it doesn’t provide a button for call history which looks a missed call notification.
The HTC sense “skin” gives access to the main functions via the bar along the bottom
They’re all pretty nice, but don’t do everything, so I end up clinking All programs , all settings or Inbox to open up the built in windows application.
I’m slowly warming to touch as a UI (though I keep growling “Why do I have to slide that, why can’t I tap it”), and with the slide out keyboard I think I’ve got something where I can do mail, note taking, tweeting and so on quite easily. Since E650 was not a 3G device the thing I notice most is the speed of the new device – not only do it’s CPU and graphics make it feel nippy, it hops from my home network on WiFi to 3G, and then to the office Network on WiFi pretty much seamlessly (something I gave up on with the E650 which never seemed happy about changing networks) – the only speed test I’ve done it to date showed a download speed of about 750Kbits/sec and upload of about 128Kbits/sec - plenty good enough for all but the largest downloads. One neat trick about the phone is when connected by USB it asks if you want to go into internet sharing mode, memory stick mode, or normal active sync. I wish it would offer a “Web cam mode” too as the camera looks pretty good. There’s a rear facing autofocus camera of 2.4MP and a front facing one for video calls (though communicator mobile can’t use them). There’s no flash but the camera has fast lens and high ISO rating so it can get pictures in poor light.
Music and video seem pretty good – there is a TV connection cable for the USB socket and like previous HTC devices an adapter is used plug in conventional headphones. And of course the GPS is built in, and seems to work at least as well as the Bluetooth GPS puck I used before – the only Bluetooth configuration needed was to get my earpiece going and that was pretty straight forward.
All in it’s a easy device to like, and I’ll explain a bit more in the next post or 2 … or 3
Someone at work (no names, no packdrill) keeps telling me I’m set in my ways, and I keep disagreeing, since I’ve always thought it’s one of my personality traits to challenge the status quo (see Apparatchik vs Autistic). But I’ve been forced to confront my own conservatism when it comes to phones.
I’ve had my E650 since April 23rd 2007. Our phones normally get replaced after two years, but we wanted to make Windows mobile 6.5 the base level for phones and so people renewing were asked to wait for the new phones to start arriving. 2 years and 7 months have been hard on my E650. Being shoved in pockets with coins and keys has done horrible things to the finish, and it’s been dropped onto hard surfaces on several occasions – even bouncing down a flight of concrete steps. When I get fidgety I play Bubble breaker, obsessively, 200 games without leaving my seat is not unknown (yes, yes, another Asperger’s type behaviour, don’t think I haven’t noticed). I’ve played just under 12000 games, and if a typical game involves 100 button clicks that’s well over a million key activations. The keypad is getting to the end of its working life. I need 3G data only rarely but when do the E650’s lack of it is a nuisance.
For the moment we have a choice of 2 phones the Samsung Omnia Pro and the HTC touch pro 2 either would be a new form factor for me.The Samsung has a qwerty thumb-pad which isn’t as good for dialling numbers as a 4x3 keypad and not great for typing messages (some people – Blackberry users think this compromise is ideal. I don’t) and it can’t use a standard USB cable to charge. So I’ve ruled that out. The HTC can use a standard USB (although HTC have added the ability to output sound and video via extra pins), and has a slide out keyboard for messages and correcting documents. But no keypad on the front, and it has GPS integrated so I no longer need to worry about my bluetooth GPS puck; and the big screen should work nicely with co-pilot. It’s a nice piece of industrial design, and it’s had good reviews especially for the 480x800 resolution screen.I wrote a piece called the mobility dilemma before I got the E650, and a lot of it still applies. iPhone users seem to manage doing everything including typing messages by caressing the screen: the slide out keyboard removes my biggest objection to the iPhone design, yet after 17 years using phones with 4x3 keypads, some instinct says without one it’s not truly a phone. (“See: you are set in your ways” … “No I’m not, because of the next question”). Why am I carrying a telephone ? These days I use my “mobile” more as a PDA than a phone – but it is designed to be a phone first. When I ring someone it is almost always using a saved or emailed number, so the lack of keypad to dial from shouldn’t matter. My PC has replaced my desk phone thanks to Office Communications Server and communicator, so if the telephone isn’t the best template for a mobile device why cling on to it ? I’ve rationalized getting the HTC by telling myself I’m going to stop carrying a “phone” and go back to a proper PDA (I loved the original iPAQ back in 2001) – just a PDA which can do phone calls. I have a suspicion one iPhone user I know (she knows who she is) will say “A-ha you get it now. Phone calls aren’t the main function why not optimize for the other stuff”. Indeed “Phone” may turn into a throwback term like “dial” or “ring”. The order should go in on Monday and the experience should give me the material for for some more posts once it arrives.
Everyone uses different bits of office. There’s a core piece that everyone uses and then we all have our personal 10%. I like the OCR feature of One-Note. For example on the way to the BETT show a few days back I saw an advert on the tube that’s a grander variation on “How do you pronounce Ghoti ?” *
If GH can stand for P in Hiccough If OUGH can stand for 0 in Dough If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis If EIGH can stand for A in Neighbour If TTE can stand for T in Gazette It EAU can stand for 0 in Plateau Then the way you spell POTATO is... GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU Isn’t it? Only The Times brings you the UK’s first national spelling championship for schools. Join in at Timesonline.co.uk/spellingbee
If GH can stand for P in Hiccough If OUGH can stand for 0 in Dough If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis If EIGH can stand for A in Neighbour If TTE can stand for T in Gazette It EAU can stand for 0 in Plateau Then the way you spell POTATO is...
Only The Times brings you the UK’s first national spelling championship for schools. Join in at Timesonline.co.uk/spellingbee
I just grabbed a snap with my phone (the handles for standing passengers make a great camera rest to keep shake down) and when I hooked up to my PC I dropped the picture into OneNote: One notes does OCR on pictures offers a “copy text” menu option when you right click them. I’m finding myself using this more and more, even for slides with a variety of cameras and even screen grabs of on-line presentations. I’ve noticed than some phones now do recognition of input from business cards via their phones. I wonder how long it will be before the whole thing can be done in the phone without needing the PC to do the OCR part.
* Ghoti is pronounced “Fish” , Gh as in enough, o as in women , and ti as in station
Everyone knows Apple’s advertising annoys people at Microsoft. That’s partly what it’s for. And I’ve held my peace about an iPhone advert which appear to feature a faked series of operations. If you watched the ad closely you could see that a .ZIP file is downloaded from a mail message and magically opens as a document, without ever being unzipped. Not having tried it I can’t be 100% certain that the iPhone doesn’t magically unzip files and open their contents, but I’m sceptical to say the least. So I was quite pleased to hear the Advertising Standards Authority have banned that ad – the issue being it showed downloads at a speed that no 3G network can deliver (with a message that Network performance varies).
Incidentally I’m told that the launch sales of Samsung’s Omnia phone were better than the equivalent for the iPhone. The Omnia isn’t for me, but it’s one of 160 Windows mobile devices – there’s a form factor for most people.