Windows 7, Palm Pre, Apple iPhone, and the Nokia E71

3 02 2009

Just some commentary on these 4 tech hot topics.

Windows 7: It’s alright and if you had problems getting your video cards recognized with Microsoft Windows Vista, you’re back on square one with the number. Now if you got an older monitor, it is most likely a 4:3 screen (resolutions – 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768), you’re not going to see stretching or black vertical borders on the sides. However, since your graphics card can’t really be used, you’ll see slower performance compared to XP. You might run into compatibility issues with antivirus software. Another downer.. the Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) you downloaded expires in August 2009.

My recommendation is as many have said – use it only for testing. Actually if you have a newer system, create a partition on your drive or get a 2nd HDD and install W7. The Aero visuals are stunning and runs smooth compared to the much despised Vista but for older machines, you should either go with Ubuntu or Windows XP.

Palm Pre: Put in the limelight at the 2009 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) last month, this is Palm’s last ditched attempt to save itself from oblivion. The UI (user interface) is pretty and appears to have been influenced by Apple’s iPhone OS which would make this an obvious hit other than the ugly keyboard slide-out. The old Garnet 5.4 OS has been kicked to the curb in favor of a new inhouse developed linux-based flashy webOS. Palm’s promising GPS, a 320×480 pixel screen, 3MP camera, 600MHz processor, 8GB internal memory, and a host of other standard features. An innovative feature of using cloud computing technology lets you sync your stuff with an online server instead of your computer. Well, you don’t really have a choice in this case.

What really kills this for me are … the ugly keyboard, the battery life for a cellular device at that size and that powerful of a processor with the features given is going to suck, no expandable memory which means no microSD card slots, doubts about security, and the tanking economy (duh!) I do understand that the Palm Pre isn’t out for sale yet but if they don’t produce a GSM version (AT&T and T-Mobile), regardless of their partnership with Sprint (CDMA), it’s a definite no go for me.

I guess we’ll have to sit back and see what’s remaining after Apple strips Palm out of a lot of their UI features on the Palm Pre.

Apple iPhone: What else to say other than this is the industry gold standard that every UI designer is aiming to emulate. Other than it being cool and possessing easy to use menus, there are a lot of limitations. Some being the lack of multi-tasking capabilities, “real” internet on the webkit-based Safari browser (YES, they lied in those ads), replaceable battery, external storage, and other smaller concerns. But the whole package despite those shortcomings is tightly integrated and holds mass appeal.

My take on this is, … pretty … cool … not the phone for me. Oh and the battery life sucks on this thing. I have the new 2nd Generation 16GB iPod Touch which sports a faster processor than the iPhone 3G but has better battery life. Unfortunately for the iPhone, it’s battery life is significantly worse than the Touch.

*drum roll*

Nokia E71: Just got this last week and boy is it a beauty. The design is compact yet has a bright generous screen. The audio is loud and crisp. GPS. Multitasking. Stainless-steel back. Giant 1500mA battery. This is a significant improvement from the older Nokia E61, which more than held it’s own back when it originally debuted in 2006. I’ll be posting more about this next week. 😉

(L to R above) Apple iPod Touch 2nd Gen . Nokia E71 . Nokia E61

Also, NewEgg‘s having a super sale for the E71 at a super low price of $299 with a free Motorola Bluetooth headset and topped with FREE SHIPPING!
Here’s the coupon: EMCABCHBJ

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Free iPod through your bank

15 11 2008

Free iPod deal. Sometime last week, I received a letter from my bank Wells Fargo in the mail. Seemed like the regular “SIGN UP FOR A FREE CAMERA” thing they sometimes send out. Only this time, it said a free Apple iPod Shuffle. Nothing extraordinary but could be worth picking up since it’s FREE. Didn’t think much about it until a buddy at work had one just like that, only his was through Bank of America. He found the iPod in the middle row on the scratch card.

Found the iPod in the middle row on my scratch-off card also. You get 30 days to use the service (AutoVantage – similar to AAA Roadside Service) for free and you want to cancel before then, unless you’re up for shelling out $16/mo thereafter. The Shuffle will be mailed out 3-5 weeks after processing the application. Oh and remember to include the scratch-off card and the sheet holding your signature in the prepaid envelope before mailing em out. Keeping my fingers crossed.

EDIT (12/26/2008): This is so not worth the hassle. You send in a request to sign-up along with a free iPod card. Then you wait for 2 weeks and they mail you a membership confirmation packet complete with your ID card and some coupons and booklets. Then you have to mail out another free iPod card to confirm included in the packet you received from them. This is estimated to take 6-8 weeks to process and the whole time, you are expected to be a member of AutoVantage. Also be advised that the iPods are subject to availability. To top it off, it’s just a cheapo iPod Shuffle 1GB.





1 month and lovin the MacBook until now…

15 10 2008

As anticipated, on October 14th, Apple renewed their tri-pronged attack in the notebook market – a more powerful MacBook Air, a completely redesigned MacBook (the bread and butter of Apple computers), and the gigantor sized multimedia heavy MacBook Pro. By the way, did you know that new Apple products are always announced on Tuesdays? Did they pick the 2nd day of the work week simply because they got too lazy to prepare over the weekend and instead laid to waste a perfectly good “Moon-Day” for prep work? Either ways, one thing is for certain, the new MacBook kicks ass. Or do they?

Physically there are differences but the dimensions are very similar to my MacBook. 1.08 x 12.78 x 8.92 inches as opposed to the new sizes – 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94 inches. Even the keyboard is identical aside from black color (and backlit feature for the $1,599 model). 4 main physical differences between the new MacBook and mine are:

  1. Firewire Port: It’s GONE! Mac fanboys are screaming “BLASPHEMY!” after Apple’s beloved IEEE 1394 port is now MIA from the MB line. But fear not MacNerds (or aspiring MacNerds) because the now elusive 1394 port exists on the more expensive MBP (MacBook Pro) if you can’t live without it. If you have truely set yourself in a loving monogamous relationship with Apple wares, you’ll find he money to upgrade to the MBP.
  2. Screen: Black bezel around the screen with gloss glass finish to the entire lid. I hate gloss finish on screens but it appears to be implemented well on the new ‘Books.
  3. Keyboard: It’s the same only black in color and if you want the keyboard lighting feature, it’s available on the $1,599 model.
  4. Material: The neat aluminum look to fit in with the rest of Apple’s computer line. I have to say however that this makes the entire Apple product line seem very … boring in a weird way. Previously the black and white MacBook models injected some life into their notebooks.

Additionally, you could add that the battery life bar is on the left-side of the notebook instead of the bottom but that’s nitpicking.

So in essence, the new MacBook IS a “mini” MacBook Pro. It packs a powerful punch with a dedicated GPU from NVIDIA’s 9400M line (the graphics card uses shared DDR3 RAM unlike the DDR2 stuff on my “white” MacBook) and it looks just like the new MBP, only better portability. I like it but the price hike and the lack of customization can be a factor – you only have 2 choices:

  1. $1,299 for the Intel Core2Duo 2.0GHz and 160GB HDD
  2. $1,599 for the Intel Core2Duo 2.4GHz and 250GB HDD w/ backlit keyboard

On the plus side, the weight has been reduced by 1 pound and both options use more efficient LED lighting for the screens. Also, the touchpad/trackpad no longer has the button at the end and supports 4-finger multi-touch (which is customizable) like the MBA (MacBook Air) and the MBP. It is made of glass and should be flashy enough to cause some to upgrade.

Finally, here’s a picture of my (now previous generation) MacBook. In my opinion, it can hold it’s own and has a very cleancut image without appearing to do a “me-too” look like the rest of the Apple line.

… I also thought I should share a picture of the new iPod Touch (2nd generation) placed alongside my workhorse communications device, Nokia E61. The one to the left is a protector screen sticker thing pasted on top of the iPod in it’s plastic glass case. Boy have I jumped over to the dark side.

If you’re pissed off about not getting Firewire support for the MacBooks, look at the MacBook Pro line. The 15″ is currently on sale and the 17-18″ should be joining soon next month.

My verdict: Wait until the new Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s out (sometime early next year sayz the rumors), then purchase the MacBook without having to pay $$$ for the upgrade. This should also allow ample time for Apple to smooth out the kinks on the new system and hopefully lower prices or even better hardware.





Macbook + Free iPod Touch v New Macbook (the real deal)

28 08 2008

Alright. This is the actual post about the Macbook. So Apple is having their annual “Back to School” special which ties anyone with a school email address to purchase Macbooks at a discount and receive a free iPod. The free iPod deal also encompasses the flashy iPod Touch (only the $299 8GB version) and is done through a worry free efficient rebate system from Apple.

This is also about the time for me to upgrade my laptop from an ungainly old P4 2.7GHz Windows system to a Core 2 Duo MacBook running the latest Mac OS X Leopard which would make sense because I need a new MP3 player, namely the fancy iPod Touch. After going to the Mac store with my old college email address (which still works 🙂 ) and configuring a nice setup for $1700, I realized something.

TO MAC OR NOT TO MAC!

The deal has it’s cons. It’s only valid till September 15th and there’s rumors that there’s going to be a completely redesigned MacBook this time around. There are other stories circulating the interwebs about an all-aluminum metal enclosure instead of the cheap white plastic (or black) highly popular MacBook. It’s also going to feature a multi-touch touchpad similar to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. That and the iPod Touch will be redesigned and that all these changes are to be set in SEPTEMBER. It’s the 28th today and in a month, my new MacBook and iTouch will look outdated.

The downside to waiting for a new MacBook (if it comes true) is that I’m going to miss out on a free iPod deal and what if Apple jacks up the price? That and the wireless components on a metal encasing will suffer in terms of performance just like the MacBook Pro. After consulting with some Mac-philes today, I’ve decided to embrace the old saying “patience is virtue” and keeping my fingers crossed.

PS: The weirdest thing is the day I started looking for a MacBook and noticed the free iPod deal, it was posted on the popular consumer-advocacy website Consumerist.com.





Two Minutes to Midnight for Servers

21 05 2008

PDOS (Phlashing/Permanent Denial of Service) attacks have now entered the mainstream world. An article on Hackaday reveals this accidental discovery and the same stuff is also reported on Engadget. Although this isn’t anything new and it’s hard to execute remotely, it’s completely possible due to the pervasive nature of technology in our lives today. A standard DDoS (Denial of Service) attack shuts down websites or slows down your computer’s processes or network capabilities. The means are usually achieved by overflooding key components (CPU/RAM/etc) with large swaths of packets (data). They can also trigger recursive functions on older systems to cause a stack overflow without having to eat up bandwidth space on the network.

The vulnerability: Many devices nowadays allow for their firmwares to be updated from your couches. You no longer have to mail it to a service center or worse, buy an entirely new product for an updated software. Your Palm Pilots, phones (smart phones like Windows Mobile and Symbian devices), routers, etc are some more common instances. This procedure is known as “flashing” and is risky because if the update isn’t done right or if there is a hiccup on the network, it’s going to “brick” your device.

What do you mean by “brick”: When your electronic device is only as useful as a brick.

Why do you need to run firmware updates: Firmware updates are constantly provided by manufacturers to enhance your product’s usability and functions. They could affect anything from the user-interface to the support of additional hardware, new added functions, or provide greater efficiency and addressing bugs. Certain software might only work if you your firmware is at or greater than a certain level.

What PDOS does: Writes a corrupt firmware to complete the transformation of your device into the afore mentioned construction product. Owners of convergence devices (smart phones) need to remember to completely back up their data before flashing as we all know the risks involved.

How to prevent it: You would need to disable remote firmware updates. That option should be listed somewhere in the device’s settings section and if it’s not there, look up in the manuals because it should be. Other ways are to secure your routers and the use of strong passwords.





Can Nokia’s N-Gage engage Google’s Android?

10 05 2008

What does Nokia’s N-Gage have anything to do with Google’s upcoming mobile operating system, Android? Well they both have been hyped a lot and are both supported by large global technology leaders. The biggest similarity is that they are both vying for that exclusive spot in your pocket and unless you happen to be one of those who carry two phones, there is room for only one even if you have multiple pockets.

Late last year, Nokia unveiled their newly rebranded “N-Gage” system for online mobile gaming and “Arena” community support. A lot of hype was tossed about and around on the various gaming blog sites like Joystiq.com and IGN.com to name a few. In theory, the idea seemed like a perfect strategy with a dedicated platform of gaming phones of all shapes and sizes on the so-so popular Symbian-based S60 OS. To back that up, a report in 2006 showed that roughly 80 million converged-devices (smart phones) were sold that year and a considerable chunk of that (67%) ran on the Symbian operating system on their phones compared to WindowsMobile (14%), RIM (Blackberry 7%), Linux (6%), and Palm (5%).

Types of Symbian Operating System

Those numbers look good until you realize that there are many variants of the Symbian operating system based on the type of user interface (UI) designed for the phones. Nokia’s UI are tagged with “Series” followed by a two-digit integer as a suffix. Among the 3 types of Nokia smartphone interfaces (note: the S40 is not a smartphone), the S60 is the more popular choice in relation to the decadent S80 and S90. Japan’s fancy schmancy cool phones run on NTT DoCoMo’s proprietary UI tagged as MOAP/FOMA “Mobile Orientated Applications Platform” and Sony Ericsson has their UIQ system. There are probably more but these are the major global players in the Symbian family.

Global Marketshare of Symbian OS

If we assume that the Nokia Series (60, 80, 90), UIQ, and MOAP are all equally represented in the 67% market share, that would mean that each of them have 22.33% of the market. Do note that this here is simply a false assumption because it is not taking into consideration the proliferation of Nokia handsets in this industry with respect to their other Symbian counterparts. However, due to time limitations and lack of sources, I have decided to go with a 50-50 split.

So for Nokia out of 22.33%, let us make another assumption using a 95% S60 dominance over S80 or S90 (since those 2 are nearly dead) and this leaves S60 with a still strong 21.21% overall global market share.

Within the S60, we have yet another subdivision with THREE generations aptly named – S60, S60 2nd Edition, S60 3rd Edition. Let us make yet another assumption that all 3 generations are equally distributed on this 21.21% plane which provides each edition of the S60 with a paltry 7.07% globally. The “3rd Edition” is the current/newest version out since late 2006.

The reason why I broke down the market share for S60 into three is because applications designed for either one of those editions are not compatible with the other. So basically, they can be considered as three separate mobile operating systems due to the lack of interoperability between them in terms of hardware or software.

Now you see that out of this 7.07%, the S60 3rd Edition can be broken down into (again) three sub-categories … the cheaper but functional devices (these are numbered for Nokia like the 6120 or 3rd party manufacturers like Samsung’s SGH-i550), the E-series (Nokia’s Enterprise/Business devices), and the top of the line multimedia N-Series. Applications between these devices are generally compatible depending on the application’s design (widescreen 320×240 or portrait 240×320) structure and use of certain hardware requirements like a GPS, accelerometer, cameras (front and rear), 3D GPU (Graphical Processing Unit – aka 3D Gfx card), etc.

The N-Gage Focus

Even with those tiny numbers, Nokia is only willing to put their “N-Gage” system on ONE out of the 3 sub-categories – the expensive line of N-Series handsets. What they mean to say is that the N-Gage will only be compatible on 3.36% of the global smart-phone industry. This is bad news in my opinion because it highlights the frailty of a system for which a lot of time, effort, and money were invested.

Like the new platform, the original N-Gage was also mutually exclusive (N-Gage and N-Gage QD) but on a smaller scale (N-Gage and N-Gage QD). The “unbreakable” games were cracked shortly after launch to run on all S60 (1st edition) handsets which made people realize that the N-Gage games were simply S60 games but of a higher quality and standard. The N-Gage games also offered added value like Bluetooth or online multiplayer gaming on their cell phones against people around all parts of the world. Unfortunately for Nokia, that project was doomed to fail due to the exclusivity of the product to just 2 phones and an already aged operating system as a backbone.

And if you thought the Espoo Finland-based giant learned from their mistakes, think again. They’re doing the same thing with the new N-Gage, only marketing it to their N-Series lineup and their decision to go Han Solo will once again undermine their chances of a global success in my opinion.

N-Gage Service or Nokia Phones?

Nokia is at a T-intersection and is using the “N-Gage Gaming” as an additional feature to market their N-series phones instead of the other way round. What we can take from that is the “N-Gage” is still NOT a focus for Nokia. They are still in the business of selling their “Nokia” branded phones which is fine by me but that focused-strategy is dragging the N-Gage into the same hole it was looking to crawl out from. They are not willing to create a separate enterprise (aka Global N-Gage System), rather they are preferring to go with a lackluster one-console approach in the same vein as the failed original N-Gage.

Recommendations for the N-Gage

With all the rumors nowadays of the Sony Playstation Phone and the Nintendo Phone, the best way to negate those possibilities is to work with your rivals. A cross-platform N-Gage Arena experience (hint: UIQ, S60, MOAP) would help the “N-Gage” division thanks to a much global exposure from the synergies created by working with rivals like Sony.

The N-Gage is a software like the S60 and should be allowed to perform on multiple platforms. By sharing their proprietary online gaming system on all Symbian phones, the biggest gaming leaders like Nintendo and Sony could integrate the system into their phone OS like the MOAP and UIQ thus providing legitimacy to the N-Gage application. The combined experience of Nokia, Sony, and Nintendo in the communications and gaming industry would only benefit Nokia’s N-Gage.

So does Nokia want the N-Gage to fare better this time around? We would hope yes because of all the money poured into the program but it seems like they’re doing a half-assed job of it.

If they are so worried about a cross platform N-Gage system stealing sales of their phones to other handset makers like SonyEricsson (why buy a Nokia to play games online if you can do the same on a SonyEricsson), my recommendation for them is to work on promoting their core competencies – excellent hardware support, sturdy product build and reliability, up-to-date fashion design cues, and quality “multimedia” handsets. Those are the reasons people bought Nokias and still continue to do so.

They don’t have to go all out with ALL SYMBIAN interoperability for the N-Gage for now but I highly recommend pushing it out to all S60 3rd Edition devices. The difference between the regular S60, an E-series, and the N-series should be:

1. The regular models will be wimpy in hardware specs (smaller screens, no GPS, no 3D cards, etc) but cheaper.

2. The E-series will be similar to the N-series but will lack prepackaged multimedia applications. Less power could be a way to make this cheaper.

3. The N-series will feature a slew of free prepackaged apps and additional hardware pluses like 3D cards and GPS.

I’m not saying the Finnish masters haven’t done their research but from a strictly consumer’s point of view, those are my opinions.

Can Nokia’s N-Gage engage Google’s Android?

From what we know above, the answer is a resounding NO. There is simply no incentive to use a Nokia phone if the best features are reserved for the most expensive devices. For a product that requires mass appeal, the N-Gage’s limited product-line (software/hardware) hinders growth in the market while Google’s mobile operating system will feature on different sets of hardware (phone) manufacturers. Android also has this cooler looking interface and I guess we’ll have to wait and see but a storm is coming…





N800 … hand’s on that shiny thang

4 01 2008

Quick review on the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. So after the big sale mentioned in a previous post on the N800, managed to convince my boss to purchase one as a VoIP device. It got there a day or so after the new year and the excellent build-quality got me impressed. The boys over at Ritz Camera even had the OS updated to the stuff running on the new N810 – the linux-based OS2008. The GUI on this small yet fashionable device was very slick and intuitive unlike the Symbian S60-based Nokia’s mobile phone OS.

The 3-4″ desktop screen was a gorgeous bright/clear box in 800×400 resolution and packed in 3 layers just like any regular Windows/Mac desktop. You have the wallpaper, the applets (no icons), and the task bar (on the left column). The thing was pretty slim, it came with a stylus nicely integrated along with a stow-away rotating camera that could be used for video conferencing or picture taking.

After pairing up with my Nokia E61, with 2 strokes with the stylus, holy shit you can explore my phone. All the files (including the system folders) are visible and I was able to extract files ala Windows Explorer style. All very easy to use. The applets are so easy to push out to the desktop. Streaming internet radio worked like a charm.

Another great thing about the N800 is that the OS automatically changes the touchscreen inputs when using fingers or a stylus. Unfortunately, the main reason we got it was for VoIP and the Skpe connection wasn’t very stable. You had to leave the software running in the background in order to receive calls (duh) but if you’re on the move, you could lose your Wireless reception nullifying the use of Skype.

However, by deleting other previously accessed SSID’s in the neighborhood, you can let it auto-connect to the one you like. I couldn’t find a “preferred” list but by deleting the other SSID’s that are within range, you are able to connect automatically. It supports WPA/WPA2 so that was another plus. My boss didn’t sound too happy the last time I talked about it to him but there’s so much more this thing can do, and even he knows it.

There are 5 things which makes N800 better than the N810 (although I’ve never used the latter) in my opinion:

  1. Rotating camera (the N810 has a fixed single front facing camera)
  2. The directional pad is easily accessible on the N800. The N810 requires you to slide out the keyboard to get to the d-pad.
  3. The N810 allows 2 SD card slots while the N810 only has room for 1 mini/microSD. SD cards are inherently cheaper for the capacity than their smaller cousins.
  4. FM Radio Tuner
  5. Price. The N800 is 1/2 the price of the N810.

For the money, there’s nothing else that can beat it for the moment. This is one serious tiny computer that you can carry around and be proud of.