Friday, October 9, 2009

The new HTC Imagio with Windows 6.5 and Touch Flo 3d first review

Well it was time for my "new every 2" at Verizon.  This time I retired my venerable Windows Mobile 6.1 phone for a shiny new HTC Imagio Windows Mobile 6.5 phone, with the HTC Touch Flo 3d interface.

So far, I'm pretty impressed with the phone.  I had no real trouble setting it up - did a final sync with the old phone, then moved my memory card to the new phone (same card) and activated it.  As usual with Verizon this required no interaction with a Technical support rep - all was an automated process on both the phone and the provider end.

The phone itself is my first phone in years without a slide out keyboard.  Several reviewers assured us that the touch screen keyboard provided adequate feedback and accuracy.  I would say that "adequate" is correct. I've played with iPhones before, and like with them I have a higher error rate and a slower typing speed with the screen activated keyboard than with a pop-out.  The user interface however is nice enough that I'm willing to overlook this minor issue.  I like the fact that it can optionally vibrate each time you type something and/or click though since the click is controlled by system volume, it's a bit loud and annoying at my normal volume levels.  I turned it off.

It does have a motion sensor, which is used for detecting if the phone is right side up, upside, down, etc.  If you are on a call and place the phone face down on a surface it switches automatically to speaker phone mode - and quite a nice speakerphone too.  So far no plethora of games for it, but it is brand new so we'll see.  It comes with one well designed "rolling ball around a table with holes in it" type game.  Not bad at all.

The phone has a very nice 5mb megapixel camera, which does both full motion video and stills.  I used it with TinyTwitter to take a shot and got this result: 

syncing up via bluetooth on Twitpic

Not bad at all.  As you can see, using my Windows 7 machine with Windows Mobile Device Center I can sync either USB Cable connected or via bluetooth or wireless network.  All seemed equally fast and syncing for the first time to this phone was about the same as my 6.1 phone (IE my 3000 contacts took a while but everything went over fine after a 1/2 an hour or so).  Subsequent syncs were pretty quick.

The only downside objection I have so far is that the TouchFlo 3d software doesn't have any adjustments, and it's relatively easy to open an application (for instance) when you're trying to gesture to move the screen.  I feel that's probably my getting used to it, but since there are no other ways of navigating if it turns out to be an annoyance it will probably continue to be annoying.  It would be nice if there were some sensitivity tweaks you could do (open app after XX seconds of holding the app button for instance).

The initial windows marketplace seems to have a reasonably nice selection of games, tools and utilities, and I expect it will flesh out some.  I've heard from other bloggers that getting apps overseas may be a little more difficult since Microsoft insists you release your software in the native language of that country (despite the fact that virtually everyone overseas speaks at least some English).  There is a limit to the number of front page apps you can set up to about 3 screens of apps (I'm guessing it's like 30 apps).  I can see someone exceeding that easily and having to go to the underlying "all programs" scrolling list to run things they like.

Overall - good implementation, solid seeming phone and capabilities.   I'll see how it fairs in day to day use over the next few weeks.  This is all biding time of course until Microsoft comes out with ZUNE HD based phones where you can combine your Zune and your Phone hardware in one package.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Zune pass is the best thing to happen to music

Most of you know that I'm an unabashed Microsoft fan. I believe that - especially in the area of music players - Microsoft has got one awesome product in the area of MP3 players. What I didn't realize until my lovely wife Val bought me a Zune pass for my birthday how much their music service rocked. I've purchased a few songs through the Zune network for my player, but the bulk of my music I'd either purchased as a CD and ripped, or bought from Amazon MP3. While I still by songs occasionally from Amazon my music buying and listening has been totally replaced by the Zune pass. With the Zune pass I can download and listen to (either on my PC or Zune) almost any music in the Zune library. I come across rare artists who do not publish on Zune or require you to buy their whole album - but I believe these artists are rapidly becoming dinosaurs in the music industry.

Let me explain how I've used my Zune pass. Since I can - at will - download just about any music I can take a new album (say for instance the new Ellipse album by Imogen Heap), and play it on my Zune or computer at my leisure. I pay nothing more than the $15/month that the Zune pass costs. If I like the album (or any other music I listen to) I can transfer up to 10 songs from the album to my "non-DRM mp3" collection. In the meantime I can listen to the Zune pass music I've downloaded (millions of songs and albums available) for the remaining $5/month. Since I was already spending more than $10/month on mp3 music this just means that the $10 I was spending through Amazon or another vendor, goes through Zune. Would you pay $5/month to be able to - at will - download just about any music from just about any artist you might be interested in or hear on the radio? I certainly would - and DO!

What this has meant is that I get to explore music I'd never buy just to try - and have discovered all sorts of new artists, labels and music that I'd never picked. The social card above tracks - in real time - the songs I've listened to recently and what artists. I recently downloaded music from Imogen Heap (her whole back catalog), Tom Waits (new albums I'm trying out), Fatboy Slim, the Eskimobots, Funk Mundial, A R Rahman (a pop music icon in India who does soundtracks), MIA, 3OH13, Britney Spears (yes Britney), Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, and The Ting Tings. If you look at my list of recent songs in a few weeks it will probably feature entirely different songs and music. The other day I relived yesterday and downloaded the top 100 songs of the 1970's. And that's what I love about Zune Pass - almost unlimited options to explore!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Time warner removes another 15 channels due to SDV

And I decide to chat with customer service land.
Here's the chat, verbatim:
user Lee has entered room
We are experiencing higher than usual service times.
Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.
analyst Sandra Mystica has entered room
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:21:08 EDT 2009)>Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable Online Chat Support. My name is Sandra. Please give me a moment, while I access your account information.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:20:06 EDT 2009)>Hello Sandra.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:21:23 EDT 2009)>Hello.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:20:41 EDT 2009)>I recently received a letter from Time Warner indicating they are switching about 15 channels to SDV.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:20:56 EDT 2009)>This renders my current cable card even more useless than it once was.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:21:18 EDT 2009)>Since I do not have a CC equipped TIVO but rather a CC equipped television.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:21:29 EDT 2009)>So I have questions about the new HD Tuning adapator
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:22:04 EDT 2009)>So here are my questions:
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:23:19 EDT 2009)>Sure, go ahead!
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:22:43 EDT 2009)>1) Does the HD Adaptor replace my cable card or does it interface my television in some other way (IE does it have it's own remote, or can I use my TV to tune channels)?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:24:59 EDT 2009)>I will be happy to assist you.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:23:53 EDT 2009)>2) Can you direct me to any technical information about this device that is on the web?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:25:50 EDT 2009)>Yes, It would replace the cable card.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:26:10 EDT 2009)>Ok, so it does not require an HTMI or a component video in?
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:26:25 EDT 2009)>And I can use the tuner that is built into my TV to tune channels, just like the cable card.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:26:37 EDT 2009)>Sorry, HDMI (no HTMI)
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:28:23 EDT 2009)>Thats okay.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:28:36 EDT 2009)>It depends on the type of the adaptor.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:27:49 EDT 2009)>I am talking about the "other cablecard-equipped devices" adaptor.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:28:04 EDT 2009)>It is called a "basic HD Converter"
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:29:55 EDT 2009)>Yes, it would be having HDMI port.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:29:36 EDT 2009)>I don't have any HDMI ports available on my television - I use them for other things. So I cannot use my television to change channels with the basic HD Converter.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:30:10 EDT 2009)>AND it requires me to use one of the 2 ports for HDMI input correct?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:31:41 EDT 2009)>Yes.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:30:37 EDT 2009)>Sigh.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:30:53 EDT 2009)>AND I'll need to use a separate remote from my TV to tune it.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:31:11 EDT 2009)>And you view this as an acceptable replacement for the cable card which requires none of these things?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:32:33 EDT 2009)>No.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:31:50 EDT 2009)>Um - no what? No it's not acceptable, or no I'm incorrect?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:33:13 EDT 2009)>You can visit the nearest payment center and we would be happy to assist you.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:32:28 EDT 2009)>I seriously doubt a payment center will have this technical information.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:33:40 EDT 2009)>I meant to say might not be!
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:32:45 EDT 2009)>Don't you have any technical information on the device online?
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:32:55 EDT 2009)>Don't you think that might be a good idea?
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:34:21 EDT 2009)>We do have it at the payment centers.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:34:25 EDT 2009)>Please use following link to locate our payment center near you
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:34:27 EDT 2009)>Please give me a moment.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:33:23 EDT 2009)>Can you give me a model number for the device, so that I can examine it?
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:33:45 EDT 2009)>This entire SDV conversion is infuriating.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:34:16 EDT 2009)>I spent $2000 for an advanced television set that would take a Cable Card, and now you won't support it.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:34:30 EDT 2009)>By the way - this chat will be published on my blog on the internet.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:36:05 EDT 2009)>I understand your concern.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:35:44 EDT 2009)>Why don't you give those of us with a cable card a discount for all the stations we cannot watch.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:38:28 EDT 2009)>I am sorry, we don't have the information.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:37:28 EDT 2009)>Since I can't see 20% of the channels a 20% discount seems appropriate.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:37:43 EDT 2009)>Then who does?
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:37:57 EDT 2009)>Perhaps Britt Hume could help me out.
Sandra Mystica(Mon Jun 8 17:39:51 EDT 2009)>I will guide you to the right support. Please contact our sales department at 1-800-756-7956 (Toll free) or 585-756-5000 to obtain the most current offers that suit your need. The available timings are 8AM-11PM on all days.
Lee(Mon Jun 8 17:39:43 EDT 2009)>ok, I get it - you've gone into "This is not on my script mode, so try to pawn the end user off on someone else, rather than solve their problems for them" Thanks for the "great" customer service - hope they send me a survey after this is done.
(They did, and they recevied an "all dissatisfied" response.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The internet in 1969

This video, created in 1969 shows an early version of the internet. Interestingly some of their vision is really accurate - multiple monitor screens on the desk, shopping by "pushbutton", paying bills online. You can tell they're still attached to handwriting rather than typing, but you can't get everything right. Enjoy! Many thanks to Niki Black for pointing this out, and to Geeks are sexy for the original post

Sunday, April 19, 2009

So proud of the 1511 team

Team 1511 brings home the World Championship Judges Award
With a 5 wins, 2 losses record, Rolling Thunder Penfield Robotics team ended up seeded 12th out of 88 in our division, no one is quite sure why we weren’t picked up by one of the top 8 seeded teams for the elimination rounds, but it just didn’t work out for us. Nevertheless our robot and drive team did an awesome and quite commendable job! We had zero mechanical failures on the field, and the pit crew aided by an excellent design, did an outstanding job of keeping things up and running. The drive team was equally commendable on both their outstanding offensive and excellent defensive strategy. Aided by the strong and dedicated scouting team they assisted their alliance in defeating the only remaining undefeated robot in the Newton division in our final qualification match, pinning the top robot and preventing it from scoring effectively. Everyone worked to put together a season, a team and a robot they could be proud of. As you all know our eventual goal is to become a World Champion Chairman’s Award team. Our presentation team, our pit crew, and the entire team spent the weekend showing the judges and the rest of FIRST that we are eligible to be represented at the championship level (we won the regional Chairman’s award in Chesapeake). This year’s Chairman’s award was won by Team 236, an awesome team out of Connecticut, but the judges saw our excellent performance, saw what a solid, student-built robot we’d created, listened to what our presentation team said, read our essay, viewed our video, talked to our mentors and evaluated our overall performance as a team. FIRST awarded us a special Judges Award for being an “all-year, all-around team that exemplifies the standards and visions of FIRST.” This is an awesome achievement, and our first World Championship award since winning the World Championship Rookie All-Star in 2005. The team is understandably excited and proud to be bringing this achievement back to Rochester, NY – the only Upstate New York team to bring an award home from the World Championships besides a divisional finalist team from our area – 1507 from Lockport, NY (they were on the winning alliance for our Division (Newton) but were eliminated in the semi-finals on the Einstein field). Those of you who are parents on the team should be proud of your son’s or daughter’s achievement. This is an award given out only to teams that the Judges recognize as being head and shoulders above the rest of the WORLD. There were 350 teams in Atlanta from all over the world. Only 2 were selected for Judges awards this year. You know how hard they all worked on the team, and that this is the result of their dedication and sacrifice. Those of you who are sponsors should know that your contribution of time or dollars has helped make us the highly successful team we are today, and that your team has gotten international recognition for its efforts. Those of you who are mentors already know what a great group of kids we had this year, and I know you are proud of them all. Kim O’Toole, the team leader, deserves special recognition for her dedication, vision, and unfailing belief in the students. While the kids accomplished the tasks it was Kim’s vision that created the team direction. Excellent job, and now we look forward to having an even better year in 2010. Thank you for your support over the last year. Cheers, Lee Drake, Business Team Mentor, Team 1511 for more information about Penfield robotics visit our award winning website at:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lose your job? Grow a beard....

And get featured in the NY Times. Rochester, NY out of work banker wins best "recession beard" contest: At least the guy has a sense of humor about it.... :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Frustrating experience with Seagate...

In my home machines I have 2 drives installed - one is my main operating system drive ("C" drive) and the other is a backup drive.  My backup drive is larger than my "C" drive so that I can keep multiple generations of backup on it.  I also copy the backups from our backup drives to another external NAS drive so that I have an on-machine and off-machine copy.  Finally I periodically hand carry a USB drive from home to work and vice versa with copies of all our backups.  Call me paranoid, but I like to have lots of backups.  Today proved why.
I'd heard a bunch of buzz on the net from Engadget and other places that Seagate was having problems with a certain batch of drives where the firmware would go bad and the drive would end up bricked.  The data was fine but the drive itself would become inaccessible.  I thought - hmmm, that's not good - wonder if I have any of those drives in my systems?  Sure enough my drive and my wife's drive are affected by the firmware issue.  So of course I think - I'll update the firmware ASAP before I have a failure - even though Seagate is guaranteeing drive recovery for those affected, I'm betting that won't happen fast or quickly.  Now note that this drive is my first round backup - I have 2 other copies of my backups on other drives - and that to date these drives have not given me any trouble that I know of.
So about 8pm EST last night I download the firmware patch, confirm that my drive is affected, follow the firmware patch instructions to the letter (you definitely don't want to mess up when installing firmware).  I do this only on my system figuring if it gets messed up - at least Val won't be mad at me :)
The last step is to shut down.  Sure enough, after shutdown and restart  - though the drive is recognized by bios it won't initialize or be recognized by windows.  The only way to get my machine to boot was to disconnect the drive from the SATA controller.  I could see the drive to re-flash it from DOS but not the data on the drive.  Sigh.  So now I have a bricked drive - maybe I did something wrong or there's a rescue utitlity.  Following my own golden rule - never work on something after midnight because that's when bad stuff happens - I check seagate's download section again in the morning - only to find this message:
Note: This file has been temporarily taken offline as of Jan 19, 2008 8PM CST for validation
Note that the time is approximately 1 hour after I downloaded it.  Sigh.  Obviously they released screwed up firmware.  It's anyone's guess what it's going to take to unlock this drive - possibly even a trip back to seagate.  What a colossal screw up.  You'd think they'd have tested this to the nth before releasing it.  It's not as if they aren't a multi million dollar company with over 1/2 the market share.  I felt bad for myself - but even worse for people on the forum who had whacked up to 8 drives in a RAID array or all their operating system files without backups.
Maybe next time I'll buy Western Digital.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Amazing HP deal...

If you're in the market for a laptop, HP Has a limited time offer on a system with:
  • 4gb of RAM
  • 17" laptop display (widescreen)
  • 250GB HD
  • Lightscribe CD/DVD reader/writer
  • 128mb graphics ram (ATI)
  • Bluetooth and A/G/N Wireless
  • 2.1ghz Core2Duo T8100
  • Vista/XP license

This is equivalent to my laptop that I run Vista on all day every day - very capable machine.

The price - an AMAZING $811 base price. I cannot sell you this from distribution, it's web orders only at:

They are only selling them while they last. This is a very good deal (67% off list)