Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Which Wish?

Which wish (from my Christmas "Wish List") was chosen and fulfilled?

A picture is worth a thousand words (the magazine is for size comparison):

Click here for a larger view.

(My apologies to PC Magazine, I also read PC World!)

I connected it up and needed to find out how long it needed to be charged. This is the reply I got from the manufacturer's site:
tech support?

I was very glad I didn't chose a Nintendo Wii though, as they were hard to get hold of - I actually saw some Playstation 3's on a shelf in a Circuit City store, but only heard talk of Wii shipments.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Suspended Search State

Well, I know that I wrote that my "Cellphone Research Stopped" over a month ago, but just to give the suspended cellphone (re)search status:

Consumer Reports advises chosing a cellphone carrier first, and then a handset. I hadn't read this article and went about my research the wrong way around at first, although I did not bother with cellphones from carriers I don't trust or have had problems with like Cingular and Sprint.

The phone on top of my shortlist was the T-Mobile SDA. This candy bar cell phone has a 1.3-megapixel camera built-in Wi-Fi. It runs Windows Mobile 5 smart phone edition as well. However I have had problems with being unable to get a signal previously with T-Mobile. Since T-Mobile's customer service is excellent, and their coverage has supposedly improved and I really wanted to go back to GSM, I tried an experiment with their prepaid service (it is actually one of the cheaper prepaid cellphone services out there) to see what the reception was like. It seems much improved, but I would need to do more testing. As much as I like GSM, I have found CDMA to be much clearer, to the point of not being able to tell if someone is on a cellphone. This may have to do with actual handsets though, as the CDMA handsets are much newer and technologically advanced in comparison to the GSM ones. I have heard a number of calls from an older CDMA handset which sounded terrible though.

The one Verizon (CDMA) handset which I have played with and which I liked is the Motorola Q. It also runs Windows Mobile 5 smart phone edition - meaning it doesn't have a touch screen or feature Word and Excel editing. This is basically what I'm looking for: a smartphone which is more cellphone than handheld computer. It has more functionality than a normal cellphone, allowing programs like SplashID to be run as well as a few other programs, but this doesn't interfere with its primary function of being a reliable cellphone.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Lite

Of course after publishing yesterdays blog about the Nintendo DS Lite I remembered some things I had forgotten to mention:

As with most items called something Lite, there is of course a Nintendo DS. The Lite version is slimmer and lighter (naturally!) and with brighter screens which are the same size as the original.

So, how big is the Nintendo DS Lite?

(I know hands differ in size, but this should give and better idea than saying it is about as wide as a Tungsten T3 and a bit longer.)

The Nintendo DS and DS Lite have also sold more units worldwide than the Microsoft Xbox 360, and the Sony PSP (according to this wikipedia List of Best-selling video game consoles)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Micro, Lite

Although the Nintendo DS Lite was on my Christmas wish list, I was initially interested in the Nintendo (Game Boy) Micro*.

This gaming handheld was intended to tap the adult gaming market. It is as small as an Apple iPod Mini, and is extremely pocketable. It also costs only about $70.

Unfortunately it has a couple of problems and limitations:
The Micro only accepts GBA (Game Boy Advanced) game cartridges. There are supposedly 700+ games available in this format. I did some research and found a Nintendo website (Master Game List) which lists all the games for Nintendo and can be filtered by platform. A large percentage of the GBA games are aimed at the children's market (Pokemon anyone?). I also read that the GBA platform may be phased out next year or so in favor of the newer DS (Developers' System or Dual Screen) platform - "Nintendo sees at least one more Game Boy holiday" . This seemed to be confirmed by a listing of upcoming GBA game titles (on There are notably a lot more DS games scheduled for release in every category. Also, a number of games I had seen previously which appealed to me were Nintendo DS games and not Game Boy Advanced games.

The Nintendo DS Lite* on the other hand (excuse the pun!) supports both the older (GBA - Game Boy Advanced) and newer (DS) game cartridge formats. At first glance it looks like a handheld.

The bottom screen is touch sensitive, and the stylus is used for making choices and in-game control. Like the Sony PSP, the DS Lite has built in Wi-Fi, but it is primarily a gaming platform. The Opera web browser is currently available in Japan for the DS Lite, and should soon be making its appearance in the USA.

Oh, and the games... The graphics are not quite as detailed as the Sony PSP, but there are already almost 300 games available for the DS platform, and the DS Lite also plays the GBA games as mentioned previously. A number of games, like "Need for Speed:Carbon" come out for multiple gaming platforms (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Gamecube, Playstation 2 and Sony PSP), although with slight variations on the title: "Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City" is its title for the PSP.

* Articles on

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What's in a name?

The December 26 issue of PC Magazine mentioned the "Worst Company Name Ever": Revoltec .

I guess the company may have been thinking "A revolution in technology - Revoltec(h) - cool!" and no-one stepped back and really looked at the name (or no-one understood English well enough).

It almost sounds like the project code name Nintendo had for their next generation gaming console - the Revolution. Then they renamed it the "Wii" (see "Nintendo Revolution renamed" at Fortunately people don't seem to be put off by this moniker - the Wii sold 600,000 units in the first eight days after its release ( and others).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Aliens beating PS3?

After seeing an article entitled "Gaming PCs Surpass New Consoles" on MyWay News I just had to comment.
The article says "The new video game consoles already look pretty wimpy compared with the latest gaming PCs", but then it turns out they are comparing Gaming PCs costing from $5000 to $9000 to gaming consoles costing a max of $600. The article admits that the high-end PCs have "an advanced 3-D graphics card from Nvidia Corp. that alone retails for $600 - as much as a high-end PlayStation 3", but still miss the point. Of course a $600 PlayStation 3 is not going to perform anywhere near as good as a $5000 Alienware Area-51 7500 mentioned in the article.

Six hundred dollars US for the Sony PlayStation 3 is expensive, but start charging five grand or more and there would be few(er) takers, although at that price Sony could probably include full PC functionality.

Oh well people will continue to compare apples and oranges I guess...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Essential Software

The Internet can be a wild place. According to statistics, an unprotected (Windows based) computer only needs to be connected to the internet for 12 minutes before getting infected. Also, a PC user probably wouldn't even know that their machine has been compromised. So, with some justifiable paranoia, I try to protect my computers with Internet Security software. I tend to go for the "Internet Security Suites", which can be frustrating at times. These software Suites usually include most of the security software components you need, like an antivirus, a firewall, anti-spam (sometimes more trouble than it is worth) and more recently anti-spyware.

Of course it is possible to put together your own "best of breed" Internet Security Suite from commercial or free software. I often go this route with either an new PC which already has some protection (usually a trial of an antivirus and a firewall) or an older one which is not used much. The main problem with this is that the software components from different vendors can cause conflicts and false alarms.

I've had Webroot Spysweeper raising alarms because a Norton component was trying to modify the "Hosts" file - I figured that I trusted the Norton utility although it was doing something it shouldn't. Other conflicts could possibly cause system crashes.

So far I've tried Norton Internet Security Suite (twice), McAfee Internet Security Suite (once, which was one too many), System Suite Professional (The utilities seem better than the Antivirus an Firewall, but it hasn't been really problematic) and finally ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite which is top-rated by PC Magazine. PC World recommends Norton Internet Security Suite, but I've found it to be bloated an somewhat sluggish. The background virus scan also slowed computers down, although it may have been improved in later versions.

Although ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite generates a lot of popups. I've basically standardized on it at home - having bought copies for 3 of my machines. It has a 30-day trial version, which is well worth trying if you want to see what the full suite is all about. After the trial period it simply runs as the free ZoneAlarm Firewall.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rebates, aargh!

Well, so far this year I lost out on about $90 in rebates, mostly because I missed the due date. That means I paid $90 more for items I thought I was going to get for a lot cheaper. I have of course got a lot more than that back in actual rebate checks. Also, I received a couple of those rebate Debit Cards some companies are using instead of checks. These Debit Cards kinda suck, and limit what you can do with the rebate money - certainly your only option seems to be to spend it.
After I had almost completed this blog entry I heard a CNET Podcast "The Real Deal" about rebates - here is a link to the podcast.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Other Wish List Items

I've been concentrating on the MP3 Players for replacing my iPod Mini, but what about the other Christmas Wish List Items?

I'd already eliminated several items from the list, but here is what's left:

The Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC with airplane controls or Nascar PC game (or Sony Playstation 2 game) with driving controls. I ruled out the Flight Simulator quite quickly - I find myself easily bored with flying simulators.
Racing is another story though. There are an amazing variety of driving controllers avaiable for the Sony Playstation 2. I priced some online - they range from $50 to $130. The problem is how much would I use them, as I tend tire of driving/racing games quickly (I'd also have to buy a couple of PS2 racing games as well). I could get a wireless joystick, but I really prefer playing the Sony PSP.

The Nintendo Wii remains tempting. With the motion sensitive controllers I might actually get some exercise. But I have a Sony Playstation 2 which gets more use as a DVD Player than a gaming console. Oh well...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Psst!... want a PS3?

No, I don't have a Sony PlayStation 3 for sale, but a lot of people seem to have them and want to sell them.

(Note - I've updated the following on November 22, 2006 as some of the links did not work and may not work for long)

Sony PS3s have been selling for around $1300+ on eBay (of course this will change depending on demand and the day of the week), and for $2000 on preorderonline (come-on, regular price $3000??) as well as on Craigslist (New York search link) for from $900 to well over $1500 (I've heard of one being offered for $4000). On Amazon Marketplace the 60GB version is going for upwards of $2000, and at Infinity Micro for $3,495. Just think, for $3000 you could get a mega gaming PC...

Of course if you wait for several months (until February or March next year!) you can pay the actual list price of $499 for the 30GB version and $599 for the 60GB version.


According to iSuppli, the actual cost of the components for each PlayStation 3 is more than the official list price. The PS3 with the 60GB HDD costs around $840 to make. Sony is of course hoping to make back their money on games, and there probably is a break-even point when they hope to start making a profit. The interesting thing is that they are losing more on the cheaper model: $300 instead of $240. Of course Sony is not getting any cut from the price gouging which is rampant, except that the buzz may benefit the gaming console when the supply begins to meet the demand.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

PS3 sold out, Zune Wars

Not unexpectedly, the Sony PlayStation 3 sold out within hour(s) of it’s release on Friday.

The Microsoft Zune, however, seems to be staying on shelves mostly and getting really bad reviews. Engadget said "Installing the Zune... sucked".
A news blog sums it up as: "A rude awakening for Zune" - "Forget brown. The true color of the Zune is black-and-blue.".

Oooh, nasty, but there have been other nastier references to the brown colored Zune: "The only thing cool about the brown one is that the color is appropriate." from "Zune is out of tune, for now"
Others said that the Zune is actually quite good – notably the review which concluded that "…intuitive interface and solid playback performance will please most users…" and gives it a rating of 8.0 out of 10 (the iPod Nano received a rating of 8.3 out of 10.)

And back to gaming:
Tomorrow the Wii gaming console is due for release in the U.S., which I'd almost forgotten about with all the PS3 hype.

It does seem like there may be some queues for the Wii too – I wouldn’t have thought so – but here is a site with tips for getting your Wii with the least amount of inconvenience- and the exact same article, it appears, at

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Zen Plus?

I had just about decided that the second generation iPod Nano was the MP3 Player to top my Wish List, when I came across the Creative Zen V Plus. This tiny player is not much larger than a container of tic tac mints (see the first picture on page 3 of this excellent review on or
alternate picture here)

It is shorter than the iPod Nano by almost an inch, but slightly wider and more than double the thickness. Like the Sandisk Sansa e200 series, the player features an FM tuner and video playback. The player has an excellent user-interface, which is licensed to Apple for their iPods. It is also loaded with useful features like creating multiple playlists on the player, renaming and deleting them. Files can also be deleted on board the player. Creative players are well known for superb sound quality.

There is also a plain Creative Zen V (no Plus) version, which doesn't have an FM tuner or video playback. This costs about $20 to $25 less than the Plus version. At present the Plus comes in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB versions, but an 8GB has been rumored and reported (on mp3newswire) and is even mentioned on the Creative Asian website, but is yet to be seen in the USA.

The Zen V Plus would really be a contender if it had a 8GB version available in the US, as the 4GB is around $180, some $20 cheaper than the 4GB Nano, so an 8GB version would be cheaper and more worthwhile.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Too soon for the Zune

In one of two major product releases due this week, the Microsoft Zune Media Player (or MP3 player) is scheduled to be released tomorrow. (The other is the Sony PlayStation 3, scheduled for release on Friday November 17).

By "Too soon", I don't mean that the player will not be ready. Instead, I would want to remind all those caught up in the hype that this is version 1.0 of a Microsoft product. Not only is this a hardware product running an OS, but a whole ecosystem to support that product. Just to make matters a bit more interesting, the Zune is not backward-compatible with PlaysForSure - Microsoft's own DRM (see Wikipedia Digital Rights Management). This means that subscription tracks purchased from stores such as Napster or Urge will not work on the Zune. The Zune is also a bit large, at 4.4 by 2.4 by 0.6 inches and weighing in at 5.6 oz. Okay, that is about the same size as the Creative Zen Vision:M, but the ZVM came out in December of last year.

Personally I wouldn't touch the Zune for at least a year or more. Still, it will be interesting to see how this version 1.0 product fares against the 5th generation (or 5.5) Apple iPod.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Nano bit

My research turned to the iPod Nano. Interestingly enough, this is no longer the smallest MP3 Player out there, although it may be the thinnest. Ever since it first came out I wanted a Nano, but the first generation was just too expensive. At $199 for a 2GB Nano and $249 for a 4GB it was just too much. You could get a non-Apple 6-10GB hard drive player in the same price range. There was also the widely reported problem with the Nano scratching easily.

The 2nd Generation Nano spectrum

The second generation Nano fixed that by being coated in Anodized aluminum, like the iPod Mini was. The prices are a bit more competitive - especially since there are now a number of different Flash-memory based players on the market. Starting at $149 for the 2GB Nano (available in gray only), $199 for a 4GB Nano (available in multiple colors, excluding black), and the 8GB Nano for $199. The 8GB only comes in black or red (the latter color is only available online).

Like other iPods the Nano doesn't have a FM Radio built-in, but unlike most other flash-memory based players it cannot play videos. Even lacking these features it is one of the most popular MP3 Players.

It definitely rates high on my wish list. I just can't decide whether it is worth shelling out an extra $50 for a black 8GB Nano instead of going with the $199 silver 4GB Nano.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Research - Sansa e200 series

Okay, so I researched the second possibility on my wish list, the iPod Mini replacement. Because I mainly use the Mini to listen to podcasts and music in my car, it had to be small enough to easily fit into a cup holder. Also, it had to be light, since I don't leave it in the car, to keep down the weight of my work bag.

Flash-based MP3 Players seemed to be what I wanted (Flash memory being more resistant to bumps than hard drives).
The first MP3 Player I looked at was the SanDisk Sansa e200 series.

The SanDisk Sansa e200 series has a lot going for it. I first mentioned it in my Blog on Wednesday, April 12, 2006: "Technology moves fast (sometimes)" , but to recap:

Available in four storage capacities, 2GB (Model Number e250), 4GB (e260), 6GB (e270), and 8GB version (e280). SanDisk had an 8GB Flash-based player out months ahead of Apple. Until September this year, the 8GB version was known as the highest-capacity flash-based player in the world. It also cost the same as the 4GB iPod Nano.

The e200 series was initially my first choice, being packed with features, the most important being a user-replaceable battery. There is a major downside to iPods and many other MP3 Players - the battery only has a limited life (100 full charges or so). When the battery finally dies, unless it is a user-replaceable battery (and they are few and far between - the manufacturers would obviously rather have you buy a new MP3 Player). Anyway, Apple apparently does have a plan where you send in your dead iPod with about $70 and they send you another one, usually a refurbished one.
With the SanDisk Sansa e200 series a replacement battery costs about $20, and all you do is remove 4 screws to replace the battery.
The Sansa e200 series also has an FM Tuner, can play videos (on a 1.8 in screen), and has MicroSD expansion slot. Music can either synchronized to the player using Windows Media Player (a requirement for subscription music), or copied via drag and drop. You can also run myPodder software from directly from the player to manage podcasts. This feature really excited me. That was, until I found out that if you lose your place in a 30 minute podcast it is difficult to Fast Forward and find your place again - the Sansa just doesn't offer the fine control with Fast Forwarding and Rewinding that other players do. That was the deal-breaker for the otherwise promising Sandisk Sansa e200 series for me.

You can get a 6GB Sandisk Sansa e270 for slightly less than a 4GB iPod Nano, but no amount of useful features and even a highly competitive price matters if the MP3 Player doesn't do what you want it to.

Touchscreen iPod?

According to TrustedReviews the "Touchscreen iPod Comes This December". That would make the Microsoft Zune look a so last year.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cellphone Research Stopped!

Actually it is only temporarily suspended. My (early) research for a new cellphone has temporarily halted. The reason: I'm drawing up a Christmas "Wish List". Cellphone research can resume after New Year.

My wish list so far is:

Nintendo DS Lite game console.
But it has two counts against it - the majority of games are mainly aimed at children, and I already have a Sony PSP. If I want a more portable gaming device than the PSP I always have the Tungsten T3, which has a number of games on, as well as the Tapwave Zodiac, which I often take with on shorter trips.
A replacement for my iPod Mini - its battery life is getting worse - either the iPod Nano or Sandisk Sansa or maybe a Creative Zen V Plus.
"Media Carousel" from - the black one which takes 150 CD/DVDs for $132 - but it is maybe rather large (physically)
Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC with airplane controls (or similar for Sony Playstation 2) or Nascar PC game with Driving controls
iGo charging kit - consisting of iGo juice 70 ($129.99 - power from wall/auto/airplane) or iGo wall85 ($79.99 - power from wall only), iGo dualpower (free with iGo juice 70 or iGo wall85) - allows charging of notebook and another gadget simultaneously, also need iGo power splitter ($14.99). Also iGo powerXtender($24.99) - power from 4 AA batteries.
iGo power tips for devices cost $9.99 each - Need 5 Tips =$50
Cost = iGo wall85 ($79.99) + iGo power splitter ($14.99) + iGo powerXtender($24.99) + iGo power tips ($50) = $169.99 (plus tax). This would be useful, but it is not really appealing as a Christmas present (too practical)
Nintendo Wii (or maybe not..)

Of course, I can only choose ONE item from the list above...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Firefox 2.0 has been out for a while now, but I've held off on trying it, being quite happy with version 1.5.

Then last night I setup Firefox 1.5 with all the addons I use and did an upgrade to version 2.0 on a test machine. The one addon which wasn't compatible was Tab Mix Plus - which is probably the Firefox addon I use the most. I can get some of its functionality with the Tabbrowser Preferences addon, but it messes up the automatic loading of URLs selected from the address bar's history list. I looked around and found New Tab Button, which simply "adds a new tab button to the tab bar".

I'll have to keep on looking for the other functionality I miss from Tab Mix Plus.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Too much technology

No, I'm not referring to this blog, but just how overwhelming technology can be sometimes. On the flight out during my short vacation, a fellow passenger was trying to turn off the radio of her Treo 650. I could hear it shut down and restart again. Eventually I was asked to help. It took a bit of fiddling, and eventually I got the wireless to turn off somehow. The owner of the Treo said she had the cellphone for over a year, and still did not know how to turn off the wireless. So much for ease of use.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Seeing RED

Well, for a good cause...

(RED) is not just about the new Red iPod Nano, but also several other red products, including a red RAZR. A portion of the purchase price of these red gadgets goes to "the Global Fund, to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa."

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Apple iPhone Evidence?

An Exclusive story from AppleInsider:
Apple seeks rights to iPhone trademark.

Evidence, or just another rumor?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cell Swap

That's cellphone swap.
Several months ago, when I was looking for a cellphone the final choices were the Motorola V325 and the Motorola RAZR V3c. I was seduced by the cool factor and good reviews of RAZR.

Now I've swapped the RAZR for a V325, a phone with fewer features, but with which I'm much happier.... (and now I can read the display in sunlight!)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Google to Buy YouTube?

According to MyWay News and the blog TechCrunch Google is said to be in talks to Buy YouTube.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Firstly, and apology to The General for misquoting him in yesterday's post - I guess I may have more than paraphrased what he said. Anyway, it was noted that a number of my alternative cellphone choices were with T-Mobile.

I'm quite tempted to return to the flexibility of GSM again, although Verizon's CDMA has clearer reception (imho). For definitions and explanations of CDMA and GSM see "FDMA, TDMA, CDMA & GSM - What is the future?" or (even better) "Mobile Phone Terms Explained".

The Motorola Q is one of the few Verizon phones that really interests me, especially since Verizon apparently released it without crippling the Bluetooth.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some alternatives

The General asked me today when I was going to get over my griping about the Motorola RAZR. Anyway, my reply was that I'd stop griping about the piece of crap RAZR when I finally replaced it.

On a positive note, the cellphones I've been looking at as a replacement are:

T-Mobile SDA (aka HTC Tornado)
The built-in Wi-Fi in this phone intrigues me

T-Mobile MDA - but I'm not sure about another fully-fledged smartphone.

Samsung SGH-D807
A slider for a change...

And, a phone from Verizon Wireless - the Motorola Q - but I really need to do some more research on this one.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Maybe a good idea

I came across the following site while going through one of my fairly frequent periods of dislike (to put it mildly) for the Motorola RAZR V3c. Even on a cloudy day I was unable to read the screen outside. Why bother getting VZ Navigator if you cannot see the maps on the freaking stupid cellphone screen! Looking for a cheap way to replace the V3c, I found this site: "Cheap No Contract". Basically they sell used cellphones at fairly decent prices. This is ideal for people who have either lost their cellphones or had them stolen, and are still under a contract.

This is a good idea if the used phones are in good condition.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Verizon RAZR bug

The Motorola RAZR V3c from Verizon has a security bug.

There is a way to bypass the automatic lock option which asks for a password when the phone is powered up. Normally, after powering up the cellphone, it asks for a password if you have set the "Automatic Lock" option on. However if you turn on the cell and immediately close it for a few minutes (I haven't timed how long) it appears to bypass the security lock and doesn't ask for a password. A weird side-effect of this is that the phone seems to work as normal except you cannot receive calls - they go straight to voicemail. You can make calls though.

I've only tested this with version .3 of Verizon's firmware, and don't know if it affects the original Motorola firmware.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cellphone Vending Machine

According to an AP article on MyWay News, Motorola is planning to Sell Cell Phones via Vending Machine. The Instantmoto machine is on a pilot program in Chicago. (If the vending machine was female it could be "She sells cellphones by the sea shore...")

I wonder if the machines accept Credit Cards?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Audio and Video Podcats?

Actually, that should be Podcasts.

I've only recently got into podcasts, first just audio podcasts on my iPod Mini, then video podcasts. For the uninitiated, podcasts are basically like recorded radio shows. The ones I've heard so far are either like music radio without advertisements or news type discussions on particular subjects. See the Wikipedia article about Podcasting here.

My two favorite audio podcasts at the moment are both CNET podcasts, "MP3 Insider" - about MP3 Players and related topics, and "Buzz Out Loud" - about new technology - mainly Consumer Electronics. Both are done by two or three professional journalists, and are quite entertaining. Obviously they cover subjects I'm very interested in, so if you want to try podcasts, choose one covering topics you find interesting. Of course Apple iTunes makes subscribing to the podcasts very easy, but there is other free software out there like Juice (previously known as iPodder) which does the same thing. It is also possible to use iTunes podcasts with non-iPod MP3 Players, since audio podcasts seem to be mainly in MP3 format.

Video Podcasts are a bit more tricky. Since I don't have an iPod video, I need to use other software to subscribe to and convert the video Podcasts. The Sony Media Manager software (not free) works for audio Podcasts for the Sony PSP, but I'm not sure about video Podcasts. The Creative Zen Vision:M comes with "Zencast Manager", which handles subscribing and converting audio and video pod Podcasts. Not all of the video podcasts need conversion. My favorite is the short and wacky video blog "RocketBoom".

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Borland's answer to Microsoft's Express

Okay, for the uninitiated, first some clarification (those who understood the blog title can skip to the next paragraph). Firstly, Microsoft's Express refers to the set of free development products Microsoft has released called Visual Studio Express - which includes Visual Basic Express - and SQL Server 2005 Express. These free products are stripped-down entry level versions of their Visual Studio (.Net) 2005 Windows and Web Development suites, as well as a stripped down version of Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 database. Borland, previously known as Inprise before changing its name back to Borland, makes world-class development tools, very popular in Europe. Delphi is a Development tool which was first released after Visual Basic, but was always ahead with innovative features which appeared in later Visual Basic versions.

Borland has announced the availability of the "Turbo Explorer" family of products (see this review in PC Magazine), which includes Turbo Delphi, Turbo C++ and Turbo C# among others. According to Borland's press release, the "Turbo Explorer editions, available as a free download, are fixed, all-in-one solutions that let programmers learn and develop in a single language and platform environment.". The development tools are available here. I can't wait to start "playing" with Delphi Turbo, it will be interesting to compare it to Visual Basic Express.

Borland first released a free version of Delphi, called "Delphi 6 Personal Edition", way back in 2001, and also released an open source version of their Interbase database server.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Battery Malfunction

After all the news about the exploding notebook batteries, I remembered that I had a similar experience with a Dell. It was a Dell Axim Pocket PC, and the battery was not from Sony. I had bought an extended battery for my Dell Axim from a highly rated seller on eBay. When I tried to put the fully charged battery into the Pocket PC it ignited. Fortunately the handheld wasn't damaged. After sending the photos below to the seller I got a full refund (for the battery):

First Picture

Second Picture

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Browser that could

A few months back I realized that my web browser of choice had become Firefox. This was despite my desire to avoid hype and stick to Mozilla's original "Seamonkey" browser suite (not to be confused with the new Mozilla Seamonkey browser suite!). Trying to identify how this happened, I think it was when Firefox improved to the point that it could handle most websites. Also, I finally had found enough add-ons to customize Firefox the way I wanted it. Even when add-ons were not updated to keep compatibility with newer versions of Firefox (like PrefBar), there are so many out there that finding a replacement is easy. The built-in password manager works with most sites and is free.

The only web browser which may have a chance of dethroning Firefox as my browser of choice is Opera. Completely free since version 8.5 or so, Opera features everything Firefox has and more. Since version 9 Opera has a built-in BitTorrent client - useful for downloading "Virtual Appliances" for VMware, which are often only available in BitTorrent format. Also, you can sign up for the free Opera Community which allows you to create a website and a blog, among other things. There is also a version of Opera for cellphones and other mobile devices. My Sharp Zaurus Linux-based handheld came with Opera pre-loaded. Opera for Pocket PCs really rocks. Although not free, it is the fastest browser for Pocket PCs, and easily displays websites which choke Pocket Internet Explorer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Smart and smarter

In my previous Blog "Returning the Q", I was not knocking the Motorola Q so much as highlighting some of the confusion caused by the Windows Mobile Operating System on cellphones. It seems like there are two distinct flavors of the Windows Mobile 5 OS: Pocket PC (which can also run on some cellphones), and "Windows Mobile powered smartphones" (Microsoft's terminology)

On the Microsoft Windows Mobile Website, one of their FAQs tried to answer the question:

Q: What'’s the difference between a Pocket PC and a Smartphone?

"A: Pocket PCs come with mobile versions of Office applications in addition to Microsoft Outlook Mobile. Though there are different Pocket PCs, many come with Wi-Fi to enable you to connect to the Internet when you are in a wireless hotspot. With a Pocket PC, you'll be able to use Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile and browse the Internet if you have a device with Wi-Fi and are in a wireless hotspot.
You can compose e-mail messages and send them by synchronizing with your desktop computer or wirelessly when you're in a hotspot. You can do everything with a Pocket PC Phone that you can do with a Pocket PC with the addition of wireless access to the Internet and cellular phone capabilities. If you have a Pocket PC Phone, you can access the Internet through your wireless connection - you won't need to find a wireless hotspot.
You can add a wide variety of software titles to your Pocket PC and Pocket PC Phone..."

Here's the smartphone which is not a Pocket PC phone:

"A smartphone has phone capabilities and comes with a smaller set of applications. though you can add third-party software titles to your smartphone, the smaller keypad and screen are designed to give you quick one-handed access to important data. A smartphone is a good choice for business users who need to check e-mail, keep track of their calendars, and take voice notes, but who don't need the added functionality of Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile. If you find yourself wanting more functions after you've purchased your device, there are good third-party software titles designed to extend the capabilities of a Windows Mobile powered smartphone."

A few weeks back I spent some time with a Sierra Voq smartphone. Although it wasn't running the latest version of Windows Mobile. I soon realized that it was a smartphone and not a Pocket PC phone. I could "extend its capabilities" by installing some applications (like SplashID for Windows Mobile Smartphones), but other's, like DayNotez, only have a version for phones running the full Windows Mobile Pocket PC, not the smartphone edition.

So, when hunting for a smartphone, some smartphones are smarter than others, so smart that they are Pocket PC smartphones. Of course, at the moment Palm OS based smartphones are extra smart, and who knows about Sybian-based smartphones. Linux based ones will naturally be smarter...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Returning the Q

Verizon is experiencing an unusually large percentage of Motorola Q returns, according to MobileWhack

Verizon had the following answers to customers complaints:

"The Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition does not come with and WILL NOT run Microsoft Office for Pocket PC (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). The Motorola Q will however open email attachments for viewing only. These include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs and many graphic files. It CANNOT create or modify attachments or any documents."

The Touch Screen Does Not Work:
"This Motorola Q, unlike all Windows based and Palm based devices currently in our lineup, does not use a stylus or have touch screen functionality. This is by design to provide one-hand functionality."

The Treo 700w which is not nearly as slim and sexy as the Motorola Q runs Windows 5.0 Mobile Edition, and features a touch screen, as well as Pocket Office - a pocket version of Microsoft Office. Palm-based Treo's also have this functionality which the Motorola Q lacks..

Monday, August 14, 2006

Free Virtual PC

I wasn't surprised to read on the StrongCross blog (which seems to be temporarily down) that Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 is now free. This is the way Microsoft has dealt with competition since the "Browser Wars". The competition in this case is VMware, who have a free VMware Player and VMware Server. VMware also has a full range of virtualization products which run on both Windows and Linux.
Virtual PC 2004 is similar to VMware Workstation in that it allows you to create Virtual Machines on Windows 2000 or later Operating Systems.

Okay, after that techno-speak explanation, basically both products allow you to run another Operating System in its own environment. So you could have Windows 98 running in a window on Windows XP, and install programs on Windows 98 which would not know about the Host Operating System (Windows XP in this example). Virtual PC officially supports DOS and most flavors of Windows. Unofficially it also can run some Linux distributions and other Operating Systems (see "What works and what doesn't in Microsoft Virtual PC 2004" here).

It's a great way to have a test box to try out programs - when you shutdown an Operating System in Virtual PC you have the choice of keeping any changes or discarding them. There is also a choice to keep changes separate and merge them later.

Virtual PC 2004 is easier to use than VMware Workstation, but that comes at the price of flexibility and powerful features. Virtual PC doesn't emulate USB ports, whereas VMware Workstation does (although only USB 1.1). VMware Workstation of course isn't free, but VMware Player is. VMware Player allows you to run Virtual Machines (called "Appliances") others have made.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

LG VX8300, one month later

The Verizon LG VX8300 after a month:

Initially I had tested the phone, and really liked it. My wife said we could swap, and I was really tempted. However, apart from having to transfer our cellphone numbers, I didn't want to jeopardize the Amazon rebate for the Motorola RAZR V3c. I had read that they make sure that a phone is still activated to the buyer before actually sending the rebate.
Anyway, my wife says she hasn't liked a cellphone so much since the Ericsson (T series?) phone she had in South Africa about ten years ago. Ease of use is one of the great aspects of the LG.

My opinion of the LG VX8300 has not changed, and I'm looking forward to trying it out with a microSD Card soon. In the meanwhile I use the RAZR, its only highlight being its small size.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

LG? No, give me Cadbury

Okay, so Cadbury's chocolate is edible (very edible!), and LG Chocolate is a cellphone aka the LG VX8500.

PC Magazine has gone nutty and given the LG Chocolate its "Editor's Choice" award. This for a cellphone without a speakerphone, crippled by Verizon and according to PC Magazine's otherwise too sweet review: "The Chocolate's buttons take some time to get used to".
CNET is more to the point and their review says "The LG Chocolate's unique touch pad and controls entail a steep learning curve, and the phone suffers from poor streaming video quality and low talk-time battery life. The lack of a speakerphone is disappointing."

If I read it right, this is a cellphone with awkward buttons, poor battery life and worth considering only if you must have the latest, coolest gadget. Okay, but no thanks.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Yet another fake Apple iPhone?

This one, from Engadget, is apparently a fake picture:

I'd like to see what the Apple (i)Phone will look like if and when it does come out..

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Updated Cellphones getting smarter

The only thing I've updated here are the example cellphones

First a cellphone with a keyboard which is almost a smartphone, but not quite, the LG VX9800 (aka the V):

When opened it has a full QWERTY keyboard:

This is a text messaging and music phone on steroids, and has a calendar with scheduler, an alarm clock, a calculator and a notepad. But it is not a smartphone.

Then there is the T-Mobile SDA, called the HTC Tornado elsewhere:

PCWorld listed it as one of the Top 10 Standard Cell Phones in this article , but CNET rightly referred to it as a "Windows Mobile 5 smart phone" in their review.
It doesn't have a keyboard, but runs the Windows Mobile 5 Operating system.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cellphones getting smarter

Cellphones are getting smaller and smaller but also getting smarter, while adding features which were previously only found on smartphones - To Do Lists, Calendars with appointments, synchronization with PCs, World Clocks, email and now playing MP3 Music files.

According to this Wikipedia definition, a smartphone is "any electronic handheld device that integrates the functionality of a mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA) or other information appliance."

However, in the same article, they go on to say "It is increasingly difficult to define exactly what qualifies as a 'smartphone'. Nearly all new mobile phones have some rudimentary PDA functionality such as phonebooks, calendars, and task list"

Even an assumption that a smartphone should have a keyboard can be wrong. Take the case of the Nokia 6810:

When opened it has a full QWERTY keyboard, interesting:

It is not a smartphone, but instead is a text messaging phone.

Then there is the Motorola MPx200:

No keyboard, but it runs Windows Mobile 2002, and is therefore a smartphone (see Wikipedia's article)

I'm sure there are other, better and more up to date examples, but I couldn't think of any. Maybe Engadget Mobile will help me.

By the way, thanks to the General for pointing out Engadget Mobile, which surely must be the mother of all Mobile Technology sites.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Big and Smart

Unlike the svelte Motorola Q smartphone, some early smartphones were really big.

I got to thinking, what is the biggest Smartphone out there? Is it the Sierra Wireless Voq A11 with dimensions of 5.25" x 2.16" x 0.96" (133 x 55 x 24 mm) and weighing 5.11 oz (145 g)?

This smartphone has neither a camera nor Bluetooth, but does have a cool flip open QWERTY keyboard:

But it is easily overshadowed by the huge Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC Phone, which weighs in at 8.4 oz (238 g) with dimensions of 5.8" x 3.3" x .9" (147 x 84 x 23 mm).

The Hitachi G1000 has a 3.5" 320 x 240 pixel color transflective display, a standard QWERTY keyboard layout and an integrated VGA digital camera.

The first GSM Pocket PC 2002 Phone from T-Mobile weighed in at 6.80 oz (193 g) and was 5.08" x 2.87" x 0.71" (129 x 73 x 18 mm), with no keyboard:

To get away from Microsoft OS based smartphones, the first Treo Phone, the Treo 270 weighed 5.40 oz (153 g), and was 4.20" x 2.80" x 0.82" (107 x 71 x 21 mm).

There are a number of smartphones reviewed at

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ubuntu #1

Ubuntu Linux 6.06 is the number one Linux distribution according to DistroWatch.
The All about Linux Blog refers to the "Kubuntu" variant of Ubuntu as "An excellent Linux distribution"

Friday, July 21, 2006

Microsoft's planned iPod Rival

From My Way News - Microsoft Confirms Plans for IPod Rival. According to this article, and the BBC News article "Zune challenge beckons for iPod", the name of the new device is the "Zune".

Somehow Listen to a tune on a Zune is not that catchy...

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I was going to call this entry "Spyware Begone!" but that is the name of a dubious-looking spyware scanner.

I recently tested a trial version of an AntiSpyware program from Ashampoo. Firstly, the company is aptly named, because although they produce some good utilities, it is a shame how they use spamming to sell their products (pooh!). They are generous with their trial periods though - usually 10 days, and then if you give them your email address you get another 30 days for a total of 40 days. Unfortunately the Ashampoo AntiSpyware program refused to update its definitions as it was a trial version. That sucked, as most other AntiSpyware programs will update to the latest definitions during their (admittedly shorter) trial periods. Then the program to over an hour to do the scan - okay, it was running on a 500MHz machine, but I have read complaints elsewhere that it is slow. Finally it found 800 plus cookies. I wasn't impressed. The program is advertised for $29.99. Not too long after registering for the extended trial I got an email advertising the program for 50% off, if I buy it now. If I ignore this email (which I will), I'll get another offer in a few days time for about 40% off the full price (better buy it now, the discounts are getting less!).

I bought ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite from ZoneLabs. During its 15-day trial on another machine, I got rid of a pesky folder which opened with Windows on every startup, no matter what I tried, as well as some other less innocuous spyware. Much better than Ashampoo AntiSpyware,

To Ashampoo's credit I have bought several of their software titles - Ashampoo WinOptimizer Platinum is one I use almost every day.

Monday, July 17, 2006

LG VX8300 thoughts

"The recipient" read the"No end in sight" blog entry over my shoulder and let me order the LG VX8300 cellphone.

Before I get to the cellphone some mild gripes about Verizon's online ordering service. Although I supplied an email address they didn't send any order confirmation. They also didn't email me when the phone shipped. However it arrived on the Tuesday after being ordered on Saturday evening.
What always amazes me are how small the boxes are that cellphones are packed in. The Verizon boxes seem particularly small.
Okay, the contents, I know, I know.

I'm not going to do a full review as there is a fairly good one (albeit badly in need of a spellchecker) with pictures at HowardForums.
Admittedly it is bigger and thicker and doesn't look quite as cool as the RAZR.
However, unlike some other LG cellphones I have seen though (notably the VX5200), it looks professional.

Okay, first my doubts - I'm not sure how good the RF would be it borderline areas with patchy coverage. In pseudo-scientific tests, when one bar of signal strength showed, conversations tended to break up a lot.

As a counterpoint, when the signal strength is two bars or more, conversations are clear. The microphone also doesn't pick up as much wind noise as that of the RAZR.

Customization is a pleasure with the VX8300. I liked being able to silence the Verizon power on and power off jingles. The backlight of both the main screen and the keypad can be set to "Always On". Unfortunately the brightness of the main screen cannot be adjusted though. This would make it more readable in sunlight, but it is already miles better than the screen of the RAZR.
The Flash Lite interface offers two animated interface themes in addition to Verizon's standard interface themes.

I prefer the way that LG handles messages (showing unread/total), as well as the way speed dial numbers can be assigned to numbers after the fact. The keypad is easy to use, and it didn't take long for me to get used to the layout.

Although the LG VX8300 is bigger and bulkier than the RAZR, I would swop in a heartbeat

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Windows 98 Permanent Shutdown

Microsoft shuts down Windows 98 from The BBC

Saturday, July 08, 2006

No end in sight

This hunt is tiring me out. If it was for a cellphone for myself I would have ordered my top choice today just to get it over with. However since the recipient has said I should wait another week...
At the moment my top choice is the LG VX8300.

I have overcome my dislike for LG handsets after spending a week with the low-end LG VX5200. Its main screen is readable in direct sunlight, and the phone is a lot more customizable than my Motorola RAZR V3c, allowing the power on and power off tunes to be turned off, something I would love to do with my RAZR. Still, I would not swap the RAZR for the LG VX5200.
Okay, so why the LG VX8300? Ease of use is one reason. It also appears to be the smallest and lightest cellphone featuring an memory card - this is excluding the RAZR V3m, which is not even in the running. The only "Con" from the CNET editors' review was "The LG VX8300's Bluetooth feature does not support file transfers." which of course applies to all Verizons cellphones. My second choice is the Samsung SCH-A930, its main disadvantages being the skimpy external display and unusual rectangular shape.

It may cool and different look different but oddly shaped phones are more difficult to hold.

Then there is the Motorola E815, which is unfortunately a bit too large and "long in the tooth".

No Rumors Rule

I'm not one for spreading technology rumors. Yet an interesting one about Microsoft has emerged : that Microsoft is working on an "iPod killer". This story has been spreading like wildfire - its even being mentioned in magazines like PC World "Next iPod Killer - From Microsoft?" (so far, there hasn't been an iPod killer, so maybe they mean next attempt at an iPod killer),
PC Magazine "Microsoft's iPod Killer Plan".
Even Fox News has a story "Sources: Microsoft's 'iPod Killer' to Hit Stores by Christmas" (Oh, it must be true!).
Of course the tech rumor site Engadget has "blurry pictures"

It sort of makes sense that Microsoft would go after the lucrative MP3 Player market. Time will tell though.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Yet Another Cellphone Hunt, and so soon.

No, I didn't return the RAZR V3c.

My wife's cellphone contract ends soon and I'm looking for the best deal I can get for her. The criteria is different of course, and now, so soon after the last purchase I'm hopefully a bit wiser. This time I don't want to buy a cellphone which is replaced by an upgraded model within a month. Also, my desire for high tech needs to be balanced with ease of use and practicality issues. The simplest route would be to get the Motorola RAZR V3m, as the V3c is quite easy to use - except outside in sunlight where the main (internal) screen washes out in bright light, and is totally unreadable.

Verizon's choice of phones is somewhat limited. Sure they have Smartphones, and Camera/Video/Music phones and simple phones. But there are no Sony Ericsson models and Nokia has stopped making CDMA phones. Basically the big names are Motorola and Samsung. Then there is LG, which used to stand for Lucky Goldstar, but now on the company's website it seems they prefer "Life's Good" (Good for the company's owners/shareholders or for their customers?).

At first my main criterion was for Tri-mode phones - in the CDMA world this means phones with analog roaming capabilities. The idea behind this is that the old Analog networks pretty much cover the whole US, so if you travel a lot (or surprisingly, just around Long Island) you should always get a cellular signal, even when their is no digital signal. Anyway, after owning three Motorola cellphones in a row (including the Motorola RAZR V3c), with a detour into smartphones with the Palm Treo 600, I naturally first looked at the Motorolas.

To my surprise, the only Motorola tri-mode cellphone currently available for Verizon is the Motorola V325. I don’t particularly like it, but it got added to the shortlist. The only other tri-mode cellphones were some LGs. Verizon has very few analog-capable handsets. Sprint, on the other hand, carries a large number of analog-capable handsets. However, from my personal experience with Sprint's customer service, or lack there of, I would not deal with them again.

The Sprint story:
The first cellphone I owned in the US was a dual-mode Samsung on the Sprint network. I didn't use it much, as it was mainly for emergencies (cellphones were regarded as a required safety device in South Africa). Then the earpiece stopped working. Of course the phone's 12-month warranty had expired. I phoned Sprint's Customer Service, who basically said "Sorry, there is not much we can do, come in and buy another phone and sign up for another contract". Instead I saw a free phone advertised with a years contract with AT&T Wireless, and signed up with them. Of course when I called to cancel my Sprint month-to-month account, they decided they could offer me a free phone. Too late, I told them.

To get back to Verizon, I read somewhere that they were scaling back their Analog network. So I began looking at their "All Digital" handsets.

Another cellphone hunt continues...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Customer Service, Major flaw

Last night I had the opportunity to experience Verizon customer service when I canceled the VCAST V PAK while still in the one month trial period.
Their customer service was friendly and efficient, and deserves the high Consumer Reports rating.

I've found one problem with the Motorola RAZR V3c, one that I have not seen mentioned in any reviews. The main (internal) display is unreadable in sunlight and with no way to increase the brightness this makes it almost impossible to dial calls outside. This is a major flaw in an otherwise excellent phone. I really though that Motorola would have fixed this by spending more on a better screen - but keeping costs low may have been their primary concern. After all, who uses their cellphones outside?.
My old, soon to be sold, Treo 600 has an extra bright screen to overcome this. Inside you need to keep it at the lowest brightness setting, but outside there's plenty of brightness on the slider bar to make the screen readable. I have on occasions used it as a torch (flashlight).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Got Gripes?

While searching for a review of ZoneAlarm software the other day I came across this detailed gripe about ZoneAlarm.
I had struck the mother lode, a site dedicated to both software and hardware Computer Gripes:

They also have a link to PC World's 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

V3m vs. V3c

Just after I bought the Motorola RAZR V3c, the Verizon Online Site had its successor, the Motorola RAZR V3m on special for $69. That’s a lot more than I paid for the V3c, but it still grated a bit. Of course Amazon’s price for the newer RAZR is $199 after rebates, they must have a lot of the V3c’s in stock.

Anyway, a comparison on reveals that the differences between the two are not that important to me:

First is a Memory Card Slot for microSD / TransFlash cards. No Comment.

Then the V3m has better battery life - standby time is increased from 215 hours (9 days) to 325 hours(13.5 days). No change in talk time though.

The updated RAZR has a Music Player. No big deal.

Oh, a converged device; music player and cellphone, you say.

Sorry, my Treo 600 had that, on top of being a handheld computer with a keyboard. I prefer the sound of a dedicated DAP (Digital Audio Player).

Also, the V3m is all of 1mm thinner than the v3c (or 0.03 inches). Now, that really makes a difference.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

RAZR Early impressions

So far I'm really impressed with Motorola RAZR V3c. Fortunately I was expecting the Verizon interface and the crippled Bluetooth, otherwise may have been disappointed. It certainly is the coolest cellphone I've owned, easily surpassing the Motorola V600. The main color screen is bigger than I expected for a cellphone. The keypad is really cool, especially when it is lit up. My only minor gripe is that I seem to press the directional keys sometimes instead of the main "Select" button in the main navigational keys. Not being able to fully customize these keys is what I expected. If I really wanted to use the EVDO highspeed features I would be frustrated as EVDO reception is patchy and variable in my home. I have also since discovered that the North Shore and South Shore of Long Island are not in the EVDO coverage area, which I guess explains the bad reception. The cellphone itself is small and light, very easily pocketable. In my tests of the most important cellphone functionality - voice reception - it is pretty good.

By the way, thanks to The General for pointing out that the "Q" in the Motorola Q stands for "Qwerty" - that makes sense as it has a keyboard.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

RAZR not Razor?

Questions for Motorola:
Why drop the "o" from Razor to make it RAZR, or the "b" and "e" from PEBL? Okay, so short CAPS are eye-catching - ROKR instead of Rocker. I guess V60 or V600 wasn't catchy enough. Now there's the Motorola Q. Does Motorola have to pay royalties to Ian Fleming's estate? ("The lasting impact of 'Q' does not refer to the Motorola Q")

Monday, June 12, 2006

Target Acquired


(I hope, and not "Mission Accomplished")

Cutting Edge technology:

....a year ago

Can you hear me (now)?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Non-Mobile cellphone

A cellphone by definition should be mobile.

I was very interested in the VZ Navigator feature from Verizon. When it first came out I had read about it, probably in PC Magazine. Now, this seemed like a really cool and useful technology. A cellphone is something you carry almost all the time, and is (usually) smaller than one of those handheld GPS devices. So basically you shold have access to GPS whenever you really need it (assuming there is coverage in the area you happen to be lost in, but that's another matter). The way Verizon prices it is appealling - either $10 a month (for the constantly lost), or $2.99 for a 24 hour period whenever you need it. From a flyer (aka junk snail mail) Verizon had sent me, it appeared that they only offered 2 cellphones which were GPS enabled: the Motorola V325 and the LG VX 9800. At first the VX 9800 sounded like a cool phone loaded with features like BlueTooth, a Megapixel Camera etc,, but then I realized it's a brick.
Dimensions 4.57 inches, 1.97 inches, 1.0 inches, weight: 5.19 ounces. For a cellphone that's a brick.

The LG VX9800 as a cellphone

The LG VX9800 is not a PDA, as it doesn't have an OS, but is a text messenger.

(Mobiledia has larger pictures of the LG VX9800 in their review)

As for the Motorola V325, it was the first to have VZ Navigator, and had good user reviews on CNET, Phonescoop and even on Amazon. Yet it lacked bluetooth - kinda ironic for me to want bluetooth, since I have it on my Motorola V600 cellphone and have never used it. I also have it on a couple of my handhelds, but never have tried hard enough to get it working - infrared works easily between handhelds (this includes Palm and PocketPCs).
Anyway, I digress.
Also, the Motorola V325 only had a VGA camera, and since I was upgrading a better camera would be nice (the camera on the V600, although low resolution, takes pretty good pictures for a cellphone). The one nice thing the V325 had was a World Clock.

The General (the cellphone expert) mentioned the RAZR. I had a look at it on the Verizon site, and saw that it supports VZ Navigator. Sneaky Verizon - they don't want to tell you that upfront - it would affect the sales of "The V" (the VX 9800, I guess V stands for Very Big cellphone). The Motorola RAZR V3c goes for $99.99 after rebates on the Verizon site and in their stores.
On however, it can be had for free after rebates.

The prey was in my sights...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Smells like a Hunt

Before the last blog entry about Ubuntu, I was so engrossed in a hunt that I didn't have time to blog.
What? Yes thanks.

Anyway, I didn't expect to find myself on a hunt, especially considering I've basically blown my personal technology budget for at least the next year.
I've being wracking my brain trying to figure out how I got into research mode, which quickly morphed into hunt mode.
No, I don't hunt Polar bears - this is a technology hunt.

I was looking at getting onto a "Family Plan", and after checking when my wife's cellphone contract ended, I quickly checked when mine ended. To my surprise my contract had ended last year, and I've been on month-to-month since then.

Aha, research mode became hunt mode. I checked out my current cellular provider, Cingular, and saw that their cheapest plan was $39.99, which is $20 more than my current plan, but with 10 times the minutes I currently have. But their free phones were not particularly inspiring.

Instead, since I'm eligible for a discount from Verizon (don't ask why, it's a state secret), I had a look at their plans and phones.

The first phone which interested me was the Motorola V325, to be seen here on its own blog. One of it's most interesting features was the VZ Navigator which allows GPS Navigation from a cellphone - see PC Magazine review here.

This phone seemed ideal, it even had analog roaming, but...

The hunt continues...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Linux for Astronauts

A new version of Ubuntu Linux has been released, version 6.06 (6.06 meaning the release date of June 2006, not June 6!)

Why Linux for Astronauts?
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu project, was also the first South African in space, having paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket in 2002 (see his website)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Virtualization and another Buzz

Virtualization is causing a buzz in Technology right now.
It has Microsoft's attention at the moment in the software world with Microsoft releasing the latest update to Virtual Server, Virtual Server 2005 R2 as a free download. Of course this has nothing to do with VMWare offering their VMware Server Beta for free. Then of course there is the buzz about virtualization in the hardware world with Xen for Linux and Intel's whatever...

Without going into too much detail virtualization refers to running more than one Client or Server Operating System at a time on a single hardware box. Of course there is more to it than that, with another flavor of virtualization being an implementation from Altiris that allows applications to run with controlled access to the underlying OS (Altiris SVS). What's great is that a lot of the software tools have free versions. VMwares Virtual Player is one of them.

Virtualization is something I work with almost every day, but another buzz is about something I only just heard about for the first time: Rails for Ruby.

Rails for Ruby, which is being hailed as a successor to Java as it is a whole lot faster to develop web-based database applications. The language itself, Ruby has been around since about 1993.
"Rails is a full-stack framework for developing database-backed web applications according to the Model-View-Control pattern. From the Ajax in the view, to the request and response in the controller, to the domain model wrapping the database, Rails gives you a pure-Ruby development environment. To go live, all you need to add is a database and a web server." this is according to the official website

Instant Rails for Ruby on Rails which includes everything needed to setup Rails for Ruby can be found here

Saturday, May 20, 2006

AOL Music canceled

Well, I finally canceled my trial of AOL Music Service, before the 30 day trial period had ended of course. It was just that it was so difficult. First, because I wasn't sure that the Music Service was what AOL calls a "Premium Service", I got put through to the wrong department who put me through to Bangalore or somewhere similar. I was then advised to phone the number I had phoned. By the time I go through to the right human being it was hard to be civil.

Canceling Rhapsody was easier and they actually asked why. AOL it seems couldn't care.

Monday, May 15, 2006

U3 and PortableApps

That is U3 and not the famous U2.
Both U3 and PortableApps are methods of storing and running Applications from USB Flash Drives. U3 is a platform and a USB Flash Drive has to be a "U3 smart drive" to run U3 applications. PortableApps on the other hand will work on any USB Flash Drive. The other difference is that PortableApps features mainly Open Source (free) software, whereas U3 has some freeware but mainly commercial applications, like ThinkFree Office for U3 (I guess the "Free" of ThinkFree is Free of MS?) and WinRAR for U3.

My boss remarked that this was like the old days of DOS and floppy disks - remember when you could run a program from a floppy disk? In fact, right now flash drives of 512MB or less would be recognized as a floppy drive when it comes to booting from them.
There are a number of ways to make a USB Flash Drive bootable with everything from DOS to Windows versions to (of course) Linux. Unfortunately this will work only if your PC or Notebooks BIOS supports booting from a USB device, and this is limited to PCs from the last year or so. See for more information.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Successful Downgrade

This week I successfully downgraded from Graffiti 2 on my Tungsten T3 to Graffiti 1. Why would I do that you may ask? Well, I got tired of not being able to write the letter "x", no matter how hard I tried.

Admittedly, Graffiti 2 is a lot closer to normal handwriting, although each letter needs to be formed individually like in the first version of Graffiti. I was actually starting to get used to it, but then had to write something on a handheld which had version 1 on it. It reminded me of how quick easy those shortcut strokes are to write.

There are lots of articles on how to downgrade the web, like this one from Palm Infocenter.

As a comparison, the two versions of Graffiti look as follows:

Graffiti 1:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia has an excellent article on Graffiti and why Palm brought out version 2.

Graffiti 2:

The Palm site has an article on how Graffiti 2 is "intuitive and easier to learn".

Friday, May 05, 2006

Something cool on a warm night.

No, I'm not referring to an ice cold Bud Light, but a Tech kind of cool: Specifically a network update of the Sony PSP firmware to version 2.70. The network update feature has been there since the PSP came out, but I've just never used it before. Of course it makes perfect sense to allow updating the operating system and other features of the console over a wireless connection, since the PSP has built-in Wi-Fi.

Up until now I've done it in the "old-fashioned" way, downloading using my PC. I had forgotten about this feature until I was browsing the Sony Playstation website with my PSP (seemed a logical thing to do), and read up about the new features of the firmware upgrade and decided to apply it. Initially, before I even got the PSP, firmware upgrades were more for taking things away, locking down the PSP and making it more difficult to hack. In fact, the firmware version my Sony PSP came with (2.0 I think), is pretty much un-hackable. Version 1.5 was a favorite of the Homebrew crowd, they could add their own web browser and other software. Then games came out with firmware upgrades on the UMD (disk) - if you want to play the game you had to upgrade your firmware. Anyway, now Sony has been adding features: 2.0 had a Web Browser, 2.6 added support for RSS Feeds, and 2.7 adds support for Macromedia Flash (not a favorite of mine - those Flash ads bug me so much I've disabled them in Firefox, and unless the otherwise excellent Opera browser allows Flash to be disabled I'm not going to bother to use it). More importantly, this upgrade supports audio Podcasts (called something else - "Audio content" - of course), and the saving of multimedia content from the web browser to a Memory Stick. Video podcasts have been promised in a future update.

As an aside, has the Sony PSP Rated as the most popular PVP (Personal Video Player). I've watched a movie on the Sony PSP, and the aspect ratio of its 4 inch screen is perfect widescreen movies. Of course a protective case like the Logitech PlayGear helps, as it can be flipped around to hold the PSP in the right position for movie watching. The stereo speakers are also adequate for the task.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Web on TV? No: TV on Web

After several attempts to get internet content on television, none with much success, now the big guns are trying to get Television content on the Internet. Like AOL Television

Friday, April 28, 2006

Online Music Services

I was going to do a review on the Online Music Services, including subscription music, "Music To Go" and straight download services. However someone has already done this:
Here's a blog, which reviews Music Subscription Services:

PC Magazine also did a review "Subscriptions for a Song"

Still, here is my take on the services I've tried so far:
Rhapsody Online is one of the most expensive Online Services (for downloading Subscription Music). But they were offering a 30-day free trial. To use their service you have to download their software. Its actually quite easy to use, and I had no problems downloading Subscription tracks to a Sandisk Sansa as well as an iRiver H10. They have a wide selection of music, and when you view an artist they list other similar artists. This works quite well. Some groups and tracks are for purchase only.

Then I tried AOL Music Service. My initial impressions were not good, especially compared to Rhapsody. Although this is supposed to have a web-only interface, you still have to install the AOL Music Download Utility. The Web interface to AOL Music is pathetically slow, even on a broadband collection. otherwise, they have a fairly good selection of music, although you are left on your own regarding similar artists.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Frozen Mini

Last night my Apple iPod Mini starting giving trouble. At first I thought it was frozen, but the player can play songs using the wired remote. So it seemed that the click wheel wasn't working.
I scoured the web for solutions. After trying to to reset it according to instructions on the Apple support site, I did the next suggested solution: drained the battery and recharged it. The reset still didn't work. Then I tried restoring the iPod to factory settings. I can transfer songs to the player, and play them using the remote, but the clickwheel - probably the single best feature of the iPod - still doesn't work.
Of course it is no longer under warranty. The 30 day warranty ended over a month ago.

What really burns me is that I could have got a refurbished second generation iPod Mini (this one is a first generation - main difference being 2nd generation gets 18 hours battery life instead of 8) directly from with a better warranty for less than I paid for this piece of crap...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Technology moves fast (sometimes)

One technology which is moving particularly fast - probably because there is so much consumer demand - is MP3 Players.
I guess I should have realized when I bought the SanDisk Sansa 240 1GB MP3 Player on special that there was a new one coming (I suspected that something was up).
Now I see that SanDisk has come out with the Sansa c100 and Sansa e100 series of MP3 Players. Instead of boring mono screens, these new ones come with full color screens, and the e100 series can play video.

According to CNET "The SanDisk Sansa e200 series combines copious features such as subscription compatibility, an FM tuner/recorder, voice recording, and photo and video playback into a compact and durable device. We like the tactile navigation wheel, as well as the well-designed software interface. The user-removable battery and the Micro SD slot are nice touches, and the device has decent sound quality, processor performance, and battery life."
From CNET's SanDisk Sansa e270 (6 GB) review:
"The SanDisk Sansa e200 series offers a boatload of features for a reasonable price, in a package that is much nicer than that of past SanDisk models. For those looking for a high-capacity, compact, skip-free MP3/WMA player, start with the e200 series."

The Sansa e200 series starts with a 2GB capacity and goes all the way up to a 6 GB capacity, 2GB more than any iPod Nano at present.

The SanDisk Sansa m240:

The SanDisk Sansa e200:

Everyone say Ooooh!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mobile Internet Part IV

(I use Roman numerals because they seem fairly well understood in the U.S., probably due to the Super Bowl)
Once again I tried using the wireless Internet on my Tungsten T3 with the CPU at full speed (400MHz). I may have been expecting too much, but eBay was extremely sluggish in loading. Only got past the login screen, and page just loaded too slowly, even with "Load Images" turned off. I tried again, and the T3 did a fatal reset, which messed up the Virtual Graffiti area. Is it due to a better Operating System (Linux) that the 200MHz Sharp Zaurus can browse not just eBay, but another page at the same time? Or is it the Opera Browser? There are rumors that Palm is working on Linux-based operating system for their handhelds - see this article at PalmInfoCenter

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apple boots Microsoft

Apple Unveils Software to boot into Windows XP, according to this article in My Way News. But that's what Microsoft has been wanting to do to Apple for ages!

Thursday, March 30, 2006


No, me not speak with forked tongue. In my previous blog entry I mentioned starting to cut the umbilical cord with the Treo. I didn't mention how. Well, I've started using the Motorola V600 as a cellphone now, leaving the Treo at home. Instead of the Treo I use a Tungsten T3 for handheld computer functions.

The Tungsten T3 is quite an awesome handheld. The Virtual Graffiti area is better than that of the Sony NX60 and the landscape mode really handy. The 400 MHz processor makes response times snappy, and the Treo 600 is slow in comparison.

T3 closed

T3 open (in Portrait Mode)

T3 in Landscape Mode

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


This blog entry was originally entitled: "Treos, T3s and the Dark Side", but it was just taking me too long to finish, and I just wasn't getting to the Dark Side. So I decided to post it in sections, not quite episodes, but smaller chunks.

This week I started to cut the umbilical cord with the Treo. It only has one or two programs that are not on the Tungsten T3, but I had to do it sometime. The biggest move of course will be getting the Tungsten T3 to HotSync with my main Desktop. I have to totally uninstall the Treo Palm Desktop, and then install the T3 Palm Desktop from scratch, and install the programs that need to synchronize with the T3. This is a multi-step process, as I need to have a running Treo Desktop on another machine (or partition) first.

Hold on, why am I moving off of the Treo?...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I sit corrected

In a previous post which mentioned subscription music and "Music To Go", I implied that subscription music and "Music To Go" were one and the same thing.

They are not. The Music Subscription Services offer "To Go" as an option - usually a more expensive one, which means that downloaded music can be transferred to a compatible device. Otherwise the music can only be played on one or more PCs.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dell captures aliens!

Oh no, got that wrong, it should read - "Dell buys Alienware" - according to this article from My Way News

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sidetracked but successful

To back-track for a moment, before I started looking at the iPod Mini, I was sidetracked by a non-iPod Flash memory based player - a Sandisk Sansa - on sale at a local store. Cheaper than a 1 GB iPod Shuffle, it has a display, as well as an FM Radio. (No iPod that I know of has an FM Radio - although FM is not really a factor for me, as I am unable to listen to commercial radio because of the commercials). The 1GB Sandisk Sansa had fairly good reviews online, so I got it. It isn't as sleek as the iPod Nano, but it is small and light and has a readable mono display. The controls are quite simple too figure out. Downloading songs didn't require any special software either. The problem is, it didn't take me long to fill up 1GB with songs. This was especially true since the Sansa supports subscription music or "Music To Go", and I started a free trial of one of the subscription services.

What's subscription music or "Music To Go"? Basically, for a monthly fee you can download as much music as your portable device can handle. Then, as long as you keep on paying the monthly fee you can listen to the music. The players use Digital Rights Management (DRM) to disable playing of the songs if you don't synchronize with the music service as a paid up subscriber. The songs also cannot be burned to CD and cannot be played on devices (including computers) which are not "Authorized" by the subscription service. So, of course I filled up the player with songs I liked but don't have on CD, and albums I'm considering buying as well as music from artists I haven't yet heard.
CNET has a whole article about it here.

Okay, so 1 GB wasn't enough, so I begun looking at higher capacity MP3 Players, and that led me to the 4 GB iPod Mini. I made the mistake of buying a refurbished one from eBay. If I'd shopped around more I would have found a refurbished one on for cheaper. Oh well..

Oh, and how is the iPod? I had to read the manual to learn how to use the controls, but once I got them they were intuitively easy. The sound seems better than the Sansa. Best of all I discovered that the accessories for the iPod Mini are deeply discounted since it has been discontinued, so I was able to get an FM transmitter (iTrip) for less than $10. Now I can listen to the iPod in the car or on my home audio system.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Search narrows

One thing that bothered me when I read reviews of the iPod Nano was that because this is a product which was only released in September of last year, there would be no bargain prices for it yet.
What set me thinking was this "quibble" from Consumer Reports:
"A 2-gigabyte (500-song) Nano costs $200, which bought you a 4-GB iPod Mini before it was discontinued. There's a 4-GB Nano for $250, which used to buy you a 6-GB iPod Mini."

It got me thinking whether the iPod Mini was still available. It is!

CNET Review of iPod Mini

Friday, March 10, 2006

MP3 Player Hunt Continued

Back issues of PC Magazine and an odd copy of Handheld Computing magazine helped clear up a misconception I had about the iPod Shuffle: from the name I wondered if it could only play in "shuffle" or random mode. This isn't the case. I looked at the low-priced 512 MB shuffle first, but discovered that it could only hold about 100 to 120 songs, depending on format. The 1 GB Shuffle was sold out wherever it was on special. One thing that put me off was a reviewer who recommended the iPod Shuffle as a second MP3 Player for those who already have a larger hard drive-based player. The Shuffle has no display to tell you what song you're listening to. After much thought, I decided I could not do without this feature so I could at least see what song, or Podcast or whatever was that I was listening to - and be able to find a song. This was especially so since most non-Apple MP3 players in this price range have this display.

Sticking with the iPods, the cheapest model with a display was the iPod Nano. This iPod has excellent reviews, and a price to go with it. For $140 and upwards for the 1GB iPod Nano you are really paying a premium.

So, there is a tiny color (176-by-132-pixel 1.5-inch) screen, on which you can view photos or album art. If I really want to view photos I'd use the 480-by-320-pixel 4.3 inch screen on my Tapwave Zodiac.

Apart from there being MP3 players from other manufacturers with larger capacity and more features, what finally put me off the Nano altogether were reports that the device scratches easily ("Although the device is durable, it scratches easily; blemishes show up more drastically on the black version" - excerpt from review). I didn't want to pay so much to have to baby an MP3 Player.

And yet the coolness factor of the iPod is so strong.

Oh, what to do?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

MP3 Player Hunt

Okay, so I knew very little about the latest MP3 Players, but I wanted to get one (for why see Got an MP3 Player?). I had last looked at MP3 players in early 2003, before deciding to buy the Sony Clie NX60. Of course, things have changed a lot since then.

There seem to be two types of MP3 Players: Flash-based Players and Hard Drive-based Players. According to wikipedia there are three types, but I'm not counting MP3 CD Players.

There are also iPods and Everything else, or Anything But iPod.

My criteria was for a small player, definitely smaller than any of my handhelds or even my Sony Net MD Walkman MZ-NF520D.

Since I had recently seen one on special, I first looked at the iPod Shuffle:

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mobile Internet Part III

In a previous blog Mobile Internet II I said that the Dell Axim X30 with built-in Wireless "worked like a dream" at a hotel hotspot.
Okay, well that hotspot did not have encryption, and at home I have encrypted wireless. The Dell Axim runs like a dog on my home Wi-Fi (and I don't mean a greyhound!). Possibly I'm not using the correct wireless client - there are several available on the Axim. Anyway, the only site I can get onto is Yahoo.

My Linux-based Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 with a Compact Flash Wi-Fi card has no problems with this encrypted wireless network, and puts the Dell to shame. I was planning to sell the Zaurus, but not any more.

Just for interest, here is a picture of the Treo 600 next to the Sharp Zaurus (the Zaurus is closed, it is even longer with the keyboard opened).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sony didn't invent Virtual Graffiti!

According to wikipedia, the first Palm OS Device with a Virtual Graffiti area was the HandEra 330 released in 2001.

This handheld had some impressive specifications for a Palm-OS based device at that time:

240 x 320 QVGA high resolution screen
Virtual on-screen Graffiti text entry areas
360° rotation of screen image with special applications (Portrait and Landscape modes!)
Ran with AAA alkaline batteries or with optional lithium-ion batteries
One CompactFlash Type I/II card slot and One Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMediaCard slot
Jog wheel and auxiliary button for one hand operation
Internal audio amplifier and speaker
Microphone to record audio files

Full Specs are here at HandEra. gave it a 4 star rating in their review. The Gadgeteer also liked it.

Unfortunately it wasn't too stable...