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.