Aug 30, 2007

Nokia - You've impressed me!

It's been a long time since I have been excited about a new device / feature, but seriously, even with all Nokia's annoucements being much speculated about for weeks before the event, they've still managed to make me drooooooooool. Let's see:
- a centralized service for music / pics&vids / games / connectivity : OVI
- an amazing gaming platform, maybe I haven't said it here before, but I AM a gamer
- a great music store accessible all around the world, on the phone or the pc
- a touchscreen interface coming soon (yippy!)
- a proof that Nokia listens to bloggers and consumers : the better N95
- THE SEXIEST DEVICE I've ever seen: the N81.

Now I'm a little bit thrown down by:
- the lack of a proper camera on the N81. Why oh why couldn't you throw a cam like the one in the N73? It's not the N95's but it's really good.
- the fact that they didn't launch the N82, but I suppose they wouldn't kill their N95 so soon
- the fact that they still lack a decent centralized solution for symbian applications. Now that they made one for games and music, throw in apps ;)

Now about the N81, I'm in love, totally utterly completely head-to-toe undeniably in LUV! I never had an n-gage (was too young when it launched :p) but I love mobile gaming, it's my favorite hobby. So the N81 is a MUST for me. Now I'll either have to break my wallet (but even if I will, i won't be able to purchase that beast), either Nokia has to send me one.

Anyone works for Nokia here? I guess I'm too optimistic :(

Aug 28, 2007

Laptop Screen Down - The Update

Just when you think that it couldn't get worse than losing your pc in a time when you don't even have time to finish your typing jobs while having the pc available 24/24, you find out that you also have to break your wallet to repair it. Damn the lebanese electricity company!

Anyway, here is an image of my laptop screen problem : you can clearly see the black and white regions on the lower right. Thank God the hard disk wasn't touched, I would've died!

COMMAS, the company with which I normally deal and who love working "legally" said that they'll have to send the laptop's serial number to Japan to get me a screen for the mere price of *drum roll* 770$!!! But there's another company who claim they can do it for 250-300$ without having that "slight detour" by Japan. I assume they will fix me with the screen of a broken laptop, which model suits mine. I'll go for it and hope for the best.

Dotsisx @ the Carnival

Finally I've made it, my first post to the Carnival of the Mobilists! It took me some time, 'ight? I submitted my post (Symbian vs WM) last week and too bad for me, because of my laptop screen problem I had to wait for today (tuesday) to get to the lab PC to see if I was in. Anyway, I'm quite excited!

Of course, you can read this week's #88 Carnival over at Xellular Identity. As always it's a nice round-up of this week's posts, so, as it's common to say, grab a cup of coffee and head over there ;)

Aug 27, 2007

Laptop Screen Down!

Man, me and my bad luck! Friday night, there was an electricity black-out (yes, that still happens quite often in Lebanon) and my father had a problem switching to the 2nd power outlet, so he turned it on-off-on which killed part of my laptop screen! I will post a picture as soon as I find a pc with bluetooth. This one (the lab pc) doesn't have BT so I can't send the pic from my phone.

I'm dead furious especially that I have to type my lab training report, which is due in a couple of weeks, and that I had prepared a couple of posts for this blog that I won't be able to post now. I was planning to make a couple of shifts and new features on this blog. I guess it'll have to wait.

Aug 22, 2007

RSS Feeds - I Hate that I love you (+ favor asking)

When you only get time to check the internet twice a week, on mondays and wednesdays, because you have to spend your summer at an internet-free house, it becomes a challenge to stay up-to-date with everything going on in the symbian and tech world. Even the 2 days you have access to a connection are barely enough to check your mail, visit some of your favorite blogs and read what you missed.

And there comes RSS feeds. If I knew the man/company behind this amazing idea, I would run right now and hug him/them.

[ Edit: from Wikipedia,
RDF Site Summary, the first version of RSS, was created by Ramanathan V. Guha of Netscape in March 1999 for use on the My Netscape portal. This version became known as RSS 0.9. In July 1999, responding to comments and suggestions, Dan Libby produced a prototype tentatively named RSS 0.91 (RSS standing for Rich Site Summary), that simplified the format and incorporated parts of Dave Winer's Scripting News format.
Can anyone get me those Guha and Libby guys addresses now? ]

I just love the concept :) What I do right now is check my favorite blogs quickly when I'm online, then connect my Qtek with Active Sync, run SPB Insight which uses my laptop ADSL connection to update all my news. I then have all the time in the world, when I'm swinging in Kleiat and enjoying the nice breeze, to get updated on what I missed during the days I wasn't connected. I then mark as unread the news I have to comment on or continue reading and the news that contain a link I need to follow... so I can perform these operations when I'm at Beirut again. Sweet!

To tell you the truth, it's not until a couple of months ago that I started using RSS (that's why I'm still excited and impressed). For a year or so, I had been seeing that orange icon on websites, never bothering to check the real story behind it. And when I finally discovered what it was, I thought that it wasn't such a big deal because I didn't have an internet connection on my mobile device and using RSS on the laptop would be ridiculous (if I'm online, why not check the whole site?). It's not until I tried the RSS feature in MobiReader that later connects to my 3250, that I knew how precious and time-saving it was. I even wonder how I've managed to live without it.

One big let down I face, not correlated with the technology itself, but with bloggers, is the fact that some feeds only contain headers, or a header with a couple of lines. It's ridiculous. Almost like showing a kid a lollipop then telling him he won't have it. Please fellow bloggers, we want FULL FEEDS, I know you'll be losing some site traffic, but it's only for the good cause of readers like me who can't access your sites everyday.

P.S : "I Hate that I love you" is a nice RnB song by Rihanna and Ne-Yo.

Symbian vs Windows Mobile - Clash of the Titans

As y'all know by now, I've been owning a WM device for a couple of weeks. Having only dealt with Symbian devices (s40 and s60) in my life, the discovery of Windows Mobile was a nice change, being quite overwhelming at moments and irritating at others.

I don't claim being able to put these 2 leaders of operating systems on mobile devices for a full Head2Head (that would take months to write and days to read) but I will be placing here the most flagrant differences that make the positives of one platform and the negatives of the other.

Assuming that most addicted mobile users usually cling to one platform and buy all their devices in a specific range, I suppose that some readers of Dotsisx may have never tried WM and hence don't know its benefits nor the features it lacks (which, on the contrary, have been implemented in Symbian for quite a long time now). That's why I decided to write this.

This Head2Head will be divided into 2 parts: one showing 3 good things in WM5 that should be implemented in S60, and one with the 3 main letdowns I faced in WM5 that I never had with S60.

What Symbian Should Learn From WM

1 - Today Screen: it's right, we have our Symbian standby screens, but they are nothing as versatile, as customizable, as useful as the today screen in WM. For those of you not familiar with the today screen, it's the main standby screen. Every developer can decide to give a today plug-in for his software so, for instance, if we talk about an RSS reader, you would see how many new articles are available and some headlines, straight on your screen, without opening the program. You can also see the date, calendar events, your pocket msn,... Also you can choose which plug-ins are visible and which are not. Basically the possibilities are endless. Some software even consist of just a today screen plug-ins allowing shortcuts to apps to be placed right there. If I'm not mistaken there hasn't been any 3rd party app yet for Symbian that can add one single line to the standby screen. That's a waste! You won't know what you're missing until you've tried it! I have been using SPB Mobile Shell and SPB Pocket Plus (both today plug-ins based software) and they are the greatest software I ever tried.

2 - The "professional" prejudice: when a platform appears to be professional, there are more profession-axed software for it. I've already talked about it in my Rant to Symbian Developers, and I can never emphasize it enough (it was the main reason I got the Qtek) I don't think there's an autocad (the superstar architecture tool) or a drug interaction tool for Symbian, just to give two examples. But they are available for WM. I don't believe it's hard to code for such apps for Symbian, but nobody bothers, why?

3 - Standardization: you will always find what you're looking for in the same place, on all WM devices. Settings and programs are always where they are supposed to be so it doesn't matter whether you have an iMate, a Qtek, a Toshiba, an HTC or any other WM device, you'll always find your way. I'm so frustrated to admit that it's never like this with Symbian. Even with the slightest firmware update, you can find things tossed around, that's not acceptable!

What WM Should Learn From Symbian

1 - Stability: I first thought stability was just an issue with my 2nd hand Qtek, then I found out that some of my acquaintance's WM devices face the same problem. The device can randomly reboot or turn on, and when I say randomly, I really mean randomly: it can reboot/turn on while being used or most of the time when it's not (wtf?) even sometimes when it's off and untouched (seriously wtf?). Plus it experiences freezing moments quite often, even when you wouldn't imagine it. It also decides at moments to not recognize the memory card, you have to remove it and replace it in order to get things going again. I don't think I ever experienced these issues with my Symbian devices, that's why I'd NEVER make the Qtek my main phone device (calls n sms) or trust it with my SIM card.

2 - Office: ok Symbian doesn't have a Word/Excel editor built-in, but what's the deal with the built-in office in WM? I mean I'd rather have a good viewer than being laughed at by this basic version in WM! All that you can do is type, adjust the font, center and right align, bullet and number. Seriously? Not even justify! No tables, no pictures, no headers and footers, no nothing. I mean, seriously? Is that what you expect in a self proclaimed "windows" mobile? I won't even talk about the lack of equations in Excel or the poor Power Point viewer only. At least S60 offers a nice built-in viewer, Quick Office, that doesn't change a thing from the original file for viewing (which can't be said about the WM viewing experience), while on the editing side we're covered by Quick Office Premium and Office Suite!

3 - Phone Utilities: I guess that Symbian was built with phones in mind first then shifted to smartphones, whereas WM has a smartphone background first. But after years of producing WM devices, it's not acceptable that the phone utilities are still way beyond any of its competitors! Making a phone call to a non-contact can be quite challenging, whereas in Symbian it's as easy as pressing the numeric keys. I won't even talk about other phone utilities like sms, profiles, voice commands, speed dials,... These don't constitute a new technology for WM to make an alibi, these have been around for years now and they're disastrous over WM!

That's about it for now, anything you would love to add to these main differences?

Aug 13, 2007

YoYap! Wishlist

Ever since Zach reviewed Yoyap! by Skyestream, I was impressed and have been wanting to give this funny app a go and see how well it works. Unfortunately, with the purchase of the Qtek, I started neglecting my 3250, just in order to mod the new gadget and make it my very own. Now that this is over, I went back to the symbian world and got YoYap!

My first impression was yeah, cool, but not that much. Then I found out that the app itself is not the funny part. It's the process of making the videos and the ideas you put behind the voice recording that make the hilarious part. In one word, you have to take it to the next level in order to really enjoy it. Grab a beer, call some friends and decide to send a message from Osama Bin Laden to Georges W then an answer from Georges W. That's how you'd enjoy YoYap. Yesterday, I spent 2 hours with my friend creating 2 videos and I was basically ROTSL (no, it's not a typo, since I was rolling on the sofa and not the floor) while recording an armenian accent message to convince my parents to enroll me in a hiphop dance course.

Still, after trialling it for a while, I have a wishlist for future features to be implemented that would make it even better (if that's possible):

  1. More character support like a sexy gal, a queer guy, some known singer, a macho guy, a baby, a doctor/nurse, an army soldier, conan o brian?...
  2. Ability to chose one animation for each contact in the auto answer feature. Of course you could set a default character for all contacts but you could still assign one specific character for a special contact
  3. Ability to save a voice call as video
  4. Ability to change the settings (mood character and background) inside the movie maker
  5. Ability to correct animations from the middle without having to restart the video to do so
  6. More than 1min voice recording
  7. Adding background noises and sounds
  8. Ability to switch characters inside one video in order to create a head 2 head conversation.
  9. More animation possibilities, not just the eyes but also: tilting the head, hand gestures (shut up, thinking, waving,...) and a kiss lip movment or a yawn :)

I know that's really too much to ask for, but if the Skyestream dev team decides to implement just a couple of these, it would make this app such a perfect little piece!

What do you think about it? Are there any other features you would love to add? Or are there any on this list that you don't think are necessary?

And would anyone get the message to the Skyestream dev team?

5 Blogs I read - Tagged (again and again)

I guess it's a trend, but hey, who am I to complain? Dameon Welch-Abernathy, also known as PhoneBoy, ( *parallel thought* i must get a screen nickname) just tagged me. So here we go:

- name 5 blogs in different countries that you read
- tag 5 bloggers

Blogs I read:
- Tommi Vilkamo's S60 applications blog (Finland)
- Tarek's Symbiano-Tek (Egypt)
- Michael Hell's The Nokian Blog (Austria)
- Pasco's Jaspp (Italy)... of course I don't speak italian, but I mostly try to figure out what the post means, then I check the links. And I usually end up finding very interesting stuff :)
- Ricky Cadden's Symbian-Guru (USA)

So that's it, named bloggers are tagged :D

N.B: of course I read many other blogs, which are featured in my bookmarks, by heay i had to pick 5 from different countries!

Aug 10, 2007

iPhone for sale, unlocked by end october?

I stopped by the Apple Shop (or is it Apple Store *thinkin*) in ABC Mall yesterday, which happens to be one shop away from the new Nokia FCC-Middle East shop. I asked the guys one question: when will the iPhone arrive? The salesman told me "end october". I know for one that I've already asked them quite a few times about iPod accessories or iPod new models arrival dates and they were never wrong, or at most it took a week more than they said. But they always were right. So I asked him if the iPhone will be unlocked to be used with any provider, which is the case in Lebanon (there are no provider-specific devices at all), and he answered "of course, you can use it with your MTC or Alfa SIM card" (MTC and Alfa being the 2 services providers in Lebanon)...

Now that leaves me puzzled, if what he said is true, than the iPhone will be finally available unlocked by end october. Of course it will cost 20% more than in the USA, that's a mere fact with Apple products in Lebanon, but that doesn't annul the truth that it WILL be unlocked. What astonishes me is that, if you browsed the whole internet, you wouldn't *i think* find a rumor about Apple releasing unlocked iPhones, let alone this soon, especially that if a certain device is to be released in Lebanon, it usually is a couple of weeks/months after other countries.

Of course I won't be buying an iPhone, I think its idea is amazing but it's definitely not for me. Maybe the 3rd or 4th generation iPhone would make it to my standards, but right now, it's a no-go. But it's still nice to see that it's coming to Lebanon.

I don't take any responsabilities for the salesman's word, i'm just reporting my conversation with him. And if this post makes it to the Apple fanboys, if you're looking for Lebanon on a near-by atlas, it's in Asia, in the Middle East, the little dot above Israel ;)

Aug 8, 2007

New theme maker - Luca!

While browsing through SiMo's Quick Clicks 4, I got around this blog of a new theme provider. The blog is simply called Themes4Nokia and the guy behind it seems to be called Luca. From the menu items on the screenshots and the contact details, you can tell that he's Italian.

As his fellow italian theme makers, Babi and Pasco, Luca brings really neat, simple and highly graphical themes, with a good pack of icons. Best of all, they look amazing and flawless on my 3250, which I can't say about other themes.

Here are, and from left to right, screenshots from 3 of his themes: F340, Aqua Orange, Sea and Sun. As per now, there are 13 themes on his blog, but I believe a little encouragment will raise this number.

Aug 6, 2007

Head2Head – PhotoNova+PhotoWings vs. PhotoRite SP vs. Nokia Image Editor

I had written this post a couple of weeks ago and thought I posted it, turns out I didn't, so here it is, a couple of weeks late, but still as good.

When it comes to editing pictures on your phone, on-the-go, you usually expect a fast, simple solution, that is well integrated with your photo gallery, but that also allows the basic modifications. No need to go professional on the phone, right?
Right now, 3 solutions have hit the s60 3rd platform: first one was Nokia’s original Image Editor, second was Zensis’ PhotoRite SP, and just recently Sunios’ PhotoNova and PhotoWings.

Nokia Image EditorPhotoRite SPPhotoNova + PhotoWings
Image adjusting
Adjusting BrightnessYesNoYes
Adjusting ContrastYesNoYes
Adjusting SharpnessYesNoNo
Auto AdjustingNoYesYes
Image Color Editing
Any color toneNoNoYes
Image Effects
CartooniseYes: one preinstalled effectNoYes: preinstalled effects with degrees to each one. Custom-made effects can be added
Magic MirrorNoYesNo
Slim up / Blow upNoYesNo
Red-eye reductionYesNoNo
Image add-ons
Frames and bordersYes, only built-in photo framesYes (photo frames that are borders)Yes, borders colors can be chosen too
Easy frame shifting on the same pictureYesYesYes
Inserting faces in another pictureNoYes (photo frames that are people’s pictures)Yes, automatic detection of the face
Editing Options
Rotate imageYesNoNo
Crop imageYesNoNo
Image size modificationYesYesNo
UndoYesYesNo, since every effect has to be saved before applying another one
Allows multiple modifications before savingYesYesNo
RotateYesYesAutomatic rotation of images only when in fullscreen
Easy switching between imagesNo, only the image selected to be edited is openYesYes
Integration with built-in image gallery shortcutsYesNoNo
Slide ShowNoYesNo
Menu and others
Number of images in menuNo menu, phone’s gallery is used to choose a picture99
Editing ShortcutsNoYesNo
Editing of pictures before taking themNoYesNo
Set as wallpaperYes*NoYes
Send via bluetoothYes*YesNo
Send via multimediaYes*YesYes
Send via emailYes*NoYes
Deleting picturesYes*YesYes
Saves the edited image as a new oneYes, original image can not be overwrittenYes, but original image can be overwritten if chosenYes, original image can not be overwritten
View image detailsYes*YesYes
Support for real foldersNoYesNo, all images inside the Gallery are shown

In Words
Nokia Image Editor offers a very well integrated solution, not too sophisticated, but simple and easy to use, from the first time. It is based on the image gallery, hence no main menu is used, since the basic menu operations can be performed from within the phone’s gallery (that’s why the “Yes” in the table has a * next to it). It also offers clip-arts and text adding, which combined can be used for writing captions. It is the only one amongst all 3 to offer image cropping and red-eye reduction. Yet, the lack of effects and customization (borders and frames can not be added) and the impossibility to insert faces in another picture are quite frustrating.
Zensis’ PhotoRite SP offers more effects : the slim-up and blow-up options are quite hilarious when they work out well. It also supports shortcuts, allows overwriting of original image, image size modification, can modify a picture from the camera, before taking it. That last option is most useful for frames, when you want to insert the face of the person in the right place of the image frame. Plus, custom-made frames can be added. Still, PhotoRite lacks adjusting options, and using frames for an already taken image can be quite challenging, if the face is not in the exact right spot, it’s basically impossible to obtain a decent image. Plus it is not free!
Sunios’ PhotoNova+PhotoWings offer simply the most complete list of editing options, whether it’s adjusting, color changing, frames and borders, effects… Most effects can be customized to different degrees or looks, which makes the editing possibilities endless. The cartoonize option is funny, but the blockbuster must be the automatic face detection option, which makes it a blast to edit taken pictures. Yes, it doesn’t allow editing of a picture before taking it, but that is completely arranged by the automatic face detection. It does a decent job at putting the face in the right place and in the right angle, but you can still move it a bit if it’s not 100% what you want, plus it changes the face’s colors to suit the frame’s ones. That’s awesome! What you get is a final picture and it’s hard to say whether it’s been edited or not. Yet, it lacks some basic effects like image rotation, cropping, text adding and clip-arts => proof that nothing is perfect in this world.

Nokia’s Image Editor: 8/10
PhotoRite: 8/10 (would’ve gotten more if it was free)
PhotoNova + PhotoWings: 9/10

It’s hard to say which one of these 3 I would chose if I had to pick one. The fact that both Nokia’s Image Editor and PhotoWings+PhotoNova are free makes them both a must-have and an easy-to-have.
On my phone, you’ll find all 3 applications because I like to play pranks with pictures and, well, sometimes I need to insert a caption, sometimes a frame, sometimes a blow-up will do ;)