Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nokia N95 8GB Pocket Computer (and mobile phone)

I just bought an N95 over the weekend. My previous phone, an AT&T 8525 Windows Mobile, was so bug-ridden that I finally had to dump it. I've got to say that I wasn't expecting to get this excited, but I haven't been this hyped since I bought my first laptop computer with an 8086c CPU, 256K of ram and a 20 MB hard drive. This phone is a lot more powerful than that laptop was.

It is an expensive phone, but I got an unbelievable deal on it and I'm using the excuse that I need it for work. There are two things that really attracted me to this phone:

1. it has a boatload of features and,
2. it is mine.

You probably think your mobile phone is yours too, you poor ignorant sap. If you bought that phone from your service provider, you don't own it; you are just borrowing it in order to use their wireless service. They put restrictions in the firmware to limit your options and force you to use their services. If you own an iphone, you not only are under the thumb of the service provider but you are Apple's bitch too. With an iphone you can't even install software without Apple's permission. The N95, by contrast, is completely unlocked. I can use it however I want.

As to features, the N95 has over 8GB of storage, a screen with 16 million colors and 240x320 pixels, 3D accelerator, music and video playback, stereo speakers, an ipod-style jack to output video and music, a 5 megapixel camera with Zeiss optics and flash, a second camera on the front for video calling, video recording, GPS, a motion sensor, infrared, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, FM radio receiver, alarm that works even with the phone off, email, web browser, and an unbelievable battery life.

So what's the catch? There's always a catch. In this case the catch is: no alphabetic keyboard and no touch screen --my previous phone had both. I haven't missed the touch screen at all but it's going to be painful writing emails without a keyboard, and even typing in search terms is unpleasant. Still, I'm willing to trade the keyboard for the reduced size. I can carry the N95 in my pocket whereas I had to wear the other phone on my belt.

There's an unbelievable amount of software available for the N95 and I've wasted a huge amount of time this week searching, downloading and trying software. I'm exhausted.

The phone response is surprisingly snappy most of the time. It works well at just about everything I've tried although I'm never happy with someone else's idea of a menu structure.

The camera works well and is much more intuitive than the one on my Windows Mobile phone. My one complaint is that the zoom button must be pressed very hard and that makes it hard to hold the phone steady while zooming. I haven't tried video yet.

I've used the GPS in a real-world situation. My boss and I had a meeting and neither of us knew how to get there (he assumed I would know because I'm from this area and he is out-of-town; I assumed he would know because it was his meeting...) So as we were in the car, I pulled out my new phone, searched for the company we wanted to find, and started it up. I had to sign up for a free 183-day trial period on Nokia's Map service and after that it took us right where we wanted to go. The phone was working at navigation for a total of about 60 minutes, yet at the end of the day the battery was still almost full.

The Wi-Fi setup is simple and it seems to use much less power than the Wi-Fi on my Windows Mobile did.

I don't have a good cell connection where I live. The four other phones I've tried to use have given me problems, but this one works perfectly.

The GPS service isn't perfect. The voice that guides you doesn't give street names so occasionally you aren't sure what to do. But you can see street names on the screen, and anyway, I can always switch services if I don't like it. You don't have that choice with a normal locked phone.

Another thing I like is that you can turn off the fancy Icon-ridden interface. I don't like fancy interfaces. They annoy me with thoughts of all that wasted computing power. And besides, I already know what the phrase "web browser" means but I don't know what a picture of a globe means. Web browser? Maps? World clock? With a simple interface in words there is no need to learn yet another pictographic alphabet. Seriously, someone tell the marketing weenies at Microsoft and Apple that some Phoenician merchant has invented a superior form of writing called an alphabet. You don't have to memorize thousands of symbols; with just twenty-six symbols and a clever phonetic encoding system you can express all English words. I'm not asking for the 21st Century, guys, but how about moving at least to the Bronze Age?

So far, I highly recommend this phone to anyone who is willing to spend the money. It works well and it's a lot of fun. And the battery life is freaking amazing.

UPDATE: Further experimentation shows that they fooled me a little on battery life. I was going by the number of bars on the battery meter and was so impressed because it always showed full. But now it looks like the batter meter continues to show full until you have used a third or so of the battery. It's still good battery performance, but not as impressive as I thought.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

windows junk

I just ran msconfig and found a bunch of junk that has accumulated on my system since the last time I ran it. By junk, I mean programs that start when I start the computer, taking up resources, even though they aren't needed (by the way, don't run msconfig if you don't know what you are doing --it can cause a lot of grief. If you want to get rid of windows junk there are tools to help you).

It has come to the point where almost every piece of software I install seems to start a pointless service. For the large majority of these programs, there is no reason for them to be a service at all, much less to be automatically-started. I'm curious about why things are done this way. Do programmers just do it because it is interesting? Do marketers see some benefit in having their programs running even though they are just bogging down the computer and not benefiting anyone?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

movie review: don't see the Zohan either

"You Don't Mess With the Zohan" is an ugly little movie. Adam Sandler has made some cute movies, but he has an unfortunate tendency to confuse offensiveness with humor. In this movie, he goes for extra offensiveness. We get treated to several shots of his bare butt, once with a fish between the cheeks. And there is an endless parade of old women that he has sex with. We get to see him fondling them and rubbing his crotch against them.

One would hope that the scenes that make you want to get up and leave the theater would at least be balanced out by some really funny scenes, but no such luck. The funniest scene is the fight scene in the previews, and the shorter preview version is funnier than the version in the movie. Other moments of attempted hilarity include badminton with a hand grenade, two old English sheep dogs made up with odd hair styles, and watching a man eat humus using his reading glasses as a spoon. Humus was a lame running gag throughout the movie.

And then there were the Palestinian terrorists who were just basically good guys who need some encouragement to make peace. They don't deserve to be attacked; only mean people attack terrorists. Of course plenty of other people deserved to be attacked: rich white men trying to build a mall and poor white men who believe in the second Amendment and middle-class white men who lose their tempers when they are in a car accident. Palestinian terrorists were a big part of the movie, but you never heard one of them uttering words of genocide or racial violence, much less any anti-Semitism. No, Sandler had to find a contrived way to introduce white KKK/Republicans as the Jew-hating racists in the midst of the Palestinian terrorist and terrorist sympathizers.

Yes, a professional terrorist deserves to be treated with respect and reasoned with, but when a white man in a business suit loses his temper after an auto accident you don't try to calm him down, instead you humiliate him and beat him. That's the Zohan way.

Sandler seems to be firmly in the camp of those who think that only whites have the moral capacity for evil. When Palestinians murder children for political ends, they just need to be corrected, rather like a puppy who makes doodoo on the carpet. Just take them outside when they have to go, remove the situation that makes them bad, and they will be perfect little angels.

Besides the offensive scenes, the lack of humor, and the terrorist-supporting message, the move has a predictable plot, tired gags, and an embarrassingly lame romance. I recommend giving it a pass. Seriously, it's not even worth renting when it hits the cheap shelves (which I predict will happen very soon).