Saturday, 28 January 2012

local mushies

with a week of drizzle gone by (and going on) we went for a walk in the short reprieve. The mushrooms have started to sprout all over the forest. Having my Nokia E72 with me (its got a stunning camera on it for a phone, but overall its a love hate relationship ... but that's another post) enabled me to take these shots of the mushrooms currently in bloom.

Loved the skirt on this one...



and these yellow ones are so cute




I suspect that they start out like this ...



They could be poisonous, but like the Finns say "only eat the mushrooms you know"

Thursday, 26 January 2012

little bug hatchlings

Hi

recently I took some shots of interesting eggs found on our cherry tomatoes. I blogged about this here. The little fellas hatched the other day, but I didn't get the chance to photograph them at the time (was early in the morning when I noticed them coming out and I had to go to work).

So, despite predictions and guessing, they seem to be nothing like I thought.



some different angles



considering how small they are and the gear I have, this is not too bad.



so, anyone know what they are?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nokia IMAP (idle) power and data use

I find it vaguely irritating when people who are not technical dribble on at the mouth repeating Corporate "Kool-aid" when they are neither part of the company or have the faintest idea what they are talking about (nor probably even grasp basic electrical principles).

background


I've been quite impressed with my Nokia E63 smartphone and think that Nokia have done a wonderful job of making it, as well as designing the software that drives it and operates it.

With few exceptions (I can't think of one, but there must be) I've been impressed with this tool; not only as a phone, but as a useful communications tool. Having been impressed with the E63 I became curious about the E72 which is the "hotted up - professional communicator version" and after reading much about it decided to buy it.

Well cut a long story short Nokia screwed the pooch on this one and the E72 fell into the "looks sexy" but functionality falls short. Probably because it's aimed at executives category, actual functionality takes a back seat to how sexy it looks (hands up who's working at a place with highly technically competent management).

Which is a shame really as the E72 has lots of good specs which would seem to make a compelling case for it at the lower prices that have occurred as the shoal has swum after phones with no keyboards. Stuff like:
  • a great camera
  • internal OCR for converting photographed text into text
  • very crisp screen with good colour rendition
  • nearly double the CPU speed
  • nearly 10 times the data access speed (compared to the 63)

Being a Skype user (and that's skype-in too) the last two aspects drew me in. It would be nice to have the phone on Skype using 3G to enable Finnish family and friends to call me when I'm not in WiFi (and the data rate on the E63 just wasn't quite up to good call quality when on 3G rather than WiFi. Compare in detail here).

Quickly after owning the E72 some things stood out. Like its ability to function as an E series communicator should ... stuff like email.

Now don't get me wrong, used as directed the Nokia Messaging service does work and (after some bugs have been ironed out over time) seems quite reliable. It allows you to keep your phone checking email without intervention just as it works with SMS.

For the technically inept it may seem confusing that email drops off when events happen (like you take a subway somewhere) or you travel to where there is no phone coverage. Technically aware people will understand this and know that they need to reconnect their email.

Email is not the same as SMS. However Nokia Messaging does a nice job of making Email rather like SMS.

Its just that if you're used to email and security issues then you naturally feel a little iffy about handing over your credentials to an other agency. This has in fact in the past been frowned upon by many providers. It may in fact leave you liable for fraud or illegal activity done using your account.

So naturally its a bit of a stretch for Nokia to not only ask for your credentials, but to in effect give you NO OTHER CHOICE if you want email to work properly on the E72 (and on their new phones too AFAIK).

The E63 does give you a reliable and dependable IMAP connection which remains connected while allowing you to choose your connection method. With the E63 you can pick either:
  • 3G
  • WiFi
to connect your phone and check mail. Heck you can connect your E63 and remain checking mail all day. But not on the E72 communicator (or incommunicator).

the icing fell off the cake


The first thing which stood out to me on the screwed the pooch failure factor of the E72 was that my IMAP connection to my Gmail just kept dropping out. In fact it dropped out every 5 minutes.

WTF

Some research identified this was a well known problem among anyone who has a clue about what IMAP means and why you would be keen on using its IMAP idle feature (amazing what you can find after you buy something when looking for its faults but can't find before buying it eh?). IMAP idle is stonkngly efficient on both network bandwidth (and who doesn't want their data consumption to be less) and CPU activity (read battery life).

So back to the issue of corporate Koolaid sucking numbbits the "Nokia" excuse for this stupid drop of the IMAP feature is (according to Davis Fields, a Nokia product manager at Nokia messaging) is to because having IMAP always on would "significantly impact on battery life" as well as "consume more data".

Davis probably has a marketing degree, and just swallows whatever technical bollox he's told.

As it happens there are some excellent tools available for Symbian OS and Symbian applications development. One such tool is Energy Profiler; which is designed to sample and report on battery use (among other things) to enable developers to develop efficient software. I've not seen anything like that for Android or iPhone, but then efficient is not one of their criteria.

So with that in mind I set my little experiment to see what happens with IMAP off and then IMAP on. Below is a chart I made in EXCEL using the CSV data that Energy Profiler produces, you can see 3 'zones' here.

  • The Blue zone where I ran with IMAP off
  • The black zone where I started up Nokia mail and connected to my Gmail (soon after I started I got an email, so I included that in the black zone)
  • the Green zone where it ran with IMAP idle in the background.



the power use sure looks even at this sort of charting doesn't it ...

Well as it happens Energy Profiler gives both instant readouts as below.


or averages over a range. The image below is the average taken over the first 5.06 minutes of the test.


its 0.05W, which represents what amount of power is consumed by the phone while its screen is powered down and its just sitting around waiting for calls.

Now, powering on the IMAP client and letting it sit around 'waiting for email' via the very same 3G connection the phone is using, we see this.


Yep, also 0.05W

Ok, so this then means that its nearly the same. I have also done the same thing with my E72 and found the same thing.

The next question is, what happens if you run it over a longer time?

Well I'm glad you asked.

First I ran it for an hour with one IMAP connection to see what the consumption was. It turns out that over the longer period that the consumption is higher, it increases from 0.05W to 0.09W.


ok ... that's beginning to get interesting.

This is still trivial and base line power consumptions, but it has demonstrated a lift in the power requirements ... just like Nokia claimed. Then next I ran it for nearly an hour with 2 IMAP accounts connected to see if that made any changes in the baseline power requirements.

You can see below that the two accounts (started one after the other) resulted in two handshaking events with the IMAP server.


That one is shorter in duration than the other is interesting, I wonder if this is because each server has different responce times (due to say load) or that (because they are located in different geographical locations) that there was greater delays involved. Interestingly these handshaking events occured at about 5 minute intervals (or close to the expiry time that I have read that the SSL socket is set for).

Anyway the result of running these two IMAP connections over 35minute was a consumption of 0.09W as well. So it would seem that the additional server interaction created by doubling the connection quantity (from one to two) has not had a similar effect on the power demands (NB it has not doubled it).

Why might this be so?

One reason may be that the average is already so low with so many readings at IDLE using 0.05W and a few less than 1 second durations of handshaking consuming about 1.0W that it essentially makes no difference to the average over an hour.

It would mean that sending and SMS or talking on the phone for a few minutes would suck up that difference. For example, at the end of the last run I made a call for about 45 seconds. You can see that the power consumption during the call was about 1.3W


Dropping to about 1.2W when the handset screen darkens off.

This single short call lifted the average power consumption (over an hour) from 90mW to 120mW. Clearly actually using your phone as a phone even for a short time makes a more significant drain on the battery than leaving it on checking your mail all day.

So if you leave your IMAP connected for 8 hours and it communicates for half a second every 5 minutes. That's consuming about 0.8 minutes of call power (well, less really) over the entire working day. No wonder I don't see much difference on leaving IMAP on all day.

Even with 2 IMAP connections running.

Given that I make about 40min of calls a day (often longer) adding another 0.8 minutes worth of calls can hardly make a blink of difference to my battery life. Not to mention that my battery usually lasts me 2 ~ 3 days between charges as it is.


Data you say?

Glad you asked. Nokia (unlike Android) has a connection manager, which keeps your data connection alive for you. Data is often billed by connection and by either MB or KB. Android and iPhone just request the data and move on, but Nokia doesn't it keeps that connection alive. This is the data use for one of my experiments.



That little set of handshakes for nearly an hour resulted in a total of 13Kb (Tx+Rx). So even with MB billing (which my phone provider uses) this hours worth of connection cost me just 1MB of data and bugger all extra power usage.

So with data like this its really hard to see what the hell they're talking about in there at Nokia.
Being one to prefer backing up stuff with facts I thought I'd put this here for:
  1. any poor bastard trying to make sence of the arguments on the Nokia fora about this
  2. any person who has another agenda.
Agenda? What agenda? Well Nokia really really want you to sign over your usernames and passwords into Nokia Messaging so that it can do this background IMAP idle for you. Seems that they have some non RFC version of the IMAP idle protocol which will (after you give them your username and passwords) will do what the bloody phone should do out of the box.

bottom line


I really (really) wanted to like the E72, I mean it has a great camera, slick look, full qwerty keyboard, 600Mhz CPU and fast 3G connection (as well as WiFi). However the lack of actual functionality and crippled operation (compared to the E63) left me wondering what the hell happens in there at Espoo?

Never let a committee develop phones.
So if anyone has any data which they wish to submit to this discussion to identify how the Nokia case is actually upheld, please make a comment.

Looking forward to it :-)

PS: the E63's "screen saver" is a great clock. You can read it anywhere there is light enough to read and the digits are big. You can give it a quick glance and immediately see the time. Its like having a fob watch in your pocket.

The E72 however while it has the same sized screen uses a font that is so small that I just can't see it without close inspection.

If the devil can be said to be in the details there are lots of "details" on which the Nokia E72 f%$ked up on.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

land prices

Land prices, it has to have an effect on business.

Keep seeing this on the side of the M1 on my way home.




As its just a flat section of ground with some grass on it, it seems to be be "unimproved" to me. So based on this price its a bit under double what my "unimproved land" value is in the middle of Southport.

As businesses will just pass on costs to consumers is it any wonder that more and more businesses are moving out of the country?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

little frogs love the wet

Its been really wet (and cool) this January, which seems to have encouraged out some of the green frogs in the area.





very cute, they just don't make them much cuter than this do they :-)

Monday, 16 January 2012

what drives making things cheaper

Economists would often say its economy of scale

Personally I reckon its often just exploitation. This "expose" bags iPhone and Apple, but I wonder how different it is for HTC, Lenovo, HP ...

I guess people would call this development

Sunday, 15 January 2012

backyard nature

One of the things that I find fascinating about insects is their machine like symmetry and precision.

We grow some (quite) small cherry tomatoes in the back yard which are about 2cm in diameter. The other day when bringing some in from the garden my wife noticed some insect had carefully laid some beautiful silver seeds on one of the tomatoes.



it was almost like someone had decorated the tomato with small silver dots.

Looking closer you can see they are actually a thin shelled egg...


and here you can even see the perforations around the tops of the egg where the grub will break out.



can't wait to see what comes out

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Bulk slide scanning job

Well I completed the scanning of the slides from 2000 to 2003 yesterday.

For those interested in this sort of task I scanned 675 images in about 2.5 days. Working by loading a tray and walking away, I can't say I sat there all the time but often I didn't get to do much in the middle. Sometimes I went out for a few hours (shopping or just doing something else). So determining the amount of time I spent is a bit tricky. I can't say I did "full time" work as I did some other things at the same time. So lets say I did about 6 hours over the 2.5 days = about 15 hours. This works out to about 45 slides per hour.

So for those planning such an adventure (and I keep reading about people scanning the 1500 slides of Grand-dads on the net) factor in about 22 hours of work for doing that. Assuming you dedicate 4 hours per day (per evening?) or a week. So go without TV for a week an you'll have the job done.

This suddenly seems less daunting.


So, to my setup

I used my Epson flatbed for this and followed my normal bulk scanning procedure, except in this instance I did not manually set each exposure. I simply set the auto exposure on. Importantly I also did NOT use the thumbnail generator as that just takes too long. Then I used irfanView to be the controller.

Why?

Well irfanView is a basic image processing tool, its not really the sort of sophisticated image editing tool that something like Photoshop is. Its lightweight (like I mean its only 2Meg as an install file and only takes about 10Meg on my Hdd including all plugins ) fast to start and has some great features for bulk scanning that are not as easy in Photoshop (well not that I know of).

As irfanView is free its even more worth using it.

For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with this here is what I did for this bulk slide exercise. Basically it goes like this.

  1. You start irfanview, and start the scan dialog,
  2. make the choices for the file names for this batch, then
  3. the batch repetition of put slides onto the tray, preview, scan

so lets look at the details.

1) Start up Irfanview and select the right TWAIN device



2) start up the batch scan dialog, which then looks like this



Its got a few interesting points here which are worth pointing out:
  1. you can choose Single (for scanning one thing) or more useful in this context
  2. you can choose Multiple images to allow you to just keep feeding images into that scanner.
Pick the location you want the files to be placed, set up your JPG options (like the compresion settings {I pick the best file quality}) and work out what you want to name it.

The output file name is interesting as it allows you to pick a prefix to the file names, then pick what number it will start at (well I thought 1 was a good start number, but you may need another number for other reasons).

Once you pick the right stuff on this box and click OK you get into this sort of view (you may need to do a print preview to get the bit on the right.


[HINT: click that little sphere with 2 red arrows after you have selected all your images in the step below, that will apply auto exposure to each image you have selected. This may seem confusing now, but read this through then re read this ... sometimes things just have to be done after you've done it once already]

See on the print preview there is that little arrow pointing down, make sure you chose Normal on that and not Thumbnail. Thumbnail is rather like training wheels and will eat time every time you do this. Trust me.

So then select one image (click and drag) to create a selection area. Make the area just a little into the black of the slide, enough to allow for a little movement each time you load in new slides.




This will now be there and serve as a fast template for each scan run you do. From here you don't need to change the selection because any small movement of the slides (like less than a mm) will be accounted for by the frames you've chosen. So, this method will allow you to
  • load in 8 slides,
  • click scan
  • repeat the preview
  • click scan again
  • load in another 8 slides and keep going till you've finished the box
You won't need to wait for the system to generate thumbnails, or any other aspects. Just reload the slides, click preview (quick) and click scan.

IrfanView will take each scan data, save it to files starting with the prefix you gave it, increment the number and allow you to continue this till you're sick of it.

Now, my normal practice is to use a prefix for each box of slides. This requires I click on close (bottom of the preview / scan dialog box) and then re start the above procedure from "acquire/Batch scanning" in irfanView again.


As you saw, my settings were to scan at 1200dpi. This is quite enough for www use and as an archive of what the hell you have. For instance this image came out (including the black border) at 1830x1330 pixels.



and still after cropping down to just the image came to 1580x1077 pixels (enough for a small print) and had had this sort of detail at 100%



from there you can pull out your Nikon or send out to a specialist for better scans if you think the picture is worth it ... like this one (which I scanned on my Nikon LS-4000 later).


and 100% crop (right click to enlarge into a full tab to see 100%)


so don't spend too much time on the chaff and put the effort into the wheat later.

If I'd tried this exersize with the Nikon I'd still be feeding it.

See Ya

Friday, 13 January 2012

brisbane night skyline

I came to Brisbane in 1983 to do my Bachelor of Science. I loved Brisbane at the time for being a lovely blend of a bit of city, but still being enough country town to not be intolerable. I took this shot from up at Mt Coot-tha with some Kodachrome



after Uni I lived and worked in Brisbane till 2000 when I left for Tokyo. In 2004 (having come back again) I was surprised at how much growth had taken place in the few years I was gone. I went up again to Mt Coot-tha and took this pic with my Coolpix



I should get up there again and add a more current one to show how much more again its grown.

So anyone who thinks that its more crowded, fast paced and generally annoying in Brisbane (well and South East Queensland in general) you can rest assured its not just in your mind. This is just one of many clearly visible indicators.

I guess they call that development. Its just that the pace is a little rapid for my taste

Thursday, 12 January 2012

walking back streets of India

India can be a fascinating place, full of extremes

Walking the back streets of a town I was working / living in I was often struck by the things I saw



which was nice, but clearly (from the smell) few can read (or choose to). I heard this morning that India is doing very well in the eradication of Polio. That's great news and deserves applause. Perhaps they could focus on public sanitation next? Well with that population its going to be hard.

On a trip up the mountains nearby to see some temples I was struck by this interesting door. It seemed to beg one to open and look at what lay beyond the portal



but behind lay only ruins (and that smell)



well, and the vista of the beautiful lands at the foot of the mountains.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

catching up on my past

For some years I've been promising to scan a bunch of slides taken between 2000 and 2003 in Japan, Canada, India and Korea. I have finally run out of excuses and the scanner is churning away in the background.

Of the many nice images I thought I'd start with sharing this one, taken in Alberta.



My good friend let me stay at his place for a while and took me into various parts of the country around where he lives (Lethbridge). On this trip to the 'hoo doos' with our 4x5 and 8x10 clutter I took this shot with the 35mm and a less than salubrious Sigma 75-300 lens.

Gotta love Canada Geese ... (oh and yes, I did get a few good exposures with all the large format clutter)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

real estate nuts

I should be writing something else at the moment (heck and I should be scanning some film too) but I just came back from the shops and had to share what I saw there.

It is said that "Nature abhorres a vacuum" and in the (albeit small) space left by the withdrawal of the real estate spruikers some other organisms have moved in to fill the void (or was it just elbowed in).



Yes, that's right! In the land of real estate value stagnation packed with retiring baby boomers who can only think "bricks and mortar" as "safe investment"we now have people from the land of the sub-prime crash trying (desperately?) to off-load stuff from there here.

So with all the doom and gloom in the race to flogg off over priced Australian real estate it simply MUST be time to look over the fence to where the grass must be greener.

Don't have the bucks right now, well how about this great offer..

I think the selling title should be LOSING YOUR SUPERANNUATION TO BUY SURPLUS INVESTMENT HOMES

I guess that they must figure that there are so many cashed up de-leaveraged Australians looking to re-invest after getting out of Sydney or Melbourne living here on the Goldie that haven't heard about why these houses are so cheap.

I notice that the wording is cute:

* the finance is guaranteed (they may even guarantee you a negative return too if asked)

* the rent return isn't guaranteed but the text is positioned close, so that must count for something (right?)

* the deposit is only $30,000

But it all gets better as they have FREE EDUCATION WORKSHOPS too.

I see on this part great news ... they offer you a chance to win a free trip to the USA or Thailand


presumably since the houses are in the USA and not Thailand (but one wonders) if the free trip you may win is to anywhere near where these houses may be?

so if you're a real estate nut (or just have a screw loose) then you know who to call. Don't tell them I sent you

Monday, 9 January 2012

fantasy vs reality (smart phones)

or perhaps desire vs requirements

pre: post scriptum

For the overly sensitive I am not suggesting my phone is better than yours. I am actually only attempting to challenge the implicit assumption of current expensive touch screen phones that it may not be the case that your phone is actually much better than mine. Though I suspect that in itself is distressing.
A criticism of this article is that it compares phones which are not properly smartphones. My responce to this is that the phones under comparison here are the Nokia E63 (which some may not call a smart phone) and a focus on my experience with the Samsung GIO which is most definitely a smartphone.

The GIO was among those phones tested by Choice Magazine in this comparison. So if you don't think its "exemplary" or "typical" of smartphones well perhaps its not the Rolls Royce but it is indeed a smart phone.
And that is the crux of my point ... so too is the E63
So while my focus has been with the Samsung GIO it also includes experiences common to using Samsung Galaxy, HTC Desire, Apple iPhone 3G and 4s phones. In particular the aspect of battery life in those phones and touch screen aspects.

An interesting theme has emerged in the comments of this post which perhaps formed part of my premise but in blithering out this post a la "stream of consciousness" I never stated. That is "A lot depends upon what a person will use a 'phone' for and how much one must pay for it."

I fumbled around this concept with the subtitle desire vs requirements.

With smartphones the lines of functionality start to merge with other computing devices such as laptops and tablets. My personal assumptions are that a phone is a communications device and (like my Palm Pilot) a PDA. PDA's of course encompass significant computing functionality (games among them) and communication has grown (for me at least) to encompass email, www, social media (Twitter, Facebook) and other web services (like banking access).

The crux of what I'm saying here depends on where you sit on that circle of confusion at the focal point of where requirements meet with functionality and how the user interacts with the device.

Thanks everyone for the poignant comments; always welcome. If however you are 'religious' in the love of your phone, please read this post without your evangelical robes.




I've resisted making this post for some time, but after a conversation with an old friend I realised that perhaps I'm not the only one thinking this way and that perhaps I can afford to be the only one in my circle of friends who thinks this way.

My first question is "why do you buy a phone is it to make phone calls? Is it to communicate?" or is it to have access to other things?


Basically I'm bloody sick of everyone pushing "smart phones" onto me, which are often enough not any smarter than my existing phone.




For instance I have written blog posts, taken the images for it and posted that to the web from the above Nokia (this post for instance) while outside walking about.

I decided that the best way to solve this question (for me at least) was to stop fiddling with other people's phones and "go live" for a while with one of my own.

Now I knew that there would be a time to 'adjust', so while I was going to be sitting in hospital for a while (a week, month or so ago) I would have time on my hands and could reliably undistractedly be spending time to fiddle with and get acquainted with a new phone.

So I bought an Android phone (Samsung GIO) and handed my Nokia over to my wife (who would be needing / wanting access to communications like phone, SMS, WWW, email, Facebook, Skype ... blah blah blah).

The short answer to this is that within the 2 weeks I used it I went from wanting to like this phone to selling it and going back to my Nokia.

This should also be said up front that Nokia deserve a good hard kick in the pants for munging up their marketing on this and other E-Series phones. They've done such a pitiful job of selling this phone that I had no idea how good it was until after I bought it and compared it to others.


Now I'm no stranger to mobile computing which sort of started back in the 90's with PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) . I've had 3 iterations of Palm (currently still using an elderly Sony Clie) since 1997, made use of Laptops for my travel computing for over 12 years and live and work on the internet as much as the next IT sort a fella.

US Robotics Palm Pilot 5000

Now I have a number of friends who love (well, often also love~hate) their iPhone / Android phones. One of my friends (and fellow bloggers) has a compelling site into what sort of advantages can be had in image processing on the iPhone where editing and capture are combined on the one device. Check out his blog here. I can certainly see the advantage of a phone where it has combined an acceptable digital camera; as I have been long aware of the truth behind the old adage that
the best camera in the world is the one you have with you at the time you need it.
while not up to the standards of an iPhone 4s I can say the camera in the little Samsung was quite acceptable (though neither is a decent substitute for a decent camera)

First: what did I like about the new generation of phone?

Larger screen (but that's a double edged sword), you sure have more space to put your icons for your apps and to get to your apps (and I installed a few) was easier and allowed me to set up a home screen as I would on a PC ... sort of a miniPC.

Graphical presentation, the very sexy smooth feeling of the "gravity" feeling of slipping through a list or a page with a swipe.

But all these features just don't balance out if the thing doesn't work as a phone properly, right?

So what didn't I like about my new "smart phone"?


This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it go into detail on why. But, well for starters the phone coverage wasn't as good as my Nokia ... nor was the voice quality, hands free quality or Bluetooth headset functionality.

Battery life .. if you're not always plugged in, its dreadful. Heck, even my Palm (always marketed as a desktop extension) would last for months on AAA batteries or weeks on AAA rechargable. My new Nokia "Smartphone" lasts for 2 or 3 days and my older Nokia (plain old phone) lasted easily a week.

Then next thing was I didn't think it was that smart.

Now read this list below carefully and consider that coming from my Nokia E series phone which already did:
  • email (including PUSH email)
  • WWW (just a small part of the internet)
  • Calendar (and integration with Google)
  • Contacts that can be accessed immediately (and integration with Google)
  • internet podcasting
  • internet streaming radio
  • MP3 playback
  • voice dialing (without an internet connection)
  • voice reading of SMS and email (without an internet connection so I can listen to SMS's through my hands free BT headset while driving)
  • QWERTY keypad
  • integrated Maps and Navigation
  • camera (tres basic on my model)
  • Quick Office (spread sheets on the phone)
  • PDF reader
without so much as downloading anything.

It leads one to ask "what more do you need"?

It was a bit of a challenge to identify much about the Samsung Android which provided much more smarts than my older one.

If you look at it another way, phones like the Nokia E-Series, Blackberry, iPhone and Android are all providing the same sort of functionality. They connect to the internet, have decent data rates, have applications which integrate with both the phone system (camera / gps) and TCP/IP connectivity.

It all comes down to how its UI is packaged and what the consumer thinks is smart.

So there wasn't much left to add into this equation for me except "touch screen" bigger screen and faster CPU.

While the Samsung did open the door to stuff like Angry Birds or some nice fun apps it was a usability nightmare in so many ways.

Usablity issue - input

Give your touch screen phone to some one who has never used it. Its quitelikely they'll hang up the call by mistake, change what is active on the screen, perhaps delete something. People who are used to touch screens have learned that you have to be careful with it and often simply forget about this.

Watching someone typing on a touch screen can be amusing. They have to carefully cradle the phone so that they can hold the edges, and dart their thumb down taking great care as to not touch anything else by mistake. Its quite difficult to use one while walking and you certainly can't ergonomically hold it and type on it. But that's ok as most users don't type much on their touch screen smart phone.

I can type quickly and reliably on my computer, the T9 keypad on my older phones and on the QWERTY on my Nokia E63, but no matter how much time I put into it I just kept making errors AND having maddening difficulty in editing them. A bit of looking on the net reveals its not just me, its a whole world of people out there having trouble with this.

While there are some success stories out there with respect to text entry (like this article) for each success there are probably 100 other sites giving tributes to the poor auto-correct that touch screen phones give.

One site (which seems to fit my own experience) , that seems to have nothing vested in the outcomes gives the rates as being higher for iPhone users while speed of entry was about equal.
iPhone owners entered text as rapidly as QWERTY owners on their own phones. However, iPhone owners made significantly more Texting errors on their own phone (5.6 errors/message) than both QWERTY owners (2.1 errors/message) and numeric phone owners (2.4 errors/message) on their own phones.
(full article here)

Instead what struck me with the touch screen phone (I'll be calling it "New Smart Phone" from now on as my Nokia is just as smart and IMHO touch and screen size was the only significant difference) was the complete lack of tactile feedback in using the phone and the lack of control in editing because of the lack of physical navigation keys.

This is a significant point form me as one of the things which drove my move to Palm was that I didn't want the keyboard dominating the device (as it had on earlier keyboard devices like my Sharp Organizer). On my Palm a tiny portion at the bottom of the device was the pen input area and the entire screen was touch sensitive.

The Android phone I used however lost most of the screen visibility when you began entering text, and only displayed a couple of lines of context. Not as good as the Nokia, while the Nokia has a smaller screen it doesn't have to dual task the screen thus requiring design and presentation changes. Many times when using the Samsung the buttons needed (like Send) would disappear of the screen and you'd have to swing the phone around a few times to go from portrait to landscape just to get the button back.

Holding the phone an typing on it was a pain. I mean if you just want to type out:
yes, be rnd in a yic
its fine (although I wanted tic, and it isn't worth trying to re-edit that). But the nature of the touch screen meant that you can't accidentally bump anything (even with the merest of pressure with these capacitive screens) without blowing your input. The Nokia on the other hand allows your thumbs to even support the phone while you type, you can even feel where one letter starts and the other ends.

I soon learned that the touch sensitive was as much of a curse as it was a benefit on the Palm.

For instance you would pass the device to someone and they would delete or change something by just touching it accidentally. This same issue was as ever at work on the Touch Screen Phone as it ever was on the Palm. I could go on about the UI issue, but I think that its only suited for usage where you are able to focus on touching what you see and you only engage with the device by touching big coloured things.

If you're vision impared I suggest also looking at the voice advantages of the Nokia.
So if you don't mind what you write and can sort out the problems later then its all fine and dandy ... shat me to tears however.

Usability Issue - Reading the screen
Size matters, so I was also attracted to the larger screen, which I expected to add usability.

So while a bigger screen seemed to be a better idea, in reality it didn't work out for me as when web browsing I found as many sites which did not render as readably (despite trying 3 different browsers) on my Samsung as they did on my Nokia - despite the Nokia having the smaller (by half) screen. I suspect that this has to do with packing the pixel density too high for the screen size.

This got me to thinking, am I expecting the phone to do more than it really can? I mean if I wanted a laptop sized screen I could get a tablet (like an iPad) which gives me usable pixels rather than puny pixels. Sure the iPhone 4s looks very sexy but I need a magnifying glass to really see how much better that looks. The 640 by 980 pixels of the iPhone 4s screens sure looked nice, but the print ended up being so small I couldn't read it when rendering fonts at max density.

Already the iPhone is getting on the large size (funny how we used to prefer phones to be small and convenient) and I think that going larger would be pointless.

Oh I can hear the objections already, but then I'll put it to you another way. The Dell Streak has a much larger screen, but becomes a larger device as this vid demonstrates.



despite having a larger screen and being a pretty good touch screen phone people have not flocked to it ... I'm guessing the cumbersome handling has something to do with that ...

its a portal to your hip pocket


Cloud computing has a number of benefits but just in case it wasn't clear or obvious if you're not on the internet you can't access it. Now for some people being unable to get 3G signal is as frightening as not being able to get air.

Strangely enough I find myself in locations where there isn't 3G and thus I don't have access to Google maps while I still do have the Nokia OVI maps which my Nokia came pre-installed with. So as long as my GPS can see a satellite I can navigate, but of course the New SmartPhone can't do a thing.

So if you want to do anything with these New Touch Screen smart phones you have to have a steady stream of data to do it.

Most of the people I know rely on WiFi hotspots and home WiFi to supplement this, meaning that their phone becomes less functional when they leave home. Unless they're willing to pay and are in an area which provides that service.

Speaking of service and costs, you'll need to look at your phone companies billing methods, as here in Australia at least billing per MB is not uncommon. This means that if your phone:
  • makes a connection
  • uses data
  • closes that connection
you are billed for 1MB even if you used 0.027MB (which is about what a email check or skype handshake will require)

I ran Skype and email on my new phone for 5 or so hours and it sucked a shockingly large amount of data. Not that the phone thought so, in fact the phone thought it had only consumed 117KB or so. The phone company on the other hand billed me for over 50MB of data (good thing my plan has 4000MB supplied).

To make things worse, you can't set the phone up to chose which apps connect to what data source (can on the Nokia) or even to do something polite and ask which data source they should use or even if they can.

My Nokia on the other hand has a connection manager, which allows me to decide to connect and holds the connection open for apps that request it. Because of that a typical 5 hours use of Skype and email on 3G can be 1 or 2MB


But all of this seems to fit the average users technical levels / willingness to learn and the Telco's desire to charge.

The Telco wants to sell you on a system which ensures a revenue stream for them.

I want a phone that:
  • makes calls,
  • sends text messages
  • extends the realm of communication to include some other web services like email, Web, Facebook, Twitter and a few other things.
  • give me access to calendar and diary

While I was sitting browsing my mail in the hospital, I got an email from my friend which had a cartoon seemed to sum up this situation.

Heaps of guys just fantasize about marrying a "model", probably as many chicks drool over movie stars. The fact that some other woman may be even tempered, great with kids, cook well and even help balance the budget is overlooked in comparison to the "hot babe on a banana lounge by the pool".

Many seem to be obsessed with what is fashionable and how it will look to others if they are seen together.

I think that's a bit of how it is for many "New Smart Phone" users (which is not to say all of them).

For many it seems that having a reliable functional device which goes the distance is secondary to the user experience (a bit like that old anti Mac ad)

Try using your "New Smart Phone" for a few days away from power and see how it goes. Even with 3G turned off, no WiFi, no SMS and only an hours worth of calls in the day my Samsung only lasted 18 hours.

My Nokia does something like a 3 or 4 days in such usage.

I understand that some of my friends will now view me in rather similar light to the way that some groups view you announcing you like football (that'd be soccer to some Australians) or that you're gay.

bottom line


If you want a phone to be a phone
  • make phone calls
  • to allow you to send and receive email,
  • do a bit of web browsing,
  • take some photographs, and maybe email them or MMS them
  • play music
  • access social media like Facebook and Twitter
and you don't want to
  • spend a lot of money on the phone,
  • wish to use a lot of data
  • be always worried about it running out of battery
go get a Nokia E63 for $99. Put the extra bucks into an iPad or something.

It could be said that the main problem for phones like the E63 or the Blackberry is that they don't look right. People who use many of the touch phones would try to tell me that their phone is easier to get at X Y or Z feature than mine is. Well my response to that is only because they're more familiar with their device.

Sure you may have access to some features more easily (like evernote) on the New Smart Phones but then you could always go grab a 10" tablet and have the same thing with a much more usable screen area.

In my view a New Smart Phone which is bigger and costs more than a phone and a tablet, isn't such a hot choice.

Is it to be seen as stylish? If you were after a set of running shoes would you go for a pair like this?


they sure look more stylish and sexy?

Lastly I'd like to leave you with this quote from a site comparing the Nokia E72 to the iPhone:
Part of that experience is hampered by usability confusion, likely a non-issue to those staunch Nokia addicts who are upgrading to the E72 from its well-esteemed E71 predecessor, but which presents stumbling blocks to those fresh to the platform. Little things, like managing WiFi network and cellular connections, were less obvious than Android, webOS and the iPhone OS make it; mockingly obvious to those familiar with the ways of S60, but a headache to everybody else.


Or to put it another way ... were less obvious on Android and iPhone after having come from various PC's and Nokia. Its strange how if you grow up with something you think its intuitive, but forget all what you've had to go through to get to where you are.