Hi everyone! This is a place where I share my experiences with the devices I come across and use. Hopefully, you'll find the info here helpful in your search for geeky stuff...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nice kitty...

Poor cats. What royalties do they get when a big company like Apple uses their names to sell its products? Cheetah. Puma. Jaguar. Panther. Tiger. Leopard. They all make any product, especially operating systems, sound fast and fierce.

Apparently someone in Apple didn't do his/her research properly and named the slowest and most un-fierce version of OSX Cheetah. Puma and Panther apparent belong to the same family of cats called the Cougar. Tigers don't run too quickly but has been the quickest, until Leopard came along. Well, at least they got Leopard right.

Since OS9 died and OSX took over, these cats have been helping Apple push up their stock prices and Steve Jobs buy more black turtle necks. Apple should set up a fund to help these dying species. Build a cat zoo on their premises at Cupertino, collect entrance fees and match whatever earnings they get from it and put it back into the cat fund. Give the money to people who actually help ensure these cats from becoming extinct.

Imagine naming an OS after an extinct species of animal. It just somehow doesn't have that zing, like "Welcome to Quagga" or "Enter Stellar's Sea Cow".

Anyway, I'm always a reluctant adopter of new operating systems. That's why I've waited so long to migrate to Leopard. Tiger was so nice. Fast, stable, efficient. I was totally happy with it. I've lived with it for quite some time, a year perhaps? But Apple being Apple, always comes up with something that requires you to learn more stuff when you get so comfy with something. They come up with snazzy ad campaigns, pack their products in irresistable boxes, surround their showrooms with the right lighting and music to make you do things you don't really want to: spend money and learn new tricks. I'm an old dog, and dogs have no money.

The first few versions of OSX were an absolute pain. Nobody made any software to work with it. The OS itself was unstable and slow. I still worked in OS9 and OSX was just for surfing the internet and eye candy. But it got better and better. By the time Panther was introduced, things were looking up. It was reasonably fast and stable and software developers finally caught up and gave us software that we could actually do real stuff with. With Tiger, I was absolutely elated. It was by far the fastest and most stable version of OSX.

I haven't even enjoyed enough of Tiger's company when they decided to move on to a new cat. Checking in with internet forums once in a while, Leopard seems to be pretty problem free. Most users report improvements.

Ah well, what the heck. It's still OSX. Can't be that different. Better late than never.

Attention to detail on the packaging has always been an Apple trait:

Installation was a painless process. Although I backed up everything, it proved to be unnecessary. Using the "Archive and Install" method, the computer does everything for you. You get a new operating system with your old settings, passwords, music, videos, documents, emails, bookmarks, cookies...etc with just a simple click.

A nice big green tick makes you feel like a little school kid when your teacher praises you for being smart.

A picture taken from outer space prepares you for the experience.

So how is it?

Well, it's certainly prettier with lots of cool details like the mirror reflections of the dock icons at the bottom of the dock. It responds faster, just slightly. You can have a fan in your dock if you want. You can preview your files with coverflow without actually opening them.

I'm sure there are many more cool things you can do with it, but it's only been a few hours since I installed it.

The cats are definitely getting fitter and faster..


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Setting up your .mac email on your S60 phone...

A common question I get asked is "how do I set up my phone to receive .mac email?"

So here's a step by step. It's extremely simple, really. Demonstration is done on a
Nokia E90. But it'll be the same for any S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 phone.

I use POP3 for my account so this will be a POP3 setup process. POP3 here behaves like IMAP. Only the email headers are downloaded and not the content. When you click the particular email to open it, the phone then downloads the content. And I can still access the same downloaded emails that have been downloaded to my phone from any computer anywhere, any time. This is the way I set up my mail server behaviour:

So here goes:

1) Go to your messaging menu. If you have not setup your email yet, the email inbox is named "Mailbox" by default.

2) Click on "Mailbox" and it'll ask you if you want to setup your email mailbox.

3) Mailbox setup wizard is launched.

4) Choose POP3.

5) Enter your email address

6) Incoming mail server is: mail.mac.com

7) Outgoing mail server is: smtp.mac.com

8) Choose how you want to connect to retrieve your mail. I choose always ask so that I can use wifi as much as possible.

9) Name your mailbox anything you want.

10) Click OK and you're almost there.

11) Go back to your messaging menu and open your newly setup mailbox with the new name.

12) The phone will ask you if you want to connect to your email server to retrieve your mail.

13) Choose yes and it will prompt you to enter your username and password.

14) Choose connect on the next menu.

15) Choose your access point.

16) And WALA! The last 30 email headers will be downloaded to your phone.

17) Click on the email you want to read, and it will ask you if you want to download its contents.

18) Downloading.

19) And you can now receive your .mac email.

20) Now you need to complete the setup so you can send emails too. Go you your messaging menu and go to options > settings

21) Select email settings.

22) Select your mailbox.

23) Select connection settings.

24) Select outgoing email settings

25) Fill in your username and password in the blank boxes.

Now you can send emails with your phone's messaging application with your .mac account.

If you have your email server settings the same as mine, whatever email you have retrieved on your phone will still be retrievable on any computer, any where. They will just be marked as read, but you won't lose them.

Easy as pie.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Not for the image conscious: BH-604 bluetooth headphones...

Today, I received a pair of Nokia's flagship bluetooth stereo BH-604 headphones to play with. I've never used stereo bluetooth headphones before and don't really expect it to sound anywhere near conventional wired headphones. And I was right. Anyway, let's look at it first.

The BH-604's appearance is very typical of a good quality pair of headphones except that it does without wires. Its size is, well, large. The silver parts are actually plastic that is textured to feel like aluminium. The "leather" parts are nice and cushy and make it one of most comfortable pair of headphones I've used, and I've used plenty in my lifetime.

The left can has no functioning buttons on it.

Everything is located on the right can.

Here you can find the call answer button, play/pause button.

Rewind/forward buttons.

And also the volume slider, charger port, microphone and multi-function LED.

The cans' range of movement is pretty big and ensure they fit you nicely.

There is also plenty of extension to make sure they fit the largest of heads.

Here are a few side by side pics with my full sized AKG K271 Studio headphones.

Pairing up is a simple affair. Press the big answer call button until the LED flashes a blue light, scan for new devices with your phone, enter the "0000" passkey, and you're done.

Now, to the main event. How does this thing sound?

The first thing that strikes you is the big sound. It sounds pretty similar in character to my Sony MDR-Z900.

The bass is pretty hyped up, but not in an unpleasant way. The big drivers ensure there's plenty of bass extension, making music sound big instead of sounding like someone pushed up the 100hz band up by 12db.

The mids and highs are pretty natural sounding, requiring no EQ to smoothen out any frequencies that are sticking out.

However after about 30 seconds, it dawns upon you that what you're listening to is obviously not full resolution. It's no fault of the headphones but rather, the inadequacies of the transfer protocol.

Sound quality is pretty grainy. Hi hats and crash cymbals tend to crack. High and forceful horn lines sound distorted. The fingernail contact of intimate acoustic guitar playing is mostly lost or mis-translated. Reverb tail ends get lost and hence misrepresenting the intended ambience. Lower frequency inadequacies aren't as obvious as our ears are more sensitive to higher frequencies. But they're there. Again, the key work here is "grainy".

I'm sure if you connect a wire to this pair of headphones, it would sound very good, as presented by it's overall tonality. It's just too bad the weak link is the bluetooth transfer protocol.

As the amplifiers are integrated into the headphones are not in any way dependent on the phone itself, you can get pretty big volumes out of this thing. Great for drowning out the world while travelling on a train or something. The big bass helps this impression too.

Battery life as claimed by Nokia: "Get up to 18 hours of talk time from less than 1.5 hours of charging. Listen to music longer with up to 19 hours of music time and up to 2 weeks standby." I don't see a reason to doubt their claims. So this thing should give you plenty of juice to last through some serious listening time.

Conversations with it's built-in microphone is very good. The other party has no problems hearing you and you get a nice big sound of your caller's voice piped into your ears. Press the nice big button to answer calls. Can't get simpler than that.

Music automatically pauses while you talk and automatically resumes after you're done. All done smoothly with the appropriate fades. Classy.

So what's my conclusion? If you can get past its form factor, it's probably one of the best sounding stereo bluetooth headphones you can buy. Telephony is a treat through it too. It's so comfortable you can wear it for hours on end. It feels reasonably well made and will probably take some abuse. Battery life is great. No wires make it really convenient to use while carrying a bag.

Personally, the bluetooth transfer protocol is still far away from achieving an acceptable standard of audio fidelity. I'd use it at home for unfussy listening. But it's not worth looking like a club DJ out in public for the sound quality.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

GPS comparison: Nokia N82 vs Garmin Nuvi 610

Ever since I said that Nokia's new AGPS built into their latest phones are almost as effective as a true SIRF III GPS device, a lot of people have been skeptical about my statement. Well, I use GPS almost on a daily basis, and everyday, I'm amazed at the effectiveness of Nokia's AGPS.

The AGPS in the N82 and N95-8GB works so well that my Garmin Nuvi 610 is becoming a permanent fixture in my glovebox.

So, today was a perfect day to test out GPS devices here in Singapore. It has been raining the whole day and the sun is no where to be seen. Great for testing how quick a GPS device acquires satellite fixes. I'm supposed to meet my parents for dinner at a location that I have never been to in my life and have no idea how to get there.

The weather just before I hopped into my car:

View from inside the car:

Here's a video that will tell the whole story. By the way, the noise is rain falling on my car, not audio distortion:

I think it's clear enough to see that the N82's AGPS pretty much equals the SIRF III Garmin Nuvi 610 in terms of navigation effectiveness.

Obviously, there are setbacks with the N82 in terms of screen size. With the Garmin, with just a glance you know exactly where you're going and where you're going to turn next. With a phone's small screen, you won't be able to make out details so quickly.

Switching Nokia Maps to 3D view helps this a lot, especially during navigation. You can see a lot further ahead with 3D view when compared to 2D view.



Both Nokia and Garmin maps are rendered beautifully. Nokia Maps contain more detail than Garmin's but not overwhelmingly so. Garmin's map rendering is nice and clean and uncluttered but lacks detail (which I personally prefer).

Also, the touch screen input interface of the Garmin beats the alpha numeric keypad of a phone hands down. In my local context, before the Asian-named addresses are stored in the N82 dictionary, keying in addresses are just plain frustrating. But it's not an issue after you've used it extensively.

About the voice guiding the navigation, Garmin's lady sounds much more pleasant, speaks more slowly and clearly than the Nokia lady.

Taking into account that my Garmin Nuvi costs MORE than an N82, and that the N82 gets me to places just as effctively as my Garmin Nuvi, and that the N82 is, well, a Swiss Army knife of sorts, I can't justify the expense of buying a standalone GPS device anymore.

How quickly times have changed. Just a year ago, with the N95 GPS, there was no way I would use it instead of my Garmin. Today, the navigation abilities are on par.

GPS companies better have something up their sleeves...