May give Nokia (and Symbian) one more chance with N8

I went for Nokia’s current “flagship” phone the N97 last year. Initially, I was pretty unhappy with it, but after two major firmware updates, it’s finally usable. The two things I still hate about it, however, are the bleeding of the flash into the camera lens and the horribly back-lit keyboard. I had pretty much decided to go with an Android phone and settled on the Nexus One. But the lack of a WiFi tethering app has kept me from pulling the trigger. Sure, you can hack it to get that feature, but that is no long term solution…new firmware gets released and you’re back to square one. There is talk that it may be coming, but who knows.

Anyways, although I used to think that a physical keyboard was absolutely necessary, my iPod Touch has convinced me otherwise. As such, the upcoming Nokia N8 has me very intrigued. Frankly, I don’t really care if Symbian looks long in the tooth. Those types of software quirks I can live with. You just get used to them. The camera lens seems to be adequately separated from the flash to preclude the terrible flash bleed that hampers the N97’s (Nokia can’t be stupid enuf to repeat that mistake!). It also doesn’t have a physical keyboard, so that issue is solved as well and also allows a slimmer device. I’m very hopeful the N8 will finally be the true successor to my trusty N95!

So why stick with Nokia and, I suppose, Symbian? Joikuspot, the Symbian WiFi tethering app. Despite my strong dislike of the closed iPhone ecosystem and Apple’s heavy-handedness, there are some cool apps and to take advantage, without switching to an iPhone, I have a 2nd gen iPod Touch. Joikuspot gives it 3G access to the Internet. It’s also nice in a pinch if I need to connect my laptop. The only other phone I know of that supports this is the Palm Pre and we all know where that company is headed. I also like the Telexy suite of cool tools that let me work with network shares. These are power features we’ll likely never see on an iPhone. Maybe Android at some point in time, so I’ll continue to keep an eye on that platform.

UPDATE 4/25/10:
I just found this video of the upcoming Symbian^3. I hope it’s this good. This site is reporting (as of April 23), that Symbian^3 is being delayed, and I’ve read other “official” reports that says the N8 has been delayed until July. I’m sure Nokia does not want to repeat their mistakes made with releasing the N97 too soon. That said, Nokia is playing catch up with iPhone and Android already, so they can’t wait too long either. Guess I need to stay patient for another few months. By then we should see what the next gen iPhone looks like, but I highly doubt anything there will change my mind about that platform. Still, it may cause me to splurge on a new iPod Touch =)

UPDATE 4/27/10:
New Nokia site introducing the N8! Looks damn cool!

Using Slimserver with iPod Touch or iPhone

I blogged a few days about about how I was moving back to Slimserver (aka SqueezeCenter). Today I started wondering how to listen to the stream on my iPod Touch. A quick search came up with an app called CastCatcher from Return7. It took me a while to figure it out, but if your Slimserver is passworded, you need to prepend the login to the front of the URL for the stream, like http://username:[email protected]:9000/stream.mp3, otherwise, just use http://XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX:9000/stream.mp3. (Obviously, XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX can either be the IP address of the server or a domain name if you are using one. Basically, the standard Slimserver URL; nothing special.)

Once you get the player to connect, you’ll need to limit the bitrate lower than the default 320k. Apparently, Slimserver streams too fast for CastCatcher to handle. If you’ve never done this, the setting can be hard to find. First, go into SqueezeCenter settings and select the Player tab. There are two a pop-up menus just below the tabs. The left one chooses which player you are changing, since there could be more than one. My CastCatcher shows up as “Mozilla from 192.168.1.50”, but yours will likely be different. After the player is selected, choose Audio from the pop-up menu on the right. Change the Bitrate limiting to 64k, 96k or 128k.

That’s it! CastCatcher is only $1.99 in the iTunes store. Seems to crash every so often, but generally I’m happy with it.

Jensen JiSS-250i speaker dock works well with 2nd gen Touch

Just browsing through Target I stumbled upon the Jensen JiSS 250i iPod speaker dock. According to the box, it was compatible with the iPod Touch 2nd gen, so I read that to mean it would have no problem charging it–a surprising challenge for many speaker docks on the market currently. After my poor experience with the Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere, I was a bit gun shy, but ended up getting it.

Anyways, I’m happy to report, it charges the 2nd gen Touch fine and the aux input also works perfectly–unlike with the Pure-Fi.

It has an interesting design in that it expands and allows you to rotate the Touch/iPhone for viewing in landscape mode. You can run it on 4 AAAs or just plug it in. Comes with a carrying pouch and several dock adapters. It’s quite portable and appears to be solidly built.

For $69.99, it’s abit pricey considering the mediocre sound quality and lack of remote control. Volume controls on the unit are not as responsive as I’d like. I also wish it didn’t slide as easily when expanding. It needs some type of locking mechanism.

Better units are bound to come out, but the 250i gets the job done for me right now.

The Nokia N97 over the Palm Pre or iPhone

I had pretty much decided to go with the Palm Pre, but the more I read about the Nokia N97, I may just get that. Why?

  • Tethering over WiFi
  • Don’t have to switch to Sprint
  • 5MP camera with good lens

It won’t have the sexiness of the Pre, or the iPhone for that matter, but I’ve come to depend on WiFi tethering and using my phone as my only camera. Tethering over Bluetooth may be possible, but that’s pretty sucky if you’ve ever done it. My N95 does WiFi tethering using JoikuSpot and it’s just SO nice to be able to turn my phone into a WiFi hotspot whenever I want. The Pre’s and rumored upcoming iPhone’s 3MP camera offering just doesn’t cut it and I bet the lens will be crap.

So I guess I’ll have to hang onto my aging N95 for a bit longer. The N97 isn’t even out yet and I’ll have to wait even longer for a US version. Tethering my N95 to my 2nd gen 32GB iPod Touch makes things bearable, but an all-in-one device would be much simpler.

Still, I have limited will power and if  a new iPhone appears, particularly if it multitasks–my biggest gripe–I could be convinced.

UPDATES:
2009-04-11 – The N97’s resistive touchscreen (as opposed to a capacitive one, like the iPhone) might be a big negative for me. Some people that have actually seen it have been less than impressed. Guess I need to rethink.

2009-05-04 – This demo of the phone makes the screen interaction looks pretty nice. I might be back on the N97 bandwagon. This supposed to ship in July for $699. Here’s the official demo page and here’s the preorder page. I must say I’m pretty tempted to give them my creditcard number.

2009-05-08: I pre-ordered it using coupon code on here. Saved $175! Have no idea how long deal will last. Actually I think I missed out on at least $20…seems the discount was higher yesterday based on posts in this forum.

Ordered my first Kindle book for my iPod Touch

I don’t own a Kindle, nor do I intend on buying one; however, I just ordered my first Kindle book, “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez. I’ll be reading it on my iPod Touch.

I scoff at anyone that thinks the Touch (or iPhone) can’t be someone’s main Kindle eBook reader. These people are either A) old; B) trying to justify the $359 you already wasted on a Kindle; or C) don’t read ebooks. I also predict that non-Kindle people will soon be the main consumers of Kindle books.

My 15yo daughter actually LOL’d when I told her that some people think you can’t read an entire eBook on a Touch. That somehow there is some kind of severe handicap doing it.

I also think that the WhisperSync feature, while cool, is too cumbersome to depend on. Syncing, in general, sucks, albeit often necessary.

Amazon gets it: Kindle for iPhone

Anyone that reads my blog knows that I’ve been agonizing over getting an ebook reader. I nearly got a Sony Reader a few weeks back, but just couldn’t swallow the $400 price tag for a single-purpose device. I’ve been hovering over the Kindle 2 Buy button as well ;-)

The real reason I wanted either a Sony or Kindle was the access to the larger bookstore. eReader.com is good, but it doesn’t have near the depth of selections. With the new Kindle for iPhone app, I now have access to the huge catalog of ebooks as Amazon.

Personally, I now see no need for a dedicated single-purpose ebook reader. Sure the display is close to paper, but does that really matter. I’m sure the newer generation of people used to tiny phone screens, MP3 players, etc. don’t really care. It’s a dying generation of people, trying to hang onto paper that truly embrace dedicated ebook readers. We’ve seen it before: CRTs are superior to LCDs, the original IBM keyboard is the best, notebooks can never replace full-powered desktops, CDs can’t replace vinyl records, MP3s don’t sound as good as CDs, etc. etc. Old technology always lost. People adapt. People embrace the new. People move on.

The mere fact that I can whip out my iPod Touch and start reading a book on a gorgeous, albeit small, screen isn’t a negative at all. The fonts are crisp and clean, the page movement is smooth and fast–uh better than ereaders–, and it remembers my place. What more do you need?

The Kindle for iPhone app is bare bones, but more than adequate. You can buy the book through Amazon on the Safari browser and it appears when you open the app. You can instantly change the font size (the eReader.com app doesn’t do this instantly), dog-ear (ie bookmark) a page by touching the corner of a page, among other things. Moving from page to page is done with a left/right swipe. Personally, I prefer up/down, but that’s not a biggie. No dictionary support that I can see, but hopefully that’s coming.

I love the fact that you can download a free preview of a book. I don’t know exactly how much of the book it is, but it’s quite a bit. For the one I tried it was nearly 4 chapters! Good strategy I think.

I predict that there will quickly be more books sold to iPhone/Touch owners than Kindle owners. It’s a no brainer. Thanks Amazon! Sorry eReader :-(

Scosche adapter fixes iPod dock charging problem

In my “Demystifying the charging problems with the new Apple iPods and iPhone 3G” blog entry I explained the reason and origins of the charging problem seen with new iPods (iPhone 3G, 2nd gen Touch, and 4th gen Nano)  and speaker docks. I even mentioned the Scosche PassPORT as a possible solution, though that product is really made for an inline connection in cars.

Well Scosche has released the $39.99 passPORT Home Dock adapter which is basically the same thing built into a dock adapter. Essentially, you can plug this dealie into the dock of an iPod speaker and it will charge the new iPods.

Looks pretty nice, but it should be only a matter of time until speaker manufacturers get off their duffs and wire their speakers to support the 5V charging spec. Still, I guess if you already have a speaker you like AND it will accomodate the added height from the adapter, this would be a good deal.

Slate tabletPC kicks Kindle’s rear

I’ve been seriously trying to decide between the Kindle and the Sony Reader, but I’ve just discovered that you can’t beat a slate-style tabletPC-I’ve got the Motion Computing LE1700.  Digital media consumers, like me, have long moved way beyond the one-dimensional black and white mediums and onto color-intensive things like magazines,  websites, etc. Even newspapers have embraced color. What would USA Today be without color.

This is why I see single-purpose devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader as great devices, but unnecessary in the grander/long-term scheme of things. Plus, they are relatively expensive. How much more use can you get out of a 32GB iPod Touch or netbook compared to a Kindle or Sony Reader?

More and more traditionally print publications are being offered in electronic versions, although you’d be often hard pressed to find them. I recently discovered the (well hidden) digital subscription to Maximum PC and LA Times, but PC Mag, being only offered in digital format, was not surprisingly easier to get. A digital version of PC World is also available, but at $19.97/yr, it’s a bit pricey. MaxPC and PC Mag are under $10/yr. PC Mag has a special 2-year subscriptions for $15!

Digital subscriptions are by no means limited to tech magazines either. Check out Zinio.com, the engine used by PC Mag, and you’ll probably be surprised at the strong catalog of offerings. Newsstand.com is also good. That’s where you’ll find a lot of the newspapers like the LA Times, NY Times, USA Today, etc.

I will fully admit that I envy the awesome ebook reader battery life and the crisp eInk display, but giving up a full PC experience is too much to ask. I was just relaxing reading an issue of PC Mag and decided to start blogging my experience. Try THAT on an eBook reader.

The big downside to electronic publications, as with any copyrighted electronic medium, is DRM. Zinio and Newsstand both rely on proprietary file formats. Sure you can download and archive them, but who knows when they will become obsolete.

In my opinion, however, do publications have that much value after a year or two? Maybe books do, but who really re-reads their books? Yeah, I now people like to save and collect their magazines and books into their own personal library, but how often do they look at them? How much is relegated to dusty cardboard boxes in the garage taking up valuable storage space? Now hopefully, electronic publishers will embrace and standardize on the ePub format, but I’m not holding my breath. For the most part, I think the usefulness of individual magazine and newspaper copies are transitory. Just re-buy them in the future if the desire arises.

For portability, I’ll rely on my iPod Touch and N95. Both support eReader ebooks. Guess I could even stoop to a good old fashion paperback. The battery lasts forever, but no built-in backlight…oh the Kindle doesn’t have that either  ;-)

D650 Motorola Bluetooth Adapter for iPOD Touch. $14!

I’m totally into doing things wirelessly if possible and I’ve been using the Plantronics Voyager 855 stereo Bluetooth headset with my N95. Since my 2nd gen Touch has no BT support, I started looking at the various add-ons. Well, I stumbled upon the D650 Motorola Bluetooth Adapter on Amazon for a paltry $13.99! I saw no reason it shouldn’t work with the Touch and decided to risk the dough.

Well the damn thing works perfectly! I love it!

It’s a little weird pairing it with the headset since the adapter has no controls at all, only a single blinking light. Basically, you put the headset into discovery mode and pause your iPod on a song. Then plug the adapter into your iPod and press play. The light blinks for a bit and voila, it connects! No battery either. It gets it’s power from the iPod.

The sound isn’t as good as wired headphones, but the 855 and D650 support A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) so its not too bad. Being wireless more than make up for any shortcomings in the quality. They also support AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile) so I can control volume, pause and play from the controls on the headset.

Note that Amazon has the same adapter listed with a price of $14.99. The only difference I can see, other than the $1 price diff, is that the model number is 89147 instead of 89147J. I bought the cheaper 89147J. The picture shows it plugged into an old Nano.

UPDATE 2009-08-28
I just got brave enuf to upgrade my 2nd gen iPod Touch to 3.0. The Bluetooth works well with my Plantronics 855 and no WiFi issues. Totally worth the $10. Now, no need for the D650.

Palm Pre, my next phone? Maybe.

I was thinking about replacing my aging Nokia N95-1 this year, with the N97 being a strong candidate. However, the Palm Pre may have debuted at the top of my list. I have resisted the Apple iPhone temptation due to it’s closed architecture and lack of certain features (e.g., multitasking and cut&paste). Still, I do have a 2nd gen Touch, which when tethered via WiFi gives me the best of both worlds.

Even saying this, I’ll probably need to see certain apps on the Pre before I pull the trigger. I’m also not too crazy about moving to Sprint. Anyways, here are the N95 apps I rely on and what I’ll need to see on the Pre before I move on:

  • Podcast player. The passive bookmarking is essential!
  • Google Maps. Traffic info is a must.
  • JoikuSpot. This cool app turns my N95 into a mobile WiFi hotspot. Great for connecting a laptop or my Touch to the Internet.
  • SymSMB. Allows me to browse and manage my phone files wirelessly from my PC.
  • SymSync. Automatically and wirelessly syncs folders between my phone and PC. This app is incredible! I use it to sync my pdocasts which I process though a speed up utility which makes them playback faster, but with no change in tone (i.e., it doesn’t sound like the Chipmonks.)
  • HandySafe. Basically, this is just a app that allows me to securely store private info.
  • Google Sync. Right now I use the GooSync service to sync my phone with Google Contacts and Calendar

I suppose there is no real reason I need to ditch my N95 although Edge is becoming annoying. It’s 5MP camera is stellar. The Pre’s 3MP would be a step down. Hmmmm. Besides the N97, there is always the N96 I guess.