fordie’s Blog

I’ve  liked Nokia phones ever since I got my first mobile, an analogue Nokia 1000 back in 1993. I stuck with them for over a decade, while my other half flirted with Motorola and Samsung. At the time nothing beat Nokia’s build quality or the ease of use of the Symbian operating system.

But I wanted to do more with the device I was lugging around. In 2004 Symbian was starting to look a bit dated and limited. I decided to try Windows Mobile and bought an HTC device, the “i-mate Jam” or “the ponce pad” as my wife liked to call it. I liked Windows Mobile so much that next two phones ran on Windows too.

Then I got bitten by the Apple bug and switched to the iPhone 4 as soon as it was available on Vodafone. I currently have an iPhone 4s.

Nokia Lumia 920 Trial

Lumia 920 next to my iPhone

I was pretty excited when James  told me that Nokia were looking for people to try the Lumia 920 for a month, and chuffed when Nokia asked me to take part.

I really hoped that “Nokia + Windows Phone = WIN”.

The Nokia Lumia 920 feels very well put together. Its body is plastic but it’s solid, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.

There are three physical buttons down the right hand side, a volume rocker, the power button and a camera shutter button. Having the power in the middle seems a bit weird, but you get used to it.

Beneath the screen there are three virtual buttons: Back, Windows & search.

Like the iPhone, the 920 has no removable battery or external storage, but neither of these things are too much of an issue.

The Lumia is large. You certainly know you have it in your pocket. It has a lovely big screen which is great for video.

While the screen is certainly very attractive it’s also the biggest issue when it comes to the physical usability of the phone. Despite being averagely endowed in the hand department I found that I couldn’t comfortably type on the 920. Letters towards the left of the keyboard (particularly Q) and the back button were just a bit too much of a stretch. I got thumb-ache if I tried to text or email too much.Stre-tch

I didn’t get sent a SIM card until nearly 2 weeks in to my trial, so evaluating the phone while out and about was initially quite tricky.  When I did get connected the Lumia worked fine as a phone, voice calls were as clear as they are on my iPhone. The messaging app was OK… I didn’t use it a great deal and I missed some of iMessage’s features. The ability to continue a conversation you started on your phone on your Macbook or iPad is something I’ve come to take for granted.

At one point the phone just stopped responding. I thought the battery had died & put it on charge. When that didn’t work I emailed Nokia, thinking the phone was dead. It turned out it just needed a “soft reset” but I lost a weekend testing.

Nokia primarily wanted me to evaluate the Lumia 920 as a work phone, so that’s what I set about doing. I’m a web developer and don’t really spend any time in Microsoft Office (a mobile version of which ships with the phone). I mainly use my phone for keeping in touch using messaging, email & Twitter.

I use my iPhone for testing web pages from time to time using Adobe Edge Inspect. Adobe don’t currently have a client for Windows Phone 8, so I couldn’t do that.

 

Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone is interesting. The home screen looks very pretty, I liked the fact that it was set up to use the yellow theme (matching the phone’s body colour). The large tiles are great, allowing you to see what’s going on with your apps without having to launch them. This is definitely a feature Apple could borrow for the next version of iOS.

The way that Windows & Windows apps show you that there is more content either side of the panel you’re currently viewing, cutting off the heading text and showing a slither of the adjacent pane’s content is pretty neat too.

The People Hub or “Me” tile on the home screen allows you to see the latest updates from Facebook & Twitter in one place, as well as your Outlook.com email (if you use that). It’s nice to be able to see those updates at a glance, but I found replying or posting my own updates through that route clunky and ended up installing the Twitter & Facebook apps.

The flatness of Windows Phone 8‘s the design does mess with your head after a while. It’s often hard to tell read & unread items apart. There is very little to visually separate items when you start using the messaging and email apps. I dare say this is something you get used to.

Many of my favourite iPhone apps like Instagram & Tweetbot are not available for Win Phone 8. Twitter’s Windows app is OK, but I didn’t have my blocked keywords & hashtags or sync my timeline between devices. Where there were Windows versions I often found some of the features were missing. For example Spotify doesn’t scrobble from Windows Phone 8.

On the other hand, Foursquare on Windows Phone is exceptional. It’s really pretty, well executed and a joy to use.

 

I don’t want to sound too down on it, the Lumia 920 is a really great phone and I liked it a lot. Windows Phone 8 has some really nice features, some of which I’d like to see in iOS. But it feels like the first version of a product, it needs refinement. The same goes for the third party apps, most of them just weren’t as polished as their iPhone cousins.

For people that don’t already have a smart phone and those who really love Windows or Office it’s probably an excellent choice, but as someone who’s really invested in the Apple ecosystem it’s not for me.

 

 

13 Aug, 2012

Let’s agree to never speak of this again

Posted by: admin In: annoyances

I don’t think I’m a naturally grumpy person, but there are somethings that I just don’t understand that bring out my inner curmudgeon.

My feelings about sport pretty much match the way I feel about religion: Practice it & enjoy it if you want (though for the life of me I don’t understand why you would), as long as you don’t force it in my face and it doesn’t cost me anything… fine.

Why does anyone care about this stuff?

I can run a bit, swim a bit and throw things a bit but I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be interested in how effectively I can do those things. Hell, I don’t even care. Why an adult would  want to watch some other adults trying to get from one place another quickly is completely beyond me. Watching a kids sports day is one thing “awww, bless… little Johnny managed to do the sack race without falling on his nose.” but if the only thing someone is any good at by the time the reach puberty is elegantly falling in to a swimming pool, we should be asking ourselves how the education system was allowed to foul up so badly, not celebrating it.

I’m proud to be British, as a nation we have much to be proud of. We’ve given the world a model for democracy, the World Wide Web, marmite and much more besides. The idea that someone can represent their country by running round in circles seems completely barmey to me.

Don’t be fooled

Besides, it’s not actually about the sport. I hear Jessie J sang “price tag” at the closing ceremony last night. I’m sorry love, you’re wrong…  the money is precisely what it’s all about. Coke, Lloyds and Visa didn’t sponsor the Olympics because they love you, they did it because the recognise that they can make a ton of cash of the back of it. Now I have absolutely nothing against corporations making tons and tons of cash, the Olympic tax breaks didn’t even upset me all that much. The thing is this: do you think those megacorps would have put money in to the Olympics if they thought they could fleece the public for the same amount of dough with out having to pay for some shell suited people to mince about a stadium? Of course they wouldn’t. I’m particularly pissed off about Lloyds, as a public owned bank they should be nowhere near things like this.

Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!

In a 24/7 news cycle driven social media world the Olympics have been almost impossible to avoid. It didn’t matter how many filters I set up in tweetbot I was still subjected to a multitude of tweets about the games. Facebook has been full of it and the media, well… We have dozens and dozens of radio & TV channels some of them (Sky Sports News & Five Live for example) are even dedicated to sport. Why then did the Olympics get front page billing on the main BBC News website? Why has it entirely taken over the TV & Radio schedules? My two favourite shows on  Radio 4  (Today & PM) have been pretty much unlistenable for the past few weeks because there’s been so much Olympic nonsense on them. Is it really that unreasonable to expect sport to be kept to the sports channels? They were still harping on about it on Today this morning; it’s finished now, shut up about it! The last thing we need is 2012 becoming the new 1966. To rebalance things, I propose that BBC Parliament, NASA TV & coverage from CERN be allowed to dominate the schedules for the next few weeks.

Double dip what now?

I could get really, really ranty about the cost to the tax payer, but I shall simply say £9.3bn is approximately £150 per person in the UK. That’s per person, not per tax payer. Think of the good that money could have been used for.

Any way, that’s my rant. Let’s all agree to never speak of this again.

iOS developers are enabling users to get more and more out of their iPhones & iPads. But I think developers are missing one important thing that could make life easier for thousands of users. I’m not exaggerating.

I have a particular bee in my bonnet when it comes to accessibility, my wife is registered blind and I am constantly frustrated when she is unable see things (like text on a screen) especially when I know that this is avoidable. It was this frustration that prompted me to email Steve Jobs about the iPhone’s SMS functionality last year. True to his word users can now change the font size for those 2 apps.

20110510-024419.jpg

What I don’t understand is why there is no way to change font size system wide, or why app developers don’t provide that facility.

Yes I know that you can switch on zooming, but honestly – have you tried using zooming on a phone? My wife uses screen magnifying software at work, so she’s used to that – but she can’t get on with the iPhone implementation & I can understand why. It’s awful. There’s also Voiceover. This must be a massive boon for people with incredibly poor eyesight but for most users it’s not appropriate, who wants their texts or other private data read so that others can hear it?

I’m sure many iOS developers have come from a web background & will be familiar with WCAG. As far as I know there’s no similar guideline for developing accessible apps, but a developers are still obliged to ensure that their apps comply with disability discrimination legislation such as the UK’s Disabaility Discrimination Act. The act says that service providers (and as a developer that’s you) must “make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access your service”.

So for a moment, let’s just pretend that WCAG does apply to smartphone apps and look at guideline 1.4.4 1.4.4 Resize text: Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality. (Level AA) That seems like a reasonable aim to me.

I have spoken to a couple of developers about this, the general consensus seems to be “I’m not sure if that’s possible” or “it would be an awful lot of work for not much benefit”. This makes me sad. Not being an iOS developer myself, I don’t know if it would be possible for someone to write a text resizing library that they could open source? If it is possible, think of all the people that could be helped by including that in apps. After all, it’s not jst cronicly badly sighted people that struggle with small text, many older & long sighted people do to.

I’d be really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, especially from the Dev community.

12 Apr, 2010

And another thing…

Posted by: admin In: personal|the olden days

I’ve blogged about books in the past, but these have usually been work related books that I’ve read. This is a work of fiction that, as yet I haven’t read.

I have been a fan of  Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy” since I was about 12. I remember lying in bed listening to the radio plays on a crappy old transistor radio and I’ve read the books more times than I should probably admit.  So when I heard that Eoin Colfer had been asked to write a sequel to Douglas’ books, I wasn’t sure if liked the idea or not. I certainly wasn’t going to rush out and buy it.

Yesterday I was in Waterstones in Brighton helping my eldest daughter spend a book token she got for her birthday & I remembered that I had a voucher to spend too. I wandered in to the science fiction section, saw the Douglas Adams books & tried to rememeber the name of the guy that had written the sequel. I couldn’t think of it, so I spoke to a member of staff who said “oh that’s Eoin Colfer”. They didn’t have any of the hardbacks in stock & the paperback isn’t due out until the end of may. What the did have however was a few copies of the a numbered limited edition version of the hardback.
This little beauty had previously been on sale for £100 but was now reduced to a mere £10! As soon as I saw it I new I was going to be buying it. It’s a heavy card box with fake faulty “neon” lights  built in to the front that spell out the title of the book. Inside there’s a hardback copy of the book covered in a duck egg blue towel with “Don’t Panic!” embroidered on it in large friendly letters.

This is a must have item for any Douglas Adams fan’s bookshelf & there’s only a few left, so if you’re near a waterstones I suggest you go and grab one now. I doubt they’ll hang around for long at that price.

When I get around to reading the book I’ll try to do a post & let you know what I think of it.

Companies today are climbing over each other to harness the power of social networks, to reach a wider audience and ultimately get more sales. Get it right and the public will love you. Get it Wrong and you’d better be prepared for some pain

They forecast snow but it looks like hfail.

Just over a week ago twitter and facebook were buzzing with news about a competition that Nokia were running to bring snow to five UK towns. The way to make your town to win was to get the most votes. Read the rest of this entry »

The HTML5 Specification introduces a new element called “mark”.

I’ve created a little site to explain how the mark tag can be used, I’ll be adding examples to it very shortly. In the meantime, if the mood takes you why not visit http://mark-element.info

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11 Aug, 2009

CB > FB?

Posted by: admin In: social networking|the olden days

Sometimes I feel a bit jealous of teenagers today. They have all this cool online social networking stuff that I would have loved to had access to when I was their age, but this evening while deflating the paddling pool (I know, rock & roll eh?) it dawned on me…

I was using a social network 18+ years ago!

CB

OK so I wasn’t on Twitter or facebook or bebo or whatever, but still:

  • we invited our friends (on Channel 19)
  • we arranged events
  • we had handles, back then I wasn’t fordie – I was “Nemesis” (Rawr!!!!1!one)
  • we made new connections
  • we shared geo location data (what’s your twenty?)
  • we pimped our profiles (or our rigs, with echos and fancy roger beeps)
  • we even occasionally swapped songs (even though it pissed other breakers off a bit)

So in the last 18 or more years the technology has changed, but our use of it hasn’t all that much. Looking back with my rose tinted specs it seems that CB will always be better than FB.

I wonder what’ll be next?

15 Jul, 2009

I think Ferris Buller said it best…

Posted by: admin In: personal|work

life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it

Ferris Buller

The last time I blogged about my life I had just left my Job as Lead Front End Developer with Tesco Property Market. I’d been there for 2 years and to be honest things weren’t going the way I’d hoped, so I took a role with Madgex in Brighton.

Madgex are well respected in the web development community, they sponsor a number of tech events in Brighton. It looked like exactly the sort of role I’d been looking for & I was excited to join the team there. Then the recession hit. And Madgex ended up having to make dramatic job cuts & I found myself out of a job. I have to admit, I wasn’t actually all that upset – I’d been tempted for a while to go contracting but I’d never had the balls to go & do it. This was my chance.

So that’s what I’m doing. It does mean a bit of uncertainty & less time with the kids, but I am quite enjoying the variety.

Bobbie Johnson has article in the Guardian today about twitter. Nothing remarkable about that, Johnson is after all one of the Graun’s Tech Journalists.

What is remarkable is the number of comments moaning and bitching about the coverage that the Guardian gives to twitter. It’s true that they have given it quite a lot of coverage lately in the paper, on the website & on the excellent Tech Weekly Podcast, with good reason, and this is the reason: some people, maybe even a lot of people think it’s interesting.

The fact is I find twitter extremely useful. As a web developer I use it for keeping up to date with the latest industry news, it’s an excellent way to pick your peer’s brains & share your own knowledge.

Every day papers & news websites dedicate pages & pages to sport. I hate sport; I particularly hate football. So do I take time out of my busy day to write to the paper or post a comment on the website every time there’s a sport related story? No, I ignore it and remain blissfully ignorant. I guess some people just have too much time on their hands.

Wireless Printer, Copier & Scanner – All In One Printer.

Since my old printer died a few months ago I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement. I ummed and ahhed for quite some time trying to work out what I wanted from a new device – eventually I decided that I wanted

  • a colour printer
  • integrated scanner
  • ideally wireless printing & scanning
  • cheap (<£100)

I’d almost given up on finding all these features in one device for the right price, then on Friday I spotted the HP Photosmart C4585 for £75 on the pc world website & decided it looked just the job.

Set up

Setting up the printer was surprisingly easy. Once the power was connected the printer displays easy to follow instructions for installing the ink cartridges on it’s screen.

Next I popped the set up DVD into my MacBook & followed the instructions. I was half expecting to experience pain trying to set the printer up with the Mac, but actually it was a doddle there’s a wizard that guides you through the whole process. Eventually it asks you to connect the the printer using the supplied USB cable; it asks you if you want to connect to a wireless network, if you answer yes the set up program displays the name of the network your computer is attached to and prompts to enter the network key and er, that’s it. Easy.

Note: When adding the printer under Print & Fax on your Mac OS X be sure to choose “HP Jetdirect – Socket” from the protocol drop down or you’ll get network device not ready errors when you try to print.

I thought it was a nice touch that HP provide a Mac OS desktop widget that shows you the printers ink levels.

Now that the printer was on the network it was very simple to set it up on the wife’s Windows XP rig. Again there’s a wizard to walk you through the set up, this time I told the software I wanted to install a network printer – it did a quick scan & found the printer. very, very easy.

Printing

If you buy a printer it’s a good idea to buy paper unless you’re sure you already have some. I wasn’t able to test the printing straight away. But when I did get to the shop and printed a documents I was very pleased with the text printing. I’ve also tried printing one photo (on photo paper) so far, I have to say I’m extremely impressed with the quality.

Scanning

Before setting up the printer / scanner I wasn’t entirely sure if the scanning function was goting to be available over Wifi, I was extremely pleased to find that it does. No more plugging in USB leads for me! The scan results seem very good, so far I’ve used it to upload embarrassing photos of my Sisters to Facebook.

Conclusion

I’ve only had this bit of kit for a couple of days, but at the moment I’d be more than happy to recommend it to anyone based on my limited experience.

fordie, elsewhere:

if you're an internet stalker these would be good sites for you to stalk me on…