The Bold

I’m back, for now. I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to post lately, but I’ll explain it at a later date. As of Wednesday I managed to pick up a Bold. Yes, that’s right. I now have a Blackberry Bold in addition to an iPhone 3G. I love spoiling myself, and its great. Everyone should do it.

The Blackberry Bold is aesthetically pleasing and it’s solidly built. It’s lighter than it looks and the size is slightly bigger than a curve, but smaller than its 8800 brethren. Unlike any other Blackberry this Bold runs on much faster hardware. You can see it in the OS as you can scroll through icons, folders, and open apps without lag. If there’s one thing that makes this device stand out from any other phone, let alone other Blackberry devices, is the screen. The Bold’s screen is amazing. It’s something you have to see for yourself to get a full grasp of what it’s capable of.

I’ll be back later with a full comparison to the iPhone and the Blackberry Curve.

iPhone 2.1 firmware Review

I downloaded the 2.1 firmware on Friday morning and have been putting it through my daily usage and then some. The new update resolve many of the crash issues, but it doesn’t fix them all. I still have some random app crashes once in a while, but much less than before and much less rebooting. Another thing I noticed is that the scrolling of the main menu seems much faster and smoother. The two main fixes I was looking forward to was the Contacts list and SMS lag. The lag issues were just as annoying as the app crashes. With this update the lag issue is not completely resolved. Instead the lag times have reduced to about 50%-75%. So instead of being frozen for 6 seconds its frozen for 3. Other improvements include faster app installation and a slight improvement on backup times. The update was suppose to increase battery efficiency, but I haven’t notice any differences yet.

Overall, the update provide some relief for those who were having serious app crash problems. But for me it doesn’t cut it. The iPhone seriouly lacking in necessary features. The ability to have cut and paste is a given in every smartphone yet Apple fails to deliver. Also, being unable to run third-party apps in the background makes communication software like IMs useless. I was never impressed with Apple products. They’re are over-priced and their closed-platform limitations are just plain annoying. I thought the iPhone 3G was going to be different and change my mind, but appearently it’s still the same as any other Apple product; over-priced and tailored for the lowest common technophile.

iPhone 2.1 firmware coming soon

As many of you know the Apple’s “Let’s Rock” event was today and Apple fanboys’ King and demi-god, Steve Jobs, announced several new products. Not actually brand new products, but more like new updates and models to their iPod lineup. Most notably, the iPod nano has a new design. Instead of its square-ish previous design it’s now more slender and longer similar to the first gen model.

Steve-o also announced that an updated iPhone 2.1 firmware will be released soon. This Friday, we hope. It should fix the numerous bugs that plagues the iPhone. Not much info was released about the update, but hopefully it’ll fix the phone’s shortcomings. For me, this is the make-it-or-break-it firmware update. The iPhone’s lagginess and constant app crashes are more of a headache. If the 2.1 update is only a minor fix and doesn’t provide much needed features like cut and paste (Hell, I just wish the upcoming patch fixes the lag issue and app crashes then it’ll all be set) I’ll be dropping the iPhone when the Blackberry Bold is released. Seriously, Apple needs to get it’s shit together. First it was the MobileMe issues, that still doesn’t even work right, and then their iPhone 3G issues. That’s two strikes right there. If this firmware update doesn’t follow through then that’s number 3 for ya. “How do you like them apples?!” in this case, you can have them.

By the way, whatever happen the Apple’s push server for third party apps?

iPhone 3G review

After two weeks of having the new iPhone 3G I’ve come to conclude, and so has many other users, that the iPhone succeeds some ways, but fail in others. I’ve been using a Blackberry for a few years and I couldn’t help but compare the use of the iPhone to RIM’s Blackberry.

GUI (Graphical User Interface) and OS– The iPhone is popularly known for its GUI. The simplicity of the touch interface makes navigating through the iPhone’s OS easy for almost any user. Like the Blackberry’s OS they are both solid. Through the years, RIM’s Blackberry devices have been improving and many of its users have found tricks and third-party apps to make their BB as efficient and useful as possible.
Winner – Tie

Internet Browsing – There is no other phone device that can beat the iPhone in terms of web browsing. The generous screen size and the Safari browser make browsing the internet-on-the-go a treat. The Blackberry’s browser inability to display webpages in its true form really limits the browsing experience. I think this area is what really lacking from RIM and other phone manufacturers.
Winner – iPhone

Battery life* – The implementation of 3G on the iPhone allows for faster data transfer but the cost is a quickly drained battery. For me, normal use has my battery down by half right before lunchtime. That’s from 730am – 1130am. For heavy users without any charging throughout the day you can probably expect the iPhone to be completely drained before your work day ends.
Winner – Blackberry

Third-Party Apps – When I got my iTunes account setup I was excited to get my hands on some of the iPhone’s Apps. But aftera few days of downloading and playing around with the apps (free apps only) it became clear that the majority of them are useless and that’s if they even work at all. Many of the apps I’ve downloaded crashed. I’m unsure if it’s something with the apps themselves or with the iPhone. My biggest gripe is that one application can be running at a time. Apple doesn’t allow apps to run in the background, so programs such as AIM are almost useless unless you have the app constantly on in the current view of your phone, so multitasking with apps is out of the question. Whereas with the Blackberry you can run multiple apps in the background and it still be able to notify the user of incoming data or messages.
Winner – Blackberry

Email and Messaging– iPhone is playing catch-up to RIM’s Blackberry and they have now implemented push email. Push email is very important in a corporate environment. With the implementation of Microsoft Exchange many business users now have an excuse to convince their IT department to support the iPhone. For personal-use push email you’ll need to get MobileMe service from Apple. MobileMe is very similar to RIM’s BIS. Your MobileMe account pushes all emails to your iPhone. You can forward your emails from other accounts to MobileMe and you’ll get an immediately email push to your iPhone. The downside to this is that the MobileMe service costs $100 a year, but you get more than just push email. MobileMe will sync with your contacts and calendar events. Unlike with a Blackberry you get an account with your standard internet service package from your cell phone service provider. Heavy email users and texters will prefer the Blackberry as the iPhone does not have a tactile keyboard. If you’re a speedy typer on a Blackberry you can expect your type speed to be reduced to about half. The virtual keyboard doesn’t provide any tactile feedback so you’re always constantly hitting the wrong key. On the upside for the iPhone is that it supports IMAP. So you can access your email server and work directly with it.
Winner – Blackberry

In conclusion the Blackberry, in my case, the curve, beats out the iPhone 3G, or without. But there’s something I must admit. I started writing this review a week after I got the iPhone and there was a little subjective bias involve at first. It’s been three weeks now and I finally have time to finish up this review. So far my initial opinion of the iPhone has changed in terms of its functionality. Fortunately, after an ample amount of time you’ll seem to forget it’s shortcoming and enjoy what it really is;a neat phone device that is great to kill time, play video games, and surf the web. In a business environment or a heavy email and text user the Blackberry device is the way to go. People need to know that the iPhone is a consumer device and aims at the average user. There are certain features that the iPhone desperately need if it wants to really compete with RIM in the enterprise market. Adding push email and MS Exchange support doesn’t cut it. First and foremost the iPhone needs to have cut and paste feature. As great as Apple is as a software company I’m very disappointed that a simple feature like that has not been added in their first generation phone. Second, the iPhone needs a notification system or process to let the user know they have an email, or active calendar event. All Blackberry devices have a blinking LED that lets a user know they have a message without having to take the phone out of their holster or if their phone is on a table on silent mode. For the iPhone if the phone is locked you’ll have to press the menu button, and then unlock the phone to see the message indicator. The iPhone should at least have the ability to display a email message notifications on the phone before you unlock it. Luckily for Apple these things are software issues and can be patched and added through firmware updates. For those users out there who are using a smartphone such as a Blackberry Curve or similar go ahead and hold off on the iPhone 3G. It’s a good thing that the phone is sold out everywhere. This gives Apple time to fix many of the browser crash issues and app crash problems before a new set of buyers gets disappointed.

*By setting your emails to fetch less frequently or none at all can save quite a bit of charge on your battery. If you’re like me and you work in an are with a wifi hotspot turning off 3G mode saves even more battery juice. In combination the amount of battery charge saved is very exceptable.

iPhone 3G

 

The iPhone 3G is probably the most hyped electronic item this summer. Many die-hard Apple fans camped out for a week just to be the first ones to lay their hand on the new device. When the first-generation iPhone became available last year I wasn’t convince that a software company like Apple could create and compete successfully with other cell phone manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Nokia, and RIM. Sure, Apple created the prolific and ubiquitous iPod, but that was just an MP3 player. Cell phones are a totally different animal. But millions of iPhones later I was proven wrong. And still, I was not convinced enough to run out and get my hands on one, and I especially wasn’t going to give up my trusty Blackberry for it.

During that first year I saw countless friends, strangers, and a room mate couldn’t tear themselves from their iPhone. They claim the device, which seems to be surgically attached to their palms, to be the next best thing since sliced bread. Though the iconic omnipresent Apple brand is plastered everywhere human beings existed; in grocery lines, waiting rooms, subways, public restrooms, TV commercials, and college campuses I still never bit the bait. With my Blackberry holstered to my belt in its official Blackberry case it wasn’t going anywhere. But one day all that changed…

I was waiting at the Las Vegas airport with a friend. He was browsing away with his Wifi enabled iPhone, and I was sitting there trying to access a single webpage from my EDGE network Blackberry Curve. My weak cellular signal made my unlimited data plan useless. So I sat there reading old text messages and emails from my phone until my friend handed me his iPhone so he could go use the restroom. In my hand was the device I had so loathed because of the company that changed my beloved electronic culture from its esoteric geek-ness to a chic fashion statement, and don’t forget the annoying overzealous fan boys that get erections at the sight of a new Apple product.

Using the Safari browser was not quite what I had expected. The application was snappy and responsive. The webpages loaded up quickly (Wifi access tends to do that compared to EDGE network internet connections). Before I knew it I was pinching, flicking, scrolling, and flying through webpages I couldn’t do so on any other phone, let alone my Blackberry. I checked my work and personal emails, read blogs, and even posted comments. The excitement of being able to have the internet at my finger tips had me cowering over the device like Gollum and his One Ring. As quickly as I became accustomed to the device my friend came back and took away the iPhone. I sat there looking at him browsing away thinking to myself, “if I could just get a few more minutes with my…’Precious…’”

Months have gone by with rumors of the next generation iPhone being ready to be announced. I followed the scene reading blogs, and tech site news. Right before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference started the iPhone hype was in full force. Fake iPhone pictures and false specs began popping up on the internet teasing the fanboys into a frenzy how Dunkin Donuts coffee and methamphetamines would affect a normal human being. Then on release-day I read every post on every tech site that had coverage of the release of the iPhone. Preliminary results had the iTunes servers going down. Waiting lines were 4-6 hours long. People couldn’t activate their new phones, and those who just wanted to update their firmware got their phones bricked, and some buyers left the stores with no cell phone service for almost the whole day. So day-1 wasn’t such a clean launch for Apple. The following day was more of the same; long lines and endless waiting but sans the downed iTunes server and activation issues. On Sunday I found myself waiting in line at the Apple store at the mall near my house. The line wasn’t too long. I was in the store within a minute or two of waiting. When I entered the store I was greeted with a happy Apple rep. He asked me how he could help me and I told him I just wanted to look at the new iPhone. While dabbling around with the device I asked the rep a few questions and I got a few vague answers. The one that surprised me the most was when I asked, ‘how can I transfer contacts from my Blackberry to an iPhone’ and the answer I got was, “Oh, there’s software for that.” It wasn’t as detailed as I liked but he answered confidently enough. I had errands to run, so I left the Apple store shortly after to get my oil changed for my car. While I waited I thought more and more about the iPhone. If I had bought the phone earlier I could be using it to browse the internet and dawdle around with the new cool iPhone apps I’ve read so much about. So immediately drove back to the store after the oil changed and picked up the phone. The process was quite fast, and within 15 minutes I was out the store with a working iPhone.

(to be continued… my iPhone 3G review. Was it worth giving up my Blackberry?)

Vista x64 (part 2)

After fiddling around with the 64 bit version of Vista I found it to be very stable. Speed wise it’s just as fast as the 32 bit version. Fortunately the architecture of recent CPUs of Intel and AMD they’re able to process 32 and 64 bit code simultaneously. So having a 64 bit OS doesn’t mean you’re stuck using only 64 bit applications. After installing a 64 bit version of Vista you’ll see two ‘Program Files’ folder and one will be designated as ‘Program Files (x86)’. When installing your old 32 bit application they will be installed in the Program Files (x86) folder. This keeps your 32 and 64 bit application seperate.

Many of the usual programs worked fine. Office 2003 and 2007 worked without any problems along with Avg Anti-Virus Free, Winamp, WinRAR, PowerISO, VMware Workstation, and Pidgin. The only application I had any issues with are homebrew apps or compiled binary files (.exe). These applications would throw errors and would not execute. Some application can still work if you install a compatible framework in which the 32 bit application can run on. But for me it’s not a big problem because I run VMware Workstation. I can have a virtual 32 bit OS and run those application on that instead. Vista x64 comes with a host of native 64 bit application such as it’s games, Windows Media Player, and Internet Explorer. These native applications works right out of the box. At this time the 64 bit version of IE is limited because the lack of compatible plug-ins like Adobe Flash player aren’t available yet. So to get full internet browsing capabilities the 32 bit version of IE is still available.

Having Vista x64 on my work computer would be fine since most of my computing involve email, remote accessing, and running multiple VMs. But on my personal desktop I ran into some issues. My desktop system is also my media center. One of the big disappointments of the SP1 is that Vista’s Media Center remains unchanged since Vista’s initial release (more on this later). Vista x64’s Media Center is a native 64 bit application and its backbone runs on the 64 bit Windows Media Player. Many of my videos are encoded in different formats and it requires several different codecs to play. Unfortunately I can’t play any of my videos because 64 bit codecs aren’t available. The ones that are available are in beta stages and still doesn’t work.

When Vista was first released my number one reason to upgrade was to use the new Media Center. XP’s 2005 Media Center worked great, but there were many things it could have improved on, and I thought Vista was the answer. Too bad it was only wishful thinking. Vista’s Media Center’s interface is counter-intuitive compared to its predecessor. The media handling is done by Window Media Player. WMP is so limited that that the only type of videos it can play is mpg and wmv videos. It’s not much of a media player without third party codecs. So the 64 bit version of Vista media center is even more crippled than it’s 32 bit counterpart.

Overall there are more positive aspects of Vista x64 than there are negatives. If you have a recent CPU and chipset such as a Core 2 Duo and the Intel 965P the 64 bit OS is capable of addressing more than 4GB of RAM. This will benefit applications that require a large amount of memory. Video/Image editors and CAD users will greatly benefit from this. Overtime 64 bit applications will become more popular and in theory it should be more efficient and faster than their 32 bit versions. If you’re looking to jump into the 64 bit scene now is a good time to check it out. For some it can be used as their main OS on a daily basis. But before you switch make sure there are 64 bit drivers for all your hardware. Vista 64 bit OS requires signed drivers so if your hardware manufacturer does not have those drivers available your device(s) will not work.

Vista x64

vistasp1

Last year when Vista was release to the masses I had already been using the Vista RTM version for a few months. I even wrote a little review about my experience. In short, the new OS was visually appealing but had too many things wrong with it such as bugs, incompatible software and not enough drivers were available. I ended up uninstalling Vista and reinstalled Windows XP and have not used it since except for when I’m troubleshooting a Vista system at work.

It’s been a little over a year, about 14 months, since Vista’s release. I got my hands on a copy of a Vista RTM with SP1. SP1 was the answer to all the nay-sayers who didn’t want to use Vista. Many online publications have already done benchmarking tests and SP1 was no faster than the orginal RTM release. In fact some showed SP1 as being slightly slower. I wanted to see the results for myself so I set up Vista w/SP1 on a couple of virtual systems on VMware. Using Vista on VMware probably didn’t provide much of a guage to show the difference with the new SP1, So I decided to install Vista Ultimate 64 bit version on my primary desktop system. Before formatting and reinstalling a new OS I always backup all my files and I download all the drivers needed for the new OS. I was a bit worried because I’ve never installed or used a 64 bit OS. I expected many things to go wrong with the installation.

I booted off the Vista RTM /w SP1 DVD and installed it. Everything went as normal as the regular Vista sans SP1. It took about 25-30 minutes for the entire install. I finish the installation and logged on to Vista with my username and password. The first thing I always check after I install a fresh copy of Windows is check the Device Manager. One of the most daunting task for installing Windows is finding yellow exclaimations and unknown devices listed in the Device Manager. That’s where downloading the needed drivers before the OS change can save you time and headaches. In this case after the installation there was only one yellow exclamation in the device manager and it was for my USB XBOX HD DVD drive. Running the Windows update fixed it and my Device Manager window was all clean. I was amazed it had drivers for my motherboard devices as well as my dual Hauppauge tuners.

The year between my first Vista install til now there has been a ton of hotfixes and driver updates. This Vista installation couldn’t be any easier. My next test will be evaluating my 32-bit applications and see how it run on this 64 bit Vista.

[To be continued…]

Comcast Blocks port 80

If you host your own webserver and Comcast is your ISP you can kiss serving webpages good bye. At least for now. Since today it seems Comcast has blocked incoming requests port 80. Port 80 is the main port where most of your web traffic goes through. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s to prevent people running business websites off a home-based ISP account.

I have switched my web server to serve pages through port 81 and have my Dynamic DNS auto-point to this port for all HTTP requests. I hope this is just temporary. I’m sure Comcast’s customer service will be flooded with calls tomorrow morning.

Tech Tip: How to install PHP for IIS 6.0 Windows Server 2003

A while back I wrote this tutorial for some friends who wanted to run their own Windows web server. PHP is a popular scripting language that allows the creation of dynamic webpages. PHP is server-side-scripting so the use of PHP is completely transparent to the end-user.

Windows Server does not natively support PHP and you would have to install it manually. If you’re running Windows Server 2003 and would like to setup PHP for it follow the process outlined below:

1. Download the PHP zipped package from www.php.net/downloads.php

2. Download the Collection of PECL modules zipped file. These contains the various extensions PHP can use.

3. Unzip the PHP zipped package to C:\PHP

4. Unzipped the PECL modules and extract its contents into C:\PHP\ext

5. Inside C:\PHP, rename php.ini-recommended to php.ini

Continue reading “Tech Tip: How to install PHP for IIS 6.0 Windows Server 2003”

Vista Ultimate – 5 Months Later

vistaultimate

OS Factor

If you’re the type that use your computer for email, word processing and casual web browsing then there is no use in upgrading to Vista. If you decide to upgrade anyways the only noticable benefits are the flashy new GUI.

Power users fall into the same category, but the only thing that might hinder them is software compatibility. Currently, some software companies are pushing out Vista patches and updates. Smaller software company seems to have a difficult time catching up. So before you upgrade make sure your application is 100% compatible with Vista.

The Enhancements

Vista is touted for its security. It’s the most secure Windows ever released. I hope so. Too bad the security isn’t transparent which is why many of the software applications are not compatible. My biggest gripe is the User Account Control (UAC). When enabled an annoying pop-up window opens everytime you adjust a setting. Some applications require you to turn it off before installing. And everytime you turn it off or on it requires a system reboot. I immediately turn the UAC off after I installed the OS. Ironically, the User Account Control is where all that awesome security is based. So you have to choose between being annoyed or having a more secured OS.

Vista Media Center

One of my biggest reason for installing Vista was to use its Media Center. The visuals and graphics of the Media Center looks great, but functionality-wise it’s a piece of shit. The previous version, MCE 2005 is so much better in terms of ease of use and compatibility. The way the media is organized in Vista is horrendous. Grouping pictures, music, and videos into one area is NOT an efficient way of organizing. And even more idiotic aspect of Vista is that it doesn’t support third party video codecs. The most advance OS doesn’t even support the industry standard video codec, H.264 (AVC). This is what happens when a company like Microsoft tries to shove and force the use of their own codec down consumers’ throats, they get a crappy product that is ‘broken by design’.

I’ve tried several versions of Vista well before it’s retail release. Each release got better and better, but unfortunately its retail release is somewhat feels a bit incomplete. I have installed Vista Ultimate on my work laptop and my desktop computer and it looks like I will be switching back to XP soon.

My suggestion, save your money and buy something that actually works.