Windows Mobile (may soon be Android), and other toys aka gadgets

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Friday, April 30, 2010
  New Posts Will Be On Frequent Musings Blog

Due to Blogger's elimination of FTP uploads, all new gadget posts will be to my Frequent Musings Blog available here:

http://jimtravis.com/wordpress/?cat=194

Older posts will remain on this blog for reference.
 
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
  Windows Phone 7 - a disappointment
I am, or was until today, a big fan of WM based on:

I will reserve final judgement on Windows Phone Series 7 until the specs are finalized, and I have a chance to play with the new OS. I like the current standard pre-Series 7 WM interface customized with utilities such as Pocket Plus, and I multi-task applications daily. I have tried the slicker UI shells for WM, but usually end up back with the standard UI utilizing Pocket Plus enhancements. From my perspective, the pendulum has swung way too far in the direction of how pretty, animated, and slick the UI's are vs. does the device do what you want easily, quickly, reliably, and with the minimum number of inputs. It seems that no matter how feature deficient a device may be, and how many more steps it takes to perform a task, it is ok with the tech press as long as there are multiple animated transitions, and it looks "cool". Whenever the iPhone is mentioned in the mainstream, and tech press, the comments range in tone from salivating to orgasmic with barely a mention of the many features missing that other smartphones have included for years. Of course some Apple fans tell us those missing features are not needed. It is funny that when Apple adds one of the missing features in a software upgrade, those same Apple fans praise the new (old for other vendors) feature as a major innovation, and act like Apple invented the feature that has been around for years in other platforms.

I realize MS had to make a major change to keep pace with the more modern over-hyped, finger friendly, eye candy focused phone OS's, and I do not have a problem with that per se. Unfortunately, IMO, they went too far, and threw the baby out with the bath water, Based on the limited info available, the things I liked about WM such as multi-tasking, and customizable UI's have been discarded for extensive social network integration, and slickness. I know I am probably in the minority, but I am disappointed with this release.

I will reserve final judgement until the Windows Phone Series 7 specs are finalized; however, based on the initial info available, this long time WM fan (over a dozen WM PDAs / Smartphones) may switch to another platform, probably Android since the iPhone is too limited for my needs. I hope MS announces that many of the features power users like with WM are still there, and they only showcased the new features in their Barcelona presentation.

Update March 15, 2010
The news posted on the gadget sites from the MIX10 Conference are not encouraging (from my perspective). Yes, the interface is cool, and the hub concept is certainly unique, but (and these are just the big negatives):

Goodbye WM, it was nice while it lasted. I may purchase a HTC HD2 with WM 6.5.3 while they are available, and (if I purchase), the HD2 will be my last WM device unless I purchase a used Classic WM device from eBay. Another option is to skip the HD2, and go directly to Android when my current contract is finished since the iPhone is way too feature deficient for my needs. If I wanted a feature deficient, over-controlled "smartphone", I would have already purchased the iPhone.

Update March 17, 2010
The final straw was announced today by Microsoft at MIX10, no copy / paste. Unless Microsoft comes to their senses before I need another smartphone, definitely hello Android, goodbye Windows Mobile. In fact, their stripping of all the features I liked about WM from Series 7 has disappointed / annoyed me so much, I am not sure they could win me back even if they returned all my favorite features.

Update March 26, 2010
Still have not changed my mind about how disappointing the new Windows Phone Series 7 is for me. MS basically threw out, or severely restricted the features I like while adding in the features that are of little interest to me. My current Sprint contract is up the end of October, and my Touch Pro is still running fine. I have not decided whether to purchase the HTC HD2 (probably the best WM Classic phone every made), or go directly to Android possibly the new Sprint HTC Android EVO 4G that should be available this summer. Fortunately, I have 7 months to make up my mind, and maybe Microsoft will have come to its senses by then, and restored the features us power users cherish. Since I am already a Sprint customer, I could probably upgrade to the EVO when it is released in the summer rather than waiting until the end of October.

Clarification
Although I probably will not buy another Windows Mobile device after Series 7 is released, I will still use Windows Mobile devices. Since the "Classic" Windows Mobile meets my needs better than any other platform, I will continue to use my current devices until the hardware fails, or a killer app is released on Android. Although I have newer devices, I still use two 2004 era Toshiba e830 WM based PDA's daily for browsing, database entry, calendar, contacts, and spreadsheets. Pocket IE is constantly maligned in the tech press because it does not display full pages well. My personal preference is to view mobile sites on screens < 7". The older versions of Pocket IE are excellent for mobile sites, forums, and popular single column pages like Craigslist. Pocket IE allows you to increase the text size to a comfortable reading size, and flows the text properly to eliminate the need for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. This ability to increase text size with proper text flow is essential as you get older. Unfortunately, Mobile Safari, although excellent for full webpages, displays some single column pages with too small a font size to read comfortably even after using double tap zoom. If you pinch zoom with mobile Safari, unfortunately the text does not reflow, and you are forced to horizontally scroll to read every line which gets very old very quickly.
 
Sunday, August 30, 2009
  Samsung Mondi - initial impression - fantastic


The last thing I needed was another mobile device. When the Mondi was announced, I just could not resist. A 4.3" 800 X 480 screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, WM6.1, sliding physical keyboard. and built-in GPS. No wonder, the credit card leaped out of my wallet when I was able to locate the Mondi in the US. I am a big fan of WM devices, and the Mondi specs indicated it would be one of the best. I just received the Mondi yesterday, and I am very impressed. I will update this brief review after I have more hands-on time with the Mondi.

The tone of my remarks demonstrates how impressed I am with this device. I know it is now fashionable to mock WM, but for my needs, it is the best mobile OS available. I have found WM to be very stable, reliable, "just works", with a plethora of business type applications that meet my needs.
 
Saturday, January 10, 2009
  New Palm Pre Looks Impressive
Updated March 15, 2009

The new Palm Pre looks very impressive. I have a soft spot for Palm since I have owned 16 Palm OS devices, and wish Palm great success with this device. Although I am currently a Windows Mobile user, the Pre looks like it could be a game changing device. I am very happy with my HTC Touch Pro, and have no plans to change devices in the immediate future; however, I will be following the Palm Pre's progress closely. I am basing my comments on the Pre as described, and demonstrated during a news conference at CES. I reserve final judgement until I see, and handle the device at a Sprint store.

You may question why I find the Pre impressive, but am not an iPhone fan. For me, the iPhone was evolutionary at best for finger navigation, but severely lacking in needed functionality. The iPhone's interface is nice, but a little bit too gimmicky, and glitzy. I find the Apple guidelines for the iPhone to be too restrictive, and mundane. I have tried numerous soft keyboards on multiple mobile platforms, and just don't like them for typing anything over one sentence. I don't own an iPhone (too feature deficient for my needs), but do have extensive experience with the iPod touch. The Pre has a physical keyboard which is critical for my main mobile device. The Pre's keyboard looks ergonomically designed, and results in the microphone being closer to the mouth which should help with clear telephone calls.

The Pre also supports true multi-tasking which is another feature I use constantly on the HTC Touch Pro, and all my WM based devices. My Archos 5 has a similar processor to the Pre's, and the Pre's processor should handle multi-tasking many applications very easily. The iPhone's pseudo multitasking just does not cut it for me.

The card metaphor interface on the Pre makes the iPhone's alleged game changing interface look dated, and so last year. The larger menu selections on the iPhone are welcome; however, I have been using finger navigation on my WM and Palm devices for many years. Yeah, it is a bit easier on the iPhone, but nothing earth shattering. The Pre's soft equivalent of the 4 hard buttons on the previous Palm devices looks like a nice compromise between maintaining the functionality of the hard buttons while eliminating the actual buttons. The gesture area beneath the Pre's screen is an innovative feature for me. One of my complaints with the browsing experience on the iPhone/touch is you have to block your line of sight to scroll down a webpage, which in landscape mode is about every 12 lines - very annoying. During the Pre demo, the web page was scrolled down by swiping in the gesture area which allows scrolling the page down without blocking your view, a big improvement over the iPhone/iPod touch. Although the gesture area is nice, I would like to see a soft button on both the Pre, and iPhone which scrolls a webpage down an accurate page length for each soft press of the virtual button.

You had a lot to say in your iPhone review about you dislike for pseudo web apps in version 1 of the iPhone. Don't you have a similar problem with the Pre's development being based on web standards such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript? Based on the info available, you will be able to make applications that function fine on the device without network connectivity. I don't care which languages or scripting methods are used as long as the application is totally resident on the device, and can operate without network connectivity. My complaint with version 1 of the iPhone apps was not the web based language used to develop them. My complaints with version 1 iPhone apps were the need to be connected to the network to use them, and the limitations on the system resources the developer could access. Having been a manager/supervisor for the bulk of my career, I have seen Murphy's Law in action many times. When you most need an application that requires network connectivity, the network will be down, or you will be in an area with poor network connectivity.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding. I like what I saw in the Pre's introduction at CES. I was not at CES, but did watch the complete news conference via download from Palm's site. If the Pre is as nice when I actually get a chance to use one at the Sprint store, then the Pre, and not the iPhone would be the game changing smartphone device.

Update March 15, 2009 - I purchased the TealOS launcher for Palm OS devices which gives older Palm devices a Pre-like interface. Although the older Palms do not multi-task like the Pre will, an image of the last screen used in an application is saved to the desktop before closing, and you can manipulate desktop items like you saw in the Pre demo from Barcelona. The operation is smooth, and will probably be even smoother on the Pre since it will have a faster processor. I brought one of my favorite Palm OS devices, the Tungsten C, out of storage to test TealOS. The C's 400MHz processor does a nice job running TealOS smoothly, and quickly. I also tried running TealOS on my other favorite Palm OS device, the TH-55 Sony Clie. The Clie has a 3.5", 480 x 320 screen, but unfortunately only has the Handheld Engine™ processor which maxes at 123MHz. TealOS worked fine on the TH-55, and looked real nice on the big screen, but it was sluggish - the 123MHZ processor just can't cut it. Again, processor speed will not be a problem with the Pre. Just for kicks, tried TealOS on the Tungsten T (144MHz), and as expected, very sluggish. I was impressed with the popup wave launcher which worked fine on all tested devices albeit sluggish on the devices with slow processor speeds. If you have a Palm OS device with at least a 200MHZ processor, give the TealOS trial a whirl, you will get to experience the Pre like desktop card metaphor prior to its release.
 
Friday, August 29, 2008
  Really Like The New Acer Aspire One Netbook!!

The last thing I needed was another gadget to add to my already too large gadget collection, but I could not resist the recent US$349 BestBuy special for the new Acer Aspire One Netbook. I already own the original ASUS Eee PC, which is also a nice device, but the Eee PC has Linux, 4GB SSD, 512MB RAM, and a smaller keyboard. Being a geek, I enjoy working with Linux, but I also enjoy having my favorite Windows apps with me as well. Just so you will not think I am bashing ASUS, I also own a Windows XP Eee Box which I highly recommend, and realize ASUS now offers newer Eee PC models with specs similar to the Aspire One.

Back to the Aspire One - Built-in wireless, 1GB RAM, 120GB HD, 8.9" screen, 3 USB ports, built-in card reader, and Windows XP SP3 all for US$349, no wonder I could not resist this basically impulse buy. I have only used the device for two days now, but am thoroughly impressed with its performance. I have installed Filemaker Pro, UltraEdit, Dymo LabelWriter, Quicktime, UltraCompare, and CutePDF as well as using the included IE6, and Outlook Express applications extensively. All applications are speedy, and rock steady on this XP device. My FileMaker files are stored on a NAS; the Aspire One found the files easily.

I frequently watch the tech videos on CNET TV. The Aspire One handles the Flash videos from CNET TV fine, no stuttering even when viewing in full screen mode. Watching CNET TV in full screen mode on the Aspire One is a joy, this is definitely a nice machine for watching Internet video. My iMac G5 stutters on the same CNET TV flash videos that the Aspire One handle fine.

I also watch movie previews from the Apple Quicktime site several times a week. I always select the large size standard definition previews, and the Aspire One plays the large SD movie previews without any stuttering or dropped frames.

Because I have so many video capable devices, I store most videos on NAS drives, and stream them via WiFi. The Aspire One streamed 1.5Mbs H264 videos from the NAS flawlessly with no stuttering, and no dropped frames. Equally impressive is the fact the bottom of the Aspire One was barely lukewarm after an hour of streaming, and decoding.

The Aspire One does not have a built-in DVD/CD drive. At its price point, and size, I have no problem with the missing DVD/CD drive. I do have a slim USB bus powered DVD/CD Recorder/Player which the Aspire One recognized immediately. Even though the Aspire One does not have a built-in DVD drive, it does come with a nice DVD playback software application. I played "The Transformers" DVD on the Aspire One, and the playback was flawless, the colors brilliant, and overall picture quality excellent. Again, I was impressed by the fact that the bottom of the Aspire One was barely lukewarm after extensive DVD playback.

The Aspire's keyboard is smaller than the full size laptop keyboards, but I have found the keyboard comfortable, easy to type on, and responsive. The 8.9" screen is a nice screen size for browsing, and other applications. I definitely would not want to edit my next(and first)large novel on this device, but I easily typed, and posted this blog entry from the Aspire One.

No, I am not going to throw away my dual-core computers, and large LCD's, but I do highly recommend the Aspire One as a second computer for use when portability, and/or weight (app. 2.2 pounds with 3 cell battery) are the prime criteria. For US$349, the Aspire is a great value that offers many features, and nice performance for a very low price.
 
Saturday, May 03, 2008
  Archos 705 WiFi - Love the device, but major firmware issues

If you have read earlier posts, you know I love the Archos 605 WiFi, and consider the 605 a much better device for my needs than the iPod touch. My older Archos products, the AV500 & AV700, were great devices as well. Since I enjoyed the 605's so much, I also purchased an Archos 705 WiFi 160GB for home use. The Archos 705 has the same features as the 605's with a bigger 7" screen, and a remote control. The screen resolution of the 705 is the same as the 605, so the same video looks sharper on the 605. Please don't take that as a negative. The video still looks fine on the 705, it just looks better on the 605. Videos on similar resolution screens always look sharper on the physically smaller screen.

I do miss the buttons on the right side of the device, unfortunately the buttons which I use frequently on the 605's are not included on the 705. Also, the touch screen is not as sensitive on the 705 as on the 605. I can navigate the touch screen on the 605 with my finger, but a stylus is required for the 705. The 705 does have an IR port, and a remote is included. The remote works flawlessly with the 705, and is probably the reason the 705 does not have any buttons, and a less sensitive touch screen. However, I prefer to navigate the device directly, and would prefer a more sensitive touch screen, and physical buttons.

Videos, and photos look great on the nice 7" screen, and I am definitely satisfied with the overall ability of the device to display both video, and photos. Prior to recent firmware updates, I was able to stream videos from my NAS devices directly to the 705.

The web browsing experience is better on the 705 due to the large physical screen vs. the 605. Old single column web pages, which sometimes require horizontal scrolling to read each line when zoomed to a readable text level on the 605, and iPod touch, are very readable on the 705 without zooming due to the large physical screen size. Fortunately, I have not encountered any old single column pages which required me to zoom the 705 to a level which required horizontal scrolling to read the page. I am not a fan of viewing the full web on mobile devices; I definitely prefer the mobile web on small screen devices. The full web on most mobile devices requires too much panning when viewing, and panning is just a fancy name for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. The Archos 705 is the first mobile device that I can honestly say I prefer using the full web rather than the mobile web. Physical screen size does indeed matter. A 7" screen is the sweet spot for full internet viewing on a mobile device, at least for my needs. With the latest firmware update (2.0.x), Flash video support has been updated from version 7 to 9. You can actually watch the video on the front page of the NY Times. That being said, don't expect 30 fps. What I have experienced is full audio with an estimated 2 to 8 fps which is fine for a NY Times video because most do not include many fast motion scenes.

Now the bad news - When I first purchased the 705, all the features of the device worked fine with minor glitches. Most of the time I use the device, I need network access. When I upgraded the firmware from version 1.7.x to 1.8.x, the major problems started. You are lucky if you can get one minute of network access before the 705 freezes, and has to be rebooted to use again. To say I am frustrated, and disappointed by this major problem is an understatement. I called Archos tech support, and was told an update to fix the network problems caused by the 1.8.x update was being worked on. Two months later, Archos released firmware update version 2.0.x which tech support promised would fix the network related problems associated with the 1.8.x update. I immediately downloaded the update with high hopes that I could finally use my 705 again for my preferred network access functions. Unfortunately, the 2.0.x update did not correct the problem, and I am very disappointed since I have waited two months for the fix, and the fix was not a fix.

Archos tech support is probably tired of hearing from me, and quite frankly, I am tired of having to call them with device problems. Fix the issues with the device, and I will not call again, I promise. If you call later in the evening, expect at least a half hour hold before talking to a technician. Fortunately, the call is toll free. As far as my opinion of Archos's tech support - just let's say they have been consistently polite. Unfortunately, my problems have not been resolved, and some support personnel seemed distant/not interested in the problems I was having with my device. Let me leave it at that.

Although I strongly recommend the 605 without reservations, I cannot recommend the 705 device because of the major firmware issues I have experienced, and the lack of a reliable fix from Archos. Not all 705's have been broken by the firmware update, but I have seen other posts on the net from users with similar issues. You may purchase the 705, and it may work fine with your network setup, or you may encounter the same frustrating problems I have. The same firmware version updates on the 605's have worked fine, the issues are just with some 705's. The only reason I know how well Flash 9 videos display is from using the new firmware on the 605's; the 705 has not been stable enough with network access to fully load the NY times home page. When, and if Archos actually releases an update that fixes the network access problems, I would change from not recommended to strongly recomended without reservations.

Please Archos, fix the network access problem with the 705. You make some of the finest portable video devices, but you risk loosing some loyal customers with your lack of a quick response to this major firmware update problem with the 705. Palm was too slow in releasing a software update for the Tungsten T5 problems which resulted in my switching to Windows Mobile devices permanently. I hope Archos does not make the same mistake which could result in my switching to a different portable video brand, and selling (eBay) my Archos devices.
 
Friday, April 04, 2008
  IM+ - an excellent multi-IM client

I purchased IM+ several years ago, and was impressed with its performance. The latest version supports Yahoo, MSN, AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, MySpace, and Jabber all in one application. You can maintain a connection with all IM services simultaneously, auto-connect when starting the application, and stay connected when using other applications. The conversations are tabbed which makes it easy to switch between chats. The application has been very stable, and has worked reliably with both WiFi and EvDO.

When I first purchased the application several years ago, I did not use IM much. Since I am older, I am more a voice call or email type of guy. I love technology, admit to being a geek, and have made many friends worldwide who share similar interests. I now use IM more often since the immediate response of IM vs. email is a nice change at times, and IM is closer to a traditional conversation than email. Due to the multitude of time zones my new (cyber) friends reside in, I am frequently out enjoying my retirement when many new friends are available for chat. IM+ on my WM Smartphone allows us to chat when it is convenient for both of us without any concern for the IM clients my friends are using since IM+ supports all the major clients. The application includes an optional today screen plugin which shows a summary of the number of friends on-line by IM client. My WM Smartphone has a slide-out physical qwerty keyboard which enhances the experience. I would not enjoy using the application as much with a virtual keyboard.

If you have a need for an IM application on your mobile device, IM+ has earned my highest recommendation.
www.shapeservices.com
 
Sunday, March 23, 2008
  Reduce email from 800+ to 50 25 per day

About 10 years ago, I started my personal website, jimtravis.com. The domain package included a catchall email account which allows you to use any name/characters before the @ sign in the email address. A catchall account is beneficial because you can use a unique email address for all your correspondents, and receive all emails in your main email account. Ten years ago, spam was not the problem it is today, so the email received was usually just from desired correspondents. Over the years, my correspondents, usually companies, sold their email lists, and the amount of spam I received exploded, I recently was receiving 800+ emails a day; approximately 98% was spam I had no interest in receiving.

The following steps resulted in a reduction of daily email from 800+ to about 50 25:
  • I eliminated the catchall feature so only email addressed to the main account name, and approved aliases would be accepted. In order to implement this, I had to create about 150 aliases. You use quite a few unique addresses over a ten year period. I checked the email in my saved folders to obtain most of the names before the @ sign that I had used. This step reduced my email by about 50% since all the spam email addressed to random names/characters, or addresses I did not create aliases for (no longer desired to receive mail from them) would be rejected.

  • Since 400+ emails a day were still too many, I checked the addresses that received most of the spams. I found that about 10 aliases were receiving about 90% of the spam. Since the names before the @ sign are unique and generally used for only one contact each, it was easy to contact the companies the aliases were originally used for, usually via their webpages, and change the email addresses. I eliminated the 10 offending aliases, and reduced the amount of daily email from 400+ to less than 50 25 with only about 10 spam messages.

  • I will continue monitoring the amount of email received, and if spam increases, I will check aliases again to determine the offending addresses. I would create a rule which filters all the email for the unique offending address into a separate folder so I can ascertain all the contacts I used that email address for (usually just one), and then change the email address with the appropriate contact(s). Once satisfied that I had changed the email address for all the associated contacts, I would delete the alias from the approved list, and again reduce the amount of email received to an acceptable level.
If you don't have a catchall account, and/or use email aliases, this procedure won't benefit you, but it did reduce the amount of email I receive by more than 90%.
 
Sunday, February 17, 2008
  First Impression of the HP210 - Nice!!!

Just received the 210, first impression is I like it a lot. This is about my 12th Win Mobile device (yeah, I'm a gadget geek). The screen is excellent overall - great color reproduction, bright, and excellent contrast. However, I have found the screen sensitivity a little too low for my liking. I frequently navigate using my finger only, and one hand. I hold the device in the palm of my hand, and select menus, type on virtual keyboard, use navigation pad, etc. with the thumb (or thumbnail when the spacing between items is tight) on the same hand I am holding the device with. I'm sure I will get used to the 210's sensitivity, but the x51v, e830, and PPC-6700 require a lot less pressure to select items, etc. Contrary to the hype, the i devices are not the first devices that could be used without a stylus. I have used finger navigation on my WM, and Palm devices for years.

The WiFi, and bluetooth have all worked fine. I always use Bluetooth sync, and the 210 paired/syn'd with no problems. I installed all my usual 3rd party apps, (some dating back to PPC 2002), and all have worked fine with WM6. I know we are supposed to want the full internet on our mobile device (can you go a day without the Cupertino company telling you so in their ubiquitous commercials ;-) ), but I prefer the mobile internet in most cases when using a mobile device due to the small screen real estate. I know scrolling, and panning are supposed to impress the coffee shop crowd, but panning is just another word for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. PIE does a nice job with the mobile internet. On all my mobile devices, I use the mobile internet 90% of the time. If I need a full internet site, opera-mini (free) running within the IBM micro JVM does an excellent job displaying full internet pages. I also always have the latest version of NetFront installed. Contrary to the hype, the i devices are not the first to display full internet pages.

The speed of the 210 is nice, but it does feel a bit sluggish at times. It reminds me of how my x51v, and e830 feel when the processor power setting is on auto. I always manually set those devices to use the highest speed at all times, and the increase in speed is impressive. I have not seen a similar setting on the 210 (not under power where it is on the other devices). If a setting for maximum speed at all times is not there, I hope to find a utility, or reg hack that will do the trick.

Thank you HP for being the rare WM supplier who actually supplies enough storage, and program memory on the device. Even with all my normal apps installed, and multi-tasking many apps, there is plenty of memory still available for both storage, and program execution.

CorePlayer 1.1.3 runs great, and looks fantastic on the beautiful 4" screen. I frequently stream video from NAS drives to my mobile devices, and the 210 handles that task fine.

Since the 210 is new, there are not many accessories available. Hopefully, that will change. One accessory that I use on the e830, and x51v is the VGA out which allows you to mirror your display, and presentation to a video projector. I sometimes give presentations/demos at the local PDA user group, and it is nice to do a presentation about PDA's from a PDA.

One very minor complaint - the 210 has the most difficult battery cover to remove that I ever encountered.

Overall, I like the 210 a lot. It has plenty of memory, 2 expansion slots, a great VGA screen, good battery life, and a nice feel to it. I am also happy that a stand alone PDA is still being offered by a major brand.
 
Monday, January 14, 2008
  I like the Sansa View (16GB) a lot!

I tried the third generation iPod nano (8GB), but it just did not meet my needs. I wanted a small device that had FM radio, voice recorder, and a decent size screen for viewing videos. The Archos 605 is definitely my main video device when I am not at home, but I wanted an additional small device for FM radio, and watching video podcasts while waiting for a movie, on the T (subway), waiting in a line, or other times when a smaller device would be better. I did purchase the FM/Remote accessory for the iPod. The sound quality was fine, but it was a kludgy setup, and I still did not have a voice recorder. Many are probably saying that the Sansa View is much bigger in size than the nano, and that is definitely true. However, when you add the iPod FM/Remote accessory, and a stand-alone voice recorder, the Sansa View looks much smaller than the nano. I prefer the Sansa View over the iPod nano for the following reasons:
  • The Sansa View has a 2.4" screen vs. the 2" screen on the iPod nano. Even though .4" doesn't sound like a lot, it does make a significant difference when watching video podcasts. Watching a 30 to 45 minute video podcast on the View is a more pleasant visual experience than viewing the same podcast on the nano. The nano definitely has a great screen dpi, but a 2" screen is just too small for me. The iPod Classic has a 2.5" screen, the View is only .1" smaller.

  • I like listening to FM talk radio, and the local NFL Football Team is broadcast on FM radio. I may watch the game on TV, but I enjoy listening to the pre, and post game shows on the radio. The Sansa View has a built in FM radio, the nano required an accessory that I found a bit cumbersome to deal with.

  • I like having a voice recorder with me for recording small bits of info such as a model number, price, web address, etc. I find a voice recorder easier than finding a pen/paper, or entering text into a phone or PDA. Chances are I am listening to music or FM when the need for a voice recorder arises, and it is nice to have the capability in the device I am using at the time. The nano does not have voice recorder ability, and no voice recorder accessory is available.

  • One feature of the Sansa View that I originally did not think I would use, but have found very useful is the ability to record from the FM radio. The post game football shows are two hours or more, and there are times when headphones can not be used for the full show. If I meet someone I know, or attend a movie, I will record the part of the post game football show that I would miss for later listening. I have found this to be a real nice feature. The nano does not offer FM recording.

  • The Sansa View has a micoSD slot to expand available memory. I frequently download video files, audible files, and music I have on my PC/Mac to a 2 GB card, and insert it into the View. The MicroSD expansion slot is a very fast, and convenient way to add files. The nano does not include a memory expansion slot.

  • The Sansa View can sync via Windows Media Player, or just drag/drop files via Windows File Explorer. You do not have to start Windows Media Player to use drag/drop.

  • The Sansa View can play some Windows Media, and H264 files natively without conversion. Do I wish the View supported more file formats natively? Of course I do, I wish every player I owned could play every video format, and resolution natively. If a file does need to be converted, SanDisk includes Sansa Media Converter which converts the files relatively quickly, and then transfers the files to the View's main memory, or expansion card. I have found that the Sansa Media Converter converts files as fast, or faster than other Windows/Mac conversion software I have used.

I experienced a problem with the video brightness setting. I called SanDisk technical support, and was talking to a person in less than 5 minutes. The support rep told me SanDisk was aware of the problem, and had added the fix to the latest firmware update. Since the firmware update would not be released for two weeks, the rep sent me a link via email within 15 minutes. I download the new firmware, and the video brightness problem was solved. Thank you SanDisk for an excellent tech support experience. My call to SanDisk tech support was the best tech support I have experienced in the last 10 years.


Helpful Hint - I am a big fan of Audible books, so one of my first tasks with the View was to download the SanDisk driver from the Audible website. I was surprised when I received a message that the SDDR-113 did not support the Audible format when I tried to authorize the View. As it turned out, the SDDR-113 is the model number of the SanDisk reader that is included with some SDHC cards. I disconnected the SDDR-113 reader from my PC, and Audible authorized the View which has since played Audible files flawlessly. If you have a SanDisk card reader, and receive an error when trying to authorize a SanDisk video/audio player, try disconnecting your SanDisk reader. The Audible driver may be mistaking your SanDisk flash card reader as an audio device.


If you are in the market for a relatively small media player that has an appropriate size screen for video viewing, take a look at the View, you may be surprised how nice it is.
 
Monday, November 19, 2007
  I like the new Chumby!!!

I recently received my new Chumby, and am enjoying it immensely. What is a Chumby? A chumby is device which plays a customized set of widgets that you choose, and has built-in WiFi, 3.5" screen, and speakers. On the Chumby.com site, you set up the widgets you desire to display, and how long you wish each widget to be displayed. The Chumby uses AC power, so you can leave it on 24/7 if you wish, no worry about batteries running down. Many owners are installing their Chumby in a customized enclosure as well. Some of the widgets I currently use are:

  • Stock quotes

  • Local weather

  • Yahoo Sports NFL

  • Several clocks

  • Countdown timer to my birthday

  • RSS feeds from my favorite tech sites

  • RSS feed from this blog

  • Ebay items I am bidding on, or selling

  • Word of the day

  • This day in history

Of course, I could obtain the same information via my computer, or PDA. However, since the Chumby is always on, you can see the information continuously without the need to leave a power thirsty computer on. I am enjoying the Chumby so much, I may buy an additional Chumby for my bedroom table.

You can see the on-line version of my chumby at the bottom of my home page at www.jimtravis.com
 
Sunday, September 23, 2007
  Prefer Archos 605 WiFi / Archos 5 to the iPod touch

Last Update November 28, 2008

I have used the Archos 605 WiFi, Archos 5, and the iPod touch 16GB extensively. All the devices are nice, and currently state of the art. Bottom line is the Archos devices meet my needs much better than the iPod touch. I am not saying the iPod touch is bad (it is definitely a cool looking device, and works well); however, the Archos 605 / Archos 5 are a much better fit for me. In the picture to the left, the iPod touch is in the forefront, and Archos 605 is in the background. Click the picture to see a bigger image. If you want the latest cool device that is sexy, slim, and would definitely impress the clientele at the local coffee shop, then go for the iPod touch. If you want more from your device while still having a nice interface, consider the Archos 605, or Archos 5 for the following reasons:

  • Screen Size
    The Archos 605 WiFi has a 4.3", 800 x 480 screen, the Archos 5 a 4.8" 800 x 480 screen, and the iPod touch a 3.5" 320 x 480 screen. The bigger screen of the Archos makes a significant difference in viewing pleasure, whether viewing movies, photos, or web pages. After using the Archos devices for any length of time, the iPod touch's screen seems puny.

  • Storage Available
    The Archos 605 is available in 4GB flash (with SD slot), and 30, 80, and 160GB hard drive models. The iPod touch is only available with flash memory, maximum 32GB. 250GB is the max for the Archos 5.

  • Video Recording on Device
    The Archoses record directly from most video sources using the optional DVR Station. This feature is essential for me. I have used an Archos AV500 to record shows before with great results, the 605 / 5 are even better. No direct recording with the iPod touch. The Archos devices have a manual VCR like scheduler as well as a graphical TV program listing via WiFi download to facilitate scheduling. Both work well. The optional DVR stand has an IR blaster which allows the DVR cradle to change the cable box channel for the Archoses' recordings.

  • Editing on Device
    The Archos devices allow basic editing on the device. You can mark begin / end points on a section of video recorded by the 605 / 5, and then copy the marked video as a new file, or overwrite the existing file. The iPod touch does not support editing on the device.

  • Speaker
    Both Archos devices have a built-in speaker that has ample volume, and good TV quality sound. The 605 Flash has a very good speaker, the hard drive based 605's have an ok speaker. The Archos 5's speaker is a bit better than the 605's. It is a nice option to watch your recorded TV shows using the built-in speaker rather than earbuds. The first generation iPod touch has no built-in speaker, the second generation does.

  • Flash Support
    The optional Opera browser for the 605 / 5 supports Flash. You can watch YouTube Flash videos rather than hoping your favorite has been coded in H264. I have found the Flash performance on the Archos devices ranges from mediocre to excellent depending on the site. The iPod touch does not support Flash. YouTube looks nice on all the devices with a nod to the Archos devices due to the larger screen, and higher resolution.

  • Download to Device
    I regularly download video podcasts directly to the 605 or 5 via WiFi, and then play them without syncing with a computer. ITunes is needed for iPod touch video podcasts downloads, although some direct podcast downloading is scheduled for the latest touch firmware update.

  • On-line Stores
    You can purchase music directly from the iTunes Music Store with the iPod touch. The 605 / 5 can not play DRM music from the iTunes store; however, now there are many DRM free stores that you can purchase music from using the 605 / 5. I have purchased music from the Amazon Music Store using the 605. Additionally, the Archos devices can purchase or rent movies directly from the Archos Content Portal. The iTunes Store does not offer movie purchases directly from the iPod touch.

  • SD Support
    The Archos 605 (Flash model only) has a SD/SDHC slot which I use to add / transfer data without tethering the device to a computer. The iPod touch requires iTunes on a computer. Using the 605, I can take an SD card from a digital camera, and copy all files directly to the 605 for backup / viewing. The iPod touch does not have a memory expansion slot.

  • File and Network Browser
    The Archos 605 / 5 have a file browser which allows me to delete, organize, and rename files directly on the device. The iPod touch does not have a file browser function. Using the Archos's network file browser, I can access my Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices as well and copy files to / from the 605 / 5, and the NAS devices. I have all my technical documents on NAS devices in PDF format, as well as my vacation photos, and personal videos. I can either stream the documents / videos / pictures directly from the NAS devices to the 605 / 5 over the WiFi network, or copy them from the NAS devices to the 605 / 5 for later viewing when a network is not available. I have streamed large PDF's, photo collections, and high bit rate videos via WiFi to the 605 / 5 with very acceptable performance, and without dropping a video frame. I have just started a project of converting hard copy receipts etc. into PDF's which will be stored on the NAS devices as well.

    I tried to access the NAS devices using Safari since the iPod touch does not have a file browser, but received a "Safari can not display local files" message. For me, the Archoses' ability to stream / copy files to / from the 605 / 5, and NAS devices gives a huge advantage to the Archos over the iPod touch. My NAS devices are on 24/7, my PC's and Mac's are not. In addition to the Archos devices, my Windows Mobile, and Palm OS devices can access the NAS devices. Too bad, the iPod touch does not share this ability. It is nice having a central location for file / multimedia storage when using such a diverse selection of devices.

    The Archos devices both support USB host and client. You can copy, or play files between the Archoses, or copy / stream videos etc from thumbdrives, and external hard drives. Depending on the size of the external hard drive, you may need to have an external power supply on the hard drive, although some hard drives receive enough power from the Arhcos's USB port. The touch does not support USB host.

  • Virtual Keyboards
    Virtual keyboards, what can I say, I just do not like them. I tried a landscape virtual keyboard on a 4" VGA resolution PDA several years back, and didn't like it. I still don't like virtual keyboards after using the virtual keyboards on the Archoses, and iPod touch. I'll take a good slide-out physical keyboard (similar to the PPC-6700 / HTC Touch Pro) any day over the overhyped virtual keyboards. That being said, I prefer the virtual keyboard on both the Archos devices over the iPod touch because the 605 / 5 have larger spaces between the keys due to the larger physical screen sizes. I can type with fewer errors on both Archos devices due to the larger key spacing.

  • Firmware Updates
    Firmware updates can be downloaded directly to the Archos devices via WiFi without a computer, unlike the iPod touch which requires iTunes. You also have the option of downloading the Archos's firmware updates to a desktop as well.
    Helpful Hint - If you use a Macintosh to download a firmware update, two items with a .aos extension will be copied to the 605, a data fork, and a resource fork. The data fork contains the update, and will be deleted after the update is executed. The resource fork will remain. The 605 will identify the resource fork as an update file since it also has a .aos extension. The 605 will try to execute any resource forks with .aos extensions as update files whenever you disconnect the USB cable, or power cord from the 605. Since the resource forks with .aos extensions are not update files, you will receive a bad file error code 203 anytime you try to do an update on the 605 until you delete the left over, unnecessary resource fork(s) with .aos extensions that were copied from your Macintosh to the 605 when you copied the firmware update(s). True update files may not execute because the 203 error code sometimes terminates the entire update process. The 605's file explorer does not show resource forks when you do a file listing. Connect the 605 via USB to a PC, and any resource forks on the 605 will show (file name begins with a period). You can then delete any left over firmware update resource forks (file name begins with period, ends with .aos) on the 605 from within Windows Explorer. After you delete the left over, needless (to the 605) resource forks, no more false update dialog boxes, and no more bad file error code 203 messages.

  • Screen Display
    I like the colors on the Archoses' screens better than the iPod touch. The iPod touch's colors appear overly saturated to me, the Archoses' more natural. I am making my judgment based on the default screen settings, and realize your judgment may be different. I also realize the default screen settings can be changed. The Archoses have screen brightness, contrast, and gamma settings along with an overall LCD brightness setting. The iPod touch has one brightness setting. You can fine tune the Archoses' screens more due to the additional settings available. I am impressed with the quality, and crispness of the text displayed on the iPod touch, Apple did an excellent job with text display on the touch

  • Sexy / Elegant Device
    The iPod touch is very slim, cool, and some would say elegant. I am not denying those attributes, the iPod touch is definitely a cool device. The 605 may not be quite as sexy looking; however, the Archos is a nice looking device, is well made, has a bigger screen, and meets my needs much better than the iPod touch. The Archos 5 is a lot sleeker than the 605, and the 5's touch interface is more elegant than the 605's. I do miss the physical buttons that were available on the 605 but are missing on the 5.

  • Touch Interface
    Both devices have a touch interface, and the Archos also has buttons on the right (605 only) that can perform most functions. It is nice to have your choice of navigation methods which the 605 offers vs. the one navigation method on the iPod touch. I have been using a touch interface with my Smartphones, and PDA's for years. Although Smartphones, and PDA's come with a stylus, more frequently than not, I navigate with a finger(s), not a stylus. Both the iPod touch, and Archoses use large icons, large menu text, and ample line spacing to facilitate touch navigation with a finger, and those enhancements are welcome. The iPod touch has flashier transitions, but I am not impressed much by eye candy. Horror of all horrors, I actually prefer the touch interface on the Archos 5 over the iPod touch's vaunted interface. For me, the Archos 5's interface is easier to use, and more elegant than the iPod touch' interface.

    A stylus is supplied with the Archos devices, but is not needed to navigate the 605's / 5's interfaces due to the larger icons, menu text, and line spacing used in the interfaces. The iPod touch does not support standard stylus input, I have tried. However, and this is a big however, sometimes the spacing between links on a webpage is too small to easily select the desired link with your finger. The ability to use a stylus results in a more positive user experience. Until all webpages incorporate the larger spacing that both the Archoses, and iPod touch use in their interfaces, the ability to use a stylus in addition to fingers for navigation is a plus.

  • Multitouch
    The iPod touch also supports multitouch. I have only experienced one true multitouch gesture (multitouch by definition is responding to more than one touch at the same time), the grossly over-hyped (bordering on nauseating) zooming in and out by moving two fingers simultaneously. Some would say that is two gestures (zoom in, zoom out), I won't argue the point. Frankly, I do not like the multitouch zoom feature. It seems unnatural, awkward, smudges the screen, and doesn't always work on the first try. Sometimes, I am forced to use multitouch to zoom on the iPod touch because the double tapping zoom doesn't work with all webpages. The more I use the multitouch pinching zoom feature, the more I find multitouch quite annoying to use. Pinching the screen to zoom looks cool in the commercials, but gets old very quickly.

    Although I do not particularly like the multitouch zoom in / out, I am sure it will impress the clientele at the local coffee shop. It is definitely not the best way for me to zoom in / out on a 3.5" glass screen, and certainly not the revolution in interface design that the overhype claims. The Archos devices do not have multitouch, and I do not miss it. Although I am getting old, I am still relatively arthritis free. Multitouch could be difficult for someone with arthritis, or someone with long fingernails. Although I am not impressed with the limited multitouch implementation on the 3.5" iPod touch, and iPhone screens, I do believe multitouch has a solid future, and could indeed be revolutionary in larger screen devices such as Microsoft's Surface Table, and the devices Jeff Han has demonstrated. I realize many are impressed with the iPod touch's multitouch implementation, and I respect your opinon. I just do not believe a very limited multitouch implementation on a 3.5" screen is that big a deal, definitely grossly over-hyped in my opinion.

  • Double Tap Zoom
    I do like the double tap zoom available on both the iPod touch, and Archoses; I wish subsequent double taps would keep zooming in rather than toggling between zoom in / out. I have found the double tap zoom to be more reliable on the Archos 605 / 5. On the iPod touch, sometimes a web page starts to zoom in when double tapped, but then stops. On the Archoses, double tapping the same web page at the same location consistently zooms the page.

  • Zooming Photos
    The Archos devcies have a nice feature for zooming photos. You tap an icon, and a slider appears which you use to adjust the amount of zoom. The iPod touch does not have a zoom slider for photos. The Archos devices also allow zooming photos by holding your finger on the screen. The photos will continuously zoom from the point of finger contact until you remove your finger. Much better, and easier than the vaunted pinch zoom on the touch, IMHO. The best photo application I have used on a mobile device is RESCO Photo Viewer for Windows Mobile. There are three magnifying glass icons at the bottom of the screen. One zooms out with every tap of your finger/stylus, another zooms in with every tap, and the third displays a menu with 7 magnification presets along with fill screen, and fit screen options. I wish RESCO's zoom feature could be exported from the Photo Viewer application to all the web browsers I use, both mobile, and desktop.

  • Scrolling Pages
    The scrolling by flicking the finger is glitzy, but I believe not very efficient, and designed more to impress than navigate. I am definitely not a fan of the scrolling by flicking interface at all. It looks cool, but it can be difficult to locate what you want, and I find it annoying to use if the web page requires more than two finger scrolls. I'll take a well calibrated navigation button any day. I much prefer using the buttons on the Archos 605 to scroll web pages than scrolling web pages using the finger on the iPod touch. In fact, the more I use the finger scrolling / flicking on the iPod touch, the more I dislike it. The finger scrolling / flicking gets tiresome very quickly, and blocks your view of the page you are trying to read. In landscape mode, 10 to 12 lines are displayed when text is zoomed to a readable level on the touch. Flicking the screen every 10 to 12 lines makes you yearn for a page down button, real or virtual. Please Apple, add some buttons (real or virtual) to your mobile devices. On my PDA's, and Smartphones, a quick press of a button scrolls one page while reading a web page or document, and it works great, much better than constantly using your finger to scroll. I wish both the iPod touch, and Archos devices had a page down button (real or virtual) when using the web browser. The 605 has page up and down buttons for other apps, but these buttons function as page back, and page forward in the web browser. I particularly would like a page down (virtual is ok) button on the Archos 5 since the physical buttons present on the 605 were removed on the Archos 5. I know Apple has an excellent reputation for interface design, and generally supplies a nice interface; however, Apple can learn from its competitors.

  • Stand for Viewing
    The 605, and Archos 5 have a nice collapsing stand built in the back to allow viewing from many angles. The iPod touch has a small plastic stand that could easily be lost. The built-in stand may seem like a minor feature, but for me, it is a welcome addition since I was always looking for something to lean the AV500 against on the table.

  • Web Browser
    Safari is an excellent mobile browser. The optional Opera browser for the Archos devices is also an excellent browser. The Archos devices do support Flash video, the iPod touch does not support Flash video. Considering how ubiquitous Flash video is on the web, Flash video support is essential for the full internet experience, and its absence in mobile Safari is a major negative.

    I have encountered some links on tech websites that display as links in mobile Safari, but do not respond when tapped. Tapping the same links on the Archos 605 / 5 will load the linked pages fine.

    Zooming webpages with double tap on the iPod touch
    If a page is formatted in multiple columns, Safari does an excellent job zooming when double tapped. If a page is not formatted in multiple columns, sometimes Safari seems confused, and double tap zoom does not work. The page starts to zoom in response to a double tap, but returns to the original text size which is too small to read. You are now forced to use the multitouch pinch zoom. The multitouch pinch zoom will enlarge the text to a readable size, but the number of words on each line is not reduced. Because the number of words per line is not reduced with multitouch pinch zooming, horizontal scrolling is required to read each line which gets frustrating after about two lines. This required horizontal scrolling detracts immensely from the user experience. When viewing these same single column pages in desktop browsers (including desktop Safari), the number of words per line is adjusted when the window size is changed, and word wrap works correctly at all text sizes with Pocket IE. These single column pages also properly word wrap using NetHopper on an Apple Newton MessagePad 2100 which was introduced in 1997.
         Update 12/2/07 - Viewport Meta Tag
    If you add <meta name="viewport" content="width = 320" /> to the HEAD section of a webpage, the iPod touch, and iPhone will render fewer words per line. Single column webpages with this viewport meta tag can zoom to a readable text level on the iPhone / iPod touch without horizontal scrolling being necessary to read each line. I have added this meta tag entry to all my personal pages so iPod touch, and iPhone users can read the pages without horizontal scrolling. There will be many single column webpages that do not have the new meta tag added, and iPhone / iPod touch users will have to horizontally scroll when reading each line. Hopefully, Apple will update mobile Safari so all single column webpages can zoom to a readable text size without requiring the user to horizontally scroll each line.

    Zooming webpages with double tap on the Archos devices
    The Archos devices respond consistently when double tapped. Unfortunately, double tapping also does not reduce the number of words on each line when zoomed, and horizontal scrolling could be required. The essential words here are horizontal scrolling could be required, not is required. The 605's larger screen size, and Archos 5's even larger screen size, combined with the Archoses' higher resolution screens, and fewer default words per line allow most single column pages to be read easily without zooming the page on the Archos devices which eliminates the horizontal scrolling for each line that is necessary with the touch. I do wish both the touch, and Archos devices would perform a new word wrap whenever a single column page is zoomed. Hopefully, future updates will correct this problem.

    Is the full internet always better? - hint - No!
    Apple sometimes dismisses (bordering on mocking) other mobile browsers; however, the various screen layout options available with other mobile browsers sometimes render a more readable web page with less effort, and less horizontal scrolling than Safari. Apple also mocks the mobile internet and implies the mobile internet experience is always inferior. There are times when the mobile internet is a better user experience than the full internet on a small screen. There are many web pages that contain too much data to read on a 3.5" screen no matter how good the browser is, and no matter how high the dpi of the screen. These web pages are very busy looking on a 1024 x 768 screen, and definitely not made for viewing on a small screen. This is not the fault of the browser, just the limitation of the small screen real estate. Many of the sites that are busy on a 1024 x 768 screen, but downright congested on a smaller screen, offer mobile editions which are automatically displayed for other mobile browsers. Since mobile Safari, and Opera (on the 605) are not identifed by a website as mobile browsers, you get the congested on a small screen full page. These congested full web pages are much easier to read on the 605 than on the iPod touch.

    The zooming, and panning of full webpages on a small screen mobile device looks cool in a demo, but gets old very quickly. Although it probably impresses the coffee shop crowd, it is frustrating, bordering on annoying to use. Panning is just another name for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. I am not alone in this feeling. A recent NY Times article mentioned how vertically oriented sites which require no horizontal scrolling are becoming very popular for mobile devices. If viewing the full webpage by constantly panning, scrolling on a small mobile device window was so great, these vertically oriented websites would not be developed.

    Physical screen size does matter. I prefer reading some web pages with the "one column" layout option in Microsoft's Pocket IE vs. Safari on the iPod touch, but prefer reading those same web pages with the 605, or 5. I know, I have to dip my hands in acid because I wrote mobile Safari is not the best browser for every web page ever developed.

    Web Browser - Final Thoughts
    Overall, Safari is an excellent browser; however, it is not the perfect mobile browser stipulated by the hype, not the only mobile browser that can render full pages, and not the first mobile browser able to render full pages. Apple likes to tout the iPhone / iPod touch as supporting the full internet. Does a device that does not support Flash, Windows Media, Real Player, and Java really support the full internet? I don't think so. Also, single column pages that have displayed properly on every other desktop / mobile device I have tried sometimes require horizontal scrolling to read every line at an easy to read text size on the touch. Is this really the ideal, perfect mobile browser? The bottom line is the best mobile browser / device for viewing the web is dependent on which webpage you are trying to view. I certainly would not use the touch to view single column pages, and the full internet experience for me includes Flash videos. The 605, and 5 support some Flash 9 videos, but not all. Hopefully, future Archos firmware updates will improve Flash playback on all sites. The Nokia N800's browser supports Flash 9 more consistently. I regularly use the N800 to watch Flash videos from the NY Times home page.

    Overall, Opera on the Archos devices is an excellent browser also. Although not perfect, it has been more consistent in displaying readable "full internet" webpages with a minimum of effort than Safari on the iPod touch. Opera, combined with the 605's / 5's larger physical screen sizes, has been a more enjoyable browser experience for me than Safari on the iPod touch.

  • Fingerprints on Device
    As stated before, the iPod touch is sexy, cool, and ultra-slim. It is a fingerprint magnet though, both the screen, and the chrome back. The 605's matte touch screen seems to resist fingerprints much better than the iPod touch, and the aluminum body does not attract fingerprints at all. The Archos 5 is much sleeker than the 605, but unfortunately, it is a fingerprint magnet also.

  • Optional Battery Dock / Mini Dock for 605 / 5
    The optional Battery Dock, and Mini Dock for the Archos devices expand the functionality of the devices while vastly decreasing the charging time compared to USB. Both docks include an AC adapter which plugs into the dock, and charges the devices much quicker than USB charging from a computer. In addition to the charging ability, both docks add a USB host port, and replicate the USB client port since the built-in client port is covered by the dock when attached to the device. The USB host port allows the 605 / 5 to stream / copy files to /from USB devices like USB flash drives, and portable hard drives. I have successfully attached several flash drives, and a 250GB Western Digital USB hard drive to the 605 / 5, and copied / streamed videos directly to / from the flash drives / 250GB hard drive and the 605 / 5. The docks also include an AV out port which allows the 605 / 5 to be connected to a TV. The AV cable, and USB host cables are included with both docks. An unexpected added benefit of the AV out port is using it with your headphones / earbuds. The audio level from the AV out port is significantly higher than the audio level available from the headphone port on the 605. When I am in a high ambient noise area, I plug my earbuds into the AV out port rather than the headphone port on the 605. The battery dock also contains a battery which gives additional playing time to the 605. The battery dock does not charge the 605 / 5, but does provide additional play time when the built-in battery is discharged. I did not experience the same audio boost with the docks on the Archos 5.

  • Comfortable to Hold
    The Archos feels better in my hand, and the iPod touch's chrome back is too slippery to hold comfortably.

  • What about the Apple App Store
    The Apple App store is nice, but I personally find many of the apps to be useless for my needs. They may be cool looking, but don't do much for me, your opinion may be different. My smartphone is a WM device which has, and has for a long while, a plethora of 3rd party applications that are actually useful for me. The WM 3rd party apps do not need approval of Microsoft or anyone else unlike the Apple store which requires approval by Apple before you can purchase 3rd party apps. You can purchase Apple 3rd party apps only from Apple; WM 3rd party apps are available on multiple sites. I do not want any company telling me which applications I can or cannot use on my personal device. I do not purchase an iPod touch or Archos device for 3rd party apps, that is what my smartphone, and PDA's are for. I want my Archoses, or touch to play, and hopefully record, video files, a task the Archos devices do superbly.

Final Thoughts
As I use both devices more, I will update this post. Although the Archos devices are much better for my portable audio / video needs, your needs may be different, and the iPod touch or another device may be a better fit. If your prime purpose is to impress the other customers while you sip your latte (I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing), then go for the iPod touch, it is definitely a cool looking device. However, don't automatically assume the iPod touch is the best device for your needs just because of the slick marketing, and the reality distortion field. Check out multiple devices, determine your needs, and choose the device that best meets your needs, not the device with the ubiquitous, slick marketing campaign. For me, the best device was initially the Archos 605, and now the Archos 5.

Other Reviews
I have seen other web reviews of the iPod Touch that praised its interface, coolness, and basically declared it the best media device made. Although the iPod Touch is a nice device, I do not agree that it is the best media device available. The iPod touch does indeed have a cool looking interface that is sure to impress your friends. The iPod touch is also thin, and looks elegant. I do not deny those attributes, and I respect the other reviewers' opinions. The pinching zoom, scrolling by flicking your finger, and the web browsing experience look cool, and it is easy to be impressed initially.

Don't be fooled by the hype, and the TV commercials. The multitouch zoom, and scrolling by finger got old very quickly for me, and I actually dislike those features after using them. Safari is an excellent browser, but it does have its issues that I detailed earlier in this post. The selecting of icons and menu items by finger rather than a stylus is nice, I like it. However, I have been navigating by finger rather than stylus on my PDA's, and Smartphones for years. It may be a little bit easier to do on the iPod touch, 605, and 5 due to the larger icons, and generous spacing between items, but it is certainly not a new concept. I wonder how long some of the other reviewers actually spent using the device. It would be nice to know if the other reviewers wrote their glowing articles about the iPod touch after a quick review, or after actually using the features extensively. Many features can look cool at first, but soon become tiresome after a few days of actual use. I purchased both the iPod touch, and Archos 605 in September 2007, purchased the Archos 5 in September 2008, and am still updating the post in October November 2008 after extensively using the devices.

My opinion about the Archos 605 or Archos 5 have not changed. I liked the Archos devices a lot when I first used them, and still enjoy using them after several months. There are no features of the Archos devices that I thought were cool at first, and then changed my opinion like I did with the iPod touch's multitouch zooming, and finger scrolling. The Archos devices are not perfect, but they do meet my needs better than the iPod touch, and are excellent devices overall that do not get the accolades they deserve.

I would like to see other reviews include not only how long they tested the devices as I mentioned before, but also the firmware version(s) tested, and which device(s) in the category being reviewed that the reviewer actually owns, and uses regularly. Their "regular use" device could certainly have an impact on their reviews of competing brand devices. I have used the Archos devices with all firmware versions up to 2.x (605), 1.1 (5), and the touch with all versions up to 2.2.

Own Many Apple Products
Although it should be obvious that the 605 is better for my needs, some readers may think I am an Apple basher. I own several Macintoshes, too many iPods to justify, several Newtons, an Apple TV, and (fortunately) Apple stock. My first serious programming experience was on an Apple II+. One of my favorite technology icons is Steve Wozniak. I generally like Apple products, but I am immune (it took awhile) to the reality distortion field. There are times when Apple makes the best device for my needs, times when a Microsoft based solution is best (better dip my hands in acid again), and times when other vendors offer the best solution for my needs. I have owned several Archos products, have liked them all, and Archos offered the "best-of-class" devices.


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Sunday, September 09, 2007
  The HP210/211 iPaq Enterprise Handheld - PDA's aren't dead!

I am pleased that HP has decided to release a new stand-alone PDA, the HP 211 Enterprise Handheld. The specs look very interesting, and the HP211 could be a nice replacement for the Toshiba e830, and Dell x51v when they "jump the shark". Following are the specs that look interesting:

  • 624 MHz processor

  • 4" VGA screen

  • WiFi (802.11 b/g), and Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR built-in

  • 256 MB ROM which should result in ample room for program/data storage

  • Windows Mobile 6

  • 128 MB RAM for program execution. The original spec I saw was 64 MB; however, the HP site indicates 128 MB which is much better. It will be interesting to see how much of the 64 MB 128 MB is available to the user.

  • Compact Flash, and SDIO expansion slots

  • Mini USB port

It is nice to see a new stand alone PDA with the latest Mobile OS, and a large screen. Since the HP211 has Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, it could be a nice machine for tethering with a Bluetooth 2.0 EDR phone. As much as I like the PPC-6700, I am a fan of two separate devices, rather than the converged device. Converged devices by their nature cannot equal the features etc. of "best in class" separate devices. Now that it seems we have a nice, modern PDA, all we need is a small, clamshell Bluetooth 2.0 EDR phone with 3G, and a nice DUN Bluetooth profile. If the released HP211 lives up to its specs, my credit card will be out of the wallet as soon as it is released.

Update October 20, 2007 - During the first week of October, an availability date of October 12 was listed for the iPaq 210, which is basically the same as the 211. I ordered the 210 directly from HP.com, and was anxiously awaiting shipment. Today, I received a voice mail, and an email, informing me the iPaq 210 will not be available until next year. Needless to say, I am disappointed with both the extensive delay in availability, and HP's not having their act together on their own website. I can understand, a week or two delay, but a few months delay only about a week after posting the initial availability date does not leave one with a positive feeling. It better be a fantastic device to make-up for this extensive delay.

Update February 8, 2008 - Received the iPAQ 210 today. First impression - I like it very much, great screen, and nice feel overall. I will post an extensive review once I have many hours of actual daily use.
 
Sunday, July 29, 2007
  SlingPlayer Mobile - one of my favorite applications

SlingPlayer Mobile is quickly becoming one of my favorite Windows Mobile applications. I have the original Slingbox, now referred to as the Slingbox Classic, attached to my Toshiba branded TiVo with DVD writer system. This setup allow me to use SlingPlayer Mobile on my PPC-6700 to:

  • Watch live TV

  • Change the cablebox channel

  • Watch any selection from the TiVo Now Playing List (programs that are currently on the TiVo hard drive)

  • Schedule a recording on my TiVo

  • Watch any DVD in the DVD slot

  • Watch my favorite tech based podcasts, Cranky Geeks, and DLTV, which can now be seamlessly downloaded directly to the TiVo using the new TiVoCast feature.

  • Utilize the same remote control funtions that I use with the physical TiVo remote at home

The SlingPlayer Mobile software is very stable. The viewing experience is excellent using WiFi, and very good using EvDO. Setup was smooth, only one well documented port change to the router is needed. My router is not near the TiVo; however, a Wireless G Ethernet Bridge works fine to connect the SlingBox to the network. If you have a Slingbox at home, give the SlingPlayer Mobile software a trial run.
 
Saturday, June 16, 2007
  Sorry to see that the Dell X51v was discontinued

I am saddened that the Dell X51v has been discontinued, and Dell has exited the PDA market. The X51v was an excellent Windows Mobile PDA at a very reasonable price. The X51v included:

  • Windows Mobile 5.

  • 3.7" VGA resolution screen that was very bright, crisp, and easy to read.

  • Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth

  • 624 MHz processor.

  • Ample storage memory (app. 200 MB), and about 50 MB program execution memory which allowed many applications to be multi-tasked.

  • A nice solid feel that was comfortable in the hand.

  • Non-volatile memory so the contents were not lost when the battery had no charge.

  • An optional VGA adapter with appropriate software to allow presentations on the X51v to be displayed on a video projector and / or for the X51v's screen to be mirrored on a video projector.

  • Replaceable battery along with the option of a high capacity battery for extra time between charges.

I do use the Dell Axim x51v frequently, and plan for the X51v to be my main PDA when the Toshiba e830, with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, "jumps the shark".
 
I was a Palm OS champion for years, but switched to the Windows Mobile platform in 2005. My experiences using my Windows Mobile devices, and other electronic devices will be detailed in this blog. The posts reflect what I like, and do not like about a device, or application. Your needs, and opinion may be different.

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