Celebgate

Thursday, 2 October 2014 11:02
claidheamhmor: (UnderworldEvolution)
My insurance broker popped round last night bearing pizza, and we had a good chat. Something we talked about was Celebgate, with all the leaked nude celebrity selfies. He was saying that people shouldn't be taking nude pictures of themselves, because there's that chance the pics will be leaked.

I'm of a different opinion. If people want to take selfies, that's up to them. If they want to store them on the cloud, fine. Obviously, take a few basic precautions - choose a secure location, enable the phone password, etc.

But there's more to the whole Celebgate leak than just pictures:
  • Apple let those celebrities down, by having an insecure "feature" on iCloud that let hackers repeatedly enter password attempts without blocking access.
  • Many of those celebs, I'll bet, had no idea their phones were being automatically backed up to iCloud.
  • All the focus has been on the nude pictures. That's only part of the story, because what the hackers got were complete iPhone backups. Not just pictures, but email, text messages, contacts, calendar, notes, documents, and more. In other words, if those users had a copy of their bank statement in their email, or any unencrypted passwords typed in, or any personal information, or email addresses or phone numbers of family, friends, or other celebrities, or personal calendar entries, or home addresses... that information has been hacked, and someone has it. That could be a lot scarier than pictures.
To say people shouldn't take nude pics implies that they also shouldn't have any other personal information on their phones (or email, or websites, for that matter). It's possible to live like that, but if you do, why bother having a smartphone? Just get a cheap Nokia.

Personally, I think there's a balancing act between the risk of such information being on your phone, and the convenience and utility of doing so. My opinion: go for it, but take precautions. Use a phone password. Use encrypted password storage apps (like LastPass, Password Keeper, et al). Use secure cloud storage (I use OneDrive and Box). And if your information is more valuable (if you're a celebrity, say), take even better precautions (hey, how about a more secure phone).

claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
I got BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 on my phone the other day (by sideloading it, actually, rather than waiting for the official download, since it looked like Vodacom was behind the times). Despite the minor version number increase, it's a huge update, with a bunch of nice improvements. The most major, yet least mentioned, is the ability to directly load Android apps; I loaded Snap, which can get apps directly off the Google Play store, and also got the Amazon and 1Mobile Market store apps to get apps from there. So far, I'm slightly underwhelmed; I downloaded Talking Tom, which is amusing, but just about everything else I can think of, I already have a native app for. I did a count of apps the other day; I have 191 on my phone.

The other day I picked up a micro-USB to USB OTG (on the go) cable. This little cable lets me connect a flash drive, external hard drive, mouse, or keyboard into my BlackBerry. Very handy to be able to access flash drive contents.
claidheamhmor: Z10 Scrabble (Blackberry Z10)
 
My cellphone contract was finally up for renewal; this time, on 20 November, I went for the BlackBerry Z30, which was launched that very day.

I posted about my BlackBerry Z10 back in May. Well, the Z30 is similar, with the following major changes:
  • 5" AMOLED screen (same resolution though)
  • Faster dual-core CPU and a quad-core GPU
  • Dual antennas for better reception
  • Stereo speakers
  • Multiple microphones and speech optimisation for improved voiced clarity
  • Huge battery (not removable)

So far, loving it. The OS version is now 10.2, which carries a number of improvements. 10.2.1 is around the corner, with one huge feature: the ability to install Android apps directly. Beta testers are already able to download and install apps directly from a number of third-party store, like Amazon. I really like the operating system; though new, it's solid and intuitive, and feature-packed.

Areas I think the phone could have been better: the camera, at 8MP, is adequate, but not great. The screen would have been better at 1080p resolution (that said, it's a stunning screen - maybe the resolution isn't necessary). More internal storage would have been nice (still upgradeable via SD card of course).

The showcase feature: the sound. It can go seriously loud, and sounds absolutely brilliant. Better than any mobile device I've ever heard. Second best: a much improved battery life.

Another positive for me: my contract with Vodacom is actually cheaper now than it was, and I get a bit of free data (200MB, which compared to my usual usage is actually trivial). They gave me an 8GB SD card with the phone; I have so many, I have no idea what to do with it.I bought a pouch; no official BlackBerry accessories were available, so I got a generic XXL-sized Swiss Army Gear pouch in (fake?) black leather with red stitching.

BB10

Friday, 21 June 2013 15:05
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
I'm still really enjoying my BlackBerry Z10. Best feature so far: having my home PC listed as part of the file system (along with internal memory, SD card, Box.net, and Dropbox). So I can, anywhere I can open or save or attach a file, browse to my home PC and get it. Basically, 3.5TB of private cloud storage. If I'm on my home wi-fi, I can even play entire movies on the phone (it's a little slow and expensive doing it on 3G!)

I've stumbled across a few really nice apps; I should probably do some app reviews sometime. Maybe get back to my old BlackBerry-focused blog.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
BlackBerry Z10: a review

 

I got the new BlackBerry Z10 phone a couple of weeks ago, and I've been setting it up and getting everything I like working on it.
 
Rather than provide a long, complex review (there are plenty on the web), I'm just going to jot down things I found relevant, and add a few screenshots.
 
This is coming from a long-time BlackBerry OS user, though I've had an iPhone and I've set up and worked with a number of iPhones and the occasional Android.
 
Hardware

The Z10's hardware is really good. Fit and finish is top-notch, and the materials used feel good. The phone feels durable too, and scratch-resistant.
 
The screen is outstanding. Put it next to an iPhone 5, and it's unquestionably better – not only bigger, but higher-res. User interface elements take advantage of this – the clock, for example, is beautiful. The screen has a much nicer feel to it than my old 9810's screen – maybe it's an oleophobic coating?

The camera is good, but not great; it needs improvement in poor light. I believe there are some software fixes for the camera due out. One thing I do like is that the button-to-picture lag on the camera is very short. The HD video recording is pretty impressive. I like the time-shift camera, but I haven't really used it much.

The input/output capabilities on the Z10 are great. With HDMI-out, I can connect the phone to a TV or decent computer screen and play movies or whatever there. The Z10 has DLNA too, which means I can use my TV to browse the phone and play media off it over wi-fi (and it works really well!). Wireless storage access is available, so I can connect to the Z10's internal storage and SD card over wi-fi; that's very handy. BB 10.1 will add the ability to access network shares from the phone.

Battery life is not bad; I get about 10+ hours on a busy day, more on a weekend. That's better than I got on my old BlackBerry. It does help that I have a really good car charger, the Energizer 2.1 amp dual-port charger; that can get a phone up to usable levels within minutes.
Phone call quality is excellent; there seems to be some good noise cancelling.
 

Function

The BlackBerry 10 user interface works well. It takes a short while to get used to, but after that, phones with physical "home" buttons (and the app in-out in-out paradigm) feel primitive. I love the way the integrated message hub is always only a swipe away, and the way running apps are displayed is cool (especially those designed to show something useful in the minimised app frame – like weather, battery level, album art, etc.). Everything feels quick and very, very slick.

The multitasking is handy; having the apps actually shown on screen makes it obvious. One downside – most of the ported or sideloaded Android apps don't multitask (in other words, they pause when they're not in the foreground).
 

The user interface (more specifically, the icons pages and running apps page) is obviously meant to be used in portrait orientation, but apps go landscape when the phone is turned. 

The distributed real-time multitasking QNX underpinnings to the operating system will probably become more evident over time, as things get refined. I can foresee a lot of opportunity for integration with cars and other systems. The BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins, was quoted last week as saying there may be no need for tablets in 5 years. I think what he means is that tablets as standalone devices may go away. It makes sense to have a larger dumb screen, driven by your single mobile device.
 
Something really nice about the user interface design is that most navigation elements are at the *bottom* of the screen, making it far easier to use one-handed.

I had some issues getting my data from my old BlackBerry to the Z10, but I think part of this was because of a flaky SD card. One annoying thing was that all of my contacts were saved as local contacts on the Z10, then duplicated the moment I added my email account and synched contacts. I had to remove all of the local ones. A clean setup works much better, especially if you have online contact/calendar sync.

I do like the way you can link various contact records (e.g. email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for the same person, and it's all displayed as one contact, showing interactions with that person (like calls, emails, etc.)

The web browser is stunning – it's faster than any other mobile browser I've seen. In fact, I wish my desktop Chrome were that fast. It supports Flash too. One very nice feature is the Reader mode, which with a click strips out ads and makes an article easily readable.

         
 

Storage handling generally is excellent. There's the 16GB of internal storage, plus your SD card, but if you log in to Dropbox and or Box (where you get 50GB free), you get those too, all shown as part of the filesystem. In other words, anywhere you can open or save a file, you will have Dropbox and Box listed as locations too. This is enormously convenient. The File Manager lets you easily copy/moves files between the various areas.


The Z10's virtual keyboard is brilliant – it's really, really good at predicting text. I've written entire sentences with a single letter and a bunch of swipes. That said, it does need a little more attention than the physical keyboard, and I'm not at the same speed as on physical. On the downside, it's not properly WYSIWYG – it shows uppercase letters all of the time, even when it's about to type lowercase letters.

Sadly, there's just no way of getting some of the efficiencies one has with a physical keyboard, like 20+ single-press speed-dials, or single-press access to most of your apps. It looks like the BlackBerry Q10 will handle those needs for people who value that more than the Z10's screen size.
 

Apps

BlackBerry Maps works pretty decently for navigation. For SA, there's Wisepilot too. I side-loaded Google Maps, but it's a little unstable.

There are plenty of apps available out there. I've been able to easily find either BB10 versions of my favourite apps, or equivalents. I've also side-loaded a bunch of Android apps; there's quite a little cottage industry in sideloaded apps. The ported or sideloaded Android apps, by and large, run very well.

One app I missed from my old BlackBerry was Social Feeds, for providing a single location for Facebook/Twitter/RSS feeds; soon enough I stumbled across Android's Flipboard, which I sideloaded and which works fairly well.


 
 
On my old phone, I used a car maintenance and fuel logging app called Fuel Economy. That's not on BB10, but I found one called aCar, an Android port, which is comprehensive. I spent a couple of hours playing with CSV files and imported 6 years of data into it.

 

Another app I've used for ages is a shared grocery list app, OurGroceries. Initially, there wasn't a BlackBerry 10 app, so I sideloaded the Android version. A few days ago, the BB10 version was released, so I have that loaded now too.

The ported Android app Vivino is quite fun; you can take a picture of a wine bottle, and it has a pretty good go at identifying it and letting you rate it.


 
The Z10's "Remember" app links to Evernote, if you have an account there, as well as to your corporate Exchange server's Notes, and integrates them into a single app. Very convenient. You can of course load Evernote too.

The Last Weather App is brutally straightforward (and surprisingly accurate).


The Compass is pretty

 

Other
The desktop software for synching media, BlackBerry Link, sucks. It's slow and clumsy, and I had to beat it into submission.

"Balance" is a way of separating personal and work data, and it works very well, separating the access to corporate data from your personal stuff, where you may not be so paranoid. Contacts and calendar are integrated, conveniently. One awkward side-effect, however, is that "work" contacts run in the work context; the most visible consequence is that if you tap a contact's address, BlackBerry Maps will load – but in the work area, where it may not have Internet access.

If you have a corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you get even more: you can have separate apps for work and personal profiles, with work apps deployed from the server. In the "work" profile, you can access internal resources, like intranet pages, and you can use apps like Work Files to access data off file server shares.

Data is a problem. With my old BlackBerry, I used about 300MB of data per month on BIS. Currently, it looks like my Z10, doing much the same stuff, is heading toward 2GB per month, which I have to pay for; I have a new respect for BIS's compression. On the plus side, internet access is much faster.

Playbook integration has been gutted. On the OS7 devices, Playbook bridging offered email, calendar, contacts, work browser, internet connection, text messages, phone call display, and remote control. With the Z10, all that's available is the work browser, internet connection (now much faster), and remote control.
 
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)

BlackBerry launched their two new smartphones on 30 Jan: the Z10 (touchscreen) and Q10 (QWERTY). This has been a long time coming; RIM (now renamed BlackBerry) knew they had to move away from their old Java-based phones, and they've spent the last couple of years coming out with something really good. While the old CEOs screwed up their long-term strategies and nearly sunk the company, the new CEO, Thorsten Heins, has done an amazing job of keeping BlackBerry going while developing the new devices and OS.

The BlackBerry 10 OS is the key to it all. BB10 is built on top of QNX, a very highly available, highly multiprocessing operating system kernel used as the basis for all sorts of devices where the cost of failure is very high (for example, nuclear power plants, manufacturing systems, high-end Cisco routers and switches, and automotive management and infotainment systems used by companies like BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, Acura, and many others). QNX supports 32 or 64 processors or more, even distributed across multiple devices. There are stories of QNX systems running for 15 years 24x7 without a single second's downtime (in that particular case, it was 15 years only because the Pentium 3 PC it was running on got stolen).

QNX is that ultrareliable core. BlackBerry "trialled" it in the Playbook tablets, and Playbook owners can tell how solid it is (I thing I've had to restart my Playbook fewer than 5 times in almost two years). It's ready for plenty of future expandability. Apple's iOS, by contrast, is old and tired, and it's multitasking capabilites (such as they are) are a poor afterthought. Android is being developed rapidly, but it's huge (as a comparison, the Android kernel code runs to around 14 million lines; QNX is only about 100000).

Here's an interesting article: History of QNX and its Implementation in BlackBerry 10

It looks like the BlackBerry developers have done a really good job of building an innovative and productive interface on top, and BlackBerry has done an outstanding job of getting developer support, launching with over 70000 apps (probably a lot more - in just the last couple of weekends, 34000 apps were ported to BB10), including almost all of the big apps needed by consumers.

There are changes, of course, to BlackBerry's BIS infrastructure, and to how things work, but they have an excellent base to build on for the next few software generations.

Here are some links:
If there were a fire, which of Stephen Fry's phones would he take?
BlackBerry 10 Operating System Review & Walkthrough

The only thing missing is that I don't have one; I am going to have to make a plan about that. Maybe I should be given one at work because I need to support them...
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
An EDUP Bluetooth music gateway that I ordered from China finally arrived. Now this is neat! What is does is pairs with a Bluetooth device (like my phone, but it could be my Playbook or PC too). The EDUP then has a stereo socket that I can use to plug into my hifi or my car's sounds system. When I play music from my BlackBerry, it plays wirelessly on Bluetooth to whatever I have the EDUP plugged into. So I can wander round the house or have an untethered phone in the car, while playing (and controlling) music from my phone. The EDUP has an internal battery with about an 8-hour play life, and it's rechargeable with mini-USB (and I have a mini-USB car charger). Something quite neat is that when I turn it on, it connects with my BlackBerry, and the BlackBerry automatically starts playing.

 
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
World Wide Worx just completed a survey on mobile phone use in South Africa, and it's pretty interesting.

South Africans and their cellphones
Data dominates SA mobile trends

Some interesting bits:
84% of users are prepaid.
Most popular phone feature: FM radio

Cellphone (not smartphone alone) market shares:
Nokia: 50%
BlackBerry: 18% (up from 4% 18 months ago)
Samsung: 18% (down from 26% in 2010)
iPhone: 1%
(If you're looking at smartphone market share, BlackBerry has just over 75% (and increasing), with most of the rest split between Android and iPhone).

Social Networking:
Facebook: 38%
Whatsapp: 26% (up from 0% in 2010, driven mainly by Nokia)
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger): 17% (up from 3% in 2010)
Mxit: 23%
Twitter: 12%

QNX and car infotainment systems
For those still quick to write off BlackBerry, I suspect a lot of people have forgotten that RIM is not just about BlackBerry handsets. For example, the QNX software that is the core of the BlackBerry Playbook and the upcoming BB10 operating system is running on the infotainment systems of 30 million cars, 64% of the global market. The brands that QNX systems are in include Audi, Acura, Nissan, Toyota Honda, Mazda, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Chrysler/Fiat, and General Motors. Soon enough, you'll be able to download apps from BlackBerry App World for your car.

Gadgety news

Monday, 23 January 2012 14:24
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Some news in the mobile device market:

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis step down. Thorsten Heins becomes new CEO of RIM. With luck he'll shake a few trees in the organisation. While they may have some good technology, it's not being delivered properly, and communications are poor.

How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. A really interesting article on technology jobs, the US middle class, and Chinese manufacturing.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
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To start with, I'm not a fan of Apple products. I don't like the way I work (or play) being dictated, and I don't like the limitations imposed on me by the products or their ecosystem, no matter how easy it's supposed to make it.

That said: because of Jobs's vision and products, the products I do like have been influenced for the better, in terms of features, look and feel, and time to market. He forced competitors to innovate, or to package their products better, or to include features that would not otherwise have been there.

My tweets

Friday, 16 September 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Mon, 13:17: RT @saulkza: For R49 you can get 100mb of data on Vodacom. Now they're capping Blackberry speeds and data at 100mb which costs R60. Doh
  • Tue, 06:50: RT @MichaelJordaan: George Soros: "Financial markets have a very safe way of predicting the future. They cause it" #fb

My tweets

Wednesday, 7 September 2011 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 07:31: I love Rove Mobile Admin: I can sort out system issues from my BlackBerry while on the way in to work. #fb

My tweets

Saturday, 27 August 2011 12:15
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My tweets

Thursday, 25 August 2011 12:15
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My tweets

Thursday, 4 August 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Friday, 17 June 2011 12:15
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  • Thu, 15:19: RT @DrTwittenheimer: Dear online stores. We always, ALWAYS, want to see the maximum number of items per page. Not 10. Not 12. ALL OF THEM.
  • Fri, 10:18: RT @simondingle: Q results for RIM out today. Interesting. 16% revenue growth in the US, but a whopping 67% yoy in international markets.

My tweets

Wednesday, 8 June 2011 12:15
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My tweets

Saturday, 4 June 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Wednesday, 27 April 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Tuesday, 26 April 2011 12:00
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My tweets

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 12:00
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claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
Here's an interesting article on smartphones in South Africa, and the relative market numbers of each. BlackBerrys have been very popular, partly because they have a range of models from the cheap and functional 8520s up to the more premium Torch or Bold, and because the costs of data in SA have historically been very high, making a R59pm (under $9) flat rate for on-device data usage very attractive. RIM has stated that South Africa is their fastest-growing BlackBerry market in the world.

Of course, things may change a bit, with cheaper Android devices appearing, and with cheaper data costs (Vodacom just launched a new 43Mbps 3G data service, with low pricing), the flat rate is not as attractive. Of course, on the flip side, the more BlackBerry users there are, the more synergistic the BlackBerry Messenger service is; I know people with hundreds of BBM contacts on their BlackBerrys.

BlackBerry vs iPhone vs Android in South Africa )

My tweets

Wednesday, 1 December 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
I saw a few days ago that there was a leaked pre-release copy of BlackBerry OS 6 available for the BlackBerry Bold 9700; up till now, it's been on the 9800 Torch only. So I downloaded it, and with some trepidation, installed it (after a wipe of my BlackBerry, of course). Re-activating it on our server at work pulled down all my settings, and it seemed really great. I then ran into some issues with the phone locking up, but some trial and error revealed an issue with my SD card; I reformatted that, and all was well.

I'm impressed. It uses about 30MB more memory than OS 5, but it's fast, and adds heaps of functionality. The interface is much enhanced, the menus and options are much more graphical, and there are some nice new apps, like Social Feeds, which integrates social networking feeds (Facebook, Twitter, instant messenger programs, and RSS) into one place. The new web browser is based on Webkit; it's multi-tabbed, and very quick. A very worthwhile upgrade.

The downside: there are no themes for OS6 on the 9700, so I'm stuck with the default theme. I can't even develop my own, because the Theme Builder doesn't support the 9700/OS6 combo yet.

I took some screenshots.
Cut for images )

My tweets

Tuesday, 9 November 2010 12:00
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My tweets

Wednesday, 3 November 2010 12:00
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My tweets

Sunday, 31 October 2010 12:00
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My tweets

Sunday, 24 October 2010 12:01
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My tweets

Friday, 22 October 2010 12:01
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 12:28: Darryl Thwaits, the CIO of Tiger Brands, is a really interesting speaker. #fb
  • Wed, 18:15: Just saved a pigeon's life. Cat is resentful and casting me dirty looks. #fb
  • Wed, 22:53: @Lomage Is the eyeliner sandpaper proof?
  • Thu, 07:57: I squeaked like a girl. In the mirror, while drying myself after my shower, I saw a large spider ambling up my upper inner thigh. #fb

My tweets

Thursday, 21 October 2010 12:22
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claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Some interesting technology news:

Jaguar C-X75
Jaguar showed off the C-X75 concept car at the Paris Auto Show. It's a really interesting hybrid: there's a 145kW electric motor on each wheel, so 580kW in total, powered by batteries and/or a pair of gas turbine engines that spin up to 80000rpm. On battery only, the car has a 110km range, but in combination with the turbines, it'll go up to 900km. 0-100kph in 3.4 seconds, and a top speed of 330kph.

I hope it goes into production.




BlackBerry PlayBook
RIM unveiled their tablet the other day, the PlayBook. Who the hell chooses their product names? RIM's development names for their products are almost always better than the final release names.

Anyway, it's a tablet, much like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy; I'm sure it'll do all the usual stuff. Where it seems like it will shine, though, is in its BlackBerry integration. It can be paired with a BlackBerry, using Bluetooth. Once paired, it can use the BlackBerry for its connection to the world - so it uses the BlackBerry's data for browsing, etc. It can display the BlackBerry's email, calendar, etc. on its own screen. Because it's using the BlackBerry, it doesn't need a separate data plan, 3G contract, or even special security or licenses in a corporate environment. For BlackBerry users, this will be absolutely fantastic; it's like an extension of the phone.

Of course, there are other nice things too, like HDMI video out, front and rear cameras, Flash support, HTML5 support, and even OpenGL, handy for gaming. A dual-core CPU and full multitasking are nice.

For an existing BlackBerry user, this is a killer device. I hope that RIM make the PlayBook somewhat open - like having its storage show up as Mass Storage when connected to a computer, and having expandable storage via SD card.

Upgrades

Tuesday, 1 June 2010 16:44
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Worst thing about upgrading my BlackBerry's OS: having to re-enter my username and password in each of the many apps that use a login mechanism, rearranging all my app icons back to the way I want them, and re-doing a few of the ringtone profiles.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
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I only need one gadget: my BlackBerry. It's my music player, my email, my camera, my web browser, my ebook reader, my GPS and my cellphone, all in one. Sure, the camera's not as good as my Sony Cybershot, but it's adequate, and though web browsing is harder on a small screen, it does everything else just fine (or better than fine - it's a better music player than my iPod, for example).

Silver Fox

Sunday, 14 March 2010 20:15
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)

The Silver Fox BlackBerry theme is ready and available.

There are versions for the BlackBerry Curve 8900, Bold 9000 and Bold 9700. A version for the Curve 8520 is in the works, but I still have a few issues with it.

They can be downloaded from the links below. The themes are zipped; unzip them into a folder and load them with BlackBerry Desktop Manager. I unfortunately don't have suitable webspace for OTA links.
BlackBerry Bold 9700
Blackberry Bold 9000
BlackBerry Curve 8900

Notes about the theme:
  • It's a Zen-like custom theme, intended to improve the wallpaper-viewing look of the standard Precision Zen theme.

  • Silver Fox uses an icon set primarily based on the Crystal set, with additions from other sources, and with some Mac-like icons. Melancthe sized and tuned the majority of the icons, and created a number of them entirely.

  • Most dialogs/menus have been left fairly standard. The notification icons (battery, signal, etc.) are all standard as they work well with the theme.

  • The general idea of the theme is the use of silver and brushed metal combined with black leather.

  • There are a few icons I'm unable to change in the theme, like "Now playing..." and the Gmail mail icon. This seems to be a limitation of the BlackBerry Theme Builder.


If you have comments, suggestions, or problems, please let me know.

Here are some screenshots:
Cut for images )
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
I've been quite busy with BlackBerry stuff lately. Not being happy with any of the BlackBerry themes I found, I decided to create my own. I've been using the BlackBerry Theme Builder, which takes a bit of getting into, but I think I have the hang of it now. The biggest problem was a lack of suitable icons for the BlackBerry. Current BlackBerrys come with a theme called "Precision" which has dull, outline-style icons. I couldn't find any icons sets for BlackBerrys on the net - in fact, there are surprisingly few resources for casual developers. However, some digging revealed a free-use icon set called "Crystal" on Wikimedia Commons, with icons in 256x256. I grabbed that, and a bunch of other icons I found on the net (including some Mac-look ones), and over the last few weeks, have turned that into a set of 80x80 and 52x52 icons, with the help of Melancthe, who resized them, edited and created (in some cases) them, and wrote scripts to do the appropriate resizing.

So with a decent icon set, I created the theme, and called it Silver Fox. I have versions of it suitable for the BlackBerry 8520, 8900, 9000 and 9700. I thought that seeing as I'd gone to all the trouble of creating the themes, I'd put them on BlackBerry AppWorld (for free), so that others who wanted a wallpaper-friendly theme could have one to try out. Much to my surprise, when I started the sign-up process to become an AppWorld contributor, I discovered that one needs to pay $200 for every 10 submissions! Screw that! I now understand why there are comparatively few apps in AppWorld, compared to the Android and iPhone marketplaces. I have created my own BlackBerry site on Blogspot, and I'll make my themes, wallpapers, icons etc. available there.

Here's what Silver Fox looks like on my BlackBerry:
Cut for images )
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
I've been collecting wallpapers for my BlackBerry, seeing as I use an app called Wallpaper Changer to change my phone's wallpaper every 10 minutes. I like seeing new pics all the time.

At any rate, I thought I'd make the wallpapers available to anyone who's interested. They're all 480x360 resolution, suitably cropped and enhanced. I have four collections:
  • Aircraft: pictures of aircraft, especially World War 2 aircraft and post-WW2 bombers and fighters.
  • Fantasy: fantasy artworks
  • Scenic: scenic views and nature scenes
  • Space and cars: spaceships and cars
All these images are downloadable as zip files.

Here are collage images of all the wallpapers; they are large, unfortunately.
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claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
So last week I made a bit of an impulse buy. I went past Vodashop to ask if they had the new BlackBerry Bold 9700 in, even though Vodacom's marvellously up-to-date website didn't mention it. In fact, Vodashop did have it in stock. I wanted to think about it, being the careful shopper I am, but when they mentioned it was the last one in stock, impulse took over and I bought it. I was due a cellphone upgrade last year in July, but hadn't found a phone worth upgrading to compared to the BlackBerry Bold 9000 from work, and had been waiting for the 9700. The 9700 is being sold on the same contracts and at the same price as the Bold 9000; this meant I could continue on my BlackBerry 100 contract and pay in R1900 for the phone, or have no pay-in amount and pay an extra R80 per month. I took the latter.

The BlackBerry Bold 9000 (which I posted about a while back) was a really, really good smartphone, and it suited me well, with big keyboard and screen. The 9700 is a smaller phone - virtually identical in size to the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and 8900 phones - with a smaller screen and smaller keyboard.

This is what it looks like (though it does look better in person):
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I rather like it - very elegant looking, but robust too.

The upgrade was dead easy: plugged in the 9000 to my PC, used Device Switch Wizard on the BlackBerry Desktop Manager, plugged in the 9700, and everything was copied over. I re-downloaded a few apps just to make sure I got the right version for my phone.

Compared to the Bold 9000:
  • With twice as much on-board RAM for applications (256MB vs. 128MB), it's noticeably faster (despite the same CPU), and can run and store more applications. I typically run around 10 apps at the same time, and I found that after I upgraded the 9000 to OS 5.0, the low amount of memory left caused some stability issues (and that was after removing some apps!).

  • The screen is marginally smaller, but with a 480x360 resolution, vs. the Bold's (and iPhone's) 480x320, the screen is remarkably vibrant and crisp.

  • The keyboard is smaller than the 9000's, but I'm adapting to it.

  • Instead of a trackball (which could apparently be problematic), the 9700 has a tiny trackpad which work really well. It's a far better navigation device.

  • The camera is 3.2MP vs. the 9000's 2.0MP, with image stabilisation and much better colour. It's still not Sony Cybershot league, but is much improved.

  • Sound quality of the external speaker is excellent - better than the 9000, which was good anyway.

  • The 9700 only has 256MB of on-board storage, and it's apparently not addressable as mass-storage, vs. the 9000's 1GB of on-board storage. That's not a major problem since I'm using my 8GB micro-SD card anyway, and it's certainly less confusing.

  • Battery life is way better on the 9700 compared to the 9000, despite the same CPU and battery.

  • Speed is very impressive; it flicks through things with the hourglass only showing very rarely.

I do wish RIM had put media previous/stop-play/next buttons across the top, like on the Curve 8520; that's an unfortunate oversight. Built-in apps are decent enough, but the same as previous BlackBerrys. I had to hunt around to find the Vodafone Sat Nav application; it wasn't in the most obvious place.

I've been customising things a bit; I downloaded and installed the BlackBerry Theme Builder, and built a theme that I like, with an emphasis on showing off the phone's wallpaper (I use Wallpaper Changer to change my phone wallpaper every 15 minutes). A very helpful person resized and cleaned up a whole bunch of icons for me (taken from the open-source Crystal icon set) to replace the dull Blackberry ones.

This is what my main screen and main app screen look like now, with the revised theme (actual screenshots from my phone):
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I just had some fun with Bluetooth - I connected it to my PC, and discovered that I could play stereo music from my phone to my PC, via Bluetooth; that's kinda neat. I can use my PC's audio/mic for calls too, from the looks of it.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
I got a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 Beta at work, and I've been running that for a week or two. Pretty nice so far; it seems a fair bit quicker than Office 2007, the toolbar ribbons are customisable, and there are a few nice feature improvements. Outlook now uses the ribbon, it supports threaded conversations (though they can be annoying at times - not as nicely done as GMail's), and it has something called "Quick Steps", basically mini-macros that let you do stuff like reply to an email and then delete it, or forward to your manager, etc. So far, 2010 has been really stable too.

I also came across a release of BlackBerry OS 5.0 for the BlackBerry Bold 9000, so I loaded it. It's got a bunch of new features, especially in the look of various settings; things like: a bootup logo and progress bar; separate mailbox for BES; a file manager (not nearly as good as FileScout though); threaded SMS conversations; changes to the media player and picture viewer; and a search bar on many screens. Generally, very nice improvements. What I do like is that I can now run the Wallpaper Changer app, which required OS 4.7 or up; I really like having a different wallpaper every 15 minutes. The upgrade itself wasn't difficult, though I did have to re-enter all my app passwords. On the downside, OS 5.0 seems to use a lot more memory, and it seems to run out every now and again, presenting an hourglass for a couple of minutes. Hopefully a later revision will sort that out.
claidheamhmor: (Freudiana)
Since I started using my Blackberry for music, I've been using Windows Media Player to manage my music on my PC. Previously, I used to use WinAmp, which has nice features, but the Blackberry sync software supports only Windows Media Player and iTunes. It wasn't a big hassle to move to WMP.

However, since I recently won an iPod Shuffle, I was left with a bit of a problem: the iPod is supported only by iTunes; there don't seem to be any working alternatives. (I thought we'd moved away from this whole proprietary software thing, but apparently not.)

So I had to install iTunes, and I thought I'd see if it could satisfy my needs well enough to replace WMP. After some googling, I exported my WMP playlists to iTunes, and they came in OK. I tried creating Smart Playlists, and they were OK except that you cannot create a Smart Playlist that is based on the path to any particular music folder, unlike in WMP, and I found that really irritating. WinAmp's dynamic playlists are a fair bit more flexible than iTunes's or WMP's, however.

The interface of iTunes is quite slick, but I prefer WMP's "stacked covers" when viewing artists. iTunes is also unable to retrieve album information and album art unless the album's on iTunes with name etc. exactly the same, which seems to eliminate 95% of my music. WMP, by comparison, is really flexible in that respect, and even lets you choose close matches and edit track names appropriately. iTunes seems to only support album art embedded in the ID3 tags, whereas WMP will read the hidden album art files too. It's also easier to add album art in WMP, with a "paste album art" option. Weirdly, iTunes doesn't dynamically update changed music within the music folders, where WMP does; you have to rescan the folders. iTunes does sync really easily to the Shuffle, but that's what I'd expect.

At the end of the day, I prefer WMP; I'll keep iTunes loaded (though I uninstalled Bonjour almost immediately), and I'll export my playlists from WMP to iTunes every now and again so I can update the Shuffle.

During this whole process, I did manage to do a lot of cleaning up on my music, adding album art (since it's supported on my Blackberry), and finding a whole lot of albums that had never showed up (because they had no appropriate ID3 tags). MP3Tag worked very well for mass updates and cleanups of the tags - things like automatically correcting the case of track names.
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
Blackberry App World was (finally!) made available to Blackberry users in South Africa a few weeks ago. Nice to finally browse all the apps available; because I'm a cheapskate though, that means the free apps. :)

Opera Mini 5 Beta 2 was released yesterday, and I gave it a try. It's far better than the previous beta, and seems slick and quick. It now supports Opera Sync, so all my settings and bookmarks were just downloaded off the net, and it seems better integrated with the Blackberry. On the downside, the tabs are somewhat fiddly, and Opera doesn't have much in the way of useful keyboard shortcuts - stuff like T for top, B for bottom, keys for switching tabs, etc. Also, on mobile pages, having a mouse-cursor is just irritating; I preferred it when scrolling up or down simply ran through the available links on the page. Still, it['s a nice improvement.

iPhone

Wednesday, 2 December 2009 20:09
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
I helped someone with an iPhone the other day, and it was interesting seeing how it worked. There were some things about it I really liked, and others I wasn't so keen on - at least, based on my shortish experience with the device. (So if I'm wrong about anything, let me know).

I liked the screen; though it's the same resolution as my Blackberry Bold, it's physically large, which helps a bit. The touch interface is really good; I didn't find myself mistyping things much, or having problems touching parts of the interface accurately. Best thing about it, I think, is the whole interface to the App Store and iTunes. It's so easy to download/buy apps either on PC or from the iPhone, and sync to the PC completely seamlessly. In this case, one app had been purchased on the PC, and the others on the iPhone; once I set up iTunes and synced them, all apps were available. I absolutely loved that; it's no wonder the iPhone is market leader in that arena. Obviously the iTunes music sync was good too, and the chap I was helping was delighted by the whole concept - he was happily ripping CDs when I left; not too many options for those who don't like iTunes though.

On the downside: most irksome thing for me was constantly wanting additional options, and looking for an options button. No such thing; if it's not on screen, you don't seem to have any additional choices. Despite the reputation, I found parts of the interface somewhat unintuitive; I suppose that gets better with practice. The touch-keyboard, though good, is no replacement for a real qwerty keyboard, and obviously there's no capability for one-key shortcuts to apps. No automatic correction of apostrophes/capitals that I saw - maybe it's a setting somewhere? The inability to multitask is a bit of a killer, but it does seem that the apps at least suspend and resume again at the same place. Though I've heard how fast the iPhone is, on this one (iPhone 3GS 32GB) there were some significant delays (several seconds, in some cases) when doing things. Maybe just the particular apps? This one (I don't know if it's the case with other service providers) had no built-in free turn-by-turn GPS software, and the owner was going to buy something for $70.

Apple have done a really decent job (especially when it comes to booting the whole smartphone and smartphone apps market).

Vodashop

Thursday, 5 November 2009 22:25
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
I'm so pissed off with Vodashop Hyde Park Corner.

Vodashop, for those overseas, is the retail arm of the biggest cellphone service provider in South Africa, Vodacom.

Last month we visited Vodashop in Hyde Park Corner, to get a new phone contract (Blackberry), and to upgrade my phone's contract to a different contract. They screwed both up, not activating the first contract, and, despite me signing the upgrade forms, not actually submitting my forms to Vodacom. The first took a day and a phone call to resolve, the second I only found out about today...which delays moving onto the new contract by a month.

This is their fucking core business, and they can't get it right...
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
Interesting article from Wired.

5 Things RIM Needs to Fix in its BlackBerries )

My thoughts:

Browser: Yeah, could do with an update. It's a reasonable browser, but it could do with more features, like tabs, better script support, and suchlike. Opera Mini is a decent browser on the Blackberry, but it's not as well integrated as it should be.
App store: There's a Blackberry app store? Oh, wait...they have one, called App World - but despite the name, it's only available in parts of North and South America and Europe. Fat lot of good that is.
Wi-Fi: I have a Blackberry with wi-fi, but hardly ever use it. There aren't enough free wireless access points around, and I'm not even sure how to make the Blackberry use wi-fi instead of 3G in the various web-enabled apps.
Desktop Software: I don't use the media part of the Blackberry software, but it would be nice to be able to compose and read messages on PC when the Blackberry is connected.

Be Bold.

Friday, 31 July 2009 17:03
claidheamhmor: (Fiday)


I was given a Blackberry Bold 9000 at work last week, as an upgrade to my Blackberry Curve 8310 that I was given in January.

Wow, it's quite a difference. Nominally, the Bold is better in that it has 3G and wi-fi capabilities. Practically speaking, it's much improved: the 3G is certainly better than GPRS for downloading apps, but the major difference is in how the phone responds - it's far snappier, and does things far more quickly. Application loading is quicker, and switching between apps, and just generally even moving the cursor. The Curve, I'd found, got quite bogged down when running 4-6 simultaneous apps, and it would lag and even hang for periods of time. The Bold doesn't do that - at least, not with the roughly 9 or so simultaneous apps I've tried running.

The one downside I can think of with the Bold is that the camera is the same rather poor 2MP device as on the Curve. Blackberry cameras really need some improvement.

The Bold's screen is lovely too. It's not physically huge, but with a 480x320 resolution, it's very clear and sharp. Very pleasant. I like the piano-black face, chrome edging, and the faux-leather back on the Bold; it looks both stylish and professional.

Migrating to the Bold from the Curve was remarkably easy. The Blackberry PC software has a "Device Switch Wizard" which lets you migrate from one Blackberry (or some other phones) to a Blackberry. I ran it, and it copied all my data over, and all my settings, even down to my ringtone choices, wallpapers, applications, the whole works. Absolutely amazing. All I had to do was activate the new one on the Blackberry Enterprise Server at work, and I was in action. I did have to go and recreate my wallpapers, but that was only because the screen resolution differs between the Curve and Bold. There are a bunch of decent third-party themes for the Bold; I'm currently running one called "Iphone4" which has a nice selection of iPhone-like icons.

The Bold doesn't fit my old phone-holder in the car, so my project for this weekend is to get a new, wider one mounted.

Very cool phone.

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