Some photos from my recent trip to Orlando, Florida

Comments Off February 16th, 2014

 

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All photos taken on an iPhone 5.

Xbox One – Initial Thoughts

Comments Off January 11th, 2014

I was lucky enough to be bought an Xbox One for Christmas, so I thought I’d post some of my initial thoughts.

The games look amazing

I have one game (Forza 5) and at £50 a pop I will likely only have one game for many months to come. That said, together with the new controller that has vibration motors in each trigger (lets you feel feedback from the brakes), speeding around Circuit de la Sarthe has never felt so real. Whether it’s being blinded temporarily by the sun, or seeing a glimpse of the driver in the windscreen, it just feels so real.

The Interface is Confusing

While I wanted to love ‘Metro’ on the PC, after trying it for just over a month on my main development machine, I had to revert to using Start8 – it didn’t work out for me (loved it on the Surface RT, however) – so how does it stack up on the Xbox One? My view is that it could work, but the current execution isn’t great. On the main screen the positions of apps move about too often, so it’s impossible to remember where anything is. After a while I realised the tiles on the main screen amounted to a ‘recently used list’ the with exception of the left and right columns, which are fixed. There’s no visual differentiation, barley any visual hierarchy (the currently running app is the largest, everything else just looks like it was thrown in) and so it all gets rather confusing. To get to Settings for example, you have to go to ‘My Games & Apps’.

Apps for the sake of Apps

No device these days would be complete without an ‘App Store’ – however the Xbox One has taken this to extremes. For example, if you’re in a game and you get an achievement, in order to see the full details of that achievement you need to leave the current game and open another app (complete with an awful “splash screen” which makes the effect of leaving one app and going to another feel even slower), if the Xbox 360 could do this, surly the Xbox One should be able to? Another example of this was when browsing the video store, in order to view ‘TV Deals’ I had to install the Xbox Video app. It seems a bit ridiculous that this isn’t just built in.

Kinect is impressive if still work in progress

Having Kinect recognise you and automatically log you in is very clever. The speech recognition however is limited. Unlike Siri on an iPhone you need to keep to a precise syntax, and it’s not very forgiving. Say to Siri “Hello my friend, could please turn on the Bluetooth thingamajig” and it will turn on the Bluetooth radio. Ask your Xbox to “switch off” rather than “turn off” and it does nothing. I really hope this gets improved. That said it is still very useful, especially the “record that” function that lets you record the last 30 seconds of gameplay and share it online. I can’t imagine using the Xbox One without the Kinect plugged in, it just feels like work in progress still. I don’t have any Kinect games, so I can’t comment on how good it is for games, which I guess is its main purpose after all.

Everything is fast and fluid, it multitasks like a dream

The Xbox 360 despite being able to render Skyrim at a decent frame-rate was seemingly unable to load a simple system menu without a few seconds delay. Game updates would block the entire interface and it just felt very sluggish, The Xbox One however always feels snappy. Even mid game I was able to press the ‘home button’ and get straight back to the Start Screen, compete with a smooth transition and sound effect. Subsequently opening an app such as Skype or Internet Explorer was very quick. I was also able to install a demo from the store and keep playing. I hope it doesn’t slow down over time, but this fluidity will do a lot to tempt me to use the Xbox One rather than the Apple TV or Virgin TiVo box to access Netflix or rent movies etc

The best is yet to come

I hope (and predict) Microsoft will keep updating the Xbox One as they did with the 360. I’ve only used it for a couple of days so far and you can only fairly judge a a games console after many months of usage. Overall I’m very pleased with it, and look forward to more exciting releases.

Greetings from the Solent

Comments Off October 18th, 2013

Very windy indeed!

 

My History in Phones

Comments Off September 12th, 2013

I was talking with some folks over lunch about past phone’s I’ve owned. I’ve raided my memory and decided to put up ‘my history in phones’. What do you think?

2000: Ericsson A1018s

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All I remember about this was it came free when you saved up enough Coca-Cola ring-pulls. Thankfully a friend of the family drank a lot of Coke. Back when this came out, all a phone could do was literally make calls and send texts. Unusual for its time, this model could store SMS in its own internal memory as well as on the SIM.

 

 

2001: Motorola T191

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Wanting something a bit more stylish, I blew one my early paycheques on this baby. It made calls, and could send and receive SMS. It had a cool little ‘Bick’ came too. The vibrate motor was pretty substantial.

 

 

 

 

 

2002: Nokia 3330

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Realising everyone else in my family (and the world) seemed to have a Nokia, I went for the 3330, they must be good – right? The 3330 was to the 3310 what was the iPhone 5S to the iPhone 5 – more memory and WAP in this case. More memory meant more space for custom icons, WAP meant getting football scores from the BBC on your lunch break.

 

 

 

 

2003: Nokia 3510i

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Nokia had the best interface and the best battery life, so I stuck with them for my first colour phone. No camera, the colour screen was only for receiving MMS messages as I sure was going to be sending any without a camera. It used to lightup like a nightclub when it rang, great phone and served me well for many years after as a ‘backup phone’ for taking to festivals and places where it’s likely to get ruined.

 

 

 

2004: Nokia 6110i

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While it might be cool to have the biggest phone possible these days, back in 2004 having the smallest was what it was all about. Not much of a change from the 3510i except mobile browsing was improved, and it let me share internet out to my PDA via infra-red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004: Nokia 6630

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My first smartphone. It was also my first 3G phone and was capable of making video calls, although it had no camera on the front. Instead it came with a desk stand that would allow you to point the rear camera at yourself. The on-board software was pretty amazing for its time – email, browsing, MP3 Support, even a little app that would put photos and video together into one long video and with background music (iMovie does this to this day). Two phones in one year? I think I took out some form of insurance that allowed me to return my phone and get a new one anytime I liked (at the expense of getting a new phone number, unfortunately)

 

 

 

 

2005: Nokia 6020

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While I had enjoyed my first foray into smartphones, I the 6630 was underpowered and something as simple as opening the Contacts app would take about 10 seconds. So I decided to switch back to a ‘classic’ Nokia. By now Series 40 phones had quite a few smart features themselves: background email checking, mobile web browsing, ‘Push to Talk’ to name a few.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005: MDA Vario (AKA HTC Wizard)

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The geek in my needed a smartphone, this one ran Windows Mobile 5. It was very cool, it had a full keyboard and meant you could do really advanced things for the time such as connect to a WiFI network (!), crop photos, run an RDP session to your PC and edit Office documents. Unfortunately unlike a Nokia, the alarm could not be relied upon to wake you up in the morning – it would regularly fail to go off or crash. I remember spending a lot of time hunting for jobs when I had this phone, and having a decent email client really came into its own. The stylus used to keep falling out, eventually I lost it I think.

 

 

2007: Nokia N95

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This was the phone to beat all phones: WiFi, GPS, HD Video and 5MP Carl Zeiss camera with an optical zoom (not just digital zoom as most phones to this day still have). The podcasts app was great, so was email and browsing the web (it would show desktop sites and allow you to zoom). It did get slow after a few years of use however, and the volume up button broke twice for me (after 1 replacement). This made me decide not to go with Nokia again.

 

 

 

 

 

2001: iPhone 3GS

clip_image020Probably my favourite phone looking back, because it did change the way I used my phone. I already owned a first generation iPod Touch, and so I was completely sold on iOS. The App Store, easy video editing, games – everything was a joy to use. For the first time I would use my phone instead of a laptop for casual web browsing. Not to mention it was also an iPod. Brilliant, although iOS 4 did slow it down somewhat, it was at its prime when running iOS 3.

 

 

 

2011: HTC Desire S

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I thought it’d give Android a try – everything was just slower, uglier and less reliable than the iPhone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012: iPhone 5

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After about 18 months using the HTC, I just had to jump ship and go back to iPhone. It’s easy to use, the battery lasts forever and it has more apps that I could download in an entire lifetime. I’m undecided on iOS 7, although I’ve yet to use it day-to-day. Looking forward to installing it, although I will probably wait a month or so for the bugs to be ironed out.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Next?

Whatever happens my current phone will have to last me least another 18 months, whether I get the iPhone 6 or switch to Windows Phone 8 depends… all I know is that I’m unlikely to switch back to Android – although I would consider a Nokia again, having played with some of their newer (much more sturdy) phones.