Category: gadgets

Samsung Blue Earth is not usable

About an year ago I posted about Samsung Blue Earth. I bought it because it had WiFi, GPS, was blue and a cool solar panel. Unfortunately, it can’t push mail by WiFi (just 3G), the GPS doesn’t work properly, the solar panel is just cool and, worst, it doesn’t have an operating system.

It has a chronometer. You can use it. But you want to take a picture of the first lap? Ooops, sorry, you lost all your times. You need to send a message? Sorry, you lost all your times.

The web browser is from the time of WAP. You open a standard newspaper webpage, and the browser says “The page is too big, might not be properly displayed”.

So, dear Samsung, I feel robbed.

Calibre developer shows lack of interest

A friend lent me a Kindle DX. I installed Calibre to perform some simple conversion from .epub format to .mobi format. My first experiment was with the Open Dictionary for Portuguese (Dicionário-Aberto). This dictionary takes 5MB on ePub format. Let me remember you that ePub is a zipped format. It, after unzip, takes 25 MB. The dictionary is pure text.

The conversion from ePub to Mobi took about 45 minutes. That’s not a problem. But took more than 1.9 Gigabytes of disk space. Yes, you are reading the unities correctly. I found this value kind of absurd and though that, although not a relevant thing to fix right now, it would be interesting to investigate why it takes so much disk. By the way, the final Mobi file is around 15MB.

I’ve opened a ticket on Calibre, marked it a wishlist: find out why Calibre takes so much disk space performing a simple format conversion. I did not ask for it to be fixed. I did not complain. Just said it took that disk space, and added a pointer to the file that I used.

I was expecting the developer to be intrigued about this. But unfortunately he shown to be stupid. Sorry, I know this is a hard word, but it is the only explanation I have to this answer:

How much space it takes is how much space it takes. I have no interest in optimizing disk space usage.

Note that I wasn’t expecting a fix right away. An answer stating the there is a to-do list with more important things, would be OK. But closing the ticket with a wont fix made me delete the application from the disk. Would prefer to develop my own conversion tool than to know I would be using this guy software.

iPad and prices in the Iberian Peninsula

This week I went to Vigo to a conference (FALA2010) and my hotel was right in the building on the side of a Apple Store. Of course I entered and gone to try iPad. The cheaper version costs 488 euro. In Portugal, there aren’t iPad being sold. At least, I just found it in Pixmania, by 558 Euro. It seems that everybody likes to steal in Portugal, ranging from government to stores…

Using HDMI and external sound in XBox 360

In a previous post I was wondering why I couldn’t get sound from my XBox using any kind of connector when the HDMI cable was plugged in.

My doubts were funded on the design of my own cable, that shipped with XBox 360. It has two RCA for sound and one RCA for video but, in the XBox connector, it has too much plastic, in a way that it covers the HDMI connector.

Therefore, I supposed that that would be a design issue, with that purpose (to prevent to connect the two cables at the same time), and not a design flaw.

But then, I found the kit shown in the picture on sale: it includes a standard HDMI cable and a connector without that extra plastic, that can be plugged together with the HDMI cable, and deliver sound to two RCA (and an optical connector).

Already ordered the kit on eBay. Waiting for it.

Using earphones in XBox360

As I poster some weeks ago, I bought a new LCD, 21.5″, with HDMI. The idea was to use it as a second monitor on my Mac Book Pro (done that already) and to use it to play with my XBox 360. Tried to do this latter, but it was not possible.

Why wasn’t it possible? Because I am stupid and I bought an LCD with an HDMI connector but without sound support. So, the LCD doesn’t have speakers and Acer didn’t bored to add a sound jacket.

When searching for solutions, I remembered that the gamepad has a 2.5mm jacket for a headset with microphone. I tried a standard earphones with 2.5mm jack but it did not work. Searching on Google I found the adapter shown above that, apparently, splits the signal from that connector into two different jackets, one for microphone, another one for earphones.

My current doubts for anyone who already use one of these:

  • does anybody know if the sound is stereo?
  • and, does it work for games, or just when using XBox360 for online conversation?

Oh, and of course, if you know another solution, please keep me posted.

Samsung Blue Earth – Review

As I posted earlier, I bought a Samsung Blue Earth. You will find out that it is also known as S-7550 and GT-7550. When trying to know its specification, try any site in the web, but run from Samsung website. Its website specifications for this mobile phone are wrong. As a simple example, they state it doesn’t have WiFi, while it has.

The box contains the minimum. A quick manual (after looking at Samsung website, found out it is the short guide, as there is an expanded guide you can download), the warranty document, the mobile phone, the battery, a USB microphone and a earphone (standard earphone that you can use anywhere else, or plugging it into the microphone adapter, that is, you can’t connect them directly to the phone, and that is a shame). What is missing, it the standard USB cable to connect it to a computer, and a CD with software to interact with the phone. Talking about the software, it is available to download in the Samsung website, but it isn’t available for Mac OS X.

The phone, itself, has a dark blue color that can be both appealing or repelling. It is one of the details that mark it, for the good or the bad. Another interesting detail is the solar panel in the rear. More on that later.

Operating System and User Interface

Nowadays, geeks are fascinated by Android or iOS. Unfortunately S-7550 operating system is none of these. It is a Samsung proprietary system. While the interface is clean, it is not as intuitive as I would like.

S-7550 has a dashboard-like space, with three virtual desktops. This means you can add widgets to each desktop, and cycle through them when needed. This is great as it does not limit the widget area for a single screen. But I do not like the idea of having this value hard coded. In the other hand, being hard coded, means one can have a wide image background that moves correctly when you cycle through desktops. More on the widgets later.

To use any application you need to switch from the dashboard to the menu. This is a typical menu with small icons, and different tabs (or different menus, or different desktops, as you prefer). It is easy to move icons along, and cycle through the menus.

Regarding input: the touch screen sometimes can be insensitive. The virtual keyboard is based on a mobile phone keyboard, meaning that you need T9 input to type faster. Fortunately it includes dictionaries for different languages, making it easier to write messages and e-mails in different languages.

Connectivity

My current tariff does not include data connection, and therefore I will not comment on that type of connections. Regarding the others:

  • Bluetooth works quite easily for document sharing. It uses the mobile phone PIN for handshaking. I do not own any other kind of bluetooth device, and therefore I can’t test much regarding this. I would love to have bluetooth to sync address book with something in the Mac, but it doesn’t seem to exist. I can send files to the phone from my Mac, but when browsing files on the phone, none is shown. I just see the folder names, not the files. Fortunately there is an option to send file by Bluetooth that can be used when browsing the files directly on the phone.
  • WiFi configuration is similar to the Bluetooth one. The fact of using a similar interface makes it easier to get used to. Also, as soon as one of this connectivity protocols is activated a clear icon appears in the top of the display.

Web

My experiments with the Web browser were using WiFi. The pages load relatively fast, and render correctly. Unfortunately, the interface to navigate (zoom and pan) in the webpage is not easy to control. When using the mobile websites (like mobile interface for Gmail) things get more usable.

Some times some links get unresponsive. While trying to follow the link, the browser does not move. That’s infuriating.

To fill in forms, there is the need to click in the input element, and another screen to input the text will show up. In this screen you will use the phone keyboard to input your text, and then return to the browser.

GPS

Accordingly with Samsung, this mobile phone does not have a GPS. But it has. By default there is a configuration option where S-7550 shows the satellites and your coordinates. Or I am lost, or it doesn’t work, as they do not change from 0, 0, 0. The phone also includes a Java application to navigate in Google maps. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell at the moment, it doesn’t in Portugal. The error message redirects the user to http://www.google.co.uk/mobile/gmm/configure.html where Portugal is not listed. I might try to install some other applications but report the result on other post, as it is not a built-in feature.

Also curious is that the manual redirects the user to http://www.66.com/samsung/ where this model is not listed.

Widgets

I did not test all widgets yet. But you can expect the usual calendar, digital or analogous clock, world clock, shortcuts to read or send messages, information on the current selected communications courier, weather information, notes, etc. It also includes two multimedia widgets, the MP3 player and a FM Radio.

Solar Panel

You do not need to put the phone in full solar light. As far as you are outside, and some sunlight is lighting part of the panel, a small light near the panel will lit, and the charging from solar energy icon will show up. As you might guess, this is just to help and delaying the usual electricity based charging procedure.

Pushing E-mail

There is an option to push e-mail to the phone. Unfortunately and as far as I can tell, it does not work using WiFi, only 3G. That sucks.

NOTE: I might add more notes to this review, including pictures, but I think I should make this text available now.

My latest exorbitance

Samsung s7550

Samsung s7550

I just ordered this smartphone. I know it is not Apple. I know it does not run Android. I know its operating system is not open source. But, what can I say, I got in love with it. I think it quite interesting to add the solar panel. Not sure about how good will it work, but I think it is worth to incentive this kind of ecologic initiatives.

As soon it gets in my door I’ll post further details/reviews on it.

Zuma’s Revenge

Zuma's Revenge

Zuma's Revenge

In an old post I wrote about Zuma. I bought it for the ClickWheel iPod. It is a nice game, playable and enjoyable. Unfortunately it is too small (or I am too good). After 17 runs (yeah, iPod counts the number of times you run an application) I reached The End of the game. I am sure it weren’t just 17 plays, but never more than 25.

Today I was looking into the iTunes store and found that there are no interesting games for ClickWheel iPod. Then, visited PopCap website searching for more games from the same company. I found that there is a followup on Zuma, not for the iPod but for the PC/Mac. Downloaded the trial version, that gives you the ability to play for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes I reached the middle of the game (about 26 levels) and had 8 lives (you start with three lives).

Now, I do not think this game will worth the $20 that it costs for more two or three hours of play… but if run smoothly in the iPod… that would might be different…

Zuma – iPod Game

Zuma is the second game I buy for my iPod Classic 5th Generation. The first one was a car simulator. Let me say it is crap. Great it was just 5 Euros.

In that occasion I saw the Zuma screenshot on iTunes Store and noticed it might be a nice game, as the type of game is very adequate to the iPod touch wheel.

After about one year I decided to buy it. The game is pretty nice and playable. I just have two complains. First, the music. It is always the same. I think it repeats every five seconds or so. Yeah, I know I can make my iPod musics to play during the game, but the music could be better anyway.

My second complain is regarding efficiency. The developers of the game know exactly the hardware where the game will run, but the game still have problems running there. Sometimes you notice glitches in the music, and more rarely, on the game itself.

iPod continues failing after five generations

ipod-nanoAfter years of iPods, generations and more generations (are we in the fifth or in the sixth?), about four kinds of iPod (touch, classic, nano, shuffle), iPods with phones, iPods with cameras, and Apple is not able to deliver a basic and simple functionality: delete a song.

Normally I do not hear music in my laptop. Thus, my iTunes is not highly customized. I have the tracks names, the album cover and nothing more. Just a few songs have ratings, and I do not have playlists. This because I do not use my time in front of the laptop to organize my musics.

Therefore, when I rip some of my CDs to iPod, I add all musics without exception. In some cases I remember the musics that I enjoy, but some other times I do not. And when hearing  on my iPod I need to skip musics that I do not enjoy. And as iPod does not includes paper and a pencil, I do not have time to write down the music that I do not like to remove it later.

Some people use another trick: they rate musics to delete with one star. Then, when syncing with iTunes, they go through those musics and remove them.

While this last solution is not properly bad, I can not understand why iPods does not include a delete command. I can not understand what are the syncing problems that might arise. It is just a matter of defining one solution, and use it. Some options:

  • when you delete a music in the iPod it removes the music from the flash disk, and adds the music in a black list (for instance, the MD5 of the file). When syncing no file is removed from iTunes, but no musics are uploaded to iPod that are in the black list;
  • when you delete a music in the iPod, the music is removed both from the iPod and from the hosting iTunes when it syncs. Of course this can be accompanied of a message for confirmation;