Monday, November 22, 2010

Back to Blackberry - and the Samsung Galaxy goes in the bin !

So my experiment is over ! Android has failed !

My initial test was with the HTC Wildfire. Chosen for its diminutive size, it's a nice piece of hardware, but I found it underpowered and it had a woeful battery. Nevertheless, the apps available and the set up for Exchange sync was fast, simple and effective ... so I ran with it.

However, the temptation to continue to try something new and the fact that I am constantly looking for "the perfect device" led me to buy the much acclaimed Samsung Galaxy S. A nicely made phone. Many reviews have complained about its "plasticy feel", but this helps it remain light and nice to hold. Its excellent screen and crystal clear phone quality impressed, but it too had a totally substandard battery. Nevertheless, the phone worked (with its pre-installed Android 2.1 software) and I soon found out that by switching off 3G and using GPRS only for data (which is fine for chat and email), the battery life extends to 18 hours with heavy usage ... and this is fine for me.

So for the past week since, using GPRS, I have been content with the phone. It stuttered from time to time when opening programs, and would crash occasionally, but it basically did all I needed and now had acceptable battery life. So why, on Sunday morning when I saw the FROYO (Android 2.2) update available, did I have to tamper? The much vaunted upgrade claims to increase battery life and speed up the phone ... what a load of b******s !

My phone is ruined ! As soon as it upgraded (to be fair, the upgrade process was fairly painless - fast and smooth and all my data remained intact) the phone slowed to a snails pace. Literally a 20-30 second wait to open a programme, and the battery life was being sucked (using GPRS only) faster than the old software using 3G. The battery was draining at about 15% per hour, and this was AFTER I had switched all background syncing ... and on a Sunday ... the lowest usage day of the week !

I was frustrated all day and was trying all types of settings to improve things. I may have been able to forgive the power drain, but this slower speed had made the phone totally unusable. I lasted till about 4pm with my tampering, and then went out and bought a new BB handset. For all its weaknesses and shortcomings. It is a limited device with limited apps, but the BB works as a phone, an email device and an organiser reliably ... and that's all I ask !

Why oh why oh why over develop something to level where it doesn't work?

So I have lost my patience with Android and specifically the Samsung Galaxy, but will keep my HTC as a back up device for travelling - but have already deleted all apps and will use it purely as a phone !

So my recommendation? If you are looking at an Android phone, or a Samsung Galaxy S ... forget it !

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A sad day (captured by my Sony Alpha 55) !

Not since the Barcelona game earlier this year was I so looking forward to a match.

what a match !

Today, Arsenal vs Tottenham. It's a big game in any case, but this time, it was our chance to top the table with a victory and also the first chance to use my season tickets.

perfect use of the excellent panoramic feature on my Alpha ... and how about these seats !

We arrived just a few minutes before kick off and the atmosphere was electric. I hate to admit it, but compared to many other grounds, the Emirates does usually have subdued atmosphere. But not at this game ... it was loud, and there was optimism and excitement in the air.
The first half, it all came together. 10 minutes in and Samir Nasri put us ahead with a mixture of grit, determination and skill, and 10 minutes later, we had another! Chamakh put us in a very comfortable position after a fine run from Fabregas down the middle who played the ball wide to Arshavin who slid an inch perfect cross to Chamakh and it was 2! It was all looking so sweet. Fabragas was controlling the play, looking sharper than he has been for the past 2 games. Nasri continued his brilliance, Arshavin was starting to show a bit more effort, Chamakh was getting into dangerous positions, and the defensive line was holding well, with Bale and Van De Vaart not being allowed to get into the game. The only problem was, we didn't kill it off when we should have!

Fabregas in control.

But then it all turned sour. The second half started off poorly. Jermaine Defoe was on for Tottenham and Arsenal appeared to be over confident with their lead and lost focus. Fabregas was off his best. Tackling late and letting passes go astray. The team were too happy to pass backwards when they had the ball and didn't appear to have the drive to go for a bigger win, and we paid the price. Sloppy defending and weak goalkeeping allowed Gareth Bale to bring Spurs back into the game. An unnecessary handball by Fabregas gave Spurs a penalty and their equaliser, and classic Arsenal weakness on set pieces allowed Spurs their winner with a free kick floated in to the area and a clean header to beat Fabanski ! Arsenal didn't show the spirit required to come back into it, and towards the end too many long balls were being pumped up the field. Van Persie and Walcott arriving was too little too late.

It could have (should have) been so sweet !

We had our chances to finish it. A fine solo effort by Fabregas was miraculously tipped around the post by Gomes, Koscielny put an open header over the bar, and a well taken set piece led to a disallowed goal.

It was a sad and disappointing end to an afternoon that started so well, but there is some consolation that Chelsea also lost today, but we needed to have done more to take advantage of that.

Anyway, it ain't over till the fat lady sings, and she hasn't even drawn an intake of breath yet. We are still in with a chance to take the title ... but Rednapp thinking that Tottenham have a chance ! The man is delusional.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape !

What a classic !

Flying on Etihad last week, I scanned through the "classic" movies, and there is was ... "Planet of the Apes" (the original, not the spoiled Tim Burton / Mark Wahlberg ripoff).

A month earlier, Emirates was showing "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".

I'm a great movie buff, and think there are some worthy modern "classics" (read everything by Martin Scorsese, Guy Ritchie and Quinten Tarrantino), but there is something special about coming back to a film after so many years, especially one that was ground breaking and left such an impression when first seen.

PotA is a great example of this. With the lack of special effects (just outstanding wardrobes), the movie is reliant on the storyline, actors and the dialogue to engage the audience, and that entire execution makes it a very watchable film even today.

The classic lines ("Damn you ... Damn you all to hell"), Charlton Heston's superb portrayal of Taylor ("Bright Eyes"), the outstanding makeup (I still think the make up / costumes from the 1968 orignal beat the remake), the characters of Dr Zaius, Corneleus and Dr. Zira, and that soundtrack and theme tune ... all fantastic.

So much was its success, that they made 4 sequels and a TV series !

I have downloaded all 5 films for watching with the kids this half term week ... Their enjoyment of it will reveal a lot towards its true timelessness (as opposed to my nostalgia), and I hope they will enjoy it as much as I did at their age ...and beyond.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My brand spanking shiny new camera - The Sony Alpha 55.

So after smashing and drowning my original Sony Alpha this summer (trying to take a dramatic shot from the middle of a Colorado river!!) I finally chose my replacement.

I was considering between a new full size SLR, or one of the new breed of micro four thirds cameras. All the selection, from the Olympus PEN, the Panasonic GF1 & 2 and the Sony NEX5 look superb, and have been re-sized excellently for the (alleged) quality pictures they produce.

I came closest to selecting the Sony NEX5 - if I'm honest, based mostly on it's look and metal construction - but if this was to be a multi-lens camera for me, then I couldn't really figure out the benefit of going with the smaller body (and the compromises that comes with), when it will anyway be too big to pocket when it has a mega zoom lens attached.

As I am also a very proud owner of a Leica D-Lux 4 (a generous birthday gift from my brother) which superbly fills my need for a compact camera (excepting only the woeful zoom), so I chose to go again with a full size and function SLR and picked up the newly launched Sony Alpha 55. For an SLR, It is still a relatively compact format and incredibly light. I chose Sony over the highly rated Canon, mainly so that my collection of Sony lenses wouldn't go to waste (and I had experienced 4 good years of service from my original Alpha).
So with my new camera in hand, Diwali day was to be the test day. It was going to allow me a variety of testing scenarios, albeit more in the genre of "family snapshot" than "Alpine panorama". There was the father son golf tournament for an outdoor sunshine test, Diwali gift giving at home for inside low light testing (using the built in flash) and family celebrations at home in the evening to test outdoor low light settings and the cameras ability to capture ambiance. I also got a chance to test the HD video recording to capture the kids running wild.

In all cases, my new Alpha performed superbly. There are subtle design changes to the original model and some nice material usage. It feels great to hold and has solid clicks with all the button presses, and am especially satisfying shutter click sound.

A couple of picture samples are shown above. Very sharp and clear (if not re-sized and viewed on my two lovely new HD LED monitors), and I can also testify that the HD video results were simply outstanding. Amazingly clear audio and excellent video with sharp, clear focus, even in low light.

A key problem with the micro four thirds cameras is the lack of an optical viewfinder, and the problem with my original Alpha was the lack of an LCD viewfinder. This new Alpha has both, although the optical viewfinder on this product is actually another LCD screen. This allows you instant previews of your pictures through the "optical" viewfinder. Very clever and very useful. The LCD screen is hinged and will allow you to take pictures with the camera held high or low, in addition to self portraits (for the very vain of us!).

The other settings are as to be expected on a top end camera (admittedly put to very limited use by me), and there is a fairly logical menu structure, including the options for a 10 fps burst mode and a panorama sweep mode, both of which I am yet to fully test.

I have not yet been able to test the battery to it's full, but can only hope it as good as my previous version (with could carry me through a weekend of heavy clicking).

I'm off to Europe in a couple of weeks, and will get a chance to really put this thing through it's paces - I can't wait.