Friday, February 29, 2008

But where's the Blog-o-matic?

If you're giving up smoking you could do worse than turn to the world of gadgets for a bit of therapy.

They've certainly been helpful to me in the past. Another ex-smoker I know rewarded himself with the money he had saved by buying an iPod – and in case that seems a bit commonplace it's worth pointing out it was a few years back and it was the purchasing equivalent of buying an iPhone with the full 99 year contract. Or drinking champagne for breakfast for six months on the trot and not the supermarket own brand.

Although the need to reward myself has now waned the need to renew oneself with gadgets remains and there have been a few in my life recently. And heh! This is a blog for chrissakes and what are blogs about? Technology for stevessakes. (I did have a dream about Steve Jobs the other night – the bit with him playing with the train set is fresh in my mind).

First up and slightly more modestly priced than the early iPods and present day iPhones is the Lidl stopwatch. This is a standalone device with a modal operating systems. The four modes are Timer, Stopwatch, Alarm clock and some other time thing - I can't remember. Its wireless so you can use it in the kitchen to time eggs/pasta as well as use it to wake up in the middle of the night if you forget to reset the hourly reminder tinkle. I don't know if the hourly tinkle is for the overly hyper (time is slipping through my fingers) or the “time weighs heavily” types (only another hour...I'm sooo depressed..tick...tock...). It's pretty useless and I'm surprised Nameless Plastic Items at Lidl Limited bundled it with the more useful features in this gizmo.

Another stopwatch enabled device I picked up was the Nokia 6233 which is a neat little 3g phone. You can't video-call with it due to the lack of a front-facing camera and its only a Series 40 type phone meaning you're stuck with some limited applications. I did install MobyExplorer on it from Bermin software but it hasn't run smoothly and despite stumping up for the licence have had zero support from them. Its a file manager with some encryption software and a FTP feature and a text editor thrown in. Its also supposed to be certificated. this is important because without it the 6233 keeps throwing up a dialogue asking if I give it permission. MobyExplorer's website gives precise instructions and I managed to get the trial version to function smoothly. What's really annoyed me is that the licencing process involves installing a new version rather than just inserting the reg code (unlike Tracker and Fileman for my A925).

I'm very happy with the phone itself - I have lugged around a big phone for a while and this does most of what I want.

More importantly it is my first “generic phone purchase”. That is – it is not linked to a phone network -neither is it a phone that was previously linked to a network and has subsequently been unlocked and or re-flashed.

This does create a few problems but the advantages are major. You don't have a device that has been geared to pointing you towards services you do not want. Certain options that would normally be blocked out are there.

However it's frustrating that I can't allow whatever software I want (such as Bermin's) to run. So, although I escape the clutches of the network I remain within the clutches of the manufacturer. They presumably want to avoid the hassle of support calls from people that have messed up their phones and then have the gall to complain about it. Surely PC manufacturers have to deal with the same thing (multiplied a hundredfold) and have introduced measures to head off those problems. I have heard that this is a Nokia problem rather than with generic phones in general.

My network is the 3 network and that is the main reason why I got a 3g phone. I don't have a contract and wouldn't want one at this stage. I guess I could have got a locked PAYG phone deal and transferred my SIM over but I do like the opportunity to stick any card in if I, or R. need to. And when you do the locked PAYG prices with the compulsory minute purchasing and compare with a generic phones prices it begins to look less prohibitive.

Obviously the higher-end phones have scary prices. But that is what they cost. If we could break our association with handset and network so that something akin to the computer world took place we could spend less time going insane trying to calculate the benefit of handset and bundle offer over another.

Now those scary priced phones only cost money because they are pretty much little computers. And so we move seamlessly to my third gadget – the ASUS Eeepc.

The first thing to say about it is that it doesn't have a scary price. It doesn't have a hard drive. It doesn't have a DVD drive. But it does have an awful lot of what you would expect in a laptop and it is great. The early ones are Linux (Xandros) but you can install XP. Later ones will come pre-installed with Windows and relunctantly I would say that may be what drives the Asus (and an entire industry based on affordable ultraportables) forward. It has Wifi but seeing as this is Britain that doesn't mean two much. More importantly for me it has an ethernet port (unlike the Macbook Air and the Nokia Internet tablets). With the help of some Homeplugs we now have a two PC household where I can be writing a blog whilst R checks her emails. (And no I haven't written a blog with it yet – the small screen and keyboard seem a bit daunting for such a mesy blog creator a s myself. I need all kinds of things cutting and pasting across each other to make the simplest post. I will use it but there's a lot more configuration to do first. For everything else – emails, browsing, playing music and watching BBC iPlayer streams its a star. And its principally as an internet device for around the house that I got it. I can time my eggs with my Lidl stop watch whilst listening to Delia explain the finer points of a successful boil.

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