Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blackberry Bold

I now have a Blackberry Bold. This is an amazing device. I have been through a trail of smart phones and PDAs, most of which I'm very happy with for a few weeks. Since I've only had the Bold for a few days, maybe I'm still in the 'honeymoon period', so we'll see, but so far, it has far exceeded expectations.

I have had a long string of devices, starting with a Motorola Timeport, a Handspring Visor, a Kyocera 6035 (palm os sprint phone), a Treo 300, a Sony Ericsson 610, a Sony Ericsson p800, a Nokia 9290, a Nokia 9300, a Motorola RAZR, a HTC Wizard TMO MDA, a Treo 650, a Motorola RAZR v2, a Palm T|X, another Treo 650, a Nokia e71, an iPod Touch and now a Bold on AT&T and a Centro (AT&T version unlocked) on TMobile. I keep searching for my device that does everything.

I was actually looking at the iPhone but just couldn't dig it. I kept thinking that a WebOS device would come to AT&T (the wife has an iPhone so we have switched from TMobile, although I have my line still active on TMobile) and I would pick that later, so I bought an AT&T unlocked Centro off a friend. It is pretty cool, pretty much exactly what I expected, kind of slow network, interface snappy, limited capability but what it does, it *DOES*.

Here are my impressions of the device.


This thing is seriously pretty. I actually don't like the way the iPhone looks, although I like the way the iPod Touch looks and can't tell you why the one but not the other. I like the e71 from Nokia and the Palm Centro. The Palm Pre looks aren't that great, but it feels good. There's a few of the devices currently out that I have had in my hand. Of them all, I like the Bold the best.

I've always liked the wider format of the Blackberry, seen colleagues use them and thought maybe some day I'd like to have one, but some shiny thing was always distracting me. The Blackberry always seemed so boring and business-like. Well, the Bold changes that. It is still very business-like, with a metallic ring around the device and the faux leather on the back, but it can do so much more under the hood now, including youtube and quite a few games.

Some have said the faux leather looks tacky, but I think it lends a lot of class. The whole design hangs together in a sort of pin-stripe suit way. This device is not a jeans and t-shirt device, which means it looks a bit out of place on me. I am now wearing a belt all the time, tho, due to a cool feature discussed below.


This is sort of what Blackberries *DO*. I did not really understand it until I got one. I had phones that could do email, including my winmo HTC Wizard that did a pretty good job of it, but this is the first phone I've ever had where email is actually as easy to deal with on the device as on my Macbook. Seriously. Setting up the email is as simple as surfing over to and putting in the addresses and passwords. Blackberry's servers do the rest. The only device that is as easy to set up is the iPhone/iPod Touch, but they don't have a keyboard. The email servers constantly poll your email servers for your emails and push them to the device. They often will show up on the device before they show up on your laptop. If you delete them or read them on the Blackberry, they will be deleted or marked as read on your laptop, but if you delete them or read them on the laptop, they will not necessarily be deleted or marked read on the Blackberry. I have also found it takes a bit for the changes to run through, so, since I am using imap, which is tolerant of this sort of thing, sometimes I just delete them on both to get rid of them.


Speaking of keyboards, you have not lived until you have used the Bold's keyboard. It is two-thumb capable, has great tactile feedback and enough keys to do everything you need to do. The odd shape of the keys make them easy to press without hitting another key. Since it is around 50% wider than any other phone I've ever used, the keypad is that much more usable. I've had horizontal layouts, the 9290, 9300 and the Wizard, and they all annoyed me because you couldn't type with one hand. Well, the Bold is perfectly balanced between the two, two thumb capable or one thumb capable.

This is where the iPhone essentially lost me. There are full-size after market keyboards for both the Blackberry and the Centro, but none for the iPhone. I can't treat the iPhone as a small computer to do things like write on the novel I'm working on (seriously, isn't everyone?) or deal with email copiously. Also, the built-in iPhone/iPod Touch on screen keyboard is a constant exercise in frustration for me, with constant missed letters and its auto-correction 'fixing' words I typed correctly to something else entirely if I miss the little popup. For some, maybe, the thing works, but for me, it is extra-special annoying. This is why I hung on to my e71 for so long. The vertical communicator phone, sometimes called the Treo or Blackberry format, is easily the best for my usage profile.


As mentioned above, the Bold does multimedia, most audio and video. I have an iPod Touch so I don't really need a music player nor do I need a video player, but the Bold can do youtube, something the Centro can't (the e71 can as well, but it isn't as seamless as the Bold). It took a bit to configure it; you have to use AT&T's 3g network, confusingly called 'MEdia Net' and the Blackberry browsers are linked to specific connections, ie, TCP, which is the WAP connection, MEdia Net, which is 3g for all the streaming, and WiFi, which is the local wifi connection. There's something called BIS or BES depending on your setup (Blackberry Internet Service or Blackberry Enterprise Service, I believe) which runs over whichever connection is handy that meets minimum requirements and securely implements the push email stuff.

Blackberries are simply obsessed with security. I hope this translates into real security, and, given that they haven't been hacked, maybe it does. The Blackberry, on startup, checks all its security modules, presumably doing a checksum to verify there has been no tampering. You can also password lock it.

There is plenty of software for the Blackberry, most of it oriented towards adults and business, so lots of puzzle games and productivity software. The spreadsheet app on this device is easily the best on any device I've used, allowing you to actually create complex spreadsheets and manipulate them. Here, again, the massive screen and beautiful keyboard really help. The ssh app commonly used, MidpSSH, is similarly useful, with color options, font sizes, and the ability to display a readable font with over 30 lines, meaning atop works. Since I monitor systems quite a bit with ssh, this means I don't have to mess with the horrid ssh implementations on the iPod Touch. The e71 has a slightly better ssh implementation in terms of keyboard layout, but the screen is much smaller, making it less useful.

Oh, and there's 'Guitar Hero' for Blackberry Bold, although I have yet to download it. I have downloaded the MobiPocket Reader and used it to buy a book a la Kindle, which I am reading now. Kindle is still easier, and I use it on my iPod Touch, but Mobipocket also works on the Centro, so books bought on the Blackberry can be installed on the Centro and vice versa.


The screen on this thing is awesome. It is large, well and fairly evenly lit, and has plenty of real estate for demanding apps like spreadsheets and so on. One of the first things I do is reduce the font size of the various applications so they show more, as the default font is gargantuan on this screen.

The keyboard, as covered above, is awesome. It is missing an esc key and a ctrl key, but only the e71 has a ctrl key and none of them have an esc key.

There are buttons all over this thing, making it a little difficult to pick up, but easy to tell what to do. The lack of buttons on the iPod Touch and iPhone are part of its allure and part of its problems. For instance, Kindle on the iPod Touch requires that I tap the screen to change pages, obscuring the screen and requiring me to shift my hand. On the e71, the various Palm devices and the Blackberry running MobiPocket, you just hit the spacebar to change pages. Or, you could hit the left arrow, whatever that may be.

There's a button to mute the thing, which is really nice. The e71 requires no less than two keypresses to mute. Palm is better. This thing has a dedicated button, which is important on long conference calls when the kids come in to bother you.

There's a button that can be configured to do anything but is configured to do app switching by default. This is also really useful, as, unlike the iPhone/iPod Touch and Palm OS devices, but like the e71, this thing can do more than one thing at a time. It has plenty of ram to do it, too.

There's a dedicated camera button as well, although I have changed it to bring up the delightful clock screen, which can be configured in several classy ways. The Centro's world clock is geeky and the e71's clock is functional, but this is both pretty and functional.

There's volume up, volume down and a standard headphone jack and a mini-usb (yes, not micro usb like the e71, mini usb like everything else) which can charge from any usb power source, which is really useful.

It has a powerful light for the camera that you can make active by using the video camera and hitting the spacebar, which turns it into a pretty good flashlight.

The battery life is pretty good. My e71 had a three times bigger aftermarket battery that made it pretty much never run low, but this one lasts about half as long on a stock battery.

And, the coolest feature of all, best for last, that sort of thing, there's a magnetic sensor in the phone. When the phone is placed in the stock holster, the lcd is turned off and the keyboard locked. This means no accidental dialing and much lower power usage because it doesn't have to wait for the lcd timeout to kill the backlight. The holster, of course, has a belt clip, so I now wear a belt. I'm looking for a small belt clip bag to add to hold my other devices and money and so on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Missed the Boat

Watching 'Chandni Chowk to China' again and remain amazed that these heroes never seem to think about using the appropriate weapon to end a strongman's life, the sniper rifle.  You can take a motivated person such as Sidhu, the erstwhile hero of the piece, and teach him everything he needs to know to hit with some accuracy in a few weeks, followed by some trail work to teach him how to sneak up into position.

Perhaps, six months, and you've got a weapon that can be used with relatively little effort to end this strongman's life.  This is one reason that men who control their little empires in this manner are pretty rare these days.

It is a good reason to never allow the full disarming of a populace.  The old adage 'an armed society is a polite society' applies.  This is just an extreme instance, that a leader simply cannot afford to make too many enemies with 'nothing to lose' or one will get through security and shoot him.

Much of security in this world is for show.  Look at the secret service and the armies of police and military that swarm the POTUS (President Of The United States, the 'correct' acronym given the tendency of early America to be different (tm), meaning putting every word in an acronym).  With all that, we've had presidents shot.

One of the risks, however, of the situation that has attained as a result is the lack of the 'common touch'.  George W Bush was pretty much completely insulated from his populace.  A president truly becomes a 'man in a bubble', without any idea what is happening anywhere except where he is allowed to go, with his guards and controllers severely limiting access for 'security' reasons, creating the sort of insular and aloof leadership we have had since Reagan got shot.

Prior to Kennedy being shot, the president commonly rode around in an open car, essentially a four-door convertible.  It is said that at the height of the civilwar Lincoln walked around DC with impunity.  The Pope used to ride around in an elevated seat on an open car.

These ramblings have a point.  Particularly with GW and the Pope, both avowed Christians, their death would lead to their immediate arrival in heaven as per their religion.  Or, did they mean to insinuate their persons were so important the world would not survive without them?

People insist the world has changed, that there are more crazies in the world, a greater risk, and that the president or the pope is worth protecting.  Well, the simple fact is that the crazies in this world are largely artificially made.  I am no conspiracy nut, but most of the attempts on a president's life were actually comitted by the pointy stick of a conspiracy, the guy I alluded to above, motivated to kill but without training or support, provided by the conspiracy who then remove themselves somehow from the view of history.  In some cases, they did not do so well.

Easily the most common known instance of this is the actual conspiracy that surrounded Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.  During the civil war, as most of us were not taught in history class, the north was just as divided as the country as a whole.  There were plenty of people who felt that Lincoln had done irrevocable harm to the nascent country, pitting brother against brother for nothing more than holding the union together, or, even worse, merely to defend profits of eastern manufacturing concerns.  It was out of this miasma of political hatred that Booth was fashioned, either as a weapon by those who fashioned him or inadvertently as a result of the venom being plyed by those who fashioned him.

Whether intentional or inadvertent, Booth still shot Lincoln.  After shooting Lincoln, Booth tried to rely on the friends who, he thought, had talked him into it.  They, of course would have nothing to do with him, the deed being done.

This is a classic example of what I'm saying, which is that no leader in an armed society can afford to be overly evil or, sooner or later, someone will get close enough to kill him.  Even in a crowded restaurant, with security and armed guards everywhere, the second Kennedy was shot presumably by Sirhan Sirhan, although how he arrived there with a weapon, why he would shoot Kennedy and a lot of other questions remain unresolved.

I will say this in defense of conspiracy theorists: we have histories of naval battles were we know down to the minute what each of some two hundred combatants were doing.  We have histories that have been painstakingly reconstructed of a lot of things, such as the Challenger disaster, where we know exactly what happened and when.  Appropriate investigation and forensics, especially given the attention paid the incident, should certainly have provided a plausible timeline for both Kennedy assasinations, but it is precisely plausibility that is lacked.  Also, instead of certainty with multiple attestations, we are fed the 'high likelihood' line, which impresses nobody.

My biggest gripe at the end of the day with recent events, starting with the Kennedies and working through September 11th, is that we have to have the discussion in the first place.  Such is the secrecy and incompetence at the highest level in our society that what the average person hears is almost never correct.

This is my private log; the bureau publishes analysis that is gleaned from the flow of the internet.  All I will say at this moment is that if you carefully follow what has happened, you can determine what has happened.  For instance, several of the bureau's analysts have worked out a plausible scenario for both the collapse of the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the Twin Trade Towers that do not require complicity by government entities, but in both cases there certainly was a coverup because the publicly released data do not match known engineering principles.  It is simply a matter of people in power who have made serious mistakes not wanting to let anyone know that the mistakes were made.

And now we come full circle.  An armed populace has lots less trouble with tyrants.  A populace that is both armed with appropriate weapons and armed with knowledge is far harder to trifle with.  We the people should demand more truth from our leaders, and excoriate those caught in any sort of falsehood.  I don't advocate the use of violence; I advocate the use of the pen and the mind.  We should remember that these leaders are not treasures to be protected, but dangerous people to be watched very carefully and cheerfully stomped on at the first sign of impropriety.  This is especially so in light of the brain trusts we have been subjected to recently.  I implore the American public to put a president in the whitehouse with a triple digit IQ before one of these morons achieves armageddon.

A Good Day

I finally found that song that has been under my skin for so long, 'Tu No Eres Para Mi', by Fanny Lu.  It is a fascinating song.  One of those breakup songs where the guy is a standard mark one jerk, the kind that always got way more action than I, not that I was all that concerned he was running up the score.  I think it is one of those few works of art where the whole thing kind of hangs together.  The artist truly believes in the song, the backup dancers are simply having a ball, jumping around in what appears genuine joy to a very simple choreography that seems to match the music perfectly.

Such a genuine piece of art, nearly perfect in every way, cannot possibly make it into mainstream, attached as it is to genuine silliness, with a sort of bubbling brook melody underlining a smackdown delivered to some guy.  The words to the song have a percussive pattern that acts as a sort of drum line on top of divine accordion.  There's also something about hot older women trying to sing songs as if still twenty-something or younger, a la 'Hollaback Girl', another song that captured a sort of a moment.

In the vast sea of bubblegum pop, tortured rockers and gratuitous over done music, occasionally we find a song and video that seem to address the essential ego of our existence, affirming the positive freedom we all want.  Or maybe I just liked it.