Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

The history of Psion

The Register has a fascinating article on Psion - well worth a read.

Tragic that a British company didn't make it to stardom under its own name, even if its legacy continues in manufacturing and through the products it spawned. Is this a symptom of some British condition, bad luck, or a simple lack of proximity to the US?

My father still uses his 3a to this day. Its reminder alarm always tends to go off during dinner - hearing it when I'm back home always makes me feel that I'm back where I belong, safe and comfortable at my parents' house.

Friday Jun 22, 2007

iPod Video finally reaches its potential

I've finally got around to using my iPod Video to actually watch videos with. What's confusing though is the number of tools and formats out there.

I want to be able to copy DVDs that I own onto my laptop - the file sizes shouldn't be huge. I also want those DVDs viewable on my iPod.

It's my understanding that I'll need two files in the end - something like a DivX for laptop viewing, and an H.264 or MP4 file for iPod viewing.

There are so many tools out there, some paid for and some for free. It looks like I'll have to start ploughing through what's out there to see what works best...

Sunday Jun 17, 2007

Phone envy

A few months ago, when I was considering upgrading my phone, Mrs Saul asked me why I simply didn't 'buy the phone that has everything you need'. My answer at the time was that I couldn't, because that phone didn't exist.

Now there are two models vying for my attention that really do seem to include everything I need - the soon to be released Sony Ericsson P1 and the new Nokia E61i. The only thing missing on each is HSDPA, but everything else is there - WLAN, decent keyboard, large screen, general bits and pieces and a camera. Travelling so much, I like having a camera to hand to snap things on the hop, so that's an essential for me, even if most 'business users' consider it superfluous.

I'm leaning towards the Sony P1, simply because I've already invested so much in Sony peripherals.

All I need to do now is persuade Mrs Saul that this is an essential purchase...

Wednesday May 23, 2007

Useless phones

This article on what handset vendors are doing wrong is excellent.

I'm enjoying using my Sony Ericsson 610i - Sony managed to realise that their useless joysticks weren't very good, so this model has a keypad instead for navigation. I have trouble sending mails unless I've done a 'send and receive' and battery life is a bit disappointing, but other than that I'm pretty pleased with it. Some people have commented that the red case is girly. My personal feeling is that it's incredibly manly - the sort of phone a rugged, toughl, no-nonsense man's man would own.

That said, it's the first phone I've had for a while that comes close to the classic Nokia 6310i I first got in 2001. It's a bit pathetic that a 7 year old model is what most customers still whistfully think of, despite all the bells and whistles on the new models.

Providing battery life makes it practical, I'd love to have a GPS in my next phone. There are two reasons for this. Firstly it'd be very useful when travelling, obviously. Secondly, the populariy of these new GPS phones are introducing a bit more competition into the market, which means Garmin ought to lower the exorbitant cost of their maps. I have no intention of getting rid of my super rugged Garmin eTrex as it's perfect for driving and hiking. I just wish it weren't so ridiculously expensive to buy additional maps for it.

Thursday May 17, 2007

How to stop Thunderbird downloading attachments

In past posts I've bemoaned the fact that I couldn't stop Thunderbird from downloading large attachments when in online mode.

I've finally found a way to solve the issue - tap the 'escape' key twice whilst the attachment is loading.

I can't believe it took me so long to find a solution to this. Someone at work mentioned it in passing the other day, freeing me from stopping and restarting Thunderbird whenever someone at Sun sent yet another 8MB file as an attachment, instead of posting it on the internal sites we have.

Sunday Apr 29, 2007

Import your iTunes art

I've been trying out various programmes that let you import album cover art into your iTunes library.

TuneSleeveis by far the best. Very easy to use and works perfectly.

Apparently iTunes 7 lets you do this via the iTunes store if you have an account. Setting up an account would mean having to get my UK credit card out of the bottom of a draw, opening an account when logged onto the web through the Sun VPN with the UK proxy set and then using up Sun's bandwidth to download all the album art. TuneSleeve is probably the best route forward for me for now!

Thursday Jan 11, 2007

iPhone thoughts

I've been enjoying reading various reviews of Apple's new iPhone. From what I've read it doesn't sound like something I'll be buying for a while to come, although I'm sure it looks gorgeous.

The first question that comes to mind is how scratchproof the screen will be. Considering that I just have to look at my iPod and the screen gets scratched, I wonder what Apple have done to keep a product that will live in pockets looking spick and span?

If they have put a decent scratchproof screen on it, why didn't they put something similar on the iPod in the first place? A cynic might suggest that not doing so means that users are more likely to renew their scratched devices and fewer models would be around on the secondhand market, all of which is good for sales of the latest models.

Apple TV looks interesting too. Neither Mrs Saul nor I watch much TV at all, time being the main factor, with content a close second. I don't see the point in paying $100 a month for mainly US shows that don't really interest me and which I'll only watch occasionally. Having a nice, user friendly way to watch what we want when we want it would be good. Content will be key again, of course and the price would have to be right. If the BBC would let me watch all their programmes whenever I wanted to for the equivalent of the £80 licence fee I'd pay in the UK, I'd be a happy man.

Tuesday Oct 31, 2006

Technology lets me down

Technology's let me down twice today.

First off the Jeep's battery was completely dead this morning, so I had to get a taxi to work. Car batteries here seem to last for about a year and a half and then die without any warning. Not Jeep's fault though.

Secondly, the joystick on my borrowed K750i has suddenly stopped working. Frequent blog readers of mine are entertained, I know, by my regular postings on the twin themes of electrical plugs and on Sony's shortcomings. This may be the last straw for Sony as far as I'm concerned. Time to return to the Nokia fold, or buy a Motorola to demonstrate my role as a standard bearer for standard cabling across multiple vendors.

I've never really liked Motorola phones - I don't like clamshells and their normal phones come across as a bit girly. A Nokia it will have to be, unless a Sony exec wants to give me a new joystick free phone to placate me. One that uses the same data cables I already have. And will use the Memory Stick Pro cards I already have. And the earphones I already have. And the chargers too.

Looks like I'll be getting a Nokia.

Monday Oct 23, 2006

Sort your act out, Sony!

Mrs Saul gave me a bluetooth headset as an Eid present.

Being from Sony, I wasn't surprised to notice that it needs a different charger to the one I use with my current phone. It'll be going back to be replaced by something that doesn't force me to carry yet another set of cables with me when I'm travelling.

Sort your act out, Sony. Your customers are sick and tired of being ripped off and inconvenienced by your insistence on ignoring common sense when it comes to the chargers, memory sticks and multiple cables we're forced to buy and fill up our bags with.

Wednesday Sep 27, 2006

On hold? No, it's a ringback tone

I don't understand why people pay for the latest mobile phone craze - 'ringback tones'.

Whenever I ring someone and get a bad quality clip from a song I don't like, my automatic reaction is to think that I've gone through to the wrong line and have been put on hold.

I think I'll get a badly played and particularly tinny version of 'Greensleeves' set up as my ringback tone to give people the feeling that they've actually got through to their dentist, circa 1992.

Monday Aug 21, 2006

Clone a phone

I spent some time today fiddling with Bluetooth and my Sony K700i to get it synch'd with my laptop, Palm Pilot and my internal Sun web based calendar. I thought this would be a simple task, given the length of time Bluetooth, Windows and Sony have been around, but this didn't prove to be the case. Eventually everything suddenly worked, for no apparent reason - let's hope it keeps doing so. During my experiments I came across an excellent open source phone management tool called FMA, which proved to be pretty handy. Never again will I need to wonder what the temperature of my phone is. A quick link to FMA over Bluetooth and my laptop and all the phone related info I never thought I'd need is there for me. I have to wonder why it takes a group of volunteers to create such a cool application when phone vendors themselves could improve their offering by writing something themselves. One tool that really seems to be missing is the ability to back up all the personalised data on a phone. Aaron's lent me his old K750i, which is a nice upgrade from my current phone. Whilst I know I can copy all my contacts across without any issues, it doesn't look like I'll be able to copy across something equally important to me - all the words I've entered into the phone's dictionary. I send a lot of text messages, something the phone's predictive text makes very easy. Predictive text is excellent, but for obvious reasons it doesn't contain words like 'Solaris', 'Al Bustan', 'SGD' and suchlike. After 6 months the dictionary's filled up with lots of my custom entries and I really don't fancy having to re-enter them into every new phone I acquire over the years to come. It seems to me that mobile phone makers could do a bit more to endear their particular brand to business users. Creating a loyal following by making the interface cuter and by including a free darts game is one thing. I think using standard cabling, providing synch tools that work without fiddling and making it easy to back up all the features on a phone would probably be far more effective. IT managers looking to standardise on one vendor (or solitary desktop sales managers in Dubai thinking of ditching Sony for Nokia) are far more likely to stick to the brand they're already using if the upgrade process is made as painless as possible.

Sunday Jun 25, 2006

Linux install irritations ended

My mission to rebuild my laptop without destroying the existing Windows paritions failed when Ubuntu corrupted the partition table during another attempt to get it installed with Grub working. Never mind - I took the opportunity to start from scratch. I now have a nicely repartitioned drive with Windows XP, a shared fat drive, Ubuntu Dapper Drake and Solaris 10. Lovely. The install steps I took were as follows - \* Restore Windows XP from my Toshiba restore CD. \* Boot Ubuntu Desktop CD and repartition drives, resizing the Windows C drive and D drives, creating an extended partition with Linux root and Linux swap and leaving some space left for Solaris to install itself in. \* Install Ubuntu, check things are happily multi-booting. \* Install Solaris 10. This install set Solaris' Grub up as the bootloader and I couldn't work out how to boot Ubuntu properly. \* Booted from the Ubuntu install cd into the 'live cd' state and used update-grub to reinstall Grub with Ubuntu's settings. Added a line to Ubuntu's Grub menu.lst for Solaris (I'll post this here later). \* When I boot now I get a Grub menu. I can choose to boot straight into Ubuntu or Windows XP. If I choose Solaris I go to Solaris' Grub menu and then boot into Solaris from there. VMware Workstation 5.5 is needed to work with Linux 2.6 kernels. Fortunately it's a free upgrade if you have a 5.0 licence, so I'm now happily up and running and testing some stuff that Sun Ray fans will be pleased to hear about.

Thursday Jun 22, 2006

Linux install irritations

Am getting fed up whilst rebuilding my laptop. Previously I had Windows XP, JDS 3 beta and an old version of Solaris Express. I decided to get a newer Linux on there and go with the current version of Solaris 10. Fedora Core 5's networking didn't work properly, plus Sun seem to be working closely with Ubuntu currently, so Fedora was dumped and Ubuntu installed. Ubuntu requires the 'alternate cd' if you want to install it on an extended partition, which I did. Lilo is then installed as the bootloader however, with no option to use Grub. I don't have any preference over one or the other, but Lilo gives a strange error when I try to edit it to allow my Solaris partition to boot. This is annoying - I want to be able to boot Windows, Linux or Solaris via a nice menu at boot time. Instead I'm stuck with something I can't seem to change. On the bright side, Ubuntu looks great, wireless worked perfectly out of the box and VMware is happily installed. Ironic that Solaris installed perfectly first time and that after installing frkit I was happily up and running. Linux has taken a lot more fiddling with.

Sunday Jun 04, 2006

Mrs Saul goes biometric

Mrs Saul's status as Mrs Saul finally became official last week on receipt of her new UK passport in her married name, freshly delivered via the British Consulate in Dubai. I was surprised to notice that the new passport has a biometric chip embedded in it. It looks like an rfid chip and apparently contains facial biometric information, according to the UK Passport Authority's website. I need to read a bit more about how it works, but am perfectly in favour of the concept in principle. The chip is stuck on the other side of the page containing the holder's photo and other info, which makes the passport very stiff and inflexible. I wonder how resilient it is to wear and tear from general travelling?

SwitchProxy tool saves Chris time

The SwitchProxy extension is one of those little tools that I can't believe I was able to live without - in computing terms at least. Any Sun people out there who regularly switch between networks with differing proxies or simple find themselves using the Sun VPN on and off during the working day will find it incredibly handy.
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