Archive for the ‘ Tech ’ Category

Windows 7 Pre-Sale

A reminder: Microsoft is offering Win7 Upgrade versions at a significantly reduced price until this saturday.

Preorder Windows 7 cheaply

In select markets, Microsoft is offering its customers the ability to preorder Windows 7 upgrade versions at a significantly reduced price. This is easily the most aggressive pricing Microsoft has ever offered for Windows. The low preorder price will vary per country:

  • US: Windows 7 Home Premium ($49.99) and Windows 7 Professional ($99.99)
  • Canada: Windows 7 Home Premium ($64.99) and Windows 7 Professional ($124.99)
  • Japan: Windows 7 Home Premium (¥7,407) and Windows 7 Professional (¥14,073)
  • UK: Windows 7 Home Premium (£49.99) and Windows 7 Professional (£99.99)
  • France and Germany: Windows 7 Home Premium (€49.99) and Windows 7 Professional (€109.99)

The deal includes select retail partners, such as Best Buy and Amazon, as well as the online Microsoft Store. This program begins Friday, June 26 in the US, Canada, and Japan. It goes on while supplies last or until July 11 in the US and Canada, and until July 5 in Japan. For the UK, France, and Germany, the preorder starts July 15 and runs while supplies last or until August 14. Microsoft was not willing to discuss the limits of the supplies, but a spokesperson did confirm to Ars that the reduced prices for the European countries will simply apply to the full version (as noted above), as upgrade versions will not exist in Europe. In short, these preorders will allow those in the UK, Germany, and France to purchase full versions of Home Premium or Professional, except without IE8, for a very low price.

Digsby Tip

Using multiple messenger programs you may not realize or notice that the default category your buddies go to end up in are named differently per application.  With Digsby (and probably any other multi-IM client) you can drag and drop names into the various categories and the changes are then saved back into each separate application. Why I didn’t realize this sooner I’ll never know.

It’s possible perhaps that because I tend to use AIM more than MSN/Yahoo that they had different labeling systems simply due to usage.  Regardless, I’m down to 4 categories again instead of 4 major ones then the defaults for Yahoo/MSN/GChat which made the list a lot longer than it had to be. Combine this with lumping people with multiple screen names together and I have a nice and tidy buddy list again.

On the other hand, I very rarely use IM clients anymore. I twitter more than I send IMs (except in rare cases) which is almost kind of sad considering I can usually count my daily tweets on one hand, but that’s probably the evolution of this type of communication.

I finally setup my account and only used Pandora in passing on my phone/ipod.  Now I’m going to be putting them both through the paces to see which I’ll like better.  There are pretty much no negative reviews about Pandora but I want to see how good is going to be and see how it’s going to handle on the upcoming Xbox360 update.  I added a link to my account on the around the web section and would have done the same had Pandora had such a feature (maybe it does and I’m dumb).

My initial impression is that has this trio mixer where you can pick 3 of your favorite bands for it to generate a playlist.  It seems a bit more cumbersome in Pandora where you have to create a station first then add variety to it.  But we’ll see which delivers songs I like on a more consistent basis!

UPDATE: Oh I found the Pandora page:

Bing Travel Search

I heard you can use Bing to search for airfare so I decided to give it a whirl since I have 2 trips out to the LA area in the next two months.  The cheapest airfare it found was like 429 bucks for next month which is crazy high compared to Expedia which found something in the 330 range.  But what’s funny is that Bing pointed out other sites and I find a ticket in the 240 range at cheapoair which is totally awesome! I’m now in love with this

Also, Bing hijacked my Firefox default search.  I’m not pleased with this.

Palm Pre Day 3

Something that’s really great about the Pre is that it comes with a slipcase that doubles as a screen wipe.  I was considering getting a nice leather case or a belt clip thing, but they can’t be used as screen wipes.  This thing is a total magnet for greasy fingers which sucks but is made all better because it is nearly autocleaned when put in and pulled out of said case.  Totally great.

So one thing that really sucks I’ve discovered is that there is no 3G in Lubbock on Sprint.  So I’m relegated to just wifi, which is somewhat fine but the University wifi is awful.  It connects and disconnects constantly which is a huge drain so it’s not even worth using.  Twitter/Email worked ok on just the towers, but Pandora was really slow loading up (fine once a song started playing) and something else also was dreadfully slow.  Using the Pre on non EV-DO or wifi is not recommended.  Hopefully one day I’ll get it between now and 2 years from now or I just move to a place that will.  San Antonio fortunately does have 3G coverage so I’m good when I visit the family.

Speaking of wifi, I wish there was a hardware switch for on/off.  It is cumbersome to flip to the wifi setup page just to turn it off, which is what I have to do now when I leave my apt.  Ah well.

The battery made it today with a bit over 60%.  Took a few calls, sent a generous amount of texts, read some emails, played Pandora on the way to work and some mp3s on the way home.  I noted that I got a call from my apt. complex and it was unknown.  I added it as a contact and when I went back to look at my call history it didn’t retroactively change that number to my contact.  Ah well.

So far my main concern is battery life.  I’m mostly adjusted to how to work the phone quickly and pretty efficiently as well.  It feels totally great.  I’ve dropped my old cell phones many times.  They get pretty dinged up.  If I had an iPhone I’d be very very concerned about this, but the Pre kind of feels like it can handle it.  I wonder how much force it would take to do serious damage.  I hope I never find out.

Palm Pre Day 2!

Yesterday while playing with the phone I exhausted the battery twice. It came half charged and amid all the attempts at online activation and just toying with it, I wore it out which I totally expected. Then while very aggressively playing with settings and multitasking and doing tons of stuff I wore it out again. I wouldn’t say I’d ever actually use it for as much as I did in a normal day though. I basically was fiddling with it from 2PM to about 10PM. So how would it do on a normal day?

Today was my first general day of use and it still have about 40% of charge left.  I made a few phone calls and sent a generous amount of text messages out.  Overall not bad.  I imagine making it 3-4 weekdays before charging it which is great.  I haven’t tried using it as an iPod replacement yet where I’m listening to music on it all the time yet but I love my iPod so I don’t know if I can ever really replace it with the phone. I only now notice how great the battery life of the iPhones continues to get with each iteration.  If I’m really desperate though I can always buy a spare battery but there wasn’t an accessory that would charge the battery by itself last I checked unless you can drop a battery onto the touchstone.

Alright so I’m using the phone for an actual call and I need to put it up to my shoulder so I can use my hands and I realize just how crazy thin the device is.  It actually pains me to do such a gesture since I have to tilt my head all the way to my shoulder.  The iPhone is probably thinner so this kind of sucks.  It’s a great market for bluetooth headsets.  I’m thinking about getting one now just for the car at least.  However I hate talking and driving so maybe I won’t bother.

I’ve heard the processor is one of the faster ones of this class of phones, but occasionally things take a bit to load.  It’s random it feels like as well.  Sometimes an app opens quickly, sometimes slowly.  I’m hoping this can be resolved with software updates but otherwise some apps feel like I should just leave them open all the time.  If I do that however I don’t get to see my great Domo wallpaper.

I got a few phone calls.  One while working with an app and it felt slow to actually answer.  So slow in fact I had to do a double take to see if it even answered.  One I got while the phone was not active and it required me to basically unlock the phone to answer it. It felt uncomfortable for that to be the action as opposed to pressing something that says answer phone. It’s just something to get used to though coming from the era of flipping the phone open and hitting talk.

I heard the Pre was going to charge via USB but it’s not the micro USB connection I imagined it to be.  It’s a thin tiny USB connection as opposed to the tiny u shaped connection.  The cover was initially very difficult to open, but as I open it more frequently it has gotten significantly easier.  However I kind of wish connections like these had an auto-fold away door like some laptops have for their PCMCIA slots.  It could also have been nice if it was on the bottom so you could have some kind of standing dock peripheral, but it’s on the side which makes talking while it’s charging kind of annoying unless you’re left handed.

When I went to Blizzcon last year, texting was definately the way to go.  Calling people was poor due to reception and the ambient volume.  So being able to read the message quickly was helpful.  One problem was, even on the iPhone, there was no way to send messages to lots of people quickly.  On the Pre I have to go through my contacts, which can be fairly fast with the keyboard search, but I went through all this trouble in my Google contacts to group people up.  So I would be fantastic to actually take advantage of that and be able to designate groups for which you can send messages to.  Want to send a text to my family?  Send it to the family group instead of picking out each individual family member.  Again, hopefully a suggestion that will make it into future software updates.

I tried putting some of the battle reports from Starcraft 2 onto the phone to see if they’d play natively but they unfortunately do not.  I just used the drag and drop interface but it looks like if I want to toss video on it either has to be in the accepted formats or at the very least in my iTunes video library for quick syncing.  The transfer felt really slow moving at a sluggish 1-2MB/sec.  I don’t intend to really use it as a big time media player though and if anything I’ll probably just be fine streaming Pandora on it.

Palm Pre Day 1 Impressions

So let’s start with yesterday which is pre-day 1.

I headed out to my local Sprint store (mini one not a super one) to check on availability and quantity.  They said that pretty much all were spoken for but people might back out or not show up.  The rep said that they’d be notifying us by calling later that night with more details. They apparently started the paperwork on new contracts and he pulled up my file.  He asked where I worked and I told him and then I was told that I’m eligible for 23% off the rate. Later that night we got text messages that said it was first come first serve and we needed email addresses for phone setup.

As an aside, in my head my math was this: $299 for the phone – $150 for renewing – $100 rebate ends up with $49 for the phone and the cheapest plan is $69.99 at only 77% rate is $53.89 per month before tax which is actually really great.

So I head out today around 7:30 knowing they’re opening at 8am. I’m the 3rd person there but I didn’t want to get out of my car.  15 minutes later like 5 cars pull up and so I don’t want to lose my spot (which I technically already did since one lady did actually get there after me and get in line) any more than I had to so I hop in line.  Turns out they’re late opening the store, but they hand us all numbers, which as they were being handed out were not explained.

So we all stroll on in and wait in the register line.  There are 2 registers so I’m now 2nd in line as the first two people get helped.  Unlike typical phones, they were unable to hard program the phones for activation, they sort of relied on the phone turning on and doing it’s magic thing first.  This meant that the first two people took like 30-45 minutes before they were ready for the next set of people.  It was doubly compounded by the fact that the network must be choking on the sheer volume of new Pre users in the area all trying to activate at once.

I finally got mine and then we hit a problem.  I was rung up at $299.  This seemed off and when I inquired I was told the retail price was like $450 or something.  Looking around the store later I realize almost all the prices were sort of marked up to include the “$150” off.  So my grand dreams of my $50 phone sort of got dashed.  I mean, at the very least I have the $100 rebate I suppose.

Problem number two cropped up when I paid and I was put on a credit union discount instead of the corporate discount I was told of the day before.  The difference was 10% vs 23% but I didn’t have to pay for activation or something.  I suppose this was somewhat irritating because of the volume of people in a very tiny store coupled with this very hilarious incident.  As I’m waiting in line someone calls the store.  It sounded very definitely like an inquiry about how many Pres they had left and which we heard the number 6 thrown out.  One person left, others let out disconcerting sighs.  Then one of the employees asked us to sit down and get comfortable as they were going to help us out by number they handed out to us.

Anyway, I didn’t want to take any longer than I had to, evidently adding the credit union discount was a pain and taking longer than the person who was in front of me, who by the way was still in the store because the activation system was being done in a sort of “Let me turn it on and see if it activates and when it does come back to me to finish setup” sort of situation.  I didn’t want to be annoying holding up the line and I figured that it would be futile to sit and wait around this place forever, so I sort of found a point to ask if I could just leave and they said if I needed help I could come back whenever.  So I went home and took a nap.

I tried activating it on my own but I got stuck.  It got to a point where it suggested I could activate it on my own but it required a phone.  This was the funny part as my old phone was basically disconnected so I had no phone at all at this point.  Anyway I took a nap and headed back out. And as all good plans, no one was around so I could be as annoying as possible.  The employee still there said they sold like 20 phones today but that was a brain scratcher considering the phone call while I was waiting in line earlier was told that they had 6 left.  So who knows.  Anyway, it turns out they figured out how to activate the phone without waiting forever and in a snap, my phone was ready to go.  I asked about the credit union thing and they said that I should just wait out the first month then come back and switch employment since my employment discount wouldn’t have credited the activation fee.  So we’ll see in a month what happens with that.

But enough with the customer side of the phone, how’s the phone itself?

It’s totally great.  On the one hand, I come from a long line of crappy flip phones.  On the other I do have an iPod Touch and can draw a lot of comparisons (without the phone part) between the iPhone and this device.  I synced it to my gmail and my exchange account very easily which is surprising due to the relative difficulty of setting my exchange account up.  I then added my AIM account which was a horrendous mistake.  It’s been said before but syncing all these things adds a lot of contacts to your contact list.  I didn’t think this would be a problem since I spent all week trimming my gmail contacts, but adding AIM added all my buddies into the contacts.  One flaw I’ve found so far is that in my contacts list I’ve put a lot of their IM names, but when the IM accounts are in the contact list with the regular contact list, it never merged them automatically.  So not only do I have a lot of duplicates that I need to merge (which turns out to be pretty easy), I also have a lot of contacts I never see which I need to delete.  People I’ve not spoken or seen online in many many years are now thrown in.

On really cool feature about the iPod is that when scrolling along the the contact list, you have an alphabet you can index quickly on the right side.  This feature is missing from the Pre BUT I discovered recently, very in fact, that you can just start typing letters which is actually just as good.  Maybe not to others who are used to the iPhone but to me, I don’t think it’s an unacceptable workaround.

Gizmodo goes on and on about the sharpness of the edges of the phone when flipped open.  I have yet to realize this incredible sharpness or discomfort.  Not only that I feel like they’re describing a way to open the keyboard that is probably not ideal.  I tend to put my thumb in the middle of the screen and press upwards and it flips out quite easily and have not yet had a snag yet.

It wasn’t until much later I realized I was using the gesture area incorrectly. It does occasionally help to read the manual sometimes.  I left the screen protector on and blamed it on that, but it turns out the gesture area is above the round button on the bottom center.  I thought it was the area immediately to the left and right, but that is untrue it turns out.

I’ve sent out a few text messages and feel pretty good about the keyboard.  It is tiny, but it’s not uncomfortable and I’ve had very few typing mistakes.  I’m not used to the iPhone’s spellcheck since I don’t type all that often, but when I do it seems annoying when I’m purposefully typing a word it doesn’t know.  One thing I miss is arrow keys though.  I very very often tend to type long messages only to axe the whole thing and start over.  I have to press and hold backspace which is fairly quick, but still very lengthy compared to just doing a mouse or arrow select with shift and control.

Ok so I said earlier that I mistakenly put in my AIM account.  Well for the longest time I was trying to figure out how to erase it.  I finally discovered you are not allowed to erase an account that is actively logged in.  This isn’t intuitive at all.  The screen where remove account appears doesn’t indicate this and was really just a bit of luck I finally discovered how to do this.  But now that it’s done I feel good about how my contact list is stored and there’s now far less errant entries that are just AIM names.

I hopped on the app store and downloaded a twitter, fandango, weather, and where app.  They work very similarly to their iPhone counterparts and even better in some ways since the Pre allows multitasking.  I threw a picture of Rex up on Flickr using the email client and it worked great.  The large size picture quality isn’t so hot but medium level is tolerable.  Google Maps is very as expected pinpointing my location with much higher accuracy than the Touch did with just WiFi location. There’s cool things I hear about programming for the Pre and bad things.  I hear it’s just Java and XML making it a non-proprietary sort of platform.  But I also hear they aren’t widely distributing the SDK which shows when I have a paltry 12 apps to get vs the 40,000 on the iPhone. Palm really needs to loosen up the app stuff because having fewer apps is going to hurt them in the long run I’d imagine.  Regardless of if they’re quality, if Apple can tout 1000 times the selection it sounds much more appealing.

I always run my phone on vibrate mode because I hate hearing other people’s rings and I hate when people say “Oh I didn’t hear my phone ring!” when you can throw it on vibrate and leave it in your pocket or clipped to your belt or whatever.  However now that I can do mp3 ringtones I’m tempted to find a great ring or great set of rings to individualize people.  While messing with this feature however, I was annoyed that text messages are so unobtrusive that they don’t even make the phone ring.  They make the screen pop on and that’s about it.  My old phone would ring or vibrate like a regular phone call at least.  Now that I have unlimited text it’s possible I won’t even notice them at all unless I’m looking at my phone every few minutes!  I find that to be somewhat terrible but not beyond a software update to fix.

I heard something today that may or may not be true but this phone will supposedly work on the Sprint 3G and then 4G network.  This was great until I realized that I’ve not seen the 3G signal light up at all.  No matter since I have Wi-Fi in my apt and at work now, but possibly annoying when I’m out and about.  Though let’s be honest here.  I rarely use my phone.  I did my part during this recession and bought frivolous gadgets, but at the same time I’m saavy enough to start using more and more of the capabilities of this phone at greater frequency.

I am annoyed at the inability while the phone is plugged into the computer in fake iPod mode and removable storage mode to send and recieve calls but that can be chalked up as a minor annoyance at best since I don’t expect mega important phone calls while I’m taking a 5 minute break to sync my media.

I tried to set a monthly recurring event on the phone and that didn’t turn out so well.  I ended up just setting it up on my computer.  I don’t know if that’s totally awesome or somewhat annoying.  I mean, it’s great that I don’t have to constantly dock and sync my phone and that changes I would usually make are cloud synced to my phone anyway.  But it’s annoying that I couldn’t do what I would consider to be a basic enough calendar entry.  I didn’t mess with it as much as other features so it’s possible I haven’t discovered the Pre version of the feature.  Discovering the type to jump to contacts made contacts frustrating to work with completely enjoyable.

Overall I’m extremely pleased with this phone, I think it works for me and does everything I want.  And even if there are things that an iPhone can do better, I have a touch to do those things except for calling.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the week goes on.

My current Pre wallpaper:

Million Dollar Idea Part 4

So I hate touchscreen keyboards.  I don’t even have fat fingers, but I can certainly see how larger hands would lead to a larger hatred of such devices.  So here’s my free million dollar idea to better mankind.

3×3 wide grid of keys.  Each key has 3+ letters.  It can be QWERTY or alphabetical setup.  Pressing the button will type the middle letter in the key.  Pressing and swiping left will press the left key and similarly for the right key.  Pressing and swiping up will caps the letter.  If you want left/right you do press+left/right+up.  If you mistype swiping down will cancel your selection.

Please someone invent this.

Long MP3’s

Particular podcasts in general have me thinking to myself, “You know what would be great, if I could skip to the next chapter.”  Then it dawns on me, why can’t we do that?  I mean, in the first place, typically mp3’s are rips of songs and when you skip, you skip file to file.  But now when you have long format audio, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to skip to predetermined chapters like a dvd?  I think so.

Samurize Config

I spent some time working with the Conky config and edited it a bit.  Here’s what I came up with:


The config file is here and you can get Samurize here:

You’re looking for Serious Samurize.

I only took out the parts of Conky that relied on some other program to derive CPU settings (also, my CPU meter isn’t tracking useage correctly, I can’t find the right setting at the moment) so it should work out of a fresh install.  You’ll have to change drive letters to track anything that isn’t your main C drive.

My config is also set on the second monitor, so you may want to edit the file and change the Design Height/Width to fit your monitor after you move the display to your main monitor.