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Archive for November, 2006

A little PDF’d off

November 28, 2006 Leave a comment

OK – so, did I mention that ClearVue PDF sucks?

The main, screen-stabbingly annoying problem is that it renders each screen display on-demand, rather than rendering, say, a whole page at a time. So – every time you scroll, or zoom, you have to wait while the little progress bar fills from the left of the screen, to the right, and then the updated display appears. Given it also doesn’t support fit-to-screen rendering of PDF text, this makes it unusable for PDF documents or books.

Enter PocketXPDF, as recommended on Modaco. Aside from much smoother rendering, it also renders a page at a time (so scrolling/zooming is instantaneous), and supports “Display text only” for text or e-book reading.

However, it still falls a little short, since it appears to process CRLFs at the end of each line, even though this may break up the paragraph structure because the “Fit to screen” is also inserting NewLines. Combined with the complete stripping of all formatting, it is quite distracting, and I’m testing whether this is a feature of the PDFs I’m testing.

Also – although you can define hardware keys to move backwards/forwards a page (avoiding the need to shift your grip to press the tiny icons on the screen each page) – then tough: although this is possible for the normal view, it seems not to work when in “Fit to Screen” mode.

So – if you’re looking for a PDF reader without this drawback – one which renders an e-book in ‘Fit to screen’, while still retaining bold/italic/etc formatting, and intelligently processing CRLFs to leave you with nice, unbroken paragraphs – in short, one which lets you read your PDF book easily…. yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s back to the P910i, and PDF+, which is installed as-standard in the ROM. I’ll admit it’s not perfect – rendering is often a little ugly with font/emphasis changes, although still clearly legible; and you still have to touch the screen for back/forwards a page; but overall, it is easier to use if, say, you’re standing on the Tube, reading an e-book.

Another use case in which the Hermes is still a backwards step. 😦

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Categories: Mobile

Skype has a long way to go

November 23, 2006 Leave a comment

Well, I spoke too soon about Skype.

Using the current release (2.1.0.57) on my HTC Hermes, I found:

– If another user calls my Skype ID, the device will not wake up – there’s no indication that there’s an incoming call. However – if I turn the device on myself (ie. out of Standby), I find the incoming call front and centre on the screen. It suggests that the device might actually be in Unattended mode, but the current release can’t actually take it out of Unattended mode. This was the same regardless of the “Do not enter standby when connected” checkbox in Skype Options.
– The latency over T-Mobile’s 3G network (HSDPA, low 1-bar signal) starts out at around 2s one-way, but within the space of a minute, this increases to over 10 seconds. Over WiFi, it’s more consistently around 2s for Skype-Skype, and around 4s for SkypeOut. Of course, you can’t sit on a WiFi connection with your device in Standby.

So, in summary:
– You can’t receive Skype calls when your device is in Standby / Unattended mode
– QoS (Quality of Service) is not currently assured, at least on T-Mobile standard WnW

Add to this previous observations
– Skype doesn’t yet support sound through the earpiece – it instead uses the device speaker, hence acts like a speakerphone
– Echo cancellation isn’t yet effective on the WM5 platform/program
– The beta is buggy and is currently more likely to not load, than load successfully

In summary: if you’re currently planning using on Skype functionality as an alternative to your standard Cellular service – maybe even skipping the option for inclusive voice minutes because – hey, you can use Skype instead! – be warned that you won’t. Even if you can live with the buggy software, will the person on the other end of the line put up with the severe echo, 4-10s latency, and your never answering (because the device won’t wake)?

And be honest; assuming that you have decided to make a Skype call; maybe you’re abroad and don’t want to pay roaming charges? By the time you’ve found a WiFi hotspot; logged in on your PPC’s tiny browser, paid the €5 for 30 minutes’ access using your credit card, connected Skype, and started the call, and are now bound to the same hotspot location until you finish… are you perhaps carrying your laptop as well? Could you have logged on using your laptop instead, and by now be in a crystal-clear, low-latency, no-echo call using your Bluetooth headset? Or simply made the standard phone call – perhaps paying only a 75p premium on your Vodafone tariff using Vodafone Passport?

Skype mobile is currently only really a gimmick, or for those with very compatible usage profiles. Any perceived cost benefits are offset by the hassle of actual trying to use it.

The question is then whether Three UK’s X-series will take off? I suspect the Symbian version of Skype will be more stable and usable, and perhaps Three may even have implented QoS measures to make sure latency is minimised; so it might be usable. We should see in the next month or so.

Categories: Mobile

Phew – it’s not all bad!

November 23, 2006 Leave a comment

Today, I can score one up to WM5 – at least in terms of Symbian not having yet another practical advantage.

While Symbian devices are effectively permamently on – meaning that you can run processes in the background even when it’s in your pocket in an ‘inactive’ state – WM5 instead has a ‘Suspend’ mode, which it enters when you press the Power button. In this mode, Apps are, well, suspended, but the phone subsystem is still awake, and calls/alarms/notifications will still exit Suspend mode in order to execute.

So – I wondered… if I’m running an IM program like Agile Messenger, and put the device into suspend – will it still be able to receive IMs? Or will they queue until I next switch it on.

Well, a quick test shows that the device does switch on almost instantaneously when a message is received; perhaps due to the phone subsystem receiving the data, and waking up the device. So – it works as you’d want it to: you can leave Agile Messenger running, hit the power button, and it’ll still wake and ping you if a message is received.

Hopefully this should also apply to Skype – in which case using it for (unexpected) incoming calls is feasible.

There is still the power drain question: WM5 Pocket PC devices have to do a number of things when going into / out of Suspend mode, which can mean if you’re being pinged and waking the device every few minutes, it’s probably more efficient to leave the device permamently on.

The WM5 Team Blog also suggests that some apps simply keep the system fully On, even though the screen is blanked – this is Unattended mode. Apparently this is true for the WM5 version of Live Messenger, but hopefully isn’t for Agile (my preferred client) or Skype, otherwise we’ll be back to sub-working-day battery lives.

Categories: Mobile