Archive for January, 2008

TYTN II has arrived

January 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Well, I got a call from Vodafone asking if I wanted to upgrade my phone yesterday. I asked if they had the TYTN II; they said they did (the V1615), and I thought “What the hell”… so it’s just arrived today.

First thoughts on opening it? It’s pretty much the same as the TYTN, although the black finish is certainly nicer.

Looking around the body, there are numerous small changes, many of which I don’t like, probably because I’d grown used to the TYTN.

Let’s start with the battery:

As you can see, the battery pinout and position has changed, so you can’t use your old TYTN battery in here.

Going on to the hardware buttons, we see numerous small changes.

Looking at the right side, you’ll see we’ve lost the Connection Manager button. This is annoying, as even if you didn’t use it for it’s intended purpose, you could always re-map it.

The Camera button’s moved out, and is now slightly shielded, making it a little harder to press. It’s also a two-position button (half-down, full down), to allow autofocus.

On the left side, you see the buttons have moved around a little bit, but are still there. The SD slot has moved from the side, to under a dust cover at the base of the screen, which is nice, as the open slot on the TYTN meant the card was occasionally popped out in my pocket.

However, there is one BIG change. Can you see what it is yet?

Yep! The keyboard’s moved round to the other side!

Well – no-one really seemed to notice this – they were probably more obsessed with the tilt mechanism to notice. It does have an impact though, particularly for me as a right-hander. It means that:
– Rather than using my right thumb to operate the D-pad, I now use my left
– Rather than sliding the stylus into the top-right side of the PDA (when the keyboard’s open), I now slide it into the bottom left.

Now, the first I can re-learn pretty quickly – although I’m right handed (and right-thumbed), I can still do fairly well with my left thumb. There’ll be a tiny learning curve.

The second is more annoying. With the TYTN, If you hold the stylus in your right hand, you can just slide it into the top right when you’ve finished. However, with the TYTN II, it means (if you normally hold the stylus in your right hand), that you have to transfer the stylus to your left hand first.

It also means using your left thumbnail to take the stylus out, rather than a right fingernail – again, a little trickier, since I usually hold the phone in my left hand. Overall, taking or replacing the stylus takes a bit of left-right fumbling each time – annoying.

Finally, taking a look at the front.

As you can see, Buttons 1 and 2 (Email and PIE) have disappeared from the top, to re-appear either side of the D-pad (and swapped left and right).

Again – a little annoying: those big fat buttons at the top of the body, by themselves, were quick and easy to press – especially for my reasonably large hands. These smaller, cantilevered buttons in their new positions are closer to the hand, meaning you have to bend your thumb to reach them, and also harder targets. Again, it’ll take some getting used to, but it’s an unwelcome change.

On the plus side, the Windows and OK buttons on the front are now user-configurable, so you do get a total of 6 hardware buttons to assign as before (plus a “6-plus-long” long-press for the voice button).

Other things

One thing I wondered was how the jog-dial would be: the TYTN’s was fine, although the button action was a soft press, rather than a click. Well, the TYTN II is just about the same – it seemed slightly firmer, but that’s probably because it’s new.

Also, if you take another look at the keyboard picture, you’ll see the light sensor has moved from top right to top left – I occasionally cover this with my thumb to trigger the keyboard backlight when I need it – and there’s now a Caps Lock and Fn Lock LED; which are both quite useful, considering how easy it is to get confused when you’re switching them on and off.

In Summary

Without even getting into the OS, it seems there’s some annoying changes to the TYTN 2:

  • Mail and Web buttons smaller and less accessible
  • One less hardware button
  • Stylus more fiddly to remove/replace
  • D-pad under left thumb

Of course, I’ll see if these are still niggles after two weeks!

As for the positives:

  • SIM and SD slots are more accessible, and better protected
  • CAPS/FN lock LEDs are handy
  • Tilt mechanism

One last thing about the Tilt Mechanism. Now, you’re not going to touch type on this thing – the keyboard is too small, and the keys are too firm to allow operation with a light touch. Now – I don’t need to type two-fingered – I can already faster with my thumbs than I could with two fingers (if you can thumb-type on a P910 keyboard, you can type on anything) – but it was good to see that I could just about type, fumbling, with four, sometimes five or six fingers, on the TYTN II.

So – with a little practice, we may even see something resembling touch-typing on this keyboard…

Categories: Mobile

Defragger says no

January 24, 2008 Leave a comment

One thing I’ve been on the lookout for is a decent defragger (tool to defragment my hard drive). Since I have a few VM (Virtual Machines) with VHDs that cover 10-15Gb, files that size are likely to be fragmented. So – when my virtual machine is running and booting up, and the files it’s loading are in different fragments on my real hard disc, my real hard drive’s head has to leap all over the place to read those files – greatly slowing performance.

What I’ve been looking out for is something that matches, IIRC, Norton Defrag 6. Norton (now Symantec) kept improving their defragger, to the point where they accidentally made it too good. You could get it to defrag, compact, and optimise the hard drive according to how frequently files were used – so the ones that stay nice and static are crushed up at the front of the drive, and the ones that change regularly were placed towards the back, where there’s more free space to expand into anyway. You could set exceptions (eg. page files), and it all worked fantastically well. Once defragmented, your drive stayed that way for a very long time.

Then, having realised that no-one would ever buy another defragger again if they got it too right, they corrected their mistake, and every defragger since has been pretty useless. Even the top-end tools like Diskeeper just provide features like defragging when you’re away from your computer. Great. I schedule my own defragger to run at 2am every morning – same difference!

So – one power tool I’ve been recommended is DIRMS. Looks impressive enough – all about the configurability, not about the convenience. But does it solve my problem?

Well, let’s do a before/after shot. This is before a DIRMS sweep:

And this is after.

As you can see – not a massive difference. Well, the drive was basically defragmented beforehand, but what I wanted to do was to move all those files to the front of the drive, so that I could create a free space large enough to fit a 12Gb VHD (Virtual Hard Disc) that would be contiguous, with no fragments.

Windows Defragmenter wouldn’t do that anyway – but DIRMS has a ‘compact’ and ‘move’ mode that’s supposed to do precisely this. Since it defrags, compacts, and moves in sequence, there should be nothing to stop it.

DIRMS after it’s Defrag, Compact and Move

That’s not to say DIRMS doesn’t do a good job; on a fragmented drive, it does do a pretty good job on files that are actually fragmented; the compacting does seem to work reasonably well, and moving files up – well, as you can see, it did do it. But it just didn’t do all of it.

Now, you can specify how many passes it should run – so, say, if it defragments, then compacts some files, and creates more contiguous space to allow some larger files to be defragmented next time round; well, you can get it to run 5, 10, however many times you want, and it should give a better result each pass. Again, it still doesn’t seem to reach that ‘perfect’ goal, however.

Also – if you have a BIG file – one that wouldn’t fit in the remaining free space in your drive – then it’s not intelligent enough to move other files around to make room, until it finally gets the big file into just one chunk. You can look at the graph (on Windows Defragmenter) yourself, and see what needs to be done, but even DIRMS can’t figure that out.

So – even though it should be a basic problem to resolve, DIRMS doesn’t seem to be there. Now, I am using a trial version; apparently this has restricted functionality, but since it’s just a command-line .exe, it’s unclear what’s missing – I wonder if perhaps the ‘move’ function I’m looking for is one of those missing.

I’ve received a trial licence, but the licensing mechanism for this version just didn’t seem to work. To add insult to injury, there’s no email support, and use of the support forums requires registration, which the admin has to approve manually.

Still – overall, the trial is free, and I can set Windows Scheduler to run it on my hard drives every morning – rather than have something like Diskeeper sitting in memory constantly, completely unnecessarily – so I’m sticking with it for now. I may even get access to the forums sometime!

Categories: Computing

Alternative Packaging for eBaying

January 18, 2008 Leave a comment

While selling a lot of gadgets on eBay, I try to re-use packaging wherever possible. That means keeping and re-using boxes, padded envelopes, and if I don’t have any bulk padding, then scrunching up used newspapers to fill out empty space.

However, following Lush’s lead, I thought I’d try out Popcorn for cost effectiveness. It should be:

– Cheap
– Environmentally friendly (compostable)
– Easily storable (unpopped)

So – I popped some corn to pad out a laptop (sealed in one layer of bubble wrap to prevent any entering the case). I also kept track of various metrics:

To pad out a laptop in a 8L box:
– 350g of corn, worth around 40p
– 18 mins spent popping
– 0.18Ah of electricity; about 2p’s worth
– A rather warm house from the popcorn maker (nice, on a cold winters’ day)
– A strong aroma of popcorn throughout the house (not so nice – I opened a window, losing all the lovely heat generated above)

Compare this to using scrunched newspaper (I didn’t have any spare, so had to buy a couple of Suns at 20p each)
– 8 mins spent ‘scrunching’
– 40p in newspaper
– No electricity, but tired hands

In short, while corn is a quaint approach, and not bad, it’s more ‘elegant’ than is necessary. However, I think it would be useful for smaller boxes where there’s a moderate amount of empty space, and newspaper isn’t appropriate.
Categories: Random

Thinking about the TYTN II…

January 13, 2008 Leave a comment

After having a look at the SonyEricsson P1i today in the SE store on High Street Kensington, it seems time to consider the HTC TYTN II.

Having not really followed the P1, aside from hearing that it was “better” than the shambles that was the P990, I thought it’d be interesting to approach it from a “First Impressions” viewpoint. Well, my first impressions were:

– Nice form factor
– Not enough hardware buttons – no useful shortcuts. The ones that are there are recessed too much, such that they’re hard to push.
– Transitions? Why not tick the box “YES, I would like the opportunity to scroll through menus slowly enough that I have to watch the screen like a hawk in order to select the option I wanted. I realise this will make my phone less easy to use. I have no idea how the iPhone can have transitions and still be productive”. Or alternatively, turn ’em off.
– Entering a calendar appointment one-handed was tough – trying to use the jog-dial / scrollwheel, I found myself able to change the hour in the time box, but then having to touch the screen to change the minutes. An inconsistent interface. I kept reaching for the D-pad that wasn’t there.

And that was it – why spend longer? If you need to be able to dance around the screen just to enter an appointment, where’s the productivity?

So – on to the TYTN 2, perhaps. I hope it’ll resolve the TYTN’s hardware, bugs without introducing too many more. Let us recall:

– The screen backlight that turns on and off as you type
– The keyboard that locks in numerical mode when in a call, such that you can’t type notes
– The keyboard that occasionally completely disables itself
– On WM6: the frequent wait of 10-15 seconds from pressing a button, to having the GUI respond, and stabilise enough so that you can press the next button without it going off and doing something else entirely.

Here’s hoping….

Categories: Mobile