technology reviews

Thoughts on my nexus 5, with some on my surface

From the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox, November 26th…

I’ve had my nexus 5 for…about two weeks now so I guess that’s long enough to consider it a part of my life, and me to be a reasonably adept user.

The only thing with writing this review and questions like “so as an android device do you like it?” is I don’t have a clue how the previous Android releases felt, so that’s my preface for anyone expecting “so from jellybean we improved this this and this”.

Good things

– The interface itself is great, everything’s intuitive and it’s easy to organise things the way I need them, and prioritise my apps. These are all regular features of a smartphone, but as none of these are in a Blackberry, this is new to me. I like the folders idea: don’t know if this was in jellybean but in KitKat you can drop apps on top of each other to form folders, so for example on mine I have “social” which contains facebook/twitter/linkedIn/snapchat etc, and various other folders.

– The camera’s awesome, I played with the focal length for a few days when I first got it – it’s so sharp! The photosphere mode I have yet to get the hang of, but the panorama mode’s pretty good. Video sound quality when I recorded Jools Holland wasn’t so good, but we’ll let it off, concerts are pretty loud and that was the first trial of that feature. [I’ll try and put some photos up in a moment]

– Android apps have plenty of functions and there’s literally an app for everything. Again, feature of every smartphone (excluding perhaps windows phone, but that’s decreasing gradually) but not really on Blackberry. I particularly like that OneNote and SkyDrive are on there and are really simple to use – microsoft unlike companies who produce stuff for Windows 8 don’t skimp out on the features. I say the last comment because I like being able to have both devices in sync, and whilst skydrive’s great, googledocs is much easier to share with other people and whilst the googledrive app on my phone is ace…there…well…there isn’t one on my surface. Yah. It sucks.

Another good thing I like about android is the fact if I don’t like gmail, or I don’t like hangouts, there’s another app I can download off google play to replace it. Again probably something most users of android are comfortable with, but consider yourselves privaledged…I’ve spent two years without any of this.

bad things

– I have to charge my baby basically every day. Not really a problem, I’m at work for most of it so I just remember to take a charger, but it stinks. I get a little obsessed with battery life thanks to my battery doctor app, moreso than I did with my berry. I guess it’s the pennance for having a smartphone that actually does something.

– I had no problem on my blackberry using it without any form of case. Probably a bad thing but I liked the tactile-ness of it, but with a nexus 5 the camera sticks out at the back, so if you put it down on the table and text it will wobble about. I was going to get a case anyway, but this accelerated the issue. (Case recommendation: spiegen clear hybrid case. The back’s clear so you can put your own artwork on the back, or leave it blank, and it’s not too chunky but feels sturdy. Pretty cool)

– When I first played music on my phone whenever I moved my headphone plug, like rotated it round, the music stopped…I think this may be the case pushing it out a little but nonetheless annoying. Additionally, trying to turn the sound up, there was (it may have remembered my preference now) a notification saying “are you sure you want to do this? this could damage your ears” which is probably Google trying to cover themselves, but still slightly annoying, particularly when your phone’s in your pocket and you don’t realise that’s why it’s not getting any louder.

Things I’ve noticed when using my phone and tablet together

– Apps on android are far more powerful than win 8. Nick says this is because win 8 has to prove itself, but still, frustrating. Google hasn’t even put out an official win 8 drive or youtube app out, and chrome is awful. This seems a poor way to repay Microsoft for putting out their apps onto Android with full functionality…

– There’s hundreds of nexus 5 cases out and the nexus 5 itself has only been out maybe a week before I bought it, was it? Surface pro 2 cases? haha, nope. There are a few, but one of the things I like about the surface is the kickstand, and whilst cases with tons of different positions are great, I want to still be able to use the stand. I found one I like but it’s a US seller sooo…and yes, the surface is tough enough to not need a case, however there’s several scratches on the back (many people have been finding the paint peeling on surface pro) and I want them covered up -_-

Overall it’s a really great phone, and definitely worth the price.

Godley’s new toys: I ESCAPED BLACKBERRY

Written 10th november last year, from the Vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

On the other side of the fence, today I finally broke free from the chains of using a BlackBerry, and also from Orange, and got a nexus 5 with Three.

It. Feels. SO. NICE.

I’ve only had this phone for a day, so I can’t give a full review of it, hence I changed the title from “nexus 5” to “I ESCAPED BLACKBERRY” nor am I the best source to compare it to other phones on the market, but it’s great looking in the app store, and having the app store load in about a second rather than 5 minutes, and finding all the things I’d ever really want.

For any none blackberry users who don’t know just how bad using a blackberry, at least the old handset which I’ve had for the past 2 years, instead of really reviewing the features of Nexus 5 because I’ll probably do that in a few weeks when I’ve played with it properly and taken it out and about, I’m just going to have a freedom rant about how terrible BlackBerry is.

Let’s start with the operating system for newbies: I got my BlackBerry september 28th, 2011, aka, the morning of the first day of freshers, after which I left for my first year of University at Hull. About 2 weeks later, I’d figured out how to email, text, phone, use apps and other various stuff like locking the phone. It literally took a few days figuring out how to read and send a text. I met a girl on chemistry at uni who had the same phone – she’d been using it for years and didn’t know a few of the things I’d learned. Things like data and using wifi I didn’t really learn until the last few months of my contract, and this caused a problem whilst in America because I turned off data overall, thinking if I had wifi on it would assume “I don’t want data from the network but you can still get it from wifi”. Nope. Data means any data, so turn your network off but leave wifi on and leave the data roaming on. Urgh.

Next up I’m going to go for notifications: the red LED on a blackberry is used to tell you when you’ve got a new notification, whether that’s from an app, email, texting or calls. However, sometimes notifications won’t come through or it decides not to let you know there’s a new notification, and sometimes the light flashes with nothing going on. The light is also used to tell you if the battery is running low, and the light remains the same colour so you can’t really differentiate.

Data and network connection can also be dodgy – I’ve had times where emails and texts haven’t come through but I’ve had signal and data connection for several days, or it’s refused to send my texts. This was the point where I learned that most of BlackBerry problems with that can be fixed by taking the battery out and putting it back in again – that’s the only real way to 100% turn off the handset.

On the subject of the battery, that’s also terrible. I don’t know how bad it is on other phones, but if you make a call on a BlackBerry, you know, the thing it’s officially meant to do, the battery will drain by a large percentage. Use the internet a lot and it’ll last less than a day.

Apps? What are those?! Nobody wants to develop for BlackBerry, so therefore the app store is largely empty. The app store itself is GOD. AWFUL. I’ve actually opened the app store and got bored of waiting for it to load so closed it, then you go back and it’s not kept it open so it has to reload. “Oh hey charlotte do you have snapchat” “No I’ve got a blackberry” “have you got fruit ninja?” “no I’ve got a blackberry”. On top of that, upgrades to the OS tend to be through the browser which will then, when you open the link, download it in the app store. This seems really dumb.

Oh yeah. The browser. Heh. The browser rarely manages to load a page, as the device has low memory, so often you get a message saying “the page is taking a while to load, why not close some tabs to increase memory size” and then…”sorry! We’re closing the page as it takes too long to load”. The implication seems to be this is the users fault, not the designer of the goddamn phone…

So what is the actual blackberry good for? Erm. Email. That’s pretty much it. The twitter app and the facebook app are pretty good as well, except events I don’t think are supported very well. I do also like the tactile keyboard, once you get used to the size of the keys.

Godley’s new toys: Surface Pro 2

Originally posted 10th november last year, from the vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

About a week and a half ago I bit the bullet, spent £750 and bought a surface pro 2 and the type keyboard (that’s £650 for the tab with a discount on pc world, then 100 for the keyboard). I still have my infamous pink laptop and I still use it and have it plugged in, but out and about I’ll take my tablet. I’m still debating whether to take the plunge and try out a flavour of linux on that laptop.

Overall I like it – I’ve had a lot of questions, particularly this week, about how well you can program on it and how comfortable it is. In truth, I haven’t tested this out enough, but the setup of having a type keyboard hooked on is pretty sweet. After a great deal of faffing this weekend I set up python and started to use PyCharm: to anyone else thinking of using a pc for python (good luck), pycharm is pretty nice. You can either pay for it or get the FLOSS version, I obviously have the latter. It integrates with git, github, svn, mercurial…probably all the common VCS programs, and if you run a python program on a virtual environment and have a module missing, (and also have the package pip installed), it will automatically ask you if you want the module installed, similar to Linux environments.

As for Visual Studio…I have VS2013 installed and so far it looks nice: I noted that they’ve included a python extension, but for development I wasn’t sure if, for example, projects from github would integrate well, as VS tends to need an SLN file and projects from github aren’t often built in VS…I haven’t used it as such because I have nothing to write in C#. I’m hoping to make myself write something, possibly a win8 app for merging Pi sources together (things like the foundation website and pi weekly currently merge lots of news from the community, but there are dosens of other feeds and shops you can buy things from and I think it’d be nice to have a hub of them in an app)

As always, there’s downsides: on windows there’s a fair amount of hassle doing any hardware programming, such as using the UART-USB cable for raspberry pi (which is awesome because that’s all you need – no power pack, no wifi, just a cable), plugging in an arduino or plugging in an In System Programmer (ISP) – on windows 8 there seems to be more hassle, especially considering you have to do several reboots and settings changes in order to get win8 to accept unsigned drivers. I still don’t think I have it 100% together on that phase of installation…

As well as that, occasionally when I’ve locked the device and tried to unlock, it doesn’t respond. I’ve then tried it again and it comes up with “performing automatic repair” and reboots. According to various sources it needs some driver updates in order to fix that problem.

Furthermore, I don’t like the fact that the charger is proprietary. I just don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s nice they have a USB socket in the power pack though, that means that if I’ve forgotten to bring a USB plug converter but have brought my surface that I don’t need to use the surface to charge it up. Whilst we’re on the subject of the charge port on the Surface, WHY IS THAT ALSO THE PORT FOR PEN ATTACHMENT. I like the pen on windows 8, it kind of replaces having a mouse as you can click small links and stuff easily, and it’s nice getting PDFs like the FLOSSIE timetable and being able to draw on and circle what I want to do, but if I need to charge the surface and don’t need to use the pen, there’s no where on the table to store the pen to stop me from losing it. I lose things a lot: right now I’m not sure where the pen is, hoping it’s still in my red laptop bag/rucksack.

I quite like windows 8.1 as an OS for touch, but don’t think it should be used on a laptop, for example. I just find that annoying, hence why I upgraded, regretted it and immediately reverted to windows 7.

Apps on windows 8 are nice: I do like metro apps much more than just having the desktop program, but it’s nice to have the option for installing whatever I want from other sources. Once you get used to the gestures on the start menu it’s fairly easy to use, all the programs load pretty quickly and much faster than on my laptop.

I have yet to try out the mini display port, but the camera takes OK pictures and the sound quality from the speakers, and from the headphone jack, is pretty sweet. I like the fact I get 200GB skydrive, it means with my now not-crap phone I can sync them together easily, and I’m sure the skype minutes will come in handy if I ever need to contact folks like my penfriend in America…though I don’t really skype people often so it’s not entirely likely I’ll use many of them. Nice bonus though.

Overall, windows 8 on a tablet feels nice, but for the reasons listed against it, it always feels a bit like microsoft products are about 97% of the way there when they release them, and the 3% are the annoying little problems they never thought you’d need. (I mean why would you plug a raspberry pi into a tablet lol mobile hardware programming? no charlotte, you’re not allowed.) I’m looking forward to seeing how well it programs, and how much xna and open GL it can take before falling over 😛