heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

Thank **** it's Friday!

So I come home Friday night. I should have written all this stuff then, but I didn't feel like it. There's a pile of stuff I probably should have done, but I decided to get caught up with some TV programmes and such. Take a weekend off, basically.

But one thing is for certain, it's damn fine to come home to a nice cuppa. Normally Tetley (two sugars, milk) is my brew of choice. But for special occasions, like "it's the weekend", it'll be:

Sweet Sakura Tea

 

Life in the fast lane

I guess once upon a time way back when, domestic appliances were reliable. People had small capable processors, wrote their own custom firmware and operating system - if such a distinction is even possible - to get the job done. It could be handled by one person, who would understand the system deeply. And it would just work.
These days, while Linux is a powerful and capable system, there are hundreds of thousands of coders who are all experts in their own little niches. This isn't a bad thing, for it brings together an awful lot of stuff that would be difficult otherwise. And certainly the base Linux system has scaled to be the system of choice for a lot of embedded devices - my Neuros OSD runs a cut-down Debian. Android is a hacked-about Linux. The fact that I can do an amazing amount of things on my "smartphone" stands testament to what it is capable of. We've gone so far beyond the one-man-device it is unreal. One person could not make a modern smartphone from scratch.

However it carries with it the "Quirk Factor". Not exactly bugs, but not exactly not. I'll give you an example. If you use the built-in browser (Chrome) for a site where data is posted (i.e. a forum or login), you cannot back-back-back for it will throw up a message saying that post data will be resent which could have consequences (i.e. you could end up re-ordering something). The options are to cancel or to continue. And if you continue, you arrive at the same display with the same go-back message. This is when you realise that the back key has a slightly wonky interpretation in the browser, and that you're better off wading through the history (once, that is, you've found it).

Likewise the provided "Connected Music Player" is pretty tragic. It is capable, don't get me wrong. It offers a faultless and decent provision for Shoutcast with gormlessly-simple ways to find stations and add them to your favourites list. Likewise it can find MP3s without trouble. But where it falls down is in user friendliness...

  • There is a "shuffle" option, but really this needs to be a toggle - like in WinAmp. So you can say "shuffle these songs, and repeat once they've all been played". The playlist needs an "Add songs to playlist" where you can tick songs (or a folder) and chuck 'em in. As opposed to selecting each song and adding it individually.
  • Why can't you save radio presets under a name? I will know I'm listening to Alouette when the RDS comes in and says so, but until then, is it so difficult to let me tag setting #1 as "Alouette"?
  • When playing music, it too difficult to hijack the button on the hands-free to act as a "Skip to next song"? My old Nokia could do that...
  • There's an option to search online for lyrics to songs (which I presume involves sharing details of what is actually playing), which for a few Onitsuka songs came back empty. So I turned it off. And tried a '.lrc' file. Mmmm, that doesn't seem to work either.
  • When playing Shoutcast, it used to come up with the CD-like display with controls. Now it doesn't. Clearing the application data doesn't fix this. What gives?
    Although, admittedly, the UI is so grotty that being forced to control playback using the "widget" is probably a good thing.
  • When playing Shoutcast, there (was?) a lot of screen space wasted which could be used to tell you what the hell it is you're listening to. There's no popup on the control widget, so the best way to tell what you're listening to is to enter an application, turn the phone sideways (the main menu screen doesn't work sideways, you see), and then drag down the top bar for the status report of what the player is playing.
    Yes... I know... it is probably quicker to go to the station's website...

EPIC FAIL FOR DATA SAVER! (or the email app?). On the face of it, the Data Saver is a good idea, but is a dodgy implementation. It is dodgy because it seems the counter likes to reset itself at random times. And when I turn on all the data saver features, can you explain why the News app refuses to fetch RSS headlines (not exactly data expensive), yet the mail client tried several times to (unsuccessfully - bad reception area) pull a 10Mb email a friend sent me, burning through nearly 25Mb of my allocation in the process? Is the thing too stupid to think to download headers if the message is large? It's a rhetorical question... It is more like whoever wrote the app is a bit thick and didn't consider stuff like that, but then what d'you expect for an app that insists on sending emails in base64 encoding!?
[I worked around this by putting a bogus password in the relevant account so it could no longer log in, trying to kill the task was fruitless as the MotoBlur thingy just reloaded it - gee, thanks]

I've got a 500Mb/month allocation, and I'm just realising how much data is p*ssed away on doing nothing. I'm listening to a streaming radio station at 128kbps (WiFi!). This works out to be around 15 and a half KiB/sec. Not so bad, right? Well, it runs to a shade under a megabyte a minute. Or 55 MiB per hour. I've been listening for three hours - 165 MiB. Average listening, we're looking at a Gb a week on this radio station alone. Throw in all web use, emails, background stuff (antivirus updates), downloads... it adds to to a staggering amount.
If I left this station playing 24/7, it would rack up 38.6 GiB each month.
My allocation is 500MiB/month, which works out to be roughly 16MiB/day. As this is the start of a new period, I've burned through a few days allocation with that email. I'm not annoyed at the sender, not at all, I'm just a little disappointed at Google/Motorola for missing something so bleedin' obvious!

Permissions. Permissions badly need to be sorted out. I appreciate the idea of a "Data Saver" so big things can be pushed to when the phone can pick up WiFi instead of costly/limited mobile comms (when it works, that is!). However it seems in some cases to be an all-or-nothing thing. It would be nice to be able to select applications which are permitted to access comms whenever, and those which are restricted to WiFi only.

Likewise the Market asks you to accept permissions. You read a list of requests. Why are these not configurable? I am well aware that "Full Internet access" and "Coarse (network-based) location" are provided purely for embedded adverts, but when you run into a simple notepad/jotter app that demands just about every permission available (Modify Global Settings, Stop and restart other applications, Services Which May Cost You Money...), alarm bells ought to ring. But, even more, you ought to be able to say "uh-uh dude, you can eyeball the SD card and nothing else and either deal with it, or crash and get uninstalled".
I think somewhere along the way they forgot that it's our phone and that we ought to have a say in what goes on around here.

...especially when some apps don't use the tactful little Google adverts, but go for animated junk for "flirt line" and such. My God, you'd think that people who own this sort of device are sad lonely single male losers in their thirties... oh... wait... balls...
But, hey, don't rub it in. If I was any good at flirting I'd have a little family of my own by now, so those sorts of things are never going to be a sell for me.
In fact, to get even further off any sort of topic, I once read a Mills & Boon book (hospital waiting room, not much of a selection) and I threw up in my mouth a little. If that crap actually works, I'm going to be a singleton forever. There's no way in hell I could say lines like that without cracking up. And if you can imagine me soaking wet in a pond a la Mr. D'Arcy (or should I say Colin Firth), then you've got a much better imagination than me. Or you've not looked at any of the (few) pictures of me on this b.log. Either way, I might be sexy to a bored blind girl. That's about it. SO STOP THROWING FLIRT ADVERT CRAP AT ME. NOT INTERESTED.

 

Oh wow. Where were we?

Don't get me wrong, there are good things too. I used to spend, like, an hour or two a day reading the news - BBC, TheRegister, and so on. Now with the little "News app I can browse a list of stories, read the ones of interest, and ignore the rest. [sync with WiFi, that is!]
Here, let me give an example:

The news
I guess it is useful to keep abreast of things, but frankly a quick scan down the list of news entries is all it takes. I don't need the details. And it can be summed up in one simple statement. The world is going to hell and is run by crazy people.
Anyway, the news that took so much time can now be read in a matter of minutes. And with the phone's capabilities, I can pick up the headlines and discuss them with mom while in the car. She listens to Radio 4 LW, I have this...

I've said it before, I'll say it again. A user guide would be really good. I found one, but apparently it missed a few details.
Look, if you choose to view the photos you have taken with the camera, you get a bunch of thumbnails in a grid. Yawn.
Now turn the phone sideways. It'll mutate into this really nifty set of posters that you can flip around in. The reflections are a nice touch.

Film roll

Did you know you can call up a menu to rotate pictures? You can go a stage further and edit them. This allows all sort of tweaks, cropping, colour/hue/bright etc and some dafter things like stamps and borders.
Here is a brightness/contrast alteration of a photo of a map:

Image editing
Here, for comparison, is a composite of how the photo looked after and before the tweaking. This isn't to show the power of the phone, it's a purely visual decision on my part. But it gives an idea of what you can do.
Edited photo

This means you can take a photo on your phone, touch it up, crop out the bits you don't want, and email it to a friend. All at the same time. I did this with my French friend to talk about my Katakana flash cards, plus to try how it works in practice. I took a photo, I cropped it, I lightened it slightly, and I emailed it. It took a couple of minutes. Sweet.

Katakana flashcards
(for this copy, I've annotated what the kana are)

Did you know you can do edits to videos?
I don't think this is as powerful. You can, it seems, set a start and an end and throw away everything else (as opposed to cutting arbitrary parts and/or joining videos). But still, if you record for five minutes just to get a panty shot of that drunk bird who is gyrating on the table, you: a. go to way more interesting parties than I do, and b. can throw away all the rubbish except the bit you'll want to show her when she's sober...

Video edit

While the browser has issues with JavaScript trickery (like my bank's sign in) and it doesn't seem to like pop-up alart boxes, it has coped well with pretty much everything I've thrown at it. It has crashed once or twice due to memory running out, but Firefox does that too. Things render looking like a real website. It is fairly quick at rendering, does all the expected CSS things. And thanks to the decent display, reading is a pleasure even at smaller sizes. And yes, pages can be saved so there's a lot that can be done on the itty-bitty machine - like ordering a €0,01 book from Amazon Marketplace, checking TV listings, reading Rob's blog (how can you get fed up drinking hot chocolate? that's a heresy!)...

 

Beans

In the Japanese meal that the Super U used to sell (meh!), there were some nice fat peas. Well, it looks as if these were actually soy beans. So I got myself a pack of soy beans, and some Azuki beans. Everything needs a good soak, and then to be cooked to death. So I put it into a container and told the microwave it'll have to semi-nuke for two hours. I started with this:
What I started with
And I ended up with this:
What I ended up with
Because the soy needed a bit longer than the azukis, the latter had turned to slush. But, you know, azuki beans are supposed to have a sweet nutty taste and soy... well, we all know soy sauce and such so you'd imagine soy tastes of something. But this just tasted like... hard boiled cabbage. In other words, texture but practically no taste. It was probably a meal packed out with nutrients and such, but I just didn't have the inclination to eat a meal devoid of taste.
So I binned it and did what I thought of doing in the first place - fried noodles. They call themselves yakisoba, so I guess it is like some sort of barbeque chicken? It is quite sweet, but then we all know the Chinese pork and caramel combination. Either way, nice.
Yakisoba noodles

 

My little webradio

As I sit here listening to Shoutcast radio on my phone, I realise that I no longer need a webradio, for this phone serves that purpose too. Not bad, huh?

Oh, while I'm here, I tried a little doodle program called Pic Paint to see what sort of responsiveness I'd have with the touch display. Below is the result. The only quirk is that while the touch control can register a single tap (as is used extensively in the controls), Pic Paint seems to require a tap-drag for it to be noticed, which is why stuff like dotted 'i's look a bit odd. In addition, it is a proximity-based system that requires a fat ol' greasy finger to poke it. I tried with a chopstick. No go. That said, this isn't bad for dragging a finger around a 3.7" panel!

Touch sensitivity (real size)

 

Soy vs Shōyu

I had heard that there is quite a difference between the Chinese soy sauces that we'll all be used to from the Asian section in supermarkets, and the Japanese "shōyu".
So I put it to the test.
Soy sauce test

Both were ridiculously salty. But then you aren't supposed to swig this stuff. I think the Japanese one (on the right) had a more 'mature' taste, and the Chinese one (on the left) seemed to mom to taste vaguely fishy, though I'm not aware of that being an ingredient?
I cannot say I was disappointed. I was, but I repeat, I threw a few mils of pure soy sauce down the hatch.
Soon, I shall cook something and use a little of each in separate parts to see how it behaves in an actual meal. Which is, let's face it, a slightly saner test. ☺

 

Comfort food

I felt like crap for most of last week. Don't know why. I guess I was just fed up and run down. When I get like this, I turn to comfort food. I have many categories of this - baked beans with cheddar for reminiscing. But when it's all bleak and I'm cueing up my selection of Sarah Mclachlan songs... there's only one thing that hits the spot.

Ice cream? Or even a-i-su-ku-ri-mu? Nope.

Donuts? Uh-uh (but donuts are always good).

Cupcakes? Bzzzt! (but closer)

Hard drugs? Who needs drugs when you have reality?

Pancakes with maple syrup? Oooooh, so tempting, but no.

Okay, I'll show you:

Foret Noire

I'm not sure extreme close up! flash photography does it much justice. It's a "black forest sponge cake", or "forêt noire" in French. The perfect combination of cake, cherries, chocolate, and loads of whipped cream. Skinny young girls would gain calories just by looking at it. For me, the bored lonely soon-to-be-quite-fat singleton, this is one of life's little pleasures. And the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

 

Your comments:

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Steve, 27th January 2011, 01:23
Until I read this I had never even considered the idea of microwaving something for two hours... 
 
While I know exactly what you mean about the back-back-back thing, is it fair to call that a device quirk? I could swear I've had the same (annoying) behaviour from Firefox on my desktop box. I think it's a flaw (possibly unavoidable, I know nothing about modern web technologies, but still) in the web site.
Rob, 27th January 2011, 09:02
Back, back, "resubmit?" is something that thankfully Opera doesn't suffer from; thanks to a decent page cache, it actually does exactly what you would expect it to do, and show you the pages as you saw them! However, if you back-back to before you logged into a site, then click a new link, then /now/ it knows you are logged in. Handy for websites that require you to log in before you can comment, say, and you always forget, and the login just dumps you on the front page rather than where you were. It also remembers what you filled in in the forms as you passed! :-) 
 
As far as the phone apps and quirks go, I suspect many of them are down to the Apps Motorola bundled with yours, and may not reflect across other Android phones from other manufacturers. My phone (SE X10 Mini Pro) is also on 2.1 but is very different when it come to the home screen, music player, bundled apps, etc. 
 
And thanks for the link! :-)

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