Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone 8 Review

I’ve been using an iPhone since around 2008 and finally in February this year, I decided I had enough of an OS that was really not innovating fast enough. I sold my 4-month old iPhone 5 and switched to Lumia 920. The Windows OS looked sufficiently alluring and refreshingly different from iOS and Android.

The experience has been mixed, but by far the most frustrating part has been using the phone while running/exercising. I nearly yanked off and threw away my phone this morning!

I’ve tried Endomondo, SportsTracker, and RunKeeper but face huge reliability problems in all. The GPS just disconnects randomly mid-run leaving me with no track of my run. This is particularly frustrating while running in new areas where I have no distance markers. Have written to Nokia and Windows on Twitter but with no solution. Of around 6 runs I have tried with the phone, I have been able to record only ONE complete run.

As if that were not enough, the music interface on Nokia is infuriating to say the least. Initially I was very excited about Nokia Mix Music. I still think it is great to have readily mixed music on tap. And it streams quite well. The trouble is with the interface to access the music. To start with there are two entry points – Nokia Music and Music + Videos. Not sure of the difference between the two. Once you get to Nokia Music (which takes all of 4 seconds to start!!!) its a task getting to your own music collection. And then to browse by Artist/Album/Songs is another few clicks/slides. So lets take a very common use case for me – if I just want to start shuffling all my songs, on an iphone I just double-click home button, and click the Play button. Or better still, with my headphones on, just double click the headphone button.

I CANNOT do all this on the Lumia. To start playing my music, I have to launch the music app, scroll to my collection, and then songs and then slide down to reveal the Shuffle button. To make matters worse, even with shuffle on, sometimes it just plays one song and then stops. So you have to keep unlocking the phone and clicking to the next song!

Now imagine all this happening while you are running and have the Lumia strapped on with an armband. It is a task to simply want to play music while tracking your run.

And headphones which allow you to control both, song play as well as volume are hardly available. I think only the official Nokia accessories have that facility (which is probably 2-3 expensive models).

Running apart, I have otherwise had a mixed experience with the Lumia/Windows. The screen is great (the right size to my mind), the windows interface is definitely a refreshing change and quick smooth. Some things are actually easier to do – like setting up short-cuts for speed dial or frequent tasks etc. However, there is still a lot to be desired:

1. The browser sucks!! It is not HTML5 compliant and also does not always parse pages properly to show them in once screen. And the worst part is there are NO 3rd party browsers you can download and use. You’re stuck with the standard issue.

2. No Notifications center! If you miss a notification, good luck. They claim the Live Tiles are meant to fulfill that, but they don’t. Its okay for a missed call or SMS, but say an NDTV notification or an FB notification is very poorly integrated.

3. Usability, while in some cases is better than iPhone, overall its a bit worse (music is terrible!) For instance putting the phone on Silent is 3 clicks/actions!

4. The Nokia Lumia 920 is bulky, unwieldy in shape, and of a texture that makes it easy to slip out of your hands. Battery life sucks, even compared to the iPhone 5, although if data is turned off (like when roaming), its actually amazing. And the phone heats up quite often especially when using data.

5. Multitasking is VERY basic and difficult to use.

All in all, I think Windows Phone 8 has a good thing going and I would really like for it to give Android and iOS a tough run (and I think it can). But the next update of WP8 better be a serious improvement for me to continue to stick with it.

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Posted in Gadgets & Tech, Music

I’m bigger than my body – John Mayer

So here’s a theory that has been twirling in my mind the last few days. It is a theory about mankind in general that seems to neatly straddle science and religion (well at least reinforces the Hindu philosophy of the conscious, the “aatma” being our real self).

I think evolution has put us on a path which is taking human beings to a point where our bodies, or indeed the entire physical world, will be redundant. Everything we have striven for and continue to strive seems to be about increasing the efficiency of our bodies, and of the physical world around us.

The evolution of our physical form was driven by man’s quest for breaking free from existing limitations, doing more, and getting rid of whatever was not required any more. The upright stance, opposable thumbs, getting rid of the tail, thick fur….

From the discovery of fire and invention of the wheel, to the modern age, all the gadgets and things we come up with are designed to reduce our dependence on our bodies and of the physical world.

From cars and remote controls, to cloning, embedded chips, robots, and what have you – we can almost foresee that we won’t need eyes to see, brain for memory, legs to be mobile, mouth to nourish ourselves or communicate…..we are effectively “getting rid” of our bodies.

We suddenly worry that we’re not using our bodies enough and that is leading to health problems, so we encourage more use of the body, more exercise. Sure we need to take care of our bodies at least as long as we have them, but if we take a few steps back, what if that is just a case of our bodies not evolving fast enough to keep pace with the creativity of the mind? What if it’s a sign that our bodies are coming in the way of our unlimited creative potential?

Similarly our “exploitation” of the environment and the earth – we’ve always seen it as destruction. What if we step back and start looking at it as part of that same continuum – in the really long run, the physical environment is holding us back?

Or rather, it is nothing but a container for our infinite creative self which is manifesting itself in various ways?

Hindu philosophy has suggested that while we seek our happiness and ourselves in the outside world, it really lies within. What if we were to look at our seemingly “destructive” behaviour from a different point of view? What if this destruction (symbolised by Shiva) accompanied by creation (Brahma) is nothing but our path and progression towards the self? [UPDATE] And in any case, from all accounts, this “destruction” of our planet, our sun, this universe, WILL happen despite man, in the normal course of nature.[UPDATE] So its almost as if man cannot be held “responsible”, its pre-ordained. It is the way it is, because that is our ultimate destination?

[UPDATE] It is not my opinion that if the above is true, it gives a license to humankind to go ahead and destroy ourselves, each other and the planet. But if it is true, the understanding might just help in keeping things in perspective and better managing “civilisation” and “progress”.[UPDATE]

As I said, its just a theory, which I have not even begun to research (intend to do so as much as is possible online). So I’m sure there’s plenty of holes to be punched.

I would love to hear your views, and even pointers to any relevant reading material/research.

And no, I’m not drinking, smoking or sniffing anything :-)

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Posted in Life

iCloud : just a pretty puff of gas?

Spent some part of the Sunday playing around with iCloud, checking if it makes my multi-device syncing life any better. By the end of it, I had pretty much switched most of the iCloud services off. And here’s why. But first, some context:

1. I use mainly 3 iDevices – MacBook pro, iPad 1 and iPhone 4.
2. I sync my contacts with Google contacts (through iTunes, not over the air), Notes using my iMap email account, and use Google Calendar for my appointments.

And my problems with ICloud:

1. If I switch on Contacts in iCloud, it shows me all my 1700-odd contacts twice on my MBP.

2. I cannot sync my contacts with Google then. Which is not good because not only does Google Contacts serve as a nice “non-Apple” back-up of my contacts, it gives me all my contacts for use with my gmail account. If I sync with iCloud, I will not have my updated contacts in gmail.

3. Turning on iCloud for calendar moves my Mac calendar to the cloud. Which is fine, but the reason I use Google calendar is because it allows me to invite attendees when setting up a meeting from my iPhone. Which a regular account on the iPhone does not allow, god knows why! So it does not help me eliminate google calendar.

UPDATE: Actually with iCloud I can now invite attendees for meetings from iPhone, so I have moved from Google Calendar to iCloud Calendar.

4. Mail and Notes requires me to set up a .me account. Can do without another new account. Am happy with my office, gmail, hotmail and tandon.org accounts. So my office iMap account works fine for these. Notes on iMap works exactly like iCloud and syncs across all my iDevices.

5. Back on the cloud: nice idea but I like the convenience of having a back-up at hand locally whenever I need it (and I HAVE needed it from time to time), whenever I need to retrieve and old SMS or data. So i prefer to back up through iTunes sync. Plus with backups on, the 5GB free limit gets used up pretty quickly.

So for now, I am only using iCloud for PhotoStream and Documents (mainly keynote). Maybe iCloud requires a mind shift and change in habits. Will definitely revisit in a few days.

What’s your experience like with iCloud?

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Posted in Gadgets & Tech

Shoshana Hebshi’s 9/11 ordeal – Over zealous security or a fragile ego?

Came across this post today of what was apparently one of many cases of false alarms received on Sep 11, 2011. Shoshana Hebshi writes in her blog about her shock and awe experience of being racially profiled and detained in Detroit after landing from Denver.
I have to admit, that while I can empathise with Ms Hebshi’s predicament, I find this as yet another example of the ideas of Civil Liberties and Individual Freedom inadvertently becoming excuses for fragile egos and lack of tolerance for individual discomfort.

Cause, while that would certainly have been a distressing experience, there are 2 sides to every story, and here are some possible sides:
http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/delhi-high-court-blast-11-killed-76-injured_730261.html
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/twin-blasts-in-mumbai-15-injured/167291-3.html
What Shoshana went through, and all the attendant “ills” like the racial profiling, are an unfortunate outcome of the times we live in. And as soon as we recognise that it is only an attempt to secure ourselves against acts like the ones in Delhi and Mumbai, and Karachi, and Bali, and Kabul…we will develop a greater acceptance of the circumstances. Are these attempts perfect? No, not at all. But its funny, sitting here in India, we always quote the US example, that at least they responded with an iron fist and there has not been a single attack on the US since 9/11.

Would I like to go through such an experience? No. But is it better than being blown into smithereens, because we were not paranoid? Is it better than a child, spouse, parent, sibling, friend meeting an untimely and horrifying end, or worse still being crippled for life? Umm, let me think about that!

And so I would like to raise another question. How much of our discomfort, outrage and anger against such situations is a result of our own fragile egos? I mean, what is this American obsession with Civil Liberties, and Rights, and Freedom? All noble constructs, but are they higher than the Greater Good? Have we distorted the meaning of all these to imply a lack of tolerance of individual inconvenience? From Shoshana’s account, while it must certainly have been a very unexpected, harrowing and uncomfortable experience, and the initial anger is absolutely justified, it does not seem like there was any intentional discomfort or pain caused, or even any rudeness or aggression on the part of the staff. They seemed to be professionals doing their job.

And what is so humiliating about a strip search as long as it is conducted professionally and is deemed necessary? Don’t we comply with medical procedures requiring the same? Even if after the procedure we find it was not necessary but just a precaution? Isn’t it the same case here? Just because WE know we are not guilty, we feel outraged and violated? Wouldn’t a realisation of the reason for the same, and a tolerance for the cause of the greater good, change one’s view about this?

To summarise, all I am saying is, while we must definitely be vigilant to ensure that the precautionary/preventive measures are not being taken too far, we also have to apply a similar vigilance to ensure that our fierce protection of our individual rights are not an outcome of bloated egos and self-importance, such that they become bigger than the Greater Good.

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Posted in Life

Cheated by Copper Project

So for our digital marketing agency, Indigo Consulting, we were looking for a SAAS-based Project Management System that would help us manage large and small digital marketing projects, and track time sheets. Copper Project was referred to us by a friend in the US office of a large advertising network, so we did our evaluation and invested significant time in setting up the system for our needs, training our staff etc. While the product seemed to have most of the features we needed, some basic things like reports, ability to view your own time sheets etc were missing which they kept saying they would consider for a future release.

However 2-3 months into usage, we found the the performance of the site had dropped considerably. With barely 110-115 users, the site would often time-out, or worse, just would not record an entry. When we raised this issue, they said they would try and work on it. In the meantime, we had to suspend use of the PMS.

Eventually, they admitted they will NOT be able to resolve the problem (which in itself was surprising considering it is a cloud-based project management system and availability is a prerequisite), and themselves offered to provide a refund.

Copper Project offer for Refund

We even suggested that we could then perhaps opt for upgrading to the next version where we can get the source code and install it in our own network. The fees already paid could be adjusted against the same.

However, after that we NEVER heard from them. There was no response to any of our emails or phone calls. It was then that we realised we are dealing with more of a shell than a company. There are NO proper contact details on the website – the link just leads to some anonymous info@ email ID. There is no background on the company, the owners, management etc. During the course of our interactions on support, we only had the contact of one Ben Prendergast, who refused to respond to emails or phone calls.

After 3 months of futile attempts, I finally sent a DM to their Twitter Account (http://www.twitter.com/copperproject) to which I finally got a response. Shockingly, they FLATLY REFUSED to offer a refund and claimed they had “retracted” the refund offer and that we were harassing them by continuing to follow-up!!! We had, of course, received no such email, so we asked them to forward the email. Which was again met with silence. Cos obviously the cheats never sent the email and were now hiding behind lies.

The failure of the Copper Project PMS can be understood – not all products are killers. But the attitude of the company, the anonymity of the management, and most of all their string of lies and lack of accessibility, were shocking to say the least. Trust and confidence is the bedrock of any successful relationship, and Copper Project clearly does not care for these values.

Besides the fees paid for a product that does not work, we also lost considerable time and effort, and of course all the data.

We have since started using Zoho Projects and are so far quite happy with the product and the support response times, although its only been about a couple of months.

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Posted in Business & Economy, Web 2.0

iOS 5 Beta – first impressions

I have installed the iOS 5 beta on my iPhone 4 and here are initial impressions. Remember, you need iTunes 5 Beta to install iOS5.

GOOD:

  1. New notification format is nice – certainly not new and does not change my life, but far better than existing formats, and very nicely executed.
  2. Reminders app is cool – again, should’ve been there from the start, but better late than never.
  3. iMessaging – not had a chance to use yet cos I guess it needs the other iThing to also be ios5.
  4. Twitter integration – definitely handy. Beats having to open another app to tweet a page/photo etc.
  5. Wireless Sync – not operational yet, but look forward to it, I suspect it will be much slower if there are apps/music to sync.
  6. iCloud backup – works seamlessly in the background but haven’t really tested across devices yet.
  7. Access Camera through DoubleClick – still on the old habit of launching the Camera app, but I’m sure this is handy once I remember to use it.
BAD:
  1. It has definitely affected performance. The phone is slower by at least 10% when accessing multiple functions, “stutters” when handling transitions, and sometimes even shows, for a fraction of a second, a screen which has since been closed. And I am not a heavy multi-tasked either, and make it a point to kill apps not required. Hopefully they will fix this in the final release.
  2. Camera: Now that I can use the Volume button to click, it would have been nice if that bar on the screen with the click button and still-video switch could be “hidden” so I get the whole screen as my viewfinder. Common in most other large screen phones.
  3. Camera: When you use the Volume button to click, the Camera lens (and Flash) is positioned on the lower side. A camera lens and flash should under most circumstances “look down” on the subject from the upper end of the device.
  4. There’s an irritating message that pops up on every phone call about this being an “unsecure call” and would I like to continue! And the only way to get rid of it is to click on Ignore. There seems to be no way to de-activate that.
  5. Mail: Text formatting controls (Bold, Underline etc) are handy but unwieldy.
  6. There are also reports of Battery life being hit, but between 3G and a nearly one-year old device, not sure how much is the exact impact of iOS5.
All in all, iOS5 does not change in life in a very big way, but is more of a good to have, provided of course, they sort out the impact on performance for iPhone4. I would have been much happier seeing what in my opinion would have been really handy features, that again should have been there from the start:
  1. Ability to create shortcuts to frequently accessed settings, songs, pictures, phone numbers – anything.
  2. Widgets – nice to have.
  3. Ability to invite attendees to meetings in iCal WITHOUT the need for an Exchange account. Can’t see why I can’t do the same with a POP3/IMAP account.
  4. Some visual notification when the phone is asleep – LED around home button?
Look forward to iOS 6 :-)
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Posted in Gadgets & Tech

Ajmal Kasab: The Pride of India?

The more I think about it, the prouder I feel that India has chosen not to take the Rambo route to punish the perpetrator of what is undoubtedly one of the most cold-blooded acts of murder in history.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Ajmal Kasab get the severest punishment for his crime, as much as any other Indian. And of course, there have been many times when I have wondered why we are wasting emotional energy, time and money and not just getting on with killing him.

But when viewed from the eyes of the very “civilised way of life” the West has always preached, I think we have demonstrated the epitome of that very way of life. Sure, we may be bungling the execution as usual, in that we could expedite the whole process, make it more efficient, and so mete out punishment as early as possible. But the intent and principle, to my mind, is sound.

I refuse to believe that the US of A has the clout and balls to go into Pakistani territory and conduct a commando operation of this nature, but cannot use the same clout to just give Osama up or force them to cooperate in finding and apprehending him? The episode reeks of a clear intent to find an eliminate Osama with an eye on pandering to popular emotion, especially at a time when the Obama administration is up s**t creek. Not to mention all the obvious questions around what exactly happened that night? How did FOUR choppers come near the home and no one even HEARD them and sounded an alarm for Osama? One of them even crashed in the compound, for chris’ sake! Have the Americans developed stealth technology such that aircraft self-destruct in silence? And no guards, no security, no other casualties????

Shouldn’t the country that preaches civilisation and fundamental rights etc give an account of how they ensured that they made every possible attempt to capture him and bring him to justice?

Sure, we have a lot to learn from the West in terms of national security administration and justice, but it surely doesn’t seem like a one-way street.

What do you think?

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Posted in India, Life
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