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If technology doesn't seem like magic, it's probably obsolete

I'm finding less time to update my blog these days, but my flickr photostream is often updated.

Playing in my house right now...


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At 00:00 GMT on Thursday I was listening to:


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More of what I've been listening to

Latest pictures from my phone

www.flickr.com
More pictures from my phone


Monday March 31 2003 at 03:27 GMT

From Mobitopia:

Orange announced on Friday that it has signed interconnect agreements with the other UK networks, allowing MMS to be sent to and received from users on those networks.
It seems strange that it has taken so long to get this kind of agreement in place, and yet, (as far as I can tell) Orange are the first and only network to have full interconnectivity. I'm sure there are technical challenges involved, but the potential revenue generation must be pretty decent given the astronomical cost of an MMS message. The flipside to that argument is that maybe so few MMS messages are being sent that the cost of setting up the interconnect agreements (technically and business-wise) outweighs the potential revenue generation.

Somewhat ironically, given the huge advertising push Vodafone are putting into the Vodafone Live! service which has MMS at its core, Vodafone users were unable to send or receive MMS messages from any other network until this agreement with Orange.

As I was doing my fact checking for this, I had a look over the various network Web sites. None of the sites I saw mentioned to which networks 'true' MMS was available, or what happens when you send to someone on a network where no agreement is in place. Another case of mobile companies not quite telling the truth, that is going to lead to disgruntled customers.

I have assumed above that users will use the default network gateway for sending MMS, much in the same way as SMS. I accept that third party services such as Now MMS exist, but I think I'll pass on receiving any more "advertising messages" via phone than I already do.

Monday March 31 2003 at 03:25 GMT

Dietmar and Birte have leant me their old ONDigital TV box, so I now have digital TV in my house! I really don't watch much TV, but it is nice to finally be able to jump over to the other channels that are so often mentioned as a matter of course on UK TV these days. Picture and sound quality are very impressive too, although I think I may need a new aerial to get the full compliment of channels.

The remote control that comes with the box has a full qwerty keyboard inside the flip. There must be some options available there for hardware hacking purposes!

Monday March 31 2003 at 03:22 GMT

Saturday was a good day for sports in Scotland - not something that happens often! We managed to beat Italy at rugby and Iceland at football. I was at Murrayfield for the rugby (thanks, Fiona) - the game wasn't great, but it was good to see Scotland win. At least we didn't walk away with the wooden spoon.

Friday March 28 2003 at 14:16 GMT

Sometimes life, in general, just takes over, and I don't have time to post much. This week has been pretty busy, one way or another. My cousin was in town last night, and it happened to be Anna's birthday, so we visited Oloroso and Opal Lounge. I think my cousin was impressed, and thankfully she managed to make her flight at 9am!

My weekend is shaping up to be pretty busy: rents are arriving this afternoon and we're going for a family dinner tonight, then they are staying over (parents! staying over! at my house!). Tomorrow, I'm going to the rugby, then meeting Sandy who has organised a night out before a colleague heads home to the States. Sunday, I'll be getting my Irish flag out and watching the rugby ... and relaxing!

Tuesday March 25 2003 at 17:21 GMT

I am kind of getting bored with blogger.com - there are too many things I can't do with it and things that don't work. Basically, I need more control over the output. The three main things I am missing are:

  • categories: so that I can collect, for example, all mobile things together

  • updateable via my phone: blogging via email just does not work, so I want a lightweight interface that will allow me to blog wherever I am; I use GPRS, so the mail vs (Web) interface question is not relevant. In addition, posting directly will give me confidence that it is done as well as the ability to edit previous posts. Once I link it with the interface for my gallery section, I have a powerful tool, able of almost completely maintaining my site via my phone

  • customisation for different clients: at the moment, the WAP version of martinlittle.com is pretty useless - it does not reflect any of the content of my main site, just a bunch of WAP bookmarks. I've tried a few approaches to handling this, however until the CSS @Media attribute is usable, I'll need to bank on my slightly clunky PHP browser detection script.


On the downside, it does mean that if something doesn't work, I have to fix it, but I think I can handle that.

Tuesday March 25 2003 at 09:47 GMT

Copying Russ, I am posting my Mobitopia post to my own site:

According to this article in Cellular News, the UK sent 1.53billion person to person text messages in February 2003, giving an average of 55millon SMS per day. With some of the major news services offering text alerts for breaking news stories, the actual figure including these services must be crazy, especially given current events. To put this into some kind of perspective, about 1billion text messages were sent in the US in 2002 (according to InphoMatch).

Tuesday March 25 2003 at 02:33 GMT

It's been ages since I talked about XHTML, but I found this great link via google, then remembered that Russ had mentioned it yesterday. It's a great article on the history of SGML, the Web and going right through to the next generation of WML.

Tuesday March 25 2003 at 01:30 GMT

I always meant to find out what the Flaming Lips were like, but never kind of got round to it. Last week, when I was in Fopp, I decided to grab their latest silver disc, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

First listen through, I thought I liked it too much, so put it away - nothing worse than easy listening. Then I put it back on, and have since fallen in love with it! Now I need to put it away, or I really will get sick of it.

The Flaming Lips Web site is REALLY great. It's like, they get the Internet. Well worth a visit. I would say that I've ripped the CD so that you can listen to it, but the band have beaten me to it.

Monday March 24 2003 at 21:26 GMT

I was at Rogue for lunch today - had an incredibly tasty meal! This evening I got a mail from Dave, the owner, via the Rogue mailing list, saying that he's had a great response to the article printed in Scotland on Sunday:

The response was astonishing; phone calls, letters and emails of support flooded in from our customers; our bookings leapt by 400% and our takings for the following week doubled. While we're not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination, we can at least see the possibility of survival. This wouldn't have happened without the paper's help - it was a simple but powerful demonstration of the power of the press. We are very grateful.

He is also announcing a new 'austerity menu', where every dish will be 4, so a two course lunch will be 8. If you've not been, I can only encourage you to - the food is great, the service is great and the ambience is great. Now you have even more reason.

Monday March 24 2003 at 00:20 GMT

Sandy and I caught our flight out to Berlin on Thursday evening. Due to a slight scheduling mix-up, Jill ended up getting an earlier flight. Our flight to Frankfurt was slightly delayed, but we made our connection. Nathan and Bee met us at the airport and we got a taxi into town, dumped our stuff, then headed out to a pub for a few 0,5l of Berliner's best. The night ended with a visit to the 24 hour Oktagon kebab house on Warschauer Strasse. The kebabs were quite different to what I have eaten here. The bread was more like a squashed roll, lightly toasted, and the meat actually tasted good, even without a lot of beers.

After a comical (for us) start to the day for Nathan - he literally got dressed as he ran out the door, slightly late for work - we all took a walk around the majority of the city, starting the East Side Gallery, via the Brandenburg Gate to Potsdamer Platz (that page has some GREAT photos of Potsdamer Platz from June 1994 - present; well worth a visit). We collected some more people back at the flat, then all headed out to dinner at a Vietnamese place on (or just off) Rosenthaler Strasse, which may have been called Monsieur Vuong. Very tasty.

After food, the girls headed home and the boys went out. First off, we headed to a BRILLIANT jazz bar called b-flat where we heard the Carlo Morena Quintett. They were out of this world, and the music and location just came so perfectly together! Unfortunately, we only caught the second half of their act, so we had a few more beers, then headed to find somewhere new. The first place was too cheesy by half, so Robbie took us on a tour to find a bar "he knew". We almost ended at a strip joint, but finally settled on a Russian bar. We enjoyed our Becks, Andy enjoyed a sleep, and we thankfully all managed to leave with our lives. It was an interesting place.

We ended the night with more kebabs and got more beers from the kebab place too!

Saturday morning arrived WAY too soon, and saw Sandy, Jill, Andy and I stumbling around Berlin, on the tourist trail. Actually, it was mostly just me who was stumbling... We saw the soon-to-be Berlin Wall museum and then visited Checkpoint Charlie. The museum is being rennovated and expanded just now, so it was not the best experience, although there is a LOT of information in there. Once it is all nicely organised, I'm sure it will be considerably more enjoyable to visit.

We visited an Irish pub, the Kilkenny, as it was almost St Patricks Day. I managed to struggle down a Guinness, as well as my first food of the day - but we had to get back to the flat for the big party, and the reason we were in Berlin, the housewarming.

Thankfully, after a few beers, I got into the swing of things! It was a superb party - loads of people, good music (most of the time), good conversation, delicious food and some great drunken antics. There were no breakages and only a few spillages. We finished up at 7am ... and then were back on our feet by 1pm.

Nathan had popped out and got a load of food, and we were all on great form. Hangovers somehow skipped us all by, so we finally managed to drag ourselves out of the house and see Karl Marx Allee, Alexanderplatz (where we climbed the TV tower for great views across Berlin and back to Potsdamer Platz, where we grabbed a drink. We got tickets to see Good Bye, Lenin! (some English info here), which was such a brilliant, captivating film. I'm not going to describe it here, however I REALLY encourage you to see it when it makes it to your country. The night finished with some food at Alex, next door, then another kebab!

On Monday morning, Sandy was flying off for work, so Jill and I packed up the rest of Sandy's belongings then Nathan, Andy, Jill and I headed off, aiming to get to the Reichstag (more great views here). Jill and Nathan had to head to the airport/work, but Andy and I managed to zoom up and get some great views. After that, we headed home and I jumped on to a bus to the airport and flew home...

Overall, my Berlin experience simply could not have been better. We had great friends, weather, food, drink, laughter, music... I really felt that there was so much left undiscovered, and I am certainly planning to get back there sooner rather than later. If you've not been, I thoroughly recommend going.

The full gallery of pictures is here.

Sunday March 23 2003 at 19:56 GMT

Stephen Malkmus has just released his second album, however this time it is a straight 'Jicks' album as opposed to Stephen + Jicks. I don't read a lot of reviews, and this reminds me why. It is amusing in it's obtuseness. Read, and if you can enjoy, let me know. I'll be listening to the music.

Sunday March 23 2003 at 13:02 GMT

This guy is (was?) blogging from Baghdad.

Sunday March 23 2003 at 12:54 GMT

Read the story here.

Sunday March 23 2003 at 11:42 GMT

I would post a longer update, but it's just too sunny to stay inside (or even to go outside) and post. I'm off to collect my bike, sit in the park, drink a beer and relax.

Friday March 21 2003 at 18:14 GMT

It's been a really sunny day here in Edinburgh. Time for a beer, now.

Thursday March 20 2003 at 16:26 GMT

One (safe for work): http://lollygagger.org/artists/manfish/GeorgieW.swf
Two (not really safe for work): http://home.chello.no/~siamak.javid/etc/NewAirportSecurity.swf

Thanks to Mahyad and Karen for those.

Thursday March 20 2003 at 16:24 GMT

I have FAR too many technology projects kicking around at the moment, so this weekend is going to rationalisation and prioritisation time. I really need to sit down and work out where best to spend my limited time on. At the moment I feel like I've got lots of things hanging around, incomplete, with more ideas popping up every day. Hopefully once I see what I'm trying to do, I can set myself a path.

Thursday March 20 2003 at 16:10 GMT

Man, last night was amusing. I had hoped to meet up with a friend in town from Shetland, but for some reason that didn't happen. After my meditation class (we are now moving on to more advanced stuff - all good) I met the boys in the pub to catch the second half of the Arsenal game (they lost, it was an OK game). Then, as I was heading home, Fiona called me to say she was in the pub around the corner, so I met her and her friend Cath for a few beers. They were both very drunk, and good entertainment value. I think I was quite drunk too...

Since Sunday I've been in a great mood (apart from some of Wednesday). The Berlin trip really did me good!

Wednesday March 19 2003 at 02:53 GMT

OK, so I've only ever posted once, but I am considered a Mobitopia contributor. Getting a mention in The Register (near the bottom of the page) is *SO* cool! Word to Russ for kicking things off. Day: made.

Wednesday March 19 2003 at 02:25 GMT

One of the biggest gripes I have with the P800 is the extraordinarily slow speed files, say MP3s, can be transferred to it from my computer. When I was at the Sony Style Store in Berlin, I found a mouse with a MemoryStick reader built in, the MSAC-US7 [page is in Japanese as I don't think it is available in the UK].

Transferring 16MB of files via the cradle could easily take 10 minutes - SO slow. With the 128MB Duo card looming on the horizon, I didn't fancy waiting hours to shift a few songs. Luckily, I can move 15MB in a few seconds via the mouse, so the 128MB will work sweetly. The mouse is optical too - and looks good. A nice reminder of Berlin!

Wednesday March 19 2003 at 01:53 GMT

It seems that SonyEricsson have a reasonably significant upgrade coming along for the P800, in week 14 (two weeks from today). The key updates are (taken from a mail to a mailing list):

1. CommuniCam update: Night mode for low light, Mute camera noise,
Specify delay time, Specify how long picture stays frozen after taking
2. Pictures: zoom, expand, rotate, drag around when zoomed.
3. SMS Delivery reports
4. Select multiple files for file operations
5. TeleType Accessory support (deaf + speech impaired persons)
6. Full screen video + orientation set
7. Audio player when flip closed
8. Full screen web browser


Some sources also claim that line2 will be supported. The full detail can be found on this thread.

Wednesday March 19 2003 at 01:44 GMT

I still need to write up all that we did in Berlin, but for now, here are some pictures.

To everyone in the pictures, a big thank you for such a great weekend. It was an all-time classic!

I was having so much fun that I didn't even feel the need to check my mail for four days, something I've not done for well over a year. Maybe that's something I should keep quiet about.

Tuesday March 18 2003 at 02:18 GMT

Finally back home after one of the best weekends ever - fantastic hosts, some superb new friends, a great city, quality beer and a 24hour kebab shop. :-D Pictures and a full update tomorrow.

Friday March 14 2003 at 17:06 GMT

I'm now in Berlin, currently at the Sony Centre, checking out what is new and cool ... and trying to play with the Bluetooth-enabled products. Must get back to it! Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday March 11 2003 at 17:30 GMT

This really should be a joke, but it is actually true.

Tuesday March 11 2003 at 17:25 GMT

Last night I posted that I had downloadable MP3 via GPRS, and that I had borrowed them from a Japanese site. As I was demoing this to a friend, I suddenly realised it could actually be used for a real purpose. Does anyone want to give me 20k to get my idea off the ground?

Tuesday March 11 2003 at 17:18 GMT

There are regular stories of Large Corporation Inc. venturing into the wireless arena, seeing it not as a way to draw people into their coffee/book/record shop/bar/hotel, but as a way to get some more money out of patrons. It's great to see a company, McDonalds, finally break this mould. They are piloting giving one hour of Internet access free with the purchase of a meal. It seems like a pretty good deal to me (well, as good as it is likely to get). Hopefully it will spur others into adopting the same approach - buy something here, get free wireless access for a limited time.

Obviously it would be great if everyone offered free wireless connections, but in the real world companies are just not going to do that. This looks a viable option - bring in some new business => pay for wireless. Hopefully their talk has more substance to it than one of their burgers. Thanks to Matt for this one.

Tuesday March 11 2003 at 17:06 GMT

Martian have announced a cool little(ish) piece of kit - essentially a silent 40GB hard disk with a wireless capability.

It certainly looks neat, however I do wonder what kind of use it will really have. It must be aimed at reasonably tech people, and those people will already have a broadband connection with, likely, a fat hard disk on the end of it, and a wireless network allowing streaming of content with a little software tinkering. I'm a little confused as to where exactly Martian see this product fitting in - USD 399 for a hard disk, wireless card, power supply and neat box seems on the steep side to me. How many of the people likely to be interested in this device actually turn their broadband connection off, when they're not using it? I watch with interest.

Tuesday March 11 2003 at 02:39 GMT

Just to see if I could actually stream MP3s to me P800, I set up this page. Yes, I know it is just a bunch of Japanese words, but I was able to successfully stream them to my handset! Ideas ideas...

Monday March 10 2003 at 15:56 GMT

Thanks to Karen for this: geekcorps. Computers and Web access for those who wouldn't normally have those things.

Monday March 10 2003 at 01:58 GMT

Thanks to Marty G for this tip. One of his friends is working on a project called GPSter which is a public waypoint database and GPS graffiti [database].

Essentially, the idea is to store information regarding, for example relevant Web sites or pictures virtually, at a GPS location. Visitors could then enter those co-ordinates and retrieve the information left and refined by others over time. Applying that to WiFi hotspots sounds very good to me indeed.

Maybe it's time to buy a GPS unit - or maybe I should just use all the tech I have lying around me fully, first.

Monday March 10 2003 at 01:47 GMT

The screen protector I ordered from Brando in Hong Kong (on Monday) arrived here on Saturday morning - what great service. I popped the cover on and it seems like a very nice piece of kit. The screen is a touch less bright, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as the display is possibly overbright to start with.

Handwriting seems nicer on the new screen too, strangely. Maybe there's slightly more resistance or something. Either way, I'm happy. I'll see if I'm recommending it in a week or so.

Monday March 10 2003 at 01:42 GMT

This tribute album to Pavement has been rumoured for quite a while, but has now arrived. I can buy it directly from the label for EUR 23, or else here in the UK for GBP 20 plus shipping. Great deal. :-(

I've listened to a few MP3s, and they sound interesting, so I hope someone in the UK picks this up and offers a better deal soon.

Monday March 10 2003 at 01:34 GMT

I really had big plans in terms of coding for this weekend, but, they just haven't happened. For once, postponed plans are not due to beer intake!

My parents were over on Friday night, and we all had a great time chatting away. Seems like a long time since I've seen them. :-(

On Saturday morning, after my dentist appointment, Fiona came round so that I could sort out her a PC she is/was giving to her mum. Thankfully it was a very straightforward install and we managed to zoom out and pick up a modem too. Job done. Next up was getting a PC over to my sister and organising a monitor for her - that was all done by 9pm. Then I was kind of tired...

Sunday I stayed in bed until almost midday, then sorted out my gallery (finally!). I had WAY too many galleries not being database driven and therefore not looking the same as all the others. I have now streamlined everything, so some of my older blog entries may have broken links, but I'm hoping I've caught most of them. The benefits? When I change the look of the one template page, all the galleries fall into line. My entire site is now effectively running from six templated pages - this makes me happy! Setting things up to work for mobile devices should now be much easier, as well as getting my site to be XHTML Strict compliant.

In other tech news, I bought a USB hub at the weekend, so I can now run two webcams, my ADSL modem and my Bluetooth dongle. I've set one of the cams up, looking out to Morningside Road, as before. I'm not sure what I'll do with the other one yet.

Sunday March 9 2003 at 13:51 GMT

My favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, Rogue is in danger of closing within three months, unless business improves. Please read this article and also this piece.

If you have not been before, you simply MUST - it is a fantastic place, incredible food, a superb wine list, great service and brilliant decor. It really is "a variation from the crop". Edinburgh already has far too many average, mediocre restaurants - let's not allow one showing real innovation and style to disappear. If you have been before, now is the time to remind yourself how good it is, and visit again. I will be.

Saturday March 8 2003 at 12:07 GMT

I love going to the dentist - always have. I think this is namely due to the fact I've never required any surgery... This morning (yes, a SATURDAY) was no different. I pitched up, my cool dentist checked my mouth and ... we had a nice chat. She's just got super tech, so next time I'll get a picture taken of my mouth. Way cool.

I found a link to googlefight somewhere this morning. Amusing.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday March 7 2003 at 16:59 GMT

Mahyad forwarded this to me: yournotme. Excusing the spelling, it makes for some quick fun on a Friday afternoon. My name would appear to be 'rarer than a wombats wing nut'!

Thursday March 6 2003 at 20:11 GMT

This is a new idea (to me). Kind of a common shared virtual area. You get your friend together and you can chat to them, listen to the same music etc. Quite neat - thanks Graeme.

Thursday March 6 2003 at 17:02 GMT

I'm heading off to Berlin a week on Thursday, for a long weekend/flat warming.

I'm looking for some ideas as to what simply MUST be done. I've ordered up my copy of the Berlin Lonely Planet and I was planning to go and see the Blinkenlights building, but it appears it's not a permanent installation.

Any recommendations of things to do in and around Berlin, let me know. I've read and heard that Berlin is the most tech city in Germany, so I'm hoping to get WiFi coverage. Any insider tips to good places would really be appreciated.

Thursday March 6 2003 at 13:58 GMT

We now have a UK-wide database of phones reported lost or stolen - immobilise.com. This seems like a very good way to deter petty theft, although I'm sure there will still be people steal phones here then ship them elsewhere.

With the reduction/removal of phone subsidies on Orange (and the likely expected knock on to other operators), phones are going to cost more. Hopefully this will protect people's investment a little bit, however no doubt criminals the world over are already trying to freak IMEI numbers.

Thursday March 6 2003 at 02:56 GMT

Over the past five days, I've had a few strange experiences. Last Saturday, after I'd recycled all our glass bottles, I was walking back down to the paper recycler. I was ON the pavement, with my back to the traffic when I suddenly felt something large very close to me. Yup, a bus coming in to the stop whacked me. Luckily it was going pretty slowly and I vaguely remember getting an arm out to protect myself before surfing across the pavement. I shared a few expletives with the driver (who offered no apology, just an explanation of "I came in too steep"). I wasn't really hurt - some slight tenderness on my shoulder and arm. Just in case, though, I did file a note with Lothian Buses, who are going to get back to me 'with a full reply'.

Tonight, as John and I were walking back from meditation class, we saw a guy beating up a woman, grabbing her and generally abusing her. As we walked past, we confirmed she really wasn't happy, so stopped to consider what to do. The guy was BIG - well over 6' with rugby player build. At that point, he took exception to John and I and grabbed us both around the neck. The girl then jumped on his back as we both fought as best we could. He decided to leave us alone after a bit and went back to yelling at the girl (who was trying to thank us/defend herself), so John and I decided to take a walk and call the police. The guy walked off, kicking and punching shop windows and the girl ran in the other direction. The police did at least call me back, but had not found anyone. If the girl calls in, they have my name as a witness.

It can be very easy to get depressed with society, sometimes.

Thursday March 6 2003 at 01:33 GMT

People have actually been asking me where my P800 review is, so I thought I'd better get on and get something posted. This is a long article!

Where to start in all of this


I picked up my phone a week last Friday, and I've given it a good workout since then. I really think SE did the right thing in not rushing this phone to market before the software was ready for it. The only time I have managed to confuse the OS was when I installed eDoom, and didn't place some files in the correct location. Apart from that, it's been solid as a rock, jumping from one application to another with no problems.

Phone


It is a phone first and foremost, and it performs this function well. Sound quality from the earpiece has a nice solid tone to it, and the microphone appears to pick up voice well (Wildfire on Orange UK has started working noticeably better). I've even started using the handsfree 'kit', which lets me listen to MP3 as I'm marching along, then beeps me when a call comes in.

One of the positives I've found is the synchronisation with Oulook 2000 (on Windows 2000). With the T68, this was good, solid and reliable, even via infra red. The P800 has a cradle, that the charger can also plug into. It connects to my computer via USB - more on this later (IR sync also works well). The full range of information I hold in my Outlook contacts now appears on the phone, including address (home and work). My Nokia 7110 did this, but my T39 and T68 did not - it's good to have it back.

The sync tool worked well - first time I hooked up I was fully synchronised within a few minutes. Trying a full sync of 500+ contacts with IR on the T68 would normally have been a pretty long process. I have not tried the email sync as it would use way too much memory space, I have no wish to have my work mail on my phone (apart from the security risks) and anyway, I can't connect to my work mail server directly via the Internet.

It's cool to have speedials back and the picture popping up when someone calls is a nice touch, although I'm not sure how much I will use it, given the memory utilisation.

Voice dialling is good and works particularly well via the handsfree kit. I'm also rather enjoying saying 'answer' or 'busy' when someone calls - some of the looks I get are priceless, and I'm still getting used to chatting away to myself as I walk down the street.

For some reason, signal quality seems to be better on the P800. There were several areas I used to know I'd have no coverage. These are much fewer now.

The dialled/received/missed calls list is well done, with time now available for calls not made today (missing on T68).

Now, the annoying points... SE have got rid of profiles. These used to work very well - when I got to work, I quickly popped to silent, which meant no ringing, but my phone would vibrate and the screen flash. Now when I select silent from the volume menu, the phone flases once and vibrates. If it's on the cradle, it doesn't even vibrate. There is no customisation of 'silent' either and I can't make another profile to beep once.

The ringtones are not that great either. Well, they are - they sound absolutely fantastic, in a quiet environment. As soon as there is any noise, my phone goes unheard. At least I can download a replacement ringtone.

At the moment, line 2 (having a second number on the same SIM) is not supported, which is kind of surprising given all other Ericssons do. There are rumours of a firmware upgrade.

The Smart Part


Visually, the interface looks great. It is nice and colourful, without being gawdy. It would be nice to change the colours etc etc, but that is apparently coming in UIQ 2.1. I would much prefer to have a solid and reliable phone than be able to change colours of the menu backgrounds.

I have to admit that many of the features on the phone are just like my T68 - Bluetooth, calendar, tasks, contacts, camera, WAP, games - but with a nicer interface. I almost take them for granted, so I'll focus on the differences.

Straight off, the handwriting recognition has to get a mention. It is simply wonderful. Unlike the Palm, there is no special graffiti to learn - you just write. Without exception, everyone who has tried it has been hugely impressed. Composing emails and SMS is easy, which is lucky as SE have provided no T9 (or similar) support. This can be a touch annoying when composing shorter messages and I've actually found myself making way more short calls than I used to, which I think I prefer. Much more sensible phone usage!

Going quickly through each of the standard applications:


  • the camera is fine - still getting used to the different settings. Some examples are here, although they are not terribly good I'm afraid. I don't think this really reflects the quality of the camera. If someone would like to send me some better examples, I'd be happy to post them

  • the pictures app is just like on a T68 - a small gallery where it is possible to select an image to view/send etc

  • video - all I've got on here at the moment is the SE demo. I'm not sure how much I'll use this
  • audio - I had big hopes for this, but due to the unavailability of anything like a decent sized storage card - MemoryStick Duo is only available in 64MB and 128MB (April) is rumoured to be the maximum size - I'm not sure how good it will be. The application itself is very basic, and annoyingly, music does not restart after a phonecall has ended. Surely not such a complex piece of coding. There is no way of ordering music apart from basic name/date/filetype sorting. Someone must be writing a proper application already. Having said all that, even music at 96kb sounds good, however as I record all MP3 in my house at at least 192kb, I'm going to have to make seperate versions for home and mobile playback due to the MemoryStick sizing

  • the 'Internet' browser included as standard is reasonable. See later for the Opera review. The one thing that really did blow me away was watching live webcams, however that was horsing through the GPRS

  • messages - pretty standard stuff. SMS, MMS, email, etc etc. Read receipts are missing in action, though. Again, a firmware upgrade has been rumoured

  • contacts, phone, calendar and tasks have been covered already

  • jotter is a little tool for ... jotting. I've not used it yet, but I can imagine it being useful for sending a map via MMS or scribbling a quick diagram

  • voice memo, calculator and time are all pretty self explanatory. The alarm clock under 'time' I've found a litle too easy to turn off instead of snoozing...

  • the file viewer does an admirable job - it will happily display Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and txt(!) files, with very good faith to the original

  • remote sync and online services remain unused at the moment

  • control panel does what it says on the tin - Bluetooth, IR, messaging accounts handled here

  • the demo is a slow-paced walkthrough of phone functionality, soon to be deleted from this P800

  • the GPRS log is a hugely inaccurate data counter (I'm hoping ;-). With opera installed, it is VERY easy to burn through a few MBs in a blink. Orange need to offer an SPV 10MB for GBP6 to really get us all hooked

  • chess and solitaire are good games

  • Opera. Now we are talking. SE have a deal with Opera to supply a fantastic little piece of coding. The browser will handle almost anything you can throw at it. This has already been covered in depth elsewhere, so I'll just point you to the start of this review. The only problem is the data usage. Looking at Web pages can quickly become an expensive experience!



The Other Stuff


Battery life - I was pretty concerned the battery would not last too long, especially after the SPV's poor performance. Not so - I ran the following test over a 24 hour period: I charged the battery to 100% until Saturday night at 8pm. I then used just over an hour of MP3 playback (handsfree), about 10 SMS, about 50 minutes of talking (hansdfree), 10 minutes of GPRS WAP/Web surfing, an incremental synchronisation with my laptop, taking a few pictures and running a demo of the phone (quick video, audio, game, handwriting, camera etc). At the end of this, I had 24% battery left, and this was when I first had the phone. I expect the battery to condition nicely!

Display brightness - currently can't be controlled, so it is BRIGHT when the screen is on (screen is very nice and clear) - firmware update rumoured. I am missing my screen saver showing the time, though. Still need to check if I can get that rectified.

Jog wheel - Sony's famous jog wheel thing is present. Haven't had much use for it really.

Handsfree wires - the wire that goes behind my neck just doesn't seem long enough. I'm unable to turn my head without the left earpiece falling out. A volume control on there would be great, too. The supplied soft case is pretty nice and doesn't look too bad, yet has one huge failing - there is no hole for the earpiece! I keep meaning to get my drill out and fix that.

Moving files - moving file to the P800 is a pretty slow business. The USB cradle is not fast, unfortunately. I suppose it was the best standard they could find, seeing as firewire is not yet widespread.

Installing applications - this really is a straightforward. Good work for that.

Flip on/off - I've found that removing the flip makes the phone look much better. Screen damage is a concern, though. I've ordered a Brando screen protector as recommended by many on All About Symbian. I have always been careful with what I have in a pocket with my phone, so this is not too much of an issue for me.

Flight mode - like the Nokia Communicator, the P800 can be used in flight mode. Effectively this turns off the phone functionality. I shall be trying it shortly when I head to Berlin. A few people needed reassuring when I used my Communicator on a plane a while ago.

Size and shape - I nearly forgot! The phone is quite a bit bigger and heavier than my T68. I'm not obsessed with having a tiny phone, but once the same functionality is available in a smaller package, I'll be even more pleased!

MemoryStick Duo - why oh why have SE gone with such a useless standard??? I struggle to believe there is not enough space in the phone for a full size MS, or better still a compact flash card at half the cost and four times the capacity. This is the only real hindrance I have found.


Conclusion


Overall I am a very happy customer! The phone is a very nice piece of kit, and once I get on to a more sensible GPRS tarrif and get the 128MB MemoryStick I will be even happier. It is definitely not for everybody, but no phone is. The connectivity aspect is great, and once I get the Web connection going via Bluetooth over my ADSL connection when I'm in my house sorted, it will become even better.

If rumours of the substantial firmware upgrades are right (they have come from reasonably good sources) then this phone will just get better! Already there are a host of applications being made available and I expect that number to steadily increase as time goes on.

SonyEricsson have done a great job with the phone. Again, respect to them for holding off releasing it until things were right.

If you're reading this and you're thinking "but what about X???" or "that's not right", then please check the following forums or else drop me a line:

A complete gallery of screen shots is here and I must thank this guy for the cool screen capture app.

Wednesday March 5 2003 at 18:34 GMT

Congratulations

Congratulations are due to my brother, who has today been offered a job! Send him a mail allan AT allanlittle DOT com.

Wednesday March 5 2003 at 15:53 GMT

Karen is also running the London Marathon - you can sponsor her here

Wednesday March 5 2003 at 15:31 GMT

Again, from Russell's site... He has just started a group mobile tech blog called mobitopia, and the entire group seem to have been posting pretty busily. The other good blog I found is TechDirt Wireless.

As it happens, both sites have linked to the 3G phone pics that Gerard snapped. Fame for 15 visits.

Wednesday March 5 2003 at 14:52 GMT

Last night I spent a bit more time getting my MobilePhotoBlogging thing sorted out. It will now handle a photo being sent to it, upload that to my site, upload any text sent with the image and datestamp the whole thing. After reading on Russell's site and reading the comment from Jim, I was wondering if I had completely misjudged the usefulness of such a tool. It is already possible to FTP directly from the Nokia 7650 and linking directly into something like blogger would be neat.

After that is said, however, not everyone is going to have a Symbian handset or the ability to run an FTP client, and not everyone wants to have a 'real' site that uses a blogger. MobilePhotoBlogging (or whatever someone has already called it ;-) is a different kettle of fish. Pictures from mobile phone cameras are not great quality - they are there for convenience and instant photo taking. My tool offers a reasonably straightforward way to store images, with a bit of descriptive text - and the ability to share them with friends. I'm pleased with my work.

The next step is to get the automatic thumbnail generator working, then I think I'll perhaps post details in a few places, to see if anyone's interested in using it. My other thought is to have a communal mailbox, where anyone can post their latest picture from their phone. I'd welcome any other thoughts!

Tuesday March 4 2003 at 17:02 GMT

Sony Ericsson have unveiled their T68 replacement, the T610. It looks like an incredible piece of equipment - 65k colours, nice screen, polyphonic tones, camera, Bluetooth, good looking OS... I really think SonyEricsson *get it*.

The T68 is the second greatest phone I've ever used (got to protect my P800 investment ;-). The software upgrades that came out for the T68 were phenomenal - they took it from a 'nice little phone' to a master piece of equipment - adding MMS, a completely new OS and improving on the synchronisation. All for free! It is the only phone I have not had to have replace during the course of a year, due to faults, so it seems they have product quality sorted as well.

I can't wait to see this phone in the *aluminium*. De la.

Obligatory Slashdot coverage here.

Tuesday March 4 2003 at 14:20 GMT

Last night I completely overhauled the picture posting method I was using, and rewrote it all nicely, posting the information to a database instead of updating a file. The new output is here. Tonight's task is to get the associated text in the email to upload too.

Monday March 3 2003 at 16:38 GMT

Today's date is cool, especially considering Three, That's the Magic Number (as De La Soul told us).

Over the weekend, Gerard was in London. He managed to pop along to the Three store in Kensingston, and took a few pictures comparing his Nokia 7210 to the huge beasts. His report was that the phones are big and clunky, and the OS looks pretty poor - a million miles away from the good looks of a P800! Looks like I'll be staying GSM for a while - at least until Sony Ericsson release the Z1010. Waiting, always waiting!

Three was officially open for business today - read more here. It looks like they will have a pretty tough job on their hands. Hopefully they can triumph.

Monday March 3 2003 at 03:38 GMT

Read the first post on this site. This is just crazy!

Monday March 3 2003 at 03:06 GMT

My photoblogging idea is now finally taking some real shape. You can see the latest pictures here. Yes, it is very rough and ready, but the fact that I can now extract an image from a mail from my phone is a great step forward. My T68 just wasn't ever happy doing that... I will update here as the project progresses!

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