Tuesday 25 December 2012

Goodbye Play, welcome Amazon...

Today's a good day to post, as Amazon are offering the fantastic World of Goo for free today, so if you stumble across this page by accident, it's obviously more likely than being a follower, then do this, get World of Goo for free.

Obviously the Amazon Appstore for Android is not downloadable from Google's 'Play' store, you have to browse to Amazon (.co.uk for me, .com for US etc.) and install it from there, easiest just to googe "Amazon Appstore for Android". Oh you'll also have to allow the installation of Applications from "Unknown Sources" (For Ice Cream Sandwich it's under Settings-> Security -> Unknown Sources) before you install it.

If you have an Amzaon account, just log in and start it, there you go. The vast majority of what's on Play can be found here, often cheaper, and they let you download a free app (one that is normally a paid for app) every day. Sometimes the stuff is useless, but more often than not, something really nice, it's got me hooked, looking daily at what's being offered for free.

My 'You can't win' paradigm still applies, I've had my 'issues' with Amazon, there's a yet to be written up 59" Samsung Plasma buying story that worked out in the end, but did require two rather heated calls to their call centre, that showed up some rather remarkable inadequacies. But that's for another time.

Obviously I plug my blog in comments on other sites, "Yes, I'm hacked off, and I'll spend a few seconds telling all I can about it!". There I receive some responses, and obviously not all are positive. I was however quite struck by a few of them...

There were two of note on the Google Wallet thingy. One chap said my response had a fair few howlers, whilst I was complaining about the quality of e-mail that Google were sending me. However, though I think I said this sort of thing at the end of the blog entry, it's worth repeating, that my e-mails will by default have typos, because I am usually quite annoyed when having these exchanges, and that I am not the one asking for someone's passport!

The other chap wanted to educate me on the use of apostrophes, so I had a look and in the 1000+ words I had blurted out in frustration. It turned out that I had made one singular mistake of that nature. Did make me wonder, what a grammar Nazi, finds a single occurrence, and then posts a message about it? How odd.

Last but not least, that Humax Box, someone was really upset, either an employee, or a fanboi, but a Humax Foxsat HDR fanboi? Seriously? Grief.

The points are worth mentioning, because I found them so amusing. The remote control being sluggish, apparently removing the extra protective packing film on the inner panel (it's part covered by a front flap) solves that problem. Err no it does not, and anyway, my multi-remote will even work through glass (infra-red, so it should!). The Humax remote is, in a word, rubbish.

Never a software update I complained? Because it's a mature product came the answer (with the added argument that it's old and that their new Freeview box is the current device, but I want Freesat, NOT Freeview, Duh?)?! A small part of this argument tis valid, yes it has simply never crashed (though the remote locks up once a month, open, remove batteries, put back in, and it's fine), but it's slow, really slow, and that recording cutting problem.... more on that later, in short 'padding' fixed it, but now the recordings are huge, and there are other issues....

Worst still I hooked up my Sky HD box up in another room, and it did an update, amazing, whole new looking UI, and now it doesn't crash, but does default to a radio chancel when turned off, but £10 a month for recording… nah.

I also noticed that TalkTalk are now giving a Huawei set-top box rather than the Humax one that I heard they were going to provide, or did provide, not sure what happened there. I have a Huawei wireless router modem from TalkTalk, and it needs a resetting every few days.. oh well maybe their satellite box is better?


Sunday 23 December 2012

You can't win.... farewell Google/Outlook Calender Sync

So I continue with this exercise in self-indulgence, for whatever purpose. Oh I must admit, I like typing on that keyboard, the Corsair Vengeance, FYI.
Anyway the message I have today is:-


.. actually forget that, i.e. winning,


I allude to Google shutting down support for calendar sync that I had HAD to use since I went from Apple to Android.

All I want to do is something very very simply:-


..with my PC and phone, for notes, e-mails, calendar, and music (iTunes), that’s it, nothing fancy. Oh and keep it all off-line too, not because the world might end and I'd need this stuff (actually if I did have access to this stuff after an  'internet apocalyptic' event, I wouldn't mind) but because such access does have it advantages, some of which I'll describe.

Now I used to own iPhone 4, and side-graded (it wasn’t quite an upgrade) to a Motorola Atrix, it was ‘ostensibly’ free, had a bigger screen etc.

E-mails, all systems are fine.

E-mails, ok I use both Hotmail (now outlook.com) and Gmail, my PC simply collects the e-mails and put them in my 10+ years old .pst file. On my phone I can use Gmail, works well-ish, and Microsoft poor effort of an Android client. Actually I use Gmail a great deal more. Both receive spam. Outlook.com lets me block senders, Gmail offers the creation of ‘filters’ but if you select more then 25, it decides that you shouldn’t be trying to block that many spammers in one go!

My iPhone used to manage syncing through iTunes quite nicely. But with exorbitant pricing, (still) small screens, and the rather closed nature of the phone, I just can’t go back to Apple and the sync bliss I had with them. On retrospect ‘the closed’ nature is not that much of an issue.

iTunes Sync, all systems are fine.

So in Android land, I bought (before Google banned me from buying, unless I give them my passport) iSyncr, that was a one stop (but slightly awkward) solution to my iTunes sync problem. The gory details of how I tried Songbird, and other programs are for another time, perhaps never, as I’ve forgotten the experiences. I only went through them because NONE would sync PLAYCOUNTS properly. Yes I love PLAYCOUNTS, and want these to sync. iSyncr does the job, so that’s that.

Calendar, used to work, still works, but apparently Google are about to kill it.

I found out in a web news article, about days after the event. My gripe, I like to have things OFFLINE, as well as on-line, just a few things, notes, e-mails and family photos. That’s it, yes, I am a dinosaur, not with the times etc. etc. ad nauseam. But that’s what I want. Why should I have to log into my Google account (yes I use two one for this blog and a few things, and my real named one) just to look at my calendar for the day or week etc? Oddly, Google don’t mind providing this offline on an Android phone, but oh no they hate the idea of anything being kept locally on a PC’s.

I also want to use a separate application, not my browser for my calendars, and Outlooks does it well, I typically have a LOT of tabs open, and don’t want to ‘hunt’ for the calendar tab. Yes I can put a short cut anywhere, desktop, browser bar etc, but then I would be forced to focus away from the tab I was looking at. Yes I use a single browser window, enforced via tabmix plus in Firefox.
So yes, it’s largely about the ‘way’ in which I browse and use a PC, I do not wish to change THIS aspect, I want an integrated application, Outlook provides, or rather ‘provided’ this, but no more it seems, thanks to Google.

Notes, never quite worked, largely gave up.

How to sync offline PC notes to an Android phone? Well if anyone has a simple solution, let me know, because after going thought a dozen so-called solutions, none of them worked. I still takes notes, but I have to resort to copying them manually etc. Poor beyond belief.

In iPhone land, it was bliss, it just copied to and from Outlook, no problems. Now here’s the good one, Google don’t mind you keeping a chunk of e-mails on the phone, offline maps, and even your calendar, but not notes it would seem. The idea is that you log into Gmail and read your notes there, no, not via your Gmail application, obviously, but via your browser.

Evernote offers a PC client, but it’s Android and PC clients, want net access, and have limited caches. They do offer offline access, but at a price so exorbitant, it would be cheaper to buy a data plan and carry on using their ‘free’ client.

Then there’s The Missing Sync, but it costs good money and has no trial version. I’m wary of paying for something that many have commented on as ‘doesn’t work’.

My Phone Explorer comes close, but it doesn’t do e-mails, argh!
Just about every other Android notes solution that I’ve tried, and I’ve tried one too many, simply won’t keep offline notes. I don’t’ mind them ‘being on line’ but I want local off-line access as well, for similar reasons as though I stated for my wanting the calendar offline.

I have used Microsoft One Note, it doesn’t appear to link with Outlook notes, and is cumbersome to use. It represents ‘overkill’ in terms of features, when I want something really simple.
Oh before anyone suggest a Window 8 phone and that OS as a solution. Err I installed Windows 8 on a fresh partition, and well hated it from beginning to end whilst I used it. Enough said. I don’t care much for ‘Oh you’re too set in your ways’ , ‘too stupid to use it’ etc. I just don’t like it, ‘what like you said you didn’t like Android and are now on your third Android phone’. I’m not into cutting my own nose off to spite my face, I go with what I like, which sometimes mean going with something cheaper (much cheaper!) even if you don’t get on with aspects of it, e.g. Google ‘Play’.

Learn to live with the grubby compromises out there...

Gripes aside, note my lack of criticism for the actual phone, the Sony Xperia T, which I am actually quite fond of. Yes I don’t hate all technology, just lots of it, for making life just darn awkward.

Odd thing being my rather appalling customer experience with Sony some year ago, and then again recently. As I said from the outset, YOU CAN’T WIN, and if I stopped buying from all those who have given me poor service, I would have to do without technology altogether. I have to buy from who gives the least worst service, and put up with it. take my mobile phone provider, used to be Orange (Now EE, or everything everywhere, or even Nothing Anywhere as I think thy should be called), for ten years, came down to what I expect will be a £15 repair on a phone, their conduct was so appalling (contradictory and ambiguous to boot), that I just paid off the contract and called it quits. I’ve been with Vectone for a while, pay as you go, it’s cheap especially for international calls and works, though the line quality is usually a bit poor. Their customer service, is just plain dreadful when push comes to shove, but they’ve got some stuff right, so I put up with them, as other providers are either exorbitantly expensive, or just plain worse.

Saturday 1 December 2012

It's been a while...

So, I've been quite, missing, away, etc. for quite some time. I am now back, for my singular follower, no this is not self-effacing humour, there really is just one!

Problem is that I have so many minor pain in the bottom experiences, that to document them all would take an age.

Let's see, today, I had to help the children transplant motherboards (long story, but not topical for this blog, most of the stuff did actually do what it was meant to, even though some of it of idiosyncratic).

Earlier I had to fix our main hallway's gas fire, something worth ranting about, its weird design caused the problem, but it's not exactly 'technology' that this blog is meant to cover.

Corresponding with a person (who appears to have some serious adjustment issues) on eBay who sold me a cheap knock off Scrabble board game, and then sent me some of the most bizarre e-mails I've had in quite some time when I complained. Now those maybe worth posting for sheer entertainment!

Oh the Corsair keyboard, plain heavenly to type on, it's just sublime.

I switched to Ivy bridge Core i5 (4 core) from Clarkdale Core i5, I had intended to go Core i7 (8 Core), but the £100 price difference put me off. Sufficient to say I was stunned by the performance increase, it was unexpected, and having my PC wake up within an instant is just marvellous.

Oh that Humax Foxsat box, more due on that too, yes I found the padding feature, yes it helps, but today it did something bizarre, it recoded 'Ugly Betty' for me instead of what it was mean to record. However there is a theory I came across, other than it containing a malign intelligence that reads my mind and punishes me, that may explains its rather irrational behaviour.