I had been using the free version for a while, but have now upgraded to the pro version. Well worth it for the reasons below:
Your Facebook app should work for you. It should be light, functional and beautiful. It should look how you want it to. Be accessible everywhere, with lightning fast launch speeds. Metal Pro does this. And more.
And now it supports Twitter, too. Two social networks, one tiny app.
Metal Pro is a Web wrapper with some awesome enhancements you don't get from just a browser like Notifications, Floating windows and Themes.
7 min read
I have in my hands the Advent Vega, a 10.1" 16:9 Android powered tablet computer.This is not a thing of beauty, but I'm going to recommend that you buy one. Why? Price and it's hackable.
Even though I'm an iPad fanboy, I've come to realise that for many people shelling out £399 on a "gadget" can seem a bit much, even when that gadget is the magnificent iPad. So, what are the alternatives?
There are many Android and Windows tablets on the market right now, but they all have one major disadvantage when compared to the iPad, price. Why spend over £300 when for a few extra pounds you can get the iPad? Check out the Asus EeePad Transformer or the Motorolo Xoom both of which are top of the range Android tablets running honeycomb, but will set you back £350. If you managed to stretch your budget by £50 you would have an iPad 2 with its App store and range of accessories. Now I know these tablets are not quite like for like, but my point is that for most people the entry level iPad 2 will more than meet their needs. I know it works for me.
So, why did I buy an Advent Vega? The Vega has interested me for a while and it seemed to tick all the right boxes, however there is one glaringly obvious flaw with the Vega. The Screen.
Facts: 10.1 inch, 16:9 aspect ration capacitive touchscreen, a resolution of 1024 x 600 and also supports auto rotate and multi-touch gestures. It is very sensitive and will take some to time to get used to, but it's safe to say that from an input perspective the screen is good.
The screen is let down when viewed from an off-set angle. It's ok if you are using it on your lap or right in front of your eye line, but move off to the side and the screen becomes unwatchable or unreadable.
But let's not get caught up with that, because the Vega really is actually pretty good and certainly great value for money.
I paid £129.97 which gets you a lot for your money. In a tablet measuring 275 x 178 x 13.6 mm (W x D x H) and weighing 750g you get: stereo speakers, MicroSD Card slot, HDMI output, front facing camera, microphone, USB port and a headphone port.
It's encased in black plastic, but it feels comfortable to hold and solid enough that I'm sure it can survive the odd knock.
The unique selling point of the Vega is the active developer community, and before you all click away, it's really actually quite easy to install a custom ROM on the vega.
Out of the box, the Vega runs Android 2.2 froyo which is ok, but I'm used to gingerbread, and frankly shipping froyo with a tablet is a silly business decision because it highlights how bad the operating system is and thus dosen't allow the Vega to look and perform like it could.
If you buy a Vega you must install a different operating system on it. Developers call this installing a custom ROM, but don't worry, this is not dangerous and it is impossible to brick your Vega. Just follow the instructions very closely and read various forums to learn what it is you'll actually be doing. It is quite straight forward providing you have some patience and can follow instructions.
At present the best ROM to install is VegaComb which is a community built version of Google's honeycomb (which was never open sourced) and transforms the Vega into an iPad competitor. Well ok, it doesn't really, but what it does is highlight how quickly Android tablets are going to dominate the market once IceCreamSandwich gets released, because cheap tablets will flood the market that will actually be pretty good.
I had not used an Android tablet before (aside from a quick play in stores) and although I use an Android phone, the UI is different (thanks google!). However, it really isn't hard to pick up and thanks to the Android Market all your previously purchased apps are available for you to download to your new device.
There really isn't a lot of apps available for android tablets, but what I've found is that phone apps actually scale quite well on the Vega. On the iPad you get the choice of original 1x view or a 2x zoomed view which dosen't always do the iPad justice. Apps on the Vega just stretch or zoom to fit the screen which can lead some odd views, but overall they seem to look ok.
I'm happy with the apps I have, I've basically just duplicated what I have on my phone and they all work fine.
One of the main reasons I bought the Vega was so I could plug it into my TV and watch movies that I would store on the Vega, thus the Vega would become my main media hub. Unfortunately this isn't quite perfect on vegacomb as it leaves a 2" black bar down the right side and along the bottom. I can live with this for now and I'm sure it will be fixed soon enough. Apart from this, the HDMI out works well mirroring the Vega in every way. When you see the Vega outputting over HDMI to a 32" LCD it looks great but this just demonstrates how poor the screen on the Vega actually is.
The Vega is perfectly happy to stream flash videos such as iPlayer but it will also play .avi and .wmv files through the QQ Player which is free to download in the Market. Video play back is smooth.
The Vega has a 0.3MP front facing camera which is compatible with Skype and Google Talk. It's actually ok and you will use it to make video calls if that's your thing. I can't imagine ever using the camera to take a still image but it works, and so would do in an emergency.
There are many keyboard apps in the Market, but the stock honeycomb keyboard works well so I don't see the need to recommend anything else. For instance I use Swype on my phone, but I would have no need for that on the Vega. I can type comfortably onscreen and there doesn't appear to be any lag.
Battery life on the Vega is fine for a working day but I've found that it doesn't hold it's charge more than a couple of days on standby which is disappointing. I think the perfect example of battery life is to compare it to your smartphone. The more you use it the faster the battery dies! I haven't run any tests but I reckon you can expect to get 5 or 6 hours of screen time which is acceptable.
When holding the Vega in your hands it feels light and comfortable but also a little strange due to its 16:9 aspect ratio. However, I like this view and it sits well when rested on my lap. You can of course view it in portrait mode which is great for reading books and webpages. When compared to the iPad 2 the Vega feels better in the hand.
Real world use
I will mainly use the Vega in the house as a consumption device. I can see me surfing the web, reading email, updating twitter, or watching movies via the HDMI out, but other than those I'm not sure what else I would want to do on it. So if you're in the market for a cheap Android tablet you could do much worse than the Advent Vega.
If you want to find out more about the Vega check out these resources:
3 min read
I use Fastboot Commander which as a GUI based tool is the easiest way I have found to flash the HBOOT on your HTC Desire.
A little disclaimer: Fastboot Commander is a tool that should only be used if you are comfortable messing about with your phone. This has the potential to brick your phone or to put it simply, break it!
However, if like me you like to tinker with your phone, Fastboot Commander will allow you to upgrade your ROM, your radio and your HBOOT without much fuss.
What is fastboot?
“Fastboot is a command line tool used to directly flash the filesystem in Android devices from a host via USB. It allows flashing of unsigned partition images. It is disabled in production devices since USB support has been disabled in the bootloader. You must have an Engineering SPL, or an SPL that is S-OFF.” Find out more from the Cyanogenmod Wiki.
Fastboot Commander is a tool that harnesses the power of fastboot and puts it into a package that the average person can use.
Simply download it from the link above and run it on eiher, Mac, Windows or Linux. There is no installation - it just runs as a JAR programme.
Step 1: Put your HTC Desire into fastboot mode by powering the device off. Wait a few seconds, then hold the volume down button and press the power button. After a few seconds your phone will boot into a screen that gives you several options, including fastboot and recovery. Select the fastboot option.
[caption id="attachment_553" align="alignright" width="260"] The image shows the user updating their radio on their HTC Desire[/caption]
Step 2: Do nothing!
Step 3: Go back to your computer and run Fastboot Commander.
Step 4: Connect your phone via USB.
Step 5: Now all you need to do is select the action you wish to complete e.g. in the picture shown I was updating the radio. I selected the radio button and selected the appropriate file and then selected open. After a minute or so my HTC Desire had a new radio image installed. Updating the radio has the advantage of bringing several improvements to mobile reception, data transfer, battery life and better GPS.
If you are thinking about installing a custom rom on your HTC Desire you will need to update the default radio as many roms require you to update to a newer radio. I recommend that you use Fastboot Commander to do this.
Let me know if you have a better method or if you found this tool useful in the comments below.
2 min read
I recently added an Airport Express Base Station to my wireless network at home, with the primary aim of streaming music to the Hi-Fi in the kitchen, but I experienced mixed results.
My set-up comprises the following: Mac Mini and a Linksys WRT54GC
The initial set-up was complicated by the inclusion of an install cd and instruction booklet which as it turned out was only required by windows users. Instead of reading the instructions (as I did), all I needed to do was plug it in and activate multiple speakers in iTunes! Once this step was completed the Mac took over and automatically set-up AirTunes. I was able to hear immediate results and I was impressed by the sound quality.
However, music playback would stutter repeatedly to the point that I was beginning to think I had made a mistake in purchasing the router. I resorted to google. A quick search posed more questions and quickly pointed me to advanced settings in the airport utility where I was able to manually configure the router.
While the problem eased it wasn't resolved, further investigation returned many users complaining about something called IPV6. This post: solved all of my problems using the following steps.
1. Open System Preferences
2. Open Network pane
3. Select Airport in the left list
4. Click the Advanced button
5. Go to the TCP/IP tab
6. Set the "Configure IPv6" field to Off.
7. Click "OK"
8. Click "Apply"
9. Let iTunes connect to you're Airtunes speakers
During the process of trial and error I came across a wifi utility called inSSider. This programme (windows only) scans your locality for other wifi users and provides detailed information like which channel they are using and if it's likely they are causing interference on your network. I found another network using the same channel as me (6) so I therefore switched channels (11).
AirTunes is now working flawlessly and I am able to listen to my iTunes library throughout my house.
4 min read
Full disclosure first: I'm an iPhone fanatic.
I've been a mac user for 2 years and I honestly couldn't imagine using anything else now. The link between the iPhone and the Mac is seamless, if hard wired! I can honestly say that the iPhone 3G and now the 3GS are the best phones I've ever owned and used.
However! There are lots of things that annoy me about the iPhone.
1. The OS has taken a long time to get to where it is today and it's still locked down. Why should I have to jailbreak to get functionality that comes as standard on other handsets?
2. While I think Apple are exceptional at what they do, they are also total control freaks, which really annoys me as a consumer. I buy the hardware, I should be able to do what I want with it.
3. I have a love/hate relationship with the App store.
4. In order to backup, I have to sync with iTunes which requires the data cable. This isn't a problem for me as I download lots of podcasts which require syncing via cable.
WAIT hang on, that's another bug bear of mine.
5. The iPod app doesn't wirelessly download your podcasts on the fly. You can download over wifi, but only one at a time. My Nokia N95 was able to do that task.
6. The iPhone should be able to backup and sync over 3G or wifi even if you have to buy MobileMe.
7. The iPhone isn't that easy to use. Trust me, novices will find the entire ordeal troublesome and over complicated. I'm referring to those who only text and make calls on their current handset, of which there are many.
The iPhone essentially requires users to modify their use of a mobile phone and learn to sync their phone to their computer and to interface with the device via desktop software. This is a good thing however, and more people should learn to do this with their existing 'dumb' phones if only to avoid loosing data.
So what exactly is my ideal phone?
At least 3.2MP camera - I really do not need more mega-pixels on a phone, but I do want a good sensor. A flash would be handy.
Expandable memory via MicroSD card or suitable alternative.
The size and shape of the iPhone, perfect for my hands and a big enough screen to watch films on the plane/train!
15 hour battery life from constant use. I can recharge at multiple opportunities throughout the day, but 15 hours of constant use is enough to get me through any arduous day or to most destinations.
3.5mm headphone jack.
I'm getting very excited about Android. As well as being an Apple fanboy, I'm a total Google love child. My life is in constant sync with gmail/calendar/contacts/tasks and therefore Android is just begging to be tried.
Android is now maturing as a platform and being released on many new handsets and is therefore getting more and more support. Developers are going to port iPhone Apps and many developers will choose to develop for Android ahead of other platforms given the potential size of the Android user base. Therefore by having an Android device you will have the widest choice of apps available.
OS X is very nice, but the way Apple control the operating system always leaving me wanting more and therefore I will tire of it very soon.
Windows Mobile 6.5: let's just say that it would take a miracle for me to buy a winmo device - it's just not for me.
A really important consideration for me given my experience on O2. I would ideally buy the handset unlocked for use any network, which would then allow me to buy a suitable 30 day sim only tariff. I would require a network with decent 3G coverage.
To conclude, my ideal phone would be of the hardware spec above running android on either Vodafone or Orange.
Of the handsets currently available I would only be tempted to ditch my iPhone 3GS for the HTC Hero which is a capable handset.
I suspect that my dream device is only around the corner in the shape of the rumoured google phone, but in the mean time I will continue to 'make do' with my 3GS as my ideal phone.
2 min read
Gmail users have been able to use the "labs" features for a while now, but "labs" had been broken for google apps users, that is until...ok not quite today, but sometime last week!
We still do not have themes, which are coming, but all the other cool features now work, including calendar view and tasks.
This upgrade of gmail really makes it a powerful tool, and a viable option to any desktop client. If you are a windows user and have installed chrome, then gmail could actually function like a desktop client. This is made possible by gmail operating inside it's own browser window and outside of the general browsing expereince.
I'm a big fan of the google calendar and now you can view upcoming events inside gmail, but a lab feature might just be the making of gmail - tasks. It really is simple, working in a similar way to Chat, you just click on tasks and create a to do. That's it.
"To enable Tasks, go to Settings, click the Labs tab (or just click here
if you're signed in). Select "Enable" next to "Tasks" and then click
"Save Changes" at the bottom. Then, after Gmail refreshes, on the left
under the "Contacts" link, you'll see a "Tasks" link. Just click it to
The folks behind gmail really do keep coming up with great new features and this is just another reason why you should give it a try.
2 min read
Last years hot gadget was the Asus Eee PC, an ultra portable laptop designed to get users online with little fuss. Dubbed the 'netbook' and reported to have in excess of 100 million users already this Market is maturing rapidly.
So the question remains, do you get one?
A netbook is essentially a laptop, but will take on a smaller form and provide less power and will inevitably have a 7 - 10 inch screen.
These devices will be useful for those who travel a lot, children or those who just want a fun tool to access the net.
Typically you should expect these to come with Linux or windows xp operating systems, Bluetooth and wifi connectivity, USB ports and a solid state hard drive. Battery life will be around the 5 hour mark. Webcams will be integrated thus allowing you to get the most out of voip applications such as skype.
What else do you get?
It's not all fun and games with these machines (although games are inlcuded as standard) open office comes bundled which allows you to edit and create documents on the go.
An Internet browser, an email client, instant messenger, office software, photo manipulation software, games, calendar, music and video are all included, so what else do you need?
If all this sounds too good to be true, then you're almost correct. While these netbooks are ultra portable, this makes them small, and probably hard to work from. They usually have a small hard drive, therefore you won't have access to a big media library.
But probably the biggest bug bear will be the lack of processing power, which will make these devices relatively slow.
So these are not a desktop replacement. But hang on a minute, who said they were? Did I?
These are a fun device which are fully functioning pc's, big deal if they lack raw processing power or a big hard drive. Get one of these and you will have a great time surfing the web and staying in touch with friends.
9 min read
Before I start, I'd like to point out that this review reflects my own experience after 2 months use and is probably likely to start some serious debate!
Well you can't argue with Apple for their design. It really is a thing of beauty. I was sceptical about its size, but I'll get by. I was really pleased with the device after the first hour of playing with it, it was very easy to use.
Strange to have a category titled phone, but you need that for 'smart' phones. It can be a bit fiddly to call people, but generally easy to use and call clarity seems to be good. I've not had any complaints. The speaker phone is so good that I've yet to pair my bluetooth headset to the iPhone. One thing to be careful about is placing your hand over the mic!
As you'd expect from a mobile these days, phone calls sound clear and the iPhone is no different.
This is where the iPhone starts to show signs of weakness. Read other reviews and they'll highlight the sms threading. Big deal, other phones have had that in the past, including my Nokia's (once you downloaded the app from Nokia) but the iPhone is a very limited text machine. I would not recommend one for those of you who send hundreds of texts per month.
For starters, there is no horizontal view on the sms app, therefore typing is made more difficult given that the qwerty keyboard looks squashed in comparison to typing in safari.
If you want to save a text for later, lets say a booking reference or directions, you're stuffed. Well, ok you don't have to delete it, but finding it will be difficult. For example, if you text your best mate loads (over 100) these texts will be displayed in order, first being at the top, most recent at the bottom. Let's say your mate said "meet me at 101 Nokia Street" at message 32, you will have to scroll all the way through your conversation to find that address. There is no way to delete parts of a conversation and no way to archive certain messages either. You cannot move texts to another folder.
OH AND YOU CAN'T FORWARD A TEXT EITHER, WTF???
Sorry, but this whole "email is better" mentality sucks. Texting is useful and most of us send more texts per month than emails. I personally send about 10 times as many, and I'm not a big texter. The iPhone's SMS app needs an overhaul. It is just too basic. Yes it looks nice, but function would be better in this case. The option to have drafts, save messages, have templates etc are all missing. Oh, and don't get me started on the lack of cut and paste.
As poor at communicating via SMS as the iPhone is, the mail.app more than makes up for. I for one will certainly be emailing my friends more often, I have set up gmail to forward to mobile me, therefore I am getting push email. This works well.
One gripe about the mail.app is that I can't seem to save files anywhere. For example, I send myself an email containing a text file, sure I can read it, but where do I save it to? Oh that's right, I can move it to a folder in mail. On the N95 I had a folder called 'docs' where `I simply placed files into for viewing at a later date.
Creating new emails are a breeze, but yet again there is no horizontal keyboard, making typing that little bit harder.
If you get pictures emailed to you, you can with save these to your 'camera roll'. In other words, open up the photo app and your pics will be saved there. Why is there not a similar process for documents and pdf's?
The mail.app still scores highly and is only really let down by Apples insistence on restricting access to the file structure.
The dogs dangly bits!
Quite simply the best ipod I have. Sound quality is decent, certainly better than my first gen nano and on a par with my 4th gen ipod. Coverflow scrolling access to albums, itunes music store in your pocket and widescreen video make this an appealing purchase in itself.
I would like to be able to delete podcasts on the move and download new podcasts on the handset, but I will get by. It just means that when I'm away from the house I have to stream the .mp3.
The genius playlist generator also promises a lot. Basically, say goodbye to the shuffle mode as genius will listen to a song of your choice and then generate a playlist from the songs in your library. Simple.
Pretty much flawless.
Or the internet to the rest of us! For me, this make this device and that says a lot, as safari is as stable as the tenure of most premier league managers i.e. not stable at all.
It is simply, the best mobile phone internet browsing experience around. More or less like using your desktop.
Some of the gripes I have are firstly the stability. A quick google search reveals I'm not alone here. It is suggested that it's memory leakage, so should be addressed by a firmware update. (or not!) Secondly, the bookmarks. Can you move a bookmark into a folder? I can't figure this out, so please tell me! The only way I've been able to do it, is by doing it on the desktop first and then using mobile me to sync the changes. Why is this so hard?
No flash. OK, I suppose I'm hoping here, but on sites like the bbc news and sport site you miss out on a lot. Plus these sites scroll quite slowly, and I bet it's because they have flash and the safari browser doesn't perform well on those sorts of sites.
How do you save files? e.g. download and save an mp3 file or a text file or a pdf? The only way is to jailbreak your iPhone.
Despite the niggles, this is still the best mobile browser on any handset.
I debated whether or not to include this in the review as it's not really a camera, but rather what a digital camera was 10 years ago. Having said that, a camera is of no real benefit to me and I will probably never use it.
It's pants, can't send MMS, so attaching a pic and emailing it to my mate who doesn't have email access is pointless. There's no spontaneity.
There is no video recording.
Now I know I don't really use camera phones, but they do come in useful once a month, but alas, poor iPhone will be staying in the pocket next time my mate is so drunk that he starts singing!
I'm going to give them 1/10, purely because they did bother to put one in, but as it's so bad they should get a negative. This is a prime example of how new Apple are to the cell phone business. When rivals are pushing 5, 6, 7 and now 8 megapixles, Apple have 2, no flash, no video recording, no optical zoom, can you edit photos on the iPhone? I'm going to assume no as I've been afraid to look.
In case you forgot:
The app store:
Imagine a place where you could go and buy applications that have been written specifically for your device. Oh wait, this has already been done.
Yes, much has been written about the app store, yes it's good, but come on, I've been buying apps for Nokia's for years now, and god knows how long people have been buying apps for windows mobile devices.
That said, the app store is a welcome addition, especially to those early adopters who bought the original iphone.
The app store itself, works reasonably well. You can buy through itunes on your computer or over wifi on the handset.
It is well priced, with a lot of useful apps available free. There are plenty of games available and Sega have said the iPhone is as powerful as their dreamcast, so expect loads of quality games over the next 12 months.
7/10 - because it's a software shop and that is surely hard to get excited about?
As Steve said at the 'Let's Rock' e
vent, the iphone and ipod touch are great gaming devices, and he's not wrong! Plenty of free games in the app store such as Labyrinth, Aurora Feint, Brain Tuner, but also some great paid for games such as Crash Bandicoot and Spore.
Some of these games make use of the iPhones accelerometer and this truly is a unique experience.
Well, to be honest I'm getting crashes, not to the same extent the N95 crashed, but still not as stable as I'd like. Safari crashed regularly and some of the apps I've downloaded from the famous app store crash, although the 2.1. update seems to have resolved some of these. Over all, I think it'll be a few firmware releases down the road until we really see the best of 2.X
It's not really a smartphone or PDA or whatever you want to call it. It's an iPhone which to me means that's it's a communications and entertainment device. I'm not sure the business market will take to it like they have to the blackberry.
Can you edit MS office docs?
Is it really fair to have such a device tethered to such a poor network?
Let me think about this. I've turned 3g off as it was not working! 2g edge is ok and I do get coverage everywhere, not edge or 3g but at least I can make and receive calls, but coming from three, this just isn't good enough.
I don't really want to talk about O2 in this review, but as it's the only network you can get an iPhone on, I suppose it's worth a mention.
So that's about all I can muster on this early sunday morning, If there is something you disagree with, please post, I'll not get offended. If there is something factually wrong, I'll be delighted to learn what it is, I am after all a novice to the iPhone.
Thanks for reading
3 min read
So after weeks of nothing, Microsoft sent yahoo a letter at the weekend detailing their continued desire to buy yahoo. Naturally, yahoo have now replied declining the Redmonds offer yet again.
So what's going on?
Basically, yahoo are holding out for more money, but that's not the whole story. Yahoo's board have an obligation to deliver long term growth prospects to its shareholders. If Microsoft buy yahoo what does that mean for yahoo? Their stockholders will get a payday, but the future of yahoo will be put in jeopardy. Yahoo as a brand may even die. Yet this will be of no interest to current yahoo stockholders as they will have sold out. So what is the problem you may well ask?
Essentially yahoo believe there is more to the MS deal than meets the eye. No one wants to sell their company to anyone for a below market valuation, and no one wants to sell their company if they think the company buying it will run it into the ground.
Now I'm not speculating that MS will integrate yahoo into MSN but it would be the logical next step. Look at how hard google has been working to integrate their acquisitions into its growing portfolio.
This is the main reason for the MS approach. Microsoft are falling behind in the online stakes, they are loosing ground to google and yahoo in the online ad business and there are many companies trying to steal a march on MS by releasing traditional desktop software as an online resource, thereby directly competing with MS Office.
There is a growing dislike of the way MS dominates operating systems and office applications (much in the same the music business dislikes the strength of itunes) and consumers are moving away from the desktop application. In fact, I predict that in a few years desktops will be a thing of the past, or at least only used in the office place. Ultra portable laptops such as the Asus EEE will change how people connect to the internet at home, mobile phones will become even smarter and people will use them to stay connected with friends via email and social networking sites.
So, with this in mind, how does microsoft maintain its current revenue streams in the next decade? If MS office takes a back seat and alternative operating systems eat into windows market share, MS revenue drops, their share price falls, and well, dare I say that they could become a relic of the 20th century?
This is the real danger for yahoo's board. Do they recommend a sale to MS, only for MS to become debt laden and uncompetitive in a market that they already have proven not to understand?