Hello, Samsung! My new journey with Android and Samsung-the Galaxy S8

Long time readers know I am a huge Windows Mobile 10 fan. I’ve had a Windows Phone/Mobile device for nearly four years and, prior to that, I had a Windows Mobile 5 device (a Motorola Q) waaaay back in 2008. Needless to say, I like Microsoft’s mobile operating systems. I had an Android phone in 2011 and then got an iPhone 4 when Sprint started carrying them. I NEVER liked that Android phone or the OS itself. I tended to crash and always told me I had filled up its storage even when there were gigabytes left on the SD card. It was slow too, much slower than my Palm Pre, Moto Q or that iPhone. Android was terrible. I said good bye and that was that.

Well, fast forward a few years and my beloved Windows Mobile 10 is, sadly, being left behind by its own creator. It never caught on with the public or with business, even with the hooks that business wanted. Sadly, it was an iOS and Android world.

Earlier this year, I spent a ton of money on an Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows Mobile 10. It is a fantastic phone, but developed an audio issue…I couldn’t hear phone calls unless on speaker phone. Apps I was using were being abandoned. I decided I needed to byte the bullet and move on. I can still use the phone, as a desktop device due to Continuum. But, what would replace such a capable phone and OS?

I read about Samsung’s Galaxy S7. Seems like a great device. But, then I discovered the S8 was out and was even more capable. So…I got one. Discounting the awful experience I had getting the phone (T-Mobile is far worse, customer service wise, than any other carrier…but, that is another story) the transition from Win Mo 10 to Android Nougat was much easier than I had thought it would be. The first thing I did was to Microsoft my phone. I installed the Arrow launcher, install Office, install Cortana, setup OneDrive, install Bing, set Bing as my default search engine, made sure the fluffy Google crap was off or uninstalled and installed SwiftKey. I tried some of the Win Mo 10 like launchers, but, ultimately, went to Arrow and its more Androidy look. The Win Mo 10 Launchers work well, but, I decided to make Arrow my default as it is developed and supported by MS and it works very well. No crashes.

So, how do I like the S8?
Well, it is superb. Fast, shiny, feels good and looks great. It is a tad more narrow than I would prefer, but that is a small thing and easily overlooked. Battery life is decent, but I think older Alcatel Fierce XL had better battery life. The curved, infinity screen is fine, but I am not sure I like the infinity screen: I inevitably do something I didn’t want to do. I do not think the curved sides are all that useful either. I’ve not seen anything that really utilizes them.

The fit and finish is superb. This phone feels like it is expensive and looks like it as well. Of course, it is expensive, around $600 to $800 (US). I really like the hardware. It is fantastic.

What about Android?
Well, I still hate Android, just not as much. I could grow to like it. In time. Maybe.

What’s good about Android?
This is a bit hard as there are certain things I really like, but I am not sure they are actually Android or Samsung developed. For instance, I like the softkey bar. home button, task button and back button are easily accessible and get out of the way when not needed. I am not sure if this is stock Android or Samsung. It’s nice, though. I also like skinning ability, but, again, I see more Samsung than Android. I know Android can do this, just not sure how much is one or the other. Android also seems to be more stable than I recall. The notification system is fantastic, but a pain in the rear as well. I think, overall, Android has come a very long way. BUT…it is still ANDROID and not Windows Mobile and therein lies most of my problems with it.

What’s bad about Android?
It is not Windows Mobile 10. Windows Mobile 10 had its live tiles, was so much easier to navigate and Edge has turned into an excellent mobile browser. Integrated Cortana worked well. Android is none of this. ‘OK, Google’ is a joke. The deafness of the launcher screens, the navigation is not very intuitive and the overall appearance of Android-while better than in the past-still has a long way to go. Material Design seems to be missing and Google Services do not seem to be any better than those from Microsoft or–gasp–Apple. Except for one big exception.

So, what’s the exception?
Google Photos is top notch. I really like this service. To steal a saying from Apple…it just works. It works when I do not ask it to do so. And, the results are very impressive. I thought Microsoft Photos, with the new video storyteller, was going to be best in class. I was wrong. Microsoft’s new Photo additions are great, but this service is even better. Try it. You. Will. LOVE IT.

So, I am out of the Windows Mobile ecosystem, probably for good. I don’t know how long I will be an Android user, but, if things continue the way they are, I don’t see myself going anywhere else for a very long time.

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Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

I, recently, embarked on building a useful if not glitzy digital clock. My first idea involved something retro: using four, seven segment, LED’s to look like something from the late 1970’s.  At the same time, I was also playing around with 8×8 LED Arrays, using the MAX7219 chip.  While playing with that, I connected one of my 1307 RTC’s to the array and loaded up a sketch to show the date and time on the arrays.  Then, it hit me…this is a much cooler clock and I can do more with it.

So, I built a prototype using one of my Half-Byte Console boards, minus the video, audio and Nunchucky connector.  Hardware wise, it was really simple…connect the arrays to pins 10, 11 and 12, the RTC to A4 and A5 and, for extra coolness, a BMP180 temp and humidity sensor to the sca and scl on the RTC.  Viola! modify the code to handle the BMP180 and Presto! A cool clock.

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Prototype clock for developing Embedded Tiny Basic

I decided to build a second one to take to work.  I thought it might be useful to be able to throw up a custom message to scroll for when, say, I was in a meeting. The more I thought, the more I was convinced this thing needed some kind of control program that would be easily modified from, say, a smartphone and Bluetooth.

Well, I already had the genesis of that control program: Half Byte Tiny Basic.

So, I looked at the source and made a copy.  I then went in and removed stuff I would not need, like all of the graphics statements and functions. I removed the TVOut library, and  all of the video handling code. And TONE.  I miss TONE.

I did not need the Nunchuck code, so it was gone as well.  What was left was a nice, small shell of my control program.  I added the libraries for the 8×8 LED Array (MAXMATRIX) and added statements to manipulate the arrays: SCROLL to display text, SET to turn on or off individual LEDs, and DIRECTION to tell the arrays  which way to scroll the text.  I already had code to handle the DHT-11 temperature sensor, so I left that in (and decided to use it instead of the BMP180) and added T

wp_20170122_21_13_11_pro

Random dots on the clock

EMP and HUMID to scroll those values across the arrays, and added code for the RTC.I was going to add a mechanism that would interrupt the running program if a signal from the serial device was detected, but, there was already one there…the IN(0) function. So I left it. I now had a decent little programming language for the clock.  With HB Tiny Basic’s ability to autorun whatever is in the EEPROM, if it lost power, th

wp_20170119_15_23_11_pro

Clock, in action

e clock would just start running on its own. Sweet!

 

The HC-06 Bluetooth module works very nicely. It connects to the serial pins and communicates as if the device were connected directly to the controlling device-a PC or smartphone.  Everything fits nicely into these cheap pencil boxes I picked up from Wal-Mart for a buck each. They are just big enough for the HB Console board and are wide enough for the LED Arrays.  They don’t look all that impressive, until you power up the clock…the bright LED’s shine through the translucent plastic nicely.

Embedded Tiny Basic is useful for giving some level of intelligence to other wise dumb devices.  While you only have about 1K of RAM to use for Embedded Tiny Basic, I think that will be adequate for most things.  There is, currently, no motor control, but it could be quickly and easily added.  The functionality that is there is probably going to be good for quite a few projects.  If not, it can be modified quickly.  I am already seeing where it can be modified, even for just this particular project.  I have a few others in mind, so stayed tuned for those.

In the mean time, below is a list of the additions and a release date for the language is forthcoming.  I need to clean up the code-a bunch-before releasing it and, as well, making sure I have all you will need in order to compile and use Embedded Tiny Basic.

 New statements and function:
  • SETTIME hours,minutes,seconds,day,month,year
    • sets the time and date for the RTC
  • SET col,row,on or off
    • Turn on or off the LED at column, row
  • X=HOUR(0)
    • Get the current hour
  • X=MINUTE(0)
    • Get the current minute
  • X=MONTH(0)
    • Get the current month
  • X=DAY(0)
    • Get the current day
  • SCROLL var or “text”
    • Scrolls whatever is in the quotes
    • If there are no quoted strings, a variable value or number is displayed
  • DIRECTION 1-4 (1 is left, 2 is right, 3 is up and 4 is down)
    • Specifies the direction of the scrolling text, 1 is the default.
  • TIME (sends the date and time to the LED array)
    • Scrolls the current date and time
  • HUMID (sends humidity to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current humidity
  • Temp (sends the temp to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current temperature
  • X=TEMP(0 or 1)
    • Get the current temperature and put it in variable 'x'
    • A zero means use Celsius, a one means Farenheit
  • X=HUMID(0)
    • Returns the humidity to the variable 'x'

Below is the listing for the current “HELLO” app:

100 PRINT “Welcome to Half-Byte LED Programmable Clock”
110 SCROLL ” HALF-”
111 SCROLL “BYTE Clock…..”
112 IF HOUR(0)<12 SCROLL ” Good Morning! ”
114 IF HOUR(0)>11 IF HOUR(0)<18 SCROLL ” Good Afternoon! ”
116 IF HOUR(0)>17 IF HOUR(0)<=23 SCROLL ”  Good Evening!  ”
120 TIME
125 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
130 SCROLL “.   Temp is ”
140 TEMP
145 SCROLL “F  ”
150 SCROLL “Humidity is ”
155 SCROLL “%”
160 HUMID
170 SCROLL ”  Hello!  ”
180 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
190 IF RND(99)>50 GOTO 110
200 SCROLL ”       ”
205 O=MINUTE(0)
210 W=15
220 H=7
230 X=RND(W)
240 Y=RND(H)
250 P=RND(W)
260 Q=RND(H)
265 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
300 SET 16+(X),Y,1
310 SET 16+(X),H-Y,1
320 SET 16+(W-X),Y,1
330 SET 16+(W-X),H-Y,1
340 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
350 SET 16+(P),Q,0
360 SET 16+(P),H-Q,0
370 SET 16+(W-P),Q,0
380 SET 16+(W-P),H-Q,0
390 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
400 K=MINUTE(0)
410 IF K-O>1 GOTO 110
590 GOTO 230
600 SCROLL “DONE  “

A note about how the arrays are referenced, using SET.  Embedded Tiny Basic is setup to handle up to four arrays. My clock only uses two, but Basic does not know this, so individual LED addressing has to be offset by 16.  Normally, with four arrays, the upper left LED would be 0,0. In my clock, it would be 16,0 since I am only using the RIGHT MOST TWO arrays, each are 8 across and 8 down.

Some other things to note from the listing above…the line IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600 that is sprinkled through out the program will poll the serial port to see if there is a key press. If there is a keypress, we want to stop execution and goto line 600.  In this case, it just says ‘Done’ and stops. Lines 205, 400 and 410 make up a timer. Lines 200 through 590 just displays a random dot pattern, as a distraction.  We don’t want this all day, so we only let it run for about a minute.  Line 205 records the minute it started and line 400 gets the minute after each pattern is displayed.  Line 410 evaluates the elapsed time by subtracting the start time from the end time. If the result is greater than a one, it goes back to the clock routine.  Otherwise, it displays a new pattern. Lines 112 through 116 determines if it is morning, afternoon or evening.

The Scroll statement is lacking and somewhat buggy. I am working on fixing it, and adding more functionality to it, to make it more versatile, like PRINT currently is. I also want to add a mechanism to the language to allow it to receive messages, via Bluetooth, from, say, a smartphone.  Limited gameplay may also show up in a future release.

Embedded Tiny Basic will be released soon.

Alcatel’s Idol 4s With Windows 10 Mobile

WP_20170103_21_30_52_Pro (2)Ever since I saw the announcement for the Alcatel Idol 4s With Windows 10 Mobile, I’ve wanted that phone.  Well, it is out and I finally bought it.  Why? Well, many reasons, biggest being its ability to support Continuum and its price: $469 from T-Mobile, in the United States.

The current package also includes Alcatel’s VR headset and the phone comes with a smattering of impressive imagery and a couple of VR games, both of which seem more like tech demos than actual games.

The phone is gorgeous, one of the prettiest phones I’ve ever seen, on par with the Apple iPhone 4, which I previously regarded as the best LOOKING piece of hardware.  The Idol 4s looks better.  It’s glass back, metallic rim and a screen that, for now, never WP_20170103_21_31_23_Pro (2)seems to get finger prints. It is just the right weight and the screen is amazing.

The phone sports a Snapdragon 820 CPU, which is a quad core processor running at 2.15ghz.  It has 4gb of RAM and 64gb of storage, expandable with an SD card.  It also features a 21megapixel back camera and an 8 megapixel forward camera.  The camera can be started via a hardware button on the side of the device, a convenient if annoying feature.

The phone ships with a release of Windows 10 Mobile that was a bit behind. It immediately wanted to update to, I think, the ‘anniversary update’ rollup.  Fortunately, it went off without a problem.

The camera, which I had read was a weak point, is actually pretty decent.  In lower light, the colors are a bit washed out, just like the Alcatel Fierce XL I have, but the resolution is excellent and the images still look really nice.  I have not yet tried outdoors at night, but will do so soon.

Perhaps the best thing about the phone…and Windows 10…is the ability to use the device as a deWP_20170103_20_06_00_Prosktop or laptop computer.  That is where this device really shines.  While I had to purchase a USB C to HDMI converter, the converter works great and also sports a spare USB 3.0 connector (for a keyboard or mouse) and a USB C female connector for charging the device while connected.  The HDMI port is 4k capable and is full size, so you don’t need any funky sized connector or adaptor. The particular hub I purchased was from Mokin and sold via Amazon. I paid $23 for the device.

Connecting the phone to the Mokin switched it to Continuum and presented the desktop, as you would expect from a desktop PC.  The phone screen turns into a mouse, though using this instead of an actual mouse can be frustrating as there is no obvious way to ‘click and hold’ to drag things. At least, I have not figured that out yet. A bluetooth keyboard was paired to the deviwp_ss_20170103_0001ce and, bam! There I was, using my phone as a desktop.

Continuum, admittedly, is not perfect. For example, nothing I had on the SD card would work. For whatever the reason, Microsoft is not allowing applications on the SD card to run in Continuum. Also, not every application is Continuum compatible either.  And, protected content will not work in this mode.

Overall, however, Continuum seems, to me, to be the killer feature (until MS introduces x86 emulation to the Snapdragon) for Windows Mobile 10.  I can see carrying just the phone and adapter.  Most places one would need a computer will, very likely, have an HDMI monitor along with keyboard and mouse. Or, you can take the travel size keyboard/mouse.  I can forsee this more than taking my old laptop or even a tablet, though, admittedly, tablets can be just as productive.

61tocr  emL._SL1500_While running Continuum, I was able to run Word, Excel, OneNote, Facebook and take a call…at the same time.  The phone showed no perceptible slowdown at all.

The VR gimmick is just that, a gimmick and really not a reason to buy this phone.  That said, and taking into account the limitation of the screen, it is still rather impressive, at first.  The screen is HD, 1080p.  That’s a problem only because the screen gets split in two to present the left and right images.  This makes things a bit fuzzy and pixelated. However, it is not so bad as to make the experience a poor one.  Quite the contrary, it works well.  Too well, I got a headache and was a bit nauseated by it because my brain knew I was not really experiencing anything, though my eyes said otherwise.

Overall, the Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Mobile is an excellent, premium phone at a great price…half what most others would cost.  It looks great, works well and is fast.  Windows 10 Mobile needs a little work, but it is, overall, a great operating system and works very well. Don’t let the notion of a poor ‘store’ steer you away. The app system on all of the mobile devices is bad, I don’t care if there aren’t five hundred fart apps.  I don’t even care that there is no Youtube app, the web site works and there are a few third party apps that fill in for what is missing.

I think you’d be satisfied with this phone. I sure am.

Falling like a rock: Pebble is no more

wp_20150708_22_15_12_proA few short years ago, a product came on the market that I got excited about. The product utilized ePaper, could go a week between charges and was programmable. Better yet, it was ‘crowd funded.’  The product took off, initially, and raised a lot of money from Kickstarter.  That product, the Pebble Smartwatch, was a successful kickstarter project, probably the most successful of any from that site.

Last year, I finally got one.  I like it a lot.  The problem, though, was my smartphone. I use a Windows Mobile 10 device and there is no official app from Pebble. Eventually, someone developed a nice Pebble watch app for my favorite smartphone operating system.  For the last few months, I’ve been very happy with this setup: I see my notifications, calls, email, etc. on my watch, I don’t need to pull the phone out.  Great.

The app even works with some of the back end plumbing from Pebble.  Nice. I get weather and some other things. Very cool.

Last week (December of 2016) I see a rumor that Fitbit was purchasing Pebble.  I think, GREAT! My favorite smartwatch will get a much needed boost from an established company, that is also Windows Mobile friendly. Awesome. I may even get the new Pebble 2!  How sweet is that?

Turns out, it is bitter.

Fitbit did, in fact, buy Pebble. BUT…they only bought the services and software, NOT the hardware. So, Pebble is now history.  There is no word on when the services will cease. The watch will still work with phones, but the stuff that made it special, the heart of Pebble, will be pebble-geek-watchfaces_2-300x300going away.

No more new watches.  Fitbit did not want the hardware. Nor did they want about sixty percent of the employees either.

I now have one more piece of hardware that is orphaned.  Man, my ability to choose platforms is horrible.

Zune, Windows Phone/Mobile, Palm OS, webOS for Palm, Vista, Windows 8, CED Video Disc, LaserDisk, HD-DVD, Pontiac…and, now…Pebble.  Wow.  What a record, huh?

So, RIP, Pebble. It was nice while it lasted.

Mario and iPhone 7…Pokemon and Apple Watch

Apple had its September press event to announce Apple Watch, Series 2, iOS 10 and iPhone 7.  But, perhaps the biggest thing announced at the event was a game.

Early on in the event, Tim Cook said that there were over 500,000 games in the app store, but that one had been missing. Rather, one character had been missing…MARIO. And, with that, he introduced Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario.

Mr. Miyamoto explained the new game while a demo was being played on the big screen.  This Mario game looks and sounds like a Wii U game, but is controlled via touch on the iPhone or iPad.  You use a single finger to control Mario’s jumps…the longer you hold your finger down, the higher he jumps. 

While the game looked great, the game play is like a neutered Super Mario Brothers 2D side scroller. Neutered in that it appeared that Mario only goes in one direction in single hand play.  The goal is to collect as many coins as you can and raise the end of level flag, before the time runs out. 

More importantly, the game will NOT be a ‘freemium’ game in the traditional sense. You only pay one time, there are no in game purchases.  There’s no having to wait two hours for your lives to replenish.  It is a nice change from the current game mobile game model.

Now, for the other announcements, and I’m not going into detail as it has already been covered else where.

Apple Watch 2 will be out in September and will be faster and more responsive.  Oh, and Pokemon GO! is coming to the Apple Watch.  With some health monitoring additions, this looks pretty decent.

iPhone 7, though, is what I am more excited to talk about. 

Now, before I go on, let me say that I am still not an Apple fan and I LOVE my Windows Mobile 10 phone(s). 

So, what has me excited about the iPhone 7?  Well, even though it isn’t a huge, earth shattering advance in mobile technology, the camera, faster processor and MICROSOFT have me excited for the new iPhone. 

The iPhone 7 will feature a new image sub system, new API’s and better optics. In addition, iPhone 7Plus, the phablet edition, will feature TWO 12 mp cameras in addition to the front camera.  The new image processor enables the phone to record in 4K video as well.

Here are some of the nice new photo related features, from Apple:

  • New Apple-designed Image Signal Processor, which processes over 100 billion operations on a single photo in as little as 25 milliseconds, resulting in incredible photos and videos;
  • New 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with wide color capture, advanced pixel technology and auto image stabilization for even better selfies; and
  • New Quad-LED True Tone flash that is 50 percent brighter than iPhone 6s including an innovative sensor that detects the flickering in lights and compensates for it in videos and photos.

Iapple-iphone7plus-zoomn addition to the photo features, Microsoft’s entire suite of apps that are on the iPhone mean that I can continue using my Microsoft services and apps with my Windows 10 desktop just as seamlessly as I can, now, with my Windows Mobile phone.

There are other things, like the subtle changes to iOS and to the phone chassis itself.

There are things I don’t like, such as the removal of the headphone jack, inability to upgrade storage via SD card, no way to project the phone to another screen (at least, I haven’t seen this) and the lack of home screen tiles…a feature I’ve really grown to love on my Windows Mobile phone.  In fact, the lack of live tiles is almost a deal breaker for me. Almost.

For now, I am on the verge of mothballing my Windows Mobile phone and going Apple again.  I’m going to have play with one for a bit.   But, today’s announcements look encouraging.  Of course, if I wait a year, I may like iPhone 8 more…

Pebble Smartwatch and Windows Mobile 10: working, at last

WP_20160815_20_13_28_ProSince I got my Pebble Classic Smartwatch, I’ve only been able to use a smattering of its features. The problem is that Pebble does not and, apparently, will not, support the watch on Windows Mobile.  But, as the watch is very open, anyone is free to develop software to run on the watch and companion apps on any platform.  So, several enterprising souls did that. The second big issue was that Microsoft closed off parts of Windows Mobile-notifications and running in the background-which pretty much killed most of the functionality.

Well, fast forward a year and Microsoft has released Windows Mobile 10 Anniversary Update which fixed these issues.

So, there are now two apps that work with the Pebble smartwatch line of wearables: Pebble  Time Manager 10 and Pebble Essentials.WP_20160815_20_16_37_Pro

I downloaded Pebble Time Manager 10 and began using it.  For a free app, this thing rocks.  I did plunk down a buck to ‘unlock’ the health features and to give the developer SOMETHING for this great product, which is free.  Did I mention it is free?

Pebble Essentials I have not yet tried out, but will sometime soon. This write up is about the Time Manager.

Pebble Time Manager allows you to:

  • Download and install apps and watch faces from the Pebble store
  • Display all notifications from your mobile device
  • Track your health stats (provided you paid for the module AND your watch supports it)
  • Manage installed apps and watch faces
  • Direct Access to the Pebble Store

The notifications is huge.  Being able to get my phone’s notifications and NOT have to have an app running is tremendous.  Previously, you could get Twitter, Weather, email and, maybe Facebook notices but an app had to be running. Since the Windows AU came along, you no longer have to do that. You still run the app, but you can then dismiss it and the notifications keep on going.

WP_20160815_20_14_15_ProThe other big deal is direct access to the store.  Tap an app or watch face and see everything about. Tap the download icon and download the item to your phone. Tap it on the phone and it is sent to the watch.  The app, however, cannot tell you how much space you have, though.

Some watch apps require a settings page. Previously, you just took the defaults, but TIme Manager incorporates the ability to access and use these settings.  A nice touch.

The user interface could use some polish, but it works and is functional, if not a bit bland.  It does not have to be pretty, though, because it just works. And works well.

All in all, the app is worth much more than the developer charges (which is nothing) and is very easy to use. 

Stay tuned for more.  There are a lot of things it will do and some it won’t.  Oh, there’s a desktop version as well.

Microsoft, Apple, T-Mobile…They take a lot and give little

win10mobileT-Mobile.  The Un-Carrier.  This company, led by it’s uncool CEO, John Legere, claims to be different.  And, in a few regards, that is true.  They led the march to do away with subsidies and contracts.  Getting rid of the contracts was a good thing.  However, the replacement plans by T-Mobile and the others leave little to be desired.  This company also bills itself as having a fast, reliable network.  That’s debatable. In the Richmond, Virginia area, anyway, they are spotty—despite having PINK all over the area map.  Speeds are so-so.  They also advertise the binge-on program where you can consume all of the video streaming, from a select few services, and won’t affect your data or speed. What they fail to say is that you need specific plans to qualify.  Lastly, the ‘Get Thanked Tuesdays’ promotion only applies to certain customers—i.e. those who have Android or iOS devices and those not on prepaid plans. If you have a Windows Phone/Mobile, Blackberry or other device or you have those and are on a pre paid plan, you are out of luck. No thanks on Tuesdays or any other day.  (To be fair, they did try  to make up for it by giving me a credit, free pizza and, in last Tuesday’s event, they texted me the codes—but did not mention I had to use them right away. My fault there, though, it is in the rules.)  The no hoops, hurdles and strings mantra does not apply if you use anything but iOS or Android.

Apple.  Another company that loves to dump on its customers. But, Apple, at least, makes you feel good about getting dumped on. Hell, it’s a PRIVILAGE.  This company has, for the most part, products that, if from any other company, would put you to sleep. But, they slap that stupid logo on them, charge a mint and invite you into these sterile, wood and glass stores, and attempt to make you feel like you OWE them a purchase.  What’s really odd…and lame…is the uniforms the employees wear…..JEANS and BLUE T-SHIRTS.  What the hell is that?  You want me to pay two grand for a computer, I’m in what is supposed to look like a high-end store, and the person who is assisting me is dressed as if he or she was playing kick ball on a school lunch break? Seriously?  And what’s up with that stupid watch?

Microsoft. OH MY LORD.  This company makes it damn near impossible to like.  Everything I have liked, from the Zune to Windows Mobile 10 to Windows 10 itself, has had features removed, been crippled in some way or out right cancelled. I don’t’ need to say anything about Zune…its dead and so is my 30gb player. So, I’ll move on…to Windows Mobile 10. Now, a few years ago, MS bought Nokia’s phone business.  And promptly drove it into the ground.  They released Windows Mobile 10 by gutting many of the nice features of Windows Phone 8, including stability, reliability and many, many features like the hubs.  Now, the company says they are removing features because no one uses them, like FM Radio and the Kids Corner.  Guess what? I DO! This is the same reason they removed Media Center from Desktop Windows. Guess what? I used that too.  Now, Microsoft is further limiting another of its once great products: OneDrive.  They lured you in with tons of free online storage, then cut it all out but 5gb (like Apple) but you could still do a lot. Now, that is being limited as well. You cannot use it to share files a lot or share large files. I guess they are getting hammered for bandwidth. I don’t care, they opened the door and invited us in, now they want to boot us out after an hour.  Why should I bother at all?  They did this with remote sharing as well.  They killed off a terrific photography tool, photosynth.  Their OneCare was great, they killed it.  Windows Mobile has the potential to still be great, even with all of the neutering but, it, too, will languish. That’s what this company does best.

Honorable Mention: GOOGLE. Man, I could rant for days, but I’m not.  Suffice it to say that I will likely be forced to use Android again. I don’t like Android, but my distaste for iOS is worse than my dislike of Android.  One last thing, Google is far worse than Microsoft when it comes to product support and growth. Just look at the Google dead product grave yard.

This may sound like sour grapes, and to some extent, it is.  I’ve been burned a lot by these and other companies.  However, the problems stated here affect more than just myself. In the case of Apple, the deception costs real money.  In the case of Microsoft, it’s not only money, but a lot of frustration as well.  This company needs to stop its practice of introducing things, getting you hooked and then either taking them away or severely handicapping them.  It has really made me re-think my whole Microsoft affinity. 

So, what great Android phones are out there?  I need a good, non-Apple replacement for my Zune too.  My Zune HD is starting to have problems and I don’t know how much longer Windows will run the Zune software.  I want a dedicated MP3 player, I don’t like using my phone for media.  Lastly, what online storage solutions are out there that are low cost or free and are unfettered?