Windows Mobile 10: It’s tough being a fan

About seven years ago, I got genuinely excited about a new consumer product.  That product had WP_20141110_009all kinds of promise: price, performance, looks, ease of use and the ability to be a small computer I could carry around with me to surf the web, read my mail, do some short writing stints and more. Oh, I could make and receive phone calls.  That device was the Palm Pre smartphone.

I laughed at people who waited in line, before a store even opened, for Apple products.  I thought it was absurd. Yet, there I was, with about 15 other good people, waiting in front of a Sprint store to get my Palm Pre.  I don’t recall how much I paid, but, at that point, I didn’t much care as it was not the seven hundred or so that the iPhone was then.

Oh boy, I got my phone and a haircut and rushed home to play with my new toy.  This thing was just spectacular.  Touch screen AND a keyboard (it was a slider phone that looked like big pebble) and was super easy to use.  And, its browser really worked…no more quasi browser like my Windows Mobile 5 powered Motorola Q.  The Pre was just great.  For about a year. That’s when the cheapness of the poorly designed plastic body came into play.  See, the hardware, while attractive, was a disaster.  The body had lots strain from the sliding and would eventually crack.  The battery did last long either. It would die and not even be turned on.  And so ended my love for the Pre, but not WebOS.  There has not been anything close until last year.CIMG0118

Lets roll back time a bit.  The aforementioned Moto Q ran Windows Mobile 5, a cramped and poor copy of desktop Windows. Frankly, it was an abomination.  The interface was pretty bad.  The included applications were awful and the support from third parties was not great. In short, Windows Mobile 5, and all versions before it, was just awful.  It’s only plus was the Windows Live application that, in many aspects, was similar to Google Now or Cortana. You could talk to it and it would, verbally as well as visually, answer you. I used it a lot in the last few months I used the Q.

myWin10PhoneFast forward a few years and Micorosoft is, once again, hawking a product called Windows Mobile for Phones.  This time, the operating system is just gorgeous. And functional.  It’s everything that a mobile operating system should be and more.  It is as good today as webOS was then.  And, it can be used as a desktop operating system as well, via a feature called Continuum. Indeed, on its own, installed in desktop hardware, it could work wonderfully with a keyboard and a mouse. 

Yet, it gets little love and Microsoft is to blame, mostly,  They do not promote it or its capabilities. They port its great features to iOS and Android and even save it for last when developing apps for mobile devices.  It is treated like a distant cousin.  But, that doesn’t mean it does not have fans or support. True, it has few of each, but they are there.  And, now, there are more and more hardware manufacturers jumping on board.  In addition to Microsoft, there are companies like Acer, HP, Asus, the former Sony brand turmyWin10Phone3ned company, VAIO, and a host of others.  The phones range from just OK to stellar.  Most are able to support Continuum (it requires a certain class of processor and 2gb of ram, minimum) and all run Windows 10. 

As a user and a fan, I often find it difficult to stay both when I see stories about its demise, when I see Microsoft putting it on the back burner for some lame iOS project or hear the CEO say in one sentence just how important it is while the next sentence he would, essentially, say it was not that important after all.  Indeed, it is difficult being a fan and staying enthusiastic about the platform. 

Windows Mobile 10, Windows 10 Mobile, or what ever they call it, has so much potential–more than its desktop companion, I think.  There’s no reason why Microsoft could not port Visual Studion to WM10.  With a mouse and keyboard attached (in Continuum) a developer could very easily develop on the phone.  This powerful OS has the potential to, provided the hardware supports it, completely replace your desktop.  Hell, the iPhone could if Apple pulled its head out of its ass.

WP_20150107_003So, yeah, I went from one doomed smartphone to another seemingly doomed platform.  Oh, in between I had an Android and an iPhone 4. Didn’t like them, hated the Android and, early on, liked the iPhone until i ‘upgraded’ to iOS 7…ugh, what a piece of crap that was.  But, I digress.

Even though I hated my Android phone, if I do get away from Windows Mobile, I think I would have to get a Samsung Galaxy whatever. They are beautiful phones and Android is, finally, getting useable. Some of the siliness is gone, but the fracturing is still there.  So, why not iPhone? Well, it’s Apple and that means there are lots of costs.  The hardware is very nice and iOS 9 looks great. My son has a 6 and loves it.  I’ve played with it and it is far and away better than the version I had.  But, it is still Apple and that means you are married to them and that is one marriage I do not care to join.WP_20141110_018

So, how long do I have with my favorite mobile operating system? Well, until Microsoft says they won’t support it or they dump the business they paid billions for, a few short years ago.  I am pining for the Lumia 950, but that Acer Jade Primo looks awfully nice too.  The VAIO looks good as well.  So, there are a few non-Microsoft phones that I would buy, but…I’d rather get a 950. Unfortunately, I have, yet again, picked the wrong carrier (Verizon, which hates Microsoft) and still have about a year left on my bloody contract.  I’m hoping there is a more drool worthy phone out by then. Until then, I’ll continue along with my beat up ICON. It is still a great phone and works like a champ, running Windows Mobile 10. 

Did I mention I love Windows Mobile 10? Oh, right. 

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The weird tale of WebOS: from Palm to LG, a strange journey indeed

pre_05Introduced in 2009 by Palm, webOS (as it was then) was new, unique, fresh and, dare I say, ‘cool’? The mobile operating system was going to be the answer to Palm’s dire situation: Smartphones, headed by Apple’s iPhone, were all the rage. Sales of dedicated devices fell off the face of the earth and everyone, seemingly, wanted a smartphone, preferably the iPhone.  Companies scrambled to introduce a new phone.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, Blackberry and Palm all had phones out. Palm’s success with the Centro was waning.  Sales of its stand alone PDA devices were non-existent and things were beginning to look grim.

At some point, in 2008, they began work on webOS.  At its core was an embedded Linux kernel.  It’s user interface layer, however, was radically different.  It and other parts of the OS were built with web development technologies such as javascript, HTML 5, CSS and xml.  There were API’s written native to the hardware, but most of the OS was done with these web technologies. This was meant to keep it simple.  Palm introduced a clever and nice looking device to run the new operating system: the Palm Pre.  The Pre looked like a smoothPalmPixi pebble, something you could easily jump across water.  It was elegant.  It was also flawed.

The phone was released in July of 2009 on the Sprint network.  Some say that was it’s death knell and, I’d say that was close to spot on.  Sprint, already in dire straits itself, did little to support the phone.  They did not have the iPhone, so one would think they would have supported it better, but, they did not. With in the year, the Pre was available on AT&T and Verizon. The Pre 2 and Palm Pixi were released, but, by now, Palm was in trouble.

A seeming white knight came hopping along in the guise of HP. HP, run by Mark Hurd at the time, was going to do a lot with the Palm division.  A tablet was going to come out, webOS was going to be put into everything from Printers to PC’s and phones.  PC’s would dual boot webOS and Windows 7.  Things looked great.  For a very short time, that is.

Mark Hurd was ousted in a controversy of his own doing. Leo Apothekar was brought in and he immediately made a terrible decision:  He came from the services industry and decided that HP should be one too.  He was going to split HP’s hardware out, kill Palm and the PC division would be sold.  Gone, almost as soon as it came out, was the HP Palm Slate. The tablet ran webOS 3.0 and was fantastic.  When the cancellation was announced, fire sales ensued.  The price went from well over $300 to $99.  Sales were so brisk, that HP decided to do a second production run-using the parts left over from the first-and those sold out as well.  And, with that, the Palm company was dead.  So were the grandiose ideas for webOS.

Along the way, however, Apothekar was ousted and Meg Whitman came in to save HP. She announced that while Palm as hardware was no more, the webOS would continue.  Weeks later, she announced that HP would open source the Operating System and, possibly, use it as well.

weboswatchIn 2013, it was announced that LG (Lucky Goldstar for all of you who remember Goldstar from the 80’s) would purchase the IP and source to the operating system from HP.  LG wanted to use the OS in its televisions, which they have done.  In 2015, LG showed off a SmartWatch that uses a flavor of WebOS (as it is now spelled) as the core os for its new wearables.  This watch is, in effect, a phone. So, WebOS has come full circle: from phone, to tablet, to television to watch/phone.  The odd tale of the operating system that refuses to die is just getting good.

Stay tuned, I’m sure more weird things will happen.

Just because the tech is old, doesn’t mean it is worthless, right?

So, it’s happened again. One more piece of technology I purchased is relegated to the dust bin. My HTC EVO Shift 4G is not only NOT listed on HTC’s current lineup for Sprint, they no longer support it! It is just at a year old (the phone, not my personal phone that is) and will not be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade to Android.  Worse, Sprint seems to be deprecating the phone as well. But, at least they will give me $68 (US) on the buy back program (compare that to the $18 for my wife’s Blackberry flip phone.)

So, once again, I find myself looking around at the technology that I have.  My Kindle Fire is the most current piece of tech in the house. EVERYTHING else, mine or a family member’s, is either no longer made, been replaced with a newer model or just plain old. BUT…just because something is old does not mean it does not have any useful life left in it.

For example, our original iPad is used everyday. I use it when I am home, my wife uses and my four year old step son uses (he probably uses it more than any of uPandigitals.)  The white 7 inch Pandigital tablet has been rejuvenated now that I got it’s Android update corrected. I found that using it in conjunction with a stylus from a Nintendo DS makes the abysmal touch screen actually work.  I installed the Go EX Launcher and an Ice Cream Sandwich theme to make it look fresh and put a 2gb SD card to store apps.  It is almost like new. Almost.

My old Palm Pre serves as a backup mini-tablet. It is no longer used as a phone, but it still works and the Wi-Fi functionality is better than the HTC.  Facebook and Twitter work fine and I have Boggle, Tetris and a couple of other games as well. Oh, Shrek Racing on the Pre works great and allows us to play two player – Pre and iPad. Works great.  Glad I did not rip it apart like I was going to do.

An old AMD Athlon based (single core, 1.8ghz) PC that was my son’s computer (with Vista shoehorned in) is still chugging along as a backup computer (currently on loan to my sister while I revive her much better computer).  It may be old and have outdated technology, but it got my sis back on the interwebs.

54647704My ZuneHD still works great, it is used everyday as my podcast player. I can also load it up with movies and, along with the dock, use it as a video player.  Throw it in a bag and take it with you on vacation.  No need for a pile of DVD’s.

My original Kindle (the funky wedge shaped one) still works and gets use. When we have no power, it doubles as an internet device since the browser will work on many sites (the ones I would need in such a situation anyway) and it just sips the juice.

That old Zenith CRT television is now the display for a slew of old video games.  An Intellivision, Odyssey II, NES/SNES combo thingy and two Atari Plug and Play consoles in addition to a raft of plug and play games that were popular a couple of years ago. And, since I have a VCR or two AND an old Laserdisc player, this set is still useful. Couple it with the government purchased digital converter I got in 2009, we can still watch local TV on it.  And, at 27 inches, you can see it too.

I have quite a bit more tech that is no longer in the desirable column, but it is mostly unused. Unused because the functionality is reduced to a point where it is useless, broken, rendered useless by a service (PEEK, I’m looking you) or just plain too slow to be useful (like the 1995 era Toshiba Laptop I have. It works great, but lacks an optical drive, the screen is terrible and it is SLOW. It does boot faster than anything in the house, though.  That’s some100_0862thing, right?

I hate throwing things away. Likewise, I hate looking at gear that used to be the hot thing but no longer is and is probably not worth anything.  Like the TWO Peek devices I have. They look great, the industrial design was fantastic and the screen was nice. Peek, however, is no longer around as a service (I canned it long ago anyway) but the devices, supposedly, can be hacked into little Linux handhelds.  Not sure what one would do with a hacked Peek, but it might be fun to play with. One day.

Yes, one day I will play around with some of this stuff. Like the Peek or the ZipIt 2. Yeah, ONE DAY.

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My battle with technology

I have been on the losing end of a week long argument with technology. Indeed, between my cell phone (a Palm Pre), my computer (an HP), my laptop (also HP), my XBOX 360 and a Buffalo Wireless router, technology seems to have forsaken me.
It all started when I went out on Saturday. My cell phone’s battery seemed to drain very quickly and would not charge. No problem, I thought. I will stop by the Sprint store-where I bought the bloody thing-and just buy a fresh, new battery. WRONG. Of course the Sprint store does not carry batteries. For any phone. Nor do they stock the damned Palm Pre. “It’s been discontinued.” WHAT? Last time I looked, it was still being offered by the mother ship. OK, so I’ll try Verizon. They, too, don’t carry batteries but they did, very happily, try and sell me an Android phone. Thanks, but no. Best Buy? Surely THEY will have one. NOPE. So, where did I find said battery? At a Radio Shack. On clearance.
New problem with the phone is that now, one in five times of closing the phone, it will just shut down. And, of course, it takes five minutes to restart. It makes me want to launch it into orbit.
So, my computer is a quad core HP desktop with 8gb of memory and ample disk storage. This thing should just scream speed. And it did. Until Sunday. Something was updated (one of many updates I decided to let it install, my bad.) Once it restarted, it has been crawling. A quick look at the task list does not show anything unusual. It just hates me.
I pull out the laptop to use while watching a program on television with my son. I notice the battery is down to 65%. After making sure the power adaptor is, in fact, plugged in, I decided that it is indeed HP that hates me and not just the desktop computer.
What really had put this whole argument with technology in the toilet was the Buffalo router. I suppose it is really a blessing in disguise as I finally had a reason to buy a nice router. The way it died, however, was just insidious. It didn’t just stop working. Oh no. No, it just stopped talking to the Internet. Then it stopped talking to the other computers. It still lights up and shows it is connected, but it is a liar. It knows I am watching it. It flirts with me. Winking its lights incessantly. But, I know better. I know it is not REALLY working.
The Buffalo’s replacement is a shiny new D-Link router. It is a nice, shiny black. It has green lights that blink very quickly. Did I say it was shiny? No? It is very shiny. And this one lets me block things, keep nice logs, make one of a hundred different settings changes. It is also very shiny. I am in love with my router. I know it will let me down, they always do. But, I will enjoy our relationship as long as I can.
Tonight, as I pen this, I feel like a character-one of the humans-from a dreadful Steven King novella. You know, that awful one where the trucks come to life. Yeah, that one. My computer will sprout legs and chase me around. I know it will. I’m watching it, though. I’m watching.