iPhone vs. Windows Phone 7

I have been doing a fair bit of traveling in the United States. My iPhone 4 is on Telus in Canada. The roaming fees are not cheap. So I’ve whipped out my old US cell account – and put it on a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7 (from a Nexus One on Android).

In short, it has been a pleasant surprise. Windows Phone 7 is clearly the best thing Microsoft has done in years. Will it make me give up my iPhone? No…but it is a worthy second in my eyes and an experience I certainly prefer to Android.

The good:

  • User interface is extremely intuitive. Everything works as it should. It passed the friends/family “I have to borrow your phone” instant test.
  • It looks good as well as is functional. Everyone that has seen it has also been duly impressed.
  • Mail offers more capabilities (e.g. – priority support).
  • Calendar is significantly more functional than Apple’s (e.g. – proposals work)
  • It does a very good job of unifying all of the contacts
  • Search is much more natively integrated into the experience
  • XBox integration is cool – though not of interest to me as I’m not a gamer
  • The combined people view is pretty cool
The bad- or things that really drove me nuts:
  • Push does not work when you’re in your inbox; you have to manually sync. it.
  • There is no single inbox.
  • There is no way to group applications – a problem if you have lots of them
  • The maps experience is not as rich
  • The browser is downright horrible at rendering complex Web sites
  • The integration with Live is mandated – and can be problematic. Especially as I broke it by getting the country/account mixed up so Marketplace was broken and you cannot change this easily (involved having to use an XBox)
  • Ability to filter contacts is really limited – I don’t want to see, for example, everyone I have ever sent a Hotmail to (as this is my spam-account)
The ugly:
  • There are no applications relative to iOS – the choice is abysmal and things I use all the time are not there (e.g. – Dropbox)
  • You have to download lots of additional applications to get out-of-the-box that matches the iPhone
  • Zune is good – but its not as rich as iTunes
  • You are limited by the hardware; the Focus is good – but its touchscreen is not as sensitive and lack of storage is an issue (supposedly there is a hack to increase storage – but I haven’t spent the time)
In short – it has a lot of promise. I look forward to Mango.

Canada Day Weekend Fail

How I spent my Canada Day weekend…trying to get the washing machine to fit in the closet and get the closet door reattached. and then reattach the broken knob to the washer so that one does not have to use such things as BBQ tongs to change it.

As one can see, the project was a spectacular failure. After removing the washer, removing the outer door, relocating and replacing the dryer vent pipe, and putting it all back together – it doesn’t fit by about an inch. So the door doesn’t shut. It’s progress – as the door wasn’t attachable. But seriously – who makes a washer close that doesn’t fit a washing machine anyone can actually buy? (I bought the smallest I could upon move-in.)

The knob was an even bigger fiasco – spent 1.5 hours soaking the super glue off of my hands – and it didn’t work anyways.

V8 Vantage – the Farewell Review

Ottawa Fall Colors '09 #78 by rdonovan
Ottawa Fall Colors ’09 #78, a photo by rdonovan on Flickr.

I admit it. Jeremy Clarkson was right. Those who bought the V8 Vantage would probably just end up wishing they buying a DB9. I can now count myself in that boat, having worked a trade of my V8 Vantage for a DB9.

There are many things to like about the Vantage. First, the sound. It sounds like a proper sports car. Nothing else sounds like it. Second, the handling – it’s brilliant and like playing a video game. You can feel every nuance of the road.

The performance is very good – but you have to push the car psychotically hard to get at it. This is a matter of preference. I am in the camp where I would prefer something more fluidly available.

The lack of front park distance control makes parking a challenge. As you can’t see a bloody thing out the front. But the sie makes fitting into narrow spaces a breeze.

However, what absolutely, totally did it for me was the transmission. It is an Italian-designed F1 paddle-shift with computer controlled clutch. And it’s horrible.

Yes, it can shift in milliseconds. But that isn’t that useful in every day life. The fact that the clutch burns and grinds in parking lot or stop-and-go-traffic is annoying. Even more annoying is when you can’t get at the gear you want.

More annoying still is stopping – and starting – while you agonizingly wait for the clutch to engage. And hope it does before the car coming in the opposite direction nails you. Or, when it engages – it ENGAGES and you are off with a huge streak of burning rubber.

But what absolutely did it was a catastrophic failure to proceed leaving the car stuck in neutral – and a $550 towing bill to get it to the dealer in Montreal from Ottawa. And finding out this kind of failure isn’t at all uncommon. And costs $10K+ to rectify out of warranty.

So with a year left on the warranty, it’s time to find something else. And that something else will be a DB9 – with an automatic. The Vantage is a great car – but if you get one, get a 6-speed.

Hot Dog!!!

One of the rarest of rare photographs – the elusive dachshund known as Otto. Otto personifies why I don’t like to photograph living things. They move. And are very hard to compose. Otto in particular is extremely camera shy – even of camera phones. If he sees a camera, he bolts. I finally managed to capture him catatonic on the patio on a hot day with my iPhone. The only reason I managed to do this is that he was sound asleep and had no idea I was there… 😉

Secret Agent Man

For most of 2010 – and so far all of 2011 – I have been working on special projects as my primary focus day-to-day. A lot of the details of which will never be known – except to a select few involved. It has provided for a vexing and at times lonely corporate existence. And not a lot of interesting things to blog or tweet about.

Hence, my focus on photography and travel – and a break from technology. This in and of itself has proven to be a fun interlude. As I have accomplished a lot of my personal goals with respect to improving my photography from the last five years. Low-light and well-composed landscapes no longer represent the challenge that they once did. Hopefully you agree! 🙂

Now, I have to set even higher bar for my photography. And in a few months hopefully I will be out of special project mode and back into the kind of customer or engineering focused action that I truly enjoy. Be seeing you.

Fun with Lightroom and RAW – Part 2

San Miguel Dusk #32 by rdonovan
San Miguel Dusk #32, a photo by rdonovan on Flickr.

Now, here is the exact same photograph as from last week/last post – but with considerably different color and tone settings utilized.

Because all of the data is there – and it can be processed quite differently – I have been able to re-render the same image very differently.

The only problem with this – is that I end up spending way too much time in Lightroom now deciding what I actually like…

Why High ISO and Multi-Autofocus Matters

Atotonilco & Vicinity #13 by rdonovan
Atotonilco & Vicinity #13, a photo by rdonovan on Flickr.

One of the more interesting locations I visited in San Miguel was the Church at Atotonilco. It is a World Heritage site – and upon perusing its interior it is easy to see why.

However, it is anything but a museum. It is a working Church – and services are held regularly. And there are many worshippers present even when services are not being held.

And, there is no flash photography allowed – for good reason.

Hence, it poses something of a photographic challenge – as there is no loitering around to setup a tripod for a long-exposure. I managed to capture this and other photos simply by using the high ISO and multiple auto-focus points on the camera to get a good shot – in a big hurry with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with no image stabilization.

The results were fantastic. I have rarely succeeded with these types of shots with my previous gear.

Retro-United at Sea-Tac International


As I was disembarking on a business trip to Seattle from an Air Canada Dash-8 on the tarmac – I did a double take. No, time hadn’t shifted back a few decades. But there was United’s old Friendship livery – on an Airbus A320 at gate N16 just getting in from San Francisco. It’s great to see the old UA livery outside of an air museum. Now, if only they’d repaint something in the Saul Bass Tulip scheme.