Thursday 13 October 2005

Boys' Toys

With Chizuko and Arata away, I have spent the last week stocking up on "toys" of my own. A new hard drive for the web server, which has dropped the background noise in the spare bedroom by several decibels, as well as giving us plenty of space to backup Arata's photos and videos to. A bluetooth headset for my phone (which I got as an upgrade last month), and a spare charger for it. The last two items have highlighted a trend. USB is becoming the new standard for power cables.

I deliberately ordered a travel power supply for the phone, as I'm going to Japan at the end of the month to chaffeur my family home, and to New Zealand for Christmas. I need a spare charger, as I'm forever going to work with an almost flat battery and not realising until I get there. The contents of the package were a USB to Ericsson cable (to charge from a PC), a car cigarette lighter to USB adapter, and a mains to USB adapter with clip on US, Euro and UK plugs. No NZ plug, but I'm sure I can find a PC or car when I'm there.

The bluetooth headset, I also intend to try out with my PC for Skype. Chizu complained that she couldn't hear properly last time I called, and forced me back to a real telephone, so hopefully the headset will do better than the built in microphone of my laptop. It also came with a USB charger, plus a mains and car charger, but they weren't smart enough to leave the cables off those and put a USB socket there instead. I guess I'll just use the USB cable and the adapters I got with my phone.

As for the phone itself, its a Sony Ericsson V800. I got a 3G phone, not so I can waste vast amounts of money downloading video and music from Vodafone, but so I can roam in Japan. The guy that sold it to me was a bit disappointed I think when I declined an "upgrade" to one of their 3G price plans for the bargain price of £40/month. "But it comes with free video, you'll have to pay lots more if you stay with your current plan", "Not if I don't download video". "But you get 200 minutes of calls and 300 free text messages a month", "I don't even use the 25 free minutes and 50 free text messages I get now". I guess his eyes lit up when I asked for a 3G phone straight away, but he ended up having to do the sales pitch in vain in the end.

As an MP3 player, its rubbish. You can't use any headphones other than the handsfree kit that came with it because of the stupid Arata on the train non-standard plug. After 3 uses, there's already a broken wire in there somewhere and the sound comes and goes from my left ear as I walk. The sound is flat and lifeless, and having listened to the same tracks on a Gizmondo with decent headphones, I know its not just badly encoded MP3s.

As a camera, its not bad. Not good either, but better than I expected. In low light the pictures get very noisy, and despite having the brightest LED spotlight of any phone I've seen, they're not bright enough to eliminate the noise. In decent light though, the pictures are OK. Probably comparable to the cardboard throwaway cameras you buy when you're normal camera breaks or gets left behind, but you just have to take some pictures.

My internet usage has gone up slightly, but its still well within the free allowance that I get pooled with the text messages. I've set up a SyncML server, so I can take a backup of my phonebook whereever I am (I could have used Vodafone's server for this like everyone else, but setting up my own was more fun, and I'm always suspicious about giving out my entire contact list to some third party to use for marketing purposes). It is slightly better browsing the web than my old GPRS phone, as long as there's a 3G signal, but its still pretty painful, especially if you have to type something. I set up the email to check my work account, but I mostly get spam, so I don't think I'll get much use out of that.

I might have to revisit the Java midlet I wrote a while ago, based on an idea that Chizu had for an alarm clock. At the time I found that my phone didn't support enough of the Midlet 2.0 spec for it to work, but hopefully, 2 years on, J2ME implementations have improved.

You might have noticed the addition of a "Mobile" category at the top of the page. I almost got the phone set up for mobile photo-blogging. Almost. Actually its the server that's still a problem.

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